Ilka Hadlock '13 (Studio art)

Ilka Hadlock is the Founder and Creative Director at Ilka Graphics, she is a creative and industrious visual designer with experience in illustration, web and brand identity. Ilka received her Bachelor's degree in Art & Art History and Film from St Lawrence University in 2013. You can see her art work at:

Alumni Biography

I loved the Art & Art History department and built some lifelong friendships in those studios. I have such fond memories of walking across campus so excited to dive into a print or painting or video. I spent the fall of my sophomore year in Cortona, Italy. It was such a unique and amazing opportunity to immerse myself in art for a full semester. My academics suffered a bit because I snuck off every weekend and explored the coast and the mountains.

When I returned to campus I joined the Outing Club. When I wasn’t in the studio I was leading trips around the ‘Daks, the Whites, the Chic Chocs, and (most frequently) the town of Canton on rollerblades. The combination of making art and needing to be outside is something that I still juggle, in a good way. Piece of advice for current students: dive into everything and meet everyone. I was a little late to the game, but by my senior year I was Vice President of the Outing Club, on the NCAT staff, on the club ski team, on the Hill News staff … I even joined the dance team! I think it’s important to diversify, even if that means just switching up your usual Java night and heading to the Tick Tock. Or vice versa. SLU is chalk full of amazing people and you’ll never meet them if you do the same thing all the time.

Thanks to some amazing professors, my career was truly influenced by the Art & Art History dept. Shout out to Amy Hauber and her digital media classes that introduced me to digital illustration, Peter Nelson and his photo & film classes that guide everything I do in Adobe suite, Kirk Fuoss for an amazing class that he & Peter co-taught in communication design, and Melissa Schulenberg whose printmaking classes continue to influence the way I use colors & layers in my design work. I spent a lot of time in the NCAT (hi, Jo!) playing around with a Wacom tablet & finding out that I really loved making things on a computer. Even though I didn’t graduate with a degree in Graphic Design, I left SLU with a really solid skill set, thanks to professors who pushed and inspired me to pursue it as a career. I’m so grateful for that.

Upon graduation, I loaded up my Subaru and headed west. I thought I had a job in Jackson, but it immediately fell through, so (in the footsteps of all hip, broke artists before me) I landed a barista gig. I also enrolled in an entrepreneurship course and worked on a business plan that I started while at SLU via Clarkson’s Shipley Center for Innovation. I wanted to start a clothing company, but didn’t have the money. Funny enough, a couple of people in the class really liked the branding I did for my nonexistent company, and asked me to make logos for them. And just like that, I had my first two graphic design clients. Alas, having two clients doesn’t pay the rent so I worked in a ski shop, sold burritos, and eventually landed a job in digital marketing at the ski resort, but really missed creative design work. Therefore I quit, and went to work at yet another restaurant so that I could work at night and hone my design skills and build my portfolio during the day. A couple of months later, I landed a job as the graphic designer for a grocery store in town. I spent a year working part time, still trying to build up my own business on the side. I also had a bartending job. I was totally exhausted but slowly gaining traction for my own business. Eventually I quit the grocery store job, and a few months later quit the bartending job. It took 5 years, but now I just have ONE job, and I’m the boss. It rocks. I’ve got some great momentum and have landed some fantastic clients. I’m really lucky. Plus, if things don’t work out I’m a qualified barista, bartender, burrito slinger, server, and ski saleswoman. 

In all honesty, working in the service industry was hugely important for my career. I learned so much from those jobs that had nothing to do with drinks or food or skis. While working with clients I constantly think back to moments where I failed or succeeded in customer service. You learn so much from dealing with people and selling them things. 

I would advise current or prospective students to take advantage of everything SLU has to offer—  hike up Azure at sunrise, go roller blading with the Outing Club, break out of your comfort zone, meet as many people as you can, thank your professors (they’re more important than you realize right now), call your mom, focus on what’s fun and what makes you tick (tock), and don’t freak out about graduating! SLU is great, but so is life if you do it right.