Lydia Meehan (BA fine Art)
Arriving at CSAD to study Fine Art in 2010, Lydia envisaged three years dedicated solely to painting. Instead, she found inspiration in three-dimensional pieces; conceptual work; and people – all of which would wonderfully frame the opportunities in her next chapter.
"It's strange; the transition between what you think you want to do when you arrive, and what your eyes are then opened up to," she says. "I reached a point where I felt I couldn't express my ideas through painting, so I began working more conceptually focusing on ideas; writing and thinking about things and how they made me feel."
By the time her third year came around, Lydia had seen her installation work featured in an exhibition; she was interning for new initiative The Attic Galley; and she had taken up a place on the degree show committee – all this, in addition to her academic work.
After graduation, she became a Project Co-ordinator for a community art project and a facilitator for visual arts in primary schools. Later, when she took on the additional role of co-ordinating volunteers for Cardiff's 'Made in Roath' festival, Lydia found herself back at CSAD.
"Not many people utilise the career services, but I couldn't have got here without them."
'Here' is the Wales Millennium Centre, where Lydia has recently taken up a one-year, paid placement as a Community Engagement Assistant – an exciting and varied role tapping into Lydia's artistic background, appreciation of space, and her natural ease with people.
"Today, for example," she tells me, "I've been setting up for a children's workshop, researching Chinese New Year, talking to a theatre director, brainstorming ideas for Roald Dahl celebrations in 2016, and having meetings about the centre's five-year strategy plan."
Read more about Lydia and other Alumni in the 'Making It' magazine here.
Above: ‘She used to be a scream’ – Video work inspired by Lydia’s grandparents’ golden wedding anniversary
Julia Richardson (BA Comtemporary Textile Practice)
Much of Julia's role as Design Manager for International Greetings is customer-facing, as she brings together different teams at IG to create new lines and products. As we speak, she's turning her hand to everyday gift wrap, including gift wrap for flowers. "That's something I don't know much about," she explains, "so I'll spend a day researching and talking to managers before I write up the brief. Then I'll pull together inspiration and design ideas and brief the designer."
These essential project management skills are ones which Julia traces back to her time at CSAD over ten years ago, granting her the flexibility to work beyond her initial aspirations of a career in fashion and to join the ranks of International Greetings, not with an Illustration or Graphic Communication background, but with a degree in Textiles. "Your course teaches you to take an idea; research it, refine it, then carry it through design to the final product in response to a brief. It's the same process we use on a daily basis," she says.
Originally from France, where she was studying Fashion Design in Paris, Julia came to enrol at CSAD through the Erasmus programme; what was meant to be a year-long placement evolved into a love of Cardiff that has kept her in the city ever since, and the beginnings a demanding, rewarding career.
After graduation Julia spent time working in knitwear and womenswear before moving to IG. "After a while, you start to find your way," she says. "We have a great team of fast-working designers and there's a lot of space for discussion; we learn a lot from each other."
Julia's has learned what she believes gives a job that little bit of magic appeal: "I value a company which is always looking for something new," she says. "One that's not sitting comfortably, relying on customers coming to them, but always trying to top what has been done before."
Read more about Julia and other Alumni in the 'Making It' magazine here.
Above: Showing CSAD students around International Greetings
Alex McCarthy (BA Ceramics)
It's the penultimate week of the term and Alex's last at the secondary school in Devon where he first took up the role of Artist in Residence and later became an art technician. Although he has been lucky to strike a good balance between working at the school and continuing his ceramics practice, Alex has had an inkling for some time that he could take his business further. Now he has found a place, just over the bridge from where he refined his craft at CSAD: a studio space in Bristol, which he'll make his own in the new year.
A major catalyst for the change has been Alex's involvement in the Craft Council's Hot House Scheme, which supports emerging makers.
After a competitive interview process, the six-month scheme pairs successful applicants with a professional maker mentor, as well as a buddy (someone who completed the scheme themselves more recently). Being back in a peer group – "where you can discuss things and share creative criticism" – was wholly positive for Alex, who says it spurred him on to making the move to Bristol a reality.
His best pieces of practical advice? Invest in good images of your work. Alex's site serves as the most stunning gallery of his ceramics, giving centre stage to his signature pots and vessels – rough to touch, monochrome in stone colours and all beautifully contrasted with their own improvised downpour of metallic lustre. "Once you've made contacts, be good to them," he advises. "Be reliable, be friendly; I deliver all my pieces personally – I think people really appreciate the effort of going to meet them in person; it lets them put a face to the name."
This he says with much conviction; an artist fluent in professionalism, trusting of his own ability and experienced in his trade. And if these are the cornerstones of a great career, Alex is free to concentrate solely on the thing that binds them – his work.
Read more about Alex and other Alumni in the 'Making It' magazine here.
Above: Inspired by rough landscapes, the vessels are rough to touch
Alex Johnson (BA Graphic Communication)
Alex is a Graphic Designer for international ad agency McCann after a two year stint as a designer for Matthew Fairweather, in Bristol, came to an end in June last year. "The work suddenly dried up. They had to let the juniors go, which was a shame, but I think it just happens in small businesses sometimes."
"I figured that since I'd been made redundant, I might as well look around and apply somewhere I could progress a bit more; work in a bigger place," he says. "It's been a completely different experience, and a nice step up."
A typical week for Alex revolves around the team's creative schedule – the rolling list of current projects which are assigned to different members of the team to manage. Recently, he tells me, he had been responsible for creating the concept drawings for World Vision, an international children's charity. Other weeks he could be working on anything from press ads and direct mails, to branding, using much the same software he trained with whilst studying Graphic Communication at CSAD; "mainly a Wacom tablet, Mac, or the traditional creative suite."
"I've learned that you do need initiative," he adds, pressed for his advice to current students. "I was told off a lot, whilst I was studying, for sitting around and waiting for stuff to happen. You need to think about what people want and be clever about finding stuff to do – impress people. I think that's what employers look for."
"If I've ever got nothing to do, I try to think about how the company I'm working for could improve itself or promote itself better, or if there's any projects I could add to just by saying 'Why not try this?' Being proactive sets you apart and makes you more senior than junior, I think."
Read more about Alex and other Alumni in the 'Making It' magazine here.
Clara Watkins (BSc Product Design)
Going into an undergraduate degree, it's probably true to say that most students are preparing for up to three years of learning. Many at CSAD will identify themselves as artists or designers, primarily, and academics after that – if at all.
But what I learn from speaking to Clara Watkins, is that these two identities need not be seen as worlds away from each other. After all, they both depend on finding what it is that inspires you and motivates your work, shaping your practice and your unique stance on the world, and having the skill and patience to constantly reflect in order to grow.
Clara developed an interest in ethical design gradually over the course of her studies in Product Design at CSAD, where her final major project as an undergraduate ultimately focused on design in developing countries; working with the London Tropical Medical Centre, Clara was linked with a research centre in Malawi and tasked with designing prototype packaging for Malaria treatment.
"I found it really interesting," she tells me, explaining that the brief contextualised her understanding of how products have to be altered to suit different cultures and environments. At the time, she'd never set foot in Africa – in fact, a big part of the challenge was designing from afar, and relying on Skype for communicating with her fellow team members overseas – but before long, Clara's tutors realised she'd tapped into both a passion for designing for developing countries and an obvious talent for research. "My lecturer suggested I should take it to a higher level of education," she explains.
Following a Masters in Philosophy, Clara secured a scholarship, through Cardiff Met's Research and Enterprise Innovation Scholarship scheme, to embark upon her PhD. She began working, alongside Welsh charity Mothers of Africa, which trains medical staff in Sub-Saharan Africa to care for mothers during pregnancy and childbirth.
"When you go to hospitals in Africa, they've often been donated the same things that we use, but it's not always relevant. That's a big issue that needs to be addressed; they need stuff that they can actually use and that is suitable for their surroundings."
It is in addressing this problem throughout her PHD that Clara has already set in motion the next phase of her work. In fact, there is not even the suggestion of a break from academia as Clara talks excitedly about becoming a Research Assistant at CSAD, where she'll work on carrying her prototype solution through the production and implementation stages.
Read more about Clare and other Alumni in the 'Making It' magazine here.
Heloise Godfrey (BA Fine Art, Self-employed Fine Artist)
Heloise Godfrey-Talbot is a Cardiff based artist who works with people and communities as her main medium. Having originally taken a BA in English Literature and Language at the University of Leeds Heloise went on to study an Art and Design Foundation course and then a BA Fine Art at University of Wales, Institute Cardiff (now Cardiff Metropolitan University).
"I am particularly interested in the body as the focal point for narratives, in observing human behaviour on the peripheries. Always research led I make work with people over a period of time. I have made work exploring the private relationships between client and hairdresser, the performer privately warming up before a show and the musicality of non-verbal communication in individuals with Autism."
Heloise took full advantage of the opportunities offered while studying for her BA to become involved with galleries around Cardiff and to get to know numerous local artists. She showed her work in many exhibitions organised by herself and other students and helped organise several festivals and parades. She is very interested in how artists work around the Wales and the wider world. While a student Heloise won the Dulcie Mayne Stephens Memorial Art Trust Travel Scholarship and travelled around rural areas of Wales. She also took advantage of an overseas trip to the Venice biennale.
Since graduating in 2011 Heloise has shown her work across the world from galleries in Singapore to warehouses in Cardiff's backstreets. Heloise thrives from working in communities and has had some amazing residencies ranging from mini ones in hair salons across Wales, to being awarded Arts Council Wales funding to support her 2012 Moving Narratives residency at Sherman Cymru, a theatre in Cardiff. She continues to travel and in 2013 successful applied for a Wales Arts International bursary to visit the Venice Biennale.
• If your University offers talks by artists go to them as it's a really good way of finding out how artist work. If there's a chance to talk to them after or have a tutorial take it.
• Get involved with the local art scene – volunteer to help in local galleries. For me it was a great way of making contact with Made in Roath and other galleries such as g39 in Cardiff.
• Learn about which galleries might be the best ones for you to work with and make contact with them.
• Learn about technology and IT so that you can send images to galleries in the formats they request – it's so vital to get that right!
• All students should be a part of AN – it's cheap and you get free public liability insurance with you subscription – it's a good investment in your professional future. It's worth getting involved in their online community too.
• When you graduate you will want to be active about self-promotion and use social media well. Try and get into good habits, taking pictures of work in progress, sharing interesting finds and exhibitions so that your transition from student to professional is easy. When people interview you they may have looked at your Facebook page so be sensible about how you manage that.
Nicola Miles (BA Illustration, Self-employed Illustrator)
Nicole is an illustrator from The Bahamas and gained her BA (Hons) Illustration from Cardiff School of Art and Design, Cardiff Metropolitan University. One of the most useful career orientated skills she learn was about how to present work and ideas in different ways to potential employers and the importance of researching how different organisations prefer to be communicated with. Nicole also independently took a presentation skills course in The Bahamas which was great for building her confidence but also for understanding how she was perceived. It also helped her understand that people actually interested in listening to what you have to say and will appreciate your expertise.
Immediately upon leaving University Nicole helped establish the Morgan Arcade Studios (now Morgan Studios) in Cardiff city centre to provide an affordable shared space for early career creatives where they could build a community create their own network of artists, designers, filmmakers and writers with whom they could collaborate and bounce ideas. These links have opened doors for new work. Nicole also advises that being aware of current trends in illustration is also essential and to keep up to date and predict future trends she visits comic conferences in Paris and the annual comic festival in east London which are also great for networking. She has submitted her work and been selected for the American Illustration journal which has proved a great way of getting her work in front of the world's leading art directors.
Her Tetris High Score is 62837, lvl 12, 119 lines and her Sudoku High Score: lvl medium 2 minutes 37 seconds.
• Make your work visible – enter competition and awards – it's a great way of getting your work before important art directors and industry leaders.
• Think about how to best present your work to potential employers – some like work emailed, some posted so do your research before you contact them.
• Writing emails to potential clients or employers is a skill in itself. Keep it short and sharp, add a link and joke and then send. Long and detailed emails don't work but you need to sound interesting so that you're remembered.
• Make sure you've got strong technical skills.
• Finding out about others' career paths is a good way of discovering your own options, what skills you need and what other professionals wish they'd learnt earlier in their careers. I'm a fan of listening to podcasts by New York based illustrators as there's a lot of interesting work going on there.
• The Association of Illustrators gives good advice on how to charge for your work and therefore what you need to do to make a decent income. Remember that the creative world IS the business world so those buying your work will be making money out of what you have done for them.
• Charge an hourly or daily rate. Work out what works best for you depending on if you're a slow or fast worker. Decide if the price being offered for your work is a sensible one – it's OK to say no thank you to a job if it isn't going to pay.
Lizz Van Ek (BA Ceramics)
Why did you choose ceramics? Ceramics chose me as I had always played with clay but had primarily been a painter. I had begun on the Fine Art BA and after three weeks I changed course to ceramics. It was the best decision I ever made, as I feel there is just so many possibilities, its creativity with lots of alchemy. I really enjoy the technical aspect; it's not just something you can pick up in a week.
Why did you choose Cardiff? I chose Cardiff to be close to my family as I live in the Valleys and this is where I continue to live and work.
Career since graduation Free artist training scheme (provided by local councils) – link.
Community Artist providing workshops for: Charities: MIND Mental health charity;
Local schools: Twyn School, Tywn Early Years and Markham Primary;
Community centres: Britannia Youth Club and Senghenydd community centre;
Other Organisations: Creativitea and Icthus ceramics.
I continue to produce work for sale – link
Paul Johnson (Architectural Design & Technology)
"I'd always had this feeling of wanting to do something with architecture. I'd hankered after the idea for such a long time that I realised maybe this was the moment to dig my heels in and commit to doing it."
After almost a decade on the career ladder, Paul enrolled at the newly-named CSAD as a mature student. "It was huge step, and it was hard-going," he admits. "The thought of not achieving was too much; I cancelled everything outside of studying to achieve what I had set myself to do."
Paul's first job in architecture saw him working on Georgian manor houses in Bath with Watson Bertram & Fell. "It was a very steep learning curve!" he laughs. "I was working alongside the director, doing contracts, documentation; designing; extractions, frontages, swimming pools, orangeries – everything you can imagine."
When the recession hit, and work slowed up, Paul's other fascination – lighting – came back into focus. He got in touch with a friend who had started a company called GDS, neither knowing then the impact that collaborating would go on to have.
"There had been all these discussions about making wirelessly controlled LED lights work like a traditional tungsten light bulb. GDS had the products and the ideas but they didn't have the skills to integrate them into buildings. That's where I could come in, with architectural and design ability to take over where the guys were already selling the products."
That was three years ago, at which point GDS were gaining more of a reputation in the theatre world, before – as Paul puts it – "we realised we had something special."
Read more about Paul and other Alumni in the 'Making It' magazine here.
Gareth McNeil (BA Product Design)
Having trained for two years in Glasgow, Gareth joined the second year of the Product Design programme at CSAD (then UWIC) in 2001. "I wanted to do a multi- disciplined, creative design course, and Product Design at UWIC was the best fit," he says. There, he could immerse himself in the different elements of the creative process, which is what had always drawn Gareth towards a career in Product Design – "the chance to learn a lot of skills from being creative, and makings things, right through to presentations and marketing."
Gareth sought out summer placements whilst he was studying, and the impression he'd left with lecturers meant his name was put forward when Alloy, then one of the top 5 Product Design consultancies in the UK, contacted the school looking for graduates to join the ranks.
Currently a Product Design Manager for the iconic Joseph Joseph contemporary kitchenware company – with products being sold in 102 markets worldwide – 33- year-old Gareth explains that globalisation has been one of the biggest changes to the industry he's known for over a decade.
"Design is really all about the people. It's not just about the product, it's behaviours and attitudes."
Read more about Gareth and other Alumni in the 'Making It' magazine here.
Above: Mothercare Myhi highchair
Laura Sorvala (BA Graphic Communication)
Having graduated from CSAD with a degree in Graphic Communication in 2005, Laura still introduces herself as an illustrator. "People often think that means book covers or magazines," she says, "but I tell them, my job is really to take complex ideas and explain them to others with visuals."
Now, she runs her own business doing exactly that. Laura founded Auralab a little over four years ago, eventually making the transition to freelance full-time in 2012. Yet, looking back to graduation, she says she hadn't know then that this would be the direction her training would take her in.
Laura arrived at CSAD "almost by accident", having spotted an opportunity for an exchange during her studies on home soil in Finland. With a long-held love of illustration, she was initially interested in expanding into interactive media but grabbed every opportunity at the school to experiment, crediting her tutors for how they "really encouraged students to discover their own creative voice and approach."
"Personally, and considering the long haul," she reflects, "the most important thing was to develop my own creative voice. Now that I'm finally running my own business, the learning process about my own visual practice seems very poignant."
Being introduced to hand-drawn visualisation (which you could describe as illustrating information) and graphic recording (illustrating information in real time), Laura's thoughts and inspiration began to multiply excitedly. "I remember trying [graphic recording] for the first time and the buzz of recording everything live; listening to people and capturing everything as it happened," she says.
A little research confirmed that there was a gap in the British market for it, where by contrast it was already big in the States. "It was a period of self-discovery," Laura recalls, "for me to realise that understanding complexity was a major skill that I had, and I wondered – how far can I take this?"
Read more about Laura and other Alumni in the 'Making It' magazine here.
Above: 'Our vision of Wales' bright future' – commissioned work for the Sustainable Development Alliance