Niki Groom: Work Matters

Niki Groom, AKA Miss Magpie Fashion Spy, is an award winning fashion, beauty, food and lifestyle illustrator based in Bristol. Her passion for colour, print, trends and a background in fashion design informs her artwork and blog. I love the way Niki showcases a diverse range of female body imagery within her illustrations. She positively celebrates ‘real’ body shapes, sizes, disabilities and skin colours in a truly inclusive way.

Why does work matter to you?

There are times in the past when I’ve been in jobs I didn’t like and I craved a different direction, and if I’m honest on those occasions work was just about money and about climbing the ladder without really thinking why. But I’ve now managed to make my passion my job, and as a result it’s become part of my life. The things I like to do in my private life (such as travel, museums, cinema) all feed in to my work – it’s all intertwined. I can’t imagine not working, I certainly don’t think I’ll ever retire.

Describe in three words what professional success means to you…

Freedom, creativity, money.

What would be your dream job/project/company you’d like to work for?

I’d love to do range of clothing for a brand with my illustrations printed on to fabric. I was a fashion designer for years so it would combine all of my skills. I used to have a list of dream clients and I got to work with all of them and that taught me a lot. For me now it’s not about the brand, it’s about the people who work for the brand and how they are to work with. I don’t hold any brands high on a pedestal anymore (apart from Dries Van Noten!).

More than anything I would like to continue my work with Clinique, they are such a brilliant team to collaborate with and I hope that my opportunities with them will continue to develop.

I’m also always up for a challenge, so something totally new and a risk would appeal. I hosted Instagram Live on the Boden feed once whilst illustrating at the same time, it was great fun and I enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

niki_groom_photo
Photo: Remco Merbis: merbis.com

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

My first job after graduating with a Fashion Design Degree was as a receptionist for a company called RMC (Ready Made Concrete). It might sound like an edgy street brand, but sadly they just sold concrete.

What did that experience teach you?

I don’t have a passion for concrete, but sometimes you have to leave your ego at home and focus on paying the bills.

What’s your proudest professional achievement to date?

My window display for Accessorize went worldwide, it’s still the biggest project of my career and it was so exciting to see photos coming in from all over the world.

If you could go back in time who would you seek career advice from and why?

I wouldn’t change anything to be honest, I’m not one for looking back.

Who is your present day career heroine and why?

Oh I have many! Gill Button, who is @buttonfruit on Instagram is one. She was a commercial illustrator for years she is now an artist, and her work is incredible. Then Helen Downie @unskilledworker who started painting aged 50 and has just done a range with Gucci. The thing that marks these two out for me is that they are also nice people. Both will chat with me on Instagram even though we have never met. I find them both very inspiring women and I feel excited by their success. I don’t quite know what path I’m on at the moment, but they inspire me to just be myself and do what feels right.

What words of professional wisdom would you impart to the next generation of women?

Always be professional and diplomatic in the way that you communicate, even if it takes a whole day to write a response to an email. On, and don’t work for free.

Have you ever considered trying something completely different career wise, if so what?

I’m currently considering doing voice overs! I get so many comments about my voice on Instagram Stories and so I’m thinking it might be something to investigate to earn some cash.


missmagpiefashionspy.com
instagram.com/miss_magpie_spy

Ten minutes with illustrator Rosie Johnson

Tell us about yourself

I was born in Greenwich, south east London and grew up there and then on the Isle of Wight. Both of my parents were teachers so the I saw how hard they worked and how much of their lives were consumed by the role. The one thing I definitely wasn’t going to do was teach. I wanted to act, illustrate children’s books and write comedy sketches. If there was a way of me being Rowan Atkinson combined with Victoria Wood and Janet and Allan Ahlberg – that would have been ideal. So, obviously, after a wonderful three years studying drama at Exeter university, I enrolled on a course to become… a teacher. The acting went out the window partly due to the extreme nerves I suffered before any kind of performance. I continued to write and draw little bits and pieces but I felt the pull of teaching and finally succumbed to the inevitable. Fifteen years of working with incredible, dedicated colleagues and hilarious, inspiring children – I don’t regret a bit of it. I met my partner (the best teacher in the northern hemisphere) on the training course and made many friends along the way.

I have a talented, funny, caring step son, Alfie, who is nearly 19; the kindest 7-year-old daughter, Tilda and a chatty, stubborn toddler called Sid who tells me he loves me whilst hitting me with Duplo.

Rosie Johnson illustrations
A selection of Rosie’s illustrations

What’s your advice for anyone thinking about a career change?

I’m sure it’s the same for people in lots of different circumstances, but for me, it was having children that changed things. Until then, I was a career teacher. I spent long hours on the job and thought about it non-stop. Our daughter was premature and we were in hospital with her for quite a few weeks. A vivid memory of that time is making a deal with myself that if we were lucky enough for her to be OK, then life needed to tip in her favour. My time needed to be hers.

I did go back to work after both of my children, part-time. But teaching part-time never gave me the same sense of involvement and passion as it had before. Spending time with my children, particularly reading them stories, renewed my love of children’s books and I started playing around with some ideas for my own. When the contract came up on my last post, I bit the bullet. With the support of the best teacher in the northern hemisphere and my exceptional parents, I decided to begin my illustration business properly.

I loved teaching about 75% of the time and considered myself lucky. I mean, no-one loves working right? A job is still a chore even if you’re fulfilled by it? I had no idea how much I could adore my job. I know it’s early days and the pay isn’t comparable but oh, wow! I can work from 8-5, forget to have lunch until my stomach protests, then go to life drawing for a further two hours only to come back to the shed for a bit more.

If there’s something that’s been niggling away at you- don’t worry about not knowing the details of how you’ll make it work. You have to give it a go.

rosie johnson illustrates
Rosie also designs jewellery

What inspires you as an artist?

The books of my childhood- Shirley Hughes, Helen Oxenbury. I’m inspired by moments I see between people – a grandparent unselfconsciously blowing a raspberry at their new grandchild, a knowing hand-squeeze from a friend. I love the idea of capturing these moments.

Rosie’s work…

rosiejohnsonillustrates.com
instagram.com/rosiejohnsonillustrates
facebook.com/RosieJohnsonIllustration
twitter.com/RJIllustrates


Rosie is following…

helen botrill

Helen Bottrill, founder of the Creative Business Network is a textile designer turned guru. She is motivational way beyond decent memes! She has incredible advice and is such a positive presence for women starting their own businesses.

 

nicole thomasNicole Thomas who is a friend, but also one of the funniest, most caustic, honest writers I know. Her blog Happy Medium Mothering covers many topics from taking care of her autistic son to wondering what to call her daughter’s private parts, to dental health.

 

poppy corbett

Another exceptional woman is Poppy Corbett– a witty, political, clever woman who inspires me to do not just say.

Ten minutes with designer Laura Heeks

Laura Heeks is a 34-year-old graphic designer and illustrator. She has an eight-month-old baby boy and lives in Liverpool.

How did you become a designer?
After studying English Literature I started working in the marketing department at the Guardian, but quickly realised I wanted a more visually creative career than that. I retrained as a designer at the London College of Communication on a highly practical and intensive course before throwing myself full throttle into a series of internships and low-paid positions at high profile design studios to build my experience up, these included Pentagram and Brighten the Corners. Since then I have steadily worked my way up in permanent positions at design studios to where I am now. I am currently on maternity leave with my 8-month-old baby boy, but when I’m working I divide myself between working as a designer for a university and as an independent freelance creative.

Laura Heeks designer
A selection of Laura’s design work

Why did you become a designer?
To live a creatively fulfilled life! I don’t think I could do a dull office job anymore. I love the variety and detective/researcher/nosey parker nature of design – you have to really understand a brand, company or project before you find the right visual solution for a design, so no two days are the same and you never get bored. Plus, I enjoy making things look beautiful – and that’s pretty important in my line of work too!

Illustration by Laura Heeks
Illustration by Laura

What inspires you creatively and what do you aspire to?
I am in a passionate love affair with all things visual – all things aesthetic make my world go round. My interests are diverse within the arts though – from fine art to fashion, design (of course) to photography and architecture. My ambitions change day to day! I have a strong interest in perhaps teaching graphic design one day in the future. In the short term I would just like to get through each day happily with my baby – small achievements like doing the washing up, getting out and about in the fresh air and playing with rainmakers are about where it’s at right now. Once I’ve become a pro at the juggling act that is being a mum I’d like to throw my freelancing back into the mix and up the pace beyond the few tiny bits of works I’m doing at the moment – exciting times!

Child at computer desk
Trying to work around kids isn’t easy…

My inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. The natural world, architecture, fine art, photography, my environment, travel, things I see on TV and the web, the shape of a cup handle or a paving stone, anything really. It’s funny how things strike you like a bolt out of the blue sometimes, you can be looking everywhere for inspiration for a logo design and find the key to it in the pattern and repetition of holes on a manhole cover!

Does digital technology and social media influence the way you work?
I’ve got to admit, I am not the most tech-forward person. I have embraced Instagram because it suits me – in fact I love it. But my Twitter account is severely neglected. Unless it feels useful or fun to me on a personal level I struggle to use it, even for work. Instagram and Pinterest are my top apps and I use them heavily, Instagram to record my ‘visual journey’ through life and work and Pinterest for project research. Both are incredibly good tools for design. I guess I use these platforms for tapping into what’s going on in the industry as well, in addition to various blogs and websites.

How has your working life changed now you’re a mum?
At the moment I’m only working on tiny, little easy projects or pieces of design for very understanding clients!

Laura’s work…

lauraheeks.com
instagram.com/lauraheeks
linkedin.com/in/lauraheeks

twitter.com/lauraheeks

lauraheeks.blogspot.co.uk
arts.ac.uk/lcc/people/students-alumni/pgcert-design-for-visual-communication/laura-heeks/


Laura is following…

jessica hische

Jessica HischeA fellow graphic designer, Jessica Hische is a typographer extraordinaire. She’s very well known for her letter art and has worked for lots of big brands – she’s currently commanding 110k followers on Instagram and raising a sweet little girl as well.

mamalina

Mamalina: Emma AKA Mamalina is a lifestyle blogger and mum with hippy tendencies – she lives life on a very loose schedule which appeals to me, as I’ve never been great with routine. She’s into travel, food, the gentle raising of little ones, nature and mess – what a lady!

jet set mama

Jetsetmama: If I need a laugh, this is my go to account. Claire Alexander-Johnston is hilarious. She’s a mother of three who lives a seemingly perfect and enviably stylish life raising her kids in Bali/Australia. She is however a dab hand at self deprecation and VERY forthright. Good for a chuckle and to feel better on one of ‘those’ days.

mere soeur

Mere Soeur: Carrie Anne has used a bit of creativity and her passion for mothering to make herself a successful little business to earn a living whilst raising her son. The ‘mamamerch’ products she comes up with appeal to the trendy mother/sisterhood around the world.

flower girl los angeles

Flower Girl Los Angeles: I’ve been following Kelsey Harper Parker ever since starting to use Instagram. She is a super cool LA florist with on point taste and a beautiful Californian life spent arranging flowers and raising her two boys. Aspirational inspiration taken to the extreme.