Content created in partnership with BLUNT Umbrellas
We’re long-time fans and friends of Melbourne-based creative Kiwi Kelly Thompson, known for her playful style, love of colour and beautiful botanical and beauty illustrations (she also has really, really great hair).
Her latest creative project is a collaboration with BLUNT Umbrellas, illustrating a farmers’ market-inspired print that features on two colourways - a fun, must-have winter accessory (click here to shop). Ahead of the launch, we talked to Kelly about the BLUNT partnership, NZ fashion, winter dressing and embracing colour.
Hi Kelly, how are you? What have you been up to lately?
Oh, this is a nice start, I’m really good thank you! Lately I’ve been focused on the growth of my online store Makers’ Mrkt which has become a large part of my work life in the last six months. I’m very enthusiastic about it and am finding it to be a rewarding journey so far, I’m currently working with a mentor to see where we can take Mrkt and hopefully looking to gain outside investment in the next 18 months. I’m very passionate about it!
I’ve also been working on a knitwear collab with a NZ-based brand and developing some of my own products (although my own things are a bit of a slow journey on the side). I also just purchased my first house and will be moving in in June, so it’s an exciting year so far.
We love your approach to colour; something you’ve always embraced. What do you love most about wearing it?
Colour makes you feel good, I really enjoy its power over mood and energy and its ability to completely change your complexion. People also respond so well to you when you wear colour - not only does it make you feel good, but it also seems to change the way people react to you. People are kinder and more positive to you when you wear colour!
What advice would you give someone who wants to bring more colour into their interiors?
If you’re not used to colour, I would say start small, or pick your favourite colour, something that you’re always drawn to and don’t think is a fad. If even that seems terrifying, you could also try starting by adding different textures or even brass or chrome to get warmed up.
I wouldn’t recommend going on a colour shopping splurge, start gently, maybe a coloured vase against your neutrals, a bold contrast throw on plain bedding or a couch.
Once you’ve warmed up, start to filter that colour through gradually, perhaps with the addition of an artwork with hints of said colour, or a grouping of objects in various tones of that colour. You could also add a complementary colour to avoid things becoming too themed. The main thing is to go with what makes you feel great - ignore the trends, go for what you love, or choose objects of sentiment and build gradually as you settle in.
You’ve always been a champion of NZ fashion too. What are some of your favourite brands - both local and not - right now?
Oh I do love NZ fashion so much and probably have a little bit of everyone sprinkled through my wardrobe - I love so many NZ designers for different reasons, it’s hard to pick!
I’ve always been a long-time lover of Karen Walker, initially becoming interested in her designs during university because she was one of the only brands at the time using colour and print. I usually get a couple of pieces each season and always love her frames so much!
I also love Wynn Hamlyn particularly for his suiting and beautiful knitwear; I pull his pieces out every year. Similarly, Salasai makes great trans-seasonal layering pieces and dresses that I pull out year after year, along with my The Knitter knitwear and Yu Mei bags.
I’ve also got my eyes on some of the younger creative brands popping up: Dorothy Knitwear is on my winter shopping list, Havilah for their colour, Dear Dylan and their super comfy pastel knickers.
Outside of NZ, and without mentioning big brand daydreams, I’ve been buying Ganni lately. It’s just a cute everyday brand that’s focused on becoming more and more sustainable and I like their lighthearted approach to fashion. I also enjoy Stine Goya, Dodo Bar Or, wish I could afford Rowen Rose, Courrèges (I find it vintage instead), and Hope Macauley.
There is definitely an art to dressing in winter, particularly when it comes to rainy weather. What do you love most about winter fashion/dressing?
COATS! One of the things that I’m most excited about in regards to moving into my new house (other than the obvious) is hanging up all my vintage coats in one place. I love putting on a giant coat, it’s so glam and textural and comfy!
I also think that growing up in NZ makes you a layering pro and I really enjoy the process of figuring out how to layer summer pieces and winter pieces together to create a fun new look. Also socks, I LOVE fun socks.
Tell us about your fun BLUNT collaboration - what was your inspiration when developing the ‘Blooms and Shrooms’ design?
For the past few years, since starting my own vege patch in response to my diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I’ve developed a new connection to nature, how we need each other, how it heals and nourishes and I’ve become so much more fascinated by plants and flowers. You can probably even notice it in my illustration work as the beauty component became second tier focus to the illustrating of botanicals and flora.
During lockdown (we had a 5k radius restriction for months in Melbourne and were in complete lockdown), the only thing I had to entertain myself was the garden, and the weekly trip to the farmers market became equivalent to a hot date or social gathering.
There was a man selling mushrooms with his son and he had the most incredible giant, colourful, weird looking mushrooms; I just wanted to buy them all and also wanted to illustrate them. I had a client who commissioned a giant mural in a mall and I thought that was my mushroom moment, but unfortunately as all malls were locked down that project was postponed and so I decided to put my mushroom energy into BLUNT!
Tell me a little bit about the process of actually drawing or creating the illustration - what tools/materials/programmes do you use?
My toolkit is very simple; I draft my composition ideas very roughly using Photoshop and my Wacom tablet, it’s always quick (looks like a child did it) and an easy way to show the client ideas first before getting into the slow part. Once approved I sketch on recycled cardboard with a black coloured pencil and eraser, sharpening my pencil like a psycho every five minutes.
This is the slowest and most detailed phase but the most enjoyable, particularly when working with a nice client like BLUNT who respects the process. Once I’ve done the sketch I scan it and email to the client for approval or for tweaks, once approved I then take it into Photoshop where I add the colours layer by layer.
Do you have a Blunt? What’s your favourite style, or previous collaboration they’ve done?
Haha, yes! I think I have about seven, but I worked for them previously on social media collaborations hence the collection. My favourite is my Karen Walker Grandmaster print metro and a bright yellow metro which just makes me happy on gross grey days.
What does it take for you to want to collaborate with a brand? I imagine you get asked to do things a lot!
There are a few things, but the main driver is that I really respect them and like them! Some collabs I do purely for the joy of extending on my creativity. I have ideas that span so many mediums, but I am skilled in few so a good collab takes me from mind and page to object or space.
I love working with brands that are doing things that I don’t know how to do. I like to learn, so, for example, when I collaborated with Walker and Hall, I was walked through the full process of sketch to product and learned so much about the intricacies of designing jewellery.
With the knitwear collaboration I’m working on now, I couldn’t knit a scarf, but I do have plenty of ideas so it’s fun to fully collaborate where we both bring our skills together to make something new with full respect for each other.
Your work has always had a distinctive whimsical aesthetic, whether it’s a botanical or a beauty illustration. But how would you describe your work?
I always describe my work as feminine, delicate, but confident, it’s very precise and even though there is whimsy it’s very considered and deliberate.
We cannot wait to come back to Melbourne again! If we were to visit, what five places would you recommend?
I can’t wait to come back to NZ, I miss the motherland so much!
In Melbourne, I would recommend the NGV always, Embla restaurant for dinner, a trip to Phillip Island for a lazy low key nothing fancy weekend (with good lamingtons), a drive down the coast to see Great Ocean Road (it has nothing on NZ but still good). And Falco Bakery for a cardamom bun.
BLUNT’s tagline is ‘Made for the extraordinary’. What’s something extraordinary you’ve experienced lately?
I’ve found a wave of positivity and togetherness in the creative community to be so extraordinary. Lockdown was killer for so many creative businesses here and yet, despite that, it has bred an amazing comradery, a new energy and enthusiasm and beautiful feeling of togetherness. I guess it’s true what they say about every depression bringing creative rebirth.
Content created in partnership with BLUNT Umbrellas