Here at Creativepool, we could never be accused of staying in just one lane when it came to the creative industries. That’s why, today, we’ve chosen to shine our illustrious Member Spotlight on April Sharman, a design manager for Style Library whose expertise focuses on interior design.
April is a motivated, business-minded creative with a keen eye and a diverse skillset and after having two quite decadent featured projects for Morris & Co back in July, we thought it was time to give her the full spotlight treatment.
So, we asked April about everything from her racehorse “Smokey Joe” to her open-minded approach to work and her stance on the future of the industries.
How did you get into the industry?
I studied at Bath School of Art and Design where I gained a degree in Textiles Design for Fashion and Interiors. Following this, I had the opportunity to showcase my portfolio at New Designers, which is an event presenting the work of 3,000 selected design graduates from around the country. This event is sponsored by industry professionals and this is where I met the design team at Harlequin Fabrics and Wallcoverings and consequently landed my first role as a CAD designer and colourist.
Where are you based now and who do you work for?
I am currently based in Leicestershire just outside of Loughborough and I work for Style Library as the Design Manager for Licensing. Style Library provides a diverse range of authentic home and interior design products as the official home of Zoffany, Harlequin, Sanderson, Morris & Co. Scion and Anthology.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
My proactive approach and passion for leading initiatives have enabled me to gain a diverse range of skills. Through working across several product categories with leading experts, designing for varied markets across the world and working within a diverse brand architecture I have developed skills that are transferable to many different divisions within a business. I have no doubt I would be using my commercial and creative confidence to lead a design role and deliver projects with integrity and success.
Can you explain your creative process?
My role involves leading strategic development and activating the creative direction of premium brands. This incorporates driving design projects with key partners and retailers globally across a spectrum of categories to include apparel, home accessories, kitchen and tableware, gift wrap and stationery. I will manage creative projects with my team from initial concepts with the development of seasonal look books and storyboards to present ideas in a creative and inspirational way.
Following this I will work collaboratively with partners to visualise designs on specific products, I will also use my skills as a trained colourist to colour the designs, pulling the collection together in a cohesive way whilst interpreting trends and capturing brand identities to provide consistent benchmarks to everyone involved. These processes enable a joined-up approach across all categories whilst implementing procedures to analyse performance, problem solve and promote opportunities.
How has technology affected the way you work (if at all)?
Technology has been instrumental in closing the gaps between communication by enabling me to stay connected with partners and buyers from all over the world through video conferencing. This has also supported me in working flexibly across diverse environments, for example, if I am travelling with work, I am able to oversee processes and support my team with help and advice to enable them to work to their full potential in my absence.
Technology has also enabled me to efficiently analyse data, problem solve and reinterpret the design direction accordingly, keeping the business agile. This has also been helpful in the ongoing management of creative projects and maintaining an organised approach in enabling me to plan, focus and deliver towards tight deadlines with attention to detail.
What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?
I am hugely inspired by travel which has opened my mind to new experiences and created memorable moments. On a day to day basis I draw my inspiration from Instagram for example luxury British interiors brand OKA embraces beautiful and practical design; blogs such as Mad About The House and Apartment Therapy, magazines to include Cabana Magazine which demonstrates home collections obsessively collected by globe trotters and books for example Kit Kemp, the creative director for Firmdale hotels has published a couple of books that inspire the journey through many beautiful spaces and LA-based designer Justina Blakeney has developed a couple of books following the success of her blog which shares bohemian design inspiration.
In terms of staying motivated, I naturally have high energy and I am always motivated by the opportunity to learn and grow, I like the flexibility of working on a variety of projects in a fast-paced environment and I like being able to challenge decisions. I think it is easy to stay motivated when I am working in a creative field that I have a genuine passion for. I also subscribe to mindfulness magazine Oh which I enjoy reading in my spare time because it has a fresh approach to slow living and maintaining mindsets.
What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?
It was hugely exciting when the H&M x Morris & Co. Fall/Winter 18 collection launched because this brought the archive designs to a new audience within the fashion world. However, in terms of general achievements, I am proud that through my business ambition I have optimised a proven track record of success in driving design projects and growing brands.
Additionally, I am hugely proud of my team, which I have led by example through my own experiences in enabling them to achieve individual goals as well as supporting one another in reaching exceptional results as a team. Lastly, I am proud that I have had the opportunity to work and connect with specialist manufacturers across six diverse brands.
How do you recharge away from the office?
I have many hobbies and interests. Firstly, I have owned and cared for my horse Smokey Joe since I was 14 years old. We like to explore the English countryside together and we regularly participate in show jumping, dressage and cross-country competitions; continually working towards new goals.
I thoroughly enjoy attending music festivals as I am a huge music fan and I love discovering emerging artists as well as camping, socialising and dressing up in fancy outfits. I also thoroughly enjoy travel and I spent 9 months during my gap year before university travelling through America, Australasia and Southeast Asia. I particularly enjoy skiing which is a great way to re-charge in the fresh mountain air and invigorate your well-being.
What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?
Keep a positive attitude, for example, look at a weakness as an area of opportunity and growth to develop further skills and consider every set back as great experience and practice towards your next venture. Keep an open mind because it is surprising how many skills you can transfer and adapt into future roles.
Stay connected as through this you can obtain helpful advice which will enable you to keep motivated, reduce stress levels and you never know when an opportunity might arise through your connections. Do not give up and stay open-minded as resilience and determination and even failure will in turn give you the tools you need to succeed.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the creative industries?
Although the development of technology has enabled us to work in a fast-paced and efficient way, I am hopeful this will not override certain aspects of the design process which are vital to optimising creativity. In my opinion, true creativity and creative thinking cannot be replaced by a machine and I hope businesses will be mindful of this when making future decisions.
It is of my opinion that professionals in more analytical roles can be paid a premium when their results are more quantifiable but it is difficult to measure creative roles in the same way and therefore creative professionals can be less well remunerated. I am forever hopeful these creative skills which cannot be measured and processed through a machine will instead be valued, respected and rewarded.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
The industry needs to actively display more responsibility and transparency towards sustainability. There is a consumer trend and awareness towards this which is not going away and in order to survive, brands need to respond and adapt rapidly.
I think there is a need for greater creativity to push sustainability through businesses which can be interpreted to provide the necessary procedures put in place to overcome these challenges. Sustainability should be closely linked to and provide an outcome of the brand promise.