‘In the Art Room’ with… Calandre Orton

Here we have Calandre Orton. She works with creative entrepreneurs to carve out creative and commercial strategies across all areas of the business, brand or enterprise. Not only that but she has a wonderful podcast called Up with the Lark, with pithy, actionable advice on how to thrive commercially and creatively, but she also has a paper. Fantastically witty and informative, the latest seasonal newspaper is proud to support her chosen charity of the year, Magic Breakfasts.

Need to get your creative juice flowing? Click here to have a session with Calandre or here to listen to Up With the Lark, or here to read fascinating conversations with creatives in the Up With the Lark paper.

What did you study at school/university? Was creativity and art part of your home life growing up? What did you dream of being when you grew up?!

I grew up in a home where everyone was ‘selling’ creativity. My mother was an interior designer and later an art dealer and my Oma – whom I lived with for significant periods of my childhood – was a painter.  I earnt pocket money sorting out my mother’s sample library or refreshing the pastels in my Oma’s studio. We spent endless hours in galleries, museums, at talks. And always looking, looking, looking.  

I have to admit though, that it was made clear to me at a very young age that I wasn’t ‘creative’, I was ‘clever’. I was raised solely by my mother who was an extra ordinary example of making a living from being creative. But I found it hard to handle the feast and famine, So, as a very academic 8 year old, I announced that I wanted a ‘profession’ and some ‘stability’ and that it would be Law. I didn’t deviate from that plan. Not once. But did do a Masters in Art Law and later worked briefly at Sotheby’s in their legal team. That was my Dream Job. Fakes, thefts, forgeries, treasure, family disputes.  I wonder, perhaps, if that’s where I will find myself again once my three children have flown the nest…I am now lucky enough to run my own business consultancy for those in the arts and creative industries. None of that would be possible without a childhood steeped in creativity.

How did your creative upbringing shape how you chose your career?

Creativity, in the broader sense, was at the core of my upbringing. And I realise now, as a parent, how much I treasure that approach to life. To be independently minded, to test, and to question and to explore. In a way, I’ve made a career out of it! I am now surrounded by people that are wildly creative and it’s such a privilege and endlessly uplifting and challenging. I think it’s given me the confidence to have my own point of view, go my own way, have my own taste. I feel endlessly grateful for that. 

How important is it for you that your own children are inspired by the arts in their childhood and education? Can you give us your top 3 tips on how you add creativity to your own children’s lives?

Every day, I tell my three children ‘be kind, be curious’ and that the two most important questions to ask are ‘how can I help?’ and ‘what can I see?’. It’s central. It’s central to all of my parenting decisions. Our children are growing up in the “robot age” so I have made it clear to them that I’m not bothered about them being good at anything that a computer can do, just to focus on what is purely human.  

I’m not sure that I am qualified to give any top tips but I am lucky to be surrounded by some super creative parents. My bestie (and sister-in-law!) is an art therapist. She shrugs off all pretention or hierarchy in art. She and I often take our crew – six between us – and sit on the floor of Tate Modern/Britain/St Ives with charcoal and gold pens and coloured paper and chalks and just draw and draw and draw and draw. It’s a bit messy and people stare but the kids are in HEAVEN. 

You always said that great quality materials are key and I have taken that to heart because it is Completely True. Give a toddler proper acrylics and proper paper and what comes up is magnificent. And books are of course the best. What did I do before Little People Big Dreams?!

Oh and my children always do better standing up. Sounds bonkers but somehow, better energy and focus.

What artists/people/cultures have/still do influence you the most?

I think that I am rather old fashioned and love photography on film – Cartier-Bresson, Vivian Maier, Kate Friend. I crave clarity – William Scott, Barbara Hepworth, Jim Ede. Depth and complexity but always clarity. 

I admire those who bring natural materials and textures to life. I want to do more with the children to explore textures outside of the ‘craft cupboard’ at home. Stone, cork, brass. Perhaps that’s what Father Christmas will bring down the chimney! 

A children’s company or brand that you use that you feel particularly aligned to?

I like the idea that childhood is magical, especially at Christmas time, so anything that keeps magic going. LEGO LEGO LEGO. Also Milk Magazine, Meri Meri, the kids book section in any gallery/museum shop, Wickle in Lewes, the V&A kids activity packs, Cissy Wears.

One recommendation to other parents! 

Don’t just set up the craft/art/baking/music practice/activity, do it too. Light a candle, pour a glass of wine and get the Lots of Lovely Art Box out. The laundry can wait. 

Check out Calandre here

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