It’s almost time to unveil the 2016 Make it in Design Scholarship in association with Print & Pattern. We were thrilled to receive some amazing entries from applicants in 27 different countries around the world and had a wonderful time reviewing all of the applications last year.
The lucky winners of the scholarship each received a free place on Modules 1-3 of The Art & Business of Surface Design:
Module 1 – Designing your way,
Module 2 – Creating your professional identity
Module 3 – Monetising your designs
In the run up to the 2016 scholarship we wanted to showcase our very talented scholarship winners from 2014 and 2015 and so today we bring you an interview with Mimi Hammill.
When did your interest in design first start and how did that come about?
After a career false start in a stressful clinical specialty, I changed track early on and worked as a medical editor for a few years. While busily correcting countless prostate/prostrate inversions I became fascinated by the work of the freelance designers who did our page layouts. Their job looked like much more fun than mine. Fast-forward a few years and having replaced my office job with freelance proofreading and small children, I took a few online Adobe CS classes out of curiosity. I fell for Illustrator instantly and have used it pretty much every day since.
What steps did you take to get to where you are now as a designer?
In 2013, about six months after first opening Illustrator, I entered a competition to design a silk scarf. And I won! Being paid for my work and seeing my name on garments in Topshop’s flagship store in Oxford Circus was a feeling I could get used to. Since then, my strategy has been to apply for, submit to, join in with, and take part in as much as I possibly can. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred it comes to nothing, but it’s absolutely worth it for those occasional successes.
How would you describe your style?
Colour-filled, playful and frequently geometric, with layers of rich texture. I like the idea of creating patterns that have a bit of a patina.
What kind of designer do you want to be known as?
“Oh, d’you mean that wee wifie with the ranges in Heals and John Lewis, right?”
“Yes, yes, her. But didn’t you know, she moved her whole family to Japan where she eats ramen every day and screenprints scarves. They sell ’em in the Liberty scarf hall apparently…”
Sorry, I maybe took that question a bit too literally!
What are you working on currently?
I’m doing a set of beautiful wedding stationery, which is going to be riso-printed (I’m absolutely obsessed with riso at the moment – if someone riso printed chip paper I’d cross town to buy it). I have some logo/identity design projects on the go for self-employed clients. And with Christmas coming up, I am preparing for some markets – including the marvellous Barbican Christmas Market, where I’ll be selling silk scarves, greetings cards and other stationery from my Modernist collection. (Heads up Londoners, I’ll be there 11-13th December!)
What advice would you give emerging designers wanting to build their portfolios?
A few years ago an online tutor of mine (the incredibly wonderful Alma Loveland) once explained an experiment to illustrate the value of a ‘pattern-a-day’ project. A group of art students was divided into two. Half were told to go away and spend a year preparing a final piece. The other half was told to create an inconsequential piece every day for a year. At the end, the students who had produced vast quantities of variable work had made great progress. The students who agonised over one single piece had not. So I try not to get too bogged down. If something doesn’t work out, file it and crack on with something new.
What would be your dream design gig?
This is an easy one! I’m bowled over by the furoshiki produced by The Link Collective, hand-printed in Japan by a family business that’s been doing it for over fifty years. We’ve been following each other on Twitter for a while now, and a few months ago they posted a picture from the small town outside Tokyo where they print. I couldn’t believe my eyes; in 1999 I spent the most wonderful holiday in the very same town! Talk about a small world. I would love, one day, to create a piece of art that could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with that of their international stable of designers. And of course part of that dream includes me returning to Fujisawa and pulling a few screens… and y’know, never leaving.
Looking ahead what are your major goals for the next couple of years?
I want to start working on a new collection of scarves this autumn, working with a great micro manufacturing team up here in Scotland. In the longer term, it would be fantastic to build up my customer/stockist base so that I can take advantage of the economies of scale with larger-scale manufacturing. Regarding my other patterns, I would love to start licensing and selling them soon. I hope to collaborate with some independent makers too – it would be such a dream to see my patterns on a suit lining or a frilly lampshade.
If you were a pattern what kind of a pattern would you be and why?
I think the pattern that best describes me is Fritillaries, created during Module 2; lurid, large-scale and cheerful with a combination of hand-drawn and geometric elements. I love juicy colour combinations that are almost the wrong side of comfortable – if I could wear hot pink, navy and chartreuse together all Winter, I would.
How did you find out about the P&P scholarship?
A friend emailed me the link to the Print & Pattern scholarship. I was already aware of the deadline but, I’ll be honest, I was a bit half-hearted about it. I’d been longing to do the courses, and had applied for the scholarship unsuccessfully in the past. But also I knew I would be moving house during the first module, and I’d had a few minor confidence setbacks that week already, and the baby hadn’t been sleeping, and… [insert excuse of your choice here]. But I was so touched that this long-distant friend had been thoughtful enough to send me the scholarship information. So I figured: what harm could there be in spending an hour preparing the application? And it turned out to be an hour very well spent!
Please tell us about your experience of the e-courses taken as a result of winning the scholarship.
Module 1 was tricky, as I moved house in the middle of it and then had no internet connection for ages. But the great thing was that the ABSPD portal allowed me to download the material later on. So even with the crazy upheaval of moving, I didn’t miss anything and I certainly wasn’t the only one in the Facebook group working through the material at a delayed pace. With a young family, time was always going to be against me, but the 24/7 nature of the portal really helped during modules 2 and 3, as I could build a schedule that worked for me. Grabbing an hour here and there while my toddler napped was my critical ABSPD reading/doodling time.
What advice would you give to designers thinking of applying for this years scholarship?
Just do it. But don’t submit artwork on the basis of what you think might win – you can’t possibly second guess that – submit artwork that you LOVE, it’s more likely to shine through.
What was the most important lesson you took away from the e-course?
BE BRAVE! It was one of the key messages from Module 2, and against all my naturally reticent instincts it inspired me to kick-start a project that turned out to be really rewarding. Read about it on the Make It In Design blog here http://makeitindesign.com/blog/2015/07/25/mimi-hammill-dec-nepal-earthquake-appeal-scarf-project/
What difference did it make to have a supportive community of fellow students and how important do you think that will be going forward?
It makes a huge difference. When you’re working from home, alone, it’s almost impossible to gauge your progress and get feedback. Thanks to my ABSPD classmates, I now have a fantastic network of friendly names around the globe that I know I can bounce questions and ideas off. Linking up with them through Twitter and Instagram means that we’ll be sure to keep in touch long after our ABSPD modules are over. The Make It In Design community is a very rich source of advice, opportunity and inspiration, not just through the assignments, but also with high quality supplementary material in the blog and Moyo, and fun ‘extracurricular’ projects like patternbombing. (Oh how I LOVED #patternbombing!)
Find out more about Mimi Hammill at the following links:
We will shortly be announcing the Make it in Design 2016 Scholarship in association with Print Pattern. In the meantime read all about last years here.