Wednesday, 19 December 2012

My Nottingham Trent University Alumni Profile

Ive been asked to update my Alumni Profile for Nottingham Trent University I thought I would share it here for your information.
Name: Ruth Gray
Subject of study: BA Hons International  Fashion Business 1st Class Hons.

Year of graduation:2010

Name of company/employer :Ruth Gray Images 

Your current position/job title :Self Employed Fine Artist 

What does your current role involve?

The creation and promotion of my fine art. Arts Coordinator at Studio 61 Gallery, and collaboration with other artists and collectives.

 What is a typical day for you?

There is no one typical day but each day starts at 530 am checking emails and updating social networks. The day is then planned according to priorities for example; if I have an exhibition to work towards or a meeting with gallery owners. Being an artist you have to be totally flexible and keep an eye on opportunities that come your way usually via twitter, so I react to every email or direct message as they occur. If I’m painting I switch off the phone and work in two hour chunks. When I break from painting I photograph my progress and upload the image to social networks and interact with other artists and use their feedback to judge reactions. Working alone at home their feedback helps give me a sense of being in a working environment. The working day for me ends around 8 at night but as with a lot of self-employed people you never stop thinking about what to do next. 

Can you share details of how your career has developed since leaving Nottingham Trent?

I had planned to train to be a teacher after doing my degree but family commitments took over having two small children to look after, so I decided to continue with the success I had found in Australia as a fine artist, but I needed to develop a body of work for about a year before I could take myself to gallery owners again.

 I spent a year planning my business and painting as well as researching the who’s who in the British art world. After a year I had established a network via twitter and facebook and joined a collective of women artists called Desperate Artwives supported by the women’s library at Goldsmiths University, this collective allowed me to meet other artists who have shared exhibition space with me and become like colleagues. So now I have an organic kind of career that is growing all the time as we work together sharing opportunities and information. I now have all my artwork represented by galleries. And have been asked to be the Arts Coordinator at Studio 61 Gallery responsible for publicity of the artists and development of their ‘Friends’ collective.

Have there been any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome them?

The main challenge to my business is working around my family, so I have to tailor which opportunities I can be part of that do not impact upon my children’s school life. To overcome this I have aimed at galleries that can be accessed within an hour’s drive. I have made exceptions for certain important projects that are further a field in London for example and have had to enlist the help of friends. The main challenge is to pick and choose wisely what I become involved in.

How has your experience at Nottingham Trent - the learning environment, academic and social life - shaped or helped you in your career?

Returning to Nottingham Trent as a mature student has been a great experience, the chance to become up to date with the latest ideas for promoting a business has given me a head start with my art practice. Within a year of setting up my business I am fully represented by galleries and have a website and online presence that I don’t think would have happened without learning about brand management, marketing and promotion that were part of my course. The academic disciplines of writing dissertations and reports helped my writing abilities too which has been useful for press releases, submissions and my blogs.

What advice do you have for students and fellow graduates? e.g. Trends or skills required in your field

Build up a solid body of work that represents you and your practice. Build up a story around your work. Be social and use all the free access that is available to artists to promote your work. Keep upbeat and professional at all times in all dealings with anyone who will have an impact upon your career. Don’t be judgemental of others art practice there is room for everyone, but be selective about where you place your art work ensure it fits the venue do lots of research! Also be prepared to diversify and be flexible to change in order to survive.

How friendly and supportive an environment did you find Nottingham Trent?

Nottingham Trent was extremely supportive and I made use of all the help available from the careers department as regards to how to write my CV.  The feedback from all the lecturers was invaluable and I took on all their advice which enabled me to obtain a 1st class Hons degree.

What has been the highlight of your career or personal achievements to date?

Exhibiting my artwork at Vibe Gallery London as part of the Desperate Artwives project has been my highlight so far gaining many new contacts and invaluable publicity. Being asked to become an associate member of Derby Universities Banks Mill has allowed me to meet some extremely talented artists and makers. And the best achievement of all is people knowing of my art without me having to introduce myself which means my marketing has worked! 

Where have you taken your advice and inspiration from?

I took business advice from Business link in Derby for practical day to day running of a company.

But inspiration has come through the social networks. I have been able to meet more experienced artists who have shared with me their knowledge and put me in touch with groups and organisations such as Arts Derbyshire, Derbyshire Open Arts and Corridor Arts who have let me become involved in their projects and events.

 Can you share your plans for the future?

The first three years of any business is about building a reputation and by doing this I have now been asked to be the Arts Coordinator at my local gallery and publicity coordinator for a brand new arts festival within my town of Belper. I am also involved in a few left of field art projects that will help add a contemporary edge to my practice. Gradually as I gain new follwers and attend more business fairs and events my art is selling and being stocked in places such as Derby College. I am also hoping to become more involved in Banks Mill part of the University of Derby exhibiting with them regularly as an associate member. 

Any other information?

Believe in yourself but take on board critics and feedback good and bad there’s always something to be gained from it. Not everyone will like what you do but someone will.