Can you tell us a little bit about who yous are and what you do?
We’re Liv and Lauren, an illustration duo based in Birmingham. We strive to turn spaces into places through murals and public art, humanise communications by adding personality to corporate environments and collaborate with the community to spread the joy of creativity.
How did Pickle Illustration come about? (i looove the name hahah 🥒)
We first met whilst studying Graphic Communication and Illustration at Loughborough University back in 2016. It was clear from the very start that we both had similar ideas over what we wanted to do as a career (freelance illustration) and one of the first things we did together was have a stall at a craft fair in Leicester. During Lauren’s second year of uni she completed a ‘Year In Enterprise’ in which Loughborough enterprise network supported her with 1:1 sessions and workshops whilst she set up her own design and illustration business. Liv was completing her final year whilst this was happening and snook in to some of the workshops (with the promise of free pizza!). It was during these workshops that we realised we wanted to join forces to form something that sounded more exciting than working on our own. We had no clue what we wanted to do, but knew illustration had to take center stage (first ideas were recycled t-shirts in pickle jars!?). A few months and mentor sessions with the glorious staff at Loughborough, Pickle was born!
When did you guys know that yous wanted to pursue a career in the creative industry? Were you both creative kids?
Both of us were very creative as kids, Liv’s parents said she knew how to hold a pencil crayon from a very early age and would enter an embarrassingly large amount of arts competitions. Lauren had quite the reputation for drawing her classmates by request from them (she still has a notebook full of them). The idea of setting up our own businesses has always been floating around too and we both had many attempts of businesses through our teenage years which came and went (some better than others and some definitely not ones to share!). During a-levels we both did academic subjects as we were aware that the idea of leaping into the creative industry can send shivers down the parents spines, but our love for the arts was always going to win and soon enough applied to study graphic communication and illustration at Loughborough.
Pickle Illustration has grown so much and so quickly over the last two years (congrats to you both!), did yous anticipate this happening? It’s such an amazing and inspiring business you both have built!
Thank you! It is a bit surreal actually, we’re so happy with what we’ve achieved and how far we have come, we definitely weren't expecting it. We’ve always tried to treat Pickle as a full time job and give it the time it deserved in order to grow. Staying consistent (facetiming everyday, regular outreach for jobs etc) has been really important to keep up the momentum. We both agree that two minds are better than one, in confidence and workload. We’re so grateful that we have each other to rely on and air silly ideas too. It's always felt like something bigger and more official when we are together other than dreams in our heads when we did our personal solo work.
We both agree that two minds are better
than one, in confidence and workload.
Did you have to network a lot in order to get to where you are today and to gain some of the opportunities Pickle Illustration has had?
We have a lot to thank for networking, as soon as we entered into the warm and welcoming Loughborough University Enterprise network it definitely set the ball rolling. Most of the work we first got was based in the local area, as it can be quite daunting to expand your reach too far when just starting out. We also contacted people we already knew such as friends and family as they’re usually the ones who will take more chances on you when you’ve got a small but growing portfolio.
Networking sounds like SUCH a scary concept, especially at the moment when there's no real-life networking events. Do you guys have any tips for anyone who is a little scared of the thought of networking ?
Networking really does sound scary but it doesn't have to at all. Most people imagine networking to be a group of awkward people in suits standing around in a conference room at 6am in the morning but it can be VEryyy different and a lot less scary. Chatting about what you do at a family gathering or having small talk at a local shop can class as networking. Even dropping a message over instagram to compliment someone's work is all good stuff to get your name out there. Most of the jobs we have got have come from recommendations which all started from conversations that didn't start with ‘have you got any opportunities for us’. We think it's really important to become known or even friends with people before any jobs start to come in. Just saying you want to connect with someone or sending a hello via email is enough to get you on their radar, and that's all that matters, getting you on their radar. It might take a while until the fruits come through but it's been effective for us to create these lasting relationships and you gain a few friends along the way too!
Chatting about what you do at a family gathering
or having small talk at a local shop can class as
networking. Even dropping a message over
instagram to compliment someone's work is
all good stuff to get your name out there.
Do you have any advice on how to be confident when networking? Whether that being in real life or via LinkedIn.
Even though some of these people have jobs in high places, they still are all people. You can still be friendly and chatty AND be professional. Everyone likes to chat and be complimented about themselves so a good starting point is to have a few examples of things they've done that you’ve liked up your sleeves. It can be a little bit embarrassing when organising an introductory zoom call and you're not too sure what they actually do. They’ll be able to see through that and think you're not interested in them and the connection will probably be a weak one. Act interested and always be nice and you’re halfway there.
Act interested and always be nice
and you’re halfway there.
Has social media helped yous out with networking at all?
Definitely! Its mad to think how in theory you can work with anyone in the world and contact them in minutes through social media. Our instagram account is great for connecting and finding other creatives and is a fab location for getting inspired. It's like our second portfolio with the addition of being the hub of our activity and where most people can contact us. One of the first things we did when starting pickle was to set up social media accounts as with a few shares and consistent posts it can get things moving. It also doesn't seem as daunting messaging someone on an app as emailing when networking, some jobs have come around from people stumbling across our accounts during their out of hours time so you never know who is looking.
I am really excited to see the creative industries flourish with the easing of COVID restrictions - Are you guys looking forward to the restrictions easing in England to start meeting up fellow creatives again? We have all been cooped up for so long aha
We are SO excited. More than half of the life of Pickle has been during a pandemic so we are excited to see what happens when the restrictions are lifted. We’re currently developing some ideas which we hope will go down well at events so look forward to seeing how that goes. We are also moving into a studio space together (hurrayyy) which will be so great to work side by side after so long facetiming everyday and shared google drives. It almost feels second nature to us now so can't wait to scribble on some paper together, at the same time. We’ve also had the pleasure of meeting so many lovely people online this year and already have plans to meet up in real life soon, which will be glorious!
How do you guys stay inspired? Does having a creative business partner help with keeping motivated?
Having a creative business partner definitely helps stay inspired. We're lucky that our down and uninspired days don't often coincide so we definitely make the most of pepping the other person up. It's also important not to put too much pressure on yourself, creativity is such a fleeting thing that pops up at the weirdest times so sometimes it can’t be forced. During these times we like to arrange an online creative workshop (lots of these are free these days) or have a scroll on some creative blogs or pinterest to get the creative juices flowing again. Even if you don't have a creative partner, bouncing ideas of anyone that will listen will really help. We truly enjoy penciling out sometime for brainstorming sessions and creating projects which are purely prospective to make sure we’re maintaining our creative fulfillment when the paid jobs are being a bit pants.
Do yous recommend any creative platforms or communities that inspire you?
We love The Arena and everything they are doing. They provide fabulous advice for creative careers and interview really interesting people from the world of design, illustration and the arts.
We also love to browse on creative blogs such as Its Nice That and Creative Boom and discovering interesting people on Instagram and Pinterest.
We have had such a warm welcome from the guys behind Birmingham Design Festival and would strongly encourage everyone to check out their community and events!
Recently we’ve discovered The Creative Entrepreneurs Club, based online, which is where we’ve been booking many zoom events. We encourage you to do so too, if you're feeling a bit uninspired!
It might sound obvious but tv, films and podcasts can really get the brain ticking too. Having a walk in the morning with Elizabeth days ‘How to fail’ or Edith Bowman’s ‘Soundtracking’ can really set the day off well.