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Meet some of our enterprising alumni of colour who are using their creativity to go it alone

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Jacqueline Douglas, Vuillard Wallpaper. Image courtesy of the artist.
Written by
Eleanor Harvey
Published date
01 October 2021

We wanted to take this opportunity to highlight members of the UAL Alumni of Colour Association (AoCA) who are using their creativity to establish their own businesses and brands. The graduates below all have interesting and varied careers, and there is often a strong ethical foundation to their work, whether it be an environmental or social focus.

The AoCA is a supportive community that works to increase the visibility of people of colour in the creative industries - and celebrates their work and achievements.

Alex Makes

Graphic Designer and Founder, Novel Notes

Photo of a selection of notebooks by Novel Notes
Alex Makes, Novel Notes

Alex Makes, who uses the pronouns they/them, graduated in 2011 from London College of Communication (LCC) with BA (Hons) Design for Graphic Communication. They've continued to work as a freelance graphic designer for a wide range of clients.

"I had some profound personal experiences including a battle with a chronic illness that led me to re-evaluate my priorities - what can I do with my limited energy and time? How can my efforts make a difference? The necessity of efficiently planning my days and exploring my own values through creativity gave me focus and drive. But when I think about the potential of Novel Notes and businesses like it, I'm even more excited that I can be part of something that is much bigger than me."

Novel Notes is a unique brand created with ethics at the forefront, symbolising the struggle and simplistic beauty of doing our best with the resources available to us. Novel notebooks are made using recycled paper and board and bound with aluminium discs that are custom made by skilled machinists in the UK. The notebooks are refillable, customisable, and recyclable. All materials and processes, including paper, paint and printing are cruelty-free and vegan.

Whilst working on raising the profile of sustainable stationery products in the UK, Alex is currently taking on freelance work and collaborating on creative projects with individuals and organisations that aim to do good, reduce harm, and prioritise ethical and sustainable practices.

To find out more, email Alex at hello@alexmakes.co

Jacqueline Douglas

Artist and Interior Designer

Photo of Jacqueline smiling to the camera. She's holding paint brushes and is surrounded by her work.
Jacqueline Douglas

Jacqueline Douglas initially completed a Foundation Art & Design course at Central Saint Martins (CSM) in 2010, before completing her BA (Hons) in Textile Design. Here she talks about her experiences as growing up mixed-race in England, and how this has influenced her designs.

“As a mixed-race child growing up in a predominantly white area, I used art to ‘situate’ myself in the world. Aware that my parents’ inter-racial marriage made us an oddity within our local town, I would sit at home behind the sofa and draw my own world, focusing particularly on interior spaces; if this world didn’t suit me, then I’d create my own.

“Fast forward to adulthood and drawing remains my first love… and, as a designer, I’m still creating interior spaces. I graduated with BA (Hons) in Textile Design, CSM in 2014. As a mature student I sometimes felt like an outsider amongst my younger peers so, on graduating, I approached the University and set up the UAL Mature Student Network. Graduating later in life has its challenges; a new graduate is generally expected to be young and I’ve often had to generate my own opportunities via previous personal networks.

“At the same time my graduation work had been picked up by a leading textiles brand and I became represented by an agent. The design was inspired by the complexities of being mixed heritage and also the poetry of Lemn Sissay. The prospect of my collection, entitled Inglabetween, adorning the homes of Middle England would have made my younger self smile.

“Working as a designer within the Luxury Interiors sector at Savoir Beds provided a great insight into high-end design and the fusing of age-old craft with cutting-edge technology. However, ultimately, my ethos is democratic design for all and, during the lockdown, I’ve been able to put this into action. For over a year I’ve been Project Managing the refurbishment of a huge gothic church in West London; designing a community space that now includes a café, work/hire space and creche.

“My art practise continues and I’m currently designing a new textiles collection whilst working with the charity Hestia in order to provide an art programme for survivors of modern slavery.

“Reviewing my art practice, it occurs to me I’ve been on a quest throughout my career; to design environments that accommodate and welcome all, very much like the spaces I first envisaged as a child.”

Olu Ode

Creative Strategist and Chief Operating Officer, ACTs37

Photo of Olu smiling into the camera. He's wearing a yellow beanie, white shirt and burgundy jacket.
Olu Ode

Olu Ode is a creative strategist, associate lecturer and writer. Having graduated from the BA (Hons) Fashion Journalism course at London College of Fashion (LCF), UAL in 2015, Olu completed his Masters in Global Journalism at The University of Sheffield. This was followed by a brief time working journalism before moving into the corporate world.

After a few years, Olu made the switch into entrepreneurship and partnered with a friend and fellow UAL graduate to establish ACTs37, a black-owned and London-based digital design and branding agency. Within ACTs37 he is the co-owner and COO.

Whilst co-running ACTs37, Olu learnt about the Shade’s of Noir/UAL ‘Teaching Within’ programme, and took the opportunity to go into Higher Education teaching and learning,

He’s currently completing his PgCert in Academic Practice (Design, Art and Communication), having taught as an associate lecturer on the postgraduate MA Narratives course at Central Saint Martins (CSM).

Lastly, Olu is also a poet-writer and is currently working on his poetry collection which he hopes to publish in the coming years.

Oma Okolo

Artist

Painting by Oma
Oma Okolo, Pollen. Image courtesy of the artist

Oma graduated from the BA (Hons) Book Arts & Craft course at LCC in 2008, and since then her love of books has continued to inspire her artistic practice.

“My work is inspired by the spontaneity of scribble and the energy of abstract expressionism. I am drawn to doodling because of the freedom it gives you to explore ideas you did not even know you had, totally tapping into the subconscious; finding peace in that moment of mindfulness and the flow of creativity unhindered by expectations you set on yourself.

“This love of spontaneous doodling drew me to study BA (Hons) Book Arts & Craft at LCC. I wanted to be able to create art in the form of a book, tell a visual story that would be so much more than turning pages. Whilst studying Book Art, my aim was to learn to create 3-dimensional art that could tell a story. I was very interested in printmaking, digital illustration and letterpress incorporated into the form of a book object.

“A few years after graduating, I didn’t want to be the one telling the visual story. I wanted to create books that would encourage the buyer to tell a story.  I would make blank books with painted and mixed media covers. To me, it is very important for art to be open to interpretation allowing the recipient of book art to put their own stamp on it.  When creating book covers, I would paint, use found objects, recycled material and organic material like leaves.

“When I am not making books, I paint and that’s when I tell a story using colour, found objects and recycled material. I love how leaves, flowers, bits of fabric and found objects interact with paint on a canvas. I love to hide words within my paintings, it just makes it so much more fun for me.

“At the moment I work from my studio at the London School of Mosaic as well as work as a Teaching Assistant in a SEND school. I get so much inspiration from both workplaces.

“The handmade paper I use within some of my books is made by students with special educational needs and disabilities. I buy the handmade paper from the school and incorporate it into the pages of the books I make. I use this paper because it is made with such freedom of expression, every single sheet is different. The students are not constrained by making sheets of similar weight or style.

“I find that the delineation of colour within the tiles used to create mosaics informs my thought process when painting. I sometimes find myself using angular lines and set shapes.  I am becoming more deliberate when pouring paint or splattering and this definitely stems from me witnessing how intentional mosaic artists work.

“In my home life, I have been inspired by the logic of mathematics which is all down to my son. His love of maths piqued my interest in the fitting together of forms which led to me making right-angled concertina journals as well as being drawn to Fibonacci sequencing in design.”

Alex Dawson-Banson

Artist and designer

Photo of Alex looking into the camera.
Alex Dawson-Banson

Alex graduated with a BA (Hons) in Graphic and Media Design from LCC in 2020. An artist and designer, Alex’s work is focused on concepts and aesthetics.

“Although graduating in the middle of a pandemic wasn’t easy, it has provided me with experiences, ideas and relationships that I would not have come across otherwise. My work tends to focus a lot on personal reflections, narratives and concepts. As an avid lover of colour, mixed media and underlying meanings, I try to incorporate all these elements into everything I do. I mostly express my creativity through visual art such as collages, however, I also like to experiment with digital work and social media content. Having recently completed an art production internship and soon stepping into an exhibition host role, I’m currently exploring my place in the creative industry as well as developing personal projects such as my own fashion brand focused on self-expression.”

Cristina Reynoso

Content Editor

Photo of Cristina smiling into the camera. She's wearing all black and behind her there is a protest.
Cristina Reynoso

Cristina graduated in 2016 from the MA Publishing course at LCC. In the last few years, she has combined her passions for activism and media into an incredibly varied career. She has also taken up the voluntary role of Content Editor for the AoCA, so keep an eye out for her work! Here she tells us a bit more about her career.

“After graduating from MA Publishing at LCC, I went back to Mexico for three years, where I started a children’s books publishing project, Tera Ediciones with an old friend. Our goal was to find and publish new local and national authors, so we launched a national narrative prize. The winners were awarded the opportunity to be published and an advance against royalties.

“Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and a few other obstacles, we had to stop working for a while. But last year the Mexican government granted us a fund to complete our project, and the two winning stories, Mariquita Dedos en la Nariz (Mariquita Nose Fingers) and Los Superpoderes de Sofía (Sofía’s Superpowers), are due to be published digitally by the end of this year.

“Besides this, two other events helped shape my professional fate: my volunteering at an animal shelter and the rise of the feminist movement in Mexico. That is how I became involved in activism. Now, I combine both my passions: media and activism.

“After returning to the UK in 2020, I started working for two NGOs: Animal Rebellion (as the Press Coordinator) and the Latin American Bureau (as a Spanish-English translator). The former demands a transition to a plant-based food system to fight climate and animal emergencies; the latter is a platform that focuses on Latin America social and environmental struggles. Besides this, I also proudly joined the AoCA as a content editor to use my skills to help to spotlight successful UAL alumni of colour.

“I never really thought I could merge both my activism and my love for media/publishing. I never actually thought of dedicating my life to this, so I am pleasantly surprised with the curveballs life threw at me.

“The course at LCC gave me the foundations to start a career in the UK and make the right connections. Therefore, I will always be grateful to the UAL community, so I see this as an opportunity to give back and contribute to helping strengthen it.”

George Adesegun

Creative Director, Eko Atlantic Jeans UK

Photo of a person from behind, wearing double dark denim with 'Eko Atlantic Jeans UK' embroidered across the top of the jeans
Image courtesy of George Adesegun/Eko Atlantic Jeans UK

George studied at LCC in 2007, on the Digital Production Diploma.

Born in London in 1965, George was raised in Lagos, Nigeria. At the age of eighteen, he returned to England to study fashion and in 1991 he started his own eponymous designer label, George Adesegun.

Throughout the '90s, George worked on both his own label and as a freelance designer for a number of other companies and couture designers, including Frank Gower in Amsterdam. His ready-to-wear line was sold in the major shopping centres chains Bluewater, and Lakeside as well as in various boutiques around the country.

Recently, George has launched his eco-friendly denim brand Eko Atlantic Jeans UK. The first collection, which includes clothing, footwear and accessories, is made using environmentally-friendly fabrics and practices. From hemp cotton fibre, zero chemicals and recycled rainwater in the production of the denim; to using food waste such as apple skin, pineapple fibres, and cactus to create natural leather. George’s target is to create a 100% circular product.

With an aesthetic influenced by the rich cultural heritage of Africa, and led by African creative’s, George is aiming for Eko Atlantic Jeans UK to be a major African denim brand.

George; “There is a well-known African saying, ‘you are what you eat'. But in the future of fashion and for the sake of our environment and sustainable world, we and the fashion industry need to coin a new saying; ‘we wear what we eat’. The brand supports the use of bio- and organic materials in the fashion industry, promoting the growth of the circle of our food chain from consumption to waste and wearable products we aim to lead by example.”

With Eko Atlantic Jeans UK, George wants to “engage with customers in an honest way that excites them about the more responsible fashion industry”.

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