regional roundup

regional roundup: sydney [part 1 of 2]

by anne

after finishing up our regional roundup melbourne last week, this week we travel up the australian coast to sydney. until now most of what i know about sydney has come from the 2000 olympics and the real world, so it was fun taking those sound bites that i’ve picked up and explore sydney in terms of design. today’s roundup includes five great designers – kareena zerefos, dieu tan {everythink}, rhynie & mark cawood {publisher textiles}, tabitha patterson {tabitha emma} and kristen doran. make sure you click here to check out all the designers, and check back tomorrow for the rest of the roundup. {thanks to pia for helping me get the ball rolling for the syndey roundup, and to all the designers who participated!} anne

kareena zerefos

1. Where are you from? Where do you live now?
I was born in Sydney, Australia and my family background is Greek/Spanish. At the moment I’m still living and working here.

2. Describe your work
Delicate, nostalgic and bittersweet illustrative work… I work mostly with the concepts of isolation and escapism, so a lot of the pieces are of children alone in their make-believe worlds, with giants, or with their imaginary friends or pets. I also take inspiration and base some work on my own memories and dreams, often from my childhood. My aim has been to illustrating ‘cute’ or innocent subjects with simplistic and softly coloured style, but incorporating something subtly unsettling.
3. How is your work influenced by where you live?
The isolation and space in my work I think is quite inspired by living in a country which is so far and somewhat disconnected from other parts of the world… as well as the fact that I grew up in a rural area in Sydney – on acreage amongst paddocks, gum-trees and animals.

4. Where do you go in Australia when you want to feel inspired?
At the moment, my studio is based in East Sydney [amongst galleries, design stores, and lovely little cafes and bars] and I’m living in harbour-side Kirribilli – where I’ll often head down to the water and wander around to Lavender Bay – past the rides and carnival tents of Luna Park.

I also recently went up to far north Queensland, which was quite inspiring [and relaxing!]. There were cane fields as far as you could see and completely isolated beaches, rainforest and mountains.

5. How would you describe the Australian design scene?
Independent, unique and diverse.

6. If you could go anywhere where would you go?
So many places! I’ve been planning to visit Copenhagen [and the rest of Scandinavia] for a while now, and will probably make it over there early next year… But I’d love to go back to Paris, and also visit friends in The Netherlands and Montreal.

Click here for more of Kareena’s work.


1. Where are you from? Where do you live now?
I was born in Saigon, Vietnam and moved to Melbourne, Australia in 1979 when I was 5 years old. I now live in Sydney and have been here for 8 years.

2. Describe your work
I would say that my work is pretty simple. I took up furniture as a hobby at a mature age and didn’t have much formal training in cabinet making or design theory. I started making things for myself and learnt as I went so when you look at my furniture, you can see that the design and construction is uncomplicated. I would describe the style as light hearted, playful and colourful. I use materials that are readily available such as plywood, timber veneers, laminates and acrylic. Simple graphic geometric shapes, lines, layers and repetition excite me.dieu2.jpg

3. How is your work influenced by where you live?
I believe Sydney is a bright and casual city where most of its inhabitants appreciate it for its beaches, its blue skies, the pleasant weather and the relaxed lifestyle (even though we work extremely hard to have it). I think part of this atmosphere influences the way I am using bright colours in my designs and I love using timbers because of its warmth and its relationship with nature. An iconic Sydney interior in my mind is one that is bright and open. It would have good airflow because it would have big windows and glass doors that would frame up a beautiful water view and if you live in it – it would seem winter never exists. I think my furniture can live harmoniously in this kind of “happy” environment.dieu1.jpg
4. Where do you go in Australia when you want to feel inspired?

There are many inspiring places in Australia. Its major cities are some of the most multicultural cities in the world. You can almost feel like you’re in many different parts of the world just by visiting the different suburbs in these cities. You could get inspired by African, Asian, European, Middle Eastern and Indian cultures just to name a few in Australia’s major cities.
I have not been yet – but I would imagine standing at the base of Ayers Rock and looking up as a very inspiring and thought provoking experience. The infinite landscape of nothing surrounding it and the shear size of this object could be very humbling.

5. How would you describe the Australian design scene?
The Australian design scene is small with lots of talented young designers that aren’t really supported by a reliable and affordable manufacturing industry. Australia is also quite isolated to the rest of the world and doesn’t have a big enough market to support the amount of talent that is created here. Unfortunately, part of the psyche of young designers and – it is somewhat true is that you have to look overseas as an Australian designer to get things done and to be successful.

6. If you could go anywhere where would you go?
There are many many places I would love to go. I don’t think I’ve been to enough places in the world to know for sure where I want to be, but Paris wouldn’t be bad at all.

Click here to see more of Dieu’s work.

Publisher Textiles

1. Where are you from? Where do you live now?
I (Rhynie) was born and raised in South Africa and Mark in Australia. We met briefly in Austria and got together 2 years after that when I can to Australia as part of my world travel, …..12 years on we now live in Newtown in Sydney.

2. Describe your work
We design and hand-print fabrics and wallpapers. The design part is the fun bit which we do at night huddled on the couch or over a light box. We have trunks full of designs, and only a few end up being put onto screen and produced. We do also enjoy the hands on side of printing, were we can play with the designs and colours.publisher2.jpg
3. How is your work influenced by where you live?
Sydney is a great place to live because it has the glamorous plastic element, the grungy underground street scene, and a beautiful nature element with pristine beaches and crystal blue ocean, colourful birds and trees and flowers, and then the industrial side too. We love all these juxtaposing feels and love to mix old and new, natural and industrial.publisher1.jpg
4. Where do you go in Australia when you want to feel inspired?
Melbourne is a very inspirational place which is filled with art and design. Sometimes we crave natural inspiration so we go up the coast to a beach house or inland to the mountains. We generally just explore Sydney – the coastal cliffs, old abandoned factories, city lane-ways, and friends studios.

5. How would you describe the Australian design scene?
Thats a hard one…… I think Australia is struggling to find its own identity and has almost mixed so many things together that it doesn’t quite know how to identify itself – which is maybe what we do too. Australia is such a mix bag of cultures that almost anything has a place. I would describe Australian design as a very colourful fruit salad, full of exotic, bland, sour, sweet, spiky, mushy, pretty, and I don’t quite know what that one is but I don’t mind it…..publisher3.jpg
6. If you could go anywhere where would you go?
I have just been to Madagascar, which is somewhere I have always wanted to go. If we could go anywhere right now, we would have to go to Cuba, Russia and a bike ride through Africa.

Click here to see more by Publisher Textiles.
Tabitha Emma

1. Where are you from? Where do you live now?
I am from the outskirts of Sydney, which is where I have lived all my life. Though I’m hoping to move closer to the city soon.

2. Describe your work
My art and textile works are both very feminine and youthful. There is an innocence about them that reminds you of childhood. My work has been described as whimsical, girly and delicate yet full of subtle humour. My bags and purses are rather novel, making them quite unique and fun.
3. How is your work influenced by where you live?
I’ve been using a lot of birds in my work lately. I love birds, and I think this partly comes from where I live. Australia has an amazing variety of beautiful birds. We get a lot in our garden at home. . . Australia is an English settlement and we are still a part of the English Monarchy. I think there is still some British influence on Australian design. I can see it in my own work. Especially with my constant use of tea themed things. That is very English.

4. Where do you go in Australia when you want to feel inspired?
I love the inner city suburbs of Sydney. There are a lot of buildings that date back to the Victorian and Edwardian times. There is such amazingly beautiful detail in these buildings, which you just don’t see in modern buildings. There are also some really interesting shops and markets in the inner city suburbs like Glebe, Paddington and Surry Hills. The weekend markets are full of amazing treasures.

5. How would you describe the Australian design scene?
There is a lot of talent coming out of Australia at the moment. Melbourne is the main design hub, but there are also a lot of good things happening here in Sydney. There have been some really great markets, encouraging emerging talent like Hope Street Market and Young Blood: Designers Market. The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney hosts a lot of design events like the Sydney design festival and they exhibit a lot of local designers including students. . . Australian magazines like Frankie, have also been a great encouragement and inspiration to local design. . . I think there are some quite exciting things happening here and I hope we continue to grow and encourage new talent.tabitha3.jpg
6. If you could go anywhere where would you go?
Paris, Italy or London. I’d love to go to Europe.

Click here for Tabitha’s website, blog and etsy and dawanda shops.

Kristen Doran

1. Where are you from? Where do you live now?
[From] Adelaide, Australia, [currently] Sydney, Australia

2. Describe your work
Handprinted textile designs, sewing patterns, stationery and handbags and soft toys.

3. How is your work influenced by where you live?
I’m very influenced by the nature around and the colours in my area. I live near the beach and the bush. The colours I love most are chocolate, deep red, and ocean blue. Beautiful natural colours. There are some great local painters in the South of Sydney where I live. I particularly like the work of Anne Leisner and her new ‘shore-lines’ paintings. She also does incredible inner city studies.

4. Where do you go in Australia when you want to feel inspired?
The Royal National Park. A five minute drive from my front door. It has bushland, beaches and amazing cliff faces.

5. How would you describe the Australian design scene?
There is a small group of emerging textile designers in Australia and it’s exciting to be a part of it!doran3.jpg
6. If you could go anywhere where would you go?
Right now?? With or without kids? Hmm… without kids – France, Netherlands, Denmark… With kids – UK and definitely visit my pal, Molly, in the US.

Click here for more of Kristen’s work and here for her blog.

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  • Thank you. Thank you. It’s great to see Design Sponge flying the flag for our Sydney designers. There is, as we all know, so much happening down in Melbourne that I think Sydney’s original designers can get overlooked. Ta. Ta. Ta.

  • I haven’t been reading your blog for long and got a nice surprise to see Sydney in it! I’m just out of Sydney (on the Central Coast) and am really impressed by the talen so close to home. Impressive! :)

  • I’m loving this series and it’s wonderful to see so many talented designers in Australia. I’m Australian but I’ve lived in the Middle East for 10 years so it’s been great to come back and see so much talent here (I’m currently in Melbourne) and to read about it here.

    The only thing that I’m finding disappointing about Australian design though is that everything is so nostalgic, melancholy, so retro – Australians generally (not only in design, but especially in design) are focusing way too much on their past at the moment, which is a bit dull. They need to look to the future more.

    And I have to say if I see one more Matryoshka doll (so very 3 years ago) or cupcake (why?!?! Grow up everyone!), I’m going to scream! Apart from those two minor things, there’s lots of amazing work being done here and it’s wonderful to see you covering it.

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