Creative CoOp

Promoting yourself isn't easy when you're a young designer with big ideas but strapped for cash. The Fizz meets Creative CoOp who are helping up-and-coming design and crafts talents make their mark...

BY DEE IVA

You can be an amazing designer with beautiful products that astound the eye or promise to enrich our lives, but in the 21st century you also need your work to be seen in the best possible light. In the age of social media the image is king and a great shot is a powerful marketing tool. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter et al are full of selfies and phone snaps, but there’s nothing like a professional picture to separate the wheat from the chaff. However, if you’re a start-up or in your first year of business a professional shoot can be beyond your means as the cost of a photographer, stylist, set builder and set is very expensive.

Step forward the London-based Creative CoOp, a philanthropic collective dedicated to providing young UK creative businesses with professionally shot, art directed and styled photographs for a nominal fee. The team consists of photographer Anders Gramer, stylist Melinda Ashton Turner and her husband, art director Grant Turner. Having worked for a raft of international magazines and retail brands, including The World Of Interiors, Homes and Gardens and ELLE Decoration, they decided to pool their respective talents and volunteer their services to help up-and-coming design talents get a foot on the ladder.

ABOVE RIGHT: A handcrafted leather bag by Ted Jefferis of TedWood gets the Creative CoOp treatment
BELOW: Textile designer Maxine Sutton's graphic lampshade and cushions; Minimal styling and Expressionist lighting bring drama to Young & Norgate's 'Animate' writing desk 

‘The idea came about during a conversation about the UK design industry and how there are so many talented up-and-coming designer-makers, crafts people and brands who struggle to be seen or heard above the noise of big established brands,’ says Ashton Turner. ‘We are talking about designers who in addition to their core training have to learn to market and publicise their products. Big brands have the financial means to employ or hire a team of people to take on these responsibilities. It was at this point we asked ourselves what we as a photographer, stylist and art director could do to level the playing field and help young, small brands be seen.’

Having worked together on numerous shoots over the years, she and Gramer decided to set up the Creative CoOp with her husband Grant to do exactly that. The CoOp was formed in 2013 and began to invite young brands to apply for their services.

ABOVE FROM LEFT: The Creative CoOp founders: Melinda Ashton Turner, Grant Turner, Anders Gramer

‘We had to be very clear about the criteria that applicants had to meet in order for us to work with them,’ says Ashton Turner. ‘In essence, the CoOp is aimed at brands and designer-makers who don’t have the financial means or support to create styled imagery or branding. We often have to ask in-depth questions about how a brand is structured to ensure we are offering our services to those who need us most.'

ABOVE: Simple and elegant bone china vessels by ceramicist Hannah MorrowDesinature's 'Lily' lampshade

For a flat fee of £200 those lucky enough to be selected receive a package that includes not only the photography, styling, design and art direction of the Creative CoOp but also studio hire, transport of products and props, set building, and materials like paint and wallpaper. The CoOp has a network of like-minded companies, such as Shoot Services and London Art Makers, which donate their services or materials for free in return for a credit and publicity on Creative CoOp’s social media channels. In addition, the final images are then given to Elizabeth Machin PR which compiles press releases ready to be sent out to members of the media.

The CoOp's first client was Margate-based textile designer Maxine Sutton who approached them after seeing a post on the Cockpit Arts blog. 'This is wonderful professional nurturing,' she says. 'Such a high level of expertise, providing this type of support at the start of your career or when relaunching, could make a real difference. The shoot was also a very enjoyable day – lovely people who are really good at what they do'. Sutton’s graphic textiles are now stocked by big retail brands including Liberty, Heal’s and Anthropologie and she has her own standalone store in UK coastal town Margate, itself a rising design hotspot.

BELOW: This overhead shot for British paper goods and homewares brand HAM brings the hand of the maker into focus

It’s an inspiring concept that makes a huge difference to emerging talents. Design graduates in particular can find it hard to make ends meet in their first few years in business, and marketing and publicity is something that many struggle with. What Creative CoOp offers would otherwise be out of reach for most young creatives as a day’s shoot can often amount to well over £1,000 before the first image has even been taken. Even more incredible is that none of the CoOp’s members make any money themselves from the business.

‘Individually we are lucky enough to make a living working in our respective fields for international publications and brands,’ says Ashton Turner. ‘We wanted to give back to the community we loved, so the simple answer was to volunteer our services.'

We think it's an admirable idea deserving of an award for services to the design industry. Ma'am, are you listening?
creativecoop.co.uk