Today we are ‘In The Bath With’ Simon Howard, Photographer, professional actor and blogger. We met Simon at an interiors product launch in London and couldn’t wait to interview him on the Inspiration blog. Among Simons many talents he is also office manager at Aria, a cutting edge home and fashion store in London.
You have worked on a lot of exciting projects from BMW television adverts to your own cider blog, your photography, as well as a your being office manager at Aria. How do you manage your time between your projects?
I don’t like doing nothing, though sometimes I wish I didn’t give myself so many projects and tasks! I have to give myself deadlines of when to finish a project, otherwise I’ll just start on something else as well. I decide what’s important to work on immediately and work out what dates I’m going to work on other projects, like choosing a day to take photos, and try hard to stick to that. I take the acting work when it’s available, and it helps to have a boss who lets me have the flexibility to do that. Lists, I always have at least one list on the go, and have to keep writing ideas and things to do, down as I think of them.
Where does the inspiration for your photographs come from?
I usually find inspiration in the details of things. I look for patterns and textures, and colours that appeal, or objects that have some oddness about them or that don’t fit with their surroundings. Wherever I go, at the back of my mind, I’m looking for things and scenes to photograph.
How would you describe your photography style?
A little abstract, but still able to describe to the viewer what the object is, or to make the viewer wonder what’s happening or what has happened to the subjects in the photo. I try to avoid taking the same photos as everyone else, so if I see someone taking a photo that I wanted, I leave it and look for something else.
What are the key things influences your creativity?
Art is a way of showing other people what’s in your mind. Most of my work is about telling stories, whether it’s a series of photos, drawings, or film. I read lots of comics as a kid, and was often making my own and a drawing or photograph, or scene from a storyboard is just a single image taken from a bigger story. I always feel most inspired when I go to an exhibition, or a live music or theatre show. If it’s good, you come away with new ideas, if it’s bad, you come away spurred on to make something better!
Which online magazines and blogs inspire you most?
I check out the London Design Guide for things happening round London, and also Le Cool often has some interesting things. I like the Dezeen blog for new things happening around the design world. There’s a blog by Francesco Mugnai, which has fantastic collections of photos and ideas, and I’ve recently been introduced to TED.com, which has loads of talks by all kinds of experts. There’s a vast number of other inspirational sites, and one site often leads me to another, and before I know it, I’ve spent a couple of hours on the computer.
Do you think technology has made accessing design inspiration easier for everyone?
Yes, it’s easy to sign up to feeds and stay on the pulse of what is happening, see what others are up to and immediately search out ideas. You have to be careful not to spend too much time being inspired, and not enough time putting that inspiration to work! However, looking at it on screen is no match for actually seeing something in 3D.
What do you see being the key interior trends in 2013?
There’s a move towards more handcrafted items, and locally designed pieces, whether it’s custom made furniture or hand finished ceramics. More natural materials are being used because of this, too, wood finishes are becoming more popular. The wooden and metal vintage and one-off pieces are popular too; homemakers are looking for things to express their individuality.
Having recently been in Bali, do you feel there is a common thread of taste that can exist globally or do you see specific styles working better in one country than another?
In Bali I did see lots of carved wood and patterned fabrics, much more than here. Lots of people sit at their workshop doors, carving wood or chiselling stone, and every house and garden is very ornate, and clothing is more patterned. I was pleased to see that there is a different style, and that the world isn’t in so much danger of being homogenised. The common thread would be that the best design has had a lot of work put into it.
We’re rather obsessed with affordable design. Do you think there is much of a movement towards accessibility in design in the UK and how do you see this changing?
It’s getting easier to find nice products online, so everyone can surround themselves with a reasonable standard of well-designed items, but a lot of people want something different, unique, or with a history behind it, to know how much work and time has gone into it and know that it will last. At Aria, the one-off pieces we have are sought after, and often have interesting histories.
Technology has made accessing design inspiration easier for everyone. Is there an app or gadget that you couldn’t live without?
I like to have my Blackberry with me so I can keep in touch, and my waterproof, drop-proof camera (just in case I fall down a waterfall and think of taking a photo), but I never bothered with any apps, except Google maps. I’ve never even played a game on my phone. I prefer using a proper computer with a proper Internet browser. Apps and gadgets don’t do it for me, you end up spending your time poking a little screen all day instead of appreciating where you are and who you’re with.
What would you say are the most important things to keep in mind when trying to update a room on a budget?
Choose what character you’d like to give the room and keep that aim in mind. Look for a few quality items rather than lots of cheap ones. It can be better to spend on one main quality piece that will last, and add smaller accessories around. Don’t rush it, and look around, as you might find a bargain round the corner, and be flexible about your ideas and plans. Stripping down or painting an old item can be a great way to revive it.
Keep it simple. Mine is the smallest, but least cluttered room. Look for objects that have more than one function, (for example mirrored tiles) and use storage wisely (to hide all those essential bottles and lotions), which will appear to make more space, but also be easier to keep clean. Aria has a popular range of bathroom accessories, like the Lunar and Birillo ranges, which are very simple and minimal, but add a little flourish of interest.