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.
I had a clear idea from the start that I want to do an enterprise plan for my dissertation. I’ve thought about starting an online shop selling my own designs for a long time, so I thought it would be a perfect way to tie my dissertation into my own practice. Also I wanted to challenge myself as I know next to nothing about how to run your own business, but I feel like it would be a good skill to have for the future.
What I found most useful was the one-on-one talk with Theo, as I felt most of the group talks and lectures we had had before were more geared towards people writing a thesis than a business plan.
What I struggled with was that I didn’t know what my “question” was, as I felt an enterprise plan didn’t really have one, and what the title of my dissertation should be but Theo helped me out with both. We also talked about getting ethics approval, as I might be planning to do some interviews for my dissertation.
I learned that for my dissertation I need to read a wide range of books and journals papers, ranging from business plan writing to fashion industry research.
Theo suggested I should get in touch with the student entrepreneurship people in our university. I took his advice and arranged a meeting with Lee Sharma who is the start-up manager at the Centre for Student Entrepreneurship. Lee told me that the basis of any good business plan is market research, so I’ve decided that’s what I’m going to start to do first. I’m also looking into how to register myself as a sole trader or possibly as a limited company.
I also need to find a way to “test the market” by putting my designs out in the world and seeing if people think they are worth paying for. I’ve already started by starting a tumblr blog (www.vampire-finch.tumblr.com) where I post my illustrations and designs. So far the response I’ve got has been been good, but I need to get opinions from a wider range of people.
I chose this option because I know I’m not very good at documenting my creative process which I feel is a key skill for all artists and would help me evolve my illustration skills.
At first we looked at sensory perception and how we have to learn to perceive the world through shapes, colours, space etc.
We also got told how to traditional view that there is only 5 senses; smell, vision, touch, hearing and taste is not actually true. Humans probably have more than 19 different senses including balance, gravity awareness and magnetic orientation.
We also read an article on tactile awareness which means sensing the world around us only by touch. People who are either blind or have poor eyesight are the masters of this. The article interviewed ceramic artists who are deafblind about their working processes.
I found the article very interesting and it made me think about how it might be good practice to try for example drawing with my eyes closed, “feeling” the drawing instead of relying so heavily on vision and seeing what comes out of it.
In later sessions we looked at creativity theories and how making mistakes is a part of the process and how you learn even from things that went wrong. I tend to get easily frustrated when I make a mistake and struggle to keep going, so it was reassuring for me to know that it is part of making art and that everyone has to go trough with.
We also had to try and breakdown our own creative processes and try to write each part down, for example “Get idea” —-> “select the right pen” —> “open sketchbook” —-> “start sketching”, and so on.
I found this really eye-opening as I had never tried to think in depth about how I work and I think this information will help me to document my work in the future.
We also looked at play and what it has to do with creativity. Cathy talked about how playfulness is a vital part of creativity and how children learn through play. That’s why it is a shame that as we become adults, the opportunities for playing diminish even though it is one of the best ways of learning.
I tend to get quite “serious” while I’m drawing, and I often get stuck doing things the same way each time and this session made me realise I should adopt a more playful attitude to my practice.
Overall I enjoyed the option and would recommend it to others. I now feel like I understand the creative process much better and feel more equipped to start documenting my own practice.
I couldn’t make it to the session so instead I thought I’d document my drawing progress;
We practiced documenting by describing/making up stories about different objects. The first story on my notes is about an old Victorian envelope and the second one is about a small fork.
I was ill this week, but I read the “Making Sense: What can we learn from experts of tactile knowledge?” document on Blackboard.
I was about how people who have for example lost their eye sight can still make ceramics, paint etc. just by using their touch as a guide. The text concentrated on ceramics.
It made me think that maybe it would be good practice to try and for example try to draw with eyes closed, and try to “feel” the drawing instead of relying on sight. and see how different that would make the piece.