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An Interview with Bobbi Rae Gastall of Bear Cubs

Leeds loves Bobbi Rae. You cannot take up air in Leeds and not recognise her work. She is the illustrator behind Leeds Council's "Ask for Angela" campaign. She describes herself as a multi-disciplinary artist and designer, she's a lover of all things bright and bold, fun and ofc feminist. She doesn't shy away from educating people on inequality between the sexes and is a joy to follow on the gram. Not a day goes by in The Pink Room shop without someone smiling, or laughing at one of her joyful prints displayed with pride on our wall before saying, with a misty glint in their eye, something along the lines of "good old Bobbi Rae".

Hello to Bobbi Rae! We asked her some questions about what it is like to be in business as a woman in 2022.

Name: Bobbi Rae

Pronoun: she/her/they

Business Name & insta name: @bearcubs

What do you/your business do: Juicy, colourful, illustrated products that seem vaguely nostalgic and leave a feminist taste in your month

What did you do before you did what you do now?: I used to be a graphic designer, toeing the edge of the corporate world. I pierced ears and worked in a plant shop before too. The time couldn’t come quick enough for me to sack it all in though. In 2016, I went back to uni and in 2019, I started to make my craft my full-time.

What do you love about working for yourself?: Setting my own goals and priorities. Finding my own ways of working. It makes my soul feel very full when I accomplish something for my little business, and all the more fulfilled when I’ve been able to get there comfortably, confidently and honestly, more efficiently.

What is the worst part of the job?: I’m going with admin. I didn’t become an illustrator to be my own accountant, PR person, or to spend 80% of my work time in email chains, but it’s all part of it and I’m still grateful I’m here.

What has held you back in business because you are a woman?: it is hard to measure because I have never had any other experience to gauge - but if you want to talk stories, I don’t have enough fingers or toes to count the amount of times my own business has been mansplained to me by random passers-by in the street. (It happens a lot when I paint murals.) A drunk man once grabbed my ladder after I refused to come down and talk to him because he had been shouting at me that I was ‘holding my paintbrush wrong’… don’t argue while you’re up a ladder, folks. The power balance is off and it’s scary. A lot of times I have felt that my presence as a woman, particularly in the mural scene, is seen as a bit of a novelty. Maybe that’s my own hang up. But I used to work as part of a duo (both femme) and we were once asked to do a job, where we were the only women and we were paid as a team, so got 50% less than each of the guys. Maybe they thought it would be half the work because there were 2 of us, but we were all there the exact same amount of time and obliged to the same commitments so actually it just felt super shady. I kind of regret doing it now. But then there wouldn’t have been any women involved at all?! There’s shit on both sides of the coin.

What does your self-care look like / how do you cope with the pressures of owning a small biz?: My self care routine is super spotty and kind of erratic, which I suppose is in some way a result of having no real routine, in general. Every day is different so it can often be hard to plan. I do try to take the time to myself that I need though; that’s important to me. I have a couple of indulgent skincare products which make me feel nice and maybe once every couple of weeks, I do the whole Euphoria manic montage with the masks and the rollers and whatnot. But mostly, I feel like I’m caring for myself when I’m walking with my dog or reading on a Sunday. Or even drawing to be honest. It’s not very cool to be such a one-dimensional person but drawing is a happy place for me. That’s why I wanted to make it my job!

What is the best piece of advice you would give to young women today?: learn how to do the most dramatic eye roll possible, be as badass as you want to be and don’t let em grind you down.

Name some of your favourite female owned businesses in Leeds: this is obviously a great opportunity to say thank u to @thepinkroomleeds and @flavourlikefancy who stock my work!@coloursmayvary and @thelittlebookshopleeds are awesome and I have a lot of love for @crawetattoo too @wondergirlphoto is the best photographer in the world and @evhardaker and @elettr are incredibly talented local painters and designers that you 100% need to look out for.

Thanks Bobbi!!

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