Meet the AOI Team: Sarah Morris, Membership Manager

An illustrator once described the AOI as “a little organisation with a big voice”. This is a very true statement, and our big voice is not only possible thanks to all the illustrators and members who contribute to it, but also to the dedication of our passionate staff team.

Get to know them in our new series of interviews! Having previously spoken with Tsveta Todorova we continue our series with Sarah Morris, who joined the AOI team last year as our new Membership Manager. Find out more about her role as well as her interests below.

Hi Sarah! Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at the AOI.

Hi, my name is Sarah and I am the Membership Manager at the AOI, overseeing the Membership department. My role in a nutshell is to establish new connections within the industry, to manage and nurture the membership department and lead on the growth of the AOI’s audience, supporting and championing illustrators and illustration as a profession.

You also trained as a designer and previously worked as an Agent. Can you tell us a bit more about these experiences and how they fed into your role?

Having studied Graphic design at university, I had an understanding of the creative process and the industry and was particularly passionate about illustration. I went on to work with illustrators, selling their prints and products and supporting live art events before becoming an agent, where I built on my business and negotiation skills, experience working with clients, forging industry relationships and supporting and championing illustrators.

All of these skills and experiences have been transferable within this role as they feed into the knowledge and business support we are able to provide our members on the helpdesk, the industry partnerships and relationships we build and the content we put out.

What does your working week look like?

The weeks are full of variety. 

In the mornings I’ll go through the Helpdesk inbox and divide the enquiries across the helpdesk team. We have regular projects that we work on such as writing new articles, resources and creating new events. A lot of this is informed by common issues or themes we notice across the helpdesk, as well as current happenings within the industry and brainstorming ways we can further support illustrators, as well as grow the membership.

I hold a membership meeting every Wednesday to catch up with the team on what’s been going on, how certain projects are going, reporting on any updates or specific trends we are seeing and I’ll have regular 1-1 meets with members of staff team. Most recently, a fun ongoing project I’ve been working on is managing our 2023 Mentorship Scheme for underrepresented illustrators. This year we received the largest number of applications to date from all over the world and it’s been a pleasure to match mentees with our wonderful mentors, who have very kindly given their time to help support others throughout this 6 month scheme.

What’s your favourite thing about your role? And what’s the most challenging?

Favourite thing is that no two days are the same. I enjoy the variety and being able to support the team and our members in our collective and individual goals.

Most challenging can be spinning lots of plates, but I guess the thing that is most challenging is also what I enjoy – working on a variety of different things is exciting. We’re a small but mighty team, and we are genuinely dedicated to supporting illustrators and advancing and protecting our industry. 

What’s been your favourite experience at the AOI to date?

There’s so many to choose from but I’d say the opportunities where I’ve been able to meet and connect with our members and different illustrators, whether that be through the helpdesk, events, or commissioning new illustrations for use across AOI branding, web and marketing materials. I’ve really enjoyed being at the other side of the commissioning process.

I also loved attending Pictoplasma last September, where I was a portfolio consultant and met some great talent. Similarly, I enjoyed organising the AOI’s involvement in London Book Fair this year, presenting a few different talks throughout the day and meeting lots of interesting people.  

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Going to gigs, travelling to new places – and taking loads of photos and spending time with my parent’s cockapoo, Freddie.

What 3 things would you recommend to watch or listen to?

Book: F*ck being Humble by Stefanie Sword-Williams

Honest, insightful advice that feels like a pep talk from your biggest supporter. A must read for better understanding how to confidently promote yourself. I’ve attended many of Stef’s brilliant webinars and the book is something I come back to often, when I need a little reminder and pick me up.

Listen to: Sounds of the 90s

I started listening to Sounds of the 90s on the BBC Sounds app at the beginning of the pandemic and have continued to listen every week. It’s presented by Fearne Cotton, who I really admire, for many reasons and it’s just pure nostalgia and joy! It got me through lockdown and brings back many great memories of growing up in the 90s. I love that it celebrates the music and pop culture, including special mixtapes and conversations with some of the biggest names of the nineties. Who doesn’t love a bit of nostalgia?!

Exhibition: BBC Earth Experience
This is open in London until the end of July and is a 360-degree audio visual journey through seven continents in one experience. Narrated of course by the wonderful David Attenborough and I’m really looking forward to checking it out!

Thanks you Sarah for taking the time to answer all questions!

Continue meeting the rest of the AOI Team:
Emma Morley, Awards Assistant.
Tsveta Todorova, Finance Manager.
Helen Ridley, Awards Coordinator.

13th June 2023

World Illustration Awards 2023 – celebrating global illustration!
Be part of #WIA2023 - a global celebration of great illustration.
Issue 42 and Back issues available!
Contacts (across 3 sectors) for 350+ UK Commissioners... BUY NOW!
Get seen by commissioners with a 20 image Folio.


Join our mailing list to get the latest news.