As we start to settle into our new normal of social distancing, Sundays spent at home instead of at TVM and adapting our business accordingly, we wanted to explore how our creative community are coping - what they're up to, how they are adapting (if at all) and staying inspired, what they are listening to and more. This week we chat to incredibly talented, accomplished and humble Illustrator and Textile Designer, Edith Rewa Barrett. We hope you enjoy the read.
Hi Edith, we recently met you whilst on our High End Hustlers summit with Owners Collective and were drawn to your kind, earthy vibe not to mention you’re an incredibly talent Artist and all-round legend. We hope you’re doing ok! How are you feeling right now?
Thank you for checking in, it is such a big old time..lots of shifting mental thoughts and re-imagining going on over here!
Tell us a bit more about your background, how did you come to work for yourself, living your creative dreams?
I had a love for the natural world, pattern, colour and making things visually ‘fit’ from early on. I studied Textile design at RMIT in Melbourne, majoring in screen printed textiles interspersed with a study exchange to Estonia to study ethnographic textiles and complete a more hands on training at the EKA Art Academy. I had more time and greater freedom to explore my own illustrative style here which was probably my first taste of preferring less structure and self motivated work rather than a formal design environment.
Post-Uni, I moved to Sydney to work at Print studio Longina Phillips for a few years, working mostly on hand drawn and painted designs for the commercial fashion industry. This was wonderful training amongst a wonderful team but morally the industry didn’t sit right with me. It drove me out of work hours to create work that felt true to me in a way that aligned with my values. I explored the sandstone flora landscapes of NSW, to learn, draw, and develop my style further, creating my own patterns and illustrations.
Gradually, I started taking on freelance work and became part-time at the studio before receiving a book offer from the US, to illustrate a book of native American herbal plants. This was my jumping off point to start a freelance life and coincided with a move to Blackheath in The Blue Mountains which was a pretty dreamy first studio!
Since then I have established my brand Edith Rewa whilst also working on illustration and Textile Design commissions across a range of industries, moving back to Melbourne in between and now to Brisbane where I was lucky enough to meet you both at our HEH summit!
What did a work-day consist of for you, prior to COVID-19?
It was quite similar! If I am at my home studio, I usually start the day with breakfast on the deck with the butcher birds and some stretches. Depending on what I have on for the day, I usually focus on the most important work in the morning, some drawing/design work or emails. In the arvo, I might pack online orders and pop to the post office, go for a sunny walk and try and take that energy back into the studio for the last chunk of work for the day!
How has your business been affected so far?
There has definitely been a shift but right now I am definitely feeling grateful for having an online store presence and community. I have noticed that the majority of orders to my online store have shifted to gifts, people sending scarves or prints to loved ones they can’t be with right now, internationally or in Australia.
I have the option for my customers to leave a note for me to transcribe into a gift card to send with their order and some of the notes have been so beautiful!! Heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time. It has been sad to see most of my stockist and gallery community struggle or have to close, and with that the stream of passive income they produce.
I have personally been really trying to shop local and support these independent stores when possible! Aside from that, it has been a lot of re-imagining and thinking outside the box in terms of markets and exhibitions and how to still connect and support the creative community right now ~ I really loved being apart of The Village Markets Insta market and am having an exhibition next month that will be online also which will be a first!
Who are you self isolating with, at your Brisbane abode?
In Brisbane! I live here with my partner, we are 1 year fresh to QLD, so it still feels new and exciting but also far away from family right now.
What does your creative space look like at home?
We just moved into a sunny Queenslander (best accidental pre-Covid timing!) so I have had a bit of a creative space upgrade. I have one room in the house set up as a stock room, for packing orders and keeping prints/scarves/packaging materials etc. It is my practical room, full of Vintage drawers and designed for optimum efficiency! I then have the Sunroom as my creative studio space. It is long and thin, lined with beautiful Queenslander windows, is nice and breezy and has the best natural light for drawing. I have lots of desk space here, plant specimens to keep my spirit up in the city and my favourite plant books. I really love having this mental and physical separation between the two spaces, it keeps the sunroom and my drawing time feeling more precious and uncluttered by logistical mess.
How are you staying creatively inspired (because some days, it’s a struggle over here!)?
Yes! I have found not being able to get to nature easily during this time difficult - Pre-Covid I was spending a lot of time getting to know QLD’s coastal heath landscapes and plant communities. Observing and learning and being in these places is an automatic creative top up for me, so I have definitely felt a bit disconnected.
I have filled my space with reminders of those places and plants to keep me feeling inspired. I actually really love times of space and quiet for creativity, and I think the physical distance from these landscapes has made me be more imaginative around the work I am doing on those plants which is nice! But asides from that, lots of music and neighbourhood walks and a daily dose of loungeroom dancing.
We loved that you contributed some works for the Together Gallery project, allowing people to get creative at home by colouring in and discovering incredible artists. Are there any other platforms or inspiring accounts you’re loving right now, that we need to know about?
You have mentioned you love a good playlist, what’s your current fave?
-Instrumental - This is a playlist I like to listen to when need to do focused but energetic work. No lyrics, so it isn't thought distracting.
- Piano - Playlist for focused writing or thinking work.
- For strolling in the sun - Quite literally created for when I need an uplifting walk in the sun as a work break!
- And one more, not a playlist, but an album my partner made (Overlap) of field recordings from different landscapes in Australia, it is so evocative and really calming, perfect to float asleep too.
Any shows on Netflix you’re watching?
I loved Unorthodox and have just finished Next in Fashion too!
What are you reading right now and what is your absolute favourite read?
Currently - The Yield by Tara June Winch and my absolute favourite….That is so hard! I’ll cheat 😀 My favourite book from last year was Boy Swallows Universe - Trent Dalton.
One Wild Ride - Pru Chapman
Full Story - The Guardian
Off Track - ABC Radio
Wowee Podcast - Esther Sandler + Min Pin
Tiddas 4 Tiddas - Marlee + Keely Silva
Design Matters - Debbie Millman
On Process - Adam Busby
What is one piece of advice you have been given that has always stuck with you?
‘Stay with your dream and learn to play’ (John Olsen)
Any advice for aspiring creatives hoping to take the freelance plunge?
Don’t rush yourself! Take the time to set boundaries and create positive and sustainable work habits for your long term future freelance self. Oh and be kind to you, be a good boss for yourself!
Where can people connect with you and checkout your work?
IG : @edithrewa (Work and life!)
@edithrewabushdiary (An indulgent planty account)