In conversation with Kate Mackrell

An interview with Kate Mackrell, one of our Senior Designers here in Mortar & More.

We were delighted to have Kate Mackrell join our studio recently. With a wealth of design experience from around the globe, Kate gives us an insight into her design journey so far, what makes her tick and some of the more unusual experiences which keeps things interesting!

Glasgow School of Art

Hi Kate, welcome to M&M Stories, we’re delighted you’re taking the time to chat to us. Tell us about the moment when you decided this is the way to go.

I knew at High school I wanted to go to Art School. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do I just wanted to be there. I applied at 17 to do fine Art in Dundee and got a knock back.

I was too young and definitely not ready. I passed the time happily enough working in bars and restaurants then found a shorter course in Glasgow doing retail design. A lecturer there said “you wanna go to Glasgow school of Art and do interior design, it’s a good course”. So that was that.

What was your first big project and how did you find that experience?

I suppose when I moved to London. I only really had experience in site specific projects pre-London.

The whole approach was different. It was more about creating a BIG concept, narrative around a brand or an experience way before getting into how many fixtures you could fit on a plan. You might have a roll out of 50 units all over the country so v important to get all the ingredients just right.

Blew my mind and has always influenced me. So regardless if it’s a tiny concession unit or a massive department store, if the loves not put in at the start and the thinking’s not joined up. It can be a bit of a come down.

Dublin Shop Front

What are you currently fascinated by and how is it filtering into your work?

Old Dublin. The people, the brickwork, the shopfronts, the signage. I like taking these concepts and making them hyper real. In my head I want to create a cinematic movie scene. Not just another bar.

What do you think are the most exciting and challenging aspects of working in a design studio?

Exciting when people listen to one another and respect different skill sets.  Projects should be joyfully brought to life collectively. It can happen.

Challenging when magnificent, ground-breaking ideas get pulled down because no one’s listening or engaged. Often, it’s due to stress, budget and deadlines. All been there I suppose.

Frank’s, North Frederick Street

What or who inspires you the most? Have your sources of inspiration changed throughout the years?

Different cities and places. I like observing how people behave in different sets of circumstances.

Tell us something unusual that has happened in your career?

My colleague and I once went to meet with a new client on his site in Soho to discuss his ambitions to start up a well-being, spa type concept. Wrong. I clocked straight away it was a knocking shop/brothel. The penny didn’t quite drop unfortunately for my colleague (a very well-respected member of the RIBA) never forget the look on his face when it dawned on him.

The Liberties by Maxi @Jam Art Prints

How do you overcome creative blocks?

I just do something, anything. Worse thing for me is to sit and worry.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

“Don’t sweat too much if others slate your work. You can only do what you do”. Good advice but I still sweat.

Grogan’s, South William Street

What do you like to do to relax and unwind?

Long walks in the mountains, big fires, cosy pints with a friend in a lovely, friendly bar.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

Haven’t a clue!