The goals for my final year were/are to get some work experience done and develope my own brand, but mainly focus on writing a good dissertation.
Last year, I discovered screenprinting and started thinking maybe I could start selling products, t-shirts, teatowels, mugs etc. with my illustrations on them. I decided that for my dissertation I was going to do a business plan, and for my subject work I would start developing my products. This way, it would easier for me to focus as all of my work would be linked.
Last year, when we had talks in Constellation about the dissertation, I felt that a lot of it was specific for those writing a thesis. Which is why I was glad that all students writing a business plan got Sarah Rajoo as our additional tutor. She’s a textile designer and sells her own products and she had good insight into what it’s like to run your own business and I found her advice really helpful.
In October, I did 2 weeks of work experience at Visible Art through Go Wales Work Placement programme. Visible Art is a commercial printing business in Cardiff Bay, printing mainly clothing items for other businesses. It was a fun experience and I learned a lot of new things, even though I had to get down to the Bay 7:30 every morning. Working at a printing business is something I might consider doing after graduation.
With the dissertation, I found it most hard to write about finances but I got good advice from Sarah and Theo and think it turned out ok in the end. While doing my research, I also found out a lot about different funding option through the Arts Council etc. which I had not known about before.
In Subject, my tutors pushed me to think about how I could make my products not be just anther product, but also pieces of art. “Storytelling on t-shirts” as Amelia said. Also, at the start of the year the things I was creating were lacking a coherent, which I thought would be something important to have and would set my things apart from others. I’ve always liked folklore and old sayings, so I thought that would be a good place to start.
At the end of October, I started to try and sell my products on Etsy and in December I took part in a couple of Christmas Markets in and outside of uni. Some I didn’t sell anything, whereas others were really good. I feel it’s a skill to sell at a market, you can’t just rock up with your stuff and expect sales. You have to make a nice display, have business cards to hand to people, look friendly and welcoming etc.
I’ve also taken part in a couple of the Student Entrepreneurship events and gotten a lot of good advice and heard interesting stories from other people who have started their own businesses. I also took part in Santander’s Flash Fund, asking for a £100 to buy a sewing machine and I got it! I have not used it much yet, but I’m thinking about printing and sewing small pouches or pencil cases to sell.
I’ve got the dissertation finished on good time before the hand-in date and I feel quite proud of it. If I do start my own business and needed to send a business plan to the bank, or the to the Arts Council it’s good that I have a base from which to build on.
I’m excited to start concentrating on my Subject work and try out new things now!
These are pictures of some of the products that I’ve made in Subject during the first 2 terms. They are all inspired by Finnish folklore, nature and old proverbs.
After an initial slow start, I’ve also started to get some orders in to my Etsy shop and in January I had 31 orders in total which works out 1 per day!!
I think it is a good start, but I should really push my designs even further and make them have something special in them and create a world where they exist.
On the other though, I don’t want to think too much about “oh, would this be something that would sell?” but rather make a lot of work and then see if some of it would transfer well into a product without losing it’s meaning or making it look “cheap.”
Before I graduate, I want to try to widen my skillset even more and I have signed up for the Lasercut Workshop and will try to get to do Digital Stitch aswell. I think screenprinting will still be my choice of medium, but it doesn’t hurt to know other stuff aswell.
For the final exhibition, I’ve been thinking of doing large prints, with many layers of colour on them. I’ve just got to actually think about what the prints will be about. I have been looking a lot at Scandinavian folk art recently, and I like the bold colours and simple shapes of it so I might do something related to that.
I’m also thinking about getting another work experience, possibly on my Easter Break. I would like to go to another commercial printer, but perhaps something that specializes in paper printing, business cards etc. rather than clothing and see that side aswell.
Thinking back to start of the first year, my goals have changed quite a bit. At the start, I wanted to be an editorial illustrator, but now I want to have my own business. That’s not to say I’m not open to doing any freelance work ever, but it isn’t something I want to do as my main job.
After graduating, I’m planning on staying in Cardiff and continuing with my printing practice. I have been considering applying for the Graduate Incubation Unit, as I think it would be beneficial for me in getting help to start my own business and more suitable for me than doing an MA.
Tried to do some embroidery on my mom’s sewing machine over Christmas on some random pieces of fabric. Then I tried to make the fabric into pencil cases:
I quite liked the feel that the sewing machine created, but it is quite laborous work, at least on a standard sewing machine. I think I’ll see when there’s an embroidery workshop at uni next. I made a drawing based on my embroidery.
I like how this turned out and will probably print it on something, whether pencil cases or just on paper….
This teatowel was based on a Finnish saying “Elämä on epävarmaa, joten syö jälkiruoka ensin” which roughly translates as “Life’s uncertain so eat your dessert first.” I tried to use a traditional British dessert for the image, and drew a sticky toffee cake, but don’t think it quite looks it. Don’t think it matters that much though.
This was inspired by what I wrote in a previous post already… In Finnish folklore, witches are women who dress ride around on brooms, own black cats and scare children. They like on a mountain called “Köypelinvuori” and only leave it on Easter. I didn’t think “Witches only come out on Easter” was a very good text so i changed it to “Witches only come out at night”
This was inspired by traditional Finnish and Scandinavian log cabins, where people used to live. A lot of people still have a log cabin as their “summer cottage”. The text is a saying I found, that I thought was quite fitting.
I think what was missing in my earlier items was that they didn’t have a theme running across them. So I set about thinking what would my brand be about.
I thought bringing my Finnish roots to the design would make it unique and also more personal. I also always found folklore, mythology, old customs and saying fascinating and they often inspire my work.
I’ve got 2 Finnish folktales that I really like.
One is about how the Northern Lights came to be. In Finnish the word for Northern Lights is “Revontulet” which literally translates as “fox’s fires.” The story goes that there are these fox-like creatures called flamefoxes (tulikettu or tulikko in Finnish) and when their fur rubs against trees and other objects, it sends sparks to the sky which becomes a light.
Also, if you catch a flamefox it’ll bring you good fortune for eternity.
Another story isn’t really a story, but basically in Finnish folklore all witches live on this mountain called Kyöpelinvuori (literally “witch mountain”) with their black cats. They only come out once a year around Easter time and fly around on their brooms scaring people.
Last year I started to explore screenprinting and also started thinking maybe I could transfer my own illustrations on different products, t-shirts, teatowels, bags etc. by using this method.
I decided I wanted to do a businessplan for my dissertation for a company through which I could sell these products and during the summer I thought I should start “testing the waters” and see if anyone would actually buy what I’m making.
I decided to call my business Susi Apparel. During the summer I opened a shop online at BigCartel and did a stall at The PrintHaus.
These were some of the first stuff I made. They don’t really have any overall theme etc. and I did not sell very well.
So, for my first term project I thought I’d make a coherent, strong collection of items.
My personal favourites out of all the final pieces:
I think in the future I need to focus more on negative space and composition. Also less is more when it comes to colours and patterns.
I do like thinking and drawing in shapes more than lines, so that’s what I think I’ll continue doing.