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The Ideal Studio
Grace Helmer

Grace Helmer graduated from Camberwell College of Arts last summer and was one of the It’s Nice That Graduates 2012 supported by Represent. She now works as a freelance illustrator based in a studio in south London and works part-time as the studio manager for Camberwell Press.

Grace Helmer on...

The importance of knowing yourself...

It’s really important to understand how you work best. I hate working in silence, it feels serious and awkward. Just a bit of music in the background makes a big difference to my concentration span. I also hate working in the middle of a room.”

“It's important to feel 'socially' comfortable and that you're able to make mistakes and ask for advice. Hesitation to openly and honestly discuss ideas can really hold progress up. In our studio especially, when I'm stuck I know I can bug everyone else to help me know what's going wrong.”

“As an intern it makes a massive difference if someone takes the time to explain how things work and to give you some clear guidelines. When you are thrown in like that it’s not always clear what you are actually meant to be doing.”

The problem of feeling disconnected...

“Our studio is in a warehouse in Peckham and doesn't have the internet or much natural light. The fluro strip lights get to you after a few hours and you feel like you're in a weird disconnected art cave hidden away from the rest of civilisation. It's useful when you're concentrating and don't need distractions, but bad when you're really stuck and just need to stare out of a window for a while.”

Too many meetings...

“I think generally there’s too many meetings. People feel they should have them but often you come out not feeling like much progress has been made. There needs to be real clarity and focus.”

“A rule they tried to enforce in the crits on my degree was that you weren't allowed to talk about anything unless you showed visuals to support what you were saying. Meetings where you try to talk about design without looking at any design are tedious and you don't get anywhere.”

What she’s learned from a new perspective as a studio manager...

“Your job as a studio manager is to help keep the creatives in their bubble. They don’t want to be bothered with invoices or purchase orders and they want IT problems sorted out quickly – you don’t want to slow down people’s day.”

“Having an overview of the studio and the projects that are going on, you see how much time it takes to do something, how each person affects the other, all the people factors that you have to take into consideration alongside the actual design work.”

The ideal studio...

“It would have a communal bookcase, a disco ball and wheely chairs. It's a place where you're not scared to make mistakes in front of everyone there. It has space to make lunch, a space to eat lunch (together), a messy space. It is calm and private but has a big window and a good internet connection. Also it wouldn't be too far from my house.”


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