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Category Archives: creative hq
As I sat down to chat with Kokako Coffee’s front man; Mike Murphy I was preparing myself for the rundown of this passion project turned growing empire. I imagined he was going to tell me he started drinking coffee at 3 years old and was now living his dream….instead I found myself, ears pricked, listening to a fascinating story about business based spirit, an intense self starting attitude and the respectful transformation of one couples ethical start up into an exciting industry leader.
Photo by Sarah Grace
Mike Murphy grew up in Otahuhu, South Auckland before moving with his family to Bucklands Beach at 12. From 17 he picked up his first major job, working at “Dial a Dino’s” pizza, first as a dishwasher before graduating through all the roles to delivery guy then, by 20, the manager. Mike cites this as his first taste for business and the hospitality industry. Despite his growing interest and knowledge in the area he held the job while studying Social Geography! On his graduation he realised that hospo and its opportunities were still calling his name and by the age of 21 he was the Area Manager of Eagle Boys Pizza, advising their new franchisee’s.
At 22 the “big OE” was beckoning and Mike set off for London. Here he found work in hospitality recruitment beginning by placing temps and then permanent staff in the corporate industry. Unlike many of his other compatriots, he spent his three years in the UK avoiding “kiwi clusters”. After a year of living with friends he then moved into his DREAM flat in Trellick Tower – a Brutalist apartment building in South West London that had captivated him. On the 24th floor he shared a 2 level duplex and immersed himself as deep as possible in London life, making friends with a large diverse crowd of locals and foreigners and along the way finding his own identity.
Photo by Sarah Grace
With a Visa that had run out of juice it was time to return back to NZ. At 26 years returning and settling into Auckland was a struggle. To dodge the fact that most of his good friends were still overseas Mike decided to launch himself into creating or buying a business. After some looking around and examining the gaps in the industry paired with what his own knowledge base offered, he jumped on a plane and flew down to Wellington to meet with the exciting Hell Pizza team. Here he helped write franchise manuals, assisted in the set of the first Auckland outlet in Grey Lynn before opening his own franchise in Botany at the age of 27.
Despite being a franchise, he was able to “up” spec the fit-out in line with his own interest in design and detail. By the time he sold the business a year later it was running as the most successful Hell Pizza at the time, however his involvement was extremely “hands on” and he needed a change of scene.
Melbourne was his next destination where he took up work as a Retail Food Consultant – a role that saw him helping people innovate and strategise in the food and beverage industry. As part of his time with Future Food, he was sent to Dubai to assist in the set up of an office there and have high involvement in large commercial projects. After 2 years with the company he was offered the chance to head all regional projects, a leap forward and a juicy opportunity! At this point Mike stopped to take stock. He realised that the glossy expat lifestyle just didn’t really align with this personal interests…so it was a “No!” on this one.
What HAD really grabbed his attention was Melbourne and her inspired new wave of design led coffee outlets and cafes. Mike had spent much time exploring these as they popped up and armed with a notebook of ideas he headed back to Auckland in 2006 with his mind buzzing.
Initially the plan was start a design store with furniture, plants and great coffee (the ultimate combo yes?!) It was while reading Wallpaper magazine that he spotted an amazing Japanese based furniture brand, oozing a simple modernist style and enough of it for Mike to pack one suit and boost to Tokyo to meet with them! The meeting was a success and on returning home he was now fully focussed on finding the right space…..something that was proving to be very difficult!
While patiently viewing and waiting for a space to come available he was keeping an eye out for any businesses for sale. This is when things took a new turn….
Spotted was a listing for an “Organic Coffee Roastery + Cafe”. Mike immediately knew this was Kokako, as organics at this point were well below the radar. The passion project of couple; Helen Ollivier and Christian Lamdin, the roastery and vegetarian cafe were now under negotation and quickly in the new capable hands of Mike Murphy.
This was May 2007. Mike admitted it was a biggy – up until this point he had never operated a cafe before and thus a lot of effort was about to be poured into the business. Recognising the interesting point of difference of the organic and vegetarian offering, he decided on retaining that ethos and went full bore into rejuvenating the Parnell space. He painted space, installed “industrial-esque” lighting, blond ply furniture and in all, a much cleaner, modern vibe that wouldn’t normally have been attached to the niche industry he was entering.
By 2008 Mike had pushed forward and built a commercial kitchen in his roastery warehouse – he had identified a gap in the market for supplying delicious raw salads to outlets such as Farro Fresh. While the idea was great (and hugely popular now) at the time ingredients were hard to source and between that, the GFC, running the cafe and roastery it was becoming at outrageously full on for one person to head!
So the cafe was sold to a like minded member of the local hospo industry and Mike was heading what was suddenly a wholesale only business!
While the plan had been to streamline, he was still extremely aware that without his own Kokako cafe it was difficult to present the product in a way that customers could experience the full culture of the brand.
It was on his way to a meeting with his graphic designer; Jonathon Templeman of The Design Dairy and interior designer Chris Stevens of Ctrl Space that the conversation strayed to the concept of a new cafe. Chris then shared that the he knew of the old Grey Lynn Post Office coming up for lease. Ears pricked and ideas started getting flung around! By January 2012 the lease was signed and Mike his existing business partner Chris Morrison (of All Good Organics ) were joined by new partners, Jonathon and Chris in creating what is now a local favourite and citywide destination – Kokako Cafe in Grey Lynn.
In constant evaluation of his business and market, Mike decided to sell the commercial kitchen later that year to tighten the focus on Kokako. They were a coffee company with a strong unwavering focus on sourcing fairtrade beans, developing their product offering and innovating from the front. An example of this was their pioneering development of Cold Brew Coffee in the Auckland region.
Initially the roastery was housed in the cafe – a super cool feature for coffee lovers to observe while waiting for their brew! However the rapid expansion of their wholesale business was becoming hindered by the small space, so it was complete luck when one of their coffee technicians stumbled across an old garage space just across the street!
They gutted it, took it to food grade and installed a 25kg roaster alongside the 10kg roaster from the cafe (soon to be joined by another!). They had a space for their cars and vans, hungry bins for cafe and coffee excess and an easily accessible spot for dispatch. Not only that, they had managed to stay close by their cafe and office HQ, creating a real sense of community and full immersion as a growing business based in the heart of Grey Lynn.
As a non vegetarian, I had personally visited the cafe no less then 3 times before realising the absence of meat! The food is AMAZING as is the interior – a true modern but casual meeting place for people of all walks of life.
Its really obvious that the entire Kokako team are on board with the brand and share Mikes ambition. I was SO fascinated to hear his story and learnt so much more in understanding that creative endeavors need to be partnered with critical business thinking.
Imagery courtesy of Kokako
Photography by Josh Griggs unless specified other.
WHAT I LEARNT FROM MIKE MURPHY
Be flexible, light footed and in constant evaluation of your business and its direction.
Nothing is stagnant and nothing is permanent.
This feature is an all time favourite.
My visit to Balquhidder House in Napier, the headquarters of the artistic, fearless and creative Culy family was meant to be a relatively fleeting one. Gunning to be there for about an hour and a half I was forcing myself to leave out of politeness after five….
Despite it being a year on (Time! Where did you go!), revisiting my notes and screes of photos had me once again dreaming of being a resident and member of their crew.
There is an amazing warmth and casual determination about Leanne and Brian Culy, a partnership that has been bought about no doubt through their many adventures, homes and self starting approach to life. They simply have always done it their way and as a team.
I invite you to sit back and enjoy this rambling magical home and the story of those that call it their own.
A young, artistic Leanne left school at 17, boosting quickly out of her regional New Zealand home of Palmerston North direct for Wellington. Having excelled in art she found work in the art department of Wellington Newspapers, Spectrum Illustrating and as a graphic designer at Mike McCulloch Design.
This was the 1980’s. Graphic design was a labour intensive industry creating type by using wax, scalpels, epidiascopes, development in darkrooms and screens. Leanne relished this work and by the age of 21 she was an in demand freelancer working hard in the advertising industry.
At 25 she launched her own business based in a terrific old stone, cubist building. Specialising in corporate identities led to an extension of her design work and invitations to develop corporate spaces as well. This naturally progressed and soon enough Leanne was squeezing in set design, weddings and event styling!
Around this time she was asked to offer some interior advice to the film company based upstairs from her own studio owned by one; Brian Culy.
It was love!
A world adventure and marriage followed with the arrival of their daughters Jacobina and Billie in 1990 and ’93. It was only natural that Brian and Leanne would begin combining their creative talents, allowing for great collaboration and projects within the film industry. However a change was on the horizon and when the opportunity to purchase a grand old homestead in the Wairarapa popped up – they grabbed it, heading away from their city base and straight for country life.
The 5 years they spent Pounui Homestead offered them the unique opportunity to start Homebase Films, a pared back production company aimed at doing simple, beautiful work without huge budgets and the resulting logistical pressure of crews, food and the rest. Work included ads for Wade house, Ansel Adams for the city art gallery, some beautiful black and white milk advertisements for the national dairy board amongst many others.
But the family weren’t done with their exploration as next on the cards was a move to sunny Kerikeri. It was here in a brightly painted house and balmy sub tropical climate that Leanne began painting her now iconic oars.
She had painted on wood before but distinctly recalled the beauty she saw in their slender length and patina. It seemed like they had led “a good life” and in so many ways reminded her of totem poles.
It was 2004 and off the back of another sell out show of her oars at the Hawkes Bay based Black Barn Gallery, Leanne and Brian discovered the incredible Balquhidder House, perched high on a leafy ridgeline on Napier Hill.
Kerikeri was put up for sale and by the end of the year they were Napier based – well almost! The girls had decided that Havelock North High School was the one for them so until 2009 the family based themselves in a special beachhouse in Haumoana. ( This is a WHOLE nother post!!) Leanne continued with her oars which were gaining huge notoriety across the country and by 2009 they were finally at Balquhidder House.
By this point, Homebase Collections had been born.
It was a singular “brand” that the family could use to encompass all of their creative projects. Brian was able to share his brilliant largescale photographs and Leanne, with her catalogue of prints could apply them to textiles – both available on the roll or as lampshades, cushions and more. They developed and added products and furniture to their range as they saw need, using Brian’s photography skills and their own home as a backdrop.
Their art, aesthetic, design, personalities and way of life gave a distinct vibe to Homebase Collections that rapidly gained peoples attention. There is something so uncontrived about what they do yet completely covetable and easy to relate too. For instance they were the first to re-engage the retro material of pegboard in their sideboards and spaces long before it shot to its wide popularity over the last couple of years. A focus on honest, simple, natural materials was both a conscious choice and one that matched their personal style.
In 2013 they opened a small store beside Balquhidder House in their leafy no-exit street, pausing it for a time to “pop up” on Auckland’s, Ponsonby Road for the summer of 2013/14.
When I visited and got lost in their world on Easter Sunday last year, Leanne talked of their want to focus more on creating art and collaborating with like minded souls. After spending hours chatting away at the kitchen table, poking around their sprawling home and picking Leanne’s mind on many of my OWN topics of conversation – I left thinking “Pick me! Pick me as your collaborator!!”
Currently NZ based fabric company; Hemptech are slowly releasing some of Leannes designs in new colour ways on a selection of beautiful base cloths. This is helping the family acheive their goals of pursuing more personal creative projects and I can say there are more than a few on the boil that will be of interest to you!
Rambling and romantic Balquhidder House which has served as HQ for many a creative Culy endeavour has now quietly been made available for sale. Youngest daughter Billie has made a return back to the Bay, working with a local beekeeper and growing her own portfolio of art, but with Jacobina based in Wellington and opportunities on the horizon the family feel it might be time to down scale and return back to the seaside, allowing a new tribe have their turn in the home.
Photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home
WHAT I LEARNT FROM THE CULY FAMILY:
Whenever possible, find inspiration in your lifestyle and loves as they stand now.
It is likely the results will be filled with a passion, integrity and authenticity that will strike a chord with others.
In April 2014 I headed to the South Island with a 2 week road trip planned a head of me. I looked over my loose itinerary taking me from Queenstown to Wellington and pinpointed a spare 24 hour hours, naming it “Jon Thom Day”. While there are SO many more people that I want to meet in Dunedin, I had a small window which involved a 7 hour round trip drive and room for just one interview in the southern city – and I was determined more than ever that I would finally get to meet the young artist/creative/savvy entrepreneur that I have been following for years.
Lucky Jon Thom was cool to meet ME!
Jon grew up in the small Central Otago town of Clyde, his parents both teachers at the local Dunstan High School. He was always heavily into art and as a teenager was encouraged to take part in a group show in the regional centre of Alexandra. His work was then picked up by a Wanaka gallery who he sold exclusively through for a couple of years.
Jon may have been the only student of his year at Otago University who funded his lifestyle via his art from day one!
But Uni wasn’t all paint brushes and charcoal stained hands! Jon initially set off with the plan to enter Health Sciences and the aim of becoming a doctor. He then had a change of heart and headed off toward Law studies instead….but that didn’t stick either. Finally he decided on Art History + Design.
During his second year of studying (2010) Jon started to exhibit with terrific Dunedin gallery; The Artists Room. However, it had occured to him that his art was out of reach of his friends and peers, so he set about doing something about it. Following his interest in fashion he turned to t-shirts which acted as a canvas AND provided a familiar and functional vehicle for his art and a younger audience. He started with a limited run of 50 which promptly sold out. The next run was 270 and while he continued to increase his production from there he kept each design down to a limited edition of just 20.
With the wheels starting to turn on this business he began a hunt for wholesalers but with little luck, so as a local early adopter of “independant business direct to customer” he opened an online store and started to leverage social media in his favour.
By 2012 the business not only had the name of “Moodie Tuesday” it also had a partner in crime with the arrival of Chris Brun. Jon recognised that while he had the creative direction and communications down, the business was needing a slick push and management in the production side. Also hailing from Clyde, Chris had started out as a builder but due to injury was retraining and in his final year of teachers college when the call up came. Perfect timing for both of them!
2012 also marked Jon’s first solo exhibition at The Artists Room as well as what was meant to be his honours year. By the middle of the year he made the bold move to pull out of University and take on an inner city studio where he could go full time on his art and give Moodie Tuesday some room to grow.
During this time he was approached by a talented young filmmaker called Sam Stuchbury who wanted to collaborate by filming one of the creative Moodie Tuesday campaign shoots. This was the beginning of what was to grow into a valuable partnership! The pair recognised an unfilled niche locally of creating beautiful, emotive content for brands/business for marketing collateral.
They pitched to the marketing department of Otago University and went on to create interview style clips for their use online. The content caught the attention of Tourism Dunedin and by 2013 they had been commissioned to produce a 12 part series focusing on locals and their love of the region; aptly titled “Insiders Dunedin”. This relationship developed to include a custom website designed by the growing team and management of the posting and sharing of the stories online – thus Motion Sickness Studio was born!
In late 2013 the Dunedin based company split with Sam and his team moving to open an Auckland office and Jon remaining to continue to run the Dunedin based studio combined with Moodie Tuesday and of course his own art practice. Recognising the need for more space he moved his team into a large industrial site (formerly a garage for a car yard) just out of the central city. The guys got busy fitting out the mezzanine with desks and on the ground floor a separate painting room, sewing area and on my visit, the development of a meeting/reception/showroom.
In mid 2014 Jon and Chris decided to diversify (obviously you are getting that he is an expert spotter of opportunity!!) and set up custom screen printing service, The Print Room – a business that now works with companies, corporate, sporting and private projects nationwide! They have seen rapid growth in the company during it’s first year mostly likely due to their design skills and experience with what potential customers actually “want” to wear when it comes to branded apparel. With the fashion world being so fickle, Jon knew that printing and designing for others would help fund the progression and ideas for the growth of Moodie Tuesday. And by all accounts…its working!!
Jon has this calm, focused ability to not only continue his own art, but work across all his ventures, bringing in like minded people and presenting such a professional front that would put many larger companies to shame!
He just “gets” it.
The content produced by both Motion Sickness studio’s is not only beautiful, honest and real – the teams are acutely aware of “how” to deliver content and “what” an audience is looking for…eg- no stupid dumbed down campaigns that lack any engagement.
It has been ragingly obvious to me (even prior meeting Jon in person) that he innately understands the concept of creativity vs. business and demonstrates maybe the most awesome forms of that!
One to watch. Businesses to watch. Results to inspire.Photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home
WHAT I LEARNT FROM JON:
Know your audience.
Age is of no barrier.
Let your work speak for itself.
Please take the time to check out the businesses that allow us to bring this cool content to you!
Tomorrow Jon is launching a beautiful new exhibition!!
Its no secret that I am a fan girl of interior designer /stylist /writer /maximalist /teacher /shop keeper /colour nut /wife and mother; Alex Fulton. I connected with her years ago during the early days of design blogging in NZ, and then in person in the midst of the sweaty midnight mosh pit at Rippon Festival in early 2012. That night she ripped off her bracelet of rainbow coloured glow beads and forced me to take them – that was it for me.
I was hers !
Since then its not only been exciting to watch her creative world grow but to have her as my comrade-in-arms as we both try to navigate the seemingly endless opportunities and directions we can respectively take our ideas. In person she packs an epic amount of charisma while being extremely approachable and yes, I’m guilty of pretending she is my sister!
So, if personality could ooze out and morph into a space – then the family home that Alex has created with husband Jeff and girls; Isla and Violet is most DEFINITELY “Alex a la interior”. Yes! Much of what you see below might seem outrageous but I visited twice to put this feature together and the vibe of this house is more welcoming and relaxing than any pared back, monotone space I have visited. Why it works? Nothing is contrived and everything is a true reflection of this tight joyous team.
Now go check it out!
PS – check out the girls rooms’s and their AMAZING shared bathroom over on Junior’s now!
Despite her passionate repping of the South Island, Alex Fulton was actually born and bred in Rotorua. Her father owned American Sweatshirts and her mother; a creative and funky woman, for a time owned a local embroidery shop. Alex, industrious right from word go, used to make little kits of thread to sell to the girls at school during those regular “friendship bracelet making” fads. She remembers well, gazing with joy at the rainbow of thread on the wall, and the distinct realisation how each colour faded in brilliance when pulled out on its own. Creating mini palettes of colour for her kits is a favourite early memory.
She started off high school locally before heading to boarding school in Hawkes Bay where art and science subjects grabbed her attention in equal measure.
Despite her early penchant for colour, it was the world of medicine that she was gunning for. In 1991 she took on a nursing degree combined with stints in ski patrol at Ruapehu before graduating and heading immediately to Dunedin and pre-med study.
She LOVED the deep South ! Regular trips to the snow, re connecting and making new friends and university; particularly biology and maths all made for an awesome year…. a little too awesome however as she promptly failed it! The study/play balance had got a little off kilter….
So in 1995 she switched to a Science degree majoring in Anatomy Physiology which she thoroughly enjoyed, however once again her social life stuck up its hand and due to the fact all of her age group were graduating and leaving she decided to boost too. Auckland was on the cards and a position in customer service then selling medical equipment.
Fate also popped up its head and at 22 she first laid eyes on her future husband, Jeff Fulton. Alex openly claims that it really was love at first sight!
Despite that romantic notion, Jeff was on a mission to head overseas and went for it, leaving Alex to stew, be a terrible flatmate and revel in her misery. Not one to miss out however, she then laid her own plans and took off for a year of travel with a girlfriend before arriving in London sporting a mean tan to catch the attention of her man.
In London she worked in recruitment placing accountants (very often friends!) in great jobs. It took a while, but it soon dawned on her that she should be placing HERSELF in a great job! A banking role appeared and for 2 years she enjoyed the great income and was able to hatch plans with Jeff for a mega overseas tour before they chased visas in Dublin.
The holiday went extremely well with Jeff dropping a knee on a ski slope in France and after their year of work in Ireland they dipped home to marry and resettle in Auckland.
Here Alex went back to her science roots and worked for pharmaceuticals company; Roche – dabbling in marketing and the launch of a new drug. She vividly remembers the drug had colourful circles as a logo and it rang some bells in the back of her head. While colour and creativity were alive and well in her wardrobe she was just beginning to itch for something more….
The young couple bought their first home in Mt Albert, an apartment that had been the former display unit for the complex. In Alex’s words “…it was bland and dumb brown.” Being inexperienced they were easily mustered by furniture sales people to purchase a “dumb brown” sofa to tone in with their “dumb brown” walls resulting in what she could only describe as an incredibly “oppressive” space which she hated! It wasn’t all awful though – the brilliance of a small orange tiled back-splash above the stove made Alex’s heart beat a little faster and she was beginning to form a firm idea of what she didn’t like in a space.
That AND dear little Isla was born!
In 2003 Jeff and Alex moved into a bright white villa in Westmere where Alex set up her very first foray into creative business with a friend. Definitely early adopters of the opportunities of online sales they launched Pieces of Design which specialised in applying a library of graphics onto art, allowing for full customisation in colour. This was also Alex’s first time working within the interior design industry and contact with magazines which focussed on it. Her interest in interior design definitely was piqued, however business wise, the balance wasn’t working so well. Between them, Jeff and Alex were ready for a change of scenery and a change of career so with Isla and a very pregnant Alex, they relocated to their new home of Christchurch.
Jeff moved on from his recent work with Neil Finn to set up a charitable music trust called CHART which focussed on supporting emerging musical talent in the area. Alex juggled family life with the renovation of their first real house in Sumner. It was tiny but they LOVED it and on a tight budget she began to explore her gut feeling for design. Her penchant for splashes of unexpected colour vs pattern quickly caught the attention of visiting friends who encouraged her to pursue design further.
She looked into various courses but resisted going full time with her family still her main priority. She eventually settled on a part time course by correspondence from a Melbourne based institution which taught her some valuable drawing skills but she quickly realised the rest was perhaps more innate and experienced based then anything.
A great friend in Sumner then rallied behind her, demanding that she now call herself an “interior designer” – and so she did ! Channeling some serious positive visualisation!
A business card was thus needed and she contacted a local graphic design agency who, on learning what she did, promptly engaged her to design their new studio for contra. The word-of-mouth wheels began to turn and for some years this was her primary source of new clients. There was a lot of “faking it til you make it” and some serious backing of herself and her own ideas. As Alex said, “If you don’t have faith in yourself, who will?”
Commercial jobs followed residential which was joined by some magazine work and special projects. She also started her blog with no real idea except that she wanted to be able to easily share her ideas and finds with any like-minded souls out there (which included me!)
Then their whole world as they knew it changed with the Christchurch Earthquake in February 2011. Alex at that point had recently returned her studio back to the house and was also couch ridden due to a serious leg injury involving a severed hamstring (!)
Luckily the young family survived unscathed physically but everything else was not good. They lost a friend, their way of life, their city, local community and suburb was utterly turned on its head. They were planning to begin renovating their house which was then not possible due to damage (think no working toilet for 3 months) and the following lengthy process with EQC has caused many hairs to be pulled out.
In an effort to give the girls some normality they took off up to Marlborough for a few weeks where they had family and friends. It was on a return visit to Blenheim that Alex’s attention was pulled to the sale of a beautiful, sprawling single storied villa.
Once again those fate wheels were turning. The purchase was made and the Fultini’s were moving to Blenheim for good!
Jeff and his brother purchased the tired Vines Village complex which they have gone to work on wholeheartedly to revive as an interesting destination hosting food, wine, culture, fun and shopping for both locals and visitors to the area. Alex began to take on projects locally and relished working with established wine label Astrolabe to convert an old house on the Vines Village property into an rich and interesting office/hosting venue. This combined with the renovation of her own house were both finalists in the recent Australasian Dulux Colour Awards.
With one end of a building not leased, Alex and Jeff came to the agreement that it was a no-brainer to set up a design store and studio there, and so the AFD Store was born!
On my visit a few months ago, Alex and her team were still receiving stock from carefully recruited global stockists and the launch of an online store is imminent (watch this space!)
The idea of the store coincided with a massive rebrand that she undertook with the help of Hardhat Design as well as a dream realised in bringing her travelling “school” to life with Mini Master Classes in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in the last 6 months.
It’s practically impossible to sum up Alex’s story so far – mostly because she has such a roll on it doesn’t feel right to put a full stop or a summarising statement at the end of it!
Alex Fulton poses a creative example of someone well and truly out there cutting their own track, buoyed by the support of their family and the strength of their own intuition.All photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home
WHAT I LEARNT FROM ALEX:
Your greatest potential will be reached out of staying true to yourself.
(plus all the other million nuggets of wisdom!)
CHECK OUT THE GIRLS’ BEDROOMS + AMAZING SHARED BATHROOM OVER HERE ON JUNIOR’S DESIGN BLOG!
This post was made bought to you with the partnership and support of Dulux New Zealand.
Please take the time to check out the companies that allow us to bring this cool content to you!
Summer on the Sunshine Coast correctly suggests “warmth” and on my one and only visit to the area it certainly lived up to its name! It was actually a massive relief when my sister and I arrived at the home of artist; Carley Cornelissen (after an hour with zero air conditioning in the car!) and descended into her cool basement studio space.
I had spotted Carley’s bright multi-media work at Byron Bay’s Retrospect Galleries and immediately googled her. It wasn’t long before a visit was arranged and I had the chance to share this friendly artist’s story.
Carley grew up in Traralgon, Victoria on a 5 acre block with her family. As mentioned by many a successful artist; she sites an inspiring and encouraging high school art teacher as helping her grow her passion for exploring her own creativity.
At 18 she broke out of her home town and moved to Melbourne with a group of friends. Like so many young people, she was eyeing her future with success in mind which led her away from art and toward graphic design which she felt had a “clearer career path”. She lasted a total of two weeks at University….graphic design certainly wasn’t for her!
Melbourne however, certainly was. Chapel Street offered an exciting, inspiring and buzzy contrast to her country upbringing and she enthusiastically soaked it up!
She spent a year sussing out her next step, leading her to enroll in a visual arts course at TAFE. While she was still somewhat tentative and gun shy following her misfire at Uni, it became rapidly apparent that she had found the right path for herself. She loved it!
Following the visual arts course she then decided to head back to Uni again, this time to undertake a much more appropriate Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in painting at RMIT.
Carley took at job at a hardware store while studying, thoroughly enjoying the course… however “life” was proving quite a lot of fun too! After 2 years the finish line and final year was in her sights. She had upped her work hours to fund a mid year overseas adventure and as a result she was missing quite a lot of school. You can imagine the shock to the system when just weeks shy of flying she failed the 1st semester of her final year!
Taking stock, Carley decided to pack up her life in Melbourne and head away for a year, putting her studies on hold. At a fork in the road when many a person would struggle to return, she did just that and at 23 re-enrolled with a new motivation and focus for what she was trying to achieve. Interestingly enough, some of her tutors admitted to failing her as they knew she could do so much better! They felt she could have continued and passed, leaving Uni behind and perhaps not moving forward from there – but they had higher hopes for her talent and future.
She took this and ran…straight into acrylics, transfers and the development of the style which stopped me in my tracks!
In 2007 Carley moved to the Sunshine Coast where her parents had relocated from Victoria to a great spot in the hinterland. For the first time she relished being away from the distractions of Melbourne and felt inspired by her new rural home.
It was also the beginning of her 7 year relationship with art supply store; Eckersley’s. Working on a daily basis and dealing one-on-one with artists visiting the store she learnt SO much about products, techniques and art in general. So excited about the whole new world opening up to her, she bounced around, experimenting and straying between styles.
Despite the exposure to her local creative community and her growing portfolio of personal work, Carley struggled to see the steps that would take her work from being purchased via word of mouth to connecting to a larger, receptive audience.
In 2011, her sister Christa stepped in, determined to see her obvious talent grow. She was a organising wiz and took over Carley’s dreaded paperwork, social media and promotion, leaving her to do what she did best – simply create. (Yes…I hear you…we could ALL do with someone like this on our side!) Despite Christa living in Canberra, they created a system to sync their activity, share info and plan. An in depth and easily update-able Google Doc tracked the progress, availability and sale of Carley’s painting. This streamlined organisation was new to her and really set her free!
Carley began to take her paintings to weekend markets in the area before working with a local gallery to start generating more sales. She had been told about Retrospect Galleries in Byron Bay and felt that their style and angle suited her. Contact was made then suddenly – action stations! She received a call then immediately jumped in her car loaded with paintings and headed to Byron Bay. The Retrospect team critiqued her work – which Carley said was amazing, positive and enlightening! The gallery then took 2 pieces with them to a fair in Stockholm, both of which sold on the first day! The order was in for more ASAP and thus Carley got some serious wheels on her career as an artist.
In April 2013 they highlighted her as “Artist of the Month” in their Byron Bay gallery – her work selling as soon as it was hung, 10 in total. The resulting boost in her confidence was invaluable as is Restrospects on going support.
Spending a huge amount of time working from her basement studio in the home she shares with husband Ben and Thomas the cat, Carley also still works at Eckersley’s – valuing the one on one time with her contemporaries and break from her studio time.
At the moment she is flat tack producing work to go with Retrospect Galleries to affordable art fairs in Europe and Asia later in year. She is also a well deserving finalist in the Sunshine Coast Art Prize and Noosa Art Prize, both of which will be decided be in late August.
Carley’s story rang many bells for me. The misguided attempts to head for the corporate world, the difficulty to connect with a like minded audience and the horror of dealing with finances (!) These are all recycled issues struggled through by some of the most successful creatives I have met but I think Carley’s story-to-date is proof that they shouldn’t be used as excuses for not achieving goals and ploughing forward.
Any inquiries about the work that Carley has available or possible commissions can be directed to Retrospect Galleries (contact details on site)All photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home
WHAT I LEARNT FROM CARLEY:
Confidence and direction don’t always flood miraculously into our bodies.
It can take time, perseverance and often, the support of those people who have got your back.
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Despite it being some time ago now, I still remember the thrill of scheduling in a visit with Kim Jaeger while in Melbourne late last year. I had followed Kim’s instagram for months and marveled at the “work in progress shots” from her studio as she hand crafted one “Pot head” after another – each different and each strangely packed with character! I got the impression there was more to this project than the occasional shot on Instagram, so for her to accept my request for a visit felt like I was off on an art-filled treasure hunt!
What I didn’t expect to discover was that Kim is more than an accomplished artist with a loyal international following – she is a facilitator, educator and curator who works to bridge art with an audience at every chance she gets.
Kim grew up in the small coastal town of Coledale, south of Sydney. The University of Wollongong was her destination post high school, where she initially enrolled in Visual Arts. However a switch to graphic design progressed to completing her Masters in Graphic Design and New Media concentrating on interactive projects and installations using film, video and sound.
In 2001 she graduated and promptly found herself working in a call centre for a year – something many young graduates could put their hand up to!
She and her sister then headed to London for a few years with the intention to find work as a graphic designer. However the realities of client work grated with her and after a few months she moved on, finding jobs as a care worker, op-shop assistant, ticketing for plays and at Harrods over Christmas all with the aim to fund further travel.
Over this entire period she faithfully diarised her ideas. Continually drawing, remaining open and receptive to her changing surrounds until she had built up years of material just begging to be bought to life!
By 2005 she was back to Sydney in charge of the marketing and graphic design of a print company, bythe following year she decided to head South to Melbourne and join her sister (where she slept on the floor for a few months while getting on her feet…yes! We’ve all been there too!)
Between temp work and a role “scanning scanners” for Motorola (?!) Kim launched herself back into making again. Her first show was at Bus Gallery in collaboration with Emily Plunkett where they created work using embroidery. Kim’s work was text based where she made a wall of text from “overhears snippets of conversation”.
Kim then moved into a great role which she held of 3 years in event management with the Australian Institute of Professional Photography. Over this period she continued with her art in a big way. She also became heavily involved with the board of the Seventh Gallery on Melbourne’s Gertrude Street. It was her involvement here from 2009 – 2011 that gave her the opportunity to connect with a group of active and ambitious artists, including her partner Andy Hutson who was also on the board.
As she began to exhibit more (with shows at Felt Space in Adelaide and Boxcopy in Brisbane) she also increased her work as curator and familiarised herself with the nationwide network of “Artist Run Initiatives”. She has created, facilitated, curated and project managed large shows (one included the work of 28 exhibitors) involving musicians, artists and many creative talents that had never had work placed in the public arena.
In 2011 she took up a role with the Cancer Council Arts Awards programme which recognises and publicises the work of those directly and indirectly effected by the disease. She was also responsible for coordinating the launch of an art therapy programme for cancer patients.
Now….this all paints a picture of the highly active, involved and busy professional life of Kim Jaeger, but I want to just rewind a step or two to explain how her marvelous tribe of Potheads came to life!
POT HEADS: The Tribe
It was in 2008, in the backyard of a Melbourne share house that Kim discovered a creepy ceramic “head” with weeds growing out of it! She got over the creepiness but not her desire to maker her own “pot head”.
A few years later she took her idea to North Carlton Ceramics which led to regular Friday visits where she learnt from the best how to hand build and experiment with clay and glazes.
After some chat with Craft Victoria about their Craft Cubed project, Val Restarick of North Carlton Ceramics broached the idea with Kim of a joint exhibition. This was in 2011 and every single Pot head was snapped up and taken to a new loving home.
Following some great media coverage Kim began to field constant enquiries of people wanting to their own potheads so she began to liase with then secure a small group of local stockists.
I found Kim’s Pothead project to ride a really interesting line. There is such demand for her one off creations however every single one is made by hand, has its own personality and takes between 6-8 weeks of forming, glazing and firing to be completed!
Despite the heavy demand Kim continues to see her Potheads as functional art and is in no way swayed to head down the road of mass production..
Kim was pregnant with her first child when I visited the Brunswick cottage she shares with her partner Andy. She balanced 4 days a week with the Cancer Council and spent 3 days in her little laundry studio filling private and retail orders of her Potheads. She now has a gorgeous daughter and this year has already been involved in the curating of an exhibition at Mr Kitly of women artists from Iwantja Arts in Indulkana titled “Pukulpa Pots”.
A new collection of Pot heads are heading to Koskela next week and in November Kim is running a workshop at Signal (an art space run by The City of Melbourne for people aged 18-25) teaching a class how to make ceramic planters. A trip to Japan with her 8 month old and a focus on the collaborative exhibition she is working torward with Anna Varendorff for 2015 means this is one thriving and busy artist!
I found Kim to be uncannily calm which belies her amazing ability to make stuff happen! So often artists get to their end of their making process and find themselves incredibly stumped and intimidated on how on earth to share their work. It’s amazing people like Kim who can carefully move them in the right direction and help them cultivate a following which before may have seem impossible for them to access.
Mission in life – to own my own Pot head.
Photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home
WHAT I LEARNT FROM KIM JAEGER:
Be true to your ideas.
Let them grow…but in the way that sits comfortably with your gut.