Above the Fold interviewed – Food Stylist and Creative Entrepreneur – Jette Virdi, ahead of her talk at Above the Fold Creative Conference 2017.
How did you enter into a career as a food stylist?
I became a food stylist in a very random but organic way! I was at Ballymaloe Cookery School and I emailed a food stylist who took me on for several cookbooks in the summer of 2013. I was sleeping on couches and didn’t know what or where my life was going but I started to get work so thought I would stay Ireland for a year to see what happened – the rest is history!
Take me through the process involved in your work…
The one thing that stays the same in my work is that it’s so varied! Every day is new. If I’m on a shoot it’s usually 1-5 days of prep (prop sourcing, food sourcing, prepping recipes, etc.) and then 1-10 days of shooting which means 7am starts, late nights, lots of washing up, lots of eating and fun! If there’s no shoot, I’m up early to go for a walk, then check emails for an hour or two, then getting on with my to do list! There could be the odd launch thrown in, lunch date, new collaborations. Having three business means I’m always on the go and it’s always varied!
What are the most important factors for a successful food photo shoot?
Quality ingredients and a good team are key! For most shoots, my team are in the kitchen cooking and prepping food for me to style, they know how I work and I generally use the same girls for all of my work so we have fun, knuckle down and work hard to make the client as happy as we can.
Describe an average business day…
There’s no average day.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Everywhere – which I know is such a cop out but it’s true but my main thing is leaving my phone at home and just going out for a walk and letting my mind wander!
My vinyl backdrop business came out of necessity as they were so expensive to buy from abroad so I thought, why don’t we (I’ve partnered with the photographer Marta Miklinska) set it up ourselves as if we need this, there must be others.
My Homeware range came from wanting beautiful Irish designed and made household items that were affordable, The Collective – my retreat for creatives came about wanting an intimate environment where I could learn and share knowledge from and with all the other creatives in Europe…. so a lot of it is necessity and a lot of it comes from things I’m really passionate about!
Tell us a little about The Collective, your tech-free retreat-style conference…
This is such a massive project for me and one that I genuinely believe can help a huge amount of entrepreneurs in creative fields. It’s a 4 day business retreat with intimate workshops – there’s no one talking to large groups, it’s also completely tech free which means we’re actually holding your hand and forcing people to present. In today’s world I think it’s really important to get back to actually talking and being present! There’s bee 4 workshops each day that range from creative, get your hands dirty to business tips and tricks from pros from around the world. It’s going to be amazingly inspiring and we have some fantastic speakers that will be there hanging out, sharing their learnt knowledge and participating in workshops when they’re not teaching. We’re opening ticket sales really soon so watch out!
How do you curate your homeware range, Created and Found?
Created and Found came about because I had all of these designs for homeware items that I wanted in my house but couldn’t find any that were small batch or affordable so I thought, why not start doing it yourself. I stalked most of my makers on Instagram and persuaded them to work with me and it’s been amazing!
Sometimes frustrating as obviously I rely on makers to make my products and I’ll be honest, I’m a total control freak and want to everything myself so it’s been an amazing learning curve! It’s fantastic because the products made are exclusively for Created and Found and I think a lot of people don’t understand that even though I work in collaboration with makers, the items can’t be bought from anyone else but me. I think that makes it extra special!
We’ve also launched the second range which includes Irish linen bath towels and bed throws.
What’s the best piece of creative wisdom you were ever given?
If you believe that you’re talented and have something within you, don’t give up. Being your own boss is bloody hard and 80% of new businesses give up within 18months of starting. Make it work, if it’s meant to be, it will but don’t regret not trying at all.
If somebody is interested in becoming a food stylist, where should they start?
Come work with me first! It’s not all pretty and fun and easy.
Anything exciting in the pipeline?
So many things – you’ll have to read my blog to keep up to date!
Interview by Ciara Coogan.