A “Winter Wonderland” is a rare occurrence in Majorca, we might see snow once or twice a year, and normally only on the mountain tops, but in a restaurant in Costa d’en Blanes? Never! Well, maybe not quite never… This Christmas season a talented artist is being brought over to transform the interior of Mood Beach Bar and Restaurant into a snowy winter scene. Over a cup of tea and a slightly dodgy Skype connection I had a chat with artist and visual merchandiser Sian Wedgwood-Walker, tasked with turning a Mediterranean seaside establishment into Santa’s grotto.
Vicki McLeod: So, where shall we start? Where did you study?
Sian Wedgwood-Walker: I went to Birmingham University where I studied Fine Art. When I left I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. I thought about becoming a curator, but I’m a bit of an art snob, I don’t really like “old” art and I knew I would have needed a wider perspective than that. Within the art world you’ve got two ways you can go: you can either be one of the chosen few of amazing artists which make it, or you can be part of the rest and basically have to find something else to do!
I’d been doing a lot of performance and installation art during my degree, I liked to explore my interaction with the world through clothes, so I thought perhaps fashion was something I could try to get into. I started to work with a friend of mine who was an illustrator and we did some shows and projects together, but it didn’t work out so I looked to change direction a little. I’d always been interested in creating environments, and I was fascinated by window dressings, I really liked to go to the shops just to look at the windows, so I decided that maybe this was the way to go. I knew that I needed to use my creativity and I really like building and making things, so that’s why I decided to join House of Fraser and work my way up. I started to work as a Sales Assistant on the Phase A “mat” (that’s retail speak for the area you get when you are a franchise in a department store). I was forever redressing the mannequins and moving things around to see how they would work and they soon realised that I was really interested.
VM: Did they notice an increase in sales as well?
SWW: Oh yes, every time I increased the sales between 5 and 20%. I started to look into how I could develop my career. The clothes I was working with were very nice, but not my kind of style. Then a job came up internally at House of Fraser where I had the freedom to create my own windows from scratch. It was a fun dream job, I had total and utter freedom! I could take things from anywhere in the store and put them together. That’s when I made a ball gown out of Lee jeans and dressed a mannequin in it, I called her “Miss Light Up Lee”. But then the credit crunch came and that really stifled my ability to be creative, we had to focus on blatant discounted offers and really work on selling, and everything just lost its fun. Then I moved to work for H & M in a very different, much smaller store. It was a promotion for me as well as I was also in management. The company look at visual merchandising in a very different way, and it does really make a difference to sales. Then I moved up from a 2.3m store to a 9m store, and I am running a team of six. H & M are an amazing company to work for, but still retail is very structured and set, there are specific things you have to do depending on the brands that you are working with.
VM: So now you are developing what you do outside of H & M as well.
SWW: Yes, I’m moving into creating environments for parties and weddings. I did my own wedding last year when I married my husband Flixx. My creativity really got to flow, we had a Peter Pan theme because it was his favourite book when he was child. Everything was drawn from the idea of being in Neverland. The whole theme was magical. The only problem was that my ideas were much bigger than my budget, so we had to keep it realistic! Now I am currently working on a project for a Burlesque show which is great, and I am still also working for H & M. We have Katy Perry jumping out of shopping bags throughout the stores at the moment for the Christmas campaign, it looks great!
VMC: What kinds of window and visual displays do you like to see?
SWW: I love Selfridges, their windows are always amazing, and Karen Millen as well. They are always very creative and inspiring.
VMC: From a cynical point of view the windows have to make you stop and want to go inside the shop don’t they?
SWW: Yes, of course. That’s the aim. We use “Hotspots” inside the stores as well to promote clothing. We might have something which has been in the store for months and we move it to these particular places and it will sell out or a customer will say “Ooh, this is new!” even if it’s been in the store in a different position for a while. There’s certain things which most people know about the psychology of visual merchandising now: like keeping the items that you want to sell on eye level. And customers always turn right when they enter a store. We have what we call an “A” area it’s the main selling point where you would put your main trend or campaign.
VMC: And what’s your personal style, which designers do you like?
SWW: I love Vivienne Westwood, she’s a crazy mentalist, completely bonkers! And I love Alexander McQueen as well. But I pull things from everywhere really, I like Victoria, 1920s, street style. And I love to make things as well.
VMC: Were you a big fan of Blue Peter when you were little?!
SWW: Yes, I loved it, but I never had the sticky backed plastic. My mum taught me to sew and I would make clothes for my troll dolls. I love to see how things are put together, I’m a bit of a geek about that.
VMC: So what are you going to be doing at Mood?
SWW: Margaret, the owner, wants to have the theme A Winter Wonderland so I’m going to use the colours white, silver and tinge of minty blue. There’s going to be as much fake snow as I can fit in as well! I have some ideas about how we can make it seem as if you are walking on snow as you go into the restaurant area. I’m going to be using a lot of icicles, baubles and snowflakes, and white twigs. I want to hang a lot of things from the ceiling and make the whole place very glittery and twinkly. I don’t want to say too much as I want it to be a surprise.
VMC: It’s a big place though, this sounds like a lot of work!
SWW: Yep, it will be, we’ve scheduled that it will take us two days to install, we want it to be ready for Sunday December 20th. We’ve doing everything including the table settings. I’m also really keen to recycle and reuse objects so I’ve asked Naim at Mood to save wine bottles and we will be spraying them and using them in the installation as well. I’m so excited! It’s going to really fantastic!
You will be able to see the Winter Wonderland at Mood Beach from Sunday December 20th to January 3rd. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org