In the past two years, I have: taken on gigs, been fired from other gigs, participated in craft markets, travelled to Melbourne, travelled to a few places in Europe, and occasionally made some art that I felt good about. I also recently visited my family in Arizona. I hadn’t been there in five years. The feels, man.
What now? As a blog, and then a business, Saltbush Avenue is perpetually evolving. Is it a blog? Is it a shop? Is it about my house, or design, or about handicrafts? And is it even alive right now, in the year of our lord 2020?
Well. Saltbush Avenue is my creative practice, and mine alone. And it lives.
The house thing
I named this practice Saltbush Avenue because it conveys a sense of place, which in this case is “somewhere in Australian suburbia.” Houses, streets, and gardens are my thing. I love the stories they contain, and what they tell me about the people living in them. The bush is pleasant enough, but built environments really spark my interest.
Jamie and I both love tinkering with the space we live in, but after several years of doing so, I couldn’t deal with the workload we’d created for ourselves. Our kitchen, carport, shed, and spare room were collectively a pit of half-finished projects. We had to do the boring maintenance shit, too.
So I spent most of 2019 going full Kondo on our house. I finished most of the jobs that needed finishing, said adieu to the failures, and then organised the rest. My to-do list is still enormous, but when I think about the future, I can sense mental clarity rather than screeching broadcast static, so that’s good.
My house is painted dark blue, by the way. The kitchen got tiled. Our garden is filling in. Fun updates are happening, too. I want to write about it.
The maker thing
I tried selling my creative work in person at craft markets, where I found that I did not fit in very well as a Tasmanian Maker. People expect certain things when they hear that term, you see.
Tasmania is Australia’s least populated state, and its unspoilt wilderness is heavily marketed as a tourism drawcard. It’s what people are inspired by. It’s also what out-of-state visitors buy. So you see a lot of emphasis on natural materials, native botany, and earthy colours. My sharp lines and postcards about adequate suburban houses landed in those spaces like a lead balloon. Visitors looking for a charming little slice of Tassie also weren’t real hot on the American accent, either. Sorry?
The overwhelming majority of makers and punters are white women. I’m one too, so I’m not here to criticise that, obviously. But the fact remains that a local artisan market can be somewhat limited in its design scope. Sometimes it’s visually apparent, like in artwork featuring florals, delicate lines and soft colours. Or perhaps it’s in the marketing, like product lines entirely aimed at mums and kids.
I’m of two minds about this. I’m delighted that so many women are putting their creative efforts out there. It’s good stuff. And I refuse to denigrate anything considered “feminine”, because we already get plenty of that in our culture. (Let me say it REAL LOUD for the people in the back: feminine does not mean less-than!) But I, as a woman, don’t want to be beholden to the subjects traditionally associated with female creators. I want to be able to create work that has nothing to do with animals or flowers or children, you know?
So yeah, Marketing 101 fail on my part. Busy mums don’t buy my work. Men with stylish shoes buy my work. I’m in the process of figuring out where I’ll go next, and in the meantime, I’m putting any kind of independent craft market on hold unless I feel it’d be a good fit. I’m grateful to have met so many inspiring women locally, though – meeting likeminded souls has meant a lot to me.
The social media thing (aka self-promotion)
Social media is a necessary evil, particularly if a) you work in a visual/creative field and b) if you work for yourself. But I found it impossible to use without comparing my own metrics to everyone else’s (and inevitably feeling inferior). The endless Instagram parade of everyone else’s successes got to be too much for me. So I withdrew.
However: people care about the person behind the work! I realised there was no point in hiding behind the camera, posting blandly ‘instagrammable’ photos, spamming hashtags, downplaying my own identity. As someone who’s no stranger to depressive self-loathing, it’s still difficult to believe: who the actual hell would be interested in someone like me? Turns out that it’s more people than you think, if you’re willing to open up and let them.
I took some fresh photos of myself last week. It felt right.
- Your unique identity and perspective is the secret sauce.
- The only person worth comparing yourself to is past versions of you.
- Be you, not them.
There are three things I’d like to continue doing, under the Saltbush Avenue banner:
Writing. More updates on projects around my home. I won’t be returning to detailed tutorials, since those just get stolen and reposted elsewhere. (Remember what I said about the futility of making my work impersonal?) But I like talking about my own space, and the choices that inspire me.
Documenting (via Instagram). A sense of place is a key element in my work. I’m interested in what those signifiers are, and how they look visually. Like: here’s a photo of West Moonah, Hobart, Australia. You’ll notice the blue-grey natural palette from clouds, mountain and bush, the bright colours of the metal roofs, the zig-zag of power lines and rooflines stacked on top of one another. These are the visuals from here – and other cities – that I want to document for design reference.
Creating. I like making stuff, whether it’s fabric wall hangings or letterpress prints or other artworks. I’m fond of clean-lined mod design, particularly when combined with highly tactile methods and textures. Being able to dive into these passion projects is a privilege, and I’d hate to take that for granted.
Feel free to flick me a follow on Facebook or Instagram, if you’re so inclined.
I’m glad you’re here x
Glad to have you back! I always thoroughly enjoyed reading about your house projects
You are too kind, thank you!
Go you! Love your photo, and some great thoughts in your post that have given me pause.
Thanks Trixee! It’s good to hear from you.
Love the new photo Steph.
Regarding your stolen tutorials (BOO!!!!) have you found where they’re reposting them to? Would it be an option to go to those sites and post there yourself?
Unfortunately no, I can’t do much about the stolen content. My emails get ignored, and I can’t do jack without lawyers (who would never represent me anyway lol, I make no money off my content). I attended a seminar about creative legal aid, and they were sympathetic to what people go through, but they couldn’t advise much beyond watermarking your images.
It gets trickier in the context of social media, where the images you upload are subject to the platform’s discretion. Like, my options were limited when that Nazi chud Fraser Anning stole my work for a Facebook image. I reported it (and my friends reported it too!!!!) but it was ultimately up to the Facebook mod team. All I could do was repost the original image on my own socials and say I DO NOT SUPPORT ANYTHING THIS GUY STANDS FOR.
The only thing that seems to have an impact is when artists have a massive following and those followers can campaign successfully on their behalf. For people like me who, uh, don’t have that, I mostly have to accept the risk, and try to make things that are harder to steal wholesale.
It’s good to hear from you, lady!
Good to hear from/see you again!
I’m not dead!!!!!
Always enjoy your writing (and photos) Steph! And your honesty – lovely post.
Thank you Maya, that means a lot coming from you x
Just discovered this page today, and spent an hour enjoying myself-I love the detail & personality. This post is so well written, and I love your personal authentic style xx
Thank you so much Georgina, that’s so lovely to hear! x