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.
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.