Thursday, 31 July 2014


It's a tried and tested formula for success. If you can't find something, make it. And so it was for Hugh Altschwager, who was living on South Australia's Limestone Coast. A sixth generation farming son, he was building a self-suficient hut on his parent's farm and needed lights. What he made, using the natural materials around him, was to become a prototype for a range of award-winning designs that has seen him be invited to exhibit at the London Design Festival. The lights and company name, Inkster Maken, took on a Scandinavian flavour, harking to his family's heritage. "Inkster" is his mother's Nordic maiden name, while "Maken" translates to "make". Today the designs, made out of South Australian limestone and reclaimed Australian hardwood, are hand crafted in Melbourne where Hugh has been based since 2011.

Which five words best describe you? Positive, thinker, honest, withdrawn, realistic.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I have always had a need to create and build things. I started creating some lighting products for personal projects and entered them in a couple of competitions. The positive feedback from this was enough for me to think that there may be a future in it. Since then I have worked hard to develop the products and brand, starting small and focussing on quality. Eventually, I want to branch out into other areas of the creative world.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? You don't need to know all the answers or what the final destination looks like, you just have to start.

What’s your proudest career achievement? My career is still relatively young so I'd say my proudest achievement so far would be building a self-sufficient hut on my parent’s farm in remote South Australia. It took me about seven years of sourcing salvaged materials and building in my spare time and holidays. I always had a feeling that creating this place would lead me to my path in life. As it turns out, it was for this project where I created my fist lighting pieces, which lead to Inkster Maken.

What’s been your best decision? Leaving a stable full-time job to create products with a natural material that people weren't using and a process that didn't exist.

Who inspires you? I look to the careers of guys like Dare Jennings and Joost Bakker for inspiration. I love hearing the stories of other creatives and how they came to be where they are now. Also, the emotive nature of music inspires me more than anything. Hearing a new song that resonates with me gives me creative energy.

What are you passionate about? I am passionate about trying to live a life on my own terms.  

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? That's a hard question. There was a guy called Sir Hubert Wilkins. He probably lived the most extraordinary life I have ever heard about. There is a book written about him called The Last Explorer which is fascinating.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I'm only just getting started. I don't think I've really fulfilled any of my dreams yet so there's still a lot of work to do. I want to raise a family and continue to create a life, not just be content with security.

What are you reading? Currently I am reading The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.

images courtesy of inkster maken

Wednesday, 30 July 2014


What Sydney artist Aaron Kinnane has achieved with his latest exhibition Sunset Studies is more than put on a successful show. He has taken his career to the next level. Up until this show Aaron was making a name for himself with a series of works based on horse studies. They are recognisable for their use of colour, and form. But when it came time to paint a new series he decided to change course. Aaron says it was an abrupt decision, but one that brought clarity and focus to his painting. The proof is on the canvas in this series of Sunset Studies. Aaron is exhibiting at Arthouse Gallery in Sydney until August 9.

Which five words best describe you? I felt a little awkward trying to answer this one, so I asked my wife and best friend to answer for me: Father, dreamer, loyal, generous, reclusive.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I first left school at 16 to pursue a career with horses. My mother became ill and my dad begged me to go back to school so I did. There are a few artists in my family and it was always going to be horses or art. I started university in Newcastle but fell short of the finish line. I was more taken by the romantic notion of the artist in the ghetto rather than being in a classroom environment. Luckily for me, my cousin was working for artist Sandro Chia in New York and Italy. In 2000 I went to Tuscany to work as Sandro's assistant alongside my cousin. It was without doubt the most formative year of my life. I learnt a lot about painting and myself not to mention having first-hand experience of the kind of romantic lifestyle a successful artist can live. It definitely solidified the desire to continue and pursue the life of an artist.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Three things I’d say. Firstly, knowing that the only way you're going to get anywhere with anything is hard work. Even in your darkest moments you need to put your head down and work even harder. Secondly, when I was in my early 20s, my cousin gave me a gem piece of advice in relation to painting: “Don't be precious”. And finally, and most importantly, be kind to people.

What was the starting point for this exhibition? Someone handed me a palette knife, and I stopped thinking. I began to “paint”.

What’s your proudest career achievement? It would have to be when I took up an offer from (musician) Ben Lee to fly to India for his wedding to prepare for an Archibald entry a few years back. It was an extremely generous invitation from Ben. I was broke at the time and I had to borrow the money for the airfare and spent a week in an ashram in the south of India with Ben and his guests. While I wasn't selected for the prize, I did meet my wife there. So I kinda feel like I won the Archibald that year! I’d also have to say joining Ali Yeldham at Arthouse Gallery. I feel very fortunate to be represented by Ali and her team.

What’s been your best decision? See above.

Who inspires you? Selfless, generous people.

What are you passionate about? My family and my painting (and the South Sydney Rabbitohs).

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? This is a tough one. There are millions - from a blacksmith in the Middle Ages to Picasso, and I wouldn't mind seeing my Gran again just to let her know that everything turned out all right.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? To teach my kids how to ride a horse.

What are you reading? An object of beauty by Steve Martin and The shape of a pocket by John Berger.

images courtesy of aaron kinnane and arthouse gallery

Tuesday, 29 July 2014


After designing film sets for the best part of a decade, Stephen Alesch and his partner in life and work, Robin Standefer, were given an opportunity too good to refuse. The actor and film director Ben Stiller admired their work on Duplex so much that he commissioned the pair to transform his Los Angeles residence, and triple its size. Two years later Stephen and Robin had well and truly retired from film work and were concentrating on the commissions that followed from a range of high-profile clients, including Kate Hudson and Gwyneth Paltrow. Since then their design business, Roman and Williams, which they established in 2002, has gone on to transform some of the leading hotels in New York and beyond. The Ace Hotel, The Standard, The Vicerory and the Highline Hotel are just some of the places that have been given Stephen and Robin's experiential treatment. 

Which five words best describe you? Crazy, silly, odd, spazzy and fussy.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I applied for a job as a draftsman for a solo architect when I was 18. I became his right-hand man. I had no experience except for high school drafting and some construction experience. After 10 years of that, I went to work in the film industry as a set designer, then after 10 years of that started my own design firm with my wife Robin. 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Behind every professional, formally educated "expert" is just a normal man or woman with a few tidbits of jargon and knowledgeability - that just about anyone with good common sense could do themselves. In fact, it’s relatively easy to do it even better. 

What’s your proudest career achievement? Designing and completing construction of our 30-storey Viceroy Hotel on 57th Street in New York City. 

What’s been your best decision? Never bothering to learn CAD and continuing to draft by hand. 

What are you passionate about? Architecture, drafting, plants, waves, suits, science, electricity, construction, mechanics.

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

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Design a university of non-design studies, a beautiful campus of simple buildings, workshops and housing. 

What are you reading? Ben Franklin's biography by H.W. Brands and The look of architecture by Witold Rybczynski.

images courtesy of roman and williams; portrait via

Monday, 28 July 2014


Brass, leather and wood are the types of materials that Melbourne designer Daniel Barbera enjoys working with when creating tables, chairs and other interior products. It's partly because of their natural beauty, and also because they're not heavily processed, and so kind to the environment. This simple yet thoughtful philosophy has been at the heart of his business, Barbera, since launching it in 2004. The sophistication of Daniel's range has been well received by architects and interior designers, as well as various industry bodies. In many ways his back-to-basics outlook reflects his passion for design, which has always been an integral part of his personality, ever since he was a child building with blocks, then working in his father's workshop. This family environment nurtured an amazing creativity in Daniel and his brother, photographer Paul Barbera, who I interviewed (four years ago) here

Which five words best describe you? Creative, fair, thinker, patient, dreamer.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I started my career when I was unaware I was actually starting my career. This began at around age three when I started to take Lego seriously, and I could start to hone my three dimensional awareness and understanding of form and structure with a purpose. I slowly built up a decent Lego collection and then recruited my neighbour and cousin to assist in a few of my first major design constructions. From Lego, I then went on to learn what I could create with my father in his workshop until I went to study Industrial Design, and then later learnt the art of creating beautiful objects with Chris Connell at Map. So probably a few steps to a definitive career path.  But my path is, I suppose, where I am at now, building a business that can facilitate my creations and provide for me.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Do what you want, not what people think you should do. To innovate in any sense is about listening, learning, but doing it your way, whether is be about design or a business model. I am pretty unorthodox with about everything I do.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Not going to Milan Furniture Fair, to prove myself to others, but slowly building a brand and production range, and letting the world slowly awake to what we do here.

What’s been your best decision? Starting Babera and specialising in providing unique all Australian-made designs, but that's a boring answer.  Probably a more recent best decision was upgrading and moving my factory/studio and then doubling what I thought I needed.

Who inspires you? Great thinkers, like my brother Paul, Heron of Alexandria, James Lovelock, Paul Ehrlich, Ray Kurzweil to name a few, but one main inspiration is a thinker and sharer of knowledge Phillip Adams, who I regularly listen to, forever expanding my thirst of understanding this world.

What are you passionate about? Sculpting structure into usable objects, and my family.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? After listening to countless Late Night Live programs with Phillip Adams, I would love to have him over for dinner.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? A space flight would really be quite wonderful, or at least a ride in SR71, but otherwise, closer to Earth, uh, I would like to design and build my dream home in the bush.

What are you reading? I don't really do much reading these days. I do much more listening. I have a long list of favourite podcasts that I love listening to: Late Night Live is at the top of my list, otherwise a few favourites:  Freakonomics, WNYC radiolab, This American Life, the Science Show

images courtesy of daniel barbera

Friday, 25 July 2014


Working in a large publishing house where there are multiple "homes" titles, catering to different sectors of the market, you get to meet a range of stylists. However, these encounters tend to be fleeting as "in-house" stylists are often out on shoots, on the sourcing trail, or riding the goods lift trying to track down couriers. During my time at Bauer Media (formerly ACP), I came across the always stylish Imogene Roache. She was sweet and kind, and never seemed flustered. Imogene always gave the impression that she was happy to be there, doing what she was doing. And while she's still quite young, Imogene has plenty of experience under her belt, thanks to her time on staff at House & Garden magazine. Now, working as a freelancer, she is working for a range of publications, and advertising clients, as well as pursuing personal projects, as displayed in the imagery above.

Which five words best describe you? Calm, loyal, independent, ambitious and in-love.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I discovered what a "stylist" was just before leaving high school, and instantly became obsessed. Without wasting any time, as soon as I graduated year 12 I landed a fashion assistant role at YEN magazine assisting stylist Imogene BarronA year later I realised my real passion was interiors, and got straight into assisting some of the best interior stylists out there. A few months later, all my hard work paid off and I was given the role of junior stylist at House & Garden magazine. Soon after I moved up to stylist and had taken on House & Garden's food shoots, as well as interior pages. After four years passed I knew I had the experience and skills to take my career further, and as of this year I have been freelance styling in the big wide world.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Trust your instinct, be grateful, and always stay inspired.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Being only 24 I feel way too young to answer this just yet. But I guess I am most proud of the progress I've made in my career path so far. All of the unreachable goals I gave myself at the beginning of my career I have achieved, and I'm proud of that.

What’s been your best decision? Jumping straight into my career at an early age. When I have an idea or goal in my head I have to do it asap - so the best thing I ever did was jump into the unknown and to see where it would take me.

Who inspires you? My unbelievably creative friends, stylists - local and overseas, my partner for his endless knowledge and ease at being happy, and my mum in every way.

What are you passionate about? Organising, learning, creating good work, beautifully made objects, delicious food and, more recently, gardening. 

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Japanese flower artist Azuma Makoto.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I have thousands! But the one dream I get more excited about every day is eventually buying a house and filling it with everything I love.

What are you reading? Elle Decoration, Gather Journal, and taking notes from Down to Earth: a guide to simple living by Rhonda Hetzel. 

images courtesy of imogene roache

Thursday, 24 July 2014


Actress Cate Blanchett once described photographer Nick Leary as a magician. While she was referring to his skills in the world of fashion and portrait photography, the same could be said for his work capturing the wild brumbies of Australia. After working with leading photographers during his days as a model, Nick was inspired to head to the other side of the camera. It's been a good fit for him. In the past decade he's travelled the world shooting for magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. But it was when he spent a month in Titjikala, a remote Aboriginal community near Alice Springs that his photography took an inspired turn. He created a body of work, "Soul of Titjikala", that became his first solo exhibition, held at Sotherby's in 2005. Nick has continued to add to his fine art photography with his latest series called Wild Brumbies of Australia, pictured above. Some of these images are on display at MCM House in Sydney.

Which five words best describe you? Creative, optimistic, lucky, sensitive, grateful.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Years ago, I was in a position where I lost all of my money and had to start from scratch. I asked myself what it was that I would be happy to do every day, regardless of how much money I made. The answer was to be creative, take pictures and travel. Since that day, that's what I've done. I am constantly honing my skills and finding new inspiration, that's what I love about the creative industry, it's always changing and evolving.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? There are no short cuts!

What’s your proudest career achievement? I'm not sure about my proudest career achievement, probably having the guts to follow my passion and do what I love.  My proudest life achievement would definitely be my beautiful children.

What’s been your best decision? Maybe my best decision was the one that lost me all my money all those years ago and set me on my current path.

Who inspires you? Mother Nature's beauty.

What are you passionate about? Unique forms of beauty and freedom.

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

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I would eventually like to get to a point in my career where I am free from all commercial constraints and producing pure art.

What are you reading? Bedtime stories to my eight-month-old daughter.

images courtesy of nick leary

Wednesday, 23 July 2014


Less is more, is the design philosophy of German-born, Italian-based designer Katrin Arens. For the past 20 years through her eponymous furniture and homewares business she has been designing and getting craftsmen to make products from reclaimed timber that she sources from derelict country houses and abandoned cellars. In a similar vein, Katrin produces children's clothes using adult hand-me-downs. This idea of sustainability and continuity informs all her work. And it has made a name for her all over the world. "Recently we realised an entire room for three kids in New York, which we constructed in our 'atelier' and sent in a big wooden box over the Atlantic," she says.

Which five words best describe you? Simple, elegant, natural.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? After school (a long time ago), I studied economics and afterwards graphic design. After I finished my studies, I won a scholarship for the academy of arts in Bergamo, Italy. While I was in Italy, I built up my first "atelier" where I built the first prototypes of some furniture. (They were nice but not really functional...) I realised that I had to find someone who knew how to realise them. Slowly we got bigger and moved to another place (an old spinning mill) where the production still is. At the beginning I focussed only single pieces such as beds and tables. But in the past few years I have be doing more interior design, especially kitchens.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Be yourself.

What’s your proudest career achievement? That I had an idea for a business 20 years ago and it still exists, growing slowly.

What’s been your best decision? Believing in my idea.

Who inspires you? Travelling to other cuontries, other cultures, seeing different ways of "life".... and, of course, my two daughters!!!

What are you passionate about?
Collecting materials.

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

What dream do you still want to fulfil? To build a house.

What are you reading? Jonas Jonasson die Analphabetin, die rechnen konnte

images courtesy of katrin arens

Tuesday, 22 July 2014


Living in a city like New York can give you opportunities like few other places. Jenna Snyder-Phillips had gone down the path of many of her design-hungry contemporaries. She moved from her native Philadelphia to Manhattan to study interior design and architecture at Parsons School of Design. But it was on graduating that an opportunity presented itself that played a great role in changing the course of her career direction. Jenna worked with the art curator at the Gramercy Park Hotel, and got to appreciate the role of hanging large-scale works by the likes of Julian Schnabel. Soon after she found herself painting, and on the encouragement of some friends showed the works to a local interior store. Since then Jenna's art has gained global traction, and is sold through Jonathan Adler stores worldwide.

Which five words best describe you? That's a tough one. But I would have to say the five words that describe me best are:  Creative, inspired, passionate, resourceful and sometimes a bit of a day dreamer.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I think art chooses you. I've always been inclined toward artistic expression in all of its forms. As a child I was obsessed with arts and crafts from drawing to painting and clay to beads. I would work with whatever materials I could get my hands on.

After graduating from Parsons, I started my career working with the Ian Schrager Company on the Gramercy Park Hotel. Assisting the hotel's art curator I learned firsthand how artwork by the likes of Julian Schnabel can completely transform an interior space. When I wasn't busy working I would spend my free time painting on the floor of my Chinatown apartment. My friends were the first to see the art and encouraged me to start showing. I shared the work with a neighborhood interior shop whose aesthetic I really respected and the whole thing grew from there. For me, sharing my art is like sharing a piece of myself. So I feel very lucky that so many amazing interior designers and art collectors have really embraced the art. The rest is history!

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Don't give up! Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Go after what you want and work hard for it, but know that it also takes time. Success doesn't come overnight.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Turning my art, which started out as a passion and a hobby, into my full-time career.

What’s been your best decision? My best decision has been to value my own opinion above all others. If you do what makes you happy all will work out beautifully in the end.

Who inspires you? So many people inspire me! For interior designers, Jonathan Adler and Kelly Wearstler. In terms of artists, James Nares, Jenny Saville and Tom Ryan are a few favorites. And, of course, my parents!

What are you passionate about? Besides painting and interior design, I'm passionate about travel, shoes and all things Italian, especially pizza.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I would have loved to have met Frida Kahlo. I find it so inspiring how her life and her art were so deeply connected. Not to mention how she was able to transform such intense pain into such beautiful images.

What dream do you still want to fulfill? It's a dream of mine to one day own my own home and fashion boutique. Although if I stick to painting, showing my art in a museum would be pretty fantastic too. 

What are you reading? Luxury redefined by Ryan Korban and Keith Haring Journals

images courtesy of jenna snyder phillips


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