Meet Dee Leslie from The Butterfly and Toadstool
Dee Leslie from The Butterfly and Toadstool hasn’t always been a designer but she has always felt a deep connection to nature that has shaped her life. Growing up surrounded by the beautiful forests, nature trails and grassy meadows of the north-east coast of Fife, she first went to study and then work in conservation, before seeking a more creative challenge. Now settled on the west coast of Scotland, Dee has built a thriving business designing art, stationery and homewares inspired by her love of nature. Here she tells fellow Folksy maker Donna Collinson from The Glass Florist more about her creative life and adventures…
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I have an overwhelming affinity to our natural world and the wonderful plants and creatures that surround us.Dee Leslie, The Butterfly and Toadstool
Hi Dee. Could you start by introducing yourself?
Hi, I’m Dee! I’m a surface pattern designer and product creator living and working on the south west of Scotland.
I have an overwhelming affinity to our natural world and the wonderful plants and creatures that surround us. This is reflected in my work as I build patterns and create products from my nature art and illustrations.
Tell us about your creative journey? How did you get to where you are now?
My creative journey has been a very twisty and turny road. I’ve always been a creative person but never studied art, so it took me a while to find my right path and true passion. I tried paper crafts, jewellery making and was even a seamstress in a children’s clothing boutique before I started my own business.
The skills I learned from these past projects shaped my early business and allowed me to become a full-time maker.
It wasn’t until I started painting again and playing about with pattern design that I realised my true passion and the real direction of The Butterfly and Toadstool.
As a child I was encouraged by green-fingered relatives to get outdoors and learn about plants, animals and insectsDee Leslie, The Butterfly and Toadstool
I love that your story began with a love of nature and animals. Is this something that’s been a part of your life since you were younger?
Yes! Nature has always been important to me and I’m so grateful for my upbringing. I was encouraged by green-fingered relatives to get outdoors and learn about plants, animals and insects, and we often took trips to our local nature reserves, forests, and beaches. I also joined clubs and took part in activities hosted by environmental charities like the RSPB and the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society. The lessons I learned from them still play a big part in my life and business now.
You have a beautiful style of illustration. What’s your favourite medium to work with?
My favourite mediums are watercolour paints and gouache. I love the transparencies and delicate touches that you can create with them and also the way that they blend and merge on the paper.
We’re just a stone’s throw away from beaches and the rugged Scottish coastline… so my inspiration bucket is always overflowingDee Leslie, The Butterfly and Toadstool
Where do you go (or what do you do) when you need inspiration?
I’m so fortunate that I live in such a beautiful place. We have forests and ancient woodlands on our doorstep, and we’re just a stone’s throw away from beaches and the rugged Scottish coastline. These are the places I go daily to walk my dog, take in the seasons and gather ideas. So my inspiration bucket is always overflowing!
Do you have a favourite product in your current range or one you have sold in the past?
My favourite part of designing is making my repeating patterns, so I’m always thrilled when I create new wrapping paper as it shows the patterns so clearly. But I also love printing my designs on enamel mugs too, so it’s hard to say!
I’d absolutely love to see my designs on clothes.Dee Leslie, The Butterfly and Toadstool
Do you have a dream product you’d love to see your illustrations on?
Clothing! I’d absolutely love to see my designs on clothes. I think they would look great on baby and kids wear as well as dresses for adults.
If you hadn’t started The Butterfly and Toadstool, what do you think you would be doing now?
I studied Animal Biology at university and worked on a conservation project before starting my business. So, I think I would still be doing that if I hadn’t made the switch.
My advice for someone wanting to start a new business? Just take that first step!Dee Leslie, The Butterfly and Toadstool
What advice would you give to someone starting out with a new online business?
Just go for it! My biggest regret is holding myself back too much. It’s so easy to get bogged down with everything a creative business needs, but if you take it one step at a time you’ll get there. You just have to take that first step!
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Use code MAKER15 for 15% off before Sunday 26th February 2023
Meet the interviewer
The maker asking the questions this time is Donna Collinson from The Glass Florist. Donna makes everlasting glass bouquets and flowers. Read more about Donna in her interview >