Tell us a bit more about Robyn Hill.
I’m one of 6 siblings. I was born at home at 1 am in the middle of one of Kwa Zulu Natal’s crazy storms. Mom, all of 26 years old, birthed me all on her own. Literally. Its one of my favourite stories – Dad had gone to get the doctor, when they returned; there I was. Mom says I smiled at her, she insists it was an actual smile (haha). She also says I was two weeks overdue, that she had to take castor oil, and that I’ve been late ever since… She’s not wrong! I am habitually disorganized, late, and untidy. I frustrate myself. I console myself with the (very scientific) theory that the more artistic one is; the less tidy. I’ll take it, thanks.
You are originally a hairdresser, what made you decide to start making more time for drawing and illustrating?
I didn’t “decide to start” drawing; I’ve always had a pencil in my hand. As a child, I drew on anything I could get hold of. As an adult, drawing took a backseat for years while I grew my business, Strangelove, a cool little hair studio in Stellenbosch. I did well and was overrun with bookings. After 6 years of full-on business, with all its challenges, I started to feel overwhelmed, exhausted, restless and trapped. I know my mood permeated my business too, and clients could sense it. I just got to a point where the looming future of being only one thing in my life scared and depressed me. I sank quite deeply into a fog of despair; I felt hopeless. I dragged myself along for another 2 years. Bound by my fear of leaving hairdressing, (no degrees to speak of) I was tied to client responsibilities, and to be frank; terrified of losing the status that comes with owning a business. Drawing (and writing) soothed my worried mind during an extremely uncertain and thoroughly miserable time. I began sharing my drawings on Instagram, without any intentions other than having a virtual space to collect my art, when one day, somebody asked to buy one of them. I nearly fainted. That right there, is how it all started. I began loosening my death grip on being a business owner and allowed my heart and mind to open to other possibilities. All of a sudden things just tumbled forward almost out of my hands- I met my current colleague who invited me to share salon space with her in Cape Town, I decided then and there to sell my salon. It sold within a month. After starting as an independent stylist (I was FREE!!) at Pause Hair and Body, I took part in an exhibition that was held there, displaying drawings I happened to have at the time. To my delight and disbelief, almost every piece was bought. Shortly thereafter someone (again, a hair client) suggested I print my drawings onto t-shirts. I said an immediate “yes” and ran with it. The rest, as they say, is history!
What would you do if you knew it could not fail?
I’d move to New York, write a memoir, and draw all day. I’d open a creative residency for people to come from all over to stay with me and create their art and have a dedicated gallery space to show my and my residents’ work.
When was the last time you experienced/ did something for the first time and what was it?
I traveled to England and Ireland for the first time in my life, recently. I took a ferry from the seaside town of Galway to Inish Mor, an island off the west coast of Ireland, where I packed a lunch onto a rented bicycle and fought the chain up little hills and whizzed down country lanes along the Atlantic, between green fields bordered by low stone walls where horses would plod over to me hoping for something sweet. In Kilkenny, Ireland, I stood with tears on my cheeks watching Neil Young and Bob Dylan live, Rocking in the Free World along with Neil and, in collective puzzlement with the crowd, trying to sing along to Bob’s almost unrecognizable songs. (But still being mindblown at the spectacle before us)
Atop the 100m plus towering Cliffs of Moher, I stuck my head out over the sheer cliff drop, my hair whipping around my head. I watched gulls ride the wind below me and felt like I was on the edge of the world.
What have you read/ heard that stuck with you for a long time?
A lot of what I read or have read/listened to is about self-development; I’m deeply interested in it. I’m learning about following my heart, and about expressing boundaries. Being clear with others begins with knowing your own yes’s and no’s; filling your cup to give your best. At work, in personal matters, and on all other levels. Then secondly but perhaps more urgently important: if you feel a calling somewhere inside, for God’s sake give it a chance. You don’t need to quit your day job to start to explore something your heart is pulling you towards, or whispering about in the moments between emails. It won’t be overnight, so don’t waste time. I did it… and my world didn’t fall apart. It broke right open and light is pouring in. And even though I still feel uncertain, and sometimes I feel lonely, and a lot of times I wonder if I’ll achieve The Big Dream, I still feel a deep, simple sense of “YES.” I know that even when it’s difficult, and often times especially those times, that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
All images by Robyn Hill