Today we’re catching up with Sarah Dinsdale from Lyndley Mill, Stackwood studio resident, stylist and photographer who has a penchant for all things vintage, natural and hand-thrown. Sarah is the epitome of the natural born creative, with skills in a number of creative endeavours and work featured in the likes of Home Beautiful Magazine and for brands including Riad Studio, The Seek, Bed Tonic and Nina Bailey.
In a special collaboration with The Maker's Portrait we chatted to Sarah about her signature style, how to make your work count in a competitive industry and how on earth you grow a library of props that beautiful.
When we caught Sarah she was in preparation for the Stackwood Made Local Market where she will be throwing open the doors of her light-filled studio and selling some of her limited edition floral prints.
What is the philosophy behind Lyndley Mill?
For me family and hard work is everything and this is what is behind the name of my business, 'Lyndley Mill'.
'Lyndley' is my grandmother’s name and in choosing this I wanted to honour her, and embody family values in my practice: honesty, hard work and integrity. ‘Mill’ represents the notion that ideas and efforts synergise to create a product or a service, and I am interested in how we use collective effort to achieve this.
How would you describe your style?
My style is a mixture of tarnished minimalism, nostalgic vintage and a balance of both cluttered styling and negative space. I love working with muted colour palettes and natural materials such as linen, wood, concrete, ceramic and tarnished metals.
When it comes to styling, I always aim to create a look that tells a story in some way, encouraging the use of second-hand props and disparate aesthetics to create more relatable narrative-dense images.
What inspirations inform your work?
I am inspired by people and artists who offer a significant point of difference in their work and/or daily practices. I really appreciate a unique perspective and try to create images that are different in some way. Partly because I think it’s important to take risks and put a spin on the ‘normal’, but also because I get bored very quickly!
Human behaviour and relatable every-day moments also inspire me in a big way. Visual storytelling is the key to a creating a captivating image for others to relate to, and in order to create a relatable story, we have to understand what makes us humans connect. I am so inspired by this human connection and always love to think about how I can show this connection in my styling and image production.
Photographer & stylist - which came first?
I initially discovered my love for styling when a work colleague of mine noticed I had an eye for visual merchandising and suggested I apply for an event styling internship with a company located in the Perth CBD. After being accepted and completing the internship I gained an amazing job running a Perth creative networking program that allowed me to meet and work with many other creative faces from all over Perth, including some amazing photographers.
As time went on I developed a passion for photography watching the pros do their thing and after months of saving up, I managed to buy my own camera. After a year of practising and copious YouTube tutorials, I had enough confidence to start up Lyndley Mill.
What do you find is the most challenging thing about running a creative business?
Self-belief! When you start running your first small business after years of working for somebody else, it’s only natural to develop a tremendous amount of self-doubt. Charging clients, making a sales pitch, taking on staff members or learning about business finances, it’s all so scary and there is always a sense of doubt that you’re not good enough to do any of it.
Maintaining consistency and keeping an even work / life balance is also a huge challenge for me personally. I definitely faced some challenges in stepping away from my phone when I started Lyndley Mill. It was almost an obsession. It is so important to keep work at work.
What is your favourite part about doing what you do?
My favourite part is shoot day – when I get to work with my hands and create a scene that visually translates the brand story for which ever product I am working with at the time. I am definitely a tactile person!
There is an amazing sense of achievement that is felt after every job. I love hearing clients feedback and reflecting on what I did right versus what I could have done better.
What advice would you give someone just starting out?
So much advice! Here is what I have learnt:
1. Be different. No one ever made a difference by being like everybody else.
2. Be authentic. Otherwise, you’re at risk of becoming transparent within the mass market.
3. Stay objective. We are our own worst critics.
4. Ask questions. You will be surprised at how much people love being asked for advice. It’s an instant ego boost for them, plus you can gain so much knowledge from others around you!
5. Help others. You will always get it back in return. And if you don’t, you still know you're better off purely by being helpful.
6. Be quick to reply (within reason). Don’t take forever to get back to people. In saying that, don’t make it your life’s mission to reply to someone on a Sunday afternoon either. Business hours, people.
7. Stay away from gossip. We’re all in this tough-as-nails industry together; it’s just not productive.
Bowerbird or minimalist?
Bowerbird. Have you seen my prop shelves?
How did you go about building such an extensive prop collection? Where do you get your pieces from?
I have always been a bit of a collector - there are pieces on the prop shelves that I have had since childhood! The older the pieces the better in my opinion. They have more character and have great story-telling potential.
My pieces are from all over the place. I spend a fair bit of time on Etsy which enables me to source a lot of things from overseas, which is ideal as they have more appeal and can’t be found elsewhere in Perth. I look for things like French flea-market antiques, gauze linen from Lithuania, ceramics from Japan and handmade wooden items from the US. I also like to prop-hunt at local op-shops and visit local vintage collectors like The Picker Concept and Wisteria Lane.
What’s next for you? Exciting plans for the future?
I would like to start some exhibition work and getting involved in some more collaborations with my fine art flower prints.
I would also like to somehow combine my love for photography and passion for raising funds and awareness about mental health within the community, perhaps in the form of a fundraiser? It’s still early days. Stay tuned!
Images by The Makers Portrait in a special collaboration with Stackwood.
Interview and introduction by Jasmyn Woodford.