Emma Skipper // London
Introducing Emma, maker of make believe and Network Lead for the The Sense Network.
Hi, I’m Emma and I make make believe for a living.
My day job is Network Lead for The Sense Network, a global community of people that want to make things better and make better things. We work to explore, uncover and tell stories about what the future of the worlds biggest brands might look like, and then we design for it. On the side I make believe as a fantasy author working on my fiction novel, The Stonekeepers. I’m documenting my personal exploration across the two over on my new Medium channel Making Make Believe if you’re curious. It explores how great stories can change human behaviour.
So tell us Emma, what are you passionate about?
I’m an information sponge and a bit of a nerd. I love nothing better than trying to turn my hand to new things and currently I’m experimenting with the Argentine Tango, botany, fantasy and sci-fi and, of course, my writing at The London Library here in my hometown. I’m really passionate about connecting people and get a lot of energy from making meaningful connections between people that wouldn’t normally interact with each other.
And of course, I can’t forget my midget sausage dog Mimi (who the team at HQ are convinced shares my soul… and personality).
What keeps you busy at the moment? Thinking about your journey here, what are your biggest learnings?
What keeps me busy… Well, if you’re part of The Sense Network you’ll have almost certainly have heard from me before. I head up the Network at our HQ and I am responsible for its growth and member experience. Whether through project management in the innovation work we do, or curating Sense Supper Clubs all over the world; I work to explore how to meaningfully connect extraordinary humans on a daily basis. I also commit a few days a week on getting a very specific story out of my head. It’s a fantasy novel that explores what a world would look like if memory was a natural resource… watch this space.
When I’m not busy with my day gig you can find me solo travelling around the world, surfing, biking… basically exploring the outdoors and getting out from behind my desk.
When it comes to my biggest learnings, I really had to pause for thought… which was unexpected as I think about it a lot.
Throughout my life I’ve been everything from a photographer, Palynologist, makeup artist, journalist, web design company founder, digital strategist, innovation consultant and author. It’s taken me a really long time to feel comfortable with saying that list out loud as it tends to be met with a sense that I’m just too indecisive to settle… or perhaps that I like change a little too much. Over the years I’ve realised that perhaps neither of those are actually too far from the truth. I never settle. I love to work at the forefront of disciplines and connect with like minded, hungry people that constantly strive and change for the better.
And that’s my biggest learning. Be open. To new ideas, connections and experiences.
You can never fully understand your own opinions and place in the world unless you surround yourself with ideas, individuals and experiences that support and challenge your core in equal measure. Your strength comes from taking all these elements and putting your own personal spin on it. You don’t need to be original. No unicorns need apply. You just need to know yourself and own it. It’s remarkable the shift that occurs when you accept this… it took me a long time to be confident in the fact that my job title will likely not be mainstream for years. That big corporations might struggle to see the benefit of my wide ranging experience. But that’s exciting as it forces me to constantly hunt out for the trailblazers at the edges that get it and spur me on to do better. Come to think of it… most of them are Sensers (or should be).
Life’s too short to settle. Expect more from yourself and you’ll likely surprise yourself.
We know everyone’s working process is different. We also know you can learn a lot from the experiences of others so share yours below.
When are you most productive/creative? How do you get into the flow?
Space and time are what I need to be ‘creative’. Focus comes sporadically for me so, with the writing for example, I need to carve out more time than I need to allow myself the freedom to be as productive as possible. My most creative moments come to me at my old writing desk in my new flat, amongst the shelves in The London Library or out in the open countryside where I can see the sky and feel small.
On writing this it’s occurred to me that contrast is a very important part of my creative process and transcends everything I do. I need a balance of noise and quiet, city and country, solitude and socialising, similar and opposing opinions and sources.
Show us a picture of your favourite working spot.
What playlist is on in the background and why?
I work best to electronic music. Anything from deep house to Röyksopp. The beats and lack of complex vocals allows my brain to really focus. Although if I’m in the office I’ll often just have my headphones in with no sound… the vacuum helps me apply myself without interruption.
I’m really digging Anden Sound Room podcast at the moment – great if you’re into progressive house.
Tell us a bit about the place you’re living right now.
Where is home at the moment?
I’ve just bought a flat in south west London and, having moved every year for the last five, feel very good about NOT moving for the foreseeable future. I periodically have wanderlust to move abroad and would love to experience another ‘home’ in the future but I’m pumped to set up shop here for a while.
What do you love about this place? Is there anything you feel makes it unique?
London is amazing place but it’s city that never stops. You often feel guilty for doing too much or too little and I’m only beginning to find a balance now I’ve moved slightly further out of town. The space around Wandsworth is amazing. Lots of green with a community vibe and only a 10 minute train into the hustle and bustle of town. It makes my life here a bit calmer as I have to choose how I spend my time rather than get wrapped up in the craziness of it all… which, by the way, is what makes this city unique. You have everything at your doorstep.
Tell us about the hidden gems that you’d take your visitors/friends to where you live and why you chose them?
– For culture: No one knows about The London Library. If you’re a bookworm, go and get a free tour. The list of member alumnis is basically the roster of Penguin classic authors. Also, there is a Waterstones book shop right next to it that has an awesome bar on the roof so you can make a little trip out of it.
– For drinks: Archer Street in Soho is a blast. All the waiters are theatrically trained and will get up and bust out a show tune on the bar every few minutes.
– For country in the city: Head on over to the Isabella Plantation in the middle of Richmond Park. It’s a stunning secret garden you’d never know about… plus you get to see the deer in the park which is always cool if you’re visiting.
– For food: I love asian food so try Shoryu in Soho for Ramen, On the Bab for Korean fried chicken near Covent Garden and if you want to splurge Chotto Matte is wild.
Collaborating with The Sense Network
I could support others in the Network by / in…
I’m lucky enough to speak to Sensers everyday so if you need help with, or feedback on, a burgeoning idea, want to meet like-minded people unlike you in your city (or next holiday destination) or just want to chat about storytelling, just drop me an email.
I’d like to collaborate with Sensers that would like to…
I’m desperately on the hunt for someone to collaborate on a graphic novel with me. I have the story, just need the artist! So if you know anyone let me know!
The Sense Network work together to make things better and make better things. Tell us about the one thing you’d change in the world…
I would increase public funding to libraries all over the world. Not necessarily solely as stores for information, but as community buildings. The more people come together, the more we can share a common experience, the more we can build empathy and understanding. Libraries are treasuries for knowledge, not just physical books, and I’d love to explore what the future of these buildings could look like in the age of the internet. Rather than closing them down BECAUSE of the web, I’m sure there is a way they can coexist and thrive. I think the opportunity here is really exciting.
You’ve got to read War and Turpentine because it’s one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read for years. Half the author’s grandfathers’ war memoir, half exploration into his yearning and love of great art, the language he uses is a triumph.
California Soul by Marlene Shaw is my fire because it takes me back to developing 35mm photographic film in the dark room of my school. We were encouraged to experiment and play with different developing methods and I remember it coming on just as I’d discovered that tracing paper acting as an awesome ageing-effect on an architectural series I was developing a the time.
Neil Gaiman’s talk on Making Good Art is the best thing since sliced bread. Especially if you’re about to embark on a career change or need to confidence in your intuition/process. I couldn’t recommend it enough if you need to find/rediscover your mojo.
Senser Gemma Milne’s Brain Reel newsletter lights up my inbox because firstly, you feel like your in the room with here as she’s writing, and secondly because her work explores what’s happening at the edges of scientific discovery. I don’t pretend to know much about what she writes about but she manages to distill incredibly complex and inaccessible topics into clear and rationale narratives that anyone can enjoy.