We had a chat with the lovely Julia Atkinson – the driving force behind creative outlet Studio Home. And what a chat it was! See what she has to say about the differences between the Australian and NZ design scenes and make sure you check out her Top 6 interviews!
Tell us about the launch of your blog! What is the focus and why did you start it? I discovered my first “design blog” in early 2008 and as I explored the web of links that led to others I realised that I had kind of found my mecca! At the time I was running a small interior design consultancy (called Studio Home) in Queenstown (NZ) and found myself looking to the internet constantly for inspiration and products that weren’t readily available to me. I realised that I had a point of view that could be interesting and decided to start my blog with a firm focus on what was available in Australasia. Initially the project was started as a place to collect all the millions of bookmarks I had on my desktop AND specifically as a way to promote my business… it became very evident to me after a few years that I loved the blog MUCH more than designing people’s homes! Following 2010, I made the decision to commit to posting regularly and in late 2012 I relocated to Auckland in an effort to connect more closely with the exciting creative scene in NZ with easy access to visit Australia. I totally, utterly relish putting my heart and soul into the project and the industry. It has been a grind at times in terms of securing the cash flow to live AND continue to develop the site but the level of satisfaction and definite gut feeling that I am heading in the right direction is spurring me on!
Can you name the Top 5 interviews you’ve done and give us a little bit of story behind them?
I did 6, sorry! This is almost impossible! I love them all! So, in no particular order:
1. Kelly Thompson: A kiwi born illustrator/photographer/designer living in Melbourne. Kelly is a glistening example of how a modern creative can leverage the internet to support their work, but it was hearing her story of determination that really inspired me.
2. Henry Hargreaves: One of the first people I ever interviewed and photographed (you can tell!) in his Brooklyn studio in NYC, late 2012. His amazing story of Kiwi kid to international model to poor bartender to groundbreaking photographer/artist had me gobsmacked. And he was just so damn nice and genuine!
3. Marnie Goding of Elk Accessories: Marnie and her husband turned Elk from a small boutique jewellery label to a wide-ranging accessories brand selling all over the world. She has an amazing business ethos and I couldn’t be a bigger fan of the shape of their brand today. They know EXACTLY who they are.
4. KOWTOW: Gosia Piatek and I share a background in the snow industry, so to meet and learn about her path post-Winter was always going to be interesting. It was incredibly inspiring to learn that the initial motivation behind her fashion brand was not to fulfil her lofty dreams of being a designer but to create a sustainable business model and product with strong moral standards. Thus an edgy, organic cotton label that fosters close relationships with the farmers and factory they use in India was born.
5. Photographer Camilla Stoddart: Camilla is a personal and dear friend of mine, but even when I take off my biased goggles, I still think the highly creative but highly physical vein of her work and story-to-date is insanely inspiring. In short, she is a Scottish art school graduate who now lives on a high country farm in southern NZ and is an internationally-renowned action sports photographer. She brings a fine art view to what has historically been a bit of a glossy, male-dominated role.
6. Beci Orpin: I felt VERY fan- girly when I met Beci, but thanks to her awesome relaxed personality I was able to calm down and keep myself together long enough to listen to her story. Her talent is unquestionable and her work super recognisable, but I don’t think I have ever met anyone with SUCH an intense work ethic before!
What are your plans for 2014?
My brain is spinning with stuff, but in short:
I want to collaborate more – get some combined projects going with like-minded people!
Continue to develop the document I am working on about Online Media for Creative Small Biz, and get to share that with people as a downloadable file AND in the form of workshops!
Continue on the hunt for creative inspiring souls to write about down under.
Secure some partnerships that allow me to pay my bills!
The ultimate? Be a blogging gypsy across NZ/AUS AND make it to Europe to interview creative Kiwis and Aussies seeking creative success away from home. The jewel in the crown of the Fly the Coop features! Gotta dream big, right??!
How do you think the Australian design scene and NZ design scene compare?
This is a super interesting question and one I have pondered so much it actually was the catalyst for a networking event I ran in early November! The size of our communities, resulting audience and work opportunities for creatives definitely means that there are two quite different environments between the NZ and Australian scenes. It was my first visit to Melbourne that really highlighted the differences to me. The creative community there seems to cultivate a real culture of collaboration, interest and support. The question is, “ What do you do? Cool! We should do something together!” In NZ, where our industry is smaller, I think the level of competition can make many quite protective of their ideas at times, which often limits conversation and sharing. In saying this, I also think it may also be a case of limited opportunities to connect! Another resounding difference was the awesome existence of government initiatives like Craft Victoria in Australia. Grants, support, promotion and events are made available to such a wide range of creatives attempting to get their small business and work into the public eye. In New Zealand there seems to be a gaping hole in this area. Arts and Culture seems to be dripping in grants however as a young furniture designer looking to establish a brand and business there really are no opportunities for assistance from the government. I am sure things are shifting but it seems to be SLOW! In light of this and the Studio Home network I decided to hold a “mixer” in Auckland before a left which was aimed to pull in all the artists/designers/creative that I had connected with locally to mix with each other as well as my advertisers, shops and media. It was informal and the resounding feedback was that we need to do another! I plan to initiate a few of these across NZ centres next year.
Tell us about 3 places we must visit in NZ!
THREE?! We are little, but this is a big ask! Lake Wanaka: My most favourite place, previous home and hopefully home again! Mountains, lakes, rivers, forest, farmland, dry climate and cool people! The Marlborough Sounds: Much of it only accessed on foot or by boat. The Sounds is my most favourite summer holiday spot with its bush-clad hills, deep green water, jetties to jump off, water skiing, fresh fish, bird life and Pimms before lunch. Waiheke Island: A ferry ride from central Auckland, this place mixes its small town/island vibe with beautiful beaches and top level wineries/restaurants for those inclined!
Describe a typical Studio Home day. For most of the last year I have been based from my apartment in Auckland but I’m currently roving away from home in Australia and staying with my sister in a small cottage on Mt. Tamborine in the Gold Coast hinterland. It starts with me checking my phone to make sure my posts have published… then usually hauling myself out of bed to correct grammar/spelling mistakes that I ALWAYS miss! My sister leaves the house at 6.30am to commute to the Gold Coast, so I jump in with her and get dropped just far enough to have a good walk/run/puff back to the house. I then jump on and repost the links to the day’s posts on my social media channels. I aim for this to be around the 10.30am NZ time, which is 8.30am NSW/Victoria and 7.30am Queensland. I spend A LOT of time pondering social media strategy… geeky. Then a quick shower and breakfast back in front of the computer in my little office set up in my sister’s laundry. My days always vary but, in general, are spent editing and laying out photos, writing features, liasing with those I am blogging about or lining up interviews, providing information on my advertising rates and opportunities, answering submission emails, monitoring and updating my social media, scrawling ideas in my notebook(s), eating/drinking in front of my screen, getting distracted by Instagram and kookaburras and really just pushing hard! I generally will be at my desk until after 6pm, although 5 times out of 10 will work until I go to bed. My life is all about my website, ideas and goals at the moment and I just figure that as I don’t have any responsibilities like family or a full-time job I should just go as hard as a can!