Monday, 30 November 2015


While she has lived all over the world, and studied in Great Britain, it wasn’t until Ali McNabney-Stevens settled in Australia that her art career started to take off. She has always been focussed on an art practice though - from school days to art school when she completed an Honours Degree at Edinburgh College of Art and went on to St Martins for further study. However, it was after Ali met her Australian husband in London and moved to Melbourne, where she is now based, that she started to not only create a body of work, but found a way to cut through with enough sales to make a career out of her practice. This is in large part due to her collaboration with Julia Green of Greenhouse Interiors, a tour-de-force in commercialising artists works.

Which five words best describe you? I’m not really sure; I think I can be many things on different days - just ask my husband - but I’d like to think overall I am kind and easy going… And I do have a tendency to go off track a bit…. I think I’m a bit frank on occasion as well. Gosh, I am clearly not able to articulate myself in five words am I.

How did you get your career start and what path? I met Julia Green from Greenhouse Interiors as a fellow school mother. I saw what she was up to, and knew I needed to be a part of her world. She took an artist’s dream, and turned it into a commercial reality. Many artists don’t know how to do this part, so it was a match made in heaven. The fact that we have become good friends, love each other’s families, and understand what is important to each other, makes it a partnership that is very valuable. My work is now sold through Greenhouse Interiors and my own website.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? I haven’t learnt this - I’ve realised it: the best lesson is to do what you genuinely love and like to do, surround yourself with like-minded people, don’t procrastinate - start the art or whatever it may be - and go one step at a time and if you don’t know how to do one part of the equation, outsource it.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Selling my first painting. The notion that someone would pay for what I saw in my mind and felt in my heart is a surreal moment.

What’s been your best decision? To marry J.

Who inspires you? Anyone who is positive - I’m not always, who has a go, and overcomes obstacles to get where they want to be.

What are you passionate about? Getting it right as a parent, and painting the next painting - trying to get better and finding that elusive thing where it all works on the canvas.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? My English Literature teacher who lives in Northern Ireland. I haven’t seen him since I left school and I would love to say thanks for being my most inspiring teacher and giving me an enduring love for literature. He has written the most amazing short stories and poems that sit proudly on my shelf; they are the books I would never lend.

What dream do you still want to fulfill? To have a completely perfect Nigella Christmas with all of my friends from all over the world under my roof - all eating and having fun. The food would be amazing, the house covered with fairy lights and candles; it would be the Christmas party of all Christmas parties - and doing all of it without breaking into a sweat and stressing. I’m shooting for the stars - it’s never going to happen.

What are you reading? Stoner by John Williams, loaned to me by my friend Susan, and Eye Spy with my eight year old at bedtime.

images courtesy of ali mcnabney-stevens; photography armelle habib [interview] and styling julia green of greenhouse interiors

Friday, 27 November 2015


While Alexandra Donohoe entered the interior design industry via “the side door”, she took every step along the way to ensure she made it into the building. After missing out on a place in the interior design course she wanted to enrol in at university, she took a place in landscape architecture at UNSW. However, during the first year, after Alexandra fell asleep in the soil science class, she transferred across to interior architecture. During her uni years, she also worked as a receptionist at SJB Interiors+Architecture and also gained experience at other well-regarded practices including Landini + Associates, Bates Smart, Sarah Davison Interior Design and Paul Kelly Design. After starting her own studio - Decus Interiors - Alexandra has worked regularly with leading architecture firms such as Luigi Rosselli Architects [interview]. “Opening the studio was the equivalent of strolling out onto the edge of the cliff and taking a leap across the divide,” she says. “As cliche as it sounds, backing yourself in those moments is essential. If you don’t think it can happen no one else will.”

Which five words best describe you? A nutty, laughing, dancing, brutally honest, push-the-envelope introvert - think that counts as six!

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I started as a secretary at SJB Interiors+Architecture straight out of high school. I knew I wanted to work in design but my last years of high school were should I say… distracted? I just missed out on getting into interior design so I started a degree in landscape architecture at UNSW instead. In the interim, I worked at SJB for five years throughout uni and between backpacking holidays before hop-scotching to Landini + Associates, Bates Smart, Sarah Davison Interior Design and Paul Kelly Design. In doing so I experienced the full gamut of interiors. Ultimately, residential is my spiritual home - no pun intended. 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? There have been thousands of lessons along the way. I think starting a business from scratch at your dining table and building it centimetre by centimetre forces you to look at how you approach almost everything in life, be it work-life balance, tricky situations, following your heart - and gut, prioritising family and friends, and how you value your own contribution to the world. Life is big and constantly changing, it’s messy, it’s perfect in a totally imperfect way and I’m quite passionate about looking at what drives me to make the decisions I make.   

What’s your proudest career achievement? It’s driving home at the end of the every day feeling immense gratitude for the studio I’ve created from a bit of a pipe-dream and the amazing team of people I have around me. That’s insanely cool. Seeing our work published in respected magazines is bonus.

What’s been your best decision? To work for myself, hands down.

Who inspires you? Pierre Yovanovitch, a French self-taught fashion designer turned interior designer; Josep Font, creative director of Spanish fashion house Delpozo, an architect turned fashion designer. The work of Studio KO. My husband. 

What are you passionate about? What it is that drives us to make the choices we make.  My environment - interior and exterior. Sleep. The happiness of those around me.   

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Anna Wintour. I’d love to know how her mind works and how she handles the spotlight, criticism, pressure. 

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Designing a house and living in it on one of the Aeolian islands, Italy. 

What are you reading? Tribes by Seth Godin and The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.

images courtesy of decus interiors; photography justin alexander [interview]; archicture luigi rosselli architects [interview]; porebski architects (image 4)

Thursday, 26 November 2015


After finishing her final year at art school, Joanna Logue started to think about representation. She met Kim Bonython at his then Sydney gallery in Woollahra – Bonython Meadmore Gallery - pulling up in a taxi as she didn’t have a driver’s licence at time. As Joanna arrived, Kim was leaving and so she ended up showing him her work on the street. "Kind of in the gutter," she says. "He was quite taken with my work and put me in a group show with John Coburn and some other older generation artists.” After selling her works she was offered a place in the gallery’s stable. While she admits she was young and naive at the time, it was her start on the path to working as a full-time artist. Joanna is now represented by King Street Gallery in Sydney and is also about to participate in a group show at the Anna Pappas Gallery. The works, based on the landscape around her country property in Oberon, NSW, will be on show from 11-23 December.

Which five words best describe you? Passionate, curious, sensitive, driven, sensualist.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? When I was a young painter I won the Kings Art Prize and went on to join the Tim Olsen Gallery. I had quite a few very successful exhibitions and was fortunate to be able to support myself through my work and purchase a beautiful historic property in country NSW where I could live and make my work. 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? To take time out of the studio, even when I am on a deadline, to re-energize, reflect and fill the well. 

What’s your proudest career achievement? Joining King Street Gallery where I share the stable with great painters including my heroes Elizabeth Cummings and Idris Murphy

What’s been your best decision? Moving to my country property Essington Park where I lived for 20 years in relative isolation, deep thinking and making my paintings inspired by the surrounding landscape.

What are you passionate about? Painting, of course. But I am also passionate about cooking - it runs in the family, music, literature, being in nature and cinema.

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

What dream do you still want to fulfill? I would love to go to Antarctica as an artist in residence with Australian Antarctica Expeditions. I think it would be really challenging for the psyche to be butted up against the sublime, artistically and on a personal level. 

images courtesy of joanna logue; portrait frank lindner

Wednesday, 25 November 2015


“It’s always interesting to see people’s reaction when you say you design rugs,” says Christine McDonald. “It’s just not a career that is heard of, but once you tell people who or where you design rugs for – they’ll find themselves kicking up the corner of a rug to see if it was designed by Designer Rugs.” Christine has been with the Australian company for 14 years and has collaborated on many of its successful collections over the years, including working with fashion designer Akira Isogawa [interview]. Along with fellow senior designer, Lia Pielli, Christine has also been designing Designer Rug’s in-house collections as well as creating custom designs for residential and commercial clients. Now, for the first time in its 30-year history, the company is releasing a collection by one of its own designers. Christine designed LØCAL based on the landscape of Wollongong, where she grew up and continues to live. With names like Coal Coast, Hargrave and Stanwell, the designs were drawn from her life growing up on the beach and enjoying the panoramic views from the area.

Which five words best describe you? Loyal, beachy, creative, detailed and curious.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? After completing a diploma in interior design, I was fortunate enough to be offered an interview at Designer Rugs. I’d never heard of anyone being a rug designer but I loved interiors and enjoyed the graphic component of design so I thought why not. Here I am 14 years later, still designing rugs. 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Not to take criticism of my work personally. Everyone has their own idea of what they had in mind. Some are good at translating that, others not so much.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Taking the leap into creating my own rug collection, LØCAL. 

What’s been your best decision? Not becoming an ambulance officer and returning to Designer Rugs after a three-year break.

Who inspires you? People who don’t dwell or blame an awful childhood or adversity that may have occurred during their life and just rise above the odds.  

What are you passionate about? Family, friends, the ocean, good people, and great design.

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

What dream do you still want to fulfil? To have a home with more walls than my apartment. 

What are you reading? The Anti-Cool Girl by Rosie Waterland. I thought it was going to be funny, but I’m finding it depressing.

images courtesy of designer rugs

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


Brett Stevens is currently travelling around Australia photographing a range of locations for travel and food magazines, including Conde Nast Traveller. This follows 10 months of shooting a book, Organum, with renowned chef Peter Gilmore in a variety of studios, locations and restaurants. It’s a mix that has sustained him for a career that has spanned 25 years. During this time he has contributed to more than 45 food and lifestyle books and worked for a range of magazines and advertising clients. He got his start after studying fine arts and photography at UTS, and assisting big studio photographers in Toronto, New York and Chicago. While Brett is based in Sydney, next up is a trip to Dubai for a couple of clients based in the UAE.

Which five words best describe you? Driven, perfectionist, creative, innovative, persistent.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I commenced as a newspaper photographer where I learnt to work quickly and efficiently. This methodology has subsequently transpired into advertising and editorial photography domains.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Always be humble as there is always someone else you can learn from.

What’s your proudest career achievement? I was very surprised a little while back when I had seven magazine and book book covers on the news stand at one time - that was a pretty cool achievement.

What’s been your best decision? To stay true to my beliefs regarding career paths and client selection.

Who inspires you? Anyone who is willing to push the creative process beyond what is considered the norm, and, whose thought ideals are one of achieving the best end result.

What are you passionate about? Walking the path less travelled and always aspiring to be in the moment. Currently living by the life motto: this is it.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I’ve always thought that Bono would be a great conversationalist, but I am heading towards a little more visual stimulus at the moment and would say Gregory Crewdson.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Building a lifetime of work is great but I do wish I could find more time to work on personal projects that would be exhibited - watch this space.

What are you reading? Not so much reading but always referring to Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky’s series of books - his latest on Water and Dennis Hopper's Photographs 1961-1967.

images courtesy of brett stevens; styling matt page and glen proebstel (image 2)

Monday, 23 November 2015


Printmaking is a coming together of many of Ellie Malin’s interests. She’s been a keen observer of architecture as well as nature and how we move through these environments. “I’m fascinated with the impact and importance they have on our lives and had this idea that if I could translate the beauty and vulnerabilities that captured me and communicate them back to others, that would be the ultimate challenge,” Ellie says. Besides, she really enjoys the hands-on physicality of the process - carving and cutting into wood, mixing coloured inks, working with printing presses, as well as moving through various sections of a workshop. “Printmaking is a great analogy to life,” she says. “Things don’t always go to plan, but it’s good to be prepared and have direction, enjoy the process, try something new, keep it simple - mistakes happen; embrace them.”

In 2007 Ellie graduated from Monash University with a degree in Fine Art, majoring in print-making, but initially worked in non-related fields. After a couple of years she felt the pull to return to a regular creative practice. “Even after dedicating years of study and completing diplomas and degrees, it took some time to take a leap of faith and set up studio as a full-time practice,” she says. “Choosing to follow this path is the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done, but once the decision was made it became a lot easier.” 

Since then Ellie has created designs for Gorman and exhibited at Modern Times, as well as receiving a two-month residency at Megalo workshop in Canberra. “Turning art into a career required me to examine my values and belief systems,” she says. “I surrounded myself with good mentors; focused on realistic goals - and also thought about those more out-there ideas; I set a discipline, establishing a structured schedule meant that I was less likely to be side-tracked putting the work out through exhibitions, awards, local stores… even though it felt awkward to start off with.” These experiences have helped her confidence and contributed to her growth as an artist, she says. 

Which five words best describe you? I’m an introverted communicator who is playful, intuitive and creative.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? In 2010 I enrolled in a small business course and skilled up on how to write a business plan, bookkeeping and general admin. I then set aside 12 months to set up a studio practice and to “see how things went”. I said yes to every project and opportunity that came my way and it gathered momentum fairly organically from then on - not without a lot of work.

I continue to plan and visualise the kind of projects I’d like to pursue. I carefully consider each and every opportunity that comes my way. It’s incredibly difficult to say no at times, especially now that the focus has shifted to starting a family and becoming a parent - in a matter of weeks - whilst also continuing to balance a career in art. Accepting that there will be a change in how and when I create work, but also I’m excited to think that our family and work life will somehow meld naturally as my husband and I identify ourselves through our respective creative practices, but are also incredibly close to family. It will be interesting to see how it all evolves. 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? As much as artists and creatives may be thought of as being loose, free or aloof, I think it’s really important to be disciplined as with any job. There are days where I don’t feel in the “mood” to create, but having a routine and just going into the studio can be rewarding. Sometimes it’s just a matter of minutes to shake off that feeling and before you know you’re in that state of flow. I’m not sure if this is a lesson, but it’s definitely something I learned about myself and that’s to strive to create good work and for it to be meaningful. 

What’s your proudest career achievement? I’m proud of the fact that I get to do what I love and develop and grow as an artist. It’s particularly humbling when I see people enjoying the artwork in their homes and work spaces. 

What’s been your best decision? Giving myself time. It takes time to hone skills, to build confidence, to find direction, to experiment with ideas and to keep creating regardless of the successes and failures. 

Who inspires you? I’m inspired by the everyday: streets I walk in, people I meet, design, architecture, travels, plus a good dose of daydreaming. With the current events gripping our world and reflecting on parenthood I’ve been enthralled by learning about the lives of my grandparents who came to Melbourne with their young families despite all odds to provide a better life and am incredibly inspired by their hard work, pride and joy for life they instilled in the family. From an art perspective, and in no particular order, I’m inspired by the work of KiKi Smith, Andy Warhol - can’t wait to see the exhibition with Wei Wei and Warhol! - Mirka Mora, Tadao Ando, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Yayoi Kusama, Kandinsky and Matisse

What are you passionate about? My work, family, travelling, living healthy, and just keeping it simple. 

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I’d love to hang out with Matisse. Maybe do some collages together.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I’d love to collaborate with architects and interior designers and translate my artworks into something multi-faceted and functional. And write a book – pictures only. 

What are you reading? Admittedly, my beside table consists of a mile-high pile of parenthood books. Amongst them, a charming and inspiring book Motherhood and Creativity by Rachel Power. Other books on the go include People of Print by Marcroy Smith and Andy Cooke - a survey of creative print studios from around the world, Vault magazine for all the latest and greatest in the arts and Ladislav Sutnar, Visual design in action

images courtesy of ellie malin

Friday, 20 November 2015


Shannon McGrath is a well-known and respected interiors and architecture photographer based in Melbourne. However, that wasn’t always going to be her path. She started out studying fine art but moved across to photography, which was in turn a way to get into architecture. However, Shannon decided that she wasn’t suited to be an architect or an interior designer, and that to photograph spaces was the best alternative. “Really it’s the perfect world; I get to appreciate the projects without the longevity of what it takes to design and build projects,” she says. After completing her course at RMIT she assisted and took on small jobs until they grew in scope and size. “I worked hard at doing the best work I could and putting it forward for publication,” she says. The more Shannon’s work got published, the more design firms sought her out, and she has made a substantial career photographing spaces over the past 15 years. The next evolution of her career is to branch out into fine art photography after completing her Masters in Fine Arts. Shannon plans to continue this alongside her commercial-based award-winning photography. 

Which five words best describe you? Perfectionist, determined, efficient, relaxed and expressive.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? The most important step for me to get my career started was to assist one of the leading photographers Trevor Mein, what he taught me how to approach each job and the level of care you need to take for each project. What started my career was that he stopped employing me, telling me that I was ready to go forth so out of necessity I began my path. Since that point my skills and know-how of how to run a freelance business has gone from strength to strength.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? To never give up. Being a freelancer there are strong times and quiet times. In the quiet times it is easy to doubt but over the years I have learnt that there will always be quiet times and that it always picks up and not to take it personally. The market continually shifts. If you stay strong you will be fine.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Wow, there are so many, but some of the best are when I do what I call marathon shoots where you might shoot for 14 days straight on one project. For example, shooting the Royal Children's Hospital from top to bottom, a place that had so much personal meaning to me. I also love getting to go places that one one gets the opportunity to go like standing next to the pillars on Bolty Bridge before opening or getting access to some amazing rooftops and locations that really give you a thrill just to be there. But, also, I love the small projects that are designed beautifully, it’s just a pleasure to be there and have a small moment with the spaces.

What’s been your best decision? To take up a path that was involved in design. And best decision when starting out was to join a studio so I was amongst other photographers. It was brilliant as we worked off each other for ideas and technical know-how, which helped advance my path in photography.

Who inspires you? Well, the man Donald Judd. I don't have a favourite photographer that inspires me, it’s more that I tap into the movement of Minimalism, and the fantastic artists that came from that time.

What are you passionate about? Design and art. I started out in art, originally studying fine art. I took a detour to architectural and interiors photography but recently I have taken up my art practice. Currently doing my masters in Fine Art I am hoping that I will be able to engage in both sides of my practice, each one to enhance the other.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Again, Donald Judd - he is the master. Or Robert Irwin, the master in producing art that is practically not there at all; it’s all about perception.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? To grow my art practice. I would like to be producing my art and exhibiting as well as continuing with my commercial photography business. 

What are you reading? Readings on phenomenology for my Masters. I’m fascinated about perceptual space and the interaction between object and bodily experience. It all goes hand in hand with my work as this is what I do on a daily basis, interpreting space, light and a felt space.

images courtesy of shannon mcgrath; portrait for space furniture

Thursday, 19 November 2015


“I have always sought out challenges in my life and making art is one of the biggest challenges I can think of,” Seabastion Toast says. “It can be both the most exhilarating and heart wrenching experience ever.” She has focused on foxes and other feral animals in many of her works because while they’re known for their beauty, they are damaging to native fauna and flora. “In Australia half of our marsupials are extinct and the other half are endangered,” she says. “I find it precious to encounter any kind of wild animal in daily life, and I am also drawn to explore points of difference in my art. I am interested in the grey areas where the black versus white blend and beauty intersects with horror.” 

After completing a visual arts degree in 2000 at Southern Cross University, which included a six-month exchange at the Pratt Institute in New York, Seabastion spent some time immersed in experimental music. However, in the past four years she has returned to painting and in 2011 won the Gainsborough Greens Art Prize. She has also been a semi-finalist in the Doug Moran prize and won D'Arcy Doyle landscape prize too. She currently lives at Cabarita Beach in Northern NSW and her most recent exhibition was at Anthea Polson Art.

Which five words best describe you? Intense, passionate, adventurous, determined, sentimental.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Even though I majored in painting I was very interested in performance art when I was at university because it seemed like a better vehicle for the postmodern theories I was enamoured with at the time. I began writing the soundtracks to my performances and ended up writing
and performing experimental music and even got a composition grant a couple of years after I left uni. I did a lot of traveling and solo long distance cycling along the eastern seaboard and other parts of the world in an attempt to make sense of things before landing on the Gold Coast and committing to a full-time art practice in 2009. I really enjoy the solitude and temporal restrictions of a painting and studio life and I enjoy the ways the four edges of a canvas can focus and arrange my ideas.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? To just keep going. One painting at a time. If you work consistently at a project every day there is no option for failure. Doing a university exchange in New York was a real eye opener in terms of what it takes to be a professional artist. The kids there pay a lot more for their education and they work incredibly hard to succeed. There is also a more comprehensive system of mentoring and appreciation/education in the general public and so students are supported by exploring and developing works outside of the popular market.

What’s your proudest career achievement? I am probably most proud when I make a breakthrough in my work. It is always nice to hang a show or win an award but at the end of the day it’s not really other people’s opinions that will push you to make your best work.

What’s been your best decision? To make art my full-time job and totally commit to making it work.

Who inspires you? I am inspired by a really broad range of people, artworks, books, music, landscapes, experiences, cultures, ideas. I can happily say I am never bored. I’m interested in anyone with a keen intelligence pushing the boundaries in their chosen field. I really enjoy reading artist interviews about their process. John Olsen’s Drawn from Life is a humble, inspiring read, as is Brian Eno’s A Year with Swollen Appendices.

What are you passionate about? The environment, women’s rights, education, knowledge, science, running long distances through forests, women in sport, theory, animal rights, politics and sustainability.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Kathy Acker. I love how she combined her punk philosophies with feminism and postmodernism, and I was struck by an essay she wrote about the body and training - specifically weightlifting - where she spoke about the idea of breaking things down as a method of rebuilding and restructuring. In this way failure becomes integral to the process of growth. I meet very few people from the arts who are as into pushing the physical limits of their bodies in athletic ways, and who enjoy musing on the poetry and philosophies therein.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I am still in pursuit of making a “really good painting”. I would like to be able to contribute something to the broader knowledge base. It
would also be nice to run a sub 40min 10km and/or do an air reverse in the surf.

What are you reading? I am furiously learning Spanish in preparation for my upcoming surf trip to Costa Rica, so I have limited myself to textbooks or articles in Spanish. They are pretty basic at the moment but I hope to be able to tackle Don Quioxte soon!

images courtesy of seabastion toast and anthea polson art


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