When a graphic design graduate from Bradford became a member of two local co‑operatives, it boosted his confidence and skills – and opened the door to new opportunities.
Twenty-five-year-old Fabio Cawley joined the co-operative movement almost by accident – and with the support of another co-operator who saw his potential.
“I didn’t know much about co-ops,” he says. “The only co-op I knew was the shop. I’ve since learned they are fair places. The people just seem to have morals about them. They’ve got their heads screwed on. It’s nice to be around it. And it’s almost unmatched the amount of passion people have.”
Fabio is a member of Chapel Street Studio, a co-op of freelance creatives based in Bradford. After graduating from the University of Bolton in graphic design, he returned to his home town and started working in a restaurant.
Keen to use his design skills, Fabio volunteered for a local community centre and created a series of posters for them. That’s where he found out about a risographic printing workshop offered by the Bread and Roses – a co-operatively run café and co-working space in Bradford city centre.
And that’s where he met Martyn Johnston, co-founder of Chapel Street Studio. When Martyn discovered Fabio was looking for design work, he gave him a brochure to design. Fabio later applied and successfully joined Chapel Street Studio. He’s since worked on a number of projects with them, gaining valuable experience, skills and confidence.
“Thanks to being part of this co-op, I now see myself as a graphic designer, instead of just a graduate. For me, it’s all about progression. I’ve had some challenging pieces of work and looking back, I can see the progression. That makes me happy. A lot of people say they like my work. You can’t get better than that.
“I’ve been mentored by Martyn, as well as Carl White at How Do? (a print and distribution service that’s also a member of Chapel Street Studio). I designed a brochure for the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network – and worked with their Head of Communications too.
“That experience taught me a lot. I learned how to use new software. And being a print-based project, I learned how to get it ready for print – what to look out for. It was quite a different experience from university.”
Fabio is also a member of the Bread and Roses co-operative, where he now teaches the risographic printing workshops that he’d originally signed up for.
“Martyn knew that I could use the machine and one person couldn’t teach a lesson one day. So he asked me and it kind of just became my job. I really enjoy it. I’ve taught some pretty interesting people. A children’s book illustrator, a high school art teacher and staff at the Peace Museum.”
Being a member of both these local co-ops has expanded Fabio’s network and opened many new doors for him. “Opportunities come to me,” he says. “It’s like a hub. There are a lot of progressive, creative people, pushing for stuff. I just happen to meet different people and chances come to me. It’s a blessing.”
It’s boosted his confidence too. “It has helped to give me a hustler mentality, trying to get to the next spot. And I’m sat here looking down at my million-pound idea for an eco-friendly product. The next step is to pitch it to the right people. My colleagues at Chapel Street Studio are helping me make connections and pointing me in the right direction.
“And I feel part of a team now. I never really had that with my other jobs. I’ve had some bad experiences. It’s a nice atmosphere. That’s one of the main things compared to other jobs. I’ve heard my friends talk about their experiences and I think, ‘I’m happy with this.’”