The Importance of Studio Culture by Lola Blackheart

At Acrylicize, we pride ourselves on a company culture that fosters creative expression and collaboration in a fun and engaging way, while giving people the experience and opportunities they need to develop in their career. Whilst we do our best to hold onto talented people for as long as possible, inevitably, some people must move on to continue the next stage of their journey. 

In celebration of this progression, we wanted to share some heartfelt insight from Amber Bednall (now practicing as an artist and illustrator under the pseudonym ‘Lola Blackheart’), our previous Marketing & Events Manager, on her experience being part of the Acrylicize family for five years.

To find out more about Lola’s work, check out her website at lolablackheart.com. Find her on Instagram @lolablackheart.

Part of the Family 

Walking into Acrylicize for the first time; a space filled with light and colour, shelves brimming with oddities, greenery sprawling desks and tables, walls decked with props and artworks leftover from installations, I wasn’t quite sure if I was entering my new place of work, or the coolest school art department I’d ever seen. 

On my very first morning at the studio, I was greeted by a table of excitable faces welcoming me to join them in what they called the ‘toilet paper mummy’ challenge. Apparently, this wasn’t a game only reserved for hen parties and stag dos, it was also a way of getting a team to relax and wake up on a grey Monday morning. Unsure if I had just begun my new job or taken a wrong turn into a children’s summer camp, I threw myself in and began to adorn a colleague head to toe in toilet roll. It’s fair to say this set the tone for my five years with the studio (although it may be worth mentioning that the activities have since evolved to more design-related tasks, which are just as fun, but maybe a little more relevant!). 

I soon learnt that whilst I was there to do a job, I would do so in a way that was interspersed with hands-on activities, days out, gallery visits, group trips, team lunches and dinners, BBQs, picnics, Friday drinks and a work culture that celebrated togetherness, and that no two days would be the same. The long list of what I’ve learnt from my time at such an unusual workplace starts with the importance of valuing the people who work for you. Also, just how much goes into the intricate process of finding suitable talent who perfectly compliments such a finely tuned and unique workforce – it isn’t easy! But what has seemed easy from the start, is the ability of the studio to make their ‘people’ feel celebrated and worthy. 

Being entered into a team WhatsApp group may sound overwhelming – after all, aren’t we already bombarded enough by never-ending message chains from family and old school friends, but the reality, it gives you a space to share what may seem a little too informal for a studio-wide email chain and encourages the flow of friendly communication to continue both in and out of working hours. It’s also a place to share unlimited visual inspiration and behind-the-scenes snaps from project installations that most of us wouldn’t get to see. The nature of the group is casual, kind and humorous and presents the perfect place to share horrendous face swaps that may never be seen again otherwise. The hilarity of an image archive from a decade-old WhatsApp group should never be underestimated. 

Every Tuesday brings with it the aptly named ‘Tuesday Club’, involving a series of short talks from studio members representing each area of the team, highlighting the always-brilliant design work and general achievements from that week. This coming together allows us to look outside our personal experience and see the week in someone else’s eyes, also encouraging a cross-pollination from team to team. For example, the lines between a ‘creative’ and a ‘project manager’ are very much blurred at Acrylicize. 

You will not be put in a box and told not to stray – quite the opposite! If you happen to have an idea for that public art bid we are working on across the pond, you will not be disregarded simply because you sit outside of the traditional design team. One person’s ideas are as valuable as the next, and I think that attitude brings with it a real feeling of inclusion. 

Last year brought with it a real shift of focus onto our intern program, putting a lot more time into finding and nurturing young and emerging talent. Currently, our team has five people who started out as interns and left such a lasting impression that we just couldn’t let them leave. We’ve worked with brilliant initiatives such as D&AD New Blood and Daydream Believers to get in front of a younger audience and I believe it’s now more important than ever to help nurture the future of our industry, by showing support and giving an opportunity to those who may be feeling a little isolated or bewildered. 

In my role as Marketing & Events Manager, it’s been important for me to stay in touch with the stories and concepts behind new projects so I can convey these to a wider audience. Behind every artwork and installation is a lengthy and complex process for the team. Each project calls for dozens (sometimes hundreds) of completely varied original concepts that need to be thoroughly thought out and visualised before presenting to a client, all with informed narratives to support their reason for being. I’ve witnessed the creative team come up with brand new meaningful artwork ideas again and again – everything from giant lamps inspired by the history of Manchester through the ages, to a canopy of light and green material carefully designed to simulate an overhead winter garden, aiding in the healing and user experience at a Proton Beam Therapy Centre. Being able to help put these stories and concepts into words has been a creative writer’s dream. 

My advice to anyone in search of a new working experience is to look for any/all of the following; a team that you could easily confuse with a family, an inspiring and creative physical workspace that you look forward to going to every day, and projects that genuinely excite and educate you, pushing you to do the best work you can in order to do them justice.

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