The National:

Glasgow-based illustrator Corrin Strain talks greetings cards, Darth Vader and house plants.

What’s the story behind your brand?

I’ve never studied illustration. I applied to art school from school but opted for university instead. Throughout my life I’ve always been creative – making things, painting and drawing, weird DIY home projects. One day I posted a photo of a drawing I had done for a friend’s 30th on Instagram. It was of Morrissey and one of my Instagram followers asked if she could buy a copy of it. Then she reposted it on her feed and more people asked if they could buy copies. So I set up an Etsy store and I’ve never looked back.

The National:

What do you make?
I make cards, prints, T-shirts and bags. My main thing is the cards. I didn’t intend it to be. I wanted it to be about making art prints. But it turned out that I’m better at making non-sentimental cards. I found this out when I was approached by a card distributor and some of my designs were bought by Paperchase and Scribbler, and people actually bought the cards. It’s still very weird seeing things that I have designed in such big high street stores. So now when people ask me what I make I always say I am a designer of weird greeting cards. The kind you probably wouldn’t give your parents.

READ MORE: Made in Scotland: Our pick of products from Scottish firms and independent makers

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What are your inspirations?
When I started I made prints that were mainly inspired by pop culture like The Smiths and Star Wars. I made a card with Darth Vader on it with the caption “Ah’m Yer Da!” and it sold out in a west end shop and then later became a print and T-shirt. I often spot random “da’s” in Glasgow wearing it when I’m out and about today. My style of drawing changed along with the subject matter. I started to illustrate things about my life and how I felt that often incorporated my slightly scathing and dry sense of humour. That’s when it all clicked.

The notes app in my phone has hundreds of card ideas. They come to me at random moments of the day and when I’m talking to other people. So I have to note them down instantly or I’ll forget them as quickly as they came to me. I used to draw with pens and paper, proper old school, but now everything is digital. It makes it so much easier and quicker to churn out ideas to test on my Instagram fam. Social media is a great way of getting feedback on new ideas. 

The National:

What sets you apart from other makers?

I guess it’s my honesty and minimal look of my designs. It’s always a simple drawing with a handwritten caption. On first glance the cards look nice, then you read the caption!  I describe my influences as pop culture, plants, feelings and Glasgow. I never design anything that’s not personal to me. I’m a self-confessed crazy plant lady so I have a lot of illustrations about girls and their feelings and their plants.

I’ve lived in Glasgow my whole life and I bloody love  it so I also draw a lot of Glasgow buildings too (mostly pubs because the pubs are my favourite). People don’t want to send generic Happy Birthday or New Job cards anymore. They want cards that reflect their personality and show the recipient that it’s more than just a card. It’s really a wee piece of art that you are giving people. I would never design a card that I wouldn’t send myself!

The National:

I think it’s also important for people to know that being a designer of weird cards is not my only job. I also work full-time in the public sector. I like people to know this as I feel that there is a lot of chat about not quitting your daydream and having to throw everything into starting up a business. I guess I am proof that you can balance a small business and a job working for someone else too if that’s what you want to do.

You don’t have to quit your job to pursue your dream. You can do both until your dream can pay the rent, or just do both if you like doing both, like I plan to do for a while yet. Glasgow has a great creative community and so many people are ready to help and support you even just by giving advice. Through things like the Glasgow Etsy Team and social media it’s been easy to connect women who are out there trying to create their dream businesses. Glasgow is a great place to be a one-girl band!

What are your most popular products?
My most popular products are a card of a Fab lolly that says “You’re fab…can I lick you all over?” It was made for Valentine’s Day but pretty much sells steadily all year round.

My favourite product is “Don’t tell me to smile”. As a woman who has forever been told to smile more, I just had to make it for all the other women out there who have to struggle with complete strangers telling them what emotion they should be conveying on their face.

Find Corrin’s products at