This month we spoke to the queen of all things creative - Molly Gaisford from @paintandhaven. Growing up in the countryside Molly turned to creative outlets to fill her time which translates seamlessly into her content, making her one of ZINE's most unique influencers. Molly creates beautiful, meaningful content that captures engagement, so it's hard not to fall in love with her feed. In this interview we discuss all things creative, jewellery, and authenticity in the influencersphere.
Please could you start by telling me about how you started out as an influencer and how you chose what to start posting?
I never intended on being an influencer. I didn’t even know what an influencer was when I started my account in March 2016. I had recently been involved in a couple of creative projects which had left me wrung out, disillusioned and questioning pretty much all of my life choices. I metaphorically fell off my perch and couldn’t quite find the inclination or strength to climb back up onto it. One day I decided to give my bedroom a thorough tidy and clean. I took a photograph of it and thought it was like something I might see on Pinterest. So without any hesitation I started a new Instagram account (I had only had a private account up until this point) and merged two words together which I felt represented my interests. I remember tagging a fabric company called Ian Mankin, and within a few minutes receiving a lovely, appreciative comment from them. I remember my heart leaping with the realisation I had made a connection, and I didn’t look back. It seemed like the most natural thing to me, to share details of my life and surroundings which inspire me and to connect people to places, to ideas, to design and beauty. The influencing part started about a six months to a year into starting paintandhaven, by which time it felt like an organic, natural progression
How would you describe your aesthetic?
I would describe my aesthetic as contemporary but with a timelessness, romantic in the true sense of the word (which includes the darkness, the light and the grey areas as opposed to permanent light).
What is most important to you when pursuing brand partnerships?
Loving the product is really the most important element to me. Le Labo Fragrances was one of the first brands I collaborated with and I still treasure and value my relationship with them. Their aesthetic, their products and their ethos are truly unique.
What has been your favourite jewellery brand collaboration so far and why did it work so well?
My favourite collaboration with a jewellery brand has undoubtedly been Tiffany & Co. It was literally a dream come true. The whole experience was as you would imagine with such an iconic and elegant brand. Each person I communicated with was charming, knowledgeable, appreciative and entirely supportive of my creativity. And the jewellery was exquisite.
How did you decide on the content you’d produce for this campaign?
I usually go with a kind of gut instinct - what is personal to me about the product. So with Tiffany & Co it was a no-brainer. I have always adored the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s since I first saw it as a young teenager. The campaign coincided with the summer holidays, so I took the pieces with me to Italy with the intention of letting the land work its magic. The light in Southern Italy is exceptionally golden in the evening, so I took full advantage of it - creating what I hope were romantic, timeless, elegant and inspiring images.
Which key metrics do you think brands should focus on when sourcing influencers for campaigns?
I try not to think too much about metrics to be completely honest! I find that if I get those concerns in my head it can often stifle my freedom to create. And the numbers are so erratic these days, it’s not worth the headache or heartache to get caught up in it. I always hope that the authenticity and aesthetic of my work will win the day. I may be completely naive, but I am happier thinking like this and that’s the main thing!
Everyone at ZINE is dying to know where you gain inspiration for your art and content!
I am inspired by so many things I have come across in my life. Music has always been a great inspiration - all music. Since I was a child, I have always loved the classic musicals like My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, West Side Story, Guys and Dolls to name a few. I know that all of this influences my photographs and my view of the world. And Jazz singers like Billie Holliday and Chet Baker brought such poignancy and soul to whatever they sang - I usually have some kind of music playing while I work.
Your blog is written almost poetically, is this influenced by any authors in particular?
That’s a big compliment. I imagine that I’m probably influenced by all the above, but I’m not a fan of flowery or overtly descriptive language. I think I try and write with honesty from the heart, that’s my main inspiration. My favourite poets of all time are Leonard Cohen and Louis MacNeice - both are economic but full of humanity, darkness, light, longing, beauty, humour, wit, loss - it’s all there.
Who are your favourite jewellery brands and why?
Well, I think you know by now that I’m a recent fan of Tiffany & Co’s jewellery - I only own one piece which is a simple silver tag from them. They offered me the chance to choose an engraving to go on it, so I chose the word ‘free’ - a word which holds a lot of significance for me. I also love an Instagram account called @thecutlondon, run by a talented and dedicated woman called Kate Baxter. She discovers and showcases the most wonderful jewellery designers from all over the world, (and many of them British), and her finds are mouthwateringly beautiful. One of the designers she shared with us recently was @sophiebillebraheldt whose emerald ring is one of the most exquisite pieces of jewellery design I’ve ever seen. Another brand I recently discovered is the Italian, Milan-based brand Atelier VM who have a concession in Liberty. Their tiny, delicate simple gold bands are not only affordable, but are almost invisible, so are great to wear every day.
How have the opportunities presented to you in the industry opened up since you first began Instagram in 2013? And where do you see them going in the next 10 years?
Since I started in 2016 I have had to make some decisions about the direction I’d like my account to go in. Because I am an artist and actress too, I have so many ambitions and works on the go at any given time, that I see paintandhaven as a kind of compliment to those things. I am committed to embracing change - something that many people find quite frightening - and I want my work to reflect that. I have moved from images of mostly still life coffee and flowers, to more figurative photographs with a deeper message in them, and it’s usually a clue as to what is in my heart at any given time. The more I expose what is going for me, the more connection there is with the wider community. It’s a strange paradox that the more personal a piece of art is, the more universal it becomes. The truth is in the detail. My dream is that opportunities will arise in direct relation to my content which has been the case so far. I would love my collaborations to include more travel, that’s a definite ambition and one which would be the perfect compliment to my current state of mind.
With over 400 million Instagram users utilising Instagram Stories each day, why do you think they have been so successful? Do you think Stories are important for brands to focus on in Influencer Marketing?
Stories are a bit like TV aren’t they? Bite sized pieces of life, video etc. In my case, I find stories useful for showcasing a product which might not necessarily work as an image on my page - it can be more authentic and honest to present some products on stories, rather than trying to force them into an image on my gallery.
In response to the issues around fake followers, businesses offering brands/influencers reports on authenticity / fake followers have started to surface. What are your views on these reports? Do you think they are always accurate?
I’m afraid I don’t know much about fake followers. I have been offered all kinds of follower services over the three years I’ve been on Instagram and have not responded to a single one. I do know that there was a time when I seemed to lose a lot of followers and I have a feeling they must have been bots - I have no idea how or why, but I’m much happier to have fewer genuine followers than thousands of fake ones - I don’t see what the point of fake followers is other than to achieve Instagram fame. I’m not in it for that so it’s not something I pay much attention to.
We’ve now launched Verified Reach which will display real Instagram analytics for both reach & engagement across all media types (images, videos and stories) on the ZINE media kit. As a professional influencer do you think it will be helpful to present this information to brands?
Yes absolutely! It will help tackle the issues raised above.
What are the best tools out their for influencers?
ZINE has been a fantastic tool for me personally. Other that that, I think the best tool for me has been dedication to sticking to what I love. People tend to find me, and on the rare occasion I have approached a brand such as Anthropologie, I don’t tend to get anywhere. I treat my account as a kind of test of magnetic attraction - I think what is meant to come into my life comes into my life, whether I'm ready for it or not.
This or That?
Statement or understated jewellery? Understated with intricate detail
Summer or Winter holiday destination? Summer
iPhone or Camera? iPhone
Art or Acting? Both!
Music or Books? Music
I'm Influencer Marketing Executive here at ZINE, where I manage communications of over 55,000 influencers. I'm a self-confessed coffee and shopping addict who is happiest when in the sun.