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    Category Archives: Interviews with Creative Women

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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 Pop & Scott 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


    Tags: architect, collaboration, design, interiors, partners, studio visit
    Posted by: Emma Clark
    Categories: Interviews with Creative Women, Studio Visit | Comments Off
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    Studio visit: Kelsie White of K Gets Organised


    Kelsie White packages a new set of cards in her home studio in Northbridge, Perth.

    By Kristen Marano

    Kelsie White is changing the stationery game with her cheeky sayings and fresh designs. Her cards challenge the need for an occasion to send a sweet note with lines like ‘You’re my favourite blanket stealer,’ and her sleekly-designed paper pads encourage people to make to-do lists they’ll actually fulfil.

    White’s childhood enthusiasm for stationery kick-started her paper goods business K Gets Organised in 2014; she has since created a collection of more than 100 products that fuse black and white sleek typography and cheerful watercolour designs such as popsicles and doughnuts.

    At only 23 years old, White is a creative woman on the move who is constantly connecting and creating. White designs and packages in her bright sunny studio in the hip neighbourhood of Northbridge, Perth, sells her paper goods at local market stalls, and keeps learning as she completes her graphic design degree.

    White is also the event host of the Perth chapter of Creative Women’s Circle, and she will launch the second event of the year this week. We recently chatted about how she got her start in stationery, her creative process, and where she plans to take her business next:

    What attracted you to paper goods? 

    I’m what I affectionately call a stationery addict. I also love a good card stock, a hardbound notebook with the perfect paper inside, and writing out my to-do list every day. There is nothing better than sending and receiving a hand-written note from someone. The nostalgia and old world charm of stationery and hand writing, from getting your pen license to writing your wedding vows, really brought me to stationery; it has made creating and designing for special, heartfelt moments so beautiful.

    Take me through your creative process.

    I usually draw from a real life experience. My favourite yellow water-colour card reads, ‘You’re just so bloomin’ lovely’, and I made it with my beautiful girlfriends in mind. I was studying and working as a florist at the time and loved giving them little left over flowers from my shifts. That’s how I created the card.

    A lot of my illustration work also comes from people around me. I recently drew some lovely popsicles for a local business called Delish Ice. I love the owner Katie and I’m so happy to have her as a friend; it was so much fun to draw happy little popsicles while thinking about her passion, drive, and kindness.

    I also love to draw from current trends; my latest planners feature doughnuts, indoor plants, and popsicles.


    Sketches, and water-colour designs mark White’s studio walls as inspiration and new works in progress. 

    What puts you in the mood to create?

    A great cup of coffee, a beautiful cafe, and Wi-Fi. With all of these things, the world is my oyster.

    You’re successfully running your own business at such a young age. Who has influenced and inspired your journey as a small business owner? 

    I really wanted to be my own boss and push myself to try something new. I had never studied business or run a business before.

    I’ve been studying art and making art since I was very young, and I wanted to get back into creating while I was at university; I started making planners to help motivate me to complete my assignments. From there I launched a tiny collection of five planners and now have more than 100 products under my belt. This was not an easy journey, but it is by far the thing I’m most proud of doing in my life.

    My role models include Anna Rifle Bond from Rifle Paper Co., who I was lucky enough to meet in London last year at a stationery conference (they exist!), and Sass Cocker from Ask Alice in Melbourne. They both really inspired me to go out there and create beautiful paper goods.

    What can we expect from K Gets Organised in the coming months?

    A really big and exciting change that will launch around February 2016.

    In December, White will depart for a creative getaway through Europe and the United States. To follow her journey and get regular behind-the-scenes posts, check out her Instagram.

    Kristen Marano is a digital nomad living in Perth, Australia. Kristen interviews women in business. She contributes to Huffington Post Canada, and produces a weekly newsletter, Creative Women Weekly, featuring stories of creative women from around the world. Follow Kristen on Twitter @kmarano.


    Tags: perth, small business, stationery, studio visit, western australia
    Posted by: Emma Clark
    Categories: Interviews with Creative Women, Regional, Studio Visit | Comments Off
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    Regional creative: Melisah May Art Studio and Workshop

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    By Christina Atherton

    Being a creative can sometimes be a struggle between fulfilling a desire to create and making ends meet. Many of us have had to compromise along the way but what if the two could work seamlessly together?

    Melisah May is a Newcastle based artist who has fulfilled a lifelong dream of running her own artists studio in the heart of the city. With a background in teaching she is able to combine her two loves – art and teaching – to offer a creative hub for people to discover the joys of art while continuing to make a name for herself in the art world.

    Tell us a bit about your background?

    I’ve always wanted to be an artist and have always been involved in something creative. I completed a degree in Natural History Illustration at Newcastle University then a Certificate in Small Business Management with plans to start my own freelance practice. Unfortunately illustrators weren’t in great demand at the time so I decided to return to uni and get my teaching qualification. For the past seven years I’ve been a full time Secondary Visual Arts and Photography Teacher while building a name for myself as an artist on the side as well as holding exhibitions and teaching in London for two years. I’m not really content with staying put too long!


    Summer Rain, 2015, Acrylic on canvas by Melisah May

    As a freelance illustrator and artist, how do you get your work out there?

    Social media is obviously a big help now so I try and utilize that as much as I can. Before Facebook and Instagram, I had to get the word out there the old fashioned way – by talking to people! I found doing lots of markets helped me get my work out there and just asking people in cafes and shops if they would hang my work. I have to remind myself of those days because I find myself relying on social media way too much these days.

    You have an amazing light-filled studio in the heart of Newcastle. How did that come about?

    Completely by chance! I wasn’t looking for a studio but a friend told me about the space and I thought I’d go have a look. I fell in love and decided to take the plunge. Starting my own art studio has been my dream for a long time.  By the end of last year I had swapped full tine teaching with being a full time small business owner!

    How do you use this space to create? Does it inspire your work?

    It is definitely a very inspiring space. I still pinch myself every time I walk in! I love having so much room to move and I feel like I’m kind of developing and growing with my work as the studio develops. Everything I do in the space is promoting growth and positive experience so that environment is a catalyst for my practice

    You’ve had exhibitions in New York, London, Sydney and Newcastle. What’s the process for preparing for an exhibition?

    It’s different every time really. Just quietly, it’s usually a big stressful rush towards the end! Generally however, I will have an idea for an exhibition based on what I have been making at the time and just work on tightening that body of work to form a coherent narrative.

    Where do you get your inspiration from?

    Everywhere – music, art history, pop culture, people on the street, food – you name it! I do love books though and I would have to say the one thing that never fails to inspire me even when I’m feeling flat is wandering through a bookstore and looking at books of all descriptions. It’s one of my favourite things to do especially in used bookstores!


    You also offer workshops for adults and children, is teaching something you love?

    Absolutely. I love teaching, and I always want it to be part of what I do. Nothing compares to the feeling of helping someone smile and feel accomplished.

    What’s next for you?

    I want to continue to develop the studio as a business and provide more creative and diverse opportunities for people to indulge in their inner artist. I also want to start exhibiting my own work more frequently in 2016.  I feel I have a lot to express from my experiences in this past year and I’m excited about what’s to come.

    On a quest to live a more creative life, Christina loves any type of crafty project and has tried everything from watercolours and flower arranging to paper craft and calligraphy. She has an unhealthy obsession with Instagram and when not working in freelance travel and lifestyle PR, spends her time as a mama, wannabe photographer and magazine junkie. She currently coordinates CWC events in Newcastle.

    Tags: artist, Newcastle, regional
    Posted by: Emma Clark
    Categories: Interviews with Creative Women, Regional | Comments Off
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    Studio visit: Hayley Welsh, Street Artist


    By Kristen Marano

    Perth Street Artist Hayley Welsh works out of her home garage, but there’s nothing garage-like about it. Welsh has created a space that reflects every bit of who she is: a street artist, traveller, and family person.

    Travel trinkets—mostly American flags from her school bus project —adorn shelves; colourful patterned rugs keep out the cold, and a refinished wood grain table lines the back of the room. Welsh has neatly organized a corner of paintbrushes and paints; vintage picture frames lay stacked on the floor, and the main garage wall is covered by floor to ceiling canvas and butcher paper for Welsh to sketch and paint on.

    I met Welsh at her exhibition Hijacked, a collaboration with her partner and Photographer Andy Faraday. We recently caught up on a Friday afternoon to chat about her creative process, and how travel has influenced her work…

    Describe the process of developing Hijacked and your choice of materials.

    The whole thing was about seizing control of the situations that come to you and try to make the best out of things. It’s a belief that both Andy and I mirror in our work: try to seize what’s happening in your life.

    I guess I looked at things I had been collecting, the ones that spoke to me that I could use to portray this ‘hijacked’ message. I had a collection of articles I was going to work on; Andy had been shooting his work in film and developing it. So, before the show we sat down, and I looked at works that Andy felt like that he would be happy for me to work on. I talked about pieces that I could see something happening. We wanted to create a show that we’d like to go see: sculpture, installation, a mixture of stuff and experiences. We tried not to make it a clinical and typical gallery space and more of an experience.

    Welsh being interviewed at Hijacked, an exhibition in collaboration with Andy Faraday that fused photography and street art to illustrate messages like 'trust love and ignore fear'. Credit: Andy Faraday.

    Welsh being interviewed at Hijacked, an exhibition in collaboration with Andy Faraday that fused photography and street art to illustrate messages like ‘trust love and ignore fear’. Credit: Andy Faraday.

    Describe the moment when you knew you wanted to create an exhibition about fear.

    I was kind of dissecting what I was already creating. Figuring out what was I making, and what these creatures were. I realized it was all this recurring self-doubt.

    When I held, Not You Again, which was a show about dealing with self-doubt, I read a book called, There’s Nothing Wrong With You. It was about how self-doubt and fear spreads to you from an early age. I thought it was interesting, and it explained a lot about why I feel the way I do. After reading that book I felt inspired that I wanted to explore that feeling.

    How do you use this space to create?

    I’ve been painting portraits a lot, and using this mirror to draw my reflection. My mood changes a lot in this space, and this wall can dictate the mood I’ve been in.

    I don’t come into the studio until I’m ready to paint; I never enter the studio before lunch. It’s always messy before a show. Everything is pushed to the side, and everything I want to shoot is on the floor. “I’m always jumping from my computer to paint,” Welsh says with a laugh.

    Welsh uses a mix of classical materials to sculpt and paint on found materials whether old signs, a travel globe, or creature. Credit: Kristen Marano

    Welsh uses a mix of classical materials to sculpt and paint on found materials whether old signs, a travel globe, or creature. Credit: Kristen Marano

    How has travel influenced your work?

    Travelling is such a massive part of feeling empowered and meeting new people. I find you just get richer and richer in your experiences; you broaden your mind so much more. I can’t imagine my life without having travel being a big part of it. Travel has given me the kind of confidence to keep challenging myself, and keep stepping out of the comfort zone. We create better things when we are challenged.

    That’s what I found with the school bus project a year ago. We had a show organized in New York, and we didn’t have the work for it. We decided to create the work while we were there. We bought a bus on the west coast, travelled to east coast, and I found whatever objects. I had a lot of self-doubt like what am I doing with my life? Why are we in a bus? But, I loved every second of it. All these emotions created that body of work.

    Welsh sketches one of her creatures while overlooking the Grand Canyon in Las Vegas, United States. Credit: Andy Faraday.

    Welsh sketches one of her creatures while overlooking the Grand Canyon in Las Vegas, United States. Credit: Andy Faraday.

    What’s next?

    Welsh had told me, “My dream would be a warehouse where I can relax, invoice, do admin stuff.” Maybe her dream is about to be fulfilled. Welsh and Faraday will soon host Not Another Open Studio, an invitation to join the duo in their new studio and see their new work in progress. Visit www.welshandfaraday.com to follow what they’re creating.

    {Title photograph by Kristen Marano}

    Kristen Marano is a writer living in Perth, Australia. Kristen interviews women in business and writes about workplace culture. She contributes to Huffington Post Canada, and produces a weekly newsletter, Creative Women Weekly, featuring stories of creative women from around the world. Follow Kristen on Twitter @kmarano and Instagram @krismarano.

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    Posted by: Tess McCabe
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