if you'd have told me two years ago that i'd been on placement within the world's (yes, world's!) leading greetings card publisher's studio, i wouldn't have believed you. however, on friday i headed home from bradford and battled the god awful traffic after a fantastic two week placement in the hallmark creative studio. on my first day i remember looking around like a kid at christmas; the place is just full to the brim with colour, characters and imagination and everywhere you turn there's something to indulge yourself in or become inspired by, making for a very impressive, motivating and inspirational workplace for the various creatives that work within it on a daily basis.
after a brief tour of the building and being introduced to the people i'd be working amongst, i was set my first brief that i was more than happy and comfortable with as it was tailored to suit my interests and the strengths of my portfolio. i'm not entirely sure how much information i'm allowed to disclose about what it was that i was working on, so i'll just say there were plenty of characters to get stuck into! my first brief lasted around 3 days, my second brief around 2, my third around 3 and my final again around 2, meaning there was always plenty to be getting on with but never anything tedious enough to become boring. it's fair to say i was more than pleased and very impressed with the carefully considered workloads and constant support and check ins from the various members of the team that were guiding me along the way.
i surprised myself with the sheer volume of work i managed to produce in two weeks and it's really given me a swift kick up the bum to do more off my own back and to be less distracted by silly everyday things (such as television and poodles.) of all the work i produced there was only a select handful that i was really happy with, but the whole process of creating the work has been extremely helpful and insightful. talking to other illustrators, working with different photoshop set ups and just simply working in a different environment helped me to understand how others work and then apply it to my own working methods, meaning i've left with a lot of useful knowledge and working process tips that i'm now keen to put to use working individually.
while on the topic of being around other illustrators, i found it extremely refreshing to be working amongst other doodly-folk. as an illustrator on a graphic design course, i often feel immense pressure to be churning out shed loads of work, and more often that not feel panicked, rushed, and like i can't quite work at a pace my tutors expect me to. in the hallmark studio, the atmosphere was extremely relaxed and supportive and a lot of people commented on how quickly i worked, which came as a surprise to me! it was nice to be around others who know that drawing takes a long time and therefore give the illustrators the time to do so without hassling them, and also to realise that professionals generally don't have any top secret tips and tricks for getting things done super fast; i don't know why i ever expected they would have, but my silly mind always fooled me into thinking that there must be shortcuts in the industry, and it turns out that perhaps there aren't after all – phew!
as well as picking up some illustrator hints and tips, i also got a really valuable insight into how greetings card publishers are run. it was interesting to learn about all the various roles, from creative to business, how ideas are born, developed and then chosen and edited to make them shelf ready. for a process that's somewhat long winded, all the people in the studio seemed extremely relaxed about it all and just simply got on with things – an atmosphere that i'm assuming helps everybody out because there's no one panicking which may then cause you to panic! i also got to play with machines i wouldn't ever have otherwise, and after being introduced to the foiling machine, it quickly became my best friend. suddenly i was imagining all my designs with tiny glistening components and to then see that in real life was just fantastic, it's amazing how such a tiny technique can really give a card that extra, special dimension! it was also lovely to have the foil appreciated by others and not just written off as a gimmick... 'where's the harm in doing things sometimes because they look nice?' seemed to be a shared opinion in the studio, hurrah!
as well as having lots of fun on projects and meeting a bunch of lovely people who work there, i also got along very well with the girl i was on placement with, too. after chatting away, it turned out that i was already following eilidh's blog and we had a giggle about how small the world can seem at times and really had some good conversations about our work ethics, interests and lives in general, and by the end of our placement we were pretty good pals, and it was truly sad to have to say goodbye. i'd hoped while living in the house that i'd come away having made a friend or two, but i don't think i ever expected that i'd get on so well with someone like i do with eilidh; it's a shame that she lives a few hours away up in edinburgh! never fear though, there could be potential meet ups in the future what with edinburgh being on my list of lovely places to visit – fingers crossed!
all in all, my two weeks of placement have been thoroughly enjoyable, insightful and an experience that i'd happily relive in a heartbeat. i've come away from it feeling extremely inspired, positive and with a clear idea of what it is that i want to push myself to achieve. as much as greeting card design is fun, i think i've realised that my heart lies in picture books as i always found myself reverting back to creating silly characters and dropping them into various scenarios which naturally led to a narrative of some sort being developed, however big or small – this doesn't mean i'll be ruling greetings cards out altogether, though! just perhaps making them an every now and again thing.
so, now what? with all this positive energy and new found sense of motivation, i want to get on with a couple of project ideas i've had while away which involve some typography and 3d sewn characters, develop and write up a couple of stories i've had ideas for, and lastly, give my portfolio the huge makeover that it's been longing for for quite some time now. i initially entered the summer holidays feeling a little uninspired and lazy, but now i'm excited for the next few months and all the things i could potentially achieve within them. watch this space (i hope!)