Gertrude Street is a bustling strip nestled in Melbourne’s inner northern suburb of Fitzroy; with cafes, bars, eateries, boutiques, bookshops and art galleries populating the animated thoroughfare. Lucky for us, our newest store will be right in the middle of this inimitable road, so we figured it was only fitting to have an artist that embodies the unique personality of the area.
Abbey Rich is an artist and designer who has achieved a whole lot in a very short amount of time. From running her own self-titled label to painting murals, holding solo exhibitions and collaborating with notable artists all over town – she is definitely an artist to watch. Abbey’s soft-hued art depicts fluid shapes, organic forms and linear patterns on a range of mediums; versatile, but at the same time so distinctly her own.
She took the time out of her seemingly nonstop schedule to discuss the power of social media, local artists to watch and what it’s like being a young creative person in Melbourne.
Firstly, tell me a little bit about yourself and your creative practice!
My practice is quite diverse now. I might spend a few days painting a mural, then catching up on emails for my clothing label, working on tattoo designs, screen printing or running workshops. I love the scope of things I get to do. My life moves so fast so I’ve become accustomed to variety, and I think that’s what keeps my creativity alive. I’m obsessive and completely absorbed, every fibre of my being is living and breathing the work that I create.
How did you transition into owning a fashion label? Did you ever see yourself doing this when you first started making art?
For me, everything started kind of by chance, by accident. I’d been working madly, full time as a supermarket supervisor whilst juggling full-time university and moving out of home…all those late-teen things. I didn’t consider myself particularly creative, I didn’t really know where I was headed but I quit my job at Coles and threw a few things I’d made online on a Big Cartel store, and within a month or so it became my full-time gig. The clothing thing actually happened before I started making art really. It was a means to manifest my ideas into something tangible and accessible, but now I feel a strong pull towards an art practice more than the fashion label. None of this was ever really part of the plan and every day seems to be a bit of a surprise – a scary but bloody amazing surprise.
What's the best thing about living and working in Melbourne as an artist?
I grew up about an hour or so out of town so Melbourne has kind of always been my home, but since moving to Brunswick and working on my own thing, I have fallen even more in love with the place. It is really celebrating young creatives at the moment and it creates this amazing vibe with countless exhibitions, gigs and events. The support I’ve received has been nuts and this community of artists is what makes it so beautiful!
You have a steadily growing social media presence, especially on Instagram as it's such a powerful platform for visual artists. How has social media played a part your career and your ability to connect with other creatives and fans of your work?
I can pretty much thank social media for my career. I never meant to have a label, and it was only through Instagram that it became a thing that people were able to see and support my work. I was able to connect with the people that are now my closest friends, artists that I admire and love so much and other people are able to encourage and support me and really allow me to do what I love!
Do you have any rituals, habits or particular ways of setting up your workspace that motivates your creativity?
I crave rituals but I suck at keeping them, which I know might sound a tad bizarre but I do try hard to stay in a routine. Breakfast and time in the morning are important to me. I get up early, have a giant bowl of muesli and a hot black coffee. I catch the train to the studio if I
feel like reading or ride if I want the exercise. That time is precious before a hectic day. My house and studio are filled with art I’ve traded art for with friends, with books about artists I love and plants feeding on oxygen. I like being surrounded by art and life constantly keeping my mind working and creativity flowing.
What's the best piece of advice you've received from another person in the creative fields?
I’d run into Fiona Simmons (a bloody good jeweler) on Lygon Street late last year. I was a total mess, stressed and worried. I was in the middle of moving house, a break up and pre-Christmas markets. She just reminded me to slow down for a moment, there was no shame in letting yourself just be for a day. I get caught up in the craziness of it all when it feels too much I step back. I remember it is important to look after myself so I leave my phone at home and go to yoga or out to dinner with friends or have a bath. Small, sweet things to find solace in.
What do you love doing when you have a day off?
Days off are few and few between for me, and for the most part I don’t mind so much; but when I do get the chance to do my laundry, a face mask and take it slowly, to make porridge and wander around town to get a coffee with mates is what I love most. It might sound mundane but these moments are bloody heavenly. Nothing beats going home to my family by the beach if I get a couple of days off. The salt water and love is good for me.
Almost Iris @almostiris
Who are some of your favourite emerging Australian artists?
Motana Kitching @okaymontana
Stephanie Broadbent-Smith @stephanie.yeah
I cannot rave more about the work of these three incredibly talented women who I am lucky enough to call friends. I cannot wait to see where their work goes, they are so full of talent and love.
What other exciting things do you have coming up in 2017?
I am having my next solo show in October, focusing on my art practice and am lucky enough to be a part of a few group shows and installation projects. I am in the process of moving studios and changing things up, a fresh start and a new direction I think! I am excited to see where things go, I am not much of a planner so I’m just seeing how things play out. I am having way too much fun and am open to letting things happen, to work bloody hard but not put too much pressure on it and just enjoy it all.
Videography by Lily Youngsmith