Tara ColletteBarista atBloom Coffee CoBury, UK
I got into graphic design when I was 14 or something, but I could never do it in school. We didn’t have it as an option. But I did get work experience with Amscreen, a digital outdoor sign group that’s owned by Lord Alan Sugar, and it was amazing and it taught me so much at the age of 14. So then I just carried on with that. Then I studied photography in college, which was weird because I then just switched to textiles so quickly and I’d never done a textile course or anything like that.
I know where it started. Everyone was using a specific paper brand and printer in college, and I thought I wanted to do something different. So I came up with this idea to make a banner, but it was the biggest one I’ve ever done. I’ve never gone to that scale again. It was literally wall-to-wall. It was SO huge, I couldn’t pick it up. I couldn’t carry it. It was just stupidly big. It said ‘There is more to life than Risograph and G.F. Smith.’ That was my first one, and everyone was coming in and wanting to see it. It was up on the wall at uni, and then I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to carry on from here.’ So yeah, it started with that and with having an opinion and showing it as big and as bold as I could.
So then I just kept doing more banners, and I think I’ve done 22 now. It started with that one, and my final piece I made just before I graduated was another banner and it said, ‘FUCK THE GRADE.’ It’s still up in Engine House, which is a group of creatives working together in studios at Islington Mill in Manchester. They bought it off me and they have it on the wall there now.
It started with that and with having an opinion and showing it as big and as bold as I could.
I’m completely happy just being me, rather than trying to be a brand.
I enjoy creating weavings and embroidery pieces, but they don’t really allow me to channel any emotions or opinions. I find that making banners and paintings allows me to do that a lot more. I think I’d be a real angry person if I was holding everything in and focusing only on embroidery. That’s why the banners are important to me.
I think not wanting to work in an office drives everything. Just the idea of a full-time job drives me insane. I only just manage working my weekends. I would hate having to get up in the morning and come home knowing that I’ll have the same thing again tomorrow, and do that for five days straight. Now I can just wake up in the morning and be like, ah, maybe I’ll go down the street and see if anyone wants window illustrations today. It’s so good, and it’s so free. I hope I can do it forever.
When I was in uni, I tried to brand myself and I had my own logo and all that kind of stuff, but I was wasting so much time on trying to have the perfect logo and business card. I don’t even have business cards anymore. I just write my name on a scrappy piece of paper. I thought about naming my studio: Studio Collette, but then I just think that I might as well not bother. I’m completely happy just being me, rather than trying to be a brand.
I’ve only recently started to call myself an artist. It was a really scary transition. I was so used to saying ‘Graphic Designer’ because that’s what I was on paper and now saying artist feels scary because when I think of an artist, I think Andy Warhol or Tracey Emin. I’m getting there though.
I said to a lady once — she was one of my mentors — I said that maybe I should do embroidery hoops to sell, that I should write something on them because people would like that, and then they’ll sell really well. And she said,’Yeah, but people are boring.’ And I said, ‘Pardon?’ She said, ‘If you try to make work for boring people, you are going to make boring work.’
And I just sat there and was like, ‘Oh my god, she is so right.’ So she said that I should carry on making Tabasco hoops and personal stuff instead of trying to make work for other people. So I just carried on.
Did you see the Fred Aldous window last year? A prop designer I know, Mariel, who is part of Engine House, was asked to decorate their window for Christmas and she commissioned me to help her. We sat making tassel walls and glitter mountains for four days straight. That job was literally just through knowing her from the mill. She loves pink and glitter so much — sometimes I feel like we’re like the same person.
If you try to make work for boring people, you are going to make boring work.