AN INTERVIEW WITH FOUNDER STEWART RUSSELL
1 ) The studio works across a staggering range of creative disciplines, are there constants, or is your creative journey rigorously open ended?
SR : It sometimes feels that way, but actually our commitment to creating and communicating high quality contemporary art has been a constant since day one. Also collaboration, we’ve built our design practice around collaboration with artists, architects & designers. The more I think, there are lots of repeating themes; our base in Melbourne informs all our work, our design processes demand experimentation and risk, research underpins all the ideas… oh, and the three 8m printing tables in the middle of the studio kind of impose a technical bias towards screen printing!
2 ) My next question was “do you have any preferred creative disciplines”, I think you might answer screen printing ?
SR : I’m not sure we would rate any creative discipline over another. We understand screen printing intimately, but collectively we are inquisitive and, in a healthy way, competitive so we do enjoy a challenge. We’ve been involved in some special projects which added valuable experience and expertise in a couple of areas, particularly the delivery of artwork plans for commercial architecture projects and hotels and working with artists to realise new work projects. In those two specialisms we’ve had the good fortune to be able to gather significant knowledge and technical expertise.
3 ) Are there any foundation points or ‘rules’ that drive studio practice ?
SR : I think so, we aspire to create artwork projects that connect the making, or production values, to the conceptual thinking. In a design context, we consider finding the solution to be our priority, for us that’s more important than working in any particular style. So we have an expectation that each project will exist as an original artwork, or unique design interpretation, which in turn leads us to embrace unexpected juxtapositions and explains our reluctance to attribute any hierarchy to materials or techniques. We don’t have rules for everything, but our key rules have consequences. Good consequences.
4 ) I’m always aware of a positive energy in the studio and in the store, there’s a playfulness, a sense of humour present.
SR : that’s very pleasing to hear ! The studio has become a very special team of artists, designers and makers. All our conceptual thinking and our research is discussed openly and we never forget the value of the skills and experiences each member brings to a project and we actively acknowledge individual involvement in shaping outcomes. This current staff team informs the future of the studio. The store front, website and social media are the creative interface, connecting the studio practice and our collaborators, makers, audiences, clients and visitors – creative output from the studio can be witnessed, enjoyed and engaged with.
5 ) Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of spending time at the studio retreat on the Mornington Peninsula. It has become a special part of the world for me, always a very restorative experience. How does Merricks inform the culture of the studio ?
SR : I think it balances our inner city Collingwood scales. I was brought up in rural environment, landscape and the natural world has always been home, or homebase. Donna found, developed and now manages the property and the house, it’s become a contemplative space for the studio, a buffer from our everyday. Somewhere to solve problems. It can also be a place where we find inspiration from a natural order.