We’re lucky enough to have a cracking team of illustrators at Standard Issue and thought it was about time we got to know them a bit better as well as admiring their work. In the latest in a series of profiles, say hello to Laura Swaddle.
Location: Gateshead, Tyne and Wear
Official Job Title: Graphic Designer/Illustrator
What was the first thing you wanted to be? A palaeontologist! I was five and all the other little girls in my class wanted to be ballet dancers.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist/illustrator? I’ve always drawn from being tiny, but it took me until I was about 15 to realise that I stood a chance of making a life of it. We all took a career aptitude test at school and ‘graphic designer’ came up as my top result. Once I read the description, that was my mind made up – I don’t think I’ve entertained another career option since.
When you’re not working, what else do you like to do? I am a hardcore crafter. Knitting, crochet, sewing, dressmaking – you name it, I’m into it. Cross stitch is my big thing though. I actually run a side business making little cross stitch portraits of people in the style of 8-bit video game graphics. All of this now plays second fiddle to my (almost) two-year-old though. If he’s awake, there’s not much crafting going on.
What has been your proudest creative moment to date? Would it be a total cliché to say working for Standard Issue? Because it’s been an amazing opportunity and some serious fun to work on. I think I’d have to say setting up my own business as well. It’s hard work but the joy of being my own boss, choosing my clients and being taken seriously for what I do is an absolute dream.
What brings you the most joy? Obviously, my little boy but also a whole bunch of smaller things like finishing something that’s been a real labour of love and sending it out into the world (be that an illustration or a crocheted blanket).
What makes you angry? Misogyny and small-mindedness. I overheard a blood-boiling incident just this afternoon where a guy was loudly proclaiming to his female co-workers – seemingly seriously – that “if women ruled the world we’d all still be living in caves.” The idea that people like that still exist is mind-boggling to me.
Professionally, who has been your biggest inspiration? On a worldwide scale, the designers Joy Cho and Jessica Hische are enormously inspiring to me. They’ve both created amazing work and made names for themselves at relatively young ages. Closer to home, I have friends around me who are total creative powerhouses in my eyes – I love bouncing ideas around with them.
What advice would you give a woman who wants a career in illustration/design? Go for it. Design, historically, has been such a male-dominated industry – we need more women in our studios. I also think it’s really important to find your own style. It’s all too tempting when starting out to try to copy ‘trendy’ design styles as there’s an attitude that that’s what will get you noticed by studios/clients. However, it’s so much more appealing when someone has their own unique style and spin on things – that’s the kind of thing that will keep you in work for a very long time.
How do you define success? It’s changed a lot throughout my life, but at the moment I would definitely equate success with happiness.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever had? “You can wear many hats, as long as you wear them well.” For someone like me, who’s always wanting to try a million new projects and ideas, that’s very useful.
What’s your favourite photograph? It’s not the most amazing photograph ever taken, but it’s certainly my most special one. It’s the first ever picture I took of my son when he was born. We’d had some medical complications so it was a few hours before things were calm enough to take pictures.
It was about 3am, my partner had been sent home and it was just the baby and me in a quiet, dark room on our own. I only had a very dim lamp for light, but I just couldn’t wait until the morning to take his picture. It’s a very special and slightly bewildering memory.
Where did you go on your favourite holiday? Not the most exotic location but any time I end up in Disneyland is just fine by me.
Who can’t you live without? My son and my partner. Those guys are the reason I get up in the morning (quite literally in my son’s case).
What can’t you live without? Peanut butter. I went without it for nine months whilst I was pregnant and it was brutal.
Which song could be used to soundtrack your life so far? I’d really struggle to pick just one song but Gwen Stefani would definitely sing it. She’s amazing. I want to be her when I grow up.
Of all the illustrations you’ve done for Standard Issue Magazine, which is your favourite? My very first one for Anne Edmonds’ Eavesdropping story about ‘Maureen and the Sausages’. Firstly it’s a gloriously strange story, so it was a gift to illustrate. Secondly, it was the first piece I did for Standard Issue and I remember smiling and thinking, “Oh yeah, these guys are going to be a lot of fun…”