From the early days as a designer at John Kaldor in the 80's, to working on her home furnishing label Art Park, to a more recent iteration, Prints Charming Original Fabrics, Cath Derksema has always been one to roll with change.
In an tough industry with little support in the way of funding, local manufacturing and supply, it' encouraging to see Cath's passion for textiles ... for supporting other makers & for passing on her knowledge as she evolves with the times.
I interviewed Cath almost exactly 2 years ago at her gorgeous warehouse work space in Sydney's inner west. A unique, open space which she shared with other creatives & regularly opened the doors to many. Unfortunately that creative space is no longer & Prints Charming is no longer but ...
Cath seems to have a knack of finding the positives and developing something unique. Something better. She just ... Makes It Happen!
So if you haven't already heard about her latest venture, I'm thrilled to be able to introduce you to The Happenstore. Read more in my interview with Cath below ...
1. What is The Happenstore? How is it different from other shops in Sydney?
The Happenstore is a multidimensional space in Sydney that encompasses retail, workshop and events ... it is a creative space for like minded people, makers and yearners. A place to come, to make, to learn and be inspired. An authentic and unique destination to celebrate artistry and friendship...
2. How did it come about?
It evolved as I needed a new studio! Throughout my life as an artisan I have been thwarted by property developers. Always working from inspiring and interesting warehouse spaces, always led me to being on the move, as they were inevitably developed (DON'T GET ME STARTED!). The moment I saw this shop I knew it held more mystery and potential, than a space just for me.
4. What gets you up in the morning Cath?
Excitement and the unknown get me up every morning. I never know what is around the corner and I LOVE that!
3. Why is it called The Happenstore?
The name evolved from one of my favorite words 'happenstance' ... it embraces the magic of things just 'happening'.
5. What has been the bravest thing you've had to do in the making/running of The Happenstore?
The bravest thing I've had to do in the making of The Happenstore is committing to a lease and increasing my rent significantly ... The store needed a lot of hard yakka in bringing it up to a contemporary street level...it had been a guitar shop for 30yrs and needed a lot of TLC..Negotiating with real estate agents is not for the faint hearted!
6. What advice would you give someone who has a dream of opening a retail store in Sydney today
My advice for anyone wanting to open a retail space in Sydney ... have a strong budget and stick to it! It is expensive and there are often many hidden costs ... Be super creative in pushing through these and be prepared for initial compromise. Have endless energy and passion for your vision and GO FOR IT! Sydney NEEDS creative spaces that are public and inclusive.
Celebrating a laid back Australian lifestyle through her label Mr Haddy, Asha Kidd is living an authentic and enviable life on the east coast of Australia.
Asha's Instagram account conjures up simple yet contented beach side living, merged with her unique boho/vintage personal style ... while images of her hand made products seamlessly mingle with those of her gorgeous self and her 2 beautiful boys, Marlin & Che.
However in her interview with me, she reveals just how challenging running a business single-handedly while being a young mum can be. Finding her creative energy takes more work these days. But it's something she's committed to ... for reason's you'll find out ...
1. What gets you up in the morning?
That would be my little alarm clocks, my boys, my babies. Che my 15 month old likes to wake around 7am which is respectable but I much rather like to sleep in til 8.30 – 9 like Marlin, my 3 year old!
2. How did Mr Haddy come into being?
We were moving around a lot with my partners work and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, after studying various different career paths but having nothing that really set my heart on fire, I was always a bit lost. It wasn't until I fell pregnant with Marlin that I knew I wanted to do something from home ... to have my own business to I could spend all the time I could with my babies. I went back to what I always loved and where I find real happiness which is in designing and creating art. Although it's forever changing and I'm still very much finding myself along the way.
3. What's behind the Mr Haddy name?
Mr Haddy is a character from the Paul Theroux novel The Mosquito Coast, which was later made into a film. It was one of our mums favourite films and we were forced to watch it regularly! There was a character who just epitomised how we would all love to be, the chilled out Rasta, not a care in the world as long as he had a boat he'd be A-Ok. That's the vibe I was seeking for my brand so the name fit.
4. Your top tip for igniting creativity would be .... ?
... free time, with no pressure. If I make a special time for work, it never gets done. Creativity can't be forced it has to come from a natural genuine place. Most of my ideas come to me when we're driving, the kids are asleep in the back, I'm the passenger, there's tunes playing and I don't have to worry about the washing etc. Sadly it doesn't happen too often! Otherwise, a clean studio ignites the creative fire.
5. What's the bravest thing you've ever had to do?
Deciding to go out on a limb and start Mr Haddy, without any real business knowledge. I knew that I had a burning desire to create but making an actual income has been a different story. Most recently I decided to take the manufacture of our products OS. This was a huge leap for me. From doing absolutely everything from start to finish myself and then handing the reigns over to someone else where I couldn't oversee each process took a lot of bravery. I'm glad I have the skills to make exactly what I want in a sample, as they have to copy it exactly!
6. What motivates you to create?
I never needed motivation, as it's in my blood and bones, the desire has always been there as long as I can remember. It was never forced. Now though, I'm sleep deprived, I'm running around like a mad woman most of the day and those spontaneous bursts of creative motivation rarely pop up. I have to work for it, I have to do it for myself and my family. It's my happiness that is at stake, no one wants a grumpy mama!
7. Who inspires you? And why?
My sister Sky, she has recently taught herself to silversmith whilst raising her little twin babies. Her creativity and unique style has given me so much inspiration lately.
8. What's next for Mr Haddy?
I'm going to take it slow. I've made the mistake in the past of rushing into ideas that I haven't properly thought through and ended up regretting the decision. I think a lot of creative folk fall into that trap and you end up spending lots of money on ideas that never end up seeing the light of day. I guess it's all a part of the process though ... please tell me I'm not alone? Haha!
I do have a few ideas in the works and one of those is designing clothing. It's my first love and i really want to get back into it.
In a leafy Northern beaches studio, amongst bold, highly stylised paintings of Australian flora and coast scapes, hangs artworks depicting the unassuming, the everyday and the utilitarian. Toasters, pineapples & blenders are equally treated as audaciously as icons of natural Australia.
“Fearless!” I thought to myself, as I walked into the positively alive studio space of Sydney based stencil artist Julie Hickson of pod & pod.
Julie’s work fills the walls top to bottom of the converted guesthouse she now uses as her work space. Here she produces her stunning stencil paintings and regularly has an open studio as part of the Pittwater Artist Trail. (The next open studio is 5-6th March 2016.)
Julie grew up in Sydney’s inner west with a mum who painted botanical images onto china and a grand father who was a painter and decorator. Music played a huge part of her life growing up and it still is a great inspiration for her. She calls music “audible painting” and says that “sounds are a bit like colour”. “It is the language of my brain” she adds.
I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Julie at Kirribilli Art & Design Market last year and thankfully she agreed to be interviewed for my blog series. Not only do I find her work mesmerising but as a creative, business woman with a family and household to run myself, I set out to discover why Julie so boldly pursues the everyday in her work. And in the end I found out so much more about bravery, strength of character and life outlook.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever had to do?
Probably the bravest thing I’ve done is take the leap from my old job in TV production to going full-time with pod & pod. You have to believe that it will be worth it in the long run even if there are many knock backs along the way. It really helps to have the support of your darling family and friends when you’re being brave and venturing out on an artistic limb! - but ultimately it is a very solo pursuit and you have to stay true to your thang.
Having a background in TV production was good grounding for being brave. You learn to never take no for an answer. There was a time working for MTV UK when a venue manager in Germany drew a gun on me after the show in a dispute over the money owed, and I spent 30 days on the road with Yothu Yindi and Slim Dusty in the Northern Territory shooting live concerts with a crew of 60 men and 2 women - working over 12 hour days and sleeping under the stars most nights. I don't know if it made me tough - but it was a grand adventure I’ll never forget.
What is it about stenciling that drew you & continues to inspire you to work using this technique?
When I first saw an artwork that used a stencil - I thought it was a hand coloured woodcut. I love the dynamic of lino block and woodcuts - but with stenciling - its not hand-colouring after the black has been added - its actually creating the image out of colour over a black background. I know this sounds confusing - but it's this technique - which I’ve spent years experimenting with now - that gives everything such a graphic energy. It's a very addictive process - you can paint quite loosely through your stencil and then peel back to reveal the result. You always want to do another one!
What inspires your aesthetic & why?
I think what I really love is ‘colour’ but coming a close second is ‘line’. I love drawing my designs - starting with a photograph and then drawing out the details in the lines of the flower or leaf or tree. What happens is that you are making the reality onto a stylised form - which is some of the way towards abstracting it.
Who inspires you the most & why?
I think I am inspired by everything and everyone. Shadows, the way light falls on things, the act of isolating an object and going closer with a macro lens - is always interesting as it feels like you are unraveling some of the mystery of what makes it. As an artist it's always inspiring to be around creative people who see the world in a certain way - and that includes musicians and filmmakers, etc. Making the perfect coffee or an astute observation can be the most creative act.
I do love Australian artists - from Fred Williams, Margaret’s Preston and Olley both, John Olsen, Whiteley, Coburn, Kathryn Del Barton - the list goes on and on. A visit to the art gallery or the Biennale is always inspiring.
Being a self-employed creative/artist can seem idyllic from the outside. What’s the hardest part of your job? And how do you over come it?
I think the hardest part of being a female artist is also wanting also to be a part of the life of your family and home. It’s no surprise that really successful artists have achieved their success by being single-minded and living for their art. Keeping a family fed, schooled and clothed and being a creative is a real challenge and requires multi-tasking to the max! Anything that makes you lose focus of your art will slow your creativity down. Great discipline is required - often women produce work reflecting the things around them like still life and the people they love as a way of combining their home life and creative life in one.
What is your proudest career achievement?
I’m still so amazed that after about 10 years this has been my full-time pursuit and I can actually make a living doing it. This wouldn’t be possible without my lovely shops having my greeting cards and going to markets with my archival prints that have been a huge success. I’m really thrilled that my cards went to every Berkelouw store in 2015 - because that’s a little bit of my artwork going out to a greater part of Sydney.
What is the state of the creative community in Sydney & Australia right now? Has it changed much from say 10-15 years ago?
I think every year there is more value placed on handmade and Australian made. I love that what were traditionally women’s craft techniques have been elevated as this movement has evolved - and have become popular with men too. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without doing the hard slog of going to artisan markets and meeting and talking with people about what they love and having feedback about my work. I think Melbourne is way ahead of Sydney - and it’s always been that way but there are hubs here if you’re willing to look for them.
What’s new & on the horizon for pod & pod? What are you looking forward to in 2016? And beyond?
2016 is a year for consolidating everything up to now and really putting in some hours on the heart of it all - the painting. I have some more daytime hours available to me this year with my daughter at high school - so it gives me the luxury of really focusing on where I’m taking this.
What are you reading / listening to right now? Can you recommend any good books, music or exhibitions?
The last fiction I read was David Mitchell’s ‘The Bone Clocks’ that is an incredible fantasy deep-set in reality. I love books that make you suspend your notion of ‘reality’ - I have no problem doing that at all! At the moment I’m reading Kim Gordon’s biography ‘Girl in a Band’ (Kim is the female bass/guitarist in New York band Sonic Youth) which is a kind of back stage heaven for a fan like me.
Musically at the moment - after a glut of all the old David Bowie since his sad demise - I’m still playing the recently released ‘Black Star’ - which is such a dense and resonant record - very special.
Meet Julie in person in her beautiful studio on Sat 5th- Sun 6th March 2016 at Pittwater Artist Trail (click here for more details)
You can find Julie's work at her website www.podandpod.com.au
As mentioned, Berkelouw book stores stock pod & pod cards across sydney. You can also find out more about these & other store locations around Australia by clicking here.
Julie will also be exhibiting her work at the Newport Easter Arts Festival from Friday March 25th to Monday March 28th, 2016
A huge Thank You to Julie Hickson pod & pod for her time & hospitality in being part of this interview series!
* These images are courtesy of Julie Hickson
Last month I embarked on the first in a series of interviews investigating how other creatives inspire & encourage kids to express themselves. The reason? My 4 year old has really begun to blossom creatively and naturally I want to be able to nurture & support this delightful aspect of his development as best I can.
As I sit down to write this months blog entry, trying to find the right words to start my intro to this amazing lady … it struck me … how we can go through life in a rut sometimes. Then out of the blue we meet someone or have an encounter with someone who seems to appear as if magically, right at the very time we need them. They make us think. They invite us into a different way of seeing things. Or they simply hold up a metaphorical mirror to our face … I’m sure you know what I’m talking about?
So there I was, low on energy, procrastinating and dillydallying. Those of you who follow my Instagram account may have noticed this in my posts over the past month or more. I’d slowed down a lot while trying to get through the last bit of winter here in the Southern hemisphere. “It’s all part of some cathartic creative process” I kept telling myself.
And then, BAM! … I met up with Libby Millington for the second part of my interview with her about her series of kids craft books entitled “Craft It Up”.
If there ever was someone to inspire a “get-up-and-go” mindset, it’s Libby! She’s a writer, crafter, mum to 5, a world traveller, a student and avid lover of the city of Sydney. She’s full of ideas and one hell of a creative motivator!
So we talked about being creative, being a mother and what inspired her to write “Craft It Up, Around The World” for kids … and so without further procrastination on my part, here is that interview.
1. How & why did you come to write the Craft It Up books?
The first Craft it Up book, Craft It Up Around The World, started as a book on Sydney. I am completely and utterly passionate about Sydney and have been since I arrived 18 years ago. I spend a lot of my time, mouth open at the beauty and diversity of the city. I walk across the Harbour Bridge as often as I can and each time the loveliness of the harbour hits me as if it’s the first time!
One day I realised that much of what I loved could inspire craft projects for kids. I got together with a photographer friend (Cath Armstrong), I found a book I loved, Kate Lilley’s Eco-Friendly Crafting With Kids, and sent a rough as guts draft to her publishers, Ryland, Peter and Small in London. It was a crazy, naïve thing to do, but sure enough, they liked my style and I got a contract. I think I just refused to let the process intimidate me.
2. What were you doing before you wrote them?
I have a beautiful blended family of 5 children. I have been so lucky to be able to raise them while working various jobs from home. I was editing an architectural magazine when they were little and have been writing ever since.
3. What is it about creativity & crafting that you find so compelling?
I grew up in 1980s England without a TV! My mother was an art teacher and my parents both instilled in me a passion for art and creativity. There was always a project on the go at home and we often crafted at the kitchen table.
I love crafting with my own kids and their friends. Quite often projects change radically from what we start and the kids take things in a different direction. Or they just disappear into my studio and pull a whole load of materials out onto the floor and make things on their own. And I have to stand back and not be precious about anything! My friends call my house a ‘rich learning environment’. I know that’s code for a chaotic mess, but I’m going with rich learning environment every time!
4. What’s the hardest part of what you do? And how do you over come it?
I think it’s hard to combine creativity and paying every bill. Especially with a big family. But I love what I do and the compromise is that I have a regular job too. But I dream big and there are always big creative plans afoot!
5. What is your proudest career achievement?
I love my books. My father has several books in print and books are such a huge part of my life. Holding your own book in your hands is just wonderful.
6. Who or what inspires you?
My enduring love affair with Sydney inspires and informs much of what I do. I still pinch myself that I was lucky enough to backpack here. That I am now able call it home is nothing short of magic. The colour is just so saturated here and I love the beach, the city, the bush, the culture, the light. I love Australians and the Australian sensibility. And I am inspired by my family. My kids are all so different. Being a mother is like a series of brilliant surprises!
7. What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever had to do?
I’m working on a couple of projects at the moment that are pushing me out of my comfort zone. I’ve learnt that when I feel uncomfortable, that’s when I’m really challenging myself and I feel the most alive.
8. What’s your favourite project from the Craft It Up books that you'd like to share?
A huge thank you to Libby for devoting time & energy to this interview. What a powerhouse of creativity! We are Titanically inspired!
My 4 year old & I have just started work on the Paper Wreath Crown from the Greece project page in "Craft It Up Around The World". He loves tracing around his own hands & using the scissors to cut them out.
And here's a link to another favourite from Libby & Cath's other book "Craft It Up, Christmas Around The World". Click on this link to watch the video & make your own Pay It Forward Advent Calendar for Christmas
To check Libby's Instagram feed go to @craftitupcreative or www.instagram.com/craftitupcreative
Her books are published by CICO Kidz and are available by clicking here :
All images are courtesy of Libby Millington except *