Yolanda Zarins moved home to Hobart after finishing her textile design course at RMIT in 2012. Although she loved living in Melbourne, Tasmania is her home, and she took a creative 'gap year' to process what she had learnt, and slowly develop her own style. She started to play – with natural dye, free placement printing and the surrounding wildlife she adores. And slowly her trademarks became evident: indigo blues, grey and charcoal, hand printed on natural base cloths in a hand intensive process that bears all of its maker's marks.
When I contacted her recently for the MAKER UPDATE post recently (to celebrate two years of Threadbound) she sent these photographs of her in her studio. Taken by Natalie Mendham, they offer such an honest and informative glimpse into Yolanda's world, and her work, so I had to share them! I took five with Yolanda recently, and this is what she had to say about how her work and community has developed since she launched her business two years ago.
It has been a couple of years since we first spoke. How has your design process refined since then? Can you tell me a bit about the steps you follow when creating new work?
The biggest difference between my design process now compared to a few years ago is how transitioning into running my studio as a business has changed my way of working and making design decisions. When I started, there there was endless amounts of time for play and I was quite frivolous with my resources as I was working a full time job. I had no real concerns about the viability of what I was making. This experimenting was so necessary in developing a style and finding my voice in the textile industry, but I am really enjoying having a much more refined process style and direction these days. It has allowed me to be more thoughtful and make work that is aligned closely with my brand and values.
Making new work is slow and ever evolving, but that is the way I like it! The best part of working in a creative business so far has been the realisation that I can set any rules in order to make the process and workload suit me. Because of this, I work really carefully and take my time on designs in the aim of making signature prints that are not trend based. In winter, I produced a collection which was in line with seasonal release dates, but don't intend to do this every season. At the moment, I feel it suits the business and personality of the studio to release small batch, limited edition runs of fabrics and continue launching new prints throughout the year. This approach is much more reflective of the process that takes place in the studio, which all develops organically and by hand, from hand-inked print designs inspired by local plant life, to the actual hand print and dye production of the linens.
You seem to have been developing a strong style. Is this something that you think you will continue to deepen? And what other areas would you like to explore?
I'm really happy that the textiles are starting to work together as a collection and be recognisable. The small batch, hand printed and dyed textiles have had such a positive response, which is great for me as they are my favourite textile to produce! I really had no idea that there was going to be a demand for hand crafted textiles when I started, so I am quite lucky to have found a little spot to stand in such a giant market.
The process of printing and dyeing fabrics is time consuming, so there is always a lot of time to daydream and come up with new ideas. This year, one of my aims was to start selling more of the textiles as yardage to trade customers. Just last week, Style Revolutionary, a boutique, Australian wholesale distributor of globally sourced handcrafted textiles started representing my textiles to interior designers, decorators, stylists and home wares retailers. This has given me a new found focus and motivation to design for these customers, and think about what textiles I can add to the collection to benefit their projects. To start with, I am interested in investigating further into how I can work my hand crafted process into developing some upholstery weight linens, and also push the boundaries of my technique in early 2017 to create something a little more complex and extra special.
Tell me a little about your studio and how you spend your time in it.
Every one who comes into our studio always reminds us how lucky we are to have it! The space is light and bright with huge giant bay windows located in Salamanca Place, characterised by historic sandstone buildings that originally made up the Hobart waterfront. Salamanca is now home to Salamanca Arts Centre, which is full of art collectives, boutique designer shops, cafes and artist studios (including ours!).
Our studio is surrounded by a floor of other artists, designers and makers who are very generous with chocolate, teas and sharing what they have been tinkering away on. It really is a fantastic little community to be part of!
I share my workspace with two other creative business owners; photographer, Cassie Sullivan, and jeweller, Emily Arlotte. I love working with both of these women. They are so creative, supportive and driven to succeed and motivate me to do the same. Plus, it is important to have studio buddies who are into listening to music of all sorts and willing to get into coffees with me at all hours!
My days in the studio are divided up into different kinds of days. At the start of the week, I usually try and get all my computer and admin work out of the way, although there is usually little bits and pieces that need to be done every morning. This frees up a couple of days a week that are dedicated to printing, filling orders and creating stock for markets.
And the fabrics and drawings we can see in these shots - can you tell me a little more about how they came to be, and what you are trying to achieve with your work?
When Natalie came and visited me in the studio to shoot for her personal project, The Tasmanians, I was working on getting my yardage range together ahead my first interiors trade show, Decor and Design (2016). The photos show some of the existing print collection in refreshed colour ways, and an ink painting which became the 'Augusta' print in the collection.
I spend quite a bit of time when I'm out and about looking at plant life and the landscape, and feel really at home camping and being in wilder places. The thing I can appreciate most about Tasmanian forests and bushland are the details that make each region so unique; tiny alpine plants on Mount Wellington, towering leatherwood trees blooming with thousands of white flowers in the west, and the tones of earth, grasses and moss which give every landscape a unique character via colour code.
These characteristics of Tasmanian locations stay in my mind, and it is the most joyful experience to be taken back to that space through designing and making work that have a direct connection to these incredible environments. I have always really wanted to contribute something that kindles romance, appreciation and love for the island we live on.
When working at markets and talking about what I do with friends, I get into a lot of conversations about bushwalking, plants they have come across, and environmental concerns; particularly the ongoing threats of logging that encircle the pristine forests of Tasmania. Making something that can convey my passion for place and open up a conversation with others to talk freely about their appreciation and concerns has been an unexpected part of what I do, but definitely the most rewarding.
And what has been the best part about moving home to Hobart to start your business? Can you share a little about your community, and how your life and work fit into it?
It is interesting to watch what makers and designers get up to in Hobart. There seems to be very little trend-based work being produced, with a much more raw aesthetic emerging from small studios which focus on material, craftsmanship and the environment. I think these characteristics are more prominent here because we are isolated from what is happening in other Australian cities, and also because getting materials and products made outside of Tasmania is expensive!
Nevertheless, being resourceful and working with fewer outside influences is making for a very unique aesthetic in Hobart across all kinds of industries, not just design. This has been the best part of moving here to start a creative business. Sharing these similarities and values makes it really easy to connect with and understand what people are doing outside of my discipline. Even though it is a very small place and there are only a handful of textile designers, my creative circle feels a lot larger and more diverse because everyone seems to share a lot of similar values and challenges working in Hobart
Earlier this year, I was involved in the first 'Creative Table' event, which was a day of Hobart designers, makers and producers contributing Tasmanian food, drinks, table ware and decor to put on a fun afternoon of eating and sharing. Being able to get together like this with other local business owners who are working small and slow is so encouraging. Even though I work alone most of the time, it certainly feels as though I am part of a collective in Hobart which is working towards developing creative outputs that encourage community and sustainability.
All photos by Natalie Mendham