Category Archives: REAL WORLD

REAL WORLD: Alexandra Dodds

REAL WORLD: Alexandra Dodds Jewellery // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and interview by Sarah Allen // Exclusively for Studio Home - creative talent from the lands down under

Alexandra Dodds as photographed by Sarah Allen

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As an admitted fan girl of Alexandra Dodds, I jumped at the chance to visit her Auckland studio and getting the opportunity to meet the maker behind the unique and extensive jewellery range I had always viewed from afar!
Allie began her studies in Dunedin studying a Bachelor of Arts, or as she describes it, a couple of years of “mish mash”. She then attended Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design where she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in Fine Arts in 2008. Her work whilst studying was predominantly sculpture and installation based, which we can see reflected in her jewellery. Each unique piece is made by hand, imitating elements of the natural world, most obviously in shape and texture. Following graduation, Allie then spent three years in Wellington teaching herself casting in a small studio before heading off to travel America and Europe for the six months.

While on her travels, Allie did an intense one week casting course through Coopgold at Planet Modulor in Berlin. Planet Modular is a huge art shop with attached studios and also hosts many workshops for all types of creative fields. After her travels, she then returned home briefly before starting to make her jewellery full time in Vancouver.
Allie has recently returned home and is currently working from her Ponsonby studio, which is part of the glamorous Miss Crabb workroom (where Miss Crabb mascot, Moon keeps a close eye on her).

So before she shoots off across the ditch to Sydney and the Aussies try and claim her too, I asked her a few questions about her journey thus far, her future plans and of course her all important advice to us creative students and graduates.
This one is for all of you fellow creativites that love to make, mould and construct things!

REAL WORLD: Alexandra Dodds Jewellery // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and interview by Sarah Allen // Exclusively for Studio Home - creative talent from the lands down under REAL WORLD: Alexandra Dodds Jewellery // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and interview by Sarah Allen // Exclusively for Studio Home - creative talent from the lands down under

What is your biggest influence in your work?

My work is heavily informed by the geometries, shapes and textures of the natural world, but I also work purely from imagination and experimentation. I’m pretty internal and I get a lot of inspiration from my materials as I am working with them.

REAL WORLD: Alexandra Dodds Jewellery // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and interview by Sarah Allen // Exclusively for Studio Home - creative talent from the lands down under

What is your working process? How do you get your “creative juices” flowing?

I don’t plan things too extensively.. I think all my previous study from fine arts school and interests find their way into the work quite intuitively. I might start with an aspect of something I have been interested in – being an organic object, texture or a gemstone, and then simply begin to play with it in three dimensions until it transforms and becomes something.
Casting my carvings and sculptures into metal is another transformative process, and love seeing the transition from a disposable tactile material into something more precious and permanent.

REAL WORLD: Alexandra Dodds Jewellery // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and interview by Sarah Allen // Exclusively for Studio Home - creative talent from the lands down under REAL WORLD: Alexandra Dodds Jewellery // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and interview by Sarah Allen // Exclusively for Studio Home - creative talent from the lands down underWhat’s the biggest challenge about the work you create / your creative field?

The sales and marketing side has been the biggest challenge for me. I find it hard to ‘sell’ my own work, but also think that coming from a fine arts background I find it difficult to get my head around commercialising my art, but think I have found a good balance of keeping everything handmade within my studio, of limited numbers.

REAL WORLD: Alexandra Dodds Jewellery // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and interview by Sarah Allen // Exclusively for Studio Home - creative talent from the lands down under REAL WORLD: Alexandra Dodds Jewellery // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and interview by Sarah Allen // Exclusively for Studio Home - creative talent from the lands down under REAL WORLD: Alexandra Dodds Jewellery // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and interview by Sarah Allen // Exclusively for Studio Home - creative talent from the lands down underHow do you think travelling before you delved into your business full time benefited you?

I feel very fortunate to be surviving off my art, and also being able to travel so much while doing it. While living in Berlin for a couple of months, I attended an intensive metal casting course.. and in Copenhagen I visited a lot of amazing galleries and studios, constantly getting soaking up inspiration from the diverse architecture and landscapes. Travelling has almost come a part of the job now, I have been to New York and Italy twice to exhibit and have plans to show my collections in Paris in the future.

 

You started working full-time while in Vancouver. How do you think affected your brand compared to if you were in New Zealand?

I had some great opportunities while living in Vancouver. Being so close to the US, I had the opportunity to exhibit in New York and picked up a couple of American stockists. I found a great studio in Vancouver with two other jewellers who were all running their own businesses. One had studied in business, the other in technical jewellery, and me in fine arts. We all had very different strengths, aesthetics and markets, so it was a great balance where we bounced ideas off each other and help each other out. We regularly had an open studio to the public where they could come in and try on/buy pieces directly from us. I think this time in the Vancouver studio was really valuable having that support network.

 

REAL WORLD: Alexandra Dodds Jewellery // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and interview by Sarah Allen // Exclusively for Studio Home - creative talent from the lands down under REAL WORLD: Alexandra Dodds Jewellery // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and interview by Sarah Allen // Exclusively for Studio Home - creative talent from the lands down under

 

What was the best piece of advice you received about the “real world” while you were studying?

The one piece I remember was an during an artist talk with Kate Newby… and she said to keep making… just keep on making.

 

REAL WORLD: Alexandra Dodds Jewellery // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and interview by Sarah Allen // Exclusively for Studio Home - creative talent from the lands down under

REAL WORLD: Alexandra Dodds Jewellery // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and interview by Sarah Allen // Exclusively for Studio Home - creative talent from the lands down underREAL WORLD: Alexandra Dodds Jewellery // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and interview by Sarah Allen // Exclusively for Studio Home - creative talent from the lands down underWhat are your plans going forward?

I am moving to Sydney in a month to ‘settle’ a little after traveling and moving so much over the last four years. As much as I have loved moving around, I am looking forward to more of a permanent set up and getting to know the community around me. Moving forward I want to focus and push the custom jewellery side of my practice. It is probably my favorite part.. as individuals some pieces would never have been imagined, but collaborating together beautiful and unexpected things can be created. I also have future dreams to open a my own little gallery/showroom space full of beautiful objects and an in-house studio.

 

REAL WORLD: Alexandra Dodds Jewellery // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and interview by Sarah Allen // Exclusively for Studio Home - creative talent from the lands down under

Product photography supplied by Alexandra Dodds Jewellery
Interview and photography by Sarah Allen for Studio Home
Explore more in the REAL WORLD series by Sarah here.
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Posted in emerging designer, fashion, jewellery, new zealand, REAL WORLD | Comments Off on REAL WORLD: Alexandra Dodds

REAL WORLD: Tim Webber Design

REAL WORLD: Tim Webber Design // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and Interview by Sarah Allen for Studio Home - Creative talent from the lands down under

Tim Webber as photographed by Sarah Allen

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Tim Webber Design is well on its way to becoming a common household name. This fast expanding business is not only making waves in New Zealand but is stocked in a range of stores in Australia and Hong Kong, with its sights set on America.

Tim’s subjects at school included woodwork and graphics along with an interest in architecture. Making furniture at school triggered his path to then go on to study a Bachelor of Design at Unitech, majoring in 3D object which he graduated in 2010. From there, things happened fairly organically with him working for his dad for six months after graduating, followed by designing his first collection for another six months. Tim’s first collection consisted of six products and once they were ready, he started door knocking at different retail spaces. This is was the beginning of Tim Webber Design.

Now, 4 years on, with a new retail space that has opened recently at BLOC, it was only appropriate to meet this design go getter and have a chat.
Refined and pared back is how I would best describe the sophisticated products of Tim Webber Design, the space perfectly representing his clean aesthetic.

With little knowledge about product design and always interested in learning the road a successful brand has taken to get to where they are, I was lucky enough to have Tim share with me his insight into product design and creating his brand and now I share it with you!

REAL WORLD: Tim Webber Design // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and Interview by Sarah Allen for Studio Home - Creative talent from the lands down under REAL WORLD: Tim Webber Design // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and Interview by Sarah Allen for Studio Home - Creative talent from the lands down under REAL WORLD: Tim Webber Design // Auckland, New Zealand // For Studio Home - Creative talent from the lands down under

Your journey to where you are now seemed to happen fairly organically for you, when did you decide that product design, specifically furniture, was what you wanted to do?

 

I’ve always had an interest in design and making things with my hands. After my schooling years where I found a passion for woodwork and graphic drawing, I went on to study a Bachelor of Design and majored in furniture and sculpture where I did a lot of experimenting with various aspects of furniture and product design.
It was about 6 months after I graduated when I decided to step out and really put some effort into creating my own range of furniture. I had the opportunity to set up in the corner of one of my dad’s warehouses and squeezed myself into a little gap to create the tiniest workshop imaginable.
With the use of this small workshop it allowed me to experiment and explore how this first range would come together.

REAL WORLD: Tim Webber Design // Auckland, New Zealand // For Studio Home - Creative talent from the lands down under REAL WORLD: Tim Webber Design // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and Interview by Sarah Allen for Studio Home - Creative talent from the lands down under

 

You have collaborated with Eight Paws recently. What was your favourite part about collaborating and how do you think it benefits both parties involved?

 

Peter from Eight Paws was a great client to work with because he was so open to any concepts I put on the table. Working with someone like this during the design process always makes things simpler as it leaves me freedom to create something unique without restrictions.
The great thing about collaborating with other people on projects is that there’s always something new to learn from it, be it how some other market which I’ve never had experience with works, or exploring new materials and manufacturing processes.

REAL WORLD: Tim Webber Design // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and Interview by Sarah Allen for Studio Home - Creative talent from the lands down under REAL WORLD: Tim Webber Design // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and Interview by Sarah Allen for Studio Home - Creative talent from the lands down under REAL WORLD: Tim Webber Design // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and Interview by Sarah Allen for Studio Home - Creative talent from the lands down under

What was the biggest misconception about finding work in your industry?

 

I think opportunities have definitely got better. I’m not sure that it’s a misconception, but I know for a recent design graduate it can feel tough to get the right design job for you.
However I think work is definitely out there in the design industry, it’s just about looking in the right places and putting yourself out there to people. It may not necessarily be the dream design job straight out of the gate, but every job has skills to learn and resources you can tap into. You only get out what you put in.

REAL WORLD: Tim Webber Design // Auckland, New Zealand // For Studio Home - Creative talent from the lands down under REAL WORLD: Tim Webber Design // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and Interview by Sarah Allen for Studio Home - Creative talent from the lands down under

REAL WORLD: Tim Webber Design // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and Interview by Sarah Allen for Studio Home - Creative talent from the lands down under

 

 After graduation you basically went straight in to creating Tim Webber Design. Many graduates may not know how to go about launching their own brand or where to start. What would your advice be to graduates wanting to go out on their own and find their feet in the  creative industry?

 

Find someone you look up to or is at the place where you would like to be and ask them to grab a coffee. Ask questions about how they started and how they got to where they are. Soak up all that knowledge, then apply it to your own practice.
I can pretty much guarantee that whoever you speak to that has started their own business will say that it takes a lot of effort and determination to make it work, so be prepared to be driven and focused to start your own business.

REAL WORLD: Tim Webber Design // Auckland, New Zealand // For Studio Home - Creative talent from the lands down under REAL WORLD: Tim Webber Design // Auckland, New Zealand // For Studio Home - Creative talent from the lands down under

What is your working process? How do you get your “creative juices” flowing?

 

I often find inspiration from all around me everyday, but especially by looking closely at how even the most mundane products are constructed and designed can spark new ideas and direction.
I also draw a lot of inspiration from the various manufacturers I use. Just walking around their workshop can jog ideas with the various tools they have lying around and the manufacturing processes available they use.

 

What are some of the qualities that you look for in a creative when employing?

 

Focused, intuitive, ready to learn and social.

REAL WORLD: Tim Webber Design // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and Interview by Sarah Allen for Studio Home - Creative talent from the lands down under

REAL WORLD: Tim Webber Design // Auckland, New Zealand // Photography and Interview by Sarah Allen for Studio Home - Creative talent from the lands down under

Tim Webber of Tim Webber Design

All product photography supplied by Tim Webber Design.
Photography and interview by Sarah Allen for Studio Home.

Follow Sarah: Instagram , Pinterest, website coming soon.
Explore more REAL WORLD interviews here. 

Posted in emerging designer, for the home, furniture, new zealand, product design, REAL WORLD | Comments Off on REAL WORLD: Tim Webber Design

REAL WORLD: The Design Kids

The Clever - proud supporter of the Studio Home "Real World" features and down under design // www.thecleverdesignstore.comFrankie Ratford of The Design Kids // Bridging the gap between students and industry within the graphic design community // Photography by Sarah Allen for Studio Home

Frankie Ratford as photographed and interviewed by Sarah Allen for Studio Home 
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Entering into my fourth and final year of study, I have found myself feeling rather overwhelmed by the intense year ahead, and even more overwhelmed that I am one step closer to being a graduate and looking for a job in the ‘real world’!

Julia had been spending some time with fellow web buddies; Frankie Ratford and Yve Johnson from The Design Kids (TDK) who are visiting from Australia and had arranged for me to meet up with them for a chat. Meeting these two creative geniuses could not have come at a more perfect time and I was SO inspired by their enthusiasm!  Needing some guidance for the year ahead, I picked their knowledgeable brains about the creative industry and asked some questions to try to dig up some valuable advice and lessons learnt for us students and graduates!

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TDK was launched in November 2009 by Frankie Ratford (then 26), initially as an online store selling products designed by students to give themselves some exposure during their study. Over the 6 years since, TDK (and its growing team) have been on a mad mission to bridge the gap between students and the wider Australian graphic design industry. 2012 saw the launch of their new site, providing students with ways to get involved in the community via events, competitions, exhibitions, a job board, directory, interviews, a wide interactive social network and city specific projects. Their tireless drive, enthusiasm and fresh approach to the Australian graphic design world has had huge benefit to students, grads and industry front runners a like!

I caught up with Frankie and Yve as they embark on a 10 week road trip of New Zealand, not only exploring the countryside but reaching out to connect with our own creative industry at large. As part of their travels they have launched an awesome project to engage and involve the design community (open to international entries!) TDF are calling for any of YOU to design and enter your own type based sign for each of their listed NZ destinations. The selected typography is then printed, used as their hitchhiking sign AND then included in the exhibition in April!

#tdkthumbsup
ALL DETAILS BELOW

THE DESIGN KIDS // #tdkthumbsup typography project, competition and exhibition! New Zealand mission!Frankie Ratford of The Design Kids // Bridging the gap between students and industry within the graphic design community // Photography by Molly Oneill
Frankie Ratford as photographed by Molly O’Neill
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When did you decide that the design industry is what you wanted to be part of? Was there a specific moment that set you off in its direction?

 

Definitely! I fell in love with a green kettle aged 14. I was on a ski trip with my parents on the French/Swiss boarder and while my parents were getting groceries, I wandered into the appliance section, and spotted this kettle. When my Dad came to find me, he couldn’t understand why I wanted it so bad. I think it was the first time I realised I saw the world differently to most people!

 Work by Luke Day // TDK Re-Launch Party 2012 // Byron Bay, Australia // The Design  KidsWork by Luke Day // TDK Re-Launch Party 2012 // Byron Bay, Australia // The Design  Kids
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Why did you feel you needed/wanted to start TDK?

After 6 years of studio experience, I felt like my skills weren’t really being utilised. I didn’t want to sit still at a desk and eat at the same sandwich shop everyday! I wanted people, adventure, travel, and to give back in some way! So I designed my dream job, funded it myself for 4.5 years and then scored our wonderful sponsor, Tractor Design School. Sometimes I think you just have to pull out all the stops and make it happen. Even our design road trip where I spent five months on the road in five cities, I only had $64 to my name a week before I was leaving, and so I kept my lecturing job two days a week, and just flew to work! Some might call it crazy, but I wanted the income of one and was passionate about the other, so I had to find a compromise to make it work, and that compromise was getting up at 3am and heading to the airport!

Frankie Ratford of The Design Kids // Bridging the gap between students and industry within the graphic design community // Work by Georgia Hill
Work by Georgia Hill, Jonathan Key and completed by Liz Roe.
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Frankie Ratford of The Design Kids // Bridging the gap between students and industry within the graphic design community // Photography by Tyler Alberti
Art by Kate Pullen and Madeleine Deneys // Photo by Tyler Alberti
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How did you get your foot in the door and begin to grow your business both on and offline?

 

I was always interested in the design industry – in the studios I used to grill the paper reps on who had designed each project. A community is about the people who make it up, and I was interested in those people. Working at some high end studios meant I already had those connections (Sydney), plus my fellow honors graduates all got great jobs (Melbourne). Our very first exhibition – Terrible Twos Sydney (where we partnered a Creative Director with a student on equal terms) was a mix of people I knew and people I begged! From there (again, proving your worth before people believe in you), Desktop Magazine approached me to run a Melbourne and Brisbane version. That was a really big stepping stone for me and I’ll always be super grateful for Brendan McKnight (the then Editor) for seeing what I was trying to achieve and believing in me.

I guess growing from there was all about giving. I’m always amazed by students emailing us saying ‘I emailed all the studios, no one replied’. These guys run full time businesses, why should they reply!? Start giving back and getting involved and people are way more likely to make time to see you. TDK has been all about giving back and connecting our community – and hours upon hours of meeting (read: drinking coffee), meet ups (read: drinking beer) and exhibitions (read: travel freely!) have all paid off. I think if you are going to put so much of yourself into something, you have to love what you do, and I’m crazy about it!

Work by Alter & Nathan Nankervis from TDK "Fourplay" 2014 // The Design Kids
Work by Alter & Nathan Nankervis from TDK “Fourplay” 2014 // The Design Kids
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Frankie Ratford of The Design Kids // Bridging the gap between students and industry within the graphic design community // Photography by Stephane Lee Moulin
TDK x Kitiya Palaskas Workshop, 2013 // Photo by Stephanie Lee Moulin
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What are your plans going forward? For both yourself and TDK?

 

Well, we’ve got a big two months in NZ now, which we’re really pumped about! We are hitch hiking around NZ, and running an international typography competition on Instagram to design the hitch hiking signs, to shine the light on New Zealand creatives and destinations. Then we’re off to the USA to do the same over there, in a big old bus!

 

What was the best piece of advice you received about the “real world” while you were studying? And how do you apply it to your working life now?

 

“Get involved!”

 

I put my hand up for anything and everything – still! I’m 10 years in and still helping out, working on the bar at exhibitions, helping out with Creative Mornings in Melbourne for the last 12 months, doing free talks, workshops etc. I recently did an audit of my resume, and I’ve done around 70 design jobs (some are one day, some are 3 years, there is a big range!) and 80% of what I do is for free. Not because I don’t value my time but because I’m happy to give back, especially when 20% is well paid and life’s good. I think while you are trying to build your design network, you need to start giving – time, energy, help etc. Plus its FUN!

 Work by Motherbird from the Terrible Twos show // The Design Kids //Melbourne 2012Work by Motherbird from the Terrible Twos show // The Design Kids //Melbourne 2012
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Frankie Ratford of The Design Kids // Bridging the gap between students and industry within the graphic design community // Work by Nowhere Famous
 Work by Nowhere Famous
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What was the biggest and most unexpected challenge you experienced following graduation?

 

Figuring out where I fit in the industry – and I thought I knew! After 18 months at Frost*, it wasn’t sitting right, so I quit in the middle of the recession, and decided to travel for six months – go figure myself out. This was a giant slap in the face, as I LOVE design but suddenly wasn’t sure who or what I was. The six months paid off (hiking in Reunion Island, volunteering in Madagascar, grape picking in France, hanging in NYC, camping the UK and hitchhiking through Europe) and I had a turning point in Madagascar and figured I wanted to be in the design industry but I wanted to give back. And I didn’t want any clients! So came up with a plan to help improve the industry and make a difference.

 

When lecturing in the past, what and how did students stand out from the rest?

 

Just being really engaged and interested in design. You can see the ones that spend hours kerning one piece of type, the ones that can tell the different between one italic serif and the next etc. The rest scrape by, getting low credits, turning up to half the classes and not really caring about the details. I’m all about the former group – TDK is designed to give these guys the boost and support they need to succeed.

 

You have created an incredibly strong community and network in Australia. What motivated you to look further and set your sights on introducing your project to NZ?

 

We’ve been in Australia for five years now, and I’m keen to grow our community. I LOVE seeing what everyone else is up to and already in NZ we have been blown away by talent! This week alone we’ve met Studio Home (yay!), Design Assembly, DINZ, Curative, Creative Mornings Auckland, ALT Group, We Love Inc, Threaded Magazine, Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design, Yoobee School of Design, Split/Fountain, The Pond…and a whole bunch more to come!

The Design Kids - Frankie Ratford and Yve Johnson at Piha Beach, New Zealand by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home The Design Kids - Frankie Ratford and Yve Johnson at Piha Beach, New Zealand by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home The Design Kids - Frankie Ratford and Yve Johnson at Piha Beach, New Zealand by Julia Atkinson for Studio HomeThe Design Kids // travelling New Zealand and incorporating a typography competition to design the destination signs! #tdfthumbsup // Photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home

   The Design Kids kicking off their NZ roadtrip and “hitch hiking type competition” !  #tdkthumbsup
Photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home + TDK
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Can you give use a quick rundown of your NZ itinerary and how people can reach out and connect with you if they want?!

 

TDK is about bringing industry knowledge, exposure and opportunities to students and graduates in NZ, so we’ll be visiting the universities for guest lectures, having coffees with Creative Directors and drinking beer at all the exhibitions launches and creative events. The aim is to support the existing design communities in each city, and strengthen those relationships so the fresh wave of graduates can connect and become part of this amazing industry. We’ve got two weeks in all of the following; Auckland, North Island, Wellington, South Island, Christchurch (actual dates and details of our type competition are on our website), with our hitch hiking type exhibition on the 2nd of April. We have a brand new kiwi site on its way at www.thedesignkids.co.nz, but for now get connected via your social media of choice (or all three)

TDK Facebook
TDK Instagram
TDK Twitter
@thedesignkids.

Frankie Ratford of The Design Kids // Bridging the gap between students and industry within the graphic design community // Photography by Sarah Allen for Studio Home Frankie Ratford of The Design Kids // Bridging the gap between students and industry within the graphic design community // Photography by Sarah Allen for Studio Home

Frankie Ratford and Yve Johnson of The Design Kids
Photography and interview by Sarah Allen for Studio Home
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The Clever - proud supporter of the Studio Home "Real World" features and down under design // www.thecleverdesignstore.com

It’s with great pleasure that we partner with theclever who are proud to support emerging designers down under and our on going “Real World” feature series.

“At theclever, you will find a market place created for a design-hungry audience. Our aim is to provide a one-stop-shop, where you can hunt for unique ideas that are considered in their design and beautifully crafted. Here you will meet a group of talented designers from New Zealand and around the world. You can read their stories, buy their products and follow them through our social channels”
Posted in australia, graphic design, new zealand, REAL WORLD | Comments Off on REAL WORLD: The Design Kids

REAL WORLD: Emma Kaniuk

The Clever - prime sponsor of the Studio Home REAL WORLD interviews - asking probing questions of successful creative professionals to benefit and inspire students and graduates // New ZealandEmma Kaniuk from Special Group. Auckland, New Zealand // Photography by Sarah Allen for Studio Home.
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mma Kaniuk as photographed by Sarah Allen
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Hi, Sarah Allen here! I have been working behind the scenes with Studio Home since July this year. As a graphic design student, Julia and I have had many discussions around what content would inspire and inform students and grads across all creative fields. This conversation finally morphed into a new feature series exploring the stories of and gleaning nuggets of advice from top creative professionals. The “Real World” series includes photography and interviews by me (!) and I am so excited to present our very first one today.

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Recently we visited the home of Emma Kaniuk, the young Design Director at Special Group. We sat down and chatted about the road she has taken in her career so far and pulled some pearls of wisdom to share with you.

From Massey in West Auckland, back in the days when it was semi-rural, Emma attended a primary school in Henderson, moving on to Lynfield College for her high school years. She admits to being strong in subjects such as Maths and Science as both her parents are teachers, but always had a curiosity for the creative fields.

Emma surprisingly never took art although she was in the very first Graphic Design class at her school in 5th form. Her teacher; Naomi Bell, was incredibly influential and pointed Emma in the direction of Unitec, helping her to secure an entrance interview in her last year of school.
Emma was subsequently offered a scholarship in product design. She turned it down, wanting instead to study graphic design – a real risk considering she didn’t know if she had been accepted or not.

Emma Kaniuk from Special Group. Auckland, New Zealand // Photography by Sarah Allen for Studio Home. Emma Kaniuk from Special Group. Auckland, New Zealand // Photography by Sarah Allen for Studio Home.

After four years of studying, at the age of 22, Emma graduated with a Bachelor of Design (Hons). At the beginning of her final year of study, Designworks sent out invitations to apply for a fellowship with their company. After 2 interviews and three months wait, Emma secured the fellowship. She worked in their studio one and half days a week during her final year at university, along with juggling a part time retail job and studying full time. She stepped into a full time position at Design Works when she graduated.

Emma stayed on to work at Designworks for five years, sometimes working very long hours. In 2010 when she was 25, it felt like it was time to explore something else.
A chance meeting with Heath Lowe (one of the partners at Special Group) years earlier proved pivotal with what direction to head in! Heath and Emma first met in his furniture store, Markt, when she was in her third year of university and taking a theory paper on the subject of Dutch design.

Emma arrived at Special Group as their eighth employee. They now have over 40 staff including a Sydney based studio.

I was lucky enough to meet Emma and ask her a few questions……

Emma Kaniuk from Special Group. Auckland, New Zealand // Photography by Sarah Allen for Studio Home.Emma Kaniuk from Special Group. Auckland, New Zealand // Photography by Sarah Allen for Studio Home.Emma Kaniuk from Special Group. Auckland, New Zealand // Photography by Sarah Allen for Studio Home.Emma Kaniuk from Special Group. Auckland, New Zealand // Photography by Sarah Allen for Studio Home.The Oyster Inn. Brand Identity by Special Group. Auckland, New Zealand.

WHAT IS YOUR WORKING PROCESS?

It starts with a brief. (Usually, not always). At Special Group, we like to invite other people along on the journey of our creative process — the more generous and open we are, the better it works. When we start talking about and interrogating the various seeds of an idea, one of the first things we do is not worry about who is going to make it. We know we can find the right collaborator to add their expertise. And we try not to get too caught up with trends as they can be quite distracting to the thinking process. Both of which gives us of a feeling of freedom.

I love the level of risk through discovery, in that you’re not quite sure exactly where a project is going to end up. Case in point: Gingerella was originally conceived as a tiger…

Overall it’s a very collaborative process. We have a fantastic team to bring our projects to life — designers, strategists, account/project managers, production specialists, as well as those we collaborate with on specific projects — which means I get to focus on what I do best: conceptualising and setting an overall direction. Though, I still love to get involved in finessing the details when I can.

Karma Cola & Co by All Good Organics. Brand Identity by Special Group. Auckland, New Zealand.


WHAT WAS SOME OF THE MOST RELEVANT ADVICE YOUR RECEIVED WHILE STUDYING?

 “To learn how to learn for yourself”

I didn’t fully appreciate this at the time! But learning how to learn is a great skill. So when you come across something for the first time — your first packaging job, your first way-finding project, your first powerpoint template — you’ll have the tools within you to go about figuring that out.

Becoming a well-rounded designer requires empathy, lateral thinking and an ability to understand things from a wide range of perspectives. So, if you look at things that way, everyone has experiences from which you can draw on to inform your practice. Some things you might filter out, but filtering out and figuring out what doesn’t work for you is equally as important as knowing what does.

Royal New Zealand Ballet. Brochure by Special Group. Auckland, New Zealand. Sachie's Kitchen. By Special Group. Auckland, New Zealand.

WHAT ADVICE BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES CAN YOU OFFER STUDENTS + GRADUATES IN YOUR INDUSTRY TO HELP THEM PREPARE FOR FURTHERING THEIR CAREER?

 

“Just the basics: be nice and work hard.”

Garden to Table. Brand Identity by Special Group. Auckland, New Zealand.Gravity Coffee. Brand identity and packaging by Special Group. Auckland, New Zealand.

 

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A DESIGNER WHEN EMPLOYING?

Someone with a passion and a mind filled with great ideas. Passion is contagious, but so is lack of passion. Simply, I look for someone with whom I have a good rapport and mutual respect. For a designer starting out, having a great attitude and good intuition for design is essential; craft and technique can be taught and honed as you go along.

Scarlett's Spritzers. Packaging by Special Group. Auckland, New Zealand.OOB Organic. Brand Identity by Special Group. Auckland, New Zealand.
All imagery supplied by Emma Kaniuk of Special Group.
Interview and photography by Sarah Allen for Studio Home
Follow Sarah: instagram , pinterest
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The Clever - prime sponsor of the Studio Home REAL WORLD interviews - asking probing questions of successful creative professionals to benefit and inspire students and graduates // New ZealandIt’s with great pleasure that we partner with theclever who are proud to support emerging designers down under.
“At theclever, you will find a market place created for a design-hungry audience. Our aim is to provide a one-stop-shop, where you can hunt for unique ideas that are considered in their design and beautifully crafted. Here you will meet a group of talented designers from New Zealand and around the world. You can read their stories, buy their products and follow them through our social channels”

 

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