Design Wright IE
In the digital era, we have an unprecedented level of access to art. Unfortunately, this also means that many artists are not being paid. This comes as no surprise to anyone who produces or consumes art in a conscientious manner. Social media accounts have sprung up in all languages, urging people to fairly compensate artists for their work. Get Artists Paid and Respecte Ton Artiste are two of my favourites.
This week, I am encouraging all my followers to check out the Etsy of Megan Wright of Design Wright IE. Following a few weeks of unemployment after Christmas, she decided to set up a mini-project for charity. She drew cartoon portraits of people who donated money to Dog's Trust. "This kind of took off, raising almost €800 in 10 days," she tells me. "So I figured, okay, people like some of my work, maybe I can start to project it more and see what sort of responses I get."
Originally from the Northwest of Ireland, Megan has never had a hard time getting along with an eclectic mix of people. There “wasn't a whole lot to do other than sport” when she was growing up in Donegal so she spent a lot of her free time drawing. "Unfortunately, I have the spatial awareness of a spoon, so sports were never my forté,” she confesses. “I have friends whose primary interests are sport, but if you try to learn about another person's passions and interests then friendships are easy.” Her best friend? A costume designer and avid roller-derbyist.
Megan is my friend thanks to Irish Twitter. When I first met her in Dublin last year, she was wearing a pair of bright pink dungarees. I was mesmerized by her lilting accent as well. She tells me she’s always had a “vague interest in radio.” She classifies her personal style as a mélange of random charity shop finds and ugly oversized shirts. “This could also be mistaken for laziness in a lot of ways, she laughs.
She's incredibly thoughtful and meticulous. If there's a birthday coming up she will spend about two weeks on a gift so that tends to take up a lot of her time outside of work. “I also spend ages editing work to be sent off to printing,” she admits. “I edit all my work myself." She likes being able to choose the exact paper weights and sizes that she wants.
Megan currently teaches English after having completed a degree in film production … almost by accident. "I’d completed my first year of architecture and, on a whim, decided to drop out,” she says. “I plucked Film and Broadcasting with French out of the sky and applied." She possessed no knowledge about the program, only a love of languages. This remains, however, the best under-researched decision she's ever made. She found the mixture of criticism and encouragement in Film Studies much more motivating than Architecture. Her favourite films are “quirky with a strong message” - Donnie Darko, Persepolis, Mary and Max, and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
Megan presently lives in Dublin, which she describes as "such a great city" as it's "small enough to get around by foot.” Her home region is beautiful but disadvantaged in terms of public transport. "Most people need to drive or own a car, which can be difficult in Ireland due to the cost of getting insured as a driver under the age of 25," she laments. "But it's a great place to grow up, especially if you’re sports-orientated. Donegal is one of the surf capitals of the world."
Dublin, on the other hand, has cool cafés and art galleries galore. Megan particularly enjoys visiting Francis Bacon's studio because of his amazing ability to express emotions through painting. "Dublin has rebuilt his studio in the Hugh Lane gallery, which shows his chaotic work environment," she tells me. Speaking of chaos, Megan echoes what Rachel Byrne told me last month about Dublin's housing crisis. Rents have skyrocketed. "It’s actually more expensive to live in Dublin than Paris or London right now, which is what drives a lot of young people to relocate."
RS: Was this a blessing in disguise for you?
MW: Yes, because it gave me the push to get out of my comfort zone and leave. I wanted to travel and spend some time exploring different artistic avenues.
RS: You travelled for most of the past year. What did that teach you?
MW: As cliché as it sounds, travelling opened my eyes to a lot of possibilities. It was my first time travelling alone, something I hadn’t considered until a friend of mine mentioned that she travelled Thailand on her own. Turns out it’s a lot easier than it sounds.
RS: It's relaxing to make your own agenda, isn't it?
MW: You're going exactly where you want to go. Some days I just wandered around going to cafés. There was no pressure to do all of the tourist attractions. Plus I got to visit basically all of the art galleries I could find.
RS: Tell me about the people you encountered.
MW: There's less of a need to interact with random people when you’re with friends. I ended up meeting a massive amount of people from all over the world, some of whom I’m still in touch with.
RS: Who was the coolest?
MW: A sixty nine year old lady from New York who was staying in the same hostel in Queenstown, New Zealand. She’d never left New York until she was sixty because she never had the money. So then she decided to try to catch up with all of the travelling she missed out on. Before arriving in New Zealand she had travelled Australia with her husband. But he was eighty one and was slowing her down, so she sent him home and continued on to New Zealand by herself. She’d made friends with literally everyone in the hostel (most of whom were at least thirty years her junior) and at one point she had the whole hostel singing Happy Birthday to a Dutch girl she’d met twenty minutes earlier.
RS: I love people like that. And your next adventure will be in Réunion?
MW: I’m so excited. It’s a tiny French-speaking island in Africa, off the coast of Madagascar. I came across a job advertisement for a school there and applied without thinking too much into it. I assumed I wouldn’t really get it as I’m still pretty inexperienced as a teacher. But the interview went well and this week I booked my flights (a twenty three hour journey). I will probably spend a lot of time sweating and wondering why on earth I moved somewhere so close to the equator.
RS: Who are you teaching?
MW: A mix of really young kids, teenagers and adults. As well as working within public high schools and doing community-based projects with trainee teachers from the island. I’m also hoping that I can finally reach fluency in French as I haven’t lived in France and immersion is pretty much the best way to learn a language.
RS: How does drawing help your teaching?
MW: I find that using drawings helps students remember certain vocabulary. Even drawing cartoons on the board whilst telling a story. It really works and makes the lessons a little more entertaining.
RS: What are the main challenges of your art?
MW: Self-esteem is a big thing. Wondering whether or not your work is actually "good" or if people are just being polite. But as it's not my main line of work, I don't really have to worry about pleasing clients. I think artists who work for [larger] companies have a very tough job trying to tailor their designs toward a brief or a customer's requirements. Motivation is also difficult. When doing a piece for a gift or a commission I find it easier to push myself because I know that I need to produce it for someone else.
RS: Favourite artists?
MW: Cliché but I adore Van Gogh. I love how his work reflects how his mental state fluctuated throughout his life. His self-portraits show the many changes in his views of himself. I also love the work of David Hockney; it's very stylistic and distinguishable. And, finally, studying surrealism in university really inspired me to be more abstract in my ideas. Dali's work is so difficult to comprehend it made me realise I could make up my own rules for designing and that composition isn't always important.
/// Check out Megan’s Etsy before she shuts it down next month (being so isolated in Réunion, printing won’t be as accessible and postage will be costly)! // Twitter // Instagram //