Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Right here, write now

At a recent Visioning workshop,  a designer-maker asked about writing press releases. This blog isn’t the place for a lengthy how-to -you'll find lots of detailed advice online (How to Write A Press Release for example)

 But, for a quick start here are my four basic tips*

  • Make sure you know exactly what story you want to tell. It is surprisingly easy to fall into the trap of loading your news with irrelevant details.
  • Aim for no more than 14 words in your opening sentence and tell everything concisely in your first paragraph – that’s all the editor may use. Make sure it answers these questions: Who, what, where when and how
  • Check your spelling and grammar thoroughly – remember word processing spelling and grammar tools don’t think. They are weigh too dumb. See what I mean.
  • Top it off with a clear and attention-grabbing headline but watch out for unintended meanings -  such as ‘Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge’

* There's a rarely revealed tip. Forget the rules, type your story as it comes. Effective press releases aren’t written. Like all the best copy, they are rewritten. That's when, you won’t go far wrong with the tips above.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Creative Industry Finance programme

For information:
 A programme "designed to assist creative enterprises in securing finance and investment to successfully develop and grow into sustainable businesses. We offer tailored business support with a focus on supporting applicants through the process of applying to a suitable lender for a business development loan."

"In order to be eligible to apply you need to fulfil the following criteria:

  • Minimum 18 months trading history
  • Registered/operating in England
  • Business activity falls within one or more of our creative industry classifiers"

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

A designer, a maker and an artist walk into....

Furniture designer maker Armando Magnino attended an ILF Visioning workshop a few months ago. One exercise prompted some thoughts, which he explored on his Studio Sixteen blog. We thought it was well worth sharing here and thank Armando for permission to repost. (Latest Visioning workshop dates here)

I recently participated in a workshop organised by Interiors and Lifestyle Futures in Birmingham. One of the exercises asked us to discuss how we describe ourselves professionally. The facilitators shared a list they’ve been compiling from previous workshops: while the list was fairly long, it boiled down to combinations of designer, maker, artist, craftsperson. Within the context of the workshop, this exercise was little more than an icebreaker, but it resonated with me because, from the moment I started my business, I have been wondering about how I label my work and myself.

My standard answer is that I am a furniture designer maker. And I tend to say that I design and make bespoke furniture or fine furniture: I guess the first emphasises the uniqueness and customisation of my work, whereas the second hints more at the high level of technical skill in the making and the aesthetics of the pieces.

I have so far eschewed the term artist , when I haven’t actively rejected it. In fact when I was asked to write a profile piece for ArtSpace, the magazine of the LSA (Leamington Studio Artists) I titled it “Why I am not an artist”.

Joseph Campbell talks of true art as having the capacity to generate “aesthetic arrest”. As I understand it, what he means is that art can help us to “stop the world” (to borrow an expression from Carlos Castaneda), to interrupt our normal everyday perception of the world and open us to an experience of something “other”. Through the immanence of the artefact we can experience or at least glimpse the transcendent, the sublime, the transpersonal. I certainly cannot claim that quality for my work. But neither do many people that describe themselves as artists.

More down to earth, Alice Rawsthorn in “Hello World”, after a thorough discussion of the various features of art and design, concludes that the only identifiable and defining difference is in function. Design is about problem-solving. It has a practical application. Products that are designed have a use, art products do not. I agree with her reading, and in that sense I am not an artist. Yes, I want my work to be beautiful, original, intriguing but fundamentally useful.

And yet… When I make a commissioned piece I am indeed problem solving. I am designing and making something that is useful and needed. Usually when clients approach me to commission a piece, it’s because they haven’t found the solution to their problem. It might be that they need something that fits in an awkward space. Or that fulfils a particular function. Or it might be that the pieces they have found do not fit with the d├ęcor of the rest of the room…

But what about the speculative pieces? Something like the mirror and shelf combination that I call “This Thing of Darkness”. It is useful, yes, but the inspiration behind it was purely emotional and aesthetical. It started with the line from Shakespeare’s Tempest: “This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine”. It comes right at the end of the play: all the spells have been broken or released, the games are over. Prospero is describing, acknowledging and prescribing the new order. As part of this process he takes responsibility for Caliban, the misshapen, villainous creature (“this thing of darkness”) that has been doing his bidding.

This Thing of Darkness – English Oak

But watching the play with my wife, it struck us that we could give a psychological reading of that line. Over the years we have both worked with a personal development approach called “Shadowwork” based on the work of C. J. Jung. Jung talked of a Shadow we carry within our psyche. This Shadow is made up of the aspects of our personality that we choose to hide, deny and repress and from there it can affect our behaviour in ways that go against our conscious intentions. The work of therapy is then that of bringing these aspects into the light, to acknowledge them as part of us, in order to become a more whole, integrated person but also to strip the shadow of its power.

Reflecting on this reading of the line, it struck me how appropriate it would be as the title for a mirror. A symbolically magic mirror. One that reflects the parts of us that we do not want to see, our shadow, forcing us to face them and acknowledge them as “mine”.

As soon as I had that thought, I had a clear idea of what it could look like. It took me some time, sketching and playing with it to find the right proportions but also to convince myself that it would work. Ideas don’t usually come to me that quickly and easily. And of course it would have to be framed in a dark wood.

Does this make me an artist? After all the process was not about problem solving. In my mind, the functional aspects of the piece are somehow secondary to the psychological connotations and realisations that it carries for me. That might not be the case at all for the people that have bought the mirror. I’ll share this story with them, but they have simply bought it because it’s a beautiful piece that fits in their house and has a practical and decorative function (I imagine).

Having actually written it all down, now I wonder. Why is it so important to describe myself as just one thing? I know that as human beings we are much more complex than that. In the words of Walt Whitman “I am large. I contain multitudes.”

Visit Armando's website here

Follow @adrianilfutures 

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Venture start-up programme applications must be received by 15 August

Planning to set up your own West Midlands business? ILF Venture, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, can help with mentoring and development workshops.

Each week, experts will help you to focus your ideas, build business confidence and sharpen your entrepreneurial skills. You may also qualify for a bursary of up to £1,000, subject to funding conditions. 

Our programme is intensive and you will need to commit to a day each week from September 2014 to January 2015.

The business you plan to set up will need to fall within interiors and lifestyle sectors such as: furniture, furnishings, art, homewares, fashion, textiles, jewellery and giftware or related services.

You will need to be living in the West Midlands and to set your business up here. You must not yet be trading or registered as a business/self-employed before joining ILF Venture.

3 Day workshop October 2013

Introductory 3-day workshop: 23 – 25 September 2014
Weekly sessions start: 7 October 2014

Places are limited - we are looking for talented individuals with innovative ideas and a sense of design. If you are passionate about your idea, you should not miss this opportunity.

Application details
For application form & further information email: info@ilfutures.co.uk or phone: 0121 331 7922
Applications close: 15 August 2014
Interviews: 8 and 9 September 2014

  • Resident and eligible to work in the West Midlands
  • Planning to set up an interiors/lifestyle business in the region
  • Fully available for the four month programme in Birmingham
  • Not yet trading or registered as a business
  • Aged over 18

Here's what some of our recent participants said:

"A great team of experts to give you a boost up your own path. Every week when walking home we’d really feel that we’d learnt something," Nathaniel Hanna & Jake Lovell, Installation Specialists

"I had to change my career plans a few years ago. ILF not only helped me to plan the running of my own business but through them I also found part-time employment with one of the companies in the Interior & Lifestyle Futures network," Anna Peacock, Interior Designer

"Thanks to ILF my retirement dream came true 40 years early - kiln arrived!" Mpho Sekhonyana, Ceramicist

ILF Venture entrepreneurs March 2014

Follow @adrianilfutures 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Four by four. Basic design and planning principles from Interiors & Lifestyle Futures.

Four project level design management tips

  1. Always do your market research as part of the design process. The main reason for a design failing in the market place is not understanding customer requirements.
  2. The early stages of the design process are the best time for change . They don’t cost too much.
  3. Make sure you regularly review the design process against the design brief and specifications.
  4. Keep track of all improvements/changes to processes and technical performance identified in the regular reviews and final evaluation. This will be of major benefit to future projects.
Four general planning tips 
  1. Identify resource and equipment needs. For example, admin support, storage, technical information and external specialists.
  2. Set key dates for specific objectives and tasks including start and finish dates. Plan design activities, establish overall targets for the design team and monitor progress.
  3. Fix a project budget plan for all costs including any external funding elements.
  4. Have an effective system of management information for control purposes with good communications in place.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Visioning workshops latest dates

If you are a creative West Midlands based small business or sole trader  wanting to take a fresh look at your future business direction, then this will be two days well spent.The workshop is free thanks to funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

You'll need to working broadly within the interiors and lifestyle sectors (furniture, furnishings, textiles,  interiors, ceramics, glass, jewellery, art or services that support these areas).

Visioning workshop March 2014

Stuart Parker, Journey Social Media

More work shop images here

Workshop 17 Worcester  8 & 15 October 2014
Workshop 16 (Harper Adams, Telford): Wed 10 Sept & Wed 17 Sept FULL
Workshop 15 (Birmingham): Wednesday 30 July& Wednesday 6 August FULL
Workshop 14 (Birmingham): Wednesday 18 June & Wednesday 25 June
Workshop 13: Thursday 5 June & Thursday 12 June
Workshop 12: Wednesday 7 May & Tuesday 13 May
Workshop 11 Thursday 20 March & Thursday 27 March
Workshop 10: Thursday 27 February & Thursday 6 March
(days run from 9.45am until 4.30pm)

The two-day Visioning workshop is aimed at helping you to

  • take a look at your existing business and/or explore new ideas 
  • map your current business network, identifying positive and negative aspects
  • create an action timeline for implementing changes
  • discuss issues with and learn from other businesses
They said

"It was great listening to others and their experience in business and how they go about finding opportunities," Maria Wigley, Textile Artist [workshop 10]

"I'm moving things forward. A really useful workshop," Stuart Parker, Journey, social media expert. [workshop 11]

"Very specific to individual business. Practical. Useful. Good ideas. Thank you," Helena Moss, Helena Moss Designs [workshop 12]

If you have any questions or would like to sign up for either of these workshops or future ones, please telephone Ruth on 0121 3317922 or email info@ilfutures.co.uk  And, please pass on to any suitable contacts you think may like to attend a Visioning workshop. 

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Meet our newest ILF businesses

The latest batch of entrepreneurs completing the Interiors & Lifestyle Venture start-up programme are pictured at Birmingham City University’s Parkside Building.

The group is setting up a range of design businesses that include specialist clothing, jewellery, ceramics, interior design and large scale build installers.

Anna Peacock who is setting up her own interior design business said that the ILF team had helped her turn her life around. "I had to change my career plans a few years ago. ILF not only helped me plan the running of my own business but through them I have also found part time employment with one of the companies of the Interior & Lifestyle Futures network."

The next phase of the ILF Venture programme begins in autumn 2014 and further details are available by emailing info@ilfutures.co.uk.

Back: ILF's Kathryn Burns and Ruth Edwards
Row 2: Rosemary James (VV By Rose) Sid Edwards (Ripseam) Agnieszka Maksymiuk (Maksymi.uk)
Row 3: Jake Lovell (Stax Creations) Anna Peacock (Anna B Pavone) Jasmine McKeever (Little Jasmine) Kay Taylor (Life of a Lemon)
Front : Nahida Mahood (Nahida Mahmood Designs) Mpho Sekhonyana (Hartjies)) Sahiba Kaur (Cityscapes)