Known as Isa, but her full name is Isabelle Norman Sällström. Isa is a designer and illustrator who loves to draw people, patterns and happy things. She lives in the very north of Sweden surrounded by snowy forests and deep blue waters with her husband, David and two sons, Theo and Eddie.
From a young age, Isa recognised that she wanted to work or do something in her life related to colour, shape, expression and/or design. She did not expect to combine all four.
Isa recently caught up with our blog writer, Jacqui Taylor, for an honest chat about her business Isa Form, finding her distinct style and all the bits in-between.
Firstly, Isa could you describe your style?
My style is usually described as playful and humorous with a retro vibe. My mum would say I have been drawing the same way since I was six years old. I have never tried to draw in another way.
My Apple pen is my best friend and I love to draw creatures, animals and people with it.
When and where did you start drawing with a purpose?
It began at the age of 13 when I started drawing and selling roof tiles in my parents’ interior store. I grew up as a daughter of an interior design shop and I often say I was marinated in colour and design from when I was born.
My dad was a blacksmith, so I also dabbled in designing some of his creations. I encouraged him to make big, chunky necklaces that were very heavy but really cool.
After high school I studied design at Bergh Soc and afterwards I was employed as a graphic designer at an advertising firm. I also competed in Swedish Masterships in design and it took me all the way to Seoul to compete in world championships. This was ages ago and nowadays I don't think you can compete in design.
Tell us about Isa Form, how did it come about?
In 2006, I launched Isa Form from her basement, where I designed and shipped prints. I soon quit my job and I have been going strong ever since. Today my business continues to expand and evolve with a long list of clients that include UNICEF, Skip Hop, Spira Interior and Voksi.
I love it when clients comment on something they have seen and they were certain it was an Isa design. My heart gets fireworks.
What advice would you offer to those that are starting out as designers/illustrators?
My best advice to up and coming illustrators is to stick to your style. It can become your signature.
What inspires you?
I can be inspired by anything. It can be a snog, an advertisement, a sunset, a walk in the park or a dish. When I am in a creative mode I cannot control myself no matter what time of day it is. I am usually quick in my turnarounds and I love to work at a fast pace.
I also find inspiration on Pinterest and Instagram by other designers, artist and illustrators. I can be super inspired by colour scheme and colour combinations. It is very exciting how we are affected by them.
When did you meet Nerida Hansen?
Nerida contacted me back in 2014 and it was my first time teaming up with an agency. She really inspired and convinced me to work with patterns.
Talk us through your typical day, if you have one that is.
My studio is at home and I love the freedom that comes with that. In the basement of our 1960s house, I have a showroom where I display products with my own designs and illustrated prints for local customers. Once a week I open my house and other days I love to spend all day sketching something new accompanied by loud music and a double espresso. I usually say that I have an orderly creative chaos. I like routines, and I also like to clean out my calendar for entering that creative flow. I always start the day answering emails and packing orders.
What do you do in your spare time?
In my free time I spend it in our house by the sea with my husband, my sons and our little dog, Bosse. There is nothing better than the sound of wind and waves. I also love music and I could not survive a day without it, as well as good food, wine, coffee and long walks!
What would be your dream project?
Well, I have always dreamed about writing a children's book but I never seem to have time. I would love to do a swimwear collection. And I would also love to design my own collection of clothing for kids and their mothers.
Lastly, what is next for you?
I am right now working with different advertising firms on illustration projects. A Swedish clothing company just released lots of NY Kids clothing with my patterns. I am also developing my own little range of products.
With titles such as Skatecat, Sneaker, Purrfect, Weekend Vibes, Wings and Rollerskates, Isa’s latest designs ooze fun and sunniness. They are one of the first collections available as prints at www.futurefolk.com.au, as well as on fabric at www.neridahansen.com.au. Decorate your room and yourself!
Words by Jacqui Taylor