Currently I’m based in Christchurch, NZ. My home town of all places, we returned after living in Finland for 4 years and post natural disaster (earthquake). I never could have imagined I would stay, but here I am almost 2 years later. I work remotely with a team of designers and digital wizards in Helsinki, Finland on all sorts of things, I’m the NZ HQ of Kallan & Co a company founded with some friends a couple years back. My primary role is illustration and identities, this is why I love my job despite the late night Skype calls and constant hum of projects 24/7, its our own and we get to do the fun stuff! The satisfaction that we can make a living creating work we enjoy just blows my mind. Im very lucky. Also living few minutes walk from the surf ain’t too bad either.
I started my career as an intern and remember it felt like a massive deal, I was so jazzed to have some place to release all my creative energy. I knew nothing but got offered a full time job after a couple of months, probably cos I was just putting everything into the place, which long term is not great. It was a chance to taste the industry and I never deviated for many years until I realised I wanted to just focus on the things I really enjoyed and sidestepped my career to illustration. Try to choose an internship carefully so you can really test the waters, no point busting your ass for an advertising agency when all you want to do is illustrate. We do hire interns and pay them, the process takes some time to find the right fit, we want them to get as much out of us as we do from them. Famously our first intern of Kapu Toys, is now the CEO.
A good portfolio, just like good design is a matter of taste. I used to do all this stuff that just wasn’t me so staying true to yourself is hard, but thats what will reflect strongest in your work and a good art director will be able to see potential. I believe getting a job is 49% skill 51% personality. The hardest thing when critiquing your own work myself included is the emotional connection with the projects. It can be difficult to strip your folio back to the best vs essential projects that show your skills relevant for the job. I look for a designers natural strengths and how it could be applied to the work or projects we have on. When I was starting out I used to ring up art directors and ask them to give me their thoughts on my folio, a sneaky trick as your making connections and learning something at the same time. Great connections are almost better than a killer portfolio with attitude.
My working days are manic, weeks blend together and its as colourful as life with a toddler can be, usually woken up I furiously check slack (collab/chat app) or emails for the happenings of the past day in Finland, if its an urgent project I have a small window of time to get comments from the guys before they call it a night. I then give my daughter breakfast, take the dogs for a walk on the beach then hum along the bumpy roads to a shared studio space in the ‘city’ centre. The space is one of the few remaining heritage buildings after the quake, with exposed beams, white brick walls and a hum of creativity and goofy laughs. After the grind I then head home and put my daughter to bed and jump on the computer for the evenings, do some final changes before I hit repeat the next day. Basically a work’a’holic. Its taken me a long time to just roll with the ebb and flows of a designers life. But I know now, if its quiet and the surf is good make the most of it! Or I try to do whatever else i can to distance myself from the computer.
It wasn’t design per se, but I remember falling in love with some illustrations by Mel Crawford, I hid the book and forced my parents to pay the library fine. I always loved creating things and finding solutions for problems; be it re-routing rivers so the forts my brothers and I built in the mountains had their own water supply, to illustrating a collection of playing cards of everyone in my primary school class, coloured in with jazzy fluro markers! Now looking back it appears I was destined to become a creator of something. My ‘design’ career almost didn’t happen though I was ready to start a builders apprenticeship and my mum made me submit my work to The CPIT Art and Design course with a slim chance of getting in. To my surprise I was accepted and here I am today.
I love personal projects although I’m the worst at self-imposed deadlines. Nothing great to share yet I have about 10 on the go at the moment. For some reason that undefined end point seems so hard to hit! In the past I have found the most love from personal projects the first was when I quit my job and painted and surfed all day for an exhibition. I didn’t sell many works, but the energy from that experience was amazing. The biggest project of all was when 5 of us kicked in our jobs at an agency and started Kapu Toys. So many lessons learned but even when life creeps up, kids are growing, mortgages looming, its never to late to go your own way or follow your dreams.