a little bit of brand self-reflection

Our family home was featured in Frankie Spaces Magazine with images by the delightful Hilary Walker. This is an out-take from the photo session and shows one of my inspiration walls at the time of the shoot. I love making these paste-ups in response to the work that I am doing for a client at any one time.

Our family home was featured in Frankie Spaces Magazine with images by the delightful Hilary Walker. This is an out-take from the photo session and shows one of my inspiration walls at the time of the shoot. I love making these paste-ups in response to the work that I am doing for a client at any one time.

As part of an extensive interview by Mia Timpano for the latest Frankie Spaces Magazine I was asked what my business is about and why I do what I do. When she asked me I just waffled on and somehow she managed to whittle it down to a succinct quote and slot it into the copy.  Long live the blessed writers on this otherwise jumbled planet!
But it did get me thinking afterwards about how I needed to suss out my elevator pitch for Heartland Projects - summarise what it is that I do in the proverbial 250 words or less. Most of my clients find me organically - through word-of-mouth or my wider networks. So I haven't ever really needed to do the hard sell. I don't even have a business card - yikes. But a little bit of brand self-reflection can't harm anyone - especially me - as that is what I am supposedly good at! 

I come across so many people who have real talent and amazing brands/ideas but they may not always be communicating them in a strong, visual way - whether through lack of the right skills, not much awareness or they may just be time poor. These people are my potential clients. 

With my visual skills, small business experience, web-savvy and training as a journalist, Heartland Projects is the sum of my disparate parts. It allows me to dig deep and apply my varied and extensive experience to help all sorts of folks in establishing or rebranding their businesses. Taking something that is latent in a brand, lying just beneath the surface and then allowing it to flourish and shine is just the ultimate buzz in my opinion! By spending time with and observing my clients in their work spaces, I can identify their aims, capture the incidentals of their everyday rhythm, simplify their message and articulate their brand into evocative visual stories.  

Working with interesting and creative people whose work is authentic, compelling and meaningful is very satisfying for me. The ongoing relationships that then stem from this work allow me to cherish my working life . For some wonderful testimonials from my clients - see here.  

And if you haven't yet seen a copy of the latest Spaces magazine - go get your mitts on one. As far as interiors magazines go, this one has a real advantage over most of the other publications on the news-stand. The homes/studios featured have evolved over time by people who are thrifty, creative and resourceful rather than fashion-followers and consumerists. I would not usually open the front door of my family's private space for a magazine team but was happy to be involved in something that celebrates the home-grown aesthetic! And of course working with the team at Frankie was a pleasure.

Em x

PS - So on reflection I have decided to get moving with the times and print out some business cards. And I think as a result of my musings for this blog post I am going to call myself Emma Byrnes -  Visual Articulator. Watch this space.

tea & sympathy

 A banner image from the new Tea & Sympathy website. Photograph by Emma Byrnes.

 A banner image from the new Tea & Sympathy website. Photograph by Emma Byrnes.

Earlier this year Anna from Sweet Polka approached me to work alongside her on the online rebranding of local tea artisan Tea & Sympathy. Anna would be responsible for the overall art direction of the project plus the word-smithing and I would generate the photographic imagery, design the look-and-feel of the new website and then rebuild the whole thing in Shopify.
Tea & Sympathy stocks a limited, hand-picked range of premium leaf teas - from classic blends, to many interesting bespoke Chinese and Taiwanese teas not otherwise available in Australia. Angelina Yannuccelli who founded the brand sees the range as an extension of her own personal tea odyssey and immersion in tea culture.
I first met Angelina when she established the brand back in 2012 so I was aware of the knowledge and passion she applies to her business and the calibre of the range she offers. When I visited her old web site I realised that it did not reflect the authority and perspective that she had garnered over the past five years in the tea business. The site was full of great information but it was cluttered and disparate, having been added to in a piecemeal way over time.

A banner image from the new Tea & Sympathy website. Photograph by Emma Byrnes.

A banner image from the new Tea & Sympathy website. Photograph by Emma Byrnes.

 We decided to simplify the user experience and elevate the imagery to a standard that matched the quality of the tea for sale. Anna and I spent an afternoon photographing images to create a general mood for the brand - we wanted the feeling to be tangible yet sophisticated to reinforce the brand's authority on teas whilst reflecting the personal touch that Angelina brings.
We would also streamline the way the individual product was presented by photographing the teas in ceramic bowls provided by local homewares wholesalers - Marmoset Found. I must say this was a very pleasurable experience - spending the day with Angelina and her encyclopaedic knowledge of her range, visually honing in on each tea as a separate entity and observing the colours, textures and smells. 

Chrysanthemum flower tea in beautiful ceramic bowls by Marmoset Found. Photograph by Emma Byrnes.

Chrysanthemum flower tea in beautiful ceramic bowls by Marmoset Found. Photograph by Emma Byrnes.

Once the imagery was finished I built the site and Anna edited the copy. And, as of last week, it is out in the world ready for the next stage of the brand's growth.
I wish Angelina all the best with Tea & Sympathy. Having worked with her I understand that the motivation behind her brand comes from a passion for excellent product and supporting artisan growers and small family farms in tea-making traditions that have been passed down over the centuries. Wonderful!

Em x

PS - If you are in the market for specialty tea my favourite whilst working with Tea & Sympathy was the Jasmine Pearls - just sublime. 

ten tree

Roof top garden design by Ten Tree Garden Makers. Photograph by Emma Byrnes

Roof top garden design by Ten Tree Garden Makers. Photograph by Emma Byrnes

A new client of mine is the talented "garden-maker" Samira Heale of Ten Tree Garden Makers . Her mission is to make painterly gardens in unexpected places and, if this rooftop garden she has executed in inner-city Melbourne is anything to go by, she is definitely hitting the mark. 

Samira has a breadth of experience as an artist, horticulturist, permaculturalist, and bush food expert. She works alongside her husband Sam Buckley who has a wonderful knack for executing beautifully resolved buildings and designs. Together the pair make magic!

Samira came to me as a self-confessed luddite. She has little interest in the cyber world but knows that in order to run a successful business these days an online presence is almost mandatory. Taking this into account we chose to present a simple, low-fuss and elegant portfolio of her most recent projects. Of course documenting the gardens was a lovely part of the job - losing ourselves in the little details that makes Samira's gardens extra special.
Over the coming months we plan to photograph more gardens to add to her already very special gallery of projects. And the duo have plans to design arbors and garden sculptures for sale through their web platform.
All of that is yet to come. But for now, go and have a little look at what we have made together.
Hopefully it will inspire you.

 Em x

miniature mayhem

Author Judith Rossell‘s intricate, self-made and realistic miniature share house comes complete with all of the detritus of a real share-house. Photograph by Emma Byrnes

Author Judith Rossell‘s intricate, self-made and realistic miniature share house comes complete with all of the detritus of a real share-house. Photograph by Emma Byrnes

I had the pleasure of meeting the talented and very fun bestselling children's author Judith Rossell. When she is not writing top-of-the-pops children's fiction she makes miniature houses from gleaned materials. The detail is fabulous and includes stacks of unwashed dishes, garbage bags ties up ready to be taken to the bin, community radio stickers on the fridge and half dead potplants. So good!!!
I took the photo to accompany an  article written by Peter Barrett (my husband) on the six most common share house dwellers and how to handle them - see article here.

vic market variety

Footy paraphernalia market trader, Graeme. Photograph by Emma Byrnes.

Footy paraphernalia market trader, Graeme. Photograph by Emma Byrnes.

This past year I have been enjoying working for the Queen Victoria Market as a photographer. They often employ me to document events or capture stallholders for various media needs - brochures, posters, social media and reports.

We are very lucky in Melbourne to have such a wonderful meeting place such as the Queen Victoria Market. It is truly a melting pot of different cultures and socio-economic groups - a vibrant venue where people can come together on equal footing. Meeting the people behind the stalls is the most rewarding part of working there - they are what make up the visual story of this cultural Melbourne icon. And what comes across when photographing them is their openness and sense of belonging. Often they have spent an entire lifetime selling their wares at the market, they may have inherited their business from their family or they may be just starting out in the hope of establishing themselves as permanent fixtures at this dynamic site. They all have stories to tell and more often than not are very happy to share them with you.

Footy paraphernalia market trader, Graeme (pictured above) started his stall 38 years ago as the first ever business in Victoria to sell AFL merchandise outside of the immediate vicinity of the grounds. With this deep-rooted history, it is not surprising that this little stall attracts many regulars who come back every year. He is as diplomatic as possible when it comes to showing bias towards a footy club, swathing himself in a hodgepodge of team strips. A very refreshing approach to footy fan-dom.

Em x

sticky chai

Photograph by Emma Byrnes

Photograph by Emma Byrnes

My dear friend Joanna Fowles and her equally talented partner in life and love, Jonas Allen, have their fingers in many creative pies. They are one of those collaborative couples that seem to conjure and manifest all sorts of wonderful ideas and initiatives for themselves and the world at large. One of Jonas' latest projects is The Organic Tea Project - an idea that has been brewing since Jonas was a young boy growing up in a small utopian town called Auroville near Pondicherry in Southern India.
Immersed in the tea culture from a young age, Jonas and his friend (and now business partner) Alok met when they were three years old. Well into their adolescent years the pair schooled together and continued to share tea experiences. In their words:

"It is in some ways natural that (our) mutual appreciation of tea should manifest in an interest in uncovering the secrets and the whereabouts of the finest brews to found The Organic Tea Project. Our mission is to bring back quality organic tea drinking. We feel something is lost in the appreciation of the tea process, the preparing of tea and drinking. We talk about great wines or great coffee, it's all about the purity of the soil and the environment that its grown in. Tea has exactly the same elements to consider. Taking a tea break allows you to slow down, contemplate and appreciate...a tea somehow helps to create the right pace to the day. The Organic Tea Project is about the ceremony and the details of what makes a quality tea. You could say our challenge is to bring back the tea break."

One of the things that I love most about this project is that it brings together two childhood friends who now live on opposite sides of the world - yet they are side-by-side again. They are working with each other in a professional business relationship whose actual research began in their boyhood. The business also involves a wider circle of folk that they both grew up with in Auroville. All of those pieces fitting back together give the brand and the company greater depth and power.
When visiting in Sydney a while back Jonas asked if I had some time to take photographs of the tea. We had a very small window open to us and I managed to take a couple of images that he now uses on his website. I traded my photography services for some generous packages of sticky chai - enough to last me for a good while. I must say that I was extremely satisfied with the swap. The sticky chai is the best I have tasted and the high quality of the ingredients does not go unnoticed. It elevates the chai experience to a sublime level and certainly encourages the ceremonious feeling that the company is seeking in their brand. Keep your eyes peeled for this wonderful tea experience.

Em x

a thousand faces of the feminine

One of Merilee Bennett's hand-painted, hand-stitched wisdom doll "goddesses". Photograph by Emma Byrnes 

One of Merilee Bennett's hand-painted, hand-stitched wisdom doll "goddesses". Photograph by Emma Byrnes 

Over the past couple of years I have had the pleasure of working with Merilee Bennett - artist / film-maker / writer / educator / workshop facilitator.
She is a woman of many talents and someone whose company I have come to cherish and love. She is generous, warm-hearted and has that rare ability to exist in the present moment. Much of Merilee's life and art has been an exploration of the archetypal realm and how we interact with that realm in our everyday lives. 

Over her career Merilee has moved seamlessly from painting to film to photography and has, for now, settled in the three dimensional realm of wisdom doll making. She hand-stitches, beads, adorns and paints textile figures inspired by myths and fairytales, paleolithic goddesses, dreams, the natural world and the occasional mystical revelation. Each of these figures, when cradled in one's palm, has a special energy and feeling - they seem to speak of Merilee's own personal journey and inner wisdom.

As she mentioned in a recent interview with Popcraft Studio:

"The Wisdom Dolls started with my menopause doll, to celebrate entering that particular rite of passage. From then I have been listening to their whispers, and following their inspiration...She is everywhere! In seed pods and flowers, and the wind! In the feeling of sun on my skin, or the night sky when the stars are out. In the feeling of my body moving, or the energy within me during meditation. There are ancient stories that speak to me, and ordinary fabulous women around me who embody the archetype of the feminine in so many different ways. It is the grandmothers, the old goddesses, the earth under my feet."

Merilee has an interest in the incredible power of stitching and meditation - of when these two elements are in unison. When speaking of a recent wisdom doll workshop that she hosted:

"The quality of conversation around the table, over the making, as they refined their ideas and we worked out together how they were to create what they envisaged, reminded me of the aeons of women of every culture, working together, sewing or cooking or problem solving or building relationships, building community. There was an element of that feeling as this group stitched and painted and constructed, all the while talking in that free wheeling, looping manner, where technical questions give way to moments of deep emotion and intimacy."

Merilee will present her textile sculptures at the monsalvat residents gallery from 18 january - 19 march. She will also facilitate an art making workshop where attendees will explore archetypes, life narratives and create their own talisman. Spending time with Merilee and her "goddesses" is a privilege and one that I would urge you to follow up during her time at montsalvat. If you get the chance to attend one of her workshops you will find that the time spent will be deeply enriching.

Em x