1 | Name, age, and where you call home?
Lauren, 31, Petersham in Sydney's Inner West.
2 | What is your job, side hustle and/ or creative pursuit?
I'm the calligrapher, graphic designer & creative behind The Blackline Bottega.
3 | Your creative practice is so diverse; how has The Blackline evolved from an instagram to the business that it is now?
I can't say I've been particularly planned with my career. After spending my childhood and teens fixated on the idea of being a fashion designer - my one deviation being a stint of considering interior design - I felt adrift when having worked in the fashion industry for 4 years I realised I really didn't enjoy it. What do you do when you get the role you worked years for and it isn't what you imagined- especially when you had no back up plan?
The shock of that realisation & period has made me more adaptable and open to how I steer the business. The calligraphy on instagram was really only supposed to be a tie-over job or place to be creative; but it became a valuable vessel for discovering what I liked doing, what I was good at and not so good at. It grew pretty organically in the first few years; as I was quite reactive to what the market wanted. In the last two years, I've navigated The Blackline to my happy place; where I'm doing the work I want to be doing. Creating graphic design with a focus on handmade elements gives me the variation & scope for creativity that I love. And I feel very fortunate to be able to work in this space with clients I love and admire; who value my creative strategy as well as their design outcome.
4 | How would you describe The Blackline Bottega's signature style –
This has steadily evolved over the 8 years to what it is now. I have a creative affinity with Italy, particularly the south, that has kept reappearing in the tones, colours and textures I'm drawn to. I love monochrome and earthy tones. I am fascinated with the beauty of imperfection and love combining minimalist, clean lines and layouts with rogue, organic, handmade elements.
5 | You work across commercial, bridal and private projects - how do you juggle your work and organise your work days?
At times it's not a juggle; there are periods of the year when I know bridal work will be prevalent or PR launches will make up the majority of my projects. In the few busy periods that they're all in full swing, I have to be highly organised and prepared to move between projects seamlessly throughout the day. The PR and commercial work I take on can be highly reactive - requiring 24 hour turn around times and last minute changes so I have a number of checkpoints to make sure I'm on top of things; and turn to other work when awaiting feedback or approvals. Bridal work tends to be a long term collaboration and I know when I need to have assets created by to deliver them well in advance of the deadline. I wouldn't have naturally called myself a highly planned or organised person; but my desire to never miss a deadline has proven otherwise.
6 | What comes easily to you in your creative process & running a business and what have you had to hone your skills in? How did you hone your skills?
It's ebbed and flowed over the years as I've learnt things or faced insecurities / blockages in other areas. I used to get anxious over the financials of the business but with the help of an accountant, bookkeeper, and XERO, I now feel really empowered around that. I've always found creative strategy and ideation behind a project a place I thrive; but ironically didn't work on many projects that required that in the first few years and had to find a way to weave that back into my services. I've taken courses and asked for help whenever I recognised that I was lacking in an area; from mentoring to studying graphic design at Shillingtons. I'm also not afraid of just giving things a go and re-working things until they look right. My dad is an avid craftsman who learns everything on YouTube and he's created some incredible pieces of furniture and cabinetry; I'm sure some of that 'learn as you go' attitude has been passed down to me.
7 | Where do you turn to for inspiration to fuel your ideation and creative process?
I'm inspired on a daily basis by the most obscure details. I'm inspired by: the way a film has a particular colour grade washed over it (I'm thinking of 'A Single Man directed by Tom Ford'), the way light hits a textured white wall and cacti in the mid afternoon or by a home found on The Local Project. I try and read widely - fiction & non-fiction - as there is often an idea or thought that will be sparked from reading. I have a huge catalogue of photographs that I've taken overseas and just in daily wanders to draw upon too. And I'm always jotting down ideas I have as I watch them evolve and develop over the course of the notebook.
When I need inspiration to drop and I don't know where to start, I'll use word ideation techniques and turn to sources like MindSparkle Mag, Visuelle, The Local Project, and particular Pinterest pages.
8 | You're often one of the first suppliers that couples' try to work with when planning their wedding. What advice would you give to couples' when choosing their supplies and planning their day?
There are so many options available that it can get really overwhelming. I think having a clear vision of what you want your day to look like, what your budget is and choosing suppliers that you feel really supported by is important and will make your planning easier.
Having a clear vision will cut through the overwhelm and unnecessary work. Consider your venue and what it naturally brings to the table, work out how you want your day to look and then approach suppliers. A clear vision will help your suppliers achieve what you want and make your budget work hard for you. I put a guide together for having a cohesive wedding here.
Whilst not all my clients disclose what their stationery budget is, when clients have been transparent, I have been able to offer more cost effective methods to achieve the same overarching vision.
Choosing supportive suppliers is going to be an integral part of planning your day. Whilst the wedding industry is for the most part made up of legends, you're going to want to work with people that you have an affinity with. Not only are you going to need to do a lot of back and forth with them in the course of planning your day; a great supplier can also link you to like-minded suppliers and help make planning feel collaborative. The last thing you want to do is work with a supplier who has an immaculate portfolio but is incredibly difficult to work with or contact; adding unnecessary stress to your day.
9 | What are some of your favourite aspects of designing stationery for couples and clients?
I love working with couples from their engagement through to their wedding; it's a huge honour and really magical to be able to give them consistency throughout the process of planning their day. It allows me to strategise how we can make the stationery cohesive and build to a crescendo on their big day. It allows them to have a supplier in their corner, who is across their vision, who can be tapped into as a soundboard when making floral or style decisions.
Although it's more work, I love creating custom stationery and particularly love when couples' come to me with unexpected references. It's easy to think a wedding invitation should look a certain way when there isn't a lot of deviation from the traditional or modern format shown on Pinterest. But when I think about the scope of graphic design, there is absolutely no reason why your wedding invitation can't be a poster, a folded letter, packaging, acrylic, mirrored etc. Something that pays homage to who you are, uniquely, as a couple. If you want inspiration for this, look at what the fashion brands send out as invitations for their runway shows — they're highly considered and well designed - and sometimes more cost effective than what you'd consider a traditional 'Wedding Invitation.'
10 | Some of your work moves away from stationery & graphic design and is more representative of the brand that you've been cultivating as a creative. What are some of your favourite projects that you've worked on and what brands do you like to work with?
I love creating; whether it's by hand, on the computer, styling, etc. So whilst I can't say I've actively sought to do work outside of the design space; it's been such a privilege to be considered by brands for my creatives. I loved working with Bean Body for their 'Be Any Body' campaign and having the talented Max Made use my face as his canvas. I learnt so much that day but also thoroughly enjoyed watching Max close up at his craft. I also love all the interiors work I've been given over the years; I love architecture and interior design so it allows me to explore my taste and design in another space.
Like my design work, I try to be very deliberate about which brands I'll work with and consider the synergy between the brand and who I am, and what The Blackline Bottega stands for. Sometimes I deviate from that though when I think the brief has a unique challenge or interesting element I'd like to explore in it. For the most part I work with lifestyle brands with an elevated, considered approach to design.
11 | You often cite the home and creative studio as playing a huge part in giving you the space to ideate and create. What is your philosophy / aesthetic around your home / studio styling and what are your favourite pieces or moments in it.
It's true — I know I thrive creatively and personally when in a considered space. For our home, I've had to negotiate a bit more with my partner as it's a shared space. But those Southern Italian vibes have definitely infiltrated into our home and studio aesthetic - earthy tones, light and mid-tone woods mixed back with monotone pieces. I love neutral, textured pieces and have a number of stone slabs and ceramics that bring texture to the space. And sunlight. I love light and try and create spaces that will play with light. And to all this, I love to add a dash of black to ground everything.
It would be hard to pick my favourite pieces from the bunch! I know what I love and am quick to sell things that I'm not vibing with any longer, so what is still in rotation could collectively be named 'my favourites'. I guess the pieces I'd name are those that have a story attached to them.
I spied this ceramic prickly pear in Athens in a little boutique store - HEROES Shop in Plaka – but for whatever reason didn't take it home with me. I think from memory I'd already made a holiday purchase and I try to only make one each trip (to keep me accountable and ensure I truly love what I'm buying). But when I got home, I kept thinking about it and wishing I'd bought it. So when I went back to Greece a few years later, I swore if it was still there, I'd bring it home. And when we got back, she remembered I had loved it the previous trip and had one left in her store — so it was meant to be. Another piece would be my 'Sea Lettuce' print by local Australian artist Angela Hayson. I met Angela through a friend and instantly loved her — she and her partner Jim are both creative, constantly learning and developing their practices and incredibly inspiring. When Angela invited me over to her house / home studio, I fell in love with this print. But I was 18 or 19 and absolutely sure there was no way I could afford it. I kept looking at it online though, and saving my pennies, and four years later I bought it. I continue to love it to this day and it feels doubly special as Angela sold me print 7 of 15 — my favourite number. And this is currently one of my favourite pieces! It's from James Lane and has no other story or sentiment around it other than it swivels and it's incredibly comfortable to sit or curl up in. And I love how it looks.
11 | Your home style feels like an extension of the business and the work you create. Between the many facets of your work, do you pursue or engage in anything creatively for yourself? What practices or processes do you indulge in that feed your soul, and are just for you?
I have to work really had at this. I find it incredibly difficult to allow anything to be pure hobby; I get really excited by activities that feel fresh and new and make the mistake of weaving it into work. I suppose there will always be some overlap. Having said that, I would call yoga a practice that I keep up just for me. And hand-building ceramics has been something that I've been exploring for myself as a hobby. I love cooking and entertaining so whiling away the hours to a good soundtrack and a glass of red wine always feeds my soul too; especially when it's a meal that will be shared with loved ones.
12 | What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their creative pursuit?
Don't be intimidated by not knowing everything; learn as you go. I learnt so much along the way and found the people were really willing to be generous with their insights when they could see I was putting the hard work in. I'm a firm believer that momentum requires movement so staying in the ideation / planning phase for too long can be a a mistake.
And I'd say don't take the creative too seriously; the more experimental and adaptive you can be the better. I've created my best work in periods where I didn't become fixated on this being a job and allowed myself to follow my curiosity. Ironically, they've also been some of my best financial periods.
Oh and pay your taxes; if there is anything I learnt during lockdown with business support, it is pay your taxes diligently. I couldn't stop thinking how grateful I was that I had paid my taxes and sorted my financials when business support grants came through and I was able to navigate it all easily. (I'm sure lots of businesses do this - but it was a real pain point for me for a long time!)
Where can you find Lauren?
Website | theblacklinebottega.com or laurenehung.com
Instagram | Stationery & Creative @theblacklinebottega ,
Graphic Design @lauren.e.hung and Personal @lauren_theblackline
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