When Natasha Brunt started her IVF journey back in 2017, she had no idea where the road would take her. While she didn’t end up where she expected, she certainly made some wonderful discoveries.
The artist and professional executive assistant grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts, and spent eight years living and working in Los Angeles, before making her way back to Massachusetts in 2013. When she moved back East, she got married and then tried to start a family with her husband on their own for about a year before undergoing two IVF cycles.“I remember thinking it was going to be an intense few months with IVF,” she says, “and, I wanted something I could keep myself busy with.”
“I didn’t want to obsess and stress over every little thing having to do with IVF and worry about all the possible scenarios,” she says. “It’s difficult, psychologically, dealing with something completely out of your control.”
“It’s a lot of medication, doctor’s appointments. I didn’t experience hormone swings like a lot of women do, but the stress of the situation alone did a lot of damage to my body. My hair fell out, my eyes started to reject my contacts. It was mentally taxing.”
Brunt went through two cycles of IVF unsuccessfully.
Brunt was 38 years old when she underwent IVF. For women under the age of 35, there is a reported 47.5 percent success rate of an IVF cycle resulting in a live birth, according to 2016 data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Predictably, that rate decreases as a woman’s age increases. The CDC data, which was published in 2018, shows a 39.6 percent success rate for women ages 35 to 37, and a success rate that goes all the way down to 15.7 percent for women ages 41 to 42.
Illustration became her form of therapy.
“I could escape reality for a while, do something creative and have full control over what I’m making,” she says.
Brunt has been drawing her whole life, ever since she could hold a pen.
Although a lot of her work is self-taught, she attended night classes at the Art Institute of California, while working in the fashion industry during the day.
She hustled while going to school, doing freelance graphic design work, and then working for an up-and-coming designer, creating line sheets for the designer’s clothing line.
“I never graduated,” she says. “I was already working in the industry. Fashion design isn’t one of those things that requires a degree. It’s about knowing what you’re doing and being good at it.”
Last year, Brunt launched her business Stiletto Noir Illustration.
She started selling her fashion-inspired illustration prints on Etsy, often depicting doll-like figures adorned in chic clothing and accessories, sometimes accompanied by sayings like, “Making deals in heels.” She also creates custom drawings for her customers, reimagining them as her signature doll-like style. She makes illustrated notecards, greeting cards and, just recently, she started selling illustrated mugs through a third-party vendor, with more to come later this year.
“It was a breath of fresh air at a time when I desperately needed it,” says Brunt. “I really didn’t have any expectations for the business. I just wanted to do something productive, but it has really grown.”
The illustrator takes custom orders on Instagram in addition to Etsy, and her sales nearly 50-50 between the two platforms. She creates her pieces after work on weeknights and on the weekends, and she maintains complete control from creating listings on etsy to taking photos of finished pieces to cutting the paper and shipping them out.
Since starting Stiletto Noir Illustrations, some high-profile clients have come calling, including television talk show host Wendy Williams, reality TV star Margaret Josephs, and the executive producer of The Real Housewives of New Jersey Dorothy Taran.
Locally, Stiletto Noir Illustrations stationery can be found in the Style Snoop boutique in Manchester By The Sea, and farther afield at the Mercenary General Store in Santa Monica, California, and Kitson in Los Angeles.
Brunt says that although pregnancy is not possible for her at this time, she is excited about the endless possibilities of growing her illustration business, possibly starting a fashion brand of her own, exploring licensing opportunities or collaborating with other high-profile clients.
“I’m excited to see what comes my way,” she says.
Reflecting on her fertility journey, Brunt encourages other women or families going through the same thing, “It’s just one of those things that’s completely out of your control, but you have to have faith that no matter what the outcome is, you will be fine.”
“Keeping yourself busy and surrounding yourself with loved ones who are supportive is very important,” she adds. “It’s an unpredictable, windy road that is different for every person, but you learn new things along the way.”
Natasha Brunt will be at the Speed Rack national cocktail competition, featuring top female bartenders, in Boston on March 11, offering free custom and live sketches at the St. Germain booth.