First of all, tell us a bit about yourself! Where did your love for art and design come from?
I grew up in a really old house full of amazing things so I’ve always been surrounded by great architecture, furniture, art and design – my love of contemporary art grew from there. I also studied Museums and Galleries Management! I enjoy a good piece of art on the wall but what really excites me is seeing art in everyday life, on your Instagram feed, walking down the street or on a beach towel for example.
Do you have a special affinity with the beach? What’s your fondest memory of surf and sand?
Absolutely! I love the Bay Islands – in fact I love islands in general. I guess it’s about escapism – we are so lucky to be living with easy access to some of the most beautiful islands and beaches in the world. As early as I can remember I’ve spent my holidays at Fraser or Moreton Island or Stradbroke – they are all magic. They say that there is an island for every day of the year in the Bay. My greatest memories of the beach include collecting eugaries and eating them, bonfires and building beach igloos made of flotsam and jetsam. I used to spend hours digging big holes in the sand and spending half a day foraging all the materials. Those were the days – pre-internet days (laughs).
We overheard that you have an interest in maritime archaeology – what spurred your interest in the area and what has been your favourite spot to dive?
I have always been fascinated by the sea – the power, the romance, the mystery, the history. This is something that has really informed the Row Faster George! brand, along with pops of colour, movement and fun. I love the amazing stories about shipwrecks, of survival, of tragedy and of triumph. Also, when I was around ten years old I stumbled across an old timber shipwreck in the dunes on the ocean beach of Moreton Island. It had become exposed after a storm – and it’s never been seen since! In hindsight, that is something that has really inspired me and pushed me towards shipwreck archaeology. I’ve had amazing opportunities – I’ve dived on some stunning and historic shipwrecks in Queensland and around the world. The amazing life, colour, the decaying majesty of a shipwreck – its spiritual. Not to mention, shipwrecks are often grave sites. The most incredible wreck I have dived is probably the RMS Quetta in the Torres Strait. It was a massive iron steamship that hit an uncharted rock and sank in three minutes. Over 130 people perished. It’s isolated, the tides and currents are about as bad as you can get on the east coast, but it is awe inspiring – it’s in an excellent state of preservation for a 126 year old wreck and you can swim inside the entire hull and along its decks. Its full of fish and the chances are that you will see big sharks, manta rays, and if your unlucky the odd lizard (croc)!
Tell us how Row Faster George! got started. Why beach towels?
I love the beach, love living in Queensland and it just made a lot of sense to me at the time. Actually I had been thinking about artist designed products for a while, but the initial inspiration for the beach towel concept came about when I was down on the Gold Coast without a towel and there was nothing available except for generic or boring stuff. I just thought, “What an awesome opportunity”. And a beach towel is like a blank canvas for an artist, plus how good is the beach (or your clothesline for that matter) to display it? The launch of the RFG! brand was a part of James Street’s Resort event in October 2015. This was the perfect fit because the Resort season is all about the endless summer, the beach, bright colours and casual style!
What was your initial approach to the product concept? How did you want to stand out?
Unique designs, limited editions, quality, unlike anything else that is available! Getting the quality and printing right was really challenging, but the towels turned out a treat.
You connect with local artists to create unique products – what do you look for in an artist’s work when considering who to collaborate with?
Essentially I must love an artist’s work and their ideas. It sounds obvious but it also helps to really like the artist as a person too. Easy communication greases the collaborative process – and makes things easier. I’ve been lucky!
Did you give the artists free reign to create or was it a collaborative process?
It is definitely a true collaboration! Usually I have something in mind from the artist’s existing repertoire, then the artist takes that idea and develops something unique that fits the particular brief, format or product. It’s that simple, but all the ingredients plus lots of creativity must be in the mix.
Can you tell us a bit about what each artist brought to the table for the inaugural range of RFG towels?
Michael Phillips is a craftsman, experimenter and a colour theorist, while Stephen Mok is a whimsical genius – quirky and fun, his work is an expression of himself. Adam Lester is a soul surfer, musician, yogi and collector of images.
What’s next for the brand in 2016?
Exciting new products and new collaborations – watch this space!
Finally, what’s the best thing about being you right now?
My beautiful little girl and the freedom to be able to collaborate with projects, people and organisations that I love and respect! Oh and having Row Faster George! products stocked at the Gallery of Modern Art store.