Finding my way through internships
Designer Jenny Stuttard on starting her career through the right kind of internship
I can be overly sentimental. I tend to hold onto things that would otherwise have no use if I hadn’t imbued them with talisman like qualities. A couple of times a year I’ll be cursing my affinity objects, but a couple more times a year I’ll come across something that I’ll sit down with, and be completely transfixed by as I’m taken back to somewhere else.
I had a moment like this recently when I came across a notebook that starts while I was interning at a studio in New York, and ends with moving to London. The notebook is rose pink, grubby around the edges, and bowed and groaning from all the artefacts stuffed into its back pocket.
It took me back to graduating, when I was fortunate enough to be able to intern in the Netherlands. Moving there felt like such a significant step in sculpting what I wanted for myself, and who I wanted to be. I loved being surrounded by another language I didn’t understand and trying to piece together the bits I could. I didn’t have a lot of bravery for speaking, but I relished in gaining another piece of the puzzle when I learned something new.
I also started collecting pieces on what life in a studio actually looked like. I think I probably wasn’t the design wonderkid I was hoping to be, but I made meaningful friendships and started reaching out to other studios at the end of my 4 months. While I didn’t secure another internship in the Netherlands, I had one on the cards in New York.
The dutch studio had been small, but this one was even smaller – just me and the creative director. I’d initially seen this as a great chance for some more responsibility and one on one learning. Which, arguably it was, but it also told me I wanted to be part of a larger team.
New York was harder than the Netherlands. I came close to staying longer because I didn’t want to give up on it and what I dreamed of achieving, but for a handful of reasons it was time to come home at the end of my internship.
Returning to my teenage bedroom in Nottingham I was faced with “now what?” I knew I had to keep the momentum up. I was looking for junior positions, but instead saw an internship in London.
It stood out because the role was ultimately for a junior, after completing a 6 month internship. It wasn’t a case of 3 months here, then off again to try and find the next thing. It also felt like it showed an interest in developing talent, not a regular rotation of it. I’d be able to settle, and this kind of stepping stone structure would take my previous experience and move it forward.
Another draw was that while my previous internships had been paid, it was more of a gesture than an income. This one had a full wage I could live on. I’d be able to continue my adventures while supporting myself, and move to a new city with independence.
That opportunity was for more than an internship, it was for my first job in the career that I’d worked so hard for. I took that internship.
That notebook took me back to a time where the dominant feeling was “when?” When will I find that thing that takes me forward. But I also remember thinking that one day I’d be able to look back from the otherside, having found my way.
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