In conversation with… Claire Partington

So, what’s your story? (a little bit about yourself and your background)

I’m an artist based in North West London. I studied Sculpture at St Martins in the 90s and got a bit deluded and lost the joy and spontaneity of just making stuff. I had various random jobs before I got a job I enjoyed at The British Library Sound Archive. Then I had a number of museum/exhibition jobs and did my post grad in Museum Studies whilst working at the V&A. But I went back to working with sound, this time at Mute Records and I started going to ceramics workshop evening classes across the canal at Kensington & Chelsea College. Fortunately, I contacted my gallery at this stage and he was selling works I made whilst at evening class. This enabled me to slowly grow my practice, set up a studio and make my art my full time career.


How did you develop a love for making art?

I’ve always made things. I grew up in a busy house full of stuff that I could use to make various objects. I really enjoyed plasticine, and would make quite elaborate scenes that would gather dust, so working with clay is very similar. My mum was always making stuff for the house, upholstery and refurbishing furniture, so I used her off-casts too, and she’s always been very encouraging.


What techniques do you use?

Most of my ceramic sculpture is made in earthenware, but I do make stoneware and porcelain now and then. The pieces are all built from the base up as hollow vessels using coils of clay (like sausages). The coils are smoothed together and I shape the figure as I build upwards. The pieces are refined and sculpted and then I add sprigged decoration, which is clay pushed into plaster moulds that I make from things like jewellery or toys – like the raised decoration you get on Wedgwood vases. The pieces are fired, glazed and then I use digital enamel transfers or paint onto the surface with enamels and metal lustres. In total, the process can take up to four months, but I have a number of figures in production at the same time.


Which work are you most proud of, and why?

Of the current work, I’m most proud of ‘Lilith’. She’s not so highly decorated as most of my work as she doesn’t have any clothes, but she’s got great hair! She’s based on Lucas Cranach the Elder’s many paintings of Lucretia committing suicide with her dagger to her chest. My Lilith is the first woman (before Eve) who was cast out of Eden for not being subservient enough. My figure is holding her bronze dagger towards the viewer and isn’t ashamed of her nakedness or fleshy thighs. She’s based on Cranach’s model who has a very particular shape. I’m very interested in the male gaze and the notions of beauty that shift with history and culture.

The figure also has a Staffordshire bull terrier at her side. I thought about making this a dragon in reference to the medieval origins of this piece, but I’ve given her a contemporary fierce protector dog and she wears her hair in a contemporary plaited style in reference to the elaborate Medieval plated styles. I’ve also made enamel pilgrim badges of this figure to give to visitors on the opening night in reference to the medieval pilgrimage sites and the souvenir badges that were available at the time. My souvenir badges are more reminiscent of those available at cathedral shops or railway museums – a modern pilgrimage.


What’s the story behind one or more of the works in this gallery?

My work generally deals with narrative, symbolism, gender and status. I’m interested in symbols and how people use them to identify with certain social groups. I’m also interested in imposed societal restrictions and social types, whether it’s gender stereotypes or repressive social constructs – including historical costume. My work also deals with the long European tradition of appropriation and reinterpretation of design styles, fashions and cultures and that’s very evident in the Lilith figure with the gold Fulani earrings and her plaited hair.


Remember, our 3×3 instagallery is refreshed every month. Catch our latest one hereOr see more of Claire’s work here.

Creating a culture of wellbeing

If you’re anything like me – naughty though it is – when you fly, you don’t fully listen to the safety demonstration. Yet, even though you might be dipping into Highlife magazine or reading through the presentation you’re about to give at your destination, there’s one phrase that always seems to get through…

’Put on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you.’


Now why is it that particular phrase which always subconsciously gets through? What is it that jars in my brain about those words? My only explanation is that it seems a very selfishly motivated instruction. Most public address announcements need to remind us to think of others first. Not to push, for example, to allow others off the tube first before piling in ourselves – but not this message. No, this message is clearly saying look after number one.

Now I’ve got three kids, 7, 3 and nearly 2, and I have to say when imagining a situation in a flight when, heaven forbid, the oxygen masks are released, instinctively I see myself slotting masks over their little faces before my own. I’m guessing I’m not alone in this odd, aeronautical daydream either. So why the instruction?

On closer inspection the answer is pretty obvious: if you can’t breath, there’s no way you’re going to be able to help those around you.

Last evening I attended an Oyster Catchers Club event on the subject of Transforming Culture. There was a lively panel discussion chaired by CEO and founding partner of Oyster Catchers Suki Thompson, which focused on ways of championing employee’s physical and mental wellbeing within organisations. It was this discussion that got me thinking about oxygen masks.

The panel, Mark Evans of Direct Line Group, TV psychologist Anna Williamson and agency head Camilla Harrison discussed the need for leadership to build cultures that promote wellbeing, and that leaders had to look after themselves first in order to be effective at supporting their teams. You get the oxygen mask analogy now. So the question is, are the leaders within our organisations too busy trying to metaphorically help get masks onto others while forgetting to protect their own physical and mental wellbeing?

This is a vital question to ask – the impact of leadership on employee’s wellbeing is huge. In fact, the audience were asked last night ‘what factor do you rate as most important for wellbeing in the creative workplace?’, and over 60% answered ‘manager/employee treatment’.

What does this tell us?

It tells us to look after the leaders within our organisations and to foster a culture where looking after your own wellbeing is actively promoted, as the impact it has on the business is clear for all to see.

And the moral of the story?

Take time to breath – because if you can’t, those around you will suffer too.

National Thoroughbred Racing Association Ad Campaign Gallops Into CLIO Hall Of Fame

NEW YORK (Sept. 13, 2017) – The New York advertising agency DeVito/Verdi and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association took a victory lap of sorts this past week when their acclaimed radio ad campaign was named to the Clio Awards Hall of Fame.

The Clio Awards, one of the most prestigious international advertising awards shows, recognizes and honors creativity and innovation in the industry.  The organization’s judges announced this week that the NTRA campaign, “And They’re Off,” was one of two entries deemed worthy of the Hall of Fame in this year’s voting.

The commercials that comprised the NTRA campaign all followed a similar approach: a fast-talking announcer provides running play-by-play of an everyday outing or happening with the same brio as if he were calling an action-packed horse race. Invariably, all of these events fall short of the excitement and thrill of visiting a thoroughbred racetrack.

The two radio spots from the campaign that earned entry to the Clio Awards Hall of Fame were “Dinner Date” and “Walk The Dog.” To hear additional radio ads from the campaign, visit

To be eligible for the Clio Awards Hall of Fame, entries must have won a gold award in a major international advertising show in the past.  The entries must also be at least five years old, with a first appearance or airing prior to 2012.

Since its debut in 2002, the “And They’re Off” campaign has garnered scores of advertising and creativity awards, including top prizes at Cannes, Clio, and Mercury award shows.

According to the Clio Awards, Hall of Fame selections are for “outstanding work from the past that has stood the test of time and cemented a place of honor and respect in the hearts and memories of consumers and advertising professionals alike.”

“We knew right from the gate that this campaign would be a winner,” said Ellis Verdi, president of DeVito/Verdi.  “And it’s an absolute thrill to see it recognized by the Clios for its Hall of Fame.  This is one of the most acclaimed and award-winning radio ad campaigns in history.  We’re so proud it’s been given its due.”

Side Hustles: Creative Outlets to Improve your 9 to 5

Dedicating 40+ hours a week to one office, one specialty, one computer, can be especially draining when we get sucked into the routine. That’s where a side hustle comes in—an outlet to create outside of the workplace and make some money while doing it. This year, over 44 million Americans reported having some sort of side hustle.

GSD&M employs a whole slew of crazy-talented folks, so you bet there are some side hustles around here. I dug a little deeper into the double lives of ad gurus by day and hustlers by night to see what passions they’re turning into profit.

Chelsey Korman, founder of Peach Electric: a real rad vintage shop for rad, real women

What took your side hustle beyond a hobby?

I’ve loved the art of fashion and the beauty of a thought-out outfit my entire life, and have wanted to explore it as a business for as long as I can remember. One day, I just figured I’d better start somewhere. This is just the beginning, I feel.

How has your side hustle made a difference in your day job?

It makes me appreciate all the departments in GSD&M. Reaching 100 Instagram followers was a huge achievement and honestly, some were sympathy followers. Ha. But seriously, social media experts are seriously smart and creative, and they understand what it means to “reach and connect” with an audience. We all have so much to learn from each other.


Laura Guardalabene, Cofounder of JUNK-O: creators of enamel pins inspired by pop culture and progressive political ideology

Where do you find inspiration to keep up the side hustle?

I follow a lot of other pin makers and small independent clothing brands. Companies like Lazy Oaf and Big Bud Press show me the growth potential JUNK-O has and how far hustling can get you.

How has your side hustle made a difference in your day job?

It has fueled my creativity tenfold. I no longer experience creative blocks or burnouts because I’m constantly challenging my mind and keeping it in shape.


Julia Elizondo, Cofounder of LA LO LA: a luxe resortwear line offering small batch collections

Where do you find inspiration to keep up the side hustle?

Through everyday things like a new issue of W Magazine or Condé Nast Traveler or just the simple dream of wanting to see women in our clothes. I want the chance to keep evolving the styles and collections into what I really want. 

What does this work outside of the office mean to you?

It means that I can pursue my dream while still being able to make a living working in a dynamic place like GSD&M. It’s an outlet for me too.


Jeffrey Butterworth, founder of ArterBarter: a website to auction off original art pieces one by one, for anything BUT cash

What took your side hustle beyond a hobby?

Bringing a concept to satisfy the question I have been asking myself, “What am I going to do with my art?”

How has your side hustle made a difference in your day job?

A big part of what I do at work is trying to put together things that people would be interested in and attach it to a brand that makes sense. This is no different, it’s just that I’m the brand I’m attaching the idea to.


Turning a passion into profit is hard, rewarding, meaningful work. Judging from the side hustlers above, work outside of the office creates a source of energy, drive and satisfaction that might otherwise go unused. Everyone needs an outlet, so might as well make some extra cash while you’re at it. Keeping your brain “in shape” isn’t a bad way to get your exercise, either. If you’ve got something in mind, why not give it a go and see what happens?

The Distilled Yearly Creative Roundup: 2017 Edition

It’s been a year since our last creative roundup and I wanted to share what we’ve been working on in the last 12 months. As I started to collate the our creative pieces, it’s become clear that we’ve tried our hand, and indeed had some successes, at new and exciting formats

This has partly stemmed from Google’s changing algorithm, as we can see the benefit in investing in content for brand awareness, with branded search carrying more weight than before. This creative freedom has led us to storyboard social ad series, shoot stylized photo essays and video social experiment stunts for brands too.

We’ve made pieces with regional angles, which have led to neverending press lists (a good thing), and one that focussed on the fear factor that ended up on the news. It’s silly how the TV still feels more exciting than online, but it really does.  You can read our thoughts on the disruption online will cause to TV here.

New formats have included poster quizzes, personalised graphics and making additional press assets to go alongside pieces too. Maps, interactive visualisations, long format articles, scrolling stories and quizzes have also continued to make up the core of our work. Format is just one aspect, at the heart of everything we make, the story, the insight, and the ‘wow’ factor is key.

We also feel that sadly much of the internet can be an ugly space, and with our creativity we aim to tell compelling stories that also make the world a little bit more beautiful. Whether it is adding humour, or waving our illustration wand…


Go Compare – Great British Bakes of Instagram

For Go Compare a financial services comparison website we created a UK map comparing the popularity of British bakes in different regions. Illustrations really helped to bring this piece to life, turning what could have been a rather dull map into a mouth-watering delight. Each year the hype around ‘The Great British Bake Off’ is phenomenal, so we launched our piece during the finale. The regional differences in top bakes lengthened our press list to regional publications as well as national.

As well as seeing which British bake is most popular in your region you can also see the popularity of specific bakes across the country. e.g. trifle is most popular in Yorkshire and Norfolk, tying in with people patriotic tendencies to their place of origin.

We added in animation that works well with the twee illustration style, hovering over cakes, rotates them slightly, bunting swings in at the beginning and changing the map from one bake to another makes the map filter in one region at a time, these UX additions mean interacting with the piece is just that little bit more exciting. This was the perfect piece for Vicke, our resident birthday cake baker, to produce!

GeoTab – Most Dangerous Highways in America

For GeoTab, a fleet tracking platform, we analyzed road crash data across the US to see which highways have the highest number of fatal accidents in each state. Morbid I know, but in this case, fear led to coverage.

We launched the piece during a public holiday in America when the roads would have been at their most busy, local news outlets jumped on the chance to talk about the most dangerous highway in their region. We even got some brand mentions on the news.

The piece focuses on the most dangerous highway for fatal accidents in each state but allows you explore further comparing the amount of crashes and amount of fatalities, so you can compare which states are the most dangerous by comparison.

On page load, the highway lines across the states are drawn onto the map, and below the sorting feature, transitions in a satisfying fluid way.

This piece received over 100 linking root domains (LRDs). Off the back of its success, we have gone on to look at the most dangerous days to drive in each state too.

Maps: key takeaways

Fear/danger is a story – being worried or scared gets people talking, if there is a risk or a danger it’s news.

Visual feedback is important – a movement on hover or page load engages the user and gives the piece more of a personality.

Launch dates matter – as much as a piece should try to be evergreen to gain links over time, the newsworthy nature can often come by tying in with a conversation that is already happening.

Regional differences increase coverage – regional competitiveness or comparison means regional and national press can be contacted.

Long format content

Somfy – Totally Worth It

Somfy is a company that makes blinds which operate at the touch of the button. Their target audience is high-earning people in the 50+ age bracket who appreciate a little bit of luxury in their lives. We created blog content that highlighted products for the home that are worth splurge.

Everyday level blog content can still have its place in content marketing. Not everything needs to be a larger scale interactive or higher budget piece, because it is the idea at the core of a piece that needs to capture attention. It is important now more than ever for brands to not just focus on their product or service, but the attitude and lifestyle that surrounds it.

During page scroll the stock photography that we sourced transitions to an illustrative overlay that highlights the product within the scene and highlights its motion when in use. This creative element sets the article apart from other listicles and gives it a brand style that is unique to Somfy.

Long format: key takeaways

Create a unique visual style – set your content apart from others by adding memorable visual styling.

Be consistent – so many low-level listicles have paid no attention to whether the piece is cohesive. When using illustrations or stock imagery, ensure that the styles work as a collection.

Think about your brand voice – does the tone of the content lend itself to your brand’s personality. Content that feels too tangential can do more harm than good.

Picture Quiz

Magic Freebies – Spot the Christmas Movies

Magic Freebies is the UK’s largest freebie site, they aim to delight and surprise their customers by providing them with fun free gifts, their target audience is people who have time to browse and play online.

We created a spot the Christmas Movies poster, that existed both in print and as an online game. 25 iconic Christmas films were illustrated in one wintery scene.

We have created two picture quizzes now, working with illustrator Bill McConkey: 25 Years of Top-Flight Footy Moments and the aforementioned Spot the Christmas Movies. The trick is to create a scene that works as a whole but is made up of individual elements.

Christmas is a difficult time of year for coverage, so if you are going to take a punt on it, your idea needs to be watertight. This is certainly not something that will work all year round, yet it can gain traffic each year at a similar time.

This poster quiz earned 2.6k Facebook interactions and has been visited over 27k times.

Ginny’s – I Believe I Can Fry

Ginny’s is a brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which gives us a lot of creative freedom when coming up with ideas. It’s an e-commerce site stocking all sorts of products for the home, and we were focusing on their fried goods gadgets. Firstly creating the 50 States of Bacon which received over 100 links, and then the humorous quiz ‘I believe I can fry’.

Taking song titles we replaced the word fry/fried/frying with something else that rhymed and drew them as image puzzles.

The majority of the time spent here was on the illustrations, the build of the quiz being quite minimal itself. I illustrated the song titles myself, ensuring each image had a similar style and colour pallet to tie the set together.

Just how ludicrous this idea is, is actually what sets it apart.

Picture quiz – key takeaways

Leverage nostalgia – both these picture quizzes hook onto nostalgia as a driving factor, old movies and classic song titles.

Make use of freelancers – Bill McConkey’s distinctive style and speed of illustration allowed us to produce these picture quizzes relatively quickly.

Interactive timeline/story

Go Compare – Food of the Famous

As part of a campaign for GoCompare we compared the daily diets of famous athletes, actors and musicians. We are inherently interested in famous people’s lifestyles, often looking to emulate them in our own lives, as though living like them might somehow move us nearer to their lofty heights.

For the execution we went lo-fi, choosing to source stock imagery to make up the plates, giving them a cutout collage effect (like you see on gossip magazines) as opposed to shooting the plates from actual food. This not only created a cost effective result but also give it a bit more design edge.

Looking at a range of celebrities, who had very different relationships with food we showed what was eaten throughout the day, from 10,000 calories consumed by The Mountain to a meagre 1316 calories from Gwyneth Paltrow. The amount of food, type and frequency is shown using a day timeline.

It was covered by Business Insider, Joe, FHM and Unilad amongst others.

Advisa – Dead Men on Dollar Bills 

For Advisa, a Swedish financial services client, we analysed the people that feature on banknotes worldwide. 100% of the people who feature on US bank notes are dead male politicians. We looked at what it takes to have your face on a note. The story walkthrough compared the gender, profession, birthplace, and whether or not they are alive, for all the people on bank notes throughout the world. As well as the findings in the piece we paired the launch with a survey and some of our own note designs for both a UK and US audience.

Our survey asked 5000+ people who they wanted to see on banknotes. For the UK, Princess Diana, Florence Nightingale, Emmeline Pankhurst and JK Rowling came out on top. And for the USA, Michelle Obama was top. We made concept art for each of these people to show how they would look on banknotes. The press loved these visual assets and the survey that went alongside the piece.

The launch of the piece tied in with news about Jane Austen due to be appearing on a new £10 note design in September 2017. The piece was linked to by Yahoo, Metro, Evening Standard, Daily Star, Daily Mail, Daily Express and Insider amongst others.

Interactive timeline/story: key takeaways

Comparison is important – if the data does not show enough contrast then there is no story.

Journalists want statistics – a survey can help to gather new statistics for your content.

Personalised infographic

Go To Court – How Criminal is Your Name?

For Go To Court, an Australian law firm, we looked at first names and how they are linked to criminality. We collated the names from over 25,000 crimes to see which names are most criminal and what crimes specific names most commonly commit. Leon is the most criminal name, and Leons most frequently commit assault. It turns out Leonie’s most frequently commit abductions! So watch out.

This visualisation is essentially just a table, but making it look like a police investigation board and making the list searchable with an individual expandable graph for each name makes this interactive engaging.

Scrolling allows you to understand hierarchy better. The piece received over 100k visits and 141 LRDs.

Personalised infographic – key takeaways

Can you see yourself in the story?  –  Age, name, demographic, intelligence are all ways you can rank people. Choosing one of these as a data point allows the reader to put him or herself in the story.

How have your won over an audience?

We would love to hear what you have learnt on your content marketing journey. Sometimes looking at the failures as well as the big wins can help us learn too. Are there new formats or types of ideas that you have seen work well?