Recent Work / Make Nice: An Un-Conference for Creative Women

I've been deep into a massive, overwhelming, but wonderfully important project lately - it has hijacked my days, my nights, and most of the in-between times - but I love it. Incase I haven't mentioned it to you, it is called Make Nice: An Un-Conference for Creative Women, and my co-director Alex and I have been working on it for about a year. Well - it's alive and tickets are on sale, and people are buying them and it is a real real thing! It is exciting to hear from so many women that the idea is both wanted and needed. 

If you'd like to read up on Make Nice you should definitely head here

If you'd like to buy some tickets to join the club, head over here

If you'd rather read all about us on the Vivid Sydney website, have a gander over here

If you'd like to read some advice from women like Emma Tillman, Carla McRae, Kat Gordon or Meg Lewis, get clickin' on our #shemakesnice blog

If you'd like some tips on curating and creating your own conference, have a look at this Working Not Working interview

If you'd like even more reading material - maybe you'd like to catch up on all of our press, in Collective, and the Shillington Blog

I'm really excited about how Make Nice is unfolding, and if you are interested keep following along! 

As Featured On / Women Of Graphic Design

I'm all kinds of thrilled to be a new regular contributor to Women of Graphic Design. It is a wonderful project that focuses on exhibiting the contributions of women in graphic design and exploring issues of gender-equality in education provided by design institutions. Tori and Kathleen have kindly featured my work up there today - sitting pretty on the site amongst some of my first posts on Shaz Madani, Gabby Lord, Suzy Tuxen, Tegan Hendel, Evi O, Meg Lewis, Michaela Webb, and Leslie David

Badass Babes 7 / Jess Keeley

I'm thrilled to have the exceptionally talented Jess Keeley featured in Badass Babes today! Jess is a manager of female musicians including Marina and the Diamonds and Lykke Li, and can say that after reading her responses below I think I might just love her. Read on to learn a little more about what Jess's career entails, the challenges she finds, and what is on the horizon.

+ Tell us a little bit about your work and your creative process.

I have to start this by letting you know that I’m writing this with a tiny baby sleeping on my chest. My answers would have been so different two months ago, and even further away a year ago. Life has taken on a whole new dimension with the birth of Jemima Pearl, and the work balance is yet to be determined. So take the below as a snap shot, not the fully framed portrait.

I’m a manager of musicians. These musicians are women, by choice, and incredibly creative, by luck. My role is often seen as being ‘non creative’, which is endlessly irritating. Creativity is present in nearly everything we do; it’s not just the people who are defined by their art who get to wear that description. My creativity comes from the way I choose to communicate and how I help those who make art present it to the outside world. There is artistry in that, as well as crazy amounts of necessary organisation. I’m lucky that I think fast and act quickly, it helps me get rid of the small jobs to put my creative focus on the “big ideas”. (And to avoid rhetoric…)

+ Do you have daily habits, rituals or schedules to keep you on track and productive?

I don’t procrastinate. Well I do, considering how long it took me to write this, but I just had a baby! I really do try to finish the shittier work first, to give me space to think creatively. The clarity of mind you have when you’ve done all the admin is so necessary. It’s not always possible, with busy schedules and way too many emails, but just getting on with it (and yoga) has meant I feel productive most days. I have also regressed from technology and now will always choose to call someone rather than email. Gives a personal touch. (I also hate the politics of the “X” to sign off a business email. Who is X’ing someone you owe money to?)

+ What are the greatest strengths and challenges in your career?

I’m going to poke the trolls and say my biggest challenge is seeing a distinct lack of women in power positions. The music business is a very male dominated industry, while commercial music itself (the art of it) is dominated by women. This means the majority of decisions and impact on the actual business of music is made by men, which then affects female artists dramatically. I try to be a different voice in a space where I know of only a handful of other full time female managers. That, in turn, becomes my strength.

+ What are you working on now - and what is next?

We’re currently working on the absolutely amazing Marina And The Diamonds Neon Nature tour. It’s an incredible production, with so many beautifully designed elements. We’ve collaborated with fashion designers, milliners, lighting designers and illustrators. I’m so proud of how it’s turned out. I’m also working on keeping a small human alive.

+ And how do you attract the type work you want? Or how did you attract it in the beginning?

I attract the people I work with by being consistent. I only manage women, and I manage a particular kind of artist. I want to find women who are making their art themselves, without compromise, and need that direction to also carry through in their representation and outside communication. It’s hard to trust your vision to another person, and I’m lucky that some incredible artists have chosen to do that with me. (Shout out to Lykke Li for being the first).

+ Who and/or what are you most inspired and influenced by? 

I’m always inspired by my artists, they’re my reason for working! I also seek out personal stories from great female writers, because it’s encouraging to hear about other women in the media. I love the journalists Caitlin Moran and Eva Wiseman, and can’t stop googling photos of Amy Poehler doing incredible things. Her website, is one of the great online movements for young women.

+ What would be a dream project or collaboration?

Is it too sycophantic to say I have done it? Truly, each project I work on feels exciting and defining, I’m endlessly thankful that the people who chose to work with me offer that. Ah, I’m totally lying. I want to perform in a three-woman show with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.

+ What advice would you give to other established or aspiring creative bad ass boss gals?

Just fucking get amongst it. Listen to Bjork when she says that you’ll need to say everything five more times than a man. Realise you’re smarter than most people in the room and your opinion is probably worth far more. Still be a good listener. Channel your energy in to things that feel instinctive and natural for you. Do that and you’ll find your confidence. Once you have that, no one will say no to you again.

+ Have you found there is a strong creative community to engage with where you live?

Being honest, no. I live in London and travel between here, the US and Europe often. There are pockets of people in each place who I could not do this job without, but it’s not a centralised community. Instead I try to maintain my online contact with the people who are important. The music industry is a lonely and competitive place sometimes.

+ What are you currently reading and/or listening to?

I have a tiny baby! Do you think I have time to READ? (I’ll admit I just lost 45 minutes on a hilarious Facebook thread about the 90s…). If I did have the time I would round out my industry cliché by reading Girl In A Band, the Kim Gordon memoir, and listening to, wait for it because he’s a man, Leon Bridges “Coming Home”. It’s Jemima’s favourite record and puts her to sleep by song three. Thank you Leon!

+ Where can we find you?

Recent Work / Little Tienda & Luisa Brimble.

I've just finished up a set design consisting of four big illustrated panels for the Little Tienda lookbook. The shoot was shot by the lovely Luisa Brimble, and I'm just so thrilled with how all the images turned out. Head on over to my portfolio to have a look at some more beautiful photographs and discover more about the shoot. If anyone is listening - I'd love to do more set design and large format illustration!

Inspiration / Favourite 2015 Albums

These are the new albums that I found myself playing and enjoying again and again in 2015. What are yours? I'd love to know.

- Father John Misty, I Love You Honeybear

This is without a doubt my most listened too, most loved, and absolute favourite new album of the year - and seeing him (twice) in the past few weeks kept the fire burning bright. 

- Tame Impala, Currents

I was super late to the Tame Impala game but this year I think I've made up for it by listening to Currents over and over and over. Somehow they feel so much like Australian Summer to 

- Kurt Vile, B'lieve I'm Goin Down

Kurt could have released a track of himself dropping his guitar and it would probably still make my list. There is something so dreamy about Kurt's voice, and that guitar sticks to the sides of my mind for days. 

- Leon Bridges, Coming Home

Coming home is the perfect accompaniment to Sunday Morning. A beautiful simple, and honest soul record that at once sounds faithful to the traditional old soul sound, and refreshingly new. 

- Jessie Baylin, Dark Place

I loved Jessie's last album Little Spark and played it ad nauseum, and this new offering is no different. Between this and the last album she has grown into her marriage and has a daughter - and the pain, joy, and worries that come with that life are at once brooding and effervescent on Dark Place. 

- Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit

On everyone's list, and in everyone's hearts - this album should be a non-negotiable album in everyone's library. Courtney's lyricism is off-beat and charming, and I couldn't help but think when seeing her live that she is coming to save us all. 

- Tobias Jesso Jr, Goon

The track Without You alone would have got Tobias onto my list, but the entire album is filled with beautifully arranged Beatlesque songs that celebrate love and lament its loss. 

- Marlon Williams, Marlon Williams

We finally saw Marlon perform a month or so ago, and boy what a consummate performer he is. This album is filled with sorrow and joy - and he can flick between the two at a moments notice. If the world was fair, he'd already be a world renowned star.

Image: Father John Misty I Love You Honeybear  Album Artwork, by Stacey Rozich. 

Badass Babes 6 / Grace Danico

So excited to feature the exceptionally talented and always adorable Grace Danico today! Grace is an archivist and illustrator based in Los Angeles. I love how Grace's work has an infectious happiness and excitement within - I can't help but smile whenever I look at her work. Read on to learn a little more about Grace and her rituals and routines. Thanks Grace! 

+ Tell us a bit about your work and creative process.

I’m a full-time archivist and a freelance creative. I specialize in illustration, design, lettering, animation, comics and art. I curated and wrote about illustration for 6 years at the mid-century modern design blog Grain Edit. My creative process involves me drinking lots of coffee, jotting ideas and doodles on paper, putting on some tunes and diving right into my work.  

+ Do you have daily habits, rituals, or schedules to keep you on track and productive?

Coffee always comes first. Then, it’s emails and putting on a playlist of music. I sit at a desk all day (and in traffic too), so I try exercise during lunch. Having a day-job means I have to work extra hard to keep on task with personal projects and freelance. I usually scribble these projects in a planner and prioritize what needs to get done. Once I complete a task, I mark it off the list, breathe a sigh of relief for a second, then think of other things to add to the list. It’s never ending. When I get home from work, I put on some music, make dinner, then focus on personal work. I usually work until 11 or 12, which is when I go to sleep.

+ What are the greatest strengths and challenges in your career?

My biggest strength is being able to experiment freely with the work I create. One day, I’ll work on drawings and paintings. The next day, maybe some web design. Another day, maybe I’ll make sculptures and jewelry with clay. Right now, I’m obsessed with making little weavings. Changing things up keeps things fresh for me.

Saying “no” is a challenge. It’s hard to pass up projects, even if they’re unpaid. I guess it’s an exercising in knowing what my work’s worth and striking a balance between work and personal time. I’m continuing to figure it out as I go along.

+ What are you working on now – and what is next?

I just finished a Skillshare class focused on making zines about food and cooking. Right now, I’ve been focusing my time on prepping for Comic Arts Los Angeles, where I’ll be exhibiting a few new zines, prints, and other fun things.

I’m looking forward to the New Year where I can plan new personal projects and hopefully do more collaborating. I definitely want to make more products, textiles, and who knows what.

+ And how do you attract the type of work you want? Or how did you attract it in the beginning?

Attracting work in the beginning of my career was tough. I’m self-taught in most creative things I do, and just made things that I liked and hoped that others would like it too. I thought it would be cool to do editorial illustration, so I did my homework. I asked friends for advice, researched publications I liked, and got the courage to email some art directors. My very first gig was doing an Op-Ed for The New York Times. Right now, I’d like to make more art and fun products. Everything is a work in progress, but I just make what I like and think that helps in attracting more work in that same arena.

+ Who and/or what are you most inspired and influenced by? (Bonus points if they are lady creatives)

Gosh, the list goes on! Lately, I’ve been interested in textiles, product design, and set design. I really enjoy Ellen Dusen’s patterns, Annie Larson’s knitwear designs, Mansi Shah’s fun product line, Adi Goodrich’s bright set design. I love Margherita Urbani’s illustrations, Domitille Collardey’s gif animations, and Kelli Anderson’s various design projects.

+ What would be a dream project or collaboration?

A dream project would be to run a space where I could curate food and art events, as well as products. I love the idea of collecting things and having a storefront that showcases little knick knacks, products, and art.

+ What advice would you give to other established or aspiring creative bad ass boss gals?

Make time everyday to do something creative and don’t forget to do your taxes!

+ Have you found there is a strong creative community to engage with where you live?

Yeah! LA is a great place to meet people. There are a lot of creative people here, artists, cartoonists, animators, and musicians. It’s harder to sometimes meet in real life because of distance or traveling, but that’s just a roadblock. I find that the best place to engage with other creative is at events. Usually, I’ll run into someone, which is always a pleasant surprise.

+ What are you currently reading and/or listening to?

Right now, I’m reading Jillian Tamaki’s Super Mutant Magic Academy and got into a big Squeeze kick. Usually, I listen to my favorites off of Soundcloud.

+ Where can we find you? (Social Media / Websites / Etc.)
@gogograce on Twitter and Instagram              

The Freelance Life / A Week of Badass Women

I arrived in LA at 7am and the following week was a blur of amazing creative women (and a variety of alcoholic beverages). It was exciting to meeting some talented ladies I'd met online including Elana SchlenkerTuesday Bassen, and Grace Danico - who all (of course) turned out to be just a great as I'd made them out to be in my head. 

While in LA I stayed with Leanne Ford - who turns out in addition to being the sweetest most wonderful creative woman also has the most dreamy house in all of Venice Beach. I mean I could eat this just up the street. One night I grabbed dinner with Adi Goodrich and Elizabeth Weinberg to talk about exciting ideas, on another I got to hang out with Michael and his adorable girls (his eldest daughter was in her girl guide uniform and told me the pledge!), and for another I got to hang out Leanne's amazing friends at their favourite Venice spots.

I drove out to the airport on my third day and picked up three delightful strangers (Christa, Emily, and Pamela) to drive out together out to Palm Springs for Designer Vaca - luckily they were all relatively sane and had a great time. 

Designer Vaca was an experience. I met some rad women including Kelsey Dake, Jessica Hische, and Meg Lewis whom I'd spoken with online, and some other winners like Angela, or Kelly and Rachel who took a drive out to Salvation Mountain with me and saved a puppy from the side of the road. Elle Luna spoke eloquently about the crossroads of should and must, and it might have been the combination of all those female hormones in one room - but there wasn't a dry eye in the house - even the most cynical red-haired Australian ones. Jessica Hische chatted on the final morning about how motherhood has shifted her career and helped her prioritise her time in the studio, and some practical considerations to keep in mind when returning to work. All up it was a great few days spent in the desert with people who - prior to this week - were complete strangers. 

I boarded my place back to Sydney and fell asleep as we took off - I'd just been having too much fun to rest. It is so important to talk with people on similar paths to your own - and this week was the perfect antidote to the isolation I sometimes feel in Sydney. Now I need an Australian week of badass women. Any takers? 

Recent Work / Classic Blues Moodboard

I'm excited be in the beginning design stages with a new branding client at the moment and I'm so in love with the moodboard I couldn't help but share it here. The branding is for an exciting new salon and spa opening soon in Melbourne, so for the moodboard we wanted to combine the clients classic and sophisticated style with a modern touch. I love working with such wonderful clients, and can't wait to show you how it is all developing! 

Images: 1. 2. / 3. / 4. / 5. / 6. / 7. / 8.9. / 10. / 11. / 12. / 13.


Inspiration / Mike Perry

Looking through Mike Perry's portfolio for the first-time I had a gleeful realisation that it is possible to do it all - and that it was okay to be a jack-of-all-trades. Mike is a multidisciplinary artist, designer and illustrator whose work is at the same time both diverse and intertwined together - and how perfect that when asked what piece of advice he would give to someone starting out he stated simply: keep going. If you haven't seen his amazing array of work don't waste one minute longer. Mike - if you are ever in Sydney can we grab a beer?  


All images are courtesy of Mike Perry Studio

Recent Work / Blues Illustration Set

I've just finished up an illustration set for a current project that combines two of my true loves - drawing and blues music. I've had so much fun researching and drawing harmonicas, guitars, banjos, signage, record players, and microphones all day long - all alongside a dream client and wonderfully talented designer friend. I can't wait to share more of the project with you all and put it up on the website.  

The Freelance Life / Working & Travelling

I'm counting down the days (4!) until I head to LA for a little downtime and Palm Springs for Designer Vaca! One of the benefits of freelance work is that you can do it from your bedroom, your studio, or (as can happen) the airport lounge if need be. I've compiled together a list of resources that I pack for design and illustration work while travelling - it's a fine balance between trying to pack in your entire studio and finding yourself stuck without your tools. 

+ Scanner Pro App
This app has saved me so much time both at home and while away. It turns your iPhone into a portable scanner and then uploads the files to Dropbox, Google Docs or Gmail. 

+ Dropbox
I don't know how anyone works without it. Especially helpful when travelling and it allows me to keep everything off my computers hard-drive to keep it working fast. 

+ Macbook Pro
I can't quite get the hang of using an iPad for work duties - so I keep my Macbook Pro while I travel. 

+ Adaptors
Bring a few for your destination so you can charge more than one item overnight. 

+ Noise Cancelling Headphones
An expensive outlay - but they are worth their weight in gold when you are flying frequently or trying to work quickly in busy environments and need to concentrate. I use these ones

+ Podcasts
I listen to podcasts a lot while I work at the studio - so keeping them handy while I am working overseas helps me get into the zone quickly. At the moment I am listening to You Must Remember This, How To Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black, Mystery Show, and All Songs Considered. Also great to have on hand when there are flight delays!

+ Basic Illustration Tools
This will change depending on what tools you use typically for your own work - but I like to bring along some micron felt pens, basic watercolour brushes and tubes, and some faber castell artist pitt pens, hot-press watercolour paper, and tracing paper. Everything else you can always grab on the road. 

I also like to follow two basic pieces of advice while I'm away to make sure I make the deadlines. 

+ Book somewhere that comes with Wifi included.
You don't want to be stuck in one of those hotels with $40 per day Wifi charges - ask beforehand and they'll often include it in your booking to secure your stay. 

+ Schedule work time.
If you know you have a certain amount of work you need to get done, schedule it into your travel plans so you don't leave it to the last minute or have to miss out on something else you wanted to do. I prefer to get things out of the way early in the morning - then I don't have to think about it for the rest of the day, and it leaves enough time during the day for clients and colleagues to provide feedback or approvals if needed.  

Let me know if there is anything else you like to include when you work remotely from your studio - I'd love to know! 

Badass Babes 5 / Elana Schlenker

So thrilled to feature the exceptionally talented badass babe Elana Schlenker today. She is a multi-talented art director and graphic designer who runs her own independent studio practice, as well as publishing Gratuitous Type, a pamphlet of typographic smut, and is the creator of pop up shop for gender wage parity Less Than 100. I really admire that Elana placed confidence in her own skill and fascinations and trusted it would lead to fulfilling projects in the long run. Read on below to hear about Elana's daily rituals, creative community, and advice for other creative women. 

+ Tell us a little bit about your work and your creative process.

I am an independent graphic designer and art director. Through my studio practice, I work primarily with artists and makers, cultural institutions, non-profits, and publishers on a wide range of projects including visual identities, print, interactive work, and environmental design. I also publish Gratuitous Type, an "occasional" magazine of conversations and projects from graphic designers and other creatives. Earlier this year, I founded Less Than 100, a series of pop up shops created to promote gender wage parity in the US (and beyond).

+ Do you have daily habits, rituals or schedules to keep you on track and productive?

First things first, I need a coffee! I also usually get up and take a long walk with my dog, Lily. There's a river a couple miles from our house, and my favorite way to start the day is to take her down there and watch her run around and explore. It's really peaceful and meditative, but also gives me some time to think about how I want to attack the day. 

+ What are the greatest strengths and challenges in your career?

As a self taught designer educated outside of New York, it was a challenge getting my career off the ground when I moved here initially—I didn't have many contacts or even a particularly strong portfolio so I had to invest a lot of time in personal projects to improve as a designer and also make work that made people want to work with me. That was a huge challenge early on, but investing in personal work was one of the best things that happened for my career.

Several years into things, the challenges are more mundane: I have a tendency to take on too much (because everything sounds fun!), so I'm trying to be better about saying, 'no'. 

As far as strengths go, I think the fact that I absolutely love what I do has been a huge asset. I've always been more motivated to make things than to make money, and I think that mindset has helped to lead me in the right direction. There's been a few crossroads in my career where I could have chosen more money over more interesting work, but in selecting the less lucrative but more fulfilling options, I've put myself in a position years later where I'm really excited about the work I'm doing, and that work in turn brings in nice paying jobs that I actually want.

+ What are you working on now - and what is next?

I'm working on a number of publications for other artists and publishers for the New York Art Book Fair; I have a few large branding projects that have been in progress for a while that I am looking forward to launching soon; and I am just getting started on a few different interactive projects, including an e-commerce site for a small clothing brand I really love, so I'm excited about that. I'm also working on a new publication from Gratuitous Type called Further Reading and will be launching another Less Than 100 pop up, 66<100, in New Orleans in November in partnership with photographer Tammy Mercure, who is overseeing the project.

+ And how do you attract the type work you want? Or how did you attract it in the beginning?

I've always had an 'if you make it, they will come' mentality... so when people we're hiring me to do the things I wanted, I went out and made personal projects that fulfilled those desires. Those led to better and better projects. 

It's also been really interesting to see how one thing leads to another over time—I can trace great projects I'm working on right now back to tiny zines I did for my friends for fun—everything builds on everything else. 

+ Who and/or what are you most inspired and influenced by? 

I've been really into furniture and other product design in the past couple years and just love everything I see on Sight Unseen. They consistently cover the loveliest stuff! But inspiration comes from every which way. I really love the work of Angel Oloshove, Peter Judson, Kayla Mattes, Schick Toikka, Keetra Dean Dixon, Jessica Hans, Margherita Urbani, Jordy van den Nieuwendijk—these are just the first people popping into my mind, but I could go on and on. I guess that's why I do projects like Gratuitous Type and Less Than 100—there's so much work that I'm excited about and want to share.

I've also been enjoying Michael Ian Black's podcast 'How to Be Amazing.' If you need some quick inspiration, start there.

And then personally, my boyfriend (who is a photographer, is a really important creative inspiration in my life, we bounce a lot of ideas off one another—I have always been tentative about sharing work in progress, it's been nice to find someone who I trust enough to do that. Plus he's really good at saying 'no' to people (see No.3), so sometimes I try to channel him a little.

+ What would be a dream project or collaboration?

Too many to name! There are so many things I want to do and people I want to work with—what I love about being a graphic designer is all the opportunities it offers to dip into different worlds. I want to do as much as possible!


+ What advice would you give to other established or aspiring creative women?

Having really immersed myself in wage gap issues over the last year, there are two huge lessons I've been trying to keep in mind myself: 1) NEGOTIATE! Don't be scared to ask for what you're worth, and 2) Don't apologize! There's no reason to say I'm sorry all the time.

+ Have you found there is a strong creative community to engage with where you live?

I am back and forth between Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Pittsburgh, PA. In Brooklyn there is an amazing creative community, although people also seem really immersed in their own things. I've found a lot of fulfillment in Pittsburgh as well—the creatives I've met are really enthusiastic and open. It's a very supportive environment, which I really like.

+ What are you currently reading and/or listening to?

Everyone keeps telling me to read Elena Ferrante, so I bought My Brilliant Friend though I'm only a couple pages into it. I've also been reading Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72, which is pretty fun and bleak and biting—I like the idea of reading it while another presidential election is in progress here in the US. And then I have stacks and stacks of art and design books and magazines that I need to sift through. 

+ Where can we find you?  / / / @elanaschlenker (twitter) / @elanaschlenker (instagram)

All images are courtesy of Elana Schlenker, with exception to the portrait of Elana which is courtesy of Ignacio Torres.