Well, life sure is different right now!
A month ago we were talking about meeting each other for coffees and drinks at the pub, or having date nights in our favourite restaurants. And now it's isolation this, and quarantine that. So I wanted to put a piece together that reminds us all that we're here and in the trenches together! We're each others' best allies and life support through this.
The incredible women interviewed over this series are from all over the country. They're artisans, business owners and freelancers I've walked my creative journey with. As such, they've all be hit in various ways by the crisis and have generously shared their journey over the past few weeks and months. I hope you'll be inspired by their stories, encouraged to connect and gleam little rays of wisdom from the way they've pivoted & adapted during this time!
Thinking back a few weeks, what was the last normal day of work for you like? (Before COVID-19 hit and self isolation was a thing). What did you do in it? What were your plans for the next few months?
Strangely enough, my last normal day of work was actually in late February! It was a day full of running about, getting all the loose ends neatly tied off and handing over the reins fully to my wonderful studio manager Bella, before I set my autoresponder on for 2 weeks and headed over to Indonesia for my wedding! It still gives me goosebumps to think about how divinely timed our wedding was... if our plans had been even one week later, travel restrictions would have already been in place, and crowd/gathering restrictions would have been implemented - we may have even had to cancel altogether. We feel so, so lucky that we got to live that time with no restrictions. We returned home to Melbourne in mid-March, just when the anxiety levels were starting to really escalate in Australia, and the seriousness of COVID-19 was getting very real.
I had planned to hit the ground running back at work, as honestly, I had not yet had a chance to get my head fully into 2020 with all of the (beautiful, necessary) distractions that came with our wedding! Very quickly, I realised that all of our 2020 plans - including new collection launches, trade shows/ markets calendars and travel were ALL very much up in the air. We literally had to hit pause on everything, surrender to the unknown and just take things day-by-day. It’s been surreal!
How has the space you're working in changed/ work flow changed?
I usually would split my week up between days in our studio (with Bella) and days working from home. When I arrived back to Melbourne, Bella and I quickly decided - with me having just travelled internationally and had 250+ guests at my wedding - that the safest and most sensible thing to do would be to start working apart from each other, with only one of us in our studio at a time. A couple of weeks after that, the full work-from-home essential lockdowns came into effect in Victoria, so we’ve continued with that new normal ever since. Occasionally we meet at the studio for a socially-distanced work together if there are lots of orders, or something very essential, but mostly we’re working apart!
My (now) husband Charles also runs his own business but he has never worked from home - until Covid-19! We live in a very small unit in Richmond (Melbourne) - so we decided to convert our biggest room (the lounge/living area) into our office. We moved our iMacs to the dining table and reconfigured the room to accommodate. Our second bedroom (that is usually our study) became the dedicated Zoom/conference call room, for us to take turns with. Charles has a bigger team, so he's locked away in that small room most of the day, it turns out!
What is the greatest challenge you've faced in the last few weeks?
I think our biggest and most ongoing challenge has been navigating delays in manufacturing, especially coupled with big delays in shipping timelines. With so many flights being grounded, or airlines having suspended their services altogether, the sampling / product development process has really blown out and become a lot longer than how quick and agile it usually is.
We had plans to launch a lot of new products mid-year, but in this current climate we’re all navigating, it just didn’t feel like the right thing to persist + push on with as normal (...because nothing feels normal.) Many of our beautiful stockists, who own design, lifestyle and homeware stores have had to close - and it’s been a devastating time for them. We know that now is not the time for anyone to be making big, indulgent purchases online.
So we have really pivoted, and instead focused our energy on coming up with a number of small, quick-turnaound projects to spread some generosity + good energy out there. First, we offered some free downloadables to encourage spreading kindness and supporting our neighbours. We also launched a series of care-packages, where our beautiful customers could order for themselves (or their loved ones) bundles full of beautiful stationery at a really affordable price.
We’ve been getting really creative on finding ways that we can offer more, up-level our offerings, weave in extra love, and bring a beautiful, delightful, exquisite experience to our customers. Gratefully, we've been run off our feet. Our community has rallied and we've never felt so much love (in online sales). It's been so encouraging!
What have you implemented into your daily schedule to keep yourself sane? Stay creatively motivated? Or are you embracing this time to take space for yourself?
New Spotify playlists.
Not constantly checking the news (I did for the first two weeks, and it only made me anxiety-laden and unable to focus on anything.)
Constantly burning incense + beautiful oils.
Treating myself to fresh flowers for my desk. The little things are really the big things.
Comfy attire (PSA - these leggings are the most delightful things EVER. Obsessed.)
Walks and running (runs at the end of the day has really helped to shake off frustrations and level out my energy)
Wine / gin at night (essential)
For the first few weeks of isolation, I felt so extremely exhausted. I would sleep for 12 hours and still wake up feeling tired. So I've also really used this time to re-energise. We’ve been sleeping earlier at night, and I’ve also been staying in bed for an extra hour in the morning if I feel like it, rather than forcing myself to be up early. I think for the past few years, life has just felt constantly full, and my schedule jam-packed, non-stop, full-to-the-brim and unrelenting. I would normally be on a plane somewhere at least every 3 weeks. I loved living that way, squeezing every moment out of life and so this has been a huge adjustment, but just quietly... I haven't hated having all the time EVER with my brand new husband. These slower days at home have definitely brought their own sweetness. When we emerge from this time, I know I’ll be more conscious of my energy - I don’t want to go completely back to what life was like before.
How do you stay connected with your family, friends, and business friends?
Zoom/Facetime/Skype dates with family and friends have been everything. We’ve Skyped our friends in London, planned a virtual dinner party with our friends in Adelaide, and enjoyed clock-off wine at 5pm with industry friends. Of course, I’ve also spread my own love with parcels + handwritten notes in the post, arranged wine to be delivered to my self-isolating parents, baked desserts and treats to share with our neighbours + friends, and shared tinned tomato / toilet paper during those weeks when the supermarket shelves were empty.
What are some things you'd like to do / you are doing during self-isolation that you maybe wouldn't have considered if you weren't confined to your house?
Cooking new recipes! Early on in isolation, I suggested to Charles that perhaps we could each try to make a new recipe each week, or even attempt to re-create some of our favourite dishes at restaurants that had closed. We’ve actually totally embraced this and really loved expanding our repertoire of recipes - from Bill Granger’s famous hotcakes, to Barramundi salad from one of our favourite restaurants, Rice Paper Scissors. Before isolation, we’d eat out a lot (and regularly order in) - but having more time to dedicate to experimenting in the kitchen has felt really good!
We’ve also been having ‘date nights’ from home. That is, shifting our iMacs to the edge of the dining table and setting up an actual dining table, with placemats and candles. We play jazz, Charles makes margaritas, I make tiramisu. We change out of our loungewear and get dressed (in real clothes). We cook a beautiful dinner. It’s been really lovely to make that effort for each other, and ourselves.
Many of us work in isolation or away from people a lot of the time. Any tips for staying sane and creative in self isolation?
I really like to break up my days into blocks of time, to each hold space for different types of work. I’ve found that working this way really helps me get things done, and also look forward to different parts of the day. Rather than constantly flicking between my inbox to write emails, to Xero to catch up on some admin, to creative work, and multitasking Skype conversations with our manufacturers, I try to batch those tasks and dedicate different times in the day for each of those things. It gives me focus, and I feel less like hours just run away.
Saying that, I don’t think now is the time to be harshly strict on ourselves, or highly productive. These aren’t usual days we are living, and there are many ways to live through this time. For me, I’ve decided that I want to go a little slower and live more gently. I am not forcing myself quite like I usually would. I want to come out of this time feeling grateful for this chance we’ve all had to take stock and recalibrate.
Is there anything we can do to support you & your business through this time?
Every online order (even just a greeting card) helps us so, much. Having orders come in not only keeps us going, it also gives us a sense of purpose.
And if there’s anything you’d love to see us do / create next, we’d love to know - email@example.com
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