Designers Marketplace has fallen slightly behind on its interviews as we've been busy running around our capital at London Design Festival. Having spent three days at various shows, exhibitions and events, we feel the need to say northern design talent has just as much to offer as our southern comrades. Having returned and reflected upon our trip down, Designers Marketplace feels even stronger about its support towards northern based up and coming artists and designers. We are working on new plans and direction for the new year but until then please look forward to our Christmas market at Middlesbrough Town Hall on Sunday 28th November. See website for more details: www.designersmarketplace.org.uk
Anyway, back to last weeks interview with one of our newest recruits, surface designer Ella Kirk with her homeware brand Milk Milk Lemonade.
So Ella, tell us what is your background and training is in…
I’ve always been a scribbler. I loved art and mainly illustration throughout school and college. I graduated with a First in Surface Pattern Design last year from Leeds Collage of Art and Design where I learnt how to transfer my doodles onto various materials, including ceramics, fabrics and papers via various printing methods (screen, heat transfer, digital, mono…).
And why have you decided to become self employed?
After University I found the design job pool to be pretty shallow but have remained eager to produce and sell my designs for homeware, giftware and fashion textiles. I decided to try and get my stuff out there independently showing at various galleries and selling through etsy and Designer’s Marketplace.
Describe your brand 'Milk Milk Lemonade', what does it represent and mean to you?
‘Milk Milk Lemonade…’ is a naughty saying my Mum taught me when I was little. My illustration and colour palette have always been quite childlike, I use toys and memories as inspiration but try to add a more ‘grown up’ twist with typography and composition.
What exciting things are you working on at the moment?...
At the moment I’m working on a new line of cotton scarves. My fashion scarves have until now been digitally printed on silk and I wanted to make my designs more available to a younger audience with a lower price point. I’ve also started selling ipod and laptop skins from website Society6.
What processes do you go through to get to that final design?
Doodling is still my first port of call, I’ll doodle whatever I find curious and then scan it in to Photoshop and fiddle around with colours, mirroring, repetition etc. I then tend to send my designs off to various printers to get a proper shiny professional finish on mugs, fabrics and greetings cards etc.
What are your plans for 'Milk Milk Lemonade', how big are you hoping the brand will become?
HUGE… well, that would be lovely but so far ‘Milk Milk Lemonade’ is making a name for itself in Manchester and hopefully now I have moved to Middlesbrough, it will be as successful here. My online shop has also helped me with success across the country and hopefully that will continue to grow.
What methods do you use to market your business?
I’ve currently got a few exhibitions in the Manchester area, one at Manchester Gallery of Costume and one at The Royal Exchange Theatre. I also use Faebook, online store Etsy, online portfolio site Society6, my website. I also write to blogs like Print & Pattern to see if they may be interested in featuring ‘Milk Milk Lemonade’… if you don’t ask you don’t get!
Where do you go for your inspiration?
Museums and zoos, toy shops, charity shops… anywhere I can observe or photograph things you don’t see everyday. On the other hand I like to collect everyday objects to draw, I like to make the familiar alien to me again- like seeing it for the first time, I think that’s the childlike thing coming in again there. I like discovery.
What do you feel are the most important skills for a designer to have and/or develop?
Curiosity. I think if you want to make something out of an object or theme, you have to be curious about it and what you can squeeze out of it. I think drawing, painting etc are useful and I’d be lost without them but experimentation and a sense of your own design style, I think, produce the most appealing design.
What has been the biggest achievement in your design career since leaving university?
I think my exhibition at ‘Manchester Gallery of Costume’ (ongoing) and the sale of my greetings cards from ‘Manchester City Art Gallery’ are my main achievements. Having your work sold legitimately and knowing that it has such a wide audience gives me a lovely, warm, fuzzy, validated feeling.
What is your advice for new graduates or students hoping to set up their own business in design?
Don’t be afraid to be a wee bit pushy. Try and get your name anywhere and everywhere, get a website, promote on Facebook, Twitter wherever you can, don’t expect miracles but use every opportunity, don’t be afraid to invest in yourself and keep talking to other designers for tip offs about printers, exhibitions, blogs…everything!
or find 'Milk Milk Lemonade' on Facebook