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Spur Creative In The Hot Seat

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Established in 2006, Spur Creative specialise in the design and manufacture of high quality props, sculptures and structures for a diverse range of clients. Their work includes retail display, marketing and event management, to film, theatre and TV. Phil Jarman, Director at Spur Creative, spoke to as the company marks a decade in business... 

BFV: 2016 marks the big 10-year anniversary for Spur Creative. It is a great achievement for the company; what are the secrets of your success?

Phil Jarman: Tenacity, for one. Even during the earlier hard times, a year or so after we had started up, we just kept going because we believed in the potential of our company. We aren't the kind of company who see problems when faced with a complex brief; we look for solutions. As every one of our jobs is different, we've learned that most things, within reason, are achievable if we put our mind to it and our clients know this about us. They knew we are easy to get on with and happy to help see their designs and briefs come to life. We've built up a reputation over the last 10 years as a can-do company, so much so that other prop-making companies come to us to help with their projects.

BFV: Do clients still have the same requirements a decade later, or has there been a vast change in demands? 

PJ: The same requirements – as in keeping the budget as low as possible but still have a quality product – but because we have a diverse client base now, we are asked to make larger, high profile items. For example, Microsoft have commissioned us over the last two years to make fibreglass sculptures of their games' characters for the E3 Games Expo held yearly in LA; we are asked to manage and manufacture props for large roll-outs; we were asked to make over 5,000 concrete effect podiums that were used for Next displays UK-wide; and we made thousands of macarons that went to 11 retail outlets throughout Europe, not to mention the work we do for Ralph Lauren for every one of their seasons worldwide. So clients may have the same requirements, it's just that we are asked to work with a lot more clients these days.

BFV: Throughout the past 10 years, what is the strangest piece you have been asked to create?
PJ: Life-like dolls that had varying levels of Psoriasis patches over their bodies for a well-known pharmaceutical company. They were used to instruct NHS nurses to recognise the complex differences of the varying degrees of psoriasis. That in itself wasn't necessarily strange, but walking into the workshop when it was dark and being greeted by the naked life-like dolls stood staring at you was one of the strangest feelings, specially as I'd completely forgotten that we had them in the workshop – and especially as some hadn't yet had their eyes put in.

BFV: Spur Creative works with major organisations, such as Sky Movies and Ralph Lauren. How do these projects differ from dealing with a local theatre group?

PJ: There is no difference really. We treat every project the same, whether it be a low budget, small project for a local company, or a big budget project for a well established company. This is why we have a good reputation because we put our all in to every job. It's a pride thing I suppose; we don't let anything leave our workshop unless we are totally confident that it's the best we can do.

BFV: Are there times when it is challenging to be 'creative', or spend time creating something special, if the production is tight on budget?
PJ: Not really; it's challenging but that can be a spur for creativity because you have to think laterally and explore new areas of production.

BFV: How important is the relationship with the buyer, and do you have to put yourself in their shoes to picture what they want?

PJ: It's very important. It's usually the buyer that has the final say in who takes on the project, and yes, I always have to evaluate a project based on what I know the client's expectations are, although we work to a very particular set of criteria with every job so we are fairly confident that the client will be happy because we have over 25 years of experience between us and have worked with really diverse clients and have had no negative feedback for the vast majority of our trading life.

BFV: What is it like watching a movie or an advert when you have provided the setting or props?
PJ: Thrilling; the only downside to working in this industry is that you constantly look at sets and props on stage and screen and spend your time wondering how it was put together, missing the actual show or movie. But to see your own work makes all the hard work, the hours of fine sanding until your hands bleed, the scrabbling around on dirty, aching knees, seem worthwhile.

BFV: It is fantastic to have a British company thriving in this sector; what words of encouragement would you give a young company wanting to keep base in Britain and resist the temptation to have everything made in different countries? 
PJ: The UK is renowned worldwide for its talent and I think this has never be more prominent, especially as we are keen to prove our worth post-Brexit. If you get a UK company to look after your project, you can be assured that you'll get the results you expect from working with a company that has the right knowledge and skills, earned over many years in a thriving, competitive market like Britain.

BFV: In our dealings with Spur Creative over the years, the company comes across as a very happy place to work. How do you motivate people to continually enjoy their work?
PJ: Generally, the people who do this work do it because they love it so it's never been an issue to have to motivate an already highly motivated, talented team. But I'm fair and I never ask anybody to do what I'm not prepared to do, and I always consult my team and engage them in every part of the daily running of the company. I believe that people respond really well if they are given a certain amount of free reign and are allowed to let their creativity shine.

More information on Spur Creative can be found via their website.
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