I first met this week’s #WCW, Ellen Macintyre, when I started at Riverside Girls High School in Year Eight. We were in the same P.E. class. The teacher asked us to stand in groups of our birthday months as a way of making new friends, because that has everything to do with Physical Education. I then joined the local soccer team outside of school and Ellen’s dad was our coach – still, to date, one of the nicest humans I have ever met (GO KENNY!). I quickly learned that there was a lot more than meets the eye with Ellen. Tall, slender and gorgeous, with the most beautiful blonde hair (seriously, Ellen doesn’t know this but ALL through high school I was envious of her hair. No one else’s. HERS.), it wasn’t until I saw her run like a bloody gazelle down the wing of the soccer pitch and send a ball screaming towards the goal that I realised how deep this girl went. She had a grit that she didn’t wear on her sleeve, but that ran through her, powerful and silent. Her laugh was always punctuating conversation throughout our years at high school, and I never recall anyone having an issue with her. Instead, Ellen was kind. She, to me, was always the friend that no matter how close or distant you may be, she would always be there for a chat when you needed one - and she may or may not remember it, but I can attest to that in a very real way. I don't even feel like I am doing her person justice because it is more the feeling you get when you are around her. You feel grounded.
I ask all the women I interview what they like most about themselves - and, even after years of this project, it remains the question that every single woman finds the hardest to answer. Ellen answered me, "Oh that's a tricky one!" See? Told you. She then said, "I like to think of myself as a compassionate person." The woman must know herself better than she thinks, because that is her. Compassion. Ellen Macintyre. It just fits.
I had seen Ellen’s talent during our Visual Art classes in our senior years. I was awful, she was incredible. And the teacher knew it too – both about me being awful and Ellen being brilliant. It wasn’t until she launched Ellen Macintyre Illustrations that I truly appreciated just how talented she is. Her illustrations are not only technically brilliant and wonderful and amazing, but whenever I come across one of them, I am overwhelmed with a sense of calm and pure joy. You can see, in every brush stroke and every letter that she pens, that it was created with patience, enjoyment and love. And I am sure that everyone will agree with me that ANYONE who can inspire such glee, is the kind of person this world, this universe needs.
What I admire most about Ellen is the perseverance when it came to her creative pursuit. It is incredibly hard, and some days it can feel as though it is completely impossible, to land employment in a creative role. There aren’t many job openings, the competition is fierce and the pay is meagre. When Ellen was unable to find employment in her field, instead of giving up, she forged her way into the market, and into people’s lives. “There were a lot of graphic design graduates around when I finished studying, and not a lot of jobs in comparison,” Ellen told me, “So I just didn’t give up, even after lots of initial knock backs when looking for work and instead, decided to start my own freelance business so I could pursue my passion regardless.. I had to pick up part time jobs along the way to keep me going and it meant working a lot of stuff out alone!”
“I'm not sure I'm quiet at a recognisable brand stage yet, nor do I quite feel I've "made it", I still feel like I have a long way to go but it is important to celebrate each little win to feel like you are making progress.” ELLEN , HOW WORNG YOU ARE (in the best way possible). I remember walking into Gertrude and Alice (my favourite bookstore which, if you haven’t been to, you must go) one day, years ago and casting my eyes over the display of gift cards. I was about to move on, further into the depths of the bookstore when I recognised one of the illustrations on the card. It was Beyonce, and it was undoubtedly Ellen’s. I excitedly picked up the card and turned it over to confirm and there it was, Ellen Macintyre Illustration. My heart swelled with pride as I gathered hr other cards that stood next to Bey and made my way over to the register, “She’s my friend you know!?” I gushed to the woman behind the counter.
Prior to that I had only seen Ellen’s work when it lit up my Instagram feed, but seeing it in the flesh made my heart swell with pride. I remember thinking, “She did it.” Unbeknownst to her, seeing her work on those shelves served as such inspiration to me, and I took that feeling with me right through the day and onto the pages of my notebook. Her work calms me – it seriously does, it also leaves me furiously happy. I can’t explain it, but surely now that you have seen some of her work you totally get what I mean. I asked her what it took for her to turn her hobby into a career – because I want the information for completely selfish purposes – and she said something that made me cry:
It is a simple sentence, and it seems obvious – but coming from her in that moment, it was one of the most powerful notions I have heard in a long time. And again, it reminded me of why I love The #WCW Project; I get to explore the minds of fabulous women, whose stories and setbacks and triumphs all lend the most invaluable knowledge I (we) would not be privy to otherwise. “The works that have become most popular of mine are the pieces I did just for fun, without a commercial goal in mind,” she continued.
Ellen also awakens in me a deep desire to CREATE. She inspires me to create that which I have never even thought to try. Ever since I saw the first lot of wedding invitations that she designed, I have wanted to delve into calligraphy and hand-lettering. I, all of a sudden, wanted to create something that pretty too. I asked who inspires her and Ellen said, “I think this is constantly changing” which I totally love. “But at the moment I would say Sydney-based illustrator Sha'an D'Anthes. I love her work, and how she has gotten to where she is, and I am constantly inspired by her passion for her work and her commitment to her audience. She has recently released her first picture book as well which is an achievement I hope to one day fulfil further alone in my career,” she continued. Now, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that very soon we will be seeing her name all big and shiny on the cover of a new release. I bloody guarantee it. Ellen, you hear me? It is happening. But again, that is another thing I love hearing - women supporting women, women looking up to other women, women INSPIRING women. It's what it is all about, people.
Ellen now works as a Graphic Designer for The Starlight Children's Foundation - and seriously, could that be any more perfect? Ellen has successfully navigated her way through what is a very saturated and difficult field to get into and now has a career that resonates closely with her passion, her "hobby" if you will. Not only that, but the wonderfully compassionate woman that she is lends itself to the employer, and truly, they are damn lucky to have her on board. I have always been someone who flees when things get tough, and perhaps that is why I don't have a steady career at twenty-seven. The same goes for my creative work - when I find things are overwhelming or things seem too tough, I simply stop (because that will totally help). But no, not Ellen. She did the hard yards and the part-time jobs, she did what she had to do so that she was able to live creatively, even if it wasn't to be full-time yet. And now look? Now look at where she is. On a personal level, that to me is one of the most incredible things that we as humans can do, work hard and with passion to achieve whatever it is that we desire. "I am very lucky now to work in a largely female dominated work place where I am constantly inspired and amazed by the women around me!" Ellen says of her work. Again, GO LADIES.
So Ellen, I want to finish this piece by thanking you. I want to thank you, sincerely. I want to thank you for all the times you have inspired me over the past few years without even realising that you have been. I want to thank you for the little moments in my day where I get to lose myself, even for a moment, in the world of your beautiful work. I want to thank you for the years of friendship - no matter the capacity. I want to thank you for being a source of joy and for creating all that you do, because without it I am telling you, the world would not be as bright as it is. Not my world anyway. I thank you.