By Glenda McCarthy
Despite being pushed to attend university by her parents, 26-year-old St. John’s native Becki Peckham knew it wasn’t the right fit for her creative spirit.
“When I graduated high school I ended up at university for a semester doing general studies. I hated it; it was not for me. I was into art and photography.”
Several of her friends had completed the Graphic Design program at CNA, so she attended their year-end showcase. Becki figured with her interest in all things artistic the program might be a good fit, and after a tour of the facilities, she was sold.
“After my semester in university I realized I wanted to be doing something I enjoyed, something that involved being creative. I don’t learn well in a large classroom where studying is required to learn or pass a course. Design was hands-on in a small class, which is how I learn best. The reading was less painful because I was actually interested in the material.”
Becki says she enrolled at CNA because it was the best design program in the province, and she had no interest in moving away.
“I thought the program was amazing. It helped build the technical skills I needed to be a designer. The instructors were super helpful. The casual feel of the program was great – going to school was like hanging out with friends and working on really cool projects all day.”
She says the facilities exceeded her expectations, with access to a full print shop with machines for making books, brochures and business cards.
“It was a great learning environment. They had a dedicated photo studio for us with cameras and lighting equipment we could sign out. There were also multiple computer labs with top of the line Mac computers and software, and being able to learn hands-on in the studios helped prepare us for industry.”
While she didn’t know it at the time, the photography studio would have a major impact on Becki – and as her love of photography grew, it would greatly influence her future endeavours.
Skills Canada is an organization which encourages and supports the promotion of skilled trades and technologies to youth and Becki discovered the organization during her first year in the program. She competed in the Skills Canada competitions in 2007 and 2008 in the graphic design divisions. Taking gold at the provincials both years allowed her to move on to the national competitions where she was awarded bronze in 2007 and silver in 2008.
Her involvement with the organization created an opportunity for travel and invaluable networking across the country. In 2009 she traveled to World Skills International in Calgary where she worked as the workshop supervisor assistant for the graphic design competition. In 2010 and 2011 she once again traveled with Skills Canada, but this time participated in the youth leadership program.
“Skills Canada has truly changed my life and how I work,” Becki says. “It has also opened so many doors for me in terms of networking and travel. In April 2014 I am traveling for the second time to New Orleans with volunteer group called Together By Design. This is a group of students and mentors which consist of plumbers, electricians, carpenters and engineers who work on post-disaster reconstruction projects. I would have never had this opportunity if it wasn’t for my Skills Canada family,” noting that she currently sits on the board of directors for Skills Canada Newfoundland and Labrador as the youth representative.
Becki had a job one month before graduating from the graphic design program in June 2008 with m5 Marketing Communications in St. John’s. The powerhouse firm is the region’s biggest and most successful advertising agency. It boasts a team of industry leaders across every marketing discipline and the atmosphere was a perfect fit for her artistic abilities.
“I learned so much from working at m5 – time management and working efficiently under pressure, prepping files for print quickly and properly, tricks and techniques in Photoshop. I learned a lot about how the agency works and how projects are managed,” she recalls, explaining that she stayed with the company for two years before striking out on her own.
“I wanted to have more of a focus on photography, or at least be able to switch back and forth from doing design and photography.
“At the time I left m5, I had intentions of starting a clothing line. We had a screen printing studio we brought up from Virginia and had a studio downtown. After about two years, some of my personal interests changed and the clothing line and screen printing studio didn’t really fit in with what I wanted and I didn’t enjoy it. So I sold it so I could focus on the things I really wanted to work in, photos and design.”
That’s when she started Bold Creative with partner Chris Nicholas, a photography and design studio which provides a one-stop shop for branding work, web and print design, small video projects, photography and wide format photographic printing. The company has developed its own clientele but there is also collaboration with larger marketing agencies on a freelance basis, including m5 and with the home design website Houzz.
Bold Creative is an avenue that allows Becki’s creativity to run freely.
“I like waking up in the morning and making things look pretty. It’s fun to work on different projects and meet and work with different people. I like making my own schedule and picking the projects that fit with my style. It’s fun.”
While she believes the program at CNA prepared her well for her career, she says you have to put the time in and be dedicated to get the most out of it.
“I worked really hard to learn as much as I could. I asked a lot of questions, trained for Skills Canada and worked on extra little things on the side. I would most definitely recommend the program, but it’s not an easy program. You do have to work very hard to become proficient in the software used in the industry and to create good looking projects. Going to school for me was like going to hang out with friends and work on really cool art projects. Even though the workload was large, it was enjoyable and I didn’t mind getting up early to go to school.”
She certainly doesn’t mind waking up early now to face her workday as she continues to build a company doing something she’s passionate about. Regardless of her interests, with her bold style it is easy to see why Becki Peckham will be one artist worth watching!