Monday, 31 March 2008

designer sally campbell

Sally Campbell first caught my eye with a beautiful invite (pictured above) to her latest product launch late last year. I wanted to enter her world. But I had to wait... Sally was off to India, again, on a search for more textiles and inspiration. Who could blame her! What I didn't realise until her return that was also an incredibly successful and accomplished set and costume designer. She has worked on films such as Oscar and Lucinda and Until the End of the World. But just over two and a half years ago she launched Sally Campbell Home Textiles at Shapiro Gallery in Sydney's Woollahra. The collection was tagged "museum worthy" by homewares guru Melissa Penfold.

What five words best describe you? Passionate, stubborn, speedy, nervous, creative.
What's your proudest achievement? Re-inventing myself as a textile designer after surviving cancer.
Who inspires you? Mum, Matisse and Miyake.
What are you passionate about? India, indigo, books, gardening, art, textiles, ceramics, Japanese food and a good laugh.
What's the best lesson you've learnt? Pick yourself up, brush yourself down, and start all over again.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Intrepid explorers Jane Digby and Gertrude Bell.
What are you excited about? My next great surf.
What's next? To make more handmade, handcrafted clothes and textiles.

Images courtesy of Sally Campbell

Friday, 28 March 2008

designer melissa walsh

It's one thing to have an idea but another to put it into action... and see it through to the end. (Says the girl who is hiding in the corner with shame under her unfinished manuscript.) Melissa Walsh is a woman of action, though. Four years ago she had a light bulb moment. She was fed up with carting a whole nappy bag around filled with all sorts of paraphernalia when all she really needed was a change mat and some wipes. So she set out to create a product that contained just that. But it had to be stylish and something she could easily fit into most of her handbags. And so Melobaby was born. It went through various prototypes as she used it with her two daughters. Now the perfected product is finished and I have to say, as someone who doesn't want to stand out as a sore thumb as a Mummy with a capital M, this is one product I can't wait to use. And I've already checked - it does fit in my handbag. No day-glo colours for me! In between photo shoots and product launches Melissa stopped for a chat and told me a little more about herself.

What five words best describe you? Bright, organised, brave, vivacious and kind.
Who or what inspires you? Andy Warhol – “everything is art”.
What are you passionate about? Fairness
What has been your proudest moment? My daughter’s first day at school.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt? That I always make mistakes.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Rosa Parks
What are you excited about? Every order I get for my newly launched all-in-one nappy wallet and change mat!
What’s next? Tokyo, London and New York... and if I make enough sales hopefully put playgrounds in Africa.

Images courtesy of Melobaby.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

artist brad spalding

While visiting the ski town of Jindabyne and its surrounds I came  across Wild Brumby - a distiller that makes schnapps with flavours such as pink lady apple. At the tasting room there are a series of artworks on the walls by Brad Spalding, the man behind the business. He's a ski instructor too.

What's your background as an artist? Studied Fine Art and Design (77 - 81) - graduated and worked as a ski instructor.
Have you always had "the snow" as a subject? Snow and mountains have been my main source of inspiration over the past 30 years.
What's been the highlight of showing your work? That the viewer not only enjoys the paintings - but also finds it easy to became a part of the painting.
How regularly do you paint? One short draw or paint every day.
Who inspires you? Manly Australian artists (Whiteley, Williams and Leunig).
What's the best decision you made? To live and work in the mountains.
What project are you working on at the moment? To finish a few paintings in my studio and have a good tidy up before winter comes.

images courtesy of wild brumby

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

designer emma goody

And now for something a little decadent. It's all the work of Emma Goody, though. So how did this self-described "lovely girl" end up creating cushions for a living? It started with her love of ballet - there's the theatrical element for you - and the inconsistency of the work. So she started Emma Jay Designs. Now in its fifth year, the range is stocked in more than 400 shops across Australia. Not bad, Miss Goody.

What five words best describe you? Theatrical, quirky, feminine, passionate, spirited.
What’s your proudest achievement? Emma Jay Designs
Who inspires you? Creative people with a strong sense of humanity.
What are you passionate about? Designing soft furnishings, enhancing the aesthetic comfort of living spaces.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt? To understand the impermanence of everything so as to live completely in the moment.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Myself at the end of my life, to impart wisdom beyond my years.
What are you excited about? The incredible beauty that one can find in the simple things in life.
What’s next? To further enrich my life with friendship and real experiences.

Images courtesy of Emma Jay Designs.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

writer georgia blain

That's it. Next year I'm packing my bags and heading to Writers' Week at the Adelaide Festival. While I've enjoyed the talks at its Sydney counterpart for some time, I was jealous of those who were attending the South Australian version. Peter Carey was there, for heaven's sake! And Ian McEwan, Geraldine Brooks, David Malouf, Germaine Greer, Georgia Blain... I truly feel awful that I didn't go this year. But as consolation I did get a chance to hear from Georgia about her latest book Births Deaths Marriages, which I loved. Actually, that's a great consolation.

What five words best describe you? Sometimes pleasant and sometimes not.
What's your proudest achievement? Being published twice in
Granta - an English literary journal I admire above all others.
Who inspires you? Germaine Greer
What are you passionate about? Brave creative work that gets you in the head and the heart.
What's the best lesson you've learnt? You can't teach an old dog new tricks.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Edmund White - I admire his autobiographical writing hugely.
What was the catalyst for writing your first novel? A mentorship with the
Australian Society of Authors - it helped me to have the courage to take writing seriously.
Has the process of creation changed with subsequent books? Every book is very different - the only thing that stays the same is the battle against the self doubt.
Births Deaths Marriages is written with such honesty - where did you find the courage? From my mother - she kept telling me to keep going.
What's next? I have no idea!

Image courtesy of Random House and Georgia Blain

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

have you met miss jones

From fashion to fabric - for cushions, that is. It's not a huge jump, but starting your own business is nothing to sneeze at, especially when you walk away from a role that's as prestigious as managing director for Diesel in Australia. This Miss Jones has a lot of guts. And style, too, as you'll see on her online homewares shop Have You Met Miss Jones. So, have you met Jennifer Jones?

How and why did you start Have You Met Miss Jones? My parents have always had a homewares business in the Philippines where we used to live. After leaving Diesel to start my own fashion distribution company they convinced me to exhibit at a gift and homewares trade fair with some products they have been selling to the UK and Europe. It was a test to see if the Australian market wanted the collection. The response was fantastic and was the sign that we had a business here. I also still run the fashion company with a partner who I met in Diesel.
What has been the response? The response to our products has been overwhelming. From the first trade fair to the reaction I get when something is featured in a magazine. The translucence of the bone china is something everyone loves.
How is having your own business different to what you expected? Having your own business challenges you in every way – emotionally and physically when the containers come in and need to be unpacked. What has turned out to be unexpected is the support you get from other business owners. I’ve formed a tight group of “colleagues” who own their own businesses and we talk every day. This has been essential since you don’t have the usual network in the office to bounce ideas off. We have Friday night drinks and a Christmas party, too!
What has been a highlight? Going back to the Philippines and doing business with suppliers that have known me since I was a kid was a real highlight. Also showing the people working in the bone china factory their products featured in beautiful magazines. They get so excited and inspired.
Where do you look to for inspiration? I like to spot trends in overseas magazines and newspapers. I love department stores like
Selfridges and pour over their website. Fashion has a heavy influence and so websites like Topshop show me a quick snapshot of what is going on in Europe. Plus, I have some great friends overseas and we swap ideas all the time.
What's the best lesson you've learnt? Go with your gut instinct. In the last two years there have been times when I’ve ignored it and the situations always became problems. Also, pay for quality, if someone is willing to do something cheap for you then there is usually a reason.
What are you passionate about right now? Beauty in regular everyday objects. Simple objects being captured in pure white bone china and transformed. Our bone china milk bottle was the bestseller at the fair and was one of the simplest items with clean lines.
What are you looking forward to? I’m looking forward to my next production trip to the Philippines. We work really hard for a week then we take off to the island of Boracay and have massages every day on the beach. It’s the perfect work/play holiday. Plus, I bump into a relative at least every 5 minutes!
What are you reading? Jennifer Jones won’t leave me alone! It’s a kids' book I read to my goddaughter Charlie about a persistent little girl called Jennifer Jones who chases a boy at school. Sounds familiar...

Images courtesy of Have You Met Miss Jones.

Monday, 17 March 2008

artist william mobbs

"Lillies and Poppies"


"Painting 1 (detail)"

"Ada (after Rembrandt)"

Typical - it's been quiet on the western front for weeks then I have two commitments on the same afternoon. So I didn't end up making it to the opening of William Mobbs' exhibition at Newtown Fine Art Traders. But, hopefully, I'll be able to sneak in a visit before it closes on April 7. These works remind me of other pieces - bought in South Africa - that hang in a friend's parents home. I could stare at them for hours. Here's what William has to say:

What five words best describe you? Paint, Earthboy, paint, paint, paint.
What was the inspiration behind the pieces in this exhibition? No single inspiration, but an nth of the sum of things you perceive as worthwhile picturing.
What's your proudest achievement? Being able to afford linen to paint on instead of appropriating Carolyn’s mum’s Irish Linen tea towels.
Who inspires you? Gordon Bennett, Andrew Frost (the one I went to art school with), Carolyn, Sylvie and Ella.
What are you passionate about? Change and some warps & wefts of continuum, a constant tidelike paradigm shift.
What's the best lesson you've learnt? To respect intuition.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Liz, when she picks us up in her second-hand car.
What are you excited about? A laksa with Liz, Carolyn, Sylvie and Ella.
What's next? To make better art...

Images courtesy of
William Mobbs and Newtown Fine Art Traders.

Friday, 14 March 2008

photographer esoule

It helps to have an office of Etsy fans. It helps because I'm discovering some beautiful pieces of artwork and all things handmade. Another reason - because, just like eBay, Etsy is one of those black hole places where time is lost and I'm frightened to enter too keenly. So, it's wonderful when someone like our deputy art director Renae points out something she's found, such as these delicious works by Esoule. You can get them as greeting cards, which is exactly what I'm going to do. Thanks Renae!

Images courtesy of Esoule.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

photographer cath conroy

One of the great discoveries during my recent trip to Brisbane was meeting photographer Alan Jensen... no, make that two of the great discoveries because Alan introduced me to the work of his partner Cath Conroy, a great photographer in her own right. And a ball of energy, as you'll soon discover:

What five words best describe you? Driven, persistent, expressive, talkative, multi-tasker.
What's your proudest achievement? The first time I wrote "photographer" as my occupation on a travel departure card.
Who inspires you?
PJ Harvey, Steven Klein, Bill Henson, Michel Gondry. My girlfriend Katie (who gave up her job to work half way around the world on a yacht) for having the courage to challenge what life holds for us.
What are you passionate about? Beautiful stationery and cards for handwritten notes, the beach and blue skies, Turkish delight and cups of tea, music and world maps. Being the best I can be and making a valuable contribution.
What's the best lesson you've learnt? It's tried and true: you get out what you put in.
Which person living or dead would you most like to meet?
Nan Goldin for her beautiful pictures and rich life.
What are you excited about? Mario Testino's book - Let me in.
What's next? Learning a languague (one day), making beautiful pictures, travelling the world, a weekend off.

Images courtesy of
Cath Conroy.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

top3 by design

Italian Progetti random clocks.
Mondrian vase from Denmark.

Argentinean Poggio keyrings and rings made from anodised aluminium.
"Ringstack" ring collection by Australian George Plionis.

Terri: the "editor" of Top3 By Design.

Choice. Yep, it's getting harder to make decisions about what to buy, where to shop, when to stop... Well, that's how I feel. So the idea behind Top3 By Design is great: someone has done all the hard work for us. And that someone is Terri Winter. She has narrowed down those endless choices to three of the best in each category, such as book shelves, cushions and storage jars, among many, many other items. Here's how it all started:

How and why did you start Top3 By Design? We started in 2001 in response to lack of an extensive, innovative, design-focused accessories and object collection in Australia. Top3 is an edited selection: we stock up to three products per category, deemed the best in the world by merit of design.
What has been the response? Top3 gets a lot of international attention because of its edited collection. The individual products are ALL available somewhere around the world, it is the edited selection of them in one place that sets us apart. Getting access to the ideas is not as difficult these days as it was in the past (with the use of the internet). Absorbing, assessing and ultimately refining options is what I do. Curating or editing the selection of products is really the new holy grail. There is a lot of great design out there. There are plenty of people who want to buy great-quality, innovative products, but have not been offered the environment to do so. Top3 takes out the guesswork and ensures the research into quality and functionality is done so buying can become far more emotive. This completely changes the customer’s experience when buying at Top3 and we have enjoyed some great feedback from that.
What five words best describe the store? Design, innovation, quality, style, edited.
What product can’t customers get enough of? Right now some of the more coveted items are
- Argentinean Poggio keyrings and rings made from anodised aluminium.
- Italian Progetti random clocks
- San Francisco design Josh Jakus felt collection of bags and wine totes.
- The Australian "bowlboard"
- The gorgeous Helen lampshades were a hit over Christmas.
- Eva solo bathroom and kitchen soap dispenser has a struck a chord!
- "Ringstack" ring collection by Australian George Plionis
- Mondrian vase from Denmark
Where do you look to for inspiration? I have just returned from a “designer buying tour” covering two trade fairs in Paris and Frankfurt as well as visiting Helsinki, Copenhagen and New York to meet with designers and find new exciting products and innovations. I am also an internet addict, spending hours and hours on design award websites and design blogsites. A lot of designers or brands from around the world approach us with their designs at an early stage now, so we really have a lot upfront knowledge of what is due on market.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I was blessed to meet Vivianna Torun prior to her death so would have to say Arne Jacobsen, the indisputable design genius of the last century.
What are you reading? At the moment I am reading One hundred & One Beautiful Towns in Italy – a food & wine guide one of my favourite places on earth!
What’s next? Top3 has several opportunities at the moment, we are exploring a couple of them very closely. We are certainly due to expand into Melbourne fairly soon… Also, the website is always undergoing updates and growth, so there will be a lot more information coming online in 2008 and more benefits to Top3 subscribers – they are the supporters who are helping us grow, and we want to be able to thank them more in the future.

Images courtesy of Top3 By Design.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

catherine deneuve - part i

Catherine Deneuve is in Sydney at the moment as a guest of the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival. It got me thinking about what an amazing woman she really is:

Because she is a mighty fine actress.
Because she stayed mostly away from Hollywood but still (perhaps because of it) had an exceptional career.
Because she was a peer with Brigitte Bardot but didn't let her style go to the dogs (no offence, Brigitte).
Because she was amazing in Dancer in the Dark and followed it up with something completely different: 8 Women.
Because she has wrinkles and looks better with them.
Because she was named the new face of L'Oreal at age 57.

Image courtesy of Louis Vuitton.

Monday, 10 March 2008

designer jo neville

If there is such a thing as stationery heaven then it must look something like the shop Paper Couture in Sydney's Paddington. Owner Jo Neville has not only created a beautiful space to browse (and buy, of course!) - it's packed full of interior decorating ideas such as the gorgeous old wooden library card holders - but it's also filled with dreamy stationery. Yes, there is such a thing. Jo's passionate about all things papery, and with good reason...

How and why did you originally start Paper Couture? Paper Couture began as a stationery store specialising in bespoke stationery from correspondence to wedding and event work. It's a stationery store that specialises in its own brand of home-grown stationery: we do not rely on imported brands. The idea behind it works when people know the meaning of bespoke!
What where you doing previously? As a graphic designer I was designing other people's corporate identity and annual reports. However, I was more interested in the paper they were to be printed on.
What has been the response? Those who "get" Paper Couture love it and can almost become addicted - those who don't - email!
What has been a highlight? I was asked to design and create couture dresses using white paper for a fashion catwalk - it worked.
Where do you look to for inspiration? Everywhere. Everyday colour, movement and nature. At the moment I am sitting in my local cafe, the sun is throwing some of the most amazing shadows of the trees onto the road, the silhouettes are beautiful - there is something in that.
What's the best lesson you've learnt? I would like to think that it is still to come - we are always learning, that is the lesson. When you stop learning in what you are doing change direction, do something new.
What are you passionate about right now? Recycling papery things from my childhood. Atlases, childrens books; the images we grew up with printed on old paper - to turn these forgotten pages into another object to evoke nostalgia for the recipient - that is excitement, that is correspondence.
If you could meet one person, living or dead, who would it be? Tord Boontje - I love that he has created design objects of beauty that are recognised all over the world.
What are you looking forward to? Finally creating my website - help!
What are you reading?
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby. Life is so precious but you never know what is going to happen - it is an inspiring true story.

Images courtesy of Jo Neville and real living

Friday, 7 March 2008

jodie fried, bholu...contd

Yes, I was greedy. Wanting to showcase far too many people on Design*Sponge. It was so incredibly hard to leave people out. So on the last day of my stint as guest blogger I decided to give you a snippet about each of these inspiring women. Here's more about what gets their creative juices bubbling.

More from Jodie Fried at

How would you describe the Bholu style? Bholu style is fresh, textural and contemporary. The lines and the freehand swirls give it a spirit of movement that works in any interior. I love mixing all the designs together as it creates a kind of beautiful movement. One design is called "Sas Lena" which means "to breathe" I feel that's what the free lines and designs might do to a space.
Why has India played such an important role in Bholu and why India? The funny thing is, I ended up in India for an entirely different reason. Through sheer accident and wrong time, wrong place (natural disasters) I fell in love with the country and it's people. I have experienced such highs and lows of India, and seen such compassion, love and humanity through these people. Bholu only exists because of India and my time there. I have dreams to do the same thing but in South Africa using the same philosophy and template as what I have now set up in India. It is such a wonderful way to have this cultural exchange but keep a traditional craft alive in a contemporary way.
Why did you decide to give back to the local communities? The decision to give back to these people was actually the catalyst for the whole company after the earthquake. Having the children do the drawings and workshops and rebuilding their schools was a natural extension of our work and involvement in their communities. All these things lead to another - every development has been very organic. It is such an inspiration to be able to see the improvement our help is making with these communities, especially the children. Their faces light up and we see them growing and getting healthier month by month. It is wonderful.
Can you explain the role the locals take in producing the products? We have many people involved in the products. Women are employed per product to do the embroidery; we have local men doing the stitching and the final packing. We have hundreds of children involved in the workshops and art programs which we hold in the slum communities. We are rebuilding several schools which also employ local men for the construction and women for the decorating, all of which help sustain incomes and the community economy.
Where do you look to for design inspiration? I find design inspiration comes to me when I am least expecting it. It's great to keep an eye on what's happening elsewhere, but I count on my inspiration to come from places which I am exposed to from my travels and imagination. I prefer to draw on ideas and inspiration which come to me from a way that is not contrived or strained. Often I might find inspiration in something as unexpected as a bag of bright red beans in a local Indian market or something that is naturally overwhelming in pattern, texture and colour. I think I like to look at ordinary everyday scenarios and find design qualities in the unexpected.
How has your own personal interior style developed? Yes, I used to be much more eclectic and a bit of a hoarder, a real bower bird. I find that now, with such a creative space filled with colour, texture and inspiration during the day, I find that my home needs to be simple and monochromatic in order for me to feel a sense of rest and peace. I am much more selective in what I collect.
What’s next? We are about to release a range of Bholu rugs, which we are very excited about. It is Bholu on floor! The rugs are 100% New Zealand felted yarn and are handmade in India with the same philosophies. The colour and texture is divine, definitely have to feel these with your feet!

Images courtesy of Bholu.


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