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Kelly Thompson – Melbourne

Elk AccessoriesKelly Thompson - photography Studio HomeThose of you that have followed Studio Home for any length of time will know that I cultivate a pretty public admiration for the work of kiwi born, Melbourne based creative; Kelly Thompson. What I perhaps need to explain now – is that this has ballooned into a full blown crush following the morning I spent chatting and kicking around her warehouse apartment in July. I learnt A LOT about this pint sized talent and the importance of realising that the gloss and shine of the internet rarely communicates the hardwork and passion that goes on behind the scenes. Read on my friends…

Kelly Thompson - photography Studio HomeKelly Thompson - photography Studio HomeThe first time my jaw dropped was stepping inside the downright dreamy Collingwood apartment that Kelly shares with husband Christian and Billie the Beagle. The second time it dropped was when the bright and confident woman began her story by describing her 18 year old self. Quiet and the target of bullies, the Rotorua teenager honed her drawing skills early due to the amount of time she spent alone! In 2001 she put as much distance between her and high school as she could by enrolling in a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Otago Polytech.  There she emersed herself in the widely creative foundation courses of that first year as well as the loose, unrestricted life of a student.

Kelly Thompson - photography Studio HomeKelly Thompson - photography Studio HomeKelly Thompson - photography by Studio HomeA second year of that didn’t seem like the best of ideas so she moved back up country to Wellington where she cross credited to enroll at Massey University and completed a Bachelor of Design with honours in Photography. With her friends fleeing the country on their big O.E’s, Kelly stayed behind to begin chasing the first of her passions – fashion photography. Holding down a managers role at a sunglass store, she relentlessly fired out emails to magazines, searching for someone to give her a break! Results were slow to arrive to say the least but she began to pick up jobs that included shooting coffee cups (!) and hairdressing. Her patchwork of opportunities eventually built up to allow her to leave the shop.

Kelly Thompson - photography Studio HomeKelly Thompson - photography Studio Home By 2006 she was “officially” freelance – but living the existence of a starving artist. Like many of you might sympathise, work does tend to come in waves leaving Kelly so broke much of the time she simply had to stay at home. This reality had an interesting side effect! The pencils were back out and she had buried her free time in hours spent drawing again. It wasn’t until a random housemate spotted one of her pieces (this one!) and passed comment that someone would actually buy that! Listing heroes like Audrey Kawasaki, it simply hadn’t occured to her that her own illustration could possibly be a source of income. Her first step in that direction was submitting her work; “Nocturnal” to Curvy and being accepted!

Kelly Thompson - photography by Studio HomeKelly Thompson - photography Studio Home With her confidence building she then approached old employers; Good as Gold to host her first exhibition called ” Women of my Dreams”. This was met with a super positive response and all 30 of her limited edition prints sold. Around the same time her photography work began to get a boost in the right direction. She was contracted by RED11 in Auckland to fly up and do some model test shots. The initial plan of 6 turned into 20 and Kelly found herself totally utterly swimming in her lack of experience and preparation…but the way she handled it and the resulting shots impressed the agency and so began what has been a longterm collaborative and supportive relationship. Illustration wise she continued to work toward exhibitions and soon could list brands such as Mimco and Telecom as clients. In 2009 she even took up a tutoring position with fine arts students back at Massey University.

Kelly Thompson - photography by Studio HomeKelly Thompson - photography Studio Home By the time 2010 rolled around change was in the air. Kelly’s partner, Christian McCabe sold one of his two successful Wellington eateries (the Matterhorn – he still owns Mighty Mighty) and the couple decided it was time to fly the coop. They packed their life into storage and explored Europe and Asia for 4 months before arriving in Australia. While neither were total newbies to the city, Kelly made comment that they were both surprised at the incredibly positive, enthusiastic and collaborative culture they found. They settled in for a few years with the plan of “feeling this town out”. Christian sussed out the restaurant scene which he has since entered in a massive way with the opening of The Town Mouse this year. Kelly began working in a super expensive fashion store (think Usher popping in while in town!) but took a whole new direction when she applied for and beat 180 applicants for the role of account manager for prolific creative agency; Jacky Winter. The only experience she bought with her was the fact that she had been represented by an agency as an illustrator herself.

Kelly Thompson - photography Studio HomeKelly Thompson - photography Studio Home From 2011 – 2012 she learnt every in-and-out of licensing, money, percentage usages and managed the delicate balance between high level clients and talented freelancing creatives. Often with 30+ projects on the go, she was enjoying the excitement and security of her job…then an international illustrating opportunity she had put her hand up for came to fruition! While the lid is still on that (watch this space) the workload of that contract combined with further personal and corporate collabs meant that it was time for her to return, once again, to her freelance roots. This time with far greater security and minimal struggle than she has experienced to date!

A browse through Kelly Thompsons site in 2013 reveals a few things. A prolific artist. An in demand photographer. A creative collaborator. A modern and savvy, multi faceted woman who has been making the internet work to her advantage with great success. An example of how to be professional and accessible while acheiving personal creative goals.

Yep. I’m sold….when do classes start Kelly?

Kelly Thompson - photography Studio HomeKelly Thompson - photography Studio HomeWHO: Kelly Thompson and Christian McCabe. Kelly is most popularly known for her illustration work these days, but is also quickly becoming recognised for her personal style.  Christian is a restauranteur, owner of the Mighty Mighty in Wellington NZ, previously of Matterhorn fame and now owner of The Town Mouse restaurant in Carlton, Melbourne. Billie is a Beagle and number #1 drawing assistant to Kelly.

WHAT: The space is part of a converted wool mill. The apartment is true to its warehouse roots boasting open plan living (read one huge room with separate bathroom), double height ceilings and expansive windows along one side. It’s really good because we get the morning sun, it’s still really light in the afternoon, but without direct sun, which is great in the Melbourne summer when we hit 40 degrees. Its also really warm in the winter, surprisingly draft free and a lot of the time we don’t need the heater. We have maintained the open feel of the space, choosing instead to create nooks and areas with furniture and bookshelves, not to mention an expansive collection of plants! We don’t have any outside space, so feeling garden sad I decided to bring the garden in, now some of the plants are so large I fear how we could ever move them out! Prior to us moving in the space was used as a photographers studio, so we also have a little darkroom in behind the bathroom. The fun thing about the space is that I can change it around all the time, it’s fun not being restricted by walls. Whenever I am procrastinating I re-arrange the space, I work here too so it is important I keep refreshing things.

WHERE: The apartment is on Oxford Street in Collingwood in Melbourne. It takes 15 minutes to walk to the city and 15 minutes to walk to The Town Mouse, it’s a great spot. We are lucky to have about 4 different foodstores/ supermarkets on the street that our street joins with so it’s super handy. There are lots of cafes and pubs around, along with the art store down the road and parks near by.

DESCRIPTION:  We previously lived in a skinny little Victorian town house and I was determined to find something with a bit more space and air. This one had been listed for a while, but had been photographed empty so it just looked like one giant room for rent. I decided to take a look and as soon as I saw the floors and giant windows I was sold and applied the second I got home. I think due to the fact that there were no rooms other than the bathroom it put off people with flatmates or families which helped with our odds. We are now in our third year of living here. As Christian is in hospitality he isn’t here a lot, so living in an apartment feels safe for me. I really appreciate being able to have a great big workspace and hold classes here and spread out if needed, it’s good for a creative mind! Occasionally I do get a bit of cabin fever when I am really busy, so I think I might look for a secondary office space that I can share with someone else just to get out a bit more. It is a really lovely space to be in though, light and high ceilings changes everything!

Kelly Thompson - photography by Studio HomeAll photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home.

We are not defined by our teenage selves… in fact we are not even defined by money or location – just how much passion and patience we can muster to go after our creative dreams.

This interview was made possible with the support and partnership of Elk.


Posted in art, australia, creative hq, new zealand, photography | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Elk – Melbourne

Elk Accessories - Studio Home

Nine years ago Marnie Goding was flexing her marketing and events skills in corporate level positions in Melbourne. The day I met her in July this year she had just finished shooting the SS13 range for her accessories brand; Elk. Her sea change wasn’t down to luck – more a passion captured and combined with some seriously savvy business acumen.

My afternoon spent exploring Elk’s Preston headquarters was a bit of a dream come true really. Being a long time fan of their natural jewellery, leather accessories, clothing and general aesthetic it was a revelation to see their brand culture stamped across every facet of the company. From their retail showroom, to their awesome offices and right through to the warehouse. But as always for me, the opportunity to pick the brains of a successful creative business owner was the highlight and Marnie was no exception.

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Marnies prime exposure to jewellery was through her husband Adam, a successful fine jeweller and model maker for high end brands in Australia. Corporate life involved marketing and events for companies like the National Gallery and Melbourne Zoo but come home time, and with the tools readily available to experiment, it wasn’t long before Marnie herself started tinkering and making her own small silver pieces for fun.  She got such a positive response when wearing them that with the encouragement of Adam she gained the confidence to present a range to stores…..and was met with huge enthusiasm! The uptake was solid and all too quickly she found herself at the end of a marketing contract and a transition to making jewellery full time.

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The small business began to really get some grip, spurring Adam and Marnie to head off shore for some fresh inspiration. Their travels exposed them to a whole slew of new, beautiful materials and craftspeople. The trip also marked the beginning of long term creative collaborations with suppliers who they still work with today.

In 2004 they registered their brand Elk, hired staff, attended trade fairs and subsequently outgrew their premises. 2005 saw the introduction of leather bags and footwear to the range resulting in another surge of growth. By 2008 a difficult decision was looming and it was one they could simply no longer ignore. The couple were running two good businesses side by side but the demands of 100s of stockists, seasonal ranges, daily production and admin was becoming a dangerous juggle.  With much soul searching Adam made the tough decision to wind up his business – and from that point they have never looked back!

Elk Accessories - Studio HomeElk Accessories - Studio HomeElk Accessories - Studio HomeElk Accessories - Studio HomeIt’s Marnie’s belief (and one I totally agree with!) that marketing and branding, in partnership with product, are the basis of business success. She has been unwavering in her value on this and always prioritised spending and time on this side of Elk, even when it may have felt like a stretch. While discussing the realities of bringing Elk to life and growing it to be a sustainable business she spoke of the importance in understanding their customer. A huge amount of time is spent nutting out exactly WHO they are marketing to, which of course has an impact on everything from advertising placement, branding and even the ranges themselves. She also talked about the conscious effort they made to be realistic and despite exciting milestones – not get too big for their boots. They have always kept Elk running at a manageable level aimed at being able to deliver orders without fail.
“Slow and steady wins the race”

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By combining Marnie’s ethos with agencies that share common ideas and goals, Elk has began to see success in overseas markets. In 2010 they hooked up with a sales agency in Denmark. While it is virtually unheard of for a foreign brand selling products with a scandanavian aesthetic to have any kind of success in those countries – Elk has found an enthusiastic and demanding market!

2012 saw their maiden launch into the US. Initially sales were sluggish so Marnie and her team took a step back, had a fresh look at their presentation and the possible differences between their Australian customer vs an American one. Changes were made, the brand re launched and this time it is charging ahead.

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Clattering back across Melbourne in the tram after my visit,  I couldn’t help thinking what an inspiration Elk presented. Australia and New Zealand are teeming with exciting independant designers and brands working tirelessly to create product that they love. But what separates those that can make a living from their work and those that continue to struggle might be just plain old economics. Supply and demand. There is a balance to be found between being creative and producing work that is personally satisfying AND work that appeals to a receptive customer base.
I believe that Marnie, Adam and their extended Elk team have walked the line between creativity and savvy business in a near perfect way.

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All photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home.
A small part of the large Elk Family!

Create a brand and identity that you are proud to live and breath everyday!

Posted in australia, creative hq, fashion, jewellery | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Ink + Spindle – Melbourne

ElkInk & Spindle - Studio HomeDesigner Lara Cameron – one half of Ink + Spindle. Tegan Rose was absent due to Pirate ship duties. …… 

My visit to the huge brick warehouse of the Young Husband Studios in Kensington, Melbourne is not one I will be forgetting in a hurry. Not only was I getting to visit the studio of Ink & Spindle who I have faithfully stalked online for years – I was catching them at a pivotal time where they were developing an exciting new way to offer their products with some cutting edge collaboration! Ink + Spindle is the resulting brand of two designers looking to explore their personal creative goals in such a way they could also earn a living ( “Ah Ha! that same old conundrum” I hear you sigh!) I learnt one half of their story first hand from Lara Cameron however the other half; Tegan Rose was on sabbatical aboard a pirate ship, skirting the east coast of Australia. ( I am not kidding on this…you should follow her instagram: @teegs3) Ink & Spindle - Studio HomeInk + Spindle - Studio HomeInk & Spindle - Studio HomeLara Cameron began by studying multi media and web design – graduating in 2003 she decided to chase freelance work with gusto. Unlike the experience of many other young designers, contracts snowballed her way and for a few years she was kept busy producing quality results for other people. However, her need for tactile, hands on projects wasn’t getting met and she wasn’t at all satisfied by the creative work she was doing. To give purpose to her own extra curricular work she decided to start a craft blog which at the time, was virtually an unknown concept in Australia. It was here that she would post pattern designs she had been working on and the positive feedback she fielded gave her the confidence to take her project up a notch. Ink & Spindle - Studio HomeInk & Spindle - Studio HomeInk & Spindle - Studio HomeInk & Spindle - Studio HomeAfter researching then finding a screen printing studio she took the huge leap to produce 20 metres of fabric printed with her own design. She listed it on Etsy and it promptly sold out overnight. This was a light bulb moment! Perhaps her passion for pattern design couldin fact translate into a viable business and allow her to pursue it full time?!

Ink & Spindle - Studio HomeInk & Spindle - Studio HomeDuring my visit Lara was familiarising their new intern with the studio. …… 

It was mutual friend Bianca Van Meeuwen that bought Lara and Teegs together. Tegan had taken her Fine Arts training and combined it with an education degree to work as a secondary school teacher. Like Lara, she had felt un fulfilled and was just as keen to follow and develop her own creative passions. The two began to collaborate and recognising a great friendship and partnership, decided to establish a print studio. A dreamy notion with a pretty intimidating reality!

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They found their space and fell head over heels in love with it. But it was totally bare and needed a full fit out including printing equipment and right down to plumbing. A small business grant from the City of Melbourne gave them the financial boost needed but how to spend that wisely was the real question! They reached out to local printers for advice and were met with an overwhelming culture of sharing and support. The studio began to take shape but next they were confronted with the realities of what they were entering into. It was no longer a case of designing at home and sending off to someone else to manufacture – they were now responsible for their tools, materials, producing quality results, selling annnnd paying the bills!

Ink & Spindle - Studio HomeInk & Spindle - Studio Home

But as intended, being hands on at every level of their business meant they could take full control and shape it to match their brand and values exactly. Their initial challenges included sourcing quality organic fabrics, water based/solvent free inks and beautiful but environmentally friendly packaging. All these options are now well catered for in Australia but in 2008 and their first year of producing as Ink + Spindle, it was a bit of a mission! Their hardwork prevailed and it wasn’t long before their products gained a hungry customer base. By combining their personal designs but shared aesthetic under the one brand they were able to offer a substantial collection of prints translated onto homewares or simply on fabric by the metre. Ink & Spindle - Studio HomeInk + Spindle - Studio HomeInk & Spindle - Studio HomeIn the years following the start of Ink + Spindle there has been an explosion of small printing studios producing covetable work in Australasia. Lara and Teegs have acted as an information resource for many of them and held open studio evenings where they have shared, without reservation, their techniques, processes and sources.  As Lara pointed out, information sharing can only have positive results – by referring people to their suppliers they are bolstering demand which will effectively help those businesses maintain higher stock levels. Many designers would hold their process and sources close to their chest for fear of copying. But of course, no one can truly emulate original work and to maintain a spot on the front edge of an industry, brands need to remain future focussed in regard to their designs, styles and gaps in the market. This leaves “copiers” producing work that is outdated and often oversaturated in the market. Ink + Spindle - Studio HomeInk & Spindle - Studio HomeAnd future focussed these girls are! Seeing an unfilled niche they have moved toward the interior design sector offering their hand printed fabrics by the meter to both trade and retail customers. Their production process means there is a high level of customisation available however this has always proved difficult to communicate and offer online. That is until NOW! Engaging studio mate Guvnor(more on the studio mates in a few weeks!) they have bought to life a cutting edge website that allows buyers to create their own recipe of pattern, basecloth and colours and be able to view it onscreen before ordering. It is not only incredibly beautiful and easy to navigate – it demonstrates how Lara and Tegan have taken their very firm idea of what they want their brand to be and unreservedly chased it down! Big brands could seriously learn a thing or two about innovation here… I just have such an incredible crush on them!

Ink & Spindle - Studio Home
All photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home ……

WHAT I LEARNT FROM INK + SPINDLE: Being transparent and sharing your knowledge with others will not break down your brand. Try to avoid looking sideways at your competition and instead work at focussing your energy on building a business that is entirely true to you and your own goals.

 This interview was made possible with the support and partnership of Elk. …… 

Ink + Spindle website - by Guvnor

Ink + Spindle website - by Guvnor

The first glimpse at the new site! I highly reccommend you head in for a play…its seriously some computer time well spent! Credit for the new website goes to Tom Fitzgerald from Guvnor and Dominic Whittle from Weekends featuring photography by Sean Fennessy.


Posted in australia, creative hq, emerging designer, for the home, interior design, product design | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

The Windsor Workshop

ElkThe Windsor Workshop - Studio HomeSisters Sarah and Bree Hankinson

Shared work spaces and studios are not a new concept – however they seem to be experiencing a bit of a renaissance Down Under at the moment and Melbourne, with her relentless renovation of old buildings is becoming a hotspot. As someone who works only in the company of a singular obese cat, the idea of the shared work space definitely piqued my interest and on spending a couple of hours at The Windsor Workshop…well lets just say that my own company will now never be enough.

The Windsor Workshop - Studio HomeThe Windsor Workshop - Studio HomeThe Windsor Workshop took shape under the guidance of the super motivated Hankinson sisters. Born and bred Melbourne girls they have both forged very different but equally impressive creative careers. Bree managed to combine her graphic design skills with her passion for youth work and spent 4 years in Guatamala teaching creative and technology skills to disadvantaged children. In 2010 she returned home to start a family, took up the reins of her successful graphic design biz and began to pull her sister in on projects.
Sarah Hankinson is one of the most prolific and well known of the incredibly talented pack of Australian fashion illustrators. Like many young creatives she struggled to walk that line between the security of a full time job and the dream of being a successful freelancer. In 2008, after a few years of developing her professional portfolio and growing a following of her personal work online she struck out on her own and landed in her first shared work space.

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The networking opportunities of working shoulder to shoulder with other creatives proved incredibly valuable to Sarah. So in 2011 she decided she wanted to build on the concept and set up a studio reflecting her own needs and those of her creative friends all crying out for a space. With the help of Bree they spent months checking out property both in and north of the city but realised that there was actually a demand not being met on the south side so they refocused their hunt closer to their own neighbourhoods of St Kilda and Elwood.

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The Windsor Workshop, as it exists now is a beautiful space hovering above vibrant Chapel Street. When the girls finally found it in 2012, it existed only as a pre renovation shell. So with some patience and clever planning they set about transforming it into their dream space then filling with up to 10 creatives at a time. Currently it houses a journalist, artists, jewellery designer, graphic designers, a photographer, web developer and the HQ for an online store.
During my visit I was immediately struck by the balance of productivity and the casual friendly conversation that wafted over computer screens. Although, my presence would definitely have been an interruption to the norm, I got the impression that there is an easiness between everyone and most definitely a supportive environment where questions are freely asked and advice is given.

The Windsor Workshop - Studio HomeThe Windsor Workshop - Studio Home

As someone who has always relished working alone, I suddenly realised the advantage of this type of collaborative space. Being freelance or the sole owner of a small creative business, there is a lingering pressure to be constantly achieving with the realisation that if you don’t make this thing work – no one will! On a day by day basis there are so many issues/questions and even victories that a singular person can’t be expected to know how to deal with each and every one. So it makes complete and utter sense to be surrounded by others that share your challenges but know LOTS about stuff that you don’t.

To be honest?….I almost sighed with relief. And I want a desk here.  

The Windsor Workshop - Studio HomeThe Windsor Workshop - Studio HomeCurrent Windsor Workshop roll call:

The Windsor Workshop - Studio Home
All photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home

It’s true – there is safety in numbers….there is also creativity, inspiration, a shoulder to cry on and communal wine.
Shared workspace is the way of the future for the solo small creative business.

This interview was made possible with the support and partnership of Elk.
Posted in art, australia, creative hq, emerging designer, for the home, graphic design, product design | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Sally Goodall – Melbourne

Sally Goodall - Studio HomePhotographer Sally Goodall has the most infectious killer watt smile its impossible to resist the grin that will spring to your own lips on meeting her. Originally from Auckland, Sally relocated to her husband Callums’ native Melbourne in 2009 and its a move that has agreed with her. She has rapidly built up a portfolio of private and commercial clients which, among others, include Rollie and Lululemon. But its her collaborative partnership with fellow photographer Tori Simson that has led her into the creative world of wedding photography and a full calendar that takes them around Australia and the world.

Enjoy this peek down a Richmond side street into the enviable apartment and studio that Sally shares with her little family, business partner, stream of clients and nosey wandering kiwis.

Sally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeSally Goodall - Studio HomeAll photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home.

WHO: Sally Goodall. Photographer, part time painter & a serious pooch & puss cat lover. My hubby Cal & I share this space with Possum our cat & wee ‘Benji’, our puppy dog. They are fast becoming friends. It melts my heart. Cal runs & owns an online adventure tourism business concentrating on selling activities through out NZ & OZ. I fell into my passion of photography a few years ago & haven’t looked back since. I love it! I shoot weddings with my very good friend Tori….we have a ball together & feel super lucky to have found each other. I also shoot portraits & a bit of commercial stuff here and there.

WHAT: The place we like to call home is a warehouse conversion. When we first found this wee gem it reminded us of a New York style apartment. In the first month I reckon I skipped down the hallway every morning (just a little over joyed!).

So upstairs is home – where we are flooded with beautiful natural light, huge windows, a high stud, white exposed brick, polished concrete/wooden floors, floor to ceiling book shelves…..and my most fave thing ever, a bath tub. Do you know how hard it is to find a bath tub in Richmond?!
Downstairs is our photography studio. We were super fortunate to have come across this find. We have a separate office space downstairs also where we get the majority of our work done(our editing cave). When we are not here we are hitting up one of our fave cafes ‘Cheerio’ (who seriously do the best porridge in Melbs!) with our laptops in tow or even better getting our butts around the “Tan” (botanical gardens). This is where all our great ideas happen. We are like wee school girls …it gets a bit exciting thinking of all the fun possibilities…….Watch this space…

WHERE: We are residents of Jessie Street (in what’s known as the Island State) suburb of Richmond…they say once you move here you never leave. Yes we can see why! We neighbour mostly commercial businesses. The beautiful & talented ladies of Flower Jar, Ginger Recording Studios, a film maker of docos, a magazine house…you name it! We have just started a Jessie St pot luck dinner every month……it’s super fun! And it’s so nice to be able to wander home after a few too many vinos and know that your front door is just a few steps away(& bed for that matter). The thing I love most about Richie is the location -we are so close to everything. My hubby is super passionate about his sports so having the MCG & all the other stadiums at our finger tips is heaven for him. I love being close to my friends, the cafes & botanical gardens and the city is a 2 minute train ride away too. And if you are after a bargain you can wander the back streets of Richmond & stumble across loads of hidden treasures.  Fashion designer’s warehouses with endless sales…….it’s trouble with a capital T.

DESCRIPTION: So we stumbled across this place by pure chance. Cal and I were living a stones throw from here in a much smaller space & were both renting separate offices. After 4 years we thought why not combine the two and find a super cool living space where one of us could work from home. And we did. Literally a week later I popped out for a wander and found myself staring at this bright orange door ….when someone came out and offered to show me around I jumped at the chance. Once inside I immediately called Cal and said ‘babe get over here now….this is amazing’. And just like that we managed to land our humble abode.

The reason it works for us is we just have so much space, it’s super central to everything, we love our neighbours , our views are pretty cool too & having the studio downstairs is the icing on my cake. We just LOVE being at home…

This interview was made possible with the support and partnership of Elk.
Posted in australia, creative hq, new zealand, photography | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

The Design Files

Elk AccessoriesThe Design Files - Studio HomeI will wager a guess that 90% of you reading this post will have visited/follow/or developed a good and proper attachment to Melbourne based blog; The Design Files. 5 years ago, just one month after I waded tentatively into the the design blogging world, I received an email from Lucy Feagins who was doing just the same. Over the years I have watched her take her own lead on developing a corner of the internet that really had no precedent to follow. Not only did she set some hard and fast rules for herself from the get go, by taking her project seriously it didn’t take long for her to gain the respect of her local creative industry and then that of design blog readers worldwide. Unlike the examples for design bloggers down under today – in 2008 there were virtually no websites focused exclusively on Australasian content and certainly none dedicated to producing their own. So how did she find the wheels and inspiration to get to where she is today?
The Design Files - Studio HomeThe Design Files - Studio HomeThe Design Files - Studio HomeAfter finishing her studies in Creative Arts in 2002, Lucy decided to indulge her interest in interior design by seeking work as a set dresser for film and television. Amongst others she worked on local show Thank God You’re Here and movies Charlottes Web and Any Questions for Ben. Like all of you reading this now, she had stumbled across the hidden world of design blogs and grown a healthy addiction topped by Design Sponge (the godmother of all design blogs!) and local blog; Looby Lu. But she also realised she had something to share herself and in early 2008 she fired up a free blog template and began to share exclusively Australian content under the name; The Design Files.

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Blogging was still considered a bit of an underground hobby (think emo teenagers sharing their bad break-ups) but by featuring creative people and brands with strong, established networks the positive concept of The Design Files and what Lucy was up to began to travel throughout the Melbourne creative community. Mainstream local press also pricked their ears and a couple of features helped expose her to swathe of potential readers who previously would have had no bloody idea what a design blog even was!

It was the end of 2010 that signaled a pivotal time for TDF. Lucy had stuck to her religious daily posting for two years despite holding down the erratic and often high pressure life of a freelancer. Advertising bought in some pocket money but by no means enough to live on – however it had become obvious to her that the balance she was attempting to keep between blog and contract work was unsustainable. SO. A bullet was bitten!
She plotted a 3 month trial period where she would not pursue any set dressing work and instead would be totally and utterly focused on her site. 3 months was picked as that is what her savings would allow!
She never looked back.

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2011 signaled yet another shift in gear for Lucy’s business. As always, she had her sights set high on the content that she offered, and this meant that her own point and shoot photography skills just weren’t going to take her to the magazine quality features that she strived for. She struck up a partnership with Tasmanian photographer Sean Fennessy and now also works with Brooke Holm and Eve Wilson. The high standard and often exclusive aspect of her content continued to woo a wider audience and also, caught the attention of corporate level advertisers. A day in the life of The Design Files and its new reality of a legit media channel meant that Lucy was getting stretched – not only across her daily hunt and production of material but also the management of brand partnerships and projects!  Lucy began outsourcing some tasks, first with the assistance of Jenny Butler, who helped out one day a week, working remotely, from her own home.  However by 2012 it was clear a more regular, in-house solution was needed – enter Lisa Marie Corso.

The Design Files - Studio HomeThe Design Files - Studio Home

While Lucy was often emailed with offers of help/work experience by eager young go-getters, they were always (with the exception of Jenny) politely declined as the process of working out how to allocate work and responsibility was simply too massive of a question for her to contemplate. Unlike a magazine with contributors and publishers – The Design Files WAS Lucy Feagins. This beast was her baby and how could anyone else possibly be able to step in and know how to respond to its needs…particulary when they were all in Lucy’s head!
But there was no denying something had to give, and it was best that it wasn’t going to be her sanity. Lisa Marie Corso had been softly but firmly persisting with her contact and as she had also interned with some of Lucy’s friends, she rightfully landed at the top of the pile to call. Still unable to break it down, a frazzled Lucy simply rang and said “Please just come in…” and they worked it out from there.  The 1 day a week is now 4-5 days and it was clear to me that these two have a streamlined system and easy, collaborative relationship.

The Design Files - Studio HomeThe Design Files reached new heights when it was allowed its own studio space! Seems Lucy has cultivated some other great relationships including that with her partner and talented cabinet maker; Gordon Johnson. With their little Brunswick house still under renovation, he designed and built a (bloody awesome) light filled studio in the back yard. It houses all things TDF including a large monthly/yearly planner to keep the team on track and a very impressive designer rubbish bin collection. It’s sunny, light, private and in my opinion, exactly the digs that The Design Files deserve after some serious years of kitchen table domination.

One of the most inspiring aspects of Lucy is that she isn’t willing to slow and sink into the groove of her daily magazine. TDF represents much more than this which has led her to push further and take her project offline, transforming into the massively successful Open House events which are entering their third year. In an online world where design blogs are now as common as brown dogs, once again she has created something that has no precedent.

This is by no means the “story” of The Design Files, simply an update. I think you’ll all agree that Lucy has much more up her sleeve and will continue to attack every idea with the incredible high standards and quiet confidence that she is known for. I know that I’ll continue to watch avidly!

The Design Files - Studio HomeThe Design Files - Studio Home

 All photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home

Way too much to share! But for me the most poignant point is:
It IS in fact possible to make a design blog a relevant media channel and a self supporting business – most importantly while retaining integrity and your own personal vision.
Thanks for the shining example Lucy!!

ElkThis interview was made possible with the support and partnership of Elk.
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