Getting to know…Polly Dunbar

Adventurers, entrepreneurs, activists. Each month our founder, Maya, will be speaking to a woman with a story that inspires. It’s a chance to celebrate achievements, both big and small, to share valuable nuggets of wisdom, and to find motivation in other women’s success. 

Meet Polly Dunbar, writer, children’s book illustrator, and now, sharp observer of life with young children. Her first book for adults, Hello, Mum charts the highs and lows of time spent with toddlers; the tantrums and tears as well as the love and wonder. 

Where do you live and who do you share a house with?

I live in a small country town in the beautiful Waveny valley,  Suffolk.   I live with my partner, Dominic and our two boys who are ages 4 and 7.  We also have a cat called Nola and her son who is still a kitten, his name is Teddy.

How do you describe what you do?

I’m a children’s book author and illustrator, I’ve been doing this for many years and feel very lucky being able to draw pictures all day long, my dream job!I have recently published my first book for grown-ups; Hello, Mum is a collection of drawings from my sketch books and it tells the story of my journey into motherhood with my first child and then the arrival of my second and all the ups and downs that come with that..and hopefully capturing some of the magic of childhood too.

What inspired you to do (xyz)?

There was a moment when my boys were very small and I was very sleep deprived and I felt their childhood was flashing by me in a sort of fog. That’s when I picked up a sketchbook and started drawing the day to day things that happen in family life. It was a way of recording the magical wisps but also a kind of therapy being able to put down on paper the feelings that make you want to scream in real life.

Could you give us three words that best sum you up?

Somebody once described my humour as ‘dry-ronic’ a cross between dry and ironic. Great word! I’d describe my work as ‘playful’ and third word would be ‘hopeful’, I think hope is big word for all of us at the moment.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

“Remember to look up.” I love this, as we go about our lives it’s easy to forget to look above and beyond the daily grind.

Is there a single piece of advice you’d give to someone else?

If you have a something creative you want to do don’t wait for the perfect timing, as there’s no such thing. Just do a tiny bit of what you love everyday and in time it will become something and surprise you.

If you could send your 16-year-old self a short message, what would it say?

‘Self care’  is just as cool as 'rock n roll’

What do you do when you want to give yourself a little self-care?

Time to myself is hugely important, drawing in my sketch books almost feels like an actual place I can retreat to even if family chaos is going on around. I also like to run..especially near trees, I love trees.

What ethics are important to you and why?

Being kind to yourself, to those around you and to the planet.  Try to be joyful and resilient in the face of such difficult times..we need to inspire each other in these difficult days.

Can you point us in the direction of some of your favourite small businesses?

Hannah Gravett makes beautiful textiles and reusable fabric bowl covers @handmadeinse20

Teresa Cole is a beautiful tactile designer making clothes and homeware @teresagreentextiles

For loo roll @Whogivesacrap

What’s the single best thing you’ve ever bought?

A sketch book to have with always, all my ideas start in my sketchbook.

Name the most essential item in your handbag, and tell us why it’s so vital.

Apart from my sketch book and the usual things like keys and phone has to be red lipstick. There is such optimism in painting ones lips bright red..war paint I guess.

Where is your happy place?

In my studio at the bottom of the garden, I’ve always wanted a place to work just a little way from the house and this dream came true last year.

What are your plans for the future?

There are so many thinks I want to do as well as making the children’s books. Next year I’m having an exhibition with a friend of my printmaking work, it’s a really good excuse to just make work that it’s playful without the rigours of book making, I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes me.

And lastly, what’s your favourite animal and why?

Has to be cat, our cat Nola had four kittens this summer and they brought us so much joy. Three of them have gone to their new homes and we kept one…I’m sure they will find their way into one of my books soon. Our haphazard family life is always an inspiration and I’m lucky to be able to escape to the bottom of the garden to write it all down.


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