At September’s Nicer Tuesdays, we get a lesson in staying true to yourself as a creative
At this month’s Nicer Tuesdays, Trevor Jackson, Nwaka Okparaeke, The Earth Issue and Butt Studio took to the stage.
This month, for the first time in a very long time, Nicer Tuesdays took place in a new venue. Hosted in the beautiful old theatre hall of EartH in Hackney, the event felt exceptionally dramatic. Equally dramatic was the expansive stage, which this month was graced by a wonderful mix of speakers: Multidisciplinary artist and designer Trevor Jackson, photographer and filmmaker Nwaka Okparaeke, stylist and fashion director Isabelle Landicho of creative agency The Earth Issue, and designer and animator Harry Butt of Butt Studio. Ranging from emerging talent to established artists, the speakers offered the crowd insights into different areas of the creative industry, speaking on a range of topics as varied as why the industry needs to be more environmentally-aware, to the dangers of it becoming oversaturated with work.
Trevor Jackson discusses the benefits of being a one-man creative band
“I work by myself. I’ve always worked by myself,” begins Trevor Jackson, reflecting on his long career in the creative industry in a Q&A with our editor-in-chief Matt Alagiah. “I very rarely work on one thing at a time, because I find I get the best out of myself when I do as many things as possible.” Not only that, but Trevor also cherishes the chance to work in as many fields as possible too, having dabbled in everything from design and art to music and fashion. His creative pursuits have led him to work with high-profile brands like Nike and Gucci, and with household names such as Massive Attack and LCD Soundsystem.
But, despite the diverse list of projects, clients and subjects, the one thing that has remained a constant throughout Trevor’s career is the size of his team. Entering the world of work as a solo creative many years ago, he has never strayed from this solitary setup. Now decades later, he stands by his decision to go it alone: “The people around me that run very successful agencies don’t seem that happy. They’re not doing the work they want to do.” For Trevor, the most important part of his practice was, is and will always be the work itself. Rather than dealing with the “burden” of employing people, he can focus on making his clients happy and being happy with what he is producing. “My aspirations have been purely creative and nothing more. I’ve only ever been driven by having a good work output… As long as you do work that’s true to yourself, that’s all that matters.”
Nwaka Okparaeke on telling real stories with surreal imagery
Photographer and filmmaker Nwaka Okparaeke says she can’t talk about where she is now “without talking about where I began”. Technically, she entered the world of photography in secondary school, when she realised that you could have a career in fashion photography, but it wasn’t until university that she began to properly immerse herself in the medium. “Back then I would meet with people in events and from school and we would come up with the craziest ideas and we would work together to see how we could create them,” she recalls. “We wanted a safe space to experiment and see what we liked and didn’t like, and without this space we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are now.”
So, where is Nwaka now? Well, she’s worked for brands like Nike and Mercedes-Benz, and, just recently she shot album covers for Original Koffee and Kojey Radical. She uses the latter as a prime example of her usual approach to creative collaboration, reminiscing on meeting Kojey for the first time and realising that they shared a similar vision. Riffing off his ideas, she was able to bring her own style to the table and this style is evident in the finished product. The evocative portrait and dreamy backdrop is typical of Nwaka’s work, which she says is about using surreal imagery to tell down to earth stories. Reflecting on this approach, she explains: “My style started as something that was very personal to me, and now I’m able to use it to capture something that is very personal to someone else.”
Isabelle Landicho of The Earth Issue talks about the importance and potential of environmentally-conscious creativity
How can we reconcile ambitious creative vision with environmental care and awareness? Often the two seem to clash, and many creatives find the prospect of sustainable production to be a tricky one. Well, creative agency The Earth Issue leads by example in this regard: Not only do they work exclusively with clients who share a respect for the Earth and social justice, but they also avoid flying out talent and crew wherever possible, work with natural light to avoid electricity usage, follow low-waste methodologies on-shoot, rely on green couriers and transport, and use sustainable printing practices for printed media. And the best bit? Their work is still just as powerful and moving as it would be otherwise.
The third speaker of the night, The Earth Issue’s fashion director Isabelle Landicho, says that though her team “are not perfect”, they are committed to being transparent. This impressive work ethic has led the agency to grow over recent years, and has seen them work on a range of impressive projects such as a print magazine, collaborations with Stella McCartney and Dazed & Confused, and, most recently, an installation at the Barbican Centre’s Our Time on Earth exhibition. As with the agency’s approach to their projects, Isabelle explains that her own creative practice is defined by thoughtful decision-making and conscious production. She concludes: “Living with respect for the planet and people is how I choose to live my life… We must come together to stand up for what we believe in.”
Harry Butt of Butt Studio revisits his biggest creative failure and the lessons it has taught him
Upon leaving university, designer and animator Harry Butt was in a difficult position. Many of his peers were founding their own studios, often named after themselves, but Harry’s own unusual name left him wondering whether it would be a bad move to follow suit. “I felt that I couldn’t do that because my name is basically ‘hairy butt’,” he recalls. However, he soon realised the power of embracing his comedic name and decided to create his own company: Butt Studio. Not only did his worries about this quickly disappear, but it wasn’t long before his skills in animation shone through and became the most memorable part of his practice instead. He gradually built up a truly enviable list of clients, including Boiler Room, Nike, and Instagram.
But, modest as ever, what Harry wanted to discuss with the crowd was not his success against the odds, but instead an animation that he considers his biggest failure. Showing them a strange yet sweet short film of a hungry frog, he explained “It’s not objectively bad, but it feels like a failure to me.” There were two reasons for this, he says – one was a lack of a cohesive narrative, which meant that the story was nonsensical, and the second was a lack of proper animation technique. He broke these two problems down into detail, giving his thinking behind each. However, always one to take the good with the bad, Harry moved into the concluding moments of his talk on an inspiring note, explaining that this project had actually been a useful lesson in taking his time and not rushing the process: “It was a bit of a risk coming to a wonderful event like this and showing you my worst work… But my hope is that the next time you make something you hate, you can also love it for teaching you something about yourself.”
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