A lot of people have asked me over the years how I got to work in the creative industry and ask for advice in perusing a similar kind of career. I usually try to avoid long wordy posts but though I would try to answer the question and give myself a chance to update my ‘about me’ page, which is getting ever so slightly retro!
Although it sounds cliché, I had always wanted to design clothes since a really young age. I don’t think I knew I wanted to be a ‘designer’ as such but I loved making clothing out of any material I could get my hands on and you would always find me in the art corner at Nursery.
Above: me and my sis probably about 1992!
(she's the one with the stuffed cat)
During my younger years I lived on a small arable farm near Cambridge with my Mum, Dad and Sister with my Grandparents and my Aunt and Uncle living across the yard. We had ponies, ducks, Chicken’s, Dogs, Cats, Frogs, Peacocks, Tractors and Combines!! It was a really safe and precious childhood where I roamed acres of land building dens, daydreaming in the sunshine and gluing and sticking indoors on a rainy day. It was pretty idyllic and I feel lucky everyday for what my parents gave me! But that’s another post and perhaps another blog!!!!
Above: me and my sis and the pony Sefton must be mid 90's!!
Below: My family on holiday in Spain again early-mid 90's!!!
As I got older and education started to get all serious, I excelled in subjects like Art and Design and got by in all the other more academic subjects. I left school with a good set of grades and (reluctantly) attended Sixth Form College! In all honesty I didn’t really enjoy sixth Form at all. Although I was always in the art department (taking Art, Photography, Technology and History of Art) I found that I was being taught how to pass an exam rather than developing my creativity, which really sucked! However, I persisted in order to get that ticket to Art Foundation then onto University. My A-Level grades were pretty disappointing and even made me doubt about continuing with education in all honesty, but I put it down to a bad experience and applied and got accepted onto an Art Foundation course YAY! For those of you that maybe live abroad or are unfamiliar with what an Art Foundation course is; it’s a one-year course that allows you to develop a portfolio ready to apply for art school in the UK.
Art foundation was one of the best years of my life! Thanks goodness I stuck at those dull A-Levels! For a whole year I got to experiment with every aspect of design; graphics, fashion, textiles, ceramics, sculpture – you name it - I did it! I had some really great tutors and a fantastic year group supporting me. I was proud of every bit of work I produced and excited about taking my portfolio to University interviews at the end of the year.
I applied to a number of Universities (like all students in the UK) and was lucky enough to get my first choice, which was the Surrey Institute of Art and Design which later was to become UCA University for the Creative Arts in case you look it up now! I chose this University as it offered the perfect course for me and it was just on the edge of London so I could shoot in for studies and socialising (and a bit of shopping) It is also a smaller art school so you become an individual and didn't get lost in the crowd and I really liked that.
So in September 2003 I packed up my shiny new mac laptop (that I saved allllllll summer to buy) along with my other prized possessions, loaded up my dad’s car and moved down to Sunny Surrey to start my degree in Fashion Design! It was all a very new experience, living on my own, living in a big city after living on a farm in the country for so long, but I settled in, made friends and got on with my work!
I didn’t really enjoy my first year at University and in reflection I put it down to huge life changes at the time for someone of nineteen years of age and I didn’t 100% enjoy the format of the first year of the degree AND I didn’t like my tutor either! Sound like lots of negatives but I arrived back at uni after a long summer of had work in Bars back home and returned a much older and wiser twenty year old! This year I really threw myself into my studies and got everything I wanted back – a great time, great work and great grades – smiles all round!
During the summer holidays of my second year I worked back home for a couple of months to save for my final year AND booked a ticket for a two week trip to India and ignited my passion for travel and well and truly caught the travel bug!!! You may have read some of my travel posts that I add to the blog when I’m aboard! I returned to University in 2006 for my third and final year full of eagerness and excitement.
Like the majority of students I had to take out a HUGE scary loan (which I’m still paying off now!) to get through university. With the thought of the debt I taken on and the knowing that I really have to start earning some real money soon (hopefully in the fashion industry) I put my head down for the year and worked my little socks off – although I still found time for some fun too!!!
My third year consisted of a work placement (which I did at Plain Lazy in Brighton) two major projects and a dissertation. I passed with flying colours and graduated in 2007 with two very proud parents along side me!! Now I guess that’s where the story beguins… It is also when my blog was born; I had to find ways to promote myself as a graduate designer and wanted to set up a website, however, I hadn’t the knowledge (or the cash) to do so. Instead I started a blog (this blog) posted all of my projects on it and sent the details out to prospective employers. At every interview I attended people complimented me on my little blog and they had all taken the time to look at it. Starting my blog was one of the best spent mornings of my life!
I was soo lucky that I found myself with a job as a designer a few weeks after graduating! I worked for a small supplier in north London designing product and print and graphics for a variety of brands. This is when I really developed my skills in Illustrator, Photoshop etc… I rented a room in a bedsit, made a whole load of cool new friends and survived on a shoestring! I also blogged some of my exciting work along the way too which if you look back in the 2008 section you may be able to see eeeekkkk!!!
After a year I moved into central London and worked for a variety of suppliers over a few years and had the time of my life designing by day and partying by night! When I wasn’t partying I was designing my own prints and graphics and soon started working for a little design studio called Lemon Ribbon. My prints started to sell to loads of brands and retailers all-over the world too which was really exciting!! I blogged some of these too!
At this point in my life I has a boyfriend that lived over a hundred miles away, worked crazy hours, design prints late at night, partied a bit and begun to miss the countryside and found myself returning back home, or to the boyfriends, most weekends. I was starting to feel sad about having to spend the rest of my working years in London and never having the chance to enjoy the great outdoors like I used to. So after much debating and wondering and discussing and talking and thinking a bit more I decided to go freelance! I’d got a good client base from my prints that were selling and a few contacts from years of working so with support from my parents and boyfriend I went for it in 2011 and have never looked back!
My little spare room studio space
To save money and so I could live with Jamie (the boyfriend!!!) we moved back towards Cambridge to a lovely home where we bought two dogs, some ponies and we (or rather I started a vegetable garden) I set up a little design studio in the spare room and started putting my heart and soul into designing prints, doing fashion design consultancy work and blogging!
I’ve worked freelance for four years now and never looked back! My boyfriend also became my husband and we now have a little boy who’s 8 months old called Alfred! Working around Alfred has made things harder but I’ve also learned to be more productive with my time, which is great. It’s all about balance!!!!
Me, Jamie and Alfred when he was a week old!
I don’t design as many prints as I used to as I found it wasn’t the most productive way to earn money but it was the key to establishing myself as a freelance designer and I still design prints all the time on consultancy projects anyway. Although 60-70% of my work is fashion design based I also do a lot of branding. I’ve created branding packages for veterinary surgery’s, farm shops, Caribbean island resorts, University’s, property developments – all sorts! I’ve also helped launch a few fashion brands now too which has sort of become my speciality!
Promoting yourself as a freelance designer is one of the most important things. I’ve been lucky that my blog has done that for me without me having to put that much effort into it. I seem to get a huge amount of hits and pop up on peoples Google searches all the time, which is great! I’ve never got involved with promoting my blog, accepting advertising offers of so called sponsorship deals. I’ve just tried to keep it straightforward and to the point. I share my trend work and the odd piece of print too and that’s about it - I hope you like it!
Oh and one more thing I do regularly is teach Fashion Management and Marketing students CAD skills and lecture on branding, design and trend forecasting. I was approached by my old university tutor to see if I would come in one day and talk to students about my career in a one off lecture – four years later and I’m still there regularly offering CAD support and lecturing! I love it and it’s great to get out of the house and work with people a couple of days a week, it can get quite lonely working on your own as a freelancer sometimes! It also gives me a sense that I’m giving something back to society. My usual day-to-day work is great but no one really benefits from it – sure they buy nice clothing and pretty things for their kids to wear, that I’ve designed, but it’s not really ‘helping’ people out. Teaching gives me that opportunity to give something back and help others out which gives me a huge sense of achievement. It’s great showing students what I do day to day and seeing them being inspired and learn to do the same thing and create amazing projects and graduate into even more amazing jobs!
Although I am busy busy busy with work, I do give lots of time to our little sprout Alfred and love spending time outdoors attending to my veg patch or going on dog walks with him. I love travelling and getting out and seeing new things too. I also love technology, in particular my i phone which is always by my side and used to capture pictures on my journey through life – feel free to check out my instagram and see for yourself!
Alfred at 8 months old on the beach at Southwold
That kinda brings me to the end or at least up to the current day! I’d love to hear if this post has been useful to anyone or if anyone has any more questions that I can answer for them?