Posted by Rebecca King on 07.01.2016
If you are not following @Pointebrush on Instagram, you are really missing out. Meet Margot, a designer and dancer out of NYC, who is re-imagining ballet every day on social media. After starting her own design business, Margot decided to start Pointebrush as a side project and outlet to hone her skills as an illustrator and painter. Now she has grown this project into a full blown business. You can buy her prints or even phone cases, silk scarves, or leggings with her unique designs.
I caught up with Margot to learn a little more about her work and her story:
Rebecca King: Tell us about your early dance inspiration.
Margot: I was born and grew up in Hong Kong. When I was really young, my mom enrolled me in ballet classes at a small ballet school there. My mom had danced ballet in her youth so I imagine she must have been really excited to have a little girl and promptly brought me to the first ballet class for tots she could find. It was run by an elderly British lady named Carol, sort of a relic from colonial old Hong Kong.
When I was a little older, my mom could see that the training at that school wasn’t all that good for anything beyond young toddlers discovering creative movement so I was moved from this smaller school to a much larger, more vocational school which had a more structured system, and which followed the British RAD syllabus. It came as a real shock to me how strict and academic it was compared to my first school. I learned to do my pliés and tendus properly and every year we had the annual RAD exams where special examiners from the UK would fly in to town specifically to grade and evaluate each student. Because my mom was such a big fan of ballet, she often took me to performances of the Nutcracker, Swan Lake and other ballets that came to town. I even met Marcia Haydee and the great Dame Margot Fonteyn when she visited my school. I had no idea who she was at the time but I remember my mom gushing all about her (I was after all, named after her). My dad is also a huge fan of classical music so beyond just ballet, I developed a love of classical music that I still have to this day.
RK: How did you decide to stop dancing and pursue higher education focused in design?
Margot: Oh how I wish I had never stopped. I don’t think I would have ever gone on to become a professional but having come back to ballet after over a decade, I think quitting in my teens is one of my great regrets. The main reason why I stopped ballet was that the rigid academics of my school just sucked out all the joy and love of dance. It felt for a while like I was a robot just preparing for my annual exams and evaluations without any joy and artistry. It felt very cold and uninspired and I eventually just lost interest. The headmaster of my school sat down with me and my mom at the time and tried to discourage me from leaving but at that point I think I was just over it. I don’t blame the school or the teachers, perhaps I just wasn’t mentally prepared for the academic necessities of higher education in ballet. Ironically, it’s the love of classical music and artistry that brought me back to ballet many years later.
On the other hand, with design and visual arts, it’s always been a part of who I am as a person. Most friends and family remember me as the little girl who could be seated at a table or couch (or virtually anywhere) for hours and hours at a time as long as I had pencils and paper. That’s all I needed. My parents’ dinner guests were always wowed by how I could keep myself entertained for hours on end and they wouldn’t hear a peep from me no matter how late it got. I think deep down, I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to be a designer or artist. I never had an epiphany or made a decisions at any point in my life, I think I had always known all along that visual art in some, way, shape or form was going to be what I did for a living. I never really did anything extra-curricular with my art other than practicing and painting on my own. It’s when I applied to college and was accepted by a design school in New York (Parsons School of Design) that my higher education in art began.
RK: What brought you back to ballet?
Margot: A few things but ultimately, I was watching a documentary called “Ballerina” on Netflix a few years ago and it sparked so many memories of what it was about dance that I loved in the first place. That and I had developed a sternum injury that prevented me from doing Yoga which prompted me to seek out another form of exercise that I could enjoy. My first thought was “maybe ballet?” which was quickly followed by self-doubt, fear of making a fool of myself and wondering whether an adult can even come back to ballet after so many years away from class. Luckily though, because I live in New York, there’s no shortage of ballet studios and classes at many, many levels of experience so I started at the very basic introductory class and worked my way up the levels as my confidence grew and muscle memory came back. I’m so glad I ignored my fears and came back because it’s so rewarding and fun!
RK: How did you develop the concept of PointeBrush and how has it grown since the beginning?
Margot: Pointebrush was truly an accidental discovery that took on a life of it’s own. Because my day job as a designer requires me to be on the computer a lot and for the most part, creating artwork for others, I decided last year that I was going to make a concerted effort to go back to pencil and paper and create art for me. I really wanted to be able to get the feel for paper, ink and paint and brush up on my illustration and drawing skills. Much like ballet, your hand and eye motor coordination needs to be maintained pretty much daily in order to stay at the peak of your ability and I had slipped a bit, especially given that so much of the work I do is on the computer. So I started out drawing things from around me that inspired me and because ballet is such a big thing in my life, I naturally started to gravitate towards drawing and painting dancers. The name “Pointebrush” was something I just came up with on the fly because to me, it seemed like a short and clever way to express the two things I love “Pointe”, the universal icon of ballet, and “brush”, an artist’s most basic tool.
There are so many amazing images of dancers from around the world to get inspired by but what attracted me most were images of artists on stage and the magic of stage, lights and costume. Social media also has an overabundance of images of dancers showcasing gymnastics-like physicality or archy feet but that doesn’t really inspire me, creatively. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly impressive! But what made me fall in love with ballet and what I try to capture in my work is that fleeting, magical quality that you experience when the lights dim, the curtain goes up and a dancer takes the stage. To me, that is the magic and the artistry of ballet.
RK: What has been the most unexpected result of this venture?
Margot: I honestly I didn’t think that my Pointebrush account would garner the popularity that it has. Because it was something I was just doing for me and just happened to share on social media for fun, it came as a surprise to me that so many dancers from around the world would embrace it and share with their friends. It sort of snowballed organically. The ballet community has been so welcoming of me and my work and I’m proud to say that I have made many, many friends in both professional and non-professional sides of the dance world. I consider all of my followers to be like friends of mine and I welcome all comments and messages that I get. Sometimes, it’s a professional dancer that I have idolized for years who surprises me with a friendly note and other times it’s a young dancer or aspiring young artist sending me photos of their work.
I’ve had the privilege on working on some really exciting projects with dancers and organizations too! I worked together with Margaret Mullin (from PNB) on an artwork piece for an independent movie she’s creating called No Dominion, Anna Wilkes on the HERO Dance benefit for veterans and Gaynor Minden among others. I love all of it and feel so incredibly humbled and honored to be in this position.
I don’t take any of it for granted and can honestly say that I look forward to every interaction I have with my followers. Pointebrush is still something I do for me, but it’s transitioned into something that I look forward to sharing with others. It is my gift to my friends and followers and hopefully it can inspire others to dance or be involved in the arts in some way.
RK: What is next for PointeBrush?
Margot: That’s a great question. I’m trying really hard to balance Pointebrush with my daily profession as a designer and not to ever let the joy get away from me like it can when something becomes all encompassing. I’m re-designing my website, creating new Pointebrush products (lots of exciting new things there!) and revamping my e-commerce shop so I’m excited to share that when it’s ready. I want it to be beautiful, inspiring and a place to find well designed products inspired by ballet, and it’s going to be welcoming to everyone, whether you’re a ballet student, professional or just a ballet or art lover. I think it will most likely launch sometime this summer but we’re working fast and furious to get it done as soon as possible. For now though, you can visit my website www.pointebrush.com or follow me on instagram instagram.com/pointebrush to find out more about my art.
Check out TENDUS new podcast, Conversations on Dance!