Empty Shots: Adapting Your Creativity in Lock Down.
By John Kelly
The pandemic made me realise quite early on that most of my paid ‘gigs’ and any other potentials such as concerts and weddings couldn’t happen . So I did what any creative person does, be creative! I rebranded my website, I went back to looking at urban and landscape photography,and I used the lock down as a way of not just rebranding my photography, but how I looked down the lens at myself . I adapted to what is now our new norm.
I took the opportunity to cycle into the city, taking pictures of places during the time where it would normally be busy, such as the Grosvenor Road flyover on a Saturday morning and Cathedral Quarter during Saturday afternoon, as well as Ann Street (all pictured above). I was taking photos of these now desolate and quite frankly eerie places that are normally busting at the seams with life. I had taken a drive out to Gleno waterfall, and with lock down still in full swing I had the whole place to myself, it was quiet, peaceful, and exactly what I needed to work on long exposure skills. I was over the moon when I had a look at the photo (pictured below) and realised there was a common theme between this photo and the urban shots, I had all the time in the world, I got to let the creative juices flow free and work their magic.
This lock down has actually forced me to take a step back and made me look at what I want to do with a new perspective, as well as adding some much needed fuel on the creative fire inside me. I’ve realised that the pipeline ideas I had at the start of the year are now achievable and will come to fruition over the next few months.
I hope this can rekindle other creatives to think on a more positive note and see that sometimes being forced to look at something in a different light isn’t necessarily a bad thing, maybe that’s the photographer speaking in me though.
Local Fashion: By Niamh
Niamh Kearney is the woman behind the Belfast based clothing line By Niamh, Niamh uses her knowledge from a background in theatrical costume design and her passion for sustainability and fashion to create custom made and sized pieces out of mostly pre-existing fabrics. Niamh spoke to The Jumble Magazine all about her inspirations, her favourite designers, and what made her start making such stand out clothing in the first place.
How did By Niamh start out as a brand?
I’ve had the idea to start By Niamh for so long! I’ve worked in costume for theatre for years and had always dreamed of designing my own clothes for everyday wear. To be honest I never had the nerve to just go ahead and do it, but when lock down happened I had so much time that there was no excuse not to! I had everything sitting ready for about two months before I actually posted online due to nerves, but I’m glad I made the start!
Lack of sustainability and inconsistent sizing are two major issues that stem from the fast fashion industry, how does By Niamh combat these problems?
I was in a fast fashion store one day trying on trousers, and I had to go up two sizes past my usual size in all my other clothes to get them to fit! Their clothing was TWO sizes smaller than what it said on their labels! It made me feel horrible about myself and upset that they clearly weren’t catering to all sizes. But the reality is, that was not ‘normal’ sizing. Brands need to take accountability for the sizing systems that they use. That’s why I wanted to introduce custom sizing, so that if people were ordering something they could tailor it to their body.
“In costume making we’d take an actor’s measurements to make their costume perfectly, so why shouldn’t I for my own clothing?”
Learning more about the impact of fast fashion is also why I wanted to try and make my brand as sustainable as possible. Not just on the environment but also on the people that work in it. It takes 2,700 litres of water to make one cotton shirt-which is enough for one person to drink for two and half years! I’ve been working with a lot of organic cotton and deadstock fabric. My first shirt was made out of fabric from an IKEA display that they were getting rid of.
When up-cycling unused fabrics, what’s the process in turning them into a beautiful piece?
When choosing fabrics that I want to up-cycle I almost never have any specific garment in mind. If the pattern catches my eye I’ll buy it and let that inspire me for the piece. I’ll make a pattern for it and then test it out in my size so I can try it on. Any scraps that are left over I keep so I can make small things like scrunchies or, more recently-masks.
Who are your biggest inspirations in the fashion industry?
Naturally, working in costume my favourite designers are people who merge the theatrical with fashion. People like Wiederhoeft who had his first debut at NYC fashion week this year. He actually started out working in costume for theatre and I think you can really feel that in his clothes. I also love Florence D’Lee who has designed for many drag queens on Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Most of all I look up to our local designers. There’s too many to even start naming but I’m being introduced to more and more every week and I love it!
What are the plans for the business from here on out?
I’ve just taken my first pre-orders for my shirts which have had such a positive response! From now until the end of August I’m planning on dropping a few new pieces that will create a mini collection for late summer/ Autumn. I’m also working on designs for a drop later on in the year which I’m excited about. I can’t wait to share it all!
You can check out more of the By Niamh pieces on Instagram.
Interview by Sam Dineen
Artist Profile: Callum Porter
Callum Porter has just finished his second year of Graphic Design & Illustration at Ulster University Belfast, Callum loves hip hop, movies, gaming, and creating visual art inspired by his passions. He talked to The Jumble Magazine about finding inspiration and overcoming a creative block during lock down.
I would describe my art as a part of my personality, because each piece has a meaning to me personally in some way or another.
I’ve always seen creating as some sort of escape from reality, I suffer from anxiety, and anytime I’m drawing or designing something I feel more like a kid with no worries. Sometimes I do get stressed with it but that’s normal, everyone gets stressed.
Although it doesn’t really show in my art I’ve become a fan of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic scenery in the past few years. The game The Last Of Us was a huge inspiration for me as it brought out so much beauty within a destructive environment. Another one of my main inspirations tho is my love for Hip hop. The form of storytelling through rhyming, rhythm and the beats always make me visualise what the artists are saying. A lot of the time when I’m listening to music I seem to visualise what the artists are saying- in an illustrative way, sort of like a comic. If anyone ever watched the Netflix series The Get Down, there’s a visual style of art in that which helps portray the music through comics.
I really struggled creatively through the lock down, I finished off my uni work and I could not concentrate on anything, I lacked so much inspiration for 2 months. The Goodfellas poster I made helped me get back to myself and back to creating again- slowly but surely.
As for the local art scene: I love how everyone is so talented yet so different. I feel like Belfast and NI as a whole has so many creative people that go unnoticed. That’s so sad to think; because I know so many people who are unbelievably talented at what they do.
You can check out more of Callum’s work on Instagram.
Artist Profile: Alana McDowell
Alana McDowell is a multidisciplinary designer with a passion for Illustration located in Belfast. Alana describes her art as ‘ Rebellious with heavy line-work’ , she has been working for the past 6 years across the board, creating murals, designing stalls, and making graphics for start ups and charities. Alana spoke to The Jumble Magazine about finding a creative style, the lock down, and moving back to Belfast after living in London.
The thing that’s most inspiring for me is seeing other people be creative. I think creativity is incredibly contagious and freeing. The thing that gets me most excited is bringing a sketch to life through a campaign or design project, (that and pizza with artichokes). I’m a sucker for a piece of great typography and am convinced there’s nothing better than a good looking screen print or hearing a song you like live for the first time.
It’s taken me a while to feel like I have settled in own creativity, but in that time I feel like I have been able to craft my skill and really hone my interests.
“My work is a summary of all my previous experiences and interests in a style that I feel reflects my enthusiasm for pop-culture and current affairs. It steers clear of corporate in favour of adding a little ‘edge’ to a project”
Lock down for me has been all about adjustments. Last year I was working a full-time job in the centre of London, now I am back at home and learning to adjust to freelance working again, all whilst living at my parents house. The freelance climate seems to be a little tougher, and putting yourself out there can be exhausting when you don’t always see the return for your efforts. It’s really easy to be hard on yourself when you don’t feel creative, particularly when the media is so full of heavy news stories and so many people are in such a transitional period of their work/life. But recently I have been finding solace in the fact that almost globally, everyone is going through a similarly tough time and in spite of that there have been some amazing examples of solidarity and creativity arise in the face of it all.
I have been blown away by the Belfast art scene since I moved back. 7 years ago when I graduated I felt like there wasn’t the same opportunities or artistic expression in the city that there would be in London, and although I may of misjudged that entirely, I still feel amazed at how far Belfast has developed to become a real creative hub and a place that I feel proud to call home. It’s a small city with the heart and support of a place much bigger.
Hot Tea, No Shoes, Radio
By Sam DineenThe grey has hazed over
In the sixth month of Sundays
Hot tea, no shoes, radio.
The warmer days
Feel further away
Getting dressed- nowhere to go.
The Christmas incoming is closer now,
Than the last one we had passed.
The summer is slipping out of reach,
I’m going nowhere fast.
Hot tea, no shoes, radio.
Small comforts behind closed doors.
Dry hands, long phone calls, no destination walks,
Remembering things from before.
Department stores, sore feet, wet hair, heavy bags
Packed pubs and sardine can buses.
Kisses hello, kisses goodbye,
Shared drinks, long queues, laughter, parades,
Borrowed lighters, calling taxis, spilling drinks,
Long days, long nights, 4am chips
And coming home after it all-
Waking up the next morning,
Sunday- Nowhere to go
Hot tea, no shoes, radio.