There are some stylists who have a distinct style that’s uniquely their own, a look all of their own that one can spot a mile away. Stylists like New Zealand’s own Katie Lockhart (interviewed here) and Australia’s Sibella Court, whose immediately recognisable aesthetic, one artfully pared back and refreshingly simple, the other, dense layers rich with historical and collectable elements, creating character and depth. This ability to leave the mark of your own personality on your work as a stylist, is a quality I admire and strive for in my own work. So too is the ability to adapt to each individual client, gliding effortlessly from one persona to another, in order to tell different stories in a visual capacity, depending on the needs and demands of each client. This skill is evident in the varied work of New Zealand stylist, Anna Church, whose broad portfolio includes art direction for New Zealand household design houses Trelise Cooper Interiors and Citta Design, and editorial shoots for a host of New Zealand magazines including Your Home & Garden and NZ House & Garden.
What sets Anna apart from many, however, is her innate talent for ”art of aesthetic arrangement”, as she aptly refers to her profession, which elevates styling to the next level: art. In Anna’s first art series, For NZ Sake, the highly collectable Kiwi Crown Lynn crockery is artfully arranged to form the native Maori symbol, the Tiki, representing our two merging cultures. With Anna’s newest series At Your Service, English tea sets and aged fabrics are arranged to create ‘service medals’; both a witty play on words and tribute to a bygone era in our society of high teas and returned servicemen. A huge thank you to Anna for sharing her thoughts and insights with such candour and generosity!
Tell us a bit about your background. How did your journey lead you to become an interior designer and stylist? After returning from London (where I’d lived and worked with horses for a couple of years) I went back to study at the National College of Design & Technology in Christchurch. With a diploma in Graphic Design and Multimedia in hand, I then moved up to Auckland and found myself working for a well known home textiles brand, Linens & More, for many years. My role was to develop the creative direction for the company. I did everything, from packaging design to advertising campaigns, from styling to developing a theme for their seasonal catalogues and showroom. That was where I discovered my passion for styling. I loved that it took me away from creating on a computer screen to a more tactile, hands on approach. It also fueled my fetish for endless titivating and arranging, as well as my love of sourcing novel, interesting and beautiful things! I had stumbled upon my perfect role.
Your collaboration with photographer Kevin Emirali to source homes and produce production imagery for interior magazines is a fantastically proactive way to secure work. Can you tell us a little more about how this process works? Do you provide magazines with the whole package by writing the copy for these editorials as well? Which magazines have taken on your work using this method? Yes, Kevin and I really enjoy connecting with lovely people and spending a day in their beautiful homes photographing and titivating them to be camera-ready. It’s like playing for the day really and the homeowners seem to love it when I find and move their bits and pieces around (some of which may not have obviously been out on display or used or positioned in that way before) because it often gives some of their things a new lease on life.
Citta Design‘s,New York Stories (top, l-r) and last summer’s Cuba range styled by Anna Church
Your series of still life art works, For NZ Sake, and your latest, At Your Service, are very clever concepts. Can you tell us a little about how the creative process unfolds when creating a concept for artworks like these? Gosh, how are these artworks dreamed up? Well this may sound flaky, but these ideas just pop into my head really and I run with them! But, sometimes it’s just half or three-quarters of an idea so my brain has to work overtime for the complete concept to form. I get there eventually (it may even take a year or two) and this makes the end part of the project so much fun as I finally get to go on a treasure hunt for the objects I need to create the works. Then the hands on, creating side of the vision pours out and, hey presto, a gravy boat, a Crown Lynn vase or an iconic Jackie Howe singlet is formed into something else like a Tiki, a medal or a Map of New Zealand.
Do you photograph the still life pieces or do you enlist a professional? Kevin Emirali photographs each series for me. I am very lucky I can call upon his genius to capture my ideas!
What are your top three styling tips? Styling is very instinctive for me so I find it a little hard to answer to this question. First tip I guess would be to always be on the look out! If you have the urge, just start gathering bits and pieces of interest to you – random is always best. You may not have a place for them then and there, but a place can always be found. Experiment with clustering different types of objects and put furniture in new places and see where its leads you. Don’t be afraid to titivate until it feels right. Use different heights, comical or unusual objects used in a different way is always fun. Stand back and scan a room, there are often treasures to be found gathering dust at the back of a shelf for sure! And nothing can beat adding a posy of flowers or foliage to any arrangement. I actually like it when flowers are past their best and start wilting and browning off – they start take on a whole new look again.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve received concerning your career? I don’t think anyone has given me advice career-wise, other than saying “Go for it”, what ever it may be! But the advice I give to myself is that if an idea tickles, and nags, and refuses to go away don’t ignore it. Give it room to breathe and let it grow. I believe that within the exploration of any idea there is the possibility for it to become a tangible reality. Go with what your passion is; it seems there’s a career waiting in the wings for any path you can dream up these days!
What advice would you give to a stylist starting out in the design world? Don’t be afraid to lots of work experience, even if it’s unpaid. This is the best way to make contacts, prove your worth and gain credibility.
What would be your ultimate creative dream project or collaboration? An ultimate dream styling project would be to work on an Anthropologie catalogue. But I must say I have been lucky enough to have collaborated on some dream projects already in my career. Working alongside Trelise Copper on her interior fabrics range is one. Drool…I love her fabric choice. I also really love working on the Citta Design catalogues. I can fully immerse myself in styling heaven for two solid weeks of the year.
Who in the creative world do you most admire and why? Artist Michael Parekowhai, because his work is so broad and accesses a range of media that intersects sculpture and photography, interior designer and stylist Katie Lockhart because I love her individual, quirky style, interior stylist Sibella Court, who has introduced the world to fantastical styling, and Trelise Cooper, a woman with a clear vision with an astute business sense, but also with the ability to listen, collaborate and work alongside other visionaries.
What’s the most recent design or art piece you’ve purchased or been given? I have some wonderful friends who are talented artists and the walls in our house are covered with their pieces. I have a couple of original works by Nikki Apse, many Penny Stotter prints, and my most recent acquisition (which my husband and I bought for our forth wedding anniversary) is an Emma Wright piece for above our bed. The painting is called Passage Through. It is mixed media on board, finished with furniture resin and is based on the idea that two people in a relationship, while independent from each other, journey though life together. As well as being independent, the two reach out and connect adding to the beauty of life and the world around them. The quatrefoil shape denotes the four aspects of humanity – mental, emotional, spiritual and physical – and so is a reminder that when in a relationship those four things need to be honoured for life to really hum. Each friend/artist’s work is quite different so it makes our collection rather diverse. I love that but most of all I love that they are by people who mean the world to me.
What’s your favorite Sunday ritual? We have started a family ritual of making home made pizzas. My mum comes over and helps bath and read stories to the kids (she has just recently moved to Waiheke Island) and Nick, my husband, creates these amazing pizzas from scratch, dough and all! They are divine! The goal is that in future each family member, including Molly (currently 2 1/2) and Thomas (7 months) will be able to create their own as a Sunday tradition.
What are you most looking forward to in 2012? Professionally, I would like to work towards creating a new series of prints as there are a few ideas swimming around in my head; I just need to catch one! Personally, I am loving watching and observing my little ones grow, and how they create and interact with the world around them. It’s quite magical to watch and I find myself learning from their ‘living in the moment attitude’. It’s wonderful to be a part of and I wouldn’t swap it for anything!
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