..and that’s exactly what I’ve been lucky enough to have been doing for the past couple of months.
In May this year, I embarked on an online course that I’d been thinking about doing for ages. In collaboration with Beth Kempton, founder of the fantastically inspirational Do What You Love organisation, the Make it in Design courses are written by Surface Pattern Designer, Illustrator and all-round happy person, Rachael Taylor. The aim – to provide the skills and resources to become a successful Surface Pattern Designer (which is, as the name suggests, a designer who creates pattern and prints for ‘surfaces’ – anything from greetings cards, to ceramics, homewares, stationery, gifts, accessories – you get the idea!)
Having already studied design-based subjects at school and university (albeit many moons ago) and more recently taken courses in garden and ceramic design, I felt I could skip Module 1 (Designing your way) and instead jumped in, head first (so more of a dive, than a jump!) at the deep end of Module 2 ‘Creating your Professional Identity’. The 5 weeks of tutorials and classes were JAM PACKED with information and incredibly useful and clear ‘technical workshops’ – teaching novices (like me) how to create pattern using Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop software. There was a class Facebook page to connect with fellow students, trend prediction insight, design briefs, branding, marketing and PR advice, plus much MUCH more….From day one, I was hooked. My only wish was that I’d done it sooner.
This September, I started Module 3 ‘Monetising your Designs’ – just as the title would lead you to believe – how you can actually make some money from all this pretty pattern creating. Again, squeezing LOADS of content into another 5 weeks, it’s been fascinating, sometimes a little overwhelming, occasionally daunting BUT has given me a much needed focus and push to start moving forward with what I hope might mean I can earn a bit of money from doing what I love.
The online support network of fellow students has been invaluable. There is always a classmate out there to answer a question, give you some help with a technical problem, offer some feedback on a piece of work, or just a give you a bit of moral support and a boost if you’re struggling/getting behind/feeling demoralised….and that’s one of the things about this course – Whilst the Surface Pattern Design industry is hugely over-saturated and there’s a massive wealth of creative talent out there wanting to do exactly what I want to do, Rachael is very keen to point out throughout her teachings (and it’s reiterated in the many interviews with successful designers) – there is room for all of us. There are positive and inspirational messages running throughout the courses, which are incredibly motivating and I will return to time and time again.
I would love to do the 4th Module (The Ultimate Portfolio Builder) or another of the Do What You Love collaborative courses, Make Art That Sells with illustration agent, Lilla Rogers. However, at the moment, my finances won’t allow it, and in a way, that’s a good thing. I am in danger of always studying and making plans but never actually making those plans happen. This way I have no excuses. For now, the 2 courses with Make it in Design have given me skills and knowledge to make a start. I have a focus and a direction that I didn’t have 6 months ago and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process that’s got me here.
I’ve written before about my love of ceramics and the workshops I took on the subject. The sense of joy, pride and achievement I felt when I created my first few (not too wonky) pots on a potter’s wheel was something I’d not felt in years. I’d created something with my very own hands, using a skill that was completely new. I felt the same way when I managed to turn a little doodle on a piece of paper into an actual pattern using software that I’d only just opened a couple of weeks before. The power that learning new skills has on the human spirit should not be underestimated.
Of course, it’s not always financially possible or practical to quit a job you hate and go off to learn climbing in the Himalayas but my point is, that it IS possible to enhance our lives with a commitment to lifelong learning about those things we have a passion for or interest in. Whether it’s learning a musical instrument, teaching yourself about growing organic vegetables, studying for an academic qualification, or learning a new sport. It doesn’t have to be a huge financial or time investment, it can be as simple as downloading an e-book and choosing to read that for half an hour of an evening, instead of watching another TV programme.
I’m just starting out on my Surface Pattern Design journey. In fact I’m only in the process of packing my suitcase – I’m not even in the departure lounge yet – but at least now my journey has started and I know which flight I’m taking. Of course, things will come along to send me off course and I may end up taking a different route. I may even end up having to abandon the trip altogether, but however far along the road I get, I will, without doubt, love it and learn from it.