From BA (Hons) Illustration to embroidery artist to the stars: Kezia Lovell’s creative journey
25 year old Kezia Lovell, who graduated BA (Hons) Illustration in 2020 with a First Class Honours, now works for Noodoll, a cute and playful plush and toy brand based in London. We caught up with Kezia to find out what life is like as an illustrator for a London company while living in Plymouth and how it feels to send her work to California, USA!
I decided to study at Arts University Plymouth because I liked the fact the entire institution was art/creative based. The facilities are really good, and it was nice to see that they were accessible to everyone, no matter what course you were studying. It was not always like that at the other universities I visited, so I knew that Arts University Plymouth was the one for me.
By accident! I was looking at another university in the South West, and as I was making the 8-9 hour drive back to Doncaster, I stumbled across the university. I wasn’t really aware of Plymouth (being from up North), let alone that they had their own art university, so I thought it was worth checking out - and I am so glad I did!
I actually started on a Foundation Diploma first at Arts University Plymouth because, whilst I thought that Illustration would probably be the course I would choose, I wanted to see if anything on the FAD course would change my mind. I found the Foundation Course to be very helpful - and I would recommend it to people, because it really either confirms or changes your decision on what course you want to pursue.
In my experience, the staff were always easy to approach for help. I was very impressed by the amount of facilities and equipment available, and whilst the pandemic might have hit Plymouth hard, much like other places, it is nice that Arts University Plymouth is right in the centre of a city. It feels like you have everything you need around you.
For over a year now I have been working for a plush toy design company based in London called Noodall, although I still work from home in Plymouth. Within this job I have already had the chance to design new plush toy collections, work with the factory in creating samples, work on styling and product photoshoots and I also single-handedly work on a scheme where I take in “unwanted” toys from the brand, fix them up and give them a new home!
However, within my own practice, I do a lot of embroidery work. I discovered embroidery during my degree - I had never done it before, but really tried to experiment with it in my final year. In fact, most of my final year project was embroidery based, but it never really saw the light of day, as we didn’t have a final year show because of the pandemic.
I have continued to develop and expand my embroidery practice and since March 2021, I have posted on my Instagram love.kezia, once a week, every week (I’ve just looked and that’s 112 weeks up to now! Oh, that’s quite a lot haha!) They tend to be quite small pieces, and a broad range of different subject matter.
It’s largely commission based at the moment, however I try to find time to make my own things when I get the chance. My main customer base seems to be in California, USA, as I’ve sent over 30 pieces there, and I have no idea why! I am fortunate that since I finished my degree, I have had constant commissions on the go for three years now. I am very thankful!
I definitely think all of the skills I learnt on the Illustration course - such as working to tight deadlines and making quick changes - have certainly helped me a lot in moving forward with my job. Even down to the crits! I find my meetings now are a lot like crits we had on the Illustration course. So trust me, whilst it might be a Friday afternoon and you’re tired, or you don’t want to sit and talk about your work or even other people's work - it can all come in handy eventually! Learning to critique and discuss both your work, and offer changes and suggestions for other people's work, is a really great skill to learn.
Within my embroidery work, I am constantly inspired by things I love or miss from my childhood. I love character design, and often if I think of a character I really like, but I can’t find stuff with them on, well then, I guess I’ll just have to make it myself. I also love to recreate comic panels in embroidery from old classic comics like Peanuts or Calvin & Hobbes, but often the basis of my work will be a photograph someone sends me - from that I create a digital illustration, which I then use as the foundation for my embroidery.
I’ve realised that the reason I spend so much time on my embroidery work is because I genuinely do love it. I always have something on the go, whether it’s for me or for someone else (since I started, I think the longest I went without doing any embroidery work was seven days). Sometimes I wonder, what would I be doing with my time if I wasn’t working on my embroidery pieces? I’d have so much more free time, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself! As silly as it sounds, I honestly don’t know who I’d be without it… probably someone who gets more sleep.
Whilst I don’t get much time to do it now, I do also love painting. For a project about childhood memories, I recreated some little hand painted DS game cartridges, amongst other things, and it was such a fun challenge to do. My art teacher at school always told me it was “crucial” to work on a big scale and now I realise that’s probably why I delight in making such tiny things and getting as much detail into tiny things as possible, including my embroidery.
I see embroidery like I’m just painting or drawing with thread - I don’t really know any proper stitches and I am completely “self taught,” it’s just instinctive. I feel I have developed my own style and technique as I go along, mostly down to trial and error and practice.
A few “celebrities” (from TV and movies!) have some of my embroidery pieces! It feels weird and kinda embarrassing to say that, but it is true! I’ve seen them wear them, and that was so, so cool! Can tick that off my bucket list. Within my job, we have new collections coming out soon that I helped design, including a new type of product, so I am excited to see how those will turn out.
From the point of view of your own practice, if there is something you want to try, just give it a go! Keep working on it - and don’t let social media platforms get you down! The algorithms will always be out to get you, so just do it because you love it!
Within my actual job, don’t be afraid to reach out to companies that interest you. Follow them on social media, see what they’re doing and how your skills can apply to that - don’t give up! I honestly thought I’d never get a job, so if I can do it, you definitely can too.
I also just want to say, university was definitely not a super easy, straight line from A to B for me - there were certainly a lot of ups and downs, but do not feel discouraged! As long as you enjoy the work you’re doing, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks - you will find your way, no matter how long that takes. Keep on keeping on! I will always look back on my memories at Arts University Plymouth fondly!