Polly Williams: Creatives Behind the Creatives

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Decorex puts the spotlight on the creative individuals working behind the scenes to make interior designers’ visions a reality. Polly Williams, multi award-winning designers’ advisor and founder of Camberyard, introduces some of the collective’s most talented professionals to give them the recognition they deserve.

Polly Williams: Founder of Camberyard
Polly Williams: Founder of Camberyard

 

Behind the scenes

Interior designers and brands fill magazines with their interiors and beautiful objects; they are front and centre at design fairs. But who puts them in those magazines; helps put together or publicise their stands; gets their stories and products in the public eye; does the photo shoots; writes the articles; gets the publicity; finds the hook? Often, it’s a wide range of professionals working hard behind the scenes.

The 8 creatives

Through the Camberyard Collective – my fabulous, eclectic group of creative professionals – I work with people across the interiors industry, tapping into the professional design masterminds who make the business tick but are often overlooked: photographers, web designers, social media gurus, journalists and PR whizzes – to name a few.

I have spoken to eight of them to find out more about what they do and to bring their stories to life:

  • Emma J. Page – Journalist, editor, content creator and brand consultant
  • Edmund Dabney – Interiors and architecture photographer
  • Georgina Viney – Portrait, interiors and brand photographer
  • Ife Adedeji – Interiors journalist
  • Jeff Hayward – Co-owner of PR, marketing and communications firm Wildwood, and co-presenter of the Interior Design Business podcast
  • Wayne McMaster – Co-owner and creative director of Zeke Creative, brand marketing studio
  • Sophie Callender – Brand development, strategy and creative direction for small, bold brands
  • David Del Greco – Founder and director of Contrasto, digital marketing agency for interior design studios and suppliers

Creatives Behind the Creative - Polly Williams

 

Passionate beginnings

No matter the industry, the journey into a career can be a mix of chance, passion and design. These creative professionals are no different. Ed’s instructive stint as a photographer for a big London estate agent solidified his passion for photography, while Emma gained experience in PR at ITV before pursuing her love of writing, travel and interiors. Two got their start at Harrods: Georgina was involved in interior design at the department store, only to realise that while she loved the design aspect, photography gave her a quicker result with an equally satisfying creative challenge. Sophie, on the other hand, jumped at the chance to join Harrods’ Personal Shopping and Styling team on graduation – immersing herself in the world of luxury and design as she dressed clients’ homes, yachts and even private jets. Jeff discovered PR was for him on a holiday to Mexico when he was sat next to the man who had run the PR for the City of Guadalajara during the 1970 World Cup. Others take a more straightforward path into the industry: Wayne did an art and design foundation course followed by A-levels and university before launching into the design world off the back of his degree show. David started by working with design fairs, PR and social media agencies before launching his own company; and Ife, with a degree in French and journalism, cut her teeth at Build It magazine.

Working on their own, with one or two others, or as part of larger team – as the project requires – these professionals have had an array of clients from across the industry, including Ideal Home, Grand Designs, JHR Interiors, KLC School of Design, Studio Alpa, Triptych Furniture, Tatler’s Restaurant Guide, Vaughan, Saatchi Gallery, Chanel, Ace & Tate, BIID, Roca, JAB Anstoetz, Soho Home and John Lewis.

Covet & Noir Photography Edmund Dabney
Camberyard Collective Member: Covet & Noir - Photography Edmund Dabney

 

Memorable moments

Thinking about memorable moments, while journalist Ife finds it difficult to pinpoint one story, as she’s inspired by so many of her clients, digital marketing guru David highlights the time they helped Pigmentti to launch in the UK. Securing a space at Decorex where they could demonstrate their art, Contrasto worked to promote Pigmentti’s presence at the show via social media, advertising and online content. When the fair opened, people flocked to their stand to follow their live demonstration. The stand remained busy throughout and their photos were trending on Instagram. In the end, efforts were rewarded when Pigmentti won Best International Exhibitor award for 2018 – a high moment.

Photographer Georgina remembers the time she collaborated with Studio QD, shooting and styling five of their completed projects for their website revamp – a gratifying end to a high-energy two weeks. Highlighting a situation memorable for its challenges, photographer Ed recalls back in March, just before lockdown, when he was in Dublin with Locke Hotels to shoot the model rooms for two of their hotels. Cordoned off in these luxurious rooms, away from the chaos of the rest of the hotel building site – but without the benefit of running water or heating! – he had to work out how to shoot in near complete darkness using only natural light, thanks to external scaffolding. As Ed put it: “long exposures and plenty of hot drinks were the staple of our two days there”.

Sophie had a fun and fulfilling lockdown experience working with Country & Town House magazine to create The Connected Series. While it was a huge amount of work – connecting, collaborating and creating with a raft of amazing industry experts to support the design community, it was well worth it.

Jeff remembers the launch of the Interior Design Business podcast in 2018. Started to help designers keep up to date with the swiftly changing industry landscape, he and co-presenter Susie Rumbold from design practice, Tessuto, felt a professionally curated and presented podcast series would offer a convenient digital communications platform for the interior design community. This would be a place where “you can eavesdrop on conversations and pick up great advice at your listening convenience”. Wayne picks out his experience helping Stuart Scott – someone he both admires and enjoys working with – take his furniture brand to the next level as an iterative and fun collaboration. Journalist Emma counts interviewing makers for the regular Movers & Shakers spot in Homes & Gardens as a highlight, amidst getting the opportunity to regularly unearth people’s beautiful homes and interview them for magazine features or broadsheet supplements.

Similar themes arose when asked what makes a great client relationship: clear communication; good listening, collaboration and co-operation; clearly defined objectives and roles; well-managed expectations; clients eager to learn and grow, open to fresh input and new directions; realistic budgets; reasonable timescales; mutual trust and respect; having the freedom to run with a brief, and having fun. And it’s always wise, when working for oneself, to value your contribution – ensuring that you are charging not just for your hours but for the experience and expertise you bring to the job.

Finding terrific clients and fostering positive, successful working relationships comes from being proactive, reaching out and meeting people, and, importantly, taking time to create connections on a human level. As David says, “you can usually recognise a great client before a collaboration even begins. From the very first conversations, you can understand whether you can work well together. A great relationship is then based on trust, built over time by good communication and co-operation”.

Georgina Viney for Natalie Treggett
Photography - Georgina Viney for Natalie Tredgett

 

A typical day

Trying to describe a typical day can be tricky – this group’s varied tasks mean each day is unique. For journalists Ife and Emma, research is a big part, but so is going out and interviewing people, pitching projects to editors, and, the key part – writing and creation. Some days may combine all elements. For David Del Greco, “structuring the day is key” to ensure all of his tasks get done. Jeff finds multi-tasking effectively the key to success in the business! On any given day he may be interviewing someone for the Interior Design Business podcast, getting newsletter messaging right, working on a video project or creating social posts, amongst numerous other tasks. His company’s job is to “make it look effortless”.

For photographers Ed and Georgina, on shoot days, it’s an early start, setting up and running through the shot list and checking the light. Wayne and Sophie thrive on early starts. Wayne remarks how much you can get done before the phone and emails kick off at 9am. Moreover, starting at 7 allows him to finish by 4, and be at home for dinner with his family. Sophie echoes this early productivity, relishing that time before the world wakes up to get in her exercise, walk the dog, eat breakfast and catch up on emails before jumping into the day’s work. This usually involves infusions of coffee, writing, meetings, research and, if creating and designing, diving straight in.

Studio -Kia Designs Photographer - Anna Stathaki
Camberyard Collective member Kia Designs - Photography Anna Stathaki

 

 

Home-work balance

Finding balance between the personal and professional can be a challenge. Wayne sums it up, however, when he says: “I prefer to call it life balance, work and business are just a part of life”. For many in this group, work is indeed a part of life, one’s passions and pastimes aren’t always clear cut. Attending an exhibition, for instance, while it might be linked to one’s job, is something that would be done for pleasure too. And while work would ideally be contained within a specific timeframe to allow for downtime, sometimes lines blur and a project rolls into personal time; other days, work finishes early and there’s more time for personal activities.

It’s important not to take on too much – Ife has been there, done that. David agrees, explaining “it’s about quality not quantity”. Working for yourself or running your own business can be all-consuming and it’s not always easy to space the work out evenly; however, all enjoy the flexibility and autonomy it affords. Sophie’s not entirely sure what downtime is but will always make time to explore the culinary delights London has to offer and enjoys testing her physical limits with athletic challenges – running, cycling and kayaking across Scotland in 48 hours was 2019’s feat. Emma highlights the mantra: “find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life” – it’s a good one for us all to aim for. While every day won’t be perfect, if you love your job, you’ll be doing work you not only enjoy but can take pride and pleasure in – it’s about the long game. Ed sums it up: “I tend to think I am doing too much of one or the other at any given time, though in hindsight, I usually get it about right”.

Polly Williams, multi-award-winning Designers’ Advisor, is the founder of Camberyard, the UK’s leading interior design business development consultancy. Inspired by the belief that collaboration is better than competition, she formed the Camberyard Collective, a select group of like-minded designers, brands and creative professionals that meet regularly for workshops and events.

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