The end of May and beginning of June are a flurry of activity for emerging makers. Deadlines and Degree shows, the end of one chapter and the looking forward to what is to come. And this week it’s the turn of New Designers – potentially one of the most important stepping stones out into the world.
I’ve been visiting ND for 8 years. The first time I went I had just finished my Art Foundation and was about to start a degree course at Nottingham Trent University. Everything was astounding, the work seemed so far out of my reach in terms of skill and professionalism, but it excited me and made me eager to be there myself in 3 years’ time. As I visited each year, during my degree course, as my own awareness of the contemporary craft sector developed alongside my making skills, the work was still impressive but now I understood how it was made I could be more critical. What became more and more apparent to me was the role of ND as a place of opportunity and possibility to recent graduates if you are ready and able to take those chances. When I exhibited there in 2014 I knew I wanted to connect to other makers who worked in a way that was sympathetic to my own practice. I wanted to find people to collaborate with. I was lucky that week to meet some amazing people, and those connections evolved in the months after graduation.
So often now I see students exhibiting who don’t seem to be engaged with the process. Either they don’t sound confident or enthusiastic about their work, or they are not even interested in communicating at all, preferring to chat to their friends and loiter in walkways. Now, I know it’s a long week; the set up is arduous and you’ve been running on adrenaline. And it’s usually bloody boiling in the Business Design Centre, but that really isn’t an excuse. Showing at ND puts you in amongst thousands of your peers, a cohort of amazing energy and talent, a fantastic place to find likeminded collaborators and cheerleaders. But it also holds you up to an audience that you are unlikely to ever have access to again. Educators, students, Design and Craft industry professionals, collectors, gallery and shop owners, curators, writers, other artists & makers…you never know who that person is who is casually looking at your work. Why would you risk not making a fantastic connection or starting to build really rewarding relationships?
As a person who is passionate about makers and everything they do, I am disappointed when the people whose work I am looking at don’t start a conversation with me. I always want to know more. I am always interested in knowing why you make and how you do it. But if you don’t tell me I’m not likely to spend a lot of time searching for the information – it’s a really big show! In the last 3 years, it’s the makers who have taken the time to chat to me, and to show me how passionate they are about their work, that I have formed lasting relationships with. Now, this may only translate into having a coffee every once in a while for some, but for others it’s meant that we have embarked on collaborations or projects together. Those are the makers whose names go on my list when I’m planning something; the people I want to work with in the future. Those makers at ND whose work is fantastic, but they don’t come out to chat? Well, I don’t usually follow that up. And I’m sure I can’t be alone.
My advice to recent graduates is this: make the most of the time you have a ND. Go off and see other work, especially the makers showing in One Year In. Talk to other makers, learn about them and start building your own lists of ‘people I’d love to work with’. Go to the free talks. Seriously. Patricia at the Design Trust hosts an entire day full of really useful talks, the sort of stuff you will be paying for in the months to come once you realise it’s useful. And talk to visitors. Everyone who looks at your work – ask them if they’d like to know more. And do that for your peers, support each other. If people are taking an interest in your neighbour’s work and they aren’t there, let people know you can talk about it if they’d like to know more. All these small interactions may be unbelievable opportunities just waiting to happen. But mostly enjoy it. Take time to reflect on the last few years and how far you’ve come. Really give yourself credit for all the work you’ve done and what you’ve accomplished. It’s just the start of the journey, but it’s already awesome.
For recent graduates and other emerging makers I have some resources which are aimed at you. Take a look!
Reflect on what lies ahead...
8 makers share their experiences of starting their creative careers and offer advice for those at the beginning of their creative journeys.
This resource is perfect for recent graduates or any maker in the early stages of their careers.
Starting Out as a Craft Maker
A compilation of resources that all makers at the start of their creative careers should have. From crucial application deadline dates, to templates for Press Releases, there should be something here that will be invaluable as you take your first steps on your journey.
22 pages of essential information & writing templates/guidelines