These days it seems just about everyone is broadcasting something about themselves ... about their achievements, their beliefs, their whole lives ... right down to what they had for lunch!
So it's intriguing to meet someone who's work is in the public eye and has a well known reputation in the fashion industry ... and yet is rather a lot more private than most.
Yoshi Jones designs and makes clothing. She's known for re-vitalizing vintage Japanese kimono and re-using the fabric in her own garments. Exquisite silks and cottons with breathtaking colour + traditional designs are lovingly restored and re-purposed by hand by Yoshi and her small team.
It was a real feast for my eyes when I visited her King St shop in Newtown for this interview. I'm sure I looked through absolutely every garment, every accessory and every piece of decor .... and I know didn't want to leave.
When I did eventually leave, I pondered how true artists and makers seem to have this unique relationship with their materials + their tools. Yoshi's love of the art and fabrics of Japan reflects her connection with her cultural heritage .... and in some way too, her quietly focused way of working feels timeless + Japanese in approach.
Here's Yoshi in her own words ....
1. What gets you up in the morning Yoshi?
My dog for his morning walk!
2. How did you come to create Yoshi Jones the label?
The label grew organically from a love of textiles to the discovery of Japanese fabrics because of their beauty and durability.
3. What inspires your aesthetic & why?
I like simple lines and beautiful, natural fabrics
4. Who inspires you the most in life & why?
People who have a positive energy! In fashion I like Isabel Murant, Dries Van Noten and the label Mui Mui - they all use interesting fabrics!
5. What’s your dream project?
My dream project would be traveling the world sourcing beautiful fabrics.
6. What are you reading / listening to right now?
Listening to Michael Kiwanuka "Cold Little Heart" and reading a thriller by Joy Ellis.
7. What’s new at Yoshi Jones?
Our autumn winter range has been arriving including Italian wool coats with Japanese silk vintage buttons,
Tunics in silk and cottons and tops made from vintage silk kimonos and merino wool.
Thank you to Yoshi + her team who welcomed me so warmly at her store and workroom in Newtown.
You can find Yoshi Jones at Level 1, 249 King St Newtown NSW 2042 or visit her online store at www.yoshijones.com
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.
Sometimes contentment can highlight the need for change.
Sometimes it takes a major hurdle (like cancer) before we can say “The time is right”. “The time is now. Let’s embrace this thing.”
After more than 3 years of research, planning & exploration ……. established, graphic designers and Sydney based couple Luisa Franco & John Valastro have finally launched their first print based range of fashion and homewares called Madge Goods.
Offering a clean, bold, fun & modern print aesthetic combined with simple garment shapes that are easy to wear Luisa says,
“Our core customer is an independent thinker, not persuaded by celebrity or trend – a strong celebrated woman.”
Perhaps not too much unlike Luisa herself who overcame cancer after their third daughter Magenta was born … a pinnacle period in their lives as it was also the birth of the brand name “Madge” after Magenta. Later Luisa gave up full time work & sent herself off to school again … retraining in Fabric Design & Printing while also sending their 3 daughters to school everyday! Then came the couple’s decision to sell their home in order to realize the brand … also a huge investment. Yet again, the couples belief in Madge backed up by their research, planning & positive market feedback saw the launch of the brand & its very own boutique in Newtown just 4 weeks ago.
To me Madge Goods is more than just a brand that produces cool new fashion & homewares, it has a soul that embodies vision, hard-work, passion, sheer guts and self confidence …. and strength that comes directly from Luisa & John themselves.
Madge Goods is pure in design, bold in look and so, so brave in approach.
I hope you’ll find my interview with Luisa & John not only insightful but also very inspiring …
1. What gets you up in the morning?
To see where this is new journey is going. To create & think about new ideas and make lunch for 3 kids!
I agree, throwing ourselves into Madge Goods, going on the constant creative journey it demands while building and maintaining a home for our 3 daughters is what gets us up in the morning. It’s exciting, interesting and keeps us alert and always thinking and trying to get better at it.
2. How did you come to create Madge Goods?
When my love of art, design, clothing and fabrics collided…
Straight out of high school I studied Fine Arts majoring in painting, then straight onto studying Graphic Design working in the motion design industry for 18 years whilst starting and growing a family. During the pregnancy of our 3rd daughter Magenta, I was diagnosed with cancer, this gave me the kick to have the courage to follow my heart and passion so I headed back to study Textile Design and Printing. Finally my passions of art, design and fabric merged and created Madge Goods…
Thinking about how we could use our skills as graphic designers to create a great product is how both Luisa and I came together to start creating what became Madge Goods. I was excited about the idea of it because I knew it would be the ideal opportunity for us to combine all of our creative skills, passion and energy to create something worthwhile, fun and unique.
3. What inspires you the most & why?
Anything my eyes can feast upon from art to architecture to motion design to nature… it all makes me happy to see and feel what I see. I love the language of the hand, the indications of handmade, the imperfect but perfect marks and evidence that an object was made by another but on the flip side I love technology equally
I love design and all areas of design, I love how design can really improve the experience of living, it makes things more enjoyable to experience and use, and I love that the job of a designer or a design is never done - it can always evolve and be improved upon. I’m also very inspired by the history of modern art and the progression of new visual art over time and the thinking behind it. This inspiration helps me to learn new ways, try different approaches and hopefully help me to make the next design better than the last design.
4. Who inspires you the most & why?
My family who generously always allowed me to follow my passions: my entrepreneurial parents who started & ran their own business their entire careers, my talented big brother, my incredible partner in life & work Johnny & our 3 daughters, Sienna, Bianca & Magenta & the amazing posse of strong independent female friends.
Of course, being on this journey with Luisa is very inspiring, knowing that we have both fully committed to doing this inspires me.
Creatively, designers such as Lucienne Day, Armi Ratia, Mina Perhonen are all very inspiring fashion and textile designers who are creative explorers, searching for opportunities to push the craft forward, be brave and craft it really well along the way.
5. What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever had to do?
Keep strong, face fear and be determined that I was going to stick around to help raise and watch our girls grow up after learning of my diagnosis of cancer. A very close second was giving up being a Graphic Designer to start Madge Goods, although I haven’t “given it up” , but am more precisely utilizing the skills acquired along the journey in getting here.
Yes I’m with Luisa - to start Madge has been the bravest thing we’ve ever had to do. We’ve really had to change everything in our life in order to give us the opportunity to start Madge Goods. It’s been everything from selling the house, leaving full-time work, re-training and learning, moving into a tiny space, getting back into work to raise money - it’s been a constant challenge with no guarantees.
6. What’s your dream project?
Madge Goods has been my dream project for so long, I am doing my dream project and enjoying every minute!
Having the opportunity to put our pattern designs into the environment, all around us and in unexpected places.
7. What are you reading / listening to right now?
Fiona Caulfield’s : Love India Guides: Jaipur, Delhi & Kolkata
My Autistic Awakening: By Rachael Lee Aarris
And have been listening to WarPaint
Been loving the Netflix Series : ‘Abstract: The Art of Design’. It’s a fascinating small insight into the world of some exceptional designers. Very inspiring.
You can find Madge Goods at 241 Australia St, Newtown in Sydney and at www.madge.com.au
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.
Eloquent words spoken by Maaike Pullar’s dad, architect, furniture designer and sculptor Rob Pullar, as she thinking about going into business for herself. I know all to well the power words can instill, especially when you find yourself at a crossroad like I did. Maaike now pursues her craft of bespoke upholstery and furniture restoration her own unique way ... and she dances everyday!
With an obvious shared passion for fabrics, Maaike & I met (rather aptly) at Makerspace & Co in Sydney’s Marrickville where hands on making and the nurturing of makers takes place. Some months later we finally caught up for a "makerly" chat over coffee. In that time Maaike had moved in to her new studio and shop in Croydon where she also conducts regular workshops. I was delighted to find it‘s also a gallery space for the ceramics, Shibori textiles & paintings of her talented mum Aleida Pullar.
Maaike’s perspective on the sharing of ideas & working with clients & other creatives indicates a self-confidence and warmth of character that is compelling and so inspiring. I suspect you’ll find her interview an absolute delight to read …
1. What gets you up in the morning?
Ideally, exciting projects that challenge me to push some boundaries and techniques to achieve the perfect piece for a client. Literally, the need to get to Bunnings or the timber yard before I open the showroom at 9am
2. How did you come to resurrecting furniture & upholstery?
Making things is definitely in my blood! I come from a very hands on family, at one point we had 6 design businesses registered in our little family of 5. Growing up the 3 of us kids had free range in mum’s studio (ceramics, painting and printing) and dad’s timber workshop, but I really gravitated towards fabric. Mum taught me to sew when I was about 7, and I made my first sofa with Dad when I was 17.
I completed a bachelor degree in interior design at UTS. The course at the time was largely about the concept and the communication of spatial ideas, which was fantastic, but there was no opportunity to flex my making muscles. Making had been such a huge part of my design process until that point, often the only way to know what the solution looked like was to make it, then detail what I had made. I started taking out my creative frustration on the household furniture, making the chair dreams I could never afford on my student income!
3. What is it about what you do that you love so much?
I adore the transformation. I love taking something unsatisfactory and making it better than we’d dreamed. Sometimes that’s as simple as changing the fabric to something unique, but more and more it’s about sculpting wild textures in lush cushioned upholstery, creating offbeat and joyful forms which make people smile.
The upholstery process is inherently satisfying too. The stretching, stapling and massaging of stuffing has a meditative quality to it some days.
4. What inspires your aesthetic & why?
Sometimes I think I see with my hands! My aesthetic is very tactile. Key to every design is the combination of fabric textures as well as colours, and then the depth of the upholstery texture we apply it to. I think Furniture, particularly seating, is so very personal, I’m inspired by clients and their stories or by the chair frame itself and the story I think it’s asking for. I think we should choose our objects carefully. We should invest in them and they should reflect our own ideas and values, and I think we should be brave enough to choose things that make us happy, rather than things that will give the right look for the neighbours.
5. What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever had to do?
I think there are a lot of points in the life of a creative freelancer that you can point to from the outside and say ‘that’s brave’ or ‘that must have been scary’, but to me, bravery implies you made a choice. 6 years ago I said out loud “I want to make chairs for a living” and once you’ve put that on the universal record, the music is playing and you have to dance. One foot in front of the other.
Perhaps the bravery is in choosing to take holidays, and daring to believe that your business can either handle the break or tick along without you! Right now I’m only brave enough to take 2 weeks a year!
6. What’s your dream project?
I’ve been dreaming of what I will do with my 4 seat baroque style sofa, ‘Maria’. It’s a project that’s been marinating for years now. The baroque style was so dramatic and over the top with embellishment, I’m looking forward to tackling that drama and enthusiasm with a contemporary approach.
On one hand it’s frustrating that it’s a project that’s been on the back burner for so long, but on the other hand, I can look through 2 or 3 years of sketch designs for her, and see how they’ve developed alongside my design approach as I refine my ideas and interests, which is cool.
The one thing that hasn’t changed is my dream for that sofa to be a toasty rich golden concoction of caramel velvet and leather. I think committing to a ‘yellow’ sofa could be considered brave by too many people!
7. What are you reading / listening to right now?
I just finished reading ‘Rosetta’ which is Australian historical fiction based on the true story of a woman who left her husband and young daughter to run away with a magician and court the high society of Europe. It was wild and enchanting and unbelievable and sad, written by her great grand daughter in an attempt to understand the woman who abandoned her daughter and never met her grand & great grand daughters
I love podcasts in the studio, usually talkies (Richard Fidler, 99% Invisible), but one in particular, ‘The Miller Tells Her Tale’ is almost pure music. It’s produced by a Welsh girl obsessed with Americana/alt country, and it’s just her play list on various themes. It’s a great way to discover new artists in the genre. I think Americana is a great pace to set your life to. Much its very melodic, slower and lyrically insightful.
8. Who should I interview next? Why?
Jordan Clarke from The Art of Jordan. I’ve never met Jordan and I’m yet to own a piece of her art, but she was the first artist I discovered working in embroidery in a new, contemporary way. I know it’s becoming ‘a thing’, and I’m sure there’s a DIY Frankie tutorial on how to embroider a trendy/ironic piece of text for your wall now, but Jordan’s embroidery is so much deeper than that. It’s very illustrative. The pieces I fell in love with begin with a digital print and then layer embroidery into that printed cloth. The result is a 3d explosion of sensation and story. You can feel the thought and the experience and the feeling that she must have felt when she laid in those stitches.
Her art is colour, assemblage and texture, which are all languages I have a visceral response to. Also, I wish this was mine!
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
With the “lumps & bumps of the urban environment” and the dramatic coastal landscape of South Wales inspiring her work, Fiona Roderick is carving, printing & cutting out a unique style of working. From her Marrickville studio in Sydney, she brings to life her interests in texture, shape and colour through her lino prints, collages and digitally printed tea towels reflecting her love of nature and the urban environment.
I first met Fiona at the Winter @ The Warey market in Annandale, here in Sydney last year. Her affinity with the natural world immediately intrigued my interest. I was especially drawn to her prints of native Australian birds because of her unique use of colour and texture. These prints also appear on cards, calendars and tea towels which make her art totally accessible to everyone.
So finally, a few weeks ago, I got the chance to visit Fiona at her wonderful shared studio and catch a glimpse of how she works. We chatted about lots of things over some cooling juice and fruit. I came away completely inspired by her work processes and her diverse influences and life experiences.
Here’s that interview … I hope you enjoy it?
What is the state of the creative community right now? Has it changed from say 10-15 years ago?
I think the state of the creative community is so good, and becoming healthier all the time. The web & social media is making art more accessible to more people through things like Instagram, Pinterest & Etsy. Everyone is sharing ideas and I think that's a good thing.
And technology such as digital printing has transformed craft and the public are able to buy original, not too expensive, design and art for their home, less mass produced and technology has certainly helped that.
What were you doing before you started printmaking?
I began working as a visual merchandiser in a major department store in London & trained as a graphic designer when I moved to Sydney. I even found myself art directing a surf magazine! Later I did a part time printmaking course at Pine Street Creative Arts and for the last 10 years or so I’ve been working as a print maker, now full-time. During all this I raised a family.
What is it about print making that drew you & continues to inspire you?
I enjoy the carving process and thinking how translate the image onto the lino, and how to present it as a print. The experience of printing is always exciting, the thrill of the unknown, the first sight of the new print as it appears from the press. I think where I am now is, enjoying cutting up my prints and these days drawn to collage a bit more. At the moment I love cutting with scissors and drawing, that hand and brain connection. Of course I needed to have those years of printing to have the resources of proofs and all the lino plates I have now to use as reference for the collage. The experience of printing has given me the confidence of experimenting with the medium.
What inspires your aesthetic & why?
This is a hard question!
Living in the city, the urban environment is inspiring with all its lumps, bumps & textures. Peeling paint and paper for example.
Also shapes and shadows of flora & fauna inspire me. I grew up in South Wales, UK & spent my childhood riding my horse in the countryside. Where I grew up was very dramatic and unspoiled, on the coast of the Bristol channel, with beaches, cliffs, sand dunes, and rivers to ride long and through. My mother was also a very creative woman, a great gardener, flower arranger, a patch worker and always making something. I remember arriving home one day, and she had just been to a water colour class and she was so thrilled and excited about it.
I know shape also determines my aesthetic. I was thinking the other day how all my jobs have been working within the perimeters of a square, I am always looking for balance and space within that square.
Who inspires you? Why?
Picasso & Matisse for their use of colour and line with freedom. The colours Bonnard used. I recently saw the Grayson Perry exhibition at the MCA and Gibert & George exhibition (MONA) … inspiring stuff. There is a collaboration of print makers in the UK, called St Jude, representing Angie Lewin, Johnny Hannah & Mark Herald.
The building where my studio is, houses various artists, ranging from jewellers, set designers, painters. It's quite inspiring ... a dedicated group of people all creating different things. It helps to be with people who are disciplined, this helps you to do the same.
Being a self-employed creative 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 the job is to keep being motivated, as you have no one telling you what to do, it really is believing in yourself. Sometimes the life can be a touch isolating. I try to arrange overcome it by meeting friends for coffee and I enjoy selling at the markets because it is social and its so lovely to meet my customers. Yoga, meditation and walking helps my mind I think, not being distracted and to keep on working and being focused.
What is your proudest career achievement?
I think my bird prints are my proudest achievement. I’m thrilled at how people are captivated by them & are happy to buy them for a bird lover in their life or to send them around the world as gifts.
Its an amazing feeling to know my birds are hanging or being used around the world, drying all kinds of dishes!.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever had to do?
My daughter reminded me about the time I once had a spare ticket to a Rolling Stones concert and asked a stranger on the London tube to come with me! (She laughs!)
Otherwise I think I haven't done anything dangerous besides leaving Wales at 16 to go to live in London, and later on travelling by myself in the Middle East. No internet or emails then, I remember my mother and father travelling to a radio station in Swansea to talk to me on the radio. On the buses in Israel, there were guns sliding down the middle of the bus from the Israeli army and you wouldn't blink an eye about it. Later I went on to living in Amsterdam, on a boat on one of the canals, working in a cafe. The cafe was run by a woman from New Zealand, with all female staff, we certainly had some interesting customers.
What’s new & on the horizon for Fiona Roderick? What are you looking forward to in 2016? And beyond?
I am part of a group show at the Balmain Watch House,179 Darling Street, Balmain on June 2nd and 3rd.
More bird prints. I am enjoying experimenting with different mediums, such as pressed flowers, paper, wood & ink, combining them with my prints.
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 *
I’m always interested in what it is that makes people change direction in their lives or careers. From the outside change can seem quite sudden & perhaps drastic for some. For others it may be more of a progressive transformation.
About this time last year I knew I needed to do something with my “career” as a commercial textile designer for a large retailer. Having always had a stable, full time job it was a difficult decision but I quit my day job & took my husband & young son off to Cape Town, South Africa. It seemed like a good time to visit the city of my birth again as Cape Town was the World Design Capital for 2014.
Not having much of a clue what to expect I decided to throw myself into attending & participating in as many seminars & creative events as I could. At the very first talk I attended called The Design Dialogues V5.0 “What I Learned The Hard Way” I was delighted to find Heather Moore the designer/owner at Skinny laMinx was one of the inspired speakers that evening.
Nervously I approached her after the talk … Heather was lovely & so kind as to allow me to spend a day helping out at her beautiful studio & little shop in Bree St, Cape Town. I was thrilled to be able to handle a rainbow of fabric prints inspired by the simple & everyday & be submersed in such a warm & welcoming environment that is Skinny laMinx.
During my short time at the shop/studio, I found there was such a wonderful sense of connection not only with the designs & the products (that are all sewn by hand on the premises) but also the Skinny community ... that not only includes customers & other businesses on eclectic Bree St but importantly the whole Skinny laMinx team. Truly an inspiring creative business!
So how did Heather go from a potential career in teaching, to textbook illustration, to blogging, to designing textiles & running a creative business? She took some time out this weekend (at a hugely busy time in her calendar) to tell me more about her fascinating transformation & the newly released range called “Diggi Dot”.
How did you come to design & designing textiles in particular? Were you always creative?
I studied English and Drama at university, and then trained as a high school teacher. When I moved to Cape Town after my studies, I had vague notions of helping run a puppet theatre, but not much more of a plan than that. I fell into illustration work while doing my postgrad teacher training, when I did illustrations for a textbook one of my lecturers was writing. The publishers liked my drawings, and started commissioning more and I ended up being an illustrator for 10 years.