Inspired by Australian wildlife and her NSW natural surroundings, Pixie Nut & Co is an illustration-based label to get excited about this season. Bouncing between ideas on how to make a creative life out of her illustrations, Phillipa finally landed on her fashion & accessories label and hasn’t looked back. In the lead-up to preparing for her Brisbane market showcase, and from her off-the-grid home in Nimbin, we chatted to this mindful maker on all things Pixie Nut & Co
Tell us a little about Pixie Nut & Co and how your creative journey began. When did you know you were ready to turn Pixie Nut & Co. into a business?
I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator, which motivated me to have a regular creative practice, but I didn’t really know how to get into the industry with such little experience. I then had the idea for Pixie Nut & Co. as a stationery business with a focus on cards but was open to the idea of it becoming something else. I feel like there’s a lot of emphasis on the idea that most businesses fail in the first 3 years, but working on Pixie Nut & Co became everything to me and I didn’t really have much doubt that it would be successful because I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, it just felt like the perfect career for me. It took a while to make things work and learn about all the ins and outs of running a business (still learning about that!), but today, I’m just so thrilled to be self employed and that I can design and illustrate for a living.
We love the sound of your off-grid studio in the hills of Nimbin, NSW! How does this space inspire you and what are the challenges involved running a business off the grid? Has it allowed you to bring more sustainable practises into your life?
I’ve just moved into a little studio space in town as our house is undergoing renovations. I’d love to eventually build a separate space there for a studio, our house is built much like a one room tiny home and it’s been hard to separate work from home life. Our community is in a sub-tropical valley that’s filled with king parrots, crimson rosellas, cockatoos, goannas, carpet pythons, pademelons (wallabies) and a plethora of very itchy bugs! It’s so peaceful and otherworldly, it’s a hub of creative and environmentally minded folk living in hand-built homes.
Living off grid has made me more aware of the environment as you’re living right in it and exclusively relying on your surroundings for your basic needs. It’s an integral part of every day life to think about water, electricity and rubbish. It’s sometimes challenging with power, although our house has a fairly good solar system, when I found out I could use a low-watt iron whilst the sun was out it was an exciting revelation! But in previous houses here the power was a big issue and I couldn’t sew or charge my laptop on a cloudy day. We don’t have a rubbish collection so you gotta load your car and drive your trash to the tip. I organise everything into; cardboard/paper, compost, hard plastics, soft plastics, fire starting (small paper bits) and then rubbish. It becomes very personal when you’re not just putting bins out on the kerb once a week.
The Pixie Nut & Co. range is wonderfully diverse, how does your artistic approach differ between products and what do you love making the most?
I paint my earring designs with gouache using very fine and specific detail, it can be quite restrictive and difficult to get right and I need to think about how the shapes will work hanging from an ear and connected with jump rings etc. Pattern design that I use for fabrics and scarves is where I get to be more experimental and playful! I’ve recently been working with new mediums such as crayons, copics and coloured pencils. With pattern design there is a lot of freedom, as long as you can find a way to make the pattern repeat, there’s no real limitations.
Where do you draw your inspiration from and what artists inspire you?
I get inspiration from Australian wildlife and flowers, mostly from road trips I’ve been on or where I live, I always take heaps of photos on my adventures so I can reflect back on them later. There’s a specific flower I saw on my recent trip to the Mid West WA called the twining fringed lilly and I was instantly inspired to create a fabric print from it! I love the colours of the outback; red dirt, purple shadows and the general warm earthy tones. I also go to galleries when I’m in a city, my partner and I make regular trips up to Brisbane to go to Queensland Art Gallery and GOMA, they’re such amazing galleries!
Other inspiration comes from children’s clothing and illustration and naive style art, also, I’m currently loving Australian landscape artists such as Fred Williams, Elizabeth Cummings, Wendy McDonald and Luke Sciberras.
We’ve loved watching Pixie Nut & Co flourish since debuting at Finders Keepers in 2017! Can you tell us how your business has grown since that first market and what visitors can expect at the upcoming Brisbane Finders Keepers?
I’m now am lucky enough to be able to work on Pixie Nut & Co. full time! Initially Pixie Nut & Co. was focused on stationery but now it’s evolved into more of a jewellery and textile design label. It’s also been really fun to get back into clothing design too, as I studied that for two years when I left school, it’s been nice to revive those old skills.
I’ll be releasing a new earrings featuring a trio of everlastings, several new scarf and fabric designs and a small collection of handmade clothing.