Today I’m going to talk about my experience of interning with London based print studios. I interned with four studios specialising in women’s fashion print. Two weeks (full time) seems the norm although one of them preferred a minimum one month commitment and had had up to 20 interns working for them at one point - some of which worked for 3-6 months there. Compensation usually only covers your travel costs and is capped at around £10 per day.
The tasks you can be asked to do vary from studio to studio depending on whether the fabric samples are produced in-house or not. If they are, you may be cutting fabric, sewing them (hemming the edges and/or cutting them to clothing patterns...but not all of them take this step) and mounting them. You may then also have to label and file them accordingly.
Two of the four studios I worked with processed their samples in-house and in two different ways. One used a heat press after printing the artwork onto paper with special inks...this was quick and easy as involved cutting the fabric to the appropriate size first, pinning the freshly printed artwork facing down and transferring the design onto the fabric with the heat press which took about 20 seconds to set.
The other studio had a longer process...the artwork got printed directly onto the fabric but then had to be steamed to set the artwork, then the fabric cut and ironed before it could be sewn.
The only other major part of interning was drawing motifs (mainly flowers) which the designers then scanned and used in Photoshop. Obviously, as an intern you don’t benefit from any sold prints which you contributed towards creating. I think this is fair enough if your internship lasts 1-2 weeks but if I were somewhere for longer I think that’s not so good.
One of the studios also gives you the chance to join their sales reps visiting clients to present their print collection but this isn’t so common and you have to show interest first.
I think interning for a few print studios has been extremely helpful for me as I got to observe the workings and day to day management of the business, as well as talk to in-house designers about their experience. Some studios don’t even have an in-house design team so then your work tasks are more administrative and that can also be an eye-opener. Needless to say, you’ll be exposed to amazing prints and see what’s selling and in demand which can help with your work.
As I’ve described, the tasks are quite manual so there’s no need to fear that you may not be “good enough” or “too old” to apply. Having said that, be prepared to be working alongside newly graduated 20 something’s!
It’s also good to have an online presence/portfolio of work so the studio manager can quickly see that you’re serious about surface pattern design but if you don’t yet have anything, sending in a few low res Jpegs will do.
Personally, I took the plunge a year ago when visiting the London Print Fair by asking different studios one by one if they needed interns and then following up with an email a couple of days later with a link to my portfolio site. You definitely don’t need to do this...These days I regularly come across ads for internships on Instagram. Also googling fashion internships will show up a few sites you can sign up for free to get notifications of new placements. Just bear in mind that some studios book interns several months in advance so you may not be able to start working straight away.
Lastly, don’t worry too much if the style of artwork the studio sells isn’t quite your style...if that’s the case you will probably do other tasks other than drawing. I think the main benefits to interning are getting a professional review of your portfolio and lots of tips on how to improve what you’re doing. I was told for example that my artwork could work well in sportswear; something I had never even considered! Also, If you think you’ve found the ideal studio you’d absolutely love to work for, interning for an extended period of time could land you a job there...it’s rare but I’ve seen it happen!
FYI, my interning experience has been with the following studios: