International Women’s Day: Celebrating
Women In Design

 
 

Interviews with 12 of the inspiring women we get to work with at Koskela.

 

To celebrate International Women’s Day we asked 12 women with flourishing creative businesses about the highlights of working in the design industry and what makes them tick.

Countless pearls of wisdom have been revealed by these incredible ladies. Keep reading for plenty of inspiration and thought-provoking insights!

 
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Anna Black / Kester Black

How long have you worked in the design industry?
Since I started my first business making clothing at 15! So 15 years now... 

What is your favourite part of the job?
I love the variety and making something from nothing. I haven't found anything as satisfying as making an entire brand just the way I like it (control freak!).

What is your proudest achievement?
When the President of Estonia featured Kester Black on his Facebook page. What a guy! I guess I should also add in winning the Telstra Australian Young Business Woman of the Year. Particularly funny considering I'm a Kiwi. 

Do you have a personal mantra/philosophy that you live by?
I will be sued for plagiarism one day but I'm always saying "Just do it!" So many people are always talking about their grand plans and incredible ideas. Those who are most fulfilled in life are the do-ers. Get out there and make it happen!


Leandra Coffey / Fruity Sacks

How long have you worked in the design industry?
11 years – I'm a latecomer but I have always known this is where I wanted to head.

What is your favourite part of the job?
Being part of a community of inspiring women, including my designer, who look at the big and the small picture in life of which our businesses are just one part. I love having a product that I think makes it easy for all of us to do something positive for the environment every time we do our fruit and vegetable shopping.

What is your proudest achievement?
I suspect my proudest achievement is having the grit and determination of a terrier. I came up with an idea that can help save millions of ocean and wildlife and that I naively thought everyone would love. 11 years later it is catching on and I have a product that not only people who are absolutely committed to the environment are using but also people who are looking for little changes they can make that over time will make a big difference.

Do you have a personal mantra/philosophy that you live by?
A few wonderful people has shared pearls of wisdom over the years that might sound less than poetic but they have helped keep me going through thick and thin. They include:

  • Take some time every day to think of at least three things for which I am grateful
  • Business isn't rocket science – if you get a knock, take a breath and get back up again.
  • Been presented with an opportunity you love but do not know how to meet? Say yes then sweat the details and make it happen.

I would also add that it takes a village to raise a business – well this business anyway. I am completely humbled and forever grateful for the care and support, advice and expertise friends and family and people who may barely know me, have given me along the way.

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Amanda Dziedzic / glass designer and maker

How long have you worked in the design industry?
I am coming up to 10 years as a glass designer and maker. Ever since I finished my associateship at Jam Factory I have been making my production works in glass and more recently I have been a glass maker full time for the last 3 years.

What is your favourite part of the job?
I think the actual, physical making of the work is still my favourite part. I really love blowing glass and I’m always excited to sit and the bench and start work. As my job evolves, I have also found that I love collaborating with other designers and working closely with them to achieve their works in glass. I also learn from them and how their practice works. I’m always after ways to improve my own business.

What is your proudest achievement?
I have been very fortunate in my short career as a glass designer and maker. I have received scholarships to attend overseas classes at Pilchuck, Penland and Corning museum of Glass. I think undertaking a residency at Northlands in Scotland is still one of my most proudest achievements. On the whole though, I would have to say working full time for the past three years as a glass blower is my most proudest achievement to date. I work really hard to support myself in my field and surviving as an artist is sometimes no easy feat.

Do you have a personal mantra/philosophy that you live by?
I think the idea of “do your time, hone your craft” really rings true to me. There are no shortcuts, if you want to succeed in your field you have to do the work. This might include; study, working for others, travel or mentorship but what it all boils down to is you. I am also a big believer in setting your own rules. When you work for yourself you get to choose what works for you. There are no set of rules or hours for you to follow, you make your own, you learn along the way and if something doesn’t work you change it. It’s really as simple as that but sometimes this is easy to forget. Work smarter, not harder!
 


Chela Edmunds / Takeawei

How long have you worked in the design industry?
I started working in fashion about 20 years ago. While working as a textile designer in New York I took up ceramics as a way to unwind and I became a bit obsessed. In 2013 I moved back to Australia to start my ceramics label Takeawei.

What is your favourite part of the job?
Making things I love and keeping my own hours, it’s nice to be able to go for a surf if its good

What is your proudest achievement?
I like to celebrate all the small things, together they add up to the larger achievements.

Do you have a personal mantra/philosophy that you live by?
Do what you love and be good to others.

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Lisa Rodden / paper artist

How long have you worked in the design industry? 
I've worked in the creative industries in various capacities for about 13 years. Mostly as a Visual Artist, also in Interior Design/Product for some of that time. 

What is your favourite part of the job? 
The creative process itself is definitely the best part but there are so many other great aspects such as the amazing people you get to meet and work with; the opportunities and projects that arise to really challenge yourself; and the shared experiences with others.

What is your proudest achievement? 
It doesn't sound exciting but being able to work full time as an artist. There is so much more to it than just painting so it's been a very rewarding journey because no two days are the same and I'm always learning. 

Do you have a personal mantra/philosophy that you live by? 
It changes and evolves all the time! When I started the creative journey it was "live with passion and purpose" so I tried to cut out the "noise" and focus my energies on all the things that mattered personally, environmentally and socially. Now I have a little one so my priorities are different and with less available time, it's similar but with more focus on trying to be present in each moment.


Belinda Everingham / Bondi Wash

How long have you worked in the design industry?
Since 2012 when I was inspired to create products featuring Australian flora after reading the book Perfume by Patrick Suskind – and wondering if Australia could create products using its unique botanicals like the French have been doing for centuries.

What is your favourite part of the job?
The serendipity and unexpected twists and turns the business takes.  But most of all I enjoy the people we work with. I especially love working with people from a wide range of cultures – the business now has distribution teams in many countries including Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, and Italy. Each country has its own nuances and ways of doing business and you discover intricate details about each culture that you’d never learn just being a tourist there.

What is your proudest achievement?
Not really an achievement in itself but designing products people love is what I am most proud of. Hearing from someone that our Laundry Wash has stopped their persistent itchy rash, or people being complimented on their skin after using our Night Balm – is what makes the journey worthwhile.

Do you have a personal mantra/philosophy that you live by?
‘Go with the flow’ is one. When something just isn’t working being able to shift course is something I try to do. Not being too stuck on a plan also means you’re open to opportunities that may come along. I have also learnt that mistakes or setbacks can lead to wonderful opportunities, sometimes you just have to search to find them. I suppose it’s the ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ philosophy – but nowadays I am much more relaxed when setbacks or mistakes occur.

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Elise Slater / Live Softly

How long have you worked in the design industry?
I went straight from high school to UTS to study Fashion Design and have worked in the design industry ever since – so 17 years long! I've worked across all areas from fashion design and trend forecasting, to my current role as a design educator and founder of my own small social enterprise design company, Live Softly.

What is your favourite part of the job?
At the moment I have three jobs; as a designer for Live Softly, educator and art therapist, and I love how all are design related and interweave, I feel like all of my skills gathered over the last 17 years have now found their expression in the world, and that makes me feel creatively enriched everyday. My other favourite part of the job is hearing how Live Softly resonates with other people and how they interact with it's story, this project has lead me to meet many wonderful people who are also passionate about social enterprise and ethical design.

What is your proudest achievement?
Working with my community of marginalised artisans in Nepal and bringing the project to life has been a wonderfully rewarding journey, and being accepted in to my favourite design stores in the world, including Koskela and Selfridges in London was beyond exciting; it meant the project had a place in the world.

Do you have a personal mantra/philosophy that you live by?
The name of my project, Live Softly, is also the mantra I design and live by. Live Softly embraces the Buddhist philosophy to do no harm and to tread softly on the world. I believe in mindful design and have always been an advocate for sustainability and design for change. I believe in educating customers about the provenance of textiles, connecting them with the stories of how things are made. As designers we need to connect people to the making process so they can treasure what they own as a means to combat disposable design. My mantra is to create happy makers, happy customers and a happy planet.


Samantha and Karina Seljak / Seljak

How long have you worked in the design industry?
We've been working in the design industry for a combined 13 years – this spans a range of industries including fashion, textiles, food, branding and creative communications.

What is your favourite part of the job?
We love finding ways to make with less, designing out waste and treating resources as precious! We believe this design philosophy is leading towards a paradigm shift in how things are made. And being part of this movement is the best part of our job.

What is your proudest achievement?
Our proudest achievement is launching our first waste-to-resource product, our recycled merino wool blanket that has a closed loop life cycle and is made in Australia's oldest wool mill.  

Do you have a personal mantra/philosophy that you live by?
We both have a strong sense of minimalism inspired by generations of resourcefulness in our family. So we have a few that guide us... Less is more. Quality not quantity. Think global act local.

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Maryse O'Donnell / Maryse

How long have you worked in the design industry?
I started formulating skincare 8 years ago and from there I developed my organic collection of products. Experimenting with different ingredients, failing and perfecting a formulation is the part of my job that I absolutely love. It can take months, even years, to get right.

Do you have a personal mantra/philosophy that you live by?
Love what you do and the rest will follow.


Bianca Vallentine / The Vallentine Project

How long have you worked in the design industry?
My background is in fashion and textile design and I landed my first Design Assistant role in my final year at uni (way back in 2004) – so 15 years! Ever since I've been involved in design, either through my own label (which was a fashion label from 2005 - 2011) or through managing design programs in government. I ventured into hand painted bedding in 2012.

What is your favourite part of the job?
I LOVE painting and I love figuring out how to make a paint technique work in large scale. Painting wasn't something I ever thought I'd pursue as I trained in screen printing which is so much more methodical and planned, but kind of boring. When I started doing homewares I was looking for new ways to have fun with hand techniques which led me to painting onto cloth as a quick way to test new ideas. Little did I know how addictive painting can be and how free you can feel when you really commit to a design!

What is your proudest achievement?
Because I have been working on The Vallentine Project deliberately slowly, I feel like I've been able to appreciate all the wonderful things that have happened along the way (like finally finding a linen I was happy with after 18 months of searching). Knowing early on that I didn't want to have that kind of frenetic fashion business again (I'd just had a baby), meant that I built a creative space to think and reflect about what I was making, how I wanted to operate and what the main focus of making bedding was. All in all I can say I that I'm very much appreciative of the journey that I've been on for the last few years, and the small achievements that have created its overall success.

Do you have a personal mantra/philosophy that you live by?
Sleep on it. Cheesy I know especially given the context of making bedding products, but it works for me if I'm ever stuck on a idea or decision, or even a painting. Sometimes I think there is a good reason to go slowly and take your time in things, especially when the world generally suggests otherwise.

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Caren Elliss / Caren Elliss

How long have you worked in the design industry?
I've have worked in the design industry for approximately 5 years. Before starting my own business, I completed a Bachelor of Industrial Design and a 2 year furniture associateship with the Jam Factory Contemporary Craft and Design in Adelaide.

What is your favourite part of the job?
I really love the ideation and problem solving part of my job. The process and stages of bringing an idea to life.

What is your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement is the creation (and fit out) of a little business in Adelaide called 'Mister Sunshine's'. It's a cafe that is in a suburb called Thebarton to the west of Adelaide about 5 mins outside of the city. This was quite a personal project for me. I purchased the rundown deli in 2015, which was next to my design studio and set about creating a new place for people to come to. With help of my partner and family, we gutted the whole building designing and creating a completely new business. I was very fortunate to have my workshop next door as I designed and made all the furniture/lighting and could just walk it over and put it into place. I no longer own the business, but it continues to be a very popular place for people in the Western suburbs. Oh and Mister Sunshine...he was our very smiley Blue Heeler 'Reece', who unfortunately passed away just before the deli was purchased. We named it in his honour.

Do you have a personal mantra/philosophy that you live by?
To be kind. Continue to be optimistic and grateful for the fortunate life and opportunities that I have.