I’ve been producing hand printed and dyed textiles under my own name for two years, one year full time. It is only now after one year of putting in some serious thought and hours that I am really seeing the business grow in the direction I envisioned for it. I am particularly over the moon to now be working more than ever along side small businesses, decorators and private clients to produce more commissioned and project based work.
2 : I N S P I R A T I O N
While I’m answering these questions, it is Autumn in Tasmania. One of the most beautiful seasons in one of the most beautiful places in the world! Since most of my designs are informed by native flora and colours of the local landscape, it’s times like these that really get me inspired to create. The resulting works are my ultimate celebration of place, and carry an appreciation for where I live. I’m lucky that having a love of my surroundings is such an important part of what I do. It means I can talk passionately about my work, and tell the story behind each piece. In return, I get customers and stockists who are really connected to the narrative behind my textiles and support me to continue making. Most of my work is made in small batches or is one of a kind, so I find that I stay in touch with many of my customers about what I’m making next, or they tell me about what kind of products, colours or prints they would like to see more of.
This ongoing dialogue with the community keeps me engaged to keep making. On a more immediate level, there are freedoms with being self employed that keep me going on ‘off days’. No one is going to tell me that I can’t listen to Eminem or watch Sex and the City if that’s what I need to do to get through. It’s awesome.
3 : P R O C E S S
I am always thinking about new print designs, but only small amount of designs come to fruition as a finished textile. It is amazing how many ideas just don’t ‘work’ once they get to paper or fabric. I’ve got a few decent sized folders in the studio full of half finished ideas or things I might come back to one day. Looking at the folders, it can feel like a lot of wasted time on things that didn’t work, but in reality all the drawings are part of a design process which is time consuming, slow and considered.
Hand-inked marks are a distinctive feature of my print designs. Using sumi or Indian ink, I sketch elements of a plant using a paintbrush. After exploring forms for a while, I start to pick up interesting details of the plant and translate these elements into patterning ideas. In this process, the subject becomes much more unique and transforms into something I can recognise as my own. My most recent print designs explore Tasmanian bush scenes and seed pods, with really bold, gestural, painterly strokes. It was really enjoyable working boldly; the resulting print design feels more masculine and strong than some of my other work which focuses on finer organic details.
Once I have a solid design, I need to move the hand painted work into photoshop to make a film negative that is used to expose and image onto a silk screen. I don’t produce my designs using a computer, it is just a tool to get the hand painted design the correct colour and size for the next stage in production.
With a newly exposed silk screen, I mix print pastes using dyes and start testing the design as a repeat pattern in different colours. Every print design has it’s own personality and looks best in certain colours. This part of the process is my favourite, as it is playful and experimental. Finally, colours are decided upon and printed onto linen as a repeat pattern fabric and washed in a solution to fix the dyes into place to make a one of a kind textile item.
I’m excited to be launching my first fabric yardage range this year which is being printed through an Australian studio, so it will be interesting to see how this effect my process. While I look forward to outsourcing some of my print work, keeping some production in the studio to produce hand dyed and specialist textiles will continue to be a defining part of my textile business. I enjoy being able to offer one of a kind and custom pieces to customers, and the process itself.
4 : B A L A N C E
The only way I can stay balanced in life is to say ‘yes’ to pretty much everything not work or design related. One of the best things in my life is hanging out with my friends who are not involved in art or design in the slightest, and barely understand what it is that I do for work. The other week I went to see a friend who is a clinical psychologist by day perform in a racy musical theatre show. It is wonderful to see contradictions between who people are and what they do for work. In many ways, it can be hard for artists to distinguish their life from their work, and I find this aspect of my job the most challenging. It is refreshing to see how other people live to remind me that it is possible to have boundaries.
5 : W O R K S P A C E
I’m really quite strict with myself when it comes to a work schedule and being organised. Structure, calendars and lists are super important to me since I’ve been working in an environment where there are no rules! Having workspace where I can just get stuff done and everything can flow seems like an obvious necessity, but the reality is that I went without an effective workspace until very recently which has been incredibly hard.
I only just signed a lease to share a studio space in Salamanca Arts Centre with two friends; Illustrator Sean Anderson (aka ‘Bromunkey‘), and Jeweller Emily-Eliza Arlotte, who also happens to be my bestie (a major work perk!). Salamanca is beautiful place to work every day. Slowly, I’m starting to enjoy the less obvious things about working down here that are unique to the studio, like seeing flurries of autumn leaves swoosh through Wooby’s lane just outside my window, or eavesdropping on the fun of a flamenco dance class taking place next door. Appreciating the little happenings and quirks of the space are quickly making it a loveable place I look forward to arriving at every day.