14.09.17 / Making the Cutt

Making The Cutt 976 607 (1)

Making the Cutt, Thursday 14 September 2017

Guest Speaker: Hannah Cutts
Venue: Alice Room, Cloudland, Fortitude Valley

Q: What do AFL, Kenny Rogers and EE Cummings have in common?
A: Stay tuned …

The evening began with murmurs of anticipation from the crowd – equal parts glee, intrigue and awe as we entered into the stunning, glamorous opulence of the Alice Room at Cloudland.

Guests ranged from students to industry stalwarts, all excited to hear Hannah delight us with her irreverent brand of storytelling. Cutts assured us all: “… making sure it’s not remotely groovy, we’ll finish with a poem – but don't worry it’s short!”.

An evening of Cutts Creative’s contribution to the Valley would not be complete without a brief rollercoaster through the past that brought Cutts to our local community.

We began the first quarter by travelling through youthful memories of Cornwall, Zambia and Corinda State High, through to her scholarship abroad where she dined with Prince Charles and the future King of Denmark.

Heading back to the UK, where her tenacity – and wish to keep Australia at arm’s length for just a little longer – took her to art directing shopfronts for TED BAKER in London, using craft-based creativity and photography to make her mark.

Fortunately for us – and unable to put it off any longer – Cutts returned to Australia, as requested by her mum, to get a Bachelor’s Degree “to be taken seriously.”

By this time Australia had started to embrace “the cosmopolitan,” and Brisbane began to offer our travelling creative some impetus to settle in, with the endless promise of a game of pool at Dooley’s to bring good times and a good idea or two.

While illustrating a children's book for Macmillan, teaching art classes and lecturing at QUT (and becoming the first barmaid at Ric’s), Cutts’ case worker at Centrelink told her of a $5000 grant that she might be eligible for. All she had to do was to employ a long term unemployed person, and herein lies the story of when Cutts and Liam (her new found dyslexic illustrator) learnt to use a scanner and their recently acquired Apple LC575.

This was the beginnings for Cutts’ studio, creating opportunities for her to employ rising illustrators and artists (that she had just finished college with), a golden time where collectively they took over the world and created serious, mischievous magic – and then scanned it.

At the beginning of the second quarter, Cutts talked brutally about the two types of work…

1. Work you like doing but don’t get paid for.
2. Work that is awful but brings in cash.

So brings the obvious question: how do you fund the work you like and then even get paid for it? Cutts’ answer: do the work and say, “If you like it, pay me!”

This created the perfect segue into our first official case study: printed programs for LIVID Festival.

In a nutshell they sold 5000 programs, carried $25000 in a garbage bag across the festival grounds, and ultimately they got paid.

This became a recurring gig that guaranteed three months of work each year, which then lead to QPAC’s StageX, RiverFire and Brisbane Festival.

This ballsy attitude then led Cutts to the rebranding of Vinnies – can you even remember a time when it was called the St Vincent de Paul Society Second Hand Store? Thank you, Hannah Cutts.

We moved into the third quarter with some Kenny Rogers, and some serious life questions of, “Who am I?” and, “What will I specialise in?”

Enter another case study: Press Club, an adventure into the iconic cigar wrapper that is approaching its 20th year of being a Valley icon.

Cutts continues with case studies including branding Cloudland (initially named Tenth House). This demonstrated Cutts’ belief that when your client doesn’t know what they want you get to do so much research. Followed by more and more research … the takeaway from this one was, “If it’s not built yet, say ‘no’.”

More case studies including The Empire Hotel, The Laneway, The Euro, Nagomi, Fritzenberger, WoodFireGrill, Ortiga, and The Island Hotel.

As you can see, the work was boundless, Cutts’ insights were valuable and her generosity of spirit was … priceless.

As Cutts talked us through her process of the silly through to the straight and sensible, we were constantly reminded to always leave room for play. Cutts shared her methods of creating assets for personality so they can be reused, which in turn produce systems that continue to work for years to come. She also talked us through the genius of giving a secondary asset such as a library of icons or patterns, also referred to as a “just in case you get bored with that, we’ll give you this to play with (so you don’t mess with my logo)” option.

The fourth and final quarter lead us through the cycles of constant movement – when what you think you’re doing gets turned on its head … the collection of things, schools, houses and art.

Cutts wound down by sharing with us her current recommendations for reading, listening and, well, eating! Read: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, and Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut (Cutts listens as an audio book). Listen: Danger Mouse Essentials on Apple Music. Eat: chicken as “chicken is quite big right now.”

Finishing the official portion of the evening Cutts says,“I’m a poet! Sounds like something you would say on a septuagenarian river cruise. Although [poetry is] almost the same as graphic design – it’s the same elements, you just use them differently.” We were then gifted a reading of e.e. cummings’ poem ‘because you take your life in stride’. You could have heard a pin drop … followed by applause, gratitude and pleasure.

Q&A meanderings:

  1. When faced with a creative problem, let your brain do some of the work by doing heaps of research then going for a really big walk. When you sit back down, it comes.
  2. Never overlook the significance of community and networking.
  3. Always check in with the bigger picture.
  4. The importance of awards to show people your work.
  5. Play! It all comes down to humour and the bigger picture.

And finally, whatever happened to Liam the dyslexic illustrator? http://thefluffytractor.com

Everyone left the room with a smile on their face and an insatiable need for latin dancing as the sounds of bongos, cowbells and trumpets began to rise from the downstairs dancefloor – thank you Hannah Cutts, Cloudland and AGDA Qld.

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