Alumni Becca Hall: two years on…

Graduate stories – two years on we hear from alumni Becca Hall

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Becca Hall graduated in 2014 with a successful degree show and a well received body of work based on her life and interests back in the Lake District.  The entrepreneurial approach was always evident in Becca’s career ambition and she has developed an ever expanding body of work that connects to her love of  the lakes, its people and places. Below are some reflections and advice we asked Becca to pass on in her own words, starting off with an interesting commission developed as an external collaboration over a number of meetings between Ian Whadcock and Bronwyn Simpson at Stockport Museum services – Bronwyn herself being an alumni of the BA (Hons) Textiles in Practice course in (2001) and now also running her own millinery business at MMU Marketplace Studios Stockport.

Becca: I have has  been pretty busy with freelance illustration work since graduation. In 2015 I was asked by the Stockport Story Museum to re-design and illustrate all the walls and information boards on the 4th floor (the family/children section of the museum). This was by far the biggest job I have ever done, and I really enjoyed it. I worked from home, sending the files over the internet, and only occasionally visiting the museum site in Stockport. (To see the space and meet the client). This was a great opportunity and as I am based in the Lake District – it proves you don’t need to be in a big city to get city scale work. I was told that I was chosen over other shortlisted designers because they liked my individual style, and they were impressed by my website and online presence.

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This was completed in late 2015 and involved a series of thematically linked large format exhibition  panels. I developed a series of characters, signage, dealt with hand drawn text and devised a range of printed materials to enhance visitor experience, encouraging interaction and engagement.

I have  also undertaken a lot of personal commissions, run stalls at print fairs across the North West, and provided a range of artwork and design for companies such as:
  • Soiree Make Up (Website illustrations)
  • Macarons by Al Strong (Website and printed menu that goes in every box of macarons sold!)
  • The Kendal Picture Framers (website banner)
  • South Lakes Housing (website banner and christmas e-card)
  • Prepare To Plan ( business consultancy – Helpful tip guide)
  • Hattie’s Homegrown (Illustrations for website and packaging)
  • Farrers Tea and Coffee – (Illustrations for mugs, tea towels and tea pots)
  • Childs & Co ( illustration for Children’s Toy Box)
  • Calvert Trust (Herdwick lamb for the Go Herdwick trail in the Lake District)
  • The Happy Newspaper (Emily Coxhead who weirdly was in the same year as me, on the Graphic Design course and we never met – despite me living with one of her friends and working on the same floor!)
  • Open/Close ranges of bespoke signage for cafes such as Homeground and Farrers Coffee.
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At the same time I have also been launching my own range of products. This is something I decided I really wanted to do in my third year. So far I have been selling mugs, notebooks, pocket mirrors, calendars and cards. I aim to keep developing and diversifying my collections, attracting more stockists and in time to develop a distinctive brand and take a stand at one of the key trade shows like the Spring Fair at the NEC Birmingham or Top Drawer in London. Thats where I would really like to be: selling products around the country,  designed by me, manufactured and printed in England. I have already been approached by shops and outlets in the Lake District who are interested in developing a range of cards in 2017.. so watch this space!
I have also set up an Easy shop where I am getting orders almost every day for prints, cards, originals, mugs etc. It does work.
Mistakes I’ve made……
The big one has to be when I took on someones wedding stationary as a commission. I didn’t specify sufficient terms and conditions in the acceptance of commission quote, and ended up spending eleven Months on a £400 budget. The  client kept asking me for more and more, and change after change. As I hadn’t stated that changing their mind would cost them money, I just had to do it – and learn from it!
Tips for current undergraduates:
Attend any lectures you can on running your own business, being self employed, tax and negotiating fees. These are invaluable when you first start out and can cost you time money and stress if you get it wrong.
Pay attention to your website/blog and social media presence, post regularly and don’t be afraid of showing work in progress and telling people what you are up to. Pay attention to tagging posts and building the right audience for your  work. Be consistent across different channels and respond positively to interest you receive.
Be confident, and don’t lose sight of who you want to be. Don’t forget to draw, just to enjoy the act of drawing! Not everything has to be for a commission. Keep a journal/sketchbook… and use it. Sometimes when you’re stressed up to your eye balls with work and deadlines, its good to have something to look at that reminds you why you are doing it.
You can take a look at more of Becca’s work on her recently updated website.

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Author: Ian Whadcock

Senior Lecturer Manchester School of Art, BA(Hons) Illustration with Animation course.