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Are personal projects the key to your professional practice? We find out at Nicer Tuesdays September

Yesterday evening at September’s Nicer Tuesdays at Oval Space it was personality, and particularly personal projects, which shined through in each talk.

The four speakers spanned alternate creative disciplines, conveying the importance of working on projects solely for your creative development. This way each project not only means more to you, but undoubtedly resonates with the audience, too. From illustrator Olimpia Zagnoli showcasing a personal project reflecting her childhood; to Superimpose utilising side projects as a way to find new business; Margot Bowman using creativity to take something personal and make it approachable; or photographer Dougie Wallace, who places his personality wholeheartedly at the forefront of his lens.

Below, we share what we learned when each of these speakers took to the stage.


Childhood can always come back as inspiration

Beloved Italian illustrator Olimpia Zagnoli joined us for September’s Nicer Tuesdays from her home in Milan. Taking the audience on a trip through her career, Olimpia explained the importance of personal projects, as: “an aspect of the work that needs to be cultivated everyday, you have to make time for it,” she told the audience at Oval Space. This led on to one of the illustrator’s most recent projects, Cuore di Panna, a personal and cultural interpretation of 80s Italy, filled with “fruit shaped ice cream, fizzy soda, bubblegum everything, glow in the dark everything and barbies with pink hair,” she described.

At the time, this busy, fizzing with colour lifestyle – often picked up from Italian advertising – widened a young Olimpia’s eyes to a new way of life. The daughter of a photographer and an artist, commercial toys and even television weren’t a large part of her childhood and so the series, and subsequent exhibition, held an element of nostalgia, "but I didn’t want to indulge in that too much or be too romantic” Olimpia says. The result is a series that anyone can relate to, from a child of the 1980s to today, whether they’re Italian or not. However for Olimpia, it illustrates a moment where she realised life wasn’t “as easy as it looked in those commercials,” she told the audience. “But, I can still buy a coke without asking my parent’s permission, which is really cool.”


Have the guts to do things differently

Next to take the stage at September’s Nicer Tuesdays was the creative directors of independent agency Superimpose, otherwise known as Ollie Olanipekun and Toby Evans. A studio built on doing things differently, Superimpose was formed when Ollie – whose background is in trend forecasting – and Toby – a graphic designer – found themselves nursing pints and talking over the difficulties of their then current jobs.

To tackle their personal feelings, and a general feeling of how graphic design and advertising was being approached by both studios and clients alike, they began working as Superimpose, with an emphasis on being “independent, culturally rooted and globally active,” as part of their mission to “speak to as many people as possible,” the pair explained. A few years later Toby and Ollie’s initial feelings have clearly resonated with a wide-spanning audience, with them working on huge briefs from Adidas to Burberry. With such great commercial success, it’s hard to believe they have time for personal projects, but Ollie and Toby have found them key to both personal growth and as a way of finding new business: “we want to challenge the way things are done, to break the mould of what a typical agency set up is”.


Use creativity to take difficult subjects and make them approachable

Creative director and filmmaker Margot Bowman then joined us to talk through Common Misconceptions, a short film she made in collaboration with Lynette Nylander and Boiler Room. The animation focuses on the aggressions women often experience in nightclub culture, and, as Margot explained, the initial idea for the film came from publishing around the #MeToo movement, which gained momentum while she was working with Boiler Room on other projects.

As Boiler Room so often documents club culture, Margot felt the brand had a responsibility to bring something “complicated, political, into something grounded and approachable”. While researching references for the film, Margot and Lynette came across the zine Rave Ethics, and in particular, the piece How to Hit on a Girl.

Margot and Lynette got in touch with the zine’s founders asking permission to create a film loosely based on the piece, which would tackle the problems explored in a way that Margot described as “smart, funny… but not dogmatic”; excited to create a film that has the ability to be “political, sexual and complicated in a grounded approachable language”.


Use your personal point of view and who knows where it will lead you

Last to grace the stage at September’s Nicer Tuesdays was the renowned, award-winning and absolute character of a photographer, Dougie Wallace.

In a mammoth presentation which jumped from project to project over his entire career to date, Dougie took the audience through his work which aptly showed the truly unique documentarian eye he’s crafted. From the talk it’s obvious to see the energy Dougie possesses, whether it’s in the dozens of projects which have seen him shoot at home in Shoreditch; across town to photograph the clientele of Harrods; hen and stag do’s in Blackpool; or Mumbai and Bombay’s taxi drivers, the stray beach dogs in Goa – “dogs won in the end as I almost broke my back shooting on sand everyday".

While each talk showed the value of personal projects alongside commercial work, Dougie’s talk and practice finishing the evening showed how truly being yourself is the best approach. As he said to finish his presentation: “So I get paid to take photos, it’s mental innit?”


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Supported by: The Five Points Brewing Company

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