By Lily Lowther
‘Right, you start working on visuals of the giant crystal ball egg, and I’ll figure out this donkey stair lift.’ A sentence that might be cause for concern in other offices, but at Mather & Co., I soon come to learn that this is a pretty standard Tuesday morning.
I am a third year Interior Design student studying for an MDes degree at Sheffield Hallam University. As part of the course, we are required to undertake a 12 week work placement with the company of our choosing, before returning to uni for a year to complete the course. I have always been interested in exhibitions and museums, and decided to use this opportunity to explore this area of design further, hoping to discover whether this is a path I would like to pursue when uni life comes to an end. After much research, many a posted CV and sent email, I was delighted to secure a placement for the full 12 weeks at Mather & Co. As a student, searching for a placement can be risky business. Until you start somewhere, it is hard to know what the experience will entail. Will they be expecting too much of me? Will I get a valuable experience? Will I be making the tea all day???
All worries were diminished as soon as I stepped foot in the Mather & Co. office, in Wilmslow. I was made to feel welcome and valued from the word go. Sam briefed me on my first project on the first day of my placement. Mather & Co. have a 3×3 metre trade stand at the Museums and Heritage Show at the end of April. My task was to design the stand with a birthday theme, to celebrate the company turning 20 years old. I was relieved to find they use design programmes I am familiar with, which saved me having to learn a whole new system, but everyone was very helpful when I did have a query. This may be a fairly small task compared to their other projects, but for a student like me, the opportunity to have something that you’ve designed actually built and used was great, and a level of responsibility that showed me that Mather & Co. are willing to make my experience with them a valuable one.
I was set up with my own desk and e-mail, and enjoy the experience of working 9-5.30. There is a relaxed, friendly atmosphere in the office, stopping every now and again in between all the hard work to have a laugh about something or to decide what ‘quote of the day’ will be going on the board. It didn’t take me long to settle in, and everyone has made me feel part of the office. The work is always interesting and certainly varied. So far some of the work I have done has included: the M and H stand, researching content and coming up with ideas for a motor racing project, translating a tender document from French to English, drawing up various museum collections in AutoCAD, researching a historic ship, coming up with ideas for a museum in a small town, designing crazy concepts for a prospective project (which is where the crystal ball and donkey fit in!). There have also been meetings, whether this is with an architect, a skype call to another designer, a meeting with the PR Company or a project catch-up meeting. There has even been a ‘Pie Day Friday’, complete with pies from a local shop, mushy peas and gravy (and pudding of course). Another office highlight has been the 2015 Mather & Co. bake off. Who knew that the real challenge would be eating all the cake, rather than the baking itself?
I am into week 10 of my placement, and I am having a great experience at Mather & Co. I feel I have learnt so much in such a short space of time, not only within design, but also about the subjects we are designing for! Who knew I would become so much more knowledgeable about clairvoyants and motor racing! It has confirmed for me that the exciting, varied (and sometimes crazy) world of exhibition and museum design is the path I would like to take in the future (though Mather & Co. also have experience within retail, leisure and entertainment sectors). I have been lucky with choosing to undertake my placement within this company. I am gaining invaluable experience and being given a level of responsibility that puts my skills to the test and makes me feel like part of the company. I am very thankful to everyone at Mather & Co. for making my experience what it has been so far. Roll on the next 2 weeks!