Time and Money

In a previous blog, I described starting Blue Noun Language Hub with limited technology.

This blog is also about the tech, but about having limited time.

Life after university or art school is not a level playing field.

This blog tells the story of making this language school happen as a single, working mum.

By the way, that’s not something I’ve ever felt ashamed of. (Life after art school was ‘off piste’ before she arrived!)

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I’m writing this article for you to get to know your English teacher, and discover whether we ‘click’.

It’s also for any recent art graduates, for you to know that it is incredibly tough to ‘make it’ – whatever that looks like to you.

I’m not sure I ever had a clear vision of what ‘making it’ looked like.

I made my decisions very emotionally, not rationally.

Around the age of 40, I looked at my skills (Art & English) and who I most enjoy helping (Artists & Travellers) – and built a business based on those two things.

“I’m an English language coach, specialising in training professional artists and designers in the English language skills they need for their international careers – and I love it.”




Ruth Pringle, 2021

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Another Continent, Another City… and Another Shared Computer

I moved to Brussels after graduating with my MFA in Fine Art.

Due to an industry prejudice for so-called ‘native speakers’, I easily found my first English language teaching job with a business English Language School.

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Volunteer Work | Filmmaking for Refugees

I also began working with a community filmmaking project – Plus-tôt Te laat (PTTL) – as a grant writer, administrator, helper, Photoshop teacher – a long story in itself, but it is where I learnt filmmaking – on another communal computer, with another sign-up sheet pinned to the wall, and different computer occasionally users leaving files you couldn’t reach, cluttering up the memory.

More interestingly, instead of a bunch of like-minded international art grad students, the list was a collection of ‘sans papier’ refugees, who, being trapped in the hellish holding system of bureaucracy had no legal right to work while their citizenship got established – something that took 7 years on average.

The genius of the community film group was to provide free filmmaking access to this community, with little to do, they wandered through their lives with film cameras, gaining skills, training and self-expression – and in the process,  creating an amazing film archive of the city.

The whole group then collectively edited up all the footage into powerful social documentaries, which were absolutely fascinating.

One that I worked on even got screened at ICA London. 

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    Tight Money But Lots of Time

    Although as a Brit I was legally permitted work (sigh, BREXIT) I did as little paid English teaching as I could to survive financially, preferring the time spent with artists and filmmakers, to the business offices I was dropping into for work.

    I lived incredibly cheaply – it was possible to do this in Brussels – and worked as a volunteer with this filmmaking group for years, making my own art and film too, but largely assisting others. (It was this period of my life that I got into several good film festivals and an installation in a  fringe event in the Venice Biennale).

    Money was tight, but life was good.

    The concept of a personal computer was completely out of reach.

    A printer I could afford though! I bought one when I moved to France, and 7 years later, when I left France, moving ‘house’ with 2 suitcases and hand baggage on a Ryan Air flight, the printer came with.

    My printer even survived a few years stored in an attic, working immediately when plugged back in. Respect.

      English coach Ruth with her camera

      Dark Rooms

      Another piece of hardware that has made Blue Noun possible, was my investment in a Nikon DSLR.

      I learned old-school developing and printing at high school and later at art school.

      I Ioved moving in a dark room, lit only by a faint red light, the smell of the chemical baths acrid but pleasant, the miracle of picture printing.

      I generally enjoyed the process much more than the resulting photographs, but I am grateful for the two or three that have survived from those days, (the portraits anyway, I don’t know why I took so many photos of swans).

      My Nikon is almost always with me now.

      I put photos on Instagram to show what our language school is up to and I have an ever-growing photo library which I use to illustrate our blogs and website.

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        Needs Must

        When my daughter was 1 old I was still working remotely for an art organisation in Cumbria.

        My job there was to oversee the development of their website – not the techy stuff, they had outsourced that, but I managed the content and design to make sure that content from their old site was copied onto their new site structure in logical ways. There was much to do. I began the post while pregnant, but continued it long after I had left Cumbria – and her dad.

        I’d also just learned to drive, so until the relationship with her dad completely broke down about a year later, I’d drive up and down from Scotland to Cumbria, in a battered blue car, with baby and the art organisation’s iMac safely tucked into the back of the car with a seat belt.


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          Out On My Own

          I used my precious weekend time away from baby for intensive time focusing on the Art Gene website; the rest of the time only chipping away at it through naps, Teletubbies and other distractions.

          When she was 3, I quit with Art Gene to begin full-time research on my language school business plan, sadly driving the iMac down one final time (only to find out much later that I’d filled the art organisation’s DropBox account up with baby photos via some automatic upload).

          Hopefully, that was my last ever shared computer!


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            Life After Art School

            Together, my haphazardly amassed tech goodies and I built the Blue Noun website online in WordPress – and got an English coaching business off the ground.

            I’m still the friendly, ambitious person I have been throughout my career –  but I never want to share a computer again!

              “I’m still the friendly, ambitious person I have been throughout my career –  but I never want to share a computer again!.”




              Ruth Pringle, 2021

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              Further Information

              My Self-Portrait Through Tech.

              Things not going to plan? Here are 7 Tips for a Creative Block 

              Scottish entrepreneurs, learn about the Digital Boost Grant.