It was great to see everyone at last week’s event on International Women’s Day. Thank you to Hannah Sharp for speaking to us about her Kickstarter campaign - please show your support for her project Make Your Mark on kickstarter. Make Your Mark is an inspirational book featuring interviews with successful women in design and tech.
We have a super exciting collab coming up soon with Women Who Code and are looking for keen individuals to be involved in a panel event. Whether you've been in the industry since it's conception, or are dipping your toes into new waters, we want to hear about your journey, and what you've learnt along the way. Reach out to email@example.com to find out more! Looking forward to seeing all you amazing people there!
During Belfast Design Week, Womenfolk took part in Designers of The Future - a number of workshops working with young girls in order to encourage them to pursue a career in design. We wanted to share some behind the scenes images of the events and share what happened throughout the day.
This event included a multitude of different aspects that are involved in the publishing industry, that includes the creative careers such as story-boarding and illustration, not solely of cover art but also of the characters within creative writing. The facilitator, Gemma O’Neill created a perfect environment to support the girls which included showing the attendees her own book for inspiration.
In this workshop we were joined by Can Do Academy, who served the girls with iPads and Lego in order to create their own stop-motion animation. This is just one of the many careers that are involved in film, others include 2D and 3D animation, Special Effects and Modelling. It was fascinating to see the girls come up with their own storylines and create a short film in the time given.
Let’s Build a Cardboard City
This event was facilitated by Thread and Ink collective. This workshops gave the girls the opportunity to start thinking about design in terms of the community and architecture. They were given a cardboard display of Belfast and asked what they would like to add or takeaway from the city.
Design it. Make it. Take it (away).
SheSaid design encouraged the girls to create a design based on an initial of their name which they then transferred onto a tote bag. Not only did this workshop evoke thoughts about textile design but also to think about graphic design and typography.
In this workshop, the girls worked together in order to design, make the graphics, and produce the sound effects for a new totally unique game using the software GameMaker, which is free and easy to use for coding games.
At our Junior.Senior. breakfast event for July we headed to SheSaid design to hear from our wonderful Junior and Senior speakers. Kim Hetherington of Little Designs spoke to us about her journey opening her Etsy shop selling pins, prints and greeting cards, while Lisa Smyth and Christine McKee of SheSaid design (our Senior speakers) spoke about their transition into starting their own business after working freelance.
Kim Hetherington - Little Designs
- "Get involved with your local community"
Make the most of opportunities to attend events such as this one or going to local crafts fairs to sell your work or see what other people have created.
- "Pick the best social media platform for your business"
For me instagram works best with it's large art and craft community, and my work is very visual so this is a necessary platform.
- "Have confidence to promote your business to everyone."
Sometimes is can be difficult to do this among family and friends. I certainly struggled with that initally but often the power of work-of-mouth is underrated and it can be absolutely vital to small businesses and start-ups.
Lisa Smyth & Christine McKee - SheSaid Design
Networking is so important, especially when working freelance. We did this when we started and ended up working for many agencies through the word-of-mouth from friends and families.
- "Find your balance"
Before we set up SheSaid we worked freelance. We needed the flexibility when we started our families that no contracted position would be able to offer. We worked together informally and then set up SheSaid last year.
- "Make Connections"
We generated a lot of work through our connections which lead to collaborations and partnerships which we wouldn't have received otherwise.
You can find tickets for our August Junior.Senior event here!
I think one of the things that I struggled most with, when I started Itty Bitty Book Co was the idea of a perfect work/life balance. My son was only a few weeks old and I had high expectations of what my life should look like. Pretty soon I realised my actual life was looking nothing like the dream I had created in my head. Having spoken to hundreds of other women (working or not, mothers or not) I know this is a common feeling.
Whether you’re self-employed, unemployed or you work for someone else everyone has an idea of how their life would look if it had ‘perfect balance’. But what if real life just isn’t meant to work that way, what if life, instead of being like an old fashioned set of balancing scales is more like a pendulum? Would that be so bad?
There has been lots of research done on the most effective ways to work, how to be your most productive self. Most of the researchers agree that being able to get into a state of flow is key for productivity and satisfaction. This state of flow is when you become completely immersed in the task at hand, with no distractions you are able to get more done and achieve better results than you would otherwise. But how many of us actually achieve flow during our regular work days? I know I didn’t, ever. Most of us work in short bursts, inturrupted by phone calls, meetings, co-workers, lunch or 5pm...
When I first started working for myself I worked whenever I could, when my son was napping, before he got up, late at night, basically whenever I could see a few hours of free time. Sometimes I thought I was nailing it, doing three things at once can make you feel like superwoman. But over time, that leads to burn out and when you look back you might realise you weren’t doing any of the tasks particularly well. This is hard to admit when one of the tasks was being a mum. When I realised that my most important job wasn’t getting the best of me I knew something had to shift.
As I made the shift to embracing the pendulum swing of work/life I started to hear other people talk about it too. The more I read about it the more it just made sense, when we multitask we are not giving anything our full attention. When you think about it, it seems obvious that it’s not the best way to run your life. But as a society we are so in the habit of being distracted it’s actually a very hard habit to break.
How I started was with small changes to my daily routine, agreeing with my partner to set aside time for me to focus 100% on work with no interruptions. I immediately started to see myself getting into a state of flow, over time I built on that, setting aside larger chunks of time for individual responsibilities and stopping myself when ever I started to slip into multi tasking. It was hard, but the difference in results showed immediately.
The most rewarding part of this change for me was seeing myself become a better mother. When I was looking after my son I was 100% focused on him, no more trying to reply to emails whilst nursing (that was a particularly bad habit of mine)! The time I had set aside to be mum, that was my only focus and it took away so much of the guilt I had been carrying around.
If you want to give this idea a try, choose the area that is most important to you, or causing the most frustration right now. Once you have an area in mind set aside time each week to spend focusing 100% of your attention in that area, remember that it needs to be a block of time that is larger than what you would normally spend. This will encourage flow to happen. Make sure you will not be distracted - shut off email, phone on silent etc.
If the area you have chosen is parenting you might be thinking well how does flow fit in this area, productivity isn't the goal here! When you are spending time with your children flow can happen when you’re fully immersed in any moment. It might be a game, reading a story, making some art or helping an older child with homework. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing as long as you are 100% present in that moment you can find flow. It's not as easy to measure as work productivity but if calm, secure children, who know they're loved is your goal then this time in flow with them is definitely productive.
Hopefully if you embrace the idea of finding flow you’ll see more results and find greater satisfaction in each task. Plus you'll notice that nagging feeling of things not being 'right' start to fade. When this starts to happened to me I was inspired to push the boundaries of the pendulum further and further. My husband and I completely changed our work schedules to encourage more time in flow and more time together, without guilt, stress or distraction from other responsibilities. It's not perfect, or even close but it's 100% better than how I used to feel; like I was always sacrificing something...
What do you think of this idea of exchanging the scales of balance for a pendulum? Would you rather work 2 x 10 hour days in flow then spend some completely uninterrupted quality time with your family? Or are you happier with multi tasking? I’m interested to know!
In 2009 The Design Council found that despite a majority of design students being female, only 40% of professional designers are women. There are many support systems in Northern Ireland that have been created in order to help bridge the gap between the many differences of males and females in the design field, including the fact that only 11% of design business leaders are women and in 2017, Sphere found that there is still a 28% wage gap in the creative sector.
- Lean In Belfast is a company - inspired by the book of the same name - that offers support and opportunity to women and men in Belfast with the aim encouraging people to achieve dreams while overcoming challenges. Once a month, Lean In Belfast runs meet-ups on topics that are currently of interest.
- Women in Business NI is the fastest growing network for female entrepreneurs and business leaders in Northern Ireland. They want to equip women with skills needed to start and grow business with the use of membership, funding and training.
- Ladies Wine and Design was created by Jessica Walsh, which within a year spread over 120 countries across the world. Alice Kearney hosts the LW&D events in Belfast including salon nights with activities such as Drink and Draw and Printmaking workshop. The events include casual conversations on a wide variety of topics relating to creativity, business, and life.
- Go Girl believe in nurturing creative networks in order to understand, respect and support women through events and hang-outs.
Ladies, Wine and Design Belfast was set up by Alice Kearney, a graphic designer, art director and illustrator working at Mammoth Design Studio in Belfast. We caught up with her to tell us about where LW&D started and how she hopes it's going to help the Northern Irish community of female creatives.
What is Ladies, Wine and Design and what made you decide to start it?
Ladies, Wine and Design was initially started by a New York based graphic designer called Jessica Walsh. While Walsh was working on a personal project called ’12 Kinds of Kindness’ with Timothy Goodman she realised she wanted to start the monthly gatherings to mentor and champion other women’s work. There are now Ladies, Wine & Design groups in over 170 countries.
I started the LW&D Belfast chapter as I thought it would positively add to the local design community and get some of us female designers together for fun workshops and social nights to discuss work, life and business.
What affect do you think/hope it'll have to the female creatives community in Northern Ireland?
I hope it builds on the growing community in Northern Ireland. We’re a small place and it’s my aim that LW&D becomes a perfect way to get to know other creatives in different studios and from different areas of the design sector.
It also gives people the opportunity to start new design collaborations that they might never have had the chance to do before because of these new found connections. I think there can be a lot to benefit from a casual meet up with a glass of wine (or two). Also, it’s nice to ‘like’ each others work online but it’s even better to put a face to an instagram account I’ve been swooning over!
What events/projects have you been involved with so far?
So far, I have organised a few casual meet ups for people to get to know each other but next up we will be attending the Drink & Draw in Town Square, Belfast on April 24th. This meet up is free so no excuses!
Then in mid May we have a screen printing workshop with graphic designer Pauline Clancy at Belfast Print Workshops. This workshop is now fully booked but we will definitely be doing more workshops in the future so follow us on Instagram or email us to get involved.
What can we expect to see from LW&D in the future?
More workshops to get our hands dirty, more meet ups with wine (wine drinking is not mandatory to join LW&D! and to naturally create more design led collaborations with LW&D individuals.
Ladies, Wine and Design's Next Event: Drink & Draw in Town Square, Belfast — Tuesday 24th April, 7pm
On Monday 12th March, Womenfolk and Blick Studios hosted The Time is Now Panel, led by Esther Mogada.
The aim of the evening's event was to discuss ways in which we can encourage and support young, female entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland.
We were joined by four speakers who each work within different sectors of the creative industries:
Karishma Kusurkar, is a multidisciplinary designer who runs a small business creating accessories, games, lifestyle products and illustration. She studied Foundation Art & Design in Belfast at Ulster University and then went on to complete her BA(Hons) in Textile Design at Chelsea College of Arts at University of the Arts London. Karishma completed an internship for Topshop, which taught her design production within a commercial environment.
Karen Miano works within the music industry in Dublin, and now runs her own label which spurred from facilitation roles at music festivals. Throughout her early twenties, Karen worked three different jobs that had no relation to the music scene, but was approached by a customer in a retail job to take a role in stage management. She now hopes to work on connecting the two roles of Facilitator & Creator, and to inspire young people of colour to feel empowered to follow their creative spirits.
Aileen McEwen is a painter who currently works for the National Trust in collections management. She studied Fine Art: Painting/Printmaking at the Glasgow School of Art spends her days talking about powerful women throughout history and gets to learn how representations these women form our understanding of female power.
Geri Doherty works in costume design/styling for film and TV and has done from the age of nineteen. She is a founding member and producer of MELT Fashion Collective which aims to nurture the expression of self through fashion as an art form.
As part of The Time is Now, our panel examined Northern Ireland as a creative city. With its slower pace of life compared to many cities, it allows for more time to be creative. Belfast also has a much lower living cost compared to many other capital cities. This makes it easier to give up a non-creative day job and start a new business. The Internet and affordable travel mean we are still able to connect to other creative communities and bigger consumer markets around the world. We also learned that Lorraine Cunningham of Grainline Design and Sara O’Neill have created a hashtag #BuiltInBelfast, which they hope creatives will adopt for celebrating and promoting their work.
Each of these inspiring speakers taught us about how they got started within their industry and deliberated that there is no one right way to get into a creative career, especially in a field that still lacks a large amount of diversity. Our panel of differing ethnicities discussed being selected on merit rather than as a token representative to exhibit diversity. They also spoke of how female creatives are often wary of self-promotion and displaying a lack of integrity and may not always feel comfortable calling themselves entrepreneurs. For female creatives to start to resolve this difference within the field, our speakers suggested that women should remain authentic and honest; they shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes, ask for help or admit that they’re unsure how to carry out certain tasks. Yet, at the same time, women must also give themselves credit, be proud of their accomplishments and not be afraid to put themselves forward.
Geri Doherty is a TV/Film industry professional wth extensive experience as a costumier / stylist. Is a founding member and producer of Melt Fashion Collective, advocating for NI underground creative talent with the aim of nurturing expression of self, fashion as an art form and grounding a DIY/inclusive ethos. She loves all things spirtual and is obsessed with perfume.
Karen Miano is the Co Founder of DIAxDEM.
“I Remember distinctly when I started out in the creative industry, specifically in music management, being told that my place within the industry would eventually sit and fit into being a facilitator. Now I have no problem with that, but the issue is that men tend to dictate women’s narratives within the creative community and we get lobbed into being the facilitators 7 times out of 10. I think all that is changing. Women are much more receptive to relatability and art (in whatever form that may be) is a huge way of connecting and bringing us together to share stories and ask questions. I hope to work on connecting the two roles of Facilitator & Creator, and to inspire young people of colour to feel empowered to follow their creative spirits!”
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background and what inspired you to set up “The Time is Now” series of events?
My name is Esther Mogada and I am a multidisciplinary creative artist based in Belfast. I am mixed race, of Irish and Ugandan descent. During my teenage informative years, I grew up in the Middle East and moved backed to Belfast about ten years ago. I would say that my background involves a mixture of many different things. I started off studying Fashion and Textile Design in the University of Ulster, specializing in printed textiles. From that, my colleague and I created our own fashion brand called “Inspire the Sound”.
“Inspire the Sound” is a Streetwear/Menswear brand and we would consider ourselves to be a DIY brand. The focus is on creating art through our garments, as well as Textiles, and we see our clothing as practical, but also as individual pieces of art. We are currently rebranding our company and will be releasing fresh content next year.
I would also say that my passions in life are music, filmmaking, and event’s curation. I have always been drawn to organizing and hosting events, with the aim of bringing people together. Being curious in listening to other people’s background and stories has helped us realize the direction I want to take. I have always felt that within the creative industry, there hasn’t necessarily been a space for me and that I didn’t fit into the local arts scene. This compelled me to create my own space and this is how “Creating A Space” was born.
“Creating A Space” is a formation of different things. We are a brand that focuses on showcasing local aspiring creatives through the medium of interview and film. We are inspired by other people’s stories, creative processes, and outcomes, and love capturing that through our interviews. Our passion also lies within events curation. We began with hosting panel talks like this one, where we discussed different topics that allowed for open conversations. This allowed us to focus on the process of the journey rather than the end destination. Out of that, it springboarded into creating music events by making use of up and coming independent multicultural musicians here in Belfast.
We are passionate about creating content that represents our cultural backgrounds. My business partner and I were not born in Belfast, but have lived the majority of our lives here. Therefore, we feel that it is important to represent ourselves in a way that fits our narrative within the context of our cultural background.
We are still learning and growing but want our ethos to always be intertwined throughout all the work we create. We are an inclusive brand that emphasizes the need to be true to yourself, to trust your own processes and recognize that they are valid. Through our work, we want to encourage individuals to push themselves out of their comfort zones and to keep growing regardless of the struggles that they encounter.
Globally right now, I sense there is this powerful energy existing amongst women where we are coming together to unite. It inspires me in a lot of ways because I can take ownership over myself, be inspired to learn and grow in different spaces and be united with other amazing women.
I feel strongly that events like this need to happen on a regular basis because it affords a space to check in with ourselves and in turn be inspired by others. I have a panel of four amazing women with different creative backgrounds who will be giving insights into their careers, shedding light on the things that they have struggled with, but also emphasizing how they are strong and powerful within their creative industry.
You have said in the event blurb you have noticed a change within the creative scene in Belfast, what are the most tangible changes you have noticed as a young woman starting your own creative enterprise and what impact have these had?
The most tangible change that I have noticed as a young woman starting off, are people’s energy, mindsets, and awareness of what’s going on around us. It feels like in the last few years there has been a shift of openness, a shift of wanting change and a shift of taking ownership over what we want to create. I have found that very inspiring because it has given me the courage to step out and create my own things. It is exciting to see Belfast change in a way that is becoming more inclusive and has the potential to become a thriving creative city.
I feel that Belfast has always been a community-based place, and I am excited to be a part of it, making my own mark and structuring it in a way that represents me. I have felt very welcomed into the creative community and that is the beauty about living here. There is an amazing space to create what you want to create because a lot of it didn’t necessarily exist. Therefore, you have the freedom to be adventurous without fear. It is also a great space to learn and grow at your own pace.
How can we as a creative community make the most of and build on these changes and make Belfast the most successful, inclusive and creative city it can be?
As a creative community, we are doing very well with hosting various events that promote different things which is exciting to see and to be a part of. I think if we continue to do more events where more people get the opportunity to share their background and story, it will transform Belfast into an inclusive, diverse city.
You have also mentioned empowerment – what are your top tips for empowering yourself and coping with the struggles of being a young female creative entrepreneur in Northern Ireland?
Some of my top tips are:
• Surround yourself with the right people. I think it is easy to fall into spaces where you aren’t really expressing your true self. For many years I struggled with finding my tribe of people that understood who I was, what my background is about and understand the vision of what I wanted to create here. It can feel suffocating not being understood or heard. However, once I found my tribe of people, things really started to change. I am surrounded by people that pour so much love and light into my life. People that encourage me daily to do better, but also keep me accountable for when I am not on the right track. That is so important. Don’t surround yourself with people that are always saying yes to you, or agreeing with everything you are saying because you won’t grow that way.
• Create a healthy relationship with yourself. Creating a healthy relationship with myself is an ongoing journey that I am working on. Over the last few years, I have been working on loving myself deeper, taking ownership of who I am and being proud of the person that I am becoming. It's exciting because the more you work, the more you grow. Even though growth can be painful and exhausting, it is so essential on how we live our lives.
• Collaborating with others. Working with other people has been such a powerful tool in my career so far. I am constantly being challenged on my perspectives, and projects end up being multidimensional, which is great to have more brains concentrating on finding solutions.
• Giving yourself grace. This has been such an important thing that runs deep in my life. It always goes back to giving myself grace and not being so hard on myself on where I think I should be. It is so easy to compare yourself, your life, your career to other people’s and disregard all the work that you’ve done. That is where creating a healthy relationship comes in because you realize that everything that you are doing is valid and worth something. I am learning to continually just to stay in my own lane and keep working hard regardless of other people’s journey.
• Last tip is to encourage others. There is room for everyone in this industry. It goes a long way to be positive in outlook and to send good vibes to other people.
Creating a Space is made up of culturally diverse people, is there enough representation within the creative and business communities for Black people in Northern Ireland?
From my experience, I feel like there isn’t enough representation of black people within the creative and business communities in NI. However, it is changing which is exciting to see. There are a lot of groups within the cultural sector working on projects based around community and diversity, but I feel within the creative scene it doesn’t overall exist. I feel excited to have this opportunity to be part of that change and to showcase my version of representation through my projects. I am eager to learn more and to collaborate more with others. Overall my theme is to learn how to continue to empower myself and others.
Aileen McEwen is a painter and is also pursuing a career in collections management in the museums and heritage sector. Her paintings explore ideas of illusion, desire and memory and are full of the historic spaces she works in.
Karishma Kusurkar is a designer-entrepreneur focused on inventing new products with her brand Karishma's World. As co-founder of Belfast Design Week & The Design Salon, Karishma is passionate about raising the profile of Belfast as a design destination. She is an avid collector of postcards and a huge fan of podcasts.
There has long been a disparity between the number of men and women involved in Design and Entrepreneurship.
The Time is Now is an Interactive panel discussion which will discuss how we can encourage and support young female design entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland.
We have four wonderful speakers including Karishma Kusurkar and Aileen McEwen who will be joining us for this event that is part of Creativity Month 2018
I’ve always admired designers; the way they balance creativity with commercial viability, their meandering and colourful lives. Design has always been a castle in the sky for me. I’m not a maker, at least not in the traditional sense. I knew I’d always be on the periphery of the industry, peeking in but never partaking. In the past few years, I’ve become a dyed-in-the-wool storyteller, narrating the passages of designers, by whatever medium is most fitting.
My enjoyment of conversations with designers is what lead me to transition my self-entitled online portfolio into a website that would house these interviews as well as the projects I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with designers on.
This transition into my blog Designher happened organically. At university I was a resident blogger for a fashion collective called Unify, an initiative managed and advocated for by altruistic designer David Henderson. Through the collective I made the acquaintance of a medley of talented clothing and accessory designers, interviewing them and telling their story on the Unify blog. After the collective’s dissolution I continued to keep up with many of the designers, even collaborating with many of them in a creative direction capacity for new campaigns and collections. Some of the works I have proudly created alongside talented photographer Ryan Richards include the Black & Silks shoot for Attune Womenswear and an in-studio photo album for milliner Marie Claire Ferguson.
After Unify ended, I felt there was an opportunity in Northern Ireland for a new fashion event to take place that would showcase and prioritise local talent so in 2016 I reached out to Belfast Design Week, which I felt, was the perfect vessel. With the help of a stream of wonderful people I created the fashion show DesignedBy.
While I’ll call Designher a blog, I don’t want it to be restricted to just that. At the moment it’s a space for me to publish my conversations with designers and design enthusiasts, as well as viewpoint pieces on different strands of the industry. Often I work with designers to direct and create visual campaigns for new collections, new products or for their social media channels and I’ll be continuing to post these photo books on Designher.
There is a plethora of reasons for why I’ve founded Designher. In a similar vein to Womenfolk, Designher is primarily intended to celebrate the work of women in design. I’ve had the luck of working alongside the women who co-founded Belfast Design Week and they continue to inspire me to mobilise and advocate for Northern Ireland’s design scene. Designher is testament to the good work of design communities and their unwavering dedication to creating and innovating their cities.
I’m balancing Designher with my very full-on full-time job so this year my main goal is to have fun with the blog and fit in as many interviews as possible. I have a couple of creative campaigns in the pipeline and all being well at the end of the year I might even try my hand at designing…
A short list of advice / ideas for designers on social media and how to make the most of it:
Less is more: I often find designers feel like they need to be on social media sites but that’s exhausting and wasteful. Use insights tools to heatmap where your audience/target customers are and select the channels that resonate the most with them.
Invest in photography: In a world of double screening and relentless scrolling, imagery is often the only way to stand out. Understandably designers often view a photo session as a luxury, but the trick is to be efficient with your time. Create a vision, develop a curated photo brief that will give you an extensive suite of images to use for the next 3 – 6 months and above all – find a photographer who you can collaborate well with so they get a better picture of your needs/expectations.
Speak authentically: We all know a social media account where we cringe over their posts because they sound too ‘salesy’. You need to give users a reason to interact with you, never mind buy from you. You may think you know your brand inside out but often people gloss over the ‘brand tone’ element. The more comfortable you are with your brand’s voice, the better your posts will be. Whether the tone mimics your own voice as an individual designer or you have to carry out a day-long workshop to unveil the character – once you find out your tone – whether it’s sassy or calm and collected – project it far and wide and you’ll find your tribe.
Since starting my online minimal accessory brand nearly three years ago, I’ve found that this thing of “inspiration” has been the key to being able to put out at least two new collections every year. As designer for the brand, keeping things consistent is really important as I really want my brand supporters to feel connected to every piece in the collection. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new piece or one of the originals, I want my customers to recognise the DNA in the design and feel connected to it. But on the other hand, i want the customer a fresh experience and evoke feelings of excitement at the same time. As a designer, this has got me thinking about inspiration: How to be inspired and how to stay inspired. Here’s some thoughts.
Absorbing yourself in your work. Being consistent with research in your chosen discipline and creating a vision board for your work is a great idea. I use Instagram and Pinterest religiously when I am starting to flesh out new collection that my customers are going to want to buy, but often, this really isn’t enough and can just produce prescriptive designs that really aren’t part of a deeper story i want to communicate.
Be counter-intuitive. When I’m feeling completely void of inspiration, I do the opposite of the first point. I get out of my head and completely detach myself from the design work i need to do. I stop waiting for inspiration to hit. Rarely the bolt of lightning idea actually happens, but i devote myself to meaningful self-care. For me, as Mum to an eight month old boy, we go out for runs with a specifically designed “jogging buggy” and listen to a podcast that doesn’t have anything do do with fashion design. The designs that prove to be strong selling haven’t come as a result of hours on Instagram scrolling but have somehow materialised from daily life, travel and daily fuelling myself in ways that inspire and interest me. Detaching from the discipline for a time can be a great tool for reigniting the imagination. My creative outlets as a jewellery designer, writer and content creator have a cross-disciplinary element that all feed into each other and I find that taking the focus away from one of these disciplines is a great way to actually ignite it.
Consider that we are ‘Receivers.’ If there is a flow of inspiration in this life and we are open, perhaps we can be the receiver that ideas can flow through? This may seem a little ‘out there’ to some, but if you believe there is something grander out there, that there is an unlimited source of possibility, ideas and creativity, then just maybe, we can tap into this flow and rather than inspiration coming ‘to’ us, it comes ‘through’ us.
Follow Your Bliss. I love the notion that to be or stay inspired I can simply ‘follow my bliss.’ Follow the inklings that guide you as a creative. They may be drawing from the well of inspiration you have been filling up over a lifetime. I try not to be overly concerned with the outcome or whether it will make money. Your passion is the currency you’ll need to bring your idea to fruition so follow what your gut is saying and what genuinely sparks inside.
Belfast Design Week is an annual week celebrating design which we founded in 2015. This year marked our 3rd year and our theme was Design Connections. Our team consist of many female design entrepreneurs and it was very important to us to invite other women design speakers to contribute to the conversation over the week as so often panels and events happen without extending an invitation to women design experts.
At this year's Design Week, we had a Womenfolk event - Take5 - which encouraged local women design entrepreneurs to connect at Design Week through a breakfast event. Womenfolk's ethos ties into our beliefs too and we thought we would share our thoughts behind this year's "Design Connections" theme, as well as a few tips on how to connect with other design entrepreneurs.
Belfast is becoming increasingly design-rich, but it is a small city in comparison with some of the established design destinations such as London or Barcelona. We are small, but we can collaborate and build strength and international reputation through our design connections.
- Join Up - There is an increasing network of groups dedicated to various things - entrepreneurship, social innovation, design networking and more. Join up to these and connect with people, but make sure you don't over-commit! It's better to go to a couple regularly than to sign up to 10 which you may never engage in. Some great local groups to sign up to our Womenfolk, The Design Salon, Young Influencers & Bank of Invention.
- Speak Up - Sometimes opportunities come to you, but mostly opportunities need to be created for yourself. The best way to make opportunities for yourself and your business is to speak up. If there's someone you'd like to get advice from, send them an email and ask them for a coffee. If there's an opportunity to share your story, sign yourself up. The more you put yourself and your work out there, the easier it will become to connect.
- Look Up - Northern Ireland is a great place to set up as a business, but don't forget to look outwards and think about whether you could be exporting your work internationally - be it a product or a service. Unless your work is focused towards local delivery - and there's plenty of locally - focused businesses that thrive - don't be afraid of accessing international competitions and grants and getting international clientele. Connect with designers and design studios worldwide, share your own tips and advice online and make the most of being a part of a connected world. The very reason we formed Design Week was to put Belfast on the world map as a design destination like Dublin, Portland or Copenhagen.
These are just a few tips which we hope you find useful and perhaps you've also found some that have helped you to connect with other design folk, in which case do let us know! Belfast Design Week will be back in 2018, so watch this space.
The Morfy adventure really began about 2 years ago, when I put my blue backpack on and waved the family off.
My former design years were predominantly working for Primark, a fantastic company in which to learn swiftly how to adapt and design up fast on trend, threads and textiles. After nearly 4 years in Primark I'd started to get dizzy with desires to leave my pretty cosy cocoon in Dublin and touch the soils of South America, salsaing my way to an unexplored sense of self.
I'd spent many years admiring and studying the exotic prints, patterns and textiles of the world from behind my computer screen and emulated on the high street but needed to really see, feel and experience their artisanal beauty for myself... as well as wanting to taste the best margarita's in the world.
The Reflection Deck came to life about 8 years ago as one of my Visual Communication degree show projects in the National College of Art and Design, Dublin. I had previously been exploring tarot, angel cards and other oracle cards, intrigued by their design in connecting with intuition. I wanted to create my own styled deck that was a present tool to reflect more specifically on the right here and now. With both artistry and language that was capable of speaking to everyone, with guidance that was accessible to young and old, spiritual and sceptical.
Having been accustomed to questioning and second guessing my ideas previously, this project seemed to form so organically for me. It is one of the most free flowing, enjoyable projects I've ever created. I fused my love of crystals and jewels, kaleidoscopes and repeat pattern design to create each kaleidoscopic mandala. Then reflectional meditation time with each image summoned up the sentiment and mantra to compliment each card and eventually complete the deck.
I'd only really shared the Reflection Deck with family and friends for years but then whilst travelling I found myself wanting to contribute to the wonderful settings I would often find myself in with my art, my talent. To deeper connect with travellers in a unique and meaningful way and so tucked a deck away in my backpack for such occasions. Upon sharing the deck I discovered how beautifully it allowed emotions to arise within people and lead to really sincere and enlightening reflectional experiences. So after being asked enough times and listening to all the universal whisperings to do so, I felt it was time to start producing the decks for sharing and sale. And so in January 2017 I set up my Etsy shop and began taking orders.
I really hope people resonate with the Reflection Deck, can see, feel and experience the loving intention that it's made from. The deck offers reflectional guidance but also allows space for you the reflector to intuitively connect with what is being mirrored up for you. To use the guidance to interpret what reading is there, for you to then infuse into your daily practices and apply how you so wish.
Bringing loving intention to all my visual design ventures, when designing for clients I bring a personable approach, showing up to help shine light on what it is they want to express and share to the world, be it print, textiles, graphics, promotions, or birthing a new project.
If I had tips to share with designers while travelling it would be to; Always have a notebook with you, journal every thought, sign and inspiration. Time flies by when your travelliing and your always seeing such stimulating sights, sounds and smells, so take note as the next inspiration is likely just around the corner. But take your time. Be present. Be mindful and in the moment. You remember a scene so much clearer when you've sat in it and breathed it in. Let the moments soak in and accept the gift of presence. And get out from behind that screen! Yes, get your work done but then look up and get out there and embrace this enchanting world around you.
And I'll keep searching for that perfect margarita..
Do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life…I love this sentiment and truly believe it. I have been ‘working’ on Rebecca Killen Ceramics for over three years now and I continually feel blessed to be able to do what I love every day. But really this work started much longer ago at a time when I didn’t really consider clay to be a career. I found clay through a passionate teacher at school and have been learning about and exploring the material ever since. It was only through taking a year out during my Fine and Applied Art Degree to study business at a college in the U.S.A that I realised the possibility of combining these new found skills with my passion for ceramics. Fast forward a few years and I am delighted to be selling my handmade bone china products internationally and throughout stores across the U.K and Ireland.
Having made loads of mistakes along the way here are a few tips that might help in getting your work out of your studio and into the world:
At the start of your journey it is important to explore different avenues to really understand which route is best for your business. Saying yes to opportunities that come up at the beginning will open doors and introduce your brand to new audiences.
After graduating I was successful in gaining a place on Craft NI’s ‘Making It’ programme, a creative business start-up scheme that provided participants with studio space and business mentorship. This opened up a network of makers including previous participants who had gone through similar experiences, their guidance and support was key in the development of my business. This was a structured scheme but it can be as simple as asking for help, seek out someone 5 or 6 six years ahead on the road and take action on their advice.
Test the Market
Whether it be through exhibitions, craft fairs or on social media it is important to get a grasp on what customers are drawn to and how much they will spend on your product. This gathered information really helped me to create a core collection before approaching potential stockists.
Work with Stockists
Your stockists are incredibly valuable, listen to their feedback as they are dealing directly with your customers on a day to day basis. There is also the potential to collaborate with your stockists, this could include an exclusive range or a one off statement piece. This is a great way of challenging your practice whilst staying true to your individual style.
Contradictory to my first point but sometimes it’s okay to say no as stretching yourself too thin can be detrimental to your business. As business has progressed I have learned to trust my instincts and during busy periods only commit to opportunities that I will be able to fulfil with integrity.
Images by Esther Irvine Photography
The way we spend our time defines who we are. It’s important to make sure we are putting our time into something we really believe in. For me, this can be described in three main points.
It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that weaving found me. I had started a degree in textile art, but felt that I could neither be classed as ‘artist’ or ‘designer’. When I started weaving, the process was all consuming. There was something so fascinating about the rhythmic, meditative (some might say boring!) processes to weaving fabric that appealed to me. Identity for me means finding a career path that engages your head, hands, and heart. Once you find your design identity, immerse yourself in it!
The more educated and skilled in our disciplines we become, the more we encourage others to share that passion, and it starts the ball rolling for a fantastic support network to share ideas with. Supporting each other’s disciplines and business ventures lifts the standard here in Northern Ireland for good design and strong practices, bringing creativity and job opportunities further afield than just the big cities. For this reason and more, Blick Shared Studios is an excellent regional hub for creatives to meet, share and inspire.
I find cross-disciplinary experiences stimulate creativity and encourage me to produce more interesting designs. It can encourage me to appreciate the skill needed to create something beautiful, functional and well designed. Most inspiration for me comes from fine art, or sculpture. Don’t be afraid to immerse yourself in something completely detached from your discipline; you might just break that creative block!