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    Creative women at work: Maryanne Moodie, fibre artist

    Creative women at work Maryanne Moodie, fibre artist

    by Julie Mazur Tribe

    Maryanne Moodie is an Australian fibre artist, teacher, and business owner who splits her time between her home in Brunswick, Victoria, and her studio in Brooklyn, New York. Known for using unexpected colours in vintage-inspired woven pieces, she has re-energised weaving with her innovative designs and passion for the craft. Maryanne teaches workshops locally and around the world, runs a thriving Etsy shop, and has been featured on everything from The Design Files and Design*Sponge to New York Magazine. Her book, On the Loom, was published late last year by Thames and Hudson. I caught up with Maryanne to chat about weaving, community-building, and the surprising perks of not having a plan.

    Photo by Maryanne Hackwith

    Can you tell us about your background and how you fell in love with weaving?

    I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Even during high school I used to make toffees and sell them during recess. I spent most of my time being an art teacher, but I also had a business on the side, sourcing and selling vintage fashion.

    I got pregnant, and during my maternity leave, as I was cleaning out the art storeroom with another teacher, we found this old loom. I took it home and loved it immediately. I’d tried other crafts before—macramé, ceramics, jewellery making—but nothing fit until I started weaving.

    I had a little social media following from my vintage company and put up a photo of my first piece. Everyone went bananas! People started asking, ‘Can I buy that?’ ‘Can you make me something?’ It was my husband who said I shouldn’t sell anything for a year. I was still learning, and wanted to be proud of what I sold. So I waited.

    Photo by MM Studio

    Photo by MM Studio

    When did you turn weaving into a business, and what did that evolution look like?

    During that first year, I kept sharing my weaves on social media but didn’t sell anything. I gave all of my pieces away. I would ask my friends, ‘Can I make something for your shop?’ And they would say yes and hang them. Lucy from the Design Files walked into a florist where I had one hanging and asked if she could feature me on the blog. I didn’t even have anything for sale yet. I actually asked her, ‘If I’m going to sell one of those, how much should it be?’

    By the time I was ready to sell, I had a huge market of people wanting to buy my stuff. Soon, people wanted to learn how to weave. That was when Megan Morton from the School found me. She taught me how to do this elegant way of teaching, turning a class into a beautiful treat: have a glass of champagne, be fulfilled, chat with someone. She made me love teaching again.

    People saw my photos of teaching and said, ‘I can’t make it to the classes, but could you sell me a kit?’ So I started making kits. And then people were like, ‘What book should I buy? I can’t find a good book.’ So I thought, okay, time to write a book. Then people said they liked the book, but did I have an online course? So we’ve been filming online courses. It’s really been about listening to what my customers want.

    Social media has been a big part of building your brand. Which channel has been the most effective for you?

    Instagram. I love the community-making side of it. I love how if someone writes something, I can look at their feed and message them. If I really liked what someone was doing, I would say, hey, do you want to do a swap? I would take a photo of their work and share it with my community, and they’d do the same. You end up sharing what you love.

    There was a bittersweet moment when I hit about 25,000 followers. I used to reply to every comment, but it got to the point that every time my child looked away, I’d whip out my phone to respond to people. Then he’d turn back and see me. I realised, I need to respond to my child. Now I post only once or twice a day. I read the comments to know what’s going on, but I allow the community in my platform to help each other.

    Maryanne's Brooklyn studio_Photo by MM Studio

    Maryanne's Brooklyn studio. Photo by MM Studio

    How do you gear yourself up to take risks in your business?

    When I think up my own ideas, they’re sometimes right. But when the ideas come from what my customers are asking for—they’re the most successful. It’s about not having a plan and just listening. If I had a plan, I would miss opportunities to the left and right because I’d be so focused on what’s ahead. If you’re open to listening, you’ll always have a market for your product because it’s what people are asking for. It doesn’t feel like a risk.

    You work between Melbourne and New York City. How does that work?

    We moved to the U.S. because [my husband] Aaron got a job with Etsy. At the time, I thought I was taking one for the team, but I got to meet other artists and set up my business. We were there for 3-1/2 years. We decided to move back because we wanted the kids to do their schooling in Australia. So I came back but kept my studio there. My studio manager, Kaelyn, and I Skype every week and I prattle back once a season. I don’t know how long I’ll go on doing it like this, but I’m just going to jam it out and see how it goes.

    How did being Australian affect your time in New York? And how did your time in New York affect you as an Australian?

    Australians are very self-deprecating. We’ve got the whole “tall poppy” syndrome. You never big yourself up, talk about your achievements or how wonderful your work is. I have a little of that, but I’m also able to push forward and take risks and grow unselfconsciously, which is a bit more American. I have a balance of both. I try to push myself forward by pushing other people forward, too. Rather than saying, ‘Look how amazing I am,’ I want to bring people along so we can make weaving amazing together.

    What are you looking forward to doing with your business in 2017?

    I did Vogue Knitting Live in January and there were yarn stores looking at what I do and saying, wow, we want to stock your looms. It’s a new wholesale part of my business where manufacturers can make the looms and send them to shops. For the first time, I won’t have to include my energy in things to push the business forward.

    Any advice for other women running creative businesses?

    Make a community of people interested in what you do—on social media, through a newsletter, however you can talk to people and they can talk to you—and then listen to them. Ask them: what do you think about this? Would you buy this? You might know how to make a product, but unless you ask your customers, you might be making the wrong thing, or doing it the wrong way.

    Maryanne’s Quick Picks:

    Favorite read: Apartamento magazine

    Favorite podcasts: Two Dope Queens, On the Media, Lore

    Favorite Instagram feeds: @popandscott, @jordi_pordi, @tanyaauiniga

    Designers, creatives, or brands: Pop and Scott, Jordana Joan, Tanya Aguiniga, Cindy Zell

    Favorite places to go for inspiration: In New York, the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD). In Australia, anywhere near the water.

    Most inspiring friend or family member: My female friends and family. We’re doing everything—running businesses, taking care of our families, taking care of ourselves (when we can)—with grace, tenacity, and grit. Females are my inspiration.

    For more about Maryanne, visit her website and Etsy shop. You can also follow her on Instagram at @maryannemoodie. Her book, On the Loom, is available wherever books are sold.

     Julie Mazur Tribe is an editor and book publishing consultant with a lifelong addiction to paper stores. She can be found at BrooklynBookStudio.com or on Instagram at @brooklynbookstudio.


    Posted by: Emma Clark
    Categories: Advice and Tips, Interviews with Creative Women, Starting a Business | Comments Off on Creative women at work: Maryanne Moodie, fibre artist
    Posted on

    Making space: Freya Bennett, co-director, Ramona magazine for girls


    by Jenni Mazaraki

    This interview features our very first CWC Making Spaces podcast - have a listen and let us know what you think!

    Freya Bennett loves the smell of rainforests. So she’s captured the smell in terrariums, which live all around her house.

    It is warm and sunny on the day I visit Freya, the co-director of Ramona magazine, at her new home in Melbourne’s north. As she gives me a tour of the house, her curious cat, Phoenix, follows us from room to room. The space is open, with polished wooden floors and crisp white walls. Freya’s favourite print, of Edward Hopper’s 1942 painting Nighthawks, sits on the floor waiting to be hung when she has a spare moment.


    Freya’s piano sits in the corner of the room and has been in her family for generations. It is a place where Freya can play music and relax without an end goal. As a musician, Freya has performed locally as well as produced music in collaboration with other artists. In 2013, she released The Marvellous Reject Girl, and the album’s single was played on Triple J Unearthed.

    When Freya speaks, she is calm with a strong sense of self, a role model to women and girls. As a speaker at last year’s Breakthrough conference, she spoke openly about growing up in a culture that commonly objectifies women and girls, and her desire to challenge it.

    Ramona magazine
    Freya runs Ramona from her home. Along with her co-director, Sophie Pellegrini, she has created a platform that celebrates diversity, where girls can see a range of perspectives. Assisting Freya and Sophie is a team of interns, Creative Writing Editor Stephanie Markidis, and Music Editor Rose Sejean. “The magazine is quite girly,” said Freya. “It reflects Sophie and I. You don’t have to not be girly to be super feminist and strong.”

    Ramona is a safe space for girls to challenge what they see, to question and express their inner worlds and dialogues through art and writing. The print and online magazine has a gentle aesthetic but doesn’t shy away from difficult topics, as Freya is keen to bring to light issues that may be considered taboo. More than 500 writers from around the world contribute articles about, among other things, body image, periods, breakups, mental health, self-care, sexual assault, and miscarriage. Ramona encourages girls to develop healthy relationships with themselves, their bodies, and others.

    Ramona eschews sections on beauty and fashion, focusing instead on interviews with inspiring girls and women. Its focus is to create a forum where girls can see lives that are real, relatable, and achievable.


    Discovering a different perspective
    Freya’s mum sounds like the kind of cool, progressive mum you see in movies. When Freya was young, her mum introduced her to New Moon magazine, opening her eyes to content with an empowering feminist perspective. Freya became aware early of the negative messaging she received because of her gender. “I had boys constantly telling me I couldn’t do things because I was a girl,” she said. New Moon encouraged her by showing her the lives of strong, intelligent girls.

    When Freya was twelve and outgrew New Moon, all she found available to her were mainstream magazines focusing on looks and fashion. She noticed how the lack of diversity in the magazines excluded her and anyone who wasn’t a tall white girl. “I realised that it’s such a broken system,” she said. “It’s teaching us to hate ourselves and hate our bodies.”

    Starting Ramona magazine
    Two and a half years ago, Freya and Sophie started Ramona as an alternative to mainstream media for girls. “I started seeing sexual objectification all over the place,” she said. “And once you start noticing it, it’s just everywhere.”

    Turning her feelings into action was key to Freya’s motivation. She hoped that by expressing her thoughts, she could help others feel less alone. “It came from a place of ‘I need to do something, because otherwise I’m going to feel so stressed and sick and angry,’” she said.

    A space to create a magazine
    Upstairs, the house is filled with light. The study is home to two wooden desks. A large poster of Tara Presnell’s front cover illustration from the latest issue of Ramona hangs in pride of place on the wall. Freya’s paints and brushes are out on her desk with a work in progress waiting to be finished. Hanging above the desk is a painting of a sweet girl, by illustrator Jordyn McGeachin, who contributed work to volume two of the magazine.

    Against one wall sits a low bookshelf filled with books, photos, and artwork. Framed typography by Erandhi Mendis rests on the top shelf above a colourful floral box in which Freya keeps her treasured old copies of New Moon.

    Though she mostly works on her own, Freya sometimes has a friend work alongside her, which she finds helps motivate her. At other times, she takes her laptop and works in the local café. Given that her work is largely online, her job is portable.


    The future of Ramona
    In December 2016, Ramona celebrated its second print edition with an artist market and performances from musicians Charm of Finches, Georgia Fields, and Sandy Hsu.

    Freya is hopeful for the future of the magazine, with plans to branch out into more projects, including mentoring to girls.

    Contributors are encouraged to submit their work, even if they are unsure whether it’s ready for publication. “We love hearing from people and everyone is welcome,” said Freya, “We often work with you, so if you’ve got an article that you’re not sure about, we can help you with it.”

    Freya and Sophie currently invest their own money into the publication, but hope the magazine will grow and earn enough revenue to support itself.

    For Freya, the magazine reminds her that she is brave. “I feel like I’ve got this force of five hundred girls and women behind me,” she said. “It feels really nice.”

    Jenni Mazaraki is an artist, designer, and writer who helps women tell their stories. She is particularly interested in the ways that women make time and space for creativity.

    Photos and podcast audio production by Jenni Mazaraki 

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    Posted by: Julie Mazur Tribe
    Categories: Interviews with Creative Women, Studio Visit | Comments Off on Making space: Freya Bennett, co-director, Ramona magazine for girls