Exploring the intersection between creativity and imperfection

DEBBIE MILLMAN

 
 

Interview by Madeleine Dore
&
Photography by  Maggie Shannon


Debbie Millman:
Designer, artist, author, educator

Though Debbie Millman is an established author, artist, educator, brand strategist, host of Design Matters podcast, editorial director of Print magazine, and for 20 years was the President of the design division at Sterling Brands – she feels like she’s just getting started.

“I left Sterling last year and that completely liberated my days,” she says. “It sounds so goofy and kind of cheesy but I feel like I'm just getting started.”

Debbie’s schedule now has more flexibility and freedom, working at New York City’s School of Visual Arts on the branding graduate program she co-founded in 2009.

“I'm a lot happier now with this type of routine – previously I had a full-time day job and a full-time night job. It was hard, but I did it and I got through it because at the time it didn't feel unmanageable. Now, I think I'd go crazy if I had to ramp up to that workload because I’d have no time to just think and create.

Freedom brings more options in her creative work to consider and play with, but perhaps most importantly, is combined with a newfound deliberateness.

“I’m fifty-five and I do feel a sense of urgency because I don't want to run out of time. There is that if-not-now-when feeling,” says Debbie.

In our 20s, 30s, 40s – and even our lifetime – we can so easily ignore that our days are not infinite; that we may run out of time;that we may not be able to do everything we want to do. Acknowledging that life is in fact finite can be one of the biggest motivators for creative work.

“Life is going by fast and now that I'm midway through, it's even faster. There's even more urgency to be much more deliberate about what I want and what I don't want.”

Having a strong resolve about what you truly desire be the key to not being limited by a false sense of capacity.

“I just try to do what I want to do even  if it means having to work a little bit harder,” says Debbie. “I've always taken on more than I could do, and I've always spent more time working than doing anything else, but I love it.”

For Debbie, work is not laborious, but a privilege. “I've worked for a really long time to get to a place where I'm being offered commissions to do projects that are amazing. I try to make that my priority,” she said.

How can aspiring designers, artists, writers and creative entrepreneurs reach similar heights? The first step may be to dream without fear. For years, Debbie Millman has shared an essay exercise with undergraduate and graduate students she calls Your Ten-Year Plan for a Remarkable Life after having she experienced the profound effect it had on her life and career when she did hers more than a decade ago.

“I think it was twelve things that I was hoping for and I think eleven of them have come true. They were big, audacious things. It’s spooky.”

The second step? “Just keep experimenting,” says Debbie. “If you want to do something, do it.”

And finally, “Savour every day. Savour every day.”

“Just keep experimenting. If you want to do something, do it. Savour every day."

 
Photography by Brian Emerick
 

DAILY ROUTINE

Photography by Chris Dibble

Morning

I’ve never ever been a morning person. Actually, this is the first time in my life that I've been getting up without significant help from an alarm clock. I try to get eight hours of sleep, so I usually get up between 8 and 9am.

I love sleeping and I treat it sacredly. There's this stigma around sleep in our culture which I find really sad, given how important it is and how much better a person feels, how much more productive they are in the hours they are awake if they do get enough sleep. It is when we regenerate our cells and organise our memories, experiences, and subconscious. I feel that I work better, I have more energy, and I'm happier, healthier when I have enough sleep.

If I don't get enough, you don't want to be near me because I'm cranky and I get overly hungry and I'm just not fun to be around.

"I’ve never ever been a morning person. Actually, this is the first time in my life that I've been getting up without significant help from an alarm clock."

Now that I no longer have to race out the door, I like to have what I call slow mornings where I'm doing my self-generated work and doing a lot of thinking. I wouldn't quite call it meditation because it isn't, but it's my meditative state where I'm slower and more thoughtful and more deliberate about how I want to organize my day.

The first thing I have to do is race outside with the dogs – Duff is seventeen and so she has some incontinence issues. As soon as she opens an eye, I have to pick her up and carry her out to the back yard so she'll go to the bathroom. Otherwise, she might just pee right there on the bed – that has happened quite a lot!

I'm not a breakfast eater – I generally don't eat until lunch. It's the only time of the day I'm not hungry and I sort of feel why push it. I’ll have a coffee and I take Scruffy out, my other dog who is sixteen.

Mid morning

I like to spend an hour or more reading, seeing what's happening on the planet and trying to avoid looking at Donald Trump's Twitter feed. I read The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNN, Politico, Slate, Brain Pickings, Brand New, of course Design Observer, Lit Hub and a couple of other gay lady sites.

That’s of course when I have the luxury of being at home. I don't always have that luxury – sometimes I have board meetings or have to be at the School of Visual Arts early.

When I’m home, after reading I'll start doing some work: emails, writing, illustration work, phone calls, or conference calls.

Midday

Usually somewhere between twelve and one, I head into the School of Visual Arts (SVA). But I'm out and about a lot, so I don't just sit in my office all day – I'm often going to other places for meetings.

I walk everywhere, and I'm really fortunate that I get to walk back and forth to SVA everyday. It gives me a lot of time to come up with ideas, decompress on my way home, things like that.

For lunch, I’ll sometimes have a salad, sometimes pizza, sometimes a bag of pretzels, sometimes left over dinner.

"I like to spend an hour or more reading, seeing what's happening on the planet and trying to avoid looking at Donald Trump's Twitter feed."

Photography by Lisa Congdon

Afternoon

If I keep track of all my deadlines, and I know exactly when I need to do certain things, and I've carved out time, then I don't get anxious. But if things start to pile up and I haven't been able to organise them or write them down, then I get really anxious because I feel like I'm missing something and something’s going to fall through the cracks.

I've been working through a two-year calendar that keeps track of all my deadlines until the end this year. I'm sort of mortified by the notion of having to start fresh. 

I write everything down – I keep a running to-do-list that I check off when things are done, and I have a Google calendar so that the people I am connected with can keep track of what I'm doing or where I am.

Photography by Lisa Congdon

 

Evening

I teach till 9.00pm two nights a week, and then I'm usually in the office for another hour so doing paperwork and following up with things. If I'm not teaching, I might still be at the office, depending on what I'm working on, or I might be working at my studio at home. The messy work will be at my home studio – I keep the paint, felt, materials and thousands and thousands of coloured pencils there.

Because I'm a night owl, I do a lot of work in the evening. I spend a lot of time in my studio and working on my art, my writings.

Sometimes my personal creativity is just barren and sometimes it's really fertile. Right now, I'm in a very bountiful time, writing and a lot of illustration work, which I'm really excited about."

I'm having lots of ideas and so I've been enjoying that. I credit that to just showing up. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, you just put your ass in the chair and sometimes it happens. If you put it in enough, it happens.

"Sometimes my personal creativity is just barren and sometimes it's really fertile. Right now, I'm in a very bountiful time, writing and a lot of illustration work, which I'm really excited about."

 

 

Midnight

I'm also really obsessed right now with the news. So when I come home from work, I have three shows that I tape every night, the Rachel Maddow Show, Hardball with Chris Matthews show and The 11th Hour with Brian Williams show. I tend to watch them no matter what time I come home, based on what's going on in the world, because I just have to keep up with the nightmare we're living through.

I usually go to bed at midnight or 1am. I could stay up even longer, but I have to force myself to go to sleep. I'm somebody that doesn't do transitions that well. I love being up late. I love the quiet. I love the dark. So I have to really force myself to go to sleep. As difficult as it is for me now to go to sleep at night, used to be how difficult it was for me to wake up in the morning.

If I can't get comfortable, I sort of just try to lay flat on my back, my hands at my sides, no pretzel shapes, and just try to relax.

"I'm somebody that doesn't do transitions that well. I love being up late. I love the quiet. I love the dark. So I have to really force myself to go to sleep. As difficult as it is for me now to go to sleep at night, used to be how difficult it was for me to wake up in the morning."

WEEKEND

One of my favorite things to do is to lay on my bed and look out the window. I’m very lucky that I can see some sky and I can watch the clouds go by or see the stars at night. There is nothing like that type of quiet contemplation. I don’t consider it meditation, but it’s something really spiritual. I’m not focused on anything, I’m just letting my thoughts go by and I treasure that time.

I’ll spend the weekends pouring over the weekend edition of The New York Times. I also spend time playing with my dogs Duff and Scruffy. If it’s nice out I might do some gardening, though I have a black thumb.

If I have a Design Matters episode to record on Monday or Tuesday, I will spend all of Sunday working. 

At least once a month, I spend the weekend with my brother, his wife and my niece and nephew on Long Island. 

One of my favorite things to do is to lay on my bed and look out the window. I’m very lucky that I can see some sky and I can watch the clouds go by or see the stars at night. There is nothing like that type of quiet contemplation. I don’t consider it meditation, but it’s something really spiritual. I’m not focused on anything, I’m just letting my thoughts go by and I treasure that time.

 
Photography by Lisa Congdon
 
 

"I’ve always had this fear that this was the last opportunity for employment, the last opportunity for love, the last opportunity for creativity and it’s just not true. It’s just this perpetual lie that I’m hoping I’m not telling myself as much anymore."

 

EIGHT LIFE LESSONS 

1. On letting go of the career trapeze…

It was tremendously scary leaving Sterling. So much of my identity was wrapped up in my day job and in being {resident, but I weaned myself away. A very dear friend of mine, who I had a business with when we were in our 20s, sold his business long before I sold mine and he gave me some advice. He said, “Don’t go cold turkey, transition out.” I listened to him and I did that.

I went down to three days a week and then I went down to one day a week. By the time I was a year into doing one day a week, I was ready to go. Back then, I felt like I was desperate to make changes but I was terrified. I had mentioned this to a woman who I had met who was the former general manager of Puma. She had quit her job and started a retail specialty food store in Massachusetts.

I said, “How did you do it? How did you get the courage?” She said that one day had to let go of the trapeze. I had this vision of my arms and legs all tangled up on my trapeze – I was locked into so many things that I couldn't even fall if I wanted to. It was just a matter of trying to organize my trapeze, my time and my fear.

2. On making difficult decisions…

In some ways, you have to take a leap of faith. You have to decide what is more important: doing it or not doing it. If you can't decide, it might not be as critical as you think. But if it is, it will get to a point where the critical mass will push you to take that step and that it won’t seem so hard anymore. I look back and I’m like, “What was I so worried about?” I’ve always been that way.

3. On the myth of the last opportunity…

I’ve always had this fear that this was the last opportunity for employment, the last opportunity for love, the last opportunity for creativity and it’s just not true. It’s just this perpetual lie that I’m hoping I’m not telling myself as much anymore.

Part of that was realizing that I could rely on myself. When you realize you can rely on yourself – that no matter what– you can rely on yourself, you’re not as worried about ending up homeless living in garbage piles.

4. On why we can and should take things personally…

If you’re a person, everything is personal – that's just the way I feel. I’ve come to recognise that my own sensitivity is not just emotion, but it’s empathy. It’s how you position it, how you frame it. You could say I’m too emotional, or you could also say I’m deeply aware of what’s happening in the world, deeply connected to the world, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. What other way is there to live?

"If you’re a person, everything is personal."

5. On how everyone thinks they’re an imposter…

Everyone is scared and insecure and worried. There are very few people that I’ve interviewed, if any, who just walk around thinking they are great all the time. Maybe we think that we’d like to be happy all the time or feel great all the time, but I think that would take away from the power that those feelings have.

We know people put on a lot of facades, especially now with social media, where you can position yourself as happy and beautiful all the time. It’s just not possible to really be that way.

"We know people put on a lot of facades, especially now with social media, where you can position yourself as happy and beautiful all the time. It’s just not possible to really be that way."

6. On what she wished she knew…

I wish I knew I was talented. I wish I knew I was pretty. I so regret not knowing that now.

Seth Gordon says this really well. He said, "If I changed anything, I wouldn’t be here necessarily." I’m really happy being here. If any of those things meant that I wasn’t going to be here, I don’t know that I would change anything. Mostly, I wouldn’t be so hard on myself, wouldn’t beat myself up so much. I wouldn’t take everything so seriously in terms of my worth and my value.

7. On busy being a decision…

I say busy is a decision. If you want to do something, you find the time. You make the time to do them. If I'm being offered an opportunity to do a project that might cut into something else, I'll try my best to make it work.

Sometimes I get myself into trouble because I'll say, yes I want to do something and then I'll have the idea about what it is I want to do which is far more grandiose than it necessarily needs to be and then I'm pulling my hair out because I have to get it done. 

Sometimes I make more trouble for myself than I really need to, but ultimately, I don't remember the anxiety and the stress as much as being proud of what I did.

8. On recognising emotions will pass…

The older you get I think, the less stressed you get. I still get stressed. I'll get snappy and impatient, and I’m probably harder on myself than I need to be, but it passes. When you get older, you realise that most emotions pass and you don't get so worried or caught up in them – you don't have to respond right now if you're upset. You can wait a couple of hours or a day or two, and that tends to be really beneficial to everybody involved.

 
 

"I say busy is a decision. If you want to do something, you find the time. You make the time to do them. If I'm being offered an opportunity to do a project that might cut into something else, I'll try my best to make it work."

 
Photography by Chris Dibble
 

Follow @debbiemillman on
Instagram and Twitter
debbiemillman.com


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JAMILA RIZVI

 
Portrait by Daniel Seung Lee
 

Interview by Madeleine Dore
&
Photography by Matthew Henry.


Jamila Rizvi: Political commentator and author

Jamila Rizvi is a big believer in never letting a plan get in the way of a great opportunity.

"If you had asked me a year ago what I would be doing in my career, I wouldn’t have guessed – and the same goes if you went back another year."

With a background working in politics as an advisor to the Rudd and Gillard governments before entering the media, Jamila describes herself as a thorough day-to-day planner and a strategic thinker, with the rest being open to opportunities.

"My career has been a series of happy accidents and circumstances that have allowed me to go after something. The last few years in particular haven’t been as planned as my career had been previously – instead I’ve been chasing things that make me happy, and also bring in a good income for my family."

Such a ‘grab bag’ approach has led to a diverse freelance career. Currently, Jamila writes a column for News Limited, has frequent public speaking engagements, is a regular host on ABC radio and guest on Today Show and The Project, and has edited the new anthology The Motherhood – all alongside starting a new part-time role as Editor-at-Large for Future Women.

"I’m very all over the place," Jamila admits; yet switching between her various hats remains quite seamless. "While I don’t have a consistent platform, the themes of gender, politics and inclusivity remain the same – and the work feeds into itself in that sense."

One difficulty of cobbling together work in the media industry is the level of uncertainty. "In this industry, a lot of the time things don’t come off, which can be really hard. I think you’ve got to have some space in your work where you’re a little bit protected by that, otherwise your hopes – and ego – are constantly being built right up only to crash."

But in recent months, Jamila has become less susceptible to worry after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. “There was definitely a change in perspective. I am less scared of things that don't have to do with mortality.”

After surgery things that would normal cause nerves or stress such as public speaking have taken a back seat. “I haven't felt nervous since. It's almost just like, what's the worst thing that could happen, right?”

It’s not the big, grand, I’m-going-to-change-everything-about-my-life cliché you might expect after someone faces their mortality, but Jamila says that’s a good thing.

“I think it was perhaps more of a personal reflection and realisation that I was doing things that genuinely made me happy. My life still measures up in the way that I wanted it to measure up.”

The realisation that we are not as indestructible as we might think is humbling, she adds. “I just want to be alive to keep doing what I'm doing. From a work perspective, from a family perspective, from a friendship perspective. I just want more time to do what I am doing.”

More time to do what we do, more time making the most of it – ain’t that the thing we all strive for? Jamila shares what she does with her time, reminding us our days are simple and grand all at the same time.

“I just want to be alive to keep doing what I'm doing. From a work perspective, from a family perspective, from a friendship perspective. I just want more time to do what I am doing.” 
– Jamila Rizvi
 
 

Morning

I’m not a super early riser – I usually wake up at about 7am to a knock on the door from my toddler Rafi.

On a normal weekday I’m getting Rafi off to childcare at around 8am, then I almost always go straight to a coffee shop.

I have a bunch of five friends with various artistic pursuits who I write with – there’s usually at least two or three of us every day in the mornings. We treat the coffee shop as our office, really!

If it’s a writing day, I’ll write between 9am–12pm as that’s when my brain is at its best for new ideas. I’ll also use brunch as a way to reward myself – I don’t let myself order food at the cafe until I’ve done a certain amount of writing.

Some mornings, though, I will have to do breakfast TV, which throws everything out.

Afternoon

From a schedule perspective, the afternoons are a real mix and I partly miss having structure, because I am quite a right-brained, logical person.

I often do radio at least one afternoon a week, but usually I try to schedule meetings for after lunch because that’s the time I tend to have a dip in energy, and I find meetings will usually reenergise me.

A lot of having an artistic pursuit of any kind is about the hustle and having meetings about things that might not happen, like an event or podcast or things like that. You go through this process of your hopes getting up very high and then something doesn’t come off. I’m very glad I don’t have to audition for things anymore because I think that can be really hard.

 
"A lot of having an artistic pursuit of any kind is about the hustle and having meetings about things that might not happen."

Evening

On the nights I’m home, I’ll usually do childcare pickup around 6pm. I’m always home on a Monday night because the political programming on the ABC is so important. Also my husband has yoga on Monday nights, so someone has to be home with our child.

Typically between 6-8pm, I’m just with my son, convincing him to eat some dinner, making him have a bath, and reading ten thousand books before bed.

In our house, I am the boring cook and Jeremy is the special occasion cook, which I actually think is underlying misogyny because he only likes cooking when there’s a grand applause for the cooking and then everyone thinks he's amazing – but I’m the one that cooked all week! But we also get a lot of Uber Eats – an excessive amount of Uber Eats!

If I’m co-hosting The Project or if I’m on The Drum, my husband will do childcare pickup. I’ll head in and do TV and come back just as my little boy’s going to bed. If there is a speaking event, though, that can run much later.

When I’m home I’m almost always sitting with my husband watching Netflix and I am on my computer clearing emails – I don’t work well in the evenings so I do stuff that requires low brain power.

"We also get a lot of Uber Eats – an excessive amount of Uber Eats!"

Bedtime

Sleeping is my secret super power – I’ve never been one of those people who has trouble sleeping. I need my sleep and if I get less than seven hours, I’m really an unpleasant person; if I get nine, I’m thrilled. So I’m usually in bed by 10.30pm.
 

 
 

WEEKEND ROUTINE

During the week, my husband and I have a rough schedule where I’m with our son for the start of the week when he isn’t in childcare, and my husband takes the later bit of the week because I often have to work on weekends – a lot of speaking events and writers' festivals are on weekends, things like that.

We tend to sit down on a Sunday night and go through both of our schedules for the week, but without a doubt there is always at least one day where both of us can’t do one thing. Then there's sort of this standoff around whose work is more important – my husband's a lawyer and he’ll be like, "I'm in court," and I'll be sitting there going, "I'm on television." No one wins!

We also have an army of babysitters and Rafi’s fairy godfathers – self-named!

"We tend to sit down on a Sunday night and go through both of our schedules for the week, but  without a doubt there is always at least one day where both of us can’t do one thing. Then there's sort of this standoff around whose work is more important – my husband's a lawyer and he’ll be like, "I'm in court," and I'll be sitting there going, "I'm on television." No one wins!"
 

LIFE LESSONS 

On not letting the plan get in the way of opportunities…

I have a day-to-day plan and a month-to-month plan. I don't have a year-to-year plan necessarily. I think that's the nature of freelancing. I’m a big believer that you should never let the plan get in the way of great opportunities. If I just stuck to my plan and just said, "Well, no. I’m doing this." I would never have written a book. I would never have tried out television.

My friend Clare Bowditch and I were walking in the park a few months ago when she said, "Hey, we should do a podcast together," and I said "No, I’m sick of podcasts. Let's do live events." That wasn’t part of the plan, but we did it.

I don’t like the idea of my plan getting in the way of things. I think with creative work, I find that it’s about piecing together a career and knowing that the jigsaw is going to keep moving all the time.

On procrastination as part of the creative process…

Often when I start writing I just go for it. If I’m writing a column for a newspaper for example, I don’t spend days beforehand crafting the column, I will write a column in three hours – I’m not a perfectionist in that sense.

I tend to feel like I’m procrastinating, but the procrastinating is actually formulating a lot of the work in my head. I’ll start to map out dot points on the page and then start moving them around on the page to find the best flow, and then I will write it all in a big burst.

 
Hillary Clinton is on my list, Stella Young is on my list, my dad is on my list, and some former mentors too, and so when I receive a criticism that upsets me, I mentally run through what happen with that board of people and ask, are they unimpressed with what I’ve done? If they are, well then maybe I need to reconsider how I’ve approached this and if I have messed up, but if they say I’m fine, then I know not to listen to this sideline critic.
 

On figuring out when your brain does its best work…

I know I think best first thing in the morning, so I’m frustrated with myself if I mess around because the best thing for me is to start immediately. I’m not someone who can go and take a break for a few hours and come back in the afternoon, as I know I won’t be at my best.

I think the challenge is to find out when your brain does its best work. Not just during the day, but even during the week. I have a friend, for example, who looks after her elderly mother-in-law on a Wednesday, and she’s completely drained on a Thursday. There’s no point in her trying to put creative stuff on that Thursday.

So don’t try and force yourself to do it when it’s not coming. Work out the times in your schedule when you’re most creative and you’re most alert. For me, it is first thing in the morning. For a lot of people I know, it is the last thing at night.

On creating a list of people whose opinions matter to you…

I sometimes receive horrible comments in response to my work, which is the nature of writing on the internet. But one of the things I did early on was come up with a list of ten people whose opinions I was going to listen to – almost like a personal board of directors! It’s an exercise I’ve also done with staff and it’s important to know they didn't have to be people you knew – you could put Beyoncé on your list if you wanted!

Hillary Clinton is on my list, Stella Young is on my list, my dad is on my list, and some former mentors too, and so when I receive a criticism that upsets me, I mentally run through what happen with that board of people and ask, are they unimpressed with what I've done? If they are, well then maybe I need to reconsider how I've approached this and if I have messed up, but if they say I'm fine, then I know not to listen to this sideline critic.

 

"I think if my 22-year-old self could meet me now, she'd be like, 'Get it together! What is your job? You have seven jobs. Pick one.' She'd be surprised, but I know now that the most important thing with whatever I do is to avoid doing it just for me – I always try and put myself in the shoes of the audience."

Follow @jamilarizvi on
Instagram and Twitter

 
 

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ANN FRIEDMAN

 
Photography by Kimberley Hasselbrink
 

Interview by Madeleine Dore

Photography courtesy of Ann Friedman


Ann Friedman:
Writer

Routine is often measured in daily accomplishments: How many items crossed off to-do lists? Hours of work achieved? Minutes of exercise? How did we live today? The words of writer Annie Dillard put it so eloquently, “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing.”

But journalist, podcaster and creator of political and poignant pie charts, Ann Friedman takes a broader view of routine. Based in LA, Ann is a regular contributor to The Cut and Los Angeles Times, a contributing editor to The Gentlewoman, and her work has appeared in The New Republic, The New York Times Book Review, ELLE, and The Guardian.

“For me, it has less to do with how do you live every day, but: Are you making work consistently and do people know where to find you consistently?”

To put the emphasis on consistency rather than daily rituals, Ann thinks about her life and work in a weekly time frame.

“A week is the unit of time that I function within – almost no two days are alike, but there are certain things that I do every single week, so there are some similarities and rhythm to them.”

Thinking about things weekly instead of daily might be the key to allowing flexibility and buffering room for our many human foibles – instead of attempting to tick a box for each of component of our everyday lives, we can prioritize them weekly.

“I don’t have a meaningful conversation with a friend every single day, instead I can ask myself, ‘Am I seeing the people I care about every week? Am I devoting the time and space to the people who I care about most, as opposed to who's asking for my time?’ ”

As the self-confessed “least routinised person ever,” Ann offers comfort to those of us who also feel they lack self-discipline – the supposed hero of routine and mastering our days.

“There are so many things I would love to put into my routine. I would love to be the person who makes the same green smoothie every morning and does the same exercise routine, but it just doesn't work for me. I did okay when I had an office job. The idea of waking up and having more of a morning routine and going into an office was fine, but I'm difficult to self-discipline.”

On any given week, Ann records an episode of Call Your Girlfriend podcast, compiles her weekly newsletter and creates a wry pie-chart for subscribers, and works on freelance writing assignments typically exploring gender, politics, and social issues.

Ann’sworkload makes for the kind of ad-hoc work schedule most freelancers can relate to, but she has an antidote – ‘compensation time’.

“If I work a weekend day or if I work at night, I really try to take a weekday off or to relax in equal measure,” she said. “Even if I just take two hours off and zone out and watch Golden Girls reruns or something.”

It’s an important self-care commitment for freelancers to remember: Don’t treat yourself worse than you’d expect an employer to.

“The way I think of it is, there are so many downsides to working for yourself – on a tax level, on a job security level – so I really try to be aware of what's good about freelancing as well. One of the nice things about working for yourself is being able to set your own schedule, so I really try to do that.”

 
Photography by Brian Emerick
 

WEEKLY ROUTINE

Morning

I’ll wake up somewhere between 7am and 8.30am. Usually it’s on the earlier side although it will depend on whether I've had a late night the day before.

There are some mornings when I lie in bed with my phone an inch from my face and read the news for an hour, but usually I get up and have a coffee right away. I feel very ritualistic about coffee. It's almost exclusively just one cup – a large one – but one cup.

If I'm on deadline, I like to write right when I wake up while I’m drinking coffee and start fresh. If writing isn’t the main task for the day, I'll usually have my coffee and answer a few emails.

Once I feel like I have a handle on things, I take a step back, read the news and write in my journal a bit. Sometimes it’s a list of something I've been thinking about or it's me outlining something I know I have to write later in the day or later in the week. In moments when I'm not quite so busy professionally or maybe when I'm working on things I might want to do in the future, it's a place to put things to get them out of my head before they become public-facing stuff. My need for it really varies. Sometimes there is some personal problem that is I'm really preoccupied with and I'll do the teenage girl thing and have a feelings-explosion into the journal.

I’ll have a little breakfast in the late morning, maybe some yogurt, or I’ve been making overnight oats occasionally. But let's say I woke up early and I just had coffee and I was really in the work zone and I look up and I'm like, ‘Oh my God, it's 11am’– then I'll make myself like an egg sandwich.

That's really how I think of it. I've never been really someone who could commit to doing morning pages, although I have used that practice at times when I feel my ideas well is really dry and I need to get myself flowing again. I will impose some discipline about how much free writing I need to do. It's not a practice it's a tool.

Podcast

Sometime between Sunday and Tuesday, I will record an episode of the podcast that I co-host with my friend Aminatou Sow. Every once in a while we would push until Wednesday morning. We have a third collaborator who does the editing, so after we record that's it for my editorial responsibilities to the podcast every week.

Newsletter

Every Friday I send out an email newsletter. I’ll save up links to Simple Note on my phone and desktop throughout the week as I'm going about the Internet, but the actual work in terms of putting it together and making the weekly pie chart is almost always the first several hours of my Friday morning. That might change if I'm traveling or if there's an interview I have to schedule.

When it comes to routine, sending my newsletter every week and having people come to expect it in their inbox every week is very powerful. In a weird way I'm a very routinised person, just not in terms of the clock.

Both the podcast and the newsletter are small businesses, so often there are business-type responsibilities – meetings, planning and some technical admin. I usually do a little bit of that every week for each, but it varies. I've gone through some periods where I spend ia lot of time on the business side of one of those, and periods where they're on autopilot.

Writing

The other big part of my week is journalism, which is quite variable each week, but roughly I’ll spend the middle of the week working on writing projects.

At any given time I probably have five or so freelance assignments in various stages, I'm either doing interviews for them or they're in the editing process, or I'm in the thick of writing them.

For the first four years of my freelance career, I wrote a weekly column for The Cut. I stopped doing that this year, but I still contribute fairly regularly to the publication, and once a month I write an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times, but mostly it's a bit of a grab bag.

Part of pitching now for me is looking ahead to the coming week or the week after and if I see that I'm not too busy, I know that now is the time to be pitching because I will have time to follow through. That’s a really different calculus to when I first started out which was more, ‘You need to be pitching all the time because you pay your rent exclusively with writing.’

Exercise

There's a really lovely park that comes right up to the back of my house and a really nice hour-long walking loop that I do multiple times a week, and some weeks every day. Let’s say I’m having one of those days where I'm basically still in pajamas because I have been chained to my computer, it will get to four o'clock and I will feel kind of ill because I've been staring at the screen, I’ll go for walk or a jog.

Social life

Probably about once a week I’ll have a lunch date with a friend or go for a little walk or something like that. I have a pretty great community of self-employed or flexi-employed friends. It can be nice to talk it out, especially if I'm in the middle of trying to figure out what I think about something or working through some ideas for a piece.

Afternoon

My writing brain turns to mush by about 3pm. If I'm on a tight deadline, I will often still be writing up until whenever I break for dinner, but most days I'm done with the substantive part of my work by four o'clock in the afternoon or so.

It is always my preference to do calls or interviews in the late afternoon and I also do a lot of reading after four. I would say it's fairly common from four until six or seven that I'm reading the articles I've saved throughout the day – it could be articles on people I'm interviewing, or books on topics I'm writing about.

Evening

My evenings are for my friends, my partner, and me. I might go meet a friend out at a bar, have someone around for dinner at my house, read, or watch a movie. I feel like I don't have very unique social interests for a 35-year-old white lady. It's very much what you would expect I do with my job, anyway.

I do have a ritual of having a free night scheduled on my calendar each week. It reoccurs on my Google calendar every Thursday night and I'm allowed to move it to other nights of the week, but I can't delete it. That just ensures that I have at least one night a week where I'm home, I'm not going out, I'm not doing any work things.

If I’m home, I'm probably more likely to watch a movie in the evening than I am to watch television. I’m bad with TV – I only have a limited roster of shows that I'm very invested in. I'm watching Insecure and a cartoon called Rick and Morty, and I watch Drag Race religiously when it's on, but I don't watch Game of Thrones.

Bedtime

I usually read for a good hour before I go to bed and I'm often asleep by midnight, but sometimes I'm awake a little later depending on how compelling my book is. That's when I really try to read fiction or read things that don't apply so directly to work.

I'm not always good at this, but I’ll turn my phone on airplane mode and try not to take it off until I'm out of bed the next morning. Essentially it's there and I use it as my alarm, but I try to mentally make it a dead zone.

I feel like I would love to get into a routine where I stretch before bed – I have a great series of bedtime stretches I was good about doing for a while. It was a great way to go to sleep and I woke up feeling better, but I'm bad at following through...

ROUTINE TIPS

1. Build a weekly routine

“A week is the unit of time that I function within – almost no two days are alike, but there are certain things that I do every single week, so there are some similarities and rhythm to them.”

“I don’t have a meaningful conversation with a friend every single day, instead I ask myself, ‘Am I seeing the people I care about every week? Am I devoting the time and space to the people who I care about most, as opposed to who's asking for my time?’

2. Simplenote app for lists and links

Simplenote is where I keep my to do list, newsletter links, track of my ideas for things I want to write about, and keep lists of things to buy such as birthday gifts.”

3. Give yourself “comp time”

“I try to give myself compensation time – if I work a weekend day or if I work at night, I really try to take a weekday off or to relax in equal measure.”

4. Create an accountability system

“Some things I can't procrastinate – the podcast has to be recorded by a certain date and time in order to allow Gina enough time to edit it, so if we procrastinate, we're screwing up her week, so that is a great accountability system.”

“My newsletter goes out by around noon Pacific time every Friday. If I choose to sleep in on Friday I'm going to have to rush to do it, so I really have to stick to a hard deadline. There are also advertisers in my newsletter now, so again that is an accountability system, as well knowing that the open rate drops if I just screw around for three hours and send it at the end of the day. So that helps me.”

“When it comes to my writing work I have hard deadlines. Frankly, I have a lot of half-finished personal projects and things I want to do that I am terrible at following through on because I don't have some external accountability. Especially when things are lower- or un-paid, I really rely on not wanting to disappoint my friends and collaborators as a mechanism for getting things done.”

5. Have multiple projects to beat procrastination

“One thing I like about doing so many different types of things is that I can cheat on work with other work. If my brain is feeling just empty, if I feel like I don't have the energy for writing, I can always send invoices, I can always do some business work, I can always answer a few emails. If I were exclusively a writer, I would really struggle with that. I don't think I could just sit around and write words all day, every day.”

6.  Let side projects build your career

“In retrospect, I think that a lot of the things that set me up for the life I have now were choices that I made related to work but outside of my day job. I did not think that the side stuff I did would end up being so important to where I ended up. I think that that's part of it how I develop my career, as well as a certain amount of consistency.”

“The first outlet I ever wrote for was a blog called Feministing, which was edited by a group of my peers. It was not something that I considered important or prestigious at the time, it was essentially a side project, but it was where I honed some skills and became comfortable putting my opinions onto the Internet, which is how I make a lot of my living these days.”

“Then the podcast started as a side project and my newsletter started as a side project. There's a lot of things that I think I've done because I was frustrated with a lack of opportunity or lack of growth in the day job that I had, or I couldn't find a way to monetize certain skills that I had, so I found a to feel fulfilled and use those skills.”

“I still think about my work holistically, even if parts of it are compensated differently or maybe have different levels of prestige. I think of it all the same, which was definitely not the case when I was younger.”


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CHAZ HUTTON

 
Portrait by Daniel Seung Lee
 

Interview by Madeleine Dore
&
Photography by Maggie Shannon


Chaz Hutton:
Cartoonist 

Originally from Australia, artist Chaz Hutton was living in London and working as an architect when he began drawing observational cartoons on Post-it notes as a discreet way to procrastinate.

What started as a distraction from his nine-to-five job is now an internet sensation, a book and a sustainable career as a creative. It’s a shift that continues to surprise him as it was “never part of the plan.”

Perhaps more accurately, there was never a plan. “I don't really like having a plan because I think you can become obsessed by it. If there's something happening on the side, you ignore it when maybe you should go and check it out," he says. "I really couldn't do a five-day plan at this rate! I’m just showing up.”  

Chaz proves that extraordinary things can happen when you show up, create your own side project and strive to be open to what’s on the sideline.

“For me, it was never a strategic move to make this my job. It was a side project that was almost like a raft – I had my career as an architect that was the stable boat, but someone else was always driving. So I made my own little raft to kick off the side, and even if it was never sea-worthy, it was my thing, my little beacon of hope. Without your own little raft, it can be so easy to become disenchanted.”

Eventually he abandoned the boat for the raft full-time. While such a leap into the creative abyss is often credited to risk-taking and being bold, he resents the hype around quitting your day job to "follow your dreams".

“I never took the financial risk, although that’s the story people generally want to hear. If you are struggling to pay your rent and then go and quit your job, you've got approximately two and a half weeks before you hit rock-bottom. Very few people have the luxury of quitting, so I've only ever done what I've been financially able to do at the time.”

Currently in New York City to tour his book Ideas of Note and give various talks, he jokes that much of his day could be perceived as waltzing around the city, attempting to draw things, and ending up in bars too often.

His candour about his routine provides an insight into the difficulty in finding a balance between exploring your creativity, working on set projects and enjoying a new city. After all, it can be daunting to find yourself suddenly with the freedom to create your own day. 

“Because I move around a lot it’s harder to have a routine. But usually once I get settled somewhere, I’m definitely more inclined to drift into a routine.”

Despite still figuring out his routine while abroad, Chaz spends much of his day in a restaurant-turned-coworking space with the aim to do at least three cartoons before the day ends. The space gives important separation between life and work, but also adds an element of sophistication to his day. “I really like it because it’s not one of those working spaces with colourful bean bags that’s trying to scream that it’s so creative. Give me some nice leather chairs, some timber panelling, and let me feel like Don Draper, alright?", he jests. 

Chaz shares how he balances procrastination while still having the discipline to work even without inspiration, as well as reminding us that it's not where we are, or what we do that impacts our lives the most, but who we are with. 

"For me, it was never a strategic move to make this my job. It was a side project that was almost like a raft – I had my career as an architect that was the stable boat, but someone else was always driving. So I made my own little raft to kick off the side, and even if it was never sea-worthy, it was my thing, my little beacon of hope. Without your own little raft, it can be so easy to become disenchanted."
– Chaz Hutton
 
 

DAILY ROUTINE

Morning

My waking time is all over the place as it depends on what I’ve been up to the night before. I don’t have any blinds on my windows yet so it’s usually around six-thirty or seven-thirty. I'm not very good at sleeping in, but if I do it will be till eight-thirty – unless I’ve got home at six in the morning, in which case I’ll sleep through to one in the afternoon or something!

When I was working from home in London, I’d get up at six, have a quick shower, skip breakfast and sit down and start drawing and writing. It was mainly because procrastinating at that time in the morning feels ridiculous. 

Here in New York, my co-working space – which is a restaurant at night but a coworking space during the day – doesn’t open till eight-thirty, so maybe I need to get back into the habit of working from home for the first three hours. I also need to get a bike sorted out – I’m in Bushwick at the moment so the L train between eight-thirty and nine-thirty is just chaos, so I avoid those hours.

Cafe Gitane is down the road from my co-working space and every time I go there I get exactly the same thing. Rather than trying all these different places in New York, I’ll find one place that that I like and then that’s it.

Midmorning

I’m slowly starting to work out a routine, but I also don’t have an incredible amount of work that needs to get done. When I don’t have a deadline I’m a lot less stringent about having the routine.

Ninety per cent of my workday is spent procrastinating. I spend a lot of time flicking through Twitter trying to tap into what's going on and see if there is an angle for a political joke or something like that. I’m also on YouTube a fair bit to watch late night American shows, like Stephen Colbert or Seth Meyers.

At the moment it's a case of trying to pull together something for a second book. But I don’t want to just repeat the format from the first one. I'm also trying to do some long-form writing, so typically I’ll try to do that, get frustrated, and not really do much!

"I’m slowly starting to work out a routine, but I also don’t have an incredible amount of work that needs to get done. When I don’t have a deadline I’m a lot less stringent about having the routine."

 

Midday

It can sometimes feel terrifying not having a set agenda each day – the money is slowly running out, so I’m desperately trying to work out what the next thing is!

When I got the book deal, I thought of it as buying myself time. I probably should have done something a bit more responsible with it, but it’s such a luxury to be able to spend a year just fooling around and writing. I think I probably take it for granted now.

At the same time not having a plan can be fantastic. It's an ongoing jive with my mother. She'll call me and ask, "Is there a plan, Chaz?"

I'll say, "Yeah, Mum. There's definitely a plan."

She'll say, "Right. Got it."

All the while I'm sitting there knowing there's no plan. And she knows there's no plan. And then every time something happens, such as a book deal or something, she'll ask, "All part of the plan, Chaz?"  

"Yeah, Mum. All part of the plan."

Lunch

I’ve still got this hangover from working nine-to-five where I have lunch at precisely one o’clock. I’ll also never go for longer than an hour, and often it’s just half-an-hour.

I’m trying to find more places to each lunch at the moment, but then I get lazy and just have Prince Street Pizza. It’s the perfect amount of food, low cost, just great, but not so sustainable for my health.

 

Afternoon

I’ll sit back down at two and by four-thirty I’ll start wrapping things up.

Even if I'm having an afternoon lull, I still try to make the effort to sit down and work. There’s a really good Chuck Close quote, "Inspiration is for amateurs ­– the rest of us just show up and get to work."

I've found that even if you’re writing shit, it's important to just keep writing. Over time you better at the act of writing, rather than waiting for some kind of lightning bolt of inspiration to hit you.

That said, I don’t think you can be free from you own expectations to create something good. But I think if you continue to draw shit cartoons, you'll at least feel bad about it until you draw better ones.

"Even if I'm having an afternoon lull, I still try to make the effort to sit down and work. There’s a really good Chuck Close quote, 'Inspiration is for amateurs ­– the rest of us just show up and get to work'."

I set myself the goal of doing at least three post-it notes a day and my brains seems to have become much better and quicker at doing that. It almost becomes mathematical in a way – you can come up with the idea, then the framework, and then combine it.

I’m still very used to working in architecture where you spend all day creating these large scale drawings and when you finish for the day you can visually see what you have accomplished. But now the sum of all my work for the day is three little pieces of paper, which can be frustrating. The actual drawing part doesn’t take too long once you’ve got the idea sorted out.

It's the idea that takes a long time to develop, so even though I'm getting better at forcing inspiration, if there’s nothing happening it can be best to get out of the house, go for a walk, go down to the pub, catch up with friends, talk some shit and see what comes up.

Late afternoon

I always had a gripe with nine-to-five work – even if you have done your work for the day you have to keep working, there is very little flexibility. The freelance thing suits me better.

I’ll finish up around four-thirty or five and I’ll go to museum or a pub in the afternoon. You can’t just spend the entire day sitting and staring at a piece of paper – you need to replenish. There needs to be an input of inspiration in your everyday life – be it your social life or whatever – in order to create the output.

"You can’t just spend the entire day sitting and staring at a piece of paper – you need to replenish. There needs to be an input of inspiration in your everyday life – be it your social life or whatever – in order to create the output."

Generally I’ll have a few beers with some others that work from the space. Then it depends who's around and what's going on.

I'm trying to cook more – actually, I’m not. I'll end up either getting takeaway or I'll go out to dinner somewhere. Then I may have some more drinks if there's something on.

I'm not particularly good at sitting at home and doing nothing. If I am at home, I’ll have to be watching a documentary or something. I think I get my downtime from walking with no real destination or purpose in mind. It's just a nice way to explore the city.

Midnight

I have this internal curfew where as soon as it’s midnight I need to get to bed. Eleven-thirty will be fine, but if it’s five minutes past twelve, I’ve got to get to bed.

Early morning

Sometimes I wake up at three in the morning and log on to Twitter or something and send a few emails. Because of the time difference there’ll often be a few WhatsApp messages and emails will start creeping through from London so I’ll start responding to those. I’ve got no self-control!

Often I’ll have an idea at two in the morning so I’ll send myself an email. I’ll check it the next day and I’ve written down something like “Microwave” – I’m sure it seemed like a coherent thought at two in the morning!

It’s the idea that takes a long time to develop, so even though I’m getting better at forcing inspiration, if there’s nothing happening it can be best to get out of the house, go for a walk, go down to the pub, catch up with friends, talk some shit and see what comes up.
 
 
“So my parents sold their farm and it was kind of sad for all of us because it's the family home. But once they moved out all the furniture, we suddenly realised that it's just a building, a series of empty rooms. So I thought, what actually was it that holds the sentimental value? Was it the furniture? Was it the house? I realised it was the people. Being around good people, that's the nicest thing. It really doesn't matter where you are if you have good friends and people in your life."
Chaz Hutton
 
 

Follow @instachaaz on Instagram
and @chazhutton Twitter
Read his book Ideas of Note

HETTY MCKINNON

 
 

Interview by Madeleine Dore
&
Photography by Maggie Shannon


Hetty McKinnon:
Arthur Street Kitchen
 

Hetty McKinnon makes friends with salad. In 2011, Hetty moved on from public relations to make impressive vegetable creations from her home kitchen in Surry Hills, Sydney, and delivered them personally around her neighbourhood.

Arthur Street Kitchen was born and Hetty’s salads were soon selling out – in part due to the delicious recipes (think chargrilled broccoli with smashed chickpeas and dukkah, or edamame with baby bok choy, quinoa and honey-ginger dressing) – but there’s no question Hetty’s infectious enthusiasm played a significant role in their popularity.

It was the promise of personal exchanges that motivated Hetty to deliver sometimes over eighty salads around her neighbourhood.

“I wanted to know every person that I was delivering to. Some people didn't get it and would ask, "Why don't you just get someone to deliver for you?’ But that wasn’t the idea of the business – I didn't want to take over Sydney with my salads. To me, it was about creating a service to my community, sharing stories and laughter.”

Since moving to Brooklyn with her husband and three children, Hetty is as busy as ever. “I feel right now in this particular juncture of my life, my whole world is colliding.”

To start, there’s the co-working space for food lovers, a little community kitchen called Neighborhood Studio Hetty co-founded with her good friend Jodi Moreno.

“I’ve long been looking for a spot to base myself where I could cook street food, have pop-up food events, and also a community space. Kind of like a co-working space, but a co-cooking space instead,” she explains.

Then there is the recent release of Peddler Journal, the multicultural food journal that celebrates the non-trend driven, slower moments of food. Then the usual array of brainstorming recipes, maintaining the Arthur Street Kitchen journal, and photoshoots.

When I ask how she executes so many out of the box ideas, Hetty smiles. “I don't ever overthink anything that I do. Everything happens very organically – to use that overused cliché! But I suppose before when I was in PR, things weren’t.”

Not overthinking creative ideas may be the key to seeing them through, as so many can be stifled by fear of failure or financial stress.  

“I don't want the money to be the reason I do or don’t do things. It's not like I'm making a lot of money, but I never think about that as the end,” says Hetty. “I started Arthur Street because I wanted to share something that I really like with other people, so I just did it, and it turned it into a business while I was doing it.”

Constantly begged for recipes, Hetty initially self-published her first cookbook Community, for similar reasons – to share something with other people. Her second cookbook, Neighbourhood, was recently released in Australia and in the USA earlier this year.

“Now, the books provide a steady flow of income that allows me to do other creative things, which I feel very, very lucky and fortunate – out of doing something I love, I get to do other things.”

Even though from the outside it may look as if Hetty constantly throws caution to the wind to set up a meal delivery service, self-publish cookbooks, open a new co-cooking space, and start a new food magazine, she admits not all her ideas have legs.

“I have to say, I follow through like one idea out of a hundred,” she laughs.

Many an ‘ideas-person’ can relate – so how do we know which ideas to pursue?

“Every now and then an idea will come along that I feel compelled to do and it’s usually a personal thing. When I started the business delivering salads on my bike, people would ask, ‘Do you do a business plan?’ and I was like, ‘What is a business plan?’ I just don't think that way. For me, it was about living in this wonderful neighborhood where everyone is a local and giving back.”

Now in Brooklyn, Hetty’s work and projects fit around looking after her three children.

“I have to mould my life to that – my routine revolves around the kids, because I don't have any help here – in Sydney my mum ran my whole life basically!”

While Hetty admits it was difficult to adjust to the routine of motherhood after a busy career in PR, it’s ultimately what brought her back to cooking and doing what gives her joy.

“It was during that time when my kids were really young that I started cooking – I remember putting my oldest to bed and then spending hours making elaborate meals or I’d start making dinner in the middle of the day and that was the greatest joy.”

 
Photography by Brian Emerick
 

DAILY ROUTINE

Photography by Lisa Congdon   

Morning

I usually get up like seven. I'm not so great in the morning because I go to bed so late.

I wake up to a phone full of messages, which I’ll read in bed, it’s terrible! That’s the thing about being an expat – if I was awake, I could work 24 hours a day because I would like finish my work and emails, and then all of a sudden all the new ones would come in from Australia.

Then it's getting the kids ready to get to school. My youngest wakes up before me, but the other two have to be dragged out of bed.

Luckily, the school is nearby so we will walk and drop them off around 8.50am or something. Then after that, I'll grab a coffee or sometimes I’ll make a pour over at home.

I'm not a breakfast person. When I was a kid, we never had cereal. We ate a savoury breakfast of noodles or fried rice. I've never been able to understand the whole cereal thing, but my kids eat cereal.

Mid morning

My morning is much more undisciplined here. In Sydney, I'd always go sit in a cafe for an hour and drink coffee with friends. But here, it's more go, go, go. So often, I will do all my emails in the morning.

I'm not a big a to-do list of person. I was when I worked in an office, but now I only do a to-do list if I feel out of control because I can set my own schedule with things.

A day could be spent testing a recipe and I can sometimes spend an entire day in the kitchen. I’ll get inspired by something I've seen or eaten in a restaurant or remembered from childhood. Then I write recipes and test them. They almost always work out because after years of doing it I have a bit of an instinct as to what goes well.

I usually eat lunch at around 11.00am because I'll get hungry. I have no idea what I eat for lunch every day – it’s always different. It could be leftovers with an egg. There's a lot of eggs involved in my day, I have to be honest.

Photography by Lisa Congdon

 

Midday

I do a lot of shooting at home, maybe once or twice a week and sometimes other people use it as a location.

I don't really see myself as a photographer – the only thing I ever shoot for myself is my social media stuff, my blog and the magazine. I really like working with people, so if I’m cooking and doing the photography myself, it can become quite insular. I like to work with other photographers because that's what brings interest to your day, I think.

I usually like to work with people I know, too, because we always eat after. It's nicer to eat with people you know,. Luckily I have a lot of creative friends.

"I feel that when you move to a new city you are forced into friendships a lot quicker and you’re thrown into things. Everything accelerates and you become more bound to them in a quicker way."

I feel that when you move to a new city you are forced into friendships a lot quicker and you’re thrown into things. Everything accelerates and you become more bound to them in a quicker way. When you're in your home city or whatever, friendships grow over time and have more time to develop. I've been lucky the friends that I've made in food here are just so lovely, I feel like I have a crew here.

I thought when my youngest got to kindergarten that I’d go movies in the middle of the day or to the museum, but instead I almost never do anything that's not related to work.

Every now and then, I'll have a ton of friends come over and we all just sit around and eat and talk and just catch up. They're my favourite days.

Afternoon

I work from 9.00am to 2.30pm and then I’ll pick up the kids from school, maybe get another coffee, and then it's all about them for a few hours.

I do their lunchboxes in the afternoon for the next day because I just don't have enough time in the morning to do it. When I was a kid, we just got a sandwich and an apple. Now you've got these lunch boxes and there’s this pressure to fill every space in the box!

Really my routine is cooking all day long – I do their lunch boxes and the kids will play and do homework.

Evening

I’m not very good at doing the big grocery shop at the start of the week – I usually go to a deli right before I need cook. I’ll have something in mind, or if I’ve been recipe testing, we’ll eat that for dinner.

When you have kids your days are much more routine and it becomes almost like clockwork. At 6.00pm I'll start yelling, "Go for your showers" before dinner and then it take half an hour for them to actually go and do it.

My husband won’t be home from work in time for dinner, so I'll eat with the kids around 6.30pm.

Then I usually relax in front of the TV or watch Rachel Maddow and get angry. I guess I do have a very set routine!

The kids will go to bed around 9.00pm and I might hop back onto the computer until 11.00pm.

My partner, Ross, will come home late and it’s one of the great struggles, because when he comes home I’m obviously tired so there's not a lot of time to talk about stuff really.

Bedtime

After I finish at the computer I’ll have a shower and then I'll come down and have a cup of tea and usually will fall asleep in front of the TV or something.

I’m usually be in bed after midnight.

"When you have kids your days are much more routine and it becomes almost like clockwork. At 6.00pm I'll start yelling, "Go for your showers" before dinner and then it take half an hour for them to actually go and do it."

 

 
 

WEEKEND ROUTINE 

There’s usually some sort of sporting or music commitment with the kids on the weekend – it’s very demanding.

Since we got the Neighbourhood Studio we've also been having lots of meetings on the weekends.

In the summer we’ll try to have a BBQ  on the weekend. I need to get back into the dinner party thing, we haven't been doing it very much lately. You just get caught up with life, don't you?

I feel like I need 12 more hours in every day, but perhaps not really. It's busy, but with a freelancer's life, you're just so lucky to be able to make your own time and every day is different.

“You know what I think is extraordinary? Nature. When I'm cooking, I'll cut a vegetable or something and just go, "Oh my god, I cannot believe this has come from the ground. I’m often awed by a vegetable on my chopping board.”
– Hetty McKinnon
 
 

Follow Hetty McKinnon on
Instagram and Twitter
arthurstreetkitchen.com


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MAIRA KALMAN

 
 

Interview by Madeleine Dore
&
Photography and artwork
supplied by Maira Kalman


Maira Kalman:
Illustrator

“My routine is so simple – there really isn't that much to say,” explains renowned author and illustrator Maira Kalman.

So often we mistake complexity for productivity, demanding for meaningful, elaborate for interesting. But if Maira’s approach to her days is anything to go by, simplicity contains great intrigue and insight. 

Maira starts her days reading the obituaries – the daily reminder of her own mortality serving as the ultimate wake-up call. “Reading the obituaries every morning makes you really conscious of the fact that you have a very limited amount of time. And within that time, the only thing that you can really do is work.” 

She spends her afternoons working in the studio or going for a walk to allow for moments of "empty brain."

“For me, the moments when I allow my mind to wander and daydream are the times when I am able to come up with the ideas that really please me the most.” 

Her days often conclude watching a favourite murder mystery and an early night, all in all proving that even the most ordinary experiences of our daily lives make for quality time. “I try to always remember that the quality and sweetness of time is something not to be lost.” 

Living in New York City, time may not always appear to possess a sweetness, but always an energy.

“There's so much productivity here, so much energy that it's a wonderful place to be. It really motivates you and inspires you,” she says.

Though born in Tel Aviv,  Maira has lived in New York since the age of four. The pace of the city is evident in her output – Maira has written and illustrated over twenty books, is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and the New York Times, and regularly exhibits her work and collaborates with other artists. The latest of these took her to a new medium, costume and set design, for dance theatre work with choreographer John Heginbotham, based on her book, The Principles of Uncertainty.  

Despite the impressive list of projects, like creatives everywhere, Maira is not immune to moments of insecurity. “Of course you can get burned out. Of course you can go crazy worrying about not doing enough, when you're probably doing a lot.”

For Maira, it’s about flipping the niggling question about whether you are doing too much or not enough. Instead: “What's the recipe for the right balance?"

"Once you ask that question, then you can start to see that maybe there is no right balance – there's just a constant change and shift," she says.

Now in her late 60s, she explains she has plenty of time to build her life and philosophical reflections. But – she wouldn’t wish to have accumulated such wisdom any earlier.

“Things get murky and confusing at any age. But you can’t have the kind of perceptions that you have at sixty-five when you’re twenty-five and I don’t think it would even be good to have that kind of wisdom – it might prevent you from doing all the stupid things that you should be doing!” 

In this way, we needn’t seek to change the silly things we have done or decisions we are unhappy about as it’s “all part of the story,” says Maira.

“Everything's where it is and it's good. Even the things I’m unhappy about in my life have allowed me to persevere and to be patient.

“I have all the variations and all the sorrows and all the happiness – and that's my life.  I now know that things will take a lot longer than you think they will to achieve. If you don’t have patience or perseverance, you’re not going to be able to work.”

"Reading the obituaries every morning makes you really conscious of the fact that you have a very limited amount of time. And within that time, the only thing that you can really do is work." 
 
Photography by Brian Emerick
 

DAILY ROUTINE

Photography by Lisa Congdon   

Morning

I wake up at six and I'm happy to start the day.

Drinking coffee and reading the obituaries every morning is my anchor. These mini biographies of extraordinary people in different fields are fascinating, funny and very inspiring – it makes you really conscious of the fact that you have a very limited amount of time. And within that time, the only thing that you can really do is work. I mean, of course there are people that you love and that's amazing, but really to find what work is important to you – that's your job.

Usually I go for a walk before having breakfast – sometimes I have oatmeal and sometimes I have a poached egg and a biscuit. 

"Drinking coffee and reading the obituaries every morning is my anchor."
Photography by Lisa Congdon

Mid morning

I get to the studio around 9.30am, sometimes earlier, sometimes later depending on my deadlines.

Usually I have a very good sense of how much time I need for a project and I can gauge the hours. If I need to go to the museum, I know I’ll be able to get to the studio later to paint. There's nobody watching over me when I work – for better or for worse.

But because I’m so committed to deadlines in my editorial work, it’s not like I’m just going into the studio and thinking, ‘What will I create today?’ I have very specific assignments and there isn’t much room for not knowing what I need to do. For me that is very grounding and helpful.

I try to be organised and have so many lists – my whole life could be about making lists. I’ll make up a list and then think, ‘Well, that was a terrible list.’ There are so many unpleasant things to do, and sometimes I don't do everything on the list – I’m as inconsistent as any human being.


Midday

I don't like to break for lunch. I don't like to meet people for lunch. If I meet somebody, I'd rather meet them for breakfast in the morning and then everybody can go on their merry way.

Often, if you break at lunch, it breaks the momentum of the day. Of course sometimes I do. But most of the time I just like to work through. 

"For me, the moments when I allow my mind to wander and daydream are the times when I am able to come up with the ideas that really please me the most. It's not straining, it's not trying very hard – there’s always a lovely sense of surprise of what you'll come up with when you're not trying."

Afternoon

I think I'm more focused in the afternoon – I'm listening to music and I'm very much in my own world. Hopefully there aren't any distractions and then I can just be in this other place. 

There are also times I've just been doing a lot of projects and I'm tired and I want to not think about anything and relax and so I do.

I understand what my schedule is and what my deadlines are, so there are definitely some days when I can afford to just wander around the city so that I don't feel as if I'm stuck in my studio forever.

For me, the moments when I allow my mind to wander and daydream are the times when I am able to come up with the ideas that really please me the most. It's not straining, it's not trying very hard – there’s always a lovely sense of surprise of what you'll come up with when you're not trying.

There’s the same sense of surprise when you're taking a walk and not knowing who you are going to see or what you're going to see that will be inspiringly delightful. So I'm very attuned to allowing myself to have those moments of what I call ‘empty brain’, and allow whatever is there to come in and see how if feels. 

“I'm very attuned to allowing myself to have those moments of what I call “empty brain”, and allow whatever is there to come in and see how if feels.” 
Photography by Chris Dibble

Early evening

How long I work each day varies of course, but some days I work for five hours and some days I work eight. The very long days I'm not inclined to do so much anymore. I’ll usually finish up around five or six.

I’ll have dinner at home and then hopefully another walk. I'm lucky that I have a boyfriend who likes to cook very much. 

Sometimes we go to the movies, sometime we go to the theatre and hear music. But it’s nice to be home and go walk the dog.

 

Bedtime

I go to sleep early, probably around ten-ish. That is a beautiful thing.

I'm a reasonably well-adjusted human being, so I can do my day's work and then I can go to sleep reading and such. But then of course there's the obligatory waking-up-in-middle-of-the-night-in-a-panic about all sorts of things. That’s usually around 3.00am, the time that most people wake up in a panic – there’s an interesting theory that a metabolic change happens in your body around that time that startles you awake. Why we have to worry as opposed to being delighted, I don't know. It's night, it's dark and the dark forces make their appearance. I try to breathe and tell myself to go back to sleep and I do and then all is well.

“Fear of boredom has kept me working. I don't think anybody likes to be bored. The question is how do you handle that. How do you handle your interest and make your time interesting? That's a mystery.”
– Maira Kalman

Follow @mairakalman on
Instagram and Twitter
mairakalman.com


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ELISA GOODKIND & LILY MANDELBAUM

 
 

Interview by Madeleine Dore
&
Photography by Maggie Shannon


Elisa Goodkind &
Lily Mandelbaum:
StyleLikeU

It can be confounding to think about how to improve the world as one individual. Where to start? What to do? Is what I'm doing meaningful? Is it worthwhile? Can I ever make a difference? 

The mother-daughter creators of StyleLikeU prove that change can begin with us as individuals if we start by addressing the root of our own vulnerabilities, shame, guilt and self-hatred.

Eight years ago, veteran fashion stylist Elisa Goodkind and her daughter Lily Mandelbaum created StyleLikeU as an antidote to the negative impact that unattainable beauty standards had on their own sense of self-worth.

For Elisa, a sense of self-hatred stemmed from feeling like a misfit throughout her life, but especially when returning to the fashion industry only to find it had morphed into being about "fitting in instead of standing out.”

For Lily, it was a physical resentment. Much like many women, Lily hated her body due to the prevailing message we're sent about what is right and wrong when it comes to how our bodies should look. 

When you don’t feel like you fit in the world, when you feel ashamed or guilty for just being you, one of the most powerful things you can do is create your own world – first to help find your own self-acceptance and then to share it with others. 

“We made the world we wanted,” said Elisa. “I was determined to show others that there are people out there that live lives true to their heart and you can see it on the outside and you can see it on the inside."

We made the world we wanted,” said Elisa. “I was determined to show others that there are people out there that live lives true to their heart and you can see it on the outside and you can see it on the inside.

One interview at a time, their viral docu-style video series, What’s Underneath, undresses society’s expectation of style and beauty to reflect the diversity of creativity, individuality, and authenticity found in everyday people. 

Their latest book, True Style is What's Underneath: The Self-Acceptance Revolution collects the insights from their archive and beyond to help others break free from the inhibitions upheld by the fashion world. 

It’s an incredible feat for the pair, and credit to a strong working relationship and shared vision. Of course, the harmonious and the contradictory nature of a mother-daughter relationship is also evident in their working week.

“It's hard for me to break habits,” says Elisa. “Whereas it's easy for me to break habits,” adds Lily. 

Elisa never gets enough sleep; Lily supposedly sleeps too much.

Elisa is searching for a home; Lily could live out of a suitcase. 

Elisa is very detailed, precise and perfectionist; and Lily is much more big-picture-focused.

Despite the differing daily routines, the pair work exceptionally hard, often finding it difficult to draw a line at the end of each work day – even when it comes at the cost of a years-long crash, as Elisa details."Doing the book helped me find a new flow – it was working hard but respecting myself, and that was a very new thing for me.”

For Lily, it’s also incredibly difficult to stop, but it has less of a physical cost. “I'm more happy working on StyleLikeU than when I'm not and that's part of the confusion.” 

While they admit working tirelessly on a passion to change the status-quo never gets any easier, they wouldn’t have it any other way. 

“It is our anchor in life, it drives everything else,” says Lily. 

DAILY ROUTINE


Mornings with Elisa Goodkind… 

Since I’ve been going through menopause, I wake up first at five o'clock in the morning with a panic attack… No, no, the truth is I get up at about six-thirty and will do a couple of breathing exercises on my back for five minutes. 

I’ll be in a mellow state from the breathing and so then I will go and meditate for somewhere between forty-five minutes to one hour. The hour is something I’ve slowly grown into over time – I rediscovered Buddhism a few years ago and it has had a huge impact on my life. I’m now at a place where I can't even imagine starting my day without at least a forty-five minute meditation. 

After, I’ll eat an egg cooked in ghee sunny side up, make the bed and get dressed, which is a really creative and important moment for me. What I will wear will depend on my mood. Sometimes getting dressed happens in a few minutes and sometimes it takes forty minutes.

I’ll take the dog out for a little bit of a walk. After, I either go swim a mile or I go to the gym. Both are a ten minute walk away. Then I will shower wherever I am before heading to wherever we are working for the day.

Mornings with Lily Mandelbaum…

Sleep is my biggest indulgence. I wake up at eight or eight-thirty and before anything else I go and get my iced coffee in my pyjamas, essentially. My brother and I go often go together because we are roommates – one of us will wake up and scream the other's name to get up.

Usually I’ll go straight from the coffee place to a gym class in my neighbourhood, or I’ll come back and start working. I’m more inclined to do the latter because I always have a million thing to do, but usually I’ll end up in a worse mood later in the day if I’ve chosen that route for my day instead of getting to my gym class. 

Workdays with Elisa & Lily…

Lily:

Even though what we do is sort of like one big freelance career, within our team we have a set structure – we know we are working Monday through Friday starting at ten each morning. There's usually only three of us on any given day, sometimes four or five, so we could easily be lax about it, but we take that regime really seriously.

We will work in different places, sometimes my house if we need the content board, sometimes we are shooting on set, sometimes we have a meeting in the Lower East Side. We text the night before or the morning of to figure out where we need to be.

Our day-to-day really varies – sometimes we are shooting, sometimes we are running to meetings, sometimes we are sitting together all day.

"Even though what we do is sort of like one big freelance career, within our team we have a set structure – we know we are working Monday through Friday starting at ten each morning." – Lily

 

Elisa:

We never go out for lunch, we always work straight through – stopping during the middle of the day is very anxiety-inducing for me.

Lily:

We’ll order in or eat on the go, it's never a proper break, which is probably not the greatest thing but I can't even imagine. Whenever we get invited to something it's so weird seeing people having wine at lunch! I’d rather stop working earlier in the evening than in the middle of the day. We’ll usually finish work around seven or eight depending on the day and if we have a class of some kind.

"Whenever we get invited to something it's so weird seeing people having wine at lunch! I’d rather stop working earlier in the evening than in the middle of the day."
– Lily 

Evenings with Elisa Goodkind… 

Many nights of the week I’m out – it's my new commitment to myself since I crashed physically and emotionally working on StyleLikeU seven days a week for several years.

It got to a point where I had completely forgotten large parts of myself in service of the project – I forgot what it was like to read, sit on a beach, be in the sun, take vacations, and do other artistic things. I was just really out of balance, so I’ve started to draw the line. I’m taking a painting class with my husband one night a week; I go to a Buddhist class one or two nights a week; and every other week I get some kind of body work – intuitive touch, acupuncture, something like that. That's my therapy.

"It got to a point where I had completely forgotten large parts of myself in service of the project – I forgot what it was like to read, sit on a beach, be in the sun, take vacations, and do other artistic things." – Elisa

Lily might come along to the Buddhist class with some friends and go to dinner after, but I will go home.

I think that's a good point to make, even though we work together and might be in the class together, there is this point where she goes with her friends and I go home. I’m not interested in being there and she's not interested in me being there, there is that line. We have a lot of those lines – we don't generally see each other on the weekend, for example. I think that is somewhat necessary and intentional, we have different worlds outside of StyleLikeU.

"Even though we work together and might be in the class together, there is this point where she goes with her friends and I go home ... I think that is somewhat necessary and intentional, we have different worlds outside of StyleLikeU." – Elisa

My husband and I will always eat together at around ten-thirty every night, no matter what we are doing – we both have very full days and enjoy stretching them out. Since I started StyleLikeU I haven't cooked a thing, not a thing, I wouldn't know what to do. My husband has been extremely supportive and is now on a mission to keep me well fed and healthy, so he cooks nearly every single night of the week. He has learned how to cook even though he also has a very demanding job. But he isn't doing this start up that is like pushing a stone up a hill against the existing culture, it is so different. He has been doing it for thirty years and it's in a groove.

After dinner I take a bath, that is important. I end up going to sleep around eleven-thirty. I wish to sleep till about six-thirty the next day, but I always wake up in the middle of the night. It's an age thing though – you don't sleep like you used to pre-baby, it's never the same after that. 

Evenings with Lily Mandelbaum…

Drawing lines with work is really hard and I think the two of us are both trying to practice getting better at that. I function better with accountability and structure, so I also go to the Buddhism class once or twice a week, which forces me to stop working.

I also go to a dance class sometimes so that helps me to have that structure. I love hanging out with my girlfriends too, so I do that as much as I can. 

Often my friends will come to the Buddhism class, it has become a bit of social thing where random friends will meet me there and then we will have dinner afterwards.

"Drawing lines with work is really hard and I think the two of us are both trying to practice getting better at that. I function better with accountability and structure." – Lily 

I have the good fortune of living with my brother who is also into cooking, but not quite as routine with it as Dad. I have never been a cook and don't think I ever will be, it's not in my cards. We actually had our charts read by an astrologer recently and I was beating myself up about not having the patience to cook and that kind of thing, and she was like, “Sister, domesticity is just not in your chart. You're very busy with broader things, your mind is in a different place,” so I was relieved by that! 

Once in a while I will take a bath, but not regularly. I do not have that stuff together like I should – I just fall asleep. Sometimes I will just literally get home and drop my backpack on the ground and pretty much fall asleep with my clothes on. There isn't much of a wind down – that is something I would like to actively work on. 

I am so much more inclined to be a workaholic and focused on whatever is going on. This year I’ve been much better with meditation – I can’t do it in the morning, I have to do it at night so lately I’ve been listening to one of my guided meditations in the bathtub.

 

"Sometimes I will just literally get home and drop my backpack on the ground and pretty much fall asleep with my clothes on. There isn't much of a wind down – that is something I would like to actively work on." – Lily
 
 

WEEKEND ROUTINE 

Elisa:

On a Friday night I’ll go to the Russian Turkish Baths. It's the best, sometimes it's a large group of us and everyone will meet and hang out and go for dinner after, but most of the time it's just me and my husband. 

On the weekends we might go to our house in Long Island. 

Lily:

I’ll mostly see my friends Friday and Saturday night. Every Sunday night my brother cooks and we watch an episode of Girls and eat.

If a full weekend passes and I haven't touched my work, I tend to have a lot of guilt.

When you are running your own business and it's small, you have a lot of goals and you could keep on working forever – there is always more to do – there is never a moment where I’m like, phew, I’ve done it all! Not at all.

"If a full weekend passes and I haven't touched my work, I tend to have a lot of guilt." – Lily

I’ve just had to get better at putting it on tomorrow's list because otherwise it's endless. It requires a constant reminder to yourself that you can do other things and you can let go.

Elisa:

... And then you get a lot of ideas that way. I find some of my best ideas for work come when I’m going on a long bike ride outside of the city and get away from it. 

Lily:

I tend to be the most calm when I do a couple of hours of work on each weekend day, but not the whole day. That's the happy medium. When I do go on a vacation and able to have a handful of days completely off, that’s very cool. 

"There is never a moment where I’m like, phew, I’ve done it all! Not at all. I’ve just had to get better at putting it on tomorrow's list because otherwise it's endless. It requires a constant reminder to yourself that you can do other things and you can let go." – Lily

“I don't think there is any such thing as a 'there' that you arrive at in life – you are constantly dealing with uncertainty and being thrown a lot of curveballs. But that is a really important part of doing what you feel is your heart and soul, you have to be willing to be in that struggle." 

 – Elisa Goodkind
“Interviewing so many people of different sizes, shapes and ages has showed me how beautiful and comfortable people can be in their bodies. Seeing these women owning it has helped me to understand that what was separating me from that confidence was not my body itself, it was my attitude towards my body. They have inspired me to look at myself differently."
– Lily Mandelbaum

MARYANNE MOODIE

Interview by Madeleine Dore
This article was originally published on The Design Files with photos by Caitlin Mills


Maryanne Moodie: 
Weaving artist

For weaver and artist Maryanne Moodie, returning to Melbourne after living in New York felt like being on the receiving end of a giant hug.

‘My friend says living in New York is like being tickled too much – being tickled a little bit is nice, but then it’s like, stop, stop! The sensory overload is relentless,’ she says. ‘Getting off the plane in Melbourne, my shoulders dropped. There such a softness and sense of being welcomed home I found comforting and surprising.’

Now with a studio and home set up in Brunswick, Melbourne, Maryanne spends her days weaving, preparing for exhibitions, teaching, liaising with her New York studio and parenting two young boys.

Maryanne has learnt to let go of trying to be the perfect mother, the perfect artist, or the perfect business owner. ‘There is no perfect. It’s not just about forgiving yourself as a mother and allowing yourself to do the things that are going to make you happy, but having your eyes open to every situation,’ she says.

After up-rooting from Melbourne to New York and back again, all whilst nurturing a growing business and a young family, Maryanne reminds us it’s okay to change – our location, our approach, our business, our opinions, and our circumstances – in order to find our version of happiness. ‘What matters most, is if all of us are happy, and if someone isn’t, it’s time for us to make a change,’ she says. ‘You have to be flexible and fluid, and have your eyes open to what is currently happening, and future opportunities.’

"You have to be flexible and fluid, and have your eyes open to what is currently happening, and future opportunities."

DAILY ROUTINE

Morning

Our kids wake up at seven, so during the week my partner Aaron gets up with them and makes breakfast, and I’ll stay in bed and get up after their mouths are full and they can’t yell!

I’ll use that time to do business in bed and connect with the New York studio and answer emails that have come in over night. The team in New York will be quiet and all of a sudden it’s ping, ping, ping, Maryanne is awake!

I’ll then get up and have a cup of tea and a play with the boys. It’s more of a get-dressed-and-play – you can either fight to get them to do things, or you can pretend it’s a game, which works a lot better.

When we moved to Brunswick we wanted to live a local life, so we don’t have a car, but we have a bike trailer. On Monday and Tuesday, both boys have childcare at an incredible co-op where all our friends’ kids go, which feels great to know your kids are being cared for and loved. 

Monday and Tuesday are my proper studio days, so as soon as everyone is out the door, I have an alarm that goes off to remind me to exercise. I used to be this really fit person and then I had kids and that’s the thing that fell off – there was just no time, I was either with my kids or working, teaching, emailing or weaving. Now that both boys have at least two days child care, I have time for the that real huffy-puffy type of exercise – my sister put me onto a fifteen minute high intensity interval training app called 8fit, which is very achievable!

Mid morning

After exercise, I have a proper breakfast. I’ve been feeling quite luxurious when I have no one in the house, so I’ll make a spinach omelettes and have my third cup of tea for the morning. When the boys are around it’s usually one piece of Vegemite toast shoved in my mouth!

It takes about half an hour to walk up to my studio, it’s along Merri Creek which is delightful. I’ll grab a coffee along the way – I recently bought a Keep Cup because I didn’t realise how terrible coffee cups are, I thought you could recycle them! 

Time at the studio is spent weaving. The night before I’ll always try to leave a piece in progress so I can pick it straight up the next day. I listen to podcasts while I weave, but I also love to just listen to nothing. There is a timelessness at the loom where you just get lost in thoughts and feelings that in the rush of our general day to day lives, we tend not to give ourselves time to experience.

I usually have three commissions going on at any time, or roughly six a month. Someone might have an idea about colour or composition, but a lot of the time people will just specify the size of the piece they want and I can have artistic license. 

Afternoons

I will usually have a late lunch. I’ll take something to nibble on during the day and then grab something at four or four-thirty when I leave the studio.

Thursday and Friday are Mummy days when I have both the boys – we made cards of different activities so the boys will choose from those and we will do something together. Rudi has a nap from one till four o’clock, and so I have some quiet time to do some emails.

I’ve really pulled back on how often I sit down and respond to emails, it’s usually only three days a week, which might not be so good for people trying to get in contact with me!

Early evening

We have a rule that if the street lights aren’t on, the boys can go outside and play around the cul-de-sac.

Usually Murray will ‘help’ me cook dinner – I’m teaching the boys how to be helpful for some future point, but at the moment it requires a lot of alertness! I have always hated cooking because I felt like I would go and buy delicious ingredients and spend all this time cooking and it would just be horrible! I put all this pressure on myself with cooking, and I didn’t enjoy myself, but lately I’ve tried to stop doing that and enjoy making something to eat as a family.

Late evening

The boys are in bed by seven. I will have a glass of wine and Aaron will have a beer and we will talk and check in to make sure everything is okay. It’s sometimes just ten minutes, but it’s so important to find the time to sit and properly look at each other.

Then one of us will cook our dinner – we take it in turns with who cooks and does the dishes. We also have a weekly babysitter booked for midweek date nights. We try to do different things every week although we are loving No Lights No Lycra!

I never work in the evenings. Most of the time we will hang out and watch television. I try not to have my phone in the same room. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but I try not to give my phone my attention. Of course, there are some nights when we are both so exhausted and just need to sit on the couch and look at our phones. 

Bedtime

I’m usually in bed usually by nine-thirty, and I’ll sit and read until I fall asleep around ten, which is really indulgent after years of not being able to have a full night’s sleep with babies!

"My business and life philosophy is to move slowly, keep listening, looking and being aware of what the feeling is for something – be it where we live, or what we are doing. If something feels stressful rather than a normal part of life or is making anyone in the family unhappy, I always question why I am still doing it." – Maryanne Moodie

JACOB NASH 

Interview by Madeleine Dore
This article was originally published on The Design Files with photos by  Nikki To


Jacob Nash:
Head of Design at Bangarra Dance Theatre 

As many of us can relate, Jacob Nash didn’t quite know what he wanted to be when he grew up. But with an interest in photography, art, and design, he knew he wanted to tell stories visually.

It was seeing his first Bangarra Dance Theatre production that opened Jacob’s eyes to what storytelling could be, and proved to him he could pursue his varied interests through a career in production design.

‘That first performance was such an important moment in my life,” he said. “I felt connected to culture in a way that I had never before. I saw how we can tell stories as Aboriginal people in a contemporary form, and I felt so inspired as an Aboriginal man connected to the work.’

Graduating from the NIDA Design Course in 2005, Jacob soon found himself at Bangarra, where he started out unloading trucks and answering phones with the company. He soon went on to design of earth & sky for Bangarra in 2010, winning a Green Room Award for Best Design in Dance, and was appointed Artist-in-Residence at Bangarra Dance Theatre in 2011. Now he holds the position as Head of Design.

‘I didn’t always know what I was doing but I was totally engaged in the work and Bangarra; I was young, but I figured I better just work hard and learn on the go and trust my gut, my instincts.’

Jacob’s other theatre credits include work with Belvoir St TheatreBell ShakespeareSydney Theatre CompanySydney Festival, and more, as well as a host of digital, film and television projects including ABC’s sci-fi drama series Cleverman.

There is a constant revolving door of projects and ideas, but at the time we speak with Jacob, he is enjoying a few weeks of reprieve after the opening of the latest Bangarra production, Bennelong.

This ‘creative quiet time’ includes making playdough with his two-year-old son Ollie, taking walks to the beach, fishing and catching up with family – a testament to just how important it is for the creative process to stop and reset, before jumping back into collaborations.

‘It’s always nice after opening a Bangarra show to have a little bit of a break to refresh, then creatively focus again. It is a really beautiful creative period where you just step back, discuss, and start to formulate new ideas for the upcoming productions.’

Life, creative inspiration and work tend to roll into one for Jacob, as his partner Phoebe Collier also works at the company as the Touring and Redevelopment Manager. ‘We’ve had this amazing journey, travelling together all over the country and the world, sharing Aboriginal culture with audiences. We both work very hard at what we do and never take for granted the life we live – It’s been an amazing time.’

He remains open to learning about the world around him and pushing himself further within it. ‘I love what I do and I’m proud of what I do, but I also have a whole lifetime of work ahead of me and who knows what that could entail.’

It’s a reminder for us all that our lives and careers can be fluid. ‘My career will always involve designing and being a storyteller, but I am just quite open when it comes to building creative relationships and sharing the stories we need to tell in this country, and it’s okay to be fluid.’

‘Good people, good projects, and then good things happen.'

"Good people, good projects, and then good things happen."

DAILY ROUTINE

Morning

Having a two-year-old son definitely changes your daily routine and I’m waking up earlier than I used to, which I quite enjoy!

I now have a human alarm clock that goes off at around 6.00am (or earlier!). My partner Phoebe also works at Bangarra, so we’ll get up together and make some porridge for everyone. I don’t drink coffee, but I just got a cold-pressed juicer that I love so I’ll have that in the morning.

To get the day pumping I usually put something on the stereo like Triple J or put on Spotify. My routine is not very glamorous – it’s just whatever happens and you’ve got to be pretty fluid in the mornings with a two-year-old.

We drop our son off to day care and try to be at work somewhere between eight and nine.

The Artistic Director of Bangarra, Stephen Page, will meet with myself and the other creatives, and we will go through the day-to-day stuff while the dancers are in a class before rehearsal starts at 11.30am.

Mid-day

I’ll usually break for lunch around 1.30pm so that I can also catch up with Stephen or hang out with the dancers. There are almost 20 dancers and there’s a beautiful, big kitchen to have lunch in – and they’re all so healthy. I’ve become really interested in what they’re eating because they come up with such healthy, interesting things to fuel their bodies, and I get inspired.

Recently, I’ve been having quinoa and brown rice with salmon, avocado and kale with lemon juice.

The Bangarra office is on Sydney Harbour, so sometimes it’s also nice to go for a walk and sit at a one of the cafes and just look out at the water to clear my head.

Afternoon

I’m often out on the road either sourcing materials or checking in on sets. We have quite a lot of discussions about sets pieces and props to build – how they’re being made and what stage they’re up to – so I’ll often visit the different workshops around twice a week.

I also might be designing something for the show. The beautiful thing about working at Bangarra is that no two days are ever the same.

If my partner Phoebe and I are both at work together, we’ll try to leave the office at about 4.30pm so we can pick up Ollie.

Evening

When we get home in the evening we might go for a walk with Ollie to the park, before going home to cook him dinner – he loves sweet potato at the moment, so I’ll make sweet potato chips in the oven, which are delicious and of course I’ll pinch a few.

Then we will give him a bath and put him to bed. I really like to cook, so I’m usually in charge of what’s going on in the kitchen, which is always fun.

By the time Ollie’s in bed and we’ve had dinner, it’s probably around 8.30pm and so we’ll probably find something to watch and have a little chat about what’s going on in the world and unwind a little bit before we go to bed. We’ve been watching Cleverman, which I did the Production Design for but hadn’t seen until the episodes were out. We have also just started watching The Handmaid’s Tale, which is so amazing.

Truthfully, I probably fall asleep on the couch at about 9.30pm, which is such a Dad thing to do!

 
"People want to put people in boxes… it doesn’t have to be that way – we can be who we want to be, and you can use all the skills you’ve got to fashion the person you want to be and the career you want as well." – Jacob Nash

JEN CLOHER

Interview by Madeleine Dore
This article was originally published on Kill Your Darlings


Jen Cloher:
Singer-songwriter

Singer-songwriter Jen Cloher likens the life-cycle of creative work to seasons. ‘There’s sowing the seeds through the winter, then writing and making the album through the spring, and the summer is the release where you reap the rewards, and autumn you find rest.’

When I speak to Jen, she’s just about to hit the road with an Australian tour of her fourth album, before heading to Europe, UK and the States until the end of November.

‘It’s not really that different to the literary world,’ she explains, unveiling the parallels between song writing and literature, lyrics and poetry.

‘I really do see myself as a writer; I write songs,’ she said. ‘I’m very meticulous about lyric writing – that’s the work, the real work. I think the marker of a good song is that it can be read from the page – you can walk into a spoken word night and stand there and read it.’

In addition to her own songwriting, Cloher is an outspoken advocate for artist rights and is the co-founder of the independent record label Milk! Records, which was started by her partner (in life and business) Courtney Barnett in 2012.

Working alongside talent creatives combined with decades of her own experience, Jen has accumulated a wealth of insights about the creative process that she shares with us here – from how day jobs and side businesses can supplement your writing, to debunking the notion that there is a special key to creative inspiration. Perhaps most soul-stirring of all, she reminds us that ‘everyone’s the same’ in our day to day foibles and fears.

“Everyone has the same fears, everyone has the same doubts, everyone has shit days, everyone feels like a fool, a phony. Everyone has a really great morning where they write something fantastic and then look at it later and thinks it is just rubbish. Everyone puts stuff out and worries that no one’s going to like it. We’re all the same. There’s no one out there just sitting down gallantly every morning and writing for eight hours and just clocking off. That person doesn’t exist.”


DAILY ROUTINE

Morning

I’m usually up around 7.30am. My daily routine isn’t that romantic – I sit at the kitchen table and I have a pot of tea and I write for two hours in the morning. Then I stop and go do business for the record label and do the stuff of life and run a record label and do the shopping and make sure the cat goes to the vet, or go for a swim – the things that we have to do to be alive in the world.

I attend to the label every day and give it time. But my routine is fairly flexible because I work from home, and my office is my home. It’s not that thing where I have to clock in at 9am and work solidly until 5pm and knock off.

But at the same time, I’ve had to be very firm about the times I’m working and tell friends I’m not available until after 2pm each day. Of course, I think there’s a social aspect to life that’s really important, but often friends don’t understand that just because you happen to be at home, you’re not available. It’s that thing of having boundaries, not having people drop around anytime, because those sorts of distractions can be really tough if you let them creep in.

Afternoon

If I need to have any kind of business meetings, talk to any of the bands on the label, or creative collaborators, then I’ll take meetings in the afternoon.

Evening

Then it’s usually dinner and hanging out at home, or going out and catching up with friends, or going and seeing a band, that sort of thing.

I don’t work much in the evening. I find that it’s a nice time to spend time with my partner Courtney and just wind down a bit. Sometimes I work if it’s a really, really busy time and I have the deadline looming, but I generally never do creative work at night.

Bedtime

I usually I go to bed around midnight. Sleep is very important – unbroken, uninterrupted sleep. I can say that because we have a cat called Bubbles who is a very needy, and for a while she was waking me up every few hours – I’m a light sleeper – whenever she’d get in or out of the bed. When Bubbles was removed from my sleeping environment, I was able to get a solid five or six hours of unbroken sleep, and I really noticed how my energy levels improved throughout the day.

Sleep is a great healer – it’s that down time for your body to heal and to take care of itself and do a whole lot of maintenance. The body knows what it’s doing, but we just keep throwing rubbish into it and breaking its patterns and steering it off course. When you actually let the body do what it’s meant to do, you realise how it’s much more intelligent than our own thinking.


INSIDE THE WRITING PROCESS

On having a day job or side business…

I think most writers in this country aren’t writing all day because we just don’t have the marketplace to support that output. Most of us have day jobs or other things that we have to do in order to pay our expenses. There’s a very small percentage of the population that makes their entire living from writing, whether that’s music or anything else. So it comes back to doing something while making sure you make time for writing. I think it’s very possible to fit it all in.

“I think most writers in this country aren’t writing all day because we just don’t have the marketplace to support that output.”

On returning to writing after a tour…

I think it can always be a bit of a shock getting back into writing again, because it is a muscle that needs to be exercised. When you’re right in the middle of writing – whether it’s an album, a screenplay, or a novel or a work of nonfiction – you’ve been in a routine for a while, so it can come a bit easier. You sit down and you feel like you are awake.

So when you first come back to writing and starting something new and approach the first blank page, as they often describe it, I think it’s really important to just put the time in, but to not judge the outcome.

On not pushing it, but doing a little every day…

My approach is to do a little bit every day when I can. I never really push my writing because I don’t think it works like that. If it’s a really busy week and I’ve got lots of teaching on, I’m not going to get up at 4am just so I can write for two hours. If I need to sleep, I’ll have it.

But when the time is there, I will sit down and usually make a pot of tea and spend the good part of two hours sitting with my guitar and notebook. Then as I get closer to completing the song, it’s usually about just really focusing on the lyrics and making sure that I’m saying exactly what I want to say.

On the myth of the ‘special key’ to inspiration…

I used to run around thinking I can only write until everything’s perfect, or when the sun shines through this window at a certain angle, or after I’ve read my spiritual guide – it’s bullshit. It’s rubbish. You just sit down and you do it. Whether you feel like a piece of shit that day, or whether you feel like a million dollars.

The people that keep writing great records, like PJ Harvey or Gillian Welch or whoever it might be, write great records because they sit down and they do it everyday. Not because they’ve discovered some special key to how to write a song. No one knows how to write a song. No one knows how to write a book. All you have is your creative inspiration. You can’t learn that. You tap into it just by sitting down, rolling your sleeves up and getting to work, just like someone out there lying pavement or building a house. It’s the same thing. A house doesn’t get built if you don’t roll your sleeves up and start building it.

“A house doesn’t get built if you don’t roll your sleeves up and start building it…if you’ve chosen to be an artist, well then that’s what you do.”

If you’ve chosen to be an artist, well then that’s what you do. You sit down and you write, and you don’t judge it.

On the uncomfortableness of writing and going into the unknown…

We can talk about routine and all the things that we do to write, but really at the end of the day, all it comes down to is: are you willing to sit down and go through the pain of realising that you don’t know what you’re doing and that actually you’ll never know what you’re doing, and that writing is a huge unknown quantity?

It’s uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable sitting down and facing the fact that you don’t know. Writing is about going into the unknown. You don’t know what you’re going to write. You don’t know what’s going to come to you on a given day. You can try and focus in on things and have all of these sorts of tools and ideas, but at the end of the day it’s about discipline.

On dealing with the exhaustion of touring…

It can be really tough touring because you have multiple late nights, and that can go for weeks and you never get that catch up of sleep.

But for me what helps it’s the little things. The first is just accepting it. Accepting that you’re going to be tired for a while, not railing against it and making it into this major issue and freaking out about it.

“Accept that you’re going to be tired for a while, not railing against it and making it into this major issue and freaking out about it.”

The second is taking those opportunities to rest when you can – go for a walk or a swim if there’s a pool nearby, and making sure you have one good meal a day that does something to help your body and your mind. Sometimes you don’t have a choice about what you can eat because it’s late and you eat the pizza because you’re starving.

Thirdly, yoga. I’m not an incredible yogi that’s always doing yoga, but I do a little bit every week and I found that when you first get into a hotel room or something, you just pop your legs up against the wall for ten minutes, and it does great stuff to ground you and just bring you back into your body and back into your breathing.

Finally, water. It’s just drinking a truckload of water because the nature of travel and being inside of air conditioning pretty much all the time is that your body becomes really dehydrated. Just drinking stacks of water can really help.

On the biggest impediment to writing…

There are always distractions. I think the biggest impediment to writing for people these days, are mobile phones. It’s very tricky because they’re so addictive and particularly if you’re having a bit of a rough day with the writing, you can just pick up the phone and scroll through an Instagram feed and half an hour later you haven’t written anything.

I haven’t got to a place yet where I am able to put the phone away for long periods of time. It tends to creep onto my desk. I’d love to be able to say to you, ‘Yes, I’m so disciplined and I put my phone down and I never get it while I’m writing.’ I’m sure it’s something to work toward.

On what she wish she knew earlier…

I think it’s that thing of just trusting your intuition and allowing yourself to have your own individual voice. When I first started out, I thought I had to be something or a character or be all interesting and mysterious and cool. I had all of these ideas about how I was meant to project myself to an audience.

Now I just think that it’s really about trusting that you have something to say and there’s only one of you. There’s only one person on this planet who’s going to say it the way you say it, and it’s really making space and mining that quality, the you-ness in your work that will make it stand out from the pack.

MAXINE BENEBA CLARKE

Interview by Madeleine Dore
This article was originally published on Kill Your Darlings


Maxine Beneba Clarke:
Writer and slam poet

People often tell writer and slam poet Maxine Beneba Clarke she is ‘everywhere’ – on television, on the writers’ festival circuit, on a literary prize shortlist.

‘I think that’s the really interesting thing about social media – this common misconception that you’re always everywhere, and you’re always available,’ says Beneba Clarke.

‘People feel your presence, but really 95 per cent of the time I’m at home… I think for a lot of writers, to get books out, we have to lock ourselves away at work.’

Beneba Clarke’s career catapulted when her collection of short stories Foreign Soil won the Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award in 2013. From there, her memoir The Hate Race won NSW Premier’s Award, and her latest collection of poetry, Carrying the World, won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry in 2017. Her short fiction, non-fiction and poetry have appeared in OverlandThe AgeMeanjinThe Saturday Paper, The Big Issue and more.

Currently, Beneba Clarke tends to divide her week into commissioned writing at the beginning and creative work for the rest. The majority of her time is spent working on adapting The Hate Race for the Malthouse Theatre’s stage in collaboration with writer and Erik Jensen. She is also working on a second and third picture book; another novel is ‘in the works, but it’s the kind of thing that I think will take years.’

Having several different projects on the go is key to sustaining creative momentum, she explains, especially with long-term projects,.

‘When I started out in poetry and spoken word, I was spoiled in terms of making something and then being able to instantly share it with people. I think I’m an impatient writer for that reason, so I’ve had to move progressively towards the long-term projects, rather than starting out writing novels or long-form pieces,’ she said.

‘When I started out in poetry and spoken word, I was able to instantly share it with people… I think I’m an impatient writer for that reason.’

For Beneba Clarke, versatility has been one of the most important aspect in making a living from her work.

‘Poetry’s never going to bring home the bacon… I’m not going to be able to have a book out every year. It’s not going to be sustainable, partly because of the kind of work I make and not wanting to change the kind of work I make, and partly because of the speed it is created. So I do a bit of teaching, I do events, I do other commissioned writing so I can work full time within the industry, even if it’s not always necessarily as a writer.’

When it comes to sustaining your work, Beneba Clarke shares the pragmatic advice of having friends both inside and outside the industry.

‘What tends to happen if you spend all your time at writers’ festivals and events with other writers is your world becomes very insular. I’m forced outside of that through having kids and interacting with a wider community, but I think that it’s important to know that there’s more,’ she says.

‘You know, that writing is what you want to do, and you might be very passionate about it, but there’s a whole world out there that doesn’t need to be cut off.’


DAILY ROUTINE

Morning

The kids go off to school about nine o’clock and then I try to spend the first hour of the day doing admin – emails, invoicing, replying to people, paying bills – anything that doesn’t directly relate to creative work.

Sometimes it can be just lining up what I need if I’m going to be working on a verse of the novel and getting ready to write.

Some mornings it doesn’t work – sometimes I just faff around for an hour!

By ten o’clock I’ll be writing or I’ll be doing creative work. That could be anything from going into the Malthouse Theatre and having a meeting with my co-writer Erik Jensen or the dramaturge, or it could be starting the writing work on an article, researching for a portrait for The Saturday Paper and going online and finding out what else has been written about that person.

I’m a massive procrastinator, but also someone who will think about a piece – whether it’s a poem or an essay or a short story – so much that by the time I go to write it down on the page I’ve already done a lot of the editing process while I’ve been doing the shopping or cleaning out the studio.

‘I’m a massive procrastinator, but also someone who will think about a piece…so much that by the time I go to write it down I’ve already done a lot of the editing process.’

The bread and butter work is writing pieces for The Saturday Paper or writing essays now and again. I tend to knock those over at the beginning of the week, and then once it’s finished that’s the end of my contracted work or commission work for the week, so I’ll go back to working on the novel or the play or my creative work.

I often try to schedule meetings on the same day of the week, to maximise my time. For example, if I know that this week I have to phone my publisher, and talk to producers, or call the head teacher of a high school I’ve been invited to speak to, then I’ll schedule the calls at 10am, 11am, and 12pm on the same day. This is particularly so where I need to have physical meetings – if I need to go into the Wheeler Centre, I will rack my brains to see if I need to pick anything up from Readings or do any research at the State Library, or I’ll check in with the illustrator of one of my forthcoming kids book (who has a work space in the city) to see if she wants to show me any drafts or have a coffee. It saves me cutting my writing time by making another trip in later in the week.

Midday

When my writing first took off, I had quite young children so I would write at night from around 8pm till one o’clock in the morning, as that was the only time that I had an interrupted stretch. I’ve found it really, really hard to break that habit – I get distracted during the day and more often than not I will work from ten till lunch, and then I won’t do any more writing work until the evening.

Afternoon

I get the kids at three, so between one and then it will just be kind of life stuff – life admin or whatever.

I often read in the afternoon. Most of the reading I’ve done in the last six months has been work for Best Australian Stories and the Blake Poetry Prize, which I will do in that morning period because I’m most alert. If it’s reading for pleasure then it would probably be in the afternoons, evenings or on weekends.

I try not to work too much when the kids are kicking around in the afternoons, but quite often it’s unavoidable. They know that it’s how I put food on the table and they think that being on the iPad for an hour or trampolining for an hour in the garden while I make a few calls or send some invoices or frantically edit something is preferable to going to after school care. They also have sat in on my workshops for The Patchwork Bike and occasionally come to my readings. They came and saw me onstage at the Stella Prize ceremony the first time I was shortlisted (my daughter randomly climbed onstage during the ceremony). I think it’s really important that they see what I do, as I require their cooperation at home to do it – particularly in the afternoons. I’ll involve the littler one if I’m drawing (I’m actually working on some illustrations myself at the moment, as well as collaborating on a few other books as a writer, with other illustrators) or looking through illustrations in the weekday afternoons. Sometimes she’ll draw next to me and make a ‘book’ of her own.

‘I think it’s really important that [my kids] see what I do, as I require their cooperation at home to do it.’

I’ve had a separate work space at the moment at my home for the last two years, purely through an incredible turn of fate, and it’s changed my life – along with the fact that at the same time I got this space, my youngest started school. I’m not sure how long I’ll have the space for though, so I’m working like a bat out of hell, while I still have this extreme privilege.

Evening

In the evenings I watch a lot of really trashy television! The more involved a project is, the more likely I am to be binging on So You Think You Can Dance or something. But you don’t always have to be working to be an artist, you know?

At eight o’clock I will sit down again and have the really long writing stretch.

There were times when I was working on The Hate Race, especially at the tail end of bringing the book together, that I would write all night, get up and take the kids to school, and then come home and go to bed.

It probably wasn’t the healthiest thing to do, but it was the only time I could sit and get enough into the book that I wasn’t thinking about the process – I was just writing.

I’m lucky in that I do what I do full time, whereas if I was working outside of my writing I couldn’t be as flexible. I mean I do a lot of different writing jobs to make ends meet, but because all of it is freelancing, there is the possibility of being flexible with time.

Late

I get by on very little sleep – as long as I get that period from one o’clock till seven o’clock in the morning, I’m usually good. But going from having very small kids to medium size kids, I’m getting more sleep now than I was five years ago.

INSIDE THE WRITING PROCESS

On learning what to do with dead writing time…

At the beginning of my career, one of my biggest mistakes was feeling like I should be writing all the time, and that I needed to force myself to sit down and write, as opposed to doing a bit more thinking or a bit more planning.

One of my biggest mistakes was feeling like I should be writing all the time…as opposed to doing a bit more thinking or a bit more planning.

I think a large part of working out how to do this full-time is realising that there is no point in having dead writing time. If I haven’t thought enough about something in my head and I haven’t conceptualised it enough, what I put on the page is not likely to be brilliant. It’s taken me a long time to see there is a strong point in going for a long walk, getting some fresh air, and actually deciding, okay, for this half an hour that I’m going for a walk I can think about how I can write this story.

On admin, lists, and paper calendars…

I’m a big list-maker and every morning I’ll make a list of the things that I need to do that day – from finishing articles to sending invoices and paying a gas bill. I’ll try to do that admin in the first hour, so that I don’t get to the end of the day and realise that my power is going to be cut or something.

I’m very bad at remembering what I have to do. I have a paper calendar that’s on my wall and that’s my default. I have nothing in my phone or even a separate calendar that I walk around with. Often people will ask me if I can do things while I’m out or at a festival, and I’ll tell them I have to go home and check my calendar that’s stuck on the wall in my kitchen! That is something that I definitely need to work on.

There are times when I will get up on a Tuesday morning and I know I’ve got something due tomorrow and will have no idea what it is, and have to scroll back through my emails.

On over-committing as a freelancer…

I over-commit all the time. I think one of the problems of working as a freelancer – when you have a salary job, you’re given the amount of work that’s considered acceptable for that job and you might be given too much and have to push back, but when you’re a freelancer it’s hard not to say ‘it’s just another article, I might well just do it’, kind of thing.

About a year ago was the height of over-committing for me. In my emergence as a writer, I went from unknown to people asking me to write things quite quickly – it’s an honour and I still consider it an honour, but I think it’s about getting out of the mindset where you feel like it’s almost offensive to say no. If you have too much on your plate then you’re not going to deliver that work to a standard that that person will appreciate, anyway.

The thing I find the most difficult is giving myself a break. As a freelancer, you don’t get super, or holiday pay, or sick pay. If you take a month off, that means you lose not only that month’s freelancing work, but every long writing project has then been pushed out a month, so that income is delayed as well. Balancing that with the need to put food on the table can get stressful.

On finding the right collaborators…

Often we feel like writing is a very solitary pursuit, but it’s actually not in terms of all the people involved. I wish I knew earlier how important it is to find the right people to work with – whether it’s a publisher, or the right person to proofread, or the right person to collaborate with on a picture book or co-writing a play.

Things often work really well simply because it’s exactly the right person to be collaborating with, and those people can come from unexpected places. I trust my gut when it comes to working with other people.

Things often work really well simply because it’s exactly the right person to be collaborating with, and those people can come from unexpected places.

On having lots of ideas and killing your darlings…

I think for me the hardest part of writing is the gap between an idea and the actualisation of the idea, and I find pinpointing an idea that I’m going to be able to live with for the next three years to be one of the most difficult things.

At least once a month I’ll be like, ‘I’ve just had the right idea for a book,’ and I’ll email my publisher and tell him and he’ll say, ‘Okay, so you send me this email every month. Is this is actually going to become a thing?’

I’m someone who can get five chapters into a book and then abandon it. For me, the big thing is not putting anything out into the world that I’m not going to be able to hold up in ten years and still be proud of, even though initially the creative floodgates might let it through.

It can be difficult to kill your darlings, but I convince myself that it will be used at some point. Maybe it wasn’t a poem, maybe it was actually an essay – there is always a reason I went through the process, even if it’s just a lesson that I need to plan better.

SUSAN CARLAND 

Interview by Madeleine Dore
This article was originally published on The Design Files with photos by Eve Wilson


Susan Carland: 
Researcher & author

Susan Carland’s life is frenetically busy. That’s not so surprising for someone who is a full-time university lecturer and researcher, media personality, speaker, mother to two kids, and author of the recently published book Fighting Hislam. What is striking is her jovial and relaxed demeanour, as she recounts her ‘all over the place’ routine.

Dismantling any assumption that it’s possible to be both busy and perfectly composed, Susan admits there are plenty of moments of stress and overwhelm throughout her days. ‘I rush around like a maniac,’ – an admission that only confirms her down-to-earth charm.

For Susan, what helps to keep everything in perspective is sleep, exercise and plenty of lists. ‘When I feel myself getting overwhelmed I know it’s time to go to bed!’ she says.

Asking for help also makes a big difference. ‘There is no point in feeling miserable or even resentful if you are not telling people you need assistance.’

Being married to The Project’s co-host Waleed Aly can at times create a sense of living in a 24-hour household. ‘He is a night owl and I love getting up early in the morning, so I feel like the lights are on all the time in this house.’

Despite the pair’s conflicting and busy schedules, after 15 years of marriage they continue to make time for brunch most mornings. ‘It would be really easy to lose sight of each other, so it’s a good thing for us to try to hang onto rituals where we are reconnecting just the two of us.’

There are many moments in Susan’s day that prioritise this sense of connection – from listing three good things and one bad thing that happens each day with the kids over dinner, to nightly cups of tea with Waleed before bed.

Finding time for these quiet moments of happiness requires a constant checking of priorities. ‘There is my work, my family and then there are lots of things on top of that that are vaguely connected in one way or another. I want to say yes to everything, but I have keep reminding myself that every time I say yes to one thing, I’m saying no to something else – be it my kids, my job, or my sleep.’

Susan reminds us that there is no perfect balance for anyone when it comes to building relationships of any kind, and doing meaningful work. Rather, life is a series of trade-offs, and it’s okay if it’s a little all over the shop from time to time.

"I want to say yes to everything, but I have keep reminding myself that every time I say yes to one thing, I’m saying no to something else – be it my kids, my job, or my sleep."

DAILY ROUTINE

Waking up

I’m pretty all over the place! I would love to be able to say that every day I get up and follow a particular routine, because I find it quite soothing, but because the nature of my work is all over the shop, every day is different.

Going to bed early and getting up early is my favourite thing to do – the other day I woke up at 3:40am – I bloody loved it!

But sometimes, if I’m up working really late, I’ll sleep till 7am. Sleep is more important to me than sticking to a schedule and feeling horrendous all day.

Morning

The first thing I do when I’m up is drink three coffees in a row while I check my emails and the news.

When I feel vaguely awake I head to the gym and do 45 minutes or an hour of something cardio-esque that doesn’t require any thinking. It’s so good for me mentally, especially if I’m feeling stressed or agitated.

I pray five times a day and that is a real recalibration too. When I am at the gym I will read a litany while I’m on the exercise bike and that really helps settle me and clarify my purpose and intention – intention is a really big thing in Islam, similar to Buddhism, actually.

While I’m at the gym I will listen to podcasts or watch TV. I normally end my workout on the exercise bike so I can pay my bills on my phone and answer emails or the many text messages I haven’t got back to – I can’t believe I still have any friends, I’m so terrible at that!

I’ll come home and the kids will be getting themselves ready for school. If I know I’m not going to be home that the night, I might cook dinner so the babysitter has a nice home-cooked meal to have with the kids. I might also put a load of washing on while I’m helping my son pack his lunch for school.

I never do the shopping until we’ve run out of food, which is such a dumb silly thing to do! So I might do an order for Coles online – I could tell Waleed to go, but by the time I make a list I may as well order it online.

Mid morning

I can’t eat before I go to the gym – it just makes me want to vomit – so I’ll eat a bit later.

Because Waleed and I are on different body clocks, one of our favourite things to do is have brunch together. We spend far too much doing it, but as Waleed says, it’s cheaper than getting counselling! We just sit there and chat to each other and it’s our favourite part of the day.

Midday

What happens after brunch really depends on my day – certainly if I’m teaching I’ll head off to Monash, lecture or tutor or go to a meeting. I try to go to Monash as much as I can, not just for the teaching but also for my office!

When you live with your partner and kids there is no space that is your own – but my office is my own quiet space and I love just going there. I also work from home a lot, but when I do I find myself putting on that load of washing, or quickly unstacking the dishwasher. It’s too easy to lose focus!

Other times I might have media things, and there seems to be a lot of photo shoots!

There’s also so much travel – I don’t even unpack my toiletry bag anymore. I do always just feel exhausted. I’ve just got this sense I’m going to feel tired for the rest of my life! The tricky thing for me with travel is sorting out care for the kids. I try to organise as much as I can before I go so it runs as smoothly as possible, but in the end if they live off takeaway dinners the entire time I’m away, I just have to let that go and know they will be fine. Everything is just triage – what is the most pressing issue here, and everything else has to fumble along.

Afternoon

When I’m home I usually pick up our son from school. Normally I will make something for dinner and chat with the kids and check in with what is happening with their day – if there is homework to do be done or music practice I will supervise that.

I’m always checking my email and responding to work stuff, always.

Evening

The kids and I will sit down at the table for dinner we always play this thing called 3-G-B or high-low where we share three good things that happened and one bad thing. Often I think as parents we shield our kids from the bad or hard things that happen in life – and that is important certainly, you don’t want kids worrying about adult problems – but this is showing them it’s okay to share these bad things as a family.

Occasionally we will watch The Project, but not every night because it’s often when we are having dinner. Waleed normally gets home at about eight o’clock and I’ll be getting the kids into the shower and ready for bed, but it’s good that he gets to see them before they go to sleep and have time to chat and catch up.

Late evening

I know we sound like the most boring old couple, but we do love having cups of tea together.  We don’t drink alcohol, so we will have a really nice tea blend that Waleed brought back from London.

If we don’t have much work to do and I can stay awake, we also like watching a series together. Then I’ll normally stumble to bed and Waleed will stay awake for a while because his brain doesn’t normally wind down till after midnight.

"Two things make a life extraordinary: deep, meaningful relationships with friends and family; and meaningful work, whatever that may be. Meaningful work is not attached to how many people know about it, it’s work with purpose that makes society better in one way or another." – Susan Carland 

REKO RENNIE

Interview by Madeleine Dore
Originally published on The Design Files column
with photos by Amelia Stanwix


Reko Rennie:
Street artist

Reko Rennie has an appetite for being busy. From the completion of the colossal Visible Invisible mural for the Lyon Housemuseum expansion earlier this year, to putting the finishing touches on his latest video work for Venice Biennale, at times his art practice keeps him in the studio for 14 to 16 hours each day.

‘I enjoy being busy and prefer to be flat out – it’s almost harder to switch off, because I feel bored if I’m not busy. I have to teach myself to relax a bit more,’ says Reko. This is not an uncommon approach for many working in the arts, where there is no guaranteed reward for your work, he explains, ‘other than the satisfaction of creating new work.’

Working as a journalist for the Koori Mail, ABC, SBS and The Age, before making the leap to full-time artist, the structure of a working week has stuck with Reko. ‘It’s quite important for me to have a bit of a routine,’ he says. ‘I’ve kept the habit working five-days-a-week to get the work done.’

Having a background in journalism has been of great benefit to Reko’s art practice. Through his work, Reko investigates his own lived experience as an urban Aboriginal man. His recent works often incorporate diamond symbols emblematic of his connection to the Kamilaroi/Gamilaroi people. As seen in Visible Invisible, the work juxtaposes these vividly coloured symbols with camouflage, referencing the ways in which Aboriginal people have had to hide, ‘blend in’ and conceal their identity. ‘In the past, it was a real struggle for Aboriginal people to be vocal and talk about issues, and people were victimised for it,’ he explains. ‘Now we can have all this power through art, and have a voice; that’s important not just for this generation, but for all the others that have fought before us.’

Despite long days at the studio and dedication to his work, Reko priorities his family, ensuring he is always home for dinner and a catch up, and has time to take his daughter Mila to school and watch soccer games. ‘I am investing so much time in art and creating – that’s my job, but I also don’t want it to overtake the time I am around as a father and a partner,’ says Reko, who enjoys getting back into a regular sleeping pattern, heading down the coast, and having time out in nature between projects.

While at times striking the balance can be overwhelming, Reko’s fervour stems from a deep passion and appreciation for being able to do what he loves full-time, and have the opportunity to share it with people. ‘When it’s something you really believe in, then it doesn’t feel like you’re being overloaded,’ he says.

"I am investing so much time in art and creating – that’s my job, but I also don’t want it to overtake the time I am around as a father and a partner."

DAILY ROUTINE

Morning

On the majority of days, I get up early in the morning, around six, and drop my daughter off at school, go have a coffee, and then I’m pretty much off to the studio by eight or nine. There are a few days a week where another friend takes our daughter to school with theirs, and on those days I can enjoy a more leisurely breakfast or a cup of tea at home with the girls.

For me, it really works having my studio away from my home environment, because I can focus on my work that way. I also enjoy the commute. It gives me time to think about things, watch the surrounds, and figure out what I’m doing in the next stages of a project.

Mid-morning

Often when I come into the studio, I start painting – there will be days I’ll spend all day at the studio creating work. Or I might do administration – figuring out timelines and deadlines, different things like that. Or I could just spend time being in the environment thinking about concepts and ideas.

Other times I might be doing an installation off-site, or a community-based project. It really depends on the time of year and the nature of the project.

I have some cardio stuff in the studio and a little regime so I’ll often do a workout during the day. It’s all about minimising having to go to different places and maximising the time in the studio.

Midday

I’m pretty conscious of what I’m eating because of the amount of hours I’m working – you’ve got to fuel your body. When it’s a bit colder, I will often make something in the studio so it doesn’t break up the rhythm if I’m busy painting. Other times I like to go out – I’ll get Japanese food in Collingwood or maybe go to Mario’s on Brunswick Street.

When I’m feeling a bit stressed out, I’ll jump on my motorbike at lunchtime and go for a ride. It’s great because you don’t have anyone contacting you on the phone – sometimes it becomes habitual to respond to things right away, and that can take a lot of time out of your day, especially when you are trying to paint.

Afternoon

In the afternoon the work is usually the same. At the moment I’m working on a bunch of paintings for a show and I’ve just finished spending time with editors on the latest video work going to Venice Biennale.

Sometimes if there is a show, I’ll be working 14 to 16 hour days. Maybe it’s something I got from my family – I’ve always watched people work really long hours to enjoy some rewards now and then, even if it’s very small things. I think it is a good thing to do for your practice, definitely.

Late afternoon

My studio is right across from the Yarra River, and the Kew Boathouse is down the road, so sometimes it might be nice to have a little break and go for a walk through nature for half-an-hour.

At times when there is a big workload, it does get overwhelming and like many artists, you can get worn out, or anxious about upcoming shows, or get a sense of self-doubt about your work. But these are all natural things that occur for a majority of artists. You work through it by making work, being physical, and talking to people about it.

Evening

Even when everything is really busy, it’s important to have a meal with my daughter and partner and have that structured family time. It really matters to me.

We might cook or go out and have a nice meal with family and friends – I love to have nice food and a good time, it’s important to reward yourself every now and then. I’m conscious about spending time with my daughter and having that time together to chat about things. I’ve learnt that other things and people can wait – even if it’s really urgent, there is always a time.

Late evening

After a meal I might go back to the studio and keep working. I get a lot of my great work done after midnight, that’s for sure!

On the days I’ve finished at the studio earlier, after dinner we will hang out – if my partner isn’t studying we’ll watch some Nordic thriller or a film.

I’ll often stay up late because I can’t go to sleep early – I’ll be thinking about a lot of projects and writing down ideas. Then I switch off completely about 10:30 or 11pm and maybe watch a film or documentary before going to bed around midnight.

 
"There’s the saying that we are often our worst critics. For creatives, it’s really true, but it can also be good because it’s part of the process of evaluating your work. It helps you to continue to create and conceive ideas." – Reko Rennie

ALESANDRO LJUBICIC

 
 

Interview by Madeleine Dore
&
Photography by Mitch Lui 


Alesandro Ljubicic, 
Painter

When it comes to deciding what to pursue in life, artist Alesandro Ljubicic has noticed two distinct possibilities.

“The first is you can be very successful doing something you hate, but the next day you can lose it all. The second is you can do what you love to begin with, because there is no such thing as a safe bet.” 

The philosophy has been instilled from observing his parents, who came to Australia from a war-torn Bosnia, leaving their established careers and comforts behind and starting from scratch.

“My parent’s theory is that you never know what is around the corner, so why not just do something you love, regardless of whether you are successful or not?”

The Sydney-based artist has taken a 'no-compromises' approach to doing what he loves, even if it's meant working around a full-time job to sustain his love of paint – using upwards of twelve litres per painting.

With the help of his parents, he opened an online art supply store to fund and support his practice without skimping on materials. Today, he and his parents now work in the The Sydney Art Store storefront and his ventures have expanded to wholesaling and manufacturing.

Despite never having gone to business school, Alesandro runs one of the leading art supply businesses in Australia. The secret could be to treat business like art:  

"For me, running a business is almost like painting – it's always one thing on top of the other; I need to add another flower here, another layer of paint there. It is a work of art, and it's constantly evolving.” 

Scrolling through Alesandro’s Instagram feed, or that of his model fiancée, Monika Radulovic, his life also resembles a work of art. What is surprising, though, is the low-key nature of their daily lives as a couple. 

“We both love staying at home. With Monika’s work, our lives look and sound glamorous, but we only really go to parties or events when we have to, and we often leave within an hour to go home to the cats!”

His approach to daily routines is less easy-going due to the demands of simultaneously running a business and sustaining an art practice. “You have to have a routine otherwise you won’t get everything done.”

The long days seem to fuel his motivation. “When I get home in the evening, obviously I’m exhausted, but I’m not complaining because I feel accomplished. I’m feeding the soul every day and I don't mind getting up and doing it all over again the next because it is so rewarding.” 

A few years ago, Alesandro wasn’t seen as a ‘serious’ painter by certain pockets of the art world because he wasn’t exhibiting at certain galleries. It was hard work and an ability to ignore the rhetoric that finally caught the attention of the 'right' people. 

“Part of success is when preparation meets opportunity. You need to work hard all the time not knowing what is going to happen. One day when the opportunity present itself, then you have proven to yourself that you are worth it.”

The world might not see you as a ‘real’ painter yet, a ‘real’ writer, a ‘real’ artist, a ‘real’ success in whatever it is you want to pursue, but what Alesandro teaches us is that if we persevere and prepare, we can seize the opportunity when it arrives.

“One day you will be seen as real, and when the day comes, you want to make sure you are fit, in your best shape and ready to go for it.”

DAILY ROUTINE 

6:00

Basically from Monday to Thursday I’ll wake up around six. My partner Monika will wake up earlier to go to the gym, and I’ll get up soon after.

I have a shower, have a shave if I haven’t had one the night before, I’ll put on a pair of shorts and a top, and grab my laptop. No breakfast, but as I’m driving to work I pick up a coffee. It’s a very simple morning – I’m up and at it. 

7:00

If I have a show coming up, I’ll be at the studio by six-thirty, but usually it's around seven.

I’ll get to work and have a quick glance at my laptop and scan through my day. Then I head upstairs to the studio above the store and I will have a look at what I did the night before and what I need to do later that day. I may not necessary paint in the morning, I might mix some colours or get some canvases out and start planning for the evening.

I also plan for the week ahead in terms of how many paintings I will do and what else I have to execute to meet any deadlines. I like to make sure I give myself plenty of time so that if I’m not happy with certain things, I can fix them up.

I've always been someone who starts the day early – both Monika and I like to be ahead of the pack. By the time the shop opens, I’m three hours ahead and I’ve already done more work than a lot of people do for an entire day. When a client calls in and asks for something or about an order, I’m already onto it rather than having to check. 

"I like to be ahead of the pack. By the time the shop opens, I’m three hours ahead and I’ve already done more work than a lot of people do for an entire day."

8:00

My staff will come in and we will talk about what everyone has to do that day and then everyone does their own thing – no one is watching over anyone.

Throughout the day I’m answering emails, calling clients, advising people about what paints they need for certain techniques.

We have lots of trucks coming in because we have thirty different suppliers we order from every single month. Things are coming in all the time so it's a lot of rotating and moving things around throughout the day. 

13:00

Sometimes I forget to have lunch. It’s not intentional. If I do remember, I’ll head to a great cafe up the road, or get a naked burrito from Mad Mex. I’ll try to always have something with a lot of vegetables, protein and no carbs so I don’t feel sluggish and heavy when I get back to work. That way I can head back to the shop and get straight back into it. 

14:00

Part of running the store is acting almost as a counsellor to artists that come in. I’ve had many artists tell me their stories and cry in front of me about the perceived success or failure of their work, or stresses that come from the art world.

What I have learned is regardless of whether you like or dislike someone’s work, or who they are exhibiting with, everyone has got their own vision and way of seeing things and that should be respected.

My paintings are my representation of how I see things or how I want to express myself, so who is to say my interpretation is right and someone else’s is wrong? It’s important to respect their interpretation and their work. It keeps you grounded.

16:45

Towards the end of the day we start cleaning up and winding down.

"What I have learned is regardless of whether you like or dislike someone’s work, or who they are exhibiting with, everyone has got their own vision and way of seeing things and that should be respected."

18:00

We will shut the doors at six and head up to the studio.

Because I’ve spent the morning either mixing paint or really studying what I need to do, I can get straight into it. I don’t stop painting for two or three hours, so you can imagine how much I can cover – it's like a marathon. 

I think a lot of people can spend all day in their studio and not do much work – it’s almost impossible to paint all day, and a lot of it is spent procrastinating and thinking. I am doing that thinking while I’m still working in the shop.  

"It’s almost impossible to paint all day, and a lot of it is spent procrastinating and thinking. I am doing that thinking while I’m still working in the shop."  

21:30

I’ll head straight home from the studio. Monika would have had a busy day so she'll most likely be setting on the couch with the cats.

While I’m eating dinner, I’ll usually have one of the cats thirty-centimetres away from my plate trying to eat my food! We’ll also discuss how our days were, what has been going on and what we have planned for tomorrow. 

22:30

Then we will hit the bed and do it all again the next day!

WEEKEND ROUTINE

On a Friday I won’t go into work too early, instead I might sleep in go around eight.

Then Friday night I’ll finish work at six and might catch up with friends or go for a nice dinner with Monika or see a movie.

On Saturday I start work at ten but I might go to the gym across the road at eight o’clock, nothing too serious, but just enough to keep the routine going.

At five o’clock I’ll go home and again we will have dinner somewhere or catch up with friends.

On Sundays we have a ritual where we will wake up at six-thirty and drive down to Cronulla. We will meet up with Monika’s trainer and others and run the sand dunes for an hour. You feel on top of the world, it's amazing. It's on another level in terms of the adrenalin rush. Then we drive back home and just sort of plan our day. Generally we will just relax for the whole day or catch up with friends. It’s a very slow Sunday and weekend.

"It’s a very slow Sunday and weekend."
 
 
“My motto is to keep things simple and work hard. You may look at me from the outside and think, “Fuck, complex – he is doing this, he is doing that,” but I keep things very simple in my work and life. I paint things that I would love on my wall and put a smile on my face.


 
 

Follow @alesandroljubicic on Instagram
alesandroljubicic.com 
Visit Alesandro's solo show at Scott Livesey Gallery until May 20

Interview by Madeleine Dore
This article was originally published on The Design Files with photos by Caitlin Mills 


Anna Ross
Entrepreneur

Anna Ross’s routine resembles a well-oiled machine. From rising at 5:00am and answering emails in bed before scooting off to yoga, to twice-daily meditation and daily reading, the founder of local manicure and skincare brand Kester Black values a strict regime that ensures her time is purposefully spent.

‘It’s taken a while for me to find my rhythm, but it works so well. I have three hours in the morning completely to myself and I can do whatever I want.’

This morning routine is the glue that holds everything else together. ‘I find that if I don’t go to yoga or meditation, I can totally feel how behind I am in my day-to-day work’ she says.

Often we associate a strict routine with overwork, but Anna is an advocate for work-life balance. ‘There’s never going to be a point where somebody doesn’t want something from you, so you need to learn to manage your time so that it’s efficient for you.’

Such efficiency carries over to the daily operation of her business – Anna has a ‘no meeting’ policy, and Kester Black staff also benefit from having Fridays off, afternoon meditations, and a ‘morning cuddle’ ritual where everyone shares what they enjoyed the day before and how they are feeling.

‘I’ve worked at some bad businesses, so my goal with Kester Black was to make it an awesome place to work that people want to stay in.’

Creating a lovely environment for staff reflects Kester Black’s general ethos. Last year, Anna won the Telstra Australian Young Business Women’s Award, and it’s not hard to see why – the brand is sustainable, Australian-made, vegan, cruelty-free, inclusive, and gives back through initiatives such as YGAP’s ‘Polished Man’ to support ending violence against children.

‘I want my business to be successful, lovely and make money, but I also don’t want to work myself into the ground over it. I believe that you can have that.’

DAILY ROUTINE

5:00

My body clock is pretty on track to wake me up early – otherwise my cat King George Von Whiskers II will wake me up!

The first thing I do is I grab my phone and check the Sleep Cycle app. Then I’ll reach down for my laptop and start to check all my emails and pretty much do all of my accounting and invoicing in bed. It’s an actual addiction – but I have an hour before I go to yoga and I think it makes everything as easy as possible for when I finally get to work.

6:00

Then I get up and whip on some clothes like a mad woman, make a smoothie and ride my bike to yoga. I meditate for twenty minutes at the studio after class and then I ride my bike to my office.

8:00

I’ll shower at the office and get back to my emails. I get 100 emails a day, so it’s emails all the time. My inbox is super-systematic. Everything is left in my inbox until it’s answered and I file it into a folder when it’s done. At the moment, there’s a lot of stuff lingering in my inbox, which gives me panic attacks.

I use Google calendar for payments and that sort of stuff. My personal to-do list is in my email draft, and then we have a project management to-do list which is always in Asana (management software).

8:30

When Sophie arrives we have a short catch-up and for a while we would have a ‘morning cuddle’ where each of us would say five things they liked from the day before and how they are feeling today. It just helped us to be on the same page, but we’ve been bad at remembering to doing that lately!

Jacinta works remotely, so I’ll have a chat to her as well and then we all work on GChat and Asana.

My day consists of answering emails and liaising with Sophie and Jacinta. If I’m doing the product development, I’ll be speaking to our manufacturer first thing in the morning and seeing where we’re at with our orders.

10:00

I’ll also check in with Sophie and make sure the Instagram schedule is going okay. We schedule social media posts in advance, which takes such a long time because we have a strict colour theme, but I think it’s totally worth it.

13:00

Often I bring my own lunch, but lately I’ve been quite lazy, so I’ll walk up Smith Street and usually go to Smith Street Alimentari.

14:00

In the afternoon the list-ticking slows down, but I’ll get back to the computer and do the trickier things leftover from the morning.

Another thing to note is that I hate meetings – they are often so unproductive. I would do anything to avoid a meeting, and often ask someone to just call or email. If I do have to have a meeting, I try to make it a walking or standing meeting.

15:00

We co-share a space, and all of us meditate for twenty minutes in the afternoon. Well, if they’re not doing meditation, they’re napping. It doesn’t matter because naps are awesome, too.

15:20

I’ll wrap up all of the tasks that I didn’t get done and we finish by 5:30. I make sure nobody does overtime here – I don’t think it’s productive.

If there is a lull period where we don’t have much to do, often we will knock off early and either go for a drink or go plant shopping.

17:30

I usually ride home, make dinner and check my Instagram. I often go out for dinner with my boyfriend or friends, and in that case I ride from work to the restaurant.

If I’m doing a speaking gig, it is usually after hours too, and I’ll have spent the afternoon freaking out about how I haven’t written the speech and finally print off some notes and head straight to the talk.

21:00

Before bed I’ll read a book – usually business books like The E-MythGood to Great, or anything to do with communication styles.

21:30

I go to bed pretty early because I get up at five o’clock. The second my head hits the pillow, I am out. I don’t drink coffee because it can cause you to have disruptive sleep and it’s harder to get up in the morning. Then you need a coffee to get going, so I have never gotten myself into that trap.

No Work Fridays.

I believe in three-day weekends so we don’t work on Fridays. I’m still available though, but I’m going to start going away camping or something and actually switch off my computer.

When people get an out-of-office response from us on a Friday, they can sometimes get a little upset, but I think more companies are going to adopt this approach to work soon enough. It’s so important to look after staff wellbeing and this is one way we manage this.

"It’s important not to work yourself to the ground. I want to have a nice life where I spend lots of time with the people that I love, my cat and my boyfriend, but do meaningful things with the time that I do have – give back, continually learn and grow, and work really efficiently."

Interview by Madeleine Dore
This article was originally published on The Design Files with photos by Sean Fennessy


Bill Henson
Photographer

What would Bill Henson, one of Australia’s most acclaimed and widely known contemporary artists, change about his days? ‘I’d put more time into daydreaming’ he says. ‘I think it’s a good investment.’

With no regulated routine, Henson’s days vary from wandering down the garden path, sometimes not to return till mid-afternoon, to getting completing absorbed in the process of making. Irrespective of how the hours unfold, there is always plenty of space for ruminating. ‘It is quite important to purposely create, maintain and expand the space in which you can daydream. It’s becoming increasingly a luxury,’ he explains.

Technology, scheduling, and having a ‘waterfall of social commitments’ tends to crowd our lives and plant us in a perpetual state of distraction. Instead, we have to be on guard about mindless busyness.

"We do ourselves a disservice when we allow ourselves to be crowded out with the white noise of other people’s agendas, we need to have a bit of space."

Henson describes his work as a private conversation, and admits the temptation not to show the work to audience gets stronger as he gets older. Creating space and refining commitments is what allows the artist to dip in and out of the public realm depending on the project – the latest is an exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) featuring a body of works created between 2008 and 2011.

Space may be a luxury for a successful artist with a career spanning forty-years, but what about the rest of us? ‘It depends on what you want – if you want to have a so-called career, perhaps, yes, you need to be busy,’ he says.

‘But if you are focused on what you are trying to make – for me the interesting thing is how to make a picture – then you always have to put that first, don’t you? You always have to give yourself that space, not matter what stage, what part of the landscape you occupy.’

"We do ourselves a disservice when we allow ourselves to be crowded out with the white noise of other people’s agendas, we need to have a bit of space."

DAILY ROUTINE

Early Morning

Every day is entirely different, but I tend to get up quite early around five-thirty or six. I have always enjoyed the mornings – for decades I would get up when it was still dark and run ten kilometres every morning. The air is really clean and there is no one around and it is quite peaceful and meditative, really.

I stopped running on the advice of a close friend who reminded me that if you are running ten kilometres every morning, eventually your knees are going to wear out. So a few years ago I shifted from that solitary pursuit – the loneliness of the long distance runner – to the gym, where I go three times a week.

I’ll make something for breakfast, but not straight away, usually a little bit later. If I go to the gym, I tend not to eat very much because I don’t like to train on a full stomach.

Morning

I’ll make a pot of tea, listen to some music and stay right away from current affairs and all that stuff – I never have the TV or radio going, ever.

One can have fortunate accidents – perhaps could go outside for a bit of a stroll in the garden, and just not come in again until lunchtime. Of course this would mean all of the obligations and expectations and requirements and requests and whatever else are all forgotten about because you’re in the garden. One just drifts off looking into things and thinking about things and nothing impinges on the calm and reverie that you’re in.

Alternatively, I could find myself diligently dealing with what people want. That’s probably the significant difference when it comes to how the days pan out. It depends on what comes up, who gets a foot in the door first, and when the phone starts barking. If I’m smart about it, the phone is never turned on.

I think it’s very important to be able to collect your thoughts and keep a finger on your own pulse, not to be dragooned into somebody else’s agenda. Any space, personal or otherwise, becomes the ultimate luxury.

Midday

It is rare for me to pick up the camera – it takes a lot for me to pick up the camera. It happens when I have no choice but to make the photograph. It’s a long, solitary process where I’m alone with my ideas before going out into the world to take pictures. Then once alone with the results of the shoot I’m trying to extract something interesting and it takes time. It might be six months or a year to realise what I have in front of me.

With exhibitions like the upcoming National Gallery of Victoria show – short-term projects – there is a beginning and an end. I’ll decide at the outset that I want to do something, and if I make that decision, I’ll make a commitment to give it everything I possibly can. You either really do it, or you don’t do it all. That’s how I see things.

Evening

At the end of the day, a certain amount of energy has been expended, so unless I’m really involved in something, I’ll get tired and hungry, and so by seven or eight I’ll be ready for a break.

Occasionally I’ll cook something myself, but there is no set routine. I might go out for a bite with Louise locally, or there are friends I can hook up with, it just depends what is happening on the night really.

I should say I have an increasing anxiety about things that are planned ahead – I don’t like having commitments weeks, months and years ahead. It really bothers me seemingly more and more. I am increasingly disinclined to commit myself to things, even things I would no doubt enjoy. But you see it’s part of that luxury of space – your space is being circumscribed by activities and things set at certain points in the future and impromptu occasions are more enjoyable.

Late evening

If I’ve been out to dinner and have been working on something intensively in the studio that day, part of me will want to go back to the studio and look at what I have been doing. I might do that and then crawl up the stairs and fall into bed.

I find that the time I go to sleep varies, but generally it’s not that late. We apparently need less sleep as we get older, I don’t know if that’s true or not.

 
‘The more space you give yourself, the more sensitive you are to nature and to the beauty and complexity of life around you. It’s pretty nice to be able to get up and be completely drunk on the light, the sky – you know? That is ultimate luxury.’

FAY KAMANIS

Interview by Madeleine Dore
&
Photography by Matthew Henry


Fay’s colleagues adoringly call her a success story, having entered the industry with no experience, to now being the Director of Coffee – a professional coffee bean artist! – at Padre Coffee.

But it is what’s behind the scenes of any success story that’s fascinating to uncover. When we view a career trajectory from the outside in, it can appear as if it was all planned, but often what is at the heart of a fulfilling path is a little more mysterious.

For Fay, it all began with following a whim to learn how to make coffee after spending two years at home looking after her small boys.

“When I had the boys, it was an opportunity for me to rethink what I wanted to do in my career and I thought making coffee is a great way to spend my time and be social.”

She started working at Padre Coffee in 2009 with very little knowledge of hospitality or coffee, and has since learned to roast, buy and grade coffee, and now lead a team, proving that we grow into the opportunities we are open to.

“I hadn't really planned on any of it. It's not something I had set out to do on purpose, but I enjoyed the process and progress.”

Like many interviewees, after I’d turned off the recorder for the interview, Fay repeated a few times that she doesn’t think she’s very interesting.

Many of us find it hard to see ourselves as such – and maybe we don’t ever really have to employ interestingness as a metric for ourselves. Maybe what counts is having good people around you that see a spark within you – who see the success story – and hold it for you.

“I have some really great people around me – surrounding yourself with people who are open and there to support you is key,” said Fay.

The team at Padre Coffee are a true example of supporting and holding the excitement for those around them – a quality that has been there from the beginning, said Fay.

“A decade ago, there wasn't a lot of information on how to roast coffee, so we were all learning as we went along and helping each other,” she said.

Roasting coffee requires an artfulness that is part methodical, and part mystery, explained Fay. “It relies on you using your senses – your sense of smell, sense of taste, as well as your instincts.”

Being in tune with your instincts for coffee roasting resembles the creative process – not only do you require a nimbleness, but to truly know what your instincts are telling you, there often needs to be a sense of consistency.

“I definitely I see it as a creative process – we rely on our sense of creativity and our knowledge of the coffee, as well as the tools that we use to keep it all consistent. There are parameters that you need to stay within, but you can always experiment,” she said.

Observing Fay’s day-to-day, it appears this definition of creativity – part experiment, part adhering to parameters – could also be applied.

She describes her days as both ad-hoc and fairly routine. There is a structure to her week as she co-parents her two young boys, but there is also an interest in experimenting with the small parts of her daily life. There is an openness to learning that creates a thread in her days and working life, reminding us all to be receptive to new opportunities, and yet appreciative of those wonderful, mysterious things that are already in the fold of our lives – and the successes we’ve had along the way.

Fay Kamanis:
Director of Coffee at
Padre Coffee

DAILY ROUTINE

Morning

My mornings differ depending on whether or not I've got the kids with me. I usually wake up around 6.30am, but I try to push it to 7am.

I’m not really a morning person, but I’ve been trying to get up a bit earlier lately. When I was on holiday recently, I was getting up reasonably early and I realised how much I enjoy taking my time in the morning – I felt better for the rest of the day. Whereas prior to that, I'd get up, last minute, jump in the shower, get dressed, and head straight out the door feeling quite frazzled. I was over feeling frazzled and getting to work and not feeling like I was ready.

In the last little while I’ve got into the habit of making the bed straight away, too. It’s a small win for the day, and something I learned about from Jim Kwik and his morning routine. He says, "The way you do anything, is the way you do everything” and that really resonated.

The other big thing has been not checking my phone first thing in the morning, because that’s a huge distraction as well.

After I make my bed I’ll make a juice. Then I'll sit down and do ten minutes of meditation. I've tried meditating on and off, but it's something that I keep gravitating back towards because I do notice a difference when I do it.

Then it's just shower, get ready, and head to work around 8am. I don’t live far from Padre, so I’ll either walk or drive, depending on whether I have to pick up the boys from school.

When I first get to Padre, it's usually greeting everyone, having a chat with the team, and touching base about what's happening throughout the day. There's always someone making a coffee, which is really great.

Some days, I have maybe about five coffee – just the other day I was at my desk and settling in with my morning coffee, and then Andy brought an oat milk flat white and then Charlie brought me another filter coffee, so I had three cups of coffee sitting on my desk!

Some days, I have maybe about five coffee – just the other day I was at my desk and settling in with my morning coffee, and then Andy brought an oat milk flat white and then Charlie brought me another filter coffee, so I had three cups of coffee sitting on my desk!

Mid morning

My work will vary day-to-day and it really does depend on whether I’m in the office or the roastery. Sometimes I'll work in the webshop – that's where all of our online orders get packed and dispatched, and we try and rotate shifts. Coffee is all roasted and packed in the production area at the back of the office. I'll spend maybe a day a week in the workshop, which is really great, I really enjoy that. It's a different way of keeping in touch with customers.

I’ll also spend some days doing quality control, which is a big part of my role. It takes some time to ensure we have secured the best quality and correct volume of green beans for our blend coffees, as well as keeping our single origin offering exciting and diverse. When we are looking for a new coffee, we will look at anywhere between six and twenty samples.

Midday

I’ll stop for lunch around midday. A few times a week we tend to have a group lunch and someone will go out and get some Mankoushe from up the road, that's very popular and delicious. I tend to fall into a carb-coma after, though! Otherwise I try and bring my lunch.

Afternoon

There’s no set routine for the afternoon. Because I'm a bit of a procrastinator, if I put something off in the morning and leave them until the afternoon, it will certainly get done at a lot slower pace. Even just writing up an email can just take twice as long as it should in the afternoon!

That’s when I usually crave something sweet, and the whole team knows – we can read each other really well. Everyone is doing something different all the time. As my routine varies day-to-day, there's scheduled things that everyone does, whether it be roasting, workshop, packing orders to go out on deliveries, all those things are scheduled and rely on you being quite timely. Then there’s the fun and creative projects we get to work on whether it’s a new product, merchandise or packaging. Everyone is encouraged to be creative and has the opportunity to work on these projects, which is so great – it's important to mix it up.

Late afternoon

If it’s the start of the week, I usually stay back till five, and then on a Wednesday and Thursday I'll take off at around 3.30pm and go and collect the boys after school.

They're always hungry, so I’ll make them a snack while they play or sometimes do homework. I think it’s important for them to have some downtime in the late afternoon.

Evening

I'll dive straight into making dinner, at which point I try to get the boys to do some reading. After dinner it's showers and chill time before they go to bed.

When I don't have the boys, my evenings vary. I like catching up with friends, but I don't mind going home and recharging – I'm bit of a homebody and I like my quiet time.

I try to be in bed by 10pm because otherwise my newly-formed morning routine just goes out the window!

Part of my bedtime routine is to listen to Binaural Beats, a playlist I found on Spotify. There are tracks for meditation, relaxing, focus, and play. It means I've got the phone and it means in the morning when I'm not allowed to check it, it's really hard. So far I've been sticking to it.

Even though the routine is hard to stick to, I’m definitely feeling good. I have to say I'm feeling better than I haven't in a while.

BEHIND THE SCENES

On letting go of trying to be perfect…

Self-doubt and guilt can follow you around when you’re trying to be a perfect mum, a perfect coworker, and a perfect boss all at once. But there's no such thing as perfection. I think for a really long time I was trying too hard and expecting so much. Being able to let go has been a big one for me.

Everyone talks about work-life balance and I don't know if it exists. I guess it's just feeling good about where you're at and what you're doing at that time. It’s realising it’s okay for things to go up and down.

Self-doubt and guilt can follow you around when you’re trying to be a perfect mum, a perfect coworker, and a perfect boss all at once. But there’s no such thing as perfection.

On building family as a seperated parent…

From the beginning when we separated we ensured that everything was for the benefit for the boys. The transition was a seamless as possible and we would work together to make sure that they were always happy and just know that we're still a family yet. They still felt that. It's been really positive.

We actually went to Thailand all together. It was challenging, it had its challenges for sure, but it was really great the boys loved. That was really cool. We get along really well. We talk when we have to mostly about the boys. We're not going to hang out all the time, but yes, the relationship works well.

On appreciating the little things….

It's the little things and being grateful about those ordinary things makes things extraordinary. I'm trying to be grateful more often, every day about those little things. About the great people that I work with, about the fact that my son still comes into bed the morning and gives me this massive hug. Not everyone has those little things or aware of them, I’m fortunate.

Advice to anyone who is not quite sure which path to take….

Definitely to take the opportunities. I think I was really fortunate that they were presented to me and I couldn't not take them – it felt right. If it feels like you're going down the right path, or even if it feels a little uncomfortable but exciting to you, keep pursuing it.

Sometimes you have to get a little uncomfortable when you’re at the beginning of embracing a new opportunity. The important thing is not to be closed off – my younger self was really quite shy and not really a risk taker. As I'm getting older, I’m learning to be more open – you begin to let go of your fears, or at least work with them rather than against them. That’s where life brings you opportunities.

“As I'm getting older, I’m learning to be more open – you begin to let go of your fears, or at least work with them rather than against them. That’s where life brings you opportunities.

As I’m getting older, I’m learning to be more open – you begin to let go of your fears, or at least work with them rather than against them. That’s where life brings you opportunities.

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RACHEL BURKE

 
 

Interview by Madeleine Dore
&
Photography supplied by Rachel Burke


Rachel Burke
Designer, stylist, photographer

Brisbane stylist, designer and photographer Rachel Burke has a dazzling way of making the repetitive and mundane come to life.

From a photographic series where she bedazzles ordinary pantry items, to designing and making a dress every day, to creating the Apomogy project where anonymous apologies are attached to homemade pom poms, there’s a distinct delight in making the everyday different.

“I love repetition and it comes through in all my projects. With Apomogy, there’s such repetition in making the same thing but in a different way with each new apology. I do get fixated on things and I have to explore as far as I can take it.”

 The doing of something, over and over, is what brings us to discover something new, she explains. 

“It might start as one thing, but if I look from the beginning to the end of the project, it will have changed and that only came about through repetition. I guess that's why I really love doing these little series and things.”

Rachel balances small and large-scale projects with a full-time job working as the Senior Womenswear Designer at Universal Store, as well as freelance photography, styling, and DIY project development for clients including Frankie Magazine, GOMA, Etsy, and BONDS.

Yet despite this sense of cramming in work, her daily schedule even resembles her craft – up close it’s busy with no room left for a single sequin, but from a distance it’s an entrancing, joyful object that brings delight.

Often we are quick to judge busyness as a trap, but there’s a flipside to a crammed schedule. 'Busyness’ can certainly can be infectious and perpetuate the myth that to be content we always have to be doing something. However, we must also recognise what level of commitments helps us to flourish.

“I always say, if busy is not for you, then don't force it. Don't force anything that doesn't feel right. For me, not doing stuff and not keeping myself occupied feels more stressful than the alternative. I love filling my time up. I've gotten much better at saying no to projects that I don't feel like are worth my time.”

From morning cuddles with her sausage dogs Daphne and Daisy, to doodles in cafes before work and evening strolls with her husband, there’s a sense that a balance has been struck.

“I'm actually pretty happy with my routine at the moment. I feel like I am always cramming things in, and I guess the only thing I would change is to be able to cram even more! But there's a finite amount of hours in a day, you have to rest. I love even just the little things like cooking dinner and taking the dogs for a walk.”

DAILY ROUTINE 

7:00

When I think about it, I do have a set routine. I wake up at seven each day – I'm meant to get up at six-thirty when my husband wakes me up, but I can't. I just keep lying in bed and call the dogs into bed for a hug-fest – I love having a little cuddle with the dogs and sneaking in another half-hour of rest. It's really great. I'm just being a little bit naughty. Then I get ready in the speed of light, usually fifteen minutes. I love picking out my outfits for the day and usually do that in the morning haze. I curate my wardrobe a little bit so that no matter what I pick out, I'm going to love.

Then I do a big hairdo and put my make up on and that whole process happens in a flash. In the next fifteen minutes I try and squeeze in a photo for social media before we have to leave at seven-thirty. Often my husband is my photographer, which he really appreciates. [Laughs]

"I wake up at seven each day – I'm meant to get up at six-thirty when my husband wakes me up, but I can't. I just keep lying in bed and call the dogs into bed for a hug-fest." 

7:30

I'm a non-driver, which can make things really interesting. My husband has to get to work early, but I don't have to be at work until eight-thirty-ish. In the morning he drives to a nearby station that's conveniently located near my work and drops me off.

7:45

After I’m dropped off I have a little bit of me-time before work, which is really fun. The beginning of the day is when I always have ideas. I just doodle in my diary and think about what I'd like to make that night. I always get a coffee and then have a little sit and write in my diary.

I do all my fun, crafty work at night and I plan for that in the morning. I'm working on a book at the moment about my dogs and I've got a deadline for that. I'll usually do some work in the morning to map that out and plan what little costumes and little headpieces I have to make that night.

If there's nothing in my head, I will just scribble out something strange that happened the day before. Whether I draw it or write it down, I just find it handy to start the day with some writing or some pre-planning. It gets my juices going for the rest of the day!

"The beginning of the day is when I always have ideas. I just doodle in my diary and think about what I'd like to make that night. I always get a coffee and then have a little sit and write in my diary."

8:30

I'll arrive at the Universal Store where I’m a Senior Womenswear Designer. I manage their in-house brands and do all the design work and the production.

I start each day by checking e-mails and writing a list about what I have to do. I work really well from lists. It's just myself and one other womenswear designer, so we work really closely together.

We put together a list and begin attacking it. It's quite an autonomous working environment. We definitely manage our own day, which is really good. I’ve been working as a senior designer for nearly four years now. It's a really nice, relaxed vibe.

11:30

I'm a bit of an early eater. I don't love breakfast unless it's the weekend, so I'm usually ravenous by 11:30. I just wish I could wait until noon, but it's always the same battle.

I might get some sushi, avocado toast, or there's a really good Mexican place near me. I do try to mix it up a little bit, but I do get fixations on food where I have to have the same thing every day. Those phases can last two to three weeks. I just got out of a Subway phase where I had to get chicken classic club sandwich every day. I'm just really obsessed. Then I get suddenly burned-out and I can never look at it again!

In Nundah the suburb I work in, there's a $2 shop that I religiously go to every lunchtime. There’s always little knick-knacks, paper or something that I have to buy. I just wander in there and get a little bit of inspiration from all the gaudy stuff in there. I’ll see if they’ve got anything new or buy supplies for whatever is on my to-do list.

My lunch is usually an hour, but sometimes I will just take half an hour and go back to the office if it's a busy day. Or I’ll go for a little stroll. Sometimes I'll take some photos of cute architecture that will never see the light of day. 

"I do get fixations on food where I have to have the same thing every day. Those phases can last two to three weeks. I just got out of a Subway phase where I had to get chicken classic club sandwich every day. I'm just really obsessed. Then I get suddenly burned-out and I can never look at it again!"

12:30

When I get back to work I’ll keep going through the to-do lists. I might have some meetings in the afternoon and action things as they come up.

17:00

I finish pretty much around five or five-thirty, depending on how busy it is. I usually meet my husband at around six so there might be a half hour gap there. I'll either read my book or do a little bit doodling in my diary while I wait for him at the train station. He'll come along on the train and we'll drive home. We usually pick up some ingredients from the shop and head home.

18:30

We each cook every second evening. Sometimes we'll just grab some takeout. Or there's a favourite food truck of mine, the Bun Mobile.

I'm not an amazing cook, but we like what we like. I might cook some salmon and vegetables or some Mexican. Or I might make burgers or something. We usually stick to the same thing and refer to the little recipe book in the back of my mind.

19:00

Then we'll take the dogs out for a walk straight after and have a nice little stroll. We chat about our day and the walk starts to get my juices flowing and I want to make something as soon as I get home.

There will also be things to do during the week, but I make sure that I have a couple of nights off to hang out with dogs and the husband and have a chill night.

I strategically say no to some things, but also strategically say yes, so that I don't isolate myself. I've learned that maintaining relationships and friendships makes me really happy. I'm only trying to get the balance right, but not at the expense of any one thing. It is challenging, but I’m definitely conscious of it.

"I strategically say no to some things, but also strategically say yes, so that I don't isolate myself. I've learned that maintaining relationships and friendships makes me really happy."

20:00

I might put on a TV show or watch Netflix and either bring out all my craft room things into the family room and do some hot-gluing, or work on my projects. Or I'll just go into the craft room and work away until the wee hours.

If I do decide to flop on the couch instead, I'm ruined. I can't get up. I went through a little phase last year where I was just really tired and I just let myself go to bed at eight o’clock.

I find that if I’m forcing myself to work, it doesn’t work. That's why I have to acknowledge it. If I am really tired and I need a night off, it’s best not to force it because what I end up making is absolute crap. 

I go through these phases – right now I'm just engaged with what I want to make. I can't even think about the concept of sleeping! I find that my best work is done when I'm excited and a rush fuels my energy. The more I make, the more excited and entranced I get in my making.

"I find that if I’m forcing myself to work, it doesn’t work. That's why I have to acknowledge it. If I am really tired and I need a night off, it’s best not to force it because what I end up making is absolute crap."

I’ll also do commissions in the evening too. That's when I can really struggle, because sometimes I'll have an idea to make something but I have to get back on the computer and do work or emails. 

I find that the more emailing that I have to do, the more I can start to feel a little bit stressed and there's just so many things going on. If I don't procrastinate, then it's all fine.

23:30

Once I've gotten out of my trance, sometimes I will make a little cup of hot water. Because I love hot water.

I'll pick up one of the pooches and we'll have a little hug and then I'll go lie in bed and read. That's definitely the end of the day – a hot cup of tea and pooches.

 
 

WEEKEND ROUTINE

On weekends, we definitely sleep in a bit more and then get up and we might take the dogs for a walk. I always like to have a fun breakfast and we'll try a new little cafe in Brisbane.

When I get back home at around ten-thirty, that's when I hit the stuff again. A Saturday will usually be full of taking photos, filling my online store, working on Apomogy, just like any of the things that I'm doing. I’ll do any job that I couldn't do during the week, like tidying up my craft room or working on shoots. I also get a load of emailing done.

I fit in some hang out time with my husband, too. Usually, we might watch a movie while I'm doing that kind of thing. That's my tip as well – if ever I'm watching anything on TV, I have to be doing something as well. I physically cannot watch something without crafting something or making something.

I definitely try to make time with friends and make sure my husband and I go out to things and spend some time together, and just go on  little dates for the two of us.

Sunday is a bit lazier. We'll always clean up the house on a Sunday because things can get a little bit crazy. I always take the dogs for a walk and have a little bit of a play with them. I’ll do a lot of my making in my craft room too, until I just want to have some quiet time.

My husband recently brought his desk into my craft room, too. We found that we weren't seeing each other for eight hours on the weekends. He is a lawyer, so now he'll come in and work on documents alongside me. It's a crafts and drafts room!

“There's such fanciness and amazingness in the everyday stuff we have in our lives. I feel like there's so much beauty in average and mundane things. It's just about exploring that. You just have to look around you instead of always looking beyond.”

– Rachel Burke
 
 

YASSMIN ABDEL-MAGIED

 
 

Interview by Madeleine Dore
&
Photography by  Matthew Henry


To Yassmin Abdel-Magied, her life sometimes feels imaginary. “Growing up as a young Muslim girl, there is an expectation that you go to school, you go to university, you get a job, you get married. Living away from home and not being married feels like an imaginary life – it feels like I'm on a holiday before I return to real life.”

Taking a year off from her identity-defining career as an a mechanical engineer compounds this feeling. “When people ask me what I do, I tell them I'm an engineer. I'm not really a freelance writer who is on TV and travels around the world and gives talks. I'm just an engineer.”

For many of us, Yassmin’s long list of accomplishments and accolades belong to an imaginary life. Being a debut author at the of 24; a regular voice on Q&A, The Drum, The Project, Hack, and Radio National; the host of the weekly show Australia Wide on ABC; and the star of a new documentary The Truth About Racism, by Paul Scott, are all just the tip of the iceberg.

Yassmin is also the founder and chair of Youth Without Borders, an honorary fellow at the University of Melbourne, and a host of the motorsport podcast Motor Mouth. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Saturday Paper, The Griffith Review, Huffington Post and many other publications.

Both humble and keenly aware of herself, Yassmin admits it’s taken some time to adjust to this new life, and to figure out how engineering fits in. “It's a bit existential for me because my identity is based around being an engineer. I love engineering, but the people in my life right now have never seen me as an engineer. It feels like a faraway life, but it's the life that I enjoy, so that's why this life feels so imaginary.”

Many of us can relate to putting our ‘real life’ on hold for when things get less busy, when we finish a project, when we finally quit our jobs, when get back from holiday, or even when we lose weight or meet some external beauty standard. But how do we learn that the life we currently lead is real?

For Yassmin, it comes back to choice. “I was telling my roommate recently that life will settle down really soon. She wisely said, what makes you think it will settle down? Unless you consciously choose do something to change this trajectory, it's going to continue.”

“That's been a really hard thing for me to get my own head around. But it’s about realising this is a choice, this is the life I choose.”

Yassmin is unafraid of having her voice heard and being truly independent, despite, or perhaps because of, this sense of living an imaginary life.

“I am almost pathologically independent. I think that maybe comes from being a chick in a male-dominated industry, where asking people to help me was seen as reinforcing the image of women as menial and so on.”

We touch briefly on a new relationship in Yassmin’s life, and the difficulty that comes with learning how to navigate independence while being generous in allowing someone into your space.

“I've always firmly been of the belief that I would rather be single for the rest of my life than be with someone who would limit me or change me. It's been interesting to realise that it is okay for someone to help you if you have the right kind of relationship. You can make each other better.”

Even though her workload is ever expanding, Yassmin admits there is a tendency for procrastination – especially now that she no longer has the strict routine of working as an engineer and instead constructs her own days as a freelancer. “In April 2016, I decided to take a year off because I was publishing a book. All of a sudden I had to control my own time.”

But surely she doesn’t have time to procrastinate? “You'd be surprised,” and I get a glimpse of that photogenic laugh in real time.

“I’ll binge on YouTube or the Daily Show. I'll do things that are nice to do, but not necessarily required. I might have all these things to do on a given day, but if the sun is shining, I’ll convince myself it is imperative that I make use of the sunshine."

“But that's living, right?”

It's a life that might sound imaginary to Yassmin and the countless awe-inspired followers of her career and accomplishments, but it’s safe to say Yassmin’s approach to career, independence, choice and outlook is as close to really living as it gets. 

DAILY ROUTINE

Morning

Every day is different, but one of my most common rituals is that I will pray. As a Muslim, I have very disciplined times for prayer. I probably don't pray at the right times all the time, because my life is a bit all over the place, but I'll try to get within a certain time bracket – I pray when I wake up. I pray when I go to sleep. I pray during the day.

I also have faith-based words that I use in my daily life. Things like Inshallah, which means ‘if God wills’, I’ll say it whenever I'm talking about the future – “See you later, inshallah.” I'll try to always say Alhamdulillah, which is like ‘thank you to God’, whenever good things happen to remind myself to be grateful. They're small reminders. I think ultimately it's about remaining humble.

In terms of the rest of my routine, it's interesting because my life has changed a lot in the past year. I've been out of uni for five years and for the first four years of my working life I worked fly in, fly out either offshore on oil and gas rigs, or on onshore land rigs. When I was on the rig, my life was super, super regimented. During my first job onshore, I would wake up at four o'clock every morning, have breakfast, and then would be out of the door by five o’clock.

One of the few habits that has carried over is drinking two cups of water every morning as it helps me wake up. On the rigs we were all obsessed with being hydrated because people can die of dehydration or heat stroke when working in the desert.

Ideally, I’d like to say I wake up at a certain time every morning – my favourite thing to do is go out for a long bike ride before starting my day. But the reality is every day is different, made more so with travel – I went to 21 countries last year.

I fly to Sydney once a week to film for the ABC. Even though my flight is always at six-thirty, I'm always slightly terrified I'm not going to wake up for the flight. I book a taxi and tell them to call me because maybe four or five times, they've woken me up with that phone call!

Once I'm in Sydney, I'll head to the ABC studios and into makeup before going into a meeting with my producers and setting all the plans for the day.

If I’m not rushing to a flight, I like to listen to R’n’B bump and grind music in the morning. I’ll also spend a lot of time in the closet selecting an outfit – I’ll pick one item at a time, like a scarf or a jacket, and build the outfit around that.

I can get ready in fifteen minutes, but it stretches out to an hour because I’m on my phone reading and listening to stuff. There are a couple of email newsletters I get in the morning so I’ll read the highlights of the news. I use Pocket a lot, and also listen to podcasts – Monocle 24, Another Round, See Something Say Something, Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History.

When I’m in Melbourne, if I'm not going straight to a coffee meeting, I’ll go to my office in Trinity College in the University of Melbourne that is a super quiet workspace. Or, I'll come into the city and work at a place called the Henley Club occasionally. It's a great space full of interesting young people, but the problem is if I go into that space, I always end up chatting to people and I don't actually get any work done. Being a freelancer has meant that I spend a lot of time in cafes because I can choose wherever I want to work.

"Ideally, I’d like to say I wake up at a certain time every morning – my favourite thing to do is go out for a long bike ride before starting my day. But the reality is every day is different, made more so with travel – I went to 21 countries last year."

Mid-morning

I moved to Melbourne when I took a year off and it's been interesting to establish myself in a city where I don't have a specific job – this past year has been mostly freelancing and speaking.

It means that I don't have a work routine, which can be a good thing, and it can be a bad thing. There’s no one forcing me to do anything, so I can procrastinate – I’m very good at procrastinating! If I have a deadline for an article or something I need to write, I often wait until just before it is due and lock myself down. Every time I enter a procrastination phase, I stress out a little bit. What if it sticks? What if I'm like this forever? But the deadline is definitely the thing that makes you do the stuff. For me, anyway.

When I was studying, I worked in concentrated blocks of thirty minutes. But writing is very different to studying engineering. I always underestimate how long it takes to write something. So I'll think, "Oh yes, this will take one hour”, and then I'm there five hours later with that one paragraph. What I do find, though, is that once I get into a zone, I need to maintain it, and I can't afford too many distractions, so it's terrible for a daily routine.

"I don't have a work routine, which can be a good thing, and it can be a bad thing. There’s no one forcing me to do anything, so I can procrastinate – I’m very good at procrastinating!"

Midday

I actually forget to eat a lot. I like having coffee in the morning but won't usually have breakfast, maybe banana bread or something, but I'll try go and eat at like maybe one or two.

I pretty much eat out all the time. I don't often buy groceries. Also because I don't drink, eating is the most social thing that I can do with other people. I also really enjoy learning about a city through its food.

Afternoon

In combination with writing, a lot of my time is spent on either market research, or thinking through stuff, which probably happens most in the afternoon. After lunch, I’ll often be catching up with someone and discussing issues and ideas.

I also spend a lot of time on emails and managing my social media, which takes a huge amount of time to maintain. I never have an empty inbox – I recently managed to finally get one of my accounts down to just one week's worth of work, but then the other has six months of backlog. So much of my work is about networking – I have 50 business cards from my last trip.

When I started to notice that I was spending all my time maintaining and not creating, and started to notice my lack of ability to keep up was affecting professional relationships, I decided to hire a PA.

Kelly handles my schedule, travel logistics, invoicing and that sort of thing. I'll forward my meeting and speaking request to her and she does the follow up.

I've got a ridiculous number of managers now – I have Kelly, I have a speaking agent, I have a book agent, a bookkeeper, and an accountant. It's crazy. But I get around 200 emails a day and I would say around 40% of those would be requests with time, and that's difficult, because I want to answer every person but I can't always. It breaks my heart to not be able to give everybody the time of day, but I’ve had to learn to say no, which is difficult.

 

"I get around 200 emails a day and I would say around 40% of those would be requests with time, and that's difficult, because I want to answer every person but I can't always."

Evening

If I’m not going to a networking event or a social event, something that I have found that is so important to me is going home and debriefing with someone.

Debriefing might seem like procrastinating, but to me it’s like it’s really necessary. I may have an article the next day or a really early flight, or whatever, but I will always make the time to sit down and have a chat because it’s something that I really, really value.

Back home when I was living with my Mum and Dad, every night I would come home and talk about my day and go through the issues. When I didn't have that, say when I’m traveling, I really notice it having an effect. Something I've learned about myself is that I need to talk through things to be able to make sense of them.

When I was working on the rigs, I didn’t have people around me that were interested or could understand where I was coming from, and so I needed to write to make sense of my thoughts. It’s the same when I’m traveling. Now, I have a housemate, Cas, and she's incredible. We'll discuss issues and what we're thinking about stuff. Those chats can go for hours.

Debriefing might seem like procrastinating, but to me it's like it's really necessary. I may have an article the next day or a really early flight, or whatever, but I will always make the time to sit down and have a chat because it's something that I really, really value.

Zzzz

I very rarely sleep before midnight. I’m generally asleep say between twelve-thirty and two in the morning. I'm much more a night person than a day person, and before I go to bed I need to set twenty alarms. I have 7:02, 7:05, 7:08…

"Living our lives consciously and deliberately is a choice that we make, and a choice that is very powerful." – Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Read more: Yassmin Abdel-Magied on faith, uncertainty and choice    

 
 

Follow @yassmin_a
on Instagram & Twitter
yassminam.com

RAMESH MARIO NITHIYENDRAN

 
 

Interview by Madeleine Dore
&
Photography by Mitch Lui 


Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran
Artist

Artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran is often referred to as the ‘bad boy of ceramics’.

While his work includes phallic symbolism and graffiti sprawled across gallery walls, his approach and attitude to work, building an art career and early success demonstrates a mindfulness contrary to his rebellious reputation.

For starters, Ramesh has never positioned himself as a ceramic artist, despite being the poster boy for its revival in Australia. Instead he works with a range of materials to explore and often combine themes including religion, multiculturalism, gender, eroticism, creation, and life in the age of the internet – often with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek.

On a personal level, there isn’t a trace of ‘bad boy’ in his almost rarefied politeness –something he is keen to see more of in the art world.

Placating the unpredictable archetype of an artist who doesn’t reply to emails or is difficult to work with will soon diminish, explains Ramesh: “I’ve found the key to securing opportunities as an artist is being really professional and organised and easy to work with.”

Opportunities have been plentiful for the Sydney based artist – Ramesh has exhibited both internationally and nationally. His work has been collected by National Gallery of Australia, The Art Gallery of South Australia, Artbank and the Shepparton Art Museum. In 2014, Nithiyendran was awarded NSW Visual Arts Fellowship and was the winner of the 2015 Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Award.

“I think I’ve been quite privileged in that things have happened to me reasonably quickly and I’ve been offered these institutional projects almost one after the other,” he says.

While Nithiyendran appreciates that his early success differs from the typical trajectory of most young artists, he eagerly challenges clichéd ideas of the artistic process as disorderly and whimsical, and instead defends the legitimacy of creative work.

As any artist would know, the process actually involves a lot of hard work. “I think really good artists are actually quite lateral and business minded. In order to sustain their career, they need to have a creative and thoughtful business approach to what they do.”

When asked what he thinks of the 'bad boy' label, Ramesh explains he takes it in his stride. “That’s just part of the package. Something I always keep in mind is you’ve also got to believe the good. If you’re going to believe the bad stuff that’s written, you’ve got to also believe the good stuff.”

This seems to be somewhat of a signature of Ramesh – not to take himself too seriously. After all, we all have to learn to see our so-called bad sides as part of the package of being human. “I'd love to be a bit less obsessive, but at the same time my crazy constant thinking is what energises the work – I don't want to lose it all.”

From the intimate details of his morning routine, to the ins-and-outs of balancing a busy social calendar with getting enough downtime, Ramesh reveals how to find moments of rest in an artistic life full of momentum, be relaxed yet diligent, and how to be exactly yourself within the whirl of it all – bad bits and all. 

"Something I always keep in mind is you’ve also got to believe the good. If you’re going to believe the bad stuff that’s written, you’ve got to also believe the good stuff.”

DAILY ROUTINE

Morning

I'm not a morning person, I like to sleep in until around nine o’clock. As soon as I wake up, it’s straight to the espresso machine for two shots of coffee and a bottle of water before I shower. This might sound really lame, but if I have an event on that night, I'll try to wash my hair that day because I think it looks the best. That often means I have to wake up earlier because washing my hair sometimes takes up to 40 minutes.

I’ll get ready and think about what I need to do that day. I usually get quite caught up in the enjoyment of my morning ritual and often end up skipping breakfast and running out the door to catch the train to my studio.

Mid-morning

I’ll usually take a look around the studio and see what’s happening. It’s usually really messy as there is a lot of dust and wet media involved in my work, so tidying up has to happen every day otherwise it’s really hard to be productive in the space.

Then I’ll write a little to do list for the day. I have an assistant once a week so if there's something that needs more hands, I make sure that I’ll schedule that for when he's in. I’ll usually schedule meetings at least two weeks in advance because I’m working with big institutions.

I try to shove all my meetings into one day if I can, otherwise the day can disappear – you go to a meeting, have lunch, maybe run into a friend and then the whole day is gone!

Like any creative practitioner, I have a fairly broad definition of work – for me, it could be answering emails, sending invoices, buying supplies, attending meetings at my gallery, or writing stuff for people who need information. It’s all related to the art practice, which means throughout the week it's very rare that I'd spend say five or six days straight in the same place.

"I try to shove all my meetings into one day if I can, otherwise the day can disappear – you go to a meeting, have lunch, maybe run into a friend and then the whole day is gone!"

I think the broad nature of creative work can be a struggle for artists because there is still this view that parts of it aren't really work. But with creative work, you can always be working.

For the next few years, I’m trying to have constant deadlines to keep focused towards work. Much of the time, shows are overlapping so while I might be in the process of making work for one, I’ll be handling the administration and emails for another.

The studio process is very un-romantic, it’s just this-this-and-this needs to get done. There are of course times when there is immense creativity and it’s all stimulating and exciting, but a lot of the time it's just intense physical labour.

It feels a bit like business management and I have to be really organised, which I generally am. Though I'm not the best at filing and my laptop desktop looks like a disaster!

For the first semester of every year I teach at University of New South Wales and it’s good to have a steady flow of income, but it also gives structure to my week. Making a living as an artist often means the money comes in waves – you might sell a few works, or get a commission, and be fine for a few months, but there is never really a feeling of financial security.

"I think the broad nature of creative work can be a struggle for artists because there is still this view that parts of it aren't really work. But with creative work, you can always be working."

 

 

Midday

If I’m working in the studio, I’ll go out and get something for lunch quickly. Because I'm usually working alone, going out for lunch is a treat and something to look forward to.

I really should eat more fresh vegetables – I tend to go for comfort food. I don't really have much balance in my routine because I can’t really fathom spending time on a ritual like making lunch, when I’d rather be making the work.

It would be good to find balance, or a way to relax. Maybe even a have a hobby that is unrelated to being creative, that would be nice!

Late afternoon

I usually try and squeeze in an afternoon nap around three o’clock at the studio for half an hour. I'll have a coffee before the nap and drink it slowly and rest for a bit. I could be in the worst mood ever and it will refresh me. 

"I usually try and squeeze in an afternoon nap around three o’clock at the studio for half an hour."

Evening

I normally work pretty consistently throughout the day, but will almost always stop work around six o’clock. I try to keep the day and night separate because I think working all day is quite exhausting.

Most nights I’ll hang out with a friend, go to a nice restaurant or to an event. I'll change out of my daggy studio clothes if I’m going to an opening or something then I’ll feel all fabulous again.

The Sydney art scene is really vibrant and there's always something to go to and you get a bit of a social-hit – there's this mixing of work and social life, which is good.

I don't really drink much because I’d rather enjoy a really good gin than drink five beers, but also I find the thought of not being able to be productive really anxiety-provoking.

Late evening

I’m not one to be out late so I’ll usually be home by nine-thirty. I’ll often perch on the lounge and scroll through Instagram. I love scrolling on Instagram and could look at it all day. I think it’s also very common, but that's how I unwind and it’s usually my idle, thinking time.

The thing I’ve found helps me the most when my schedule is busy is getting plenty of rest. If it’s been a really full day of setting up an installation, for example, it can be quite draining – I have to deal with a lot of people, be super polite, and make lots of creative, personal, and professional decisions. So at night I make sure to either do nothing or something really quiet, rest, and conserve energy to be active the next day.

"I love scrolling on Instagram and could look at it all day. I think it’s also very common, but that's how I unwind and it’s usually my idle, thinking time."

I try and have a tea at night and will then probably just sit on my computer for a bit and find something on SBS On Demand to watch. I’ll watch something almost every night, whether it be a documentary or a film before I go to bed at midnight. Sometimes, I might start looking for materials on eBay and then all of a sudden I’ve spent another two hours on my work again! But if I have less than eight hours sleep I’ll be in the worst mood all day.

"The thing I’ve found helps me the most when my schedule is busy is getting plenty of rest. "

DAY OFF ROUTINE

The last year has been a bit intense and I got used to working six or seven days a week. But if I work on a Saturday or Sunday, I’ll usually try and do something at night that’s social.

I think the best thing I found to take the day off is physical distance. I’ve got a few friends who live in Blue Mountains. I'll try and visit people, literally drive away from the studio, leave the computer at home so I can actually unwind. I've found that going physical or geographical distance is the best thing to actually relax.

"People will ask me sometimes what I think as success as an artist means, it means being able to choose the projects you want to work on and be able to live the lifestyle that you want whilst doing that."
– Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran

Read more: On rest and the art of napping

 
 

Follow @rams_deep69 on Instagram
ramesh-nithiyendran.com

Visit Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran’s solo show at the Ian Potter Museum of Art until 26 February 2017

PETER DREW

 
 

Interview by Madeleine Dore

Photography by Jessica Clark


Peter Drew
Filmmaker, artist, activist

Chances are, you’ve wandered past a poster sprawled with the words ‘Real Australians Say Welcome’ or spotted the profile of Aussie folk hero Monga Khan titled ‘REAL AUSSIE’ plasted to a street wall. 

Adelaide based artist Peter Drew is behind the annual project and typically spends four months of the year travelling across Australia to install the posters across city streets.

Each campaign exceeds its crowd funding targets on Pozible, with the latest Real Australians Seek Welcome having just launched. The work utilises public spaces and connect thousands of people with a message of unity that bucks a political climate that demonizes those who seek asylum. As he explains in an artist statement, “I enjoy examining our collective identities and my aim is always to emphasize the connections that bind up, rather than the fractures that divide us.”

For the remaining months of the year, Peter is busy in the studio conjuring up new projects and producing videos for independent makers and the creative industries.

While his most prominent work can be found in public spaces, his artwork has been also been exhibited in state and national galleries including the Art Gallery of South Australia and the National Gallery of Australia. In late 2016, he also published a collection of short stories, poems and illustrations featuring 36 contributors. 

Taking on varied projects ensures there is continuous pursuit of novelty, flexibility and wonder in his work.

“I appreciate my work most when there's an element of novelty to it. For artists or anyone that does something creative, at some point you can become trapped by your own skill set or brand. You start to believe that you have to fulfil a project or idea, even if it's not something that satisfies you anymore.”

Drew doesn’t resist the natural ebbs and flow of interest in a project or idea. “I think I started doing the poster project because I thought it was novel idea and I wanted to do something different. So at some point, I'm sure I'll want to do something different again.”

It’s a lesson in knowing it’s okay to change your mind. As another example, while his current work carries a clear political message, he wasn’t always interested in activism art. “It seemed that so much political art was just one political persuasion patting themselves on the back and reassuring their ideas. There are so many ways to make bad political art that I just wasn't interested.” 

Then he changed his mind.  “It feels very comfortable to me. I feel like that's what I should have always been doing in a way.”

With so many acts of creation to balance – from commercial clients to crowd funding campaigns; travel to dedicated studio time – it’s no surprise to hear that his daily routine is also subject to change. But instead associating such variation in his days with instability, he sees it as fueling his creativity – a lesson for us all to find what can drive us each day. 

“I definitely don't have a typical routine – I think a flexible routine is one of the key ingredients of having a creative life.” 

DAILY ROUTINE

Mid-morning

I definitely don't have a typical routine – I have routines at times but they always change. When I’m in Adelaide, I wake up around ten or so because I will stay up till four o’clock in the morning working. It can feel daunting to be a late riser – whenever people say that they get up at six o'clock I get annoyed at myself.

Since I was about 14 years old I've eaten four Weet-Bix for breakfast every day and so that I don’t have to think about it. I'll probably grab an instant coffee so I can function on a base level. Then I can sit down and start going through emails for about an hour.

Then I'll ride to the studio in the CBD and print for maybe three hours. I'm always printing, throughout the year and when the project is on as well. 

"It can feel daunting to be a late riser – whenever people say that they get up at six o'clock I get annoyed at myself."

Afternoon

Around 3 o'clock I’ll usually go out for lunch before everything closes. I usually go to Abbots & Kinney when I'm having a good day and getting things done on my list I like to reward myself with a sausage roll and a coffee.

If it’s a bad day with too many distractions messing it up, then it just leads to an overall feeling of disappointment. I'll probably be too stressed and not really thinking about lunch. I do miss lunch quite often, actually.

I work solidly, it's just that I let too many things in. That’s why I enjoy the poster project and the simple routine that comes with it – nothing else is allowed in. When I’m in Adelaide during the lead up to the project, I say yes all the time and find myself juggling way too many things. Once you're jumping between things, you just can't have that same level of focus.

"When I'm having a good day and getting things done on my list, I like to reward myself with a sausage roll and a coffee. If it’s a bad day with too many distractions messing it up, then it just leads to an overall feeling of disappointment."

Late afternoon

After lunch I will go back into the studio and do a little bit more preparation work so things are ready for me to come back in the next day. I like to get that sort of cycle going so I do that for another hour and then go home and do some editing for a client or my own project work.

 

 

Evening

My routine changes depending on my partner Julie – she's been working in her studio until eight o’clock or so. I’ll edit at home and then ride my bike back into the city and have dinner with her and we'll both ride home around nine.

If we eat at home, Julie cooks and I clean everything. She really makes use of that deal – she'll leave everything exactly where she last had it and there's just a huge mess. The food's so good that I can't really complain!

Then it's our time together at home until she goes to bed between midnight and one. We run things by each other all the time – usually at the end of the day when she's just about to go to bed, and she really doesn't want to have to switch her brain on again!

Midnight

After Julie goes to bed I'll stay up do editing or designing. That quiet time when everyone else is asleep allows me to focus and I enjoy that alone time that I can't really have during the day.

I don't think it really matters if I get that quiet time early in the morning or really late at night, but you've got to get it somewhere.

Sometimes when I should be working I end up reading articles, which is kind of important as well, but what it turns into is just a cycle of reading things that I don't like and getting frustrated about it. I’m really attracted to opinions that I disagree with, and it’s a bit of a bad habit of mine. At the same time, that's really where ideas come from a lot of the time – an accrued frustration with the world.

I’ll go to sleep around three or four o’clock in the morning. If I wasn’t able to get any physical work done during the day like printing or putting up posters, I have a lot of trouble sleeping. On days like that I will go for a run, or maybe a really long walk.



PROJECT ROUTINE

I really like doing a project because it forces me to have a regimented routine. For four months of the year when I’m putting posters out on the street, I will get up at six in the morning in a hostel and I'll have everything ready to go – posters rolled and bucket of glue ready – so I can be out the door at 6:15 a.m to put up a few posters before I have breakfast.

I’ll typically jump on a train until it reaches the end of the line, which helps me wake up a bit, and then I'll walk back towards the city. I’m usually in a city or town that I don't really know all that well and I really enjoy the peace and quiet.

After I have breakfast I'll put up posters until about four o'clock in the afternoon when I completely run out of energy. If I put up 50 posters, that's a very good day. I always set out to do that, but it's rare. One confrontation can set you back an hour or so if you have to leave the area. Anything can happen. But I have this theory that when it comes to work load, you really don't know how much you can do until you try, so I will overload myself and then try to manage. Same with the posters – I don't know whether I will be able to do 50 a day, but if I try, some days I will. The days that I don't it doesn't particularly matter too much.

At the end of the day I have dinner, make some glue for the next day and sit down to deal with messages and emails, but I try to keep that to a minimum during the project. If I have an idea or a distraction pops up, I email it to myself to get it out of my head and attend to it the next week.

Before bed I'll call my wife back in Adelaide and explain how I’m starting to feel deflated and she’ll remind me that I call her yesterday about exactly the same thing! I sleep well because it's so physical and repetitive – completely unlike my normal life, which involves emails and all sorts of distractions.

"I have this theory that when it comes to work load, you really don't know how much you can do until you try, so I will overload myself and then try to manage. Same with the posters – I don't know whether I will be able to do 50 a day, but if I try, some days I will. The days that I don't it doesn't particularly matter too much."

WEEKEND ROUTINE

We both usually work throughout the weekend and it is often a good time to have a video shoot because people are available if you need help.

Sunday afternoon and evening is really important because Julie's grandmother is Italian and she has a big family dinner every week. It’s a few hours of being around family and not thinking about work at all. It really puts a full stop on the week and helps you feel refreshed going into the next. It holds everything else together, in a way.

We see friends during the week sometimes as well, or during the weekend. We've got a few different groups of friends, but not a huge extended group, really – maybe ten people we see regularly. I think it's really interesting because with friends you’ve had for some time, you don't necessarily need to see them very often. Then there are some friends where the whole group has to be there in order for it to have a dynamic that works.

I meet lots of people through my work and sometimes it turns into collaborations. Likewise, collaboration is a great way to make friends, I think. It's got a set outcome and then you get to share creativity.

"I don't necessarily think an extraordinary life is a happy life. Creating a story for yourself is something that makes sense to me, because we know what a good story is. But each story has changes and transformations throughout it, and that can be a painful process. I’d rather have that than something which is just vanilla all the way through."
– Peter Drew

Read more: Peter drew on list-making, transformation and dealing with criticism

 
 

JENNY KEE 

 
 

Interview by Madeleine Dore

Photography by Harold David


Jenny Kee
Designer 

Fashion designer and artist Jenny Kee has filled almost seven decades of life with magnificent highlights.

A career in fashion began with modelling and later dressing pop stars at Chelsea Antique Market in London, before she went on to open a celebrated fashion boutique Flamingo Park in 1973. She’s done everything from make out with John Lennon to making iconic, colourful knit jumpers with long-time collaborator Linda Jackson.

Such incredible life experiences stem from a drive to throw herself deeply into projects, as well as a strong determination to cultivate her own originality.

“I had extraordinary will to achieve and that came from growing up with racism in the early '50s in Australia. I realised quickly that being different, being an original, was a great asset and I used it."

This drive was seen throughout her career. “When I was in my late twenties, Linda Jackson and I were able to throw ourselves deeply into our design career and Flamingo Park. I think the reason there is a long lasting quality to our work is because we were able to delve deeply into what we did.”

Seeking a slower lifestyle, Kee has lived in Blackheath near the Blue Mountains since 1976. “I didn't want to live the way city people live. When I was in the prime of my work I was in the shop in Sydney from Tuesday through to Friday, and then my designing would happen on the weekend.”

For decades, Kee has been following a spiritual path. “I did yoga for a few years, and there I was exposed to chanting and meditation and I guess I really liked it – I loved the chai and the cakes afterwards! Then my life took me to Buddhism and I met a forest monk in Thailand in 1996 and he seemed to answer my questions about living close to the earth, being one with nature, and helped me to interconnectedness of things. I felt very, very drawn to that way of looking at things.”

Describing her own daily routine as ‘higgledy-piggledy’, a dedicated dharma practice, exercise regime and regular rest shapes Kee’s days as she recovers from adrenal fatigue, while allowing room for more surprises as she enters her 70s.

Reminded of Blaise Pascal who famously said, “In difficult times carry something beautiful in your heart,” Kee teaches us that we can both accomplish extraordinary things and experience hardships, but still have a curiosity for what might be around the corner.

Like Kee, we can have an evergreen lust for the magnificent. “There are always surprises in your life and for me, the highlight is always coming.”


DAILY ROUTINE

Morning

I set the alarm to go off just before I need to leave the house. If it’s a Monday or Tuesday, I jump out of bed at six-thirty and walk to my yoga class in town.
After class I have my coffee and then I walk home, so I get quite a bit of exercise.

I'm very food conscious. My usual breakfast is barley porridge because it really suits my digestive system. I have it with lots of almonds, pepitas, flax seed oil, kefir, linseed, Goji berries and a special green powder that I love, along with some blueberries and kelp.

That's a serious thing that happens in the morning. Some days it doesn't. Some days I go up to my favourite coffee place and have scrambled eggs. Or I might have my daughter's fabulous organic homemade bread toasted with miso.

Mid-morning

I’ll do my meditation practice looking out onto a beautiful view. On a typical day I do some prayers and then sit for 20-40 minutes. It’s a vipassana meditation and I’ll concentrate on the breath going out.

Sometimes I’ll do a retreat near my house and that involves twenty-minutes sitting, ten-minutes walking, and twenty-minutes sitting, then you are served tea and you do the drinking and the accepting of the tea as part of the meditation as well.

If it’s a Tuesday, I spend the rest of the day looking after my health – I’ll swim and I have acupuncture. I do not engage with work or email on a Tuesday.

For the rest of the week, I don’t have a routine, except either walking or swimming. I have a severe dysfunction in my sacrum, so if I don't stretch my body every day I'd be crippled and my back would seize up.

I'm higgledy-piggledy, but that's how I am. I like my day to be a bit free. When I stopped the shop and the strict routine that went with it, I just started drifting and letting life just come to me. I'm nearly 70 and I don't think it's going to change!

One constant in my day regardless of the hour is to spend time managing my online and retail business selling my knitwear and silk scarves. This can involve responding to emails, packaging orders and updating the website.  

I haven't been doing a lot of art lately because I haven’t been well, but previously I liked to get into creating after meditation and try to push the regular business of the day aside until I've done something. Often if I'm working on a project or a new design I don’t stop – I dive in and could spend ten hours doing that, but then nothing the next day.

For the past two years, I’ve had adrenal fatigue and have been too exhausted – my mind hasn’t been creative and I’ve had to accept that and learn to let go.

When you get to this age and your body gets weaker, you have to learn to let go. This is the great lesson in life, letting go. How well did you live, how well did you love, how well did you learn to let go? It's a great saying.

"I'm higgledy-piggledy, but that's how I am. I like my day to be a bit free. When I stopped the shop and the strict routine that went with it, I just started drifting and letting life just come to me. Now I'm nearly 70 and I don't think it's going to change!"

Midday

Of course there might be an interview, photo shoot, emails to answer and there's been a little book in the making and lots going on – I should not let you think that I've just completely pulled back, it's not the case. It’s just not as constant.

Every Wednesday I work with my assistant, Sue and we go through all sorts of different things – my email is always full of questions to answer and travel to arrange. There might be a talk I have to prepare and things like that. I’m selective in what I do – I don't go out on a circuit.

I don’t typically have lunch as I try to keep it light in the middle of the day, but I’ll have some nuts and go to a juice bar uptown and have carrot, apple and lots of ginger, or a green juice.

I also have my family living with me so there are always granddaughter duties, and we just got a puppy!

Early evening

Dinner will be at seven o’clock if I'm eating with family but if I'm eating on my own, I’ll eat at five o’clock. That's not all the time, but I never eat late, I'll say that. My daughter is a fabulous cook and always makes something very nourishing. We might have Japanese, Korean, Mexican and she makes fabulous pastas and brilliant bread and cakes. I like to eat grains and greens as much as I can.

These days, my social life is my dharma life – my Buddhist practice is the most important thing in my life. I've got friends that I go and have dinner with, but I'm not a dinner party girl – I used to go to everything that came my way, but it’s not so now.

From my mid-40s I started dropping out and not attending every opening. I'm not on a social register. I'm on a dharma social register. It's given me the life I want. Of course it’s not either-or, other people can have a dharma practice and go to dinner parties and go to openings and do it all, but I just prefer to have a quieter existence.


"This is the great lesson in life, letting go. How well did you live, how well did you love, how well did you learn to let go? It's a great saying." 

Read more: Jenny Kee on the great lesson of letting go

Late evening

I always have a meditation practice in the evening – that's not to say I won't watch Australia's Next Top Model! I often watch that type of TV with the family and then I go and do practice.

I'm also a movie addict and love both new and old films. Sometimes I get involved watching something on SBS On Demand or on YouTube. Then I always like keeping my Instagram going – there's always stuff to do.

If I've got something creative happening then I'll go back into the studio in the evening. Because I haven't painted for quite a while, I am so excited to be starting out on a new project.

Bedtime

Bedtime is never before ten. If I’m good, it’s eleven o’clock, but when I’m naughty and I’m watching a movie till the end or I’ll hop on the email, it’s later. That can be a problem with adrenal fatigue, so I’ll have to sleep in later the next day. Maybe that’s what got me in trouble! 

"There are always surprises in your life and for me, the highlight is always coming. What is it going to be? That's the mystery of life. At this point in my life and at this time for the planet, my aspiration is to live simply so others may simply live. I hope I can inspire other people to do the same – it's possible!"

Read more: Jenny Kee on the great lesson of letting go

 
 

Follow @jennykeeoz on Instagram
www.jennykee.com


TIM ROSS

Interview by Madeleine Dore
This article was originally published on The Design Files with photos by Nikki To


Tim Ross
Comedian

The daily life of comedian and mid century design aficionado Tim Ross resembles modular furniture. Striving for full flexibility in his work and routine, Tim has built a career consisting of one ‘mad-cap’ project after the next, and his days adapt accordingly.

‘I’m a really scatty creative, depending on my mood, the weather, if I have meetings or whether I have a tiny hangover, that sets the theme for the day.’

What could be a recipe for chaos is in fact surprisingly organised and thoughtful. ‘When I was younger it might have looked like I was just pissing around, but every day I would think of a way to get to where I wanted to go’ Tim says. ‘Some of the things worked and some didn’t, but that work ethic has stayed with me. Every day I wake up and look at what the next step is for me, and keep things propelled.’

Over the years Tim has transitioned from radio funnyman to becoming a spokesperson on all things design, but his consistent focus is storytelling. ‘The core of what I do is talk, and that is very different to a normal job’ he says. ‘I deal with stories – hearing them and making them up – it’s essentially mind painting.’

In recent years, Tim has been kept busy with Man About The House, a live performance project fusing story telling, stand-up comedy and music, set in architecturally designed buildings in Australia and beyond. He’s also spent a good chunk of time writing and shooting his new TV series, Streets of Your Town, which will premiere in November on the ABC.

Tim is humble when talking about his career, admitting he mostly replies to emails for a living. He even embraces the idea of not being very good. ‘You can always find solace in seeing people who aren’t very good at what they do succeed’ he says. ‘There are lots of people who are pretty mediocre making a go of it, and that is mostly through hard work and a little bit of networking and just wanting it.’

The key, says Tim, is to be a little less lazy than those around you.

‘From the outset I realised how lazy everybody is, so if you’re not as lazy, you’re always ahead.’ – Tim Ross

DAILY ROUTINE


7.30

I did breakfast radio for eleven years, so I basically refuse to get up with an alarm unless I have to catch a plane or I’m really required to be somewhere early.

Mornings are essentially driven by our children. If my oldest son, Bugsy, has kindie, I’ll make him breakie and lunch and take him down. For my own breakfast I’ve got what I call the ‘Sarah Wilson’ bowl in the fridge, this is where I put the kids’ leftover apple cores and old bits of kale and whip it up with a banana to make a smoothie.

There is always a bit of Instagram time while the kids are eating toast, and I’ll invariably look at some emails and see what everyone is up to on the socials.

I’m quite an involved parent – I work from home, and so does my wife Michelle. We tag-team the kids, and I might take half a day off and take the boys somewhere interesting, or just watch the telly, kick the footy around or go to the library.

10.00

I have some regular things like training with my mate Gordo, which I do twice a week. We go for a run or we do some circuit training in his gym. I used to run all the time as a stress release but I’m less stressed these days. Gordo and I talk as much as we train and it’s a very good for our mental health.

I’m constantly thinking about some harebrained scheme or material or stories for my live show. Essentially as a comedian you are constantly thinking of these things, so I don’t really turn off, but by the same token I don’t really have any deadlines because I create my own.

I might have a week where I am on tour or away doing some shows for Man About the House or filming, but I try not to be away from the family for more than two or three days at a time.

12.00

I have some ongoing projects that are flexible in terms of timing, but I suppose the most routine thing is writing. I’ve got a column in Real Living magazine, so I’ll try to find time to sit down and do that. But writing is as much about walking around and thinking about it as it is tapping away on your computer.

The good thing is you can pretty much run your business from your phone these days. There’s a beauty in that, but there are dangers as well.  I’m addicted to new information and getting the ball rolling. I’ll often leave my phone behind when we go on holiday or somewhere with the kids.

14.00

After years of working in offices I’m not big on that kind of structure. I quite like pure flexibility, and my goal is to facilitate opportunities for us to travel as a family, and to work on projects that I really like.

I’m still really driven, and I rarely sit around watching telly all day, but I like the fact I could go to the movies during the day if I wanted to. Of course that flexibility comes with the anxiety of the unknown, too.

Maintaining a fluid lifestyle is about having a variety of projects going on at once, and working ahead to keep things going. I’m working one to two years ahead on some things at the moment.

I’ve found that people only fail when they either give up, don’t work hard enough, or don’t really want it. If you want to be a painter, or a writer, or whatever and still have a day job, and you want to succeed, something has to give. You have to sacrifice something to make it happen.

Most of it’s in your head. People worry about what other people are doing. You can’t do everything, so you work it out. To maintain the balance of career and family, something has to give, and my social life is probably that thing. My work is very social, but I don’t go really go and hang out with my mates these days.

18.00

We might go out to the pub once a week for dinner, but most of the time we’ll just have something at home. I go to the fish market each week, so I might make a fish curry or put some fish on the BBQ. I love cooking and pretty much do all the cooking at home. We are pretty health conscious so it’s all about making spelt pizzas around here.

I can’t work at night apart from the odd email, because it reminds me of doing homework when I was at school. At the moment I’m doing more work in London though, so I do the odd phone call at night.

When the kids go to bed it’s time for glass of wine and bit of Netflix. If I’ve had a show at night I’ll be wired, so I might come home and listen to music or be on the socials.

Zzzz

Like all parents, it’s the war of getting the kids into bed so you can relax that dominates your early evening, so we try and make the most of the time when it is just us.

‘You can’t find the solutions to success in a book, a quote or by looking at someone else for the answers. Everyone is looking for the key to show them how to make things work. But nobody can give you the key, because it’s in your pocket, you just have to find it.’

Interview by Madeleine Dore
This article was originally published on The Design Files with photos by Annette O'Brien 


Lisa Mitchell
Singer-songwriter

Given Lisa Mitchell has just released a new album (Warriors) and kicked off a national and international tour, I couldn’t help but feel a little stunned when she admitted she prefers to ‘lean towards the lazy.’

In a culture that romanticises busyness, it was a relief to hear an established musician speak so candidly of their fondness for exactly the opposite. It’s a reassuring sentiment for any freelancer, creative, artist, or entrepreneur – our lives, our days, fluctuate between the busy and the lazy.

‘The more I do music, the more I realise it’s so seasonal. You’re on your own path and you can create your own day,’ Lisa mentions. ‘My partner Jordan is a musician as well, which is great because he totally understands that it’s a gypsy, opportunistic kind of life. If we want to, we can move our entire lives.’

It’s clear that Lisa Mitchell works hard, but what her outlook encapsulates is this sense of being free from the torment of what we think we should be doing.

‘Everyone’s got this idea of what should be happening, or how they should be doing it. At the end of the day, success comes and goes, but if you’re still doing something – even if it’s hard – you’re meant to be doing it.’

Sharing the various components of her daily life – from waking up in Sydney, Melbourne, or on tour, to letting habits change, Lisa is doing things her way. Would she change a thing? ‘I’d really like to change wanting to change myself! We all give ourselves so much crap all the time, so I’d love to just leave myself alone.’

DAILY ROUTINE 


6.00

If I’m on tour, I’ll get up really early. This is the hilariousness about music and touring, your day is always so different. The one constant is my Keep Cup. On tour it’s really easy to just use plastic the whole time, but I try to do my bit.

6.30

If I’m staying in Sydney, I like to get up early and get some of that morning light. It’s so beautiful in the morning and I love the freedom of being able to walk to the beach and sit with my coffee. If I’m with my boyfriend Jordan, I’ll try to drag him out of bed, or he’ll meet me later because he likes his sleep.

8.30

If I’m in Melbourne, I’ll wake up a little later and generally lie in bed for a while, just thinking. I used to meditate religiously, every morning and night, but doing it so rigidly stopped being so useful for me – some habits transform I think. Now I might sit and notice my breathing and thoughts and try to get into my body.

If I’m not feeling very clear, I’ll do my morning pages inspired by The Artist’s Way – it feels like cleaning out the room inside your head.

10.00

I’ll go downstairs and make some porridge with a spurtle – it’s a traditional Scottish porridge stirrer made out of wood. I’ll make a herbal tea and do some reading and try and chill.

I do feel that pressure to get going quickly in the morning, but I know that’s not really me. I’m a bit more chilled. I’ll often go for a walk after breakfast and one of my favourite things to do if I have the morning off in Melbourne is go to CERES in Brunswick East. I’ll often listen to audiobooks, music or talk to a friend on the phone.

11.00

If I’ve got a pressing deadline or an interview then I’ll take a couple of hours in the morning to finish something, but I also try to enjoy the quieter moments. I feel like people can work themselves until they’re absolutely stuffed and not really be very happy.

I try to lean the other way – I’d rather be a bit lazier and enjoy myself and let more inspiration into my day then be stressing myself out.

12.30

If I’m on tour, there is usually about six of us in the crew and we will make an effort to have lunch together at a nice café, which really grounds you while you’re travelling. It’s nice to have a little chat with the locals. After lunch is usually sound check and set up.

I always try and take a book with me when I’m touring because there is a lot of waiting around. I’ll also always have my guitar with me so I can do some writing.

14.00

I love to do my own Instagram, it’s a platform I’ve always been attracted to. You know when you’re a kid and you’re collecting all these weird things and you’re putting them in your special box? That’s what it feels like.

I do get really inspired by the people I follow, but I also find it a little bit confronting – if you’re having a bad day and you’re on social media, you can just go into a bit of a downward spiral. I just try and have a little bit of healthy distance.

18.00

If I have a show, I don’t want a massive meal before I go on stage so I’ll just have a good snack and warm up back stage and just sink into the zone. Sometimes I’ll play the same note on my guitar and make interpretive weird noises for ages – it’s nice because it warms you up but it also helps you tune into how you’re feeling and what wants to come out, which feeds into the performance as well.

23.30

Once we finish the show we might get a cheeky kebab and then it’s back in the van to sleep. I’m a pretty light sleeper unfortunately, but I’ve become really good at semi-sleeping on planes and things.

“Try to trust that things are happening how they want to happen, not always the way you think they will. There’s something to be said for trying to be lighter and kinder with yourself.”

Mojo Juju & Frankie Valentine

 
 

Interview by Madeleine Dore

&
Photography by Bri Hammond


Mojo Juju
&
Frankie Valentine

Approaching their seventh anniversary as a couple, musician Mojo Juju and performer-costumier Frankie Valentine are a strikingly creative and accomplished duo.

What’s most inspiring about their lives as individual artists – and as a couple – is their ability to follow various creative pursuits, all the while maintaining excitement and ensuring flexibility in their work and everyday life. 

“Neither of us have had to sacrifice adventure or our own practice,” says Mojo.

Prior to establishing her solo career, the soul-singer fronted Mojo Juju & The Snake Oil Merchants. Now she regularly tours with a revolving line up of backing musicians including her brother Steven Ruiz de Luzuriaga. “I'm really lucky in that the last five years I have made my living purely out of playing music.”

For years, Frankie juggled a career as a professional costumier alongside performing as a burlesque artist, producing shows such as the Melbourne edition of Naked Girls Reading, and stripping at The Men's Gallery. With financial independence and time for creative projects in mind, Frankie boldly quit her full-time job as a costumier and started working more nights at the club.

It's refreshing to hear someone speak candidly about how they balance their creative passions alongside building a stable future – especially as a career in the arts can be so precarious. “I feel like my life is much more balanced. I've been able to buy this beautiful house, as well as invest and still have time to do things like read a book or see a show and catch up with friends.”

The couple first met doing a show together with Brother’s Grimm and soon began collaborating. They have since transitioned from producing their own projects, to occasionally working on other people’s shows together. This move has created a distinction between life and work for the couple.

“We used to go to bed and talk about how we need to do this, this and this and work was a little bit endless,” says Frankie. “Whereas now it is a bit more broken up and there is ‘us’ time and ‘work’ time.”

Both with various tours and projects on go, the pair admit they can’t really follow a strict routine – rather they prefer to flirt with structure only to eventually rebel against it.

“I try and get into a routine, even though it's difficult when juggling so many different elements, but Mojo is a bit more haphazard,” explains Frankie.

Since moving into their own home complete with respective studios for Mojo’s writing and Frankie’s costuming, they have embraced some semblance of routine, typically spending mornings together before moving on to their individual projects. 

From slow mornings sipping coffee, to the various pockets of creativity they have both built into their day, Mojo and Frankie prove that a life can be of your own making, and share the secrets to a fulfilling relationship with another artist. 


DAILY ROUTINE 

Mornings with Mojo and Frankie…

Frankie:

Unless one of us is away on tour we will spend the mornings together.

Mojo:

I usually wake up first between nine and ten. I’ve always been a night owl, and Frankie goes to bed after me because she works late. I'll get up and make tea and read the news on my phone. I'll feed the cats, maybe check my emails, then make tea to bring to Frankie to wake her up around eleven.

Once Frankie is up we will have coffee together – if we woke up at the same time I would probably go straight for coffee, but I like to wait and have ir together, it's a bit of a ritual. 

Frankie:

I’m from South Africa originally, so for breakfast I’ll make rusks – a double-baked bread dough – to go with our coffee.

We will sit in the lounge or outside in the sun if it is warm enough and watch the cats play. I will get the catch up on the news from Mojo and we talk about the day ahead. It is really nice if we have the morning together, but we are also used to not having it if someone is away.

Mojo:

It's a pretty cruisy morning. Once we have had a coffee and a bit of a catch up, we will go our separate ways. 

"It is really nice if we have the morning together, but we are also used to not having it if someone is away." – Frankie
 
 

A day in the life of Frankie

My routine depends on what I'm working on. If I have a big costume commission I will shower and go out and source fabrics and pick up bits and pieces. Then I will head into the studio and just work until I get hungry!

Some days I might have meetings, rehearsals or photo shoots for a new show or collaborative project.

I usually work quite late into the evening just to stay in the routine of working nights.

I’ll try to do some yoga to stretch out because I get really stiff if I’m sitting at the sewing machines. If I have work at the club then I will do some stretches before I go to limber out.

At the moment I work two to three nights at The Men's Gallery. I love the club, the management, and the work. I have met some of my dearest friends there.

One of the things I love most about the job is its flexibility. It is really conducive to having the time and space to work on my own creative projects such as burlesque, producing and costume making. 

If I have a show coming up there will be rehearsals a couple of nights a week. If I'm working on a new show I will go through a creative burst of trying to work out what exactly it is that I want to achieve. It is a very different process if I'm doing something for someone else because they will come to me with a clear concept. But I procrastinate a bit when it is one of my own acts.

I don't create new acts of my own that often anymore – I used to come up with something new every couple of months, but I feel like the quality of the work now is a lot stronger. Once you have an act in place, it’s similar to a song in that you will perform that act in numerous different shows.

"At the moment I work two to three nights at The Men's Gallery.  I love the club, the management, and the work. I have met some of my dearest friends there. One of the things I love most about the job is its flexibility. It is really conducive to having the time and space to work on my own creative projects such as burlesque, producing and costume making."
– Frankie 

A day in the life of Mojo

I feel like my life is divided into three different cycles: writing, recording and touring. 

The writing and recording cycle is probably my favourite because I'm at home. When I’m writing I’ll have a slow morning and then go into my studio around midday. Once I get going I stay in the zone and usually Frankie will remind me to eat! 

I try to write and record at least one demo a day. Even if it is terrible, it just keeps the creative juices flowing and occasionally there will be an idea that you can come back to and reuse for something else. 

There are definitely moments where I feel like I'm just fucking around, but then I’ll just have a breakthrough. The later in the day it gets, the better the ideas. 

The touring cycle itself has three phases. The prelude, which involves planning and media campaigns; the touring; and the wind down which involves all the accounting. In the month or so leading up to a tour, I will be doing heaps of press, particularly if it is an album release. There will be days where I have back to back media calls and interviews. Then there is all the tour planning and boring admin. I have an agent who takes care of a lot, but I sort out the finer details of booking accommodation and flights so there is still a lot of juggling.

Usually touring involves a lot of early mornings. I go to the airport, rock up to the town, check into my accommodation, do a sound-check, have dinner, play the gig, do the post-show pack down and hang with the band before heading back to the hotel. Then we do it all again the next day. It is a really intense schedule, but you learn to accommodate. It has been getting harder as I get older, but also the way that I tour these days is a lot more comfortable than ten years ago.

"I try to write and record at least one demo a day. Even if it is terrible, it just keeps the creative juices flowing and occasionally there will be an idea that you can come back to and reuse for something else." – Mojo
"There are definitely moments where I feel like I'm just fucking around, but then I’ll just have a breakthrough. The later in the day it gets, the better the ideas." – Mojo

When I get home from tour I will crash for a couple of days. The wind down phase involves a lot of accounting. If I am in town, I go to the kickboxing gym in the evenings from Monday to Thursday. It's a really good thing to do because it's so physical and fast paced. You are completely out of your head and not thinking about anything. You’re just in your body and I think that is a really good reset for me.

It's also nice to learn something completely new that is separate from anything else I do. So coffee and boxing are my two things that I'm strict about whenever I am in town. 

Evenings with Mojo and Frankie

Frankie:

We both like to cook, so might make something together or make our own individual specialities. I do veggie lasagne, creamy soy chicken, or miso eggplant.

Mojo:

I’ve got moussaka down, also do a good jerk chicken, and I make the best tacos. It’s good to be experimental with cooking and try new things.

We make simple stuff too because we are tired by that point in the day – it's not always some grand feast. It's often just some rice, beans, soba noodles, something that takes two minutes.

Frankie:

We usually go out for dinner a couple of times a week or try and catch up with friends. 

We will also see a show at least once a week – whether it is a band or performance that we have friends in. We try to support our respective industries. 

If we are both around, we will usually watch an episode of something before bed. Mojo will crash out – she will fall asleep the minute she puts her on the pillow. I'll read for a while or do some hand sewing while I watch a movie. 


 

Weekend routine

Mojo: We both work late on the weekend, and if I am in town I often DJ.

Frankie: I usually work Friday and Saturday and won't finish until five in the morning, so we usually have Sundays together and just chill. We will go to brunch or go and do shopping. Very rarely will we work on a Sunday. Occasionally there will be a show.

BEHIND THE SCENES

On being a dynamic duo…

Frankie:  I feel like having a really solid relationship or foundation can give you a platform to go out and follow whatever creative pursuits you want. You can be really busy and know that you have this really steady, solid base to come back to. We don't collaborate as much as we once did, but we still soundboard off each other and talk about ideas and get excited about respective projects.  

Mojo:  I think sometimes people have the misconception that a relationship is a distraction from what you need to do creatively as an individual…

Frankie:  I think it can be – I have been in relationships where it has been – but because we both have similar lifestyles and share a lot of the same tastes and things, it works.

Mojo:  We are really lucky because we both share a lot of the same ideals. There has never been any insecurities in our relationship or jealousy – we are both free to go on the road or work in a club and that is cool. 

Frankie:  We both get a lot of pleasure out of what the other person does and are both really supportive.

Mojo: It would be impossible if we didn't appreciate what the other person did. I’m hoping you like my music and you would buy my records even if I wasn't your partner... 

Frankie: I bought a record before we got together… [Laughs]

On how self-doubt makes you a better artist…

Frankie: My secret flaw is definitely that I doubt myself... don’t you think?

Mojo: [Laughs] Yeah, I guess if that's what you feel. But actually my osteopath recently said that if there was a Venn diagram for creativity, there would be narcissism on one side and self-doubt on the other and that little slither where they overlap is where you make art. I don't think you are a narcissist, but I do think you have a confidence a lot of people don't have – you get on stage and take your clothes off. You know what your skills and strengths are.

Frankie: I am really self-critical though, which I think can be a good thing because it makes your work better.  

Mojo: The self-critical thing is essential to being a great performer or a great artist or doing anything well. If you are not critical, you are not trying to improve and you are not pushing yourself and you are not getting better. I think every artist, no matter what their medium is, has to have an element of self doubt. 

On applying creativity to everything you do...

Mojo:  I've always been interested in design, fashion and aesthetic and I used to think that I wanted to work in film. Visuals are a really strong part of it – when I am writing or performing there is always this little movie playing in my head. I don't know if that is a common thing, but creating album covers, making film clips or doing photo shoots is a huge part of being a musician and I treat it like part of the creative process.

On the relationship between being disorganised and being present... 

Mojo:  

I’m really disorganised and scatter-brained. I would struggle with so many of the practical day-to-day things if I didn’t have Frankie in my life! [Laughs]

Frankie: 

But I think the positive flipside to being disorganised is that you very much live in the present. That is why you have such interesting interactions and form such special relationships because you are not distracted by all the mundane stuff. Being disorganised is part of your creativity. 

Mojo:  

But not knowing what is happening next can be problematic...

Frankie: 

It is also really beautiful and I struggle to live more in the present, so we balance each other out.


"I think the positive flipside to being disorganised is that you very much live in the present." – Frankie

On being both extraverted and introverted…

Frankie: Mojo has this knack for developing really beautiful, deep relationships with everybody that she meets…

Mojo: That is not necessarily true, but I do love people and I like different people. I’ve never been one to be part of a crew – I'll just collect people from really different walks of life. I don't know what it is, but people feel like that they can really open up to me.

Frankie: I really admire that about her. For me, it takes a bit longer to open up and get to know people. I'm definitely more reserved than Mojo in a social setting. Yes, I do get up on stage and get naked, but at a dinner table I'll be more quiet and shy and she will be the life of the party.

Mojo: Having said that though, I’m also very big on taking chunks of time out for myself. I really like alone time. 

Frankie: We both do

"I do love people and I like different people. I’ve never been one to be part of a crew – I'll just collect people from really different walks of life." – Mojo
Photograph by   Kristina Soljo

Photograph by Kristina Soljo

On creating a life that is flexible and sustainable…

Mojo:  I think we have both been very successful at finding ways of generating income while also maintaining full flexibility and creativity. Neither of us have had to sacrifice adventure or our own practice, which is really cool because not very many people are lucky enough to do that.  

Frankie:  A few years ago I got to a point where I was really burnt out – I was working full time as a costumier at places like The Malthouse and The Ballet, or wherever the work was, as well as performing, producing shows and stripping to save money to buy a house. I just didn't have the energy for it anymore. I thought, you know what, I'm just going to stop doing costume full time and work more nights at The Men's Gallery and give myself time to work on my own creative projects.

Since making that choice I feel like my life is much more balanced. I've been able to buy this beautiful house, as well as invest and still have time to do things like read a book or see a show and catch up with friends. I've also had more time and energy to devote to pushing myself creatively, collaborate with new people, and work on new projects. 

On the secrets to a successful relationship…

Frankie:  I think the secret to success is organic time apart. It happens naturally for us – we will get to the point where we are driving each other a bit crazy and then Mojo will go on tour for two weeks and I will really miss her! 

Mojo: That is a neat little trick. We will start getting into a routine and something will come up and it's exciting again. It does seem to happen quite naturally and keeps it pretty fresh. 


"If there was a Venn diagram for creativity, there would be narcissism on one side and self-doubt on the other and that little slither where they overlap is where you make art."
– Mojo Juju

 
 

EXTRAORDINARY FINDINGS


 
 
 
 

Interview by Madeleine Dore
&
Photography by Bri Hammond 


Zoe Foster Blake:
Writer
& Entrepreneur

Zoë  Foster Blake doesn’t know what to write on her passenger card at an airport, and understandably so.

Her career spans working as a journalist, columnist, and beauty editor, as well as being the author of four fiction titles and two non-fiction books, and founder of skin care line Go-To. Add to that being a mother to toddler Sonny and wife to Hamish Blake, you've got one heck of a bio to explain to a customs officer.

This year balancing the full-time demands of Go-To alongside parenting, the adaptation of her novel The Wrong Girl into a TV series on Channel 10, and the launch of her new book Amazinger Face, Zoë  has learnt to ‘put a lid’ on most other work.

‘I feel like if it's going to take me away from Sonny, it has to be good. If you are going to pay a sitter so that you can work, it's got to be work you want to do. I think that's really important, if you want to do something well you have to have that drive.’ 

Drive is something Zoë seems to possess in abundance. She wrote her first handful of novels on weekends throughout her 20s, and be it a beauty range or a book, she catches her ideas and brings them to life.

For some, such drive can manifest in a relentless pursuit for success, but Zoë maintains her trademark sense of humour, affability and playfulness.

‘I am in a profession that is very indulgent and I just get to write some things and people read them. I’m not in the mines and I'm not saving lives – I realise the frivolity of my work.’

Frivolity aside, Zoë helps create a sense of wonder – for words, ideas, projects and experiences. ‘I think that is the trick – that you are doing it for the love of it. The thrill of the creative outlet is the joy for me, not the success, and that is why I keep flipping to other projects even though they keep me super busy, otherwise my brain gets bored.’ 

From how she fits in running a business with parenting, to the lessons we uncover in roadblocks, and how sometimes you have to let things happen and stop worrying, Zoë manages to transform her drive and frivolity into comforting wisdom for us all. 

‘We never know what we are going to do next,’ she adds. Although the unknown can be frightening – be it knowing where to go, what to do next, or even how to mark your own passenger card, as Zoë exemplifies, it’s also the most exciting part.

DAILY ROUTINE

6.30

I am an early bird by default because we wake up to a happy, little singing and chirping Sonny, but even when he doesn't wake up early, I automatically get up around 6.30-7.00am, anyway. On a very, very, very good, earnest, virtuous day I meditate, but I feel wrong even saying that because it is so sporadic.

I did transcendental meditation quite well for many years and haven't for ages. I think having a child disrupts that even more.

7.00

My brain is still freshest in the morning, so if I beat Sonny waking up, I will do half an hour of really good work (the best work of the day) because it all falls apart after that, emails start coming in and I get distracted. 

I'll do things like write good, sharp copy for Go-To, or reply to an interview that demands thoughtful and interesting answers – things I can't do with a tired head, or a sloppy head, or an afternoon head, or a distracted head.

I eventually want to be one of those horrible, insufferable people who say, “Ah, I get up at five and I work so well, I don't even need coffee any more.” I look forward to being that painful, earnest person that makes everyone feel bad about themselves! I really think it's possible down the track, but having children disrupts your mornings, but that's okay because it is fun and lovely. 

I eventually want to be one of those horrible, insufferable people who say, ‘Ah, I get up at five and I work so well, I don’t even need coffee any more.’ I look forward to being that painful, earnest person that makes everyone feel bad about themselves! I really think it’s possible down the track, but having children disrupts your mornings, but that’s okay because it is fun and lovely.

7.30

We tag-team reading Sonny some stories and getting him dressed. Then I make breakfast for all of us together, which is usually porridge with berries, yogurt, LSA, chia and maple syrup – I try and make it look pretty because it is a nice thing to do, but I also try and make sure the boys are full.

I’m on this ridiculous elimination diet at the moment so I can’t eat anything. I just have my sad, paleo muesli and almond milk, but normally it would be porridge. Otherwise Sonny might just have Weet-Bix and we might have toast and eggs.

8.00

We might walk down the street to the milk bar and get a coffee together before the day really starts.

My days differ depending on whether I have a nanny or not. If I don't, Sonny and I go to the park, see one of his little buddies, or go to Collingwood Farm, the museum, or to a library for playtime. When he naps between 1.00-3.00pm, I work furiously and do everything I can for the whole day. Then he is up again and we just play outside, read books, or go do grocery shopping, you know – life.

8.30

I have help on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and on those days, a normal morning might be going to an osteo apointment or a reformer pilates because my baby broke my body!

9.30

I’ll come home and have a second breakfast, which will be toast and eggs with maybe some sauerkraut and avocado. I’ll only have one coffee in the morning because I need a second one in the afternoon.

10.00

Then it is work, work, work. I go to my computer and just rip into three hours of Go-To stuff – that is usually pressing because things need to go to print, or into production or need feedback. A lot of it is waiting on me to make decisions on things like colour, marketing, collaborations, or any social media campaigns or promotions we are doing.

I also do all the written copy for the packaging, fortune cookies, and the website. I am still very much protective of the brand, it's so young it still needs me to steer it… I think the word is control freak! 

It doesn't feel like work and I get real joy when I hit the right copy and I think it's going to be funny. I like to put in the effort to make sure that anyone who has any contact with our brand has a giggle and almost forgets that they are buying skincare, because skincare is not normally that funny. 

11.00

I'm really bad. I subscribe to emails like FastCompany – I don’t open them, but I subscribe to them – because I want to learn to better time manage and compartmentalise my day.

I used to have this system with my standing desk that I sat for proper writing with no distractions, no emails, and I stood for communication and that worked well. I haven't done that for a while because now that I’ve got a kid I’m just sort of at the kitchen bench or at the table when I get a chance.

I need to get back to not letting inboxes control my day – because they really do from the minute I get up. At any point I’ve got two chemists emailing me, my managing director, my social media gun, the gang in the office, the warehouse manager, the designer – there is a lot going on. I don't have alerts or anything, but I keep checking it, and also Instagram and now Snapchat and every little digital mouth I feed.

But I also don't think it is an entirely bad thing. I'm getting better at just allowing it because I think the way my brain works is on a treat basis. So if I do even 20 minutes of work, I can have a little sneaky peek at Instagram or I can go online for a minute and read an article and then come back to work.

I think instead of trying to fight it I just need to be honest about it, but also shape it a little bit so I don't waste too much time. Also, now that I am on the clock with hiring a nanny, I don't have that sort of free time anymore.

"I need to get back to not letting inboxes control my day – because they really do from the minute I get up. At any point I’ve got two chemists emailing me, my managing director, my social media gun, the gang in the office, the warehouse manager, the designer – there is a lot going on. I don't have alerts or anything, but I keep checking it, and also Instagram and now Snapchat and every little digital mouth I feed."

13.00

Hunger is what interrupts me and I get super hangry before I realise I need to do something about it. I will usually have lunch at home – quinoa or rice with tinned salmon and some vegetables. It’s sad and healthy, but it is enough to keep me going. 

13.30

If I feel like I need to get out of the house, I’ll go out and have lunch somewhere and do two hours of work.  I do some of my best work in cafés because there is no Wi-Fi, or I tell myself there isn't even if there is a big sign saying "Free Wi-Fi". 

15.00

I’ve got a new book coming out in June, Amazinger Face, and The Wrong Girl TV show is currently in production, so all that’s going on, but it is all good stuff. I am definitely super busy at the moment, but I’m not complaining because I chose all of this. 


I have weeks where things are a bit slow, like this week has been a big publicity week and I've had to do things that I said yes to, but when the day comes, I think oh shit, I really don't have time for that now. Then other weeks I don’t have anything on and they are the weeks I think great, I can finally get started on my new project or do some solid writing.

16.00

By four in the afternoon I’m going a bit crazy and my eyes are sick of the screen and I need to do something else, so I will probably do errands like go to the post office and pick up deliveries, or buy some groceries for dinner.

I would like to say I exercise here, but it’s not always the case. I walk a lot, and we have a machine down stairs, a Skierg, that only takes 10-15 minutes to smash you, so if I’m smart I’ll put on my exercise clothes and do that before my nanny finishes up.

18.00

I do dinner around six for Sonny, and Hamish will come home around 6.45pm. Hamish will take over bath and story time with Sonny and I will make dinner for us. Because I’m on this diet, it’s usually fish tacos, or bolognaise on zucchini noodles, or fish with sweet potato. We are simple eaters.

20.00

Then we watch our shows! We have dinner and a glass of wine and then we are straight to the TV. Until we had a baby, I didn't watch TV at night because I grew up without one and I never really got it. But I know we are in the renaissance of TV and I am really, really into it now. 

"We try not look at our phones through that time. We had a bucket for a while when we did a 'digital sundown'
– but we were just shit."

We watch House of Cards, Veep, Silicon Valley, Last Man Standing, Survivor, The Bachelor – any Bachelor, from any country, at any time.

We try not look at our phones through that time. We had a bucket for a while when we did a 'digital sundown' – but we were just shit. I would keep peeking at it and Hamish would keep peeking at it. But I run a business now, so I can't absolutely switch off.

21.00

Most of the time I will get back on my phone or computer about nine and just tie up a few loose ends and then I like to read before bed.

22.00

I'm gunning to be asleep by ten but it is closer to eleven because I start doing some washing then have a shower and mess around with beauty products or wash my hair, do self tanner and so on. I use Go-To cleanser in the shower (I use tubular mascara so I don't have to use eye makeup remover because it comes off by pulling it off the lashes under water), and I use Go-To Swipeys a couple of times a week, then apply pigmentation serum, then Face Hero, and Very Useful Face Cream. 

23.00

Zzzzz


WEEKEND ROUTINE

Weekends are pretty sacred. Saturdays are catch ups with friends or errands, or Hamish will go for a big bike ride and I will have Sonny, so we sort of tag-team. In the afternoon I will go shopping, have a massage, or see a movie with a girlfriend.

I don't even have to fight to urge to work, but if I’m writing a book I'll use my free time on a Saturday to work on that. I’m good on Saturdays because there are no emails.

Saturday mornings are pretty precious, if I can get them back anytime soon that would be great. Then I'll have another baby and it will all go out the window! 

Sunday it is just family day so pancakes, a bike ride, I don't know, that is it really. 

"Saturday mornings are pretty precious, if I can get them back anytime soon that would be great. Then I'll have another baby and it will all go out the window!" 

BEHIND THE SCENES

On the path to becoming being a funny, loveable writer and doing what comes easy…

I don’t think you ever think you're a funny writer, but you know when you did good work, and I guess humour has a certain structure that you can follow. I started at Cosmo magazine when I was 23 writing beauty, and I had an editor who just let me write how I spoke – but I can write much better than I speak!

It is all about timing. It wasn't that I was the best at that tone, it's just that I was able to start writing in that way in an area like beauty, which was pretty serious. It was also a thin veil for me not knowing anything about beauty and just having fun with it. Then I went to Harper’s and it was a much more respectable, grown up tone. It was good to learn how to do that, but I just felt like I wasn't using my superpower, which is just being a rat and a rascal. 

It was a great lesson – to know the thing you are probably meant to do is the thing that comes easy. Not everyone knows that, or they don't realise it could be something that they are not even considering.

There might be someone who is trying to be a really amazing lawyer or accountant or something quite conservative, who happens to be a dynamo at cupcakes on the weekend – do that! But it's risky and it's bold and it takes confidence, I think. It took me a while to leave full-time work and just do what I wanted to. 

On working hard in your 20s…

I had a lot of drive in my 20s and I had a lot of time because I had a boyfriend who was away a lot. I didn't have any money to go shopping, and I went out to parties in my job as a beauty editor during the week, so I started writing books on the weekends.

I am that kind of person where if I save $100, then I want to save another $100, so once I had done one book I thought maybe I can do another one, and another one, and I sort of got into a flow and I liked being busy. Books were my friend, I always say.

I would also complain a lot! I lived right on Bondi Beach and I could honestly see my friends out on the grass having fun and I would just pull the blinds down and go back to my laptop and just sort of hate the world. 

But I’m a bit of a nerd maybe underneath it all, so I worked really hard back then. I’m glad I did because by the time I got to my 30s, things kind of fell into place. I fell in love with a man and we wanted to travel and just hang out on the weekends, so I think it was really fortuitous.

I really believe most careers, and certainly mine, come down to luck, timing, contacts, and doing the hard yards early on in your piece. Because I did that work then, I have a little bit more of a pick-and-choose luxury now and I can do projects that I want to work on, rather than feeling like I have to. There is something to be said for laying your foundation early. But you can do whatever you like – I know that you are only young and beautiful and reckless once and it is not in your 30s and 40s! 

"I worked really hard back then. I’m glad I did because by the time I got to my 30s, things kind of fell into place. I fell in love with a man and we wanted to travel and just hang out on the weekends, so I think it was really fortuitous."

On letting things happen…
 

When I published my first book at 25 I thought, well, this has to be a TV show, it’s just made for it, and I remember saying to my publisher, “Any offers?” And even for the second and third book I probably said similar stuff.

But as it so happens with the universe, when The Wrong Girl launched, I did a tour, I was seven months pregnant, I had to launch Go-To the next month and then had Sonny the month after. I just sort of put it out there and I didn't even know if it was going to float, and of course that is the one that does. 

That was a big lesson – let it go. When you say, I want, I want, I want, you are just focusing on the lack of something.

"That was a big lesson – let it go. When you say, I want, I want, I want, you are just focusing on the lack of something."

I think it is good to have goals and so on, and I guess there are those that say if you want something you have to go out and get it, but I really believe that most of the things that have happened in my life have been luck, timing, or a total “get on with life” moment. Do your best work, put it out there, and then move on. 

"It was a great lesson – to know the thing you are probably meant to do is the thing that comes easy. Not everyone knows that, or they don't realise it could be something that they are not even considering."

On how being a mother affects productivity…

I am very productive now that I am a mum. I look back at how lazy I was – “No, I can only work in the mornings, I couldn't possibly work at night” and now I sometimes work till 10pm just fine.

You just have this super-human power because you know you have five minutes to do the washing, and so you just get better at shit. 

On how roadblocks teach you a lesson...

I think you only really encounter roadblocks when you have over-committed. You get to a point where you don’t need to say yes to as many things because really it’s about focus. For me it’s on my business – I’m not trying to be out there and be seen. But feeling anxious or blocked can be a good lesson because you need that moment of clarity.

Blocks only exist because something is not working, so figure it out. Don't just chin up and keep going because you’re missing something if you do that. 

On why you shouldn’t worry…

What you think about you bring about. It's so funny the stuff that I really focused on and was upset, nervous and anxious about was the shit that wasn't working, it didn't work, and it continued to not work until I sort of let it go.

I never worried about my career, never-ever-ever. I didn't even know what I wanted to do, I just went to uni because I liked writing and thought maybe I’ll just go in that direction. There has always been the sense that it will work out, and that is the thing that has gone really well.

But other areas of my life that I focused too much on, I was trying to intellectualise it and make it work and you drive yourself nuts in your early 20s with that shit.

But you do get to choose, you do get to frame your day, you can frame your hour, you can even frame your interaction with a turd of a customer service person even though it's hard.

I’m not always good at putting that into practice, of shaping the experience. I’m not the kind of person who can say I have a goal and I know what I’m going to be doing in five years – I can’t even tell you what I’m doing next year. I don’t even know where the inspiration comes from – I just feel very grateful always for my career, grateful that people enjoy reading it and using it and are having fun. 

"But you do get to choose, you do get to frame your day, you can frame your hour, you can even frame your interaction with a turd of a customer service person even though it's hard."
“If I wake up and it is a sparkling, sunny day then I am ready, it is a good day. But it is the little things – thoughtfulness and kindness can make days extraordinary even in the tiniest way, like our neighbour bringing in the bins. Sonny absolutely makes days extraordinary because he is different today than he was yesterday. He makes my work more pleasurable because it is meaningful and there is more condensed pockets of it, and he makes being with him
super pleasurable and meaningful.”
– Zoë  Foster Blake


EXTRAORDINARY FINDINGS

Read: 

 I just today received a huge box of books I bought online from Booktopia (guided by clever friends/the Tim Ferriss podcast!) and am so pumped. I am a fast and ravenous reader and needed new material desperately, but never know where to look. Best book in memory is the newest What I've Learned, a compilation of my favourite interview page in Esquire/the world. Everyone should read it.


Watch: 

Veep is pretty much perfect television. Broad City also. And have just inhaled Lady Dynamite, Maria Bamford’s new Netflix series. FANTASTIC.

 

Shop:

I alternate between lovely fancy stuff from Grace, Scanlan Theodore and Skin and Threads, and frivolous/useful things from ASOS, Topshop, Bonds, Bassike and Country Road. 

Eat:

In real life, a lot of banana and buckwheat pancakes. In dream life, the same thing, but with wheat, fried bacon and eggs, butter, and a litre of maple syrup. And a hot chips chaser. 

Listen:

I was just saying to someone how Spotify has changed the way I listen to music. Never albums now, just songs and themed playlists. And I love it. Artists I thrash currently are M83, Lil Silva, Post Malone, Leisure, Boy Boy, Bibio and um, the Teeny Tiny Stevies. (For Sonny.) (But also me.)

Follow @zotheysay on Instagram
www.zotheysay.com

Interview by Madeleine Dore
This article was originally published on The Design Files with photos by Eve Wilson


Ken Done
Artist

Ken Done is one of Australia’s most renowned artists, and having just published his memoir, A Life Coloured In, it’s fair to say he has plenty of perspective and insight to share when it comes to working as a painter, designer and artist in Australia.

With a diverse career that spans previously working as an art director and designer in New York, London and Sydney, before transitioning to a career as a full-time painter and creator of his iconic Australian design brand, it was interesting to find out what a day in the life of Ken Done entails. One of the secrets to his success, he suggests, is the farting gnome figurine he keeps in his studio.

‘When you finish a painting, and you are walking out the door thinking what a clever boy you are, that’s when the gnome farts,’ he laughs. In other words, for Ken, perspective fuels appreciation in our daily lives.

Ken Done is soon to be 76, but as the farting gnome suggests, he often feels more like a 16-year-old, and he is far from slowing down.

‘By the time you get to my age and you’ve been painting your whole life, you should be taking more risks, you should be trying things you’ve never tried, and you should be going up tracks you didn’t think you’d go up,’ he explains. ‘You should be doing things that surprise you – certainly not slowing down.’

From his early morning dips at the beach with his wife and business partner Judy, to hours spent painting in his studio, Ken encourages us all to follow our own track in life, and get the most out of each day.

‘Unfortunately, we are not here forever, so you cannot waste a minute.’ 

DAILY ROUTINE


6.30

We live beside the beach in Sydney Harbour, so the first thing I do of course is open the curtains and look at the tide. The magpies and the rainbow lorikeets are waiting to be fed out the front of the frangipani tree. After I feed them, I go down and stop at my studio underneath the house to see the work I’ve been doing the day before. Sometimes I will spend a little bit of time in the studio, or even start work straight away.

When I made the transition between advertising and being a full-time painter, I always tried to start off the week with the work I was most passionate about, so Mondays were always painting. But of course nowadays I can paint every day, so I like to start the day with painting.

7.00

If I think the work from the day before is okay, I will walk further down to the waterfront, where the parrots, rainbow lorikeets and magpies that I’ve fed earlier are already waiting for their second breakfast.

After I’ve done my chores of feeding the birds and looking into the studio, then Judy and I go for a walk along Chinamans Beach and pick up any bits of rubbish that might have floated up onto the sand during the night. Then we go for a swim. We swim every day, even through winter.

We always have breakfast on the little table right beside Sydney Harbour, unless it is absolutely pouring down with rain. We like to have feta cheese, blueberries, kiwi fruit, banana, and maybe a piece of toast with a bit of jam and coffee. We have a fairly predictable breakfast during the week.

8.30

If I am going to work at home for the day, then I will go straight into the studio after breakfast and paint. I like to work on a couple of paintings at once and have the work around me – the paintings I’m working on, the paintings I have temporarily abandoned or put aside until another time, and then in the back of the studio are failed paintings, which I probably haven’t touched for months and sometimes a year or so.

Very rarely do I go straight in and into the major painting – you do a couple of things first of all, which might be as simple as rearranging the canvases or putting down the first coat of something, some comparatively menial task. Then you start to work and put the music on and you lose yourself within the exercise of painting, and I do that until lunchtime.

Half the week I’m working in my studio, the other half I’m in the gallery in the city. My kids and myself all work together, so I might be working with them on some particular project. At some point though during the morning I always head into the studio at the gallery and do some painting, then we will inevitably get lunch together somewhere in The Rocks.

13.00

If I’m home, I’ll have an avocado or Judy will make something, but usually it’s a fairly light lunch. After lunch I might read, but almost inevitably I will sleep for half an hour.

It’s very important – unless you are having a passionate love affair, I think – after lunch you should have a little rest.

If everybody could have that time off between one and three in the afternoon, I think the world would be a better place. You need to have some time where you are just kind of looking into the distance.

15.00

Judy and I will usually go for a walk around the garden. Sometimes I might walk past the studio and have to start work again because I can finally see what a canvas needed.

There are certain days where the work is better than others, and there are some days when you just go at it so hard and at the end of the day – even without the farting gnome – you know that it wasn’t good enough. Maybe one of the most important lessons that you learn is about editing your work, and deciding if it’s a load of crap, and to start over it again.

16.00

I find the next real creative period is from four till six-thirty. I like to work and I am disciplined, but I also give myself a break. I play golf and I travel quite a lot. I love it when the grandkids come to visit, and I love having them in the studio. They can paint much better than I can because they are freer.

19.00

Judy happens to be a very, very good cook and I am a very good eater, so we have dinner together. I also really like dark chocolate, so after dinner I’ll have a glass of red wine and some chocolate.

I don’t spend much time with other artists. I’m not sitting around having deep and meaningful conversations about art and where it all fits together – I think it’s quite a singular profession. If you are really serious about it, you don’t pontificate about it, you just get on with it. Again, at 75 I have to get on with it, because I haven’t got forever.

20.00

In the evening we watch TV on the ABC – the news and the 7.30 Report. I’m also a fan of British comedy, Would I Lie To You, QI with Stephen Fry, and the Australian series Rake.

Or we are might be reading. I’m 75, Christ, I’ve probably already fallen asleep at seven-thirty, woken up again at eight and drifted off.

I always have a painting on my right-hand side where I sit watching television. Sometimes even late at night I might have been lying there and see it needs something, so it is very simple then to pick it up and take it down to the studio and work on it.

You need to look at your work and also get pleasure out of your work. That’s why you did it in the first place, because you wanted to and because you like to do it.

21.00

Most nights by nine or ten we go to bed.

'The lesson my father taught me was to get the best out of every day, and living in Australia, you are already fantastically lucky. Waking up and living in Australia is winning the lottery, so the obligation you have is to absolutely get the best out of that experience because it is a great privilege.' – Ken Done

Interview by Madeleine Dore
&
Photography by Matthew Henry


Luke Currie-Richardson

“When you are open, the world opens up to you,” says dancer Luke Currie-Richardson.

Amongst the performer’s jovial descriptions of his two breakfasts and five a.m. visits to the gym is a deep contemplation and reflection on the purpose of his everyday life.

It’s a wisdom he says is inspired and informed by his current role models, family and ancestors.  Luke is a descendant of the Kuku Yalanji and Djabugay peoples, the Munaldjali Clan of South East QLD and the Meriam people of the Eastern Torres Strait Islands.

His younger years were spent as a basketball player representing ACT at a national level. One of his best friends went on to compete for Australia at the Olympics and he was inspired to emulate such success.

Where others may let someone else’s achievements stifle them, Luke saw a new opportunity and was spurred on to give dancing his all.

“I wanted to create my own path and I found a love for performing.”

It’s an important lesson that demonstrates how we should seek inspiration from other people's career trajectories, rather than take it as evidence of our own short comings or let it lead us down a road of self-destruction.

“I saw my close friends and cousins representing their country, their culture and inspiring young Indigenous kids. I always wanted to do that and play my part in helping our culture survive.”

When he first turned to dance, it was his goal to perform with the iconic Bangarra Dance Theatre. “I have a set of goals written down and I try to stick by them and build them into my routine.”

Since joining Bangarra in 2012, the working year is typically divided with six months spent creating new work in Sydney with the company, and the remainder touring a production locally and internationally.

While his years may be scattered, Luke has built structure into his day to day life that sees him rising early to avoid the need to rush – a reminder to find enjoyment as our days begin. Most of all, through revealing his routine, Luke teaches us to create an openness and reconsider the meaning of our daily lives.

"For me it was always about culture,” says Luke. “I don’t live life for myself, I don’t dance for myself, and I wouldn't be where I am if I did it all for myself.”


DAILY ROUTINE

4:00

On a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I wake up at four in the morning, have my supplement shake, do my morning preps and get to the gym at 4:40a.m. On Tuesday and Thursday, I’m up at five to do a six o’clock yoga class.

I was in hospital for about two days last year and was out of action for about a week – the most amount of time I haven't been physical – and that was rough. I wasn’t on my deathbed or anything, but I was the youngest person in there and seeing people who didn’t have the same blessings as I do really opened up my eyes in terms of not taking life for granted.

Since then I've knuckled down a lot more and gone that extra mile. I love that physical push and trying to get the most out of my body in the 24 hours I've got in a day. 

“Seeing people who didn’t have the same blessings as I do really opened up my eyes in terms of not taking life for granted.”

6:00

After the gym I will come back home and have my first breakfast, as silly as that sounds! I will have 8-9 Weet-Bix with banana, blueberries, strawberries, honey, chia seeds, coconut and soy milk. That is my jam at the moment – I’m definitely a Weet-Bix kid.

I learnt from a young age that what I put in my body is what I am going to get out of it, so that is why I will have a huge breakfast because I’ve already done what most people do physically in one day before six a.m.

6:30

Then I will relax a bit and try and watch the 6.30 news. I flick through channels and see if there is anything different or if they are telling the truth!

7:00

After that’s done I will have a shower and freshen up and cook my second breakfast, which is a three-egg omelette with spinach and covered in chilli flakes. Again, I will watch the news. I find a lot of it to be very depressing, apart from the feel-good segment at the end. But it puts your life into perspective – you get to wake up another day in one of the best countries in the world and so it makes you a little bit more grateful. 

Waking up so early gives me time to chill out rather than waking up at the latest possible moment and rushing. It settles me a bit and I can just take it all in and enjoy myself. I’ll collect my thoughts, look at my schedule to see what we have on for the day and gauge how much energy I’m going to need.

"Waking up so early gives me time to chill out rather than waking up at the latest possible moment and rushing. It settles me a bit and I can just take it all in and enjoy myself."

7:40

I pack my bags and walk to work irrespective of whether it is raining or not. My partner thinks I’m crazy.

8:30

I live by a saying from my old basketball coach who said if you are on time, you are late. I can't be on time – we start at nine-thirty, but I’m at work by eight-thirty. I’m the least flexible person in the company, I think anyway, so I’ll do a little bit of yoga stretching and sit ups and little maintenance things so I can get warm before the warm up class! [Laughs]

9:30

The warm up class begins and the first thirty minutes is dedicated to yoga or pilates, and the latter hour to contemporary dance or ballet.

11:00

During the first half hour break of the day I have my morning tea and a bowl of porridge with honey and a handful of almonds.

11:30

We have our first rehearsal and it’s the period where we are either creating a new work, or we are rehearsing a new piece to remount to take on a regional tour or an overseas tour. 

13:30

Lunch varies but the most consistent is tuna, brown rice, corn, sprouts and avocado with a bit of soy sauce. 

14:00

Two till six is the big rehearsal with a fifteen-minute break in the middle where I will eat a banana or have a muesli bar.

18:00

If it’s still light outside I will probably walk through the Botanical Gardens in Sydney on the way home. If it’s miserable weather I can catch the bus home. It's very rare that I miss the gym in the morning, but if I do I will go in the evening.

I love to go home. My partner recently went and stayed with a professional chef when she was dancing in Melbourne and she has been inspired, so now I’m lucky enough to come home to some kind of amazing meal. We have this deal where I buy the groceries and she preps, so I think it works out amazingly for both of us.

19:00

We will sit down and talk about our days – we are both interested in each other's practice and art.

After dinner we will probably just watch Netflix and I will try and stretch out with a foam roller and get my body ready for the next day.

We live around the corner from Gelato Messina and sometimes have a sneaky little visit. I’m not very good with portions, so I usually just buy one kiddy scoop because if I take home the half litre that will be gone in the night!

21:00

I usually have a really, really, really hot shower. I’ve only just found out it is bad for you because it dries out your skin, but for me it is amazing. I just need that steam and that heat to release my muscles.

22:00

I am pretty much spent by ten o'clock at night, if it’s after I am a zombie! I'm one of those people who is pretty much out within a couple of minutes of hitting the bed, which is tough because for some reason my partner finds all the good topics to talk about just as I’m trying to get to sleep. It’s one of those things that it is annoying, but I can't live without it! When I’m on tour I miss it. 


TOURING ROUTINE

Nothing really changes for me when I am on tour. My first year with the company was crazy because we flew all over Australia as well as to places like Mongolia, but then you get into your own routine away from home. Whatever city I’m in I find a gym and still eat my tuna and rice.

The major difference is that our days don't usually start till three or five in the afternoon, and we might finish around eleven in the evening and you are quite wired till late. My body clock still wakes me up early, and that’s the hardest thing about tour that kind of wrecks me.

WEEKEND ROUTINE

Usually I have one day of the weekend where I’m not physically working out – no gym, no yoga, no dancing or anything like that. Then on the Sunday I will be back in the gym. 

I am a bit of a hermit crab and all the free time I have I spend with my partner. She is my best friend and we will go to the movies and things like that.

I will definitely eat crap on the weekends – I think I deserve it! When my partner isn’t around I manage to eat two pizzas to myself. Not even two good pizzas – two Pizza Hut pizzas! [Laughs]

Then I will probably eat the burgers on the Saturday. Another reason for working out during the week is so I can treat myself. I don’t like using the word treat because I’m a human, not a dog, but it's just food, you know? Our mentality towards food and fitness today is a draining battle, especially in the dance world. I work out mostly because it is where I can be me and be in the zone. For others, it might be meditating or reading a book.

“What makes life extraordinary for me is that I don’t live life for myself, I don’t dance for myself, and I wouldn't be where I am if I did it all for myself. I have a drive to represent my culture no matter what form and I wanted to do my part to break all the prevailing stereotypes surrounding Indigenous culture."
– Luke Currie-Richardson

Interview by Madeleine Dore
This article was originally published on The Design Files with photos by Annette O'Brien 


Oslo Davis
Illustrator/cartoonist

You’ve probably heard of Melbourne cartoonist and illustrator Oslo Davis, or perhaps he has instead overheard you discussing some oddity you said to your friend on a tram. Either way, even with his dry sense of humor, I was surprised to hear the professional eavesdropper describe his freelance routine as somewhat ‘lazy’.

‘I feel as though I am much lazier with time, and will watch a couple of episodes of BoJack Horseman during the day’ Oslo says!

With two kids under twelve, Oslo’s working hours adhere to a school day. Sharing a doubt common to any freelancer who breaks the nine-to-five paradigm, he sometimes wonders if this is enough, but quickly reassures us that working solidly for long hours would be very unnatural.

‘I still seem to get things done, so I don’t know how it works. I don’t think anyone really works all day every day – you’d go crazy.’

It’s a comforting thought that you can consider yourself on the lazier end of the spectrum, yet still manage to draw regularly for The Age newspaper, and have your work appear in The New York Times, the Guardian, Meanjin, The Big Issue and many more top publications.

Perhaps it’s a matter of working smarter, not harder. ‘A lot of people look at artists and think, wow you’re so lucky to sit around and draw all day. But in reality there is a lot of nothing time, a lot of alone and frustrated time. It’s still working, it’s not dancing around in a field of daisies – you’re trying to please a boss or a client and still doing stuff you don’t want to do.’

Yet, a life of drawing has many perks, and Oslo’s latest book Drawing Funny: A Guide to Making Your Terrible Little Cartoons Funnier, will be released in October.

From beating the day with emails and to-do lists in the morning, to pulling the pin on ideas, Oslo reminds us to simultaneously observe the enjoyment and malaise in our day-to-day lives.

DAILY ROUTINE 

6.00

On a good day, I wake up early in the morning and take Pluto, my dog, for a walk before breakfast. Twice a week I try to steal myself off to the swimming pool for a few laps.

I like the idea of that golden time in the morning before everyone is awake – before the noise hits the house and ruins everything.

6.30

I’m probably the last person in Australia who still has the newspaper delivered. I’ll read it while I eat my porridge. There are two types of oats you can buy, and I prefer the larger, more traditional oat but it does take longer to cook. Every time I ask my family if they want some porridge they roll their eyes, but they eventually eat it because they don’t really have a choice.

7.30

After getting dressed I’ll try and do a bit of work before riding the kids to school. It seems like a weird time to do work, from 7:30 to 8:30, but it’s a good moment to write lists of everything I have to do and maybe shoot off a few emails to get the day set up. By the time I’ve come back from the school drop off I feel like I have beaten the day a little bit, which makes me feel quite good about myself.

9.00

I really only work solidly during the kids’ school hours. Six hours of working time though is probably more than enough, I must admit. I used to work nine-to-five, but I can’t remember if people work solidly for all that time? It seems very unnatural.

These days I feel as those I am much lazier with time and will watch a couple of episodes of BoJack Horseman during the day. I still seem to get things done, so I don’t know how it works. I don’t think anyone really works all day every day – you’d go crazy.

Work varies each day. Sometimes I have to finish something by the end of the day. That is especially important for newspaper stuff when the deadline is immoveable. If that’s the case, I’ll sit down at my desk with a big blank sheet of paper and a pencil and come up with an idea in an hour or so, and then finish it off in the afternoon.

At the same time I’ll have other jobs in my head that have a longer or more flexible lead-time so I will jot down ideas during the day. That kind of work happens around the clock, every day or night of the week. In this way I’m always ‘on call’. You might be going on and on to me about how your niece is really good at the flute, and I’ll be nodding and smiling and in my head having a hilarious idea for a cartoon about superannuation.

I don’t mind giving up on ideas or projects, if that is an option. Sometimes I think, you know what, it would just be easier if I pull the pin on this and we can all get on with our lives. My wife said the other day that you have to destroy something to create something.

It can be okay to abandon a project or admit something isn’t working, I reckon. You don’t have to read to the end of a book – or finish a terrible gin and tonic – out of obligation. Obligation stifles creativity and makes something onerous, which doesn’t help anybody.

I usually skip lunch if I can help it, and then save myself for a big dinner. I’ve never been a lunch person. I have fruit and biscuits and coffees and things throughout the day.

In the last six months I’ve also been trying to do drawings of plants and nature, which is totally off the charts for me, but in fact a lot like the work I used to do before I got commissions. Unfortunately because I’ve been so busy I haven’t really had the opportunity to enjoy the act of drawing so much these days, which sounds weird. A lot of my work involves coming up with an idea and executing that idea and the ‘enjoying drawing’ part has been falling away, and I think this stale feeling has come through into some of my work, at least in my eyes.

15.30

When the kids finish school I’ll take them home or to swimming, or soccer, or whatever. It’s a nice change of pace from thinking about yourself all day.

18.00

Dinner is quite early and I’d like to say I share the cooking with my wife. She is the Batman and to my Robin in the crime fighting that is dinner. She is a much better supplier of nutrients for my children. If the menu was entirely up to me, there’d be an odd chance that my children would develop rickets.

20.00

I must say, the dullest moment of my day is the bit after the kids have gone to bed and before my wife and I go to bed – those hours are pretty much the equivalent of final years of old age, just before you croak. We pretty much crash out in front of the TV or internet or read a book before turning in.

22.30

In a final act of defeat, I’ll drag myself off to bed and read for about half an hour before I go to sleep. I keep a note pad by my bedside, not to record my dreams (as if!) but to jot down any ideas I have – always on call!

‘It is all about making yourself satisfied and happy with what you’re doing, and if that makes money then you have the only two things that you need really. If I wasn’t getting satisfied from drawing, I’d probably just bugger off and do something completely different. Why not?’

Interview by Madeleine Dore

Photography by Taja Coles-Berenyi


Ella Hooper
Musician

Singer-songwriter Ella Hooper often feels as though she has ants in her pants. ‘People always say, Ella, you’re so itchy; itching to go and itching to explore.’

Embracing calamine lotion as her life’s emblem, she recently teamed up with musician Gena Rose Bruce for The Calamine Sisters Tour, but I’m not entirely convinced she needs any kind of ointment.

Ella has a way of being upbeat and energetic, but not in a way that requires you to adjust yourself as if tugging the string of a balloon to match her. Instead, there’s a friendly attentiveness and steady calm that makes you want to tell her all your secrets.

Now a multi-media personality, Ella balances her independent music career with regular radio spots, media appearances, guest lectures and workshops, and MC’ing.

‘I do have a lot of great opportunities and I don’t want to miss any of them. I want to do so much, but sometimes I don’t know what to say yes and no to.’

Despite a seeming endless sense of drive, Ella says she balances the daily frazzle with alone time and afternoons spent making soup.

‘My life has changed so much in the last decade – I’m not with a record company, it’s just me and my manager. I’m way busier and slightly frazzled, but I am in control of every element of my work. It was perfect timing that the iPhone came out when I started getting in charge of my own business!’

The former Killing Heidi singer said early success has informed her views of creative life and what it takes to make it on your own.

‘I was able to experience amazing things when I was young, but it also sort of went away. I didn’t yet know how to work hard and I have had to fight to get it back and prove myself.’

Ella now appreciates when she does well and finds joy in doing a good job. ‘I don’t have rich parents that are going to leave me anything. I’m a self-made woman so I got to get making…making those dreams a reality.’

From mornings spent in the office – aka the local café – to the details of her ever-changing routine, Ella shares a refreshing account on creativity, success, and everything in between.

‘I'm not set in my ways, I welcome change to my routine, but I do have some things that I do every day – and they are mainly my foibles,’ she laughs.


DAILY ROUTINE

5:30-10:00

My addiction to coffee drags me out of bed, sometimes very, very early, sometimes not so early. The time I wake up changes drastically because my lifestyle does. I could be up at five to catch a flight, or seven to do a radio interview. I’m one of those people that wakes up straight away ­– I’m not groggy, though I'm becoming more of a snoozer as I get older!

"You have to take the rest when you can otherwise you would burn out because you are not guaranteed to get it every day." 

I don’t think I need much sleep, but in saying that I catch up on it when I can. On a day off I will try to stay in bed till ten and get a coffee and take it back to bed. You have to take the rest when you can otherwise you would burn out because you are not guaranteed to get it every day. 

7:00

If I’ve got to catch a flight, I’m a really quick packer and I have a lot of time saving tricks. I’ll put my makeup on in the cab and make sure to put my contact lenses on last to give my eyes a break because I'm blind as a bat! 

9:30

I don't tend to do breakfast, it feels like an odd time of the day to sit down and eat a big meal. Instead I’m straight into the coffee. I’m an addict – I’ll have three to four cups and then tea in the evening. 

Some days may look quiet from the outside but they are full of admin.
If I’m in Melbourne, I will go to a café, or what I call ‘the office’ and if I feel snowed under by emails I can sometimes stay there for most of the day.

Sometimes I might set out to have a productive morning but get distracted by the crossword, the quiz and the astrology stars in the paper. I need to hide them under my laptop!

11:00

Then it’s probably off to my booking agency in Collingwood to check on posters and make sure all the gigs have been booked. I might also have a meeting with my manager to have a check in about the bigger picture.

I don't have a driver licence, so I’m often walking everywhere or catching a train or Uber. 

12:00

After I meet with my manager I usually walk up to Smith Street or Brunswick Street and do a bit of shopping. There is always a photo shoot on the horizon, or a visual thing being planned, so I need to do be on the lookout for clothes. Well, I like to think I need to be!

13:00

Lunch is usually on the run unless there is a meeting. That is the great thing about meetings – they are often at a nice restaurant or cafe!

15:00

There will be other meetings around the place. For example, my afternoons this week have included a TV show audition at Docklands; a filming for Channel 9; a two hour podcast with Paris Wells; co-hosting the Em Rusciano radio show on Fox FM; a two hour guest lecture at Collarts College of the Arts; hosting an outdoor music event for Bank Of Melbourne; a meeting with a stylist; a photo shoot and two face to face interviews about about the upcoming Killing Heidi reunion. Each of these events takes prep, which is what I'm doing in between emails at 'the office.'

It's busy, but it is fun and that is what keeps me addicted to the lifestyle. There are still days where I will have to have a little cry and can't handle it because I’m being too many things at once. But I love everything I do, it’s just the volume and I would love someone to delegate to. 

"There are still days where I will have to have a little cry and can't handle it because I’m being too many things at once." 

16:00

I usually try to find time to have a drink with my boyfriend, so I’ll pop into the café or pub where he is working and say hi for an hour, do some emails, give him a kiss on the cheek and then go home and get ready for rehearsal.

18:00

If I’m preparing for tour I’ll rehearse in the evenings with the band. We will meet at my house and maybe take soup to the studio that I’ve made on one of my rest days. We'll eat and then start jamming until around eleven.

24:00

The problem with rehearsal is it amps you up and so I might not get home till midnight and that is when I bring the naughty food out. I think I’ve given the wrong impression with the soup comment! I eat a lot of junk food. The soup is just so I feel less guilty about the packet of chocolate biscuits that I will eat at night with three cups of tea. 

I don’t do much other cooking. Maybe garlic bread and in summer I do salads. I’m very much the side-dish girl and someone else makes the main!

If there is no rehearsal, I love watching a series – at the moment it’s Stranger Things or the Night Manager. I’m shit at relaxing, so I rely on other people to organise it. My roommate and boyfriend are better at chilling out, whereas I’ll be buzzing till late and then finally sit down to watch two episodes.

1:00

Eventually it's time to go to bed. I would love to read, I love reading and poetry, but I'm shocking at making the time. I'll most likely just lovingly glance at the stack of books, gathering dust by my bed. 

I’d say once a week I have a ten hour sleep, but mostly it is more like five hours.

"I would love to read, I love reading and poetry, but I'm shocking at making the time. I'll most likely just lovingly glance at the stack of books, gathering dust by my bed." 

WEEKEND ROUTINE

"You have to seize the quiet moments and just zip it – buy three magazines, read them all, and try not to talk to anybody."

Weekends are busy because I’ll either be performing, travelling, or going to see a friend’s bands. They are not exactly restorative – I might be out somewhere having too many drinks and socialising.

I do try and put a weekend in there somewhere, but it is not usually on the weekend – usually Mondays and Tuesdays are the equivalent to a muso’s weekend.

One the quieter days I have to force myself to be a recluse and switch the phone to silent and try rest my voice. You have to seize the quiet moments and just zip it – buy three magazines, read them all, and try not to talk to anybody. I’ll do some really restorative things like make soup, go see a movie or go to the country to my mum’s house and lay low.

BEHIND THE SCENES

On what she would change about her days…

Taking heavy instruments in and out of cars is a big chunk of our lives as musicians and it is not creative – it’s annoying and usually done early in the morning when you haven't had a coffee yet.

I would ideally love to have my own music space where everything is set up. Things like that would make me feel like a smart muso, not a schlepping muso.

On how our relationship with work changes through the decades…

I’m more time poor than I’ve ever been and I look back on my twenties and sometimes scream at myself for wasting all the free time. I was just sitting there and I could have been having a picnic, I could have been going to Daylesford, I could have been doing a million things. Now I can’t even schedule a weekend trip to Daylesford with my boyfriend! 

"I’m more time poor than I’ve ever been and I look back on my twenties and sometimes scream at myself for wasting all the free time." 

But when you are in your 20s, you don’t care, I didn't anyway. I thought I didn’t have to take every opportunity, I could just chill out with my friends and nothing would change – I’d just be able to sing in a band and be paid heaps forever. I didn't know how to work hard yet and so I went through a very challenging patch in my 20s when things began to peter out. I didn’t feel like I had the wind under my heels to get things done, but I actually need to get things done now – time is a-wasting and things don’t just come out of no where.

"I didn't know how to work hard yet and so I went through a very challenging patch in my 20s when things began to peter out."

Ever since I turned 30 the work monster got me. I just wanted to work to get to be where I want to be by the time I’m 40. I do want a lot – I want a house in the country where artists and friends can come and hang out and make music and enjoy big slow roasts on a Sunday. 

On not caring about FOMO and embracing being a piker…

Missing out doesn't worry me, I’m more of a piker if I get the chance! I should say I go and see a tonne of bands, but I don’t always. I love my couch, I love my bed, I love my books and I never regret staying in. Embrace the pike! Just like the great Courtney Barnett says, no one really cares if you don't go to the party.

Being well known from a young age means I’ve been seen enough and I don’t really need to go and be the life of the party anymore. I’m still very outgoing, but sometimes when I go out I feel a certain pressure to talk to everybody and be the person they expect me to be. If I did that five nights a week I feel like I’d have nothing left to give.

Everyone thinks I’m an extrovert, but I recharge alone. If someone is around it is impossible not to give them all my attention so I have to go be alone to really reflect.

"Just like the great Courtney Barnett says, no one really cares if you don't go to the party."

On the importance of practice…

Whether it’s music or hosting an event, success is all about practice. I don’t buy into that idea that you can just be talented and swan around – that certainly isn’t me. I’ve always wanted to do a good job, I’ve always wanted to practice. I always want to be prepared and then I can relax. If I am underprepared I am not happy, I am not relaxed.

 

On success and the best advice from her mum…

I’m such a fan of my mum, she is a special lady and everyone thinks that, it’s not just me! She is a hard worker and always said you can have a career in the arts as long as you work hard.

"You can get the money and the fame and feel like you’re not there at all or there is no satisfaction. You have to ask what you feel good about versus what just feels like ticking boxes."

She said to me quite recently that maybe I should spend some time thinking about what success really means to me. I experienced the stock standard “success” – money and fame and all that crap – when I was young, but that doesn’t always match your individual definition of success. You can get the money and the fame and feel like you’re not there at all or there is no satisfaction. You have to ask what you feel good about versus what just feels like ticking boxes.

On the constant creative process…

The creative process starts anywhere and everywhere. Often I am walking and it’s like a radio has been turned on in my head and I hear a melody and often a lyric. I’ll get my iPhone out and whisper into it and people must think I’m crazy! Then I’ll go to my guitar and see if I can find the chords that support the melody. I’m not the world’s greatest guitarist, so it takes me quite a while sometimes. Then I will take that into a jam or into a rehearsal and sometimes within twenty minutes the rest of it will appear because of the talent of the musicians I work with.

That's my big highlight – creating a song out of nothing. It’s better than sex, better than red wine! Okay maybe equal firsts, but it is something that that is there forever and it is from a moment in time and it is from the heart and sometimes if you are lucky it makes it onto a CD and gets out there and touches somebody else.

On being all and everything…

I’ve been trying to find time to go walking as well and get some exercise. I’m just trying to get my routine to be vaguely balanced, and it doesn't sound very balanced at all!

I live around the corner from a beautiful yoga studio and have been saying I will go there every week for months and never do! On the odd occasion I will go on a yoga retreat and go deep into it, so I guess I’m a bit more extreme. I do things whole heartedly, but I do have trouble making things into a routine. I'm all and everything, and I somehow fit it all into the one day – the chocolate biscuits and the soup!


“It sounds so hallmark and gross, but an extraordinary life is about having the courage to chase things that are really going to fulfill you.” – Ella Hooper


EXTRAORDINARY FINDINGS

Read: 

Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch by Henry Miller

This book is blowing my mind. It's an amazing reflection from his later years on his earlier work and his life in the magical sounding Big Sur.

Watch: 

To relax: Grand Designs or River Monsters
To excite: The Color Of Pomegranates by Sergei Parajanov or The Holy Mountain by Jodorowsky

Shop:

Shop: Designer Space 
Label: Serpent and the Swan 

Listen:

Passerby by Luluc and their first album, Dear Hamlyn. Just do it. 

Look:

Daine Singer Gallery. Always serving up the freshest and best, with friendliness, no art wank. I love staying tuned to what Minna Gilligan is doing. She's a mate and I love the joy and unbridled emotional expression in her artwork. 

Follow @ella_hooper on Instagram

 
Photography by  Charles Dennington

Photography by Charles Dennington

 

Interview by Madeleine Dore
&
Photography and art supplied by Del Kathryn Barton 


Del Kathryn Barton 

When viewing artist Del Kathryn Barton’s enchanting paintings, I can't help but wonder what her dreams must look like. 'I really do have great dreams,' she admits. 'And they are all a bit too much sometimes. I don't really know where it all comes from, but there is a lot of weird and wonderful juice happening!'  

The longing to be the free and wild protagonists in her paintings creates somewhat of a conundrum in her life, she adds. 'The idea of riding a blue bunny across the universe is pretty cool, but because I can't really experience that myself I will make a painting of a lady who can.' 

But the longing is far from signalling discontent with her reality. When I ask Del to imagine what her life would be like if she pursued a career in rock climbing – the only passion to almost contend with her art – she held back a laugh. 'I think I'd be married to a hot climbing man, I'd be twenty-kilos lighter than I am now, and probably wishing that I pursued the life of an artist.'

You know you're onto a good thing when you imagine the life you could have had and end up wishing for the one you've got.

Exhibiting since 1995, Del has twice been awarded the Archibald Prize and her work is represented in major museum collections in Australia. Her recent foray into animation is now screening at ACMI and reimagines Oscar Wilde’s The Nightingale and the Rose in her enchanting signature style. 

While all of her work is labour intensive, she said working on the film brought her close to breaking point. Yet she relishes taking on such momentous tasks because ‘things have to hurt so good.’

'I'm very good at editing out the hard things in my memory. I'm a natural born optimist, so if bleeding that much and suffering that much helps create something that feels true and you really believe in, then yeah, let's go again!'

One of the most striking qualities about Del is her laugh – it's warm and unobstructed. The way she disperses advice is similar – direct on matters others would dance around: 'There is no reason to create it if you are not fully engaged and constantly trying to evolve the practice.'

Now living within blocks from her studio, her partner’s office and her 11-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son's school, Del describes recently moving and downsizing as ‘life changing’.

'Every minute of the day counts – I never thought I'd be that person, but at this stage it’s true.'

Del works hard, evident as she steps us through an average week, but it’s with energy, feeling and focus. Her refreshing view on life, creativity, and human emotion is ultimately as stunning as the work she creates. 

 
Photography by Kell Plater

Photography by Kell Plater

 

DAILY ROUTINE 

 

In some ways my week is very organised, but every day is different due to the thrills and challenges of being a working mum.

My eating habits are usually the same. What I do doesn't sound that healthy to be honest, but I like a little bit of plain Greek yogurt in the morning – I feel like it just does something nice to my tummy. Then I pretty much smash coffees – double shots or triple shots – until maybe 11am. I love that full on vibe coffee gives you.

Monday

I usually have help with the kids Monday and Tuesday, so my partner Chris and I both hit the start of the week pretty hard.

Photography by Kell Plater

Photography by Kell Plater

Monday is my sacred, sacred creative day – it is the only day that I get to work solo these days, which has been a little bit hard. 

Ideally, I'm in the studio by 5.00am, probably 6.30am at the latest – if I'm not in there before then I'm really anxious just because that day means everything to me. I’ll be in the studio for 10-14 hours on a Monday and I try to ignore my phone and emails and just get into the zone. I don't find that hard to do – what is hard is coming out of the zone. 

If I wasn't a working mother, that would ideally be life every day! I'm a total, self-confessed workaholic. I feel as equally blessed to be a parent, relationships are really important to me, but I could pretty much work 24/7 until I die! 

"It is all a bit contradictory in a way, but I think the working life has to be – I'm a dogged hard-worker, but my work also has to have an elasticity to it."

But I've adjusted to having just the Monday as “Del day” because the road that I am on with my film work is an increasingly generous and exciting one and it means that I have to be a bit more grown up and strategic. That doesn't always work, the wheels do fall off and there is only so much strategy you can bring to any creative life or creative project, but I am very good at being spontaneous and flexible as well. It is all a bit contradictory in a way, but I think the working life has to be – I'm a dogged hard-worker, but my work also has to have an elasticity to it.

Tuesday

My gallery manager Liz works from home on a Monday but comes in on Tuesday. We have worked together for years and we really do have a pretty amazing creative alchemy. She is one of the very few people in the world I feel like I can be in a room with and not be distracted – I can be in that really deep, creative place.

Again, I like to start early on a Tuesday because I’m not on the school run or worrying about school lunches, so I’ll get to the studio between 6-8.00am. I'll still be on the big beats with the paintings or the drawings, but it is a little bit of everything.

Everything is so deadline driven. We are at the end of a two-year film project and on deadline to finish it for October this year.

Wednesday–Friday

My husband and I tag-team from Wednesday to Friday with the kids and doing school drop offs and pick ups, which is really important to us. We are a really great team and we have had to make some pretty big choices along the way about where we live. What was life changing for us two years ago was relocating and downsizing – our home is now two minutes from my studio, and ten minutes from Chris's office and the kids' schools. My whole life exists within five minutes from home. 

Every minute of the day counts – I never thought I'd be that person, but at this stage it’s true with managing the kids schedules as well. 

I have two more assistants that work in the studio Wednesday to Friday. It has been an evolving journey learning to work with people. I don't think that I'm a natural boss, but about ten years ago my gallerist at the time said, ‘Del, if you don't start working with people, you are going to kill yourself.’

"My days are sort of like juggling and tap dancing – I think that is energising for me, but it does drive other people a little bit crazy because we will be working on something and boom, suddenly we’re moving onto something else." 
Photography by Kell Plater

Photography by Kell Plater

I have an all-or-nothing sort of mentality. Because I abuse my body with caffeine in the morning I will do something really nutritious for lunch. I was brought up vegetarian – I'm not a vegetarian now – but Chris doesn't have the same love for vegetables that I have, so I tend to have a huge veggie hit at the studio.

My days are sort of like juggling and tap dancing – I think that is energising for me, but it does drive other people a little bit crazy because we will be working on something and boom, suddenly we’re moving onto something else. But the people I work with now have adjusted to my eccentricities, and I think that keeps it fun and interesting too.

From Wednesday to Friday my hours are more normal I suppose, working from 8.00 or 9.00am till 5.00 or 6.00pm. In the evening Chris and I might cook – that old ‘C’ word!

I grew up in the country and dinner was really important, everyone sitting down and sharing their days, and so I do cherish that grand vision of having dinner together. We do have the odd TV dinner, but mostly we try to eat as a family and achieve that probably three nights a week.  

Zzzzz

Eight hours sleep is not enough for me – I need a lot of sleep and I always go to bed early. Chris tucks me in before the kids and then he will usually work till midnight. I do have periodic insomnia, but I usually sleep really well. Depending on how exhausted I am, I might play Words with Friends before bed. I'm obsessed with it so that's my thing at the end of the day. 

Weekends

I work six days a week and leading up to a deadline sometimes seven. Chris is workaholic too and his work is very demanding, so again we just sort of juggle. It sounds like we never see each other, but we actually have a great relationship and really love each other. He is a nerd, a very cerebral nerd, which is hot.

"I’m always working in a way, but at the beach the ideas turn over in a much more restful, supported way. The urgency goes away, which is a relief."

We both love the water and needed an escape hatch, so as a gift to ourselves five years ago we got a little nest up at the beach. It is close enough to our lives that it is not epic drive, so often the family will go up on the weekend and Chris and I will be driving up and down a little bit. Once we are there it really is a totally sacred place for our family and our bodies and minds. I’m always working in a way, but at the beach the ideas turn over in a much more restful, supported way. The urgency goes away, which is a relief. 

 

BEHIND THE SCENES

 

On how our greatest strengths can be our greatest weakness…

I’ve always had the belief that our greatest strengths are our greatest weaknesses. Hard work is what keeps me sane in many ways – that might sound a bit strange. I'm very good at making big decisions very quickly and I don't look back. I've always believed in the potentiality of commitment, when you truly commit so many extraordinary things become possible – I’m not a hesitator, I'm not a procrastinator, if anything I am too urgent and I might die young! [Laughs]

But it has only been in more recent years that I realised I do suffer from clinical anxiety and I have been living with that and managing that my whole life without having a paradigm around it. So I think that urgency – which isn't always a nice place to be – has come from living with and managing anxiety.

Photography by Kell Plater

Photography by Kell Plater

On having a love affair with your work…

When I start something, there is an energy and commitment akin to a love affair. I am really passionate about it and I will fight very hard, but then if I do discard something, I discard it quite brutally and ruthlessly and it is suddenly totally dead to me. Big time. [Laughs] Life is way too short for that after all – I'm an all-in or all-out kind of person. 

I feel like the energy and the integrity goes out of the work if it there is no play and risk. I rate those experiences quite highly because you don't want things to become too laboured and repetitive. You just start to die inside otherwise.

"Life is way too short for that after all – I'm an all-in or all-out kind of person." 

On human emotions and longing…

Feelings and human emotions are in many ways all that we have to give meaning to our lives. I have always felt things really deeply and that informs my work and who I am.

I just received funding to produce a feature film which will unpack a lot of these ideas about longing and what sort of energy it can bring to our lives – does it enhance or deplete or fracture us? Is it deep or is it superficial?

There is a certain wanting and desiring part of me, but at the same a strong moral compass is really important. All of those things can conflict and there is so much discipline and pain, but also pleasure.

On not pushing yourself to be an artist…

If you are a young, aspiring, creative practitioner and you do have a lot of blockage, then maybe it's not the right journey for you, actually. It might sound a little bit ruthless, but I feel that if you can live without your work you will be a happier and more fulfilled person living without it. But if you can't live without your work, then you just have to fucking go for it and trust the work and give everything to the work and it will find a way, I really believe that.

"It might sound a little bit ruthless, but I feel that if you can live without your work you will be a happier and more fulfilled person living without it." 
Photography by Kell Plater

Photography by Kell Plater

On giving yourself a deadline for your career…

From quite a young age, say 18 or 19, I knew I didn't want to turn 50 and be a bitter, failed, creative. I am ambitious and the career aspect of my art practice has always been really important to me, so I created a set of goals and gave myself ten years to realise them. I said to myself that if I turn 30 and I haven't realised these things that I would re-train in something else.

I always felt that maybe I couldn’t have a passionate career doing something else, but I could have a fulfilling career in something like psychology. 

On the experience of hitting breaking point…

I think breaking point is a combination of physical and mental breakdown. Mostly I sort of teeter on the edge of one or the other, but when they come at the same time, that’s something else entirely. Last Christmas I didn't realise how rundown I was – I basically couldn't get out of bed for two weeks and I thought I might have depression or have had a breakdown, but it did turned out I had pneumonia and didn't realise it. So the wheels really did fall off at the end of last year. 

On being on the edge of the art world…

I am not a great networker – I get quite anxious and do suffer social anxiety when going to openings and things. Of course that was a really important thing to have done as a young, emerging artist, but I am very content to be in the art world as least as possible now. I feel like I've kind of earned that for myself.

I don't really draw energy from the art world – I feel very grateful to have my place in it and it is comprised of so many extraordinary people, but I am happier being on the edge and being a bit reclusive. In fact, my perfect vision for my working life once the kids are grown up and settled is to work rurally. A connection to the landscape is really life-giving and important to me. 

 
"Feelings and human emotions are in many ways all that we have to give meaning to our lives."

'  inside another land #45' by Del Kathryn Barton, 2016  Photography by  Jenni Carter

'inside another land #45' by Del Kathryn Barton, 2016
Photography by Jenni Carter

' inside another land #38' by Del Kathryn Barton, 2016  Photography by  Jenni Carter

'inside another land #38' by Del Kathryn Barton, 2016
Photography by Jenni Carter


EXTRAORDINARY FINDINGS

Read: 

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

Watch: 

Love by Gaspar Noe

Shop:

Everything Fendi

Listen:

Sweet Love for Planet Earth by Fuck Buttons

Look:

 Everything by Lisa Yuskavage

 
 

Interview by Madeleine Dore
&
Photography by Annette O'Brien 
This article was originally published on The Design Files as part of our monthly column


Stephanie Stamatis
Stylist

When I speak to stylist Stephanie Stamatis – aka. Stephanie Somebody – jetlag has only just faded from her five week holiday in Europe, and things are a little more hectic than usual.

Impressively balancing commercial, editorial and publishing styling work, hosting workshops at The School, and producing events with her friend Sarah Cooper through their business Local Gatherings, Stephanie credits her success to developing a bold aesthetic, and strong relationships with photographers. ‘I’ve never had to push for work, I have always been really lucky with always having something to take up the weeks’ she says.

Stephanie doesn’t wear her busyness as a badge of honour, though. She’s simply excited to be doing the work, and couldn’t imagine it any other way. ‘I’m not sure I’m made to work for other people – I’m meant to be my own boss,’ she said.

While still susceptible to burnout, she recognises this is part of the ebb and flow of freelance work, where a routine can shift from crazy busy, to a more ‘normal’ pace from one day to the next. To find equilibrium, Stephanie is conscious of taking mini-breaks throughout the day.

‘I think the best way I can sustain everything is to have mental breaks during the day. A good coffee break, sitting down for lunch, Instagram breaks’ Stephanie says. ‘Also, once every couple of weeks I’ll try to have a mid-week day off – or at least half a day. This is spent in coffee shops and catching up with people I don’t get to see on weekends. My studio pretty much always needs a sort out, so I do that as well.’

DAILY ROUTINE

6.30

Usually I’m up between 6.30am and 7.00am, but I’m really not a morning person. Right now I’m waking up early out of necessity, because I’ve been so busy, but I remember a time six months ago I was getting out of bed later!

7.00

A typical breakfast is avocado on toast, and sometimes I boil an egg. That said, I am notorious for forgetting breakfast, so I will often go to my coffee shop across from the studio and get a coffee and a croissant. My eating habits are terrible, and I need to be more mindful of my health because I’m trying to cram so much into a day.

8.00

I take a long time to do things in the morning. But I try not to rush. A couple of times a week I try to get coffee with my partner before work, but often I have a lot of packing and unpacking to do after shoots.

8.30

I try to start shoot days at 8.30am, so I have time to unload everything and set out all my props before the photographer arrives. If I’m doing any special preparation or painting, I’ll arrive a bit earlier, and it can also depend if the shoot is in a studio or on a location in the country.

For every day of shooting there are about three days of preparation. You think you can fit heaps into each week, but even if two shoots are back to back, that can be really crazy – my mind has to be split between the two. That’s when my assistant comes in, but it’s also why I often work late.

8.50

If I am having a day in my studio, I like to be there by 9.00am. My studio is a 10 minute drive from home. I have my desk set up with my favourite things, and always have good music on.

If it’s a sourcing day, most shops don’t open until 10.00am, so I usually do admin first thing in the morning from home. I won’t get my computer out, I’ll answer emails from my phone. The best thing with sourcing is I often bump into people, and it’s so lovely to have an unexpected social moment on a busy working day.

Typically, I’ll spend between one and three full days sourcing for a shoot, depending on the brief. If I have a shoot say on a Wednesday, I’ll spend half of Monday morning doing admin, mood boards, talking to clients, talking to my agent and then I’ll do half a day sourcing. Then the Tuesday will be an entire day of sourcing and we are on set the following day.

12.00

Lunch is often the meal I take the most time with during the day. My favourite, if I am in the studio, is our local cafe called Kines, where I’ll get an amazing pickled beetroot toastie and sit down with a coffee and my notepad. I’m a manual worker, so all of my planning happens using handwritten notes – every job will get a page so I can cross things off a physical list.

During the in between moments, when I’m waiting for coffee or having lunch, I’ll check Instagram.

13.00

My work with Local Gatherings is scheduled in like any other job. If I have another job that clashes, Sarah Cooper and our assistant manager will carry a lot of the weight. When I can, I’ll do a couple hours of packing boxes, or creating mood boards for upcoming events at night.

15.00

My days are like when you used to go to school and have classes broken out into periods – I allow myself an hour to do each thing. But that is also why I tend to work late – my entire day has been driving and running around, picking things up and having meetings, so most of the admin overflows into the evenings.

18.30

The end to my workday is usually when the shops close! I try to be home by 6.30pm or 7.00pm because that is when my partner comes home, and we have a proper dinner together. Making a nice simple dinner is my wind down and I really value that. If we haven’t had time to cook, we will get some Vietnamese or Tibas or something, but we always sit down together and have dinner. That is the one thing I do every day because otherwise we probably wouldn’t see each other that much!

20.00

After dinner I do a little bit more admin and emails and things like that, and prepare work for the next day. I’m probably a really bad example of a balanced routine, I don’t take much time for myself at the moment, but I am working on it.

Usually late on a Sunday or Monday night I will sit down and go through all of my tasks for the week and split what I have to do and what goes to my assistant – she is brilliant. The ideal plan is to do only one shoot a week, that would be ideal, and my routine would be a lot more settled, but when an offer comes in I don’t want to pass it up, I still get really excited!

23.00

Generally before bed we watch a little bit of Netflix and have a cup of tea and possibly a piece of chocolate.

Midnight

My partner might go to bed and I’ll keep doing a bit of work. I’ll often be awake until after midnight because that is when my brain is working best.

“The excitement to be doing something different each day is what keeps me going. If I wasn’t happy in my work I wouldn’t be happy in my life, I don’t really separate the two. I am tired, but it’s exciting to be tired.” – Stephanie Stamatis.
Artwork credits: (Left to right) Rob McHaffie, Jake Walker and Simon McEwan. 'Interior' by Tai Snaith

Artwork credits: (Left to right) Rob McHaffie, Jake Walker and Simon McEwan. 'Interior' by Tai Snaith

Interview by Madeleine Dore
&
Photography by Bri Hammond 


Tai Snaith
Artist

Always creative as a child, it might come as no surprise that Tai Snaith has a flourishing career as an artist. But a life of art and making has created an ever-so-slight tension with another childhood ambition – to become Prime Minister of Australia.

‘Sometimes in my art practice, I think what am I doing just wasting my potential as a leader, or of breaking new ground in terms of feminism or whatever I could be doing?’

Many of us can relate to berating our current careers or practices based on what we could be doing, but for Tai it’s about figuring out where you feel most natural and at home.

‘I feel really at home making things, and so you have to keep the confidence up to say you deserve to be making things.’

Making things spans Tai’s impressive career as an artist, curator, festival producer, writer and children’s book author. She has exhibited extensively in Australia and overseas and is a visual arts reviewer for Smartarts on TripleR radio.

Tai admits that the stepping-stones in her diverse career have been ‘all over the place.’ Art school in particular was a knock in confidence. ‘In saying that, I met some of my best friends and looking back it was important, but I went five years after graduating where I didn't really exhibit.’

But with creativity and tenacity running through her veins, it didn’t take long for Tai to recover her confidence. Eager to work with cultural producer Marcus Westbury at Next Wave Festival, she made up a position and secured funding to pay her own wage. Since, she has worked as a producer for Melbourne Fringe Festival, Melbourne Writers Festival, and more. 

Such gusto has culminated in days spent busily working in her art studio nestled next to the kid’s playroom, weekends spent gardening, with good friends, or enjoying good food in her home shared with her partner, architect Simon Knott.

‘I don’t know how I used to imagine my life would end up, but I am pretty happy to have a beautiful space to be in.’

We delve into that space and Tai teaches us about slowing down, moving on from self-doubt, and reminds us that in some small way, we are all Prime Minister of our own lives.

Artwork credit: Tai Snaith and third work from the left by Sarah CrowEST

Artwork credit: Tai Snaith and third work from the left by Sarah CrowEST


PART 1: DAILY ROUTINE 


5.30

My partner gets up at about five-thirty or six and goes to the gym and my boys – Leo who is five-years-old and Gil who is two – get into bed with me. 

7.30

We stay in bed until about seven-thirty at the latest and get up and have breakfast, which usually entails making them toast and eating their crusts. I have my vitamins, a cup of juice and their crust, that's my diet, which is terrible! 

Having children really changed my idea of routine. I used to hate routine – I would just have breakfast and would see how the day went. But when I had children I definitely had to create a routine, mainly for them but also to fit in my work.

My eldest is gorgeous, but he is a dreamer. I found myself nagging him every morning about his lunchbox or brushing his teeth. So we have just created a visual list for him with a picture of his shoes, pants, hat, lunchbox and toothbrush and he has pinned it up on his wall. Now he is so cute and he goes in and checks it by himself, and for the first time in a long time, I don't need to nag anyone.  

8.30

Once the kids are dressed I’ll bundle them into the car, but if we are really onto it we will walk to school. From there, each day of the week has a very different structure.

Monday

Gil and I go to music and then we head to the toy library in Collingwood which is one of the best places in Melbourne – you can get six new toys and it means for the rest of the day my little boy is occupied.

In the afternoon I work in the studio opposite the playroom. That was thought through when we renovated the house so I could be able to do my thing while watching the kids. If it is nice weather we set up outside and I do clay, write notes or research stuff.

Tuesday

Tuesday is a similar day but we do swimming in the morning – we always have an activity in the morning then in the afternoon I work and he just plays.

Wednesday

On Wednesdays Leo is at school and Gil is at daycare for the whole day, so I usually start by doing exercise, which is a new revelation. I find the gym really boring, so I usually go for a big walk along Merri Creek and then go to a one-on-one pilates class with an instructor and then I am set for the rest of the day.

I’ll either have meetings or work in my studio all day. I listen to a million podcasts on Wednesdays – The Moth, New Yorker fiction podcast, This American Life, TED Radio Hour, sometimes Bad At Sports.

At midday I often have to see an exhibition to review on Thursday for TripleR Smartarts – it's good because if you spend too much time inside you get bored.

Thursday

I skip the exercise on Thursdays and just work flat out – I get lots of studio work done because Leo has after school care. If I ever have to review a show far away or whatever, I do that on a Thursday.

Friday

I try not to plan anything on Fridays except catch ups – it's quite nice to have a day where there is nothing planned and people can drop in or if I have to, I can pick something up from the framers. It's the kind of day where I can just drag Gil around with me, but it's better if we hang out at home and sit in the garden and talk to people. 

17.00

By five, the kids and I are definitely back home. Depending on the day, I might make dinner earlier so I don't have to do it in the afternoon.

18.00

My partner doesn’t really get home till around six so we usually try and wait for him to have dinner, but sometimes the kids are just starving so he has to eat on his own. Sometimes we wait out the front, it's really cute, the boys climb the tree and once they spot him, run down the street to meet him.

19.00

After dinner the boys have a bath and my partner and I will usually just catch up, watch the news, or just take a breather.

If I’m really busy, I’ll do my emails between or just bash out whatever I need to on the computer.

19.30

When the kids get out of the bath they are allowed to have half an hour of screen time. I wish I could trick myself into that, too! I’ve been having less screen time and trying to enforce that with myself.

Recently I was trying to figure out why am I using clay, and part of it I think is that I can't touch my phone because my hands are dirty. When I am working with clay, I get really into it so it might be hours where I just don’t use my phone.

I’m becoming a bit more aware of how using a screen or answering emails can eat into my parenting time as well, so I'm just trying to be a little bit better at putting any screens away.

You might not think it's doing any damage, but kids really need that eye contact and approval and that recognition.

 

20.00

I usually read and sing to both of the boys, then go straight to my studio.

Bedtime

I often don't get to bed until 1am if I am working to a deadline, otherwise I tend to work till about ten. I always drink a big glass of water with magnesium powder and listen to a guided mediation before sleep – otherwise I lie awake until 3am! Also, I try not to have any stimulants after 5pm and at the moment I am up to five weeks without any alchohol!


I never used to have enough time but now I feel like that’s all just a concept – you decide how much time you have, you choose that. You can work instead of watching Broad City, or first thing in the morning. I’m just starting to feel a bit more in control of that. 

PART II: WEEKEND ROUTINE 


Working from home as a mum and artist at the same time, there is no delineation between work and life – I work whenever I get it.

Often I get really good work time on the weekend when my partner is home. Every Saturday he gets up with the boys and they all go to the Queen Victoria Market together and I stay home and have a couple of hours to myself.

I might choose to sleep in, but usually I either go for a run or a swim or if I am really busy I’ll go straight into the studio first thing in the morning – it's sad isn't it? [Laughs]

I also love being in the garden and I spend all my money on plants and seeds, so much money on plants! It's good, better than drugs, right?

We are pretty quiet on the weekends unless we go away to Mornington Peninsula, but if we are home we tend to be homebodies.

We feel like we’ve worked so hard to make our space how we want it, so it's nice when we are all together to enjoy it and not plan too much.

We might go and do dorky stuff like go to the car wash, or the boys like going to Bunnings.

My partner is a really good cook so he does the cooking for the whole weekend and for during the week, so we eat really well over the weekend. We have a wood-fired pizza oven in the backyard so often on a Sunday we might have people over and have pizzas and wine or just make pizzas for ourselves.

We are really domestic on the weekends – it's important while we can as the boys don’t do sport or anything yet so it's nice just to do family stuff. Sometimes we will go to a gallery or the park or the pool, but usually we just hang out on the weekend.


PART III: BEHIND THE SCENES 


On the relationship between stability and self-doubt…

Before I had kids, I used to experience lots of self-doubt and depression because I was so up and down – lots of going out and being crazy and being unpredictable because that was my life as an artist.

But you don’t have to do that to be an artist. For me now, a sense of family is really important. During my childhood there was a lot of toing and froing between parents and lot of travelling, and I really wanted my kids to have something a bit more stable. 

Also just having a friendship with my partner that is not about being seen at the right places or going out all the time is important – it is just about being a good family together. 

On balancing being an artist, curator, author and producer...

I used to work much more as a producer at festivals or curate big shows, but the last couple of years I’ve really tried to focus on my art practice.

It's easy when it's your own practice to let it slide and all of a sudden you're like, why I aren’t I being curated into things? Because you haven't given yourself the time!

So I go through these waves of positive affirmation and enter prizes, and go for residencies and exhibitions and some come through and some don’t – but even if they don’t I just make a body of work anyway and always get that photographed professionally to apply for others things.

On choosing a slower art form…

Working with clay is a bit of a challenge because it's a really slow process. The new book will be entirely in ceramics and so each page has different elements that have to be planned months in advance and you have to give it space and time.

It's funny because the book is about slowing down and taking time – and that is what I’m trying to understand by working with clay.  

On overcoming the self-critical voice…

I’ve had a lot of luck and I have a beautiful life that I’m thankful for, but I am also really self-critical and I have spent a lot of time just trying to reign that in.

It is debilitating if you are so critical about yourself and it makes it difficult to do anything. I have just been trying to just stop that voice and tap into a quieter one that just likes making things and offers a gentle push.
I think everyone has that voice, it is just about silencing it for a while. 
Artwork credit: (Left to right) Tobias Richardson and Helen Johnson

Artwork credit: (Left to right) Tobias Richardson and Helen Johnson

On planning and deadlines…

Since having kids I am much better at prioritising what needs to be done and I achieve a lot more in a shorter amount of time. I’m pretty organised in terms of planning ahead to at least a year of what I want to achieve.

I finish things way in advance because I hate feeling pressured and I hate being late – it's just who I am and rather than push that and feel really anxious and stressed, I’m just better off planning way ahead.

It also makes it easier to work with a publisher or a gallery because it makes their job harder if you are late – everyone becomes stressed and it's just not necessary. 

Artwork credit: (Top shelf) Sculpture by Nicholas Jones (Second shelf down) Ghostpatrol and Jon Campbell (Third shelf down) Miso and Eleanor Butt (Fourth shelf down) Tai Snaith and sculptures by Nick Waddell and Simon Perecich (Bottom shelf) paintings by Robert Bowers.

Artwork credit: (Top shelf) Sculpture by Nicholas Jones (Second shelf down) Ghostpatrol and Jon Campbell (Third shelf down) Miso and Eleanor Butt (Fourth shelf down) Tai Snaith and sculptures by Nick Waddell and Simon Perecich (Bottom shelf) paintings by Robert Bowers.

On maintaining momentum as an artist…

I always have to start the next thing while finishing something else – if I have a gap I can get quite depressed.

After I had our second child I really didn't want to force myself and I listened to everyone saying give yourself a break, and it was really difficult for me. Even with a newborn baby and a toddler, I was asking myself, ‘What am I working on? Oh, nothing.’ It was terrifying.

I think the trick is knowing that you are in control of starting that next thing, and that it is what you want to be doing.

I think the thing that has enabled me to feel a bit freer is being able to say no to things, or more conscious of what I say yes and no to. 

On making an income from your art…

Making a career out of being an artist is tricky because on the one hand you don’t want to make it a career because then it loses all the joy, but on the other you have to make some income and support your family.

I have lots of different strings to my practice so there is always some way to make an income – running workshops, commissions, or prints from my drawings. 

 

On motherhood and being an artist….

There is a massive feminist issue in the arts when it comes to having children and continuing your career. You do feel quite invisible, so it is a battle.

But in one of the first weeks of having my first baby when I was still in the cave of disgusting and I felt really shit about myself, a big box arrived at the front door from Beci Orpin. We had never met in person and she sent me this beautiful card that she made that said, "Keep doing what you are doing. You are worth it and don’t stop because you have had a baby."

I have done the same with other mothers so it becomes a secret club of people promising they won’t give up. 


"I think living a creative lifestyle and being in control of a business is pretty extraordinary.
I always thought I’d always have some shitty job, so I am quite thankful I have got to a point where
I don’t have to answer to a boss in anyway at all."
– Tai Snaith

Artwork credit: (Left) Minna Gilligan

Artwork credit: (Left) Minna Gilligan

 
 

Follow @taisnaith on Instagram
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Photography by  Mark Lobo

Photography by Mark Lobo

Interview by Madeleine Dore

Photography supplied by Frankie Ratford


Frankie Ratford,
Designer/Adventurer

Frankie Ratford knows how to break free from expectations and create her own. A print designer by trade, she dislikes working with clients, sitting still, having a desk and looking at screens all day, so she decided not to. Instead, she has built an impressive online community called The Design Kids (TDK), delivered over fifty keynotes and talks, and is currently travelling the globe.

Now in its seventh year, TDK has morphed from an online shop and series of exhibitions into a comprehensive resource for design students around the world.

Frankie funded the first four years of TDK herself – including a trip around Australia to get an on-the-ground understanding of the design community in various cities. Now with sponsors and an international team of almost thirty, Frankie’s job is to make sure the ship is sailing in the right direction as she continues to traverse across the globe. 

As part of this six-year international road trip, Frankie has just returned from a 15 month trip around the United States in an RV, building TDK and boosting the design community in each city.

The little home on wheels offers complete freedom and ability to follow invitations on a whim – as Frankie visits different cities, she interviews famous designers for the TDK website, runs folio workshops, talks at schools and universities, and meets up with existing communities including AIGA, Creative Mornings, GDC and more. On top of that, there is room for the spontaneous – people will reach out on Instagram and offer to take her to galleries or exhibitions, out to dinner and even invite her into their home to crash on the couch.

"Everything I do is built into my personality and what I’m good at. I’m really good at travelling on a budget and operating on the move and that’s how my brain works, so doing The Design Kids on the road is way more beneficial to me than living at home."

With the adventure captured on social media, Frankie is quick to dissemble the glamorous façade the online world can perpetuate.

"It’s my dream life, not everybody else's. I actually think many people would hate my life – it might look cool, but it’s definitely not glamorous. One time the shower broke and we were using pots and pans to bathe, and the RV died halfway through the U.S trip."

Travelling solo can also have its ups and downs. "I definitely experience loneliness. When you are such a solo warrior, you are not checking in with anyone, so if you don't come home no one is going to notice for a while and I think that is really disorientating. Nothing feels real because you have no one anchoring you down."

When daily life is filled with the unpredictable and so reliant on your own initiative, motivation can be nebulous. But goals and deadlines help keep Frankie on track. "I want to grow The Design Kids by 400% each year and I think having that number in my head is a really good motivator."

From reading a book a week, to travelling on a shoestring and meeting extraordinary strangers, Frankie is a rare example of how to steadfastly chase your goals and build the life you want, while maintaining complete freedom and spontaneity. 


DAILY ROUTINE 

7:00

I love waking up to natural light with the curtains open. However, life on the road means each day is totally different and if there is a plane to catch or some kind of deadline to make there’s probably an alarm involved. 

My main problem with my routine is my lack of one – I feel like every day is starting from scratch. I’ve been reading a lot about routine and it was something I really wanted to get my head around this year. Most people wake up in the morning in their own home, they brush their teeth, drive their car out of their driveway, and head to work. All of that is on autopilot so your brain can switch off a bit, then when you get to work there are all these different challenges – that's when your brain kicks in. In my life there is no routine whatsoever so all those challenges constantly vary every day – where am I staying, eating, showering, washing my clothes, working from? I thrive off the adventure and the thrilling side of my life, but with all the business challenges on top of the life ones, it gets really exhausting.
 
Breakfast is the only constant in my life. Definitely the most important meal of the day, and something I would never skip. I’m a massive poached egg fan – I can't actually cook, but I can poach the perfect egg!

"In my life there is no routine whatsoever so all those challenges constantly vary every day – where am I staying, eating, showering, washing my clothes, working from? I thrive off the adventure and the thrilling side of my life, but with all the business challenges on top of the life ones, it gets really exhausting."

9.00

I start my day by checking in with my team based mostly in Australia. We also have a host in each city who curates local design events and news so the team is now dotted around four countries in 28 cities. 

After that, I’ll head to the “office”. I've lived in Starbucks most of the year, which is hilarious because I don't even drink coffee. But after spending 30 minutes every morning trying to find a local cafe with good WiFi, driving there and ordering a tea before realising the WiFi is down, I’ve started defaulting to Starbucks.
 
The best thing about working in a cafe is no distractions. No desk to tidy, no fridge to pick at, no washing to put away – all those mini distractions that come from working at home. It's so easy to get a load of work done – no one is calling you, because by that time most people in Australia are asleep. 

For the USA road trip, I spent anywhere between one week and three months in each city. I’m the first touch point for The Design Kids, and I’ll spend the first day in a new city stalking the local design scene. By the end, I have a list of schools, studios, illustrators, organisations, events, magazines and more so we can present the local design industry in one place for students.

The next stage is to start contacting people and interviewing them for the website. Because the scale in America is so massive, I try to limit it to 15 people in a week and try to cluster those meetings together and spend two days running around. The rest would be email interviews, which is much easier, but talking to people in person can give you more insight.
 
I have a 50% response rate when I reach out for interviews, but once you meet the right people in each city, and they understand the mission, they’ll tend to hook you up with the other 50%.

13:00

I'm definitely a morning person so once I’ve powered through as much as I can, I’ll take a break for lunch. I eat out for most meals – time restrictions and constant travelling makes it a nice treat – it reminds me I’m somewhere new (again!) I don't normlly eat at Starbucks because it's horrible and I hate supporting them, but I do like stealing their WiFi!

17:00

Everything is shifting constantly depending on where I am, but at around 5pm Australia wakes up and that's when the real work kicks in. Emails flood my inbox and our studio manager Chloe will be tackling half of those from Brisbane, while I do the high level ones, and new ones from the USA.  

20:00

I knock off about eight and either make dinner or just go out – I eat out a lot and I normally eat by myself.

I do 90% of things by myself, which I love because when I’m with other people in meetings, or giving a talk, I give it 200%. Then when I head home to the RV or to a friend's place, I need that chill time to recharge.

21:00

If I’m still awake, I’ll try and cram in some reading <