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    Category Archives: Interviews with Creative Women

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    Australian women in art: Emily Floyd

    emily floyd

    By Annette Wagner

    Emily Floyd’s work needs little introduction, and for some EastLink Melbourne commuters, you’re lucky to appreciate a glimpse of her almost symbolic signage work daily with her public art installation of an enormous black iron bird and yellow worm (Titled: Public Art Strategy, 2008).

    Read into that what you will as this is exactly Emily’s point. Her work is an ongoing investigation into texts, typography, literature and ideologies.

    Honestly, it’s not often you get the opportunity to ask questions of someone who’s work you admire tremendously, and while I’ve been enamored and thrilled with the depth of Emily’s responses, I’m not surprised. Her bold and colourful work provokes discussions about design, cultural and political ideas, and provides spaces for social interaction and community engagement that I’m pleased to say even my own children enjoy.

    Emily graduated in sculpture at RMIT University in 1999 and has exhibited widely since, including Heide Museum of Modern Art Melbourne, Monash University Museum of Art Melbourne, MCA Sydney, Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne, Dundee Contemporary Arts Scotland, Seven Art Limited New Delhi, NGV Melbourne, and Queensland Art Gallery Brisbane. She has multipleawards, completed public sculpture commissions, and is held in major collections nationally and internationally, including the V A Museum in London.

    In my Q&A with Emily, she reminds us that it can be a big step to say ‘I’m an artist’, that turning off technology can be liberating and analogue methodologies are considered the new avant-garde. A response that resonated most with me was “…success for all artists is about making better work and achieving a connection to an audience, no matter how small”.

    EmilyFloyd_HeideMuseum_2

    Growing up with makers, then studying graphic design, before focusing on sculpture, all evidently contribute to your exploration in contemporary art. How long did it take you to realise you were destined to be an artist, and build the confidence to commit wholeheartedly, create and exhibit your own work? 

    I started exhibiting formally in my final year of art school, although I have always made artworks and experimented with different modes of display. My grandmother made wooden block sets in our family’s toy workshop in Melbourne when I was growing up, she would never have thought of herself as an artist but had an excellent ability for abstract composition. I enjoyed assisting her to do this work and it helped me develop the skills I use today. My first exhibition was a collaborative project at an artist run space in Melbourne’s Nicholas Building called Talk, that was in 1999 and I was 26 years old. It can feel like a big step to say “I’man artist” and something that some women find pretentious or confronting, for me the decision and confidence has been cumulative.

    Lecturing in Fine Art at Monash University, you noted that today students have grown up with the internet, and are not just interested in one discipline. It is evident that you yourself are comfortable with the fusion of ideas and processes, working with many different materials in sculpture, and printing, to name a few mediums you explore. Do you have a preferred medium or material to work with? If so, why and how does this engage your imagination and abstract thoughts? 

    This year I’ve been making a wooden sculpture and block-print installation for an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney called Telling Tales: Excursion in Narrative form, curated by Rachel Kent. I’ve made hand carved letterpress typography using cyrillic fonts developed at the Moscow based institute “Polygraphmash: Laboratory of Special Graphic Forms.”  Following the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, type designer Lyubov Kuznetsova digitised the Polygraphmash font archive as an online resource, it has been amazing to research and work with the typographic legacy she assembled, including font books by mid century book designers Solomon Telingater and Galina Bannikova.

    Your work, especially public sculptures, explore many references to font and colour, shape and size, material and movement. How important to you is interaction and the process of engagement with your work? 

    The process of engagement is the moment when art enters life, so it’s very important. Participatory art can have a social function when integrated with other strategies, including research and media communication. I try to make objects and situations that facilitate direct engagement for an audience, for example a forthcoming hands-on typography workshop at the MCA makes the proposition that design can exist in support of political and social change.

    I’m also mindful we’ve come to expect a great deal of spectacle, movement and direct participation from contemporary art, but active engagement can also involve a quiet afternoon wandering through a museum or cultural space, reflecting on diverse ideas and forms that are discovered rather than overly presented, it’s a fine balance and I would hope that art offers an alternative to the relentless engagement of Capitalist junk space.

    With references to Dada, Bauhaus, Russian Constructivist, and folk culture, your work demonstrates your passionate research and the exploration of contemporary social, cultural and political ideas. How do you see new technologies enabling your work and facilitating the translation of our culture today? 

    I usually begin in the studio with analogue methodologies because it helps me to think things through in a material way: reading, writing, cutting out objects, printing and collaging different images. The turn away from digital technology can be liberating, I am finding students and young artists who have grown up with digital technology often view analogue systems as a new avant-garde, which is interesting. Once I have worked something out by hand though, I’m happy to leave Middle Earth and work with new technologies. In the studio we use laser-cutting and CNC routing processes, 3D printing and modelling, graphics software, ink jet printing and scanning, a lot of cut and paste.

    As an Australian Woman in Art, and beyond the specific political and ideological issues involved in the subjection of women, what does success really mean and how has it been achieved so far for you here in Australia?

    Contemporary cultural institutions present a kind of democratic ‘balance of power’ so the fact that Australian and International museum collections are full of artworks made by white, male artists makes an unprecedented opportunity for women artists, we can offer a counter position, what they call the ‘feminine multitude’.

    I feel extremely fortunate to be working in this time because I know how difficult it has been for previous generations to find a voice. Success for all artists is about making better work and achieving a connection to an audience, no matter how small. I hope to have the opportunity to continue researching different approaches to language and my next step is a project exploring invented languages in the literary genre of Feminist Science Fiction.

    A good dose of statistics is always reassuring, two Feminist art blogs I love to read, both exploring ideas of success and failure in the art world, are Countesses and Natty Solo. As well as looking at the data they are brilliant artworks in their own right, affirming that by inventing new contexts, we can make our own success.

    Emily Floyd is represented by Anna Schwartz Gallery, who I would like to thank for their assistance in coordinating this interview.

    Image by Annette Wagner


    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: Interviews with Creative Women | Comments Off on Australian women in art: Emily Floyd
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    Industry insights: Women behind the scenes

    CWC_2016-01-21_georgia-phase_insta-graphic_template

    By Annette Wagner

    I love the visual pleasure and the escapism of a good film, TV or Netflix program. In my mind, people who produce film or TV work long, insane hours, at random locations, but it’s OK because they have amazing catering trucks! All those logistics behind the scenes are a mystery to me: putting productions together so I can watch at the cinema or from the luxury of my cosy couch.

    Recently after speaking with Stephanie Lim, an emerging Melbourne screen producer, I gained some insights into the Australian film and TV industry. I learned that getting the concept to screen was a challenge, and one that I hadn’t even considered, well before the long filming hours, random locations and catering on wheels (budget pending).

    Stephanie fell in love with film when she was eight. She remembers how transporting and transformative film seemed at that young age. The defining influence for her to pursue a life behind the scenes was when her family was living in Birdsville (QLD) and she and her brother use to help set up the makeshift cinema in front of the hospital where the whole town came together to watch a film, usually Storm Boy. There, in the middle of nowhere, they were collectively having this experience that spoke to them individually.

    She pursued her passion by doing a short photography course then a media course in South Australia. Originally wanting to be a cinematographer, she began lighting and camera assisting mostly, and some other roles to get an idea of her own place in the industry.  She did work experience with gaffers and then got a job in the lighting department in a South Australian television station. When life dynamics changed, Stephanie moved into production management, then producing.

    Knowing the right people is critical in most industries and Stephanie agrees- it’s really important in the film industry. Probably more important than ever. “When I started in 1996 it was like a secret society as it was pre-internet, pre-email, and pre-mobile phones so there weren’t as many resources around to connect you with others. Now, social media plays a big part in creating and sustaining professional networks and communicating with peers, as well as a way of identifying potential audience bases. Essentially your networks become both your best employment opportunity and your best chance to engage with your audience.”

    Getting started and being able to keep going in film Stephanie explains “…is difficult because you need the funds to hire the people you need for the project to be realised, but you need some of those people before you can go through the financing process.”

    On low-budget/no-budget productions essential production crew will generally consist of the producer, director, cinematographer, production designer, first assistant director, sound, and lighting. Preferably you’d also have continuity, art direction, costume design, location manager, unit manager, hair and make-up, second assistant director, and any other crew members necessary to meet the needs of the production, within budgetary parameters.

    It was clearly a case of either fully committing to a career in film, or a destiny of binge-watching episodes from the comfort of her couch, and I agree with Stephanie- there is so much content being created, it’s often quite difficult to keep up with. For Stephanie, committing was the only option, as she realised the only time she really loved her job and industry was when she was working in film.

    Many female award acceptance speeches highlight the inequality in film, and in the bigger picture (excuse the pun) getting funding is a fraction of the challenge. As a female in the Australian film industry Stephanie thinks one of the main issues is getting across that women make up 50% of the audience,  therefore they should be represented on and off-screen. Behind the scenes, women should have access to the same opportunities that men do, and with the same pay scale, but they don’t.

    In Australia, the gender imbalance is acknowledged by government funding initiatives and professional development opportunities being created exclusively for women. It recently became public that not one single female camera operator or sound recordist has been identified working in the reality and unscripted genres within Australian TV.

    Stephanie explains she was lucky to have been taught film lighting by a really decent male gaffer when she first started in the late 90’s, however noted television was then a very misogynist, sexist, intimidating and discriminating workplace for women. Today, she can see that it is harder to get mentorships and move into key creative positions, commenting that women tend to work harder, longer hours, and with less acknowledgement. The Gender Matters initiative indicated that the gender imbalance is predominantly in film where women account for 32 percent of producers, 23 per cent of writers and only 16 per cent of directors.

    Aside from those depressing facts for females in film, Stephanie is currently producing a comedy mockumentary-style TV series with screenwriter Sophie Bean and Co-producer Maria Alibrando. The team are waiting for news to see if their project will be shortlisted for an initiative that will help them develop it into an eight-part series, and pitch to the ABC. Fingers crossed!

    Staying optimistic and motivated, Stephanie loves researching for whatever projects and opportunities that are around. Inspired by people and what’s going on in the world, the best advice she says she has ever been given was to ‘take one day at a time, and, you can only do what you can do’.

    For anyone passionate and brave enough to pursue their screen dream, or give the industry gender imbalance a good nudge, Stephanie suggests one of the best resources is Open Channel. “…One of the best screen organisations supporting early and mid-level career practitioners. They have really filled the gap in supporting emerging filmmakers and are an invaluable resource. Their conferences are inspiring and well-researched, and they are accessible to everyone.”

    Having a little insight into getting work funded and produced, and an overview of the industry here in Australia is both inspiring and depressing to be honest. But for those amazing women currently working in the industry to bring stories alive, I will pay greater attention to the females listed in the credits, and will, now more than ever, appreciate the passion in every picture.

    My next question is, what am I going to watch next?!

    For more on the gender divide in the Australian film and TV industry, see here, here and here.

     

    Annette Wagner is a designer, marketer, creative consultant, artist and writer. She is also on the board of the Creative Women’s Circle. Obsessively passionate about the arts and the creative process, she is determined to not talk art-speak and instead focus on supporting and sharing concepts and insights most creative types crave to know.


    Posted by: Emma Clark
    Categories: Interviews with Creative Women, Studio Visit | Comments Off on Industry insights: Women behind the scenes
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    Regional creative: Tracy Lefroy, Cranmore Home

    CWC_2016-01-21_georgia-phase_insta-graphic_template

    By Jasmine Mansbridge

    For my guest blog this year I wanted to look specifically at women who are running a creative business from a regional location. One lady who is doing this, and with great success is Tracy Lefroy from Cranmore Home. I knew of her business even before I began looking for prospective interviewees and I was blown away to discover that she is based on a farm in Western Australia.

    So, just as I was, I am sure you will be inspired by Tracy’s story.

    Where are you based and what business are you in?

    Cranmore Home is a curated collection of Australian-designed and ethically-sourced homewares, art and fashion. The online store is complimented by a brick and mortar store located in my hometown of Moora, Western Australia, 180km (a beautiful two-hour drive) north of Perth.

    Have you always lived in a regional/rural area?

    I have spent the majority of my life living in WA’s beautiful Wheatbelt and Midwest region. I grew up in a very small place called ‘Irwin’ which is near the coastal town of Dongara, 350km north of Perth, just 10 minutes from the beach and with three sisters to keep me on my toes…. It was a pretty ideal childhood.

    Like many country kids, I headed off to the city for high school and stayed on for Uni, where I completed my Honours in Agricultural Science at the University of WA. I greatly enjoyed some ‘obligatory’ overseas travel before moving to Northam in the Wheatbelt for work.

    In 2005, I was the youngest recipient to be awarded a prestigious Nuffield Scholarship, which took me to some amazing places around the world. Since then, I have been farming with my husband, Kristin and his parents at our property ‘Cranmore Park’ near Moora.

    How long have you been in business? Has it become easier, or harder as time has gone on?

    The seed for Cranmore Home was planted in 2010 shortly after my husband and I moved into our beautiful old farmhouse. Three babies, three years and a once-off pop-up shop later I launched my website and in 2014 opened a retail space in Moora.

    I started this business because I am passionate about Australian food and fibre and the manner in which it is produced, AND I saw a massive gap in the homewares market for a retail outlet that championed our amazing home-grown designers and artists.

    I had passion, a great premise and a strong business background but absolutely ZERO retail experience! So I always knew it was going to be a steep learning curve and a lot of hard yakka (I am a self-confessed workaholic). What I didn’t expect was the amazing array of opportunities for me to grow my business- I am currently developing a trade/commercial arm of Cranmore Home, which is super exciting for my little business.

    So to get back to your question…. It’s definitely not easier, but it is not necessarily harder either. Cranmore Home is this amazing vehicle for pursuing my passion and the more I put into it the more rewards, challenges and crazy experiences it throws at me.

    What has been/is your biggest challenge?

    With three young kids, I juggle Cranmore Home around family, farm, friends and other life commitments. Like any working parent and partner, the work-life balance situation is constantly being tweaked but I am getting better at taking a breath, stepping back and knowing that while I cannot “do it all” right now, I can do my best at each facet of my life.

    Business-wise, freight is the biggest cost challenge as I offer free Australia-wide shipping. It is just not cost-effective to freight stock across the Nullarbor to my showroom in Moora only to send it back to customers on the East Coast. As a result, I now have warehouse space in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth where stock is sent direct to my customers.

    What are you most proud of?

    My three gorgeous kids! I’m also incredibly proud to be a farmer and business owner that champions Australian design. Having the honour to represent incredible designers + makers whilst living and breathing farming, has been such an honour and something of which I am very proud.

    What would you do differently in business if you had your time again?

    Eeek, I am an eternal optimist so my sights are firmly set forward, I am not great at hindsight. But I have learnt a few expensive lessons in my first few years of Cranmore Home. One of the areas I am trying to improve upon is really targeting and refining my advertising spend.

    Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

    Wow, in 10 years my kids will all be at high school, which is scary and makes me a little teary! Life will be so different but, there is nothing like three sets of boarding school fees to keep you motivated in your business.

    What are you looking forward to most in the next twelve months? 

    We have an amazing ‘Winter Workshop’ planned for July. Now in its third year, the Winter Workshop is a dynamic event, with the format changing yearly. This year I have such huge ideas… now to get them to happen!

    I learn so much from collaborating with the Cranmore Home designers and it is such a rewarding experience being part of their creative process. The Winter Workshops is an opportunity for my clients to be able to experience this same creative excitement and fulfilment plus be exposed to the beauty and heritage of ‘Cranmore country’, the WA wheatbelt.

    Can you offer anything special to CWC readers?

    I sure can! I would love to extend a special CWC offer of 15% store-wide here at Cranmore Home (only excluding Heatherly Beds). Just enter CWC15off at checkout to redeem.

    Have you got anything you’d like to plug?!

    I have just started a fortnightly newsletter to bring my customers behind the scenes of Cranmore Home. It features sneak peeks of new products, subscriber-only discounts, first dibs on advanced orders and takes clients ‘behind the brand’ to get to know the amazing designers and artists that I proudly represent.

    To sign up just fill in the pop-up window when visiting www.cranmorehome.com.au

    What is your favourite social media platform for your business?

    I am an Instagram addict!!! @cranmorehome and @cranmorehomesale allow me to converse directly and instantly with clients, designers, journalists, bloggers, etc.

    I am a very visual person and a firm believer in the phrase ‘a picture says a thousand words’. Instagram allows me to express the motivations and inspirations behind Cranmore Home.

     

     


    Posted by: Emma Clark
    Categories: Growing a Business, Interviews with Creative Women, Regional | Comments Off on Regional creative: Tracy Lefroy, Cranmore Home
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    Interview: Allison Smith, architect

    CWC_2016-01-21_georgia-phase_insta-graphic_template

    By Emma Clark

    Allison Smith is the woman behind Studio 15b, a boutique architecture studio based in Brisbane. With over 20 years experience in architecture, Allison branched out and began her own practice in 2013. You can follow her work on Instagram and Facebook.

    What drew you to becoming an architect, and to doing what you’re doing today?

    Architecture was the main idea that stuck in my mind as a possible career path during high school.  It’s a profession where every day is different, every project is different and as an Architect we are required to continue to learn and adapt to changes in the world. The variety is what keeps me going and motivated in this challenging industry.

    I’ve worked in small, medium and large firms in Brisbane and London, which has seen me work on a large variety of projects from small alterations and additions, new large homes, multi-residential developments, heritage buildings, community, commercial, train stations and education projects.  Seeing a project from the very initial client meeting through to the finished constructed project can take years but it makes it all worthwhile when you see the final product.

    I have most recently established my own small practice – Studio 15b.  In two and a half years I have built a small team but would like to expand this team in the future.  Having my own practice is an enjoyable challenge and I’m glad I took the plunge.  I feel that Studio 15b is able to provide a personalised service as a small practice that is backed by big practice experience.

    Allison Smith_Studio 15b

     

    Can you give us a little insight into your creative process?

    One of my design strengths is being able to take the disorder and sometimes confusion of a client’s brief, along with all the other constraints that comes with building and then reorganise to give it purpose and reason.  Whether those constraints are budget related, to do with the site or council, I enjoy testing the options to produce one clear concept that fits the brief and the constraints best.

    Creating interest and flair while fulfilling the brief is key.  We continually test ideas with form until we are happy with the results, before we present to the client what we feel is the best solution for a project.  I’m a very considered designer and prefer simple, refined solutions. The simplest solutions are often the hardest to achieve but I prefer not to take the easy road. I like designing the most efficient solutions that are not necessarily what the client imaged but end up fulfilling the brief even better than they could have anticipated.  This clearly demonstrates the value of our service to them.

    Who is your typical customer/client?

    Our clients could roughly be allocated into three types each with totally different needs.  We have a good understanding of each of their different needs and what they require from a project perspective.  We enjoy the variety that each client brings.

    Typically our residential clients have generally never been involved in a building project.  For these clients we spend a great deal of time educating them in the process.  This helps them better understand and gives some reassurance to what can be a stressful process for them. It is our job to guide them through.  We are given a lot of trust, with in most cases their biggest investment – we value and respect this.  Design decisions are very personal choices and we aim to guide as well as collaborate with our clients.

    Our multi-residential clients are generally developers with a range of experience.  We tailor the service to their needs.  Personal considerations are not usually a factor with these cost driven projects, however factors such as; designing to the current market, maximising the development in terms of saleable area and number of units plus aligning with the budget that is driven from sale prices all come into play.  We enjoy working with experienced and new developers to help them achieve the most from their development.

    Our commercial clients also have different project requirements.  We have worked with a number of businesses to improve their fitouts.  Every business is different and I enjoy finding out how each of them tick.  Then we question whether there is a better way of operating from a business perspective as well as in the available space.  A well designed fitout can improve staff productivity which generally leads to increased sales or revenue.  We enjoy working with businesses big and small.

    What does a typical day involve for you?

    A typical day starts with getting on top of any urgent emails and quickly flicking through a couple of construction or architecture blogs such as The Urban Developer and ArchitectureAU.  It keeps me on top of the industry as a whole and also sets the tone for the day.

    I’m big on writing lists, so weekly I put together a ‘to do’ list but I also have daily ‘to do’ notes which I often leave as reminders of urgent things to do.  Because I am the sole director, it’s important that I spend my time on the most pressing things first and prioritise well.  This list is constantly changing so it’s important to revisit it daily.  It serves as a good reminder to focus and help with my productivity.  I try to roughly plan out the week ahead for meetings at appropriate times, but also plan time for project work.

    I usually arrange a coffee with an industry colleague or potential client every week or so.  Networking serves multiple purposes.  As a small practice it is important to seek communication with what is going on in the industry outside your own world.

    Once I’m organised with a list of priorities, then a typical day could involve a mix of writing a fee proposal for a potential client, reviewing my staff’s project work as well as completing my own project work.  Depending on the stage of the project this could be some initial design sketches or design development, through to coordinating with consultants or visiting a project under construction.

    What has been your proudest career achievement to date?

    There have been many proud moments throughout my career and it’s hard to pinpoint just one.  The most recent being the start of Studio 15b and winning a HIA Interior Design Award with our first project.  It was totally unexpected but important to recognise and celebrate these achievements.  It certainly gives you motivation to continue what you are doing.

    What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

    A direct piece of advice doesn’t come to mind, but I’ve watched and learnt from many other architects that I’ve worked with.  I’ve tried to model myself on a little of all the things I admire about others but with my spin on it.  Things such as being proactive in sorting out any issues that arise, not worrying about things that are out of your control and keeping a good work/life balance most of the time.  These are all things I aim for.

    What are your plans for the future?

    I plan to continue building Studio 15b.  I would like to grow our small team and create a culture of friendly and dedicated people who use their strengths to provide Architecture & Interior Design solutions to those that see the value in our service.  I encourage anyone to approach us for networking or project opportunities.  We are always available for a chat.

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    Posted by: Emma Clark
    Categories: Growing a Business, Interviews with Creative Women, Regional | Comments Off on Interview: Allison Smith, architect