Illustration BA (Hons)
After discovering her talent of working incredibly well to briefs, Morgan decided that Illustration, and BCU, was the right choice for her. Nowadays, alongside a successful freelance career, Morgan has combined her artistic skills with her desire to be an entrepreneur and launched her very own stationary business Odd Orange.
“I always wanted to go to university and felt inspired to study Art or English, as I’d enjoyed creating art and writing stories growing up. For a long time, I planned on studying English Literature but I lost a lot of my steam and passion for it during my A-Levels. So I decided to pursue Art more seriously. I was studying Fine Art and Graphic Design and although I liked them both equally, my teacher told me that I responded a lot better to briefs and they recommended studying Illustration, as it was more in line of how I like to learn.
I looked at a lot of universities when I was considering which one I would choose to study at. But BCU was the only one that I went to that I truly loved and really inspired me too. The studio looked so welcoming, and the tutors were also really kind. I remember feeling valued by them and they made me feel like they really wanted me to be there.
I started freelance illustration in my third year at BCU. I published a book for my final project and it got a lot of attention, so I started taking on a lot of freelance work after that. Since then, I have worked with many well-known clients, including pizza business Franco Manca, Little White Lies film magazine and Title Cards, which saw my Black Lives Matter work for them displayed at a pop culture gallery in the United States. I was also able to work as the ‘Mentor is Residence’ at BCU, where I supported current students with drawing workshops and sessions, which was a lot of fun.
I chose to launch Odd Orange in November 2020. I’m an illustrator and bookbinder and wanted to combine the two crafts for a portfolio project. I made a range of handmade sketchbooks and notebooks and I loved the process so much, I decided to start a company off the back of it. It took me over a year to get to the point where I felt ready to launch the business.
Odd Orange is a handmade stationery business specialising in colourful, functional, and sustainable stationery. We make all of our books by hand in small batches from our Shropshire-based design studio and bindery. I sell handmade sketchbooks and notebooks in a variety of styles and papers, as well as hand-foiled greetings cards, art prints and stickers.
Almost everything is made by me at my studio in Shropshire. I use professional and historical bookbinding techniques, and the highest quality materials to produce a very well made product. The books open completely flat, are extremely durable, and have uniquely colourful and illustrative designs that draw from my experience as a freelance illustrator.
I wanted to be self-employed since my final year of university. I find that I’m a lot happier working to my own schedule with my own briefs. The plan was to originally be a freelance illustrator and sell art prints on the side as an extra revenue source. However, having a shop and selling handmade products turned out to be my favourite thing about my job, so that’s what inspired me.
The Illustration course is really good at preparing you to be a professional illustrator, providing you with the skills and experience required to be able to go out and do it. But working with BCU’s BSEEN programme, which offers students and recent graduates a start-up package to turn their business idea into reality, gave me the opportunity to learn how to turn those skills into a business. It was an amazing experience and I couldn’t recommend it more to anyone who is considering setting up a business or going self-employed.
It’s very difficult and requires a lot of work to start a business like this, but with lots of research and support from BCU, mentors, friends and family, it was mostly a matter of getting my head down and doing it. Getting a trademark and the legal aspects were the most difficult part of it for me. But making the products and seeing people’s reactions was by far the best.
Since graduating, I am most proud of setting up Odd Orange. I never thought that I would have the guts to set up my very own business. It’s a lot of work for one person, and as I had no business background, I have had to teach myself everything. Before graduating, I always thought that I would be an Illustrator for a company, and not have to worry about being in charge of my own finances as the thought of that absolutely terrified me, but it was important for me to overcome that fear. I realised that if I wanted to do what I really loved, I would have to bite the bullet and just do it.
I am continuing to work freelance alongside running the company for a while, just so I can use all of the company profits to grow it. I also really enjoy freelance work so it’ll be nice to do the two. But in the future, I would love to focus full-time on Odd Orange. I want to grow the business to the point where I can employ others and have my own premises.
My advice to current students would be to take up every opportunity possible. Attend the talks provided for you. I learned so much during those sessions and I got to meet many successful illustrators and be inspired by them too. Also, don’t just rely on the course. I did a lot of research alongside my studies and it improved my work so much.
I AM BCU to me means being part of the university’s community, being a member of BCU even after graduating, and taking all the things I learned during my time as a student and applying them into my everyday life. I say that I went to BCU with pride. My time there has benefitted me for life.”