This is the third post in the Wandarrah Road Trip series. We are featuring team members from all across Australia and New Zealand as inspired by Etsy’s ‘City to outback: Australian seller road trip‘. It’s so interesting to learn a bit more about the places our makers are from and the spaces that they create in.
This month we are going down under in the land down under to Tasmania. Here we will get a behind the scenes glimpse of multi-media maker Lindy Whitton’s life. She sells nature inspired varied wares from her shop Lindy Whitton Studio. Here is Lindy’s in depth conversation with Emma Kay from Emma Kay Inks…
Where do you live and how long have you lived there?
I live in a small cottage on 5 acres of land very close to Hobart – the vibrant, artsy, foodie capital of Tasmania. I grew up in the beautiful Huon valley and moved to Hobart for school and work for a decade before I moved to our rural home where I’ve lived for the past 27 years.
What do you like most about where you live?
I love our five acres of land and being in the bush but only 10 minutes from the city where I can visit galleries, shop at my favourite art supply store, eat out and visit the waterfront. Coming home after a busy day and just sitting on the deck on a warm summer evening enjoying the breeze that drifts up the valley just refreshes my soul.
I also love the city of Hobart – the galleries, the food scene, how small and intimate the city is, all the local connections people have with each other and the sense of community and pride.
I love the island of Tasmania – it’s fantastic to live somewhere with such a diverse natural environment. A lot of my artistic inspiration comes from coastal areas all around the state. I love how easy it is to jump in the car and head off for a few hours, a day, a weekend or a week at the coast. I have a lot of happy memories of family holidays, weekend campouts with teenage friends and later with my husband and two young boys. We still take coastal breaks when we can.
I’ve visited Tasmania 4 times and I really love it there. I stayed in Cygnet in the Huon Valley for a couple of weeks in 2013 while pet sitting. I enjoyed walking the dog at the nearby bay. I made the drive from Cygnet to Hobart city a few times. So the description of where you live brought up a very vivid picture of the area in my mind.
Tasmania is indeed incredibly diverse. I tended to think of the forests before I spent time there but realised there are many beautiful bodies of water – rivers, bays, lakes, the harbour and of course the ocean. Which makes sense that you’d run in to it all the time because afterall it is a small island surrounded by water 🙂 How lucky for you to be based there and to spend time exploring all of its diversity.
If one of the readers of this interview was going to visit Tasmania, could you recommend 2 or 3 places that they should check out while they are there?
My top recommend for a visitor are the East coast around Freycinet National Park – some great short walks for fantastic views of Wineglass Bay and very close by a long beach walk at Friendly Beaches will take you right back to nature as the waves pound in on miles of pristine beach with no-one else around.
If you’re more a mountain person then you can’t beat Cradle Mountain National Park with iconic views of Dove Lake and easy walking round the lake or up over the mountains. If walking is not your thing the views are simply stunning from the car park here.
My favourite coastal spot is Bay of Fires near St Helens – this is where you get glorious aqua waters rolling into deserted white sand beaches and those orange lichen rocks that just sing.
For rolling countryside and river views you can’t beat the drive from Hobart down the Channel road to Cygnet and then back beside the Huon River. I could just keep going because it doesn’t matter which road you take in Tassie there will be great views all the way!
So true! I’m very lucky to have visited all those places before and I hope to return again someday. We’d especially like to spend some more time at Cradle Mountain.
Can you describe the landscape on the 5 acres of land where you live?
Living in the bush I get wallabies, possums and bandicoots in the garden. Well if I’m honest – they are absolutely decimating the garden! We also get birds flitting through the trees and the odd passing echidna.
I love looking out my window and seeing the gumtrees and the unruly natural world just beyond the garden (which is looking quite unruly at the moment). And then there’s the smell of eucalyptus hanging in the air on a warm day. I go for a daily walk (in my dreams – I can usually only make it at the weekends) along the foreshore at Blackman’s Bay – a lovely local beach just 10 minutes from my home. There’s amazing light across the water, boats bobbing in the bay and a great headland with orange coloured cliffs plunging into the green/blue waters. I often take my camera but the best light is on the days I forget it – and somehow that seems only right. An artist should practice fixing a moment in their mind – I find it helps my understanding of a subject to do that anyway.
I work in the city so every day I ride my scooter into work and as I crest the top of the hill and start the descent into Hobart there is a spectacular view of the harbour. One year I’m going to take a photo a day for at least a month from the same spot because the view is always changing – spectacular sunrises, mist rolling down the river, silver water with back lit yachts or sheeting rain. Of course, once I hit the city there’s looming Mount Wellington as a back drop to my day. And if I want to get away it’s only a few hours drive to the rugged south west mountains or my favourite coast in the world – the East Coast of Tasmania with the Bay of Fires and Freycinet National Park. I consider myself blessed to live right here.
I’m excited about your idea for a project taking a photo each day. When I was staying there I noticed that Mount Wellington changes every day. It’s quite enigmatic and must impact on the psyche of Hobart residents. My mum often recalled a story of when she was a child and went to the stop of Mount Wellington and it snowed. And when I went up top recently I was lucky enough that it snowed too. It was really magical! And cold!
For those that are not familiar to this mountain, could you share something about it with us?
Our windy Mount Wellington is a great place to walk. If you drive to the very top there are some easy walks along the ridge and out the back that are like being in a big rock garden with the view stretching up and down the Derwent River and all the way over to Tasman Peninsula and down to Bruny Island. We used to take out two boys up there when they were little because it was so easy and close by. If you want more of a challenge there are more adventurous walks going up the mountain – I’m not such a fan of UP I have to admit! Then there’s a lovely ferny walk around the base taking in some small waterfalls. Every year there’s a race from the city up the mountain which is really popular.
Where do you make the items that you sell?
I sew, print and paint in a small home studio I call the ‘2 meter cube’. Maybe it’s slightly larger than that but only just! I’ve adapted a lot of my studio furniture by adding wheels – that way I can move things around depending on what I’m doing.
I used to have a bigger room but my son moved home again and I had to kick my husband out of his office so I could have somewhere to work. We’ve all adapted quite happily – I believe you can make art anywhere if you have the desire. I used to have a small 2 metre section of wall in the lounge room with a bench and 2 screws in the wall where I hung my canvases to paint. I did some award winning work at that wall! So the ‘2 metre cube’ is a big step up!
I agreed that you can make art anywhere. Sometimes it’s useful to work within constraints and part of being creative is adjusting to circumstance. Having said that, I agree with Virginia Woolf that you need a room of one’s own. No matter how small, I think it opens things up for your creativity, but also helps to have boundaries between work and personal life.
Could you tell us one or two things that you would include in your studio if you were able to work in a bigger space?
If I had a larger studio I would love to have a whole wall with a bench for bookbinding – a new craft I’m getting into. I would also love a sewing station where I can keep all my fabric stash on hand and a separate jewellery workbench. Another wall would be my painting area with a third wall taken up with 2 architects drawers my brother has which he doesn’t use and will give to me when I have room. How I want those drawers!! The last wall would be for storage of completed works for my Etsy shop and a packing station. In the middle of the room would be a large cutting and framing table (with lockable wheels). It would have to be a big room but when dreaming, dream large, is my motto!
You sell a variety of items on etsy, including paintings, cards, prints, bags and jewellery. Could you tell me how the process of creating each of these items relates to one another?
Painting is my big passion. I find it’s a great therapy for stress, a creative outlet that lets me forget everything else and just enjoy the process of laying paint down and seeing what unfolds. It does tend to take large chunks of time and I get very self-absorbed.
Because I work long hours I wanted to find creative activities that let me also spend some time with my family so I started making earrings in the lounge room while I watched TV with my husband. I love wire and glass beads and a lot of my jewellery reflects the colour palette that I use in my paintings.
I think that everything I create for my Etsy shop has a common design aesthetic, a love of form, composition, balance, texture, colour and simplicity.
I wrote a post on my blog here that describes the art of bag making and I think that really applies to all the arts and crafts I practice here. I don’t even have a bag pattern for most of my bags – I just make it as I go – certainly they have design elements that stay the same but pocket sizes, print patches straps all just happen as I sew.
The cards just started because I wanted some hand printed designs on my bags so made some stamps and then started decorating little gift cards to include – now I add them to my recycled packaging as per this blog post.
I’m curious to know more about your inspiration to make things… Do you make a different kind of thing every day? Or do you go through phases where you make one particular type of item for a while?
Inspiration comes from everywhere – even the reflections in a puddle in the high rise carpark! Nature is my biggest inspiration. I grew up without much in the way of money but with parents who could make something out of nothing and I credit them with showing me what is possible if you think about a design idea and then try to bring it to life. Mum taught me to sew. Dad taught me to take things apart, look at how they work and then put them together again, maybe in a better way. That’s what I do with my design ideas – think them, try them and redesign them. That’s why the focus in my shop tends to change depending on what I’m experimenting with right now.
I do tend to run in cycles which can be governed by a lot of different things. I might have a lot of commissions coming in for custom paintings and not have time for much else for several weeks, if the commissions are quiet and I’ve just bought some great fabric I might spend a week when I make bags. In winter I tend to do more jewellery, smaller paintings that are of subjects that just please me and play around with new ideas. My cards are done as I get an order so I often do a small print run in the evening after work.
Although I don’t make for Etsy every day I try to fit some artistic time into each day – a quick sketch, looking through my photos for inspiration, re-sorting my fabric stash, reading an art book, browsing Etsy to see what other creatives are doing or just visiting my local art shop and buying a new brush.
Your etsy profile says “At the back of my mind was always a memory of a visit to the Metropoliton Museum of Art in New York standing in front of a wonderful small painting lost in admiration at how the artist had achieved such subtle shadows with mere paint. I told my friend ‘If I could create something like that I think I would have done something worthwhile with my life’. He bought me a print of that painting as a birthday present and it still hangs above my desk reminding me to keep striving to create beauty from raw materials”
I can relate to this because I have had similar experiences in art galleries and it is one of the reasons I became an artist! I have to say that you have achieved your aim of creating beauty! Your paintings are stunning. I love the blue in this one here. When I was a kid I went in a canoe race with my dad and brothers and this reminds me of that. Could you tell me about the background to this painting?
This painting was done for a solo exhibition I had several years ago which focused on the colours of Tasmania’s East Coast. I took a few trips up the coast to take photos and do sketches that summer and this was developed from two separate photos. I loved the view of Honeymoon Bay from the walking track and wanted to add a kayak so found another shot I’d taken further down the coast when I was looking down on two kayakers from a headland. I often combine images to tell a story.
I also really like this painting here. Actually I really like all of your paintings. Could you tell me a bit more about your “big passion” painting? What do you like the most about this medium? What is the most difficult part of this medium?
I work in both pastel and acrylic. I love them both for different reasons. The two paintings you mention here are done in acrylic which lets me create layers and depth quickly as the paint dries very rapidly. I tend to a bright, high chroma palette and acrylics work well for this. On the other hand it can be difficult to get those lovely muted greys for a more subtle mood. They’re easy to clean up and no chemical smells.
Pastels are just pure pigment! They’re so much fun to work with, building up layers quickly and producing a full range of possibilities from high key to soft and moody paintings. It can be a challenge to get those lush, dark colours but I’ve learned a lot about using the correct value instead of always going for the exact colour. Another joy of working with pastels is there’s virtually no clean up other than washing my hands, put the lid on the box and walk away! They’re my first choice when I have limited time as I can build up a painting quickly and then refine as I have time – no worrying about drying time. Pastels are a pain to transport as they need to be packed very carefully until framed so the surface doesn’t smudge.
I can see why the limited clean up after using pastel paints would be a draw card. And as someone who tends to make ephemeral art, I understand the pain of trying to transport something that could be easily smudged!
Does they quality if you painting medium dictate the subject matter that you work on with it? You said that you are particularly inspired by nature, so I wonder are there some aspects of nature that lend themselves to acrylics and other aspects that lend themselves to pastels?
It’s hard to say why I choose pastels for some subjects and acrylics for others. It might be the colours, or mood or scale that leads me to a particular medium. I do tend to use acrylics for large seascapes – adding a gloss medium gives such a lovely sheen that helps when depicting water. I also like acrylics when I want a lot of texture such as craggy rocks. Having said that, I have done some very large pastel seascapes with great success.
Sometimes I’ll do acrylic and pastel versions of the same subject to accentuate different aspects. I find pastels are very expressive and love using them when I want a looser more impressionist style. Mostly it’s an intuitive thing – I see a subject and immediately think pastel or acrylic.
This is great Lindy. I enjoyed getting into more depth about your art practice too and being reminded of all of those wild and beautiful places in Tassie. I hope that living in the Blue mountains will build up my cold tolerance for if we end up moving down there. My partner is voting for Tassie while I’m voting for far North Queensland 🙂