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Sustainable cloth bag designer

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Pip McKay, part-time diploma student at The Learning Connexion, talks to us about her re-usable cloth bag designed for the Upper Hutt City Council. 

Bag design by Pip McKay

Hi Pip…


Tell us how you came to be involved in the Upper Hutt City Council (UHCC) Bagless August shopping sustainability campaign?

In June I was asked by Upper Hutt City Council to submit some conceptual drawings based on a brief detailing their promotion. I’ve always supported the bagless message. Far too many plastic bags are used unnecessarily, ending up in New Zealand’s landfills and waterways.


How did you decide on your theme?

Working within the brief, the design had to reflect the beauty of Upper Hutt’s flora and fauna, be appealing to the wider community and include the fantail – which is the UHCC icon.   


What was the process you went through to create your design?

I started with lots of thumbnail sketches and spent time playing with ideas and allowing them to evolve. I ended up with four different designs. UHCC chose the fantail design and a ‘Love Upper Hutt. Keep it green’ logo which were used for the front and back of the bag. My sketches were elaborated on in greater detail and then painted in acrylic which was then digitally transferred using environmentally-friendly ink onto the bag.


Pip McKay with her sustainable bag design.

Photo: Pip McKay with her sustainable bag design.


What were the biggest challenges in producing your design?

Time constraints! It was a pretty full on term and I was working four days a week, studying at The Learning Connexion and working on the bag design, as well as painting stage sets and making props for my son’s western themed school production.


How does it feel seeing your work out in the public?

A kind of proud surrealism. If I can help, in some way, reduce the use of plastic bags, even just a little and raise awareness, I will feel a big sense of achievement. I still struggle with the notion that I have designed something that people are out there enjoying and using. The bag’s success has really lifted my confidence in what I can achieve. Of the 12,000 bags printed, 3,000 have been reserved for future promotion and only 200 bags remain!


Tell me a little about your background. Who is Pip?

I was born in the UK and lived in Hertfordshire, London and later Cheshire. I grew up thinking that I was a Pip (Philippa in full), until an application for a passport revealed my true identity – my real name is Araminta, which was my Great Grandmother’s name. By then everyone already knew me as Pip – so it stuck.


©2016 Artist: Pip McKay.

©2016 Artist: Pip McKay.


Where were you based when you studied with The Learning Connexion?

I am currently working from home and on-site every Thursday in the printmaking studio.

‘My Thursday’ is the one day of the week that I can be me – I have found a little of myself again. With all my heart, if I could be on-site every day, I would be there with bells on.


What did you like most about studying at The Learning Connexion?

TLC restored my faith in my own ability and gave me a sense of worth by welcoming and nurturing my creative ideas. I have learned so much and made some wonderful connections with tutors and other students.


What is it about screen printing and printmaking that interests you?

I love the tactile quality of printmaking. Carving or scratching out a design and then turning it into an artwork fascinates me. There are so many different ways to achieve this. Woodcuts and drypoint etchings are an absolute favourite of mine and I find myself brimming with ideas, keen to give them all a go.


Who and what inspires you?

From a dew sparkled cobweb to a Shakespearean insult, I find inspiration in the most unlikely and wonderful places. People, nature, flora and fauna and personal experiences awaken many thoughts and ideas. Whimsical animals are a regular feature of my work and I try to evoke a smile through a quirky view of the world. I’m currently working on a series of birds and rabbits in Elizabethan ruffs and they are coming along nicely.


©2016 Artist: Pip McKay.

©2016 Artist: Pip McKay.


Where do you see yourself in: 

A year?

I will finish my Diploma early next year. That time will come around too fast and I am already feeling pangs of anxiety about it.

Three years?

It would be wonderful to continue at TLC with a Diploma (Honours). I still have so much to learn and am loving my time here.

Five years?

Ultimately I would like to be a successful artist, making a modest income doing what I love. Alternatively, I would be very happy working in a creative environment with like-minded people.


If you could offer any advice to somebody looking to study art, what would that be?

Time is always an issue when juggling work, study and family life. It can be incredibly challenging and exhausting but if you can find a way to make time, the rewards and sense of achievement are worth it!


©2016 Artist: Pip McKay.

©2016 Artist: Pip McKay.



To find out more about The Learning Connexion’s Creativity and Art Diploma programmes call us on 0800 278 769 or request a prospectus.


  • Kay
    12/10/2016 12:20am (8 years ago)

    Love the designs and the plastic bag less concept, I wish the retails industry would make more of an effort.