TDK Awards 16′ winner, Sahra Martin, talks to us about her horse drawing phase at age 7, questioning every piece of advice you receive (yes, even this!), and her dreams of starting her own studio.
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design? Age 5: layout, hand-lettering and illustration for my first publication ’A Day at Healesville Sanctuary’, Age 6: taking orders from my friends for bespoke lettering on their pencil cases and Age 7: reading every book in the known universe on how to illustrate horses and then diligently illustrating one every night for a month. I did creative projects at school, at home, in my sleep. I was an incredibly curious child and always sketched or made notes on everything I saw, much to the chagrin of those around me. I studied fine art straight out of high school, then became an archivist (among other things) before I came back to uni to study design. It’s been a zig-zagging path, but it’s given me the eclectic bunch of skills and experiences that influence my work today.
Who are your top five design crushes right now? Hmmm…well my crushes always seem to straddle art, design and architecture so here are my top five contemporary creatives as of this very minute (I have to give myself parameters!): Snarkitecture, Cristina Celestino, Humans Since 1982, Olafur Eliasson and James Victore. I think they’re all awesome and I could give a lengthy response as to why, but just google them. You’ll either understand my interest, or you won’t.
What’s your take on internships? If you’re taking on an intern, you need to pay them. Yes, there are situations where unpaid work is lawful, but most of the design internships I hear about are those where the intern is doing work that would typically be done by a paid employee. It’s so wrong that many companies take advantage of students who are desperate to get a start in the industry. I’d implore all design students to know their rights and to blacklist these companies that offer what is effectively employment without pay. Your time and effort are worth so much more than just a pat on the back.
What advice would you give students starting out? Question every piece of advice you receive (yes, even this!). All of us are just making it up as we go along, right? No one has all the answers, not even your lecturers. You need to work out the best way for you to do what you want to do by taking action, experimenting. It’s just trial and error. My other ‘advice’ isn’t really advice at all, just some random thoughts. Design is often considered a visual pursuit, but for me language plays a significant part. I think reading is important. Bierut, Millman, Rand, Chimero, Rawsthorn, Heller, Shaughnessy, Lupton…they’ve all got something useful to say about design and it should be read, if only to form your own opinion. And yes, I’ve made sure there are women on this list, but I think there’s too few female voices in design writing. Hopefully that will change. I think it’s also important to recognise that design can be many different things, so find the part that resonates with you. Be thoughtful in your work and it will show. Engage with the people and environment directly around you. Find ways to engage with the people and environments that aren’t directly around you. Just explore.
2016 for you in a sentence. One of my hardest working years ever—working four days a week as a designer, maintaining a full-time Honours year study load and continuing my own freelance work, but also one of the most satisfying years ever—just getting through the year unscathed and being rewarded for my tenacity: receiving a couple of awards (including top communication design graduate from Swinburne) and being offered a job straight after graduation (wow this is a really long sentence, sorry).
What’s the big goal in the next five years? I’d love to start my own studio. I also want to spend some time living abroad, or even just in a different part of Australia. I’ve lived in Melbourne my whole life—I could do with a different perspective. In saying that, I don’t think I could abandon Melbourne forever. It’s a pretty special place.