Creative Space: Phoebe Miller

FK talks to Phoebe Miller from Simply Phoebe about her North Melbourne based creative space . All images by one of our creative spaces project photographer Mishy Lane.

Tell us a little about your range and what kind of things you create in your own space?
I make handmade fabric neckpieces with remnant, recycled and vintage fabrics. For Christmas, I am also using offcuts from my neckpieces to create some fun Christmas decorations. When I’m not busy making new pieces for markets or my few special retail stockists, I try to find some time to make clothes for myself, but mostly have several unfinished personal projects on the go! I have a freelance PR business, so the space is flexible, doubling as my home office.

What is your work space like and what things do you like to surround you when you work?
I’m really lucky to have a whole room at home to work from. It is at the back of our house, overlooking a laneway, with lots of natural light. Our landlords are the clever people from Arthur’s Circus, so it came with the most fabulous 50s fabric curtains I’ve ever seen.

Given my range is fabric based, I’ve set up the studio so that my fabric collection forms a big feature of the space, thanks to an amazing custom-built fabric organiser stand I snapped up from Thread Den when they moved out of North Melbourne. I spend a lot of time staring up at it, deciding which colours and fabrics to choose next.

Lately, I’ve been playing with new designs to add to my range, so I like to have the samples and test pieces hanging around to contemplate. Over the years I’ve amassed quite a magazine book collection, with a particular love of vintage sewing, jewellery and art books. I like to have these handy to pull out for inspiration when required. The figure in my logo is from one of an artwork by my Dad, Noel Miller. I’ve also used some of his charcoals for my cut out mannequins that I use for displaying my wares. I am constantly dressing “the girls” up in new pieces.

It’s important to me to feel like it’s not just a work space, so there’s lots of mementos of family and friends dotted around, from photos to trinkets to cards I’ve been given. I’m also always collecting bits and bobs that I plan to make something with one day, which I try and keep in some semblance of order in various repurposed boxes.

Last, but not least, my lovely cat Camille is a fairly regular fixture in the space when I am in here. I’ve had to bring in a special blanket for her so she doesn’t make her own little bed out of any fabric tubes I leave lying around ready for making into neckpieces. She thinks they’re quite cosy, or wants to play with them!

What are some ‘tools of your trade’ that are essential for you to work with?
My sewing machine and overlocker are pretty critical, as is my “hook turner” which I use to turn out my fabric tubes. I spent a lot of time at markets explaining to people that I don’t use a safety pin like in the old days! Other than that, I also give the ruler, scissors, needle and thread a decent workout.

What keeps you motivated and inspired when you’re working?
I’ve always got music playing or the radio. I have quite eclectic tastes and what I play depends on what I’m working on and how I’m feeling.  I swing between hip hop, girly indie singer songwriters and old school jazz! I’m also a big fan of the podcasts from All Songs Considered and This American Life.

Where do you go for inspiration for your home & work space?
Blogs are definitely a huge influence. These days, I find it hard to keep up with all the blogs I have added to my blog reader, but for home ideas I can’t go past local design blog stars The Design Files and Yellowtrace.  I only recently discovered Scandanavian Deko and am dying for some time to try out some of their DIY ideas. I also still love a good mag. Inside Out is my go-to for practical ideas, while Artichoke, Wallpaper and Monocle generally provide more aspirational inspiration.

Vintage books are a great source of inspiration too. I have a fabulous book called “Australian Style” from the 70s. There is a room where almost every surface has some sort of Marimekko covering or decoration. My idea of heaven. I also love a good country op shop!

What is a typical day for you involve when you are working?
Given I juggle Simply Phoebe with another business of my own, the two worlds often merge, but I try to dedicate whole days at a time to each one when I can. I always start the day with a coffee from one of the many great cafes around North Melbourne. Working from home, I find it’s a a nice way to ease into the day and get a little social interaction before knuckling down. It also means I “get dressed for work” and put a little effort into my outfit every day, which I find really helps with getting focused and feeling productive.

Generally I will spend a bit of time checking emails before catching up with a few blogs online if I have time. What comes after that depends on what stage of the process I am at, and what kind of deadlines I have with markets or stockists. If I’ve got time and head space, these days I like to spend the first part of my day working on new ideas. Then in the afternoon I get stuck into the sewing. Most of it is done in batches of piecework. I always try and save the step in the process where turn out my tubes of fabric, which doesn’t require a lot of concentration, for one late afternoon or evening, so I can zone out and do it whilst catching a cheeky movie or tv show on iview! Throughout the day, I stay connected by checking in on emails, as well as twitter, facebook, and my most recent social media/ app obsession, Instagram.

What do you love about your surrounding area?
I live in North Melbourne, which feels so close to everything, yet still kinda quiet, with a nice friendly village vibe. The Queen Victoria Market is my local supermarket.  I often jump on my bike to grab groceries or some lunch when I need a break from the studio. We are also lucky to have an ever-growing range of great cafes. Two of the most recent additions which I frequent are Beatrix, for sweet treat delights, and Wooly Bully, for delicious, simple and well priced food sold alongside super cool vinyl records and comics. North Melbourne is also home to some fantastic shops selling local design and handmade goods, including Ramona Tienda, Kids in Berlin, Quirk & Co and Call Me Madam.

What things would you love to add to your creative working environment?
Some more built in shelving would be great, but then I think I could never have enough, given I think I have a little bit of a hoarding tendency. Other than that, being a Piscean, I’m a bit of a water-lover, so in a perfect world I would have water views!

One Comment

  • Laura says:

    I love your storage unit and the way you have displayed your fabrics, they look fantastic! You must have such fun picking which one to use each day. x

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