Interviewer: Peter Houston
Peter Houston: What made you want to start Delicate Rebéllion?
Hannah Taylor: For me, it goes right back to my school days, when I was in high school. I was always quite a creative little kid and always had an interest in the arts. I genuinely thought, when I was at school, that I’d have a good run at a career in the industry, but when I got into high school, teenage angst paired with some of the most uninspiring teachers completely derailed my dreams.
I was a bit of a daydreamer at school. I didn’t have a lot of attention span for the work that was being presented to me on the curriculum. I felt like I was quite quickly left behind when I got into third year. My art teacher, in particular, had the longest term, negative impact on my confidence. Some of the things that she said to me back then still rear their ugly heads with me today. She had so many opinions on my work, and I think, back then, it frightened me into handing anything in at all.
Because art was a subject that I genuinely thought I was good at, I couldn’t understand why she was always trying to chip away at my confidence. That actually seeped into the other subjects that I had taken at school. Even to this day, I have quite a lot of anxiety about showing my work. I always get really nervous around launch time. The magazine is such a personal thing, to me anyway. I’m almost like, ‘hey, look at this thing that I’ve made’, rather than telling everyone to buy it. I definitely still struggle with that.
Post uni, I was looking for a wee project to keep my fingers in the pot of what I’d learned in magazine publishing. I was obviously a single mom at the time, as well, so I couldn’t follow my buddies down to London to find a job in a great magazine down there. I was tied to Edinburgh. It’s where my support network is for Skye.
I was just trying to clutch at straws really and start something here, start a wee project here that will keep things ticking over, build your experience. That’s when I started She Is Fierce, which has now become Delicate Rebéllion. Right at the beginning, I had no idea it was going to grow arms and legs and that, four and a half years later, I’d be sitting here and publishing magazines for a living.
What you said right at the beginning, that idea that you had confidence get knocked at school, and then you went a different route into magazine publishing. How do you see those two connected?
I definitely feel like the magazine is a personal project. It feels like it encompasses my mood and feeling towards the creative industries. It does stem back to that time at school where I was so nervous to put things out. I feel like my high school story is actually relevant to so many people. I’ve chatted to people about their time at high school and the delay that it took them to actually embrace something creative that they’re passionate about, whether it’s embroidery or painting, or fine art.
A lot of people come to it in later life. There seems to be a thread in that, at some point in their life, they’ve been undermined or their work has been undermined or questioned in a way that it didn’t necessarily need to be spoken about. That was the thing that made them put the lid on it for a little while.
I think with a magazine, the way that it encompasses that feeling, it attracts people. I feel like the way that it’s a gentle approach to the art world. I’ve always said that your vibe attracts your tribe, so I genuinely feel that the people who pick up the magazines feel that soft, gentle approach to putting their work out there.
How did you get from the idea of She Is Fierce, because that’s a Shakespeare quote right?
Yeah, it is.
How did you get from that to Delicate Rebéllion? What changed?
A lot and not a lot, actually. She Is Fierce was the project that I started when I left uni. It was a project for teenage girls, so it was really, really cool, from that experience that I had at school. I also had Skye, who at that point was nine or ten years old, and I was seeing the kind of media that she was consuming. That’s where She Is Fierce came from.
I had no idea at that point that it was going to grow arms and legs. I literally thought that I was just going to publish our initial zine, which was funded on Kickstarter. We printed 300 copies. It was sent out to all the people who backed our Kickstarter. I thought, ‘is this just going to be it, is this my little project?’ But it grew arms and legs.
I spoke at MagFest and I spoke about the project then. That was the catalyst for it continuing. I think even after Issue 2 of She Is Fierce, I started to change. I was becoming more confident in the way that I was publishing the magazines. I was feeling more of a disconnect with the teenage audience, just because a lot of the feedback from the magazines was that creativity knows no age.
When you’re talking about the arts, someone at 50 or 60 years old can pick up our magazine talking about a painter, as well as a 15-year-old girl can pick up the same magazine and feel just as inspired. I felt like I was doing myself a disservice by pigeonholing just for teenage girls, as well as the fact that if you label something for teenagers, they don’t want it. That became quite apparent to me.
I actually never liked the name She Is Fierce. There was just something really twee about it. When I used to go to events and my badge said ‘Hannah Taylor, She Is Fierce’. I was like, ‘oh God’. I wanted to shake that off, because I hadn’t really put a lot of thought into the name. It was started as a little project, I hadn’t expected it to turn into a business.
Had I had the foresight of that, I would have definitely changed the name before I started publishing. I printed four issues of She Is Fierce, because I’ve basically got OCD. I was like, ‘I can’t finish on three, I can’t finish on two because it looks like I’ve failed’. So I pushed through until we got to Issue 4, and then made the decision to rebrand to Delicate Rebéllion, which feels much more fitting for us and feels much more fitting for our audience.
So where’s Delicate Rebéllion at now? It’s more than just a magazine, right?
It’s definitely more than just a magazine. At the heart of everything is the magazine, because that’s my biggest passion. Without that, I couldn’t be doing the rest. But without the rest of the stuff that we do, I couldn’t possibly maintain our pages. All of the different elements of the business, the Collective, the store, our workshops, events, – all of that goes to underpinning my pages. They go hand in hand, but if the magazine wasn’t a part of that, then I can guarantee I wouldn’t be doing the rest of it. It’s the magazine that’s my passion.
Now, Delicate Rebellion has grown from She Is Fierce. We did have a great community around She Is Fierce. We did some events that were really well attended, really lovely, great events that, at that time, we weren’t seeing so much of. We had curated markets filled with inspirational, young artists coming to do spoken word. We did live podcasting, we had fashion shows and things like that. I feel like at that point, it was quite ahead of what was going on for young people back then.
But now for Delicate Rebellion, our biggest asset is still our community. It all stems from the pages of the magazine, because we feature both well-established artists and designers, as well as fresh-faced graduates in the art world. We are super welcoming of people at every stage and every age, regardless of where you are with your creative practice. Obviously, you don’t have to be a creative to read the magazine. We really do try to bring everybody into the fold.
What is it that you’re trying to get across to people?
I think it’s just to encourage people to put their passions out there. Don’t be afraid to give it a go. We’re absolutely not suggesting that everyone who enjoys picking up a paintbrush or can stitch something beautiful onto a t-shirt should try and make a buck from their passions. That’s absolutely not what we’re trying to encourage. We just want people to not be afraid to do it.
For the features that we that we pick for the magazines, we really do make a conscious effort of bringing in people who are just doing it for the sheer love of it, as well as people who are sustaining a career out of what they’ve learned to love during their life, something that they’re super, super passionate about doing.
The workshops, obviously, you’ve taken all that online.
Yeah, so we don’t do workshops ordinarily that are open to everyone. We have a community called the Collective. We’re now in our third year. It’s a closed doors community, so we open to new members every summer for a month and then people can join us. Once they’re in, they sit with us for 12 months.
It’s a space for creatives who are looking to level up their practice in the industry, so it is for those people who do want to turn a buck from their passions. That’s come from my journey, trying to make money from the magazine and finding it really difficult.
Speaking to the girls that we feature in the magazine, a lot of them have been through the same process, but maybe in different niches of the creative industry, like fashion design, graphic design, service providers, and traditional artists. Everyone, through that, has picked up skills that are that are actually transferable to one another.
From having these conversations, through interviews and things like that for our own magazine, it became apparent that we could all really help each other out. We’ve all found parts of our businesses that have worked for us and unlocked more sales, or a little tip over here for email marketing, or I know this really great person that can help with SEO. I just thought if we pool all our ideas together, the momentum would be great for us all going forward, as well as having that shared accountability as well.
The Collective is like a little melting pot of creatives from all different backgrounds and now from all over the world actually, as well. We all come together every two weeks for workshops on things like SEO, mailing lists, building your website, copywriting for your business, social media. We had one today on product photography.
It’s all those little things that you need to know about starting a creative business, but you can’t just go to uni and learn how to do absolutely everything to do with launching a business. It’s like a pick and mix of all the things that you need to know, as well as having the motivation of those creatives around you, so you don’t feel so alone. It can be such a lonely space, trying to put something out there into the world.
As I said, harping back to my school days, it’s terrifying being like, ‘hey, I made this thing, have a look’, and then what you think is having people judge you for it. So knowing that you’re in a group with hundreds of other people who are in the same position and seeing somebody just putting themselves out there, with no worries and full confidence, it really can rub off on you.
The Collective has become a huge part of Delicate Rebéllion and from that, we’ve actually now launched our store, which launched just last Friday. The products in there, a lot of them come from my community, a lot of them come from the girls in the Collective, and it’s been amazing to see them talk about developing these products, and then seeing them come to life, and then actually given them the platform, sharing my platform with them to help push their products out there. It just feels like a natural progression.
How do you decide what you’re going to sell in the shop?
Well, if I like it basically. As a curator of a magazine and a curator of a shop, I feel quite close to my community. I feel like I know them very well. I know who my readers are. I know what they like, because they’re just like me. I just pick things that that I would really like.
You can tell someone’s business is changing when you see that they’re hiring staff.
Yeah, it’s been amazing. Obviously, when I started, I had a full-time job, a crazy full-time job as well. It was more than full time, as well as raising Skye on my own and doing the magazine and the first year of the Collective. It was just too much. I was like, ‘oh my god, this is crazy’.
Once I gave up my job, I thought, ‘oh, this is going to be so much easier because I’ve got all this time’, but it’s still doing it on your own. Even just thinking about it makes my heart stop. For me, I always felt that I was expected just to do everything. If I can’t do something, I’ll learn how to do it and I’ll do it. That maybe comes from being a single mum as well. I’m quite proud to take ownership of things and see things from start to finish.
Soon after going solo in the magazine and not having a day job, I realised that I can’t do it alone. I can’t actually do everything and I’m shite at a lot of things when it came to relaunching the Collective last year. I just thought I don’t want to do it again on my own. I don’t think I could, I was so exhausted. It’s a lot of work and probably felt like more work for me, as an introvert, having to push myself into an extrovert space.