I’m Kate and I work as a part time Duty Manager and Marketing Assistant here at Making Space. When I’m not in the office, I’m working as a freelance designer and workshop leader, managing my own creative brand “Kroma” as well as running lots of Arts and Craft activities for all age groups. This month I took the plunge to work from home and vacated my studio space here, which I have had for just under a year and a half now.
Up until June 2015, I was working from my studio at Making Space as part of a yearly Laura Ashley Textile sponsorship scheme, which enables new designers to build and develop their portfolio of work. It also gives them the freedom and space to experiment with new ideas and designs without the worry of paying rent on their studio.
The sponsorship supports you with a grant to help towards material costs as well as personal development through market research and building your online presence through social media. I found my sponsored year here so important that I wanted to share with you all the impact a studio sponsorship can have on your creative business.
After graduating from the Arts University Bournemouth in 2013, I moved back home with my parents and was working as a creative intern for various companies across the United Kingdom as well as a volunteer at Aspex Gallery in Southsea. With little money, I struggled to live on an intern’s wage (some internships paid zero pennies) but I was so determined to stay connected to the world I had just studied 4+ years to be a part of.
I found out about Making Space through Aspex Gallery and decided to apply for the Textile Award. The application process included sending details of your business, including your business plan and product prices as well as a copy of your portfolio. I decided to visit the space to drop off my application so that I could see the studio for myself.
When I arrived, I was greeted and welcomed by who was then the administrator Catherine (Who now has her own studio at Making Space too!) and was given a tour of what I can re-call as the “biggest space I’d ever lone worked in.” A lot bigger and better than working in my single bedroom! It was a very modern, bright and airy space. White walls, grey floor and I instantly saw myself working here.
Although I loved the studio, I was very unconfident that I would be selected as the quality and skill of craft being created within the studios was so high, I was afraid that I didn’t quite cross that border.
A few days later, after the call out deadline had passed, I was invited for an interview where I was able to meet Director Lynne and Outreach & Marketing Manager Ami. (Whom I now work with!) The interview went well but I came away thinking that my business wasn’t developed enough for the opportunity as, after all, I had only graduated 6 months previously so my only collection was my final year range.
However, a few days later, when I received an email from Lynne telling me that they had selected me for the residency, it explained how the sponsorship is there specifically for those who are upcoming; those who need that little extra support and guidance. I was delighted and between signing contracts, getting my keys and buying a new desk, I was all moved in and ready to roll!
I began working on some new designs using materials that I purchased with the grant. I bought screen-printing equipment as well as fabric and a second hand SLR camera. I started applying for local craft fairs to begin testing out where my work would fit. I took part in the Spice Island Arts Trail where my work was spotted and from that, I put on my first solo show at The Portsmouth Guildhall Café Space.
I learnt a lot about my brand and becoming more selective about where my work suited. I started using social media more and began gaining a following of customers through Instagram and my website. I collaborated with local screen-printing company Brilen’s Custom Clothing to bring out a screen-printed range starting from tote bags through to sweatshirts.
I used my final grant money to learn a beginner’s silversmith course as I was pondering the idea of creating jewellery for Kroma.
My status as a professional practitioner began to grow because I had a studio space I could call “Work”. It was a lot better than working out of a bedroom and I felt much more independent, confident and happy!
Whilst I was carrying out my sponsorship, I was still volunteering at aspex Gallery with their participation team, helping run workshops. The voluntary work, after around a year, became paid assisted work and then went on to becoming fully paid freelance work and I was leading workshops myself.
Having both the workshops and a studio really gave me the boost to push myself further. I began running more workshops within schools, at the gallery and at Making Space. Then, in February of this year, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to apply for an arts leader position on a heritage project for a new organisation and I got the job!
At this time, I had created a mini collection of prints for Kroma and wanted to begin the research into getting my work onto fabric. I began ordering samples of fabric swatches, testing colours and styles. This was a very fun part of the process!
My final highlight of my sponsorship year was being asked to be Graphic designer for Portsmouth Historic dockyard’s HMS M.33 project where I was to collaborate with an illustrator and create a large scale (5 metre long!) children’s board game.
I have since joined the Making Space Staff team and continue to run workshops with them. The one thing I felt helped me through this year wasn’t just the support of the sponsorship but the support of the staff at Making Space- Monthly tenants updates, discussions and guidance about my work with Lynne, advice and assistance on workshops from Ami and continuous support and encouragement from all the tenants.
Looking back at my year’s sponsorship, I have definitely been able to see an improvement in the quality of my design work. I have also become a lot more selective on where I chose to exhibit work and what workshops I run. Within this year, I now earn enough money to have moved out of my single bedroom and into my own place where I now have a designated studio office.
So much can come from making that one decision, so if anyone were pondering whether to apply for a studio residency or sponsorship, my advice would be to go for it!