On Wednesday 3rd February, we had the pleasure of hearing from several talented and ambitious Old Runnymedians who are currently working in the creative sector. We were joined by Chloe A, Melanie C, Galit L and Berit L, who graduated from Runnymede in 2017, 2012, 2013 and 2018 respectively.
The first to speak was Galit, who, despite not taking Art at A Level, always knew that her interests lay in the creative sector. Having always been passionate about fashion, and knowing that it is always useful to have some knowledge of business, she chose a university with a Liberal Arts focus that would allow her to explore various subjects, embarking on a BA in Fashion Management & Marketing with History at Richmond, The American International University in London.
University was a time of exploration for Galit; taking advantage of the credit transferral system, she studied on campuses in Boston, Madrid and London. She now works in the business side of the art sector, as a Restitution Specialist for Sotheby’s, one of the largest auction houses in the world. Her role is to investigate works that were looted or acquired by forced sale under the Nazi regime, and to release them onto the market; a role that requires not only key investigative skills in database searching, but also German language skills (something Galit is currently studying), business acumen and an ethical approach.
Melanie, on the other hand, had always been interested in Fine Art, but it wasn’t until her Foundation Year in Art at CCW, during which she was able to explore the subject in all its different forms, that she discovered her passion for graphic design. Following her Foundation Year, she undertook a BA in Graphic Communication Design at Central Saint Martins before embarking on a successful career as a freelance graphic designer.
Although she is conscious of the unpredictability and instability involved in freelance work, Melanie was also keen to emphasise the freedom and independence it offers, particularly with regard to an artist’s creative licence. She explained how she has developed professionally over the years and how being a freelance graphic designer is a constant learning experience. Through the COVID-19 crisis, she has had to be resilient and resourceful, thinking outside the box and utilising her network of contacts to replace lost clients.
The next speaker to share her experiences and portfolio was Berit, who is currently studying a BA in Industrial and Product Design at the Edinburgh College of Art. Berit was open and honest about her experiences studying a Foundation course at Oxford Brookes University. Although she didn’t enjoy living in Oxford, she acknowledges that it was a useful opportunity for her to gain independence and acquire not just artistic skills but also valuable life skills by living abroad.
It was fascinating to see how Berit’s portfolio has developed from her Foundation Year project developing sustainable furniture for digital nomads, to her creation of rugs for an exhibition, to her current work on speculative design, in which the creators attempt to foresee the future of design. She underlined the importance of learning how to use different software, and how these skills can be applied in all walks of life.
Our final speaker, Chloe, who is currently studying interior design at SCAD in the USA, explained how her initial interest in architecture developed into her current passion for interior design. It was only after completing a summer course in Architecture at Cornell that Chloe realised that this field would not allow her to express her artistic side in the way she wanted. Chloe’s story teaches us that, often, it is only by thoroughly exploring the different pathways open to us that we can discover where our true passions lie.
Chloe’s experiences of watching a SCAD presentation and knowing instantly that this was where she could imagine herself in the future, also show that the best way to find out about a particular institution or degree is by making direct contact with them and experiencing what it might be like to study with them.
All three of our artists were kind enough to show us their incredible portfolios of artwork. Galit, for her part, shared some fascinating stories behind some of the artwork she has encountered working as a Restitution Specialist at Sotheby’s, a role she advanced to after having completed internships for the company at their Brussels and Madrid branches during her studies. The importance of work experience was an aspect that was stressed by all of our guest speakers, each of whom has benefited from the acquisition of new skills and contacts during the course of their work alongside their studies or during the holidays.
While internships may not be the best opportunity to develop a portfolio, since an intern may only contribute a small part to a much larger project, they are invaluable stages in an artist’s learning curve, providing the experience of working to a brief and learning how to monetise artistic skills in the business world. These young women’s experiences demonstrate the increasing emphasis at Art and Design schools are placing on obtaining work experience early on to build the foundations of students’ careers long before graduation.
The session closed with a brief Q&A round from our audience. One particularly insightful question asked about the difficulties of meeting a client’s brief whilst maintaining one’s own artistic identity. Melanie was quick to respond that the key to this is simply not to think too hard about creating a cohesive style: an artist’s style will develop naturally through the creative choices they make.
It was with some reluctance that we had to end the hour-and-a-half session, with many of us wishing we could see more of the artists’ work, hear more of Berit’s fascinating stories and learn more about what these Old Runnymedians’ experiences had taught them. The session was another roaring success and we look forward to what the next Old Runnymedian Careers Talk will bring.
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We would also like to remind you that there are a number of ways that you can get involved with the Old Runnymedians network and stay in touch with your former classmates.
Join the Old Runnymedians database: Give us permission to email you news and about upcoming events by filling in your details in the contact form.
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We look forward to hearing from you!