Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Interview - Paula Mills

Paula Mills' illustration work is striking, beautiful and distinctive. I have several prints myself and am making it a bit of a habit to give them as special gifts. I can't resist! On top of commissions and freelance editorial work, Paula runs Sweet William along with her sister Shelley who lives in New Zealand. Paula turns her gorgeous illustrations into art prints for the label and Shelley makes lovely handmade pieces. They sell their loveliness online and Paula is a design market regular around Melbourne town, selling her wares from her wonderfully styled stall. Paula is influenced by all things vintage and her personal creative twist creates the most amazing aesthetic. Her stall is a feast for the eyes and her amazing home has even been featured on the mega U.S. design blog Design*Sponge! We're absolutely thrilled to bring you this interview today. Welcome, Paula!

Paula Mills. Photo by Tigs Macallan

Tell us a bit about yourself, your work and achievements.

I am from South Africa originally. I studied commercial art at a college in Cape Town and started my career as a junior art director in advertising. I went on to work for a few agencies in London and had a wonderful time traveling the world. My husband and I lived in the UK for eight years and my first two babies were born in London. Motherhood was a huge adjustment for me and I kept my hand in the creative business by doing a bit of freelance graphic design (challenging!). We moved back to South Africa for a short time, my third baby came along and then we found ourselves moving out to Australia 5 years ago! We now call Melbourne home and I, at last, have settled and found my peace in illustration. We are very fortunate to live in a cute cottage in beautiful Warrandyte, where I work from home. My sister Shelley (who is in New Zealand) and I started up Sweet William in 2008 as a vehicle for selling my art as well as the quirky handmade pieces that Shelley makes. I love dunking biscuits in my tea.

Circle Collage 8x10 archival print available in the Sweet William Etsy store.

When did you know you wanted to work creatively (from a young age or did you come to it later?) and what steps did you take to make it happen?

I have always known that I wanted to work creatively and was very put out that I had to do other boring subjects at school like science and maths...once I finished school I just followed my passion.

Peony archival art print available in the Sweet William Etsy store

Could you describe a typical work day? How do you balance art and the administration side of freelancing? And could you also tell us about the logistics of working in Sweet William with your sister, Shelley, who lives in New Zealand?

I get my three kids off to school in a bit of a crazy rush and then come home to a quiet house and make my self a cup of tea. I check my emails first and prioritise which need answering. I then get onto our online and wholesale orders and work out what needs to get out first. If I have an illustration job from a client I will spend a few hours working on that, otherwise I will spend some time on new work. I always have some design market to prepare for so quite a bit of my time goes on thinking about the display and making sure I have enough stock. Shelley handles all the international and New Zealand orders while I do the Australian ones. We speak to each other every second day via Skype and are always on the look out for new and inspiring things to blog about. Oh yes, I spend quite a bit of time on the social media side of things - blogging, Facebook page, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest etc. etc. Before I know it it's 3:15 and it is time to collect kids and dive back into the crazy rush of after school activities and dinner preparation etc.! I try to switch off in the evenings but often end up doing a bit more admin or packaging my prints for the next market...

Paula Mills' market display. Photos: Paula Mills (Source)

Do you have any routines or rituals you perform before starting a day's work or before you start working on something new? How do you motivate yourself?

Tea, tea and more tea. I often go to illustrators/artists that inspire me online to get my creative juices flowing. I subscribe to a few online blogs and I might see a new colour way or pattern that might give me an idea for some new work. Lots of looking.

Paula Mills' desk. Photo by Tigs Macallan
What are your favourite tools/materials for creating?

I love working in ink, either with a very small nib or a big soft brush on thick water colour paper.

Paula Mills' studio space. Photo by Tigs Macallan
What do you do when you have a creative block and you need to 'refill the well'?

I look at books of artists that I love and flick through new creative magazines which may lead me onto some fresh new content online. Sometimes I may just need a complete break - take the dog for a walk, chat to a friend on the phone or hunt for junk in charity shops - actually that always gives me a buzz! If I am feeling a bit house bound and and need to feel refreshed, I will head down to Gertrude Street or pop into the city for a bit of people gazing, window shopping and more tea drinking!

Paula Mills' Blue Willow Pattern. Source: Etsy

Thank you for joining us, Paula. Your work is just beautiful and it was wonderful to hear about your creative process. Thank you!

Please check out more of Paula's work at the links below: 

Sweet William blog
Sweet William shops:
MadeIt (Aus)
Felt (NZ)

Paula Mills' Tea and Hope. Source: Etsy