Current BA (Hons) Graphic Design Student and Welfare Officer for the Student Union, Poppy Belcham speaks to the Ada Palmer-Jones, our Student President, as part of the Student Spotlight series...

What do you want people to know about your practice?

My general ethos is design for good, design for people, design with care. This sums up my practice pretty well as I like to focus on designing resources that will help people. A lot of my role as Welfare Officer for the Student Union feeds into my practice often focusing on mental health and wellbeing as well causes for good.

Where is your happy place/place for inspiration?

My happy place is my hometown of Clitheroe in the Ribble Valley. I always love driving up to the top of Pendle hill to overlook the town and countryside as well as stargaze. I feel most inspired at my desk spaces, I always make an effort to decorate and organise my environment to surround myself with the work of artists I admire and I usually manage to sit near a big window with lots of natural light.

Image: Courtesy of Poppy Belcham

Is it important for your practice to have a meaning/message?

Yes definitely! My practice is always focused on helping to communicate a message to an audience. I believe that I have a duty as a professional communicator to help improve people’s lives through my design, expressing my personal views on subjects such as sustainability, equality, diversity and inclusion and mental health.

What book do you recommend most to others?

The Spooks Apprentice series is my all-time favourite collection of books. It’s a fictional series based around the Lancashire county following the life of a boy who trains to become a spook to fight ‘the dark’.

In terms of your creative journey, which lesson has been hardest to learn?

That just because you didn’t get everything done that you wanted to, that doesn’t mean you didn’t do your best. Take that night off and look after yourself before anything else.

Who inspires you?

Since my Foundation Diploma I have felt a lot more understood by my tutors and I feel so blessed to have been taught by such passionate, lovely creative people, I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for my foundation tutor Amy, she completely changed my mindset and motivations to make creative work and supported me so well at such a turbulent point in my life.

I, of course, can’t leave out the fantastic gals in the Student Union, I would not have shifted my practice to focus so heavily on mental health and equality if it wasn’t for the wonderful constant support I receive from these people, they make me want to come into uni every day to share all of my ideas with the, no matter how crazy!

Image: Courtesy of Poppy Belcham

What artist do you want to tell people about?

Emily Coxhead is a Graphic Designer/Illustrator whose practice focuses on spreading positivity. Her main project is 'The Happy Newspaper' which is a quarterly newspaper filled with only positive news stories. A lot of her work aligns with my personal ideology and is a constant source of inspiration for me. 

Most important medium you always use.

Paper, if that counts? I love bookbinding and making bespoke handmade publications so choosing different paper stock is vital in getting the right feel and communicating the right message for the final product.

Favourite art gallery.

I wouldn’t say I have a favourite art gallery (although seeing Van Gogh’s sunflowers in the National Gallery in London is definitely up there as one of my favourite moments) but I always love the Bound Art Book Fair at Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester which is held annually in October. It’s always full of such amazing bookmakers and sellers and the most beautiful handbound books!

I always try to get to Northern Craft Fair when it’s in Leeds as it’s run by such an amazing designer, Sean Mort and full of the most inspiring makers from around Yorkshire and beyond.

Image: Courtesy of Poppy Belcham

Favourite place to eat in Leeds.

I would have to say the LS6 Café, going on a Sunday morning after a long weekend is such an underrated act of self-care, and lovely place to take my Northern Irish besties when they were over from Belfast.

Life hack/student hack.

Buy yourself some peg fairy lights, they always make your room seem cosier and are a great way to put things on your walls without annoying your landlord!

Favourite facility at Uni.

The Print Room hands down, the workshop staff have an unbelievable wealth of knowledge between them and there is so much to experiment with when it comes to any kind of hand rendered print.

Society you have always wanted to start.

A gardening society would be so nice, the re-potted events always go really well and after all the research I did for the benefits of nature last year I’ve been a lot more conscious of spending time planting and looking after a range of houseplants which has been so relaxing.

Medium you can’t live without.

Probably a needle and thread (or my Bernina sewing machine) being able to sew always sneaks its way into my practice whether that’s making screenprinted flags or bunting or binding a book and complements my love of the handmade.