YOU ARE BRAVE textiles printed fabrics by textile designer Michelle Kistima-Menser

Handmade Sydney

“So many ideas. So little time!” - Caroline Choi aka Allitera

Michelle Kistima-Menser2 Comments

With 3 young sons, a part-time “day job”, freelance work as well as running her beloved label Allitera, Caroline Choi is one busy lady.

Yet her Instagram posts reflect such a sense of tranquility. She calls it her “virtual visual diary” it's full of beautiful images she captures herself which she uses to inspire her work. From her time living in Vietnam, faded building facades, insect life, light reflections on water & a fairly recent trip to Cuba Caroline finds inspiration pretty much everywhere.

Her background in art conservation, research and curating also helps inform her work for her clothing label Allitera. Designed for the 30+ market, Allitera combines Caroline’s love of hand screen printing & uses natural fibres such as silk & linen with classic yet quirky & versatile cuts that (thankfully!) are easy to wear & care for.

I’m so very thrilled to be able to give you little further insight into this wonderful Australian textile designer & printer’s work with this interview she so graciously afforded me this week.

Allitera Clothing Range,jpg

1.  How did you get from the world of art conservation & art galleries to creating your clothing label? Why did you make the decision to go into fashion?

My background is in paintings conservation and art history, but I wouldn't say I have totally left that world. I am still open to pursuing areas of interest in those fields and feel it compliments the more hands-on approach of textile design and screen printing. My academic background in art history and understanding of materials from conservation informs this work and vice versa. Allitera is not a fashion label. In fact I think of it as opposite to that world. Fashion is trend-driven and disposable. I try to create items that are hand made, versatile and long-lasting.

ALLITERA Ondolay Pussy Bow Tie Dress
ALLITERA Havana Lights Tunic.jpg

2. What does hand printing your textiles yourself mean to Alllitera?

Screen printing is my happy place. I think all print making is quite wondrous & love the quality of hand printing - including happy accidents! All my designs begin from the hand - whether its a drawing, a lino-cut or a doodle!

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3. What inspires your aesthetic?

Anything and everything! Nature, travel, a crumbling wall, the shimmer of the ocean, a silly comment. Faded facades, unexpected colour combinations and always art. I keep a virtual visual diary in the form of instagram documenting what inspires me!

Allitera Image From Instagram 2.jpg
Allitera Image From Instagram

4. Who inspires/motivates you?

Not any one person in particular. My children inspire me with their innate curiosity and creativity.

Alliteras Kids.jpg

5. Being a self employed designer can seem idyllic from the outside. What’s the hardest part of your job?

Balancing the creative work I love with all the boring jobs one hates! Time is also a continual issue - with 3 roaring boys and an outside job - I have very limited time in the studio!

6.  What is your proudest career achievement?

Curating an exhibition of objects collected by service people during the war in Viet Nam that were being repatriated back to their rightful owners there by a team from UNSW. (Called Operation Wandering Souls Project). It was wonderful for me to be involved in this project as Viet Nam has a very firm and dear place in my heart. I spent 3 and a half years living in Viet Nam conducting research into the contemporary art scene there. I fell in love with the people, the culture and the country. It was the culmination of my personal and professional journeys that made it so deeply satisfying.

7.  What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever had to do? (In life/work/ anywhere?)

Leaving Australia as a young and naive PhD candidate to commence research in Viet Nam. I landed and jumped straight on the back of a motorbike with no language skills and no idea of what lay ahead of me! After travelling from south to north over 3 months, I settled in Ha Noi where I commenced intensive language training and my total immersion into the local art scene!

Photo by Allitera Taken in Viet Nam.jpg

8. What’s new / on the horizon for Allitera?

So many things! I always have so many ideas, and so little time!

Visit www.allitera.com.au to find out more about Caroline's current range. Allitera is also stocked in Sydney & soon to be in Melbourne, Australia at select retail outlets. 

Also do indulge your sense of tranquility & take a look at Caroline's wonderful Instagram posts www.instagram.com/allitera_

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All images used with permission from Allitera, except ** by Cath Derksema & * by YOU ARE BRAVE

An Inspiring Interview with Cath Derksema from Prints Charming

InterviewsMichelle Kistima-Menser2 Comments

Hello & Welcome!

I'm so pleased to have the had the opportunity to chat with Cath Derksema, the designer, printer, crafter behind the fabulous Australian textile label Prints Charming.

It was not until I interviewed Cath last week that I realized I'd been admiring her work throughout my burgeoning career in textile design since the mid 90's.  I idolized the designs of Hot Tuna (the iconic surf wear brand), John Kaldor (I so wanted to work there!) & her own interiors label Art Park (I still have a blue green spot quilt cover set from back in the 90's) This is .... to name a just a few of the labels she's designed for.

Cath is so openly warm & welcoming, no wonder I love her work!  If you haven't seen Prints Charming, I can tell you that it's a feast for the happy eye! Bright, fun & so obviously full of love for the textile medium.  I'll leave the rest for Cath to explain in the interview below ... at her gorgeous studio space ...

Q.  I love how you use the words “crafted” & “crafting” on your website. Why is crafting & handmade important these days?

It is important as it is a beautiful antithesis to the craziness of the technology driven world we now live in. Our DNA is rife with making ... there's no hiding from it!

Q.  What inspires the Prints Charming aesthetic?

Clean bold simple lines initially inspired the PC aesthetic ... Marimekko for their longevity and obvious pattern love.

YOU ARE BRAVEs Interview with Prints Charming

Q.  What were you doing directly before Prints Charming?

I was winding down my design business, and having two babies...I thought initially that I could do it all ... however, the demands of motherhood quickly over rode deadlines and forward thinking..

Q.  What was the motivation for starting Prints Charming?

A strong desire to make fabric was the initial motivation ... however I also realized that I needed to be back with creative like minded souls, having spent a good 5yrs in the domestic baby realm.

Q.  What is your proudest career achievement?

I don't ever think like that ... I love what I do, and simply feel very privileged to be a part of this awesome community ... hang on ... come to think of it ... Kirsten and I did a lot of screaming and jumping up and down, when we learned of our contract with 'FreeSpirit' fabrics in NY!  It was 2007 and crafting fabrics were taking a turn for the better, as we were under the same banner as Amy Butler, Denyse Schmidt, Heather Bailey and Heather Ross.

Q.  Who inspires you? Why?

My Mother is a big inspiration as she was a big maker crafter in the '70s (and beyond) and we always had a sewing machine on the kitchen table.

Q What’s the bravest thing you’ve done during your career as a textile designer?

I guess leaving a secure job with John Kaldor and starting my own thing was in hind sight pretty brave, although at the time it seemed so obvious to me.

Q.  What advice would you give someone thinking about starting their own creative business?

I would say, be prepared to live, breathe, eat and sleep it! Have relentless reserves of energy and never be afraid. Don't hold back, don't procrastinate ... just GO FOR IT ..... all of this will come naturally if you are really meant to do it!

Seriously inspiring stuff!  A big thank you to Cath for her time, natural warmth & openness!

The Prints Charming range can be found at Spotlight & via her website. Cath regularly runs Shibori indigo dying & embroidery workshops at her beautiful warehouse space in Annandale in Sydney's inner west.  She can be contacted via the website www.printscharming.com.au