Interview Me: Jeweller Jan Logan

Caitlin StaseyJan Logan’s approach to jewellery design is much like the woman herself, elegant and refined with an international influence. Her work has been widely accepted as setting a standard in simple design without sacrificing craftsmanship. Now with her son Angus on board, Jan Logan looks to the future with an expansion into Asia and an exciting affiliation with the Australian Film Institute.

I do believe my country life has given me a more grounded approach to business. I was born in Narrabri in North Western NSW. My early life was lived through my imagination playing dress-up, rifling through my mother’s jewellery box and attending movies at the Saturday matinee. My passion for adornment and design kicked in early!

My path to jewellery design was serendipitous – a confluence of fortunate events. After raising three sons, I took a job with the Narrabri Chamber of Commerce. World travel ensued, where I started buying antique jewellery in London and stones in the East. My jewellery career began in earnest when I started designing jewellery after entering into partnership with a local Narrabri jeweller. Then in 1989, after a move to Sydney, the first store in Double Bay was opened.

Jan LoganI hope what sets us apart is our philosophy. Simple and elegant but with a bohemian edge. I design with a certain type of woman in mind, a dynamic modern woman who uses jewellery as a daily accessory. Our trend in jewellery design has remained fairly consistent – designs with a fashion influence, simplicity, elegance and attention to detail with superb craftsmanship. This criterion applies to our engagement rings in particular.

As Managing Director, my son Angus oversees the running of the business. Angus returned to Sydney in 1996 with an international influence. He saw potential in the business and expanded the brand to Melbourne, Hong Kong and Perth. Further expansion into the Asian market is planned for 2012, as well as growth of the online store.

I’ve always loved fashion, jewellery and cinema. I remember the stars of the time more than the actual films! I loved Jeanette MacDonald, Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire.  We like to support Australian Film because we believe it’s important to our culture.

It was a natural affiliation for us to become involved with the Australian Film Institute. We support up and coming Australian talent by featuring young actresses in our yearly catalogue as the face of Jan Logan. The first was Rose Byrne then emerging stars such as Rachael Taylor, Maeve Dermody, Adelaide Clemens and Teresa Palmer have also been onboard. Most recently we have featured Melbourne girl, Caitlin Stasey.

Visit Jan Logan’s Melbourne flagship store at 90 Collins Street, Melbourne.

Images courtesy Jan Logan

Interview Me: William Griffiths (jeweller)

Interview by Stephanie Williams at e.g.etal

Tell me a little about your background and how you got to where you are today?
I haven’t done any formal training. I didn’t really like school very much and after failing all my exams I went back to do them again. I saw a job advertised in the paper, to make jewellery, and I thought ‘I will give that a go’. I started the job and was a bit disappointed because it was basically standing at a machine making wedding rings all day. I did trade work for about 15 years, in workshops, being a patternmaker and repairs. Then I’ve gone off on my own little tangent making my own designs.

I was born in England and we went to New Zealand when I was five years old. I spent most of my life there. My Mum was a painter and my Dad was a crazy inventor, so I have been brought up in this artistic sort of thing.

If I really look back, I started making little bits of jewellery when I was seven years old. I remember making a ring for Mum with this stone glued on top of it. Getting a bit of metal and bending it around. Mum’s still got the ring, so I was thinking of one day having a retrospective exhibition and showing that.

I can’t say I’m self-taught because I have been taught by some pretty amazing people. When I was 18 I went to London and got a job in Hatton Garden in the jewellery district. It teaches you a lot of precision and tricks of the trade which I still use.

How would you describe your work? The work at e.g.etal is inspired by tattoo art. I have always had a thing about tattoo parlours, even though I have no tattoos myself. I like the artwork. I like sacred heart stuff. Even though I wasn’t brought up religious, my parents were religious. There were always pictures of religious iconography around the house. I have always liked tattoo art, which often goes into the religious iconography side of it.

What about the range in your workshop? Do you find the pieces in e.g.etal are different to there? Yes it is. I tried some of the big cathedral type rings at e.g.etal and they didn’t sell. They were quite out there but that’s what I really like making, stuff that is out there. If I didn’t have to make money, I would sit there and make the most out there, unsellable stuff!

I had an exhibition with Julia de Ville last year and I made these taxidermy type things. That was a bit of an experiment. I’m really good at mechanical things, my Dad was an inventor.  I used to make all these mechanical things with gears. So I made all these little things of mice where you turn the handle and the mice turn around and it plays Swan Lake and opens the curtains. Like a diorama, made to look like it’s old. I’d like to do an exhibition of the cathedral type stuff, but it’s quite a niche market. Most of my big pieces are in LA at the moment.

What techniques do you use to make your pieces? It’s a mixture of making a masterplan, making a mould of it and then you’ve got the wax. Reworking the wax with a wax pen and then casting that. It’s mainly fabricate but I would usually make a mould of that then put the components together.

Is each piece unique? Yes, each piece is put together in a different combination. In their own way they are one offs even though I have moulds. Sometimes there are ten different components in one piece.

Do you find you have a celebrity following? I have sold to a lot of celebs. The last person that bought something was Russell Brand. He bought earrings for Katy Perry, some gold chandeliers with diamonds on them. I’ve also sold to Marilyn Manson, Angelina Jolie and Billy Idol.

What common themes link each of your designs? The tattoo art and medieval ranges are at e.g.etal. I try to make my medieval pieces look all hand beaten and stuff, using rubies and diamonds. I also like using unusual cut stones. The Melbourne stone buyers aren’t going to buy stones that are too weird, so I like buying old, rose cut stones from overseas. I usually go over to the gem shows in Bangkok and Hong Kong.

What do you think has informed that style? Has it evolved over time or has it always been a part of your style? I have been through lots of different stages. I have always been obsessed with sailing ships. A lot of tattoo art is based around sailing ships and sailors have tattoos.

Is your creative process ordered or organic? It’s not ordered! It’s organic. I have ideas and pictures in my head. Sometimes I’ve got a catalogue of moulds that I have made over the years running through my head. Sometimes it’s a whole lot of pieces of wax sitting in a tray and I think, that looks good next to that. It’s almost an accident that it goes together.

In a way it’s ordered, it’s not all haphazard. Quite often I will make a piece or even or one component of a piece that I can add to a whole lot of pieces. The hearts and daggers at e.g.etal, for instance, I’ve got moulds of the hearts and moulds of the daggers and I can rearrange them however I want. I do cast most of my work and casting has got a bit of a bad reputation, but I do always make my own master patterns.

Do you do a lot of research outside of your making or does it seep in naturally? I guess it seeps in naturally. I do a fair bit of travelling. I like to go to places in Europe and look at architecture. I just take it in really. Architecture is a big favourite, you know with all the cathedrals and things. Just even going to somewhere like Florence. Everything is beautiful – the door handles are beautiful, every little detail they make, they put beauty in it.  I travel at least once a year, sometimes twice a year.

What have been some of your favourite special projects, exhibitions or collaborations you have been involved with? The taxidermy exhibition curated by Julia DeVille, A Deus ex Machina. I used to do a lot but I haven’t done any exhibitions for quite a while. I did some in Bologna too, with HR Giger.  It’s a different world for me, such a different style from where I am now.

I’ve collaborated with fashion designers as well. I’ve helped out with Alexander McQueen’s shows and shoemaker Terri de Havilland. He’s a good friend of mine, I stay with him when I go to London, we drink wine and talk about shoe design! With Alexander McQueen we made this human skeleton with a spine cast in aluminium. It had hinges down the side of the ribs and clamped onto the model’s back.

Dolce & Gabbana have used my stuff in one of their shows, and Vivienne Westwood. That’s a weird one though. Her jeweller actually ripped one of my designs off. Pretty blatantly! It was a big skull ring of mine and they covered it with little sparkly stones. I thought that was quite good, like taking the piss out of skull rings. It was about 15 years ago. In fact when I was in London Last time, I met up with two friends, one of them had one of my original rings on and one had the Vivienne Westwood copy. Her jeweller probably didn’t tell her!

Do you work alone or do you share your creative space? I’ve got two people who do half the week each. I do all the design and they help with the production.

How do you stay connected to the wider creative community in Melbourne and overseas? I don’t know really, I just do my own thing. I always like to go to exhibitions and use the internet to see what people are doing. One of my favourites is this guy called Sevan Bicacki, he’s a Turkish guy in Istanbul and makes these crazy diamond encrusted rings. I have my own blog but I have personally never written anything on it!

I imagine if blogging doesn’t come naturally to you, it would be hard to have your jewellery hat on then move into blogging, PR etc? I find the computer keeps me away from my bench. I sometimes get annoyed with the computer for making me sit there and write emails to people. I do really want to learn how do to 3D design on the computer though. I’m going to give it a go.

And internationally? I look in the shops I like. There’s a shop in LA called Maxfield. I always go in there and have a look. Last time I was in London I had a look in Liberty and Dover Street Market.

Where do you find your creative inspiration? Is it ever formal? Sometimes I will just go to the library and sit and look at pictures. I actually find I’m most inspired when I’m travelling and jetlagged. I wake up at 3 in the morning; the TV’s crap and I get out some paper and start drawing. I find my mind is just racing, I can’t get enough ideas on the paper. That’s one reason why I like travelling, I get productive. Sometimes it takes me years to pull out the pad with the drawings and make the stuff. My mind just goes crazy.

Which designers, artists or creative people do you admire? New Zealand jeweller Tony Williams, Simon Baigent from Monsalvat, Turkish jeweller Sevan Bicacki and Rene Lalique

What would be your dream project? I would like to make the cathedral pieces – big diamonds, crazy stones and have no limit on the amount of money I could spend. I worked for this guy in London. I have a photograph of me holding this diamond, it’s about the size of a 20c piece worth about ¼ million pounds. I made a bracelet, earrings, ring, necklace set. It was all 18ct gold covered in diamonds, even the chain had diamonds all the way around the back. It’s quite amazing being given a pile of stones and pile of gold and a picture to make this piece. My other dream project would be making a jewel encrusted 24-piece dinner set.

Outside of jewellery what do you enjoy doing? I enjoy doing metal work in the form of blacksmithing and I like camping around Melbourne, going to the Grampians. I also play music; I play drums in a band sometimes. Playing the music, I get to go to festivals and things like that. I used to play punk when I was eighteen then into rock, now it’s a bit folkier. Music isn’t my passion, jewellery is my passion. At one point I was asked to make a decision between music or jewellery. I was in this band in London and we got a record deal. My drumming wasn’t really up to scratch. The guy said I would have to practice more, which means I would have to either take music seriously or forget about it. I made a decision to forget about the music. The band went through some other drummers and ended up splitting up. I sold my drum kit and said I would never play the drums again. It wasn’t until a friend of mine said their band needed a drummer. I hadn’t played for ten years, but I would fill in for this gig. I started about seven years ago. I would go traveling to sell my jewellery but also do a bit of a ‘world tour’ playing little bars and festivals. Now it’s just once every two months

Interview Me: Katherine Bowman (contemporary jeweller)

Katherine Bowman is an accomplished Melbourne contemporary jeweller, painter and sculptor and this year is celebrating ten years of representation with e.g.etal. Always so considered and layered, Katherine’s pieces have delighted our clients over the years with many becoming avid collectors of her beautiful work. We were also lucky enough to have Katherine curate our beautiful Christmas installation, The Magical Cycle of Days. You can see pictures here, or pop into e.g.etal before Christmas.

Tell me a little about your background and what led you to what you are doing now? I started making jewellery when I was a child. It started off by using tools in my Dad’s garage. I pulled apart an old television and started making with wire. I had very rudimentary skills so I applied for Gold and Silversmithing after school and I never got in. But I was accepted into Melbourne University doing a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Fine Art History. I kept making during that time and travelled. I decided I still wanted to do Gold and Silversmithing at RMIT as I felt I had gone as far as I could teaching myself and I wanted a formal education in it so I applied again for the course and got it.

How would you describe your work? There must be a sense of touch and tactility to my work and that’s why I seek out more organic textures. I think that sense of touch allows people to make their own stories with the work or about the work. I think that’s the whole point of making, to have a response from a person.

Are there any particular stones or metals you like to use? I predominantly use silver and gold. I have a preference for Australian parti sapphires, because I know where they come from and how they have been mined. I think gold is a very beautiful material. It has a lustre that I can achieve with that metal that I don’t see as much in other metals. So my love of gold is not it’s monetary value but the inherent properties of the metal itself.

What common themes link each of your designs? I think I reference fabric a lot in my work. My maker’s mark is the warp and weft of fabric. The warp is the threads running down and the weft is what makes up fabric. It’s based on a notion by cultural theorist Trinh T. Minh-Ha, she talks about ‘to weave is to speak’ so a culture’s identity can often be understood by their textiles and how they wear and adorn their jewellery and clothing. I think it’s very interesting to work with metal which is a hard material, but through the casting process I can make it appear soft and more tactile. That is a theme that runs through everything I do with jewellery.

All my pieces are handmade and reflect a philosophy of the handmade. I manipulate every single wax, so it has something different to it. Everything is considered.

Your work feels almost ancient, like an archaeological find. What has informed that part of your style? Again I think that is a really big part of why I make jewellery. When I was studying at RMIT, Robert Baines said to me that I had perfected the ‘wonky’. At first I thought that’s terrible but then, for me, it became a very strong part of my aesthetic. It is based on two things. I did a doll-making workshop with Mirka Mora, 20 years ago. I learnt from Mirka that if everything is the same you don’t see any individual components. If you have two cups hanging in your cupboard and they are different, you will see the shape of one against the other but if they are the same you don’t even pause to see that it is a row of cups.

For me, there’s something beautiful about ancient jewellery because it has been handmade and hasn’t come through a specific manufacturing process. When something is made by hand you see the marks of the tools and if you carve a ring by hand it’s never perfect, but that is perfection in itself. I try and make something new look like it’s old, like it has an energy and life of it’s own that came through it’s own creation. That is very important to me.

There’s so much jewellery in the world, but there’s only one me. The jewellery I make comes from everything that I know. Hopefully the end result carries some of that. It needs to look old and like it’s lived through the process of it’s making.

Is your creative process ordered or organic? I suppose it’s organic ordered! It’s very much both. I think because I have been doing this for a while now. Now when I make I just work.  I don’t have to psyche myself up, it just happens. But if I am doing something that is important, I have to sit down and read, then I draw, with whatever I do – painting, jewellery, sculpture.

Everything I do comes from a thought process. I think very deeply about things.  I collect lots of images, and I put them into sketchbooks. I draw the images and then work out what is important about them. It’s very ordered. But in the same breath, I make without thinking.

When I make it’s very important that I don’t labour too much. That allows me to capture these forms that look quick and easy, like a child. I try really hard when I make to be really present with the material.

It’s the way I teach as well. You have to be present. Look at what you have made and see what it is saying to you. It’s like learning from what happens rather than saying ‘it has to look like this’.

I come from an academic background and my friend Nick said to me many years ago, what are you trying to say, and say it as simply as possible. I was referencing all these things then I thought I have to find my own voice. I do that with material too.

What have been some of your favourite special exhibitions, projects or collaborations you have been involved in? For me, the work I produced for my Master of Arts, my Black work, was very special. It’s the biggest body of work I have ever produced. It really allowed me to explore scale and subject in a bigger way. My exhibition of paintings is special to me because I am self taught. That body of work I love! It was shown at the Warrnambool Art Gallery and in Melbourne.

My jewellery business has taught me lots of things. Often people say I am compromising myself by doing production jewellery because I come from an art background but I feel like it has really allowed me to see things in a different way. If I can make a wedding ring well and someone wants to wear that for the rest of their life, then that’s a big achievement for me and as significant as doing an art exhibition. I see it as an important part of what I do.

Do you work alone or share your creative space? I share it with Millie.

How do you stay connected to the wider creative community in Melbourne and internationally? I stay connected through my peers, who are also my friends. Also by reading and looking at different blogs and magazines. I buy a lot of magazines – World of Interiors, Freize and Paris Vogue are my favourites. With blogs I always visit You Have Been Here Sometime and my favourite blog is a woman in Paris called Katherine Willis. She is a painter and sculptor and does installation work. I look at her blog every day. She links to Crashingly Beautiful. I always find myself looking at The Sartorialist. He has a lovely eye. But what I like is that he photographs all these obviously wealthy people but then he will see someone more ‘normal’ and they capture something for him and he includes them in the same breath as someone who is a fashion editor etc.

Where do you find your creative inspiration and is it a formal process? There are two ways. The first one is by reading, I find it very visual. As I said before, I start by researching then drawing. I have done this for 20 years and I can’t seem to shake that! The other way is that I love walking. That’s a very informal way of creating installation work, it’s a big part of my creative process. I start my day by walking or if I am stuck I go for a walk. I never listen to music when I walk but I am interested in birds. I like to hear bird calls. I am getting better at identifying them. It’s nice to let the world in and not to dictate all the time what you are listening to. I like to hear the trees moving and incidental sounds. It makes you realise the world is large.

Which designers, artists or creative people do you admire? Louise Bourgeois, has consistently inspired me since I first saw her work. Also Kiki Smith, another American artist. I have found her inspirational for years. She is a mixed media artist – printmaking, sculpture, painting. Louise works in a similar way. I find both of their practices inspiring. I love the painter Marlene Dumas. I love ancient Roman jewellery. When I went to the Louvre, I spent all my time in the Egyptian section, pre-Cycladic art and early work from Afghanistan. I find that as inspiring as almost anything else.

What would be your dream project? My dream is to exhibit every year or two and spend a year working towards that. I am considering doing a PhD and explore through storytelling through objects and the importance of narrative in art. Art is about people and communication and life – asking why do I do what I do, how do these objects inform not only each other but where they are positioned within the culture I live in. My dream project is to push myself to explore concepts that will hopefully inspire new work. If I can do that, then I feel like that’s where I want to be.

Outside contemporary jewellery what do you enjoy doing? I love live music. I love my friends. We have lots of dinner parties and spend much time getting the ingredients then cooking together. love the sea and any chance I can, I have been going with a friend down to Joanna Beach. And walking. I go to parks where I can walk Millie. I have a pretty simple life. For coffee I go to A Minor Place on Albion Street. I often plan my day there before I ride into the city. It’s my local. I have been going to the beer garden at Jimmy Watson’s with my friends and I also like Boire on Smith Street, it’s really good.

Interview Me…Bettina Liano (fashion designer)

What was the inspiration behind your SS10 collection?
Creatures of Light, our theme this season is all about translucent layers in luxe fabrics and beautiful soft colours that evoke a sense of softness that creates an ethereal feeling.

How would you describe the look of the collection this season?
It is a collection that juxtaposes translucent layers with confidently structured pieces.

Fashion is in your family. Was becoming a fashion designer a considered thing or did it evolve over time?
Creativity runs in the family but it was not a considered pathway. It most certainly was a passion that evolved over time and something that is ingrained in everyday life.

You have a big celebrity following with visitors to Melbourne making the pilgrimage to your Chapel St store. Have you specifically targeted them?
Not at all, I think Chapel Street itself is an iconic street that many tourists and celebrities alike hear about – it’s natural for them to visit the area, and our store.

Have you found you have need to cater for a fuller figure as our waistlines expand and have you changed your fit over time to suit?
I think we’ve been able to successfully identify a gap in the market for jeans that cater to fuller figured women who love well fitting jeans. Our Curvy Fit range in particular, has been embraced wholeheartedly and comes in an array of styles and colours.

Outside fashion and design, what do you enjoy doing?
Art, music and interior design

What is your favourite local haunt? Cafe? Restaurant? Stores?
The Kanteen in South Yarra is great for brunch. French Fantasies on Toorak Rd for amazing French pastries. The cosiness and intimacy of La Lucciola is the perfect restaurant for home-style food. Chapel Street Bazaar is a great place for vintage finds.

What was your last exciting purchase?
My new Prada bag

For a fashion fix or a spot of inspiration, where do you turn?
Italian Vogue is a great publication for that.

Where to next for Bettina Liano?
Looking ahead to a great next season and hopefully several exciting collaborations in the works.

Take a look at Bettina Liano at 471 Chapel St, South Yarra.
Ph: 9827 0063

Interview Me: Jane Dodd (contemporary jeweller)

New Zealand contemporary jewellery artist, Jane Dodd’s work is characterised by gothic combinations of sculpted animal and human forms and heraldic devices. Jane is new to e.g.etal, so we were keen to talk in her Dunedin studio about her background, inspiration and her bass playing band days.

Tell me a little about your background – what path led you to what you’re doing now? I grew up in Dunedin, New Zealand and although I studied art at high school, I didn’t at the time consider it a potential path.  I completed a BA at the University of Otago, played in rock n roll bands, had a variety of jobs, did a bit of travel and generally misbehaved.  During some months in Mexico in 1989, I witnessed art and craft permeating life in a manner new to me and was encouraged to similarly engage with my own surroundings.  On my return to NZ, I applied to study for a Diploma in Craft Design at Unitec in Auckland, originally thinking that ceramics would be my discipline, but was soon seduced into the jewellery department.  I graduated in 1994.  Since then I have been a partner of Workshop 6, a shared jewellery workshop in Auckland, and exhibiting around NZ, Australia and occasionally further afield.  In 2009, I returned to live in Dunedin again and built a studio in my new home.

How would you describe your work? I work in a largely figurative style – negotiating a few separate but over-lapping lines of enquiry.  Often my work has a story telling aspect.  I consider myself a metal smith but have recently used wood, shell and stone to bring more scale, texture, colour and plasticity to my work.  My work, whilst I hope it is innovative and novel, would hardly be described as modern.

What common themes link each of your designs?
Memory and myth, history and culture, landscape and life forms, associations and emotions.  I like to make work that resonates in quite a personal but non-specific way with the audience.  I am pleased if pieces have a familiarity but also a strangeness.

Your work feels very natural yet mystical? Is your creative process ordered or organic? In recent work it is definitely organic.  I will usually have vague ideas about a new piece but know that specifics about it can’t be resolved until I see it emerging in the flesh before me.  Pieces can be constructed, only to be pulled apart, rearranged, added to others.  My gut increasingly makes the decisions – I trust it more than my head and it wastes a lot less time.  Earlier work was more planned, often sketched, but still a tendency to make spontaneous changes existed.

What have been some favourite special projects, exhibitions or collaborations you’ve been involved in? Some of the best fun I have had in terms of exhibitions and projects have been those done collaboratively with Workshop 6.  Our Tin Years (10 year anniversary) show was a very entertaining process and the results quite funny. We have always worked well as a group.

I also especially enjoyed making the exhibition Straw into Gold in 2002, and publishing the accompanying book of fairy tales illustrated by jewellery.  This was a Creative New Zealand funded project.

Do you work alone or share your creative space? I work alone at the moment.  I am enjoying it – quite a change from the 16 years of cacophony at Workshop 6.  But I find I need to temper it with plenty of extra-mural activities; coffee with friends, scouting the auction houses, hardware stores and demo yards, yoga, expeditions to wildernesses, museums, galleries etc.  With the help of such distractions I hope to keep loneliness and madness at bay.

How do you stay connected to the wider creative community in New Zealand and internationally?
I don’t make a lot of effort to be connected beyond my own immediate community.  I occasionally look at a few websites, some magazines and keep in touch with colleagues in the usual manners but I wouldn’t say I pursued it.  Kind people keep me posted on news and events even though I don’t really deserve it. I don’t mind being in a bit of a vacuum – too much information can sometimes stifle my activity.

Where do you find your creative inspiration? Is this ever a formal process?
The whole wide world!  I enjoy the chase of an idea and tend to do quite a bit of formative research.  I look at a lot of books (not especially jewellery but art, architecture, science, history, botany, zoology….), I take photos and somehow filter the visual stimulus.  I gather images that interest and attract me.  I doodle.  But it’s not a formal process – more a roller-coaster ride.

Which designers, artists or creative people do you admire?
I admire a lot of jewellers – my old workshop mates Octavia Cook (hilarious and astonishing pieces) and Anna Wallis (clever technique and sharp eye) have inspired me greatly.  Robert Baines makes me cry, David Bielander makes me laugh. Carl Faberge, Daniel Kruger, Helen Britton, Karl Fritsch, Sandra Bushby, Warwick Freeman.  I know its old-school but I really love painting, especially landscapes; Corot, Friedlander, Constable’s cloud and Turner’s seas, Manet, Degas, Hopper but could also mention local contemporary painters Gerda Leenards, John Walsh and Bill Hammond.  I was blown away by Fiona Hall’s grand show Force Field.  Her virtuosity and inventiveness is gob-smacking. I also really go for folk art and outsider art and draw much strength from how pleasing and compelling things can be even when they are loose and not quite “right”.

What would be your dream project?
Truthfully, to be given a big wad of money to spend on my own house and garden. How selfish is that?!

Jane Dodd’s new range is available now at e.g.etal.

Interview Me: Arabella Ramsay (fashion designer)

The theme running through my chat with Melbourne fashion designer Arabella Ramsay was definitely freedom of spirit. In her current SS10 collection, she follows a girl making the pilgrimage across the US, experiencing that first sense of freedom through her travels. The freedom continues as you walk into her ‘off the beaten track’ boutique at 1073 High Street, Armadale, where you will hear 70′s folk music and smell the fragrance of frangipani wafting through. A country girl at heart, Arabella’s aesthetic this season would look at home at a festival or country fair as much as it would walking in the streets of Melbourne or at the beach….

I love the idea of an American road trip inspiring your SS10 collection, This Side of The Blue. Did you make the pilgrimage across the US? How would you describe the look of the collection this season? I travelled there late last year and in early February this year. The collection visualises a girl on the quintessential American road trip. Melding prim rock rebel handwriting with Americana imaginings, the collection is a mélange of folk and iconic references with a sense of homeliness and handicraft that allude to a step back in time and less complicated life. Very much inspired by American ranches and my Mother’s love of amazing vintage quilts….

The SS10 collection is heavy on the details – florals, hand stitching and patchwork. Was this collection a particularly challenging one to produce because of the attention to detail required? There were a few pieces that were challenging, reworking the quilt denim dress for example (made from vintage wash jeans and american patchwork pieces)… But the others were about coming up with the fabric design elements – for instance the American quilt print, and about making the styles really good fits…and tying the collection all together.

Your store in Melbourne is always on my hit list. Do you have any plans to expand to other cities? We’re looking at options Sydney…we are due to open our first permanent Melbourne store October 1st in Flinders Lane which is so exciting! I wouldn’t mind looking into Brunswick also, and expanding abroad…

How did you become a fashion designer? Was it an ordered process or did it evolve? I suppose a lot of creativity comes from my family background and upbringing, I’ve always loved patterns and textiles and my Mum has always loved fashion… and after studying at RMIT and abroad it ultimately just morphed from a few accessories into the label!

Outside fashion and design, what do you enjoy doing? Enjoy heading back to the coast, Apollo Bay to relax!! Reading a good book is always on the top of my list.

What is your favourite local haunt? Café? Restaurant? Stores? Love Batch for coffee, Movida for eating and Flinders Lane for a stroll is quite good!

What was your last exciting purchase? New Italian boots we just got instore by Pantanetti… They are amazing!

For a fashion fix or a spot of inspiration, where do you turn? I love looking at old illustrations by my Dad, strolling round our country home and always a trip abroad anywhere is good for creative inspiration.

View the Arabella Ramsay SS10 collection in store now at 1073 High St, Armadale or visit the website for more details and lots of great shots of the collection.

Interview Me: Matthew Jukes (wine writer)

International wine writer for London’s Daily Mail, Matthew Jukes, was in Melbourne this week conducting a tasting at Jimmy Watson’s for the upcoming homeless fundraiser, Wine Rules, raising money for St Mary’s House of Welcome in Fitzroy.

You would not have been directly exposed to homelessness through your enviable job as wine writer for The Daily Mail. Where did the concept for Wine Rules come from?
While visiting Adelaide a few years ago I was walking through the city parklands and along the River. I was astounded at the number of people sleeping rough. I thought such a prosperous place as Australia should be doing more to sort this problem out and wondered how I could help. I got in touch with the Hutt Street Centre and suggested that the Australian wine industry get behind an event to raise some money to help with the problem. And Touch Wine was born! It has now expanded to Melbourne under the name Wine Rules to raise money for Melbourne’s St Mary’s House of Welcome in Fitzroy.

How does Wine Rules work?
Wine Rules brings together some of the best wineries in Victoria to what they do best, provide wine for the public while they play touch football against other Victorian wineries. The day is about enjoying wine, enjoying music, and most of all having fun to raise awareness and funds for the homeless and disadvantaged of Melbourne.

There will be 3 great Melbourne bands, 48 different wines for you to enjoy on the day, 36 games of touch rugby between wineries, 12 celebrities playing throughout the day and 1 massive celebrity touch rugby finale.

In the lead up to the day, all the participating wineries were asked to submit two wines for tasting. I spent a morning tasting the wines and providing notes. I hope you will enjoy my notes and learn more about these wonderful Victorian wines when you taste them on the day.

Do you find the level of homelessness more confronting here when you visit Australia as opposed to home?
Yes I do. The problem seems more visible here – people sleeping out in cosmopolitan areas. I am shocked to see the level of homelessness. And it is so easy to slip into homelessness – two or three things go wrong in your life and the next thing you are homeless. It happens here a lot.

I know some people may find using wine and wineries in a fundraising drive for homelessness an unusual link, given the prevalence of alcoholism amongst the homeless. What do you think?
We are not talking beer and spirits here – we are about fine wines and food – I am an advocate of elegant dining! The wine industry wants to put something back into the community just like other industries – so why not?

What is your personal background in the wine industry?

Twenty three years as a wine buyer, ten years as a journalist, I have written 13 books. My column in the Daily Mail in London has about 9 million readers a week, I also write a weekly piece for MoneyWeek and occasional features for Decanter.  I was lucky enough to win the International Wine and Spirit Competition’s Trophy for Wine Communicator of the Year.

Have there been any stand out wines from your tasting today?
Many of these wines will be just right for the day in November – very suitable for a sip after a game of touch footy.

Are there any particular wineries that you are looking forward to seeing battle it out on the touch football field in November?
Yabby Lakes will field a strong team, and the team from Take Care Garnier apparently have already started training. The Rathbone Wine Group have put in two teams which will be very competitive. I’m looking forward to seeing them battle it out on the day.

How can wineries get involved?
Get on to and get your entry in. Its not too late! And no touch football experience is necessary.