Leelee Macdonell is a graphic designer and artist specialising in surface design for stationery, gifts and home décor.
[The Short Story]
I consider myself a global citizen. My heart belongs to all the countries I have lived in...South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, United States, Canada and perhaps, to places I haven’t yet discovered. Travel has exposed me to culture and ideas that have influenced who I am today and the designs I create.
I am obsessed with patterns. I believe they evoke curiosity and enchantment that make life interesting. Expressing the vibrancy and intensity of life that makes it so alluring, seductive and mysterious, layered with emotions and experiences that are all at once intimate, diverse and universal. All of this I convey in my joyful, bold and often maximalist designs.
Patterns allow us to express ourselves, to create a space where we belong, no matter where we are in the world.
[The Long Story]
I think we all go through phases in our life where we attempt to fit in, to blend in with our surroundings for the sake of acceptance and belonging. Learning to embrace our story, our quirkiness, what makes us stand out can so often be a lifelong process of revealing who we are, one layer at a time.
Embracing our differences makes life interesting.
As a child, I was shy and lived mostly in my imagination. It wasn’t until my teenage years that I found fashion and art as a way to express my individuality and creativity. I became as rebellious and confident as I was moody and misunderstood. I wanted to break all the design rules. Maybe it was the constant moving and the exposure to different cultures that gave me such an unconventional approach to fashion and decorating. Whatever it was, I loved to experiment.
At the end of high school, I bought into the age-old story that there was no room for imagination or magic in “real” life. How many times have we listened to outside voices instead of following our intuition? I moulded myself to the expectations of others while seeking to maintain space for my art. I was trying to fit in and lost part of myself in the process.
While studying visual communications at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, one of my instructors told me she thought I should rather consider a career in textile design. I fell immediately in love with the idea but I had no idea how to make it happen. In truth, at the time I didn't quite know what that even meant. So I locked it away inside me along with the rebellious teenager who believed anything was possible. Instead, I became a competent graphic designer content with “playing it safe”.
I loved my work as a graphic designer, especially the years when cut and paste involved real scissors and glue. But there was always a part of me that remained hidden away, a part of me that had so much more to express. It’s taken years of peeling back layers and returning step by step to myself to rediscover the confidence I had lost. Now I’m done trying to “fit in” for anyone. I’m no longer afraid to show who I am to the world. And I came back to the idea of being a textile designer that I’ve been holding onto since 1995.
Art and design can be the path back to ourselves.
I want to live the boldest, most confident, happiest life I can imagine. I want to embrace life’s creative flow and see where it takes me. I want to listen to my intuition and the fire of my curiosity because that’s when the magic happens. I want to experiment, be adventurous and try new things. After years of playing it safe, I love it when people tell me, “You can’t do that!”, it makes me want to do it even more. Especially when it comes to art, design, fashion and décor.