Danielle Morgan - Flax Fox

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Over the past few years landmarks in Belfast have been the source inspiration for many poems, photos, artwork and products.

One local Belfast-based artist - Danielle Morgan - has combined her love of Belfast with a passion for art through her creative company Flax Fox

Danielle is a creative entrepreneur, mother of '2.5' and a regular at St Georges Market. Her work is some of the most iconic in Northern Ireland and so is her story.

We caught up with Danielle to talk about her journey from crappy jobs, to art college, to being a successful business owner and everything else in between.

Check it out. 

So Danielle, you're in an elevator with Liam Neeson... How do you introduce yourself? 

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Such a tricky question and not really one that I've thought about before... but I suppose whether it's Liam Neeson or someone who I've met at Saint Georges Market I suppose it will always be the same:

My name's Danielle, I'm a local artist from Belfast and I like to draw pictures of buildings...I'm often referred to as the tea towel lady because tea towels have unexpectedly become one of my bestselling products!

I love to draw the beautiful place we live in and I'm very lucky to sell these images across Northern Ireland. 

How did you start to sell creative pieces of Belfast?

I've always loved to draw and make things.

As a child I was creative and a bit of a daydreamer, always in my own wee world...

I've early memories of being with my Granny who always gave me wee bits of paper to draw on and I remember making up stories  and drawing pictures with her. In school, I always loved project based work and would spend hours on them.

I’m very taken by colour, by texture, by pattern but if I’m completely honest I never knew that art could be a career path.. I didn’t even think it was a possibility.

After school most people just assumed that my next step was art college but I actually ended up going to study business at university. 

So you could say I didn't talk the traditional path of going to art college and getting trained in that way, but through uni I was still able to travel and experience lots of amazing and interesting individuals.

Where did you work after your studies?

I came across a job application for a Pattern Room Assistant in Douglas and Graham... I was shocked to find a fashion company in Northern Ireland hiring and I just went for it. 

This is where I learnt the business side of a creative industry and that in any creative company about 80% of it is actually business. I worked there for four years, volunteering for any opportunity I could and quickly started gaining a lot of new skills.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned was sometimes you just have to do things you don’t wanna do and actually it’s often these things we learn the most from. 

Eventually, I approached the management and asked if I could start to go to Paris and get involved in the design process and they said yes!

How did this lead to Flax Fox?

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I was very lucky that I was able to start Flax Fox with an artist called Bridget Farmer.

My family and I went to visit her in Australia we saw loads of successful artists who were making a living from trading at markets and selling online.

That really opened my eyes and it just so happened that Bridget was coming back to Belfast for a few years. So we married my business experience with Bridget's fine art to create Flax Fox.

A lot of people ask me where the name Flax Fox comes from and it's basically a play on words of how two creative heads came together.

I noticed that the tourism industry was really starting to grow in Northern Ireland and that Saint Georges Market was becoming more and more popular. 

We started with a Sunday spot at St. Georges Market selling products inspired by the beautiful place we live in. 

This combined with selling wholesale products to vendors and shops allowed us to create a viable business. 

Now Flax Fox also does a lot of commission work for businesses and individuals such as Cast and Crew, The Crown Bar and Hillsborough Castle. 

I have even recently done artwork for some new offices in Belfast which I think is an exciting new prospect. 

What's one highlight from your journey?

I had the opportunity to meet the Queen in 2014! 

It's not something I set out to do but it was a great experience and she even bought two Flax Fox tea-towels...

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That was an amazing experience, even just to experience the media frenzy.

It was one of those events that snowballed and really brought Flax Fox up a notch and from that I was commissioned by the historic royal palaces to do a design for their new gift shop.

Tell us about some of your products.

Flax Fox now sells a wide variety of bespoke products from fine bone china mugs, cushions, postcards, t-shirts and of course tea towels.

We also offer original screen printed artwork of any size that can be framed and hung on a wall - so there really is something for everyone.

I actually sell a 'Best of Belfast Gift Box' which includes two fine bone china mugs and a tea towel that can be shipped safely overseas for people who want a wee bit of Belfast away from home. 

Some of my most popular designs would be:

If you could take yourself out for coffee before you started Flax Fox, what advice would you give? 

Stop putting so much pressure on yourself!

It's common to compare yourself to already successful people but when you do this it's easy to feel like you're constantly failing or you're not good enough.

There’s so many things you can tell yourself to make you not do something, but often you succeed by just doing it

That's what sets you apart from everyone else. The fact that you actually do it, whereas most people don't. 

You need to learn to be disciplined, silence that negative voice in your head and just get on with it! 

This is how most beautiful things are made. 

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How to connect with Danielle/Flax Fox

We wanna thank Danielle so much sharing her story with us. 

Be sure to follow Flax Fox on Instagram or Facebook to stay connected.

Danielle has also been kind enough to offer 10% her entire store online and offline by using the code: 'bestofbelfast' so feel free to make use of that.

Other than that thank you so much for reading/listening.

Until next time, all the best. 

- Matthew

Matthew Thompson