From working on interactive electronic sculptures to building an eclectic creative community meetup, Roost President Sean Bell has been very busy this year. The well-travelled Newcastle-based graphic designer is 28 and spent much of this year commuting to Sydney, organising #TDKtuesdays, tending to Roost matters and working on independent freelance projects. For Sean, this has been the year of grit and perseverance.
Before returning to Newcastle in 2013 to finish off his last year of uni, Sean spent 15 months travelling and working in Europe. He returned to Newcastle with a bit more direction.
“I was enjoying it, but there was no end goal. I was working at a hostel, making enough money to party and travel, but it was all purely self-indulgent. No one was getting anything else from it,” Sean said. “If we continuously do things for ourselves the world would crumble. It needs to be a sustainable cycle. You need to do something for the greater good as someone’s probably done for you.”
This year Sean and a few other Roost members and artists in Newcastle put together an interactive sculpture on Darby Street. They called the unpaid passion project the Headphone Project. It’s a pair of massive headphones that regularly play music and can be used as a speaker for musicians. Sean produced the graphic design on the sculpture, and now the Newcastle community is benefiting. Rooster Stephen Roberts put together this video about the project.
Sean’s working on many different projects, some of them paid, some of them not. He’s not boasting to having all the answers, and he sometimes wonders about his decision to be a graphic designer.
“Why do you do anything really?” Sean asked. “With being a designer, it’s more about being creative but there’s so many different creative paths that you can take. It’s hard to know which is right.”
He hasn’t always loved graphic design; he started doing it because it was a creative outlet that would pay him.
“A graphic designer seemed a more secure career option than a fine artist; I couldn’t imagine making a living doing that. But when I started graphic design it seemed like this commercial sterile thing. You are a designer not an artist,” Sean said. “However, I think good design and the outcomes it can achieve aren’t appreciated enough. Good design and good visual communication can solve problems the world faces.”
Sean saw another opportunity in the community when he signed up with The Design Kids fortnightly newsletter and saw they were looking for hosts to startup in Newcastle. He jumped at the chance and started hosting #TDKtuesdays and added an extra element to the Newcastle division by getting speakers involved. He brought Roost members on board to speak, photograph and promote the event. #TDKtuesdays has been held at the Roost, at The Edwards Bar, Pumphouse School of Design, and INNX.
“Over the last decade the creative scene in Newcastle has started booming and it’s going to continue to grow,” Sean said.
Sean’s put heaps of effort into the Roost this year. He’s worked there since it first began and his good mate, Luke Oliver started it. He said it needed a refresh and someone to kickstart things.
“The Roost feels like this adopted baby; it needs to be fed and looked after or it would be abandoned. It felt like it was my time and turn to nurture it,” he said.
He’s proud of the Roost for graduating from being a Renew Newcastle space and all the recent changes. From new branding, to a new website, to Roosters giving talks at TAFE and UNI, the space truly has an up-and-coming energy. Sean sees it as a stepping stone; it’s there for new graduates to collaborate and get away from their bedrooms. At the same time it’s a place for startups to be in an affordable and relaxing atmosphere.
“We can’t rest on our laurels; it needs to keep growing,” he said. “But we hope people outgrow it to a certain degree, to outgrow it means people are achieving their goals. People leave and we need new people to come.”
One more note about Sean: He recently left his studio job in Sydney to work more closely with local clients and help them tell their stories through visual communication. To see his work visit his website essbeecreative.com.au.
Main image courtesy of Mitch Lee.