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

Are you a Design Tourist?

Design tourism is on the rise, with hordes of us hopping from one global fair to the next. So is the big draw the products, the pictures, the people or the parties?

BY DEE IVA

'We are all design tourists,' declared Tom Dixon at this year's Milan Furniture Fair. It was a term we'd never heard before but it has stuck in our minds ever since.

UK furniture and lighting whizz Dixon was referring to the hordes of design aficionados who flock to the major design fairs each year to see the new collections and product launches from around the world.

Most of these design devotees are buyers for retail brands, journalists, PRs, agents and designers themselves. Instead of returning home with pictures of the local sights and landmarks, hours are spent uploading photos of furniture, lighting, accessories, architecture and fresh talent to Instagram and Pinterest in a 21st-century version of sharing holiday snaps. So forget La Scala, ciao Salone del Mobile. Never mind the Mona Lisa, check out Maison et Objet. And who needs the Tower of London, when you've got the London Design Festival?

This endless round of snap-happy globetrotting also applies to the fashion industry. The second a new look sashays down the catwalk, whether in New York, Paris or Milan, it's snapped and shared on social media for all to see. It's increasingly true of the international art fair scene too, and food blogger-flocked restaurant and bar launches worldwide.

ABOVE FROM LEFT: The Cos X Hay floor in Cos Kensington, London; Tom Dixon's own limited-edition crash helmet; Sebastian Herkner's 'Salute' side tables for La Chance at designjunction 2015; Sculptural architecture in Dungeness, Kent; Jaime Hayon's witty ceramic birds for Bosa
ABOVE RIGHT: Tom Dixon announces 'We are all design tourists' in Milan

ABOVE FROM LEFT: Jaime Hayon's Instagrammable 'Monkey' side table for BD Barcelona Design at Salone del Mobile 2015; Milan revisits Memphis at the Milan Furniture Fair 2015; Artist Jim Lambie's graphic striped staircase at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2015
BELOW: Rebekah Hutchinson's abstract wallpapers, New Designers 2015

It's a double-edged sword for designers, of course. On the one hand they want the world to know about their new collections, but many also fiercely try to guard their work from prying eyes, fearing copycat copyright rip-offs (we've all seen those paranoid 'no photos' signs on graduate design fair stands). But in our increasingly teched-up world it's almost a given that once something's out there it's being shared immediately. Our tip? Embrace social media, create your own hashtags, and trust that if your product is associated with you first, you should get the credit and ultimately reap the benefits.

Back in the day we would go on holiday, wait for our prints to be processed and then bore the pants off family and friends with out-of-focus, badly lit holiday pics. Now we're capturing our inspirations and sharing our snaps with the world, only this time around we're promoting what we've seen and disseminating that information in an instant, like passionate PRs.

ABOVE FROM LEFT: A dreamy installation of folded pink paper cranes at SeehoSu's Surry Hills showroom created with Sumu Design for August's Sydney Indesign 2015. 'Adnet' mirror by Jacques Adnet for Gubi; We fell for these bent-wire chairs by Gaurav Nanda for LA company Bend Goods at Darlinghurst showroom Own World during Sydney Indesign 

'I think everyone who takes in any form of culture when they travel could be deemed a design tourist', says Max Fraser, former Deputy Director of the London Design Festival and publisher of the London Design Guide. 'After all, it is the manmade anomalies of different places that draw our fascination, be they spectacular examples of ancient settlements, modern developments or small everyday details that are different from our own. At the core of our interest in these things is design and, indeed, we are fixated by the seemingly endless beauty of nature's design too.'

'But then there is the 'hardcore design tourist', a group within which I am included. We travel specifically to hunt out design in all its guises, coinciding our trips with major exhibitions or design festivals. We enjoy the inevitable socialising that comes with it. With travel so cheap and easy, more and more design tourists are traversing the world and cultural expectations in different cities are mounting. That said, design is my profession and when I'm on holiday I like to escape the manmade and sidestep cultural excursions altogether!'

PAVILION.jpg

ABOVE: Design tourists caught in the act at SelgasCano's 2015 Serpentine Pavilion in Kensington Gardens, London

But is it only people working in design and its associated industries who become design tourists (or should we say 'design hunters')? We don't think so. We're forever seeing excited design junkies snapping away at fairs, showrooms and events, obsessing about this new cushion or that new light in much the same way as One Direction's fans go gaga for their latest single. Some are selfie-seeking students, others silver-haired culture lovers, and almost all are party people, enjoying the accompanying launch cocktails or DJ tunes. This may or may not lead to an actual future purchase but what it does do is spread the word, bring the customer and the designer closer together, and create a buzz around the brand.

BELOW FROM LEFT: Patternity's stunning black and white installation at Somerset House during London Design Festival 2015; Lee Broom's pop-up The Department Store was the talk of the town at Milan this year

ABOVE: We could rabbit on for ages about the minimal 'Wireflow' pendants by Arik Levy for Vibia – a design highlight at Waterloo's PYD Building during August's Sydney Indesign fair, as seen at Koda Lighting's showroom

It helps that global design fairs are becoming more fun and interactive, taking over alternative spaces around town and opening their doors to the public. At 2015's Milan Furniture Fair in April there were outsize swing sets by Philippe Malouin for Caesarstone in a grand palazzo, Lee Broom invited us in to his pop-up department store and Tom Dixon did an after-party gig with his band Rough. Recently, at September's London Design Festival, Somerset House became an immersive installation where visitors were encouraged to interact with the designs on show.

Not everyone is happy with the design tourist label though. London online retailer Thorsten Van Elten is distinctly uncomfortable with it. 'Design tourist feels a bit like a dirty word to me, like someone in desperate need to be hanging out in the latest bar, café, restaurant or hotel. It's like the gentrification of tourism. To me it's one of those non-phrases like 'concept store' or 'boutique hotel''.

American writer Henry Miller once said, 'One's destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.' Here at DesignFizz, we're very happy to be design tourists. The shock of the new will continue to excite us and we'll keep on sharing our #FizzPicks with you on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (currently the medium for reporting on global design). That is, unless we can share a glass of fizz with you in person at the next fair in Cologne, Stockholm or Paris. See you there!

All photos by Dee Iva and Sophie Davies for DesignFizz; for more, check out our feed on Instagram