Artist Residency with Tog and Pini

How would you describe your Art? 

I see my work as gentle, whimsical, and ‘story telling’. I hope it shows my love for animals and celebrates the innocence childhood. 

How/When did you first become interested in your type of work?

My passion started with beautiful books. I have always loved pouring over the pages of books by Beatrix Potter, Jill Barklem, Edward Ardizzone, and many others. I loved these books as a child and was drawn to the beautiful artworks used to enhance the stories and truly bring them to life. Despite this passion, I had never even thought of pursuing illustration myself until I was an adult. 

When did you first start creating your art? 

Did you study? Or were you mentored? Did it happen by chance?

I spent a lot of my childhood ‘making things’, I loved my dollhouse and would make miniature food and dolls’ clothes. I modelled animals and made jewellery. I didn't paint or draw much at all until I was an adult. My mum is also an artist and I was always surrounded by her beautiful creations. Mum’s work was a broad mix, ranging from lead lighting to oil painting, and dressmaking and was yet another inspiration.

I then went on to study Gold and Silver Smithing and Product Design. It was the Illustration classes that were taught by an extremely talented women that inspired me to move in this direction. I had a lot of self-doubt about my abilities but with her encouragement, I began to think I could really ‘do this!’

I believe artists always doubt their talent or their worth, perhaps because there is a never ending amount of skills to be learnt, or perhaps because there is a never ending amount of other artists out there. However, once you recognise and accept this, then you can embrace the challenge, and enjoy the process. 

When did you first start making a career/profession from your Art?
I actually started selling handmade toys and jewellery when I was 13! I think the entrepreneurial spirit was strong in me! 

I did pursue my gold and silversmithing after my studies but once I had kids I struggled to continue, the space in my mind was so divided; I even caught the desk on fire in my studio space (read ‘kitchen’). I realised I needed to refocus and in a less dangerous direction, at least while my kids were small. I then started Tog & Pini, it looked very different back then! I was making toys out of vintage fabrics and selling them at local markets, along with a small range of greeting cards. Tog & Pini has evolved so much!

Where do you find your inspiration? People, Places, events in your life?

I definitely look to the animal kingdom for inspiration, my own pets inspire me greatly, as do my kids. The interaction between different animal species and people has always fascinated me, and you can find that in my work. I particularly like to represent unusual friendships and to bring to light the hidden lives and secret fantasies that I know my animals have, such as being an aristocratic rabbit or a meerkat exploring the world with a friendly hippo. 

What are your favourite colours to work with? What type of materials and textures do you love to use?

I could never choose a favourite colour, I think my friends found me quite annoying, I took to saying my favourite colour was Mauve, but it really wasn’t, I just liked the sound of the word! 

I love fabric, I love the variety of textures and colours. I could happily sift through piles of fabrics sorting and imagining various uses for hours on end. 

At the moment my favourite mediums to work with are watercolours and all the various items that go into my animal sculptures/dolls. I use sculpting polymer for the head arms and legs, and make soft fabric bodies. I then use mostly recycled materials for the clothing; I like to give old things new life, especially when they have been beautifully and time consumingly made; things like old lace and embroidery.

What are some of the processes of your work?
I find it hard to pin point a process, I think I work a little differently every day, I’m a bit of a scatter brain. I guess though, it almost always starts with an idea. I often think my ideas are fully formed in my mind, and then find that they change according to what I have available to work with. Though sometimes it can be the reverse, I find a piece of fabric, or see an animal that inspires me and an idea forms from that. 

Where/How do you sell your work?Do you have exhibitions or expos?

I love meeting my customers and getting out to markets. Seeing people face-to-face is such an encouragement, and motivates me to continue. 

I do exhibit a few times a year at various local art shows and exhibitions and you can find Tog & Pini in a few retails stores around the country. 

My main method of selling is via Etsy and social media. My Facebook page and Etsy store have been hugely positive factors in my journey. 

How long have you had your studio for? Any wonderful details about your house/studio?!
My studio is brand spanking new! I’m so thrilled to have it. In fact I can still hardly believe it! My studio was renovated from a shed that was on the property and was home to a couple of possums and a micro bat (all safely re-housed). After a few months thanks primarily to my Mum and Dad, it was made over into a gorgeous, well lit studio just in time for my first Nillumbik Open Studios weekend in November 2017. You can arrange to visit me anytime!

Do you have any inspirational words for those that might be starting in the Art Industry or would inspire to be an Artist one day? Just like you : )

Just start! Start small if you have to and work on what you love, gain skills and invest in your passion. Surround yourself with other passionate people and explore different avenues for your work. :)