Cat Byrne



1. English people think I'm Canadian.

2. Americans think I'm English.

3. I'm French.

4. French people think I'm English.

5. Some people call me Canadian Cat.


I grew up mostly adjusting to whatever new land my parents had moved us to... the USA, Japan, France, Kenya, New Zealand, Jordan and Switzerland.

By the time I was of age to start making my own way in life, I was living in Geneva. From there I moved to nearby Vevey to study graphic design at the Art Center (Europe). But 6 months prior to graduating, the school shut down unexpectedly, due to lack in industry funding. In order to finish my Bachelors Degree – without needing to start over again – my only choice was to move to California and finish my studies at the parent campus in Pasadena. So it was, in 1996 I graduated from the Art Center College of Design, having just turned 21, with a BFA in Communication Design.

It was during my last term there that I took a course on web design – as an elective – mainly out of curiosity, but also because I remembered enjoying coding as a child (BASIC on my brother's Apple II). Little did I know that it would become the main focus of my career for 20 years.

While in Los Angeles, I mainly worked as a web designer for a software company, and also did a bit of freelancing on the side. But LA wasn't for me, and in 2000, wanting to put an end to a really difficult part of my life, I ran north to Santa Cruz where I freelanced, enjoying the better life. Nonetheless after just 3 years, the travel bug got me once again, and (in a move English people will never understand) I headed to Manchester in England.

For the weather and the food, OBVIOUSLY.

And also because a friend from my childhood days in Japan had set up a web hosting business, and wanted to expand into web design. It seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. The original plan had been to volunteer in the WWOOF organic farming program and travel around Europe (with my freelancing laptop) until I found somewhere I wanted to settle.

So I stayed in Manchester as the Creative Director of Sputnik Internet (now called Sputnik Digital) for 5 years, during which time I met my husband. In 2008 I stepped down to freelance again, to have more flexibility to spend time with the imminent new arrival in our family, by which time we'd moved to West Yorkshire – first Hebden Bridge, and then later Todmorden.

So there I was, doing my usual design freelance for another 6 years, when the unease that had been brewing in me finally came to a boil... I missed drawing.

Sure, I had drawn some things for people over the past 20 years – mascots, logos, etc – but barely anything for myself, for the sake of drawing something purely because I enjoyed it. I'd always had the intention to draw again, but as the design business drew energy from the same creative pot, by the end of each day, I was drained... and I burned out.

I forced myself to do more manually creative things. At first, for reasons still unknown, this was designing accessories made with crochet from upcycled materials and oddments (I called the line "Oddmentals"... geddit?... oddments... mental... Never mind).

Anyway, I realised soon enough I was way off the mark.

Perfectionism. It's both a gift and a curse. It can push you to constantly improve yourself, and it also can stop you starting anything because you're not up to the standard you want to be at. That had been my mental block for many years, and nothing was ever going to change, until I did something drastic about it. So in October 2014 – age 38 – I started drawing again, in earnest.

I set myself the goal of making 1000 drawings – no matter how long it took, and no matter how rubbish they were. At first I was drawing alongside my design work... and finally in 2017, I dropped the design business altogether. Financially, it was hard... leaving an established and successful career, and jumping into a notoriously poorly paid industry, during a period of time when many people have less money to spend.

I started a few comics of my own, helped run the Calder Valley Scribblers – a local comic collective – and organised Scribblecon, an annual grassroots comic-con here in Todmorden.

I started taking on commissions, exhibiting art, selling my work at events; 2019 was my fourth year having tabled at Thought Bubble Festival, one of the UK's top comic-cons (the first year my application was approved, I literally cried).

Aaaand then Covid hit.

I put my energy into helping out where I could, mostly in the form of making free masks for various local charities, with donated fabrics. I designed them to be comfortable, so people with sensory issues could wear them for longer periods of time without the urge to rip their faces off. They were a big hit, and when people started asking to buy them in fancier fabrics, I set up shop.

I knew this wouldn't last - nor did I want it to - so I had to think of a way of having a regular income post-covid, without the worry of depending solely on art sales.

Cue the realisation that the favourite part of my hobby of collecting toys is to research new bundles I've obtained. What the figure is, matching it with its accessories... Proper nerdy stuff.

That'd do. In 2021 I launched my toy shop Pizza Plastic, where I buy and sell figures and other toys from all eras (though the 80s and 90s ones are my clear favourites).

The artwork has taken a step back in the meantime, but I'm easing back into it again. We shall see what 2023 brings and what random WTF-ery I throw myself into.