Perth’s Studio Bomba run by fabulous ladies Ange and Leah is quite possibly our favourite design space in Australia. Housing a letterpress studio, a shop, a cafe, their design studio (Studio Bomba) and rent-able desk space, its everything you can dream of under one roof. We chat about getting started, asking questions, all the fun things they get up to and pushing the boundaries of being a graphic designer – into exhibitions, events, retail and product design. Yeah Perth!
What did the original Studio Bomba look like and how did you guys meet?
We met in the early 00s in the graphic design course at the School of Art and Design here in Perth. We had both studied and worked in other fields before (Angela in fashion and Leah was a high school music teacher), so we were those geeky gals who like most mature-age students were annoyingly keen and eager to embrace a new-found line of work. We were mutually envious of each other’s work even then and thought we’d like to join forces one day. After spending some time working in the design industry, we formed Bomba in 2006. The business started as a traditional design agency working on brand projects for corporate clients, but our love for lifestyle-orientated design soon saw us stray into a world of exhibitions, events, retail and product design.
What are your tips for balancing and juggling different aspects of the business?
Smoke and mirrors? We’re not the right people to offer advice on the work/life balance at all – there is definitely chaos at Studio Bomba! Our multiple businesses are in constant battle for time and attention, but the benefit of being business owners is that you can change things if they aren’t working for you. If we find ourselves getting weary, we know we need to stop, re-focus and maybe even change tracks. We endeavour to take time out, preferably in a whole different town (Margaret River and Melbourne are favourites), to sit down and review – not just taking stock of our business objectives and results, but our lives and energy levels. It is important to build in enjoyment too.
Tell us how the introduction of the shop and cafe…
It was the purchase of our 1905 Chandler & Price platen press (on eBay of all places) that changed things. What we thought was a giant indulgence for us nerdy letterpress-loving design geeks, turned into our stationery line Mitchell & Dent, which meant doors needed to open so folks could come inside and look at the paperwares. And because we didn’t want to be a wedding shop, we instead instead to shine a light on a whole host of designed goods. The kind of goods that we wish we’d thought of designing first! And a place to mooch in needs coffee, right?
With no previous business experience in operating a press, a shop or a coffee bar; we immersed ourselves in each entity as it started to take shape. It is lucky we’re both curious cats and are are more than happy to put in the long hours. We asked lots of folks lots of questions and were not afraid to sound dumb. With perseverance, we eventually learnt how to get the print results we were seeking, how to set up an efficient POS system with a 2000-plus product inventory, and how to make a short macc – traditional, of course.
We also love the people-ness of the design, retail and hospitality industries. We love to spend our days working alongside, and with, creative people. We share our studio space with designers, illustrators, photographers, a marketer and baristas. Even if their expertise are different to ours, there is nothing more inspirational that seeing how people have and continue to master their skills and to hear about how they go about their workaday lives. You can learn so much.
What are some of your side projects you also run through the Studio Bomba venue?
We host workshops in our space for folks wishing to upskill in crafty endeavours. Sometimes we teach. Sometimes we invite other amazing locals to share their skills. We’ve knitted, crocheted, made paper blooms, terrariums, flower crowns and leather goods here. We also host a yearly event called First Comes Love. It is a fair for people planning pledges and parties – and again, is another opportunity for us to spend time with and to shine a light on the clever creative people here in this town.
Studio Bomba also gets to play host to the Johnny Two Tone Club – a collection of good people who like to embrace the handmade and slow-printing mediums, such as screenprinting, gocco and stencilling. You’ll often find us on a Friday night elbow-deep in paint and beer. And we are about to host a spud-fest workshop in collaboration with The Design Kids that will explore hand-lettering for monograms and contemporary potato-stamp print-making. There will also be potato-based snacks – everyone will leave with a belly full of starch!
Give us five of your favourite creative Perth things!
Fringe Festival is always an assault on the senses. Designer Jane and engineer Adam make amazingness at Future Shelter (our go-to spot for beautifully-designed souvenirs too). Musician Catherine Traicos will make your heart melt. The We Love Perth website [weloveperth.net.au] is the very best guide to this town and the amazing things people are doing in it. It is a little on the outskirts (OK-OK, it is three hours away in Margaret River), but we’re big on what Ben Gould is doing with Blind Corner – natural wines made by hand (and foot!).
Whats your personal and professional goals for 2014?
Ang: I want to make more. I love working with my hands so I’m making a conscious effort to step away from the computer. I’m learning calligraphy along with some of the Bomba gals – there’s something so therapeutic about dipping a pen in ink and making marks on paper. I want to crochet, illustrate, paint, sew more. I want to learn about pickling. And I want to design more.
Leah: I’m working on time. No-one is heeding my request for more hours in the day, so I’m using an app called Rescue Time to help me track and manage my time so I can be more focused and productive. That way – I can squeeze in all of the new things I want to do. I’m learning calligraphy at the moment and that is sure going to need some time! I’d like to make more time available for writing and illustration too.