Stepping Back To Move Forward
Anisha Sehmi is a Creative from London, more specifically, she is a Business Owner, Art Director and Artist. After going through University together, it has been a pleasure to watch Anisha grow as an Artist and find her own creative style. Since deciding to take a step back from the Advertising world earlier this year, Anisha confided in North Core Creative about the realities of mental health in the workplace and why it is important to do what makes you happy.
North Core: Did you know that you always wanted to be in the creative industries?
Anisha Sehmi: To be honest, no I didn’t. My dream when I was younger was to work with animals; ideally, I wanted to be a Veterinary Nurse. But, at 16, I did some work experience at my local Vets… and I hated it! The experience was entirely different to what I had imagined in my head, and while I understood the type of environment I was walking into, I just didn’t enjoy it. It didn’t feel like me.
So here I was, suddenly having to choose a different career path to what I had always imagined. Initially I looked into psychology, marketing, and advertising, but it was only after visiting the University of Lincoln did I think ‘I know what I want to do’: Creative Advertising. They were the only University offering that type of course, and luckily for me, I fell in love with it as soon as I got there. For me, everything just felt right; I took a gamble by choosing Lincoln but thankfully everything fell nicely into place.
NC: After graduating, you worked in Advertising for over two years, was it what you expected?
AS: That’s a hard one! Was it what I expected? I’m not sure as I think everyone’s experiences are different and it all depends on the agency and their company culture. I’ve worked in all types of agencies. The smaller ones are more like a family, and that’s something that really appealed to me. And then on the other hand, you have the bigger agencies, which are very different. In my opinion, you can’t quite create that connection in a bigger agency that you can in a smaller one, and honestly, you feel like a little fish in a big pond.
In terms of expectations, you are made to believe that you will be thrown onto hundreds of shoots and work on endless projects. However, it doesn’t quite work that way, and I wish I had been more prepared for the reality of the industry and the blood, sweat and tears that go into a brief from start to finish.
NC: One of the expectations that you have struggled with is this idea of having a Creative Partnership between an Art Director and a Copy Writer. Could you tell us a bit more about that?
AS: I came out of University and I didn’t have a creative partner, I was a Single Creative. I had to create a brand for myself and build a portfolio as a Single Creative. I went everywhere trying to gain as much advice as I could in order to make my book amazing. I was actively looking for a creative partner because in London especially, you’re more likely to be hired or put on placement if you’re a pair. The whole system of advertising works in pairs.
I would consider myself a Solo Creative but not because of my experiences in Advertising but because of my own journey. Since I was little, I was a creative; I’d create, I’d draw, so if that means me being a Solo Creative then that’s what I am and I’m proud of that.
NC: You made the decision during the Coronavirus Lockdown to have some space from Advertising. Why did you feel like you needed that space? And do you think you’ll go back?
AS: Right, here we go! I was working for a very well-known agency in London earlier this year, and it was a place I never thought I would be because I thought it was above my reach, and it was only through pure graft and dedication that I managed to get there. And while getting hired was amazing and I had some of the best industry experiences while there, my Creative Partnership wasn’t working. I’ll never be sure of the exact reason, but it wasn’t working between us, and while we worked really hard together, we were starting to become distant. Eventually, we decided to go our separate ways.
I think that’s when I started to feel the pressure. I was part of this massive agency and in a system designed for pairs, I didn’t have that someone to depend on. Along with personal pressures, I felt that the structure of the agency was starting to have a negative effect, and truthfully, I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. I had no one to guide me as a Junior Creative and I no longer felt like I could progress. Then, Covid-19 happened, and while initially I thought working from home might give me the space I needed, it was too hard. I was drained and I was starting to feel inadequate. So, I took a step back and decided that maybe this isn’t the place for me anymore. It started to make me upset at home, so I was encouraged to speak up and it was decided that I would take a month off to figure out for myself what I wanted to do. But by the end of that month I was adamant that I was leaving, so that was the decision I decided to make.
At the end of the day, your mental health is so much more important than a job. If you’re not happy then you’ve just got to move on. I’m so much happier now even if it’s just from creating my own small business; yes, I’m no longer getting the income I once was, but you can’t put a price on your mental health.
NC: You’ve since set up your own business, tell us a bit about it!
AS: As you know, I love to create, and I love to draw. One day I shared some of my artwork on Instagram and I got some amazing feedback on the post. I received so many messages about purchasing it, that I decided to put it up for sale. My goal was to then create my own website, business cards and make a brand/name for myself. I’ve since achieved that, so the sky’s the limit in terms of setting my next goal.
Some advice to take away from this journey is that you can’t compare your journey to those on social media. Everyone’s journey is different. Mine has been slow to start but I have sold artwork which is now featuring in people’s homes, now that is a humbling feeling!
NC: You also have a clothing brand in the pipeline, how’s that going?
AS: This is an idea I’ve had with a friend of mine for a long time. Last year we had, well, what we would call, a really ‘cheeky’ year, and in Punjabi, pungeh, means mischief, so we decided to create a tshirt line based on what we call each other: ‘The Pungeh Club’. We decided to turn it into a clothing line and on the tshirts will be all the mischievous terms that we say in Punjabi, like rehnde, which means ‘leave it’. The brand definitely reflects my personality and my culture.
It is my hardest project so far because I can see the business potential, but I need to make it into a reality. I see it as you’re only as strong as your weakest link and mine is the business-side of it rather than the creative aspect.
NC: What is your proudest project to date?
AS: That’s such a hard question! I’m really proud of my progress to be honest. My artwork is improving in skill, so much so that I’ve moved on to lino cutting and printing.
One of the projects I’m most proud of is my Ramen lino cut out and the only reason I made it is because I love chilli chicken ramen from Wagamamas! I haven’t had it in ages, so I thought, let’s make it; the patterns and design look so cool. When I finished, I actually ordered a Just Eat. After I had finished my meal, I thought, let me just print my lino on the takeout bag. I thought it would be cool to print my food illustration on food packaging. I couldn’t care less if people like the visual or not. I love it, and I love the unintentional element of advertising that I’ve created too. It was a happy coincidence, but I was really proud of it because I just felt that it was original. It’s so difficult to make original pieces of work these days as everything is a remix. I’m really proud of starting my business but that is one project that will stick with me because of its originality.
A big thank you to Anisha for her help creating our own logo earlier this year too!