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#MeetTheResident: Designer & Scupltor Gareth McCullagh

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Can you tell us a bit about what you do?

I design and sculpt miniature figures by hand. I mostly do subjects from history, though occasionally some fantasy or sci-fi subjects too.

 

What is your background in?

I trained in law and was a practising barrister for around six years. I was deeply unhappy in the profession, and came to realise I was not suited to it; I had chosen the wrong path. Leaving was both the hardest and best decision I’ve ever made.

 

Why did you want to start your own business?

Leaving the Bar was akin to jumping out of a burning aeroplane, but without  a parachute; I was at a loss for what to do next. To tide myself over I turned my hobby of collecting and painting figures into a small business. This was meant to be temporary, but once I started sculpting the figures I just gravitated towards that. I had read a magazine article about a miniatures company that suggested that if you were a skilled painter you could probably sculpt too. So I tried and got the hang of it quickly. To some extent its all an accident, but its an illusion to try to plan everything.

 

What do you love most about working for yourself?

I like working with people rather than for people, if that makes sense? I’ve never been employed, only ever self-employed and I think I am too used to that now to change. Of course I am always working on commissions, but the clients generally  set the task and you decide how to execute it. I enjoy collaborating but I doubt I’d thrive with someone looking over my shoulder all the time. Its nice to set your own hours and so on, but you have to be responsible to yourself, so there’s not really any room for slacking off. I think it depends on your personality, some people like fitting into a pre-existing structure and some like setting the structure. Its only problematic if you end up in the one you don’t fit into well.

 

What was the biggest hurdle for you starting out and how did you overcome it?

Getting clients, I suppose.  I thought it would be learning the craft, because I had to teach myself how. It was a matter of getting the tools and materials and trying, because there was no one teaching it,  but I took to it quickly. Now its easier with the explosion of on-line resources, though its still a pretty niche skill.

To get clients I had to contact companies and volunteer some free figures for them on a no-obligation basis. This worked quite well, and I still work for some of those initial contacts, but there were some missteps too. I answered a call for sculptors for some board game figures, which later turned out to be for a Conan the Barbarian game. I didn’t realise it was way  beyond my skill level and I submitted a test sculpt. I thought it was quite good, but looking back it may have been only the 5th or 6th  figure I had sculpted. I got a very polite email turning me down, with some useful pointers as to how to improve, but I was mortified.

I keep little Conan figure sitting on my computer to remind me just how unskilled I was then, and that I should keep trying to improve.

 

What projects are you currently working on?

Currently on the desk are lots of 17th Century Cossack and Tatar cavalry, who  fought over Crimea and Ukraine, which I suppose still echoes in the present day unfortunately. I am just about to start working on Safavid Persians from the same period. Part of what I like about doing historical subjects is that I get to research periods and cultures that I otherwise would know nothing about.

 

How do you stay creative/inspired?

Mostly great art, whether its sculpture or illustrative. Some people get inspired by movies, but I find films frustrating because they usually get the details wrong, though I’ll admit they can be good for setting the mood. For me, seeing inspiring illustration is much better, especially if the artist manages to tell a good story in the piece. I wish I was given more concept art by clients, but usually I just have to hunt down the historical references myself.

Seeing great work from other sculptors is also inspiring, and can give you something to try to out-do.

If I am working on a particular subject I try to find music that evokes the time or culture, that helps me get into the head-space for imagining what I want sculpt, plus you end up finding unusual music you’d otherwise never had heard.

 

Who is your design hero?

In terms of sculpting, probably Tom Meier, who is preternaturally talented, so much so that while I admire him I don’t really attempt to emulate him. His work is so fine that it often suffers if not painted by someone as skilled as he is. Alan and Michael Perry are the sculptors I try to learn from, their work is the best balance of detail and practicality; something about their work just strikes the right balance. Sculpting is as much about deciding which details to leave out as it is which to include.

Illustration-wise, I think it would have to be Angus McBride or Nikolai Zubkov. They have similar styles that just jump off the page, and there’s a clarity to their work that makes them the sculptor’s best friend.

 

What piece of software/ tool/ equipment would you struggle to run your business without?

Practically it would be the colour-shaper, which is a sort of paintbrush with a rubber head instead of bristles. Without it I wouldn’t be able to get the sculpting resin to obey me, getting my first one was the difference between me succeeding and giving up in frustration.

Software-wise I think zBrush will become indispensable. I am currently learning it and will probably end up using it exclusively. Computer design and 3D printing are definitely the future in my industry, in fact they are a large part of the present.  Some people regret the fact that handmade figures are gradually disappearing, but I see it as applying the same skill with a different set of tools, and there’s room for both.

What are you plans/hopes/ambitions for the future?

3D printing is the area I am putting lots of effort into currently, and I am also slowly teaching myself illustration, which is significantly harder. In terms of projects, I am quite excited about working on my own 16th  century Ming Dynasty range, which will probably be a Kickstarter project. I have been collaborating with a Chinese-American friend and we’ve done a lot of research, which is to say he’s done the lion’s share of the work as he can read classical Chinese and I can’t. Once the figures are done I think we should consider publishing a book, because there is almost nothing available in English on the subject. Its quite a niche area, but I’d love to make what we’ve collated available.

 

Finally, your top tip for other creatives starting their own business?

I am always hesitant about giving advice because I rarely listened to it myself- to my cost. We’re all told not to put our hands on a hot stove, but most of us only learn the lesson after we’ve put our hand on the stove.

I guess if I had to give advice it might be to love what you do, but I’d assume that if you are starting your own business you’ve made it over that hurdle already. But you do have to continue that passion because you are going to encounter problems no matter what, and they are easier to face if you believe in what you are doing.  If that sounds too much like a start-up cliché, then advice that’s a bit more hard-nosed would be to make sure you value your time properly, because if you don’t your clients won’t either.

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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 --
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/
Are you happy working from home or just starting out but want a professional address for your business? We offer virtual services for all business types with reduced rates for creative industry businesses. Whether you are just starting out and can’t yet afford workspace or are happy to work from home but seeking a professional public image for your business. A city centre address creates a confident and professional first impression and separates your business and home life and as a virtual office customer you are entitled to 20% off meeting room hire fees and free AV equipment use with any hire. We have two premises to choose from: our South Belfast address at 51 Malone Road, BT9 6RY or our Cathedral Quarter address 46 Hill Street, BT1 2LB. For more information, please visit our website at https://www.blickstudios.org/virtual-services/
We are currently working on a podcast series on the impact of the pandemic on the creative industries in Northern Ireland and are creating an accompanying creative enterprise toolkit as a useful resource to help creatives in NI. To make this as comprehensive as possible we would be very grateful if you could take the time to fill in our short survey about your experiences and insights (it should only take a few mins) https://blickstudios.typeform.com/to/LXSuoU68
We are excited to introduce our September Resident Blog #Meettheresidents - The First 47 @thefirst47 is the studio of Irish graphic designer and artist Alex Synge. The studio specialises in design for print, web and visual identity for a wide range of clients in the cultural, commercial and academic fields. We got to catch up with the founder and hear about their journey of starting their own business, how they stay inspired and the recent projects they have been working on. Full interview on our website! https://www.blickstudios.org/meettheresidents/meettheresidents-the-first-47/
'DIG DEEP' is a project born out of a love of entrepreneurship and empowering women to create the steps they need to succeed in starting their own business. We wanted to take a different route on developing a business course that will actually create the long term progress that is needed to start your own business. Often there are business courses that mislead people, saying that a business can be created in a quick and fast route but we have realized that doesn't create long-lasting change. We are passionate about creating a course that gives people the time and space to build sustainability, to ask the big questions needed, to build self-confidence, to nurture, and to support everyone through the process. 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. Our applications are open now! There are limited spaces available so book your space today! Apply here: https://blickstudios.typeform.com/to/G8VR3EMD Or you can head to our website www.womenfolk.co Full interview on our facebook page! This program is kindly supported by Ulster Bank. We are excited to share our co-Founder of Dig Deep, Esther Mogada @namokobe Esther is a creative based in Belfast and has been working in the creative industry for the last 5 years. She has worked on various projects in relation to fashion, podcasting, events, and now is building a video production company called @creatingaspace Video by @creatingaspace
Do you have a desire to start your own creative business but don’t know where to start? 'DIG DEEP' is Womenfolk's new free creative online business program which brings women from different backgrounds together in a supportive and nurturing environment. It is designed over a 9 month period to help them build successful and sustainable creative industry businesses. The 9 month online programme is created for young women (18 - 30 years) especially reaching out to recent graduates and young women from NI & BAME backgrounds. This course is designed to help you BUILD and GROW into the person you want to become, the business you want to have and the life that you want to live. All of the information about the course will be featured on our website so please visit www.womenfolk.co Our applications are now officially open! Limited spaces available! Visit : https://blickstudios.typeform.com/to/G8VR3EMD This program is kindly supported by Ulster Bank. Without further ado - we want to introduce one of the co-founders of this project is Christine James who is the founder of Blick Shared Studios, Womenfolk and Co-Founder of Belfast Design Week and many other creative projects. 🎥 @creatingaspace
Happy bank holiday weekend. Hope everyone has a restful weekend and gets a bit of a break during this stressful time
Great to have our main room in Malone back in use today for filming. A slow return to normality.
Gorgeous sunny Friday in the Cathedral Quarter. Hope everyone gets out to enjoy the good weather while it lasts
‘The Power of Design’ series is a project that was created by Creating A Space & Belfast Design Week with the aim to explore and interview different designers within Belfast. The aim of this series was to ask designers what their process is, how they got started in the industry, who inspires them, and what advice they would give to people just starting out. ‘POWER’ was the theme of Belfast Design Week 2019, and we wanted to explore how people receive that word and the connotations attached to it. This week we are revisiting an interview we did with @cricky_captures who is a Belfast based compositor and photographer. We asked him – “what does power mean to you? “ “I don’t see power as being physically fit or better than someone or in a position of superiority. In terms of being a creative or a designer, power is using those skills to empower those around you, to challenge the norms, and just using your skills to benefit those around you, or push further to grow Belfast.” https://www.blickstudios.org/belfast-design-week/the-power-of-design-series-chris-mckenna/
Almost the weekend and thankfully a bit of sun ☀ for a change. Let's hope it lasts
‘The Power of Design’ series is a project that was created by @creatingaspace & @belfastdesignwk with the aim to explore and interview different designers within Belfast. The aim of this series was to ask designers what their process is, how they got started in the industry, who inspires them, and what advice they would give to people just starting out. In this interview we get to talk to @lydia.mokros who is a German designer based in Belfast. We asked her ‘what does POWER mean to you’? ‘POWER’ was the theme of Belfast Design Week 2019, and we wanted to explore how people receive that word and the connotations attached to it. “For me POWER has mainly a negative association when I hear it. I guess design is a good opportunity to empower people. Sometimes within institutions, or in societal structures, we feel everything is as it is, but then we have to question if we can swell change it. I think with feeling powerful, that is the kind of possibility for us to change something or be part of the change. And maybe we need to rethink about the term power."
Have you entered yet? @belfastdesignwk has teamed up with @jamesonwhiskey_ni on a t-shirt design competition for emerging creatives and those studying design (18+) to capture the 2020 Northern Ireland spirit on a Jameson t-shirt. . With prizes of £500, £300 and Jameson Whiskey and Merch Pack for all shortlisted entrants, industry feedback and Intellectual property retained by the entrant, so this is a great opportunity for emerging designers and creatives to work on an industry brief. The winning designs will be chosen by a panel of judges from Jameson Whiskey NI, Belfast Design Week and the local hospitality industry. Prizes are as follows: 1st Prize £500 cash prize + Jameson Whiskey & Merch Pack + t-shirts printed and given to bartenders across NI 2nd Prize: £300 cash prize + Jameson Whiskey & Merch Pack + t-shirts printed and distributed through our promotions and events in NI Shortlisted finalists: All 10 shortlisted entries will receive a Jameson Whiskey & Merch Pack and be showcased in our winner announcement countdown activity Competition deadline is Sunday 9th August! For full details visit: https://www.jameson-creatives.com/ https://www.blickstudios.org/belfast-design-weekblog-posts/jameson-design-competition-for-emerging-designers/
VIRTUAL SERVICES We offer virtual services for all business types with reduced rates for creative industry businesses. Whether you are just starting out and can’t yet afford workspace or are happy to work from home but seeking a professional public image for your business. A city centre address creates a confident and professional first impression and separates your business and home life and as a virtual office customer you are entitled to 20% off meeting room hire fees and free AV equipment use with any hire. We have two premises to choose from: our South Belfast address at 51 Malone Road, BT9 6RY or our Cathedral Quarter address 46 Hill Street, BT1 2LB. What we offer : - A Monthly Business Address Service Please check the website for pricing options https://www.blickstudios.org/virtual-services/ - A Weekly Business Address Services Please check the website for pricing options https://www.blickstudios.org/virtual-services/ For more information, please visit our website where you can see the price options, and different packages appropriate to your business needs. https://www.blickstudios.org/virtual-services/
Behind The Scenes - The Blick Team⁠ ⁠ We wanted to share a team photograph we took back in February - showcasing the Blick Team. ⁠ ⁠ Introducing Christine James who is the CEO of Blick Studios. She has a background in fashion design and Founded Blick Studios in 2007 after returning to NI from Italy. ⁠ ⁠ Christine is passionate about the creative industries, building creative communities, encouraging diversity within entrepreneurship and supporting and championing creative entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland.⁠ ⁠ Introducing Rosy James who is in charge of Finance & Operations at Blick Studios. Rosy studied Economics at University before moving into the financial side of business. ⁠ ⁠ Rosy has been working with Blick Studios since it began in 2007 and with Christine has worked to grow Blick from scratch into the organisation it is today. Rosy has responsibility for the finance and operations at Blick Studios. Rosy has a strong interest in entrepreneurship and the growth of small businesses.⁠ ⁠ Introducing Esther Mogada who is in charge of social media, marketing & events management at Blick Studios. ⁠ ⁠ Esther studied Fashion & Textiles at University and then ⁠went on to a Masters in Retail Management in Fashion and Textiles. She is currently building a small video production company called @creatingaspace whilst working with us to do social media, content creation & event planning. ⁠ ⁠ She is passionate about the creative industry in Belfast and has been working alongside Blick the last year. We just wanted to show the faces behind the brand!
We’re excited to announce that as part of our podcast project @stbdpodcast we are creating a special 4-part audio documentary series exploring the experiences and personal stories of creatives during the Covid-19 crisis.  We’ll be looking at how the last few months have impacted on the work, communities, networks and health of entrepreneurs, freelancers and workers within the creative industry sector in Northern Ireland. We want you - the listeners - to get involved too and we’ll be sharing some call-outs so you can add your voice and tell us your stories! This project is funded by Future Screens NI and @northernirelandscreen as part of their ‘Rewriting the Narrative’ project and co-produced by Blick Shared Studios with Small Town Big Dreams #smalltownbigdreams #creativeindustries #belfastcreatives #podcasts #nicreatives #creativeentrepreneurship #creativity #creativecity #collaboration #creativestartups #creativestories
We wanted to do a throwback to last year's Belfast Design Week and highlight some of our favourite videos we created. ‘The Power of Design’ series is a project that was created by Creating A Space & Belfast Design Week with the aim to explore and interview different designers within Belfast. The aim of this series was to ask designers what their process is, how they got started in the industry, who inspires them, and what advice they would give to people just starting out. Our first interview was with Paul Boal who is the Creative Director at @thatcleverghost a brand & design studio, Blick Resident of Hill St Blick Studios. He kindly shared with us some advice for people just starting out in the industry and his journey on how he took the leap to become fully self-employed. “Get involved with design. Get involved in every level. Collaborate with people in house, take that harder job and just learn the craft. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out of your comfort zone.” You can reach Paul Boal through his website & social media handles. Website: www.thatcleverghost.com/ Instagram: www.instagram.com/thatcleverghost/
Slowly getting back to normal and so nice to see a bit of sunshine after all the rain!
Looking for a new podcast series to listen to? ---- We have something that can sort you out! ---- We are excited to introduce a new project that we have been working on the last while. As part of our work with @belfastdesignwk , we have been helping with their new podcast in collaboration with the team at The Graduate School at Queen’s University. ---- This series will be focused on sharing diverse stories of design and entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland. ---- We want to highlight that opportunity is all around, if you know where to look for it and to delve deeper into understanding how a product or service comes about from those “in the know” - the designers and entrepreneurs themselves! ---- For links and more information, please check the Belfast Design Website. www.belfastdesignweek.com ----- https://www.blickstudios.org/belfast-design-weekblog-posts/great-creators-podcast/
Hopefully not too long now until we can get back in here and our other studios properly. In the meantime we have been busy behind the scenes working on some exciting new projects to be announced over the next few weeks
#blackouttuesday