A (Long) Introduction
Hello! I thought for my first ever Bamber Prints blog post I should do an introduction to me and my business. You’ll need a cup of tea though, and maybe some snacks for sustenance as it’s a long one!
To begin with, I'm Catherine Bamber (hence the brand name) and I'm 29 years old from Surrey. That’s possibly all you need to know but I kept writing anyway…
The Early Years + Education
I was told at school never to start a cover letter with, 'I've been creative ever since I was a child' but it’s everyone’s go-to for a reason and is definitely true for me. It was in my blood really, my dad was a full time artist (Jim Bamber), look him up - he has his own Wikipedia page! (We still to this day aren't sure who wrote it and once we tried to add information about us - his four children - and it was rejected 😅). One of my earliest memories is my dad coming into nursery to help us paint a vase of flowers. The teacher told me she could see where I got my talent from and I remember being so proud. Looking back, she was obviously just being kind as I, and all the other children, only managed to create colourful splodges...
Me + dad painting together in the garden
Art and textiles were my favourite subjects in school, and apart from a brief stint of wanting to be a vet, I knew I always wanted a creative job. In year 10 my art teacher said I had a very graphic approach to design and she could see me pursuing that as a career. I awkwardly laughed it off as I wasn't really sure what graphic design was and wanted to focus on textiles and fashion.
After school, I decided to do an Art Foundation year at Wimbledon College of Art. It was highly recommended by my art teachers as a way to choose which creative area I enjoyed most and to give me an advantage when applying to Universities. If you're not aware, during an art foundation year you have the chance to try out different areas of art and design in a more concentrated way than at school. At Wimbledon we did a few weeks in 3D design, Graphic Design, Fine Art and Costume Design before choosing one to focus on. Although I can't say I loved my foundation year (I was mostly longing to be away at University), it did really help me and I think it was invaluable to my career ahead. I learnt exactly what Graphic Design was and realised my art teacher had been right. I loved it.
I applied for Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and remember the whole interview process so vividly. As I already had my A-Level grades and a big portfolio (thanks to my art foundation), I was lucky enough to be offered a place on the spot.
I then spent three years studying Graphic Design at NTU and I loved every second of it. It also gave me the opportunity of a lifetime in my third year. NTU was really good at offering live briefs (briefs set by real companies where you could win a work placement or job after graduating). One of those live briefs was with Abercrombie & Fitch, the prize being a job at their Head Office in Columbus, Ohio. The brief was to design a collection of graphics to go on t-shirts and sweaters. I mainly chose to do the brief because it interested me, I had no thoughts of actually winning.
A&F uni project, how I spent most of uni, graduation, NTU
Now this is going to sound dramatic but working on this brief honestly saved me. I'd entered my third year of uni in a bad way as we'd just found out my dad was ill. I couldn't focus on work which was worrying as third year was 100% of our final grade. This brief, however, really interested me - I got so into it and enjoyed working on it, which was the best distraction. I can't remember how many other students on my course chose the brief but they selected a few to be interviewed and I was chosen. I made it through the first interview stage and was then flown over to Ohio for an interview at Head Office - there were around 30 of us flown over from lots of different universities across the UK and Australia. This weekend is still up there with one of the best weekends of my life! They treated us like royalty, we were put up in a 5* Hilton Hotel with all expenses paid for four days whilst they toured us around the offices and Columbus. Our interviews were on the last day and we had three, each around 45 minutes. The next week I was back in Nottingham and found out I got the job 🥳 I remember it so clearly, I was in a newsagents buying milk and topping up our gas meter when I got the call 😅
Columbus, Ohio - my home for four years
My Dream Job
I ended up graduating uni with a 2.1 degree and my dream job, which I'm so proud of considering everything I had going on personally. Fast forward to February 2015 and I moved to Columbus, Ohio to start my job as a Graphic Designer for Abercrombie & Fitch.
I was placed in Abercrombie Kids Boyswear department which was honestly the dream as I got to design kids t-shirts with dinosaurs, pizzas and astronauts on. They'd accepted 19 other people from the UK and Australia for jobs across fashion design and graphics so I wasn't alone which made the move a whole lot easier, and we all became really close friends.
My view walking into work everyday, the gorgeous thread room, moose cookies, my A&F family + the famous A&F scooters
I could write a whole blogpost about my years at Abercrombie. I honestly loved it and couldn't have asked for a better job straight out of uni. Our visa was for one year and at the end of that a few of us wanted to stay for longer so they applied for new visas. I had to move back home whilst it was being processed and it took a total of 8 months. In those months at home I decided to set up an Etsy shop called Bamber Prints. Mainly to pass the time and keep busy but I'd also been thinking about it for a while and secretly liked the idea of having my own business, selling my art.
One of the first card designs + my first logo
My visa finally got accepted and I felt so lucky. (The visa process was then like a lottery, names get picked out of a hat - maybe not so literally but the odds are against you). I moved back to Ohio and closed my Etsy shop. I had enjoyed working on it and the thrill each time I got an order but I knew I wouldn't have time as my work hours were long. I also wasn't allowed another income as a rule of my visa, so I happily left it behind and went back to my Ohio life. I met the nicest people in that job, I enjoyed going into work every day (which I've since realised isn't common) and I loved what I did. I also made the most of living in America and travelled to 30 states and discovered a love for their National Parks.
Monument Valley, Rocky Mountain NP, Bison in Yellowstone NP
After a total of four years there, I was starting to get itchy feet. Not because of the job itself but I'd started missing the people at home more and more. I made the (hard) decision to leave in December 2019 and moved back to the UK. I'm not sure I'll ever be 100% sure I made the right decision, especially with what was to come (but no-one could have predicted that).
A very foreboding heading but we all know what's coming. Because I was without a job, I made the decision to go travelling as it's a passion of mine and I wasn't sure when I'd next have the chance. It's one of the best decisions I've made and it also softened the blow of leaving Ohio. I went to Australia for a month and then to New Zealand where we hired a campervan and lived the dream for five weeks. We had another two months of travelling planned (to Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore) but by then it was mid-March and some new virus was spreading (you may have heard of it...). Unfortunately, we had to cut our trip short and book a flight home to England. We then went into the first lockdown a few days later.
Me with our beloved campervan in NZ
I was quite positive at first and decided to use the time to work on a portfolio and apply for jobs, but I soon hit a wall as most companies weren’t recruiting. I needed something to keep me sane and Bamber Prints had been in the back of my mind all those years. I’d been drawing away in the background for a while and had built up a lot of new designs, mostly in my dots which has become the signature style of Bamber Prints. (I’m saving another blog post for how I came to draw in dots so stay tuned for that one if you’re interested.)
I re-opened my Etsy shop in May 2020 with a few cards and prints. My initial hope was for it to keep me busy until I landed myself another dream job. But after months and months and months of dead ends and rejections; for jobs I desperately wanted, for jobs I was overqualified for and for jobs I really didn’t want, I faltered. If I’m honest, I was in a dark place and had lost belief in myself as a Graphic Designer. Job hunting can be so soul destroying and I decided I needed a break from it (it’s not like I was getting anywhere…). But I had Bamber Prints, and I was loving drawing for myself and posting out orders. I decided to dip into my savings and see where it took me.
Showing off some designs at my first online market during lockdown
Almost two years later and I’m still seeing where it will take me 😅 My wish now is for this to be my full-time job. Some months I think I’m there and then it’ll slow down and I’ll feel so far from it. It’s a rollercoaster! I’m lucky that I have some savings and a few freelance jobs popping up every now and then (mainly gotten through friends) to keep me going.
I’m so grateful for every single order from Bamber Prints, it’s been my light through this whole pandemic and I’m proud of where I am today.
And that, is probably the longest blog post I’ll ever write 😅 I’m not sure I’ve written anything this long since my dissertation at uni. If you’ve made it this far you deserve some sort of medal. I probably went into too much detail but also feel like I left a lot out. I find blog posts like these really interesting to read so hopefully you’ve enjoyed it or you gave up and I’m just talking to myself now…
It was so interesting to hear about your journey! Looking forward to your next post 😀
Wow! What an interesting first blog post! I never realised you had been to America, let alone work there for four years. I love how you just went for it, not everyone would be that brave. I think it must have really set you up with lots of the skills you need for your business now.
Looking forward to your next post 🙂. Victoria x