Julie Holmes, of Meraki Designs works with clay, metal and natural fibres to create jewellery and other objects. The meaning of ‘Meraki' is central to her ethos: the creative soul that’s put into the work, the essence of the artist in the work. For her, making is a form of cultural expression that is necessary and essential to our very nature.
Julie is a passionate advocate for the handmade. Her work is incredibly diverse and heavily textured, probably due to her fondness for layering different materials and techniques. She is a self-confessed learning junkie, always exploring new crafts and methods.
We caught up with Julie to chat all things handmade in her studio at Stackwood as a part of our continuing collaboration with The Maker's Portrait.
Tell me about your journey with Meraki, how did you start?
Wow, it’s been a long one for me. It started just after I had my son. I had postnatal depression and I really felt the need to start making to work through that.
I enrolled in a drawing class, and then other classes at the Fremantle Arts Centre. I did a lot of classes there, one after another.
I worked for many years and made jewellery on the side. Then last year I decided I wasn’t happy just working casual jobs. It was very frustrating. I realised I wasn’t spending enough time on doing what I wanted to do. So I thought ‘I just have to start this.’
My journey has been: drawing, painting, interior design, clay, sculpture, textiles, weaving. All these different things I’ve done over that time, they’re all starting to come together in my work.
Can you tell me about the materials you work with?
I use metal, clay and fibres. At the moment I’m moving in to using clay a lot more. I was working before with metal, but I found that it’s a very hard material, and a lot of work to get it to where you want it.
How has your move into Stackwood changed or influenced your practice?
Since I’ve been at Stackwood, a few things have shifted for me. I came from working at home on my own to working around people, and having conversations with the other makers in the community here.
It’s quite isolating, working at home, you’re very much in your own head all the time. The pace is very start/stop. I look at the projects I have at home and there’s a lot of unfinished stuff. I would have an idea and start and then it would be pushed aside.
Coming here has really helped. It’s been amazing to clarify the direction I want to go in. I wasn’t able to verbalise that until now.
What is it about handmade objects, do you think, that’s so special?
I think it’s because there’s so much invested, personally, for the maker to take the time to make that object. It’s telling a story of who they are. There’s a lot of inbuilt knowledge when we make, from thousands of years of human history.
It’s a very human thing, to make, in whatever form it takes. That’s what really excites me; I love the journey that someone goes on, from the beginning; the idea, to sourcing the materials, to realising the idea in physical form and how it all comes together into the finished piece.
Can you tell me a bit about what inspires your practice?
For me, African culture has a huge influence on my work. Its design aesthetic, patterns, markings. The way that these communities have lived on the earth, the way their homes and their bodies are decorated, the way these cultures mark their skin, I’m very interested in all that.
Australian indigenous cultural production is also a real source of inspiration for me. For me, I get this feeling when I look at some of these made objects, as if my feet are firmly buried in the ground. It’s a really earthed feeling.
I see a lot of different materials, textures and techniques in your work. Why is that?
I love texture and patterns. I love to mix different textures and markings.
Just like with everything in nature, there are contradictions: hard/soft, wet/dry, light/dark, all these things work so beautifully together. I like natural materials in particular because they have these qualities.
What’s the hardest thing about having a creative practice?
Overcoming the barrier of my own self-criticism and putting myself, my work, out there. I’m a bit of a perfectionist!
And the best thing?
It makes me really happy. I feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing. And I meet so many great people, I’m part of an amazing community of makers doing such incredible work.
Do you have any advice for someone who is considering taking a creative leap or starting a creative practice?
Have a bit of money, that helps. Or a job on the side. But mostly, if you feel like it’s what you need to do, then go for it!
There’s enough space for everybody. Take a risk, give it a go and be true to yourself. If you don’t you’ll be really unhappy. Just start, even if you do it at your kitchen table!
Julie will be opening her studio for the upcoming Stackwood Made Local Market, drop by, say hi and peruse her work 17 - 19 August. Meraki Design has upcoming workshops at the Stackwood studio, for all the information visit the Meraki website here. Images by The Maker’s Portrait for Stackwood.
Interview and introduction by Amy Snoekstra.