Growing up in a family of artists, Louise understood the importance of hard work and self discipline from an early age, and has taken these observations into her adult life and business. However, she’s also very conscious of maintaining a balance. That’s why she takes her beloved dog ‘Skipper’ into the studio most days, eats lunch with her team every Wednesday, and tries to leave work by 6.00pm each day!
When life feels uncertain, it’s helps to try and regain a sense of perspective, and talking with Louise Olsen of Dinosaur Designs has this effect. She lives life with the approach that everything will be okay if we just be ourselves.
‘Nature is a really good metaphor for so many aspects of life,’ says Louise. ‘I will always remember my Mum saying to me that when you reach a difficult time in your life, it’s okay because the birds will sing again.’
Growing up with artist parents – her father John Olsen and mother Valerie, who was also a beautiful painter – and meeting her husband Stephen Ormandy on the very first day of art school, Louise is familiar with the ebb and flow of creative life. ‘You do have to work with it and often those difficult moments are moments of incredible discovery’ she says.
From her parents, Louise learnt the importance of being in the studio daily, and maintaining a sense of self discipline. Louise understands that hard work is at the heart of success. However, she also knows the importance of carving out time to pursue other creative and social endeavours, such as walking, swimming and cooking with her family.
Louise Olsen’s Extraordinary Routines
I am generally a morning person, depending on what was on the night before. I love the mornings and I love dusk, I think it’s a very special, peaceful and tranquil time of the day.
I usually wake up with the light – our house is on a hill, and our bedroom window looks onto a gumtree so it’s really bright and airy. I’ll hear the birds in the morning and that usually wakes me up.
It’s nice to go for a little swim or a walk before work. Sometimes you can just race into work and get so lost in keeping up with everything and not realise how important those quiet moments of your life are, and how they reinforce or reenergise you.
I have some warm lemon water and then jump into the shower. For breakfast I have bircher muesli – I soak some oats with bircher, chia seeds, sesame seeds and flax seeds in a little bit of water and yoghurt and add some blueberries. I love it because I have it all set up the night before so when I leave in the mornings I just pop it in my bag and grab a coffee.
Our studio is about 20 minutes from home, depending on the traffic, and Skipper our dog is with me in the back – he loves the studio, and it’s nice having his energy around.
Depending on the day, I might get to the studio early or be a bit more relaxed and get in later – that’s the wonderful thing about having your own business, you do what is required for any given day.
I think it’s always good to have a bit of clarity about your day and think about what it is you want to achieve, so I’ll have that in my mind or sometimes written down.
If you are running your own business you do need to have some discipline and that’s something I really learned from my parents, who were both self-disciplined artists with very set routines.
Sometimes people imagine a creative person as very airy-fairy who floats along doing whatever they want at any given moment, but it actually takes a lot of self-discipline. It takes practice, you have to find your groove.
We have quite a big team of sometimes over 100 people depending on the time of year, so I usually touch base with our fantastic general manager Richard Brooks first thing in the morning.
Then I usually head to my desk and check all the morning’s emails and communication that has come in overnight.
I have a pretty set routine of being in the studio every morning. When you are working with a lot of people around, you do need solitude in order to find some focus.
We have a development team that I work quite closely with, and there are times when I am working quite a bit in my sketchbook and mapping out a design for a new collection. I’ll often start off with a title – the last collection was ‘colour block’ – and then become really absorbed in the subject.
On Wednesdays we have a big lunch with the team – I think it is really important in any work place to have harmony and happiness in the studio. You need to have good communication and nice friendships, so it is lovely to have a moment one day a week where we all sit down and share time together as a team.
Other times during the week I’m on the run with lunch. I do try to stop but sometimes I’m just at my desk working with a sandwich or a salad.
The afternoon can vary – at the moment it feels like Santa’s workshop! But usually meetings can pop up, or I could go back to working in my sketchbook, respond to emails, or help with the manufacturing. There is so much discovery in the making and so much of the design process is in the manufacturing, so it is important to be a part of that.
I’ll usually wrap up around six, but it really varies, as we might have to do late night casting, or there might be an exhibition or event to go to.
Usually on my way home I’ll stop by Wholefoods House and get inspired about what to cook. I love cooking, I find it quite relaxing – I’ll open a bottle of red wine and catch up with Steve and our daughter Camille.
A quick dish could be Aglio e Olio with olive oil, garlic, parsley and capers, or it could be grated red cabbage with shallots and mint, olive oil and lemon juice with some fish and Spanish potato, which my dad taught me to cook.
Camille is studying her HSC, so she does her thing in the evening, then Steve does his reading or we might be watching the news or a movie. Sometimes emails or work might come in that I need to catch up on. Having business in New York and London requires evening communication. Next year we will be opening a new store on Crosby Street New York, which is about to start being built.
I love to have a little herbal tea before sleep. There is something nice about having something warm before sleep. There will also be some chocolate or cherry bombs!
Depending on how busy the day has been, I love to go to bed around ten, but sometimes we might be out late for launches or openings. I’ll usually try to do a little bit of reading.
Don’t do anything you don’t love doing – whether you’re a mathematician, a geologist or working in industry, if you love what you do, that leads to discovery and new approaches. Love and passion always makes the difference.
This column is part of our monthly collaboration with Madeleine Dore of Extraordinary Routines.