Beth Morafon

Beth Morafon

I’m Beth Morafon.

I’m an artist and Creative Director – Morafon Studios.

I’m based in Bristol, UK.

I design exhibitions and public art for the museum and heritage sector. In a nutshell I design the interface between visitors and the spaces they engage in. It’s called interpretation and helps visitors to better understand and relate to what they are experiencing, providing deeper knowledge or engagement.

When I start a project I ensure that I understand what the client is looking to achieve. If a brief doesn’t yet exist, I develop one. Most projects require a site visit and measure-up, and then ongoing client/designer dialogue using text and visual material. I will look at best treatments and materials to create solutions based designs. I contract out production to model makers, sign and exhibit builders.

I studied Foundation Art and then took a degree Design Arts. On leaving university I knew I needed to gain experience in my sector. I volunteered for a number of organisations including an arts fanzine in Bristol called Entropy. The magazine had one year of funding for production from the Arts Council. This got me a job as sole designer for London based gender equalities magazine Sibyl. It was great to be working for such a visionary publication and I stayed for over a year.

I was keen to take my career back to Bristol and took a job funded by the Millennium Commission at The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. I’ve been with the Trust ever since, initially as a Graphic Artist and following several promotions I am now Senior Projects Officer. I design and manage interpretation exhibits. Throughout my career I have taken on opportunities in public art and exhibit design through my business Morafon Studios (formerly Co-creative) which re-launched in May 2015.

Have you found it difficult to enter your profession as a woman?

Yes. Retaining a career role, with a child has been incredibly challenging. I have had to travel through the UK in my work and became a single parent when my son was 4. In some respect I have felt myself to be a trail blazer, as few women at that time were working with children in my type of role. Now practically everyone I work with has children and the structure reflects that, which is great.

Some aspects of my career sit comfortably in society as female roles, for example, the desk and computer based work of graphic design. In other areas, such as design, build and installation, I recognise everyday that society sees these as male roles.

Most times I install on site a friendly chap will ask me something patronising which negates my 15 years experience in the field. I maybe asked if I’m volunteering or ‘allowed’ the responsibility of measuring up or perhaps just a casual comment about the use of power tools by a female.

My favourite days, and there have been quite a few, are when a child looks at me in awe. I recall one day a little girl seeing me adjusting some fixings near a soft play suite I’d designed. She asked lots of questions. Midday she spotted me carrying a large scaffolding tower and by the afternoon she passed by as I was assembling it. I know I made an impact on that little girl’s perception of what women and girls can do, and that gave me a huge sense of reward.

Did you have any help during your career?

One of my friends gave me a couple of breaks into freelance jobs. She set us both up volunteering with Entropy magazine and later touted me for freelance work with Nivea. I have had some pretty striking female role models. My editor at Sibyl was hugely passionate about gender equality and I found her very inspiring.

Some of the women at WWT have been incredibly strong and forthright. I recall first learning how to use power tools with my first boss there and loving the impact I could have on the built environment. She had a fearless quality about her that was admirable.

What do you wish you had known when you started out?

It’s all about relationships. When I started out I had fixed and moralistic ideas about how to gain opportunities. Now I can see that all work relies on building good relationships, even if the product you are delivering can stand alone and are perceived as autonomous.

If you could talk to your younger self now, what would you tell them?

I’m impressed with you. Be kind to yourself, you’re doing well.

Who has most inspired you and why?

James Turrell. He is artist and an imaginer. James’ work is just fantastic. I pilgrimaged to see his 2012 exhibition in Sweden, part of the See Colour show. He creates these huge nuanced light spaces and manipulates human perception with subtle changes in the natural and built environment. I took my son with me who was 12 at the time and I consider it one of the best things we have done together.

What tips would you give someone just starting out?

For the heart: Do what you love and what you are passionate about. It will drive your best work. Be flexible and co-operative, but don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Those collaborative projects that often seem the most difficult and egotistical, that push you to your absolute edge, can sometimes yield the best results.

For the head: Get it in writing. What ever you are planning arranging, contracting or agreeing always make sure you get it in writing. It makes arrangements clearer and everyone is more accountable.

What was the best piece of advice anyone gave you?

Don’t give up yourself, what is important to you or what you believe in.

What inspiring quote to you love and where does it come from?

‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by’

Poem by Robert Frost – The Road Not Taken

Do you use any useful apps, systems or websites that you would like to share?

A business contact just tipped me to try Kan Ban Flow. It’s a project management app. For visual and creative types people I think it looks great. I’ve not run all my jobs in yet but I have had a quick go and it looks great for laying everything out visually whilst keeping it in a ‘real-time’ format.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

I’m very flattered to have been invited to share my career experience and want to say a big thank you to Philiy for inviting me.