Macro level: 5

A lot can happen in five years. Isn’t that always the question employers ask you at interviews, where do you see yourself in five years? Well five years ago to this day I was at my final year graduation exhibition. I came across heart warming, nostalgic photographs on my Facebook memories. Me and old friends, me and my wonderful mama, my little niece in front of my stand. It’s crazy what can happen in five years. I look back on who I was when I was leaving university – lacking real industry knowledge, so naive of the world, under confident, the ultimate bubble-university-graduate. I could list all the ups and downs of the past years but I’d rather not bore you, or send myself off on a high speed rollercoaster just before bed! It’s been eventful to say the least. 

Though we’re currently living in strange times with a global pandemic and political unrest. It’s all too easy to despair. But when I look back on my life in the last five years on a macro level, life has honestly changed for the better. There’s been a lot of hard lessons, but so much growth. A handful of older and newer friends who I’ll always hold dear remain. Family is still family, because thankfully we never change! Several grey hairs have emerged, I’m still trying to embrace those. I finally found a special soul, to match my own, one I can call home, he’s called Charlie. I found a new workplace and the Creative Director who interviewed me literally gave me hope again in the design world and myself just at a time I really needed. Finally, for the first time since leaving university, I’ve started to embrace all the creative parts of myself and what direction I want them to go in. It’s been no easy feat either navigating the competitive, white world of design and filling the gaping holes that higher education leaves. 

All in all, five years on I’ve learnt how to make my own happiness. I’d never have predicted half the things that have happened since 2015 so who knows what the next five years have in store. Time is bloody weird when you think about it (too much) the idea that we’re constantly going forwards even though at times we might feel stuck. There’s still an underlying current willing us on towards something better. It’s surprising how much progress you make when you’re living day by day. Not too many months ago I was lamenting the feeling “I’d done nothing of value” but now, looking back five years, I can see how wrong I was.

Words & Illustration: Radhika Mary

Long time creator, first time(ish) seller

The first time I sold a piece of creative design was at my end of year Graduation exhibition. Back in 2015, I designed, printed and packed up some typographic prints, handed them over to a tutor and then collected a surprising couple of notes a few days later. I thought no one would buy my prints! That was the first time I’d sold any prints.

Personally, I’ve always had an element of “fear” when it comes to my painting and graphic design explorations. Fearing if other people will like it, fear that it’s somehow not good enough against other industry work. A lot of that goes back to my fourteen-year-old self overrhearing conversations right behind me in Art Class by classmates lamenting, “Radhika’s not even really that good, I don’t understand why the teachers love her”. I now look back and realise they were just jealous twits because I was a straight A* student in Art throughout high school, but those kind of comments, they stick. I used to just get my head down and pour my heart into my art – because I loved it. So that’s where I’m heading back to. 

Being creative is all I’ve ever known. My mama loves to tell the story of when I was a young kid, the first thing I’d do when I woke up was crawl to the end of the bed, where I’d leave books and crayons, to do morning colouring and drawing. I can’t even express how much being creative is in my bones, but anyone who knows me well knows that I just live and breathe creativity and art. It’s where I’m at home. 

So you see there’s never really ever been another career route for me, it’s always been the notion that I must do something creative. However, that’s where it gets tricky. Once you get older and you’re no longer creating for pleasure but for money and bills, that’s when you actually become less creative in some ways. I’ve been working in the industry for five years now and one way or another I’ve fallen into jobs that either restrict my creativity or don’t make full use of what I can or want to do. And I’m learning that, that’s okay. I’ve never been one to chase after the glossy, award-winning trendy work. I’m in it for the long haul, the designs that last more than a season, the designs that come from ideas and meanings. My realistic outlook on my day job versus my passion is where Radmakes was born. It’s my creative outlet, a way to fully explore anything creative I desire to! A chance to get back to making, purely for the love of it. 

Coming from a Fine Art background I’ve always been oddly wary of selling my work. To me they were precious paintings and works of art I’d poured hours and hours over, lost sleep over sometimes. I didn’t want to exchange them for money because I felt giving them away was in a way giving away a part of my talent and hard work. But now I’m much older and wiser I understand that me selling a painting or a print doesn’t mean I loose my skills. I’m merely parting with the final output, but I the creator retain my creative mind and ability to create more. Besides what good is creating a load of art and crafty things and just keeping them to stare at all day myself? Art should be shared with the masses.

I came across this quote earlier in the year and it really struck a chord with where I feel I am right now. I’d been holding off pushing Radmakes, mostly again, down to fear. But there has to be something said for the feeling of fear – it propels you to do something.    

 “If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.” – David Bowie. 

Last December, I sold my first commissioned painting. That was a huge step for me. Up until then I’d only ever given one other painting away and that was a gift for my sister’s wedding anniversary a few years back. Despite being a long time creator I’m evidently new to the whole world of selling. It’s fair to say I’m not a natural at it, it’s been a lot of hard work, trial and error. Getting a lot wrong! But that’s the way you learn. My knowledge of graphic design and the commercial side of the industry has played a huge part of feeding into my outlook on art and crucially how to set up my first ever shop. I’ve got so many things planned! It’s a little bit scary at times but one thing is for sure I no longer need to be the fourteen-year-old clutching onto my sketchbook worried what everyone else thinks. 

Quite aptly that first print I ever sold had words I’d written, typeset in a beautiful serif font and printed onto gorgeously textural Somerset stock. The heading words were: “The future scares the hell out of me”. It’s funny how things come back around, how the element of fear seems to surround my work a lot more than I realised before I sat down to write this piece! But I like to be honest, I think that’s where we connect as humans and honesty is an element I always try to instil into the way I work. As I’ve been setting up my first online shop these words come back to me a lot, the future does scare the hell out of me, but this time around, that’s okay.

Words & Photography: Radhika Mary

People of Craft

Radmakes has been featured on People of Craft a wonderful online resource celebrating all creatives of colour, championing our skills and shining light on severely underrepresented individuals in the creative industries. Check them out and shout about them too! If companies are really serious about diversity and inclusion then start supporting your local creatives of colour.

I like words

I discovered this word a few weeks ago now and it really stuck with me, I just get it, a word to describe a feeling I’ve always had. I like words.

I always struggle with the contradicting idea that we all have all the rest of the time in our lives and then this feeling of torschlusspanik. There’s a growing list of creative things and life things I want to do, yet I always put off because it’s not the right time or because I “have time”. That’s where the sinking fear sets in. The future has always scared me a bit. So in my 27th year around the sun, the aim is to do more creativeness, do more lifeness. Because life really is finite and no one knows what the future holds.

Words & Lettering: Radhika Mary

Father’s Day

For the ones who grew up most or all of their childhood without a dad, I hear

For the ones who spent every weekend at the cemetery as a kid, I feel you.

For the ones only recently coping with grief, I won’t lie to you and say it gets easier but it does become bearable.

This one is for the fathers taken before their time, before we were ready, the ones who aren’t with us today, for the kids still grieving, for the ones whose lives are just that little bit incomplete. You’re not alone.

Words & Illustration: Radhika Mary

So, where are you really from?

A big thank you to Pennycress for including me in their wonderful, first zine. It’s a great compilation and celebration of creatives of colour up North. The first issue focuses on the theme “So, where are you really from?” Thanks so much for commissioning my first pieces of writing but most importantly championing something so important and needed in the industry right now.

My seven-year-old niece totally thinks I’m famous now that my picture has been printed.

Check out Pennycress’ website for info on how you can secure a limited copy, get supporting creatives of colour.

Instagram: @pennycress.zine

pennycress zinepennycress zine feature


Less of a pout more of a cheesy grin. Breaking awkward moments with inappropriate humour. Apparently more noticeably northern with O’s (home, go). A bookworm that struggles to find the time to read. Known to exclaim at the sexiness of paper. A former chromophobe learning to embrace colour. Life drawing artist turned weekend painter. Loves green, but a very specific hue, once coined as wimbledon green. Described as complex by a fave former tutor. Likes the smell of coffee but is a tea drinker. Severely vitamin D deficient according to the doctor. Unapologetically brown. Adores writing but often feels like an imposter. Newly found appreciation of podcasts, waking early and wearing less makeup – but the weakness for lippy remains. Tried a reduced meat diet for almost a year but mama cooks really nice chicken. Learning not to internalise criticism. Collector of quotes – no really a book exists. A crafty mind: witty words and an opportunist for making. Forever looking up at architecture, skies and liminal spaces thus consequently tripping over. Keen gardener, remember – green.

(Inspired by the pouts of Instagram. Fueled by the false advertisement of ourselves on social media, to the world. Be honest. There’s always nuances.)

Words & visuals: Radhika Mary
A self initiated piece, follow more at @radmakes

Where’s all the ladies at? (especially the brown ones?)

There are great programs and resources emerging to promote and encourage women in design such as the Ladies, Wine & Design set up by Jessica Walsh which now spans over 170 cities. Which led me onto thinking about the representation of people of colour in design. I came across Timothy Goodman and Amélie Lamont’s People of Craft website a few months ago now, to say I got excited is an understatement. It’s something I’ve not seen before, the celebration of people of colour in my own field of work. Everything seems to link back to this topic I’ve been wanting to work on for some time now, that is essentially everything brown, hence the beginning of the brown-blog.

I recently read only 11% of design business leaders are women. It’s a strange occurrence when I consider that my university course was roughly evenly split. So where are all the ladies at? Not only are females underrepresented in design, so too are people of colour. In 2016 BAME employees made up 11% of the people working in creative industries. I’ve yet to find out what proportion of that are women but I doubt it’s a promising figure. In four years of design education and three years in industry I have only encountered a handful of people of colour in my field and virtually none in the working environment since.

It’s hard to become something you can’t already see. Undeniably our backgrounds shape our experiences and opportunities. Being able to understand that becomes an important part of my own practice and would hopefully be beneficial to other people of colour in design. My biggest frustration currently is opening up this conversation without being mistaken for ‘complaining’. To support people of colour is more than ticking the token brown person box. It’s opening up design to a diverse pool of talent who could bring valuable experiences to the table.

I want to create a positive network of BAME designers, however small in number to support each other, collaborate and discuss the barriers facing people of colour getting into design and more importantly what will keep us here. If you’re a designer and a person of colour or know someone who’d be interested, get in touch! Especially if you’re UK based, I’d love to hear from you.

Women are studying design – so where are all the female creative directors? by Natalie Maher
Lack of diversity within UK’s creative industries revealed by Ali Morris

Illustration & Words: Radhika Mary

A note to the girl who almost gave up on love

Five months ago I would have told myself: don’t. Don’t give up on love. Don’t think yourself so unworthy. Young girl don’t ever blame yourself for the actions of others.

You will be loved and boy is it going to be incredible. Remember your old pal Fitzgerald once said: “There are all kinds of love in this world but never the same love twice”. That blows the notion of a soulmate. For I believe there are many soulmates in our lives. They can be a family member or a friend – it’s not always romantic.

Love is going to find you again. As cliché as it is, it will find you when you’ve learnt (far too late) to love yourself in that brown skin you were born into and haven’t always been so kind to. The world already has so much pain the least you can do in this life is be kind to yourself.

Love is going to come back with green eyes, firmer hands, a steadier head and a kinder heart. A genuine one. It’s going to be the easiest thing you have done, so open, so comfortable you won’t even realise you’ve fallen. You’re going to want to run at first – because it’s crazy scary, you’re out of practice, you haven’t even processed your thoughts. But he’s a solid presence, he stays and waits regardless of your reserved contemplation.

In a weird way you’re going to be grateful for the heartache of months prior. It taught you to be cautious, showed you what you needed and most of all allowed you to get all the screw ups and naivety out the way. It led you to where you were supposed to be. You’ll almost laugh and sit in wonder at why you tried so damn hard before. If it’s real it just works – from both sides. But remember the failures of your past allow you to appreciate when it does work out.

You’re going to find the love you deserve. The love everyone told you was out there but you had bought the lie that there was something broken in you. It’s going to be a love that has no fear. A love where you trust completely – a love where words are followed by direct action. It’s a mature love peppered with daft humour and swoon-y moments.

So don’t give up. Resist the urge to punch all the people who tell you there’s more fish in the sea. Because they are right. You won’t want to hear it because your delicate heart can’t comprehend ever not feeling so lost. But you will find love again – it’s going to excite you, calm the storms in your mind, he’ll open his life completely to you and he won’t bat an eyelid when you think running is not far off the cards. He’s going to show you that not everyone is a d***. That you deserve to be met with an equal love not by halves.

This may be the greatest love yet. Somehow you know it’s different – the future is uncertain but you are certain about the two of you. He’s mad keen remember. You’ve been weathered and put back together, humbled and realistic. It’s the kind of love where you meet in the middle, between both your entangled pain and pasts – both starting anew – one last time. And it works.

Words & Photography: Radhika Mary


I find myself stuck in a weird moment of my life.

Half my peers are engaging, moving in with partners, having babies, travelling the world – yet here I am, writing blog posts at 2am that a handful of people read at any given time…

Autumn. It’s the early hours post-turning a quarter of a century. With two elder sisters, my younger self always assumed by the time you’re in your mid-twenties you have it all figured out and your life is just dandy. Well, I can safely say that I still hold the mentality of my younger years. I get grouchy if I need sleep and short tempered when I need feeding.

Three months ago I endured my first break-up. Lame, you may scoff but my life has been blown wide open at the moment. It’s both exciting and terrifying, mostly the latter I’m not going to lie especially when the sun goes down. The weirdest notion is not knowing what is ahead. Six months ago, I thought I was one of the lucky ones, I had found someone I wanted to spend the rest of my days with. I was wrong then. Now, I still have no idea what is ahead of me. So I dip my toes with slight trepidation.

I’ve grown these past three months more than I did the past two years. I learnt it’s okay to not be okay. That it’s perfectly fine to not have it all figured out. That sometimes we hurt ourselves the most because we lie to ourselves out of insecurity and fear to break free. That when it comes down to it, you really only can count on yourself. Everyone lets you down. Everyone. You’ve simply got to learn to cheer for yourself. I learnt that love is stupid, makes us into fools, yet we blindly follow it and easily fall back into it. Why? I’m still figuring that one out, whether it’s really love or just lust. Lust pedalled by the advertising industry pushing an idealistic, unattainable, illogical mostly destructive addiction onto us.

It’s so easy to be hardened by pain and the world in general. But it’s not advised. I refuse to let past experiences make me less of a person. I’ve always given my all, felt too much, loved openly and strongly. To change any of those would change essential parts of me and not a single damn person is worth that. My main vital organ is off limits for the foreseeable future but that doesn’t mean it will be that way forever. You’d hope at least. I guess you could say I’m more cynical at times but I think that’s more the process of ageing.

Most of all, I’ve learnt to let go of expectations. I’ve never been one for planning ahead, I’m even more so adverse now. Just taking things as they come with invariable pinches of salt.

Words: Radhika Mary