Thursday, 21 August 2014


UK-born landscape designer Christopher Nicholas took a little detour last year in Morocco. A client had commissioned him to travel there to source pots for their new garden. Before he left word got out among his other clients, and Chris had a long request list. The sourcing trip took him along the long roads that wind through the Atlas Mountains near Marrakech, through nearby villages and out into the Sahara Dessert. "With the help of a guide and a few words of Arabic we wandered down alleyways, behind the walls of riads, and across roof tops until we found, in the baking sun, beautiful clusters of antique pots," Chris says. "No longer being used for storing dates, olives and yak butter, I could see their potential for my clients' gardens back home." Home, back then, was the UK. It was his base to work on gardens in the UK, France and Italy for the best part of a decade. More recently he has returned to Australia, where he completed school, and has been busy creating gardens in Sydney. He has also just opened a container of Moroccan pots, which he plans to wholesale and retail.

Which five words best describe you? Creative, intuitive, particular, sensitive and funny (if the mood takes me).

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Eleven was the age when I was enveloped by a passion for plants. Living in Kent in England, I remember distinctly getting out of the car from school for the summer holidays and my mother had done the pots in front of our home. I cringe with the thought but I remember lilac-coloured Lobelia catching my eye. That was 25 years ago. It's all been about gardens since. 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Not to worry and that second thoughts are invaluable.

What’s your proudest career achievement? I did a great garden for the National Trust at Lindesay, Darling Point. I was given free range to interpret a historical garden. It was the first big project I did after returning from Europe and had longed to use the plant material I was thinking about while I was away. I still oversee it today.

What’s been your best decision? Working for myself, scary at first but necessary.

Who inspires you? William Kent.

What are you passionate about? Restoration.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? William Kent, although meeting your heroes...

What dream do you still want to fulfil? A garden of my own.

What are you reading? Beautiful ruins by Jess Walter.

images courtesy of christopher nicholas

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


It's not often you hear of someone make the transition from interior design to art. Then again not everyone lives the peripatetic life of someone who is married to a professional sports player. It is a life that has seen Danielle Cross move from Sydney to Perth for four years with a young family then back to Sydney and off to Perpignan in southern France for six months before returning to Sydney again. It was during her time overseas that she started to focus on creating art. Even though she has been working on a few interior design jobs, the lure is always towards the canvas. Since her return to Sydney Danielle has exhibited at The Sydney Children's Hospital in Randwick and held a few pop-up art shows. A selection of her works are available through The Design Hunter and Greenhouse Interiors.

Which five words best describe you? Blended, visual, determined, interested, bold.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Coming from a creative family my early years always included some form of art and design. Through visual arts in secondary school to studying interior design at Design Centre Enmore, the need to create was always at the foreground. This also gave my a great knowledge and grounding in design elements and colour psychology. While travelling and living abroad my art became “serious” then I started to receive painting commissions and exposure. When I relocated back to Sydney I held numerous pop-up art shows which were a great success, and it has been a natural progression from there.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? I can't go past the saying, "Luck is a skill". We work hard to put ourselves in a position to be lucky.

What’s your proudest career achievement? I have a strong belief in giving back and being chosen to exhibit my artwork in The Sydney Children's Hospital is probably my proudest moment to date. With all the sadness and hardship that goes with treating and caring for the kids, I really felt a great sense of gratitude to be able to, even in the smallest way, change the thoughts and emotions of the children and their families. I saw first-hand their faces turn from their hospital reality to a smiling conversation about which artworks they liked the best.

What’s been your best decision? It has to be believing in myself. Belief in my ability to create and belief in my ability to listen to my instincts. This has helped me creatively and on a personal and an everyday level.

Who inspires you? My daughters, Marley & Evy Jude. I never knew love and I never knew crazy and amazing humour until these two arrived!

What are you passionate about? Empowering kids with the belief that really anything is possible. I am passionate about listening to and learning about people's stories. Everyone has an amazing and interesting story.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Picasso - to ask him at what point did he know when his artwork was complete.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Too many. I wake up with new ones each day... six months’ painting and eating in Italy... maybe an MCA exhibition.

What are you reading? Thrive by Arianna Huffington.

images courtesy of danielle cross

Tuesday, 19 August 2014


Travel informs the work of up-and-coming design duo Yasmine Ghoniem and Katy Svalbe as much as it does their life. They are sisters - half-sisters, in fact - who formed the firm Amber Road Design in April 2013, bringing with them skills and experience in the areas of interior design and landscape architecture, respectively. Their story is an interesting one, and begins with their parents. They have the same mother, but different fathers. Yasmine was born in Kuwait, and has lived there and in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Dubai, as well as America, where she attended university and worked in the interior design industry. On her return to Australia, she reconnected with Katy, who had been living and working in Madrid for six years. Just before heading to Europe for a month, they shared the rest of their story:


Which five words best describe you? Animated, passionate, honest, driven, a dreamer.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? After graduating from the Savannah College of Art and Design in the States I drove across the country in my very run down red station wagon and landed in Portland, Oregon. I worked with several architectural practices as an illustrator (despite having a BFA in Interior Design) for three years until I got itchy feet and decided I'd go travelling for a year. I did six months of volunteer work in Kenya and Vietnam and loved it, but ran out of money so was forced to make a decision as to where I wanted to plant my seeds. I was at a crossroads when I returned to Sydney in 2007. I had been globetrotting, uprooting and relocating for most of my life, so coming home was like visiting a new country in a way. I worked with a small design studio for 18 months initially and quickly realised I wanted to open my own practice. In 2008, I started working solo until my sister Katy moved back from Madrid in 2011. We worked together on an exciting brief for a project in Shanghai, which reignited our desire to collaborate. In April 2013 we launched Amber Road, finally combining both our disciplines; interior design and landscape architecture; a dream that had been in the making since we were kids.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Perseverance. Stick it out and the goods will come.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Keeping a small business afloat for two years. It's been one hell of a ride so far. It's hard work, but I wouldn't change it for the world.

What’s been your best decision? Taking the plunge into the unknown and working for myself, with Katy.

Who inspires you? Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor is my most recent source of inspiration. I just saw that movie Tim's Vermeer, and I gotta say he's one dedicated and focused man.

What are you passionate about? Music, community and more music.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Frida Kahlo, for sure. Or David Bowie, for the living.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? If I told you, I'd have to kill you. Let's just say it has something to do with changing the way we live.

What are you reading? Tracks, Steve Jobs and Grace Coddington - I love bios, and about to start my mate’s book Here come the dogs by Omar Musa.


Which five words best describe you? Curious, passionate, grateful, thought-full, on-a-mission.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Post completing a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Western Australia, my career commenced working at a large interdisciplinary firm Hassell, Sydney, devising long-term visions for the hectares of parklands surrounding the Sydney Olympic Village at Homebush. Post Hassell, I became one of the founding team of Sydney's most respected landscape firms Aspect Studios, and helped build that once small company from the ground up.

Six years into professional life, itchy feet got the better of me and I spent a year globetrotting; visiting my family, which at that time was spread between Egypt, Europe and the States, absorbing landscape projects I had always wanted to visit, and working in London. It was during this trip that I went to visit my sister, who at the time was finishing off her studies in Savannah, Georgia. Whilst walking around the site, that was to become the focus of her final project, the seed of working together was planted - although it took another 10 years to take root!

Post my year of globetrotting, I returned to Sydney, and picked up where I left off at Aspect Studios, before getting a craving for some more significant life/work experience overseas, which took me to Madrid, Spain. Here I had the opportunity to do both some freelance work as well as work for one of Madrid's largest landscape practices. Projects ranged from designing public spaces and street furniture for a new city that was emerging on the outskirts of the city, just near Madrid airport, the design of the garden rooms associated with the Spanish Ambassdor's quarters in Canberra Australia - who would have dreamt! - to the design and construction of a garden installation in Bilbao, northern Spain.

Six years later, hungry to reunite with family and put my diverse life and professional experience to the test, I came back home to Sydney. At this moment the Amber Road journey commenced.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Trust your instincts, generally your first idea is the right one.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Starting a business with my sister.

What’s been your best decision? Returning home, putting down roots and embracing all this glorious city and country has to offer.

Who inspires you? Michael Reynolds - father of the Earthship movement.

What are you passionate about? Art, design, music, permaculture, all things landscape.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Dead - Hundertwasser. Alive - Mike Patton.

What dream do you still want to fulfil?  Self sufficiency - amongst community.

What are you reading? Getting ready for 10 days in Berlin - Anna Funder's Stasiland.

images courtesy of amber road design and prue ruscoe

Monday, 18 August 2014


Even when you reach a level of success in your career, there can still be much to learn. For Jonathan Cami, it took advice from a fellow photographer to get him inspired all over again. After working for many years on advertising shoots for clients such as Nike, Audi and San Miguel in Barcelona, Jonathan started to feel that photography was becoming a job rather than his passion. So he started retraining his eye, shooting items of interest every day. Jonathan has since left advertising work behind and is now focussing on editorial - and since moving to Australia has been shooting for magazines such as Monocole, Inside Out and Virgin Australia’s Voyeur. Some of the images he shot before leaving Europe, seen above, can be found and purchased via The Incredible Picture Machine.

Which five words best describe you? Well, you can choose between these: short, bearded, bald, tattooed, thin... or stubborn, cheeky, organised, impulsive, funny.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? My career started many, many years ago in Barcelona, assisting an advertising photographer. When I moved overseas I left advertising behind, trying to re-start my career focussing on editorial... still trying to make a career of it.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? My mentor and friend, Damien Laurent, a London-based photographer/director from Blinkk, taught me how to love every bit of photography, how to be passionate about photography again. After many years of working in advertising in Barcelona, photography had become just a job and Damien changed that, made me get my camera every day and shoot everything.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Some art directors send me to a shoot without any other direction than, “Do what you usually do, we love your portraits”. 

What’s been your best decision? To leave Barcelona behind and follow my (now) wife overseas. This decision has brought me an awesome daughter and changed my career totally - much, much less money but much, much more satisfaction.

Who inspires you? Henri Cartier-Bresson or any of the photographers of the Magnum agency.

What are you passionate about? My family, reading books, travelling and taking photos of abandoned cars.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I'm not a mythomaniac, but probably I would have love to have had a conversation with Nestor Almendros.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? For someone to pay me to travel and take photos - and publish them in a book. 

What are you reading? Crónica del Alba, a series of nine novels from Ramón J. Sender. One of the pillars of Spanish literature and a powerful testimony of Spain from the early 20th century until the civil war.

images courtesy of jonathan cami

Friday, 15 August 2014


At the top of the stairs of Galleria Vicino in Potts Point there are two artworks by Sydney-based artist Tania Mason. Before she commenced a guided tour of the main exhibition downstairs, she pointed to them and said they were a starting point for her in many ways. After the birth of her son a few years ago she was itching to create on a grand scale. The works marked the transition towards a new body of work, shown above.  The idea behind the exhibition, A story of an intelligent sleeping beauty, was triggered while Tania was on a residency at The Bundanoon Trust and discovered the book. She was compelled to illustrate the tale, and due to the nature of the original source, she has created illustrations and text for a book, as well as artworks and homewares accessories. Up until this exhibition Tania had a four-year break from exhibiting, but already she is preparing works for an upcoming exhibition at Arthouse Gallery.

Which five words best describe you? Child-like, happy, aloof, creative... I don’t have a fifth!

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Age 11, I watched a Sydney 1980s Les Miserable stage come to life and decided that was it; I wanted to make people feel that. I wanted to become a stage designer. So I worked very hard towards it. I was accepted into NIDA but went over at age 20 and found art! I thought why not learn my “stage design” craft via art, and ended up sticking with it. Since art school my career path has been about developing a practice, getting work out there and exploring what I enjoy; via meeting people, creating and enjoying life through making art.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Move on. Ask yourself true questions. And it’s okay to doubt yourself.

What’s your proudest career achievement? To be commissioned to respond to the centenary relationship between Ballet Dancers and Artists: I was commissioned to respond to The Australian Ballet's Fire Bird and other legends in 2009 Choreographed by Graham Murphy. An amazing and inspiring experience!

What’s been your best decision? I think the best decision I made in life are not one but many! Maybe realising at a young age I wanted to create things allowed me to be comfortable with the world around me. Another decision would probable be establishing an art practise after art school, having a child and being happy with the decisions I make, not regretting things. 

Who inspires you? William Kentridge. Christian Boltanski. Paper - I love working on and with paper; I have too many ideas and not enough time.

What are you passionate about? Raising my son, and the environment - cliche, I know, but I have even completed two exhibitions concerning the environment. It concerns me that we are not looking after it or looking after the future. Art-wise I am passionate about not producing work that is “fashion based”! But passionate about creating new works that inspire, relax and generally get people thinking but within an aesthetic way. I don’t believe we need to exclude people from art nor think the public is dumb when it comes to viewing art.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? William Kentridge. Christian Boltanski. River Phoenix (of course!).

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I would love to travel a lot. At the moment all I would like to do is travel through Italy and explore its art, people and food. In relation to art, I would like to create works that move people the way that stage did many moons ago - to create something that people enter and are empowered by - that’s a dream I would like to fulfill and give.

What are you reading? Arthur Boyd: A life by Darleen Bungey.

images courtesy of tania mason


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