Emily Green is many things – a trained high school teacher, an artist and designer, a prolific crafter, and a successful creative businesswoman. In Melbourne at least, her distinctive handmade beaded necklaces have gathered a cult following all their own. They’re now stocked in over 65 shops across Australia, New Zealand, Italy, the USA and the UK – one of her most high profile stockists is iconic UK brand Paul Smith (!!) who stock her necklaces and prints in their Milan and Leeds stores! AMAZING. I think we can safely say Emily totally has this market cornered.
Emily’s success is so brilliant and well deserved and incredibly inspiring. There are so many people making amazing stuff in Melbourne, it’s not easy to pinpoint exactly what has made Emily’s little brand take flight so quickly, and in such a big way. ‘I am in constant awe and amazement as to how well things have gone, and I feel very lucky to have designed something that has been so well received’ says Emily below.
Personally, I think the appeal of Emily’s work can be put down to a few things. Emily has a genuine gift for colour, combining her beads in even more fabulous yet unexpected colour combinations each season. She’s also committed to handmaking every element of her necklaces in house (including hand rolling each bead!) – which really sets her necklaces apart from so many others, and allows for the creation of truly unique designs each season. And finally, without sounding totally cheesy, I have to say, there’s just a little bit of ‘magic’ to what Emily does! Beyond those fabulous colours and quirky details, Emily’s designs have a sense of brightness and energy and fun about them which is very hard to describe. It’s work that simply makes you smile. I guess there’s just a whole lot of love rolled into each of those FIMO beads…!
We’re super excited to share Emily’s story with you today, and equally thrilled that we’ll be stocking some of her latest gorgeous necklaces at TDF Open House NEXT WEEK! (Agh!)
Tell us a little bit about your background – what did you study, and what path led you to what you’re doing now?
I was born in Sydney, spent my primary school years in Canberra, my high school and university years in Perth and then at 21 moved out of home and here to Melbourne. Melbourne is definitely home these days, and I hope never to move interstate again!
When I finished high school I completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Western Australia. I then started a Fashion and Textiles course at TAFE, which I loved, but after a year I felt the itch to change and that I had a bit of living to do so I decided to pack everything up and have a go at life back over east in Melbourne. After several months of working in crappy jobs but very much enjoying the lifestyle of Melbourne I thought that it was time to get ‘serious’ with my career and enrolled in a graduate diploma of education. For three or so years I was a secondary school art teacher. Teaching was great but exhausting and all consuming, and I desperately missed making my own work. It sounds selfish but I often thought when visiting galleries or doing research that I wished I was looking at things for myself and my own work, instead of thinking about how it could tie into the classes I was teaching.
So in 2009, with the support of my lovely husband Louis, I took the plunge and quit my teaching job to start studying textile design again, part-time at RMIT. Studying as a mature age student was amazing and although I only completed the first year of the course (things got too busy with the business after that) it gave me the time and the headspace to start creating my own work again. Within a few months at TAFE I had designed and developed a range of geometric resin brooches that I started to sell at small design markets on the weekends. The brooches did well and I started to pick up a few stockists around Melbourne and even had a range for sale at Gorman! A few months after that I started making and selling my beaded necklaces, and things have just continued to grow and evolve from there.
Over the years your bright bead necklaces have garnered quite a cult following and become the wardrobe staple of many Melbourne women! Did you ever anticipate when you first launched your jewellery range that it would be this well received?
NO WAY! I am in constant awe and amazement as to how well things have gone and I feel very lucky to have designed something that has been so well received. My heart still jumps whenever I walk past a woman on the street wearing one of my pieces and I often have to bite my tongue to resist sounding like a weirdo and exclaiming ‘I made your necklace!’.
Can you tell us a little bit about the evolution of Emily Green – from starting the business in the early days when you were the only employee to now having three support staff today, and expanding the business to not exclusively include jewellery, but also art prints, chandeliers, scarves, and your most recent shoe collaboration with Hobes?
It has really all been a bit of a whirlwind and although things have grown quite quickly, I feel like it has all been very organic too. When I started out it was just me at home making things in the spare room on my days off from relief teaching. As the business grew (and Louis got sick of me occupying the kitchen table with drying resin brooches) I then moved into a studio with the lovely ladies at Harvest Workroom, and would often have friends and family rolling beads with me on evenings or weekends. After about a year I was so busy that I decided to quit my part-time job as an art technician so that I coule make full-time.
It was shortly after that I employed my first part-time assistant, then a second and I guess things have just grown from there to there now being four of us full-time.
Having assistance has meant that my range has also been able to grow as I no longer have to spend all of my time making and filling orders and can now work on other products, projects and collaborations. I love to apply my aesthetic to new mediums and products and always jump at the opportunity to collaborate with other people and labels.
The Emily Green Hobe project with Frankie and Swiss and Georgia Hobart of Hobes has been about a year in the making and it has been so satisfying to see all our collective work and planning come together into such a beautiful product. I have been wearing the shoes heaps and kind of can’t get over how rad it is to have my prints on a range of shoes.
Can you give us a little insight into the inner workings of Emily Green inc? Where are you based, What roles do each of your staff play, and what significant tasks do you outsource?
About a month ago I moved into a new studio in Northcote with the lovely Kirra Jamison (whose work I am a huge fan of!). It is a beautiful, light, and colourful space with a productive atmosphere, and it has been great to observe Kirra’s creative process. It is so stimulating and inspiring to be around people who share a similar visual language and to be able to have conversations about design and colour. We always have music playing and on warm days we even have the roller door up to let some air and sunlight in! We often find ourselves commenting what a nice place it is to spend the day working.
At the moment I have three fabulous ladies who work for me full-time. We really are a team in that all of the practical work that needs doing for the business is shared between the four of us. We all do everything, from mixing clay colours and rolling beads, to assembling the pieces, sending out online sales and putting together wholesale orders. Having help with the making has meant not only that the business has been able to grow and keep up with increasing sales and orders but it has also enabled me to say yes to new projects / collaborations and to have more time for designing.
My staff all have a design background or love of design so we often discuss new things we have seen or I ask for their opinions on colour palettes and new designs. The girls are great sounding boards. I think that working solo as a maker can be a bit lonely and isolating so being able to have other people around to share the experience with is excellent.
Earlier this year I made the best decision of my life and hired a book keeper and an accountant. I have also started using a professional photographer to photograph my work, a web designer as well as the services of a friend to do some PR work for me. Outsourcing some of the tasks that I find challenging or stressful (or that I am just not very good at) has made a world of difference to me. It just took me a while to realise that I can’t do everything and that my energies are best focused on the things that I love and that I CAN do well.
How would you describe your design aesthetic ?
My work is informed by a love of colour and pattern and my aesthetic is vibrant, optimistic, bright and clean.
What does a typical day in the life of Emily Green involve?
For the past 18 months my husband and I have been living just out of Melbourne in a little town in the Macedon Ranges called Woodend. It’s a beautiful place, but a bit of a commute to the city. To avoid traffic I usually jump in the car at 6.50am and head to the studio. I work Monday to Friday from 8am to 6.30pm, although it seems to work out that I have things to do most Saturdays too! At the studio we usually have a quick coffee while we map out the orders that need to be filled, and work out what needs to be made that day. The girls and I take it in turns making lunch and the day usually involves lots of cups of tea and chatting (and sometimes a few episodes of Girls) while we work.
When the orders are finished one of us races off to the post office to send them before we do a quick tidy up and head home. When I get home Louis has usually cooked dinner and then I just have time to give my dog a cuddle, write a few emails, chat to my family on the phone before heading to bed.
Life is busy but working for myself is the best! Sometimes when I take a step back and think about things, I can’t believe how lucky I am and that I get to spend my days making beautiful things.
Which local inspiring designers, artists and creatives are you loving at the moment?
Melbourne has such an amazing, inspiring and incredibly supportive design community and over the years many of the other makers whose work I admire have become good friends. Here are some of my faves at the moment:
Bridget Bodenham – Bridget and I are often at design markets together and EVERY TIME I come home with a piece or two of her gorgeous ceramic cups or planters. Her work is so simple yet refined with beautiful details. I drink out of one of her gold-handled cups almost every day!
Leah Jackson – Leah is another Melbourne ceramic artist whose work I just can’t get enough of. I love her fine and delicate vases and vessels with their playful confetti patterns in beautiful hues of ink blue, violet and coral.
Beci Orpin – What can I say, she is the QUEEN of Melbourne design! I love her use of colour, pattern and shape and am constantly in awe of how productive and prolific she is. Her new book Home is just gorgeous and I was super chuffed to find out that she had included in it a little illustration of one of my necklaces as well as one of my silk scarves. Yay!
Kate Rohde – I absolutely love Kate Rohde’ bold, wild and ornate resin jewellery and pearlescent bowls and vases. If I didn’t have my own work competing for wear time I would have her jewellery on every day!
Dale Hardiman – Dale Hardiman is one third of design label Lab De Stu and he is an absolute whizz kid! I love his range of Poly vessels and planters. Throughout this year Dale and I have been working on a little project together (when either of us have been able to find the time!) and I am forever in awe of how prolific he is and how he constantly has new and impressive projects on the go. I have every faith that his is a name we will be hearing about in the future.
Can you list for us 5 specific resources across any media that you turn to when you’re in a need of a bolt of creative inspiration?
I love Pinterest, Instagram, Inside Out Magazine, The Design Files (obviously!) and my books on Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis Group.
What have been some of your career highlights so far?
There have been too many to count but in the past year or a couple of the best bits have been:
• Receiving a wholesale order from Paul Smith and stocking my necklaces and prints in their Milan and Leeds stores.
• Collaborating with New York fashion designer Kate Brierley of Isoude on her SS14 range where she used one of my watercolours for her beautiful collection of dresses
• Visiting New York in September and having a little trunk show with my lovely stockist Thomas Sires.
What would be your dream creative project?
Ooooh! One day I would LOVE to create a range of prints for Gorman. I have always admired Lisa Gorman’s use of colour and pattern and would love the opportunity to work with such an iconic Melbourne label.
What are you looking forward to?
SO many things! I can’t wait for the opening of the Supermarket Exhibition at Craft Victoria in December (I made a limited edition range of black and white jewellery for it). A potential collaboration with New York fashion label Thomas Sires, as well as a watercolour show at Hut 13 sometime in February. And on a personal note, we just bought our first house a few weeks ago so I am very much looking forward to moving back to Melbourne in January and getting it set up. Good times ahead!
Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
It would have to be a toss-up between Northcote and Fitzroy! Northcote for Joes Shoes, Pizza Meine Liebe, the Westgarth Cinema and the beautiful view of the city from Ruckers Hill. And Fitzroy for all of Gertrude St, especially Dagmar Roussett, Cottage Industries and Trippy Taco, as well as Alimentari and Martha Rays. But it’s more than just the cafes and stores, I think that there is a great sense of community in these neighbourhoods and an amazing creative spirit. I think that the aesthetic of Fitzroy and Northcote is unique and distinctly Melbournian.
What are your favourite fossicking spots to buy the tools of your trade?
Almost all of my supplies are bought online these days. I love the fact that I don’t have to leave the studio to run around buying materials and that almost everything gets delivered. More time to work! Having said that, I do enjoy a quick pop in to Deans Art when I am in Fitzroy for a watercolour or two.
What and where was the last great meal you had in Melbourne?
A few weeks ago we had dinner for a dear friend’s birthday at Gorski and Jones on Smith St in Collingwood. We sat out the back on a lovely warm evening drinking prosecco and had a beautiful Italian feast including a lamb ragu and a shaved fennel salad. Doesn’t get much better than that.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
It’s funny, I don’t really think I have had a typical Saturday morning for a very long time. On the rare weekend that I am at home in Woodend, Louis and I would be at our favourite Woodend café, Colenso, for breakfast, or if I am in Melbourne I would probably be out to breakfast at Cibi or Small Victories with some friends before heading to the studio.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
I’m not sure that there are that many secrets in a place like Melbourne but my tips would be the chicken sandwich at Martha Rays on Brunswick St and the delicious (cheap as!) $3.20 coffees at Sonido on Gertrude St.