FOCUS: Melinda Ashton Turner
6 February 2020
Associate member Melinda Ashton Turner has a wealth of experience working as a Creative Director & Stylist, we chat to her to find out what a typical day looks like and what her plans for the future are.
Can you tell us about the journey of how you became a Creative Director & Stylist?
It’s a journey I realised after coming to the UK, from Australia, was unusual. Most stylists enter the industry via assisting or working their way up on a magazine. The beginning for me was in-house Showroom Decorator for Ikea and catalogue Stylist. A role that was/is non existent in UK even today, let along Australia. So upon leaving Ikea with published work, together with meeting the most encouraging and supportive people early in my career, I was able to transition to freelance Interior Stylist. I can pin point the exact moments in my journey and if it were not for these specific people believing in me and recommending or commissioning me, I would not be where I am. From a talented and kind Interior Design tutor to my incredible boss at Ikea, who surprisingly didn’t throw me out during the interview. To her comment of ‘but you don’t have experience’ I cheekily replied ‘and that will continue unless you employ me!’ It was people like her that nurtured and encouraged me. Ikea as a business is very supportive of their employees, so when the opportunity arouse for an interior stylist for the first Australian catalogue (also the first outside of Ikea Sweden) my boss thrust my name forward. At that point I had never knew such a job existed.
After 4yrs of working in Sweden and Australia I went freelance with published work under my belt. With the experience of large-scale studio sets, location scouting and styling for car shoots, my knowledge and experience was broad. My life was about to change in multiple ways on meeting Geoff Lung, an internationally renowned Australian photographer, he recommended me to the then editor of Vogue Entertaining. As I sat with her going through my book the comment was ‘but you don’t do food’ (that title was only food) there was nowhere to hide so I simply said, no I don’t. Again, my honesty paid off, she sent me across to the other side of the room to Vogue Living, by that afternoon I was employed as Style Director. After three and a bit years on Vogue Living, and after meeting my now husband, we relocated to London.
I followed up on cards sent to the all leading UK interiors titles prior to leaving Australia hoping to meet with them, within a week I had met all four which resulted in two commissions and a job offer. Being Decoration Editor at Homes & Gardens for a number of years opened a lot of doors. Now with an understanding of how the UK industry functioned and with people recognising my name, I decided to go freelance.
I have been lucky enough to work across editorial and advertising, both in the UK and abroad. Additionally, I’ve been a weekly contributor to The Guardian and the Sunday Times, as well as consultancy work and designed for international brands.
Dulux Colour of The Year 2020. © Emma Lee
Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
There are tasks every project requires such as briefings, meetings, mood boards, sourcing, shoot days and returns. Depending on the scale of the project, these tasks are carried out anywhere from a couple of days to five months.
The Colourfield Blog. © Grant Turner
How closely do you work with Photographers and image-makers?
I’m generally involved at the concept stage of projects. Once the creative direction has been agreed the photographers are discussed. For me, it’s during the concept stage that specific photographers come to mind due to their style or personality being suited to both the project and the client. Often two or three are suggested to give the client options incase fees and availability are an issue. Once the concept and team are agreed, each person is briefed on what we’re working towards along with who’s involved and their role in it. The photographer is the first person and in some cases they will be involved in a portion of the concept to ensure what I’m suggesting is achievable technically and within the time allocated.
Dulux Colour of The Year 2016. © Melinda Ashton Turner
What are some of the best jobs you’ve worked on?
I rather think of jobs in terms of I have enjoyed slightly more than others. I get excited and passionate above every job and I always strive for the holy trinity of product + concepts + team. The energy these three collectively generate when aligned create the best jobs. I get to work with incredibly talented photographers, set builders, assistants and I’d even include transport. When these all flow, which comes to down to open communication and briefing, the job runs like a well oiled machine. So to answer the question directly, the best job is equally about the team, no matter the size of the shoot, or what you’re shooting.
If you rather a short answer, any job that enables me to play with colour such as the Dulux Colour of the Year 2020 still and film, along with the Alternative Flooring ‘Rock’n’roll carpet collection I designed, but these are only two of many.
The Guardian. @ Joanna Parkin.
What is next for you?
That’s the million dollar question. I’m not sure! I tend to juggle multiple projects, when one’s almost finished one another would present itself. Knowing a rough schedule for the coming week or two possibly three months, as dates are fluid and you never know exactly what’s next. I took, and take, peace in the fact what will be will be. Embrace the downtime, however, this never really happens.
I’m in the process of recalibrating my approach, testing, evolving and refining my vision and style, whilst continuing to work with my existing clients. In the coming months I will be launching an online prop hire and homewares store offering a collection of sustainable/eco luxury homewares as well as unique one-off statement pieces.
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