What do you do?
I’m a multi-disciplinary art director with a deep grounding in concept and strategy from pre to post-production. I oversee the full roll out of creative projects from stills and film, digital and print to design and typography. I work on a freelance basis, mainly with fashion clients but also across the arts, like music.
How did you come to do what you do?
I studied at NCAD, Dublin, which included an erasmus abroad at Parsons Paris. At the time I was focused solely on design, I wasn’t really exposed to the world of art direction before I came to London.
After interning here for a few months I fell into freelancing. Looking back, freelancing early on really helped me decide what I wanted to do – it opened my eyes to the work available in the industry both in agency side and in-house. I also met a lot of friends during this time who I continue to work with.
I then started to work for David James. I had always wanted to work there, over the years I came across his beautiful Prada campaigns from the 1990s, meticulously constructed Prada invitations and editorials in AnOther magazine. I learnt so much as the work was completely multi-disciplinary across design and art direction (e.g. Prada men’s Fall Winter constructed invites, Loewe event launch spatial design and Zara fashion campaign). Every project was different.
Where do you work?
I work for myself now as a freelancer.
Where do you live?
How did you come to live there?
I had a trip booked to see friends in London after I graduated… I was meant to stay just for the weekend but I didn’t come home for 6 months. Now it’s been 8 years.
How and when did your interest in fashion develop?
I definitely just fell into art direction for fashion. Research into music, architecture, design, art and film etc can make up fundamental components in conceptualising fashion projects. These subjects have pretty much held the same level of importance for me. I love that concepts can focus on a simple aspect of one or encompass all disciplines in some way. This is the most exciting aspect for me in art direction for fashion and the reason I really enjoy what I do.
How and when did your interest in architecture develop?
I’ve always been fascinated by galleries because I think it’s really interesting how a space is designed to house art. The ‘art house project’ I saw in Naoshima Islands, Japan, is a good example of this. Artists took empty residential houses around the island and turned them into gallery type structures, whilst still weaving in their history and memories of the period. They’re situated so closely together on one island, so as you walk around you get a sense of the people who lived there as well as engaging in art. For example James Turrell’s piece ‘back side of the moon’ is housed in ‘Minamidera’, an old vicinity for temples and shrines and old castle re-designed by Tadao Ando. I had only ever seen Turrell’s work in more clinical type spaces like MoMa and Museum Voorlinden. It gave me a completely different experience: understanding Turrell’s concept interwoven with the community and fabric of local people’s lives.
Do you have a favourite building?
I have a few! I’ve always really admired Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67 and Le Corbusier’s Palace of Justice. However the ones I’ve seen in person have always stayed with me in a different way. A few summers ago I stayed in Ricardo Bofill’s, La Muralla Roja. Parts of the blush building blended in to the early morning sky and its colder hues faded into the sea line at night. It was a beautiful experience staying somewhere like that as opposed to just visiting it. Last year my best friend Eibhlin and I visited the Eames House, Stahl House and a lot of Richard Neutra’s work in LA and Luis Barragán’s work in Mexico. The trip was a big highlight of my year and I’ve continued to reference various parts of Barragán’s work in my own work.
Lastly, as I mentioned I love gallery spaces. My favourites are Noguchi in Queens, living/gallery space Judd Foundation in Soho, DIA:Beacon in upstate New York and Teshima art museum on Teshima Island, Japan. The Hugh Lane in Dublin is somewhere I have a soft spot for because it’s at home and I always find it really peaceful. I’ve probably seen that same Francis Bacon exhibition about 20 times but something always brings me back there.
When you first started out, as a freelancer, you worked with Burberry, U2 and Instagram. Can you tell us a bit about this work? How did it come about?
They all came from meeting people over the years. I really enjoyed freelancing early on as I said because it gave me the opportunity to work on a diverse mix of projects like these.
Instagram focused on digital, I designed invitations for their annual (at the time) dinner, whereas working for Burberry was heavily research focused on idea generation for immersive experiences. U2 (with Jefferson Hack’s agency at the time) involved a lot of playing around with familiar Irish cultural references and meeting interesting collaborators for the creative direction of the new album campaign. These experiences early on made me want to pursue more of the same work across music, fashion and cultural projects.
We met through Instagram. Your account @gracemargetson portrays your interest in art, graphic design, print and architecture. Is there a unifying trait between each of these disciplines that interests you; a particular aesthetic, approach, subject matter etc?
When I research for projects, I tend to always incorporate various influences from the above. It’s always about what relates to the brief in an interesting way rather than a unifying trait. Bits and pieces of research I come across are reflected on my personal account sometimes.
We enjoy following your travels on Instagram. Do you use your trips as an opportunity to research?
After travelling I always have things I’ve seen at the back of my mind that I use as references when appropriate. It’s so much nicer to go out and see things rather than trawling through the internet for references or unknowingly being driven by an algorithm. I don’t usually purposely go for research, I just go out of pure interest but what I see on my travels will always end up staying with me and find itself in my work, one way or another.
I love Donald Judd’s work, for my next trip I’d love to see La Mansana de Chinati/The Block and his Architecture Studio, Art Studio, Cobb House & Whyte Building in Marfa, Texas.
Portfolio Photography: Concrete Collar
Nanushka AW20 Campaign Photography: Walter Pierre