Gavin Strange reflects on the pursuit of creativity and the challenge of juggling time as a new dad

In an exclusive new column for Inkygoodness, Bristol based designer and self confessed spinner of plates Gav Strange reflects on how much his life has changed.

Over to you Gav…

Hello there! My name’s Gavin, how’s it going? I’m a 34 year old human man living in beautiful Bristol, in the south west of the England.

I’m really excited to be a regular contributor (every other Wednesday!) here at Inkygoodness, it’s an honour to be able to put pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard) and share my experiences, my work and my processes with you all.

I should tell you a bit about myself before I start waffling on shouldn’t I? We need to get acquainted before you can commit to giving me your precious time, right?

Funnily enough, that’s going to be a reoccurring theme here at my column. Time. The pursuit of it, the elusiveness of it and the management of it. But we’ll get to that in a minute, back to introductions!

Gavin Strange and wife Jane Keeley launched homeware brand STRANGE last year

Gavin Strange and wife Jane Kenney launched homeware brand STRANGE last year

I live in Bristol with my wife Jane and my brand new baby boy Sullivan. By day I have a dream job as a Senior Designer for the interactive arm of Aardman and by night I love to satisfy my creative urge for passion projects by going under the name of Jam Factory as a designer & director – a moniker I’ve been using for the past 13 years!

I’m also the co-founder of a contemporary design store called ‘STRANGE’ which I run with Jane and the author of a ‘pocket inspiration’ book called ‘Do Fly’, published by the mighty Do Book Company.

Do Fly by Gavin Strange, published by Do Books

Do Fly by Gavin Strange, published by Do Book Company

I love to spin as many plates as I can. That’s my jam. I love to do it because it’s an honour to be able to call creativity ‘work’, so I don’t take that privilege lightly.

I like to stay as creative as possible, as often as possible, to stay focused, to stay disciplined and to stay sharp! That all sounds a bit grand doesn’t it!?

In a nutshell – I love making stuff, it’s hugely addictive and that means 9-5 isn’t enough time to satisfy that itch!

 Gavin Strange

With introductions out the way, let’s get down to business! To kick us off I’d like my first column here to share a personal glimpse at my own creative schedule. My routine for fitting in full-time work, passion projects, being a good husband and being a good father. Now that isn’t to say I’m doing the above correctly, this is just what’s working for me right now at this moment in time. I love hearing the processes and routines behind people’s work, so that’s why I’d like to share mine. Hopefully to inspire others to see that there’s always an extra bit of time that can be squeezed out of your day, if you squeeze hard enough!

This isn’t aimed at parents. You don’t have to be a mum or a dad to take away something from this column in terms of making the most of your own time. This happens to be my situation but everyone is different, that’s the beauty of it. Whether or not you have children or a needy pet stick insect. A total free bird or juggler of multiple lives. Freelancer or a staff member. It’s different for everyone, so you have to pick and choose what bits of advice are relevant for you. It’s like an inspirational buffet, just not as good because there’s no all-you-can-eat ice cream. Soz.

So then, let us begin…

Bay Sullivan

Baby Sullivan

At the beginning of February I became a Dad for the first time.

A lovely little 7lb 5oz bundle called Sullivan Strange joined Jane and me, starting out our lives as new parents. I took two weeks paternity, went back to work for one week, and then took a further two weeks as holiday, so I could have as much time as I possible with my new family!

After those first 5 weeks in our little bubble it was time to head back into my ‘routine’, except everything was a bit different. Before Sully came along, I had a pretty good structure that worked for me.

Baby Sullivan

Baby Sullivan

I worked 9.30am – 6pm weekdays at Aardman, and then I’d head home and hang out with my wife, cook dinner and watch a little something on TV. Then, at around 9pm, it was time for ‘Round 2’, where I’d head into my ‘den’ (a little space under the stairs with my computer) where I’d work until around 11pm, sometimes midnight at the latest. Weekends were always work-free, give or take a few hours here or there if required, but generally they were a time to relax and recharge.

It was a great routine and really worked for me. It worked for my wife too, as she’s a freelance jewellery designer & maker, so her schedule was quite fluid and worked late in the evenings but spent the weekends relaxing.

When our baby came along it was time to take a long hard look at that routine and work out what would happen going forwards. As soon as Sully came along, it inspired me further, I knew I wanted to work even harder, to do even more. To both show him that graft is really important to make things happen, and that doing what you love is a real joy.

As soon as Sully came along, it inspired me further, I knew I wanted to work even harder, to do even more. To both show him that graft is really important to make things happen, and that doing what you love is a real joy.

Gavin Strange
Lover of Milk, Destroyer of Towels

‘Lover of Milk, Destroyer of Towels’ by Gavin Strange


I love what I do, and I love where I work, but I know that by simply being a designer not everything is simple and carefree. I don’t make light of that when I gush with positivity about a creative career – Everything comes with it’s own problems and frustrations, I just love to take that one step back and remember that we’re all just meatbags clinging atop a rock spinning around a massive ball of fire, and we get to spend our days colouring in and thinking about how to communicate with pictures. That’s why I’m captain positivity when it comes to what we do.

We’re SO damn lucky to be creatives and to make visual beauty and creativity our careers. I don’t take any of that for granted at all, and because of that, I want to pass on that feeling of ‘zest’ onto my boy. I want to show him that when you’re handed something so fun for a life’s work, that you owe it to yourself to really throw everything at it!

I want to show him things I’ve made and for him to be proud of me as a father. He’s also an inspiration himself, I’ve excitedly made silly graphics and animations based on him, just for fun, just because! They make us smile and it’s the most natural thing to make things based on what you love!

If I want to be a dad, a husband, a full-time employee, a side-project pursuer, a business co-owner, a drummer and a dancer, something’s got to give. Something must be sacrificed. So, I chose sleep – and, I love it!

Gavin Strange
Poster by Gavin Strange

Saying all that, at the same time, knowing I want to work even harder and do even more, I don’t want to miss him growing up due to working too much. So, it came down to taking a long hard look at my time, at my 24 hours, and deciding where to spend it.

If I want to be a dad, a husband, a full-time employee, a side-project pursuer, a business co-owner, a drummer and a dancer, something’s got to give. Something must be sacrificed. So, I chose sleep –  and, I love it!

Now I do my passion projects in the morning, before work! Our son wakes up around 4 or 5am and I get up to change him, then hand him over to Jane who gives him a feed. I snooze for a little bit until 5.30am where I spring (ok, stumble) into action and get cracking in ‘the den’ until 8.30am before I get ready to head into work.


By night Gav works in a little nook under the stairs

I tell you what, it’s the best decision I ever made. Because I know I have to finish by half past eight to get ready for work, It makes me all the more focused.

I don’t let myself get too distracted or go off-topic, I stay on track with the task in hand and I’m much more productive for it.

Gavin Strange

I get a solid few hours to really get stuck in, which in turn really fires me up for my day at work, because I’m already alert, awake and in the zone!

I also spend my lunch breaks doing smaller side-projects; sometimes it’s graphic design, other times it’s playing catch-up on my Inbox. Either way, it’s a nice focused lump of time that, again, forces me to stay productive!

This new routine means that in the evenings I come home and see my new family, rather than rushing straight into the den to get more things done. Of course these schedules are always flexible, and sometimes I need to do bits and bobs at night, as does Jane, so we tag team looking after the little man and it’s lovely.

Try new schedules in small bursts. Do everything you can to be kind to yourself when trying to do more, because none of this is easy. And that’s what makes it so damn rewarding.

Gavin Strange
Be Fluid Be Flexible

‘Be Fluid Be Flexible’ by Gavin Strange

Of course, it’s not all roses. It does get tough. 5.30am is a silly time to start work. Some mornings are harder than others. There’s never time to rest your brain properly with planning your whole day. With a baby you never know what sleep you will get

!!!CAVEAT KLAXON!!! Sully is very good sleeper, something we do not take for granted – at all!.

But this is all by the by isn’t it, as these are just specifics. Specifics of my situation and my schedule, but everyone is different, no two routines or rituals are alike. It’s tough for everyone, you have to remember that when you’re beating yourself up when feeling not as productive as you’d like. Find the easy win.

So, why have I spent my first column telling you the ins and outs of my personal routine? Well, hopefully it’s useful for you, as it’s been really useful for me. It’s really made me take a focused look at my entire 24 hours and what I’m doing with them, as I don’t want to waste any of them. (Unless I’ve chosen to waste it of course. Zelda isn’t going to play itself!).

Whatever it is, it’s up to you to find those extra few minutes for doing what you love. You might surprise yourself where you find them.

Gavin Strange

If you’re feeling like there’s just not enough hours in the day or that you never get time to make that thing happen that you’ve been pining after. Why not write down everything you’re doing and everything you’re not doing, and seeing if there’s any way to consolidate them. It might mean early starts, it might mean late nights. It might mean radical overhauls or it might mean simply sneaking in 5 minutes here and there.

Whatever it is, it’s up to you to find those extra few minutes for doing what you love. You might surprise yourself where you find them.

Good luck, I’ll see you on the early bird shift! Let’s go out in style shall we? Let’s end on a song, something to pep you up. How about a little ‘Every TIME I Die’… (See what I did there!?)

Don’t forget to check out Gav’s website at and follow him on Instagram at @jamfactory. Check back in fortnightly for future instalments.



Posted on May 3rd, 17 by

By Day, Gavin is a Senior Designer for the Interactive arm of Aardman Animations, by night he's a Designer & Director going under the alias of JamFactory, indulging in all manner of passion projects. In 2015 he wrote his first book 'Do Fly', published by The Do Book Company, and he co-founded the contemporary design store 'STRANGE' with his wife Jane. He lives in Bristol with Jane, his son Sullivan and their greyhound Peggy.

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