An interview with Lucy Grainge, an illustrator/designer based in Glasgow.
Lucy is interested in research led projects and exploring the different contexts and surfaces illustration can sit within. Lucy is currently part of a showcase exhibition at the National Centre for Craft & Design. Lucy’s work is shaped by her experience of dyslexia and those she has interviewed, and is used as both educational resource and support for others.
Design-Nation asked: Can you tell us about your practice and how your business began?
Lucy answered: I graduated from Communication Design at the Glasgow School of Art in 2017. I am an illustrator and designer and work in community arts, currently based in Glasgow. My work often involves creating platforms for people to share experiences and exploring the different contexts and surfaces illustration can sit within, including editorial, print processes, textiles and surface design.
A project I am currently working on is about Dyslexia, which began in my final year at GSA. I created a collection of books, which are about acknowledging both the strengths and challenges dyslexia can create. I now run workshops about Dyslexia, alongside engaging and creative tasks. I have led workshops at a community arts group and been into primary schools. There are so many myths and pre-conceptions about Dyslexia, like many of the other neurodiversities. If people don’t understand what it means to be dyslexic, there will continue to be a lot of unfulfilled potential.
Last year I exhibited at New Designers at ‘One Year In’, a curated showcase for new businesses, which was a great opportunity to get some exposure for my work and opened up some exciting opportunities. I sold risograph prints and tote bags there, which were taken from my dyslexia project.
D-N: Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?
L.G: Susan Roan who was one of my tutors at Glasgow School of Art. She encouraged my project about Dyslexia. It was a very personal project so at first I was unsure whether I wanted to dissect my insecurities. The course was quite conceptual and research led so sometimes I felt like I had to justify creating work, which was just aesthetic. When I was pretty stressed in my fourth year she said to me you can sometimes just make patterns, even if it is just for therapeutic reasons, which I remember!
I was very lucky to do a risograph residency at Out of the Blueprint, a social enterprise in Edinburgh run by Johnny Gailey. I saw there first-hand how positive and powerful utilising a permanent arts space can be. The Out of the Blueprint team work with children, people with learning difficulties and autism, art school students, and they would welcome everyone who would walk into the building who would be exposed to art in a very non-judgmental and accessible environment. It made me realise how transforming community arts can be and that I would like to keep exploring it within my practice.
D-N: What inspires you and your work?
L.G: Telling a story, sharing experiences, creating work which may have the capacity to help someone, colours, patterns and feeling genuine.
D-N: Can you tell us a bit about your design process?
L.G: My process is very non-linear and process driven. I work intuitively and never know what an image will turn out like. I often merge analogue and digital techniques, and like the viewer to wonder how a piece was created. I love how Photoshop can turn a mediocre drawing or texture into something interesting. My creative process can be quite fraught before I get into ‘flow’. I create a lot of iterations of pieces, which only 1 of 10 might be worth keeping, and then it’s a process of filtering. I mainly try and play!
D-N: What is your work space like?
L.G: I need a lot of space around me when creating work. I am naturally pretty messy and I like to have all my work and tools spread out around me so I can see visual similarities or how things will work together. It will often get out of control which can be quite stressful. I feel like I need a clear desk to make space for new ideas, so I try and create order and keep it tidy where I can. But ‘chaos breeds creativity’ right?
D-N: Do you work hard on your PR or do you work with others on marketing?
L.G: I always make sure I have good photographs of my work for my website or if someone asks for them. I find Instagram a very powerful tool, I’ve sold quite a few prints on there to people who otherwise wouldn’t know about my work, but I find I need to find a balance between professional and personal use. This can be hard as a freelance designer as you become the brand itself, which throws up other issues. I love following fellow creatives on social media and you can get instant visual gratification when using it, but I’m often trying to reduce my scrolling time.
D-N: What are the main challenges in your practice?
L.G: Knowing how much to charge for a job I sometimes find tricky. Especially if it’s an illustration I’m creating from scratch. I don’t think you can put a time on the creative process. I can end up spending 12 hours on an illustration I thought would take 4, or when there’s no pressure I might be able to create something very quickly. I enjoy writing but it takes me a very long time!
D-N: Where would you like your practice to be in 10 years?
L.G: I would like to have developed the skill sets to approach projects in a multi-disciplinary way and to have worked on a diverse range of projects, from collaborative projects to commissioned pieces. Would be great to have an amount of creative freedom which makes me happy, and that I can make an income from it. I run a mental health magazine with my friend and we are currently working on issue 2, maybe we’ll be on issue 5 then?
D-N: If you could collaborate with someone who would you like that to be?
L.G: Brands I admire include Marimekko, Lucy and Yak, Risotto, Laura Spring. I love seeing how two styles or disciplines can merge, it would be interesting to collaborate with someone from a ‘non-arts’ background also. I enjoy collaborating with fellow creative friends.
D-N: If you weren’t a designer what would you be?
L.G: I was going to study Psychology first and I am very interested in all things about the brain and our inner worlds, so maybe something in this realm.
D-N: Why did you join Design Nation? What do you enjoy and find helpful from being a member?
L.G: As part of the New Designers OYI award I received a membership with Design-Nation. It feels really great to be part of a network of other artists and designers, and to have a group to promote and support your work. Through Design- Nation I was given the opportunity to have a showcase exhibition at the NCCD, which was a brilliant experience and I got to paint my first mural!
D-N: Have you got any exhibitions, commissions or events coming up that you are taking part in?
L.G: At the National Centre of Craft and Design in Lincolnshire I currently have an exhibition, ‘The Shapes of Words’ which is a collection of my Dyslexia work including my books, some textiles pieces, risograph prints, and a mural I painted within the space. The show is on till the 17th March. I am also running Dyslexia Awareness workshops with local primary schools alongside the exhibition.
I am currently working on issue 2 of Psyche, which is a mental health and socio-political magazine I create with my friend Juliette Fitzgerald Duffy. We will be launching a Kickstarter soon to help fund the printing of it. You can find out more on our website and instagram. www.psychepublication.com @psychepublication
I am very keen for collaborations and commissions so please get in touch if you’d like to discuss a project.