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A Day In The Life Of Artist, Designer And Small Businesswoman, Rachel Castle

A Day In The Life

Rachel Castle says she never intended to be an artist, nor to found her own company. Somehow, she has done both! The Sydney-based creative started her eponymous homewares brand, CASTLE, while her kids were still primary-aged, working from home only during school hours. She now creates her colourful printed bed linen, artworks and sweaters with a small team out of a lovely studio in Marrickville.

Her jam-packed days are scheduled loosely around painting, family meals and The Real Housewives. From keeping on top of Instagram DMs, to squeezing in studio hours on the weekend, Rachel’s enviable time-management is guided by one rule only: do what you love.

26th June, 2020

Rachel at the CASTLE studio with Sydney the sausage dog. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

A morning walk around the neighbourhood with Sydney. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Rachel starts a morning at the office with a coffee from Ona in Marrickville. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Rachel and the team! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

The ever-bubbly, gorgeous Rachel Castle! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

The studio slash office is filled with prints, inspiration and works-in-progress. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Chatting with Design and Production Manager, Simone. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

There is no shortage of colourful paints to play with lying around! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

There is always time in Rachel’s day for sketching, painting and drawing. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

A true artist’s space! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Rachel started embroidering in the evening when her kids were little and in bed. Now, she has to do it in the early hours of the morning before her team arrive at work! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Rachel gets into the studio early to sew, and catch up on TV! Her current favourite is ‘Ramy’. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Swathes and swatches of fabric in rainbow shades. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

A piece in construction. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Sasha Gattermayr
Friday 26th June 2020

‘I believe you can definitely have everything in life, just not all at once.’ – Rachel Castle

It’s the mark of a true creative spirit when they spend every spare second making something for the sake of it. This was how it all began for Rachel Castle, who picked up embroidery in the early hours of the evening when her young kids were in bed, the only time she had to herself during their childhood years. It was here that her true calling revealed itself.

But before she was an artist, designer, and the director of her own small business, Rachel’s professional life meandered from PR to marketing. She and friends Alex Willcock and Russell Pinch used to run a branding company in the United Kingdom, but when her second child was born, Rachel left the business to become a full-time mother. She considers this the best decision she ever made.

‘I believe you can definitely have everything in life, just not all at once,’ she says. ‘I was never conscious of a path, I just worked with people and product I loved, and the rest worked itself out.’ Though the meandering route she describes is encouraging for others who might be in the same working-it-all-out boat, it undersells the seriously hard work Rachel has done in establishing her cult lifestyle brand. Between her firm focus on keeping her business small and practice-based, and the overtime hours she clocked developing her distinct artistic style over the years, Rachel is a tenacious, self-made professional.

Rachel took TDF around her heavenly Marrickville studio where we spent a day in her sunny, colourful world. Her creativity knows no bounds!

FIRST THING

I’m definitely a morning person.  My husband recently retired which means (hallelujah!) for the first time in a decade I can go to work whenever I want. For years I had to scramble around to find the time to work, but now I’m free as a bird, which is an amazing feeling.  If I wake and can’t sleep at 5am I go to work, but generally, I’m in the car by about seven. I don’t do social media in the mornings, I’m too old and can’t handle the early morning scramble to find my glasses and get three sentences together that make sense, so I just amble around quietly and slowly, a way better and nicer way to start each morning.

It’s a half-hour drive to work so lately I’ve been listening, for the first time in my life, to a really good AM radio station. During the protests its had some really diverse speakers, activists, writers, artists, poets. I’m converted! Also, I can’t work out how to change it back to FM so I’ll leave it here until the end of 2020 and see what else I can learn.

As soon as I arrive in Marrickville I grab a coffee from Ona down the road, and get straight to it.

MORNING

Emails and DMs…. Omg there are so many.  I check all the inboxes and delegate where necessary and then, best part of the day, I sew and watch TV until the girls arrive at 9.  The earlier I get to work the longer I can spend watching anything from Homeland to Ramy to The Real Housewives; this is my junk time and I LOVE IT.  Sewing for me is like getting a massage or going for a run or doing yoga, it’s my outta body knock-knock-there’s no-one home time.

The girls slowly start to arrive and its the normal chit chat (‘Where did you go last night? Did the NBN guy come? Where’d you get your pants from?’) and then we all move into getting the orders out for the day, getting the artworks signed, the tea towels sewn and the commissions sorted.  I potter around watering the plants, and mid-morning try to sort something with our Wholesale and Web Content lead, AJ, for socials, a little video or pics for our stories or a new wall for our studio. FINALLY having the space in our studio for a bed has transformed the way we spend our days as there’s so much bed-making and wall painting to be done!

There’s really no routine to the morning, I just go creatively wherever I feel the need, I might try to cut up some new embroideries, or prepare some canvases for painting, or do some little watercolours on paper. So by lunchtime, I’ve generally got 7,000 things started and not a single thing completed (not joking) every single day of the week.

AFTERNOON

Generally at around 3pm we all have a heart attack and realise, ‘OMG! It’s 3 o’clock!’. The girls get some lunch and I get ready to spend some time with Simone, CASTLE’s design and production lead. No two days are the same, but this week we’ve been working on our new towel shoot with Stephanie Somebody, and an upcoming collaboration with Gorman, some new sweater designs and our next Spring/Summer range. In between there are all the usual production issues!

During COVID-19 the Indian ports were closed for a month and a lot of our suppliers are on skeleton staff, so it’s been a very challenging period for us and for them. It’s very slowly getting back to normal, and we hope and pray things for India start to improve soon. Over the years we’ve become very close to our suppliers, they are as much a part of our family as our customers, we send them love.

LATE AFTERNOON

From the minute I wake up I start chanting my mantra….. ‘I will do more painting today, I will do more painting today.’  It only ever happens around 5pm and recently I’ve been coming to terms with this. I’ve tried LITERALLY everything to get more time painting but I just can’t do it. So I’ve started reframing the narrative, and now I’m grateful that I get an hour to do it at all.  The advantage of having grown children with no more play dates and park visits is I can go into work on the weekend, where I can smash out a thousand brush strokes in an hour. Time stops in the studio on the weekend, it’s an incredibly peaceful place to be.

EVENING

I’m home every single weeknight by 7.15pm. I love my drive home, this is my time to ring my mother and speak to my friends on the phone. It’s just me and the boys at home, so we eat together and Lucas goes off to study (apparently). He’s in Year 12 so a big year for him where we all try to be as quiet and gentle as we can. Cleo moved home too during  COVID-19, and I have to say the family time has been nice!

I don’t cook or go to the supermarket anymore (SOUND THE TRUMPETS) and it’s the best part of my new older life, so the evenings for me are spent eating and then doing my social media… then falling asleep reading with my glasses on and then trying to find all the right creams for my face at 10.30pm. Then snooze and sleep like a baby.

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Right now I’m listening to/watching/reading…

Watching Ramy I laugh and cry from one scene to the next, it’s teaching me a lot about Islamic culture and religion. It’s hilariously funny and, equally, really tackles the big issues, it’s really good.

Reading A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. It’s a beautiful Indian tale covering the country’s growth over the past 30 years. Knowing the history of this beautiful country is really important to me.

Listening to any podcast I can get my hands on, and always a daily dose of Dan Savage!

One important thing I do every day is…

Eat dinner with my family. Every weekday of our lives, it’s a deal breaker for me.

I get my best work done when…

I’m in the studio by myself with my music on and my phone switched off.

A philosophy I live and work by is…

Touch it once.  Emails, DMs, designs, products. Going back to something we discussed yesterday doesn’t work for me. We resolve it on the spot, or resolve it to a point where we can pick it up later.  I never say ‘Let’s sleep on it’, which means I make mistakes, but we need to keep moving because inertia is the DEVIL!

My productivity tip/tool is…

Definitely the above, touching it once.

Something I learned the hard way is…

Don’t put a whole range on pre-order just before a pandemic… note to self!

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net