Last Week, I Went Back to School

Even though I’ve now been to University and had the experience of schooling which has more more in common with the ‘real world’, many of my old teachers from my secondary school remain to be my favourites. After all, I still write Christmas Letters to them each year (which reminds me…)

So, knowing that I still had some connections to Queen Elizabeth High School, I wrote an e-mail to Jason “Mr. K” Killingsworth and asked if I was able to come by for a few days and represent a former pupil who’s gone on to do their own freelance work. It didn’t take long for him to write back, and for us to start planning ideas of what I could do for my short time back at school.

What’s Changed About the School?

Not much, in all honesty. There was a slightly creepy feeling as I walked through my old corridors and the layout started coming back to me. With that said, some of the paintwork has been redone with a new colour scheme, and I could have sworn that the roofs were taller when I first started.

The only major difference there, as far as I was concerned, was that the 6th Form Common Room now had its own fully-functioning cafe. Back in my day, all we had was a microwave and a sink filled with a mountain of mugs taller than the nearby sign which read “Anyone who doesn’t wash their cups up gets a £1 fine”.

Regardless, it did feel good to be back in school, especially with the added bonus of now being a grown-up. The teachers and I could talk to one another like real adults, now, and believe me, that was a wonderful feeling to be able to talk to them in that way.

Day 1: The Presentation

On Wednesday, I gave a presentation to some of the 6th Formers who were considering having a career in a similar field. It was based on the pros and cons of going to university, as well as a way to offer some general tips on how to succeed in the creative industry.

There was a slight technical blip when my recording device unexpectedly ran out of memory, yet the day was saved when my friend whipped out her iPad and did the rest of the recording on that (I owe her one!)

Other than that, the presentation itself went really well. Feel free to watch the video below and see for yourself.

I also gave a small lecture to the pupils about how to use Adobe Flash. And you know what? This experience gives me a whole lot more respect for my teachers. Knowing a subject is one matter, being able to teach it is another. If you ever wonder why teachers get paid as much as they do, I can tell you from that little bit of experience that they deserve their pay cheques at the end of the day!

Day 2: The Open Evening

The next day, I returned to the school and took part in their open evening, when potential pupils and their parents came around to see if the school was the right one for them. And, it was a good thing that I returned, as Mr. K was unexpectedly dragged away from the D.T. room for a meeting, and I had to take the reigns for an entire hour.

It was great being able to talk to some of the parents and tell them about the sort of things I learnt from school. Furthermore, it was great to see some of the things the pupils had made and put on display for us all to see. What they had on show was more focused on product design than on marketing, yet I could still tell that some of his pupils have outstanding creative skills, and great futures ahead of them.

Once Mr. K had returned, I was able to show him some of the physical products I’d designed. Amazingly, I managed to teach him about some of the websites and companies I use for my printing services, too. They may be expensive, but they’re worth it!

Soon, it was dark, and we had to call it a night, but not before a few book recommendations and a photograph of the two of us together, holding what was easily my favourite of the products they had on show.

mrk Continue reading Last Week, I Went Back to School

My Work Experience at ‘Elvet Woollen Mill’

Last week, I gave you a round-up of what it was like to complete my work experience at ‘Bay Studios’ in Swansea. Well, now that that’s ended, I’ve moved straight onto another round of work experience, this time travelling in the opposite direction.

What It’s Like

About half-an-hours bus ride from my home town, hidden behind some fields and forest in the middle of nowhere (otherwise known as Cynwyl Elfed) is ‘Elvet Woollen Mill’. It’s actually quite surprising to find this mill secluded amongst the trees and hedges. The owners, Alison Thomas and Mike Tolputt, told me that most of the villagers don’t even realise the mill is there, especially since it’s an old building at the end of a narrow lane which most probably wouldn’t realise is still manufacturing. Once, they even had some strangers turn up mistaking the place for a village museum!

Despite this, my time working there has been a pleasant time. Much like with my previous experience, I got to get a closer look at the manufacturing side of the business.

How It Works

There are a dozen or so machines which I need to remember how to use, of which rely on a system of transforming individual threads of wool to elaborate fabrics. After that, some of the giant rolls of fabric are taken to the finishers to make the fabrics soft and comfortable to use, whilst others are ready to use immediately.

Once they’ve returned, it’s a case of cutting the fabrics up and, if need be, sewing them into a variety of different woollen products. From coats to cushions, and from tapestries to teacosies, just about anything woollen can be made at this Mill. Oh, and we have to attach labels and package all of these products by hand too.

How’s This Related to Design?

I suppose what’s fascinated me most with this work experience is seeing how similar some of the criteria are in both creative industries. Many of the things which need to be considered when manufacturing woollen products also need to be considered when creating graphic products.

For example, I was shown how by adding a single colour to one of their patterns, the whole look of the fabric seems to completely change appeal. The same can be said in graphic design, as to how a single colour can make an entire brand feel different and give it a new appeal.

Furthermore, when looking at both fabrics from a distance, the colours merged together into a new, seemingly solid colour. This reminded me a lot of spot colour printing, a process commonly used in magazines where the four key colours, cyan, magneta, yellow and black, are printed with thousends of tiny dots. Once looked at from a distance, those dots blur together to create the illusion of a solid colour and shading.

There was even the fact that when these fabrics were sent to the finishers to be softened, the colours of the fabrics changed slightly upon return. The same can be said for graphic design, as colours generally darken when being transferred from digital to print (which is why a good designer will always test their designs in print as well as digitally), and change colour yet again when the printed material is finished in some way (e.g. glossing )

Summary

Once again, I suppose what you can learn from this is that just because your skills lie in one career, that doesn’t mean those skills can’t be adapted for something else. So long as you’re able to recognise the simularities of both industries, you can, with training, convert those skills to change from one industry to the next.

And I get to expand my skills further,this time around, because my work experience here is far from over!