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The Burning Question: Our highlights

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We learned a lot last night at the design panel and discussion “The Burning Question.” Our 3 brilliant speakers Paul Ryding, Anita Murphy and Christopher Murphy came from illustration, product and graphic design backgrounds and each brought their wealth of knowledge and experience (work and life) to the panel.  Interviewed comedian Graeme Watson did a stellar job of interviewing the panel.  Onstage, the designers discussed design and mental health, why Belfast is a great place to set up a creative business and we even learned about Paul’s “secret” background as an accomplished baker (and pastry chef!).  Our event covered 3 key topics – Design & Society, Design & DIY Culture and Design & Wellbeing followed by an audience Q & A.

These are some (well, a lot!) of our highlights from the discussion:

Design & Society

“Belfast is a perfect place to nurture and grow a career internationally” – Paul Ryding

  • You may be faced with designing for controversial or serious topics which you have to deal with sensitively. Paul spoke about his experience designing the cover illustration for the Trayvon Martin book “Rest In Power“co-authored by Trayvon’s parents.
  • Belfast is becoming an exciting place to set up business, an “untilled field” with a lot of potential. Paul moved from Glasgow to London to Belfast and has been happy to set up business in the city.
  • Both Anita and Chris spoke about how where you are based is now irrelevant thanks to the internet and that there is so much potential to develop your skills in the worlds of Art and Design.

Design & DIY Culture

“Find the time and an outlet to be creative.” – Anita Murphy

  • Chris spoke about one of his earliest projects – an electronic record label on which he created hype around ten initial “fake” releases before creating a real sellable one.  He spoke about taking risks and that sometimes when you are in the middle of it, you just have to deal with it.
  • Anita spoke about how as a designer, it’s also important that you know how to run a business and work with clients.
  • Anita had to make the tough choice of choosing between studying Psychology at university and going to art college and was told by others that she was “too smart” for art college.  She felt that this was due to the complete misconception that design doesn’t require intelligence when in fact some of the most creative people out there are in fact very smart. The lack of focus on creativity at school has inspired one of Anita’s passions at The Creativity Hub – introducing design to kids at a younger age.

Design & Wellbeing

“There is still a stigma attached to discussing mental health in Design.” – Christopher Murphy

  • Chris spoke about overcoming “Impostor Syndrome” – the feeling that everything that you are doing is in fact a total sham and that you will be discovered any minute when in fact you may in all likelihood be fine or even successful!
  • Chris talked about a very personal story of his attempted suicide.  This served as a turning point in how he was running his life and business and he made some major changes to make sure that everything was more balanced and that he was able to do everything he wanted.
  • Some of the biggest challenges can be self-doubt and Anita spoke about the challenges of making tough decisions such as downscaling the business and as a result having to let people go.
  • Paul spoke about what an inspiration it can be to teach and be in touch with those just embarking on their creative careers.

Final thoughts…

  • Anita – Problem-solve every day, get all the advice that you can and think of business as a list of things to be designed.
  • Paul – Work at it every single day, if you have a good product and you do it for long enough, you are likely to succeed.
  • Chris – Ask other people for advice on money.  Share any lessons you learn along the way and see the world as your audience – what you do may be niche but if you look internationally, you’ll likely find enough like-minded individuals to allow you to run a good business.

Audience Q & As

Design, Mental Health, Loneliness

  • Do something that is purely a passion and fun, not work. For Chris, this is “breaking out” the keyboard and embarrassing his kids!
  • On loneliness – build a network of people that can be your support.
  • You may need to make changes to your lifestyle – diet, exercise, quitting alcohol or drugs etc.

Drawing – do you have to be good at it?

  • Anita said that drawing is simply another way of communicating – in Japan, it is taught alongside writing so that it becomes second nature.
  • Do not be afraid of drawing!

Can drawing also perhaps be something other than sketching –  like collage for example?

  • Stop worrying about what people think – a drawing can be as simple as a sketch.
  • Your signature style is what makes your drawing more than just a drawing. Paul said that everyone can draw.  The difference between someone that is good at drawing and everyone else is simply the number of hours that have been put into crafting their skills

What happens when educators tell you that you are not good at drawing?

  • Educators have a responsibility to critique students in a non-dismissive way as they are responsible for shaping the students’ design educations and future careers. Chris talked about being educators being “designers of minds.”

and we’ll end on this quote by the hilarious Paul Ryding:

“Life drawing is like broccoli – people hate it but it’s good for you.”


“The Burning Question” was supported by Creativity NI as part of Creativity Month.

#blickstudios on
We are excited to introduce our newest Blick Resident - @dannisimpsonart ⁠
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Danni is an Australian artist who specialises in Commercial murals and Illustrations. Her style is an urban fusion of detailed floral illustrations where wildlife clashes with architecture and typography, sprinkled through with dashes of art deco and mandala patterns.⁠
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Danni has a side project, The Creatives Market which showcases local NI Makers and Creators will be holding a virtual Black Friday Christmas Market to encourage people to Shop Small and local this year. ⁠
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Head over to her page today to check it out or visit her website at www.dannisimpsonart.com⁠
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Be sure to check out the full interview on our website https://www.blickstudios.org/meettheresidents/meettheresident-danni-simpson/⁠
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Filming this week in our main room in our Malone studios which is currently available to rent hourly or for the day or evening, prices and info on our website or get in touch for more info

#creativespace #creativeworkspace #coworkingspace #creativehub #workspace #studiospace #Belfast #southbelfast
We had some gorgeous light shinning on our Malone Road studio this morning! Feels like the last of those crisp autumnal mornings before winter arrives!
Monday morning vibes at our Cotton Court Studios! ⁠
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We love how different all of our different studio spaces are but still have the same feel about them. ⁠
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We make sure in all studio spaces that there is a relaxing communal place for everyone to come together ( socially distanced of course). ⁠
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#blickstudios #creativespaces⁠
We've got that Friday feeling at our Hill Street Studios! We hope that you all have a great weekend and keep cozy!
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact across the globe across all industries.

As a creative business-focused organization, we wanted to understand how other creatives have been affected by the pandemic as well as how they have coped with the situation that has been forced upon us.

The toolkit provides an insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the creative industries in Northern Ireland and gives practical advice and guidance on how to stay positive during this period of uncertainty.

The toolkit was compiled by Dr. Brian Dixon Ulster University from evidence gathered from the Small Town Big Dreams audio documentary ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ about the impact of the pandemic on NI creatives.

To get access to the toolkit, click the link in our bio and it can be downloaded or visit our website at www.blickstudios.org
Very sad to see the Cathedral Quarter so empty on a Saturday evening 😥
The 4-part audio documentary series has come to an end. It has been amazing to hear different people's experiences and perspectives on how they have been navigating the pandemic. We wanted to revisit the 4 episodes which are available to listen to on our website - www.blickstudios.org⁠
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Episode 1 - The Great Disruption ⁠
Our guests - Jacky, Patricia, Noxy, Sean D, and Sean McC ⁠
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Episode 2 - Together Apart ⁠
Our guests: Aisling Rusk, David Moody, Nisha Tandon & Ryan Ward ⁠
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Episode 3 - Connection Lost?⁠
Our guests: Shannon Delores O’Neill, Emma Johnston, Andi Jarvis & Lauren Taylor⁠
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Episode 4 - Staying Sane⁠
Our guests: Paddy Raff, Tessa Ann, and Matt & Abby Bonner.⁠
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We will be releasing a creative enterprise toolkit designed by Dr. Brian Dixon on Sunday as part of @belfastdesignweek⁠
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We are looking back to our final episode of the 4 part documentary - The World Turned Upside Down in collaboration with @stbdpodcast

This 4 part audio documentary series of sharing stories of how the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the lives and livelihoods of people working in the creative industries in Northern Ireland. 

In part 4, we find out how creative entrepreneurs have attempted to maintain mental health and well-being during this very challenging time. 

Here is a snippet of comedian @paddyraffcomedy sharing his experience during the pandemic.

You can listen to all 4 episodes at www.smalltownbigdreams.co.uk
Belfast Design Week is starting next week from  2/11/20 - 8/11/20 and we are very happy to be involved again this year. 

The theme for Design Week this year is Environment. Design influences all aspects of our environment which in turn impacts our lives and surroundings and how we experience and live in the world. 

All of the events are now live on the Belfast Design Week website, so visit www.belfastdesignweek.com
Behind the team of Small Town Big Dreams - Dr Brian Dixon

Dr. Brian Dixon was our academic partner for Small Town Big Dreams audio documentary 'The World Turned Upside Down'. He worked with us throughout the series to shape the direction and select participants and to use the evidence gathered to create a Creative Enterprise Toolkit which we are launching next week as part of Belfast Design Week.

We asked Brian to tell us a bit about himself and share his experiences of the pandemic and its impact on University education as well as what he learned from the interviews for this project.

To read the full article, visit https://www.blickstudios.org/small-town-big-dreams/meet-the-team-small-town-big-dreams-dr-brian-dixon/
The World Turned Upside Down is a 4-part audio documentary sharing stories of how the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the lives and livelihoods of people working in the creative industries in Northern Ireland.

In Part 4, we find out how creative entrepreneurs have attempted to maintain mental health and wellbeing during this very unusual time.

With the world having been turned upside down, many people have struggled to make sense of the new normal. With so much uncertainty and when what’s at risk is as serious as people potentially dying, it’s no wonder that it has been so difficult to stay mentally well at this time, no matter how hard we try. 

But 2020 has also offered a pause for thought. It has forced us to re-evaluate how we live and work. Whether we really need to go to all of those in-person work meetings, or even have as many. Whether we need to buy fast fashion or whether we can do with consuming less. 

Whether we should finally do that thing we have been putting off, whether that is learning to cook or proposing to a partner.

But has 2020 fundamentally changed us as a society? Has it permanently altered the way in which we work in the creative industries? Or is it a glitch in time before we simply move on and Covid-19 eventually becomes just a distant memory?

In our season finale, you’ll hear from creative entrepreneurs Tessa Ann of the Sound Healing Spa, Matt & Abby Bonner from Forever Social - Film + Photo, and comedian Paddy Raff.

Thanks also to Alex McMillian, Katie Ireland, Chris Thompson, Dara Flanagan, and Meadhbh McIlgorm for their call-in contributions, reflecting on their experiences during 2020.

Presented by Karishma Kusurkar and Graeme Watson.

Produced in association with Blick Shared Studios, with support from Future Screens NI, Northern Ireland Screen, and Ulster University.

Supporting Academic Research by Dr. Brian Dixon.

Full Episode Details: https://www.blickstudios.org/small-town-big-dreams/audio-documentary-the-world-turned-upside-down-episode-4-staying-sane/
Behind the team of Small Town Big Dreams - Introducing Karishma Kusurkar who is one of the co-founders of Small Town Big Dreams, Co-Director of Belfast Design Week, and is a multidisciplinary designer based in Belfast.⁠
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We asked her to share her experience of how lockdown was for her, what impact the pandemic caused for her business and how she was able to get through the experience. ⁠
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Karishma's key takeaway from the guests she had on the series, was how resilient everyone has been.⁠
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This seems to be the key theme in all creative businesses in the current client. Learning how to adapt to the uncertainty and learning how to move forward despite the chaos of the world. ⁠
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To read the full interview, visit our website at https://www.blickstudios.org/small-town-big-dreams/the-team-behind-small-town-big-dreams-karishma-kusurkar/⁠
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We love to share the new residents that join Blick Studios. We are passionate about the creative industry here in Belfast because we get to learn and develop long-term, meaningful relationships with other creatives. 

We want to introduce our newest resident @jenny_eva_design

We got to catch up with Jenny a few weeks ago where she shares her journey of becoming self-employed, what keeps her motivated, and tips for other creatives that are just starting out. 

It is always lovely to hear other people's experiences because it can give you the clarity that you need, or just hear that other people share the same struggles. 

To read the full interview, please visit our website https://www.blickstudios.org/uncategorised/meettheresident-jenny-eva-design/
We are reminiscing about our Belfast Design Week Big Design Day Out 2019, where we had created an array of different events last year for both kids and adults throughout Belfast City. 

It was a magical time being able to connect with different people and celebrate all things design related!

Unfortunately, this year isn’t possible to run the same type of events as we have done in previous years, but there are still lots of exciting things coming up for Belfast Design Week 2020!

The program is being released next week, so be sure to keep an eye on their feed to see what’s coming up! 

Follow @belfastdesignwk or visit www.belfastdesignweek.com for details on this years festival 

Video by Ross McConaghy
Part 2 of our new Small Town Big Dreams 4-part audio documentary ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ sharing stories of how the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic has impacted upon the lives and livelihoods of people working in the creative industries in Northern Ireland is out now.

In Part 2 we look at how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected communities and networks. We speak to architect Aisling Rusk Studio Idir, videographer and fellow podcaster Ryan Ward Morning Coffee Podcast , film-maker David Moody, and arts organisation director Nisha Tandon Arts Ekta

Self-Isolation. Social Distancing. Herd Immunity. Working From Home. Social Bubbles. These phrases have all become synonymous with 2020 as we navigate the various relationships in our lives and how we can look after them even at a distance.

 People have rekindled their long lost hobbies and found newfangled ones too, from music to DIY to making poetry. What’s been more important than ever before is community – which can mean different things to different people, from our families, friends and work colleagues to the collectives we belong to. “We are all in this together” is a phrase we have heard many times before but this actually does ring true, both on a local and global scale for the first time this century.

The World Turned Upside Down is presented by Graeme Watson and Karishma Kusurkar with support from Future Screens NI, Northern Ireland Screen, and Dr Brian Dixon Ulster University.

Full episode details and info: www.smalltownbigdreams.co.uk or listen on Soundcloud Spotify or iTtunes
We are excited to introduce our newest Blick Resident @lukehaslett from iakoe, who is based in our Malone Road studios.

We got to hear about Luke’s new search marketing agency that was founded in March 2020. They combine SEO, content marketing and digital PR to drive long term search visibility and ROI. They work with everything from high growth startups to household name brands.

In this interview we asked him what the biggest hurdle has been starting out and what advice he would give to people starting out in a working environment. 

Be sure to check the full interview on our Blick Studios website https://www.blickstudios.org/meettheresidents/meettheresident-iakoe/
Lovely autumn light in our Hill St studios #creativespace #creativeworkspace #coworkingspace #creativehub #workspace #studiospace
#Repost @stbdpodcast
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Small Town Big Dreams is very much a collaborative project. The brainchild of @graeme_theory @karishmasworld and @blickstudios we have worked together to develop the project, sharing stories of Northern Ireland’s creative entrepreneurs since 2018.

We thought it would be nice for everyone to find out a bit more about the team behind the podcast and their experiences producing our new audio documentary 'The World Turned Upside Down' during lockdown and the pandemic. 

We begin this week with Graeme Watson, who has a background in Comedy. We asked him about his thoughts on the impact of the pandemic on the comedy scene in Northern Ireland, what he found most challenging and what kept him sane during lockdown, his key takeaways from the interviews with local creatives for 'The World Turned Upside Down' and much more. You can read the full interview here: https://www.smalltownbigdreams.co.uk/blog/2020/10/5/meet-the-team-behind-small-town-big-dreams-graeme-watson
Francesca Biondi, Art Director of @gallery545online will be having a solo exhibition at their new premises in Blick Shared Studios, Malone Road.

The exhibition, ‘Ways of Seeing’ features award-winning emerging artist @latishareihillartist

It presents her new unique abstract paintings, a series of carefully balanced and textured multi-colour compositions.

Inspired by the qualities and histories of buildings and landscapes and the artist’s response to them, they can take the viewer on a visual and emotional journey.

Visiting the exhibition in person

The safety of our staff, visitors, and artists is our paramount concern. We have specific safety measures in place because of Covid-19.

The number of people allowed at the same time in the exhibition space is limited to 6. When visiting the exhibition, please wear a face mask /covering, adhere to social distancing guidelines, and leave your contact details for tracing purposes.

Any updates about Covid-19 measures will be published on the exhibition page on our website. Unfortunately, there is no disabled access to this venue.

Exhibition Information

Location : Opening at Gallery 545, 51Malone Road, Belfast

Date : 2/10/20 - 32/10/20

Opening at @gallery545online
Friday 2nd October, 1pm-6pm (book your free ticket)

For more information please visit www.gallery545.com

Hope to see you there!
Part1 of our new @stbdpodcast 4-part audio documentary The World Turned Upside Down sharing stories of how the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic has impacted upon the lives and livelihoods of people working in the creative industries in Northern Ireland is out now.

In Part 1, we go back to the beginning – to the dramatic turn of events in early March when national lockdowns across Ireland and the United Kingdom were introduced. We share the lockdown stories of @wearemaven_ co-founder Patricia McGinnis, freelance illustrator @jackysheridan videographer Sean Duncan from @redcap.productions and Derry-based games production company Hypixel.

The World Turned Upside Down is presented by @graeme_theory and @karishmasworld with support from Future Screens NI and @northernirelandscreen , and Dr Brian Dixon @ulsteruni
@belfastschoolofart
Full episode details and info: www.smalltownbigdreams.co.uk
Or listen on Soundcloud Spotify or ITunes
- - 1 W E E K T O G O - - 

Apply now for our 'Womenfolk DIG DEEP' 9 month creative enterprise program for young women 18 - 30 years.

This program brings together young women (18 - 30) from different backgrounds NI & BAME to help them build successful and sustainable creative industry businesses.

Taking a holistic view of starting a business, combining self-care and creativity alongside business skills and knowledge. It will be a tailored program to help you grow your creative business to meet your values, goals, and ambitions through a series of online workshops, resources, peer, and one-on-one mentoring.

Topics covered will include:

- Business planning - values, vision, aims & objectives

- Finance planning & management

- Branding

- Social Media

- Setting up a website

- Sales

- Confidence

- Failure

- Self Care

- Habits

- Work-life balance

- Imposters syndrome

You will also get to connect with a group of like-minded creative women for support, community, motivation and peer learning.

Closing for applications next Sunday 4th October at 5.00pm

Limited spaces available! To apply, visit our website www.womenfolk.co
Are you a creative business that needs a city centre address to help with your professional public image for your business? 

At Blick Studios, we offer business address services where we will redirect business mail to the address of your choice. Whether it be weekly or monthly.

Check our website for the full range of prices at https://www.blickstudios.org/virtual-services/

As a virtual office customer, you are entitled to 20% off meeting room hire fees and free AV equipment use with any hire.

This is a handy service due to the COVID Lockdown restrictions. You can have the ease knowing that your post is directed to you without having to leave the comfort of your own home. 

One of the premises to choose from is our Cathedral Quarter address 46 Hill Street, BT1 2LB.

If this is something that suits you, apply via our application in the link below. 
https://blickstudios.typeform.com/to/apPUH1mV

If you have any questions or queries, please get in touch at info@blickstudios.org
Tomorrow night at 8pm we have a live IGTV event about our new  audio
documentary on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on a range of local
creatives. Hear from podcast co-creators @karishmasworld and @theinfinitejest and Dr Brian Dixon who provided
academic support and ask any questions you have or share your experiences 

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Super excited our new Small Town Big Dreams audio documentary on the impact of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic on local creatives is almost ready! 

Our first episode drops on Tuesday 29th September.

Small Town Big Dreams - The World Turned Upside Down, is a collaborative project. Co-created by @karishmasworld and @theinfinitejest with academic research by Dr Brian Dixon (Ulster University). It's a 4-part audio documentary series sharing stories of how the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the lives and livelihoods of people working in the creative industries in Northern Ireland.

We have a live IGTV event on Wed at 8pm or subscribe now to Small Town Big Dreams on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Presented  with support from Future Screens NI @northernirelandscreen and @ulsteruni @belfastschoolofart
#Meettheresident - @roryquiggillustration

Introducing a resident that has just recently joined Blick Studios in our Hill Street space. 

We got to catch up with Rory, who is the founder of Rory Quigg Illustration which is an illustration business based in Belfast.

We got to hear about his journey of becoming self-employed, his struggles, and his top tips to stay inspired!

The full interview is on our website! 

https://www.blickstudios.org/meettheresidents/meettheresident-rory-quiggs-illustration/