Alex is building her portfolio with work placement at West Studios

We spoke to Alex Burling, a Level 3 Art and Design student who is currently doing a placement at West Studios. She is working with Joby (Sale and Events Coordinator) to gain industry insight and learn about how she can earn money by selling her commissions in and around Chesterfield.

Alex Burling

Alex loves everything and anything to do with art, mostly digital but she loves trying out different styles and mediums. Joby praises Alex on her ability to adapt and adjust her art style to meet the brief and job requirements in hand.

“There’s loads of places you can go for work placements. I was pretty sure West Studios did them and that they were flexible. I had already spoke to Joby on my first day when I came up here on a tour. I asked about selling things in the shop already and then I came up and spoke to Joby about doing a few hours here every week.

I do a lot of commission work on my placement and a lot of re-designing of things. For example, the hygiene signs that have to be up, I’ve redesigned them and made them artier for the shop.’’

Alex told us how her tutor told her that the more placements you do the better when applying for universities and jobs as it shows you have a variety of experience in a variety of work environments within the industry. They also allow her to build her portfolio and decide if she wants to specialise in a certain area of the industry on completion of her qualifications.

“I do this with Joby and then a church work placement, feeding the elderly. I draw on the whiteboard and make it look all pretty. They actually look at the whiteboard now because of the drawings. I get to talk to a lot of people on my placements so it helps with confidence, talking to people of all different ages. Plus, it has taught me to be able to do things at a fast pace and be able to listen to instructions.’’

Joby tells us what Alex has currently worked on as part of her placement.

‘‘We have spoken about selling stuff in the shop and how when she’s going to university or searching for other jobs, how she can support herself through her commissions by selling stuff in the shop here and around Derbyshire. We have had different conversations on how that works. Alex is very good at adapting, she hasn’t got one art style, she can do pretty much any art style and find what you would need for the commission to be successful.

Alex did a commission for a leaving present within the team, the first aid contacts and all the health and safety posters that we legally must have up and be available. She has made it look a bit more arty. A lot of artists have their own specific style, but Alex is good at switching between different styles and mediums.’’

Joby and Alex

These experiences allow Alex to build up her portfolio and work on top of the skills she has already learnt throughout her education.

‘‘It’s great because I have met lots of different people who have asked me for commissions and been able to meet people who are in the industry or have an interest in art. It’s a lot easier to network in person rather than online’’

Alex is the second student to take on a work placement opportunity at the studios. Joby explains how the studios don’t just provide work placement hours, they provide networking opportunities with local artists.

“Alex is the first work placement student at West Studios since lockdown. So, it has been weird getting back in to how we usually run them. It’s been a good to have that again at West Studios, she’s met a few of the tenants and Junction Arts. It’s good to see the connections that West Studios can give to work placements. Previously we had Martha who did a work placement with us for a year. She ended up with her own studio here and interned with Junction Arts, a local arts charity who she now works full time for. Hopefully we will be able to get similar connections for Alex. It’s great to see and to help young people on their journeys.”

Find out more about the range of courses and apprenticeships available at Chesterfield College.