October 25, 2013

INTERVIEW: Briony Wright

The former Vice magazine guru talks to me about her latest undertaking, which follows her long-time crush on perfume.

Olfaction is so habitual that we often don't notice when our brain attaches strong emotions to particular scents. Only when a smell unexpectedly elicits specific memories and feelings do we realise the importance and power it holds.

A case in point is this anecdote. I think it was in early 2001, I moved out of home and into a super cute workers' cottage with my friends, Justine and Jacqui. Although our house was located a mere ten minute walk to my work in the CBD, Spring Hill at the time felt like only a short economic step above an urban ghetto. Populated by struggling artists, musicians, and junkies. But, I couldn't've been happier and still look back on that period with the fondest of memories.

The hodgepodge bathroom area in our small rented house was the result of an extension done many years earlier. The toilet and shower were individual entities, while the basin and mirror section was completely open with no door. Every morning at the basin, Justine would do her hair and put Angel perfume on. Jacqui'd have a shower, get dressed and leave before I'd finished eating one piece of toast. I'd then brush my teeth and stroll down the hill at least 20 minutes late as Justine headed off to school.

Three months later Justine moved to London. In the weeks subsequent to her departure, I'd walk down the street and suddenly smell—Justine! It happened a number of times. Strangers wearing the same perfume walk briskly by me, leaving a lingering fragrant trail. I loved the feelings it conjured up. So, I began wearing Angel perfume everyday. I still occasionally wear it to this day and now friends say whenever they smell someone wearing it, they think of me.

Another case in point—my dear friend, Briony has started an entire blog dedicated to perfume and good smells called, Ode.

KATIE: So, tell us a little bit about yourself.

BRIONY: A little over a decade ago I launched the Australian edition of Vice magazine (vice.com) with my partner and spent eight crazy years running and editing that from our Melbourne office. I took a break a few years ago to have a couple of beautiful babies in quick succession and realised then that I needed to act on my long-time crush on perfume. I began making my own simple scents and learning all sorts of fascinating things about fragrance and the industry, which I figured needed to be channelled into an amazing blog.

The Internet is awesome. But, it is also an inodorous medium. Until affordable scratch’n’sniff screens become available, what are some of the benefits of a site like Ode existing?

It’s a veritable jungle out there when it comes to perfume and my intention with Ode is to provide some clarity in an interesting, non-o.t.t. way. There are so many people doing really great things in fragrance and I want Ode to be a go-to destination for the most current and relevant information and reviews. There are bazillions of fashion-focused websites but not that many devoted to scent so I think we have the capacity to do something really different with Ode.

Out of all five senses, it’s smell that is best known for evoking memories, both good and bad. What is it about olfaction that made you dedicate an entire blog to the subject?

I feel like most people have a soft-spot for scents and good smells, which I’m sure has a lot to do with the part of the brain that’s stimulated and the fact that they can remind you so clearly of a time, place or person. It’s just really fun and interesting and appealing to me as it’s exactly the opposite of what I’m used to writing about.

It seems that androgynous style fragrances are becoming more and more popular. Why do you think we’re seeing this shift towards unisex scents? Is perfume and cologne merely old-fashioned, gender specific terms, or is there a distinct difference?

A lot of perfume critics and experts are adamant that there shouldn’t be such a thing as individual scents for men and women. They believe that a good smell is a good smell regardless of who wears it. It’s true that certain scents have been marketed as masculine so that guys feel comfortable buying themselves perfume and these smells have come to represent male scents. It’s funny but I think that everyone should kind of forget about what gender a fragrance is being targeted towards and wear whatever they love. I guess a trend in this kind of thinking is responsible for a rise in unisex scents. There are also totally new smells being released like a brand called Escentric Molecules who’ve released a series of perfumes with limited ingredients that react with the wearer’s skin to bring out their distinctive scent. It’s a great idea and entirely breaks down any notion of gender specific fragrance.

In your opinion, what makes a good perfume? Is price usually a good guidance?

Honestly, yes. It’s actually very difficult and expensive to extract oils from petals, leaves and bark so generally you’ll pay the price for the good shit. There are instances where companies like Chanel or Esteé Lauder will buy the entire world’s supply of a particular flower so that no other perfume will smell like theirs. This generally means that their perfume is incredible but it’s also very Doctor Evil and consequently very expensive.

Is it best to apply perfume at pulse points (e.g. the nape of the neck, the insides of wrists), or is that an old wives’ tale?

There’s maybe some logic to it. I also read recently that it’s good to put it between your thighs because it’s released as you walk. I’ve also heard that it’s best to spray it in an arc above your head but I found it kept going in my eyes this way. I just spray it wherever it goes and it seems to work fine.

What perfume do you wear?

Chanel – No.19, Frederic Malle - Vetiver Extraordinaire, Esteé Lauder -Youth Dew, Lanvin - Reumer, Cacharel - Anais Anais, Comme Des Garcons – Jaisalmer, Miller Harris – Tangerine Vert, Undercover – Holy Grace, Creed – Love in White, Hermes – Jardin sur le Toit, Nasomatto – Black Afgano, Bulgari – Jasmin Noir plus a few more here and there. I still don’t feel like I own the perfect fragrance for me though. It’s a work in progress.

A signature scent, or a miscellany of fragrances to correspond with your mood, the time of day, or the occasion. How many perfumes should one own?

I like having a few from each food group. I stand in front of them every day and there’s always something I feel like wearing or that’s right for the occasion. There are so many great new perfumes as well as the classics and I think the more the merrier.

I think perfume, like jewellery, is a very personal reflection of the wearer’s own taste. I also think perfume, like jewellery, makes for a very thoughtful and personal present. Do you have any advice for gifting perfume, or is it best to be avoided?

I like giving perfume as a present and I’m sure most people are into the idea of owning a perfume that they didn’t choose. It’s probably not the time to get too creative with it—stick to something safe and amazing—maybe a fresh or floral number by Byredo or Diptych or if you’re on a budget one of the classics from the Chemist Warehouse is a good idea.

What should we keep in mind when choosing perfume for ourselves?

Anything that makes you feel happier is a winner.

Originally, perfume was mainly worn by the wealthy, to mask body odours as a result of infrequent bathing. Whereas today, most of the population shower daily. And yet, we still insist that our bodies be redolent of floral bouquets or citrus sunsets. Why do you think perfumes are, not just still worn, but are so popular?

I guess the original idea with perfume was that it harnessed the most incredible smells from nature and delivered them in a perfectly balanced and concentrated dose. These smells operate on us and on parts of the brain that make us feel great and then when science and technology become involved, the scope of scents that can be created is insane. People are inherently into wearing nice things or things that make them feel good and fragrance is easily a part of this.

What is currently trending in the fragrance industry this season? What are some aromas you think we can expect to sniff in the future?

It’s the million dollar question. There are so many perfumes constantly being released that are really great new versions of something that’s been released thousands of times before—a new rose or tobacco scent for instance. Every now and then though a scent comes along that is entirely different and that changes the landscape forever. Thierry Mugler’s Angel smelt like nothing before it and inspired a new genre, which has since been imitated and reworked over and over. I’d love to be able to tell you what the new game-changer was going to be, but I’d have to kill you.

If you could capture any smell and turn it into a wearable scent, what would it be?

My baby’s breath. ♦

September 27, 2013

MIXTAPE: True Love Will Find U

A music mixtape for lovers, dreamers and that special someone who just gets you.

1. True Love Will Find You in the End - Daniel Johnston

2. If Not For You - Bob Dylan

3. Songbird - Fleetwood Mac

4. Oh To Be In Love - Kate Bush

5. Black Is The Color Of My True Love's Hair - Nina Simone

6. Love Is Real - John Lennon

7. God Only Knows - The Beach Boys
8. Baby, I Love You - The Ronettes
9. I've Been Loving You Too Long - Otis Redding

10. True Colors - Cyndi Lauper
11. That's When I Think Of You - 1927

12. La La Love You - Pixies
13. Our Love Will Still Be There - The Troggs
14. True Love Will Never Fade - Mark Knopfler

15. Real Love - John Lennon

16. West Coast - Coconut Records
17. Halo (Edit with Into) - Beyoncè
18. True Love - Bing Cosby & Grace Kelly
19. Le Temps de L'amour [Fox Medium] - Françoise Hardy
20. Maps - Yeah Yeah Yeahs ♦

September 19, 2013

INSPIRATION: Milton Glaser

Drawing is thinking.

Milton Glaser is a constant source of inspiration for me. These videos are no exception...

Milton drawing Shakespeare whilst discussing the importance of drawing.

Milton Glaser's TedTalk 'Using Design To Make Ideas New'.

A wonderful lecture at the Wheeler Centre, which I was fortunate enough to attend.
Milton Glaser's website. ♦

September 08, 2013


The young feminist, blogger and founder /editor-in-chief of Rookie, or aka my (current) idol.

When I was seventeen, I wasn't afraid to be myself. I was a flat-chested, gangly teenage girl with crazy eyes. I was infatuated with indie music and films, and found that DIY subculture to be both inspiring and satisfying, as a form of expressing my creativity and individuality. I enjoyed being different and not liking the same things as my friends. However, I was always self-conscious of my eyes and body, so I lacked confidence. In high school, I felt like I had reasonably intelligent ideas to contribute, but I generally didn't ask many questions or speak my mind in class. So, I was seen as shy, quiet and introverted. A non-threatening weirdo, if you will.

Although in my mind, I was constantly questioning, examining and observing things. I would spend as much time as I could devouring as much information as I could about everything that I was into at the time. Discovering what influenced a band or film I liked, and what influenced that. Tracing it back as far as I could. It was a world in which I could daydream, and try to figure out who I was and where I belonged, without being pressured by peers or parents.

Tavi Gevinson is a 17 year old wunderkind, who lives with her parents in Oak Park, Chicago and attends a large public high school. She started a fashion blog, Style Rookie at age 11, and now in her spare time, curates her own online magazine for teenage girls called, Rookie, which covers everything from fashion to feminism in an honest, intelligent and insightful way. She was recently in Australia speaking at the Sydney Opera House and presented a keynote address at the Melbourne Writers Festival.

There is so much about Tavi that I revere, and although I wish Rookie existed when I was growing up, I think perhaps the crux of my admiration for her stems from a few things I've realised about myself, which she has inadvertently helped me to understand, through listening to her in interviews and the topics she articulately discusses in these videos.

Now in my thirties, I like my crazy eyes, and many friends are envious of my long skinny limbs. But, I think somewhere along the way, I subconsciously stopped questioning, examining and observing things, and had been limiting myself to arbitrarily conceived ideas of what I was and wasn't allowed to do or like. I had started accepting certain things in life as gospel and I wasn't questioning them in order to draw my own conclusions. I would feel guilty about liking particular things, instead of understanding what makes them specific to me.

And like Tavi, I sometimes get worried about not being original and authentic. Not only in my work, but also the kind of person I am. But, I've realised that being passionate, and obsessing over things that I love, and the refusal to try and act cool, the same as I did when I was a teenager, makes me happy. Things that I love are a reflection of oneself and not necessarily about the object of the affection. Learning to be open and to ask questions and finding a connectedness in the world is what adds value to life. It's good to shift and change, because I'm still discovering who I am. I want to continue to grow and learn and discover until I die.

Influences to trace back....

Here are some other talks Tavi has mentioned, which I've enjoyed particularly David Foster Wallace's commencement speech.

Emma Simons-Araya: Pressure, Power, Punk Rock

David Foster Wallace: This Is Water

Elizabeth Gilbert: Your Elusive Creative Genius

August 29, 2013

INTERVIEW: Isobel Knowles

I talk to the artist and animator about music videos, Astroboy, and a serendipitous incident which determined her career.

Isobel and the hotdog which features in the music video The Business World by Monnone Alone.

She’s someone I’ve admired since we met about seven or eight years ago. An original, creative genius who works incredibly hard at her craft. She is a multifaceted, intelligent, go getter, filling up her time being a member of a girl band, running her own business, and creating kick-ass music videos.

She does so much cool stuff with interesting people, sometimes I wish I was her. Those who are lucky enough to travel in her circle, would tell you that she is independent, passionate and always herself.

With attributes such as these, and the fact that they share a surname, you could easily mistake her for the celebrity rated #17 in Forbes’ Most Powerful Women of 2013 list, Beyoncé. But instead, I’m talking of a young woman who is equally talented, deserves as much adulation, and I totally think could Run The World, it’s Isobel Knowles.

KATIE: Can you briefly recount the milestone/s in your life which has made you the Isobel Knowles we know and adore today?

ISOBEL: 1. My mum was a ceramic artist while I was growing up. She was at home working in her studio drawing, painting and making pots and we did a lot of art stuff together.

2. I had to make a fake job application in year 9 economics class. I flipped the job search book open to letter A, stuck my finger down randomly on 'Animator' and suddenly I knew that was what I wanted to do. Or at least have a go at anyway!

3. My art and media teachers gave me a studio to myself to set up and make a big animation project for my final year at school and I spent every spare minute in there experimenting and learning.

4. I studied Media Arts at RMIT which was a very open arts course teaching me amongst other things, self-motivation, critical art thinking and the importance of an artistic community.

5. I did the NEIS program which made me a lot more focused on how to make it all work as a business.

6. All along I've been playing music. From piano lessons when I was 7 to being in school bands, touring in real bands, making records and making soundtracks for friends and my own short films. I like to include a musical sensibility in my animation work, not just with music videos but with all kinds of things!

Where you an artistic/crafty child?

I did spend a lot of time drawing, cutting things out and making stuff out of recycled containers or things from the garden.

What was your favourite TV cartoon, comic book or fictional character growing up?

Astroboy. Such a brave and humble hero who was so curious about how to fit in with the other kids.

What do you like most about being a creative person?

There are a few things. Number one is having the luxury to have my ideas come into existence. That is very satisfying. Number two is getting to work with people I am inspired by. And number three is the time flexibility. My schedule is it's own creative being!

What's your least favourite part of the creative process?

When something isn't coming together well. Or when time gets away from me and I'm not able to do as good a job as I'd have liked.

Some of your projects, for example, the children's book, Owl Know How found you teaming up with textile designer Cat Rabbit. Do you prefer to collaborate over working autonomously? Why?

I like both worlds. Collaborating is wonderful for having two or more minds at work and coming up with something different to what I would otherwise think of. It also means I don't have to spend every day working alone!

The children's book titled 'Owl Know How', created by Isobel Knowles and Cat Rabbit.

An adorable short animated film by Isobel to accompany the book, 'Owl Know How'.

A lot of your animations have a cute, old school DIY aesthetic to them. Do you embrace new technology in order to make your job easier or do you prefer the traditional painstaking and time-consuming method?

I combine the two. I am impatient and could never go completely old school. I also find the old school ways less painstaking for some things. I use whichever technology feels right for the project. But certainly painting, cutting, pasting, sewing and setting up cameras and lights is a lot more fun to sitting and staring at a screen all day. I like to make my work fun to do so that it will hopefully also be fun to watch.

You have animated some great music videos over the years. How does this process differ to, say, creating the award winning interactive installation You Were In My Dream?

With a music video I begin by listening to the music. Responding to the music visually is priority number one so I figure out some movement or imagery I want to include and then I build a concept around that. With an artwork, it's usually something else that is the beginning point. Either the concept is clear from the beginning or comes from responding to a theme or to a mode of interaction. I like to fit concepts to medium to make sure the final work has some layers that connect to each other.

A still from the award winning installation, 'You Where In My Dream'.

Do you get sick of hearing the song you're animating?

I never get sick of the song. When you're working with something your focus is different to when you're simply listening to something. You really get to know the thing inside out. Then, when you hear it years later it's like seeing an old friend!

Here's my personal fave music video of Isobel's 'My Old Ways' by Dr Dog.

What's the best piece of advice you've received?

Be yourself. AND take care of yourself!

Is there true love?

YES. It comes in a variety of colours and tones.

What else is coming up for you?

I'm working on two exhibitions at the moment:

A Matter of Factory with Cat Rabbit at Westspace Gallery opening Thursday, September 12 and running until Thursday, October 10.

Stitching Time, a group show I'm curating with Dell Stewart at Craft Victoria that brings animators and textile artists together to collaborate on experimental installations. That one opens Thursday, October 15.

I'm also putting the finishing touches on some animations for The Melbourne Museum to go in their new Bunjilaka exhibition opening Saturday, September 7. Find details here.

AND my band, The Icypoles has finally finished mixing an album which will hopefully be out before the end of the year! ♦

A few sneak peek images from Isobel's upcoming events to get you excited!

May 09, 2013

BOOKS: Funny books I've loved recently

Good books are sometimes hard to find.

Where did the past 6 month go? I have been super busy with my new business, Harvest Haversack. It has been a crazy fun and crazy stressful period. I'm currently taking much needed time out to do some freelance design work and to also create some new things for Harvest Haversack.

I've also decided to start a Harvest Haversack specific blog here, and leave this as more of a personal / design related blog. So, let's see how it goes....

I'm turning 33 in a month and I've just realised that I didn't really have many female role models when I was growing up (apart from my mum and sisters), so I think I must be making up for it now because I am OBSESSED with ladies who are totally killing it. e.g., Zooey, Molly and Sophia at Hello Giggles - it's such a great site for teenage girls. I also LOVE the colour pink now which I didn't when I was young, and nail art, I never used to paint my nails. Weird.

Now, I know these books have been out for awhile and everyone's probably read them, but I've really enjoyed reading them recently. Mindy and Tina are super funny, smart and ambitious, which I really admire. Also, I saw Mike at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in March and his show was great, and the book is even funnier. ♦