Tuesday, 28 April 2015


The chance discovery of block-printed bedcovers in a Unicef store led fashion turned interior stylist Mary Bergtold Mulcahy on a long yet fulfilling journey. After an extensive search to find a way to making this type of fabric, she was able to find a craftsman, Srinivas Pitchuka, in a small village in southern India who could create what she was after, using the ancient printing technique of Kalamkari. In 2002 Mary launched Les Indiennes from her base in New York state and has been busy designing and selling her textiles ever since. Yet despite the growth of her business, she says the production of her fabric doesn’t use any electricity in the village where it is made, create any pollution or disrupt the traditional way of life. Les Indiennes is also a Fair Trade employer for more than 50 families.

Which five words best describe you? Original, inquisitive, visual, bohemian, mom.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? After attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC, I became an editor at Harper’s Bazaar. When I married and had children, my interests turned to home and interior design. I made the switch to styling interiors. This was second nature as my mother was a very talented decorator, and I grew up in an artistic environment. 

I’ve always been interested in textiles and discovered some block-printed bedcovers at the local Unicef store. I looked everywhere for similar cottons, but found nothing so I posted an ad in TradeIndia (a B2B message board). After receiving many mediocre samples, Pitchuka Srinivas, my current business partner, sent pieces which stood out from the rest. He is a traditional Kalamkari artisan. Through his work I discovered the parameters that began to define my vision.

Using only natural dyes on organic cotton, I changed the background colour from a dark beige to a creamy white, a treatment unheard of in the Kalamkari tradition. Taking complex Indian patterns, I edited, enlarged, and spaced them further apart.

With my new interest in Indian block prints, I proposed an editorial to a shelter magazine. After the story was published, I was deluged with inquiries about my textiles. This launched my business named Les Indiennes, a title the French gave to this type of fabric in the eighteen century.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Never be afraid to take risks, and stick to your own vision.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Perhaps winning the International Design Award for interiors in 2008? Designing textiles is a joy.

What’s been your best decision? To not change the way artisans traditionally work in India.

What are you passionate about? Design, interiors, historical visual reference and, of course, shopping.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Marie Antoinette.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? To create a foundation that supports independent traditional artisans of India.

What are you reading? The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple and Nancy Lancaster by Robert Becker.

images courtesy of les indiennes

Friday, 24 April 2015


“Photography is where maths and logic can result in feeling and emotion,” says Daniel Shipp, who started his working life in the film industry but felt life as a photographer gave him a unique opportunity. He could be his own production unit, bringing together all the elements under his direction. After studying at art school, he assisted fashion photographers and then moved to Canada, where he began shooting his own work. On his return to Sydney he established a client base, and started to gain traction. “It was when I started to notice that my weird obsessive ways that I felt self-conscious about were actually valued by some people.” Daniel won the Luxe Prize in Quebec, Canada for an editorial portrait series in 2007, was a finalist in the Josephine Ulrick Award in 2005 and was the Photo Technica New Australian Photo Artist of the Year in 2001. He has exhibited several times over the past 15 years, and will show Botanical Inquiry at Saint Cloche from April 25 to May 2. 

Which five words best describe you? Mischievous, curious, intuitive, Virgo, observational.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I left school in year 11 “to go work in the movies”. I’m not sure what I thought would happen. I ended up as the office junior at Liz Mullinar Casting; it was the end of the eighties and they were casting so many Aussie films, TV dramas and commercials. I loved being around all the producers and directors and watching how they worked, it was a very exciting place for a 16-year-old boy to be at that time and I was right in on the action. I ended up doing Standby Props on Home and Away for a while, and continued to work in film/TV for the next few years after that. Gradually the jobs I got were becoming less interesting to me because I really wanted to start being a bigger part of the creative decisions. Photography was like being a whole film crew in one person, and that really appealed to me because I had gained insight into how all the different departments did their jobs. I put more and more energy into photography and was accepted into Sydney College of the Arts. After four years of wonderfully indulgent conceptual time at art school I decided I wanted to experience the more commercial aspects of photography. I started assisting some well-respected fashion photographers that really knew how to work with light. I had a great time assisting, moving to Canada to work over there for a while and gradually easing into shooting my own work and moving back to Sydney. I did some big portrait project collaborations with Fashion Week and Future Classic Music to get myself back on the map here and I was lucky enough to pick up some regular commercial clients shooting objects and interiors in the meantime. Having loyal clients allowed me the space to take a small studio and work on my own projects. This is where I think I began to hit my stride because I could apply all of my technical experience to more conceptual ideas and come up with work like Botanical Inquiry.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Be as authentic as you can be, even if that means feeling like a weirdo. Embrace it, that’s where your point of difference is.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Botanical Inquiry is easily the highlight of my career to date. 

What’s been your best decision? Going to art school and developing a critical eye.

Who inspires you? Cinematographers like Roger Deakins (No Country for Old Men) and Hoyte Van Hoytema (Let the Right One In).

What are you passionate about? Light and storytelling working together.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? My grandmother, who passed away before I was born. She would have been a fine woman.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I’ve love to photograph a feature film. Not sure if it will ever happen but the thought of it keeps me hungry.

What are you reading? American Cinematographer Magazine is always on the bedside table. Sexy, right?

images courtesy of daniel shipp; portrait carine thevenau

Thursday, 23 April 2015


Life took a swift turn for Jillian Middleton when she landed in New York in early 2000. After falling in with the interior styling crowd, she became the assistant for Carlos Mota (interviewed here), who is currently Architectural Digest’s international style editor and the former editor-at-large for Elle Decor. Her work with him included creating events and styling the pages of The New York Times Magazine. But even up until then Jillian had been  busy in interiors in Sydney. She started off with work experience with Adelaide Bragg and Gretel Packer, which lead to work with Deanne Rooz, and setting up her own interior design business. Jillian worked across a range of projects from penthouse suites to residential blocks and hotel fitouts. She also designed the interiors for restaurants such as Otto and Chicane. When she returned to live in Australia, she relocated to the far north coast and is now based in Byron Bay, where she continues to work on design projects. However, Jillian also lives for about five months a year in Bali, where she creates large-scale pendants for her clients. She has now turned this into the business Gypset Cargo.

Which five words best describe you? Spontaneous, creative, dynamic, happy, genuine.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I started with work experience and then I studied and worked for Deanne Rooz in Bellevue Hill Sydney. She is a wonderful interior designer who is still working today. I have stayed a decorator and have branched into my own lighting/product range/brand.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? To be honest and firm. Don’t cover up: say it like it is and always fix what you can.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Probably styling the den at grand Central Station for Eddie Baur clothing in NYC.

What’s been your best decision? My tea-cup maltese toy poodle, Dana Doodle! Ah, seriously? Well, that is serious but remaining true to myself always.

Who inspires you? My best friend David Katon, best architect ever.

What are you passionate about? Yoga, holistic views and healing. Art. The ocean. Music. Fashion.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? My lil' brother. He died when he was five and a half years old.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Morocco, India, South America, Mexico, Turkey, Spain. Still lots to see for me.

What are you reading? The Power of Now by Ekhart Toll.

images courtesy of jillian middleton

Wednesday, 22 April 2015


Katia Carletti always envisaged herself as an artist - but a different one to the one that emerged. Born and raised in Adelaide, she had been studying painting at art school but it was starting to frustrate her, and after returning home from the studio she would spend the rest of her day making things with clay, she says. “I found it so enjoyable, and it sustained my interest so much more readily, that soon the clay took over completely, and I haven’t looked back,” Katia says. “I am predominantly self-taught in ceramics, and make all my work with a pinched, hand-building technique, so there is always something new to experiment with and learn.” Her interest is in objects that get used every day. “There’s something very intimate about creating forms that are to be cupped in your hands and raised to your lips,” she says. “I love the feeling of pinching a piece of clay up into a shape that is both beautiful and functional, and knowing that when it is finished someone else will be able to welcome it into their lives to hold and use as part of their everyday practices.” 

Which five words best describe you? Quiet, focused, homebody, baker, maker.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? When I went through art school I had this idea in my head that I was going to be a painter. It’s what I had always done, and so it seemed the most logical path to take. It wasn’t until my honours year, when I was making work about the every day as sacred, and the rituals associated with this idea, that I started to incorporate clay into my practice. From those initial experiments - simple hand-pinched forms bearing traces of the process used to create them, my ceramics practice grew. Soon I found I didn’t want to just make work about everyday rituals, I wanted to make things that could actually be used the quiet, sacred gestures of a normal day.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? To trust myself and allow my work to follow the path it is meant to lead. Also, to be open to new ideas and opportunities, even if they aren’t the ones I thought would present themselves.

What’s your proudest career achievement? I am constantly astounded that I get to spend each day making things I love.

What’s been your best decision? To put painting aside and focus on clay. There was a bit of an internal struggle for a while, as I figured out what I wanted, but I’m so glad I made the change.

Who inspires you? Creative people who are passionate about the things they make, and work hard to push themselves into new directions. At the moment I particularly love the paintings of Elizabeth Barnett and the ceramics of Bridget Bodenham. Both very talented and lovely ladies!

What are you passionate about? Coffee in nice handmade cups, indoor plant jungles, bunny cuddles.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Perhaps Nick Drake? His music has stayed with me for a very long time, and makes me feel at home.

What dream do you still want to fulfill? I am constantly dreaming of a house in the countryside with a sunlit studio and my own kiln.

What are you reading? When am I ever not listening to Stephen Fry, read Harry Potter to me!

images courtesy of katia carletti; photography lana adams

Tuesday, 21 April 2015


“Art is addictive and in my blood,” says Sydney-based artist Julian Meagher. “My mum is a great artist, and I grew up surrounded by people making and appreciating art. It has always been part of my life.” However, up until about seven years ago, Julian was a practising doctor. But he made the switch after deciding he didn’t want to regret not giving his art a chance. While Julian took a year off his medical degree to study portraiture at Cecil Studios in Florence, Italy, his artistic career has been a “slow burn of momentum”, he says. In 2009 and 2012 he received the New Work Grant from the Australia Council of the Arts, and over the years has been a finalist for multiple times in the Doug Moran Portrait Prize and the Blake Prize, among others. In 2014 he was a finalist in the Archibald Prize. As to when he felt he was on the right path? “When I knew I was going to paint forever, no matter what,” he says. Julian is a founding director of the artist-run gallery Chalk Horse. (Read interviews with fellow directors Jasper Knight and Oliver Watts.) His first solo show at Olsen Irwin opens on April 22. 

Which five words best describe you? Considered, soft but stubborn, lanky, perfectionist. 

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Artist-run spaces were the early stepping stones. We need more of them, they are important non-commercial platforms in the first five years or so of any artist's career. I am proud to be a director of Chalk Horse Gallery, which is one of these. I am lucky enough to be represented by some really good galleries now who provide a great deal of support and opportunity. 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Turn up and work hard every day, sounds easier than it is when you are a creative. There is no pay cheque at the end of each week. Endurance, risk-taking and pushing yourself creatively with each painting are all must-have traits, I believe. Failure is part of the process. 

What’s your proudest career achievement? Probably exhibiting internationally, although I was very happy to be hung in the Archibald last year with a portrait of John Waters.  

What’s been your best decision? Allowing the paint to do some of the work, learning not to overwork things. 

Who inspires you? My mum. And anyone who is passionate about something, doesn't matter what it is. 

What are you passionate about? All the little moments that lighten the world, not focussing on the shadows. 

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? My Dad when he was my age. 

What dream do you still want to fulfil? The unattainable perfect work.

What are you reading? The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. It is a powerful book, but it his style that I really love, it is in the same emotive class as Tim Winton. 

images courtesy of julian meagher


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