Recently our Junior Content Designer, Hannah, attended the Make Nice: Unconference for Creative Women at the aMBush Gallery in Sydney as a part of VIVID Ideas. Here, she describes the experience, the powerful words shared and a few of the lessons learned.
Over two days in June, l had the pleasure of attending Make Nice – a rare opportunity for creative women to come together and learn from both international and home-grown industry vanguards in an intimate format. The unconference created a safe and open setting where attendees could contribute to the ecology of female creatives in Australia and discuss topics otherwise underrepresented in conference programming.
I attended this conference for a variety of reasons – a lovely training allowance we receive from History Will Be Kind (thanks guys!), the promise of free snacks, and most importantly, because l am a young woman working in a creative position, which is amazing, scary and stressful all at the same time!
It’s a position that has had me asking, where will my career as a designer take me? Was my Bachelor of Fine Arts a waste of time? How can l develop my own artistic identity in a sea of content?
While the line-up at this unconference unfortunately didn’t include fortune tellers who could tell me where my future lies *fills out recommendations survey for next year*, it did include a host of inspiring goddesses dishing out advice, life stories and ideas.
First up, a keynote speech by Adi Goodrich, who is a creative director, set designer and photographer from LA. Her advice for making it in this competitive industry:
1. Work begets work so make your own and help your friends make theirs – contact everyone you know and ask them for a job or for help.
2. Work within your means. Often it will allow you to be more creative and find ways to stretch ideas.
3. Be fearless. When you hit a ceiling in your current job or role, or working on a personal project – don’t climb back down the ladder, go through it.
The second keynote was delivered by French designer, art director and illustrator Leslie David, who has worked with the likes of Chanel, Opening Ceremony, Nike, Girlboss and The New York Times among others. She spoke to her experiences to provide guidance and inspiration:
1. Tips for making it:
· Create your own distinct brand.
· Contact everyone you know – they will be your first clients.
· Stay passionate and create your own work.
2. Four key considerations when taking on a job, freelance or in-house. If the job doesn’t have at least two of these, it isn’t worth doing!
· Money – is it enough?
· Visibility – is there enough?
· Deadline – is it reasonable?
· Pleasure – do you want to do it and will it be enjoyable?
3. Be transparent and create a collaborative environment by providing little tastings of the work for clients along the way. This way feedback is an ongoing process to ensure your journey aligns with all other parties.
At this point in the conference, Make Nice Co-Director Ngaio Parr sat down with Adi Goodrich, Leslie David, writer Brodie Lancaster and photographer/journalist Elize Strydom to moderate a discussion on Co-Current Careers – To Specialise or Generalise?
The conversation got fiery when talking about the current gender divide, as the entire panel encouraged women to get angrier about our lack of representation in creative roles.
Other key take-outs included:
1. There are four pillars of success – fire, taste, class and grit.
2. Make your specialisation your brand, who you are and what you can offer.
3. Position what you or your company does in a way that even strangers will understand.
Again, we kicked off the day with two great keynote talks. The first was by Elizabeth Weinberg, a prolific American photographer and creative director who has worked for Vice, BuzzFeed, The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter among others.
Weinberg spoke about balancing work and motherhood, and her start as a young photographer in an already flooded industry, explaining:
“Try not to feel guilty about your work and family. When you are working you are working, and when you are with your loved ones, they are your main priority.”
Suzy Tuxen of A Friend Of Mine design studio in Melbourne was the next speaker. She offered some handy tips about getting back up from a failure and believing in yourself:
1. “You’ve got to push your boat out so far that you can’t come back”.
2. It’s better to be noticed and hated then not noticed at all!
3. Be proud of your work, your boundaries, your ideas and yourself.
We then jumped right into the second panel discussion. This time, Co-Director Alex Winters moderated a panel on Invisible Economies and Workplace Culture with Elizabeth Weinberg, Suzy Tuxen, Vivid Ideas Curator Jess Scully and Head of Art at M&C Saatchi Australia, Niccola Phillips.
Gender equality continued to be a core focus with the panel concluding it is crucial that men are a part of the conversation and understand what it means to work alongside women as their creative equals. In order for women to thrive in this industry, an ongoing dialogue must be fostered to create safe, anti-discriminatory workplaces.
Overall, they asked us to be bold and to get tough:
1. “Be less polite, don’t wait for recognition. Trust us, no-one is waiting to see your amazing work.”
2. The only thing that will suffer by not producing your work is you.
3. Success requires unrelenting focus. You need a fundamental problem to solve, purpose and belief in your cause.
The biggest takeaway was not to be afraid. Each of the keynotes speakers (and the organisers of the event) were taking huge risks when they decided to set out and forge their careers, often with little money, no contacts, no body of work behind them, and most prevailingly, as young women. They were able to do this by collaborating and demanding what they wanted.