Artist: Karena Colquhoun
Business: Magic Jelly
Web site: www.magicjelly.com.au and magicjelly.etsy.com
Location: Adelaide, South Australia
What do you create?
Pictures. Mainly digital imaging and printmaking. I concentrated on digital art for about six years and often incorporated natural textures and traditional media into my pictures to break up the uniformity and perfection of digitally created work. Then I moved back into traditional art – screenprinting, relief printing, collage, stencilling, painting. I love making small-format artwork on paper and I'm fascinated by the way ink and paper interact. I love making Gocco prints... they're so low-tech and idiosyncratic, they're the perfect antidote to the perfectionism of digitally created pieces. But really, I'm prepared to dabble in whatever medium works for me. Since I like to make affordable, accessible artwork as well as the larger one-off pieces, I put my pictures on all kinds of little knick-knacks like buttons, pocket mirrors, magnets – I love playing with my button presses, they're so much fun! I also do illustration and design commissions for various clients.
Where and when do you do your creative work?
I work from a home studio on average about six days a week. Working in my living space means it's hard for me to switch off and define my down time... I find myself fiddling with artsy things in my idle moments too.
Do you have another "day job"?
I used to be a public servant, then I left to go to art college, then went back to working in another office, saved money, went part-time and finally gave up my day job for good to concentrate on my own business.
Where and what did you study?
I am the Drop-Out Queen. For years I just didn't know what to do with myself so ended up enrolling in – and dropping out of – more courses than you could shake a stick at, from Philosophy and Professional Writing to Interior Decoration and Ceramics. Finally I found myself plonked in front of a computer at art college and had a little epiphany where I discovered the wonders and mysteries of Photoshop. I didn't know how the hell to use it at that stage, but I recognised its potential... it's a magical paintbox of infinite possibility. I'd say I'm mainly self-taught though, as the college course was hopelessly impractical (example: first lesson was to "draw two rectangles representing conflict") and down the track I also taught myself Illustrator.
What inspires you and what motivates you?
I'd say I'm mainly inspired by the past and memory – not just my own past, but other people's too – it's like a magical unchartered land. I'm interested in souvenirs of the past... especially things that have been discarded – ephemera, popular culture. I collect mid-20th century magazines, old photos and vintage plastic, and my work is definitely influenced by this kind of imagery. I love portraiture. I never get tired of drawing faces.
My main motivation is my love of what I'm doing. Sometimes I can't sleep because I'm so excited about a project I'm working on. I spring out of bed in the morning so I can make things. I feel like I can spend my life playing and learning, and love all my tools and materials like I loved my toys as a kid. I'm so lucky!
When did you start doing this?
I've been making things since I was a kid; it just took me a while to finally find my Thing. I started working digitally in 2000 and that's when I really started to open up creatively and feel really free and inspired.
Do you remember getting into art as a kid?
I used to make paper dolls and little letters, including the envelopes and stamps and postcodes that I'd make and draw myself. For some reason, forms and bureaucracy fascinated me and I'd make library cards for the back of all my books, and stamp everything in sight. Ironic considering how uninspiring I found office work as an adult. I have revisited my early obsessions by making collages with vintage papers and ephemera, handmade stamps and screenprints.
When and why did you decide to start your own business?
I dreamed about it a long time before I actually found the courage to do it. I think the reason why I finally started my own business was because it's all I'm good at and no one else wanted to employ me!
How did you choose the name for your business?
I had this idea that the best way to choose a unique name was to team an adjective with a noun. "Jelly" was an immediate choice because I love jellies (or jello as you US-based people call them), there's something very nostalgic about them and they're just so pretty and wibbly! Thinking of an adjective was more tricky... finally I thought "Magic" because that's how I regard digital art. It wasn't until I went to register my domain name that I found I share my bizz name with a brand of Asian sex toys!
What do you love most about creating your work?
The excitement and sense of fulfillment. I feel that I'm most myself when I'm making things, that the universe is in alignment and all's well with the world. I also love interacting with the people who buy my work.
What's the most fascinating place you've been?
The murky recesses of my memory.
A book you love:
Hard to pick one! The 'Lucia' books by E. F. Benson...merciless satire. The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley... heartbreakingly bittersweet. And I love glossy art and design books and mags and have a massive collection.
What is the most interesting thing about you?
Facing a question like this makes me suddenly feel very ordinary! Umm...
What achievement are you most proud of?
Being someone with a history of procrastination and lack of focus and commitment, stubbornly persevering with my artwork and business has been a pleasant surprise and I'm very proud of myself!
What advice would you give women starting their own business?
I've never really felt the need to make a point of being female – I've never really felt defined by my gender or witnessed any kind of prejudice – until I went into business and started attending seminars, etc. I was shocked by the way I was treated compared to male friends. There's a lot of male bravado and lame intimidation techniques out there. I think being a female in business is definitely a different experience, so my suggestion is to join a women in business group or have a support network of female friends around you. Also being self-employed as an artist is a situation where having the support of friends and peers is really valuable.
What's the biggest challenge you face in your work?
Picking up on what I was just saying, the biggest challenge for me is staying focused and motivated in an environment where I don't have other people around to bounce ideas around with. I'm one of those people who gets their energy from external sources and too much time alone saps me a bit. Most of the time I'm in The Zone and quite happy to work on my own – and I definitely love the freedom and autonomy – but I do miss a bustling office environment. I'm thinking working part-time for someone else might be a good solution.
What do you love to do in your free time?
Get out of the house! Even just sitting out in the garden catching some sun at lunchtime is a welcome relief. I love to engage in a bit of chit-chat, and since my work day is so solitary, I like to spend my free time socialising... spending time with my friends and sisters over coffee, going out to dinner or to a movie... the usual stuff. I also love rummaging at markets, drives in the country...this is starting to sound like a Singles ad, so I'll stop now before I get to the walks on the beach and sipping champers by an open fire.
What are you working on right now?
I'm doing a range of hand-printed greeting cards. And getting my blog organised with my sister Jo (she of Tackorama fame) and friend Alex's help.
What do you hope to achieve next?
I'm hoping to save for a trip to England to see my sister Cas in a few months (hi Cas! x). I'm also quite taken by the idea of owning a digital diecutter... another toy to play with. Ultimately I want a larger studio space and hopefully a shopfront and get myself large-format screenprinting equipment, a letterpress and a giclée printer. I'm also hoping for a solo exhibition in the next couple of years if I can produce enough work. I'd love to travel to the US and check out the art scene there.