Meet Our Tutors Series: Schelay McCarter

Schelay McCarter is an Associate Lecturer at the University of the Arts London, a freelance designer/Art Director and has been teaching Art Direction for Fashion at CSM Short Courses since 1997.  Her expertise lies in commercial fashion branding and this includes fashion forecasting, journalism and creative project management. We spoke to Schelay about how she got into Art Direction, her advice for inspiring creatives and her passion for teaching.

What inspired you become an Art Director in fashion?

When I think about what inspired me to become an art director my early childhood comes to mind. I had a fashion savvy mother who would think nothing of running up copious amounts of summer dresses in pretty patterned cotton prints for us each season as we grew up. I have memories of my sisters and I being photographed by my father wearing fake sheep skin fur coats, made by my mother, beautifully lined, we looked like cute little lambs in them! My mother’s sewing machine was always out – she taught me to sew, I made Barbie doll clothes, tacked them onto card and photographed them ready to sell. I sold them in a local shop in Blackheath village. This opened my eyes to the potential and immediacy of style and fashion, creating an image and selling an idea. Vogue magazine was an influence, the fashion photography in particular fascinated me, the model, lighting, pose, hair and make-up, styling and location that transported me to a bewitching world of seemingly effortless glamour. It became a world that I wanted in some way to be part of.

Schelay who learned to sew at a tender age!
Schelay who learned to sew at a tender age!

Tell us about your work

My work is about creating a tailor made brand image formula that reflects my client’s product market position and the aspiration of the target customer for all media applications be a website or for in store visual merchandising or both.

My work is varied.  My previous experience as senior art director and graphic designer for M&S allowed me the freedom to set my fashion narratives in a variety of large country houses, studios or cityscapes.  My vision is to make the viewer feel both voyeur as well as part of the scene depicted. I have used some exceptional locations and photographers; two photo shoots that stand out amongst many are Cliveden House with Simon Bottomly shooting a luxury lingerie collection in the Lady Astor suite and Antebellum House in South Carolina with Jean Pierre Masclet shooting all store M&S season’s ranges.  At a recent fashion brand production shoot for a Chilean client called Saville Row. I had a 19 strong team with photographer Sam Robinson on location at Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire. This location has been used for Downton Abbey as well as the film Gosford park.  It was a surreal moment when my team and I had lunch in the Downton Abbey Kitchen!  It is my creative team I have to thank for my fashion production successes.

shooting at Wrotham Park
shooting at Wrotham Park

What are you most passionate about?

My professional practice is very important to me, however it is my teaching that I am most passionate about. I encourage innovation and proactive practices, thinking outside the box is fostered on my art direction and production work as well as from my students on my art direction for fashion courses.

We are living in one of the most exciting periods of modern history where through advances in internet application there has been an opening up of opportunity.  Utilising the past and present with the new exiting technologies available through new media, photography and post-production there has never been a better time for being an image maker.

student work in progress - bringing ideas together
student work in progress – bringing ideas together

Which piece of creative work in any discipline do you most love?

I love the alchemy of photography. Capturing a moment. Whether created on an old box Brownie using film like Jacques Henri Lartigue or Cartier Bresson’s work, I particularly like David Bailey’s brilliant Roliflex film work from the 1960s and 70s. James Meakin and Miles Aldrige’s digital camera work is vibrant and beautiful. I find the process of viewing new images and editing the selection creates the same feeling I get opening up a box of chocolates to choose the best one!

Where is your favourite London Discovery?

My favourite London discovery currently is the myriad of riverside cycle routes by the side of the London canal waterways, there is one next to the Granary road CSM Campus that leads to Little Venice and Paddington.  I often take my fold up bike along this route.

The canal path outside Central Saint Martins, Granary Square
The canal path outside Central Saint Martins, Granary Square

What is your Guilty pleasure?

It has to be dark chocolate ……

Name a favourite book, song or film

‘The Bolter’ by Frances Osbourne.

Dear Prudence by the Beatles

Dear Prudence
Dear Prudence

What advice would you give to aspiring creatives?

Use your initiative; be proactive and positive, a team player doing unto others as you would be done to yourself!

What’s the best bit of advice you have ever been given?

Carpe diem!

The next Art Direction for Fashion course starts on the 19th April 2016 with further dates throughout the year

This course is also taught online with the next course starting on the 28th April 2016

Read a student review of Art Direction for Fashion in a previous blog post here!

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