Nailed It

Nailed It: Q & A Style Interview With Sarah Kalidis From Studio Onethirty

Nailed It. Creative business success story

Here at Digital Fabrics we love finding a new and interesting success story on a brand or business that is inspiring to the creative community. We thought it would be useful and informative to find out how these creative businesses nailed it, lessons learned on the way and tips they might have. We have asked them to share important “How to’s” and growth hacking tips for start-ups and emerging designers. Read it, get motivated and nail it yourself!

Today we are talking to Sarah Kalidis, the artist and designer behind Textile label and self-named bricks and mortar shop: Studio Onethirty. We will be chatting to her about how and why she began, what challenges she faces and what she sees for the future of her growing brand.

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Studio_one_thirty_nailed_it_10Tell us about your creative business, what do you create, how did it begin and where did the name for the brand come from?

Hello I am a textile designer, furniture designer and artist. The business began while I was taking time off as a new mum; I started drawing and painting in my down time. After trying to source fabric for homewares pieces, I found there was a lack in the market for something bold and playful, and at that moment I decided that I would create something myself. Thus began the transition from drawings to textile pattern.  The name ‘Studio Onethirty’ is where my studio first began; my home address number of 130. It would be a reminder of a humble beginning, and those few precious years being a new mum and juggling a new venture.

You began your career in interior design, what led you to start your own business and if you could go back and tell yourself anything what would it be.

After becoming a mum and taking time off, it gave me plenty of thinking and reflection time. I decided I wanted to forge my own path rather than help some someone else achieve their dream. Having my own business would give me flexibility of choosing my own adventure. It hasn’t been easy, as working solo from the beginning meant that all responsibilities were mine, and working on designs, prototypes, sampling; meant plenty of back and forth while carrying an infant around.

If I could go back and tell myself something, it would be not to stress the small stuff; things may seem difficult and every day you may feel like you are pushing up a very steep hill, but keep looking forward and try to remember the reasons why you took this path. The pure joy and satisfaction of creating your own collection is far worth it.

What did you learn through the interior design industry that has helped you with building your own brand and what skills are transferable?

Being an interior designer has definitely helped with conceptual development of the range, and I give myself a brief and manage all aspects of the product from initial sketch through to assembly. I not only see each piece aesthetically, but it is important that there is a relationship between form and function. Certainly the skills of being able to visualise a product from conceptual stage has helped. I have a vision right at the beginning of how the piece should look, and having the material knowledge allows me to liaise with different local artisans and collaborate on the manufacture process.

Studio_one_thirty_nailed_it_4You opened a bricks and mortar shop earlier in the year, a designer’s dream some would say. What were the biggest challenges in doing this and what led you to make the bold move.

Yes it is a dream move most certainly! And having only started the business a little over a year before, it was a very quick progression. However a store came up in my local area, in a lovely boutique little shopping strip, and it was a blank canvas. I thought what an amazing opportunity to provide locals with something unique and inspiring, and bring something different to the area. The space is my retail flagship store, and it also houses my art studio upstairs. I love that I can create pieces entirely onsite, and customers can visit to experience the whole design process.

Studio_one_thirty_nailed_it_9What do you love most about what you do, what does a typical day in the shop look like and do you ever miss elements your old job?

The thing I enjoy most is being able to design and create each piece myself. It is a real sense of pride to be able to introduce people to the collection and explain that the art, textiles, homewares & furniture are my very own designs. And they are proudly made in Sydney! A typical day in the store during opening hours, is working in-store serving customers, along with tending to emails, orders & social media. And if there is some quiet time I can work on some new concepts and art pieces. I do miss my old job where I worked with some fabulous people and clients, however having the opportunity to be creative in a completely hands-on way is a really lovely new direction.

What would your advice be to someone dreaming about opening a shop or creative space? Have you faced anything you didn’t foresee as a challenge?

Making the decision to open up a creative space is one that takes a lot of consideration. You need to have a clear goal of what you are setting out to achieve, and know the risks at hand. The retail market is not an easy during this economic climate, so you need to offer your customers a unique experience and a level of service that would make them want to return. The challenge I faced right at the beginning was educating the local community on the store concept. The site had been a beauty salon for over 15years, and not expecting a creative space in an area such as this; it took a little while for people to realise what Studio Onethirty was all about.

Studio_one_thirty_nailed_it_8As well as having a real life shop you also do the independent design markets, what do you think the main benefit of these are to Studio one thirty and what would your advice be to someone keen to showcase their brand at these events.

I love doing design markets! I feel that my products need to be experienced first-hand; and what better way to see a product than to touch and feel, and meet the artist themselves. My first ever launch to the public was at The Finders Keepers Market 2017 in Sydney, and over 3 days 20,000 people came through the doors! So the exposure my brand gained in the early days was incredible. Exhibiting at a design event is something I highly recommend when developing your brand. You will be exposed to a diverse range of customers, & gain feedback on your product that enables you to grown and adapt to the retail market.

What are your biggest inspirations and favourite materials to work with and is there a material or discipline you would like to work with in the future?

I love painting botanicals and native flora, and I do like to give my pieces a contemporary feel. It is all about colour and texture. I do enjoy working with linen as I love the organic feel of the fibre, and there is something about the way my designs translate to the cloth; it adds dimension to the artwork yet achieves a softness. I try to be eco conscious when developing the range, working with more recycled materials would be a great step.

How do you approach new work or designs, do you create for seasons or trends? In your experience is this valuable or do you prefer to follow your own path and see what comes naturally.

I prefer to follow my own path when designing pieces. My range is quite unique, and so it is important for me to keep inspired by external influences other than trends. I do feel that my work is a reflection of the season; I am often inspired by the natural environment, and so many of my artworks include colours that I am surrounded by at the time of their conceptualisation. It is generally a natural progression while painting and drawing.

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Studio_one_thirty_nailed_it_1What do you see for the future of Studio One Thirty, do you have any projects in the pipeline you want to let us know about? 

I hope that my pieces can continue to bring a smile :) and one day I would love to see my upholstery fabrics in an amazing hotel somewhere fabulous, like New York or Paris. Dreaming BIG I know!

What is the best piece of business advice anyone has ever given you and if you can pass on any words of wisdom what are they.

One of the best pieces of advice was that you should believe in yourself and have the confidence in your product, as it will evidently show in the quality of work you produce. Words of wisdom would be to find something creative that you really enjoy, even if it is just a small hobby, and make some ‘me’ time to really enjoy it.

Studio_one_thirty_nailed_it_6Thank you Sarah! We loved having you as part of our Nailed It series.

You can follow what Studio Onethirty is upto: Website, Instagram

Nailed It: Q & A Style Interview With Megan Mckean From Mckean Studio

Nailed It. Creative business success story

Here at Digital Fabrics we love finding a new and interesting success story on a brand or business that is inspiring to the creative community. We thought it would be useful and informative to find out how these creative businesses nailed it, lessons learned on the way and tips they might have. We have asked them to share important “How to’s” and growth hacking tips for start-ups and emerging designers. Read it, get motivated and nail it yourself!

First up in this new series is Megan Mckean from Mckean Studio, an inspiring design label based in Sydney who create colourful, fun travel keepsakes with a modern twist.

nailed_it_megan_mckean_studioTell us about your creative business, what’s it all about and how did it begin?

McKean Studio is a design label with a focus on contemporary souvenirs. We’ve been running our business for almost 4 years now, and it came about after working on some passion projects to soothe the post-travel blues! Inspired by our time spent holidaying around the world, our pieces are a modern take on travel keepsakes.

Do you work on Mckean Studio full time now?

I work full time in McKean Studio, and am coming up on my 1 year anniversary of full time self employment! It’s been a rocky road for retail in the past year, but an interesting challenge in diversifying my skill set and exploring other avenues that I might not have otherwise considered. It’s been really great to have the time to focus more on what I’m passionate about, and try out so many different projects.

If so, how long did it take you to get to that place and what advice do you have on career transitioning for creatives hoping to do the same. 

I’ve been really fortunate with the timing of all my transitions, and each stage of change in the business has come about quite organically. I was working part time on McKean Studio and part time in a retail role for several years after studying, and this was perfect as it allowed me to create for McKean Studio without huge overheads or financial commitments (and still bringing in enough income to pay my rent each week). Having the flexibility of a casual position alongside the business also allowed for travel, which has been really vital for both my inspiration and product development. I think everyone finds the groove that works best for them, and there’s certainly no shame in having a ‘day job’ or part time role if it facilitates the creative work you want to be doing.

nailed_it_megan_mckean_studioWhat goals do you think are important to achieve before you can make that leap?

For me, making the decision to go full time in my business was mostly influenced by time; I was down to just one day per week in my previous role, and finding that I still wasn’t able to fit everything I needed to into my week. I had a couple of years of business data to look over and ensure that it was going to be sustainable, so eventually just had to bite the bullet and make the jump!

With your experience in mind, would you recommend to jump full steam ahead into a business giving it your full energy, with big intentions right away or would you suggest doing it slowly and giving the business time to grow before making the leap? 

I think if the opportunity is there to grow the business slowly and steadily, then I tend to lean more towards ‘cautious optimism’ and continue on that path. But at the same time, you can’t leap a chasm in two jumps, so it comes to a point where you’ve just got to make a decision. I always told myself that if the worst happened and I wasn’t able to sustain the business, then I’m still totally employable and can go and work elsewhere!

nailed_it_megan_mckean_studioManufacturing is a complicated process, there are so many angles to consider. Do you have any disaster stories? If so, what did you learn from that experience?

There are no major disaster stories, but plenty of ‘face-palm’ moments and frustrations at not always being able to achieve the end result I had in mind. I’ve worked with such a wide range of materials and manufacturing processes, between handmaking myself, local production, and offshore production, and have learned that sometimes trial and error is the only way to figure out what’s best! I’ve had some annoying communication errors with international suppliers that have meant the quality of a product isn’t where it needs to be (even just simple things like a print resolution not being high enough for the product) and other projects locally that I’ve sunk a LOT of money into but haven’t been able to find an affordable solution for the final production. I’m still working on that one! 😉

What is your advice on working with manufacturers for those who are just at the beginning of their journey?

Local is best wherever possible, there’s nothing better than being able to problem solve in person, or communicate directly with a business who knows exactly what the problem you’re having is, and how to solve it. I would always say it’s better to start small and closer to home, until you’ve got a better understanding of the processes and the outcomes to scale up from there.

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nailed_it_megan_mckean_studioYou do a lot of the trade shows and big markets such as Finders Keepers and the Big Design Market. What are the biggest benefits other than sales that you think come from attending them as a brand?

We don’t do any trade shows, only a couple of the big markets each year, and it’s such a great chance to get to spend time with our customers and chat directly with them. We get invaluable feedback from this face to face contact (even just on colour choices, or product suggestions) and it’s always lovely to chat with our audience and trade travel stories!

If you were to start your creative journey all over again, would you begin differently and what avenue you would take to accelerate your venture, if any?
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had my creative journey run quite smoothly, so the only thing I would change if I could go back in time would be to tell myself to chill out a little bit! I’m a big worry wart when it comes to future planning, and wish I could have been a little more relaxed about trusting the timing. So many great projects I’ve been able to work on have popped up out of nowhere, and there’s no amount of planning I could have done to have made them happen. Even the books, which are such an important part of my career now, I had no plans to pursue at the time I was approached by my publisher. It was a wonderful, serendipitous meeting and something that I was able to find a new passion for and work into our range perfectly.

nailed_it_megan_mckean_studioWe saw that you have been nominated for small publishers Children’s Book of the Year, which is pretty impressive! Do you have any exciting projects coming up that you can tell us about? 

I’m so delighted to have long listed for an Australian Book Industry Award, and I’m still pinching myself! Working on the books the last 2 years has been such a different way of working and a great brain stretch… so keep an eye out for something new in that category later in the year!

You have travelled the globe soaking up souvenir inspiration, where is on your list for the future and could you ever see yourself living somewhere other than Australia? 

I am always dreaming of living overseas, and we’ve been so fortunate to spend time in some beautiful cities all around the world. I’d love to live in New York one day, or retire early in Palm Springs (or live bi-coastally between the two!). We also often talk about moving to Sweden, so you just never know! We love Sydney for now though. We’ve got some other travel coming up this year to Japan, but after that we’ll see where the wind blows us!

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nailed_it_megan_mckean_studioTell us something people might not know about Mckean Studio.

I think something that people don’t always know about McKean Studio is that everything is made/designed by just the two of us! I do all of the illustration work, and handle all of the production down to packing and sending out every order. People often think we’re a much bigger operation than we are, and I always chuckle when we get work experience and internship requests (as flattering as they are!). Our Mini Cities are entirely handmade and hand painted here in Sydney, and all of the new pieces are connected and work-shopped for quite a long time before they’re produced.

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You can follow what Mckean Studio is upto: Website, Instagram, Facebook.

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