If you’re a savvy social media stalker of Irish creatives, your Instagram feed knows Jette Virdi. This enthusiastic force of stunning nature is a stylist who works with nature and food to create hypnotic tableaus for cookbook writers, brands and events.
Virdi is now sharing her talents with us plebs through carefully curated creative workshops for weekenders looking to intersperse some pretty in their life, or office workers looking to recapture a bit of their latent artistic spirit. Are you emailing HR yet with an ‘idea?’ in the subject line? We caught up with Jette last week for a natter and a photoshoot with visuals that are better at soothing a frazzled brain than any mindfulness app.
Okay, so whenever I tell people that I know food stylists, they look at me askew and ask is that a real job? Tell us what you do.
I get the same reaction! Being a food stylist encompasses so many different roles and although the most fun part is that I basically make food look pretty, which is the bit you see, there is also so much more involved. I source props and the best quality food from all over the country and I also get to work closely with brands so that the images I create are a true representation of that company. Which, of course, changes every time. That’s why I have the best job; it’s never the same.
You were born in Southampton. How did you end up in Ireland?
Now that is a roundabout story. I’m only British by birth really, I haven’t lived in the country for that long. I grew up in France and Africa and then have always travelled and lived abroad. Most recently I lived in Mexico where I own a sustainable boutique hotel and found I wasn’t loving life. I cooked for all my guests and eventually started travelling with them to other countries and cooking.
When it got to the point of ‘get me out of here’ in 2012, my Mum suggested going to this cookery school on a farm in Ireland. I could take three months out and just have fun with food. Turns out it was Ballymaloe. The ethos is so similar to what we did at the hotel that it was a perfect fit! After I had finished I flitted back and forth between Ireland, Mexico and Palma for a bit but finally started to get work here and thought I’d give it a go for a year. It’s now year two!
What professional path did you take to do what you love?
Wow. That’s tough. I haven’t followed a conventional path. I mean I studied psychology, owned a plumbing company in Oz, built and designed then ran a hotel in Mexico, started cooking for people, and now work mainly as a food stylist.
It’s been long and convoluted. I think that having the belief to be happy in your work has driven me. Plus the fact that I am creative, my mind is constantly buzzing with new ideas for this workshop or that project. And so that’s why, for me, working as a creative that encompasses food, styling, and teaching, just clicks.
What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?
That’s like which is your favourite child! There have been so many that have been exciting moments, being the food stylist on Rozanna Purcell’s new book was amazing because it was my first book. Or working Rachel Allen’s TV show because it was my first TV show. See, all different and fun.
How do you approach styling a wedding?
It’s all about the couple. Who they are and how they are with each other.
You run floral workshops. What’s your favourite flower and why?
The workshops are great! It’s two hours of blooms and cocktails and chats on a Saturday morning. Such fun! My favourite flower would have to be either the peony, such a cliché, or the scabiosa. The name is pretty bad but trust me, she’s a beauty!
Your Instagram looks like the most delicious cookbook ever created. You’d make home fries decimated in a bath of old oil look good. Do you ever eat anything ugly?
Aw, thank you! I try hard as it works as a portfolio for me. Secretly my food at home sucks. I mean seriously it can take up to an hour to make a shot look pretty for work and, let’s face it, when I get home I am way too hungry to spend that time styling.
You did the famous Ballymaloe course – what’s the best cooking tip you have to pass on?
Eat local and seasonally. It helps the economy, the bees and your health.
How has social media helped grow your business?
This is a big one. In today’s world where we have such short concentration social media works well for business, especially a creative or visually-based business. I’d say 60% of my work comes from Instagram or twitter because people see a cohesive look that shows my different skill sets such as styling, food, calligraphy, events, etc. and they can immediately see what I’m about.
Definitely if you are getting into a creative business or starting out or fresh, make sure you feeds are cohesive and show your aesthetic.
When you need a quick bolt of inspiration, what works for you?
I go out for a walk. We are constantly bombarded by other people’s images and sometimes it can be well, a bit overwhelming. I definitely get thoughts going round like ‘oh gosh her images are so good, I’m just not up to that standard’ or ‘I never come up with ideas as creative as that’, whereas the reality is that I am and I do. Sometimes all you need is a little bit of silence to be able to hear your own thoughts. Also getting on a train, which always helps get the creative ideas flowing.
You’re starting to host creativity workshops. How are they helpful for office-bound worker bees?
This is such an exciting project and it all started from my workshops that have been such a success. Creativity is a key ingredient to being productive and efficient in work and life, so it seemed a natural step to start introducing Creative Workshops specifically for industries and business. They are all based on team interaction, creativity and looking at things from outside the box. They range in time and activities that challenge different skill sets and I work with a psychologist to really get the maximum punch for participants! I’m doing a food and photography workshop with Yelp in September which will get their creative brains going!
If someone wanted to start getting crafty this Autumn, where can they start?
Well, firstly, I’ll be hosting even more workshops as we head into Autumn and November plus there are some great things happening with ID2015. I list all my workshops on my website jettevirdi.com and love to hear from people about what they’d like to learn. If I don’t know how to do something I bring in another expert so participants are learning from the best. Then there are great websites such as Skillshare and atly that charge a fee for you to watch videos that will teach you skills. A bit lonesome but there is some great content.
Check out Jette’s website, jettevirdi.com, for details on her upcoming workshops. Jette will be talking all things contemporary styling and calligraphy at our Bride Prep event on Saturday September 27th. Get your ticket here.