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This article was written on 27 Feb 2015, and is filled under Art, Design, Illustration.

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Alice Gabb: Illustrator


If you frequent Broadway market, you may already know Alice Gabb. It’s there she began her career, selling her wares on a Saturday morning; all sorts of handmade stationery ranging from old-fashioned telegrams to ornate, hand-screenprinted envelopes, calligraphy sets and of course all the usual cards and wedding invitations. Now you can find her work for sale in Anthropologie stores, and if you have a keen eye, you may even have spotted that the artwork on this very site was drawn by Alice.

As Alice explains below, being a good artist isn’t enough to guarantee you a career; you have to be professional, punctual and a pleasure to work with. Luckily Alice ticks all those boxes, which is why we’re so happy to work with her.

OM: Can you describe an average day at work?
AG: I think I’m very privileged as my days are fairly varied depending on what stage I am at in a project. My days almost always start with an early walk around beautiful Hackney Marshes and the canal. After that, there is a lot of drawing at my desk listening to the Desert Island Discs archive, mixed with visits to my print studio to screenprint, at least an hour’s calligraphy practice, and nice meetings to discuss new work. Sometimes I go and work in other people’s studios as a maker or assistant if I’ve been working alone for too long….otherwise my social skills get a bit weird.

OM: Have you always wanted to be an Illustrator?
AG: I always knew I was going to do something creative, and I was incredibly lucky during my school and university education as I have never had an ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do’ phase which I think is quite rare. It was very obvious where my talents did or didn’t lie all the way through, and so I guess I was just subtly guided in certain directions by my tutors.

I didn’t know what an illustrator/designer really was until I did an art foundation, where I intended to study Fine Art for my BA as that was the ‘reputable’ art form. After a month of training I was essentially banned from specialising in Fine Art by my tutors, and sent packing down the road to the Graphic Design building. They were so right. I’ve been very lucky.

OM: What was the hardest part about becoming an Illustrator?
AG: There can be incredibly long hours, commuting for work experience, sleeping on friends’ sofas, working for free, working alone, working through bank holidays, having no money and sometimes having to do boring, non-creative jobs just to pay the rent. It’s strange looking back though because none of this bothered me that much at the time; it was a recession so my expectations were low and I still loved it. I was absolutely determined to do this as my job and have always felt incredibly lucky.


OM: And what’s the best part of the job?
AG: Freedom. I truly don’t understand how it is standard practice to have something like 21 days holiday a year and to have to give 3 weeks notice to use any of it. I don’t think I have it in me to be part of that.

OM: Do you feel you’re treated differently in your industry because you’re a woman?
AG: I may be being very naive but I don’t think so.

OM: What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given? And what other advice would you give to anyone looking to become an Illustrator/Designer ? What qualifications and experience do you need?
AG: My foundation diploma at Wimbledon changed everything for me, which is sad because by the time I finished my degree I could see that they were less mandatory to get into a creative degree.

I spent every holiday I had at uni in my 3rd year doing work experience with designers, illustrators and makers that I loved; that helped immensely and I made some amazing contacts. Whilst I was doing work experience, I realised that being nice to people and having a good attitude and work ethic counted for a lot.

My course was called ‘Visual Communications’ at Bath Spa which was a very open illustration and graphic design course. It was great because although I knew I wanted to be an illustrator, there are so many aspects of graphic design that I hated learning at the time, but I now use every day.
As soon as I left university I enrolled in a ‘Business Course for Illustrators’ with the Association of Illustrators so I learnt how to become self employed and do my taxes.

Here’s my advice: learn how to make a good brew before you go and work with anyone, it’s important to not be too arrogant to make the team a cup of tea or go on a coffee run. You are the bottom of the pile, it’s your job….it won’t last forever. And buy them some nice biscuits. Hopefully they’ll be supplying the biscuits, but don’t count on it. And, never, ever, ever be late. Ever.


OM: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in the workplace or in your career?
AG: I make serious mistakes all the time. I’m a terrible business person and I always have a hundred unfinished personal projects on the go. I’m working on that.
I spent all my time in the bookbinding/etching/letterpress/screenprinting studios at uni and I neglected photography/artworking/CS Suite lessons which was a big mistake. No matter how ‘hand made’ your style is, it is almost impossible to get work without really good digital artworking knowledge. Luckily I learnt just enough to scrape by.

OM: What does success mean to you?
AG: To be able to do design nice things forever, and to be happy and content most of the time, that to me would mean success. I’d like to┬ábuild up such a name for myself that I can work from wherever I want. And I’d love to have an accountant because I hate those boring bits.

OM: What’s your feminist wish for the future?
AG: It’s not always the case, but I wish I dealt with the Groom nearly as often as I dealt with the Bride. It is not solely ‘woman’s work’ to plan a wedding, it is one of the biggest days of your life, and you should both have a say in it.


The Association of Illustrators

Design your career

Buy Alice’s work here.

Tweet Alice here.

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