So where do you find these artists? More and more you’re finding them further afield it seems.
Yeah! Third Drawer Down really started as an Australian project that was to promote Australian art and design to a global market. And I had a hiccup, when I started to talk to overseas stores they all came back saying, “Why would we want to sell this product, it has no relevance to our country.” So it brought out all these incredible questions of patronage.
Interesting. Surely the French won’t just stock French artists. Was that what they were implying?
Well, it was a number of things. I re-looked at my packaging, and I changed two things. In the beginning I had the artist at the top and the title at the bottom, and the country that they came from was in large font. So I swapped over and put the title at the top, then the artist, and then I shrunk the country down to a very small font. And I then wrote my mission, which is on all my printed matter and it discusses the philosophy of Third Drawer Down not being a part of any territory or patronage or any jurisdiction of any kind and it’s based around a global community.
That’s where I really started to look at that concept of what community is about and especially working in domestic product, that it was a really powerful word. People love to know that they’re a part of something larger than what they are. You know if you look at blogs – type a word into Google and all these individuals have these blogsites – it’s an incredible network. I’ve become more and more fascinated with how they work and I’ve met a lot of really wonderful people through blogsites who I’ll be working with over the next couple of years with collections.
So just going back to where you find these people, you find them through blogsites, others through referrals?
I don’t go to galleries but I spend a lot of time on the internet looking at people’s links pages, because you can find out a lot through what people admire in their own works. And then there’s certain people that I’ve always dreamt of having a dialogue with. For instance I’ve approached the girls from Chicks On Speed to do a tea towel for me and they said yes. That’s the kind of thing I get off on. You can be cheeky, and they get into it because it’s well, a fun project.
If someone came to me and said, “Do you want to design a tea towel”, I wouldn’t look twice at it, but it’s the way you’ve done it that makes it so special. It’s got that real personality of it’s own. You’ve got a quote on the bottom of your email – “It’s the individual who makes life interesting and it’s the personal that gives life meaning.”
My inspiration for Third Drawer Down is Aesop [see Suzanne Santos’ profile in Dumbo feather Issue 3], no holds barred. Their generic packaging is the background to the way that the Third Drawer Down envelope was created. The integrity of their product and what they’re governed by is so incredible. It’s just really nice to have folk like that.
What’s the most challenging thing you’ve ever done?
It was probably taking Magnart®, that had the minimal research time in a commercial market of six months, and picking it up and moving it to Hong Kong. And then promising distributors here and overseas that they could have it in an improved design, in a really short amount of time. I’ve learnt some incredible things through it but it’s been really stressful along the way.
You know I just feel like I’ve been playing hopscotch and I’ve created a hopscotch game that’s going to last me at least another two years. I come back to it being a project – that’s really how I want to see it because if I start thinking that it’s a full on business, then I start looking at the money. If I keep it as a project then I’m doing it for something beyond it being a financial situation.
So what are the parameters of success of a project, and how is that different to a business?
I think the boundaries are very different when it comes to it being a project. It is ungoverned, and I think by calling something a project you have to be questioning a number of things, and pushing things further…
It suggests more exploration than an end result.
But it’s twisting things around too. I believe 80% of a product is research and that’s all in the beginning, before you start spending. When you start looking at the concept of what a business is, well I just think instantly think of figures. I remind myself that I’m a fine artist, I come from an art background, I never did business.
I studied economics and I got 4%, I failed because I cheated trying to copy the guy sitting in front of me. I have problems in my mind, I can’t see figures, I need a calculator and that’s fine. I have a very good support system around me. My stepfather is my accountant, my dad is a property developer, he takes risks, and my mum is my inner dialogue. I have these three incredible people that are a part of my life, that have assisted me.