Deborah Crowe @ 1B Ponsonby Road

We interviewed our friend and neighbour Deborah Crowe in her ‘old/new’ studio at 1B Ponsonby Road.

Deborah you’ve been our neighbour at 1B for quite some time now! What do you like about having your studio at 1B Ponsonby Road?

Yes, I’ve been resident at 1B for seven years and have just recently moved back downstairs to the room I originally rented (and recently saw referred to as ‘The Parlour’ in an Auckland Council document). Fancy. Back in 2009 I moved in for a couple of the summer months – and stayed! For me the proximity to home is excellent; I walk here in 5 minutes along K’ Rd which in itself is a great way to start the day. I really like the balance of feeling part of the community with the rest of my 1B neighbours and Studio One Toi Tū people and other creative thinkers. Alongside that I can close the door and have private meetings with mentees, or totally immerse myself in my space with full concentration on making artwork. My space has to operate in a multi-functional way so I’ve designed it with a removable wall panel, folding tables and some moveable storage. I need to be able to make messy art and to hold meetings or small group sessions for Crowe Creative, my art services business. This space is also the digital design and city office for Fraser Crowe, a collaborative textile and clothing business I own with Kim Fraser. In October during Art Week I will be clearing things away to convert it to an exhibition site.

What are you working on/towards at the moment in your art practice?

I’m making a series of objects, large digital images, prints, textiles and garments that fuse references from natural and built environments. I’m interested in what happens when space and place tangle, and in particular the residue from human occupation impacts on that environment. I’ve become quite obsessed with generation of personal waste and get quite hot under the collar about lack of consideration regarding personal waste. Think less landfill, I reckon. This has inspired me to lace some recent images with bundles of rubbish photographed in my immediate environments – small reminders that what we throw away doesn’t just disappear.

I like to work in series and have a few experiments on the go at once – saves me getting stuck! I’m working towards 4 projects for Auckland Art Week in October: a print and installation exhibition at my studio called An Other World, two works for shows curated by Lyn Dallison: a window work for Look at K’ Rd and a wall piece for Flora at Mojo, also a Fraser Crowe work for an exhibition at Gus Fisher Gallery called The Intellectual Fashion Show 2016. That’s curated by Doris De Pont, Janie van Woerden and Sheridan Keith and references the original Intellectual Fashion Show created by artist June Black at the Architectural Centre Gallery in Wellington in March 1959.

At the moment I’m also spending time developing business plans and other work to grow the three core aspects of my practice: making art, delivering art services and textile/fashion design. I usually work ‘in’ the business, but am setting aside time to work ‘on’ the business to develop these three areas towards a sustainable interrelated creative model. It’s great to have recently been awarded a place on ART Venture, Art Regional Trust’s creative enterprise accelerator programme, and I’m thrilled to be part of this programme and whānau. This provides me the opportunity to advance these three strands of creative enterprise, to strengthen the platform from which to produce innovative interdisciplinary creative work, and it reinforces the value of combining creative and business approaches in a sustainable venture. Plus I get access to pitch for seed funding and specialist coaching which will be excellent. I love learning and it’s looking really exciting already.

We couldn’t help noticing the garments in your studio…can you tell us a little about your fashion label Fraser Crowe?

Back in the late 90’s Kim Fraser and I launched Fraser Crowe after we won several Smokefree fashion Awards. Fraser Crowe retailed through WORLD, Plume and a few other high-end stores throughout Aotearoa and in Double Bay in Sydney. We operated for a few seasons and then closed the business down, each to pursue other creative and business ventures. Now, almost twenty years later, we are re-launching! It’s great fun working together again. I love working collaboratively in different areas of art and design. Kim and I make a great team; attuned in our vision, design sensibility and ideas, complimentary in our skills, approach and expertise. The best aspect is that we always come up with results that are surprising to us, which is the brilliant aspect of working collaboratively. Perhaps clichéd to say, but “the sum is definitely greater than the whole of the parts!’ Right now we are finalising production systems to launch our new works and website The garments are predominantly made of silk, incorporate digitally printed images I have designed and are cut with a minimum waste philosophy. At a time when the world is taking note of environmental and ethical issues in the fashion industry, our work aims to draw attention to issues that mindless wastefulness raises and to shift thinking towards sustainability in fashion. Perpetually manufactured for newness, textile products are readily consumed for a fashionable moment then wastefully discarded. Our aim is to make beautiful garments that will become heirlooms. More on that later though once we launch…

How do you manage your time between your practice and other projects? (any tips for new players?)

I organise my diary in slots of time for the different projects I’m involved in. I love the work I do so I’m usually thinking about it if I’m not doing it, but I’m also committed to having a good balance between work and life. Sometimes I give myself limited timeframes or mini-deadlines to complete things, and a lot of the time I work on the reward system i.e. if I get that done, I can have a coffee/go to the park/skive off to the cinema etc..! Seems simple, but it works for me. I recently brought in a studio companion, Coco, my English Bull Terrier puppy to remind me not to work too much. So… that’s working quite well as a good distraction and reminder to take breaks!

What is the one thing you can’t live without in your studio?

Too difficult to chose from my new height adjustable desk, the Makita hand drill I pretended to buy as a present for my partner, my Wacom Bamboo tablet or the small furry thing on the floor.

Learn more about Deborah Crowe on the following links: