During October 2021, Scope introduced its first standalone online shop, featuring work with powerful messages from five disabled artists.
The new store comes after the charity took a huge financial hit throughout the coronavirus pandemic, but is now implementing a diverse range of fundraising activities to ensure they can provide vital services to support disabled people and their families.
Collaborating with five disabled artists, the shop offers a range of print on-demand designs as well as ready to purchase items. One of the featured artists is Abi Stevens. Abi, who lives with a chronic illness, is an illustrator and maker based in Cambridge who uses her vibrant and emotive digital illustrations to educate and prompt conversation.
We caught up with Abi to learn more about her art and collaborating with Scope.
Could you tell me a bit about yourself and how you became interested in creating art?
I’m an illustrator/product creator living in Cambridge. I create bold, bright and empowering pins, prints etc, mainly catering to others in the disabled community. I’m all about vibrant colours, strong shapes, and symbolism, and take some stylistic inspiration from historical art forms such as stained glass windows and illuminated manuscripts.
By the time I went to sixth form I knew I wanted to create things for a living and I now have a degree in illustration. I love being able to take an intangible idea or though and transform it into something real!
How did you develop your interest and degree into a career?
When I left university, I knew I wanted to make a living as an illustrator but I didn’t have the confidence or business-know-how to make it happen. I was a TA (teaching assistant) working with children with disabilities for several years, which was very rewarding, before my own disabilities caught up with me and forced me to leave for the sake of my own mental and physical health. At that point I realised that for the foreseeable future I was only going to be able to work from home, so I thought ‘if I’m ever going to make the leap to full-time freelance then this is the time to do it’ and here I am! It’s hard work and I’ve got a way to go but it’s so rewarding and exciting to be working on what I’m most passionate about.
How did you get involved with the new Scope shop?
A lot of the illustrations and products I’ve created since I launched my shop in September 2019 focus on uplifting and empowering others with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses. Scope saw my recent Rest Is For Rebels series and approached me to create something similar for their own shop launch. I was really excited to work with an organisation whose values so closely align with mine, aiming to advocate for disabled people and amplify our voices, so I agreed right away!
What was the process like from Scope getting in touch to the shop being launched?
They’ve been lovely, very easy to chat to and to work with. We had a video chat about what they liked from my existing work and agreed on a phrase for me to feature together. Then I went away and came up with three sketches for them to choose from. Once we’d settled on the design it was smooth sailing from there.
How did you feel when the shop went live and people were able to purchase pieces online?
Excited and proud to have my work featured in a shop apart from my own, and happy to have worked on a project so close to my heart.
Why was it important for you to support Scope through getting involved with this project?
Because Scope is doing important work supporting and advocating for disabled people and that work is even more vital in present times. It’s been difficult and demoralising to live through this pandemic and see disabled people’s needs not being met, and our lives being dismissed by politicians and pundits alike as less valuable than those of non-disabled people.
Working with organisations like Scope on projects like this gives me hope that there is still momentum and support to improve disabled rights in the UK. That’s why statements like ‘diversity is power’ are important; it reminds us that including disabled people in decisions, in society as a whole, has benefits for everyone and is an issue that effects everyone. We are stronger together and we can’t let austerity politics and ableism divide us.
I’d absolutely love to do more work like this in the future, and to keep using my art to advocate for and empower my community. I plan to keep creating my own products and also work on more collaborations when I can.