Women Who Code x Womenfolk

Some pics from our wonderful collaborative event with Women Who Code Belfast at Vault Artists Studios

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International Women's day event Friday 8th March 2019

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.

Our next event is on Thursday 18th April 2019 in conjunction with Women Who Code at Vault Studios , check out event details and booking information over on the event section of the website

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Womenfolk: Designers Of The Future - Belfast Design Week

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.

Book Design

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.


Lego Animation

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.


Games Design

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.

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The Illusion of a Perfect Work/Life Balance with Itty Bitty Book Co.

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?

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 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.

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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.

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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! 



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.

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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!”

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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.

Speaker #1 of Womenfolk - The Time is Now Panel

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.

Womenfolk – The Time is Now Panel


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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

Source: https://www.blickstudios.org/events/events...

"Showcasing your design work" by Jessica Fok

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. 

A fashion-led Belfast Design Week event produced by Jessica Fok at Culture Night Belfast 2016

A fashion-led Belfast Design Week event produced by Jessica Fok at Culture Night Belfast 2016

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…

"Black & Silks" - a styled shoot for Attune Womenswear

"Black & Silks" - a styled shoot for Attune Womenswear

Showcasing Marie-Claire Millinery's work in studio

Showcasing Marie-Claire Millinery's work in studio

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.