Catherine Huckerby is a stills stylist with over 15 years experience in the industry. She’s worked on many high profile campaigns across editorial, TV and advertising, and is co-founder of an interior design company with a difference. The next step, is image consultancy in New Zealand. Wherever that takes her, there’s no doubt that Catherine’s work will always be psychologically sensitive, infinitely resourceful and astonishingly fast. She once dressed a six bedroom house in two days. Oh, and there was no budget.
Some highlights from Joe’s interview with Catherine Huckerby:
Can you talk us through an average day in your role as a stills stylist (if there is such a thing)?
The thing about the job that appeals to me is that it’s always very different. You never know who you’re going to be working with, where you’re going to work, what client you’ve got… so the jobs are very different. Say, a day this week, I was working in a studio and there’s a lot of preparatory work before you do the photo shoot. So it’s a matter of doing mood boards, researching what the job’s about and propping, when you’re sorting the props for the specific job. Then the actual shoot day, which is the ‘icing on the cake’ of the job, really; where the photographer and the stylist are working together to create the image for the client.
Have you got any advice for someone who would like to be where you are today?
You’ve got to be flexible, very determined and love what you do. Enthusiasm, that’s a very big thing. I get a lot of people contacting me who want to do styling but they don’t understand the whole process of the job. They have to muck in and just be able to do anything, from making a cup of tea to maybe styling a project, and just be very enthusiastic and flexible.
During your career you’ve been involved in editorial, advertising, TV and book styling. Is there any area you prefer to work in?
The differences are… editorial is sometimes more creative, depending on who you’re working for. And advertising can be less creative because you’ve got a very specific product that you have to promote. But I’ve got to say it really depends on the client.
Does each area require a different approach and a different set of skills? For example, what are the different skills necessary for TV and an advertising campaign in a magazine?
Every job’s so different that you have to treat it individually because, with the research for each project, you might need some obscure things. Like, with one project I did, I needed to source a doctor to come on the shoot. I needed medical equipment, so that was one particular type of sourcing I’ve not done before. Every job you do is very specific, therefore it’s a new approach to each one.
You’ve worked as a design consultant as well. (Anyone’s who interested should go to www.2refresh.com). It looks to me as though you use your skills as a stylist to do private jobs for people in their homes. Is that right?
I started that with a business partner, Heather Gratton, and what we realised is… I don’t know whether you’ve seen The House Doctor programme on TV but someone comes in and restyles their home for the day. They might need things moved around, clutter taken away… so it’s not necessarily an interior design project, although that can be the next stage. Sometimes they just need some advice. It’s just like bringing those styling skills to a homeowner.
Do you have a favourite job, in any of the areas you’ve been involved in, that you’ve worked on?
[Laughs] Oh God! I did a job, which was probably one of the hardest jobs I’ve done, but it was quite satisfying at the end of it, and that was when I did a big six bedroom house. It was a show house at the BBC Good Homes Show, and that was one where each room had to be inspired by a different historical style. So that was quite challenging. We had two days to dress the whole house. I didn’t have any budget for props, so every single thing in that house had to be loaned, so there were so many negotiation skills in that. That was a challenge, definitely a big challenge, so I enjoyed that.
I’ve got to say my favourite jobs are when a client comes to me and says, “What do you think? I’m leaving it to you,” and I can do everything without restrictions or someone else’s taste.
You’re planning to move to New Zealand – how come?
Yeah, I don’t know if it’s going to be long-term. I’m going over there and it’s basically just a different challenge; still doing styling but moving it forward into a slightly different area. Almost like image consultancy. [Joe: For people who don't know, can you explain what image consultancy is?] That’s basically going to a company and turning their whole ‘look’ around. If we talk about, for instance, a paint company, they have to have a certain brand image to get their products out into the open and image is all-important. What you’d be doing is looking at every area of their company, from the image of their website (so styling that), maybe their showroom (redesigning that), brochures and just encompassing all of that and creating a whole look and identity for the brand.
Is there anyone, or anything that has inspired you to go down this route?
Recently I started watching Mary Portas, from Mary Queen of Shops, and I’m really inspired by her. I feel she’s got really good intentions behind what she does and it’s a pretty tough job. She’s almost having to work in psychology to bring about the change and she really cares about the people and what the outcome is. I think it changes their lives really because it changes their views.
Check out Catherine’s work at www.catherinehuckerby.com.