My creative journey as an artist and designer - the story so far
To celebrate my 3 year business anniversary on 1st June this year I’ve written a blog about my personal creative journey. From aspiring maker, to fashion and homeware designer and then back to my roots working with my hands again as a printmaker.
I’ve always loved making things and being creative. My favourite phrase was, and still is “I could make that”. If I don’t know how to, I’ll certainly have a go.
Sewing, crafts and baking where my biggest interests. In my early teens I made soft toys that I would sell to a local gift shop opposite Shakespeare’s birthplace in my home town of Stratford-upon-Avon. I still have the costing and sales book I kept track of it all in! An early entrepreneur in the making!! I went on to make all my own clothes.
Being a child of the 70’s, Tony Heart and Blue Petter had a great influence on my childhood. I loved making a Sindy doll clothes shop filled with clothes I’d made too.
I also liked drawing. I would spend hours sketching Disney Characters. Quite ironic that I ended up working for Disney!
At school my strongest subjects had been maths, sewing, art and the sciences. I didn’t have a particular ‘I want to be a something’ when I grew up. I just knew I liked making things.
I took a two years National Diploma in design, specialising in fashion design in my second year. I excelled at the pattern cutting and making part of the course and made a wedding dress collection for the end of year show.
I then moved to Southampton to study a two years Higher National Diploma in Fashion Design. I graduated in 1991 at the age of 20.
My tutor recommend me for a junior textile design job in London. I had been hopeless at textile design at college and wasn’t a city girl at all. I did need a job though. I applied, did the application design project for my second interview and got the job!
So at 20 I moved to London. It was a steep learning curve and I was way out of my comfort zone.
Back then textile design concepts where still painted by hand using gouache paints. Each colours was mixed to the exact Pantone shade of the retailers palette. This is where I developed my strong eye for colour. In also learnt how to create textile patterns and graphics.
I worked my way up the career ladder in fashion and textile design, designing for high street retailers such as Principles and Evans, part of The Arcadia Group, and Freeman’s catalogue.
A change in direction
After 15 years in fashion design I felt the need for change. I’d had enough of fast fashion and wanted to move into designing homeware. That seemed easy as I had all the transferable skills but I met a lot of resistance from recruitment agencies.
I was contacted about a new role being created at Disney Consumer Products. Being someone with a broad adaptable skill base, I fitted right in. I went on to set up the Pan European Creative Managers role for Disney Home and Disney Baby. My role was about developing the creative direction for the Disney characters and films. I worked with the local European teams to create a cohesive look across Europe. Developing ranges on everything from Disney Princess bedding to Winnie the Poo lunch boxes was great fun.
In search of more meaning - Travel and Fair Trade
I’d climbed the career ladder and had a successful career but something was missing. I longed to do something with more meaning and give something back. I also had a desire to travel more as I hadn’t taken a gap year after graduating.
In 2015 I quit my job to go backpacking around South East Asia for a year.
I spent four months in Cambodia volunteering for a Fair Trade company in Phnom Phen.
They had three gift shops and worked with an in-house team of artisan makers, as well small producers and craftspeople across the country. I worked with them to develop their ranges and help improve their marketing. I loved every minute of it.
Moving to York - a happy accident
Returning back to the UK I didn’t want to go back to city life or return to the rat race in London. At 35 I moved back in with my mum and dad so that I could look for a design job in Fair Trade. It wasn’t easy as most companies are quite small.
Months of cold calling led me to a design vacancy at Shared Earth in York. I came up for an interview and got the job. A few weeks later I moved up here, with no sense of where this new chapter in Yorkshire would take me.
Shared Earth were one of the largest Fair Trade retailers and wholesalers in the UK. We developed ranges with over 30 producers, crafts people and artisan makers across the world.
I went on to become their Head of Design, developing homeware and gift ranges. I also created a fresh cohesive look for Shared Earth's branding and marketing materials. Communicating how the products were made, by who and what difference the purchase made was very important.
Not everything goes to plan
Recession hit and many of the senior management roles where made redundant.
I put a “help, I need a job” out on Facebook and a few days later I had an interview for a maternity cover role as a graphic design in a design agency. I got it. Phew! Not being a formally trained graphic designer I felt like I had a lot to prove, so that was another steep leaning curve.
When that came to an end I was looking for work again. The design world is very London centric, so it’s not easy.
A role came up at George Home at Asda, designing home accessories and lighting. In my heart it wasn’t right but I had a bills to pay. I actually remember crying when I got the job. It meant I was back designing in the commercial word again. Don’t get me wrong it was a brilliant role.
I moved on to be the Design Manger for the Cook and Dine range. We designed everything from the graphic illustrations on mugs and tableware to all over prints on t