Tag Archives: Stephanie Williams

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: 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: Jeweller Emma Jane Donald (contemporary jeweller)

Emma Jane Donald, a contemporary jeweller from Melbourne, recently invited me to her home studio to talk about her latest work and inspiration. The very fun interview was helped along by George her lively puppy and some great gluten free ginger cookies. Thanks Emma Jane!

Tell me about your background and what led you to jewellery design? It started at high school where I studied sculpture and art subjects. I studied sculpture as part of a Fine Arts degree at Elam, the Auckland University Art School in New Zealand. I specialised in sculpture, but not in a traditional sculptural way, more about installation and performance.

My interest in jewellery really began when I moved to Australia and met William Griffiths, a New Zealand jeweller making in Melbourne. He said to me, come and see if you like making jewellery and hang out. I hadn’t really thought about jewellery until I met him. I ended up just mucking around in his studio making my own things. My first piece was something really instant – a safety pin pressed into cuttlefish with molten metal poured into it. I was chuffed, and thought ‘this is the best thing ever!’ I felt quite inspired by William’s work and I enjoyed working with him so much that I decided to study Jewellery Engineering at NMIT.

How would you describe your work? I’m inspired by geometric patterns, formations, structures and architecture. I think I started doing angular, sharp work because I wanted to test myself technically. Geometric shapes can be trickier than making round organic shapes. Because my course was a trade course, we made hinges and very precise things. I wanted to prove that I could do those technical objects and now I have ended up doing hinges in my work.

The NMIT course is so different to the RMIT course. It’s a trade focused course, for instance we would spend 3 weeks making hinges. I chose the course for that reason. I had already done fine arts degree so I wanted to just get down and get some skills.

What common themes link each of your designs? I suppose it’s the whole geometric thing, similarities of the forms. I’m trying to incorporate spheres into my work so it’s not all sharp and aggressive. It’s tricky to make the angular stuff spherical, especially with the geodesic shapes. I want to start using more stones but at the moment I work just with metal.

Is your creative process ordered or organic? Ordered. I’m not organic at all. Making a cone or dome becomes a personal challenge, then I will start joining them together to make a necklace, bracelet or pendant. Quite often I will make something that starts off as one shape, like a geometric shape, then I will start multiplying the shape to become much larger.

When you start a piece do you think ‘this is going to be a necklace’ or does it evolve? Sometimes it’s pretty definite – at the moment I’m trying to make smaller pieces. I find it harder to make smaller pieces. Even though I make geometric shapes, I’m pretty rough and ready. Once I have an idea I want to get it out!

Do you work alone or do you share your creative space? I work alone. It means I can work more effectively when I want to. It can get a bit lonely. Sometimes you can wear your pyjamas all day and not leave the house.

How do you stay connected to the wider creative community in Melbourne and internationally? The Internet, I go to exhibitions and I’m friends with a few Melbourne jewellers – William Griffiths and Julia de Ville and Katherine Bowman. Internationally, I don’t have much of a connection with New Zealand jewellers because I didn’t make jewellery there.

I’m just as much interested in video art, noise and sound. It informs my jewellery work. A little while ago I saw this work in an architectural magazine that was big, black and folded, and I liked it.

Sometimes it comes from other sources. It doesn’t have to be in your field. Sometimes it’s just a really good song. I’m really into Siouxsie and the Banshees at the moment. I listen to music when I work, otherwise it’s quite boring, especially when you are by yourself. Once I have an idea I might cut out the music, or if I am having trouble working out something mathematical. When I’m doing production stuff, the louder the better!!

Where do you find your creative inspiration? It’s haphazard. If I did know where to go for inspiration, that would be awesome! I would go straight there. I think it just happens in bouts. I have bouts of heaps of inspiration and will just flow on from there and hopefully ride the wave until I get another bout.

Which designers, artists or creative people do you admire? I definitely like Buckminster Fuller, he’s awesome. I love the way he builds with geometric shapes. It draws on nature and cellular growth, how things are reproduced in life. Using multiples of geometric shapes to make a mass.  Simon Cottrell is another favourite – I really like the way his work is constructed. His pieces seem to grow in an organic pattern, while still retaining an affiliation with the materials he uses. I like the juxtaposition of hard clean materials and the softer rhythmic references in his work.

What would be your dream project? I would like to make jewellery for the Pope. You could make some really awesome geometric crosses with heaps of jewels and gold. Everyone would see it!

What do you enjoy outside of jewellery? I take my dog George for walks but that sounds quite boring! I like to go out and listen to music. Music is a big part of my life. My boyfriend is a sound engineer and he’s really into it. I think it can really change the way you feel about things, which is very cool.

What advice would you give to emerging contemporary jewellery artists? When I first started I made really big pieces and perhaps should have started with smaller pieces. Big pieces are more time consuming and they don’t sell as often. Everyone does it differently, it’s just finding your own practice, finding your own style and discovering how it works for you. I know people who have completed a NEIS course, which sounds really good.

Is it hard to switch hats between being a maker and running a small business? Yes! I’m not good at business but it’s all a learning process. It’s very easy when you are on a creative run and think ‘yeah I’m just going to go for this!’ but you know in the back of your head that it’s not commercial to make really big pieces. But as an artist, it’s really hard to put the idea away once you have had it.

Visit e.g.etal at 167 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, to view Emma Jane Donald’s current collection.

Interview Me: Annie Feolde (chef)

How did a French woman, cooking Italian food end up hosting dinner in a Greek restaurant in Australia? With a very full passport and a passion for food and travel, that’s how! I met Ms Annie Feolde, the first woman to achieve three Michelin stars, on the eve of a series of dinners in Melbourne for Vittoria Coffee. While Annie’s English was excellent, I left some cute little mistakes in there as they were so endearing! Bon Appetito!

I am interested in how a French woman came to Italy to cook Italian food and went to Tokyo? It doesn’t matter where you were born, what is important is to show your customers what you have in your environment and what you can present them. It is important because I’m still, of course, French and I love my country, we have very good habits and traditions, but since I spent time in Florence, after a few years, I understood that I had to integrate myself into the place that I was living.

When people visit they prefer to eat Italian food. I understood it very quickly when VIP lady in politics didn’t eat anything of my French cooking, even when I had already become quite known, because she wanted only something with Italian traditions and at that time I was not prepared. It was my own fantasy. So she didn’t eat and I was so upset but I understood that I had to change my style, it was a necessity. 

How did you feel about having to change your style? A certain difficulty at the beginning. We have to understand where we are. This is my mentality. Some other people might want to stick to their own origins, I don’t. And so that’s it, I started to open some cooking books and at first it was quite strange for me but then I understood the mechanism, because there is always a mechanism in everything and then I fell in love with this kind of cooking. It’s endless!

Had food always been part of your childhood? Yes. My parents and grandparents had always had hotels. It’s in our blood. For me the business was really disgusting because you don’t have any private life. But there is something inside our blood that pushes us to this type of business. Because apart from the terrible hours there is also a nice way to meet people and you can learn something. It’s a window onto the world. I love creativity, independence. I want to move as I want, I don’t want to be in an office. I spent 3 years in an office in Paris and I couldn’t stand it. 

After one year of studying English in London I went to Florence to improve my Italian. This was after my stay in the Post Office in Paris. It was very dull. At first I tried to find a job that could allow me to travel, because I have always been attracted by other countries and systems. So with the Post Office I was sure I would have been sent somewhere else. I had the good luck to be sent from my village to Paris. But when you don’t have enough money, friends or family Paris is very cold, very mysterious. It was not my cup of tea so I organised to leave.

In Florence I met my husband who had started this business of wine bar. He was so passionate and I thought this is the man for me, he loves quality and this was what I was looking for. We were noticed by journalists, this is how it worked back then. Then we reached the top of the Italian gastronomy and the very top of the wine cellar situation but this is never enough. Not that we are ambitious but we know we can do more…more and more and more. Sometimes we are a bit tired  (laughs!).

How do you maintain the pace? I imagine there would be quite a bit of pressure to keep your 3 stars? Actually we are not that anxious during the year, we do our best because it’s inside of ourselves. The time the new Michelin guide arrives, then we start to be frightened like hell. They are really anonymous, good for them! They have to have a good, true idea of what we are doing. Some of the guides are easier to recognise but the Michelin can be really difficult. Sometimes when we see someone in the dining room behaving in a funny way we think, ‘ah this one smells of Michelin’ (laughs).

In Australia we have had this food revolution recently where everyone is more aware of food due to shows like Masterchef, do you find now your customers are more aware of what they are eating – taking notes, taking photographs? There has been a big evolution in the past 30 years. It has changed dramatically…for the best. More competition, more research for the good items and a window open on the other countries that before were completely on apart. Italian people are very conservative, nearly like French people! And so we talk always about the globalisation, it is true, it has impressed all of us and we can’t go back now. Before we could see the difference between one city and another, between one country and another and on the other part of the globe.

Australia produces very good wine. This confirms the global evolution on each field. It’s nice but it’s very difficult to keep on the pace. For instance with everything related to computers, you have news everyday. Before I couldn’t stand bloggers I couldn’t let anybody hold a telephone even in my restaurant. I felt like I wanted to put a barrier so the phones wouldn’t work, but then it is true that we need it. It’s a new world, that’s it. I used not to do it, photography, for me it was an offence, a kind of intrusion, but now I am changing.

Have you found your cooking has evolved into an Italian style? It’s Italian style from Italian traditions but of course I cannot forget about what I saw in France. It’s not hard to switch off the French part, if you find something is nice and new and better you try to complete, transform, interpret.

Do you find that people focus on the fact that you are a woman with 3 stars as opposed to a chef with 3 stars? Yes of course. Italian people are very macho. And so they were surprised because you can reach the two stars but the three stars! I was the first on the Michelin list and now there are five women in the world with three stars.

We are good friends and we have done many, many parties together, charity dinners and so on. We have a very good relationship. And before when we were the only 3 lady MS chef we used to call ourselves, La Tres Gracie (The three graces). You should have seen us, not only grace but graca (fat). Just a little bit, because this is our business.

Where do you find your inspiration? Seasons, market, books. Fantasy of course, sometimes on Saturday night at midnight or later I go to the kitchen with a little plastic bag and say ‘now I am going to do my shopping.’ So I open all the fridge and take a few things. So the next day I am in front of several things and say ‘what can I do with this’ and I try.

I’m not sure if you have television shows like this, a competitor get a basket with several things and has to cook. I do the same for myself and for my husband, sadly he is not a very good spectator – he doesn’t like garlic, onions and salt anymore. So in fact sometimes I invite friends during the week or when he is travelling and eat everything!  And then when I am in France during august or Christmas then I have to show my friends, I cannot help myself, I invite, therefore I want to please them and at that moment I have to do my best for them.

There’s something about that striving for perfection, even when cooking for friends, it’s in you isn’t it? Yes, you cannot slap a plate on the table you have to do it as you are used to.

When you are at home on a day off what do you like to eat? I love using vegetables, in particular artichokes and leeks. I love everything that is vegetable. Of course I love cheese but it’s fattening. Both Italian and French cheese is very interesting. I don’t eat desserts easily anymore. I love foreign cooking – Thai cooking and Chinese cooking and especially Japanese cooking.

Do you have any advice for young chefs? Work hard, and never stay still. You have always to get informed about the evolution around the world and keep your identity at the same time.

Enoteca Pinchiorri is in Florence. You can learn more about the restaurant and Annie Feolde at www.enotecapinchiorri.com

Interview Me: Melissa Cameron (contemporary jeweller)

Last week I interviewed Melissa Cameron for contemporary jewellery gallery e.g.etal. Melissa is an interior architect turned contemporary jeweller making in Melbourne. I visited her unusual studio space, a lovely little artist collective in an old Victorian house in St Kilda, that she shares with artist Mary-Lou Pavlovic and four other sculptors and painters.

Interview Me: Nigel Stefani (illustrator)

You must enjoy what you do in life as you are only here once, right? It’s an important statement about how we work and why we do what we do. Illustrator, Nigel Stefani is the embodiment of this statement – after training in fashion in London and working for cult luxury label, Comme des Garcons, he decided to follow his true passion of drawing and make it his full time gig.

Stefani recently moved to Australia and is emerging as an exciting new talent on the illustration scene. I sat with the charming Londoner recently to talk about his work and preparation for his first exhibition, Couche, at DesignaSpace in June.

Nigel Stefani
Tell me about the path you took to illustration? 
I’ve always been fascinated by illustration as an art form. I’ve always drawn, since I was a little youngin’. I got to the point in my life where I thought I wanted to do something I love as a career. There’s a lot of trial and error in what I do, I’m not sure if I have succeeded yet or anything like that but it’s definitely something that’s instilled in me that you have to follow your dreams. Have you always drawn? Yes, ever since I could pick up a pencil. Always, always, always.

Did you undertake any formal training?
Kind of. I did a lot of drawing at school, obviously in art class. I don’t think I have ever been sat down and taught ‘this is how you do this’. I have just kind of been encouraged to follow different methods of imagery with a pencil or whatever.

So I hear that you have been to fashion school, did you do any illustration there?
Yes I have. In my fashion class, it wasn’t solely illustration, your ideas were meant to be produced in a way that suited your personality. It wasn’t much about what your sketch book looked like, more the process your sketchbook took, the journey. Ultimately you were producing clothing. My sketchbook was very messy and had a lot of stuff in it. It looked like my brain!

Where do you turn for inspiration?
Anywhere and everywhere. The title of my exhibition is Couche, which is ‘layers’ in French. The way I draw at the moment is very much to do with layering. So I could see a piece of chewing gum, I could see a spilled drink, I could see a ripped poster, and see the texture. Those things themselves are uninteresting but if you bring them all together in a creative way, you can create compositions that have more to do with what you have to say than just a photograph or painting.
IllustrationWhich artists, or even mediums, do you draw inspiration from?
Artists I admire are people like Peter Blake and the photography of Tim Walker – there’s such a dream like, surreal quality to their work, something I suppose I would try and incorporate into my own. I think the best thing that can come from people looking at your work, is an opinion. Be it good or bad, an opinion is better than anything. 

Music is also very important to me. I can rarely go a minute without listening to some. It is as important as my pencil I think, as I have always found music so inspiring, in all it’s forms.  So to say I love everything from Electro kings such as Deadmau5 to Miles Davis is true, as it is used in such a way, as to aid my own creative thinking. 

Do you think true artists shouldn’t have to ‘promote’ themselves, or is that not possible today? 
In this day and age, I don’t think that exists. If you look at people like Banksy, it’s all very well being a guerrilla artist and stuff but he is obviously promoting himself by being on display everywhere. I think the days are gone of artists just sitting in their studios for years not showing themselves to the world. You can’t survive. If I won lots and lots of money I would, but money makes the world go round. It’s ridiculous in a way. I’ve got quite a romantic view of the world in that I would like to drink red wine, smoke cigarettes and draw all day for the rest of my life, but that’s not really going to get you anywhere other than liver disease and a hangover.

What’s a typical working day for you?
I am working on a new drawing, so I will get up, have some coffee, smoke a cigarette, have a shower, sit down, pick my music for the day, put my headphones on and start drawing. I won’t stop until 3pm till my stomach goes a bit nuts, eat something quickly, start drawing again until about 6pm. Smoke, do a bit more drawing, then go to bed.

My ideal is to have a focus at the end of it. I’m not really drawing towards anything and that’s frustrating. It’s a journey isn’t it. You have to struggle for your art or it’s not worth it. I fully believe that. You have to have months and months or potentially years of just sitting there. The struggle makes you more determined to succeed. If I had done one drawing and got shitloads of press and jobs then I don’t think I would have tried so hard. I changed my style of drawing based on the fact that I didn’t think I was producing artwork that was complicated enough or original enough. It made me think ‘well actually maybe I need to look at a new way of producing imagery’. I’m so glad I did as I am now producing imagery that is ten times better than what it was. Maybe I will look back in five years time at what I am doing now and think it’s total wack. It can only get better, not worse, unless I break my hands and have to relearn to draw.


Where is your happy place?
It completely depends on what mood I am in. If I am frustrated creatively I will need to completely get out of that environment and reassess what I am doing with it. Usually that happens before I start a drawing, not during. During there’s a definite end goal because it’s plotted out. It’s not monotonous or anything but creatively I suppose I get frustrated when I am not creating compositions that are evocative enough. I get out of the environment, look at other illustrators, find some more ‘couche’ to experiment with. Or go for a walk or listen to some music.

When I draw, I will be drawing and drawing and drawing and drawing and I have to sit back and look at the whole thing. I think that can be applied to the whole process – you need to step back and think what am I doing. If you are too introvert and looking at one point you are missing the other stuff, you need to get out of the bubble. If people challenge me it will make me assess my work my own way. That’s the whole point I am in Australia, otherwise I would still be in London, still working at Comme. You need to challenge yourself as much as possible, even if it’s fucking scary and horrible and weird and upsetting, it’s so necessary cause you take something positive from every situation.

Nigel Stefani’s exhibition, Couche, opens at DesignaSpace in June.

Interview Me: Natalia Milosz-Piekarska (contemporary jeweller)


Natalia Milosz-Piekarska

Natalia in her lightfilled studio


I recently interviewed Melbourne contemporary jeweller Natalia Milosz-Piekarska for e.g.etal. You can read the interview here.