Laura Bowles is the artist behind Island of Social, a digital illustration brand making illustrations used for cards, prints and merchandise. Laura's work heavily features references to the island and all of it's cultural quirks and has been featured in multiple campaigns by Gef the Mongoose particularly during lockdown. Laura currently lives in Leigh on Sea with her fiancé and work as a Graphic Designer in London.
When I was at university I learnt about ‘the cult of less’ which is a way that people live with as few possessions as possible. I found it fascinating that there are people out there who live with as few as ten possessions. When it came to graduation though, and it was time for me to pack up my halls and move back to the rock I realised the items which were filling my dorm room that I was having to pay to ship back to the Isle of Man I’d barely touched. It’s something that has always stayed with me and is definitely something which has inspired my artwork, I always think at the end of a drawing or piece of work ‘is every line necessary?’.
I come from a big Manx family and every Saturday since as long as I can remember all my aunties and uncles and cousins and my Gran meet for coffee and a ’skeet’ - and then one Saturday it dawned on me that if a non Manxie joined coffee no one would know what we were all saying, from ‘there’s a boat in the morning’ to ‘Thanks Yessir’ they would be totally lost. Then I thought how funny it could be if these were on greetings cards, and from there, Island of social was born.
The Isle of Man has its own little language (as well as its own actual language) and I really wanted to celebrate the weird and wonderful. When you tell someone who’s not Manx about some of our customs like saying ‘hello’ to the fairies, or not being able to say… I can’t even type it (long tails!) they think we are all mad - but its what makes the Island so magical and gives us all a sense of community.
I’ve known Kate (Heggarty - Founder of Gef) for a few years now, in typical Manx fashion she is friends with my Aunty's best friend and I had put some feelers out for some freelance work and was put in touch with Kate. I totally got Gef and loved what it stood for and there just seemed like such an obvious need for what she was creating I was really excited to be able to get involved.
The Global Covid-19 crisis has been incredibly scary, and no one had ever experienced anything of this scale before. Everyone was looking round to others for answers, but no one had them.
Gef broke down the updates from the government and spoke to the Island in a way that wasn’t scary and was like your funny friend explaining something in layman’s terms to you when you’re totally confused.
Like most things in life, communication is key, and the more you know, the less scared you feel. I think Gef leading the charge with ‘Howard O Clock’ etc was a breath of fresh air and a beacon of light and I’m so proud to have been a part of it.
I haven’t really had that much feedback - I get the odd message on Instagram which is lovely and my Mum has bought more cases of Howard O Clock wine than Tesco sold of toilet roll this month so I guess that’s a pretty good review.
I want to continue to grow Isle of Social and to develop more illustrations of the Island and to eventually have a bit of a catalogue of work. I think my dream scenario would be to eventually one day have an exhibition of work on the Island.