Andrea Shaw isn’t afraid to take a leap of faith. Two years ago, she and husband Duncan made the big move from inner city Melbourne to the Geelong surf coast. More recently, Andrea bravely decided to wind down her successful small business, Stampel, to focus on a newfound passion – painting. She hasn’t looked back.
Andrea’s impressive first exhibition, Doorways, is currently on show at Boom Gallery in Geelong.
Some people are born with many talents, and Andrea Shaw is one of those people. She’s a versatile creative and small business operator, she can surf, has a daily yoga practice, and we have recently learnt she can also paint!
For five years Andrea ran her successful business, Stampel, creating popular handcrafted timber objects, homewares and jewellery adorned in her signature painted patterns. As the business grew, Andrea found she had less time to actually be creative, as her working days became more consumed by production and admin. She felt her creative juju fading, and wanted to reclaim it in a way that wasn’t restricted to running a small business. That’s when she started painting.
Painting gave Andrea more scope to create. She took to it with gusto, painting all day and all night. Her creative juju was back. Andrea made the decision to wind down Stampel a year ago, and focus purely on her newfound painting practice. She took on a part-time job to support herself, and spent her days off in the studio with her new pals: paintbrushes and canvas.
Andrea works from a studio in Torquay. She’s been based on the surf coast for the past two years, after making the big move from Melbourne to Geelong with her husband, Duncan. The change of scenery and slightly slower pace of life has really enhanced her creative output, and has resulted in her first solo exhibition, which opened last week.
Tell us a little about your background – what did you study and what path led you to what you are doing today?
I grew up on a bush property just outside of Bendigo in a very outdoorsy, sports loving house hold. My mum was always making things for our home, and was such a skilled crafter. She taught me how to macramé, knit, crochet and sew and we would often have a few projects on the go. I always enjoyed drawing and painting, but followed a more science and maths path academically.
I had a couple of attempts at university straight out of school, firstly studying engineering, then landscape architecture, before realising I probably needed to take some time off to figure out the right path for me.
I set off for the desert in a hilarious painted bus, and travelled Australia for a year before heading to the UK and working and travelling over there for a few years. While living abroad I would frequent the London museums often, mostly the Tate Modern and the V&A, and I enrolled in a short textiles course at London College of Art. I loved it and decided to come home to Melbourne and study Textile Design at RMIT. As a result, many hours were spent choosing palettes, mixing gouache and painting (lots of floral) textile designs.
After graduating from university I worked for local label Nancybird for a little while, and a handful of other small Melbourne design labels. Working for smaller labels gave me a good overview of the different aspects involved in running a design business, and gave me the confidence to start my own, Stampel, in 2011. Stampel was initially a great outlet for me creatively, and I was lucky enough to have success with my products very early on. Craft Victoria, Mr Kitly and TDF Open House all stocked my jewellery hangers and vessels which gave me some fantastic exposure.
I think in 2014, when we moved to the beach I realised I wanted to simplify my practice, it just took a while to figure out how best to do that, and I wound up Stampel at the end of last year.
Last year you recently shifted practices and started painting. Tell us what motivated this shift and how you have found it so far? What do you love about experimenting with this new creative outlet?
I just wanted to create new works all the time, which isn’t how to run a successful wholesale product business, especially if you are doing the making. I would say 90% of your time is spent on production and administration and 10% if you are lucky on designing new products. That just didn’t work for me. When I started hand painting one off linen tea towels (which was great fun) to sell within a ‘scale production’ costed marketplace, I realised it just wasn’t going to work for me anymore.
I decided I would rather go back to part-time work and simplify my creative practice without the monetary pressure for a while.
The freedom is the by far the best part about working this way. Once you have worked in production you realise the creative aspect dwindles over time. I wasn’t feeling satisfaction in my practice and had to change things up. Stampel took off so quickly, it was kind of like this ship I jumped on! It’s nice to feel like I’m on my own ship now, albeit a little one.
How would you describe your work?
There are very apparent textile influences in my work, with most pieces being very pattern based. I’m heavily influenced by maps and our native landscape. My works are colourful abstractions of the formations found in manmade and natural environments.
Can you give us a little insight into your creative process? Do you work on multiple works at once, do you have a rigid plan while painting or a more intuitive approach? What types of materials do you use?
The good old visual diary plays a huge part in my creative process. I will sketch and write ideas into my diaries at all hours. When I come to paint I refer back to these quick pencil drawings or watercolours. Painting artworks is still such a new practice for me, so things will definitely change as I learn more about preparing surfaces and painting techniques. I often work across one or two pieces at a time, and don’t rigidly plan out the works. I refer to my sketches but then work intuitively as the piece is coming together.
I use gouache, acrylic, cut paper, pencil, spray paint, watercolour, wood and glue – you name it really!
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
My husband and I are both up at around 6.00am. I will look on my phone and check the online surf camera in bed and either head out for a surf, or stay home and roll out my yoga mat or hit snooze for another half hour.
I’m home at about 7.30am or 8.00am, will have a shower and smoothie before grabbing a coffee on the way to my studio, which is five minutes inland from Torquay.
At the studio, I drink my coffee, water my garden, have a look over social media, emails and try to get stuck into any computer tasks I have. I’ll then have a tea break with one of the studio folk, before getting stuck into the rest of the day.
Late morning I usually listen to a podcast or two, and aim to get drawing or painting depending on what I’m working on before grabbing lunch outside on the grass. I like to listen to music in the afternoons, something fairly uplifting like Santigold or Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
I might go to Crossfit at 5.00pm, or go for a walk on the beach with my husband and dog, before coming home and cooking dinner, drinking a few cups of tea and watching anything from Attenborough to RuPaul’s Drag Race before heading to bed around 10.00pm.
Which other Australian designers, artists or creative people are you loving at the moment?
Irene Grishin Selzer. Her ‘Driptopia’ pieces for Iggy & Lou Lou are so great. All of her work is really other worldly and beautiful.
Miranda Skoczek. I love her energetic paintings, they are so dynamic! I’d like to start creating larger scale works. I admire how she does it with such aplomb.
Nadia Hernandez. Her recent mural pieces (I have only seen on Instagram) look amazing!
Can you list for us your top resources across any media that you turn to when you’re in a need of creative inspiration?
Podcasts of all genres. I like to listen to conversations about creativity, spirituality, physical triumphs, science, you name it really. I find podcasts to be an endless source of ideas and inspiration and some of my go-tos are This American Life, Radiolab, The Tim Ferris Show, Science Vs, Mindrolling and so many more.
Books. I quite often look through art or reference image books for inspiration. Recently I have been dipping into this little book of aerial photography I’ve had for years and sketching from it.
Pinterest. I used to love Pinterest for a quick inspiration dose and still have the odd scroll.
What has been your proudest career achievement to date?
I think my current exhibition would have to be my most challenging achievement to date. Making the transition to painting was a big leap for me, and quite terrifying. I feel proud having made the change and now be showing my work.
What would be your dream creative project?
I would love to do some public art, and it is completely unrealistic but I would love to paint a town, a whole town. It would be amazing to work collaboratively with other artists with a shared vision/ goal to paint somewhere needing an injection of life and creativity.
What are you looking forward to?
We are going hiking in Tasmania over Easter which will be amazing, and then to Turkey and to visit family in the UK in May, so I’m mostly looking forward to travel adventures right now!
Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
I love the Clifton Hill/ Westgarth pocket. Edinburgh Gardens is such a nice place to hang out and has such a great vibe, there are some great runs around Yarra Bend, and Mixed Business is my favourite Melbourne breakfast spot. I always make sure to stock up on food at Terra Madre before heading back to the coast. There is so much to love about that area.
What and where was the best meal you recently had in Melbourne?
Rumi in East Brunswick. I worked there throughout my uni years. We recently stopped in there and food is still amazing, I’ve tried to recreate their cauliflower so many times at home but never come close.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
If I am in Melbourne on a Saturday morning I will most likely be at Ihana Yoga in St Kilda, either taking a class or assisting. It’s my favourite yoga studio and worth the trip. Otherwise I’m buying vegies at the Torquay farmers market and jumping in the sea.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
My sisters place. She lives in a secret garden-esque village called Bickleigh Vale out in Mooroolbark. It was designed in 1920 by landscape gardener, Edna Walling and is absolutely beautiful.