Ahead of the hugely anticipated Body & Soul festival this weekend (and it looks set to be a scorcher, hoorah!), we catch up with Mary Pike, Head of Decor for this dreamy festival. Having just returned to Ireland after years of working on the props and sets of Hollywood blockbusters, this is one woman we couldn’t wait to sit down with. Mary has spent nine years working in New Zealand on Hollywood movies that included The Hobbit, Spiderman, Avatar and most recently the yet to be released Johnny Depp Disney movie ‘Through the Looking Glass’. After years of creating the props and sets of some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters Mary has now taken on another interesting role as Head of Decor for one of Ireland’s most experiential and dramatic festivals. In her first festival role, at this year’s Body & Soul, she is charged with designing and decorating the festival and all of the stages as well as co-ordinating all of the 40 + artists involved in the festival. As Irelands only festival ‘Head of Decor’, Mary will be working her magic on a festival that is known for its twisting labyrinth of cubby-holes and curious corners, coloured with surprises from hanging picture and spinning gramophones to a glittering collection of art pieces and installations.
We’re excited, are you? Here’s what she had to say…
Mary, it sounds like you have the coolest job in the world – how did you find yourself here? I arrived back in Dublin to set up a small business at the end of last year and was looking for a part time job to supplement and compliment this when I found the ad for Decor Manager at Body & Soul. I was delighted and intrigued.
You’ve had many incredible experiences, by the sounds of it, what was the highlight? Very hard to say. I’ve been really fortunate career wise in that I’ve continued to grow year on year and do different things. I guess one of the few times I achieved a specific goal was getting to Production Design a feature film before I turned 30.
You must have met some amazing people too, who has really inspired you? My boss at Weta Workshop in Wellington, Richard Taylor has been an inspiration for many years. He has a huge amount of creative energy and his collaborative and exciting methods of idea generation, and concept development have influenced me greatly.
What’s the best thing about your job? Working with a great team of creative people who love what they do.
What’s the hardest thing? I’m essentially flying blind into this year’s festival, so I guess, fear of the unknown?
Of all the incredible things you’ve worked on, what is it that brings you back to something like Body & Soul? Festivals are really a small industry in New Zealand compared to here so I was really interested to get involved and see what draws so many people to them here in Ireland and also interested in a completely new design challenge.
What sets Body & Soul apart from the rest for you? The amount of focus given to my department and to the large number of visual artists involved.
When it comes to something like Body & Soul, do you just run with whatever you think will be interesting, or do you set specific themes? Always good to work with visual themes. It makes for a more impressive overall feel especially when you’re covering such a large area.
Talk us through your creative process. Examination of the brief and design parameters (site, budget, time frame etc) lots of visual research, a loose plan, brainstorming concepts and filtering out impractical ideas, a more concrete plan then design of individual aspects and an overall design proposal.
Do you take the level of revelry (i.e. drunkenness!) into account when designing for Body & Soul? Yes. Definitely. This is the first time I’ve ever had to consider this, and it’s a new challenge. Everything up and out of reach. People have been found wearing willow lanterns in the past to name but one misdemeanour!
Will you get to enjoy the festival? Yes. The bulk of my duties are before and after the festival so I’m one of the lucky ones who’ll get to let my hair down a bit!
What career advice would you have for someone reading this and thinking ‘that’s something I would love to do’? Body and Soul is a great organisation for offering access to get involved. If you can develop some of the necessary creative skills, you can apply to volunteer with the Decor Team and be part of the festival. Hard working, creative people are welcomed with open arms, and there’re plenty of opportunities to learn new processes and learn from really talented folk.
Describe yourself in three words… direct, resourceful, laid-back