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    Interview: Louise Mulhall of Floralovely


    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.


    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.

    Posted by: Tess McCabe
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    Regional creative spotlight: Kamisha Refalo – Little Wren Flowers


    By Christina Atherton

    Having recently made a sea change from the big smoke, I’ve noticed an abundance of local creatives doing incredible things across regional Australia, highlighting that you don’t need to live in a major city to fulfil your creative passion.

    One such creative is Kamisha Refalo from Little Wren Flowers in Newcastle who is pushing the boundaries when it comes to creative floristry. Her bespoke work can be seen across retail outlets, cafes and magazines as well as weddings and special events. Here she shares some insights into running a small business and her creative inspirations.

    Tell us a bit about your background? How did you get into floristry?
    I’ve been working in the floristry industry since I was 17 years old. My first job was at Roses Only in Chifley Plaza, Sydney. I felt like this would be the perfect ‘earthy’ job for a young country girl in the big city. I stayed there for a few years before moving back home to Bellingen on the north coast of NSW.

    After that, I dabbled in the industry for a few years but never felt confident or ready to branch out on my own. It wasn’t until my partner and I travelled around Australia with our sons then 1 and 3, that I really gave some thought to starting my own business.

    When we returned to Newcastle, I started Little Wren Flowers from home with just one client – Saluna Café – who I still work with today. From there, it grew really quickly and, with plenty of wedding requests and clients coming in, I moved into our studio on Darby Street.

    What was the motivation behind starting Little Wren Flowers?
    Essentially it was to create something that could be flexible around my young children – at the moment I work part-time which I’m really grateful for. Rather than have a typical shopfront, my flower studio is by appointment only which means I can be more flexible with my hours. I never thought Little Wren Flowers would turn out to be as creatively rewarding as it is, which is great. I really love working for myself and am thankful that, at this stage, the business isn’t driven by money.

    You have a really unique approach to floristry and a great eye for detail. Where do you get your inspiration from?
    I get my inspiration from the flowers. If you have fresh, beautiful blooms to work with, nothing can go wrong. I love natural, true-to-form arrangements – this style of floristry comes easily to me and I love that it resonates with so many people, too. In addition, living so close to the country, I am lucky enough to be able forage and handpick ingredients on a weekly basis.


    How do you keep yourself creatively challenged working in a small regional business?
    I’m lucky that I have great clients who make me think outside the box each week. Creative collaborations are great, too, as they challenge what is possible. Social media keeps me on my toes and the changing seasons help as well, as I get to work with flowers and foliage that may often only be available for those few months each year.

    What do you love most about running your own creative business?
    I love having flexible hours to suit my home life. I love the control and being able to drive Little Wren Flowers in the direction that is right for me. I also love the freedom to work at my own pace and indulge, at times, in creative ideas. Floristry is a very satisfying job – it’s about making clients smile using the beauty of a natural medium.

    What are the challenges of running your own creative business?
    Like most creative people, I find bookwork and quoting on jobs can be challenging – I try very hard to please everyone! The other big challenge is to not take on too many overheads. I don’t want money to be the sole motivation of the business. At present, we only buy for clients so there is very minimal waste or loss.

    I also currently have three amazing casual staff at Little Wren Flowers and we all work really well together. As the boss, I am always learning how to make my team more comfortable and happy after each big project. My aim is for my staff to genuinely love what we do and never feel like it is just a job for them.


    Do you find there are any differences between working in a regional area compared to a big city?
    For sure! Everyone is so supportive in Newcastle and I get such great positive feedback from the locals. I couldn’t imagine living in a big city, let alone operating a small business there! We have it made in Newcastle – everything is close enough that it’s rarely stressful. The furthest we ever travel is an hour-and-a-half to the Hunter Valley to set up weddings. Unfortunately the drive to the Sydney Flower Markets is a mission from Newcastle. I would love for the Sydney Flower market to be more accessible.

    Is there are a strong creative community in Newcastle? Does this help with your creativity?
    Yes, the creative community here is very strong and inspiring. I collaborate regularly with a number of different people and am grateful for each and every opportunity. I just wish I had more time! There are so many awesome creative projects, openings and markets happening in Newcastle every day.

    What does a typical day at work look like for you?
    I have three types of days. A typical market day sees me wake at 2:30am and drive to the Sydney Flower Markets. It’s a 2.5 hour drive each way, so I usually get back to the studio around 9:30am and unload all the flowers and group them according to events, weddings and our weekly clients. If there’s time, I head home for a nanna nap, then pick up the kids from school at 2:45pm.

    A typical creative day in the studio making up wedding flowers often means I work back until 9/10pm, just to make sure everything is perfect. A wedding delivery and set up day starts at 5-6am to dress all bridal flowers, make any delicate crowns or hair flowers then pack the flowers into cars and head out to the wedding venue, usually by 2pm.

    A typical studio day starts by getting everyone to school then heading into the studio by 9am to check emails. I then create any orders and weekly clients orders, deliver those then pick up the kids and head home, or stay back late and get on top of quoting and paperwork.

    I love the variety of my days, so I guess there is no typical day other wise this job/career would not suit me. I love the ups and downs and the many different briefs and ideas that get thrown my way.

    What are your big plans for 2015?
    To move to a larger studio and buy a cool room – which would be heaven. I also have some creative weddings booked which I am really looking forward to getting my hands dirty for this year. And I would love to grow more flowers!


    {Photos by Hannah Robinson}

    Having swapped the big smoke for coastal life, Christina Atherton is on a quest to live a more creative life and shine the spotlight on regional creatives. She has an unhealthy obsession with Instagram and loves any type of creative project having tried everything from watercolours and flower arranging to paper craft and calligraphy. When not working in PR, she spends her time as a mama, wannabe photographer and coffee addict. Christina is also the CWC Event Host in Newcastle, NSW.

    Posted by: Tess McCabe
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    Interview – Tess McCabe of CWC and Creative Minds Publishing

    Tess McCabe

    By Andrea McArthur

    Tess McCabe is a Brisbane-born, Melbourne based creative entrepreneur who has made Creative Women’s Circle (CWC) the inspirational community that it is. Recently, Tess has also founded a resource for smart working creatives called Creative Minds Publishing. A big thanks to Tess for sharing her thoughts with us.

    Can you give a brief description of your path to CWC and Creative Minds Publishing.

    From an early age I’ve been a  lover of printed things – books, magazines, posters, stationery – though it wasn’t until late high school that I could ‘name’ graphic design as the career path to follow. At that point I was pretty determined to make that happen, though I was also open to whatever opportunities came my way job-wise in the industry. So after a Bachelor of Design Studies at Griffith University in Brisbane, I worked for a big publishing house designing educational and non-fiction books. I also freelanced for small studios and my own clients creating brand identities, printed things and web stuff, and after a year of travel found myself working independently full-time in 2008 doing all of the above. As a ‘side project’ and as a way to meet people in my new home town of Melbourne, I took over coordinating CWC in 2009 from its founder Dearne Mills.

    CWC grew in hops, skips and jumps, and in 2011 I was looking for a project that could combine my love of print and my interest in the stories of other creative women. I’m really passionate about promoting the work of women in creative industries and shining a spotlight on their career achievements. Thus Conversations with Creative Women was born, which seemed like a natural progression for CWC. That really sparked my interest and zest for self-publishing, so Volume Two appeared two years later.

    I’m a keen observer and listener, and if I think that there is a need for a particular resource for the community of independent creatives I am so invested in to be realised, then I think of ways to make it happen. The launch of Creative Minds Publishing earlier this year is basically a way to put an umbrella over these ideas.

    CWC and Creative Minds Publishing

    Describe CWC’s core values?

    We value shining a spotlight on the creative work of women, because we feel that women are vastly under-represented on many platforms that promote the work of creatives. But we also value sharing and uncovering the truth that there are many varied paths a creative career can take, not all of them conventional and most of them incorporating all of the other messy life stuff that comes with being a creative lady e.g. making money; having a family etc.

    At what period did you feel CWC gaining momentum?

    Probably after the release of Conversations with Creative Women: Volume One, and the introduction of memberships and The Circle Database in 2012. Those things extended the reach of CWC and meant connections between creative women from all walks reached beyond Melbourne’s borders (which at the time was the only place we held our in-person events).

    Where would you like to take CWC in the future?

    To be honest, 2015 could be a fairly significant year for CWC!

    Event-wise, in 2014 we’ve had speaker events and Member’s Morning Teas in Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane and of course Melbourne, and next year I’d love to see these events being hosted in the other capital cities and major regional centres as well.

    As The Circle Database grows, it will be great to see more interaction between Members and more of their needs addressed through website upgrades and additions.

    Structurally however, there are some changes which I’m hoping to make that mean the community of Members we’ve built will get to take a lot more ownership over the future direction of CWC. This is all in the planning stages at the moment, but more than it being an exciting thing for the group, it’s the right thing to do for the future of CWC and its sustainability as well. Stay tuned!

    Morning Tea

    At a Member’s Morning Tea event at Mimi-Myrtle&Co. Photography by Martina Gemmola

    What is the next event that CWC is hosting?

    We’ve just had our last speaker and morning tea events in Brisbane, Melbourne, Newcastle and Sydney for the year over the last few weeks. Now it’s time for some resting, recharging, plotting and planning before we get back into the swing of things in February/March next year.

    How has networking helped you so far?

    I’m not a native Melburnian, so when I moved here 8 years ago I didn’t know very many people. Plus, 12 months after settling here I decided to become self-employed and work from home, which wasn’t a great strategy for meeting new people! Networks like CWC helped me get the support I needed as an independent business woman but has also gained me some very dear friends along the way. I’m a pretty introverted person by nature, and traditional networking doesn’t gel with me, so I really built CWC up to be exactly the kind of non-threatening networking device I wanted (and that I could see other people liked as well!). Yes I have gained a few clients through it, but mostly it’s given me a cushion of support and many, many bursts of inspiration as I fumble through my own business ventures.

    Has social media played a large factor in your businesses success as well?

    Definitely. When I took over CWC in 2009, blogs were becoming popular but the other platforms we are so accustomed to now either didn’t exist, or weren’t as widely used yet. The introduction of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and the ability for the CWC community to meet in person at events and then stay connected through those channels has been imperative to CWC’s success – they work hand in hand. Though if we could all agree to hold off introducing another social media platform for a while that would be great – it’s a lot to keep up with!

    Have any of your creative businesses been a product of personal projects coming to life?

    I suppose Creative Women’s Circle evolved from a side project into something I spend a lot more time on and take more seriously from a business perspective. I’ve learned to keep truly personal and fun projects out of the business sphere as much as possible, to that the pressure off and to ensure they stay fun.

    Have you always had your “Creative Minds Publishing” idea in the back of your mind?

    Having my own publishing company was not something I always intended to do. I tend to focus on 3-5 year goals, so professionally I know what I am working toward, but those goals are always somewhat vague (or have ‘feathered edges’ as I like to think). I have a very young family and my partner is also self-employed, and so professional goals at this stage of my life have to be fluid and flexible. I would go so far to say as I will probably always want to work in graphic design, in print, and spearhead my own projects with cool people, so that combination of things is what spurned Creative Minds Publishing. But I have no master plan for the brand just yet – I’d like to see it develop on its own first and then mould it from there.

    Conversations with Creative Women

    When did you decide to act?

    At the beginning of 2013, CWC held a speaker event with Melbourne intellectual property lawyer Sharon Givoni about protecting copyright for creatives. It was one of our most popular events to date, and afterwards over coffee Sharon and I mused that there wasn’t a single comprehensive resource available to creatives that explained the concepts she discussed in the workshop, and the issues her clients come to her with every day. With her interest in writing and mine in publishing, and our combined networks of creatives from which to draw inspiration and target the resource, it seemed like a natural next step to produce a book together: Owning It: A Creative’s Guide to Copyright, Contracts and the Law. Formalising an imprint under which to release the book in 2015 was the impetus for launch Creative Minds in August this year. Plus, it made sense to re-release my earlier eBook Graphic Design Speak in print (yay!) to welcome the brand to the world!

    Over the years how have you learnt your main business lessons. From trial and error, reading, workshops or bringing specialists in?

    Probably the biggest lesson is to listen to the advice and feedback of others, but know when to take that advice with a grain of salt, and also know how to vet those to ensure they have your best interests at heart. In the past I have screwed myself over by not trusting people enough, and been screwed by trusting people too much. It’s tough steering a ship whilst also drawing the map – you need people around you but it can take time to find the right support network.

    I read a lot, but not the kind of ‘business’ books you might think. I like memoirs, particularly comedian’s memoirs. Comedians are self-employed, creative, pursue a niche industry they are intensely passionate in – often for years before they find success – but at the same time they are acutely aware of the absurdity of life and how lucky they are to be able to do what they do for money. I like that attitude.

    Many of the little nuggets of advice that rattle around my head are from CWC speakers, or interviews on our blog or the Conversations books. I feel pretty lucky to have that constant injection of real-life advice from other women who are steering their ships in the same ocean as me!

    Graphic Design Speak

    And, what advice has stayed with you.

    I’m not sure if there is one specific piece of advice that is high above all the rest, but we all know that saying ‘no-one on their death bed ever wished they had spent more time at the office’. So probably the advice I try to keep front of mind these days is to work when it’s work time, enjoy family time when it’s family time, and relax when it’s relax time (and have a decent measure of all three in an average week!). That doesn’t always go to plan (I can’t help it if I come up with a great work-related idea when I am playing with trucks with my son!) but it’s important to keep trying.

    Walk us through a day in the life of Tess.

    I’m working full-time hours at the moment while my husband does the stay-at-home-Dad thing, something we consider ourselves pretty fortunate to be able to swing. So my day starts when my son, who is two-and-a-half, wakes up around 7am. From there all three of us amble around trying to get fed and dressed in a reasonable amount of time. I leave the house around 8am and walk to my office in a shared studio space five minutes away. Once there, I tackle the to-do list that I have made the previous day, usually starting with emails that have come in overnight. On an average day I will do a couple of hours of graphic design work for clients (while listening to my favourite podcasts), a couple of hours of work on Owning It or another smaller publishing project, and some time on CWC (preparing a blog post, emailing with a speaker or event host, tinkering with the website, or sending out book orders or membership packs). I’m pretty head-down-bum-up productive – way more so than when I didn’t have a kid and didn’t have to shut down my computer on the dot of 5.30pm. When I leave the office I head straight home to hang with my family and catch up on the day, wrangle the kid into a bath and then into bed, and then have dinner with my husband. After dinner I might do a gym class (no more than twice a week though… I hate exercising but have come to recognise it’s a necessary evil!), or record an episode of The New Normal Podcast with my friend and neighbour Emma Clark. Weekends are family time and I’m pleased to say I’ve stopped doing computer work on weekends – there’s just no time (or energy) after toddler taming and it’s nice to return fresh after a break from the big screen on Monday morning. I still check email and social media on my phone pretty regularly though… can’t break that addiction unfortunately.

    What were you doing the last time you looked at a clock and realised you had lost all track of time?

    Sadly it was probably tackling a rather unwieldy email inbox or getting stuck on a design. How I DO like to lose track of time is painting, or reading, or meals with family and friends.

    - – -

    You can become a member of Creative Women’s Circle or view the titles under Creative Minds Publishing.

    Andrea McArthur (www.andyjane.com) has a passion for all things visual and works as a Senior Graphic Designer in Dubai. Type is her true love and goes weak at the knees over beautiful design. You’ll find her sharing image musings on Instagram @andyjanemc.

    Posted by: Andrea McArthur
    Categories: CWC news, interview, regular columns | Comments Off
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    Creative collaborations: Trish Chong and Rhonda Mason from Life:Captured Workshops


    By Christina Atherton

    Through their Life:Captured workshops, Sydney-based creative duo Trish Chong and Rhonda (Ronnie) Mason hope to equip others with the skills and resources to document their lives in beautiful and creative ways. They teach both the technical and emotional aspects of documentary photography right through to editing and workflow, photo book design and layout, journalling, memory keeping systems, life albums, and general organisation of photos and memorabilia. Today I ask Ronnie and Trish about the paths that led them to this point.

    How did you meet?
    We met many moons ago at a mutual friend’s baby shower, and then on occasion at weddings in the years that followed. But we never really connected until the beginning of last year when our blogs led us to catch up with each other over coffee, and talk of family photography and memory-keeping workshops began. We were drawn to each other’s drive and passion for what we loved, and found the opportunities we had in front of us allowed us to work together in a fun and creative environment.



    What are your creative backgrounds?
    Trish: I’ve honestly never thought of myself as all too creative. In high school I enjoyed turning up the radio and figuring out maths and chemistry problems, and ended up choosing a combined law and finance degree because I had no idea what I wanted to do. Through university there came an opportunity to backpack around the world with friends and I brought an old film camera with me, a gift from my uncle who no longer had a use for it. Through those experiences, I developed a love for the medium of film and the joy of capturing people and places which has stuck with me ever since.

    Ronnie: My story is a little similar to Trish’s. I grew up thinking I would become a commercial accountant working for a big firm, and therefore ended up studying a combined law and accounting degree. From there I enrolled myself into a marketing graduate diploma and when I finished my studies, I worked from the ground up in a small marketing department for a large international organisation. As I took on more branding and creative responsibilities, I soon realised that my passion lay in graphic design. Through a number of intensive training courses, I learnt to use the Adobe Creative Suite design software pretty quickly and I was soon creating all our marketing materials in-house. When I quit work a couple of years later, I started up my own commercial design studio and ran that for seven years. Even though I no longer work for commercial clients, my love for graphic design remains and has carried over into my blogging and my memory-keeping endeavours.


    How did your collaboration on Life:Captured come about?
    As mothers, both of us realised how much each passing moment leaves behind as we travel through this world at the speed we now do. We were passionate about memory-keeping for ourselves, but also wanted to share this with others who may not have the same skills and experience as we do to make the whole journey enjoyable and easy to do. We both had a love for the tangible and wanted to teach others that it wasn’t really too hard to make beautiful keepsakes for themselves that they, and their loved ones, would treasure dearly now and in the years to come. It seemed only fitting that our combined skills of photography, organisation, and memory-keeping would be able to fill a niche that was not readily available in the current creative market.

    What roles do you each play in the business?
    Trish: Ronnie is definitely the organised one in the partnership and she handles most of the paperwork and record-keeping. We share the communication and correspondence and keep to our strengths through the teaching elements. My aim is to simplify the elements of manual photography, breaking down both technical and emotional components and putting it all into practice, with a live shoot of a family during the workshop itself. We later teach our participants how to edit these same images using Adobe Lightroom software and reference them again whilst mocking up an album or layout. Following the workshop, I try and have images ready for both our blogs as well as for our sponsors to use to say thank you for their generous contributions.

    Ronnie: Trish does a lot more than she’s giving herself credit for! She’s been liaising with most of our sponsors, and it was through her network and contacts that we were able to lock in RAW Space as the venue for our first two workshops. She also does all the photography work while I’m the one who works on the design of our marketing materials. Honestly, I love working with Trish’s images. I think her photography and my design style are a good match. At the workshops, I teach an intensive crash course in photo organisation using Adobe Lightroom; my goal is always to equip our attendees with the ability to catalogue their entire personal photo library – both past and present. I also give a talk about memory keeping outlining methods of memory keeping that I find to be meaningful and effective to give our attendees ideas to develop their own framework for memory keeping. To wrap up the day, I also run through my fundamental principles for graphic design in the context of creating photo books, and I teach a mini session in learning the basics of Adobe InDesign.

    Life captured

    Trish and Ronnie have recently launched their online portal, where they offer online classes to complement their Sydney-based workshops. See more at lifecapturedinc.com

    {Photos by Trish Chong}

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    Posted by: Tess McCabe
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