Tuesday, 20 December 2016


Emily Besser’s interest in colour and line form has been informing her works over the past six to 12 months. The Sydney-based artist is exhibiting in a couple of end-of-year shows - at Koskela in Sydney until 24 December and Boom Gallery in Geelong until 23 December.

“I love the flatness of paint, but I also love its plasticity, its sculptural possibilities, and the surprises that can happen when lines push and pull and create depth, landscape and new sight-line visions,” she says.

Today Emily she shares her daily art practice. You can read her original interview on Daily Imprint here.

Describe a typical working day My work day begins after the school and kindy drop-offs. There are domestic diversions aplenty but if all goes well I walk into my studio by 11 and don’t leave until 2.30-2.45pm.

What are your preferred tools, materials and equipment? I paint on three different surfaces: primed board, stretched canvas, and paper. There are different brushes I favour for use on each surface but overall my materials are simple: paint, surface and brushes. The simplicity of the materials is reassuring, but also presents a challenge to somehow reinvent them each day.

How do you dress for your job? I wear my usual day clothes, jeans and top, and I get paint on absolutely everything.

What is the current state of your desk or creative space? My studio is a a bit of a mess, but not feral. I’ve always worked in a controlled-mess kind of situation, and I’ve always worked on the floor too. I recently moved into a new studio space where I can now put my paintings up on the walls around me, this clears the floor up a lot but has been an adjustment in terms of visual perspective. I’m still adjusting to this new way of working, and seeing my work.

I’ve never really made tidying up a part of my creative process, the way some artists do. It may be unwise of me but I seem to be able to get by in a seething mess of paint tubes and brushes on the floor. And of course there is order there, it looks messy, but I know where every little thing is, most of the time. 

What's your approach to managing technology - from emails to social media? Social media, like Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, is so easy to use, and connects me to a community of creative people. I use it as a personal record, a gallery, a distraction, and a space to enjoy other people’s creativity. I try to use it intentionally rather than as a distraction but this doesn’t always work. Emails, artist statements, invoices, etc require me to set aside time and sit still at the computer, and usually take up a few hours a week. I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed doing it, as I’d rather be painting, but I do get a lot of satisfaction from the admin side of things when it’s done properly and not on the fly. And it is such an essential part of staying connected in my professional relationships with people.

What’s your preferred pick-me-up? A good song, a cup of Earl Grey tea, snacks with almonds and dates.

How do you combat physical or creative lulls? Creative lulls happen all the time and usually always at some point during a painting session. First, I try to push through it, often that works. But I do acknowledge the feelings and if it persists I ask myself why it is happening. There’s usually an answer, or at least an internal conversation about it, which takes away the anxiety around it and makes it workable. Because of the constraints on my time, I have to make the most of the hours I do get to paint, no matter how I’m feeling, and whether I want to paint or not. I don’t bulldoze my feelings but I do treat my painting like work that has to be done, which it is. And I also happen to enjoy it immensely. 

What role does silence or sound play in your day? More often than not I listen to music while I work. Music throws me right into that thought-feeling place where I can work from. I can pick up where I last left off. But some days the thought of listening to music is too much, so I just paint to the sounds around me.

What's the last thing you do before finishing work for the day? I take photos of my work. I usually have to end my work day before I really want to, so taking a photo is a way of keeping the work close to me as I race out the door for school pick-up. It also allows me some perspective and distance from my work, by looking at it in photo form, while I’m away from the studio.

images courtesy of emily besser, koskela and boom gallery

Monday, 12 December 2016


Michaele Simmering and her husband Johannes Pauwen of Kalon Studios were always making things for their home - from door pulls to tables. “There has always been a lot of willing effort to invest our time and energy in our home environment,” she says. Part of the reason was that they were quite picky about the pieces they wanted in their home, and another was that they struggled to find items that they could afford. When the couple, who are based in Los Angeles in the USA, were having some items machined, they were advised to sell them. “It happened at the same moment that we didn’t want to be shut out of our family life while having children,” Michaele says. “That was a huge moment for us.” They signed up to do a trade show and after some press - including being named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential green companies in the world - their business began to grow. “About four years ago Kalon started to take on its own life,” Michaele says. “We were running to keep up with it. That was a big moment as well.”

Michaele was born in Manhattan but raised in Rhode Island and Providence, where she went to college at Brown. Johannes is from Germany, where they both lived for some years. Now they are based in LA, where they started Kalon in 2007. All of their products are made in the US and Europe suing non-toxic and sustainable materials.

Which five words best describe you? One of the words I can’t stop thinking about that all of my family use is very persistent.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Mine has been such a weird non-lineal path. I started as writer. I was doing freelance work and writing. My husband and I met in college in the States and then we went to Europe together. We were in Berlin from 2001 to 2005. And we started Kalon in 2007. Sometime while I was in Berlin I ended up doing work that wasn’t in my field. At that time work was so hard to get by that you would take what you could get.

But there was a creative boom in the city. Everyone was figuring out that Berlin was a city of cultural production. That got me in a certain mind set to think outside of the box. When I moved back to the States my husband decided that we would try to work together from home. We thought we would give it a year and then we wouldn’t need to keep dreaming about it. It’s always worked and we kept it going. In the last the couple of years I’ve realised that it is now my path. This is what I do. But if I think about it - I can connect the dots. I feel somewhat far away from where I started except that it’s a creative process.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? I feel that I learn so many lessons all the time. I’m glad I learned some but they are challenging. What I’ve always loved about the creative process is that you can actualise something and watch it materialise. I think one of the best things about having my own company is being able to make the decision for everything across the board. How much you can do if you just really stick to it. The other thing is by sticking to things the way we wanted them to be - it has really worked. Our guiding principle was to design and structure the company the way we wanted it to be.  In some ways we may have been setting ourselves up for failure but it’s been the opposite.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Running the business. I feel the highs and lows and sometimes it feels like “what are we doing”. But I feel proud of how much we have accomplished. When we started anything in green or sustainable design wasn’t very attractive. If you wanted to do anything sustainable you had to sacrifice aesthetics. People said, “You can’t make something out of the States, and you can’t use high-quality materials.” I’m proud that we’ve done it, and we still do it.

What’s been your best decision? Working for myself and doing this. It has allowed me to really flex my creative muscles. And it has allowed me to have a family life and do as much as I can with my kids.

Who inspires you? Johannes really inspires me. We have worked side by side for eight years and I love that I can still be inspired by his process and ideas.

What are you passionate about? You have to be a very passionate person to be an entrepreneur and to do the work we’re doing - it’s really not easy. If you look at Kalon I hope that the passion is clear and clearly stated. I’m totally a workaholic; I live my work. Also, I really love travelling. As a little kid, I really wanted to think about how I could see all the places in the world. Getting out of my own space really inspired me.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I really don’t have anyone that I can think of right now. Several years ago I would have answered that with Cleopatra - but that had more to do with going back to a certain period. But now I’m not really sure.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I would love to keep making more pieces and see how far we can take our company. I would really love to finish all the rooms in the house - building furniture for each space.

What are you reading? I am reading Half of a yellow sun.

images courtesy of kalon studios


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