Clair Wayman made me promise I wouldn't say how long it has been since I first approached her with this interview. Let's just say she's set a new record - and that's saying something! The funny thing is, this blog now gets soooo many more visitors than when I first approached her - so I am not sure if that long-term interview avoidance plan really worked out for you Clair! :) he he!
BUT in all honesty it's probably perfect timing to feature the lovely Ms Wayman, because the last year has held a lot of fun adventures for Clair. After many years as a freelance interiors stylist, and Real Living Magazine's girl-on-the-ground in Melbourne, Clair and her partner Nick have recently opened their very own homewares shop in Flinders! Stocking Clair's own designs, Nick's kooky screenprinted wares created under the label Two Ruffians, and many other colourful, quirky pieces, Curio & Curio has already won many hearts - just a quick look at the shots below and you'll understand why! Clair's also been collaborating on a few other fun side projects - including a range of wall stickers with The Wall Sticker Company which launched just last week! (pictured above)
Of course Clair's first love is styling - she still does a lot of work for Real Living and other clients, and is well known in the industry not just for her beautiful work, but for her sweeter than sweet personality. I have known Ms Wayman for a good few years now and I am sure anyone who has ever crossed her path would agree - she's truly one of the NICEST gals in magazine land. Such a calming influence on any shoot, so friendly and generous. Nothing is too much trouble, nothing is a stress or a fuss, everything is done with a smile and a giggle - courtesy usually of Nick, who is freaking hilarious and so full of beans he makes Bear Grylls look positively lethargic.
Whilst I am gushing about Clair, I feel compelled also to mention that I have never come across someone more consistently well groomed! Clair ALWAYS looks a million dollars, but not in an obvious way. More like in a 'Oh I found these metallic ballet flats online and this necklace is actually a vintage christmas decoration I re-fashioned and oh these stockings? They're just Topshop!' kinda way. Effortlessly interesting, effortlessly chic.
So now you have all the important info (dress sense, personality traits, marital status) I guess you probably wanna read the interview? OH OK THEN.
Curio & Curio
Shop 4, 50 Cook Street
open from Friday to Monday (or everyday during school holidays)
10.30am - 4.30pm
Tell me a little about your background - what path led you to what you’re doing now?
I grew up in a little country town called Ludlow in Shropshire, UK. My mum dabbled in all sorts of crafty activities, such as spinning, crochet, upholstery, knitting and dress making. We laughingly likened ourselves to the 70’s BBC TV sitcom ‘The Good Life’. Like the TV show, we were a little unconventional, we grew our own vegetables + baked bread, while our neighbours were the complete opposite.
Like many kids of the 70’s, I have vivid memories of the interior décor in our home, particularly the over the top William Morris wallpaper. Being a fashion designer, my mum was obsessed with fabric. Cupboards were stuffed full of all sorts of colourful delights – her passion obviously rubbed off on me.
Aged 15 I discovered screen-printing and I spent many a happy hour in the print room at school, mucking around with ink + mastering the art of repeat patterns. This lead to an art degree at Aberystwyth University in Wales, where I focused on painting, printing, and art history. I did a short post grad course in textiles at Leeds Uni too. After college I was drawn to the ‘glamorous’ world of interior magazines. I worked as an assistant stylist at IPC Publishing in London, and I fell back down to earth with a bump when I realized how much hard work was involved. I assisted some freelance interior stylists, who were colourful characters, and travelled the country, working on shoots in old country houses. I then started a full time job as an interior stylist on BBC Good Homes magazine and was thrown in at the deep end, creating anything from kids rooms to kitchens – fun but terrifying! From there I worked ‘in house’ on a few other homes titles, as well as working as a freelance stylist for a few more years.
You’re originally from the UK, and spent many years working in London before moving to Melbourne 8 years ago. What inspired the big move down under, and what challenges did you face moving here and setting up your career in Melbourne?
My English parents immigrated to Melbourne in the late 1960’s and I was born here in the early 1970’s. When I was still a toddler they decided to move back to the UK, so they could be closer to relatives. Growing up listening to stories about Australia meant that I was always fascinated by the place. Aussie friends would send us letters, photos, and even gum leaves + mimosa in the post. I remember we had bark paintings on the walls and a book on Aboriginal ‘dream time’ at home.
After living in London for 7 years, my partner, Nick, and I were ready for a new challenge, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to move to Melbourne. Like most Brits we had a vision of Australia being all about living by the beach + swimming in the sea every evening after work. This wasn’t far from the truth, but we all know how cold the water is here in Victoria! Our first landing place was South Yarra, then we moved to a 1950’s beach house in Mentone, which is where we still live.
It was hard getting work as an interior stylist at first, even though I had a portfolio bursting with work. Magazine editors were cautious and wanted me to prove myself here. It was a conundrum - how could I prove myself if no one would give me a break. Being persistent, I decided to find my own work, so I travelled around Victoria, interviewing artists + store owners, then writing features which I sold to mags.
I did a few stories for House & Garden magazine and was introduced to Deb Bibby from Real Living by the then editor of House & Garden magazine. At the time RL magazine hadn’t even launched and was just called ‘Home’ mag. It's real title had to be kept under wraps until the launch date. I was taken on as the Melbourne ‘girl about town’ for Real Living mag. This was the start of my styling career in Melbourne and led me to meet all sorts of lovely, creative people. Having to be quite secretive about the title was tricky. When I tried to explain I was working for a magazine that didn’t exist, borrowing props from stores led to a few raised eyebrows. It was a relief to finally see it on the shelves and watch it’s popularity grow.
After many years freelance styling, and working as Real Living’s girl-on-the-ground in Melbourne, you’ve recently opened Curio & Curio, a homewares boutique with your partner Nick! How did this idea come about, and how is it going?
After 15 years working as an interior stylist on magazines I felt I was ready to try my hand at something else. My partner Nick had already given up his corporate job to work with me on decorating shoots. Then he took the big leap into screen-printing + illustration and set up Two Ruffians – something he’d always wanted to do. Seeing him evolve into a talented designer gave me the push I needed to start afresh. We set up a little printmaking studio at home, and initially sold our designs wholesale, to shops around Australia. Our range is growing, and currently we print colourful cushions, artwork, tea-towels, make-up + lingerie bags, ottomans and T-shirts.
On my birthday at the end of last year, we took a day trip to Flinders on the Mornington Peninsula. A friend of ours was about to open a shop there so we were keen to see it. We stopped for a coffee and drew up a list of all the things we’d love to do – opening a shop being one of them. When we saw our friend he mentioned that the shop premises next door to him was available. It was a strange coincidence, but before we knew it we were nervously signing a short lease!
After a mad rush to get stock ready for the shop we opened just before Christmas. Being on a small budget, our shop fit out consisted of Ikea shelves and tables - unintentionally I created a simple Scandinavian feel. As well as our own hand printed homewares + clothing we filled the shop with African pieces from our friends at Tractor Home plus white porcelain lamps and other gorgeous goodies from Have You Met Miss Jones.
Being a tiny space meant filling the shop was quite manageable, perfect for first time shop owners!
Locals and tourists alike have welcomed our bright bold designs. People often comment on how different our designs are, which is music to our ears!
I also offer a decorating service from the shop and visit people’s houses to give them ideas on how to re-design their spaces.
One of the best parts of being so hands on with the printing process is that we can print designs in any colour for customers. People often want to match colours with their existing décor. They enjoy being involved and being able to buy something unique. We generally open from Friday to Monday, and every day during school holidays. We also have an online store for people that can’t make it to the shop. Since we opened a few new art galleries have opened near us. Flinders is becoming a little creative hub.
How would you describe your own interior decorating/styling aesthetic?
I love bright colour. Decorating is all about balance, so as long as a neutral tone is mixed with a couple of bold colours, everything harmonizes. I’m a bit of a chameleon but my signature style generally incorporates a retro feel with a fun mix of pattern + colour.
I like dual purpose furniture and look for unusual ways to display pieces. My mantra is ‘create the unexpected’. I’m passionate about recycling. Using vintage tablecloths and scarves to make cushions is a fun way to recycle. I love kitsch vintage textile prints and this is a great way to incorporate those designs into a modern home. I also collect vintage floral plates, which I love to display on walls around my house. I’ve also started collecting 1960’s English floral tea cups and saucers, which I make them in to tea cup candles and sell in my store. Rather than buying mass-produced furniture I like finding old pieces, such as armchairs, which need some TLC. Incorporating vintage pieces in to a home and mixing them with modern furniture, brings warmth and personality to a space.
Working with wallpaper is fun too – you can create instant drama with a wallpapered wall, which acts as an anchor for everything else in the room. On a smaller scale I love wallpapering backs of cupboards and cabinets to add interest.
I’m drawn to curved furniture, so I often feature round dining tables, side tables and coffee tables – this shape creates a more fluid, flowing feel throughout a space and works especially well in small spaces.
I'm obsessed with animal figurines and lamps - it must be the child inside me! I collect bunny rabbits, deer + owls and I have a menargie at home! Also without realising it, most of the products in my shop are animal related - owls, bunnies, birds, fish, dogs, horses, cows and even mice jostle for space on the shelves!
I like being creative with paint because it’s a cheap and effective way to create impact – I often experiment with striped walls, murals and different finishes. There’s some pretty cool modern stencils out there now too – gone are the days of the daggy rose motifs. I like to include my own artwork in rooms schemes when possible – you don’t have to be great artist to knock up an eye-catching painting.
A lot of independent creative professionals say that they love the creative side of their job, but hate the paperwork, self-promotion and the ‘business’ side of things. How do you manage to balance these necessities with the creative side of your job?
Gone are the days when I can work in disorganised chaos! Since setting up Curio & Curio last year, I’ve had to deal with all aspects of having my own business, which has been a steep learning curve. I’m now paying close attention to our in-comings and out-goings and make sure I pay my suppliers on time. I quite enjoy doing the more mundane tasks because it’s such a contrast to the creative process. I try to keep on top of the paperwork and don’t let things pile up – just out of necessity we have to get our invoices sent off quickly.
We’re lucky we have enough space at home to create our own little zones. To keep up beat, we have music blasting as we tackle the job in hand. Nick has been known to get up and dance with the dog – to let off steam!
I’ve found that things run more smoothly if we each have our own specific role. Nick has taught himself how to build websites and has just finished our latest one. One of my roles has been to contact stores and set up appointments to see potential stockists.
I still take on styling jobs, because it helps with the cash flow. Before, when I worked on a shoot, I’d be totally focused on that job, but now I have to be mindful that I still have orders to get out. I have a lovely seamstress who sews all my cushions for me – the next step is to start out-sourcing other aspects of the business to local companies, so we can grow.
Up until now Nick and I have been managing everything ourselves, so it’s been a real juggling act. I’ve recently joined forces with a friend who’s taking over some of the sales and marketing. This will hopefully free up my time to concentrate more on design.
Which designers, artists or creative people are you inspired by?
I love this creative guy… but I’m disappointed I moved away from Hackney before his shop, Ryantown opened in Columbia Road, a short stroll from my old house (maybe safer for my wallet though). My partner Nick gave me his sweet and whimsical book, ‘This Is For You’ which I treasure. It’s good to see the art of paper cutting given a new lease on life. His new ceramic range is on my birthday wish list.
British mid-century textile designer, Lucienne Day
I went to an exhibition of Lucienne Day’s work in London, years ago, and was blown away by her innovative geometric designs. It’s amazing how her designs still work in modern interiors, just as well as they did in the 1950’s and 60’s.
Gary Hume - painter
I was first attracted to Gary Humes work because of its flat colour and simple lines, creating a similar effect to screen prints. He plays with surfaces and often paints with enamel paint from the hardware store, on aluminium, to create a high gloss finish. He’s a great colourist.
I’ve followed Cath Kidston since she had her first shop in Clarendon Cross, Notting Hill. I bumped into her there once, when I was propping for a magazine shoot. She complimented me on my bag, which was an op shop find, made from a kitsch beach inspired 1950’s print. A compliment from Ms Kidston meant a lot! She now has shops all over Britain, American and Japan – it’s amazing to see what’s possible.
Amy Butler – textile designer
Amy Butler is a true inspiration. I love her ethos and way of life. She’s passionate about her craft, connecting with others and caring for the environment. She shares a home studio in Ohio with her partner David Butler, where they work with their small team. I love how you can buy her dress or bag patterns and make them up using her fabric.
Tricia Guild from Designers Guild
I’ve always admired Tricia Guild and used to enjoy perusing the fabric rails in her stunning Kings Road shop in London. The vibrant colours and painterly designs are a breath of fresh of air. She’s created a unique look that’s instantly recognisable. I have some her books at home and often look through them for ideas.
I’ve recently discovered Donna Wilson. I love her humorous knitted creations and charming ceramic designs.
UK interior designer and all round style queen, Suzy Hoodless designed a bold range of wallpaper, called Hothouse, in fabulous clashing colours for Osborne & Little. I fell in love with the ‘Jewel Of Spring’ parrot tulip design in lime green. I splashed out and bought enough rolls to cover one large wall in my sitting room and now it’s my favourite thing in the house – I feel happy every time I look at it. I hope she turns her hand to wallpaper design again – her style is to die for!
Thomas Paul – surface designer
I first discovered Thomas Paul’s designs when I was on one of my many propping trips around Melbourne. I couldn’t believe my luck when I spotted his colourful melamine plates staked up in Douglas & Hope in Brunswick street. Since then I’ve often featured his plates in decorating features. It was a delight to be able to stock some of melamine pieces in our store when it first opened. I’m a big fan of his cushions too. His work has such a sense of fun – vibrant colour and over-sized, playful designs – a man after my own heart!
Biba creator, Barbara Hulanicki
Once a flamboyant fashion designer in 60’s and 70’s London, Barbara transformed in to a sought after interior designer in Miami. She’s also designing wallpaper and homewares. It’s inspiring to see a 75 year old woman still evolving, loving life and working in a creative field. Hulanicki is quoted as saying about the design scene in 2009, "There is very little difference today as opposed to the ‘70s, although, there is much more choice now. Both periods share the same enthusiasm, if you press the right buttons."
Where do you find creative inspiration for your own work – ie books, magazines, your environment, travel, your family and friends?
When out walking with my dog Jack, I often take my camera in case something catches my eye. (One of our favourite spots is the cliff top walk at Shoreham beach, near Flinders). I’m always looking for compositions - light, colours, textures shapes and patterns in nature all inspire me. (I think I’m a frustrated photographer too).
I also soak up inspiration from the many cafes, bars and stores around Melbourne – I look at materials such as tiles, wall coverings, flooring and fabric.
I hoard magazines and love flicking through my favourites when I’m in need of some inspiration, (UK based mags, Living Etc and Elle Decoration). I often collect tear sheets when I’m working on a decorating job for clients and find magazines are great sources of information.
I was sad when American magazine Domino folded, but was excited to find the book version of the magazine, which is now my bible. I often flick through the pages, in awe at the stylish interiors inside.
Like most of us, I enjoy a spot of people watching and window shopping. Having a passion for fashion means I always have a notebook at hand to note down unusual shapes, colours, and patterns that I see on my travels. It’s also fun to get ideas for a room scheme from an outfit. I often fossick in fabric shops, op shops and quilting stores – I have a stash of fabric at home that I might never use but keep for inspiration. I also have a collection of crazy vintage dresses which I’ve collected from dodgy markets in London over the years – I have plans to alter turn them so I can actually wear them. They’re also great for ideas for my own fabric designs.
I love fabric design from the 1950’s - my friend recently gave me a V&A Pattern book full of 50’s patterns – thanks Hannah! Designers then had such a fresh, unique approach to design then.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
There’s no typical day for me. I often don’t know from one week to the next where I’ll be or who I’ll be working with. If I’m working on my Curio range I might be emailing images of new designs to customers, ringing potential stockists and planning a few trips to show them my ranges.
If I’m styling, I might be sourcing props or working on a shoot with a photographer in a location house.
Otherwise I could be visiting a decorating client, collecting mood boards together, going through catalogues or visiting fabric / wallpaper showrooms.
I’ve recently joined forces with a friend, who’s taking over some of the sales + marketing, and we work together once a week to nut things out.
If we’re catching up on orders, Nick and I will be printing in our home studio or packing up products to send off to customers.
I’m also about to start designing another range.
Phew it’s making me tired just reading this!
What are you most proud of professionally?
I’m proud that we opened the doors to our first shop, Curio & Curio, 6 months ago selling our own range of designs, with a tiny budget and sheer determination. In the first week Nick ambitiously announced that he plans to have a shop in every country - there’s nothing like thinking big! I’m so happy that I’m finally designing and printing – it’s so much fun to see your ideas come to life. I get a real buzz from customers coming in to the shop, falling in love with one of our cushions or artworks, then walking out of the shop with it under their arm. We like to spread the love!
I’m also proud of my styling work – juggling so many balls in the air to make a feature come together in a mega short time frame, is quite a feat! I enjoy seeing all my ideas come to life in the pages of a magazine – it makes all the hard work worthwhile.
What would be your dream creative project?
Where do I start! Anything from designing the interior of boutique hotel to trying my hand at fashion design.
Designing a range of cushions for American brand, Anthropologie would be cool.
I’d love to make my fabric designs in to clothing. I think seeing my clothes on the rails in my shop would be so exciting.
Working on a range of ceramics would be fun too.
What are you looking forward to ?
I’m looking forward to a holiday, visiting friends + family abroad and just having time to chill out. I’d love to pack my bags for a few months and travel around Europe.
I’m also keen to spend some time decorating my house – the busier I get the more I neglect my own home. I have to admit defeat when it comes to tiling though – I thought I’d teach myself but I think that would tip me over the edge!
In a few years time I’m looking forward to building a simple, purpose built kit home + studio in the countryside, using safe, natural materials.
When the business is more established I’d like to volunteer and do more to help animals + the environment. We’d also like some of the profits to go towards helping others and Nick hopes to employ underprivileged folk. Even when it grows, I’d like the business to have a low impact on the environment. We’re keen to keep production local and use non-toxic materials.
You favourite fossicking spots in Melbourne for furniture and home accessories?
The Cool Room, Balaclava
When you walk in to this place it feels like you’ve discovered a real hidden gem – it has no street frontage and can only be accessed from a rear car park, off Carlisle street. It’s a fossicker's dream – stuffed full of vintage furniture and collectables. Rick has collected an impressive array of finds from the 1920’s to the 1970’s. The space was originally used as a carving room of a butchers shop, hence its name.
I recently discovered this whimsical little shop tucked away, in Moray Street, Armadale. Owned by Lucy Moira and Melly Beilby, it’s full of quirky artist made objects and high-end crafts. I couldn’t resist buying one of their O’Clock Italian rubber watches – a snip at $48. I’m sure I’ll be back to buy more of the colourful wristbands that snap on and off.
The Assembly Hall in Williamstown
I’d heard from friends that a new, eclectic home wares shop had sprung up in Williamstown at the end of last year. I then heard that it was co-owned by interior stylist, Sam Moiler, which was even more intriguing. When I popped in to say ‘hi’ I fell in love with the store straight away. Divine home wares, clothing and furniture are set off against the rich textures of old wood and exposed brickwork. Among other things, the girls source one-off textiles from India, creating a rich, global feel.
What and where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?
I discovered The Coin Laundry in Armadale by chance the other day. Hidden down a sleepy side street in Armadale, this friendly, relaxed cafe offers a delicious array of food made from wholesome fresh ingredients. I ordered the trout and poached egg on spinach, potato roesti and beetroot sauce – delicious! I’m a sucker for a nice interior and loved the light filled, simple space.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
The Somers General Store for a slap up brekkie before heading to our shop in Flinders.
Built in 1927, this café and store is full of seaside charm. Current owner and glass artist Leisa Wharington has created a warm, welcoming atmosphere with kooky vintage décor and a delicious menu. It’s a feast for the eyes! There’s even a retro gelati van out the front.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
Harvest Textiles (Lara Davies, Jess Wright and Emma Byrnes). I first met Lara and Jess a few months ago when they visited our shop, Curio & Curio in Flinders. They’ve recently opened the fabulous ‘Harvest Textiles,’ a screen printing studio and workshop where they print their own range of textiles and offer a wide array exciting classes taught by a talented bunch of designers. They also hold regular exhibitions and encourage fellow screen printers to use their space. There’s no end to their passion and are always thinking up new ways to nurture local talent. Thanks to their enthusiasm they’re bringing craft loving folk together and creating a hive of activity in the heart of Melbourne.