We are back with another instalment of Folks' Tales! This time we are catching up with Eva Malley, who is an illustrator, business owner & final year BA student at the University of Brighton. How does she fit it all in?! We first discovered Eva via her TikTok and Instagram pages, we couldn't believe she lived just around the corner from the shop! We are so glad she could take the time out of her very busy schedule to answer some questions about who she is and what she does! Ready? Let's go....
One of Eva Malley's very popular tote bags! Dreamin Friend Tote
Could you start by giving us a quick biography of who you are and what you do?
I’m Eva, 22-year-old illustrator, small business owner and Brighton University student from Worthing! In 2018, I got one of my designs printed onto 20 tote bags for my friends to buy. Since then, it has grown into the business I run today, shipping hundreds of orders worldwide every week! Everything is designed by me and packaged up by myself or my studio assistant / childhood best friend Katie, in 100% recyclable and biodegradable packaging. I love creating products that people feel excited about purchasing, and very passionate about creating art that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also accessible and affordable.
One of Eva's monochromatic illustrations showing a person looking out of the window while a cat looks on.
Tell us a little bit about your design and making process. We’d love to hear about how you formulate your ideas and bring them to reality.
A lot of my art is inspired by the beauty of mundane, everyday events like standing by a window and watering your plants, or sitting on the sofa reading a book. I’m particularly drawn to femininity, relationships and friendships, and get a lot of inspiration from the people I surround myself with. I work primarily on my iPad using Procreate, and typically lean more towards monochromatic line drawings with lots of detail and clashing patterns, although I am starting to experiment more with colour!
Brightly coloured sketchbook spread by Eva.
What inspired you to start your own business?
For a long time I tried to pursue a more academic route in education so I could find a ‘stable’ job, particularly from hearing my whole life that there’s no money in art. After a good few years of feeling lost and hating what I was doing, the one constant thing I had in my life was drawing – all throughout school my books were covered in doodles, and it was that one thing I could rely on to relax with after a long day at work. Selling my art was something that I’ve always been interested in, but it took a long time to gain the confidence to pursue it. About 2 years into selling my work I suddenly gained a lot of social media traction that launched me into a full-time business overnight, which is just as amazing and terrifying as it sounds. Now that I’m getting used to it, I think I am really suited to running a business, it just wasn’t what I expected to be doing initially!
What is the best thing about your job? (And the worst?!)
The many amazing connections I’ve been able to make, online and off. I interact with the loveliest customers, artists and small business owners on a daily basis, and I feel part of the most uplifting, supportive community. Also having the privilege to be my own boss never gets old… if I’m having a bit of an off day I can put Netflix on, make a cuppa and draw from the comfort of my bedroom.
Running a business comes with many challenges and hurdles, and something that definitely takes its toll on me is having to juggle countless responsibilities all at once. I also struggle with time-management, and sometimes find myself working ridiculously long hours or not taking breaks, which is something that I’m really trying to work on because burnout is very real!
Eva's favourite print, 'Housemates'.
What is your favourite piece (of yours) that is stocked at Heavy Gretel?
My Housemates print always comes to mind first. When I drew it, it was like a lightbulb moment of realising this is what my art style is. It’s been a top best-seller for me every month since it came out, despite the fact I've regularly brought out many more prints since then, and I get lots of lovely messages from people saying they’ve bought it for their uni house / girlfriend / old flatmate which is really heartwarming, knowing so many people connect with it. As an artist it’s so common to be critical about a finished piece but I still love everything about “Housemates” - I think it reflects my aesthetic style and skill perfectly.
Eva sits outside a cafe enjoying a cup of coffee
Aside from making incredible illustrations and products, what else do you like to get up to?
Gigs & pubs – my entire personality in 2 words.
I’m a big music nerd – what music do you enjoy listening to while you're creating?
I’m a big fan of ‘sad girl’ music like Lucy Dacus, Julia Jacklin, Phoebe Bridgers, Mazzy Star, Sharon Van Etten. I also grew up with a lot of 80’s and 90’s influence, so there’s always a bit of Blondie, The Cure, Slowdive and Pulp mixed in. If I’m working on a tight deadline, I whack a bit of drum and bass or techno on to power through!
What are your future plans for your business?
I’m currently working on new designs for Christmas which I’m really excited about! I’ve started my final year of university, the aim is to keep the business growing whilst I complete my studies, so there’s a solid groundwork ready for when I finish. After I graduate, I want to get my own space and create a more solid working environment, with the potential to hire and expand in the future. My personal art style has developed and grown a lot since starting my business, so I can’t wait to see what I’ll be working on over the next few years!
Brightly coloured stickers by Eva.
Finally: tell us a secret about your job that might surprise our readers.
I am the director of my own successful brand but very nearly failed my business studies and maths GCSE in high school. I’ve virtually made a living through doodles, if I can do it anyone can!
What an interesting read. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Eva. We love to hear about how you make your work, and balance this with your business & studies. What an inspiration you are. So happy to have your work in the shop. We love you and so do our customers! PS: We will have to check out some of the musicians you mentioned...
We have a range of Eva's work at the shop and online. With new work on the way soon!
Keep up with Eva Malley online: