Friday, 30 July 2010


One of the best speeches I've heard at an event was by Julie Paterson. It was a little bit of a surprise given that she's a textile designer who's probably best know for her beautiful shop selling her fabrics and homewares in Sydney's Surry Hills. You see, Julie wrote the speech as a narrative-style account of her life growing up and how she fell in love with fabric and design. As someone who stood next to me said, "Give this woman a book deal." Julie is a tour-de-force on the Australian design scene. She has several collaborations under her belt, including one with Designer Rugs (pictured above). And because of her steely determination, you never know quite what she's going to do next. Watch this space.

Which five words best describe you? Optimistic, energetic, relentless, honest and resilient.

What was your first job? Head textile designer to Anna French fabric house in London.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Trust your instincts.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Runnning this business for 15 years without wavering on the set of beliefs we started out with.

What’s been your best decision? To produce locally.

Who inspires you? Everyone who follows their own path.

What are you passionate about? Affordable, accessible art and design

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Barbara Hepworth

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Becoming a full-time painter.

What are you reading? Notes from an exhibition by Patrick Gale.

images courtesy of julie paterson (portrait) and geoff sumner for designer rugs (excluding image #4)

Thursday, 29 July 2010

fashion designer lisa gorman

Lisa Gorman stands alone when it comes to Australian fashion design. She dances to her own drum. She was producing organic clothes (that were affordable!) when everyone else was coming to grasp with what that was. Her clothes are feminine, playful and colourful while always keeping one eye on trends and the other on wearability. Lisa, herself, is an altogether giving person, as you'll find out...

These images were taken backstage of her Spring Summer 2011 collection, which I was lucky enough to see a few weeks back at The Gazebo Wine Garden.

Which five words best describe you?
Always busy in the mind.

What was your first career job and what path have you taken since?
Nursing. I finished my degree after high school and worked at the the Royal Melbourne Hospital part-time for 8 years thereafter. I’d always thought fashion was more for me, and applied for a retail/vm position at Mariana Hardwick (bridal couturier) in Melbourne in 1995, eventually becoming her designer and then I sort of stumbled into doing Gorman as a one-show-exhibition at FAT52 in 1999. I kept nursing all this time; I liked nursing – it kept me in balance. Gorman evolved into a “real” business in 2003 and I stopped nursing and my design job at Mariana Hardwick to put my attention into my own business. I wasn’t at all keen on business, which is why I avoided it for a few years even though it was somehow growing. In the end I either had to do it properly or leave it… So I thought I should try my hand at business and see what might happen.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Don’t go too fast. Use your instincts. Know which advice to take and which to leave (as there’s loads of it out there). Know when you should be doing it yourself and when it needs a higher level of input. The lessons are endless really… it’s one great big long continuous lesson.

What’s your proudest career achievement? I’m pleased I stuck with “Gorman Organic” when it didn’t make any money in its first few years. Now, six years on, it was worth the patience and belief it would work.

What’s been your best decision? To find the right business partner when the time was right. Realistically, designers need to focus on designing and creative direction. As a business grows you need to separate yourself to a certain extent so you can have time to do what you do best. This decision for me has meant less work stress, better business results and allows me to pick my kids up from kinder and hang out with them a lot more often, which is super important to me.

Who inspires you? Everyday people doing everyday stuff… nothing outrageous, more the subtleties of life.

What are you passionate about? The seasons, colour, nature, social habits of people.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I’d like to have met my father’s father, Daniel Gorman. Apparently he was a great man. He has a fascinating moustache in his portrait that makes him a most curious chap.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Right now I have a very short-term dream of finishing my AW11 collection by this Friday’s deadline. Other than that, I’d like to live in France or Italy for a year with Dean (my husband) and our two girls before they get too old and think this idea sounds more like torture than an awesomely long cultural holiday.

What are you reading? Dirt Music by Tim Winton.

images courtesy of lisa gorman

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

aesop's suzanne santos

I'm a sucker for a clever idea. Take last year when I saw a parcel sitting on a colleague's desk. It was a nicely shaped wooden box with a logo and product name on the top - nothing unusual about that, you might think. But here's the clever part. The skincare product range by Aesop was called John Keats, a poet who I have more than a soft spot for. I rushed out and bought it that lunchtime. It was a treat to open the box. Inside was tissue paper printed with the poet's sonnets (which I've kept). Then there were the products. Beautifully designed, and just smelling them made me think I was giving my skin a healthy treat.

I really admire Aesop for not only it's integrity but its many collaborations, too. The first image above is the company's Mayfair store, which was designed by one of my favourites - Ilse Crawford. And the second image is the work of Ryan Russell, who I recently interviewed for Real Living. Now, meet Suzanne Santos, who has been with the company since the beginning.

Which five words best describe you? Delighted. To. Be. A. Woman.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since? My first job was in a pharmacy in Ballarat, the town in which I grew up. I worked in the pharmacy during the school holidays for three Christmases. Later, I attended university, starting but not completing two degrees, one in Applied Biology, one in Arts. I filled the time around these studies by working for welfare agencies. I worked with indigenous people in Perth, then for an organisation that helped families in need in Victoria. For the past 23 years I have held various roles at Aesop.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? I’ve learned the world is full of opportunities to give, share and listen.
What’s your proudest achievement? Beginning involved with Aesop. We began with radical, honest intentions and have stayed true to them. What’s been your best decision? To become a parent.
Who inspires you? I am in awe of women and men who rise up against brutally in the name of freedom.
What are you passionate about? Human rights.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? The world is full of remarkable people who make an impact and are neither famous nor celebrated, but have lives that are fascinating and of enormous worth.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? For a long time, I have wanted to walk across India, moving through village and urban areas, observing the wonder of that country and its people.
What are you reading? Cloud, Castle, Lake by Vladimir Nabokov, a story that explores totalitarianism, memory, and notions of happiness.

images courtesy of aesop

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

photographer liz ham

I think the images speak for themselves. Meet Sydney photographer Liz Ham. Her work has appeared in magazines such as Vogue, GQ and Oyster. I urge you to check out the many other amazing images on her website - especially her beauty work. I couldn't resist sharing this series.

Which five words best describe you?
Happy, enthusiastic, particular, maternal and sometimes frustrated!
What was your first job and what path have you taken since? My first job as a teenager was in a hairdressing salon as a shampoo girl. After finishing high school I worked as a black and white printer in a photographic lab, which pretty much led me to become a photographer!
What's the best lesson you've learnt along the way?
Learn one thing well.

What's your proudest achievement?
A toss up between seeing my work published in Vogue, winning the Yen Young Woman of the Year Award for Photography in 2008, and working with some beautiful kids in Liverpool, UK to produce their very own photo shoots for the Liverpool Biennale 2006.

What's been your best decision? To buy that very expensive medium format camera when I was broke: you have to jump in the deep end sometimes and just go for it!
Who inspires you?
My peers mostly. I am more inspired by the passionate artists, photographers and musicians I know than anyone else. I feel very driven when I am surrounded by others who are doing what they love and loving it.

What are you passionate about?
I think having worked with under-privileged kids, and since having a child of my own it is children that I care most about. Whitney Houston really was on the money, but seriously I am constantly charmed, amazed and in awe of their amazing wisdom and insight into our crazy world.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I would love to meet Diane Arbus. She has always been my favorite photographer, I was lucky enough to catch a retrospective of her life and work in London a few years ago and literally spent a day in the gallery!
What dream do you still want to fulfill? To publish a book of my work - a cliche but true.
What are you reading?
Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins, which is so clever, amazing and hilarious, and Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald, this one has taken me a while but I'm getting there!

images courtesy of liz ham

Monday, 26 July 2010

artist patricia casey

I keep thinking about a conversation I had with Patricia Casey recently. We were at a lunch at NG Art Gallery - where she is about to hold her latest exhibition - and she was telling me the story about how she became an artist. Patricia was married with young children and lived a "regular" life. But there was part of herself that she realised she had been suppressing - her artist side. And so when all her friends were settling down, Patricia turned her life around and enrolled in art college. It wasn't an easy transition but she said she felt an enormous weight lift when she followed the internal pull to create - as well as a sense of contentment.

Which five words best describe you? Eccentric, enthusiastic, empathetic, faithful & funny.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since? My first job was part-time at age 15 in Woolworths on the cigarette counter. I wore a uniform with a zipper up the front and cork platform shoes. Thursday nights, Saturday mornings and school holidays were spent at the cash register. Since then I've been a secretary, worked for a politician, as a recruiter and I've even done some factory work to make ends meet. Now my art practice and teaching occupies me full time.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Listen to my inner voice - it's usually right. Intuition is a powerful thing.
What’s your proudest career achievement? I'm proud of my life as an artist. The good times are matched with the leaner times, but it's an authentic life. I've won a few art prizes and been included in some prestigious exhibitions, but meeting people who understand my work and find it meaningful to them is one of the most rewarding aspects of my career.
What was the starting point for this exhibition? I read a lot of literary fiction and have just finished re-reading the works of Janet Frame. Her novels deal with remembering, forgetting, secret worlds and private spaces and I was inspired by these themes. The link between memory and imagination is also intriguing and I explored these ideas with this body of work.
What’s been your best decision? Apart from marrying my husband, my best decision has been to embrace my life as an artist. I went to art school as a mature age student of 35, with three small children, which was a huge undertaking in so many ways, but it has enriched my life.
Who inspires you? My husband - he is a genuinely good person. I admire my mother's strength.
What are you passionate about? Family, art, sleeping in, chocolate, reading, summer at the beach and my dog.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Siri Hustvedt and Paul Auster - New York's foremost literary couple.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? I'd love to travel and to be able to take my time exploring.
What are you reading? On my bedside table I have Janet Frame's Scented Gardens for the Blind, Steig Larsson The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Siri Hustvedt The Shaking Woman (Or a History of My Nerves).

images courtesy of patricia casey and ng art gallery

Friday, 23 July 2010

recommended reading

It seems fitting to follow a book about the vacuous life of Hollywood types with another that's entitled The Beautiful And The Damned by F Scott Fitzgerald - one of my all-time favourite authors. (It's included in Penguin's latest batch of Popular "orange" Penguins - they've just added another 75 titles).

I also grabbed a copy of Washington Square by Henry James - another great author. I'm a big fan of alternating lighter, fluffier reads with Fiction with a captial F.

As a visual antidote, I'll be grabbing a copy of SoHi from Orson & Blake in Surry Hills, which now stocks the magazine on creatives in the Southern Highlands of NSW. You can buy it online here.

Other recommendations welcome.

images courtesy of penguin and sohi

Thursday, 22 July 2010

actor & writer katie wall

I feel like I'm emerging from an 18-month hiatus of reading. Well, I have read a few books but not consecutively or with fervour. (Working full-time, being a mother, blogging, working on a few other exciting little secret side projects has done that to me.) But this past week there's been a change. I've just finished two books in a row and I'm back writing again. The first book was I Say Tomato by AFI award-winning actress Katie Wall - a fun and light read about the film industry in LA, a satire of sorts. (The second is a proof copy of Kelly Doust's yet-to-be-released memoir.) Katie has appeared in films such as Clubland and My Year Without Sex. She was also in Underbelly and Love My Way. For anyone who is curious about what it's really like for Aussies trying to make it big in LA, this provides a great insight. It reminded me a little of the film Ellie Parker, starring Naomi Watts, just without the angst (well, not quite so much).

Which five words best describe you? Excitable, loving, happy ,quiet, and unconventional.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since? Paper collating (putting together booklets.) Since then I have moved on to acting and writing.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? To have no expectations.
What’s your proudest career achievement? Winning an AFI, and having my book published.
What’s been your best decision? Getting married and having a baby. Who inspires you? My family.
What are you passionate about? Cooking, sunshine, Australian film and television, friends, and the poppy seed and berry spelt scones at my local bakery.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? The Dalai Lama.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? To live in India.
What are you reading? Baby Love

images courtesy of katie wall and scribe

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

fashion designer leona edmiston

I love how Leona Edmiston has transformed herself into the Diane von Furstenberg of Australia. After years of success with Peter Morrissey and their brand Morrissey Edmiston, she has become this country's queen of the dress. While the fashion industry attracts its fare share of show ponies - designers who want attention and fame (and are happy for that to eclipse their clothes!), there are people like Leona who focus on what they produce and do it with true style and grace.

Which five words best describe you? I’m very much a Capricorn.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since? My first job was Morrissey Edmiston with Peter Morrissey, which we started in the 80s and lasted 14 years. This business is 9 years old, my husband and I started it in 2001.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Trust yourself and your instincts but make sure you have a great team around you. What’s your proudest career achievement? To still be passionate and in love with what I do, plus our 21 stores!
What’s been your best decision? To focus the business on the dress which is my first love and this has led to many further opportunities in developing other product lines.
Who inspires you? Great women of style, be it from the 20th century or our contemporaries, those who have a distinct individuality and flair.
What are you passionate about?
Reading, decorating, I love the unusual and quirky and love hunting for treasures for the home.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I think Meryl Streep is mesmerising. Her talent has only grown with the years as has her charm.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? Travelling for pleasure, there are still so many destinations to discover.
What are you reading?
Nicky Haslam, Redeeming features – his incredibly fun and gossipy autobiography, recounts his encounters with so many legends of the 20th century.

images courtesy of leona edmiston

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

stylist kirsten bookallil

Every now and then there comes along a feature in
real living that I can't stop looking at. I pore over every detail. It usually is from a home. The last time I felt this way was when we featured Kim Ficaro's place [I interviewed her here]. This time it's the home of Kirsten Bookallil. It's not a "look at me" home - in fact, that's probably why I like it so much. I think to create an understated yet sophisticated space is harder than to make rooms or sections of them pop. It has a grown-up feel, without being stuffy. It shouldn't come as a surprise, though, to those who know Kirsten and her work. She regularly styles for magazines, including Gourmet Traveller, and was one of the talents behind the look of the 30 Days of Home & Entertaining house.

Which five words best describe you? Synchronicity, serendipity, inquisitive, aesthetic and ordered.
What was your first career job and what path have you taken since? I studied graphic design at Enmore TAFE, but my first job was actually as a fashion PR. During that period I started a handbag label called Mima, which kept me occupied and aesthetically pleased for long enough to make me realise I wanted to be a stylist, which is what I find myself doing now.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Respect those above you and below you – they often swap.
What’s your proudest career achievement? I don't have a pivotal or defining moment. But having said that, I'm happy with my career as a whole – I'm satisfied by the way I've juggled family and life to create a career that suits me perfectly.
What’s been your best decision? To pursue jobs based on how interesting they are and not what they pay.
Who inspires you? I'm constantly inspired, usually by people who have an interesting direction or vision. Creative thinking comes in so many forms for me – typography, a poem, drawing or photograph. We can be inspired by the most simplest of things that we see daily, to the extraordinary landscape of travelling.
What are you passionate about? Peonies, hotel beds, long baths and Scrabble.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I would love to have met Little and Big Eddie from Grey Gardens, they epitomise the old world grandeur with that crazy old lady attitude!
What dream do you still want to fulfill? To juggle. And to live in Tuscany and make tomato sauce grown from my own garden.
What are you reading? I always read two books at a time – I need the diversity. At the moment, I'm reading What I have loved - Siri Hustvedt and Arlington Park - Rachel Cusk.

images courtesy of real living, mikkel vang and kirsten bookallil

Monday, 19 July 2010

interior designer betsy burnham

I love that American interior designers decorate with confidence. They're not afraid to experiment, use colour or make a statement. The work of Betsy Burnham is a great example of this. Not only that - she's smart in other ways too. Betsy has a do-it-yourself design service called Instant/Space that offers prospective clients budget-savvy design solutions. If you're decorating it's worth checking out the moodboards she's posted online for some of her clients.

Which five words best describe you?
Tan. Happy. Tasteful. Dependable. Driven.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since? I worked in the New York showroom of Echo Design selling scarves. Ironically, Echo now does fabric and carpet lines for Kravet and they have published some wonderful books on home decor. I saw my first ever boss at a design event here in Los Angeles recently. It was a fun reunion; he told me he’ll always think of me as a “college kid”. Imagine.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? First impressions are almost always right, so listen to your instincts. This is harder than it sounds.
What’s your proudest career achievement? The first time my work was published - it was my own home, for InStyle home magazine - was an amazing time for me, and a turning point in my career. I have Joe Nye and Char Hatch Langos to thank for that.
What’s been your best decision? To branch out and start my instant/space division. It’s broadened my client base, reinforced the importance of clean, tasteful, simple design, and kept us busy through the recession.
Who inspires you? Phoebe Philo, Ann Demeulemeester & Dries Van Noten. Albert Hadley. Tauba Auerbach. Jin Yong Kim, the new president of Dartmouth college.
What are you passionate about? My kids, my husband of 20 years, Mark Stern, & my dogs. Fashion. Pattern & colour. The beach. Books. Television.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Really, any designer whose rooms I’ve truly admired. And any writer or director who’s made me laugh.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? I would really love to do a book, a fabric line, a line of rugs. Want to run a full marathon, did a half marathon last summer. Lots of dreams still.
What are you reading? A question of attraction by David Nicholls. He’s an English novelist and his writing kills me. Subtle, but laugh-out-loud funny.

images courtesy of betsy burnham

Friday, 16 July 2010

magazine editor isis colombe combreas

Without a doubt, one of my favourite magazines is Milk. It's French - "le magazine de mode enfantine". It has the most inspired, fantastical photo shoots. Truly worth buying just for them (most of the mag is also translated into English, too). It's so good, in fact, that I'd recommend even if you DON'T have children. Meet Isis - the founder and editor.

Which five words best describe you? Chatterbox. Headstrong. Sophisticated. Impatient. Creative.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since? My very first job as a student was baby sitting, then waitress, like everybody. My first training was assistant of a fashion director in a women's magazine. For my first real job I was the assistant of the director of a Quebec movie festival. I worked for a long time as a TV presentator, then I created MilK, my magazine.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Try to be unique.
What’s your proudest career achievement? MilK,, MilK decoration, MilK collection, MilK...
What’s been your best decision? Yesterday. I bought a cat called Jack for my children.
What inspires you? Ancient times.
What are you passionate about? Style and style.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I would have loved to have dinner with Kazuo Ohno, a great dancer of Butoh dance. He died very recently.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? Tonnes but they're all secret, shh...
What are you reading? ONfray. A french philosopher that is shooting at Freud's theories.

images courtesy of milk magazine


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