Cultivating community and nurturing your creative genius // a conversation with Jasmine from Anamundi Studio

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Meet the endlessly creative Jasmine Christie, a set and costume designer, florist, writer, and the visionary behind Anamundi Studio. I first met Jasmine at a retail space in Mullumbimby in New South Wales that she artfully upgraded with dried flower arrangements, botanical illustrations and natural objects. Not long after, I went to one of her ‘full moon flowerings,’ an ornate gathering of foraged flowers and candles to hold space for reflection, meditation and setting intention. The circle gets bigger each month, with more people gathering on the lunar timeline to call in what serves them and let go of what doesn’t.  

I caught up with Jasmine between her many other pursuits of book clubs and monthly Black Mail letters, to talk about how she seems to so effortlessly combine her many creative disciplines, how community inspires her, and the importance of setting a solid foundation for creativity to flourish. My favourite thing about these interviews is the privilege of being able to lend someone’s unique perspective and the inspiration that comes from this. I learned a so many valuable things about creativity during this conversation, and I know other creatives looking to forge their own unique path will to:

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Hey Jasmine, thanks so much for chatting to me today. I want to start by asking you to introduce a bit about your background and the path that led you to create Anamundi Studio.

I grew up in a small town and moved to Sydney to study set and costume design for theatre. Then I went and did floristry later. I feel like I fumbled around freelance set design in theatre, film and TV for quite a while and tried every combination of those to try to balance making a living and being creatively satisfied. I feel like I tried all those things and it wasn’t until I had a full time TV job that I actually had the stability to dream of something else and think, “okay now that I know all the things I’ve learnt through these mistakes and lessons, how can I re-make it.” I think the Anamundi concept came when I thought there had be to be way to marry what I was already doing, the skills that I had, and where I want to go. I thought the format is not something that really exists but I felt like it would work. I did actually go to a business coach for a couple of sessions with Loren Trlin and she was good, she cast a very other side of the brain reflections of all the things I was saying quite conceptually. She didn’t question it and said it was all completely achievable and said “lets unpack what that would look like.” Then I went to New York and had an internship with a florist there who had a nature arts focused space called Saipua; it’s Finnish for soap. It started as a soap company and then she went into flowers and then it was more the space was so inspiring. They had this warehouse space in Brooklyn, a ceramic artist down one end and lots of big events like cross cultural dinners, and they had a flower farm upstate where they had events and workshops. Just kind of the flavour of it, I thought “yeah it’s already happening here, it works here.” It wasn’t exactly how I wanted to do it but it was a really good reference. That’s kind of how it started, oh and then I moved to Byron.

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What made you move to Byron?

I was very over Sydney, I was quite miserable there by that stage. I’d been there almost over 10 years and it was just a struggle — I felt like every part of it I’d outgrown, a lot.

What aspects had you outgrown?

I just felt like I was running the same patterns. I tried full time work, I tried freelance, I tried part time working in a shop, I tried retail, I tried everything and I’d done all of those properly but after that I’d run out of options of combinations to try. The only thing I can try now is to do it myself and I just didn’t feel like what I wanted to do myself was going to work there. I just couldn’t afford to do it there, I felt like the lifestyle there was too expensive and I needed space geographically and mentally to do it. This area too because we came here a lot as kids, I didn’t know anyone though I moved up by myself. I came up for two weeks and drove around to suss it out.

I chose Mullumbimby, I felt Mullumbimby had a very strong community and I just thought it’s going to be really welcomed here. So that’s how it started and it all happened really quickly when I came here because I had the framework. The thing that kicked it into gear was I did an exhibition with Sevira, a local ceramic artist, a very established wonderful artist, and I thought “I’m here now, I’ve moved in, I’ve got to start doing what I said I would do.” So I thought I’d do an exhibition and we put that on and it went really well. I did the florals in his vessels, he had vases and I did quite sculptural arrangements in them. The first new moon flowering I did again because there was just no excuse not to do this now, I said “I don’t know anyone but I’ll just put it on.” Also because I was working out of a shop space and gaining access to a community I thought I’ve got enough things now so I can kind of connect the dots. 

I even feel now, because I wear a few different hats, I want to do it all but people have said to me “you need to work on being a specialist not a generalist” I pretty much keep rejecting that idea.

Do you have any thoughts or advice for other creatively multi-disciplined people like yourself, about how to hone it into one creative platform?

That’s still a struggle, of wanting to do it all and yeah, I think the thing was — I brainstormed a lot “what do I love doing, what am I good at doing and what do people expect me to be doing?” and filtering through that. I even feel now, because I wear a few different hats, I want to do it all but people have said to me “you need to work on being a specialist not a generalist” I pretty much keep rejecting that idea, but I do think there’s a really good point to that because it’s moving away from the titles a little bit too. Because formally I’m a set and costume designer with a production background, and a florist — they’re the two things. But I’ve also worked as an art department crew member, a props master and lots of random things. I think once I named Anamundi, I sort of named that and that’s the cross juncture of all these things that I’m doing. I thought it wouldn’t make sense to anyone when I didn’t explain what I was doing but told them to come to an event. But people did just get it, they get that people are multidisciplinary and do different things.  

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If you were in a city like Sydney do you think you’d have a harder time?

Mmm, probably, but I’d probably still do the same events. I think it’s just a time thing, people have a lot more on their plates. I think it’s awesome to do everything, but not necessarily having to show everything all the time and taking it a bit slower. I’m really learning to let ideas marinate a lot longer, I’m learning that I don’t have to put on every single plant-magic-poetry-reading-book-club-dinner. I have kind of a little bit, but I feel like I don’t have to, and just trusting that I have an idea now but I’m very comfortable with the idea that it might not happen for three years. It’s been really nice to create from that place where you have all those ideas and I just sort of wait and see what comes up and you might meet someone and you’re like “uuh that’s funny, that idea I thought I was filing over here but it’s actually asking to be brought to life now.”

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That’s it isn’t it, it’s like having those ideas and if they last the test of time, it’s like these ideas are still relevant.

Yeah totally, it’s about letting them evolve. But I think yeah, naming something is very freeing, because I’m a very fad-ish person — if I decide I don’t’ want to do floristry anymore and I want to do fashion or something, it can still be called Anamundi, because it’s Jasmine’s world in evolution and I think everyone has that ‘brand’ (I hate that word), where they can say what is my unique set of skills and experiences and what can I bring, without being worried about diluting it down to suit what people think it is.

Totally, diluting the expression to fit what’s already there.

Yeah, or fit some sort of commercial version of what it needs to look like.

Yeah I’ve found Anamundi to be really unfiltered, it’s amazing.

Sometimes I think if I add another dimension it might get too sprawly.

I think the concept of being a specialist is interesting because it’s something we’re told and it can sometimes quell that natural urge some people have to just want to do it all.

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I definitely think that that advice of becoming a specialist not a generalist is 100% accurate when you need to start thinking about making money. If you isolate the parts of your business like “that’s going to be my money maker and that’s going to be my…” I think you have to separate them, rather than go “I’m going to do it all for the love of it,” set the foundation somewhere first that’s going to be your foundation to build everything else on. For me that’s weddings. I think it’s important that it’s something you don’t hate and something you quite enjoy. Weddings and a couple of commercial jobs that I know aren’t very ‘Anamundi” but I know I can be a specialist in those pools, I’m the florist or the costume designer for that commercial job. In this funny instance I was also a costume designer for a dress made of flowers so that was very specialist. I really do love doing weddings and once I acknowledged that it was for that purpose and it didn’t necessarily mean I had to be the ‘biggest, bestest wedding florist,’ I got to choose brides or say yes to projects that feel really aligned with the other stuff I’m doing, then it starts to come full circle and it feels really good. 

I do think the point about being a specialist is a really valid point, because otherwise you’ve got no foundation or time for your creative endeavours and you can become really bitter and frustrated because you can’t pay your rent with your creative things. 

Elizabeth Gilbert talks about that in her book Big Magic

Totally! She said it and I was like yes I completely agree with you! Don’t put the pressure on your creative genius to be your money maker and I think if you can separate the two it’s really important. I feel like I’ve done every combination of things, I’ve done the “I’m going to just do theatre all the time,” and you end up hating theatre because it’s not fun anymore and it’s a job — but I think the absolutely blessing is if you can have the job being something that you love or just go “I’m going to wait tables and I’m going to do it in full joy because it’s allowing me to write a play” and you don’t think of it as taking energy away from your creative endeavours because it’s fuelling it.

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How did the name for Anamundi Studio come about? 

I had a list of over 100 words on my phone. I thought I know what I want it to feel like, I thought of words like earth and terra and kindred and folk. The name was Serpentine for a long time, which is so wrong now but it was Serpentine because I liked the snake imagery. Yeah, I just wanted it to sound earthy, I also wanted it to sound kind of classical and to sound tribal at the same time. I saw the phrase ‘anima X mundi’ and thought “that’s cool.” The anima is the idea that nature is spirit, so nature. In indigenous religions that are animistic, mountain is earth and storm is god and that idea that we hear when we hear those dreamtime stories where nature is god, is an animistic religion. There’s also Jungian concepts about anima being the divine feminine, I found that out later actually and thought it was really cool. But Anumundi means worldly universe in Latin, but an ‘axis mundi’ is any north south polar axis, so a church or an obelisk. Any architecture that follows that vertical line is designed like that because it’s the symbol of earth to heaven. So the church, that’s why it has a steeple because it’s that idea that when you go in there it’s going from death to life and that kind of ascension. So anima X mundi, I pushed together.

Community is such a funny buzzword at the moment, but when I think of it, the feelings and words that come to mind are that feeling of being moved by people from totally different worlds coming together to create something.

So the word doesn’t exist?

No it doesn’t exist. Anamundi I define as the central axis where nature, culture & community, soul, universe align in one motion. So if you see kundalini, it’s the same. I love that it looks Latin but the ‘mundi’ sounds like ‘Barrumundi’ and has a kind of Australian essence to it so once I found it, it felt really right.   

You wrote in the most recent issue of Paradiso that “much of our anxiety prevalent in our modern society stems from the natural world.” Were you always connected with nature from a young age or was it something you consciously chose later in life?

I think so, but I think most children are. I think there’s a few memories that come to mind, I was always making things with nature. We were always in the garden and creating with nature a lot. I think my fondest childhood memories were camping, we didn’t go a lot but they made such an impression, that experience of being by a creek or a river and just exploring.  

I’m very passionate about nature, but I think I’m even more passionate about community. In terms of the thing that really stir my soul. Community is such a funny buzzword at the moment, but when I think of it, the feelings and words that come to mind are that feeling of being moved by people from totally different worlds coming together to create something, and that being really celebrated by everyone else. I’m still moved by it. I think it says a lot about the town I grew up in, it was very open. I think of nature as more of a medium like painting or drawing, I just use nature as the communication, the visualisation, the tool… but the cause is community.

I often say I’m very inspired by my mum. She’s someone who doesn’t see demographic, or colour, or age, or gender. She just sees a role in a show and I think that’s really cool. She’ll talk to anyone, like she got her mechanic to play a role in the show and I think when people see that someone else has seen something in them other than being a mechanic, it’s quite touching. I’ve always loved watching people be surprised at what someone has to offer, other than what you think they’ve got to offer.

You’ve also been busy writing Black Mail. How did this idea come about and what’s the feedback been like so far?

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Blackmail was born out of the idea that I felt like I needed to keep contact with the community that was building around these events. I am reluctantly doing Facebook groups and mailing lists, but it actually didn’t really feel authentic. I think what’s more authentic is keeping in touch by something that was more tactile in the same way that the events are a contact experience. So I thought “hey I’m going to do a postal mailing list” and my business brain was like “that’s a really stupid idea, that sounds like a lot of effort.” But I don’t personally respond to mailing lists, they just go to junk mail for me and I thought I would read a letter. I think the mystery behind receiving something in your post box that’s pretty, and thoughtful, and a nice collection of things, it’s coming at odds with the digital consumption we’re doing every day. I think we’ve got enough digital forms, so people are responding really well to it. The people who do really engage with it, really engage with it.

I feel I’ve found a happy relationship with social media that I’ve used it, in a way to build a community but once you’re there, it’s all about who you are as a real person, as a three dimensional, living breathing human being.
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One thing that I’m quietly really warmed by is that up here (same with Sydney), it’s just so ‘social media culture’ and it’s a love-hate thing. I certainly have used it to start and get a community built, but I love that when you actually come on a night of a circle or an event, there’s a lot of people in a normal or digital context and it’s a bit of ‘who’s who’ situation, but no one knows and it doesn’t matter because everyone has to bring a gift and everyone has to do the opening. I feel I’ve found a happy relationship with social media that I’ve used it in a way to build a community but once you’re there, it’s all about who you are as a real person as a three dimensional, living breathing human being. I think that’s a real win for community, that in the end, the real version of you will trump the digital version. I think it will put everyone on an equal footing, that’s one thing I get really excited about.

Also, so many people hang out after the events and I hear about people catching up after the event and that’s exactly the purpose in action, that’s what it’s about. I’d like to work on opening the demographic, as I’m aware that the demographic is of a particular story and I’d love to open it up a bit more. I’m really conscious of bringing men into the equation. Every single circle we’ve done now we’ve had at least two men in the circle. But even the age, demographic and culture I’d like to find ways to blow that open a little more.

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What’s the vision for Anamundi Studio over the next 12 months?

It feels like my ordinary answer to that would be I 100% have a plan, but I actually feel like it is maybe more going with the flow. I think I never expected what’s come up to happen so quickly. All the ideas for plant based dinners and cultural workshops and these kind of things, they were three year goals and I’ve been here seven and a half months and I would say that 9/10 ideas I’ve had, have already happened or are going to happen at the end of the year. So I think I underestimated how fast things could happen up here. But at the same time, I want to put the break on, I don’t want to oversaturate it and I kind of feel I’m happy to be a little bit more surprised about what else might come up, because I’ve ticked my boxes and now I’ve got the luxury of sitting back and seeing what comes.