Sometimes, in this increasingly uncertain and conflicted world, all it takes is a little helping hand to get the ball rolling.
Such is the case with the Salford-based artist Mason Griffiths, who left University a couple of years ago and found himself thrust into a bleakly competitive job market. He was able to transcend the doldrums thanks to the help of a recruitment agency that exists to help under-represented individuals find their way in the working world.
Today, we put Mason under the Member Spotlight and explore his fascination with history, his message of positivity and acceptance and why he thinks unpaid internships should be a thing of the past in 2020.
Where are you based now and who do you work for?
I’m based in Salford and currently work on the social media team for BBC Children’s as a Researcher - which includes planning & designing content, editing videos and some illustration! I also do some illustration freelance work on the side.
How did you get into the industry?
In 2018, I left the University of Salford with a degree in graphic design and, graduating into a very competitive job market, I found it difficult to find work. I was lucky enough to come across an amazing recruitment agency called Creative Access, whose “mission is to help underrepresented communities, not just enter the creative industries, but to thrive when they get in.”
I really admire their dedication to helping BAME people and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds into the industry. I have them to thank for helping me into the traineeship that started my career at the BBC, as a person from a working-class background.
In terms of my illustration freelance work, that all started back in May as a way to keep me busy in lockdown!
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
I’ve always been fascinated by history, if I wasn’t in this industry I’d probably be working in a museum or out on archaeological digs! But, I love my job and I’m happy with the path I chose.
Can you explain your creative process?
I spent years trying to invent an illustration style until I decided to just embrace the child-like way I’ve always naturally drawn, which I’ve combined with my digital and Photoshop skills.
The most important stage in my illustration work is sketching - getting an idea of the composition I want, before drawing it out properly. The next really important stage is picking the right colour scheme, and adding a little bit of shading so the drawing doesn’t look too flat!
©BBC and Studio AKA
What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?
It’s easy to become unmotivated with work from time to time, and I think it’s important to remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing - what’s the aim of the work? What will the work achieve?
Sometimes at work I can begin to feel uninspired and bogged down, it’s times like these I have to remind myself that the work I do is helping to cultivate social media communities in which we can spread positivity and acceptance on platforms that are often filled with negativity and trolls. So, I often remind myself of the positive impact my work may have. If I’m struggling to find that motivation, I take a break and allow myself to recharge - it always comes back.
With my illustration work, I find it easy staying motivated because I love doing it, and I find the colouring-in stage to be quite therapeutic!
What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?
I’m most proud of being part of a team that uses social media to spread positivity and acceptance. Being able to use my skills to make content that encourages the acceptance of LGBTQ+ people or educates people about racism and many other things, that’s what makes my job worthwhile.
For example, in my first month as a trainee on the team, I worked with a bunch of LGBTQ+ celebrities to help curate a collection of Instagram stories giving CBBC’s LGBTQ+ teen followers advice for Pride Month. I’m proud that I was able to make Pride content that could actually be helpful and have an impact on young people.
How do you recharge away from the office?
I try to spend a lot of time away from my laptop and phone. I love to paint, go for walks and listen to music - and before lockdown, I’d often go walk around art galleries and museums. I love watching Netflix too, but I think it’s important to get away from screens as much as possible!
What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?
I think it’s really important to gain as many skills as you possibly can! The more strings you have to your bow, the more opportunities you’ll have. Throughout university and after, I made an effort to acquire skills not only in graphic design but also in social media, illustration, video editing, animation and prop design.
I’ve used all of these skills in my job, which has allowed me to work with other teams outside of my own and gain some amazing experience! If you’re presented with a project you have no experience in, say yes and figure out the ‘how’ later.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the creative industries?
My one big hope for the creative industries is that they will one day be fully inclusive and effectively represent everybody. In light of everything going on in the world and the Black Lives Matter movement, important questions are starting to be asked, and the industry is taking a step in the right direction.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
I believe unpaid internships should be a thing of the past - they give an advantage to people who can afford to work for free, and this is really damaging the possibility of having a fully inclusive industry that properly represents everyone.