"I’m relearning what it means to be a graphic designer"
Years before I was here, I dreamt about being here. I prayed (and still do) for the things I have now. This bike, this place, this MA, these friends—I wanted all of this. Almost shy of a year ago, I wrote some text on the responsibility of the graphic designer. I recognised that where I was as a commercial designer is not where I wanted to stay, at least not full time, and so I did something about it.
My oh my, how the time has flown by since writing that text. I’m in an incredible space right now where I get to create without fear of reprimand, without discussion of whether it’s right or wrong, and I’ve never had this. Not at Secondary school and certainly not when I did my Bachelors in London. I feel like I have no authority anymore, you know? For some reason, being in London, everyone felt they knew everything about design; how to mend it, perfect it, sell it and swallow it whole. I would go to conferences to hear about how these massive agencies had ‘made it’, I’d have guest lecturers come in and talk about how charming I had to be as a person in order to secure a job, that I should be a good girl and stay late at my internships. I have no authority on design anymore, but I never did—and it’s this illusion of superiority bubble that I’m glad to be coming out of. It makes me very insecure about what I perceive to be good design, why is it good? who says it’s good? what even is good, should it even be labelled as anything?
I’m relearning what it means to be a graphic designer, and I’m unlearning parts of the hardened pieces that London left in me. I am aware of the privilege I have to be able to study again, and it really is by the grace of God. I recognise excitement breeding in me but also fear. I try to look to my tutors or peers to criticise my work, so I can feel structure again, but there isn’t much of that, if any at all. This “trash" educational model is a new concept that takes getting used to. I feel a certain warmth and anxiety that I haven’t felt since choosing the design path when I was 16. It’s a giddy experience of learning new things again. It’s like when I first learned about the difference between Akzidenz Grotesque and Helvetica, and learning that the straight line was ungodly through Friedrich Hundertwasser. I remember the Art Movements where I’d decided that I was a Dadaist. I remember when I learned about colour mixing in primary school, and I remember using watercolours for the first time. I remember screen printing at 16, calligraphy classes at 17 and I remember being so sure that I was going to be a typographer at 18. I remember all those things because I feel those things similarly now. To be intrinsically curious is a privilege not afforded to many, and that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Somewhere along the line whilst studying for my BA in design, I lost this essence of fun. Design became an academic burden, in which I had to form myself into this charismatic character (at which I failed more often than not). Where recognising typefaces moved you higher up in the ranks, where working ridiculous hours meant that I might one day move from a Junior Designer to a Middleweight designer...enzovoort enzovoort.
Today, during a discussion with one of my tutors Daniel, he asked me why chose the Sandberg, why I wanted to be in this space. I had a really hard time compiling an answer, and I don’t remember if I did. But if I didn’t, then I suppose I’d say that I chose to be here because I couldn’t imagine another place where grades aren’t a measure of my intellect, and where the hierarchy between students (whether they be first or second years) and tutors isn’t so glaring and finally where we can have an open and honest discussion about things that matter to us. It’s a place where I have the freedom to roam my own intellect and have the respectful permission to dig into the minds of my classmates too. There’s trust between us, our group I mean, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because all of us are simultaneously unlearning the art of critique for the sake of it. Criticism in art and design is a performance art—it very quickly becomes petty. Because it’s like, how politely can you tear down someone’s work and call it constructive criticism? Another thing I’m unlearning is not being afraid of tangling myself into my work. It’s an intensely peculiar place to be in. To be able to be vulnerable and say, “Well I created this piece of design or art because it affects me, my culture or my personal wellbeing" is foreign concept to me.
One of the first things I inhibited whilst studying at Ravensbourne was the ability to separate myself from my work. To be able to distance oneself from their work is important, but that isn’t the only type of design there is. We need to make room and agency for another type of design, one that observes the designer’s opinion as its own audience. We have to analyse why claiming personal vulnerability is a faux-pas in design. Finally, we have to reclaim whatever design speaks to us the most.
"We Have To Analyse Why Claiming Personal Vulnerability Is A Faux-Pas In Design"
For these two years I intend to create work that I may not always be proud of. I intend to fail in every sense of the word, I intend to soak up new processes and concepts as much as possible and immerse myself in studying my craft. I intend to read manifestos and have my brain rile up in anger or intense passion. I’m excited by design because old processes aren't keeping me confined anymore. Instead, the possibility of including new techniques into this ever expanding box called design opens my mind to new ideas and possibilities. My intentions are to be intent. Intent with my words, intent with my friendships, my religion, my body and food. I also intend to be extremely lazy. I intend to procrastinate. I intend to be angry. I intend to explore my youth and naivety, gone are the days of holding up maturity pretences—God willing, I have the rest of my life to be mature. I intend to cry. I intend to be silent when I should speak up and I will speak up when silence is expected. I intend to sleep in on most days and forget about appointments. I no longer hold habits against myself. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone but myself…and I consider even that as a subject of debate.
And, it's wrap, homies
I won't write too much, because between moving countries and setting this event up, I've barely had any sleep. Thank you so much for coming. The energy was impeccable, I couldn't have asked for anything better. We sold out of all our stock! Intense right!?!!??!?! This means that there are now no more copies in the physical Fashaddict store, but postcards and prints are still available for sale in my online store, and now with free shipping on all orders. www.sheridakuffour.com/shop Thank you so so much again, I'm very grateful. Regular posting will continue in September.
It's currently 10.30pm, I'm sat on my mother's couch watching CSI, and full up with rice and stew. I cannot believe this year so far. To say it's been/is a whirlwind is an understatement. If you follow me anywhere on social media, then you'll know that I've been exhausting all areas with my art. I've never done this before! What I mean is, I've never been this shameless in promotion of myself or my art as I have been in the last 5 days (and guys, it's EXHAUSTING, I'm tired of my own voice). From opening my shop last week, to trying to spread the word, and doing all the background work. I haven't really stopped. And this exhibition is no exception. Next week, I'm having an exhibition. I'm doing this with zero money, and really no plan—I'm just gonna to wing it. I got offered the space so last minute and I could either turn it down in fear of not being able to do it for lack of money, or say yes and sort the rest out later. Evidently, I chose the latter. Back in March, I flippantly joked about having an exhibition/party for all my friends. If you know me in real life then you'll know that this is so not me. I've never hosted a party or an event of any kind, so this is a whole new thing for me.
"Also didn't someone say to do one thing everyday that scares you?"
Also didn't someone say to do one thing everyday that scares you? Well, it suffice to say that this is definitely frightning me. Nevertheless, it's important I press on. Today my sweet mother bought me some frames for the exhibition. When I told her I'd opened my shop, she kinda laughed and said "okay". Bless her. She's so invested in seeing me through this graphic design career. She gets that. She "gets" graphic design, it's tangible, it's something she can explain it, and even add her commentary to art movements or brand identities. But when I told her about my illustration exhibition and shop, she looked at me like "what are you up to now Sherida?". To be honest, I don't really know what I'm up to. I've always regarded myself as a graphic designer and nothing else. But for the first time, I'm coming around to the idea that I might actually be an illustrator too...and an art director...as well a photographer. In the design industry, it's something of a taboo to be a jack of all trades, because you're seen as undecided. At least that's what I've found in London. Plus, the truth is, sometimes I don't think I have the authority to claim all these "titles".
"Who knows what comes next after these small beginnings"
But I'm digressing massively. What I mean to say is, I'm tapping into owning this multi-disciplined lifestyle. This shop, this exhibition, is a manifestation of tiny thoughts planted by my friends and you my readers! From little comments here on this blog from people as close as Berlin to as far as Russia, thank you. 7 years blogging and counting. On to the next aye! Who knows what comes next after these small beginnings. Some books? Some cool collaborations? Some creative videos maybe? The possibilities are truly endless.
Come celebrate, dance to some 90s music, drink some cheap wine and eat haribos, because we're all young and too broke to afford fancy Wine from South Africa and posh french canapés. be sure to follow my instagram, and twitter for regular updates!
Twitter, Snapchat & Instagram: @sheridada
See you real soon.
On the women that make up this collection
Zipporah (Red) was the first one. She was the first name of the pack. I knew I wanted to draw somebody called that name. In the Bible, Zipporah was the wife of Moses, and daughter (adopted, I've always assumed) of Midianite Priest, Jethro. She's only mentioned a few times, but her name means 'Sparrow' or 'Little Bird'. It was then that I picked up a book by Marek E. Halter called 'Zipporah'. It was a fiction novel about Zipporah's life or how it might've gone. Of course, there was no real biblical basis, but I was instantly drawn to the her story of rejection. Throughout her life, her dark skin places her firmly in the bosom of an outsider. She's fierce and loyal but stubborn, hot tempered and very deeply vulnerable. In many ways, it was the first time that I saw myself in any of my illustrations. It's why she remains my favourite piece I've ever done.
"Throughout her life, her dark skin places her firmly in the bosom of an outsider."
As for Noa (Pink), the idea for her came much much later. I loved creating her, but for some reason she didn't quite stick. She felt too out of place compared to the others I'd illustrated. She was too playful, too young almost. It was then when I was randomly reading Numbers 27, that I came across this story about a man called Zelophehad who passed away, leaving five daughters behind. In the absence of a male heir, these five daughters fought and petitioned for their inheritance because there was no male to carry the inheritance. By fighting this traditional custom, and going against society's male grip on their destinies, these five women, and particularly Noa—who was the speaker refused to be robbed of what was rightfully theirs.
Ultimately, I created these characters based on women in the Bible whose stories I find most interesting. For me, being able a Christian and a feminist are so deeply intertwined. I discovered so much of myself, that is, being black, and being a woman when I converted to Christianity. I found me, my passions, and compassions in Him. It's a very odd thing to say in this climate we're currently in, but it's something I've never been more sure of.
I'm so incredibly excited to announce the opening of my very own art shop! After years of loving nagging by my friends and you, my readers, I thought it was about time to open up my own situation on the innernetz.
So, at present, there are only 50 prints for sale. And once that's gone, That's it! as in, there won't ever (never say never though) be another Tabitha (orange bae) or another Zipporah (red Boo). I did this because I think it's important, to stay growing. I love These five chicks, but at some point, some other Characters with different life stories will have to be told to.
&Dahlia, &Phineas Fletcher, &Garance.
Dahlia (Blue), Phineas Fletcher (Red) & Garance (Yellow).
Which one were you? Out of your clique, I mean. At 10 years old and standing at a proud 5.ft 6, I was one of the tallest out of my group of friends. We rolled into primary school like we owned the place, and me, the "big one" automatically assigned the Rotweiler of the group, always walked to the right of the hallway. It's a roll that I didn't always succeed in as my tough exterior made for my soft insides and resulted in me cussing someone out then running away and crying. Yet now at 23 and actually shrinking at a rapid pace (I'M NOW 5ft.5 GUYS AND THE SHORTEST OF ALL MY FRIENDS WTF!!!) I'm definitely not the Rotweiler anymore, to my relief. You do notice that labels matter less and less as you grow up. Instead, you come to realise that you aren't a person that's into one specific thing or has one particular trait, like "the angry one", "the scary one", "the nice one" etc.. Because this is not the Spice Girls audition and nobody needs to have their own special label to really fit in anywhere anymore...Except I'd still claim that "Scary Spice" label. She was hot, and I had the biggest crush on her.
Mildly inspired by Phineas from Phineas & Ferb
Following on from my previous post, I present to you Phineas Fletcher. I adore him. The colours, the hair, the shade detailing, I think it's come together quite nicely. However, I've been thinking lately, I'd like to venture out from just drawing heads. I like concentrating on faces because it's just so much fun, and its easy to really get emotion across—and also I think it's my style, so to speak. But it doesn't hurt to add a few skills to what you do.
Not my favourite.
I very rarely share illustrations I'm not pleased with, this here is an exception. I'm quite disappointed with how this came out for more reasons than one. Firstly, despite the bright colours I used, it all feels really flat and not very exciting. I always aim for the monsters to have some character, or how do I say this, a certain..."je ne sais quoi", if you will. I rushed this one out, I hadn't drawn anyhing in ages and just wanted to have something done. It looks quite rushed and I think you can tell—her lips are crooked, a little too pursed for my liking. The hair is too coifed at the top and the shade of orange for her hair was was not dark enough, as it doesn't quite match the vibrancy of the blue and yellows. Constructive feedback is good, I reckon. I definitely know what not to do the next time round. I do have another little madam in the making that I will share with you once it's all done and I'm happy with it.
Otherwise, I hope you're super. xox
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
I, for the life of me, cannot recall why this piece of literature has never crossed my path. I initially saw the magnificent foil-blocked and fiery red cover and gasped at how beautiful it was. "I'm gonna buy it" I swore to myself, "I don't care if it's an encyclopedia of world famous toupés (because who wouldn't want an encyclopedia of world famous toupés?). I was in Libreria, just of Brick Lane this week and if you've been there recently, you know there is this magnificent new book shop that has opened. I love book shops as it is, but this one, oh my sweetness, it's just a gem isn't it. It's got this large glass wall at the back of the shop that makes you think the store is larger than what it actually is! And then the staff—what amazing knowledgable and passionate people. We spent the best of 30 minutes talking about all things dark and dystopian. As I was paying for the books I'd chosen, I clocked this beautiful red book, sitting high up on the furthest shelf. The lady at the till saw me glaring and told me it was none other than Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte! It was then that I decided that this was fate. I've never read Jane Eyre, but I've heard so so much about it so I look forward to reading this...and decorating my living space too of course. ;)