Thursday, May 7, 2015


For Rachel Castle's 42K followers on instagram she needs no introduction but to everyone else let me introduce you to one of my favourite artists. Her gorgeously layered flora paintings, quirky bold embroideries and popular range of bed linen sell directly as soon as they are posted to a hungry audience, who just can’t seem to get enough of Rachel’s things!

Meeting Rachel was a great experience. She is that rare combination of creative enthusiasm combined with strategic thinking, and like all the mentors that I have interviewed a self starter, and either operating outside the traditional system or helping to change it. 

In the studio Rachel was warm, down to earth, and full of great ideas, which made my very first experience of taking the pics for the blog loads of fun. I think that’s part of Rachel’s charm inspiring creativity into every moment…and making anything possible. 

1) When did you first become interested in art and design?

As a young child my favourite thing to do was colour in.  I had so many colouring in books, and for birthdays and Christmas all I wanted was pencils.  Oh that first box of Derwents was the happiest day of my life!  The one central theme has always been colour.  I don’t wear a lot of colour but my home is FILLED with it.  I remember as a child we had a bright Kermit green laminex island bench which my mother loathed, but that I loved!  I studied PR at Uni in Melbourne and my first job was co-ordinating all the Country Road home wear showings to the media, OMG I loved that job!  All that product, all those beautiful designs, from that point on it was clear to me that I needed to work with product.


2)You are known for your gorgeous flora paintings, use of bold colours, and funky bedding, who and what inspires you?

I listen to and look at everything around me, my friends, family and peers, magazines, books, art, tv, music, anything and everything but I have one overriding design rule.  If I wouldn’t use it in my own home it cant be on the range.  Its the one rule that I need to abide by.  Often we try to design this and that for so and so and so and so, but at the end of the day what people want is what WE like.  As soon as our samples arrive I take them home and launder them (crucial for the success of a product) and use them on my bed, if I don’t personally love it we don’t produce it.  

I try to keep the artwork and the bedlinen as separate as I can.  The bedlinen I like to keep nice and ‘neat’ if you like.  I don’t like sleeping in a chaotic bed so our bedlinen is always a little playful, a little whimsical, but also very simple.  The artwork is altogether a different story.  I want the paintings to be as layered and textured and worked on as they possibly can be.  Some paintings have over 10 different layers so take a long while to complete.  The prints are more straight forward but actually harder to produce, you can spend a week on something and the last pull bleeds and it all has to go in the bin.  The embroideries are my babies, they are my Happy Place.  The colour range and vibrancy you get with felt is delicious, theres hardly a night of the year I don’t sit  stitching, my poor family are SO over it, OMG mummmmm another needle in the butt!  There are pins and needles everywhere, on the floor, in the sofa, in the bed, home is a hazardous place to live!

Can you tell us a bit about how how Rachel Castel and Things began?

I worked in the UK at The Conran Shop doing all their catalogues for a few years in the 90’s then my friends and I started a branding agency called The Nest where we worked on brands for International clients including British Airways, Lancome and Michelin.  I had my children there and we moved back to Australia in early 2001.  I took five years off and spent it being a stay at home mum, hard yakkkkkkkkkkka, young kids are delicious but being at home nearly sent me NUTS.  I started making little embroideries and prints for my friends for their birthdays, did a little printing course at TAFE, and in 2007 decided to put a few designs online.  I had a very old version of QUARK that I made a couple of designs on, OMG cry funny all the spacing was so crappy, and had them made up by a friend who made bedlinen in Melbourne.  These designs are still online 7 years later and sell their little heads off. 
I remember one day having lunch with a lovely friend who said ‘you’ve helped build some really amazing brands in your career why not build your own?’.  So I did, with very few and low expectations.  I made a little website, had some branding done, and just sat and waited for my first order.  OMG the first day we received our first order online was BEYOND exciting.  I still send birthday presents to my first ever customer, she now lives in New York, so grateful.

4)What does at typical day involve at RC and things..Who works there, and what do they do?

 I have the best VERY BEST production manager ever.  Leni and I have worked together now for 2.5 years and we have a really good thing going.  She is super organised, super nice and most
importantly, hilariously funny.  Cry she makes me laugh.  We go to India once a year together design all the samples, and then when we come home she makes it all happen with the suppliers.  She also works very closely with our Melbourne makers and printers to ensure the cotton bedlinen is always top notch.  It all looks pretty easy from the outside but bedlinen production (like production in general I would imagine) is peppered with issues and it takes a lot of TLC to ensure the product is always up to scratch.  Three days a week we have Daz (formally Manager at Koskela) helping with all our orders and customers, we call him Snazzy because he is the most sartorially superior human being we know.  We have regular visitors to the studio including our graphic designer Sunny, mmmmmm she is delicious, and Tamara who is working on our new sweaters with her suppliers in China.  So a lot going on…. and in between I give Leni my phone and lock the door and try to do some painting!

 5) How do you balance a successful business with your painting practice?

Its not easy.  Its definitely a fine balancing act.  You need a really incredibly reliable, fastidious right hand man, and luckily for me I have Leni.  She pretty much runs the production side of things while I concentrate on the artwork.  Throw a studio move or a new website into the mix and its pretty hectic, but we work it all pretty well.  Leni is a fine detail person which means she drills way down into everything, the business and people, she never EVER misses a trick.  When it all gets a bit much for her she comes into my studio shuts the door and slumps down on the floor and we just laugh.  Come on we say lets pick ourselves up, get a coffee, heat up the wheat bag (one of us always has a sore back, the sorest gets the hot bag) and we just soldier on.  Luckily for us, touch wood (am literally stroking my desk) our customers are ADDDDDDDDORABLE.  We get some super funny clients, lots of beautiful emails, we know who’s getting married when, which babies are being born when, which children are off to boarding school when, who’s husbands are away (they deadset attack those credit cards) and how to disguise a package so it looks like its a grocery drop from Woolies.  We can get pretty creative around here!

The one thing I need for painting is peace and quiet no interruptions, you’d think I was operating on a small puppy, but really Im just working out where the HELLL to put that spot JUST IN THE RIGHT PLACE.  Cause there is a place thats perfect, despite the random.

6)What's the best thing about having your own small business?

Our branding agency in London grew very big very quickly.  The clients were big, the offices were big, the bills were big, the decisions were big. I ended up sitting in meetings all day long not working on the fun stuff, we employed other people to have all the fun.  Being small means if Leni and I want to make a random blanket in coral and navy with huge big tassels on Tuesday damn straight why not?  Im cold Leni lets make some sweaters, why not.  Lets build a pen for Syd so she can annoy all the couriers, ok Im not doing that you can though Leni.  Lets get a little cot in the office so when we’re tired we can have a nap. Lets go buy paints this morning.  I have separation anxiety when she’s goes to the Post Office so its nice to be able to be small and cosy and snug.  Every second day Daz comes to just give Leni a hand, so one very big plus is also being able to work with people you like rather than people you need. 

6)How important is instagram/social media to RC and things?

Super DUPER important. I love instagram.  It sets a pace for the business, OMG we better get those prints done cause we haven’t instagrammed since Wednesday, we better get that painting dry we need to instagram it tomorrow, its a really REALLY good time motivator.  Not really loving it though when I have to post before 7am/make lunches/phone no batts/cant find glasses/dont have anything funny to say, don’t really love it those days, but I love the company, all the instagram to and fro chatter.  We have made some special friends on those little screens

7)What's been your fav project to work on?

The paintings recently for sure.  Its quiet, its personal, its never hectic or frenetic, they take their own sweet time, and I absolutely love making them.  I love that point at which I say to myself, ‘yep thats enough, no more’.  And of course the embroideries, my babies, my home time, my sanity, my excuse to watch copious amounts of really crap tv.  

8)What would Rachel Castle's tip's be to making a successful living as an artist or designer.

Work hard, work harder, and then even a bit harder than that.  You either have that propulsion to work or you don’t, its certainly not a conscious decision ‘oh I have to work a bit harder’ its just an internal accelerator that I think propels you to just keep at your craft, whatever that may be.  I also try not to overthink it.  If I'm over thinking what people will like I get very stuck and rigid.  I have to just make things that I like, and hope that everyone else likes them too.  Work hard, don’t overthink it, be as free as you can. 

9)What are you working on now?

Everything.  New website, new bedlinen, new very exciting Christmas time collaboration, new show in Melbourne for The Design Files in November, an office move with tons more space.  And Lenis going on holidays in 2 weeks so I am bracing myself for that.  Im excited, stuffs happening, the business is growing (please don’t grow too big little business, I like it small) but Syd is still annoying when she wees in the loading bay.  Despite that its happy days here. x

Thanks for having me Mia!

Check out rachel on instagram on @rachelcasteland things
Blog and photography by Mia Oatley @miaoatley

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


I first came across Kate Banazi’s work about 1 year ago, and was instantly struck by her gorgeously layered screen prints. I wanted to find out more about this artist that had quite literally blown me away one Sunday afternoon in Koskelas.

From exhibiting her stunning art across the globe to collaborating with photographers and painters
such as Shawn Theodore in Philly and Diego Berjon in Barcelona this is one talented and busy lady! Kate has also recently produced her own line of printed scarves, and is represented by the Jackie Winter Group.

In person Kate is chatty, welcoming and frankly very funny. Our morning with Kate in her gorgeous Sydenham studio left us feeling pretty inspired.  She had loads of helpful hints for creative’s, for people just starting out or for others well along the way…like me!

Introducing Kate Banazi one of my favourite artists!

How did you fall in love with screen-printing?

“I (studied) fashion. It was something that I just really loved, and then I completely fell out of love with it. It was a really tough business, and I also had a child, so it was a challenge.
I went to work for a good friend who was a screen printer Kate Gibb. She taught me everything, (and that’s when) I fell in love with the process!”

Where do you source your images from?       

“If it’s for commercial illustration I’m usually given imagery, but otherwise it’s my own photography. I much prefer drawing but when I have something in mind I will hunt it down!  (Or otherwise) images like those beautiful NASA photographs obviously I’m never going to get that myself so I’d rather go way out there and use imagery that I wouldn’t be able to get myself.”

Tell us a bit about your beautiful scarves

“It’s translating my work into a different medium. I worked in fashion for so long, that’s my little step back into it.”

You do a lot of collaborations how do those usually pop up for you?

“Ah friends of friends I’ve worked with before. Instagram has been pretty amazing actually I had an art gallery owner from NY contact me. It’s very cool to get that input from complete strangers. Having that sort of interest really drives you forward.”

You also do workshops what’s the best thing about doing them?

“It’s nice to meet new people. It’s nice to put yourself outside of your comfort zone and learn new things. When you do a workshop you meet great people. I’m learning off them as well. It’s great!”

How do you stay motivated?

“Well it’s easier for me in the fact that I have commercial jobs too, cause you have to know that you can work fast that you can draw that, or print that or photograph that, that definitely takes the edge off, but when it comes to personal work, well I’ve spent 6 months creating this big body of work, and you think should I show it, should I just rip it up…what should I do with it? I think you just have to put it out there!”

What are some of your goals for the future?

“To be able to contribute back in some way, to be able to have a couple of assistants, to be able to work with under represnted groups to help them be seen and be heard

Where do you like to show your work?

“I like group shows. I like the juxtaposition of people’s work together. It’s a challenging experience, (because) great curators are hard to come by….
As women we need to be braver and stronger (and) put more work out there!”

What’s your best advice for aspiring artists!

“What’s interesting about Sydney is that the supports there. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I help people all the time. I don’t know that I’m not going to need their help. Just because they’re a student in college now whose to say that in 2 years time I’m not going to go to them and apply for a job (one day)-It can happen.
Ask for help from everybody.
Send it out there!”

Do you do free projects

““I still get it “hey there’ll be no budget, but it’ll be really great exposure”. Sometimes it’s a real pleasure to do those things. Sometimes it’s just taking the piss. You have to learn when to say no, and when to say “ah this could be really good fun”…. embrace challenges!””…

…I only do stuff that I enjoy doing now.
What’s the point in having all this space to make stuff if you don’t enjoy what your doing?”     

Like all our mentors Kate was generous with her time, and was free with the information that she gave. The thing that stood out to me the most was when Kate spoke about asking for help. It’s something that I didn’t do a lot of in the early part of my career to my detriment, as sharing creative  info and collaborating is one of the best ways to make amazing things happen!

Thanks so much for having us KATE BANAZI we’re all looking forward to seeing what you do next!! XX

Thanks to Kate Banazi  @katebanazi

Photography by

Follow more of my blogs and art at    @miaoatley

Monday, February 23, 2015


1. Some vibrant nudes hanging in the gallery

I’ve always admired Ken Done, for both his sensationally vibrant work and his KEN DO attitude. There isn’t an artist alive that doesn’t want to achieve what Ken has, and that’s to be able to make a good living from their art, and to have an enduring career.

As well as being completely blown away by Ken’s stunning gallery, shop, stockroom, and design studio I was delighted to find out that we studied art at the same place -NAS (or East Sydney Tech back in the day) and held our very first solo shows in the same space the previously named ‘Holdsworth Gallery’.

Getting the opportunity to see Ken’s paintings close up, especially the enormous coral reef works was simply breathtaking. Ken in person was much like his paintings- direct, colourful, and enthusiastic. It was easy to see why he’s the man that has influenced a whole generation of younger artists.

Introducing the irrepressible Mr Ken Done!

2. Ken joking round with the crew.

 Ken, can you tell us how did you begin your creative journey?

“Like all children I drew before I could talk…and I guess I continued to use art as a form of communication… I went to Mosman High, and spent lots of extra time studying art books in the library but I had to give up sport to do this, which was annoying because I loved it!”

“I was then able to pass my intermediate exams” which enabled Ken to became the youngest kid ever to go to East Sydney Tech, now National Art School.

3. Ken's stunning painting Beach and Yellow Frescias shot in KD gallery.

After art school you went into the advertising world. Do you feel that helped you turn your passion for art into a career?

“Some people would see advertising as a sell out! No it’s a sell in, it’s the understanding of the times that we live in. Sure, now I spend all my time like a cave man making a mark on things, but originally myself and many of my contemporaries came from the advertising world -Fred Schepisi, Bruce Beresford, Peter Carey, Sidney Nolan, and Brett Whitely. That was the thing that gave us all the discipline of work and the opportunity to do it!”

3. Ken and Judy show us their new designs for tee-shirts.

How did you make art a full time gig?

““When I first started off as an artist I was 35 and the creative director at J. Walter Thompson, but I didn’t want to be in the advertising business anymore I wanted to be a painter...

…I had a mortgage, and I had one child, but I gave up everything to see whether I could make a living and support the family by my own hand. So I made a drawing of a shell and a wicker basket full of cowries. Nice drawings, easy to understand. I made prints of them and I went around to various print shops and said “My name’s Ken Done I can sell you this print for $10 I bet you could sell it for $20”. I was repeating the singular effort…

…I was 40 when I had my first solo show at the Holdsworth Gallery. I wanted to have a big exhibition in a commercial gallery to show that I could do it, but I already had it in the back of mind that I’d really like to open my own gallery.””

4. Ken and Judy Done in front of one of Ken's big Coral reef paintings.

So, what’s the best thing about having your own gallery?

“I’ve had my own gallery since 1982 and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You’re able to show what you want and when you want, but it’s got in the way a little bit of people taking my work seriously.

Could you elaborate a bit on people not taking your work seriously?

““Some of the first things that people saw of mine were very commercial- The Harbour Bridge and stuff that I would do for the tourists.
At the same time that I was doing versions of American abstraction I’d be knocking off a cute koala with the other hand. And it would be on a tee shirt in one of our shops…

…I remember one critic writing;  “Ken’s work is very commercial”…
It’s in a shop; surely you don’t need the benefit of university education to understand that’s what I was trying to do. I was trying to sell something, and we did it very well…

5. Ken Done's beautiful light filled gallery at the rocks.

Is it harder when you have your own gallery to be the one who has to say “You’re Great” rather than a third party like a dealer?

“I don’t like to say I’m great because I think art teaches you more about failure than it does about success. But at 74 you’re better than you were at 44. I’ve been doing it a long time and I’m harsh and I’m harder”.

6. Ken shows us one of his fav paintings that was turned into a great tee.

What are Ken Done’s tips for making a living as an artist that you don’t get taught at art school?

“When you come out of art school nobody’s going to pay $30,000 for your first painting. You have to wait until you’re almost dropping off the twig before people will pay that!
Unless you’re looking for a government grant (which I never have) or have very wealthy parents then you have to find a way to exist…

…You have to find a way of making the work accessible, in both it’s content and it’s price, with the aim of reaching as wide a group of people as possible.
I don’t think you should see it as a cop out to make slightly more accessible work…because you want people to buy it!”

7. Ken telling me about the medium that he uses, which is BTW water based oils.

Finally, Ken what are you working on now?

“Good Question!
The main thing that’s taking most of my time is my autobiography, so I’m writing a lot more.
(Also) I’m producing a very large nude of Cleopatra for the Bell Shakespeare Company.
Just before you came in, I looked at some very loose and simple nude figures, so I think that might become the next series of pictures. I’m planning a trip to Patagonia and the Antarctic with the profits of the exhibition going to help Breast cancer… I’ve always got a lot on! But I like to be busy”.

It’s several days after the interview and Ken’s wise words are still ringing in my ears. The interview was a major turning point for me for many reasons-
There’s a lot of noise surrounding you as an artist.
People tell you not to become a sellout. But the truth is most of those people are either broke or too wealthy to care about the realities of making an artistic pursuit work. 
In any case I sure as hell don’t want to be renting for the rest of my life!

8. Gorgeous fabric ready to made up into Tees shirts for the shop!

At the end of the interview Ken encouraged me to get my work out there in as many mediums as possible.

He also came up with a brilliant strategy for my bird paintings (watch this space).

In terms of mentoring what you really need to do is to speak with an artist that’s been in the game 30 years longer than you have and it helps if they happen to be an Aussie legend!

9. That famous signature!

Thanks to @kendonegallery

Photography by  @kellieleczinska

Blog by @miaoatley

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


For our very first mentor blog I was absolutely thrilled When Deb Bibby editor of Real Living magazine agreed to chat with us, introducing Deb Bibby disarmingly friendly, casually elegant, and the powerhouse behind everyone’s favourite mag Real Living.


“I started off studying fashion design at Sydney College of the Arts. In my 1st year we had a little fashion parade, and the fashion editor from Cleo was there. She asked me if I’d leave and become her fashion assistant. So I deferred expecting to go back but just fell in love with magazines! They gave me a cadetship and within 2 years I became the fashion editor.”  Around that time a position for fashion editor at Dolly magazine came up, but Deb was encouraged by her Team to go for the Editor's job, and despite being only 20 years old and having no prior experience she went for it. I got brave enough on the day, and it just came out of my mouth- I'd love to be the editor!!


Deb was given the job of Editor at Dolly. Talk about winging it! She had a special phone ‘the hotline’ to call her boss when she wasn’t sure what to do.
After Dolly, Deb went to London to edit a teen title called Look Now and after several years returned to cut her teeth editing Follow Me Magazine and FMG for guys. Deb then took some time out to be with her newborn son Jack and while at home decided to do a cookbook with her mum called My Mum's Cook Book. Basically created because she couldn’t cook and needed to collate all her mum’s recipes in one book. The self-published book sold really well and sparked by the success of this Deb created a publishing company called Box Press, with backing from a film production company.

“After about 10 years I really missed magazines though so I came back into ACP very humbly and asked if I could come back. I was given a sex book to edit called “I'll Have What She's Having and while that was going on real living was being discussed and I got offered the job as editor- I thought Thank God!! ”


“The book was a way to get my foot in the door again with ACP.
If they had said to me “we've only got the job of cleaner of the offices” I would have taken it. It's what I always say to anyone asking advice. It's just about getting your foot in the door somewhere. And if you're good and you're passionate about what you do it will shine through. That's why I always take work experience kids here because they need that opportunity! You don't really employ off a CV”


 “I employed off a CV once! The one CV that we employed off was written in crayon, She listed everything that she'd done in her life from bus driving to tour guide, Deb gave her the job and within 2 years she had moved off the junior role and she was writing and styling for us!

4) Real Living Magazine is now one of the most popular Lifestyle Magazines. What are some of the early risks you took that have paid off.

“The first 5 years we played it pretty safe, and we were led by focus groups. The magazine did well but I’d always had this desire to include fashion into the magazine and make it a little more stylish than where we were aiming. My original publisher left and I felt it was my opportunity, he would’ve killed me – I threw the focus group info out of the window and went with my gut. With all the blogs, pinterest and Instagram I felt my readers visual aesthetic must’ve broadened – we now all had a view globally and real living needed to raise the bar.  After a serious debate with my new publisher where he stated I was ‘completely off brief’ he decided to let me run with it, lucky for me sales went through the roof, advertising started to pour in the door and real living hasn’t looked back. Each month the mission is to ‘change it up’ – keep real living energetic and bubbling. I love the notion of the reader getting a surprise each month on the newsstand – no formula’s, no homogonised look – something a little unique, packed with inspiration and affordable decorating and renovating advice. 

5) Real Living Magazine champions accessible design and art. What sort of impact do you think this has had?

“I think it's just given people confidence to play a lot more!” We’re showing people -hey you can go to vinnies, it can look good!” “We’re showing people that you can style up Nana’s old cupboard with graphic books, an artwork or maybe a few beautiful Dinosaur Design vases”. You can build the room around one beautiful feature item. “Like in fashion a good shoe brings the whole outfit together and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune!” 


“My Mum always told me you can do whatever you want to do. That was the best advice she gave me, she instilled a positivity and confidence in me early on, that and to be KIND along the way.
And just get in there and give it a go! You’ve got absolutely nothing to lose!

SPECIAL THANKS TO: @kellieleczinska for these beautiful photos.
                                          @Deb_bibby       for a fab arvo and for being you xx

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


It’s November! When did that happen? Well, 19 days ago I guess, but did it sneak up on you as well? This year, along with being amazing, has been a mighty quick one!

I mentioned the ‘Big C’ (Christmas) in my last post and over the weekend it became even more apparent how near we are to it.  Chrissy trees are already donning the aisles at shopping malls and now that Daylight Savings has kicked in, the longer, balmy days remind me that summer and of course my favourite holiday, are just so tantalisingly close. 

So I thought I would take this opportunity to let you know about my two latest prints that I have just launched just in case you are on the hunt for something a little special to give this year. If you are anything like me and look forward to the build up to Christmas almost as much as the holiday itself, then be sure to get in quick with these babies as the editions are limited. Then you have the perfect excuse to get the tree out and start decorating!

You can purchase them via my website, or pop over to the lovely folk at Frankie and Coco, who can also organise framing for you! Too easy! They will send them straight to your door… all you have to do then is decide who the lucky recipient is… (Maybe you’ll like them so much you wont be able to part with them!)

Budgie Love:
Limited edition of 25, $280ea
Giclee print on 310gsm Canson acid free cotton rag paper
Size 600 x 600 mm inclusive of a white border for framing purposes

An Ordinary Eden
Limited edition of 12, $200ea
Giclee print on 310gsm Canson acid free cotton rag paper
Size 594 x 420 mm (A3) inclusive of a white border for framing purposes

Till next time, enjoy this glorious weather!
Mia x

Friday, October 31, 2014

Jumbled Love!

Ok, so Ill admit it.  I love when people visit me in the studio.  Despite being a  sacred place for me, where I spend most of my days with my feathered and bikini-clad friends, it can sometimes get a little lonely.  So when the lovely Pip from Jumbled contacted me to come, visit, interview and photograph me and my work, it was a mutually beneficial exchange.  Its always such a joy for me to share my works with people; when people are interested and excited by what I do, it just me feel like the luckiest girl in the world… having the ‘job’ I have.

Jumbled is great, and you must check it out – the link to my article is here:

Full of inspiring posts about artists, designers other goodies it’s the type of site that you can lose hours and hours, just perusing the pretty posts… and uh oh, you can also purchase from this site… hide that credit card!

On that note, I am lucky enough to also now have my works featured on this site for sale! Not to mention that one of my works sold within 24hours of being featured on their site.  Thank you so much Jumbled… I know where ill be doing my Christmas shopping this year! Get in quick art lovers! 

Mia x