Sunday, 7 June 2015


This year marks 10 years since I completed my BA at Winchester School of Art and 5 years since I finished my MA at the RCA.  As my distance traveled since graduation grows ever longer and now I'm a lecturer and business owner I can't help but feel reflective of my own graduation experiences. I certainly did not get the most from the experience the first time I graduated (or maybe even the second) but I was young and boy did I learn from my mistakes.  But now I'm older (and hopefully wiser) I want to pass on some pearls of my wisdom.  So here are my top 10 tips for new (textile) graduates:

1.  First things first, update your CV.  It might seem obvious but it's such an important part of the first impression you will make with a potential employer.  Get it looking slick and make sure it's not too wordy.  You need clear formatting, bullet points rather than paragraphs and a couple of great referees (make sure you get their permission 1st).

2.  Know who you are contacting. VERY IMPORTANT this one.  There is nothing more frustrating to an employer than getting contacted by someone who didn't think to look up their name and it screams GENERIC EMAIL.  If someone can't be bothered to go on my website and read my blurbs to find out a bit about me, then I can't be bothered to read their email, let alone write back.  Simple.

3.  Hand in hand with point 2, if you are applying for jobs make sure you are a) responding to an advert (if there isn't a position to fill your wasting your time and spamming companies), b) know where the business is based (don't apply for something miles away if you have no intention of moving and c) have the right amount of qualifications (if they ask for 2 years industry experience or more, you're probably going for a job you're not experienced enough to do, find something more appropriate).

4.  It's a small world. Good word of mouth is essential, but similarly bad words spread too.  The impressions you have made on your tutors/internships/employers are SO important.  It's amazing how connected this industry is, don't forget that.  Most of the jobs I've had over the last 10 years have been from recommendations by people I've met along the way.  Internships turned into full time employment, good word of mouth manifested in lecturing jobs and commissions turned into collaborations.  It's a rolling ball, keep it rolling!

5.  Stay friendly with the contacts you have already made, they are your foot in the door to the industry you want to be a part of.  Just make sure you maintain professionality throughout and don't overstep the mark.  If you start asking questions you could just have typed into google you may find yourself skating on thin ice.  Make contact during business hours and whatever you do don't confuse them with your best friends and send them texts in the middle of the night!

6.  Make sure your social media content is impeccable.  Recruiters will look up facebook profiles (I've done it myself!) so make sure your private life stays private.  Change your security settings for your personal profile and think about setting up a 'page' for your professional profile.  I love linking up with my past interns via facebook but not every employer would want to be this informal.  Linkedin is a great alternative in these cases and I've also known people to get headhunted through the site, so make sure you have a profile set up.

7.  Be someone worth knowing.  You may have been a large fish in a small pond while you were at college but there are thousands of other people graduating at the same time as you and that ponds about to become an ocean! Find a way to stand out from the crowd.  It's not all about the innovation in your collection, being wildly cutting edge or the fact you just secured yourself a First.  When studios are looking to take someone on it is often more important to find someone who will integrate smoothly into a small team.  Be genuine, be polite, be dependable, become indispensable.

8.  If you love being a practical designer find a way to access the equipment you need in order to carry on working after college.  Does your college offer alumni access to workshops or are they part of the Artists Access to Art Colleges scheme?  There are also opportunities to join studios where you can access shared facilities or other perks like the Cultivated program at Unit Twelve Gallery. What is there available in your local area?  I also found the HOTHOUSE scheme the Crafts Council runs to be incredibly helpful when I first started my business, applications for their next intake open in July.

9.  It's alright to not know exactly what you want to do, it takes time to find your path and it may change along the way.  It took me almost a year to get my 1st full time job in the industry after my BA.  I worked as a Sales Assistant straight out of college until frustration drove me to throw myself back out there into the textiles world.  The sales world definitely wouldn't miss me the way I missed weaving! And since then I've dabbled in a few different roles.  It's because of the varied experiences I've had I know more clearly where I want to steer myself with the next 10 years of my career.

10.  Don't expect an easy ride.  Despite my good fortune at times along the way, there have also been crushing blows.  I know exactly what it feels like to be rejected, I've had more applications refused than accepted, I've been made redundant, I've gambled money on shows and lost.  It hurts. BUT the only thing you can do is pick yourself back up, dust yourself off and carry on.  Success isn't instantaneous.  You have to be tough and you have to work bloody hard for it.  So why rush? Remember your building a career.  I know I'm in it for the long game!


all images from google.