How did you first start your career journey? When did it ‘click’ that design for film and TV was what you were going to pursue?
I knew I wanted to work in a creative field since as long as I knew what ‘work’ was. As a child, I was forever drawing and making little books, or dolls’ house furniture. By the time it got to the stage where I had to decide what I wanted to study, I decided to do Art and Design at college (specialising in Illustration and Graphic Design) and then later studied Graphic Design at Falmouth University.
It all clicked that I wanted to be a Graphic Designer in Film when I went to Dublin for Annie Atkins’ Workshop for Graphic Design in Filmmaking and TV. That was when all the lightbulbs lit up, and I put all my energy into getting my foot in the door of the film world.
When did it become a passion which you believed could turn into a paid position? Did you do lots of work for free to build up your name originally?
There was a lot of self-initiated work before I could even consider moving into the industry. I decided to design a suite of graphic props for Mary Poppins. I had to think about what items would suit her character, and I did a lot of research into the early 1900s. I made sure every detail was correct to that time period: everything from the right paper sizes to making sure paper clips were suitably Edwardian.
While working on these self-initiated projects in the evening, I worked in a bakery in the day. I saved all the money I could over nine months, so I could afford to do some unpaid work experience in the industry.
How long did it take to build up a reputation that leveraged you into new jobs?
Thankfully, the unpaid work placements quickly turned into paid jobs. Once you’ve got your foot in the door, things get easier: graphic design for film is a pretty small world, so you’ll often get recommended by word-of-mouth. The representative body for graphics designers in film and TV — The Graphics Union — is also a great way to get to know other people and network.
How would you describe your style, what are your influences?
My work is hugely influenced around my love of typography, ephemera and the natural world. I am constantly inspired by the world around me and I like to seek out the quirks and imperfections of the everyday. I’ve spent a lot of time in antique, vintage shops and markets, but my favourite place for inspiration is my mum's bridal studio. There’s lots of beautiful packaging for buttons and threads, and she has old beautiful diaries and books that belonged to my family in the past.
A lot of my favourite work has one eye on the past. There’s comfort in nostalgia for a lot of people: it’s like being home, even (or especially) if referencing a time they did not experience.
Did you receive support through mentorship at any point in your journey?
I have been very lucky to have Annie Atkins take me under her wing. Annie saw something in me when I first wanted to pursue the career in film, and she has encouraged and guided me all the way. I owe a lot to her!
What are some of the most useful skills you have learnt along the way?
Probably to not be so sensitive (although I still don’t have the world’s thickest skin!). But I’ve slowly learnt not to take things so personally and to move on. I also didn’t have a background in film when I started, so I’ve got good at learning on the job and picking things up quickly.
Why do you do what you do?
I love storytelling, and to be able to be a part of telling a visual story is a real honour. To design things that transport people to a different time, or a different world, is like magic. If anything I do helps with that journey of storytelling, or sparks joy in someone, that delights me.
I’m very inspired by the visual world, and beautiful things, and I hope to inspire others too.
I’m sure there’s been a few teething problems along the way, share any here which you feel would help another avoid!
It’s not necessarily all Hollywood glamour… A lot of the buildings you work in are falling down, freezing and there are some very dodgy toilets. The hours are long and many of the studios are on the outskirts of London, in Hertfordshire, Surrey, etc. This means I’ve had to lodge during the week for many jobs, which can be very lonely.
But these are relatively minor things, really. I love the industry and wouldn’t want to do anything else!
What have been the highlights of your career?
In February 2018, I was lucky enough to work as a trainee for 4 weeks on “The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle”. The story is based in 1840s England, which was a fascinating era to work in. It was also my first time on a film set and one of my first jobs. I remember walking into Shepperton Studios at 7:30am on my first day, the sun just rising, I was shaking with nerves, carrying my overpacked rucksack and tool box. I saw a set of huge doors left ajar. I peaked in and saw a Victorian London scene painted in gorgeous pastel colours. It was magical and I felt like I had arrived.
Another highlight was working with Annie Atkins on her latest book “Fake Love Letters, Forged Telegrams, and Prison Escape Maps”. Annie asked me to do the photography and I feel so fortunate to have helped in the making of it. We pulled apart her Dublin studio to find all her props, her inspirations and tools. Getting to style these pieces, to bring them back to life was so much fun. The book is a great source of knowledge and inspiration for any graphic designer, illustrator or film fanatic. I highly recommend it!
My final highlight is getting to work on the third Fantastic Beasts movie alongside the dream team MinaLima. Wizards in the 1930s? It’s like a dream!
What is your best advice to others interested in going into your career?
Start your own projects and work on them like they are your job. Don’t wait for things to come along: create them yourself. Work hard. Find inspiration in the everyday, every day.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your industry? Do you believe it’s going to change in any way when things return to a new normal?
The film and TV industry has been affected pretty dramatically, in that all films and TV have been put on hold. The last film I was working on got shut down the very week we were supposed to start filming, after more than a year of people working on it.
Film and TV will have to change, particularly in the short term: social distancing rules make most scenes impossible for actors, and that’s before we even get on to the rest of the crew! Graphic design will have to change, too, as so much of it is based on collaborating with people, making things, touching things.
Tell us about what you are currently working on?
I have just released my own range of greeting cards, which is something I have wanted to do for a very long time. I love stationery and the range of cards is designed to encourage writing to your friends and loved ones, something that is more important now than ever. The designs are inspired by my love of ephemera and old lettering. Most importantly, 10% of profits are donated to the M.E.association – a cause very close to my heart.
What are your little moments of happiness throughout the day?
Watering my windowsill garden and potted rose plants. Talking to my little sister. Eating biscuits.
What’s your happy place?
I love the Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill. It’s beautiful and it combines a few of my favourite things: Victorian design, the natural world, and a rose garden!
The current situation has led me to do much more exploring of my local area, so I’m finding a lot of joy in the woodland and wildflowers of South London!
But when I am home in Cornwall, that would be walks along the Helford river and Grebe beach.
When did you last feel brave? How do you define bravery?
Not knowing when I will see my family again forces me, like so many others, to be brave right now. I am so lucky to have a very loving and supportive family that I miss so much. Bravery is being outside of your comfort zone, whether that’s for months or just a couple of seconds.
What do you wish to see more of in the world?
What inspires you?
My family, especially my little sister, Alice.
What do we need to be talking about more?
Chronic illnesses: M.E., Lyme disease, etc
Favourite adventure you’ve ever had?
A west coast road trip with my big brother in 2016.
What do we need to show more of in the world?
Friendship and equality.
What do you wish you’d known when you were young?
I wasn’t a big talker as a kid, so I wish I knew it’s OK to be quiet. It’s OK to listen. It’s OK not to articulate every thought.
Keep on keeping on!
What’s your dream?
To live in a log cabin in the woods, with a vegetable and flower garden.
Follow Flora Fricker's adventures on her Instagram @florafricker, find her beautiful work on www.florafricker.com and shop her gorgeous cards www.etsy.com/uk/shop/FloraFrickerStudio.