Tuesday, 13 October 2015


The less-followed path turned out to be a good one for furniture maker Simon Ancher. He comes from a long line of architects - his grandfather, father, mother, two sisters and brother have all belonged in the profession - however, the chance to work with maker and designer Chris Jones gave Simon other ideas. “I’ve always appreciated designed objects and marvelled at their resolution,” he says. While he was born in Newcastle, Simon grew up in Tasmania and studied furniture design at the University of Tasmania, completing the course with Honours in 2000. He has been running his own design practice ever since. Simon started taking commissions while based at the Designers Makers Cooperative workshop in North Hobart. To expand his knowledge base, a couple of years later he enrolled in a Bachelor of Environmental Design, and afterwards was offered a position as program director of furniture design for the School of Architecture and Design at the Univeristy of Tasmania, Launceston. In partnership with his wife Lisa, earlier this year he opened Simon Ancher Studio, where he creates his own designs - using mainly Tasmanian timbers - and she helps run the space, selling a range of complementary wares too. “It has been the best decision,” he says. “A risk that has proven to be worthwhile.”

Which five words best describe you? Passionate, workaholic, playful, committed, considerate.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? The furniture design aspect of my working life has been 100 per cent self-employed - head down, tail up. In recent times it has been the collaboration with my wife Lisa that has really seen things change for the better - she’s a gem.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? You can’t do it all yourself. 

What’s your proudest career achievement? Opening the studio in St John Street in March of this year was a very proud moment, but I’d also have to say being part of the Design Island exhibition that launched at the Sydney Opera House was very special. In 2004, Design Island was the name given to an exhibition coordinated by Arts Tasmania and featuring artwork by 20 leading Tasmanian designers held in Sydney and Tasmania. Following the success of the exhibition, the Design Island name was then used by Arts Tasmania to describe a five-year strategy of design-related events aimed at growing and inspiring the design sector in Tasmania.

What’s been your best decision? Opening the St John Street studio, and listening to my wife.

Who inspires you? My wife Lisa and three sons Jack, Charlie, and Hugo are a tremendous source of inspiration. My mother Krissy, who has beaten cancer on two fronts, is one of the strongest people I know, and my father John whose humility and consideration of others is astounding. 

What are you passionate about? Living life to the fullest with my family - I do everything for my family.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Aalvar Alto.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? There are so many unfulfilled dreams… one that hopefully isn’t too far away is to build our new family home - and studio/workshop - on our block by the Cataract Gorge in Launceston.

What are you reading? Alain De Botton’s The Architecture of Happiness and Steve Biddulph’s Raising Boys.

images courtesy of simon ancher studio; photography jonathan wherrett, portrait bruce moyle

Monday, 12 October 2015


Anna Potter stumbled upon floristry after finishing a degree in Fine Art. “It made perfect sense to be constantly creating with my hands and connected with my inherent love of nature,” she says. Based in the northern town of Sheffield in England, she opened the florist shop Swallows & Damsons in 2008 after working for two other leading florists in the area. When she began to feel frustrated, Anna knew it was time to go out on her own. “I had wild - literally - ideas that weren’t the correct way of doing things,” she says. Since opening her shop and studio, Anna creates arrangements for weddings and events, and has gained a huge online following. “Instagram has been the most wonderful platform to share my work,” she says. “It combines my favourite things - flowers and photography. There is an incredible network of florists on there which I find to be so inspiring and encouraging.”

Which five words best describe you? Creative, passionate, gentle, wild, authentic.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I started working in a florist that also specialised in plants and garden design. It was invaluable to get not only technical instruction but to also learn more about horticulture too. This really inspired me to work in a more natural way so that when I eventually opened up my own shop I had a clear style in mind, that and my love for antiques and curiosities combined was something a little different for Sheffield at the time.

What’s the best lesson you've learnt along the way? The best lesson I have learnt was spoken by a good friend. Run your own race.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Having two small children and my own business - and still being alive.

What’s been your best decision? Sticking at being a shop. It’s so tempting when you see other florists working from studios, solely providing flowers for events and weddings. Having a shop is hard work. Re-stocking every day, always having to be open at certain times, etc. But it also means we are constantly getting seasonal, fresh produce, we get to see couples that get married coming back for birthdays, anniversaries, births - it’s a real privilege getting to know people and hearing their stories.

Who inspires you? Saipua [interview] was the first florist to make me really truly believe in what I was doing - that conventional floristry wasn’t the only way or the correct way. She still totally pushes boundaries and blows my mind with her incredible arrangements and commitment to the cause.

What are you passionate about? Nature. It’s an absolute miracle. Design, innovation and the point where something creative connects with your soul.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Someone whose ideas changed the world - like Albert Einstein. I could bury myself in his quotes. 

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I think to just to continue doing what I do - to keep being inspired and to follow my gut is all I could hope for.

What are you reading? The Surprising life of Constance Spry by Sue Shepherd.

images courtesy of swallows & damsons; portrait india hobson

Friday, 9 October 2015


Fashion can be a fickle business so it takes a certain talent and determination to last the distance. Lee Mathews recently celebrated 15 years of her eponymous label. The designer, who was born in Northern Ireland but raised in New Zealand and Canada before settling in Australia, started out as an art director and illustrator on magazines such as Vogue and Vogue Living. She then spent time working as a designer at a couple of other labels before going out on her own in 2000. “I was always making things and it evolved into a business,” she says. It was when Lee opened her first store that she felt she was heading in the right direction. “It was the testing ground for all of the ideas and whether it would all work or not,” she says. “It was fun to see everything hanging in one space.”

Now Lee has six stores across Australia, and has recently returned her designs to the runway as part of the 20-year celebrations of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia. “The first time we showed at fashion week in 2007 was a real moment,” she says. “All the stars aligned, as they say.” While the brand started out small it was a simple yet statement collection. And even though it was well-received, as were many other collections, maintaining the passion and momentum over so many years has not always been easy, she admits. “I have had a few ‘I just can’t do it anymore’ moments but largely, I get a kick out of making beautiful pieces and spending time working with people I like whilst doing it,” Lee says. “It’s pretty good, really.”

Which five words best describe you? Passionate, curious, driven, disorganised, headstrong.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I started at Vogue as an illustrator and art director, but was always making things. It was kind of a natural progression and I soon started making things to sell at the markets. It was hard work but fun.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Stay calm, stick to your lane and never assume.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Staying in business for 15 years.

What’s been your best decision? Going slowly and asking for help. Collaborating ideas has changed my business.

Who inspires you? So many people: architects, painters, writers, musicians, women doing great things – there is an endless list.

What are you passionate about? My friends, my kids, making environments, making beautiful things in general.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Maybe Frank Lloyd Wright or Sonia Delaunay.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I would love to build a house in bushland. A simple, completely self-sustained house with an enormous vegetable garden.

What are you reading? I’m reading No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald about Edward Snowden.

images courtesy of lee mathews

Thursday, 8 October 2015


“Careers and businesses are like a games of Snakes and Ladders,” says Sophie Tatlow of Utopia Goods. “They go up and down, you win some projects and lose others.” With the textile design business that she created in 2012 with partner Bruce Slorach, it wasn’t until they started receiving phone calls from private clients ordering fabric for interior schemes that the business gained a real momentum. “We’ve been asked to do everything from greeting cards, dictionary covers and commercial and private interiors,” she says.

The Sydney couple, who are both originally from Victoria, have a long history in design and the arts. Bruce, a designer and art director, illustrates all of the textiles and his work is held in the permanent collection of the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney and the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. For five years he was the creative director at Mambo. Bruce studied Fine Art at the Victorian College of the Arts while Sophie graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor of Arts followed by a design degree from Enmore Design Centre and then she went on to complete a MA in writing at the University of Technology Sydney

For the past 15 years the creative duo have also been running the graphic design studio Deuce Design. Utopia Goods is an extension of that business. “Textile design is like ‘Art in the Everyday’, and the process and production offers endless creative executions for surface design,” Sophie says. “We’re trying to make something that performs as a keepsake or moment and avoids the throwaway nature of disposal items.” Most recently the couple were showing their latest range - From Earth to Indigo - at the London Design Festival.

Which five words best describe you?
Sophie: Passionate, persistent, hard-working, generous, enthusiastic.
Bruce: Passionate, methodical, creative, persistent, whimsical.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since?
Sophie: I’ve got a design degree and also an MA in Writing. I started my design career as a jeweller, then a copywriter for Deuce and freelance clients. My career is a patchwork of design and writing projects. 
Bruce: Started with a cult fashion label ABYSS and Galaxy in the late 80s - selling to and dressing the Beastie Boys, Cyndi Lauper, Kylie Minogue, Patricia Fields, plus many others, and sold all over Europe and the US, then worked as design director at Mambo, before starting Deuce Design.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way?
Luck, timing, hard work and cash-flow are as essential to creating a business as is the creative component. In some ways the creative component is the easy part, getting an “idea” to fruition and sold is the hard part. The internet has been a really big game-changer for business – both fantastic and sometimes unrealistic. And the old cliché, “measure twice, cut once” - in other words double check everything. 

What’s your proudest career achievement?
Keeping Deuce Design and Utopia Goods together and functioning as companion businesses. Creating UG from scratch, starting from original artwork, hand looming the linen base cloth and producing the product. Giving our customers and clients something they really love and enjoy. 

What’s been your best decision?
Having our son Henri. No matter how many life and career highs you have, children are the ultimate.

Who inspires you?
Sophie: There are so many inspiring people out there but really members of the community who selflessly care for other people. Many wonderful writers. 
Bruce: Depends on context, but here’s a start for UG: Gio Ponti, Fornasetti, William Morris, Josef Frank, Sottsass, plus, plus…

What are you passionate about?
Sophie: Too many things! Life, my family, reading and writing, creating a business that Australians are proud of and that has longevity. 
Bruce: Sophie and Henri, my road bike, flora and fauna, too many creatives to name, travel, drawing and design. 

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
Sophie: This changes hourly. But given my exact location this second, the buyer from Liberty of London.
Bruce: As above, and William Morris.

What dream do you still want to fulfil?
The three of us taking a road trip one day.

What are you reading?
Sophie: All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr. And The New Yorker every week.
Bruce: Ten conversations to you must have with your son by Dr Tim Hawkes. Many design mags and blogs.

images courtesy of utopia goods; lookbook photography sam mcadam cooper

Wednesday, 7 October 2015


Photography complements the two driving forces in Christopher Phillips' personality, he says. “The need to explore and the love of meditative contemplation.” The former comes from wanting to get out into the world and find something that excites him enough to photograph, and the latter is taking pleasure in the time it takes to choose, edit and print images. Recognition came early via an award while studying at RMIT. “It felt like it had come out of nowhere but that little bit of encouragement and the little bit of money I got with the award went to a new camera, which ended up taking me much further than I had thought possible,” Christopher says. He was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, and studied an Advanced Diploma in Printing, Graphic Art and Multimedia at RMIT Melbourne. Christopher's work has been published in Vogue Living, W Magazine and GQ Australia. He has exhibited in Melbourne, London and Sydney, and his most recent show of fine art photography is at the Australian Centre for Photography until 18 October.

Which five words best describe you? Curious, contemplative, compassionate, calm, umm… Chris?

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? My career first started in Melbourne when I began renting a  studio space in the Nicholas Building with a couple of other artists. I was teaching photoshop at CAE on the weekends and creating artworks to sell at markets in Fitzroy and St Kilda. From there I slowly began working on large-scale commissioned works which later led me to take on a job in Costa Rica. I spent four years travelling around Central, South America, North America and Europe, working mainly on freelance photographic projects and selling my artwork along the way. While in London I was offered a photography/art director position with Google/Youtube where I continued working on my personal work and had a solo show entitled “The Solace of Silence”. In 2010 I moved to Argentina for a year where I assisted an Argentina photographer and continued working on my own personal work. In 2011 I returned to Australia with the bacterial infection Meningococcal in my blood and spent two years in convalescence, learning about Ayurvedic medicine and meditational practices in an effort to cure myself. In 2013 I sat my first 10-day silent meditation retreat and from there began a daily meditation practice. I think this practice has had a dramatic impact on my art practice not to mention my life as a whole.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Slow down. “To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders” - Lao Tzu.

What’s your proudest career achievement? The creation of my latest series Surface Tension is the work that I'm most proud of. The acceptance of having it shown at the Australian Centre of Photography and the great response I’ve got from people has been very humbling.

What’s been your best decision? Not to take over my father’s curtain-making business. Replacing coffee with meditation.

Who inspires you? People who have the courage to put others’ needs before there own. Who try not to take anything personally. Who are honest with themselves and the people around them. Who are authentic.

What are you passionate about? Simplifying my life. Slowing down. Expanding my focus. Deepening my perception. 

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Shakyamuni Buddha.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I’d like to have a child one day.

What are you reading? The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa

images courtesy of christopher phillips


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