An Interview With Set Designer Emily Pugh

On the photoshoot for Feburary Magazine, we had the honour of having set designer Emily Pugh on set to create our amazing props.

Emily, who is only 28, has created quite an impressive career for herself. Her work has already been featured in high-brow fashion glossies such as Vogue and Pop Magazine. Inspired by her antique collecting parents, Emily’s work focuses on the utilisation of objects.  Junior Magazine’s Fashion Editor – Matthew Holroyd, caught up with Emily after the shoot to talk about paperweights and horse racing!

What was your childhood like? I lived in a little Victorian Terrace in Leeds, full of antiques overlooking a park with two cats! I loved drawing from a very young age and I would often sit with my grandfather at his house and we would paint together all day with watercolours. I have a big folder somewhere full of those drawings… all with my age written on them in joined up writing!

Were you always interested in design from an early age? Yes definitely, my mother is a ceramics/ 3D teacher which inspired my creative side. My parents also used to deal in antiques and collectibles at big antique fairs across the country every weekend. My brother and I would get dragged along to help unload the car and set up the stall. They would often be at racecourses so we would spend the rest of the day on the grass racing each other pretending we were horses!

Do you collect anything? This month’s obsession is paperweights.

What was it exactly about set design and props that drew you to it? I remember doing an assisting job for set designer Shona Heath, we were making a ginormous origami set for the Dior Campaign in a freezing studio in south London and I remember thinking “this is it, this is what I want to do all the time”.

How did you get into what you do? I studied textiles at Goldsmiths in London which was a great course as it let me explore my sculptural interests and really pushed the conceptual side of my study. In the evenings I would work for PPQ who paid me in clothes! Then, through a friend, I was introduced to the team at Selfridges for an internship in their Visual Merchandising department. After 4 months full-time, including night shifts, I applied for a vacancy and got it. I now work freelance for myself but I owe a lot to their high display standards.

What have been your most exciting projects to date? I loved the shoot I did for Junior Magazine with photographer Joanna Paterson, where I got to make crazy invention props for kids.

Describe the evolution of your aesthetic over the years? I’ve always been fascinated by urban waste and functional materials – DIY stores are like sweet shops for me! I try to transform and manipulate these low grade objects, often elevating their worth by creating something aesthetically beautiful and unexpected.

You are part of the John Hour Collective, can you tell me about that? We are three artists; a photographer, an installation artist and I, creating sets. Our mediums are completely different yet we deal with the same themes, and we compliment and support one another perfectly. Initially we just wanted to create really nice work as well as a show that we would all like to see. Our first show was in Madrid at Christmas.

Tell me about your recent show at Selfridges? The John Hour Collective was invited to pitch for the exhibition windows at Selfridges -which we won. It was a difficult space to design for – on one hand we had free reign conceptually, yet on the other we had to design within the shop window constraints (on average, people see the installation for about a second!) so it had to be high impact for people rushing by.

(images from the display)

What are you working on at the moment? I’ve just finished two shoots for Pop Magazine; now I’m creating ginormous paper floral shop displays in my studio.

What are your future plans? I’d love to split work life between London and the USA.

Emily created a video showing how to create the butterflies in the image from the cover of this month’s magazine. Click here to see the video!

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