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Maisy and her work at New Designers

16 July 2018

Drawing nightlife: meet award-winning illustrator Maisy Lewin-Sanderson

Maisy talks industry opportunities, Small Fry Collective and translating Manchester's favourite fish and chip shop turned music venue into illustrations.

Following a year of immersion into Manchester's cultural scene, BA Illustration with Animation student Maisy Lewin-Sanderson has won The Hallmark Studio Prize at New Designers, an event showcasing the work of more than 3,000 emerging designers from across the UK and beyond. She will recieve £500 and a four week studio placement with Hallmark. 

Maisy shares her thoughts on the Prize, discusses her winning project and lets us know what she has planned for after graduation. 

Winning the Hallmark Studio Prize

‘I’m really overwhelmed to have been chosen for the Hallmark Studio Prize art such as prestigious event!

The prize of a placement at Hallmark will be a fantastic opportunity to gain insight into the greetings card industry.

Hallmark have also asked me to organise an event for them. Exhibition and event organising have become a large part of my practice this year, with myself and Maia Blunt starting our collective, Small Fry.

We held our first Small Fry event at Goodstock Oxford Road charity shop over 25 (nearly) graduated students from across the disciplines of Illustration with Animation, Graphic Design, Three Dimensional Design and Photography. It was a print and craft fair, mixed with live music and DJ’s , and it would be a great opportunity to do something along the lines of this with a larger audience for Hallmark.’

Exhibiting at New Designers

‘I was selected to exhibit at New Designers out of my year group. Everyone selected then came together to curate the our exhibition stand, as well as design and send out invites to industry.

I attended the New Designers preparation day last year, as well as the actual event when I was about 14 – I can remember been fascinated by all the work, and wanted to be a part of it myself in the future.

I would 100% recommend anyone with the opportunity to participate in New Designers to do it! It’s not only a good place to gain exposure with a wide range of people from industry. It was also really interesting to see what projects other students across the country had produced. There are definitely a couple of students that I spoke to at New Designers that I would like collaborate with in the future.

It was also lovely to see the industry interest everybody was getting, from digital work, to pencil work, collage , textiles and animation. It’s very exciting to see people are interested in this diversity of work, as well as there being opportunities for people to exhibit whose work may not fit into one particular category.'

Creating the work on display

Before Christmas, I found myself at a bit of a loss. I was really unsure what to focus on. I’d find potential project ideas, then I’d be worried that it wasn’t my “dream project”, then stop and start again.

During this process, I was drawing around Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Capturing Matt and Phred’s jazz bar, Nexus Art Café, Night and Day Café: without realising it, I was evolving this narrative of the Norther Quarter through reportage.

One day, I decided to start chatting to the people within the places I’d been drawing. I started to gather a bank of little references, memories, which began a dialogue between places and my drawings.

Night and Day Café was the last place I went and took a risograph print of the building exterior I’d created.

I was greeted by the lovely Neta, who told me that the bar was originally a fish and chip shop when the owner bought it. While it was still a fish and chip shop, the owner served alcohol and got jazz bands to perform, even though the sound of the deep fat fryers would sometimes drown out the sound of the bands! Over time, it evolved into the owners’ vision of a bar and music venue. 

Neta really liked my print, and gave me the contact details for the venues promoter Jay Taylor, who she said could tell me more. Before this meeting, I had gone to the bar again to draw, and bumped into Jan Oldenburg, the owner and visionary of the building. He sat with me for a good hour telling me the in’s and out’s of Night and Day Café.

After speaking to both Jay and Jan, I decided that I needed to tell this story, and capture this snippet of time from the venue. I proposed the idea to Jay and he said it would be wonderful, and that I could exhibit work at the back of the venue too.

I illustrated their stories using cut up paper, and letting the characters and compositions evolved from this. This collaging way of building up my images allowed for a much freer way of working and allowed me to easily vary my compositions. This is where I found things started to progress. Sometimes I’d accidentally push the cut ups of paper, and they would form interesting shapes that were better than my original plan. This meant altering my original plan for the spread, and ensured the spreads didn’t become stagnant.

In terms of inspiration, I really like the collective Le Gun’s publications, and the ay narratives are told within images. I also looked at old jazz covers like those of Charlie Parker’s music.' 

Preparing for the creative industries

In terms of gaining skills for life after graduation, I have produced an exhibition of my project on the walls of Night and Day Café for two months, which included a launch event where I sold my prints and publications. This all helped me to gain exposure with an audience with an interest in music, as well as the bands that were in and out of the Night and Day Café all the time, audiences that I’d be interested in working for.

Making the publication, and going through the press of sourcing this information, editing, refining, choosing paper, printing, and then going to shops like Magma to stoke the publication, helped me to engage with the city and think about the audience, alongside learning the steps in order to make a professional outcome.

New Designers has also helped me to reach industry. The Hallmark Award and placement is a big step in the right direction! I’ve also had quite a few interesting conversations and emails since, so hopefully there are exciting things and opportunities to come!

I’m planning on staying in Manchester, at least for the next year. I want to progress Small Fry further, and we’re currently organising and discussing future events, as well as figuring out exactly what Small Fry can be within the creative industries in Manchester.

I am also going to continue with freelance work for Paperchase, as well as developing my connections with Magma – I’m talking to them about making a ‘Magmazine’ for them like my Night and Day Café project.

Manchester as a city has a very accessible and friendly creative world, which I’m glad to be a part of!

You can find out more about Maisy’s work on her Degree Show profile, or on her website and Instagram account.

Want to know more about New Designers? Read about our students’ successes at this prominent event in the UK design calendar.