Q&A with husband and wife duo behind the award winning Dreamboat Booksby Corinne Smith on 19/09/2012
Mark and Rowan Sommerset, husband and wife duo behind the award winning Dreamboat Books, are speaking at our Spring Conversations event. We caught up with the talented pair to give you an introduction. Come along on Wednesday 26th September to hear more! Get in quick, less than 10 tickets left!
How did you both start out in the creative industry?
(Mark) In the early 90’s I travelled to the UK to seek out a career but no one seemed that keen on employing a young kiwi business-management graduate. Maybe it was the economic climate, maybe it was my mullet – either way, my heart was really never in it and I took a job in a bar, picked up my guitar and started writing songs. I really enjoyed the craft of lyric writing, then at 30 I spontaneously wrote a short story about a young boy trying to find the courage to cross a river to get to a cherry tree. It was a really powerful experience for me and I realized I needed to be living more creatively if I was to ever get to that tree! That’s when I met Rowan, and a door to a more creative way of living and working opened.
(Rowan) Self-trained and on the job, pretty much straight from high school. Started as a design assistant at an architectural firm putting together colour boards for McDonalds fit-outs, then went to a prepress place back in the days of stripping film. After that I joined a blue-chip branding agency where I went from design assistant to mac operator to designer.
What was your ‘big break’ that led you to where you are today?
(Rowan) Not so much a big break – more a series of Kit-Kat moments . Getting a copy of The Lettering Book at age 9; Leaving high school early for a more creative road; some crazy failures; meeting Mark; closing our design business; moving to the sticks to focus on our book ideas; creating space to really think about what we wanted for our lives.
(Mark) The awards our books have picked up recently have definitely helped raise our profile and grow our business. Maybe our presence at Frankfurt Book Fair or our recent signing to Harper Collins Australia will lead to a big break further afield.
Tell us about your studio/work environment: what are its best/worst points, why is it like it is/how important is it to your creative process?
(Mark) The best point about our studio is that it is pyjama friendly – being just a short flight of stairs from our front door. It has lots of natural light, a double height stud, and a little mezzanine where we often play with our son Linden. Occasionally we feel working from home has a limitation in that we are somewhat removed from other creative people to bounce ideas off and share inspiration. Ironically it has its benefits too, in that the isolation forces us to dig deeper into our imaginations and find our own answers.
Do you feel your physical environment, where in the world you work has shaped your creative process and outputs and continues to?
(Mark) The physical environment is not so important to my creative process – a small dark room has its own charms – but, like the above, the location definitely is. I love that my creative, professional and family life are all mashed up together and that I get to skip from one to the other many times throughout the day (and sometimes night). The flexibility and the freedom that offers is something I wouldn’t be without.
What’s the biggest professional lesson you’ve learnt and how has it shaped your career direction?
(Mark) Time flies – do what you love.
What design project, personal or professional are you must proud of and why?
(Rowan) All our books are meaningful to me but I guess from a strictly design perspective, Two Little Bugs would be the one. When I embarked on creating ‘Bugs’ the story presented a tremendous opportunity to use design and production techniques as an integral part of both the illustrations and the storytelling itself. Winning ‘Best Book’ at the recent New Zealand Book Design Awards was a really nice moment for us.
Name a designer or design studio you admire, and why?
(Rowan) I have a long-long list of creative people I admire from a wide range of creative disciplines – a lot are living but a good proportion of them are dead: Maurice Sendak, Shel Silverstein, Jim Henson, Ray and Charles Eames … all of whom I really admire for their multi-disciplinary abilities. Ray and Charles being a husband and wife creative team I find inspirational from that perspective too.
What are you currently working on? Professionally and personally?
(Mark) Currently we are gearing up for the release of I Love Lemonade (the sequel to Baa Baa Smart Sheep) and for the Frankfurt Book Fair, which I will be attending as part of New Zealand’s guest of honour year. Creatively, I’ve just finished recording one of my songs with Ben King for a short stop-motion video that we are working on with the guys at Bayly&Moore.
Where do you find your inspiration?
(Mark) For me it is not so much about finding inspiration but putting myself in a place where I am able to receive it. It may be a cliché but inspiration really is everywhere (I was looking at a piece of moldy cheese the other day and wondered what it would be like to walk under that fluffy white canopy!). I find I am most creative/inspired when I feel a sense of harmony and ease within myself (and I am not too distracted by business stuff). There is nothing like an ocean swim, a good belly-laugh, or a beer or two on a summers day to turn on my creative receptors.
Hear more about the Sommerset’s creative process and their creative business at our Spring Conversations evening on Wednesday 26th September (6-8pm). In addition, Emma Rogan and Stephen Knightly are speaking. Tickets are $10 per person (and include a drink), available online. Get in quick – less than 10 tickets left! Hope to see you there.