Creative Isolation with Ali Hodgson

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As we are spending more and more time indoors, we're sharing a series of articles about creativity in isolation to demonstrate how important the arts are to maintaining good mental wellbeing. We spoke to Graphic Designer and Illustrator Ali Hodgson about an online service she has set up since lockdown to help support, connect and inspire the artistic community.

Q. Tell us who you are and what you’re offering

My name is Ali Hodgson, I’m a ‘one woman design agency’ with a background in illustration, graphic design and design thinking. 

In response to the lockdown caused by Covid-19, I started an initiative called Free Fridays. With huge numbers of small business and freelances being shut down almost overnight across the globe, its purpose is to provide emergency ‘frontline’ design services to anyone in crisis, or any other initiatives that support community at this time, free of charge, on Fridays. 

Since its launch at the start of lockdown, Free Fridays has helped all kinds of people and projects, both within my local community on the Isle of Man, and further afield on the UK mainland, Ireland and even Spain. It’s even been spreading to other creatives in my network and I’ve been enjoying connecting and collaborating in unexpected ways. 

Q. Why is it important that you are offering this service/product?

I wouldn’t normally advocate offering creative services for free, however we are currently living in unprecedented times and where possible, I see it as our responsibility to do our bit for our communities and each other - we’re all in this together! 

Design can play an important role in helping facilitate connection and provide visibility, and I believe it has the potential to play an even bigger role as we navigate ourselves out of the disruption (economic or otherwise) that is yet to come. 

Q. What role do the arts play during a time like this?

Good art inspires, good design motivates! 

Whether we are consuming it or participating in it, creativity is one of the greatest joys we have as humans. The arts can promote wellbeing, learning, discovery and expression - lockdown and self isolation is the perfect opportunity to dive into this more! 

My greatest hope is that we don’t return to ‘normal’. I believe this time has been an opportunity for people to re-evaluate what’s important to them and I see art and design being used to help create a world that is more in alignment with a greater potential of how we could be living together, should we so choose. 

Q. What are doing to keep yourself sane during self-isolation?

Aside from being a modern Monk (I practice and teach an ancient and highly effective meditation practice called Ascension through an organisation called the The Bright Path), I highly recommend ‘service’ as a way to stay happy!

A recent study by Yale academic, Professor Laurie Santos has shown that “happy people tend to be ‘other’ oriented” and I’ve found this to be very true in my own experience! When we give, it automatically takes us out of our own problems and brings joy and connection. Finding ways to help others, no matter how small, gives us a sense of agency - especially when things can seem out of control. Try it and see! 

Free Friday is a service that Ali is offering as a means to give back to the community during this unprecedented crisis

Q. What is your one tip to help people stay motivated to engage with creative activities at the moment?

For me, social isolation has been an incredible gift. Yes, it’s had its challenges, but it’s also simplified life and opened up space to dive into my creative practice in ways I wasn’t expecting. For some of us it’s also been an opportunity to connect with ourselves: if we can’t go outside into the world, we have no choice but to explore our inner world! 

Crisis can become an opportunity. It would be great if we could all re-emerge from lockdown in a stronger place then when we entered it! How that looks might be different for everyone; for some it’s about taking the pressure off and resting while they can (so more creativity can come at a later date), for others it’s an opportunity to do that personal creative project that they’ve been putting off for ages! The key is about doing what’s right for you, reaching out if necessary and trusting the process. 

Find out more about Ali's 'Free Friday' service

Ali Hodgson has a background in graphic design, illistration and design thinking


A sponsored body of
The Department of Education, Sport and Culture
Rheynn Ynsee, Spoyrt as Cultoor
Isle of Man Government
Reiltys Ellan Vannin
Isle of man Government