Thursday, 30 July 2015


Even though she studied Modern Asian studies, and spent years working as a language teacher, it was when Mel Robson took a pottery class that she knew instantly how she wanted to spend the rest of her life. Not long after that she quit her job and began life as an artist. “Thankfully, things have taken a fairly smooth path since then - confirmation for me that I have been on the right path,” she says. Taking a mentorship program with Patsy Hely through the Australia Council was key to helping her find focus with her art practice and connecting her to a network of supportive artists and educators. “I think that early period after graduating can be a really crucial time,” Mel says. “It can be tough trying to get yourself and your work out there.” While she was born in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, most of her life was spent in the Northern New South Wales town of Murwillumbah. About five years ago Mel moved to Alice Springs with her family. She works in the art department at Charles Darwin University and continues her studio practice. “We love it here,” she says. “It’s a remarkable little town full of remarkable people and a landscape that just gets under your skin.”

Which five words best describe you? Self-disciplined, motivated, curious, love a good laugh, and a wee bit shy. 

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? My first degree was in Modern Asian studies and I spent many years after that traveling and working through Asia. I worked as an English Language teacher and then in my late 20s I took a pottery class at the local Tafe and that was the end of that! I’ve been studying and working as an artist ever since. I did an advanced diploma in ceramics at Southbank Tafe in Brisbane where I got such an amazing grounding in the technical aspects of making ceramics. After that I did a degree in contemporary arts at Southern Cross University in Lismore, which helped me refine a lot of my ideas and approaches to making. Since then I have basically been working as an artist, making, teaching, public art, commissions, exhibition work, retail work, collaborations. The main thing for me is to work on projects that keep me interested. I really enjoy the diversity of the projects I work on. It keeps me engaged and stimulates new work and new ideas. I’m pretty open to where I go with my career and am interested in trying a lot of different things and approaches rather than focussing on any one strand. 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Ask questions, work hard, strive for balance, keep things in perspective and don’t take things too seriously.  Sometimes as an artist you can get a bit caught up in it all. Enjoy what you do. Also, it’s really good to do things that freak you out. It’s the best way to learn and the best way to really discover your capabilities. When I’ve jumped into things despite trepidation, or feeling overwhelmed, they’ve often ended up being the most rewarding and unexpectedly good experiences. 

What’s your proudest career achievement? Hmmm, maybe the fact that I’m still here doing it Being selected for the third and fourth World Ceramics Biennale in South Korea was pretty nice too.

What’s been your best decision? Moving to Alice Springs. It has enabled me to develop a good balance between making, teaching, researching and experimenting. I’m probably in the most satisfying and rewarding phase of my career so far. Inspiring, meaningful, balanced and challenging. There have been some really rewarding and satisfying projects I’ve worked on out here and I’m enjoying seeing how living out here is slowly coming through in my work, my approach and my attitude. The work-life balance is good and the community out here is an inspiration to me.

Who inspires you? Anyone who gives it a red hot go. 

What are you passionate about? My family, hiking, ceramics, textiles, traveling. 

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? My grandmother. She died before I was born, but has loomed large in our family and in my work. She was the most fascinating woman, not of her time, and I would just love to be able to sit down with her over a cup of tea. 

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Oh, I have a very simple little dream of a beautiful light-filled studio in the hills somewhere. I’d love somewhere where I could invite different artists to come and work and collaborate. 

What are you reading? I’ve just started re-reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Poetic and beautiful. I rarely re-read books, but this one deserves it.

images courtesy of mel robson 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015


“I feel free when illustrating,” says Louise Jones. “There’s no right or wrong way to illustrate.” However, when the Melbourne-based illustrator and pattern designer was working for a wholesaler in the textile industry she got to a point where she felt frustrated with the lack of creativity. Shortly afterwards she went freelance and after starting a Tumblr blog A Side Project was approached to design a wallpaper pattern for a former Vogue writer/editor based in New York. The commission came from her interior designer and it was to create a bold floral pattern for a powder room in the editor's newly renovated Brooklyn home. “This was a dream project for me, as I have always wanted to design patterns for interiors so I felt very chuffed that my work was being recognised internationally, especially in New York!” Louise says. 

Which five words best describe you? Loyal, caring, open, playful and fussy - so I’ve been told.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? After completing my Bachelor of Communication Design, I was hired as a junior graphic designer at a small design studio. I was led by two senior designers on varied design projects including website design, signage and branding. From my three years at this studio, I designed and illustrated interior and wall graphics for fashion and hospitality clients. These types of projects helped me discover my passion for illustrating and pattern design.

I decided to dip my feet in the fashion industry and landed a job as a textile designer for a wholesale company, where I was designing yardages for Target, Kmart and Jay Jays. I soon found out that creativity and originality wasn’t highly appreciated in this industry, and I became frustrated with the lack of creative opportunities. I had always wanted to work for myself, so it seemed like perfect timing. I quit my full-time job to start a freelance career, which was quite daunting as I had no clients. Fortunately, I found work through a recruitment agency, and some of my own client work too.

Even though I was enjoying working for myself, I found the freelance and client work wasn’t building towards my goals and where I wanted to drive my business. My good friend and textile designer, Shelley Steer, was also in the same situation as myself and we both wanted to be designing patterns for fashion and interiors. We decided to start a creative space where we could create our own pattern designs based on a monthly theme, so we started a Tumblr blog and named it A Side Project. I now have a small collection of patterns which has attracted local and international clients from the fashion and interior industries.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Believe in your work, and trust your gut instincts. It’s important to get feedback and help from others along the way, but ultimately only you know what feels right for you and your business.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Seeing my pattern on a pair of Abercrombie and Fitch shorts. The pattern was a custom tropical print commissioned by A&F for their Spring 2015 collection.

What’s been your best decision? Moving into a shared studio after working by myself for two years in my home office. I felt very isolated and trapped working from home, and I really craved the creative energy from working amongst like-minded people. By investing in a studio space, I felt more energised in my creative process. It was also the simple pleasures of bouncing ideas off others, seeing how others worked and just the general daily chit chat.

Who inspires you? Individuals who are passionate about what they do 9 to 5, and in everyday life. Plus all my studio buddies, they are all so inspiring and such a creative bunch.

What are you passionate about? Those that are close to me might say that I have a slight chair addiction, mostly of the midcentury era. I am also passionate about spending quality time with the ones I love, my family and friends. But most importantly my newly born baby girl, Grace, and my beautiful husband Ross. 

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I'm struggling with this one, as I'm not entirely sure I would have the courage to approach someone I admired. But if I had to choose one, I would say the Dalai Lama.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Designing and producing my own range of fabric and wallpaper, which is in the process as we speak. I also have a growing wish list of creatives and businesses that I would love to collaborate with.

What are you reading? The Science of Parenting by Margot Sunderland. When it comes to parenting, there is a lot of information out there which makes it hard to know what you should follow or not. The Science of Parenting is an evidence-based book on the science of parenting styles and their effects on children’s brains. This book appealed to us because of it’s evidence-based research, especially my husband because of his background in science. 

images courtesy of louise jones

Tuesday, 28 July 2015


“There is just something so beautiful about working with natural fibres,” says Tanika Reed. “Watching the morning and afternoon light catch on the threads as I weave is probably up there on my list of favourite things in the whole world.” The fibre artist, who is based on the South Coast of NSW, turned to weaving after experimenting with other craft forms, including clay and painting. It also coincided with her husband leaving his full-time job to go back to university, and having two babies close in age. “It made me realise I needed some sort of funding to fuel my obsession with buying craft and art supplies,” she says. Through Reed Smith Co she creates a range of weaving designs and accepts custom orders. The designs, which involve hundreds - sometimes thousands - of knots, can take many days to create.

Which five words best describe you? Daydreamer, visionary, creative, chatty, indecisive.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I began knotting away at night at home and posting photos of my work onto Instagram. People started emailing and asking for custom weaves. The creative Instagram community is so supportive and inspiring. I have met some amazingly beautiful people on there and it is so cool to meet makers all over the globe, it has definitely helped open my eyes to so many mind-blowing artists on my own turf too.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Gosh, I’ve learnt so much yet there is still so much to learn. I think one of the most important things is to celebrate your achievements, big and small, with those you love. Keep the family involved. Look for beauty every day, notice the moments that make your heart smile.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Definitely having some work featured in last month’s Real Living magazine. It is and always will be surreal to see your stuff featured on glossy pages. I was also just given the most heart-melting review of my work from an Australian painter who I very much respect and admire. As I type this we have just packaged up our first ever woven wedding arbour which took a whopping 50-plus hours to weave, definitely my biggest order and weave to date.

What’s been your best decision? To give weaving another crack. I began knotting plant hangers mid last year and grew bored of it pretty quick. I then want on a craft binge and tried my hand at rolling clay, abstract art and crocheting - much to the detriment of our family budget! It wasn’t until my husband encouraged me to give macramé another go that I really began exploring texture and contemporary design with the traditional art.

Who inspires you? My daily inspiration comes straight from my Maker’s hands. He truly is a magnificent Creator. I also owe my technique to my two-year-old daughter. I was watching her colour in one day, drawing bold lines and colouring in the shapes she created and I really felt inspired to do this with rope and string. 

What are you passionate about? Far out, there are so many things. Spontaneous finds of wild ferns and branches on the side of the road, my ever-growing antique and handmade vessels collection, layering different textures, creative mess. I have a huge weakness for large-scale art. I am passionate about people discovering their own creativity then pursuing it and thriving in it. I love that my daughter says to me almost every day “Mummy, I want to make something!” 

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Jesus. I wouldn’t mind a good yarn with Nelson Mandela either.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? To have our own workshop/studio/gallery space in an old industrial/factory setting.

What are you reading? The wording on the timber beams in our roof above my head, I still cannot figure out if the logo says “Not for use North of the Tropic of Capricorn”, or “Not for use worth of the Trojan of Caterpillar”.

images courtesy of tanika reed 

Monday, 27 July 2015


“Creating is something I’ve done since I was very young and it’s continued to be a big part of who I am as a person,” says artist and designer Sarah Kelk. It has followed her throughout her life - from growing up on the South Island of New Zealand to creating a homewares business, Hello Polly in 2011 from her current Melbourne base. Sarah started that venture after a period of living and working overseas, including time in Edinburgh in 2004 running a gallery space. “It solidified that fact that I really wanted to work with and alongside creative people, as well as showing me that I really enjoy working for myself,” she says. A few years ago Sarah was keen to start painting again, and she used her artworks as a starting point for a range of homewares for Hello Polly, which she runs with her sister Helen Adams, who joined the business in 2013. All of their products are made in Melbourne, using local printers and textile manufacturers. As for Sarah’s art practice, she says, “I loved painting again and haven't stopped since.” She is exhibiting All Things Now at Modern Times in Melbourne’s Fitzroy until 6 August.

Which five words best describe you? Busy, happy, driven, practical, creative.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? It started by someone giving a fresh-out-of-uni, driven and enthusiastic girl a chance. From there I’ve put my head down and worked incredibly hard in every role I’ve worked in since.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? I’m a firm believer of the “do it now” policy. I use it everyday and thank my sister for sharing this great bit of wisdom with me. 

What’s your proudest career achievement? Working on the solo show All Things Now for Modern Times has been incredibly rewarding. I’m really proud of the fact that I managed to pull together 22 pieces that I love, whilst running Hello Polly and making time for my family. It’s been hard work juggling it all, but it’s been well worth it. 

What’s been your best decision? In 2003 I was about to start post-grad study, but at the last minute threw it all in and ran away travelling the world with my now husband. This decision started the wheel of self discovery and was instrumental to feeding my creativity.

Who inspires you? Busy people who not only make time for their creative pursuits, but also give lots of time to their families are endlessly inspiring. I also have really strong female role models in my life - my sister, Mum and Grandmother - and they have always been a strong pillar of inspiration and support to me. I really hope I can inspire my kids to follow a dream of theirs in the future too!

What are you passionate about? My family, friends, food, ideas and creating.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I’d have loved to have met my dad’s father, George Adam. He sounded like a total character and I’ve always thought we would have got on. Oh, and Ryan Gosling!

What dream do you still want to fulfil? To continue painting,  and in an ideal world, find the time to take a couple of years out and go travelling around the world with my husband and kids.

What are you reading? The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.

images courtesy of sarah kelk and modern times

Friday, 24 July 2015


The latest volume of Frankie magazine’s Spaces interior book features another cover from Melbourne-based photographer Hilary Walker. She has worked regularly with the publication since returning to Australia after living for a few years in London. In the UK she styled and shot many book covers for novels. However, now is more focussed on interiors and people, as well as craft. Hilary has also shot campaigns for Craft Australia and has a book coming up with Thames & Hudson. She also has a solo fine art photography exhibition in the works.

The original interview (reproduced below) was published on 5 September 2008.

While studying an arts degree in psychology and criminology, Hilary Walker worked part time in the art department at her school. Afterwards she decided to pursue a career in photography and enrolled in and completed a BA of Photography at RMIT. After a few years of assisting in her native Melbourne, she moved to London where she started to get bookings for her own work, mostly for fiction book covers. More recently she has returned to Melbourne.

What five words best describe you? Aesthetically obsessed, imaginative, loving, procrastinating.

What's your proudest achievement? Hmmm... moving to London by myself and not crying when all my stuff was stolen.

Who inspires you? Film makers and artists. People that make me laugh or cry with their own peculiar thoughts or creations.

What are you passionate about? Pictures, drawings, films, music, people.

What's the best lesson you've learnt? I'm still learning it.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? My four-year-old self.

What are you excited about? Small things, never the big things - like a decent meal, green lights, riding my bike or watching movies.

What are you reading? The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. That's a lie. I'm reading a book I'm not mad on but The Time Traveller's Wife is so gorgeous I've bought it about seven times as presents.

images courtesy of hilary walker; portrait charlie kinross


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