Work Experience: Safiya

By Charlotte Gilks

How did you find yourself at Makerversity?

Coming to the end of this academic year at school (year 10), I knew that I wanted to experience a creative workspace for the first time to see whether I felt a sense of belonging in that environment. With deep roots and interest in the creative subjects, I wanted to combine my passion for creating innovative and constructive products within the realms of art and design technology, as well as experiencing the business and communicative sides within the workplace. Thus, when I came across Makerversity online, I was instantly attracted by their desire to connect design with community. I emailed in and was soon greeted with an encouraging and welcoming response that invited me to spend the week with the team in the workspace – a schedule for my week was orchestrated, consisting of a huge range of inclusive activities for me to try!

What did you make of our workspace when you first arrived?

From the moment, I stepped into the Makerversity main office, I knew that this was the environment for me. From the organised clutter to the desks speckled with houseplants, the space looked as if it had been plucked straight from Pinterest, almost like one of those lovely homely little Ikea display rooms but even brighter, more welcoming and more inspiring. The desk work areas, the social spaces and even the corridors had such communal vibes; flowering mood boards, sketches, laptops, magazines, books – seeing such a huge range of resources and creation instantly showed me that all ideas are given the chance to grow here, no matter how big or small! The environment had already inspired me to work on, display, and share my ideas just like the other members of the workspace.
Then it was time to explore the workshops. Seeing such a huge range of functional and practical tools and space was great to see, as there was literally something for everyone; woodworking stations, 3D printers, laser cutting, textile stations, graphics spacing… the more I saw, the more I wanted to jump right in and use everything. Furthermore, seeing how well teams and individuals can work in the shared spaces really inspired me, as it quickly taught me that you are never alone on the path of creation. So many different things were going on in every room, proving that everyone had the creative freedom as well as the resources to aid them on their design journey. The workspaces felt safe, productive and friendly, and I was determined to delve straight in!

What did you work on during the week-long experience?

Skills wise, I developed a huge rage of abilities this week, most of which I feel Makerversity improved or brought out from within me. Not only was I given the chance to work on my practical and physical skills in the workshops, but I got to develop my understanding of business, advertisement and communication with guidance from the brilliant team. I always felt talked with, rather than talked at, which made me feel included and immersed in the environment. Whether it was shadowing and sitting in for meetings or repairing and working in the workshop, my team-working skills were constantly being built up, as well as my ability to devise solutions to various problems. By being given independence to work on tasks (ie. working with the machinery by dissembling and repairing components), it helped me develop my problem-solving abilities and my resilience, as well as gaining technical understanding of the resources I worked with within the workshops.

During your work placement what did you get up to?

During the week, I got to take on a vast range of jobs and opportunities in so many areas of design.

Day one brought lots of greetings and introductions, and even a visit to the incredible exhibition Get Up, Stand Up Now, a major new exhibition celebrating the past 50 years of Black creativity in Britain and beyond, followed by a visit to the World Illustration awards 2019. This was a lovely way to ease into the working day and soothe my nerves for entering the work place! As someone who loves studying art and english, the metaphorical masterpieces we saw were truly inspiring and already my creative flare was ignited. Later I met the team, was shown how to operate in the workshops and was made to feel as comfortable as possible in all workspaces.

Within the week I was given the huge privilege of using the CNC machine – an amazing piece of equipment that I’d never even seen or used before. I was wonderfully guided and given the creative freedom to explore my own designs and product ideas. My progress consisted of working both with the team and independently on this, which gave me the chance to test out the working environment and what works well for me as an individual. Two days in and I had already made my first prototype! It taught me that the design process is not quick and that it takes time to plan as well as reshape ideas; nothing is bound to be perfect on the first try, which sparked resilience I didn’t know I had and motivated me to keep sketching, measuring and drawing up developments to my design. I sketched, scribbled and chewed my pencil all the way home that day – excited to keep working on my ideas in preparation to re-enter Makerversity’s relaxed yet productive space.

Further into the week and I was already feeling more confident in the workshop. I’d always felt nervous to use tools and practical skills, which at school would limit my potential as an aspiring designer. However, with the kind and influential guidance I’d been receiving, already I felt more self-assured and capable, which opened a new realm of ideas and possibilities for my current and future creations. Furthermore, I got the chance to work on my passion for graphic design. With encouragement, freedom, and a free morning of working digitally in the Makerversity office, I produced a revamped and floral themed set of designs based around the Makerversity logo to be laser cut into some wooden planks for their upcoming plant boxes! It was lovely to bring in an arty hobby and a worn-out drawing tablet of mine into the work place and see that my creative graphics work can have a physical place in the world beyond the computer screen.

The middle of the week brought smoothies, sunshine and the unique opportunity to explore yet another area of design – upcycling. The team introduced me to the lovely co-founder Emma from Rehandle, a fabulous London-based bag company that create sustainable, functional and quirky products such as bags and wallets from plastic sacks and bagging material. I was shown the inner workings of their business, ideas, planning, and manufacturing techniques, as well as helping to shape and work with their materials to contribute to their next project! Seeing such a productive and sustainable use of material and example of upcycling really inspired me – as someone who’s always loved whipping together weird but wonderful products from things lying around the house, I found it extremely encouraging and stimulating to learn that a long-life hobby of mine could be turned into something much bigger and better for our growing world. Much like the rest of the team, Emma was invested and intrigued in my future paths in life – especially regarding design – and was more than happy to offer me her support and advice.

What was the aspect that you most enjoyed about your work there? What was the most challenging?

I enjoyed meeting, shadowing and helping the huge range of people at Makerversity, both members and staff. This is because it gave me the opportunity to see how the design processes pan out, see how many roles are available in this creative industry and showed me that there’s more to being designers than making the product – there’s all the processes of drawing, measuring and communicating that I did not expect to see, but instantly made me realise the key stages that make projects attainable and understandable. 

There is a lot of problem solving involved in designing – this is the aspect I found the most challenging, as it often takes a lot of resilience to find ways to solve the problems you encounter on the road to the product you are designing. However, I learnt to replace the stress with more sketches, more measurements and more alternatives, which eventually lead to breakthroughs in solving any hardships (when in doubt, sleep on it!)

What’s next for you?

As the week of work experience went on, I got more and more inspired each day. I’d come home brimming with ideas and start hoarding all the materials I could find. As I write this, it’s late July of 2019, and in September I’ll be entering a new and important year at school – Year 11 (GCSE year!). Studying aside, I’m more determined than ever to start as many mini projects as I can – using more tools and more materials to continue to widen my design potential. I am certainly considering going on to study DT (and art) at A level and potentially university, and one day hope to return to Makerversity to bring in and work on whatever weird and wonderful projects I’ll have on the go. I’d like to continue creating new things and would consider taking my work to new platforms – perhaps social media (Instagram, Facebook) or even more interactive spaces such as Depop (it’s like eBay for teenagers!).

If you could offer advice to anyone wanting to get started in creative work, what would you say?

Designing and creating takes practice; learning to be adaptable and learning to combine the maths, the art and the common sense to start new movements are important building blocks for designers. One design can lead to MANY hours of measuring, sketching and scribbling, but don’t let one fault terminate the whole project – designing is a continuous process, so there’s more to it than one perfectly-rounded sketch (as satisfying as this can be). An idea needs developing, adding to, measuring, converting, and more, because if every idea was perfect on the first try, there would be no such thing as ‘new’. We’d have everything in the world, yet we’d have nothing, because without fault, there’s nothing to work on, and if we didn’t make mistakes, we’d never learn. So don’t be afraid to get things wrong, stop for a coffee or two when it gets too hard, and don’t ever stop trying!

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Charlotte Gilks
Posted By Charlotte Gilks