Friday, 22 May 2015


Growing up on a farm provided a lot of space and time on my own to think, to watch the seasons and times of day changing to night,” says artist Kathryn Ryan. “There was a world within to express through art.” She always believed that one day she would be able to live and work as a full-time artist. After art school, Kathryn was encouraged after being accepted into art prizes and gaining representation at commercial galleries in Melbourne and Sydney. For the past 15 years, her solo shows have sold out, which has enabled her to live life as an artist. Kathryn was born in Warrnambool and raised on a dairy farm in Panmure, south west Victoria. She gained an art degree at Deakin University and completed her Honours year at RMIT. She has lived for many years in Dubai while he husband, an architect, has worked on hotel design. Kathryn exhibits with Flinders Lane Gallery in Melbourne and Olsen Irwin in Sydney. Now back in Australia, she has set up a studio in Warrnambool and is working towards a solo show at Olsen Irwin in August. The Warrnambool Art Gallery will hold a Survey show of her work, paintings and drawings covering the years 1995 to 2015. It opens July 18.

Which five words best describe you? Organised, determined, intuitive, passionate, honest.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? From an early age I was determined to be a full-time artist. So my final year at secondary school was all art subjects, TAFE T.O.P. Art & Design, then straight into three years at art school. From there, I moved to Melbourne, set up a studio, had part-time jobs and kept painting and exhibiting until I was able to paint full time from my solo shows at Flinders Lane Gallery Melbourne and Tim Olsen Gallery Sydney. After many years of living in the city, with studios in the inner city and the last few years living in Dubai, I am now enjoying having a studio in a rural city, by the coast, surrounded by the landscape which is the source and inspiration for my work.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Trust your instincts and intuition and be as true to yourself as you can, and just keep working. It will come.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Having my work hung in the Wynne Prize at AGNSW, but also every solo show, and the upcoming Survey Show of my work 1995 – 2015 at the Warrnambool Art Gallery in July. I grew up in and around Warrnambool, but left here nearly 30 years ago and after just returning from living overseas it will be a big “homecoming”!

What’s been your best decision? To become a full-time artist. After a number of years of having part-time jobs to help support myself as an artist, after my second sell-out solo show, I took the plunge to paint full-time and support myself with my art sales. I am grateful that I can devote all of my time to the studio; it’s hard work, rewarding and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Who inspires you? Motivated people; those who can make their dreams and ideas come in to being.

What are you passionate about? Making art, drawing and painting, long days in the studio and walks along the coast, beaches, farms, parks, photographing nature, weather, light, dusk, twilight, clouds, landscape, fresh air...

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Everyone has a story. Living as an expat the past few years has allowed me to meet so many interesting people from such a wide range of countries and backgrounds. It took me way out of my comfort zone and showed me how rewarding it is to be open to meet new people and engage on an honest and genuine level. So I can’t really answer your question other than to say I want to keep an open mind at meeting new people.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? To have a large studio and live by the sea.

What are you reading? Ha, there is no time to read. I am too busy in the studio!

images courtesy of kathryn ryan

Thursday, 21 May 2015


A life-changing car accident had a profound impact on Texan florist Ashley Woodson Bailey in more ways than one. In 2012 she damaged her back in such a way that she could no longer work in floral events, a key part of her work as a American floral designer over a 20-year period. However, during her recovery she began to photograph flowers that were given to her as get-well gifts. “I have always loved taking photos and I have always hated that I was creating these gorgeous floral sculptures that die,” Ashley says. “I wanted to find a way to keep them alive. So I combined the two.” It didn’t take long before demand for the resulting photographic prints took off. “I knew I was onto something when my now agent sent me an email asking to work with me,” she says. Ashley also sensed that her work was gaining momentum when she saw one of her works in the home of actress Jessica Alba. She was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas and studied Art and Art History at the University of Texas in Austin. Now based in Atlanta, Georgia, she is now travelling the world as a result of her photography, which is all taken on an iPhone.  

Which five words best describe you? Resilient, quirky, creative, giving and strong-willed. 

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? My career began accidentally due to a car accident. I was a florist and broke my back so I could no longer do events. I started taking photos of flowers people gave me during recovery. I posted them on Instagram and people asked to purchase them so here we are! I am now about to launch a wallpaper line and some other really exciting things are in the works.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? You only have one life - don't waste it. 

What’s your proudest career achievement? I am proud that I am able to create these gorgeous pieces of art with my iPhone and feel comfortable with it.

What’s been your best decision? To trust my gut and heart, and do what I love.

Who inspires you? All the independent risk-taking women in the world that juggle everyday life with their careers.

What are you passionate about? My family, flowers and animals.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Marilyn Monroe.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I would like to shoot a story for Vogue.

What are you reading? The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty.

images courtesy of ashley woodson bailey; portrait amber fouts

Wednesday, 20 May 2015


On Kathryn Robson’s first day studying architecture at university the lecturer warned that there were more architects driving cabs than working in their chosen profession. He told the students that if they were in it for the money then they might as well walk out of the room then. Kathryn was intrigued, and never regretted her decision. “It’s always felt right, and I’ve gone to work every day excited about what lies ahead,” she says. “Architects require the diversity of technical knowledge and uninhibited design and I find this deeply satisfying.” After working for some of Melbourne’s leading practices, she set up her own practice in 2002 and more recently joined forces with her husband Chris Rak, who had retrained as an interior architect after working for 13 years as a steel sculptor. Together they run Melbourne-based Robson Rak and have been shortlisted for many awards over the past couple of years.

Which five words best describe you?
Kathryn: Driven to create the best life.
Chris: Honest, ambitious, curious, perfectionist, dreamer.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since?
Kathryn: On completing architecture I worked as a graduate architect for Sean Godsell, and then moved on to working with Chris Connell. After three years working in London for Swedish architect Orefelt Associates, I returned to Melbourne to work for Chris Connell Design again and stayed there until 2002 when I left to start my own practice. There has been an extraordinary amount of hard work and long hours put into where we are at today, and this never stops. We’re excited about the future of Robson Rak and the future of design in Australia.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way?
Kathryn: Design as though no one is watching. Don’t be affected by what others are doing or saying, and never, ever stop listening to your gut instinct. It’s always right. Oh, and always employ the best accountant you can find.
Chris: Don’t cut corners.

What’s your proudest career achievement?
Kathryn: I think it’s yet to come. There have been some very proud moments along the way but I know what’s currently on our drawing boards and on site and I’m excited to see their evolution.
Chris: Creating a career which includes family.

What’s been your best decision?
Kathryn: To join forces with my husband Chris Rak to create Robson Rak. We feel so lucky to be designing spaces for our clients that see no boundary between the architecture and interior. They are smooth, holistic spaces that provide the user with warmth and a sense of well-being.
Chris: Joining forces with my wife Kathryn; we’re very fortunate to be able to do that.

Who inspires you?
Kathryn: Melbourne and its people. Whether it’s Sergio who makes me the perfect coffee every morning, or walking through the bluestone laneways of Melbourne and discovering a beautiful jewellery designer, the perfect plate of sashimi discovered in a basement at Izakaya, or the array of talented architects, designers and artists who create the evolving fabric of our city.  
Chris: Anyone who takes pride in their work and goes that extra mile to achieve a better result. I lived in Tokyo in the early 90s and was influenced by the Japanese. I remember being blown away at seeing cabbies with their immaculate cars (complete with doilies on the dash) and white gloves on. Treating their chosen paths with utmost respect and doing it as best as they could.

What are you passionate about?
Kathryn: I’m passionate about “home”. Not only my home, but more that sense of home, which is so important in the spaces, we design. It may be achieved by a certain smell, a texture, or a shard of light passing through a room. As Ilse Crawford said, “Home is where the heart is”, and I’m constantly thinking about what makes a house a home and trying to translate this into architecture and interior design through material, details, landscaping, and of course the perfectly proportioned space.
Chris: I love a well-made object. Something that’s been labored over and resolved.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
Kathryn: Firstly, my Dad. He passed away suddenly last year with many things left unsaid. Secondly, Steve Jobs who once said, “Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that designers are handed this box and told, ‘make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Of course, there is a balance between aesthetic and function but this balance is often wrong. Robson Rak tries hard to achieve this balance with every project.
Chris: Too many to list: Max Ernst, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Malevich, Tatlin, Carlo Scarpa, etc.

What dream do you still want to fulfill?
Kathryn: I have so many! Probably the one on my radar right now is our own extension to our home in Elwood, which is very exciting. It’s the first home Chris and I will have designed for our own family and it’s deeply satisfying after nearly 20 years of designing homes for others. Oh, and we want to relocate our family to a Greek island for a year or two.
Chris: Taking my boys to an adventure through Greece for six months and letting them discover their roots.

What are you reading?
Kathryn: The Gardenist by Michael McCoy. It’s a book about landscape design that has been a revelation as it approaches landscaping in a very architectural manner and has changed the way I think about planting. For example, “The space that surrounds a tree is just as important as the tree itself, and when there are two or more trees they are able to capture and hold an open space between them.” It’s all about form and space, built or planted.
Chris: Furnitecture: Furniture That Transforms Space. I got it for my birthday. Not a bad read.

images courtesy of robson rak; photography (from top to bottom) lisa cohen and mark roper; sharyn cairnslisa cohen and mark ropersharyn cairns; portrait will watt

Tuesday, 19 May 2015


“There’s nothing like opening a kiln,” says Anna Eaves, a ceramicist from North Carolina in the USA. “People compare it to Christmas morning, but it’s better!” The first time Anna experienced it, she became hooked. Her mother, an artist and potter, had encouraged her to make something. To appease her, Anna made a cream and sugar set under her instruction. “It wasn’t until I opened the kiln after the glaze firing and saw my finished work that something just clicked,” she says. “Art and creating has always been part of my life, and as soon as I left my day job, my mind had room to breathe and create and I just started making things.” At first she created succulent wreaths and when she shared the projects on her blog, Anna received enquiries to purchase them. After opening an Etsy shop she became hooked on ceramics and now Arrow and Sage retails and wholesales around the world, including to The Assembly Co in Australia.

Which five words best describe you? Creative, loyal, joy seeker, artistic, headstrong. 

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Leaving my 9-5 kickstarted everything. I’m so thankful to have a husband who is supportive of my dreams and desires. He knew all along that I needed to create and make things with my hands. I just started making things, and then took the next step when it was available. That’s how I plan to move forward. Keep creating, keep making, keep doing the next thing one step at a time.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Striving for perfection is an unhealthy way of living. I’m naturally a perfectionist, and very detail oriented. Working with clay has taught me so much about life and letting go and embracing imperfection. There’s a lot of loss with pottery. There are so many steps in the process where things can and do go wrong. Letting go of things and letting things be as they are is a crucial thing to learn when working with clay, but also in daily life. It’s a healthier way for me to live. 

What’s your proudest career achievement? Shipping my first wholesale order to Sydney, Australia. The fact that different people and shops around the world have an interest in and love for my work is incredibly humbling.

What’s been your best decision? Learning how and when to say no. You cannot do it all.  There’s a difference between being a large-scale production studio, and being a small batch, handmade studio. I work without an assistant, and I design and make by hand every single piece that comes from my studio. That may or may not change in the future, but for now that’s how I plan to continue working.  

Who inspires you? My mother, truly. She just sees things, and ideas, and concepts and decides she can do that, and she does. She is so creative and grounded and full of life and love. She gives all of those things freely to those around her. I’m also inspired by all the creativity of the independent makers and doers and shopkeepers I’ve met over the past few months. All of these people just doing it. It’s beyond inspiring! 

What are you passionate about? Being deeply rooted in love for others and faith, and making art to put out in the world.  

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? So many! When my husband and I bought our first home I received a beautiful table from my granny that we will treasure and keep in the family forever. It was made by hand by my great, great, great grandfather. I would like to meet him.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I feel very full right now. Inspired. It would be a dream to continue working with clay, and maybe one day even have a space outside of our home to work and sell my work from.  

What are you reading? Currently nothing! But I have a list of books to read on summer vacations. For easy reading I like John Grisham novels. I also loved A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman, and want to read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.

images courtesy of arrow and sage

Monday, 18 May 2015


“To be immersed in design and beautiful everyday objects seemed too good an opportunity to miss,” says Yew Kong Tham, owner of Ginkgo Leaf shop in Sydney’s Woollahra. About two years ago he left the safety of a salaried position within a large organisation and opened a shop dedicated to well-designed artisanal Japanese products. While Yew Kong graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of South Australia and worked in that field for 15 years, he sidestepped into student services and after working in North America for seven years was ready for a new challenge. “Quite simply I was ready to move on, and contemporary Japanese product designs and aesthetics have always fascinated me,” he says. “Ginkgo Leaf enables me to turn a personal passion into a viable business.” 

Which five words best describe you? Loyal, meticulous, efficient. Occasionally impatient and right all of the time?

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Reasonably smooth path straight after graduation in direct social work practice, then dabbled a bit in marketing research before spending nine years with UNSW in student support services.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Go for the jugular and remind myself to always trust one’s own gut feelings.  

What’s your proudest career achievement? To gain clarity and real understanding of what I really want to achieve.

What’s been your best decision? To constantly remind myself to keep curious and never stop learning.

Who inspires you? Everyday volunteers.

What are you passionate about? Good design, urbanity, good food and most of all, my family.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? My Father.

What dream do you still want to fulfill? To travel and experience more of the world.

What are you reading? In Praise of Shadows by Japanese author Junichiro Tanizaki.

images courtesy of ginkgo leaf; image 4 natalie walton


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