Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?
I originally studied as an architect at Unitec School of Architecture in Auckland, New Zealand. I spent the best part of 10 years studying to be, and then practicing as, an architect in both New Zealand and Australia. I worked on a whole range of projects, the most fun being new schools where I got to play with a lot of colour and graphics. As much as I liked being an architect I didn’t love it, I think a couple of years went by where I barely picked up a pencil. After taking a couple of short courses in art and illustration and picking up a few small freelance projects I realised just how much I missed it and how much I loved it. It wasn’t too long after that I made the decision to take an early retirement from architecture and go to CATC Design School in Melbourne. After finishing design school in Melbourne I made the move back to New Zealand where I got a job as head of creative in a marketing company.
Tell us about where you are today and what you love about your job!
I worked on a lot of corporate design projects in my graphic design role and spent a lot of time on the computer. Out of hours I became very interested in words and letters and began to learn the ancient art form of calligraphy in the evenings. This led me to eventually leave my corporate design job and go on a trip to Italy last year where I studied calligraphy is a small Italian town in Tuscany. After my experience in Italy I decided to take the leap and become a freelance designer/illustrator/calligrapher. It was possibly a bit of a risk, I hadn’t planned too much but it felt like the right thing to do. I am big on trusting my gut instinct. I have been freelancing fulltime for 6 months and it has been going really well. Running my own business is one of the hardest things I have done but I love the flexibility, and I love working from my own studio. I have a variety of clients who give me a number of interesting jobs. What I am enjoying the most is being able to work on my own personal projects. I use pen, pencils, ink, brushes and create everyday, it’s a bit of a dream.
What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
There is no straight line in life, so I don’t think you should try and draw it out. If you do you will miss out on opportunities and surprises. Let life take an organic course and open yourself up to possibility. It might be in ten years time that you are able to look back and then connect all the dots. When you are your own boss there is no one to do admin for you. Business is not something that is taught enough at university. The amount of my time that is spent quoting, invoicing, paying, and emailing people and marketing myself is more than I like to think. Talk to people, if for no other reason than they might have an interesting story. Deciding to go out and meet new people has lead to so many unexpected things in the last year and a half of my life. Say Yes (to a certain extent). Grabbing opportunities when they pop up is really important. Saying ‘Yes’ has lead me down so many interesting paths. It can also become a bit of a burden and at some point you have to take a step back and really consider what you are going to say yes to. When you make the leap into freelance life you essentially give up the ‘9 til 5’. I really enjoy the flexibility of freelance life; I enjoy not being forced to create between certain hours. However it can also become all-consuming very quickly, creeping late into the evenings and into the weekends. I have to make sure I give myself some time out and allow myself to have a “weekend”.
What's the big goal in the next five years?
To collaborate more with other artists and designers who I respect and admire. I really enjoy working for myself and by myself but too much time alone in my studio can make me a little stir crazy. I have found collaborating with people always yields really exciting and unexpected results, it breaks you out of certain patterns you have settled into and you produce work you might not have otherwise. I would also really like to have my own solo exhibition…maybe next year!
What advice would you give students starting out?
Find something you love and are passionate about. Throw yourself into it and give it everything you have got. Design something everyday that you enjoy and put it in front of people. No one is going to discover you sitting at your desk. A quote I like to live by is: “Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.” - Debbie Millman
Any personal projects you would like to share? past, present or future?
One of my favourite personal projects from the last few months is my “Hi from New Zealand” series. I have been experimenting with gestural calligraphy since doing a workshop in Italy last year and am prepping some pieces for an upcoming exhibition with the New Zealand Calligraphers. I have also been lucky to work with artist Michel Tuffery over the last 6 months on the design of a bottle for a new Samoan coconut vodka called Koko Aulo. Michel produced the artwork and I have undertaken the branding and bottle design. We recently went to Samoa with our client and I was able to experience first hand where the produce comes from and discover all the amazing hand painted lettering there is in Samoa, on their buildings, signs and public buses.
Timelapse of Wall Mural
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and join our design community of emerging graphic designers around the globe.