5+2 Questions for Kiran Baclay, Graphic Designer & Illustrator
Art, the creative process and the challenges of changing careers
Kiran Baclay is a Graphic Designer and Illustrator based in Melbourne, Australia. After working in Hotel Management, Kiran turned her creative passion into a second career. Today, she specialises in handmade art, journaling and typography.
How would you describe your journey to becoming an artist? Was there a pivotal moment or did it happen gradually?
Mine was an unexpected journey. I studied hospitality and worked in the industry for 7 years. No matter how tired I was, what shift I had or how crappy a day it was, I would find myself coming home to work on something art-related. I felt safe and comfortable in my creative space.
During my hospitality years, I took workshops on the weekends that had me working with my hands such as pottery, calligraphy, and screen-printing. Seeing what I could create, built a desire of change and I wanted independence in my working life. I didn’t possess traditional art skills and for a while I thought this creativity would have to remain a hobby. It took two years of saving and working up the courage to switch careers at 30. It was scary, and I was reluctant, but I powered through. I wouldn’t have made the move if my husband and family weren’t supportive of the change and I’m forever grateful.
Art is an adventure. I feel my journey has only begun and I’m currently pushing myself to develop in knowledge and skill.
Can you think of an example of the support you received? Something seemingly minor perhaps, which had a big impact nonetheless?
Just before I decided to make the career change, I was panicking daily. I spoke with one of my brothers and asked for his thoughts. He offered straight-forward advice. “You have an opportunity to learn and further develop yourself. What are you waiting for?” At the time, it gave me the courage I needed. Looking back, I appreciate the support and am grateful for the push.
Can you walk us through the main steps of your creative process?
I have a different processes for my day job and freelance work, and for my side business.
My work process for freelance work is more structured in that I receive a brief followed by brainstorming and thumbnail sketches. There are multiple draft and feedback rounds before reaching the final design. I use an A4 notebook and plan out most things by hand before taking it to the computer. I’ve tried to shortcut it a few times and it just doesn’t work out. You have to follow the process!
The process for my side business is tougher as I’m the decision maker at every stage. Ideas come to me at random moments and I keep a running log of them either in a notebook or on Notion (app) so I don’t forget and can experiment in my studio. The brainstorming and research phase take longer as I need to source and order supplies (adhesive paper, fabric, packaging etc) and there are many trial and error moments.
Next comes the creating stage (drawing, printing, sewing), taking pictures of the products, editing the photos and building out listings on Etsy (descriptions, costs). While I am going through the motions of each step, I document my journey through journaling as well as capturing footage to share on YouTube.
It is said that art imitates life and life imitates art. Can you think of an example when something you created changed how you looked at the world?
I took an 8-week pottery course and at the end of it, everything I made was pretty horrible. There were many imperfections and cracks but nothing could downplay the pride I had for these ceramic bowls that were too small to hold anything. However, I loved them. In that moment I accepted all its flaws, even the tiny fingerprints I’d left from pressing the clay too hard.
I was introduced to the concept of wabi-sabi, seeing the beauty in imperfection, and accepting the impermanent nature of things.
What did you have to sacrifice to be able to do what you do today?
I had to abandon the progress I made in my hospitality career which was terrifying. I pretty much had to start over with my decision to switch careers. This meant going back to school and being a student again. My husband and I had to push back other plans but he’s supported my creative journey the entire time and continues to do so.
Looking back, it was the best decision I made for my career. I’ve gained an invaluable set of skills that I can now continue to build upon. I look at it as a blessing and am proud of myself.
Is there a skill set you acquired in your hospitality career that helps you with your creative work?
Most definitely. During my time working in hotels I learned to polish my soft skills. I am also organised and process oriented. Working in hospitality helped develop these further as most tasks had specific procedures. I have found these skills useful in my day-to-day as a graphic designer in relation to problem solving and trusting in the process!
Do you have a message of encouragement for anyone who might think their creative side is not worth exploring?
“It’s scary. I don’t have the skill set. I’m not an artist. What if I fail? What if I don’t find a job? What if I’m shit at it?” These were the excuses I used to make.
Stop making excuses and do it! Invest in yourself and keep learning. I implore you to try new things and don’t have any expectations. Go rock climbing, learn how to sign paint, take a Skillshare class. Focus on bettering yourself and don’t give up.
Enjoy the rest of your week,