This pandemic is really forcing me to take stock of who I am creatively and where I’m going in my career. During the last lockdown I was inspired by other designers’ stories and, with only the one client left, I was managing the new down time with personal creative projects, talking to other creatives on social media and finally gaining the confidence to say “I am an autodidact” without fear of being shamed.
This second lockdown, however, has been quite the opposite. The lack of work has been really getting me down. I’m finding it extremely difficult to stay positive and inspired, not to mention the huge creative block that I’m experiencing. How do I move forward? How do I rekindle my love for design? I guess, as you do with most relationships that lose their spark, you go back to the beginning. So here I am – going back – in the hope that I can resuscitate myself back into creative action.
It started with one word: Kosali, the Nepalese word for gift.
Kosali was the social enterprise my husband and I set up when we were first married, designing fair trade paper products handmade in Kathmandu (where my husband was born).
The key ingredient: Nepali Lokta Paper. Not only is it beautiful in aesthetics, texture and craftsmanship, it’s also a recyclable and sustainable resource renowned for its durability. The paper is made from the inner fibrous bark of the Daphne shrub that grows in the Himalayan region which is then crafted with raw materials, traditional skills and methods passed from generation to generation to make Lokta paper. After months of research, discussions, and trial runs in both Kathmandu and Edinburgh, we had a viable product. One that not only helped the environment but also opened up opportunities for women in work back in Nepal.
My creativity was in abundance, and consumers loved my designs. My confidence grew, and we created an in-house design department. We had, in effect, expanded our services to a much wider community and soon realised that Kosali had to be re-branded to increase business and an online presence. As we had learned so much about the running of a business within our social enterprise, making the name more memorable and easy to pronounce would be a game changer.
We invested in an intensive marketing strategy that led to re-branding Kosali as Paper Stuff. With this re-invention we became relatable, recognised and more than just a retailer. A new community of paper lovers was formed, and the exposure of the designs opened doors for side projects with small start-ups. Before long, I was a self-employed graphic designer with a worthy portfolio and a group of eager, enthusiastic clients. After struggling to find my place for so long, I was doing what I loved.
Looking back at this time, I think maybe it was the excitement of a new project. I was learning new skills. I was researching and brainstorming new ideas and creating new designs. The process was fresh and personal. I had full creative input in addition to being part of a team that collectively had the drive and enthusiasm to bring a product to life.
I recently read an article by Creative Boom on Why More Creatives Are Turning to Postgraduate Study During A Global Pandemic. It made me realise that I haven’t flatlined. I simply need to breathe new life into my career. I need to find something that elevates my drive to create. It also brought a new idea to mind: Maybe I should go back to school!
Retrain. Rebrand. Reinvest in myself.