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Studio Visit: Monique Woodward, architect

7_wowowa_studio_kiehls aus interview

It’s not often on just hearing a name that you get such a strong sense of the dynamism behind a creative duo, but this is just the case with WOWOWA (implied!) whose co-founders Monique and Scott Woodward forge a next-generation approach to architectural practice with a kind of positive charge often missing in professional creative circles.

In WOWOWA Architecture & Interiors, the pair have created the kind of practice they always wanted to work in, one that prioritises artistic expression, teaching and advocacy as essential to ongoing creativity. Alongside partner Scott, Monique is a vocal advocate for improved living standards and accessibility of quality design as a tenet of modern Australian culture.

From their glittering Tin & Ed business cards to the bold glazed red brick façade of the Finn House, WOWOWA is unafraid of a playful nod to the kitch, and their declaration of a radical postmodernist style is one beautifully tailored to bring a fresh optimism to the architecture of the everyday – the humble family home. We spoke to Monique at WOWOWA’s shopfront studio in Melbourne’s leafy Carlton North about her passion for celebrating Australian culture and why more creatives should embrace the power of marketing.

1_Monique & Scott Woodward

As an emerging practice, WOWOWA has a strong brand and clear creative directive – what inspired that focus and how has it shaped the way you practice?

One of the biggest challenges we faced initially as a fledgling but ambitious creative practice was acknowledging that even if you were the greatest architect in the world, you need to be able to run a sustainable business to keep up that practice, and to successfully market yourself is a big part of that business’ success.

I undertook a marketing course at the local TAFE and we engaged a business coach, really immersed ourselves in marketing, read a lot of business and marketing literature alongside our favourite design journals.

We quickly realised that what we were saying to the world though our marketing – that we could do anything – was out of touch with the reality of our work at the moment. Whilst we do have a few small civic projects on the go and really enjoy the possibilities of larger scale projects, our current built reality is residential. Luckily, we love residential work, and it’s a big part of who we are as a practice, so it was important to acknowledge those roots and really emphasise its part in our core identity.

From this we developed a strategy that allowed us to focus in on the kind of clients we love working with – those who want to create their ‘forever home’. They’re committed to a place, and are prepared to do some soul searching, and explore what it is that they really want from a home environment.

Putting ourselves out there as a practice for professional families, with the tagline ‘life is too short for boring spaces’, we’ve found that people that subscribe to that will instantly recognise a kinship, and might know a little more of what to expect from us in the process. We can then work together and really bounce off each other in a super collaborative way. This makes the process a whole lot more enjoyable for both parties.

2_project_forever_house_John Gollings

Image by John Gollings

How has this focus on creating a client’s ‘forever home’ influenced your work?

It gives us license to work with our clients in really rewarding creative depth, to find out what they think about colour, sculpture or pattern, and taking that through to find out how flexible and functional spatial solutions can work for them. I think that’s one of our strengths, making small spaces work hard, and that’s one of the reasons we love renovations, the challenge of really cranking up an existing space and making it truly multi-purpose.

Focusing on the small scale also allows us to really immerse ourselves in the application of the theory and art of creative practice. One thing is I’m a massive sucker for ornament. Ornament, in its three dimensions, really changes the way you perceive a space, and I think that’s when a space really starts to get interesting.

What is your motivates you creatively?

My all-time favourite design inspiration has to be the humble Hills Hoist – there is so much ingenuity and kitsch beauty in perhaps undervalued elements of Australian design history that are ripe to be to explored creatively.

We see ourselves as a radically postmodern practice, propelling ideas forward to a new audience. Current trends suggest people are trying to revert back to modernism, and I find that quite unnatural, to be attempting to wind the clock back, and instead of creating spaces for living now, there is this tendency for blank spaces and miscellaneous design solutions; a blank floating shelf, a picture window to a non-descript view.

Society is always moving forward, and new technologies challenge the idea of the modernist home. We pride ourselves on not getting caught up on finicky modernist details but still having a very deep focus on embedding meaning in the quality of the interiors we create. We don’t necessarily prescribe what kind of curtains you should have, but we demand a high level of client engagement, that is often so rich that at the end of this day you can guide each other to the best solution for that space.

The nature of the construction industry means design and building programs can often stretch out over several years – how do keep up the creative energy between both clients and yourselves throughout that process?

From the very outset, we ask that our clients engage heavily in the design process, usually starting with inspiration scrapbooks, a simple cut and paste! Often in a 50c book or using sites like Pinterest, we get them to collect things from all kinds of sources, not just completed projects in design magazines. We want them to let us in on who they are, and the more information they can give, the greater depth of engagement we can have and the better the project outcome will be.

From a practice point of view – Mel (Bright) spoke at a recent AIA women’s day breakfast about how there’s only really been three cycles of work in her ten years of practice, which is I think is an experience shared by many architects. It feels like we’re about to hit our second cycle, which makes it exciting to see the development in our work and be proud of what we’ve achieved so far.

5_projects_kooyong_apartment_Martina Gemmola

Image of Kooyong apartment by Martina Gemmola

How have you tailored your practice to allow ongoing teaching and community advocacy commitments alongside your design projects?

From the outset we wanted to create the studio that we had always wanted to work in, and one that would allow us to grow into as a practice. A lot of questions arose of what was important to us as a practice; it’s collaborative, its deep in discussions, surrounded by plants, and embedded in the local community. We work fairly solidly from 9.30-5.30pm, respecting the workday, but recognise that we while could work till 10pm, it comes back to practicing what you preach – you can’t advocate to increase the standard of living and then work yourself to the bone in the process.

It means we’re able to maintain a lot of energy in the studio throughout the day, which is slightly more optimistic than spending half an hour on The Age website at midday then having to work late into the night. I’m reading managerial books and trying to look beyond being just technically good at what we do, because that doesn’t mean we’re necessarily good managers or business owners, but we can be, so it’s a skill that needs to be learned side by side with design.

We also implement ‘cultural Sunday’ which is to make sure we do something that a) recognises it’s important to make time to experience new things to keep that fire of creative inspiration burning and b) can be instagrammed, so yes, we’re always looking for the marketing tool!

Keely Malady is a graduate architect living in Melbourne. Keely’s blog, Small Talk & Co. aims to hold a space open for a new conversation on the wonders of work, and all the small things that make up a life well lived. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

 

Interview: Roslyn Campbell of Tsuno

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By Keely Malady

Sometimes a good road trip is all you need – this was certainly the case for TSUNO founder Roslyn Campbell. After studying industrial design, this self-described fiercely entrepreneurial lady had a great idea driving down the Hume highway one Christmas. But great ideas don’t just jump out from behind a road sign, and Tsuno was no exception; the synthesis of years of experience working odd jobs, discovering social enterprise and crowdfunding, and extensive travel in the third world, in particular becoming aware of barriers faced by women to attending school and work during their period.

Ros recalls arriving at her parent’s place on Christmas Day brimming with enthusiasm for sanitary products, much to the bewilderment of her family. In the year that followed that trip, Ros completed a small business course, designed and sourced a container load of sanitary pads and successfully launched Tsuno using Australian crowd funding platform Pozible.

Tsuno’s biodegradable sanitary pads are a functional, affordable, socially conscious, environmentally sustainable and beautifully designed solution to two problems – monthly sanitary protection and charitable giving. 50% of Tsuno’s profits are donated directly to programs that focus on empowering women, ranging from health initiatives, to education and small business. The first of these organisations to receive donations is the International Women’s Development Agency. To top it off, when placing you Tsuno order you also have the option of purchasing a box of pads for women supported by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre here in Melbourne (surely one of the most worthy uses of a last minute ‘add to cart’ impulse!).

Getting to know Ros a little better over the last six months, it’s become evident that this self-made social entrepreneur is no accidental vocation, but the result of years of hard work and self-discovery. I asked her a little more about her business journey from the early beginnings to her current day-to-day…

Tell us more about why you chose to launch Tsuno via Pozible?
Even before I had the idea for Tsuno, I was a big fan of crowd funding. It’s such a valuable tool for creative people to test an idea, kind of like market research, but in real time. Literally, asking the question ‘would you buy this’ ad then, ‘if you would, please put your money where your mouth is’, and if enough people do, then we’re rolling!

Preparing for and running the campaign was a lot of work, but it was really the perfect fit for my goal to engage with my directly with my market. My target was definitely ambitious. Some of my friends tried to help by breaking it down to how much the campaign needed to make each day to reach goal. That freaked me out, because prior to that I was thinking a lot more abstractly, thinking that I only needed 2000 women to pledge $20 each, and how many menstruating women are there in Australia?! A lot! Having said that, I went through a time of extreme doubt, and found my best way to work through it was to ignore it. In the end the only reason TSUNO was possible is because of my friends. They started spreading the message.

The double edged sword of doing research [into launching a new product into the marketplace] is that you know you’re prepared, but you also know how advanced your competitors are. Luckily I eventually learnt to switch off to the ‘comparison trap’, recognising that it wasn’t helpful to the project or to my own self esteem. I learnt not to doubt myself, sometimes just through naivety. I think one of the strengths of not being an expert is that sense of flexibility in your approach, that you’re more willing to just try things out, take risks.

Towards the end of the campaign I had a great idea on how to engage my audience and pulled it together in a day. I like to think that that last push was the reason [the Pozible campaign was successful]. All the sudden pledges went from ten per day to one hundred. And it happened very quickly. It was awesome, but stressful at the same time. Possible sends you an email every time someone pledges, so my phone was vibrating like crazy for a couple of weeks!

Tsuno_ros-4

What is the greatest thing you have learned in starting you own business?
Learning how to ask for help. It’s something that’s definitely needs regular practice. The greatest challenge was getting to the point of asking; thankfully the Pozible model makes it really quite easy for people to get involved once you’re there. The ability to ask for help is something I’m motivated to improve on, and I’m definitely getting some positive reinforcement at the moment with the Sanitary Tax Petition campaign. This was only made possible because I asked for help and found someone keen to take responsibility for the project under my guidance, meaning they are enabled to spread the word without me micromanaging or spending hours creating content. She is so enthusiastic and excited and brings a great new energy to TSUNO, I think it has been rewarding for all.

What are you most looking forward to?
Getting back into is product development. The first six months of TSUNO have been full pace: building the network, filling the Pozible pledges, getting the website up and running, moving warehouses too many times… meaning product development has really been on the backburner since launch. With an industrial design background, my mind is always thinking ahead in this area. Ultimately I want to build TSUNO into a brand that has every type of product that you might need during your period. I understand that some women don’t like certain products and others do, so I want to create a brand that caters for every woman’s needs. My foremost interest is adding tampons to the product range, which is in the plan for the next year.

What is a typical day for TSUNO?
(Laughs) I don’t have a typical day! A lot of it is battling with being self-employed, and trying to stay focused when my office is in my bedroom. I’m getting my head around it a bit more now, figuring out when I work well and when I don’t. One thing I’ve learnt is I have got to allow the morning to be slow, because I’m just not productive in the a.m. I get the same amount of work done in the afternoon as I would have in a whole day if I allow myself that time for slowness and gentle exercise in the morning.
At the beginning I was just getting the basics done to make TSUNO possible, keeping everything very minimal. At the moment [I’m] putting processes in place to make things sustainable in the long run. The other thing that takes up a lot of my day is packing orders, which I would like to figure out how to be more efficient at. I spend a lot of time at the post office. I’m at the point now where I’m working out the best ways to do things, and generally trying to avoid moving warehouses every three months! 

You can purchase TSUNO products from their website, and hey, consider adding one box to cart to be donated to a fellow lady in need! :)

{Images by Hania Glapa

Keely Malady is a twenty-something year old graduate architect living in Melbourne. Keely’s blog, Small Talk & Co. Aims to hold a space open for a new conversation on the wonders of the small things that make up a life well lived. Find Keely on Twitter and Instagram @keelymalady or on Facebook /smalltalkco.

Interview: Louise Mulhall of Floralovely

Louise-Mulhall_

By Keely Malady

Louise Mulhall is a Brisbane based Calligrapher and holder of possibly the most delightful business name I’ve yet encountered – Floralovely. With a background in floristry, it’s not surprising the find that Louise’s whimsical and fresh designs have attracted a strong Instagram and Facebook following, with demand growing for her pointed pen style.

Returning to an art practice that you had once been disappointed by is a courageous move – especially with a young family in tow. But Louise’s late night explorations in modern calligraphy have paid off handsomely, as her delightful creations are in demand for weddings, events and corporate clients. Louise also runs workshops across the east coast, to share her skills and passion with aspiring calligraphers.

Calligraphy is an ancient and evocative art practice, what initially attracted you to it?
I initially became interested in calligraphy when I was in high school – I was always the girl at school with the highly decorated “title page” for assignments! For a short while I learnt broad nib calligraphy, but became disheartened when I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. So I put my tools away and didn’t give them another glance until many years later, where I discovered pointed pen calligraphy. This discovery of the tools which complimented my style unleashed my creativity and I fell completely in love.

Having worked in the wedding industry for many years, I could see there was a market for my own style of handwritten place cards and wedding invitations. I researched modern calligraphy online; bought all the recommended books I could find, did online courses and completed a modern calligraphy workshop in Sydney. I spent many, many hours at night once my daughter and subsequent son, were asleep refining my style and working my way through reams of practice paper and ink.

The name ‘Floralovely’ was intended to capture my love of both flowers and calligraphy, allowing flexibility between these two aspects of my business. Ultimately though, I decided to focus exclusively on my calligraphy business and put my Floristry career into hiatus.

Louise Mulhall_calligraphy_2

What are the biggest misconceptions about your work?

If you were to look at my Instagram you might be lead to believe that my days are filled with playing with pretty papers and shiny inks when in actual fact my days are usually filled with taking my kids to swimming lessons or playing with play dough! Social media can be quite deceptive in that way.

As my children are still so young, I limit the amount of orders I take for calligraphy as my main job at the moment is Mum. I spend most days with my son and daughter and then work at night while they are asleep.

There’s a lot more involved with my business that just sitting down and writing for a couple of hours. I liaise with clients, order supplies, organise workshop venues and ticketing, create calligraphy drafts in pencil and I spend a lot of time practicing my lettering.

I definitely couldn’t keep working this hard if I didn’t love my job. I feel a great, personal fulfilment being able to write calligraphy for work and still be there for my kids when they need me.

My favourite quote at the moment is from Will Rogers (1879-1935) – “If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.”

Louise Mulhall_calligraphy_1

What have been your greatest challenges in starting your own business?
I’ve found my greatest challenge is managing my time between work and family, which I’m sure is an experience shared with any working mother! Making the most of my child-free days is imperative, as well as a having a tolerance to late nights in the office. I try to stay out of my office on the days that my kids are home with me as I want to make sure my attention is on them and not on my work.

I have also found it challenging to keep on top of the administration work while still allowing myself plenty of writing and creative time. It’s easy to get caught up in emails and admin when you’re doing everything yourself but I need to make sure I have dedicated writing times where I don’t look at the computer.

Louise Mulhall_workshop_4_

Louise Mulhall_workshop_2_

What part of your day gives you the best ‘flow’ in your work?
I really enjoy when I have a long list of names for a place card order or envelope addressing and I sit down with a cup of tea and just work my way through the list. It is so satisfying to see all the cards or envelopes lined up with the ink drying after I have finished them.

Talk us through a day in the life of Floralovely.

On the two days my children are in daycare/kindy, after the morning chaos and drop offs, I come home and settle into the stream of emails and admin work with a cup of tea.

Once I’m up to date, I’ll review the client brief and start warming up for writing. I’ve found I just can’t sit down and expect to start calligraphy work straight away. I I need to do a few pages of swirls, drills and practice alphabets to get going.

I’ll spend the rest of the day working through the order, whether it’s envelope addressing, place cards or a seating chart and before I know it, it’s time to pick up my littlies!

I mostly practice my calligraphy at night-time in the home office I share with my husband. In these quieter hours I have found the perfect environment that allows me to get my ink ‘flow’ happening. Everything is fairly still, my children are sleeping and I can really concentrate on what I’m doing.

 

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Keely Malady is a twenty-something year old graduate architect living in Melbourne. Keely’s blog, Small Talk & Co. aims to hold a space open for a new conversation on the wonders of the small things that make up a life well lived.

Studio Visit: Samara Greenwood Architecture

By Keely Malady

Samara Greenwood and Anna Castles outside SGArch’s studio/pavilion – Photo by Martina Gemmola.

Samara Greenwood and Anna Castles outside SGArch’s studio/pavilion.

Samara Greenwood Architecture is a young, boutique architectural practice focused on creating homes with heart. Founded by CWC Member Samara Greenwood, under her direction the team have an approach to design that is without pretense and is firmly focused on people – their hopes, dreams and everyday way of life.

What inspired you to start your own practice?
In many ways, the business began itself. My youngest daughter was nine months old when I was asked to help a couple who were struggling to understand the architectural process.

While I originally only agreed to help scope out their needs and prepare a brief, I fell in love with the project and decided then and there to use it as inspiration to create a more ‘user friendly’ architecture and design practice.

Model making experiments during a recent Dream Home Workshop.

Model making experiments during a recent Dream Home Workshop.

The SGArch.'s practice philosophy encourages listening and sharing of ideas.

The SGArch.’s practice philosophy encourages listening and sharing of ideas.

‘Listen’ and ‘Heart’ are quite unusual key words in an architectural firm’s mission statement – why are these important to you?
The focus on ‘listen’ actually came from a workshop attendee – who commented how great it was to spend the day with talented architects who listen. We were so taken with what he said that we have used it as a kind of motto ever since!

A lot of the time I meet people whose experience with Architects has been more difficult than it needs to be, where the designer’s vision has taken over and the client feels forgotten in the process. I wanted to create the kind of practice that I would want to engage as a client. Listening is critical to that process, balancing our skills in understanding our clients with our expertise in translating their needs into beautiful designs that work for them.

In that same sense, the ultimate aim for us is to find the ‘heart’ in each design, to produce beautiful pieces of architecture with the ‘human factor’ built right into the core.

What factors drove you and Anna (Castles) to start the Dream Home Workshops?
Anna and I met whilst working at the same architectural firm many years ago and have been friends ever since. Over lunch one day, I was describing to Anna the new methods I was developing to understand my client’s needs at a deeper level. She then simply stated ‘that would make a great workshop’ – and so the adventure began!

Both Anna and I love the conversations that arise during the workshop. We are amazed at how much the attendees get from each other, as well as from us. I know they appreciate the opportunity to spend a whole day with two architects who are willing to talk about pretty much anything (oh and we do!). It is a really warm and open experience, designed to make people comfortable with both the design process and with figuring out what they really want and need from their home.

The Dream Home Workshops are held at our tree-top studio in Ivanhoe. Again, people tell us this is a really great part of the day, as they get to step outside of their normal, everyday lives and have quality time in a beautiful, inspiring environment. We do love it when they say that!

Scrapbooking of a dream home

Scrapbooking of a dream home

A Dream Home Workshop participant trying their hand at model making.

A Dream Home Workshop participant trying their hand at model making.

Who are your typical clients, and why do you think they are drawn to SGArch’s new approach to architecture and design?
We attract a broad range of clients, but there are some common factors we are beginning to notice; when they first come to us, most clients feel ‘stuck’ in some way – perhaps they have lots of ideas but don’t know which ones will work best, or maybe they know what they want and need someone who can translate those dreams into a great design – whatever it is, our job is to help them get ‘unstuck’ and moving forward to their goals.

Our clients want a home that works beautifully, is well built and feels amazing – what we call the dream home trifecta. Many clients haven’t been through the architectural process before and aren’t sure what to expect, so we take them through what is involved as clearly and concisely as we can. We love how pleased and surprised they are by the detail we go to, and how involved they feel in the evolution of the design from start to finish.

How do you approach the next step, making ‘dream home’ aspirations a reality?
The first step in any project, small or large, is exploring all the (many!) factors that are taken into account to determine the best design strategy.

Basically, we listen, ask a lot of questions, and then more questions about the answers to those questions, then do some research, then try a few ideas out, then ask more questions, until both we and our clients feel we’ve hit on the best course of action. This is a process that takes a fair bit of experience and intuition to navigate, but is so much fun at the same time! We call it our ‘house doctor’ strategy – you tell us your problems and, together, we’ll find the cure.

The Dream Home Workshop's are held at SGArch’s studio pavilion in Ivanhoe, with  stunning views of the Darebin Parklands and CBD.

The Dream Home Workshop’s are held at SGArch’s studio pavilion in Ivanhoe, with stunning views of the Darebin Parklands and CBD.

Find Samara and the Dream Home Workshops online at www.sgarch.com.au, or on Instagram @samara_greenwood.

Keely Malady is a twenty-something year old graduate architect living in Melbourne. Her passions include art, design and the environment, both built and natural. Keely’s blog, Small Talk & Co., is on a mission to share the brilliance of big hearted entrepreneurial thinkers from around Melbourne and Australia with the world. Find Keely on Twitter and Instagram @keelymalady or on Facebook /smalltalkco.

{All photos by Martina Gemmola}