“I was feeling unfulfilled and knew I was destined to do something more than work in an office. I was looking for signals everywhere – desperately searching for some kind of cue.”
It’s time for another inspirational post in my Creative Business blog series. Today we have the wonderfully creative, and all-round lovely, Lucy Down of Fresh Leaf Creative. Lucy is a brand photographer and designer, based in Cobham, Surrey, specialising in ‘storytelling photography, visual brand identity and web design’. I love Lucy’s style and can’t wait to find out more about the lady behind the brand. Here we go…
What does creativity mean to you?
Goodness, Kerri – you are starting with a hard one here! It’s a little like asking what’s the meaning of life :o)
I guess though, that creativity to me means freedom. Freedom to work flexibility around my family and freedom to make whatever I am inspired to create. I love that there are no right or wrong answers as far as creativity is concerned – the fact that we all see things differently only brings richness and is something to be celebrated.
Have you always been creative?
Yes! Although I forgot it for a while. I was always artistic at school and spent hours covering my text books in drawings and designing artwork for school plays.
However, I came from a family of hobbyist artists who had never earned anything from their work, so I grew up with the idea you couldn’t make a living being creative and decided to become a commercial business analyst instead!
What first got you interested in your field?
I was living in Highgate and working in Finance for the likes of Harrods and John Lewis when I had the ‘is this all there is to life?’ realisation. It was like a mid-life crisis in my early 20’s.
I was feeling unfulfilled and knew I was destined to do something more than work in an office. I was looking for signals everywhere – desperately searching for some kind of cue.
It was about that time that my sister and friends started having families and it felt very natural to start experimenting with a camera. I guess that’s where it all started – I took myself off to Central St Martin’s to do a basics of photography course and immersed myself in reading everything I could to learn my craft.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
To find a creative release from the humdrum of working for a big corporation.
I worked my family photography business (www.lucydownphotography,co.uk) as a side hustle for almost 10 years before the stars aligned and I had the opportunity to go full time on my business when a voluntary redundancy situation arose in 2018 and I leapt.
Fresh Leaf Creative was a natural path – I’d gained lots of experience in brand identity design, photography, Web & SEO over the years and it was obvious to me that I wanted to work with other women who were running their own businesses.
What is your favourite thing about your work?
Making a real difference in people’s lives.
My work empowers people to step forward and feel confident to speak out about who they are and what they do. When you’re confident in your photography, have a beautiful brand and a website you’re proud of – you want to shout about it and I love that I can be part of that.
I also love that I get an opportunity to change people’s perceptions of how they look. I lose count of the number of new clients who initially say ‘I hate seeing photos of myself’ or ‘I’m really un-photogenic’ or ‘I don’t look good in photos’. They really have to muster the confidence to contact me!
But then there is this moment when they see their preview slideshow and they love their images and (sometimes) there are tears…and, oh my, THAT is an amazing feeling!
What is a ‘reality’ of your work that other people don’t realise?
How much work and planning goes in behind the scenes
Each and every brand is completely individual and has a unique brand aesthetic so it’s really important to me that what I shoot and design is sympathetic to the overarching look and feel of a brand – and all of that takes lots of prep and planning.
It’s the reason that everything starts with Pinterest. Whether it’s a personal brand photo shoot or brand identity design project, they all start by delving into your inspirations and unpicking your look & feel
How do you handle creative ‘blocks’ in work?
I don’t really get creative blocks but I do try to work with my natural rhythm – some days I feel inspired to create big things and on other days I can only muster enough energy for admin chores. I just try to tune into that and use my time appropriately with that in mind
I also find a lot of headspace when swimming and sometimes have my best ideas and creative breakthroughs in the pool. I know a lot of people find lengths really dull but there’s something very meditative about the repetition of going up and down with nothing else to be doing at that point.
Do you have any other creative interests?
I’ve recently discovered modern calligraphy after going on a workshop with Judy Broad. I love creating something with my actual hands rather than on the computer and it’s great way of being able to personalise gifts and cards.
What one thing would you say to someone dreaming of starting their own creative business?
I’d say start today to lay the groundwork. Do whatever you can to build a foundation for growth – make a plan, learn your craft, do some portfolio building work, research your competition, get a qualification, read everything you can get your hands on, start networking, ask someone to mentor you who inspires you…I could go on
Not an exhaustive list by all means, but what I mean to say is that you have to put the hours in and do something practical about it rather than just talking and dreaming about it.
Then, listen to the signals. It may not happen overnight (it took quite a few years for me) but there will come a time when it all comes together and it’ll just be the right time.
When you put energy, passion & focus into something amazing things start to happen, and it all starts with baby steps. My door is always open if you want a friendly sounding board for your dream!
It really fills me with joy when I hear someone say they have found fulfilment through a creative business. When you’ve got that creative streak inside of you, finally finding an outlet for it, which can inspire you daily, can really change your outlook on life. Lucy’s story from the ‘humdrum’ to Fresh Leaf Creative is so inspiring.
I ask all of the ladies taking part in the series to provide a ‘self portrait’. So far I have loved them all…and Lucy’s is no exception! Her self portrait wouldn’t have been complete without a camera front and centre – and the style of this shot really sums up her creativity and design skills.