I was perched at the very top of a flimsy ladder when the mountain of pornography beside me started to lean alarmingly. I had a choice; either jettison the sheet of vinyl stickers I was holding above my head and steady the ceiling-high stack of X-rated material, or allow it to come crashing down over me and obliterating the neatly arranged displays below. As this scene unfolded, I began to wonder “how did I end up here?”
The year was 2015, and I was a newly minted, bright-eyed graphic design graduate. After dozens of thanks-but-no-thanks email rejections, I finally managed to secure an informal internship at the BEEP Studio, a two-person operation located in Bournemouth’s Triangle. I would be responsible for creating designs for vinyl stickers, which would then be adhered to shop windows and walls. On my first day, it was revealed to me that my first job would be for one of BEEP’s most valued clients, a sex shop called Easy Tiger, located across the street from the studio. And so on a cold December afternoon, I found myself crammed into a cupboard filled top-to-bottom with a wide array of silicone devices, eating my Subway sandwich lunch, and preparing for the job ahead. At the end of the day the vinyl was in place, the walls and ceilings now covered with offers and recommendations. As I got ready to leave, the owner of the shop gave me a pat on the back and offered me a gift card, which I politely declined.
The following week, I received my next assignment. To my delight, I would be accompanying my boss Dave to London, where we would deliver and install vinyl signage to a former car park turned music and performance art space called The Vinyl Factory. We arrived mid-afternoon, met by our contact Emily and promptly ushered to the first of two installations we’d be working on, called ‘The Visitors’. This piece was created by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, and consisted of nine huge screens each playing a film of an individual musician performing in different rooms of the same gothic mansion. As you walked around you got the sense that you were ‘mixing’ the various instruments yourself. This was all immensely impressive to me, and I remember walking around the darkened room, feeling that for once I was exactly where I wanted to be. Our installation work proceeded efficiently, and when we finished we were met by Kjartansson himself, accompanied by his Icelandic entourage, all of whom looked dispossessed, wearing sharp suits and silver biker rings on each finger. Very rock ’n’ roll.
We reconvened with Emily, who guided us to the next installation. This was situated in a much smaller room, and was representing the release of a new album called ‘Howl’, described by the artist Kristin Anna herself as ’Satanist feminine ambient music’. Whilst this originally raised some eyebrows with me and Dave, we unfurled our vinyl designs and set to work. Emily left us and closed the door. Everything seemed fine. And then the music started. I use music loosely here, and while I am nothing if not open-minded, this was something else. A repetitive, yowling caterwauling, devoid of instrumentation or lyrics, it sounded like a mermaid being flung headlong through a black hole. Dave and I stared at each other, taken aback. We decided that we would grab Emily and ask her to turn the music off during our work. Dave grabbed the door handle, and despite some heavy shaking, it wouldn’t budge. We realised we had been locked in, trapped with the interminable wailing drone. The only thing we could do was get on with the job and hope someone discovered us. We tried; we really did, but were horrified to find the vinyl just wouldn’t stick to the walls of the room. The swirling satanic dirge blared, Dave and I swore, whilst the vinyl peeled limply off the wall. After two solid hours we were mercifully released by a bewildered Emily. Dave and I emerged in a state of complete incoherence, punch-drunk from the atonal onslaught. If that’s what Kristin Anna was going for with her music, I’d say she nailed it.
I left the BEEP studio a short while later, as it was apparent that business just wasn’t busy enough to offer me full time employment. Although initially deflated, I was soon picked up by a sportswear company – a highlight of which saw me designing Scotland’s kit for the Netball World Cup in 2019. I look back at my first job with a great deal of fondness; not only because it gave me an endless supply of good stories to tell at bars, but because it showed me just how varied the role of a graphic designer can be. Having joined Bright Blue Day as their new Junior Graphic Designer, I’m excited to experience a new array of challenges in this next step of my career.
Oh and I’m sure you’re curious about Kristin Anna’s album. After a three hour search I managed to find it online. This video was uploaded a year ago and has only one like – mine. ‘Like’ is not at all how I would describe my feelings for this track, but I wanted to ensure I could find it again. So here it is, presented for your listening displeasure. I hope you’ll agree that I wasn’t making any of this up.