People

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.

the hemp revolution // a conversation with the hemp temple

Meet Brittany, Isabella and Anna, the clever and conscious minds behind Byron Bay label, The Hemp Temple. One of the few clothing brands around exclusively using hemp, they design timeless basics for really living in and intended to last beyond drifting trends. The way they operate their business contributes to the growing movement towards a circular economy in which waste, resources, emissions and energy leakage are reduced. As one of the biggest strains on the environment, the fashion industry is in need of a real shift, along with our individual relationships towards buying clothes. Standing as a potential hero that can undo some damage, hemp might offer an all-encompassing solution.

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I learned so many amazing facts about hemp during our chat, was inspired by their commitment to stay authentic in business and also had a good giggle hearing about a the Moroccan romance that apparently went AWOL. Aspiring eco-preneurs will get a lot out of this conversation, as we dive into The Hemp Temple’s undefined early beginnings and follow the adventures that led them to flourish as they are now.

All your designs are made exclusively using hemp, can you share a little bit about why? 

Isabella: Hemp wasn’t out primary fibre when we set everything up. We were mainly using cotton because hemp wasn’t available and we didn’t know much about it. When we came back from setting up our maker and travelling, we started to learn more about the fashion industry and we watched the true cost and learned about how to be sustainable in an unsustainable industry, and the only avenue was really hemp. So we were pestering out maker saying “please find hemp, please find hemp” and he sent us this little sample of hemp. From there we changed all of our designs into hemp and learned more as we went on. If you want to compare it to cotton, because cotton is the primary fibre that the industry uses, it uses less than half of the amount of water that cotton.

Brittany: If any water in some cases.

Isabella: Cotton uses heaps of pesticides because it attracts all the bugs, so pretty much any cotton you’re buying unless you’re buying organic cotton is covered in chemicals, which absorbs directly into your skin. People don’t know how bad it is to wear everything you wear, unless it’s from a sustainable place. Hemp’s really good because you don’t need fungicides, pesticides, herbicides to grow it, and it’s pretty much naturally organic (unless you get a non-organic one), but it grows organic naturally.

So this plant has the potential to revolutionise the way we eat, where we live, the air that we breathe — it’s not just clothing

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Do you guys’ exclusively wear hemp now? 

Isabella: Pretty much.

Brittany: It’s like the organic food of the clothing industry. Hemp also pulls pollution out of the soils and the air. So where there’s been nuclear spillage, they’ll plant hemp to extract it from the atmosphere and the soils. So regarding the pollution on our planet, the more hemp you plant, the more it’s going to actually bring the whole ecosystem back into balance. Hemp’s also used for food and plastic, it’s used for absolutely everything, but it was illegal in the 1800’s in America to not grow hemp. So this plant has the potential to revolutionise the way we eat, where we live, the air that we breathe — it’s not just clothing, if you push this hemp revolution, it’s really going to bring down industries of all these other people, it’s quite a powerful thing.

Anna: The more we learn the more we’re mind-blown.

Isabella: And you can create a kind of biofuel and way more paper than trees can produce, so it can potentially positively affect the deforestation that’s happening. 

Britt: In one acre of hemp paper you can save 4 billion trees. That’s over a ten year process, but it’s just crazy. It grows 6 feet in three weeks.

So it’s like the bamboo of the fashion industry?

Brittany: Of every industry.

Isabella: Of every industry really. Like plastic when you think about how bad plastic is, hemp plastic can be biodegradable and take over pretty much but it’s like this blooming industry that hasn’t taken off.

Anna: it’s because there was a stigma around it with cannabis and it was illegal for so long.

Brittany: It’s like the antidote of pollution.

And you mentioned the fibres resonate?

Anna: It has the same vibration as our skin. So you know with some clothing you find that it’s static. For example, if it’s polyester or something, it doesn’t really work with your skin — but hemp, because it’s the same electromagnetic field as our skin it feels so good to wear. 

I was curious why you guys did the rebrand because you guys were Friday Hut Road before, so what led to that?

Brittany: So Friday Hut Road started as the three of us getting together and wanting to change the world. We’d watched documentaries and we were like “oh my god we need to do something with our lives.” So we travelled around the world looking for pieces of vintage clothing and vintage jewellery and selling them online and then it just slowly evolved into this over a period of three years. So Friday Hut Road never really knew what it was, it was just the three of us wanting change. And finally we stumbled across the maker, with these beautiful basics and then hemp and we were like “well this is what we are, our intention was to save the world and this is how we’re going to do it.” So we were like “let’s just rebirth as The Hemp Temple so we know what we are, the world knows what we are, and we can really exert our energy on this path in the fashion industry that’s the second biggest polluter in the world.” We all wanted to be artists and writers and change the world that way, but we were like “this is the way we’re actually going to do it.”

In collaboration with artist Fillipa Edghill - @fillipaedgehill

In collaboration with artist Fillipa Edghill - @fillipaedgehill

It’s interesting that the concept came first and the product came second. You’re a writer Isabella, and I’ve seen that you guys are all pretty creative. Back when you were still Friday Hut Road you seemed to be more broad in discipline. What was Friday Hut Road back then?

It started as a blog with this innate feeling of not agreeing with the world and then it kind of evolved into. 

Anna: It was travelling and looking for vintage pieces but then clothing kind of came into it because we were like “we have this idea of being different and so we want to be able to dress people and have them feel it too, so it was like the ‘clothing of the revolutionaries’ is what we decided to start it as, but that was before we even knew about hemp and now we’re like “it actually is the clothing of the revolutionaries.” So we kind of evolved into it. But we were also doing crystals and oracle cards and this expansive thing that we were a bit confused about for a time there.

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That element still seems to be a part of your brand. You’re selling oracle cards here [at the shop], so how does that all tie into the brand?

We all studied Reiki with our Reiki master and really explored that avenue of life and then realised that we needed to get grounded in what we were doing, so we kind of put that to the side and focused on the business. and then the spiritual side of things just starts to come innately. It’s not like a forced preaching kind of movement, it’s just more of a natural — it’s like okay “what part of this world is naturally our essence, and what’s business” — so yeah it’s still here to fill the shelves but our main focus is the clothes.

Isabella: It’s like when we figured out how powerful hemp is, we really wanted to make it accessible to as many people we can. So that’s really a process of destigmatising hemp as not being associated with cannabis. We also want to destigmatise our philosophy of connectedness and being a part of nature to become really accessible. On the other hand, for the common person who doesn’t know about that can come in and feel comfortable knowing that what they’re wearing is still part of that aspect of what the business is, but they don’t have to know.

Brittany: Yeah, like we’re not hippy’s, and hippy’s don’t just wear hemp, it’s for every single person in the world to feel good. I mentioned that it’s kind of sacred responsibility. Like the sacredness and the responsibility came together and birthed the hemp temple.

I like that, because I think it’s grounded to be like “we just want to be as accessible as possible” and not really about preaching anything, you just are that, that’s who you are — and that’s filtered through a little bit in what you do. You guys also talked about travel and how that revolutionised everything for you. Is there anything that you wanted to mention about your journey and maybe what that did for your brand?

Isabella: After starting off with the blog, we decided “let’s do a business.” I was living overseas and the girls went to Bali and made a range of overalls and that was our first product. We were selling just four different styles of overalls and trying to get them out there, but also not having a firm foundation of what we were yet, but they were still really amazing and we were really excited. Then we met up on our travels and had the intention to find amazing vintage pieces and authentic stories behind products, but because we were also transforming and going through so much at the same time, it was always a thought that rather than a physical manifestation and finding a brand it was more like this energy of what is this business going to be and that was simultaneously transforming as we were transforming. We ended up in Morocco, and almost started a factory there, but through a series of messages and mishaps…

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I love that, messages and mishaps… 

Brittany: … I had a Moroccan lover that went totally AWOL and we had to escape Morocco and leave fabrics and samples behind and get a flight to India and get out of there really quick before it went really bad.

Anna: And India kind of cemented the whole business thing. We met this man in India, he’s a tailor and he makes beautiful men’s clothing. He said to us that he wasn’t working with anyone else, he just had this little shop in India and one other business in Italy and he said “if you girls run, I’ll run with you” and that was so beautiful and we were like “okay this is it,” so India was like the cement. When we asked him for hemp, we weren’t able to travel yet because we were doing all of our business here (in Byron) and he found it, but it was Nepalese, so that was the driving force to go to Nepal and go to the roots.

For what reason is Nepal the roots of hemp? 

Anna: That’s where it grows abundantly and they’re using it to make the fabric. We can’t do it in Australia yet, just because it’s been illegal for so long that they got rid of all the technology to turn it into fabric. 

Brittany: You can’t produce hemp fabric here in Australia yet.

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At one point you mentioned it was illegal not to grow hemp, but now it’s been illegal to grow hemp. Do you know why?

Brittany: The cotton industry. There’s a lot of politics behind it. The big dogs in the cotton industry paid for campaigns and advertising to make it illegal and then you had Egyptian cotton and they wanted to be exclusively cotton. So there’s a lot of politics behind it because the power of it will just explode and all those big companies will be affected.

What’s been going on business wise, have you had a lot of interest since you’ve done the rebrand. I think you mentioned since you clarified your brand that things have upped a level.

Isabella: Yeah, there’s a lot that comes when you simplify things. Since we moved here (to Byron) really, it’s just kind of kicked off. I think because our brand was originally called Friday Hut Road, we moved back to Friday Hut Road and opened a place… 

Friday Hut Road is in Sydney?

Isabella: Friday Hut Road is here [in Byron Bay].

Brittany: So my auntie and uncle live on Friday Hut Road. So I started the blog when I was 19 and studying creative writing out at Lismore at the university there. That’s where it was named and came to fruition. We ended up moving back here and living on their property again — all of us. So it was really crazy. People see the sign and come in just to see it, because Friday Hut Road is such a long road and so well known in the area that you just get people coming in that live on it which has been epic.” 

So that’s why the signs still up?

Brittany: Yeah, but I think we’re going to close the shop this month and re open when we get back from Nepal.

Isabella: Or just go online.

Anna: and maybe start wholesaling because we haven’t been able to put ourselves in shops because we haven’t had the supply. But we’re hoping that after Nepal we’ll be able to expand and work with other shops and stuff like that.

Isabella: Cos this is primarily and office space really and it just kind of happened to be a shop because Britt said “we’re opening a shop”

Brittany: on Instagram. 

Isabella: most of our sales are online anyway.

I think for the sustainable vision, the simpler it is, the more accessible it is to more people. What we want we want to do as part of the vision is get hemp out there to as many people as we can and so try and make things that can be worn to all different sizes.

How did you actually end up here in Byron, what made you decide to move from Sydney?

Brittany: The lifestyle up here. The food, seriously.  

Isabella: We came on a holiday here and we were sitting at Santos Organics looking at posters on the wall that were saying “do this class and do that class,” and we were just like “I don’t understand why we don’t’ live here,” it’s just so who we are compared to where we were living. So we came home and sat on the kitchen floor and were like, “let’s move.”

Brittany: It was also that, we were doing markets at the time and a market in Sydney can be between 100 and 180 dollars and we asked how much the markets stalls are in Byron and they were like “$35” and I was like “We’re moving!”

A market friendly place then

Anna: Yeah the community runs on the markets, there are so many markets that just bring people together and so it’s really nice

I want to talk about your designs, I find your clothes pretty minimal and a little bit rustic and I was wondering what your thought process was behind the range.

Isabella: Well because we collaborate on the designs together, I’d say that maybe Anna’s got more of the beauty side of it and I’d like it to be as accessible as possible, because I think for the sustainable vision, the simpler it is, the more accessible it is to more people. What we want we want to do as part of the vision is get hemp out there to as many people as we can and so try and make things that can be worn to all different sizes, like a free sized top and a free sized skirt for women and basic colours so a lot of people can have access to them. That was our base, but now we’re exploring different styles and colours.

Anna: It’s the accessibility again. We want everybody to be able to wear hemp.

Brittany: And responding to the need. We saw straight away what people wanted. It was the wraps and the high waisted tops that you can wear with different things. Really applying our styles to a more voluptuous female body and people are like “yes, you design for women” you know, not little girls with no hips — it’s really bringing back that beauty of the woman and also we really want to push the men. Men love our shirts. One of our best sellers is the men’s ‘Ravi shirt.’ It’s like the middle road, you don’t have to look like a hippy to wear hemp.

Anna: It’s interesting because before we started our own brand, my inspiration has definitely been brands like mambo that have a real edge and amazing prints and stuff like that and so to go totally the opposite of that is interesting. But it’s just the knowledge of the industry and I don’t want to create something that people will get over. We want it to be in their cupboard for years, so that it’s not just thrown out and making them want to buy new things all the time — it’s something you can wear on and on and love it. 

Are there lots of people already doing basics in hemp?

Isabella: Not at the moment.

Anna: There’s a lot of people doing basics, but not in hemp. 

Isabella: I feel like this year everything hemp will start kicking off, I think it’s starting to catch.

Brittany: It’s like a little bit of a gold rush, but a hemp rush — it’s full on, we’re having people reaching out to us and they can see what they’re doing is accessible to everyone and is destigmatising it (hemp) by not even intentionally destigmatising it, but by just being ourselves.  

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Totally, just by producing accessible clothing

Anna: Yeah, there’s a few hemp brands with men’s stuff, but really not many with women’s. But we still want to do lots of men clothes.

It’s kind of got the linen vibe that everyone’s getting around at the moment

All: Yeah, it does

I think the future of hemp is going to be huge because you can access all those different styles of it, but I think all those bigger brands aren’t just switching over because they’re already established and it’s more expensive.

So, is hemp easy to work with?

Brittany: Yeah, because our hemp is woven, we have come across a few bumps in the road regarding the stitching and the seams and things. That’s way we want to get to Nepal so we can find a fabric that we can produce and not have to worry about that stuff. Hemp is really seasonal as well, so we started with a really fine hemp and then it went and we based our whole brand on that hemp fabric and then it changed. We had to go with the thicker hemp which has worked beautifully, so it’s interesting, because it’s not fully there in the industry, we’ve really had to work with hemp, not hemp work with us, so that’s also a factor that comes into making our clothing. We also can’t really have many buttons, it’s interesting, it’s pretty difficult. 

Where do you see the future of hemp in fashion?

Isabella: I think not being there for the whole design process as well in India has been part of the difficulty of working with hemp but recently we were shown a full work book of all these samples of hemp — from hemp corduroy, hemp denim and every kind of fabric you could imagine in hemp and I don’t think those fabrics would be difficult to work with — but our fabric is loosely woven and soft so I think that’s why we find more difficulties.

Anna: But I think the future of hemp is going to be huge because you can access all those different styles of it, but I think all those bigger brands aren’t just switching over because they’re already established and it’s more expensive.

Brittany: So we want every single clothing that’s new to be produced with hemp. Like this isn’t just exclusive to us, this is like “every brand, get on hemp.” There’s no reason for them not to. You can do any fabric in hemp. But currently we feel like we’re the underdogs of the fashion industry. 

 

True self-love // an interview with Silke Dewulf

Meet the lovely Silke Dewulf, a London based yoga teacher and self-love coach, whose dreamy images and words of wisdom beyond her years enchant thousands of people all over the world. Silke also shares her plastic free journey on Instagram and Youtube, along with her minimalist inspired lifestyle. I don’t remember how, but I stumbled upon Silke's Youtube channel while living in London a year ago, and everything she wrote resonated with me immediately. I love how real she is and really admire her courage to share in such a venerable way. Below I have an inspiring chat to Silke about her plastic free journey, the benefits of decluttering and what it really means to love yourself. 

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Hi Silke, thanks so much for chatting to us today — we want to start by asking what sparked your journey towards this lifestyle of minimalism?

Hi Ella, thank you for having me on the blog today. My minimalism journey started back in 2015 when I moved houses. Going through my wardrobe and cabinets really made me realise how many things I was holding onto that I hadn’t used in years. So that’s when I first started decluttering and letting go of items that no longer added any value to my life. Since then I have moved houses three more times and each of them was a beautiful opportunity to re-assess what I no longer needed.

What do you feel have been the biggest benefits of incorporating a more minimalistic approach to living?

For myself it creates a sense of lightness and freedom. All the things I own right now are things I truly love and use. I also find that it helped me ease ‘decision anxiety’, that feeling you get because you have too many options to choose from. 

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You recently documented your plastic free July journey on Instagram. What was the biggest challenge for that month?

The biggest challenge for me was finding certain produce items packaged-free. I shop already about 80% plastic free but there are still those few items that no store around London seems to carry plastic free. Items like, cucumbers, berries, lettuce, kale, herbs, … During that month I decided to check a local small green grocer, and I got lucky! I was able to find cucumbers, kales and herbs package-free. Still no luck on the lettuce and berries but I dream of one day owning a plot of land out in nature and growing my own crops. 

It can be hard to stay motivated, especially when it's so much more convenient to buy plastic. What helped you stay motivated the entire month?

Oh I feel you! I have moments where I feel absolutely frustrated by the fact that it’s hard to be completely plastic-free. I have come to terms with the fact that for now I won’t be able to be 100% zero waste and plastic free. I definitely had to let go of my perfectionism and just try to make the best decisions I possibly can. What keeps me motivated is replaying the image of beaches full of plastic and cute little turtles getting stuck in plastic bags. Those things just pull on my heart strings. Knowing that me as a small individual can influence the amount of plastic that gets littered just by making smarter decisions keeps me going. I think a lot of people have forgotten how powerful individual decisions are. Sometimes we forget that our decisions can impact and inspire other people’s decisions and that’s when moment is built. But we have to start with ourselves, to be able to create that ripple effect.

Have you changed any other new habits since Plastic Free July? If so, what were they?

Yes, I started going to a green grocer down the road for some of the items I couldn’t find plastic free in the grocery store I usually go to. However, since then I moved cities and will have to start the hunt for good plastic free options all over again. 

What are have been your favourite plastic free finds so far?

I went to a bulk store called The Source Bulk Foods close to where I used to live in London and they sold unpackaged spirulina, wheatgrass powder and two different kinds of plant protein powders! How amazing is that? That store probably has the biggest range of bulk items I have ever seen.

And your best tips for reducing plastic and waste? 

I think its good to start with small steps. Implement those until that they are part of your routine and then build on that. For example if you always get a take-away coffee on your way to work, bring a re-usable coffee cup next time. Most places will even give you a discount for that. If most of your plastic consumption happens when buying groceries, see if you can find any of those items unpacked next time. A lot of grocery stores will have certain fruits and veggies unpackaged, like bananas, apples, peaches, mushrooms, bell peppers, courgettes, broccoli, … Go for those instead of the ones wrapped in plastic. Also consider making your own food and bringing it to work or school with you in a re-usable container instead of getting take-out or food delivery. Not only will you save plastic, you’ll probably also end up making healthier food choices. 

Real self-love is a deep and messy process. It doesn’t require you to spend any money or ‘treat yourself’, it only requires your unwavering attention to your inner world.

Lastly, self-love is a word that's thrown around a lot, but not all people understand how to really embody. As a yoga teacher and self-love coach, I wanted to as you; what is self-love to you, and how do you embody it in your day to day life?

To me self-love means to full embrace every aspect of oneself. I think a lot of people see it more as a surface-level practice of ‘taking me-time’ or getting massages. And while those are absolutely amazing, real self-love is a deep and messy process. It doesn’t require you to spend any money or ‘treat yourself’, it only requires your unwavering attention to your inner world. This translates into my daily life as taking moments to check in with myself to notice how I feel. If I feel upset or anxious I will take some time out of my schedule to simply sit with myself and listen as the emotions come up. It’s like having an intimate conversation with yourself. And the more I talk to the different aspects of myself and find out how they have been hurt in the past, the deeper the unconditional love for all parts of me grows. The funny thing is that the more love I cultivate for myself, the harder it becomes to not love others. You start seeing yourself reflected in so many people around you, and you realise how we’re all going through similar things. Once you have that compassion for yourself it simply over-flows to everyone around you. 

If any of you are interested in how to heal past wounds, I would highly recommend the ‘Completion Process’ by Teal Swan, Her methods have helped me a lot over the years to deepen the relationship to myself and ‘put myself back together’ so to say. And I also base my self-love coaching sessions on her work. She’s an absolute well of wisdom and insight. 

coffee with studio owner dirima cuthbert \\ finding your core values

Based on the old adage that to ‘know thyself’ is to find empowerment; Studio Anthro helps people explore life’s important questions through one-on-one consults, interviews, bookclubs and long table dinners. With her background in Anthropology and Architecture, founder Dirima Cuthbert combines the two unlikely disciplines to help people to find self-empowerment. Her clients walk away from her one-on-one consults with more clarity about their core-values, leading some of them to make career changes, start a successful business or even go back to study.           

How did the idea for Studio Anthro come to be?

Studio Anthro grew from my interest as an Anthropology major, and the idea that there was so many great grains of wisdom that I learned from that, that I thought people would get a lot of benefit from to apply to their everyday life. Anthropology can be of enormous daily benefit to people and so I developed it from what I saw was an opportunity to make a difference in people’s everyday lives.

So your consults draw from your background in the arts and humanities. Could you elaborate on that and how it seems to help people make lasting changes in their life?

Consulting is at the heart of what we do. We start from the idea that you can’t really know your world until you know yourself. The idea being that when you do know yourself, you make better decisions, make less mistakes, you get more out of life and you can give more to others. There’s lots of ideas associated with mindfulness around, and some of them tend to be a bit navel gazing. I like the idea at Studio Anthro, that knowing yourself is the main step towards being able to offer a positive contribution to the world. The idea behind the consults, came from a combination of my degree in anthropology and design. In a way, they’re like a ‘design your life’ concept where we look at how people live and what motivates them to live that way. How that reflects on who they are and from that we get some ideas about how they can live better every day to have less stress.

How are your one-on-one consults structured?

It’s got three parts to it; including an initial meeting where we look at how people live and then we do another one, two, or three weeks later, with more formal questions, to establish how and why they live that way. The whole point of the ‘core-values’ is to find out your core essence and weed out what you do, from who you are. By the end of the second meeting, we have a good idea of some words that can help define what you value most, and we work with our clients to ascertain what they are.

Do you give them a guide of where to use their core values? How do they work in people’s lives?

At the end of that, they know from conversation what their words are and after two weeks they get a report that’s loosely based on what I’d do for an anthropological report. The report shows what we did, why we did it and what the results were. We then meet to discuss the report and make up a little booklet that’s A5 size so you could carry it in your bag and it’s only about 10 pages long, although mostly people memorise their key values.

What kind of feedback have you received from your clients?

I can see the feedback every day. There are people around who’ve got businesses that they otherwise wouldn’t have had, that are thriving and people that’ve chosen to go back to university. It’s not a quick fix, it’s an opportunity to find out who you are and live that with confidence. It takes away a lot of the Q’s of ‘who am I’ ‘should I be doing this’ etc.

What do you think this style of consult offers that’s different from going to see a psychologist or a life coach?

It’s meant to be a way for people who wouldn’t normally see themselves in a problem-stage or needing help, to reflect on who they are. My typical client is someone who is pretty successful, they just need some tweaking. I have turned people away if it seems like they need more from the experience. Usually I can test that quite easily by ascertaining if they’re looking for someone to hold their hand along the way which is not what we’re about, that’s more of a life coach or a psychologist’s job. What Studio Anthro offers is a way to help people get a little bit more on track. As a result, I do tend to get a lot of 40-something women that are wanting to make the next half of their life count.

How do the core-values of Studio Anthro inform your business?

Ours are beauty, kindness, discernment and knowledge. One of the great things about doing my own values, and realising beauty was one of them, was that it helped to put things in perspective. I’d often been conflicted about being attracted to beautiful things, ‘cos it felt shallow or vain, but it was great to do my core values and be able to own it for what it was. For me beauty was a certain honesty. It helped me gain confidence of who I was and Studio Anthro was born from that. It helps us to think about how we look, what our core mandate is, what directions we go, what we offer and I run everything through that process, from our web layout to our conversations.

Was living from your core values something you were already doing in your life or something you honed specifically?

More of the former, Studio Anthro is like me on a page. Clarity comes from not only knowing yourself, but knowing how you react to what’s going on around you. That’s what’s unique about Studio Anthro, because a lot of other businesses might provide one but not the other. They give you this opportunity to go into yourself but they don’t help you deal with how annoying it is that Donald Trump got elected for example. Through that, people realise they’re not alone and this helps to put some of these things in perspective and to cultural context. I think you’ve got to be able to respond well to the chaos in life.

When you know how you’re responding. Say you might get out of control and it might not be a desirable response, how do you reconcile it?

When you know yourself that well you tend to not get out of control. It’s not to say I never have arguments, you do but I guess you do become a lot more mindful about who you are and what you want in a bigger picture, so a lot of the small stuff becomes less important to sweat, because you’re not so prickly to start with. Maybe ten years ago someone might’ve said ‘you’re so vain’ and it would’ve offended me but I know in my mind how its justified. But I’d think, well they might see it that way but they’ve got the wrong understanding of what I think about beauty.

What happens with your core values if you start to change as a person over time?

I’m of the opinion that your core values don’t change that much over your life. People come in and say ‘I kind of know my core values’ you know ‘my family etc.’ But I just say it’s not really a core value, that’s life. But we’re looking at bigger picture values, not ones that come easily to people’s minds. It’s really important with the core values that its relevant enough that people can apply it to every day but no so specific that they can apply it across the board. 

What are the common reasons that your clients that book in for a one-on-one consult? Are they usually in a career transition or a little bit lost?

I think all of the above and also, we have so many choices nowadays, which is a blessing and a curse. So many people are concerned if that they make a choice, it might be the wrong one. Most people aren’t super confused, but they just want to make the next forty years count and get more from life in a way that’s hard to do if you don’t know yourself well. I’m not saying core-values are the be-all-and-end-all, but it’s just another useful thing to put in your toolbox.

 

 

 

conversations with amy snoekstra from stackwood \\ wholesome living

On the corner of Stack and Wood Street in industrial Fremantle, is a creative oasis of hand-made wares, a jungle of indoor plants, artist studios, workshops, events and Stacked café. Named after its location, Stackwood is an ever evolving project with a big vision to encourage a more wholesome way of living, through its passionate community of local creatives.

I had a chat to Amy Snoekstra — one half of Stackwood — about the vision behind it, how its evolved and why business is becoming more and more multifaceted. 

Could you elaborate a little on your mission to encourage a more wholesome way of living?

It’s Sarah’s vision which I share, basically, it’s kind of a reaction to contemporary lifestyle, or the dominant lifestyle, which is sort of about consuming and not necessarily having a really balanced life. At the other end, the sort of 'utopian vision' would be Stackwood as the centre of this network of community gardens and we’d come to work in our gumboots every day — that would be where we’re heading to ultimately. But even if we’re on our way and we don’t ever get there, it’s sort of about that special kind of feeling of being a part of a community and being in touch with things like old fashioned skills, making things, growing your own vegetables and knowing where your stuff’s made — so creating this kind of hub and bringing in makers and small businesses that are manufacturing on a small scale right here on the premises. Also having community events like food swaps, the venue available for community meetings and we’re going to have Pilates and yoga happening soon, so just being a bit of a hub for all those activities. We figure if you have this ridiculous utopian idea and that’s what your aiming for, everything you do is going in that direction and even if you get 5% of the way there with just a few of your activities, you’re still going the right way.

Do you remember the moment where Stackwood went from being just an idea to something that you and Sarah decided you were both going to buckle down and pursue?

The funny thing is, I’ve worked for Sarah in a very casual or part-time way with her other business for about three years and we’ve been having these discussions for at least two years, about this fictional kind of business where she could investigate these ideas that she had and we had these kind of discussions long before this building came up, so when it came up in this location with this amount of potential, it almost seemed like the universe was delivering it for us. When it did come up it was frightening cos we got what we wished for and that feeling of overwhelm has continued even till now because it’s such a massive building with big ideas and so we’re just sort of chipping away at it. 

So finding this particular building drove a lot of the momentum?

It drove everything and the vision adapted and changed and we were open to the potential of this space and open to a discussion with our very local neighbours and community around here about what they wanted. For example, one of the things they wanted was a café. It’s not something we necessarily planned for but that’s something that we heard from the community that they wanted.

Were there any hesitations before deciding that you were in fact going to make it a reality? If so, what were they and how did you push past them?

The dual feeling of being excited and terrified is very motivating. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad way to go about something like this, because it is so ambitious and such a large space and an old building with a lot of challenges, so I just went with the flow. We knew we were insane, but you just have to kind of go with it and think 'this is crazy' but just keep plodding along. We had a few unexpected things with the building work and there were probably a few moments, particularly earlier on before we had a lot of people in here, because once it became a working space, it was a lot clearer how it was going to be used, which was easier than to plan in advance. 

Since opening, you’ve been running some amazing workshops, events and growing steadily into a supportive community of local makers and creatives. Has Stackwood evolved from its initial vision in ways that you didn’t expect?

It definitely has. I think some of the elements have taken off on their own momentum. We really liked the idea of having a lot of makers in here and we hoped they’d collaborate and feed off each other and that the critical mass of creative energy would have its own momentum — and that’s what has happened. For example, Simone from Winterwares did a collaboration with Little Posy Co before Mother’s Day and sold it as a package. Stacked Cafe was an unexpected thing. We didn’t plan for it necessarily but it was something people wanted so we pressed forward with it. We didn’t expect to do a market, but because we had all these creatives under one roof it became something that seemed easier because we had this community of makers to draw from, which was really fun.

A lot of new businesses are moving towards offering a space with multiple uses. What’s it like running such a multifaceted space?

Particularly because we’re out of the way, I think it’s really important. The old fashioned ideas about shopping and stand-alone event spaces or cafes just seem a bit dull and outdated to me. Put a few ingredients together and you’re always going to come up with something a bit different. People expect more, they don’t want just a straight forward experience when they’re shopping or dining out. I think there’s a real appetite for it.

Why do you think businesses are moving towards this style of venue and what do you think it offers that a venue with only one primary use doesn’t?

I think a more varied and vibrant experience. I guess a lot of it is to do with the fact people want more value — and not necessarily monetary — out of a retail experience, a single transactional experience isn’t enough. I go to the supermarket and get bread and have a limited contact with someone at the checkout, people want more. I think there is a yearning for connection, perhaps that’s what it’s about. About connection and adding more complexity and that human element to something.

What’s the most exciting or rewarding aspect of being a part of Stackwood for you?

For me it’s been day-to-day contact with our resident creatives. That’s been really fascinating, because I get a little window into how the operate and what drives them. I’ve been interviewing people for our Stackwood blog, which is always really interesting for me. I think a lot of people are interested in creative practices, what drives people, how they make a local hand-made business work. Seeing it day-to-day working right is really exciting. 

conversations with artist james giddy \\ the art of patience

Meet James Giddy, a Johannesburg-born, Perth-based artist whose been in the game from an early age, using his natural surroundings as his muse to produce the distinctive monochromatic figures he’s become known for. You’ll find his murals scattered all around Perth, from Little Wing Gallery to Broken Hill Hotel. Presenting his 5th solo exhibition on Friday 9th December for opening night, James has spent years refining his craft and now makes his living as a full-time artist. We caught up with him to chat about how he does this, the art of patience and a bit his upcoming exhibitions.

What was your first gig as an artist?

Painting a mural for the Ocean Beach Hotel beer garden. I ended up getting a job from painting the mural there and stopped work after that summer.  

What’s a normal day look like for you?

I wake up at 7, get a coffee and head to the beach. That clears my head so I don’t feel like I’ve just worked all day. Once I’ve gotten away for a bit I’ll go back to painting and I usually have a list of things I need to do, I’ve got priorities next to them so I’ll spend a couple of hours on each one. It’s a bit of a process; I don’t designate specific amount of hours, I start and then once it’s finished, it’s done. Whether it takes a day or three days. You’re pretty much an event planner, you’ve got to know what people are going to want other than just looking at art, so you’ve got to look at live music, commercial things like prints, little booklets and anything that would interest people further to come - so it’s not just ‘oh here’s some art,’ so that’s why I’ve got Gage Roads on board.

So you have a studio?

Yeah, it’s my parents garage that’s been converted. I spend a few days on each painting and sit with them for a bit after that and if I’m still happy with it I’ll leave it and if I’m not I’ll change it. It’s a game of patience, you can’t rush any of it otherwise it’s going be a flop.


Do you ever feel isolated when you’ve been working long hours in the studio?

It’s funny because I don’t come across as an introvert but I feel like I am. I need that time on my own to clear my head. I’m terrible with social media, I’ll post once a month when I should be posting 3 times a week but personally I feel that’s almost fake if I’m doing that – but you need to do it because if you’ve got a business mindset that’s what you should be doing.  

Do you have anyone to help you out with that side of it?

Not yet, while I’ve been at uni I’ve been doing it all off my own bat, obviously money is a bit of an issue there. 

How’d you learn how to do it off your own bat?  

I did an internship at the corner gallery in 2014 and that was probably the biggest help in terms of learning how to go about doing everything. I worked it out by observing other people. I think that’s the best way for anyone to learn; experiencing how someone else is doing it and going through the problem with them. You learn what they’re dealing with on the side cos obviously they need someone to talk to.

So it was purely observational?

Yeah I guess once you know what you want to do and how you want to do it, there’s no stopping you and then you learn from your own mistakes. That’s why I’ve had so many exhibitions because each one has been a learning curve, like “oh that fucked up I’m going to do that better at the next one,” or “why did I do that in my studio, I’m going to do that in a better space next time.” You learn as you go and make so many mistakes. The exhibition I had in March was probably the best and highest standard I set for myself, I sold almost everything at that exhibition and it was packed.

 Have you been making a full living as an artist?

Yeah, for the last year and a half. I had to move back in with my parents though.

But now you can afford to move back out?

Yeah I actually can which is epic. But I’ve got a lot of travel planned for this time next year so I wanted to invest in this solo exhibition at common ground; get some alcohol, food, live entertainment and some merchandise set up.

I read in your bio that you’ve been painting from a really early age. When did you make the connection that you wanted to turn it into a career? A lot of people thing of art as a hobby and don’t allow themselves the dream of doing that.

All through school, I kind of did it on the side. I won the art award when I was in year 9 and a photography prize in year 11. But you’re never told to take that as a career path and because I was doing alright at everything else they said “oh yeah you can get a normal job and do normal stuff.” Because I was posting on Instagram and getting a good reception from my mates and following, through some weird connection I ended up painting those murals at the OBH and got more money than I’d ever made in only a week’s worth of work, so that when I thought I’d start doing it more and enrolled in an Arts Degree.

So if it wasn’t for that experience you might not have had the confidence to pursue it as a career?

I would always do it I think but I wouldn’t have pursued it as a career path, because you’re always told you can’t make money as an artist unless you’re a teacher.

Any words of wisdom for people with barrier in their mind about not having the time to make art or not making the time because it feels futile to do it?

Do it on the side of a normal job at the start because the number of free jobs I did was ridiculous. At that point you’re doing it because you love it, so you’re painting peoples walls and they’re paying for the paint but you’re not making a cent. But because you’re practicing so much and refining your skills by doing these free jobs, you get to a standard where you’re creating much better works that you can start charging money for and you’ve got a portfolio that justifies that. So it’s taking each step, it’s a game of patience. You can’t expect to become Picasso in the next month. Nobody’s going to know your name for years, nobody still knows my name and I’ve been doing this for three and a half, four years. Everyone thinks it’s going to happen straight away, you’ve just gotta take little steps and keep going, as long as you’re still passionate about it and you have the mindset that your best painting is going to be your next one.

What’s been your biggest setback as an artist?

Just the lack of respect you often get, not in terms of your skills and ability but in terms of what you do as a profession, a lot of people think “you can do this for free because you’re passionate about it”’ Often people don’t see it as a job, you’re just doing it because you love it – which is true but you need to make a living.

What's your goal as an artist, is there something you try to express each time?

Personally it’s this constant task to make each work better and come up with different compositions. It’s a constant desire to keep it exciting, you don’t ever want to be bored of what you’re doing. For myself it’s just to keep it exciting and for everyone else it’s to keep feeding them with something new while holding their interest, which is actually quite hard to do.

coffee with ava irani \\ the business of self-realisation

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Meet Ava, the founder of Spanda School; a thriving community hub on Blinco St Fremantle that is much more than just a yoga studio. With a wide range of classes, retreats and events, Spanda School's unique offering allows its students the opportunity to forge their own self-tailored spiritual path. From hridaya meditation, kundalini, tantra, satsang and cacao meditation, much of what Spanda offers can’t be found anywhere else in Perth and is entirely unique to the school. I began teaching yoga at Spanda School when it first opened and it has been amazing to watch its rapid growth in just one year. It has evolved into a large, nurturing and supportive community engaged authentically with personal evolution and self-realisation. I caught up with Ava to find out more about her vision for the school and how she incorporates the practices she offers in her own life.  

What were you doing before you opened Spanda School? Could you share some background on how it came to be?

Before the school opened in Feb 2016 (so not even a year ago), I was teaching overseas in Thailand and in Mexico at the two headquarters of Agama and Hridaya Schools and it looked to everyone like I was travelling around the world, but really I was at these two places. I’d come back to Australia every couple of months to do little retreats and see Jarred and my family but then I’d head back over.

What is the basis and vision behind it and how has that evolved from its original idea in theory to what it has become now in practice?

It was always meant to be a replication of these other schools that I saw doing so well. The structure and community are the same, but of course the content that we share at Spanda is very different. It’s promoting a very specific type of lifestyle and the thing I want to share most is a transformative lifestyle. But really everyone is living a transformative lifestyle, because the way you live transforms what you are. Everything that you do as soon as you get up, the type of people you hang out with, when you hang out with them – everything about your lifestyle is changing who you are and visa-versa. Outside is inside and inside is outside and they’re just reflecting and configuring each other.

What I found that blew my mind all these years ago at the other schools, was that these people were living an epic lifestyle where, you’re going to school, but you’re going to the best school ever. You get up and everyone’s doing the same thing in the morning, everyone’s living in these separate houses (rich people are living in the richer houses and poor people are living in the discounted bungalows), but when everyone gets up, it’s cleansing practices. You clean your nose, you clean your tongue and everyone’s doing yoga purification practices when they wake up. Then they’re doing their own practices, yoga and meditation in their bungalow or they’re going to school because their course is on. Everyone’s going to the beach every day and juicing, fasting, praying, detoxing, going to kirtan or doing retreats, it’s a lifestyle that you get to immerse yourself in. There’s an energy that radiates from the school that says if you want to be a part of it, you need to commit to this stuff. There’s all these people that hang out on the periphery that kind of come to a class, or they’ll only come to the kirtan. But the people who had committed to it were just miles ahead, because it’s the whole lifestyle – you’re not just learning a course or practicing yoga, it’s this whole package. You didn’t just learn a great course or go to a great class, you have all of it, which of course will transform you. What if your entire life was the personal development program?

With the amount of heaviness around money collectively, it’s almost impossible to keep going on and be totally in flow and in abundance with cash that you have to do something almost every day.

The school is not at its full expression yet, it’s about one-fifth of what I would like it to be running at, because it’s only 80 square meters and needs to be bigger and that’s why we’re expanding. So we need that big centre, we need more space to house everything that we want to do to create this thing. The vision for the school is a place where you can immerse yourself without having to pay thousands of dollars to travel to experience this. I got really triggered by one of my students the other day who said “I think I’m going to go try this one-week retreat in India, it’s three thousand dollars” and I was like, “so you’re going to compromise yourself and work your ass off in a job you hate, to go and do something that you don’t even really know about.” This is what I’m creating the school for, because it makes no sense that you work your ass off and struggle so that you get a little bit of freedom. This is what the whole model of this school is, to create a lifestyle for people and lots of places are doing that - but there’s no competition – because our lifestyle will not be for everyone. We are almost a closed bubble that will continue to grow, but it will have no threat to the Crossfit community that’s right next door, because they have a different lifestyle and set of values.

The degree that you see that it’s you is the degree that you realise that its irrelevant to work on anything else but you.

People that work in wellness or spiritual industries often say that combining a spiritual practice and business can be challenging. What have you learned about this since you started Spanda and how do you balance the two?

You know that common question of spirituality and money, which has been a blockage or something that I’ve totally identified in myself but so long ago. I probably did some real work on it about two-and-a-half, three years ago. I did a lot of work because I love money and I need money, but I was living a lifestyle where I was not going to work a normal job so I needed to sort out the money side of things. The clearest answer would be that it’s an individual issue that each of us have towards money. The way we fit in and struggle with society and our own sense of value is going to be reflected in money, so you have to sort that out so that every step you take with your business to be as financially abundant as possible are all natural steps, so you’re falling forward. I don’t feel money is an issue with the business anymore. Little things come up but they’re very much on the periphery. I work with money every single day in a yoga-term; Jarred and I do something called a ‘mental bank ledger’ which we did years ago, it’s a self-hypnosis technique that we do every single night. Every day I work with money in some way or another. With the amount of heaviness around money collectively, it’s almost impossible to keep going on and be totally in flow and in abundance with cash that you have to do something almost every day. For example, you’ll see pictures of Lakshmi all over my wall in my room and I do a lot of work with her.

There’s been no obstacles, there’s just been lesson after lesson and for sure, in the past I’ve looked at things as obstacles, but now it’s so obvious to me that that’s the only way I could’ve done things.

You mentioned to me once that everything you do, you first work on in the mind – could you tell me a little bit about this practice and how it’s manifested in your life so far?  

I think it’s really interesting how someone manifests something into their experience and it’s also really important, because it’s all a subconscious process. The subconscious relies on examples from the outside, so the more cool examples that you hear of other pople manifesting things, the more you start to configure into that direction. Most of the time all of the examples we see are ‘I struggled and I tried and didn’t do it’ or ‘I want it, but I don’t have it,’ so those examples are usually the ones that are configuring the way we believe we can create stuff. So I think those examples are really inspiring; like the school and my house and the partner I’m with and the manager and staff and community I have at the school are examples of my inner work. But the meat of it is, that the more you experience that everything outside of you is exactly what’s inside of you - the more that you actually see it that way and it’s not just words. It’s moments of awakening, awareness, practice, things lining up and the more that you see that it’s ‘me,’ then it becomes totally, undeniably your responsibility. Everything else it irrelevant. The degree that you see that it’s you is the degree that you realise that its irrelevant to work on anything else but you. In Spanda, everything is an emphasis on what you are.

Were there any inner-obstacles you overcame? What were they?

There’s been no obstacles, there’s just been lesson after lesson and for sure, in the past I’ve looked at things as obstacles, but now it’s so obvious to me that that’s the only way I could’ve done things. You know, mistakes I’ve made in the year or learning to communicate better and things like that. This year’s been a huge learning-year for me with the school being a directly reflection of what I’ve been doing, so it’s impossible to frame it as obstacles but more so, lots of lessons. Because of that there’s just no way I could’ve done things differently, but since the beginning of my journey, obstacles would be things like money, although even looking back it wasn’t an obstacle. When it arose in me that it was an obstacle it immediately shifted into a lesson that I could dig into and figure out. So over the past 7 years or so it’s been lots of obstacles in hindsight, but as soon as it actually became “fuck I got no money and this doesn’t feel right” then it became “okay cool, practice time or evolution time.”


Last time we had a chat, you spoke very highly about Hridaya meditation and said it is (and will grow to be) the cornerstone of Spanda School. Why is Hridaya meditation the heart of Spanda above all else?

But the Hridaya meditation which is a part of the whole yoga system, is the realest thing I’ve ever found. It’s what everything else that’s pointing up is eventually pointing to, but it’s just been systematised, clarified and shared and it’s like magic. Hridaya yoga or meditation of the spiritual heart, which is not the heart chakra but a sense of being. It’s basically dropping into stillness and that’s it, but there’s a whole system around it. It’s the only thing I ever want to do, so of course my business is going to reflect that. The thing I value most and prioritise the most is what I want the school to offer, but also knowing that it’s not for everyone and offering other tools as well.

What does a Hridaya session look like?

Hridaya is the name of a whole system. It’s based on Kashmiri Shaivism which is a type of yoga (not with the physical body), hatha, tantra, kundalini and even karma yoga so it’s this new system that’s incorporating all of these traditional yoga practices. In the past one lineage of yoga would serve you your whole life but in this day-and-age, we need all of the yoga’s, and why not? We have access to it and there’s a school that teaches all of it in one.

What does a day look like for you?

Lots of informal practice and a little bit of formal practice. So most days I’m teaching at least one or two classes and also having private sessions with people. Then I do a lot of creative work which is also a practice, which would be karma yoga. Most people think Karma Yoga is volunteer or unpaid service, but what it is, is a consecrated practice - to be present when you’re doing anything. Anything can be karma yoga, it’s just about being present and offering it to something greater than yourself. Lots of my days are spent doing karma yoga, my business work and creative work and hridaya meditation in the morning and evening. Sometimes I’ll do physical practice of yoga for the physical body, which I’ll do only do twice a week. I get in 6-7 hours of exercise in the week during teaching that’s informal. Diet’s also a huge thing, so I fast until the middle of the day on lemon water or sometimes I might have a juice. But I definitely go with what’s feeling natural, I’m not strict with anything and if I wanted to eat in the morning I would. I’m huge into an Ayurvedic diet and recently I’ve been experimenting with leveraging the phases of my hormonal cycle with my diet too. So depending on whether I’m in my luteal or follicular phase, having a different diet to support that, which is a little bit more Chinese medicine - which I’m not studied in - but I’m moving in that direction to experiment.

 

Slow Living and Curing Burnout \\ Interview With Simone Nabholz of Winterwares

It feels like burnout is as good as the common cold nowadays, maybe because of the busy lifestyles we all lead. It's not pretty when you're in it, but a happy resolution seems to be that after a period of burn-out, our lives change — because we have no choice but to. 

One life-affirming example of this is the lovely Simone Nabholz, creator of the Australian based ceramic company Winterwares. I met Sim at her studio the newly opened Stackwood in Fremantle not long ago and she offered me a job helping her make ceramics. Every time I've gone in to work at the studio since then, I leave feeling completely relaxed. There's something so calming about just being there — it's definitely not your average workspace.

You wouldn't know it by looking at her perfectly curated ceramics, flourishing business and beautiful studio, but Simone took her very first ceramics class in March last year. Suggested by her mother-in-law as a way to meditate and relax, she found solace from her job-induced burnout in the calming and slow-paced environment of her ceramics class. 

A little while later, she began hand-building clay on the kitchen bench and packing her creations in a box to take to a kiln for firing. The process of making objects with clay became a gateway to a lifestyle that Simone knew she needed; a much slower one. The phrase 'slow living' is fairly new and describes what was once a natural and intuitive part of life — these days its become one of the most relevant and valuable practices we could adopt to help bring us back to a sustainable pace of life. 

A slower approach to life lifted Simone out of her 'dark tea time with the soul' and formed the basis of her new lifestyle and business; Winterwares. From working 9-5 as a graphic designer to moulding clay in her beautiful, calming studio, Simone now chooses every facet of her life, from the hours she works, her surroundings and her clients. Everyday, she takes time to practice small rituals, like sitting down to a proper lunch and decorating her studio with fresh flowers each morning as a reminder to slow down the pace. 

To share the benefits of her calming, light-filled studio and the healing effects of working with clay, Simone offers the opportunity for you to 'Nominate a Friend for a Day of Mindful Making.' Offering a free space in her workshop to someone who might be 'running on empty' and in need of some time to relax in the beautiful rejuvenating oasis Simone has created. Sim sells her Winterwares online or from her studio at Stackwood, you can find her Instagram here and more info about workshops and her contact details here. 

Interview \\ What It's Like to Live in the Jungle, with Gloria Glo from Sattva Land

Native Country: Italy Living in: Belize Occupation: Wholistic Educator and Designer at Sattva Land

Gloria Glo is the seed behind Sattva Land; a holistic healing centre based on principles of yoga and permaculture. Her vision led her family to move their lives from cold Alberta, Canada to the lush tropics of South Belize. I met Gloria at the end of 2015 during a visit to Sattva Land, a place that has since left a huge impression on me. In this interview; the forward-thinking entrepreneur shares her doubts, insights and experiences living in the wild and untouched jungle of Belize;

Italy is my native country, but when I was a teenager my parents decided to move to Alberta, Canada. It was a shock and I tried to embrace it, but quickly realised that a life based on material things was not my cup of tea. This is what initiated my travels and my search (and research) for something different, so I left when I was nineteen. I’ve bounced around the world in search of answers for about a decade, but I found even more questions. Why do we allow ourselves to live unhappy lives? How do we arrive to such a state of confusion? Why are most people around me struggling to “make it”? What does “make it” mean? Who designed the collective goals everyone is supposed to achieve? Why is everyone getting sick?

My experiences travelling led me on a different path and a way of thinking. A successful marriage, big home, nice car, money in the bank, irrelevant university degree; none of this ever attracted me much, while nearly goes in that direction,I decided to go the other, and this is how Sattva Land came to be.

My family has always known me as the wanderer. But little did they know that what I was really doing on my travels was planning my escape from 'the real world' so I didn't have to be pinned me down to that lifestyle. 

At the same time, on the other side of the world, my parents, my older brother and my little sister, were getting fed up of Alberta and were also planning to move away.

So we decided to join forces so we could make the dream happen for all of us.

I was living in Central America at the time and didn’t want to leave; I loved the relaxing lifestyle, the weather, the jungle and the warmth of the people. My family were bored of their lives up north,  so they were up for the challenge.

I still remember the very first night we spent on the land together. Five of us and two dogs squished in a tiny wooden cabin in the middle of the raw and wild Jungle. A tropical storm welcomed us that night, and although my mind was asking “what the hell have you done!?” My gut was saying, “trust me”. The next day, we started building Sattva Land.

I studied philosophies including Ayurveda, Tantra and Buddhism and was teaching yoga and meditation for a few years and I’ve always been a passionate dancer. Since I arrived at Sattva Land, I knew this was going to be my university and the hardest degree I could achieve for myself. We started the project with the intention of creating a learning and retreat centre for Yoga and Permaculture. My brother and sister had studied permaculture and were ready to apply their knowledge on the land.

As we started building, it was clear that we were learning and mastering all that we wanted to teach and share in our educational centre by creating the learning centre itself, from scratch. Through the fiery devotion we all have as a family and the many hands that came to help us in the journey, Sattva sprouted and bloomed and is still blooming everyday.

In the first stage of the project we were clearing, clearing, clearing. We decluttered 3 acres of overgrown orange orchid, when I realised the same thing was happening inside myself, clearing, decluttering. The wild vines of my lush, self-sustaining system - just like the jungle - was trying to re-claim its territory. In other words; it became clear through observation and experience that the  development of Sattva Land mirrored my inner landscape. One of the many lessons I've learned here is that, we are our surroundings and we reflect the reality in which we live. When I arrived, I was 20 acres of lush jungle with 3 acres burned to ashes. With the application of permaculture,  we’ve re-established a thriving, self-sustained ecosystem and I noticed it reflect in my own inner-patterns.

Doubt is present, and always has been. There are doubts about living so rural, away from everything

It hasn’t been an easy journey, yet the results amazed me and they still do - there’s been a lot of light and as much darkness. This is what the Jungle has taught me very well; there needs to be death, for more life to sprout. There are as many decaying logs, falling leafs, rotting trees and dead insects on the jungle floor as there is thriving plants, lush bio-diversity and endless life-forms. The more we shed, the more compost we create for healthy soil to host new plants and can observe the same cycles of our inner pathways; the more we let go and continuously shed the old, the more we make space and soil for something new to arise.

Doubt is present, and always has been. There are doubts about living so rural, away from everything. 

The fascinating thing is that we could be in the middle of the Jungle, with no one around for miles, for days on end, and still, we’d never be alone. We're never alone. Being here makes you feel part of the greater whole. 

It's been challenging to balance family dynamics, of course, but being Italian, there's nothing that we can’t openly discuss at the table after a good meal. Coming together is something that we do a lot in our family and that has been a great anchor to help us achieve this whole thing. Openly communicating and practicing mindfulness has helped a lot. 

For me living in the Jungle has helped me to appreciate the endless diversity and constant change of the jungle. Unfortunately, we live in a world that doesn't appreciate this diversity and fears change which, ironically, is the very natural essence of life. Allowing these natural rhythms to dance in our inner landscape helps us to adapt, surrender and accept the natural rhythms of our outer world.

We can understand the potential of our environment better, by watching how much life sprouts at the meeting point between two different environments, a space and time at which permaculture refers to as “the edge”. Observing and reflecting on the parallels between inner and outer permaculture have been the source of ongoing study and observation throughout this project. I hope to share this understanding and offer examples given by the best and most powerful teacher, Nature.

I breathe, smell, eat, watch and touch the Jungle at all times and we are always observing its wild cycles of life and death. It inspires new ideas and I spend my days responding to this inspiration in my work. I practice yoga daily, dance, eat amazing healthy food, get to know the many beautiful volunteers that come by and co-create on projects with them. We take care of the many gardens here and my brother and I collaborate on permaculture and carpentry projects together. We recently designed an architect desk together which we build from the woods harvested from the Land. We are also finalising our aquaponic system, which will connect to our pond and increase our production of fresh, organic veggies. 

We talk about selling Sattva Land sometimes, or about developing it even more. All I know is that we don’t know. What manifested here is so different to our original plans. The path of what to do next clearer each day, so we try to stay present with what it is now and let that inform what happens in the future.

I have learned that a true wholistic and regenerative lifestyle starts with a state of mind. The rest is all reflections.

By Gloria Glo