TEA AND A CHAT
Jess Wright and Lara Davies share how they create joy from their characterful textile design studio in Melbourne, Australia
Meet the creative duo behind colourful textile design studio Home-Work
Jess Wright and Lara Davies are obsessed with print, pattern and colour. With a background in corporate graphic design (Jess) and freelance fashion print design (Lara), the pair’s complementary skills make for an explosive mix. Since 2009, they’ve worked together bringing colourful textile designs to life, on screens – both computer and meshframed – and through teaching from their studio, Home-Work HQ.
Jess and Lara run sell-out workshops at Jam Factory Adelaide and The National Gallery of Victoria, where they’ve also been collaborating on an exclusive range in the gallery’s Design Store. And, a love of sharing knowledge and expertise with their students led to their first book, Print Play, being published earlier this year.
While Jess’s desire for leopard print, sequins and drawing a face on everything might not seem compatible with Lara’s love of flowers, plants and pottery, we chat to the duo to find out how they bonded over bright colour, bold patterns and Beyoncé to produce prints that are both thoughtful and fun.
Describe your style in three words. Bright, bold and joyful!
Did you always want to be designers? We were both ‘creative’ kids – always drawing, always designing clothes for our toys. We both have the instinct to cover everything in patterns, so it was pretty inevitable that design was always going to be a big focus of our lives.
When you first started out, did you have any particular ambitions? We wanted to create fun designs and teach people how to screen print, but we didn’t think too far beyond that. We just really wanted to share our love of screen printing with other people. It’s so fun and is much more accessible than most people think. We have always wanted to write a screen printing book, so Print Play is definitely a dream come true for us.
What’s your typical working day like? We live quite far away from each other, so most mornings start with a phone call that can last for hours! And we both have kids, so our weekdays are usually dictated by their schedules. On the days we’re teaching we arrive at the studio,
set up for the workshop, then spend the day showing lovely people how to screen print. It’s always so much fun! The nonteaching days are full of emails, planning sessions, posting on Instagram, paying bills, sending invoices, creating designs, cleaning the studio, stripping screens, mixing ink colours, drinking co ee, listening to true crime podcasts, heat-setting fabric, trying to return calls, updating our website, printing fabric, making each other laugh, and discussing how there’s a Martha Wainwright song for every situation. Is screen printing easy to learn? Everything we teach can be done at home, which means it’s simple for students to keep printing once they’ve left a workshop. We want people to keep creating and not feel constrained because they don’t have a huge studio space or fancy equipment. But we should mention every piece of clothing we have is covered in ink splatters! Do you enjoy any other crafts? We barely have any time for personal craft projects these days, but Lara is an
“We just really wanted to share our love of screen printing with others.”
avid photographer and Jess enjoys sewing sequins onto anything she can get her hands on!
Who, or what, inspires your work? That is such a huge question! Everything. We both take a lot of photos of the details of our lives, and when we’re designing prints, those photos often become the jumping-o point for new creations. We’ve designed prints inspired by everything, from a favourite childhood book to the flooring of a Los Angeles hotel lobby.
Take us through your creative process. We usually start by creating a huge inspiration wall. You can do this on the computer, but we like to do it the oldfashioned way. Anyone who visits our studio comments on the walls – they’re covered with images that inspire us. We put up photos we’ve taken, sketches we’ve scribbled, colours we like, plus all the images we’ve been collecting: magazine pages, fabric samples, postcards, old wrapping paper from the thrift store, photocopies of images from old books, brooches from the flea market, childhood stickers, paint swatches from the hardware store. There are no rules! Once the wall gets bigger, a general theme and palette start to emerge, and we use these as the basis for drawings and paintings.
Then we scan these original artworks into the computer and use Illustrator and Photoshop to turn them into repeat patterns. We like our designs to still have a hand-painted feel, as we don’t like anything to be too perfect! If you were starting up now, is there anything you would do di erently? We’d probably be more proactive at protecting our designs. Plagiarism is a huge problem in the design world, and it’s such a bummer when you see designs being Subscribe at used without consent. We both always see the best in people, so it’s still a shock when they steal your stu . Are there any designers or creative heroes you look up to? We’re huge fans of Australian design royalty Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson, two incredible women who bonded over a love of colour and pattern. They revolutionised Australian textile design in the 70s and 80s and are still creating vibrant, inspiring work. Everything about it makes us happy!
What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Trust your gut. Whether it’s a new design, a business opportunity or anything else, if it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably a bad idea. You don’t have to say yes to everything. Every job teaches you something, even if it’s what not to do! One big lesson was that it’s okay to start small. Even if you only do one thing, make sure you do it well. Tell us your proudest moment so far. At the Melbourne launch of Print Play we had a moment where we looked around the room and felt this incredible surge of love and pride at what we’d created, and all the amazing people we’ve had the chance to work with. It was really special. And what’s been your biggest struggle? That there aren’t enough hours in the day! Do you have any plans for the future? World domination? We’re excited to launch our new Home-Work product range, and hope to keep travelling the world, teaching awesome people the joys of screen printing. Finally, what’s the best piece of creative advice you’ve ever received? Time is valuable, so do your own thing, don’t be hard on yourself and have fun!
01 Layering up colour and patterns – and adding to the ink-splattered apron. 02 Home-Work’s trademark bright pink paint being mixed in the studio. 03 The famed Home-Work inspiration wall provides a daily injection of colour, pattern and texture.
01 surround with Jess and themselves Lara knick-knacks to inspire Ice cream students. 02 shades of paint look good enough to eat. 03 Jess can’t resist drawing faces, even on the studio walls!
01 Jess has always been drawn to 80s and 90s design. “The bright and playful designs from those decades make me very happy.” 02 Both Jess and Lara love plants, so they adorn the studio shelves. 03 “There’s nothing more pleasing than pattern!” says Lara.
01 Tote bags are one of the duo’s screenprinted products. 02 Jess and Lara’s love of screen printing rubs off on their students, who attend workshops in the Melbourne studio.