Dubai based Australian creative Georgia Macmillan is one of the most imaginative and clever women I know. We also share a slight cushion obsession. I have a rather unhealthy obsession with collecting cushions I just love them, says Macmillan. Luckily, the talent behind Georgia Macmillan Paint and Paper Goods has just launched her first range of linen textiles, which includes heavenly double sided linen cushions stuffed with beautifully plump 100% duck down inserts, a throw and napkins.
The Indigo Series + Grey Days collection involved hand painting more than 70 watercolour patterns on A4 artist paper. I love the idea of double sided cushions, which can be mixed and matched and turned around if you tire of one particular design. Cost effective too, which was a key objective for my brands offering, says Macmillan. So it then became a process of elimination. I literally placed the paper artworks side by side on the floor and moved them around like a jigsaw puzzle. My mother, who has the best eye, was invaluable during this process and happened to be visiting from Australia at the time. For two weeks, they worked hard matching the patterns and narrowing down the range. Funnily enough the spontaneous artworks, which took the least amount of time to paint, made the cut. Not the intricate, detailed patterns I laboured over for days or weeks, she says. Each artwork was then digitally printed onto 100% white linen. Price point, quality and a unique aesthetic have always been my priority with launching the range, she says. Her favourite piece? The Big Indigo Throw. I love its versatility and pattern. I use it as a tablecloth, to cover up stains on our white couches, to throw on the lawn for the kids to sit on, and folded at the end of the bed. We are so thrilled to share her launch with our readers and caught up with our wonderful lifestyle editor to find out more about her latest venture, 4am starts and how she makes it all work
What has motherhood taught you?
Motherhood has taught me that my patience still needs improving; that even when Im pushed to my limits, I still have an endless capacity to love my almost three year old daughter Olivia; it has taught me to be kinder on myself Im doing a better job than I think; to relish the moments of joy with my daughter and have a good old laugh; it has also taught me that Im not alone other mothers are experiencing the same hurdles, the same emotions and probably shedding a tear every now and then too!
What advice would you give to your own children when they grow up on finding your career path?
Dont worry if you cant answer the what do you want to do when you grow up question during any stage of your childhood or teenage years. Pursue your passions, think outside the square, make the most of a good education, do work experience, appreciate being employed, and study and work really hard. It pays off and makes for a more satisfying ride along the way.
What advice did your own mother give you on juggling a career and family?
My mother is my number one supporter who Id be lost without. She is so creative and talented and was an incredibly successful artist in the early years of marriage, while living on a remote rural property, with my father. When I was born, she juggled her painting career, while helping Dad out with mustering and farm work, all the while creating a beautiful home. She was the Martha Stewart of the bush! My parents would throw the most incredible sit-down lunches for 120 guests and more every other weekend. During one particular party, the river running through our property flooded so 120+ guests were stranded and stayed the night. Its a favourite story of mine and their friends still laugh about it 40 years later. What I cant fathom is how they fed and accommodated all of the guests for a long weekend without preparing for weeks in advance! It must have been the best party. My mother is a just get on with it gal and believes women can do anything. I seek a lot of inspiration and motivation from her positive outlook.
Can you tell us about your background and how you came to launch your new range of textiles?
I always dreamt of being an interior designer but pursued journalism at university and started my career as a broadcast news reporter with Channel 7 in Queensland. It was an amazing job. The hours were long, the days hard and stories varied from bright and cheerful to tragic. I later moved to Sydney, in need of change, and launched straight into luxury PR representing champagne houses and some of Australias best chefs and restaurants. It was in stark contrast to the black and white hard news-world and a great deal of fun! I went on to operate my own PR consultancy a year or so before Olivia was born.
I was lucky to meet the gorgeous Georgie Abay at a mothers group. We vaguely knew each other through work and were relieved to find a friend also experiencing the raw new world of motherhood. Six months along, Georgie started developing The Grace Tales. It was such a special time in our lives, plotting and planning, and a fun distraction from the often exhausting and emotional days with our babies. I happily took on role of Lifestyle Editor, which I maintain today and love. During this time I also started doing little watercolour paintings. I hand painted 120 announcement cards (totally crazy) when Olivia was born and tinkered away at honing my skills which were very rusty. I hadnt painted since school days!
To cut a long story short our move to Dubai two years ago instigated a more serious move into art. I had the time and space to get creative so I started by releasing a range of watercolour Christmas cards, which I had printed in Dubai. They proved a hit locally and across the world. I then moved on to painting large-scale acrylic works on canvas of abstract landscapes, took on commissions, and worked on some exciting collaborations with local and international businesses.
The textiles range has been driven by a desire to take my art beyond brush and paper and see how far I can push the medium. I also feel there is a gap in the homewares markets for unique, beautifully crafted 100% linen products at an attractive price point. I loved the idea of digitally printing my original watercolour art onto linen but, being a creative with a fairly limited business background, I had no idea to execute it. This was new territory to me. It took a lot of hard work, research, extensive sampling with multiple suppliers all over the world, number crunching, more research and a positive outlook to get where I am now. I still pinch myself that this is really happening!
What inspires your designs?
Everything from my Middle Eastern surrounds, the vast desert dunes, sunsets over the Arabian Gulf, patinas and textures of historic buildings in France and Italy, a favoured colour (indigo and Dior grey at the moment), Australian artists Barbara Kitallides, Miranda Skoczek and Shilo Engelbrecht, some of Olivias beautifully illustrated childrens books, the little plant souk around the corner from our home with its beautiful flowers displayed on the footpath all year round, clever graphic design, restaurant fit outs, hotel interiors, the colours of the incredible Iranian rug shop in Al Satwa. I was also very moved and inspired by our stay at Alila Jabal Akhdar in Oman. I loved the authentic, faultless design, so respective of preserving the natural beauty of the ancient mountainous surrounds. Theres something magical about the environment with its wild donkeys, centuries old olive trees and friendly locals.
What are your tips for achieving balance?
I am no expert but structure and routine seem to work for our family. Olivia is a tricky sleeper. I cant remember the last time my husband and I had a full night of undisrupted sleep. Shell come into our room at 1am, crawl into bed, then ask for milk, then she might fall asleep, but probably not. Then at 4am “Weetbix, honey, milk Mummy. 4AM! Its a nightmare. We are so tired. The only way I survive the day is sneaking in an afternoon nap. We cut out her afternoon sleep in the hope of encouraging a full night of slumber, but it hasnt had the desired affect. I even made up a story about a nasty, scary family of crocodiles who lives under the bed. I told Olivia the crocodiles will snap her feet if she gets out of bed at night. When the sun wakes up, the crocodiles go swimming for the day so its safe again. My mother was horrified and said Ill give the poor child nightmares for life. I was so smug. Absolutely sure this would do the trick. And sure enough, on the first night, 3am came around and Olivia appeared by my bedside Weetbix, honey, milk Mummy. But where are the crocodiles darling? Oh theyve gone on holiday, she replied. The small child outsmarted me. Im totally open to suggestions.
How do you juggle your work commitments with being a mother?
The weekday structure is fairly concrete. Olivia attends nursery five half days a week and once drop off is done Im straight in to it. The mornings are crucial for me serious hours of power. Olivia isnt much of an eater so I make a point of preparing a beautiful lunch for us both to sit down to napkins, placemats etc. and we chat about her morning. It sounds civilised but this isnt always the case. Some days are great i.e. today she ate everything and was genuinely lovely and polite (air punching!), but most days are a disaster with everyone in tears and her food smeared on the floor or fed to the dog. Once lunch is over Olivia transforms in to being lovely again and we paint, sing, chase Freddy around the house and have fun. Were really lucky in Dubai to have full time help, so I usually duck back upstairs to work for another hour (or at the moment sleep the early starts are killing me!). Then there might be a play-date later in the afternoon so its back into doing kiddie stuff. I think the days are well balanced I manage to cover all bases and work on unfinished business late at night in front of the TV (best excuse to watch House of Cards repeats).
What kind of work do you need to do in a day?
My workdays vary. Some are spent shooting from the hip replying to emails and trying to stay on top of things, others are more strategic and productive in the sense that I work on a commission, deal with suppliers about products or sampling, or come up with another idea and start yet another spreadsheet to nut out costs.
How do you procrastinate?
Instagram, re-reading old issues of Belle (Australia) and Harpers BAZAAR Interiors (Arabia), checking out favourite sites The Grace Tales and The Design Files, and making coffee.
And how do you focus?
I make a strong coffee (our Nespresso machine has seriously been THE best investment), Vegemite toast (we try to eat Paleo during the workweek, so this is such an indulgence!), and turn the music up in my studio. I might flick through some art books or go through stacks of my scribbled artwork, then start mixing colours on the palette and go for it.
How do you stay social given youre working from home?
Im fairly strict about dedicating weekday mornings to work. I try to catch-up with friends and do chores in the afternoon. Of course, the need for a bit of fun creeps in most weeks and morning coffee dates are a given. Youve got to lighten up every now and then. It balances out in the end.
Whats the most challenging part of running your own business?
The business-side of business really challenges me. Sadly, the creative component of my work which is what Im most passionate about and why I pursued an art-y career in the first place accounts for about 5% of my day! Everything else comes down to spread sheets, emailing suppliers, web development, shipping logistics, liaising with media, processing orders, number crunching and more spread sheet work. I have learnt so much. Most importantly I am more confident in my decision making now. My husband and father have been so supportive as mentors sharing their incredible financial knowledge, business experience and advice. But to be honest, a bit like motherhood, I feel like Im winging it most of the time!
So far whats the hardest and best part of being a mother?
Oh motherhood is so much harder than I imagined. Im trying to ease up on losing my temper but gosh children are testing. Just when I think, Ive got this parenting gig worked out Olivia decides the meal she happily ate for the past 2 months is repulsive, 4am breakfasts are a good idea (everyday), and the naughty corner, which once had the desired disciplinary effect, is a fun place to hang out. She keeps me on my toes and outsmarts me more often than I care to admit! Aside from the testing times, I love love love my morning kisses and cuddles. My husband very kindly takes care of the early shift these days, so they make a big song and dance about waking up Mummy. Its a joyful way to start the day. Im also mad about her loud singing, enthusiastic story telling, conversations on the phone (anything from a luggage tag to a set of house keys held to her ear) and excitement over the most trivial matter. Its important for me to take stock and appreciate the wonderful, light-hearted, hilarious moments. I tend to get bogged down in the negative. The fun is what its all about.”
To celebrate the launch of The Indigo Series + Grey Days collection by Georgia Macmillan Paints and Paper Goods, we are giving away three cushions and a throw. See @thegracetales for more information.