Sydney artist Nicole Robins use found material to create unique baskets and weaving art works. We asked the artist to share some of her musings with us. Her works are available through our web shop and in store.
How did you become interested in weaving?
I think a few things came together at once. As a big traveller, I lived for 7 years in Latin America in my 20s and early 30s, it feels like I have been looking at basketry and weaving and craft all around the globe for a long time. I guess drawn to the artistry and colour and how living arts relate so closely to people’s lives – often women.
As a card-carrying feminist I am very interested in women’s development projects, which help women earn a realistic income through their art and craftwork. I also love plants and became quite a digger when I finally settled down in Sydney in my early thirties. I had a yearning to be more creative in a physical sense – as I have always found work to be intellectually creative. Fibre art seems to demand the same kind of problem solving – just in a different dimension. On a whim I took a basketry weekend workshop with Meri Peach at the Botanical Gardens. I haven’t stopped since then. I think that approaching 50 was a time to take stock and explore my own creativity much more than you can really do with small children. I began to document my learning on instagram (@looselywovenbasketry) over three years ago. It’s all there – the first baskets up until the one I put in the recycling bin yesterday because I just couldn’t see a future for it. I think I’m getting better, but it is a slow process.
What is your creative process? Where do you gather inspiration from?
I am sure there is a process that would be very obvious to observers. I make myself do something most days for at least a couple of hours. As an “emerging artist” (I love the idea of emerging in my 50s – I intend to emerge for as long as I can!) I am still finding that every piece is different and has taught me so much. I don’t want to repeat pieces and so I don’t do commissions based on previous work. I don’t think I could ever really do a piece identical to one I have done before. And where would be the fun in that! I want to make what is speaking to me at the moment.
Inspiration is everywhere and in some of the least likely places – like a council clean up. I jog most days and usually come home with an idea or half a tree dragging behind me. I live in a great community, in Haberfield, where neighbours drop cuttings over the fence and friends send me photos of stuff they see by the roadside. So material is everywhere and is a huge source of inspiration. I am at the learning stage where I am really wanting to see what some fibres will do – how bendy is a jacaranda twig (very) – can you stitch with certain types of succulents (yes) and I am still working out what seasons are best for harvesting different things. Surprisingly, I dry a lot of fibres in winter (so they are hanging over heating outlets in dark corners about the place) rather than in summer because our Sydney summer is extremely humid.
Travel, art, design. Anthropology – how people live and what we put around us to please us. I love checking out baskets in museums and in the market place. My last trip was to Mexico. I had a bit of a love of pink at that time – incorporating crimson bougainvillea leaves into my string making. The current indigo thing is a very pleasing moment – so I’ve had a few indigo threads and fabrics in my weave here and there. I love plants so hanging baskets are high on my agenda, as is wall art because I think fibre art needs to be seen on the wall and not just on our tables. As we look to declutter I love the look of both functional and artistic pieces on the wall.
And I do love the fact that I am doing something with so little negative impact on the environment. I am quite devoted to Irish waxed linen thread and some wonderful fibres coming from Japan. Habu textiles online could be considered a bit of a vice. In my last profession, couple and family therapy, the humble idea of ‘doing no harm’ was very important. It still is.
Who are your mentors?
There are and have been some fabulous people that I have learnt from and continue to learn from. I am a member of Basketry NSW and the learning and inspiration from our monthly gatherings is immense. Meri Peach, Flora Friedmann, Nanette Goodsell and Glenese Keavney are probably the four women who I would name as being basketry mentors, but all the women I have met through basketry are so very generous with their time and knowledge. There are a few blokes in there too.
What do you decorate your walls with?
In order of importance: my children’s framed art (any creativity I have comes from them), Aboriginal and other art, weaving in progress so I can look at it with a bit more distance. With a year 12 student in the house washi tape and formulas are also up around the place.
Does each piece has a story or do you let the work flow?
Each piece does have a story – but I never know really what is happening until I finish and reflect back on it. Like the piece I called Vortex – that was my midlife vortex! It has a wildness that captures the chaos – and also some new fibres that I discovered along the road. I look at Vortex and I think about turning 50 and what that meant to me. It has been exhibited – last year at Craft NSW in The Rocks, and now I would like to share it more personally with someone who really likes it. It is nice to exhibit work and offer it to be seen but, more than that, I would like to find a kindred spirit who wants to take them home – that enables me to keep creating.
Other pieces have a much simpler story around the material – sub tropical Sydney is filled with the most amazing plant life – native, introduced exotics, ‘weeds’ – I use them all and let the material tell its own story about our lives and what we have in our gardens. Bromeliads, dragon tree, dracaena, agaves, star jasmine, aloes and cordylines are a few of my favourite fibres. I want to signpost my work to a time and place. Many of these fibres are not used in fibre art anywhere else in the world. I love that. Place and belonging are very important to me. I’m a Sydney gal!
Margo and Larissa, from the TDH design team, recently spent a weekend meandering through Canberra’s eateries and art galleries. For native New Yorker Larissa, the drive to the Australian capital was also an eye opener, with an introduction to the The Big Merino in Goldburn and a peak at some of Bowral’s quaint attractions.
A highlight for the ladies was the interior decor and design they absorbed while staying at Hotel Hotel. Followed closely by the food and beverages they consumed at nearby restaurants. If you want to follow the footsteps of the design duo, they have created a simple itinerary for all you design hunters:
- Take the scenic route and stop in Bowral for homewares browsing.
- Make a quick stop at the farmers market for some road trip snacks.
- Introduce yourself to The Big Merino in Goldburn.
- Stay at Hotel Hotel in Canberra.
- Dinner at EightySix. “Amazing food, service, interior and wine,” says Margo.
- After dinner drinks at Parlour Room.
- DAY TWO.
- Quick croissant and coffee to start the day at A. Baker.
- Ride hired bikes from the hotel to the NGA to see the latest exhibition.
- Lovers of coffee must visit The Cupping Room – a concept cafe designed to take you on a flavour journey. You will also find the winner of the World Barista Championships behind the coffee machine.
- Delicious brunch at Mocan & Green Grout.
- Spend the afternoon relaxing by the fire in the Hotel Hotel lobby and marvelling at every perfectly quirky designed nook available.
BONUS: Gorgeous sunset on the road trip home.
The TDH team were treated to a wonderful evening last night at Dedece with Tim and Michael presenting individual talks from the designers who featured at this year’s Salone del Mobile.
Along with meeting the designers behind our favourite furniture brands, highlights included the stunning exhibition stand with love seat lounges and outdoor range by Minotti and Tom Dixon’s sense of humour and amazing Melt pendants, which blew us away when switched on (and off). We all agree he’s definitely found his niche and on point in the current market.
Davide Groppi’s range of lighting is on our list for future projects with the Sampei’s height and indoor/outdoor options a hit and the N-Euro’s for it’s interesting spider like feature and price point.
Knoll’s update to the classic Bertoia in a plastic seat now comes in an array of colours, super comfortable and fantastically priced at $300 each.
A new brand for Dedece is Brazilian company Sollos, which brings a beautiful mix of timbers and metals in both furniture and lighting with stunning finished details.
A big thank you to Dedece for such a lovely evening topped off with the most delicious osso bucco by Underwood Café.
Local artist Georgia Zweep shared a little piece of her daily routine and insights into her creative process with us.
What is your earliest memory of art/ being creative?
There was a lot of making in my childhood. I can think of many, but if you just need one:
My Oma (Dutch grandmother) had me sewing and knitting from about five years and we worked on and exchanged many projects over the years. For her it was all about the process and not the destination. Mistakes were funny diversions, not permanent setbacks. Such an important lesson.
My mother says that I was obsessed with drawing neat circles while I was still a toddler and I recall genuine praise for drawing and painting at school from age four. I always had some sort of project going. A big break through was age eight when I worked out how to make things look three dimensional with shading! I also recall collecting lichen on bush walks with my parents so Mum could dye sheep’s wool she would spin for knitting, and I would make little weavings from the left overs.
What is your artistic background/education?
I went to art school straight from school. I earned a Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts) at City Art Institute as it was known at the time. (Most people know it as COFA, but it has just changed its name again to UNSW Art & Design). When I finished there I actually put my paints away and did an economics degree. At that time, I loved making art but felt an unbearable pressure to chose a style or to be a product. I needed to step away in order to find clarity. For years I just made art for myself, family and friends and I worked with so many materials. But with time I became more focused, more certain, until I reached this point, where I paint full time. So, a big part of my background and education is the school of life. And I am still learning!
What are your favourite mediums?
I do like to work with different materials. It depends on how I am feeling and what I want to communicate. Drawing is so direct and the image can be so subtle. Drawing is also a great starting point for all projects. Water colour is mercurial, slightly unpredictable and the colours are great. Textiles appeal as they are tactile and sewing is meditative and it has been the principal artistic form for women for millenia. But oil paint is my big thing. It has such a proud history and is so versatile, but it has secrets that aren’t revealed without much practice. Oils can be unwieldy and there are so many techniques to master but when it all comes together it feels like magic.
Where do you find inspiration?
Nature is really important to me. I have a deep connection to the ocean and I love the sky and deep space too. Each of these elements in nature – wave or cloud or star – is unique but also part of an enormous whole. They cannot exist in isolation. And nature is such a mysterious paradox: beautiful and calming but also fierce and brutal. I think people can be like this too. What I try to do is to tap into these perceptions about nature and the human condition and share my thoughts through the art that I make. That said, I am a big believer in 95% perspiration, 5% inspiration. Inspiration comes, but it must find you working.
Who are your mentors?
To be honest, I don’t have a real, live mentor. But I am always interested in wise and inspirational thoughts and writings. Not just from creative people but from philosophers and scientists as well. If I am not painting, I am probably reading something.
What is your studio routine / what is your process for creating?
My studio routine starts before I get there. Every morning I swim laps in the ocean pool at Bronte. I do this all year round. It clears my head and leaves me revitalised and ready for work. My studio is nearby and I go straight there after my swim. When I get to the studio I open the window wide, light incense or a candle and start working. Some days I might add music and coffee, but apart from that, no mucking around. I keep distractions to a minimum – there is no phone line or computer in the studio. It is just me and the work all day. At the end of the day I pack everything away and make sure everything is in order and then I lay out a note or some other reminder of what I will be doing the next day so that when I return, I can dive right in again. Routine is the best safeguard against procrastination and creative block.
Landscape designer Adam Robinson is sharing his outdoor design secrets with every one. His workshop series has been put together with inner city Sydney-siders in mind.
“It’s an opportunity for people in apartments, with balconies, to create a fully realised outdoor space in one go. We have intimate groups with measurements and floor plans ready to go as we facilitate their progress through designing the space and selecting products. It’s a one-stop-shop for people wanting to design their own balconies with guidance from industry professionals. Our attendees arrive with measurements and leave with a fully designed space with products ordered and installation or delivery scheduled.”
The first step in all decorating and styling projects is the development of the overall concept.
This is where your design professional will pull together all of the information you have conveyed during the brief to create a visual direction for the project. They may collate images, samples, colours, and textures that reflect the look, feel and style of the new space. Concepts have traditionally been presented on a foam board or pin board, with everything pinned neatly and expertly grouped together in a cohesive way. But with the increase in software capabilities and brilliant image sourcing websites such as Pinterest, Remodalista, Houzz, concepts are now more commonly presented digitally in PowerPoint or InDesign, often with a collection of physical samples accompanying it.
A great way to speed up the design process is to collate your own inspirational images or samples online or in a scrapbook and share them with your designer during the briefing stage. They’ll use those elements to expertly pull together a finished product which is uniquely yours and a reflection of your home and way of life.
Interning can get a pretty bad wrap at times and, sure, there are proven examples of interns being treated like a glorified unpaid assistant, getting coffees and running mind-numbing errands for power tripping managers.
I want to go on record to say that this is not always the case. Proven to me by my experiences at The Design Hunter.
I dare you to name a better opportunity to get hands on experience and on the job training (or learning from scratch, in my case) about the industry that you see your future self in.
I liken it to dipping your toe in the interior design pool, before delving head first in to its depths – Oops, I was told to avoid metaphors.
I may consider myself lucky to have nabbed a coveted internship role at this company, but it is not with out hard work and problem-solving challenges on a day-to-day basis.
For example, recently, I had to source a ’93B Clipsal’ for a client. For those not in the know it is an extra large ceiling rose. This coming from a girl who thought they were called a ceiling row when I begun this internship.
I have also been working closely with the designers to understand the process they go through for each client. I have begun this journey with the art of creating concept boards, which, in essence, it is a visual conceptualisation of the client’s brief.
I spent my afternoon rifling through home wares and furniture images on beautiful blogs, which is a massive job perk. On the other hand, teaching myself InDesign…challenging. But that is the beauty of interning, there is always someone to help and support me with my learning process – perfect segue for a shout out to graphic wiz Jess for answering all my InDesign questions.
This is where the real work starts!!
If the project involves any renovation work to the exterior of the house or needs to be lodged as a Compliant Development Certificate (CDC) or Development Application (DA) it will require a detailed site survey.
This is where all of the specifics of the site are taken – actual ground levels, the footprint of the building on the land, height of the building and any fences etc. This document will be included in the final package given to the approving body but, more importantly, the information is uploaded into drafting software package and forms the basis of the initial drafting work.
Next is the actual site measure – measurements for the entire internal space are taken in detail – rooms sizes, locations of doors, windows and fireplaces etc.
It’s important for this information to be extremely accurate so measurements will be recorded in millimetres and most professionals will use a laser measure. The site measure will be undertaken for most projects, although may not be applicable for some decorating jobs where the decorator will just check measure the relevant spaces.
On a renovation project, while everything is being accurately measured and recorded inside and out, a site review will be undertaken. The first step is always to review the “149 Planning Certificate” which is available from your local council for a small fee. It relates specifically to your property and the site itself, as well, as the surrounding area and land.
It advises clearly what type of development is applicable to your land and what constraints or issues may need to be taken in to consideration for example acid sulphate soil, coastal protection area, and heritage zones. The document will be included in your original purchase contracts, but if you’ve owned the house for more than a year you will need to get an up-to-date copy to be confident it contains the most accurate information. This information will assist your designer with determining the most appropriate approvals process and what planning laws are applicable.
Businesses and brands with soul are always so lovely to encounter. At The Design Hunter we aim to support brands that have that special connection with their product. Pampa is one of those brands – a home grown business based in the Byron Bay hinterland. Established by two photographers – one from Argentina, the other from Australia – who share two worlds, two visions and two cultures. Together they “trace a map between Australia and Argentina, covering the miles and bridging the distance between two countries that are more alike than different.”
Every year the duo “explore some of Argentina’s most remote indigenous communities, always with a camera in hand to document the journey. During these travels they seek-out the finest rugs and cushions that have been handwoven using traditional materials, designs and techniques by some of Argentina’s most talented artisans, bringing them back across the world from their homes to yours.”
Each rug is a one off piece and completely unique. According to their website Pampa believes in a world of ethically made and fairly traded products, which is why they deal directly with the artisans. The profits the weavers earn from every rug are used by them and their families to cover day-to-day living costs such as buying food and clothing, paying school expenses, accessing medical care, and sourcing new tools and materials for weaving.
The Design Hunter is proud to stock Pampa, but due to the nature of the product you will have to be quick to snap one up.Tweet
The first step for any design project, regardless of whether it’s a styling project or a full scale design and build, is to meet with the client onsite and take the brief. This might include:
- A tour of the house or space to familiarise the designer with the layout, as well as, give the designer an insight in to their clients personality, likes, dislikes and way of life.
- Discuss the clients ideas, needs and wants – this is where a scrapbook of ideas or a Pinterest page is really useful to show the Designer.
- Discuss budget – clear communication of budget is extremely important so that the designer can work accordingly.
- Discuss timelines and any deadlines the client may have.
- Take any measurements of rooms or spaces if it’s a smaller project.
For design and build projects here, at The Design Hunter, we often take a representative from our affiliated building partner, B2 Construction Pty Ltd with us to the briefing meeting. Where possible we always aim to work closely with them during the design phase to ensure that the final designs are produced in a way that can be built practically and within the budget allocated. It also allows us to speed up the design process internally and ensure that the end product for the client is build-able, on time and on budget.
The aim of this initial briefing session is to gather as much information as possible about the project, the client and their lifestyle so that the next step of Concept Development runs smoothly!
But that’s for next week – Stay tuned!Tweet