Name: Hilda Hennessy
Lives: Whitegate , Co. Cork
Job title: Creative Manager, Brown Thomas, Cork.
Salary bracket: €30-€45,000
Education background: Limerick College of Art and Design, which included a student exchange in the faculty of fine arts, University of Vigo, Spain.
Hobbies: Running with Aghada Running Club. Yoga.
Describe your job in five words: Creative, demanding, fun, physically challenging, fast-paced.
Describe yourself in five words: Creative, hard-working, resilient, thoughtful and determined.
Personality needed for this kind of work? Dynamic with sense of humour.
How long are you doing this job? 20 years.
How did you get this job? After college I had an opportunity to travel in Asia and after that, when I came home, I decided to move to Galway which was and still is a hub of creativity. My intention was to eventually have my own art studio, so I waitressed for a stint and was involved in large scale street theatre while trying to figure out how to make this a reality. My next job took me to Moons (now BT) in Galway.
Through this, I heard of an opportunity for a full time display artist in Brown Thomas Cork. I went for it and met with creative director John Redmond and was lucky to enough to be offered the position. I spent two weeks in BT Dublin training with the display team there before taking up the position in the Cork store.
To be honest, retail design was never on the agenda as my background was fine art and my ambition was to paint. However, I immediately fell in love with all things display, especially window display. The fast-paced, team dynamic and constant creative challenges suited me. There is never a day the same and never a dull moment! The shop floor has taught me more about the business of retail than anything I have read or studied.
Particular qualifications or experience? Yes, my Art College background was a definite advantage.
Describe a day at work: A typical day would involve meeting with the general manager for a walk though each department. Figures are looked at and any challenges or successes are discussed.
We identify any tweeks needed with layouts or displays to optimize every opportunity for sales. Visual standards at this level of retail are expected to be impeccable and a lot of my day will be spent with each individual on the display team improving and maintaining this standard.
Our responsibilities include merchandising, fashion, accessories, menswear, kids and homewares along with styling mannequins, dressing windows, signage, beauty promotion displays, pop ups, arranging floral displays and occasionally styling events.
How many hours do you work a week? 30 to 37.5 hours. This increases significantly in October and November to accommodate Christmas prep.
What do you wear to work? Always something comfortable as I can usually be found up a ladder hanging something or other from the ceiling! Usually jeans, shirt, something from Cos. Footware is usually trainers or any brogues from KG.
Is your industry male or female dominated? Female dominated.
Does this affect you in any particular way? No, I couldn’t say it does.
Is your job stressful? How? Rate it on a scale of 1-10: It can be stressful due to tight deadlines but we’re not saving lives so it’s all relative. Stress levels change with the seasons ! Spring /Summer 4/5 , Autumn /Winter — maybe going right up to 9 or 10 on Christmas window week!
Do you work with others or on your own? I work with a great team. We’re like a display family with everyone having their own particular creative strengths.
When do you plan to retire or give up working? If you are creative and that’s your passion then I don’t think you’ll ever really retire. Regardless of which artistic discipline you are involved in, at any particular time in your life, I think you’ll always have the need to create. It’s who you are.
Best bits: Getting to be creative every day, working with a creative team. Completing a Brown Thomas Christmas window and seeing the enjoyment it gives to families and friends. There is huge job satisfaction in it and for that I feel very lucky.
Worst bits: Dismantling all Christmas décor in-store and windows.
Advice to those who want your job? Complete an art or design course. Get some work experience in retail display, be persistent, hard-working and willing to travel.