Skye Jefferys is a delicate, thoughtful creative soul. She approached me tentatively recently to show me her folio of beautiful design and illustration work... her email went a bit like this -
'Well... I know I need heaps more better stuff before I show Lucy'
'Heaps more better stuff'!? I LOVE this stuff Skye! What kind of blog snob do you take me for?!
Anyway, the darling heart was keen for feedback, as after years of working for companies including Buro North and Melbourne's much loved homewares brand MOZI, Skye has recently taken on the challenge of going solo! Ooh the big wide world of freelance! It's a scary place!
Skye's story cannot properly be told without mentioning that she has been greatly influenced by a very sad experience with Acquired Brain Injury in her family. I won't go into toooo much detail... but this article tells the heartbreaking story. Whilst some would bury themselves in work and other distractions, Skye was compelled to respond to this challenge in a creative way... in 2008 she staged the hugely successful 'Head Case' exhibition, raising money and awareness about ABI. This experience gave Skye the inspiration to pursue her passion for art and design, and to eventually start her own business.... and so this year she plucked up the courage, and Isle of Skye was born. Not surprisingly, Skye is keen to foster a creative business which links art, design and social responsibility - watch this space!
Skye's style is so pretty and painterly... she's a whizz with colour, and is also a talented painter - in fact, in another courageous move, she's just gone back this year to the VCA, to study painting part-time... wow I feel I could learn a lot from this inspired 'follow your passion' attitude!
Huge thanks to Skye for her time with this interview, and for sharing her beautiful work! Skye is available for all kinds of freelance art / design / illustration work / chats / cups of tea :)
Tell me a little about your background – what path has led you to what you’re doing now?
The path has been very long, very winding and slightly rocky! I graduated with a Bachelor of Design in Visual Communication at Monash University, which I loved. However that same year was a traumatic one for my family, with life changing events that forced me consider what was really important in my life and question if I was on the right path. Even though I persisted with graphic design, working with some incredibly talented people over the past 7 years, including Marcus Piper at POL Oxygen, Dianna Wells at Dianna Wells Design, Soren Luckins at Buro North and the talented Camilla d’Antoine at MOZI, I have always felt a drive or a yearning within to do something more. I just never knew what it was.
In 2008 I launched Head Case – an art exhibition to raise awareness about people living with Acquired Brain Injuries (ABI). Inspired by my experience with my own mum (she has an ABI as a result of an extremely rare virus), I wanted to use my design skills to affect a positive change around this silent disability. This was a real turning point in my career and probably the thing I am most proud of to date. The event was hugely successful, with over 400 people attending the opening, loads of press and 70% of the artworks sold on the night, not to mention collaborating with some incredible people including photographer Mark Munro and all the inspiring Melburnians with larger than life stories. I hope to do another project along those lines in the future. In a way, it gave me the inspiration to embark on my own art practice and the courage to start my own business.
Where might we have seen you work? What are some favourite illustration projects, clients or publications you have worked with over the years?
I have really only just started out on my own, so a lot of my favourite jobs have been while working for other people. At Buro North all the jobs were fantastic because they have a great team. MOZI has been amazing because the owners Olivia Tipler and Camilla d’Antoine are inspiring, hard working and hugely successful. Travelling to India for a buying and manufacturing trip was a highlight this year, as was working alongside Camilla on the new range called ‘The Way to my Heart’, which has just been released At LifeInStyle this week(!) and the ‘Oh, Christmas Tree’ range for 2010. There was a lot of illustration work, hours of sketching and refining the elements – and then there is the challenge of making the designs work across a whole range of products, from aprons and candles to pillow covers and door stoppers! I can’t wait to see these in the shops.
I also just started a collaboration with UK based Kartimarket, which designs and ethically sources fair-trade furniture & homewares from around the world. My idea for these designs came from the everyday conversations (sometimes cute, sometimes cheesy) we have with those we love. They will be on sale soon!
This year you have taken the plunge and dived back into tertiary education, studying Visual Arts at VCA. How have you found the transition from fulltime work to part time study / running your own business? How is your time structured to make it all work?!
I am still figuring this one out! The combination is working well so far because I have the best of both worlds: the creative outlet of painting which is very free, personal and expressive, and the structure of designing to a brief, meeting clients’ needs and maintaining relationships (I really like that bit!). Finding the right balance is another thing altogether. One slightly quirky time management skill that helps structure my day is my Moleskine diary (I have had the same diary for six years!). It sounds a little nutso but I write everything in my diary and colour code with felt-tip pens. Pink is social, red for exercise, black for appointments and blue for ‘to do today’!
I would say studying at the VCA is one of the best decisions I have ever made and it actually gives my week structure. Mondays and Wednesday nights are dedicated painting time, which gives me the rest of the week and usually the weekends to do my graphic design work.
What does a typical day look like for you at the moment?
It usually starts with a walk or a yoga class, followed by a soy flat white and I sit down at my desk by 7.30am to check emails, write my list for the day (in my moleskine!) and scroll through a few blogs to get me in the zone. As I am just starting out working for myself, I try to do a bit of new business development early, ringing potential clients, sending out my portfolio and chasing invoices. Its hard, but it has to be done. Then green tea, which is my obsession left over from living in Japan. On the days I am not at the VCA for classes I get cracking on work straight away. My design process starts with a clean desk because I am such a messy worker. Then writing, researching, drawing, cutting and pasting, scanning and then I take my ideas to the computer. Some days I head into MOZI to do some work, or pop out for client meetings, and I try to see an exhibition at least once a week because I find it helps me stay motivated. It’s the best!
Where do you turn for creative inspiration? – travel, art, local or international print publications, the web etc?
For me, inspiration is cumulative and comes far more from personal experiences than anything else. By nature I am very curious and that’s important for my work because it means I am always asking questions, pushing boundaries and finding new ways of seeing the world.
Travel, nature and film are probably the top three things I turn to for creative inspiration because they move me the most. If I am feeling flat and uninspired I will head to see a foreign film (I just saw Women Without Men at MIFF - amazing), flick through old travel photos and try to conjure memories and feelings from the past. My husband introduced me to hiking and nothing is more inspiring than the colours, patterns and textures in nature… mountains can be pink and ghost gums are shades of green you never imagined.
Which other artists, designers or creative people do you admire?
Oh - so many people! This week the list would be; Tara Donovan, Yayoi Kusama, Tadao Ando, Sally Smart, Dale Frank, Abbey McCulloch, Chris Johanson. Old favourites are Sonia Delauney, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, Helen Frankenthaler, Charley Harper. Jewellery people I admire are Elodie Darwish, Natalia M.P, Katherine Bowman (maker of my divine wedding ring!) and my teachers Tony Garifalakis, Nadine Christensen and fellow students at the VCA!
What would be your dream creative project?
I am yet to dream it up, but when I do you’ll be the first to know! I think it’s probably some kind of fusion between, art, design and social responsibility. In fact, I have an incredible friend who is a journalist and we keep talking about collaborating, but all our ideas are top secret for now! Stay tuned…
What are you looking forward to?
I recently got married, so I am looking forward to what the future holds for us… Aside from that it’s all the simple things; more rainy Sundays; a home cooked meal with Jules (my hubby); good coffee; a challenging film at MIFF; turning 30 and having all my favourite friends and family around; Melbourne Art Fair; good conversations with my best buddy Jen; exciting ideas, new colours, yoga, travel, art and hiking.
Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
Can I have three?
1. Sandringham: Not trendy or cool, but for nostalgic reasons. I grew up with sand between my toes and now when I go there to visit my parents a sense of calm overcomes me when I see the water.
2. Balaclava: It’s my home. Somehow it has retained a sense of authenticity, despite the growth and gentrification. Quirky shops, delicious bakeries that have been around forever, coffee from Wall 280, parks, $2 shops. The only thing missing is a good pub.
3. CBD: My mum used to walk a specific route through the city’s cobblestoned lanes to get to work when she was my age. I love meandering through them now with an image of her in my mind – flares, clogs and big curly hair.
What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?
I am a little bit addicted to En Izakaya on Carslile St. I find myself craving their eggplant and tofu dish and their spanner crab omelette. Melt-in-your-mouth heavenliness. After living in Japan for a couple of years I think I have become a bit of a Japanese food snob… But these guys nail it every time!
Where do you shop in Melbourne for the tools of your trade? (art supplies, papers, reference books etc)
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Walking with my husband at 5.45am -– it’s outrageous. He drags me out of bed for a brisk walk before the rest of the world wakes up. They say it's always darkest before the dawn, and it’s true, but then the sun peeks its head up and the sky turns from dark blue to pale yellow and sometimes brilliant pinks. It’s the best way to start a weekend!
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
The mornings that I just mentioned!