Design Assembly is delighted to present a Wellington-based workshop with talented type designer Kelly Spencer. Ahead of this event (details to be announced very soon), we grabbed a quick five minutes with Kelly to find out more about her work and her design process.
Hi Kelly, thanks for speaking with us. For those that might not know who you are, can you tell us a little bit about what you do, and where you’re based.
I’m an illustrator-graphic artist primarily known for my hand lettering work. I’m based in central Wellington, where I share a studio with a handful of other creative professionals.
What’s your background and how did you end up working for yourself?
This whole thing really took off when I was travelling in Central America. I was on a boat in the Caribbean and I met this lady who was a freelance designer funding her travels with contract work along the way. Once I realised that this was a possibility there was no stopping me! I started with a few gig posters and it went from there. Word of mouth is a magical thing. I have no formal training in illustration. It sounds crazy, but I’ve just pieced it all together over time and proudly watched the business grow.
What are some of the benefits and also some of the challenges of being freelance?
The biggest benefit by far is the flexibility. If I want to go and work beside the beach, I can. I realise that structure is great for some people, but for me I can’t imagine having a daily-weekly-yearly schedule that has fixed start and finish times, And challenges? In the earlier years the unpredictable income was a major challenge — it was pretty taxing on my fingernails each week wondering if I could make the rent, but these days my main challenge is finding time to make my own lunch in the morning!
What do you enjoy doing the most?
I love to tackle new surfaces, taking my brushes or cans away from my desk and hitting something large scale.
What’s a typical working day in the life of Kelly Spencer?
Wake up around 8am, and consume as much coffee as I can handle whilst dealing to a bit of admin — emails, invoices, social media, website maintenance etc, from home, then mid morning I cycle in to the studio, or beg my awesome studiomate for a ride if it’s raining, procrastinate on some kind of creative venture that isn’t the urgent thing that I should be working on, then dive in to the work day. I’m usually working on 5-10 projects at any given time, so I juggle them into my day/week according to deadlines. I’m lucky to share my studio with some excellent creative characters, and whilst we all work hard, there’s a steady stream of ridiculous banter that goes on, keeping the vibes good. Early evening I try to get to a yoga class, which is frequently followed by social dinner with flatmates or friends.
What project, personal or professional, are you most proud of and why?
I’m currently super proud of my side project creative company The League of Live Illustrators – LoLI. We’re a gang of 5 illustrators who graphic facilitate at events, scrawling all over any surface they’ll let us at, documenting ideas and conversations from a wide range of organisations. It’s such exciting and fascinating work, and we were blown away by the demand and praise for LoLI in 2016.
Where do you go to find inspiration?
I get really inspired talking to other artists across all disciplines, and learning about their process or sharing stories of each other’s creative experiences and dreams. Of course, I’m constantly scrolling the hundreds of talented letterers and sign painters on my instagram feed, but I’m not convinced that this fills the roll of ‘inspiration’. It mostly just serves to overwhelm and entertain.
And finally, where to next for Kelly Spencer? What does 2017 hold?
More murals, more travel to warm places, more combinations of the first two things.