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Crafts Job Profile: Priya Khanchandani - Editor

We are highlighting the wealth of opportunities to build a career in craft through our Craft Journeys, a series of profiles that ask people work in the sector how they got there.

Tell us about what you do

I’m the Editor of the monthly design and architecture magazine Icon. I take a curated approach to each issue and oversee an in-house team and freelance contributors to manifest a theme. We publish long-form opinion, analysis and commentary about objects, the built environment and the stories that surround them. I divide my time between editorial work in the office and travelling to international events, from Istanbul Design Biennial to Milan Triennale.

As a design expert, my work has a number of other strands, too. I’ve contributed to publications like The Observer, the Sunday Times and Frieze and curated exhibitions at international biennales. I also give talks and chair panel discussions about visual culture at institutions like the Design Museum and the V&A and appear as a cultural commentator in newspapers and on the radio.

What did you study?

GCSE: English Language, English Literature, French, Spanish, Maths, Graphic Design, Religious Education, Science, History

A Level: English Literature, Spanish, Maths, Music 

I did a questionnaire courtesy of a careers service we were offered during our GCSE year which suggested I should become a puppeteer, which was somewhat bemusing. Seriously though, I didn’t have a clear idea of the career I would have, so at that time I wasn’t being consciously strategic in my choices. What I did was to choose the subjects I enjoyed even if the combination didn’t guarantee me a set path. Since I enjoyed studying both the arts and sciences, I struggled with the idea that you should specialise in one or the other. But I think that if you study what you love, you can’t go too far wrong. The variety of my education has enabled me to have breadth in my career, which has kept me constantly engaged.

What have the main challenges been?

The biggest challenge I have faced has been balancing my professional identity with physical hardship. Five years ago, while I was working at the V&A, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had to undergo arduous treatment that took a long time to recover from. During that time, my work helped keep me going – I went back relatively quickly even if, for some time, I had to be flexible with the sort of work I could do. During this time, I took up writing. I pitched to publications and wrote about exhibitions and events, initially those that I could access within London. With time, I began to travel on press trips and was invited to curate the India Pavilion at London Design Biennale, which took place at Somerset House. Balancing my body with my curiosity wasn’t easy. I learnt to be flexible, patient and never, ever give up. I also learnt that physical impairment is not something I should have to hide or be ashamed of. 

Everyone has a story, and learning to own it can help you grow your work such that it becomes synonymous with who you really are.

What advice would you give to someone embarking on a career in craft?

To anyone considering a career in my sector, I would suggest absorbing the aspects of it you think you could get obsessed with – whether that is through books, exhibitions or biennials – in order to work out what really drives you. That might change as your career progresses, but that’s OK. Once you have identified what interests you, a career path that is right for you will emerge. Internships are helpful from a networking perspective, but I also think there is a lot of scope for self-initiated projects and I found this helpful in enabling me to establish an identity within my field. Anyone can set up a blog or with the help of their university, organise a pop-up exhibition. Be a self-starter, and opportunities will follow.

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