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International Women's Day: In conversation with Maggie Stephenson, Roeqiya Fris and Kind Bag's Designer Astrid Weguelin

This International Women's Day we wanted to catch up with some of the incredibly talented female artists we've collaborated with, and our very own designer Astrid!

IWD Supporting Female Creatives

With women still struggling to break into the creative industry at the same rate of men, and their work being notoriously valued at less than male artists, we wanted to take this chance to discuss the challenges female artists face and how we can overcome them to get more of us females into creative roles and leadership opportunities! 

Maggie Stephenson Recycled Bag Collection
First up we caught up with lovely Maggie Stephenson. The Polish born and German raised illustrator is based out of Florida. She works as a freelancer for magazines, advertising and other publishers as well as creating prints for home decor. She worked with a huge variety of established brands such as Sephora, Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters. 


Hi, can you share with our readers what inspires your work?

A lot of it is inspired by the beauty of being present and fully engaged in the moment. I like to slow down and really take in the beauty around us, nature and it’s plants, sunlight, community, people coming together. It feels good to pour all of this into my work.

What made you decide to become an artist?

 Art has been in my life since I was a child, it has always been my go to activity and something that came naturally. When I was at a crossroads of trying to decide what to do with my life, art yet again came naturally and seemed like the only logical route that would bring me fulfilment in the work environment.

Today is International Women’s Day, can you tell me what that means to you?
Growing up in Poland, I have so many fond memories of this day. It was joyfully celebrated amongst women by bringing flowers and well wishes to one another. As a child, I did not fully understand the power of women coming together for encouragement and to lift up your fellow sisters. Looking back, all I see is the smiles, hugs and genuine excitement for being women that spread love and joy. This is how I like to set the tone for the day and look for opportunities to tell fellow sisters that they’re wonderful, strong and that we can make a positive impact by supporting one another.

Do you think there’s a stereotype attached to being a female artist?

I think often times women tend to be portrayed as loving nurturers and with that some may assume that we may be less likely to be firm. I too in the past have felt that I had to prove something to the world, that I am indeed a hard worker and capable of working under stresses of tight deadlines and high demands. My nurturing and loving as a family woman, as a friend and as a mother is separate from my persistence and backbone as a business woman.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?

Juggling family life and work is something that didn’t come easily. It took me some time, trial and error to find just the right balance that works for me. At times I would get discouraged and had to pick myself off the ground. But staying persistent eventually showed it’s rewards and with time it became easy to navigate through these things.

What are some of the rewarding experiences you've had as an artist?

Anytime I get the chance to work with clients that value giving back and supporting organizations that strive to make the lives of others a bit easier, it fills me up. But it doesn’t always have to be through big jobs. Receiving messages and people simply saying that my art brought a smile to their face, is priceless and rewarding in itself.

What artists are inspiring you right now?

Alja Horvat @aljahorvat, Petra Braun @petrabraunillustration, Deb Hudson @debi_hudson, Carina Lindmeier @carinalindmeier and the list goes on and on…


What advice do you have for emerging creatives?

Through dedication, persistence and hard work you can do anything you set your mind to! 

 Shop the Maggie Stephenson Collection



Roeqiya Fris Reusable Bag Collection


Next up is the amazingly talent Dutch-Egyptian artist Roeqiya Fris. Her art is informed by feminine beauty and she is known for creating magical scenes filled with lustrous colours, where people, animals and nature all live in harmony. 


What made you decide to become an artist Roeqiya?
I first thought of pursuing a career in art at high school. I’ve loved painting since I was a little girl. But at High school we had an amazing art journey to Paris, Florence and Venice. We visited a lot of museums, and I was so impressed. I fell in love with Monet, Gaugin and Picasso. That was when I started dreaming of being an artist. But being half Dutch, half Egyptian, the practical, rational part in me thought: “But I’ll never be able to make a living out of that”. So it took a good number of years and other career moves before I finally decided to take the jump and become a fulltime artist.
Through painting, illustrating and drawing I’m able to create a world of my own in which everything is possible. It’s about being able to capture a certain atmosphere in a painting, allowing me to express myself creatively and communicate visually.
I can express my feelings freely, for instance about what it means to me to be a woman, and about the role of women in society.

Can you tell us what International Women's Day means to you? How will you be celebrating?

To me personally it is a good reminder of the power of sisterhood, of how women can encourage and support each other in various ways, for instance in entrepreneurship and in developing themselves as artists.

I will be celebrating with my 3 sisters with a good cup of coffee, pie or cake,  and finding inspiration by visiting museums with works of female artists.

Tell us about what inspires your work?
There are so many fascinating colour-combinations I see in everyday life, such as two brightly coloured cars parked next to each other in a street, or an eclectic colour-mix of flowers in a field, somebody’s outfit in a grocery store, a still in a movie, a picture…there are so many things in everyday life that just inspire me in terms of compositions and colours.
I can find inspiration for my work in lots of different things; a movie, an exhibition in a museum, or a city or country I visit. Sometimes I paint scenes that remind me of travels of my childhood, for example to Egypt or Spain.  There is an overwhelming amount of beautiful patterns hidden in trees, flowers, in buildings, walls, everywhere……just waiting to be discovered by whoever is able to spot it. I have found beautiful colours and patterns in places where you’d expect it, like the Alhambra in Spain and Le Jardin Majorelle in Morocco, but also in unexpected places like an old wallpaper shop in Belgium, a quiet city park in Spain, or in an old museum-like building in Rotterdam.
Is there a myth about female artists you’d like to debunk? 

Something I’ve heard several times was that you cannot be a fully developed artist while also being a mother, and having and raising children. I am a mother and for me it helped me in more consciously choosing time to work on my art, to become more focused in the limited amount of time I have. 

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?

For me it was about finding my own voice in commissioned works. The first commissions and assignments were challenging, because I work very instinctively.  But at the same time, there are the clients’ expectations and they often have their own artistic view on the assignment.

That caused me to lose my spontaneity, and become too cramped and tense in the artwork, which weakened my style and led to a sort of pale, bleaker version of my usual work. Which the client also wasn’t happy with of course.

I’ve been able to overcome this challenge by being upfront and very clear about how I work (one-takes only), and the amount of artistic freedom I need in an assignment. That means talking to the client and having them express clearly what they are looking for.

If they are able to just give me some pointers about a general direction they’re thinking of, and leave it up to me from there, they get what they’re looking for. What I’ve learned here is that I’m not an illustrator in the strict sense of the word, but more of an illustrating artist.


And what's the most rewarding experience you’ve had as an artist?

I’ve seen some pretty amazing responses to my work, mostly from when it reminds them of a specific person, place or situation that meant a lot to them. From a dear mother that passed away long ago, to an island where they used to live in their childhood. Art can bring up amazing memories and emotions, and it really is in the eye of the beholder. What still amazes me is that so many people around the world, from Singapore to Mexico, have prints of my illustrations hanging in their houses, in bedrooms, baby rooms and bathrooms. Really private locations, where they allow my work to be a part of their life. Which they look at every day, and enjoy. At least, that’s what they tell me they do! I still think that’s amazing. 


What artists are inspiring you right now?
That changes constantly, as i keep discovering amazing artists, from the classic painters to more contemporary artists.
To name a few:
  • Alice Neel. Her portraits of women are stunning and very inspiring.
  • Njideka Akunyili Crosby. This Nigerian illustrator and artist combines collage, painting and drawing techniques in a very special way, on larger scale works of art.
I also like her use of colour and mixing of techniques. And of course the bi-cultural aspect of her works, you can really see the African background, although she lives in the U.S. now
A bit old-fashioned, but I really like Gauguin, Rousseau, Frida Kahlo and Matisse, they all have something magical, exotic, tropical and sometimes a bit naïve. But most of all a marvellous use of colour. Alas, these are  mostly male artists, but they sure know how to paint beautiful women!

What advice would you give emerging female creatives?

It’s SO important to stay close and true to yourself, to your own style. To create from what you think is important, and not from what others expect of you, or from what is “in style” or trending at this moment.

If you stay close to your own voice and the things you feel are most important, that’s something your audience can feel. That’s when you communicate the most direct through your work, and that’s when your works come across the most powerful.  

Everyone has a story to tell, and the beauty of art is that you can tell it in your own unique way. So dare to do just that.

It doesn’t matter if you reach s small group of people, or a large audience, you will reach the people that suit you, that are a good match.

I also believe strongly that everyone is creative in their own way, but a lot of people let themselves be blocked or limited in developing that.

If you find some form that brings you joy, do it often, and do it a lot! It gives you energy, and you will grow and get better at it in no time.


Astrid Weguelin Artist
Lastly, we spoke to Kind Bags very own designer, Astrid Weguelin. Astrid has been working with us for nearly two years, her beautiful designs explore shapes and patterns using handmade textures and digital brushes and feature all across the Kind Bag collection! She's also worked with some really well known clients such as The Telegraph, Pets At Home and Stylist Magazine!

Hey Astrid, can you start by telling us what inspires your work?

I love finding the beautiful patterns and shapes in simple everyday things- like vegetables! Food and nature are a big influencer on my work and are always what I turn to when I'm stuck for inspiration.

What led to you pursuing a career as an artist?

I've always loved art, since I was little and doing art classes after school! After completing my Art Foundation I was led to the more commercial side of illustration and design. I fell in love and have been doing it ever since!

What would you say is the most rewarding experience you've had as an artist?

It's always so rewarding seeing your work on a physical product! At Kind Bag, I've loved the process of developing ideas from scratch into the patterns on our bags- it's so exciting opening that first sample box!

And finally, who are the artists inspiring you right now?

Marylou Faure @maryloufaure

María Jesús Contreras @mariajesuscontreras,

Alice Des @alicedes_illustration

Maisie Cowell @maisiecowell

Ana Jaks @ana.jaks

Natasha Durley @natashadurley

there are so many more wonderful illustrators I could mention!

Explore Astrids work!



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