My Experience at Ladies, Wine & Design
Ladies Wine & Design is a concept which was set up by famous graphic designer, Jessica Walsh. She recognised there was an unbalance in the creative industry, as only a tiny percent of creative directors are women. The event started in New York and is now a worldwide concept and has spread to 130 countries and is still growing. These free events help offer mentorship and widen our networks. I personally heard about it on Instagram in May 2017, as the event was new to my nearest city, Newcastle, and had recently been set up by the amazing graphic designer, Juli Vignette. When I saw the Ladies, Wine & Design website I loved their ethos and sense of community, so I applied for a place at the Newcastle event right away. The meetings are monthly and are limited to a small group of six creative ladies.
I was open-minded at first, as I had been to networking events before, even a ladies-only one. In my experience, it tended to consist of groups that had been coming for years, so they would gravitate to the people they already knew, and it was normally such a random bunch of people, it was hard to understand the purpose of the event.
At the beginning of May last year, I had just left my in-house graphic designer role. I had recently finished the fantastic, large-scale project for Hartlepool Council with my partner, Owen. It consisted of 12 large vintage style travel posters on display at Hartlepool railway station. This was the springboard I needed into self-employment, as it gained a lot of media attention. I had current clients I was working with, but didn't have a proper website yet, as everything was happening so fast, although I had always freelanced, even while in education. I was feeling a little unsure at that point and was considering all options, including maybe working in a creative studio.
The first meet up was Chit Chat, which was just an open discussion for the group, this was a great introduction, and exactly what I needed. I got there a little too early, and Juli was so welcoming and I got a good vibe off her - she had even created handwritten name badges for everyone. The group was a mix of self-employed ladies, who either have a small team under their employ, work alone as a freelancer, or are themselves employed. A lot of them had worked in creative studios before, so it was really interesting to get their perspective and hear their input, especially when making the switch to self-employment. There was an air of honesty, and everyone seemed comfortable. With the casual chatting, wine and delicious cheese and crackers, it was a really enjoyable and informal experience. I got the train home feeling so positive.
The next meeting I went to was five months later, which was Portfolio Reviews with successful freelancer Mandy Barker, of Sail Creative and Fionn Andrews of Craft Agency (a creative and digital recruitment company). Also, yes, my full name is indeed Abigail.
I have always thought it is important to take criticism and be open to people's suggestions, and what better people to take suggestions from than a successful freelancer, someone I aspire to be like, and someone who recruits people like me all the time, and has seen many portfolios. I had my portfolio reviewed by Mandy and got to see other people's portfolios too. I got some great feedback on my work and realised how diverse the work in my portfolio was too, I received small but useful suggestions on the way I presented the work in my portfolio, which I took on board.
The last event I went to was Branding Yourself, I went with the intention of showing my website and getting the group's input on my brand. I had been torn whether to brand myself as my name or as a company name for a while. As you can see, I opted for my own name and decided to really embrace the fact that when you work with me, you are getting something that has been designed by a trained individual with a focused vision for your project, rather than something designed by a committee. I decided to use the bold URL iamabbytaylor.com to drive this home.
The special guest for this event was Sarah Tempest from Altogether Creative. It was fascinating seeing her presentation on how they came up with the brand name and image. it's often a side you don't see, all the unused logos and ideas they didn't run with, it was a unique experience.
Ladies, Wine & Design has been a really useful support network and has had a hand in my huge progress in my first year of self-employment, and have been there to give me a boost at more difficult times. Self-employment is a solitary endeavour and it's healthy and useful to find others in the same boat. Going it alone doesn't mean you have to go it alone! Through the friends and business relationships I have built through Ladies Wine & Design, I've been able to find a useful support network at an important developmental stage in my career. If you're interested in joining, check out their website and see where your nearest event is held and follow them on social media to stay up to date.
From these events, and speaking to other creative women over the last year, it really pulled away a facade for me. In my previous jobs, I have seen lots of amazing females in leadership positions, kicking arse at their jobs and being supportive of others. I thought there were minimal changes to be made for women in the workplace, apart from the obvious gender pay gap and some sexist job requirements/uniforms/remarks etc. in other companies.
It's important to remember, just because you haven't seen or experienced a particular type of inequality yourself, doesn't mean it's a myth. In the last year, I have spoken to women who had been asked if they plan to have children at interview, who had been denied going further up the career ladder because they recently got married and 'will be having kids soon'. I've also spoken to women who have never received remarks like that directly, but were prevented from being on the same wage as their male peers in the same job role.
Talking to other female creatives has really opened my eyes and made me realise how important events where women support each other are. You can always tell who the strong women are anyway, they're the type of women that would go to an event like this, and they choose to build each other up instead of tearing each other down.