I thought I would share a creative conversation I had with one of my newest stockists, Puggle Post. Carmel, Puggle Post's founder moved here from the UK 10 years ago and has just opened her beautiful online store specialising in all things Australian for your little ones, but with a twist...... Only thoughtfully designed, ethically and sustainably manufactured products make the cut. Her range is gorgeous. She asked some great questions.
Here is our conversation:
Since founding Puggle Post I’ve come to realise that I actually love the stories behind the products we sell, almost as much as the products themselves. Each of the artists, designers, writers and makers have trodden different paths but their love of Australia and, more specifically, their passion for creating beautiful gifts for children, has brought them together (in my little shop at least). Sharing my vision of breathing life into a modern day representation of Australia and capturing the imagination of children around the world I’ve decided to post a series of interviews with some of them.
I’m delighted to kick off our Creative Conversation series with Eloise Short of Millions of Monkeys.
Eloise was the first person I spoke to at my first ever trade show. I saw her stunning artwork featuring native Australian animals, discovered how her values aligned with my own and realised that there were people out there creating exactly the sort of products I wanted for my store. In that instant I knew that Puggle Post was no longer an idea in my mind, it was something that could, and was going to happen!
Eloise spent a decade working as a Textile Designer and Artist before moving to the Blue Mountains and becoming a mother to two children. When her eldest child was two he caught the puzzle bug. Feeling that there wasn’t anything out there on the market that was beautifully illustrated, Australian in feel, and gender neutral Eloise felt inspired to take a change of direction and Millions of Monkeys was born.
Millions of Monkey’s is a great name. How did it come about?I had a book called ‘Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb’ when I was a kid. My Mum held onto it and now I read it to my kids. It’s all about monkeys drumming and humming and doing all sorts of other things. One of its final lines is, ‘Millions of monkeys drumming on drums’. When was I was casting around for a business name, it jumped out at me. It’s got a good ring to it.
Have Australian birds and animals always been represented in your art or are they a relatively new addition?It’s relatively new for me though they have popped up here and there. My art practice previously has focused on still life paintings and my textile design work was usually fulfilling a commercial brief. Millions of Monkeys is more or less the first creative project of this kind that I have undertaken that is also self determined. When I sat down to work out what I wanted to draw, I just felt more comfortable drawing Australian animals and have since decided to make that very much the focus of my product range.
Why is Modern Australiana important to you?I want Australian kids (and grown ups for that matter) to see Australian culture and natural beauty reflected in Australian design and art. When I was growing up in the 80’s it seemed Australiana went hand in hand with kitsch. I think that has changed now and these days we can do sophisticated Australiana and it’s appreciated by Australians. There are a lot of great Australian designers and illustrators who are reflecting Australia back at us now in many beautiful ways, but I couldn’t find great kids puzzles that did this when my eldest son went puzzle mad at age 2. I decided I wanted to have a go at doing it myself. I have made a point to use recycled materials where possible and my manufacturer is a small family run business based in Turkey who have very high workplace ethical and safety standards. These things were important to me when embarking upon creating a product range, as they reflect my personal values.
What’s your best seller and why do you think that is?My ‘Flight of the Quolls’ puzzle seems to be my best seller. I think it’s the combination of the whimsical subject matter combined with the choice of a relatively unusual Australian animal. In my Card range, the Koala and Rosella are the most popular. I think the Rosella is the prettiest and the Koala is the cutest. The Koala is probably our most iconic animal too, so I guess that’s a factor.
What does the future hold for Millions of Monkeys?I want to extend all my product lines to cover all age groups and I want to extend in to other paper products. I also really want to focus on my illustrations and make them as good as they can be.
What’s your favourite thing about Australia and why?Hmm, well the natural beauty of so many parts of Australia, (not least where I live in the Blue Mountains) makes Australia an amazing place to live, but our democratic freedom and our mostly egalitarian society (though there are some areas that need significant improvement) make us truly lucky to be Australian.
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