Building a business you adore, with your best friend by your side, as you make time to be present for your growing family ... Could it get any better than that?
If you ask Lauren Emerson and Genevieve Hewson – the founders of Sydney-based textile label Walter G – the answer is "no." While many would advise against starting a business with your closest friend from childhood, Lauren and Gem are living proof that it can be done – with a healthy dose of success and joy along the way.
With Walter G, they take inspiration from old textiles and new surroundings, working closely with a team of artisans in India to collaboratively produce a tactile range of hand printed fabrics. Channelling the relaxed vibe of coastal living through pattern, fresh colour, texture and nostalgia – their fabrics are designed to be mixed and matched to elevate an interior with both style and comfort. The result? Effortless style with a globally curated vibe.
So if the change in season has you ready to revamp your lounge room with new fabrics and textures, well, you can thank me (and Walter G) later.
What inspired the launch of Walter G?
Walter G is Genevieve Hewson and Lauren Emerson – two best friends who met in Year 7 in Sydney's North. After graduating Commerce and Design in 2008 and 2010 respectively – they went on to travel extensively, particularly to places known for their textiles – such as South America and Vietnam. Lauren travelled to India to do an internship as part of her degree, and Gen went to visit several times. They completely fell in love with it – and the idea that they could start a textile company was born.
They promptly moved to India for 6 months and immersed themselves, learning everything that they could about indigo and block printing techniques – living in tiny and remote villages. Upon returning to Australia, sadly both of their grandfathers Walter and George passed at a similar time. Walter G is named in their honour – and the business was officially launched at Life Instyle in Sydney in 2012. Lauren and Genevieve believe strongly in maintaining a hands on approach within the business, travelling to India annually and staying true to their passion for the hand block printing process. They describe their brand as lived-in, imperfect, timeless, relaxed, and artisanal. All designs are their own creation, developed hands-on with a team of Indian artisans and completely hand-printed.
What did your careers entail prior to the launch of your business?
We started Walter G when we were both 24, so honestly speaking, prior to that was university and a suite of casual jobs which we used to fund our travel to random textile rich countries around the globe like Vietnam, Peru, Guatemala, etc.
We had little to no experience in running a business and went into it completely blind, without even a business plan. However, this approach tends to suit our personalities, our passion was strong and we thrive in sink or swim situations.
Can you tell us about the business?
Walter G is an Australian-owned and Sydney-based boutique textile house. Taking inspiration from old textiles and new surroundings, we work closely with a wonderful team of artisans in India to collaboratively produce a tactile range of hand block and mud printed fabrics.
Channelling the relaxed vibe of coastal living, through pattern, fresh colour, texture and nostalgia – Walter G's fabrics are designed to be mixed and matched to elevate an interior with both style and comfort.
Can you share the story behind the wonderful artisans you work with?
What is your design process like?
Our design process begins with us drawing or painting a design in various layers, then scanning it into Photoshop where we manipulate the drawings and put them into repeat. From here we send our completed designs to our artisans in India who carve the wood blocks by hand. We then proceed with test printing in different colour combinations. Once we have sample swatches of all the different designs and colour variations, we then play around, mixing and matching to decide on what pattern/colour we will release in which size. It's all about creating various sub stories within a collection that layer beautifully with each other and timelessly with our past collections.
How do you make a successful business partnership (and friendship) work?
Everyone we know warned us against going into business with your best friend. To this day, people that we haven't seen in a long time still ask us (with a nervous expression), "Are you still doing that textile thing with Gen/Lauren?"
We think that the reason it has worked for us is the same reason that we didn't hesitate going into business with each other in the first place: we have exactly the same work ethic, and naturally gravitate toward the same aesthetic and are total textile tragics.
Where luck has played into it, is that our personal lives have tracked very similarly. This has meant that we've both been able to support each other and pick up the slack when one has been married, had kids, got a mortgage, gone through family 'moments'. Had we been in different places, particularly when it comes to motherhood, we feel there would have been a lot of strain on the business. Even if people want to be understanding and sympathetic, it's not until you really go through pregnancy and motherhood yourself that you can fully appreciate the compromises that you need to make. Also, from the perspective of running a business, our goals are aligned: we want to grow the business steadily, not rapidly so that we can live a balanced life and still be able to be present with our families.
What are a few of your favourite pieces in your collections?
There have been many favourites over the years. Samples regularly go missing from our studio as we each 'try' a new look out at home!
Gen – my current obsession is our Luxor design that Lauren did. I have two chairs upholstered in it and would like to also do a bedhead in it and wallpaper my powder room in it. I just can't get enough of it!
Lauren – I'm not normally a huge green girl but I'm loving mixing our new Saltbush colour way with our Celadon and Saffrons. I've recently siphoned some samples home to pick the perfect combination for my guest bedroom!
A favourite for both of us this Summer will be our online exclusive release of Walter G Melamine plates. They are the ultimate kid friendly companion for Summer BBQs at home or by the beach – bright, patterned and unbreakable!
How do you incorporate so many incredible textiles into your homes?
With great ease! Even when there is no space left, we will begin to layer them up. This is really how we design all our collections – with the idea that they can be layered in with new and old. More is more! A designer in Boulder, Colorado just tagged us in an image where she had installed our Luxor Blossom wallpaper on the risers of her clients staircase. There is always room for more pattern in your life!
By the time you finish this story on Auguste founder Ebony Eagle, you'll want to move to Byron Bay, own a couple of horses and dress exclusively in Auguste. At least, I did. She's the type of woman who spreads positive energy and this energy trickles down to the clothes she designs. Ebony has created a fashion brand for women and children that's driven by sustainability and giving back.
Take us back to your childhood. What was it like and what are some of your most vivid memories?<p>There are so many magical memories, particularly of summers spent at our beach house in Rosebud, Victoria – days that seemed to go on forever in a world that felt so big spent with my brothers and sisters, aunties, grandparents. Lots of sand, sun and banana paddle pops on the beach. We still own this beach house and boat shed and I now take my children there to do the exact same thing. It's so unbelievably nostalgic for all of us. It's the most at ease any of us ever feel. My childhood also wasn't without adversity, but children are incredibly resilient and you learn to deal with the situation you are in as best you can. These things shape who you are. I'm from a big family of four children and we moved around a fair bit so, affectionately, home was always where the chaos was! </p>
What was your career path like prior to starting Auguste?<p>I've worked since the day I turned 13, starting with an after school job at the fruit shop, into weekend jobs at cafes and then when I finished school at 17 I was a nanny for a travelling family and spent two years hopping all over Europe… This was where the fire in my belly grew for travelling and I believe it's where my perspective on more of an entrepreneurial career took shape. When I landed back in Australia at 19 I waitressed for a few years until I got poached for a styling/production job at a studio in Richmond. This is where I learned all about shoot productions, etc, and it was whilst working here that I decided to take the leap and start my own fashion brand at 22. I managed to secure a small loan to start my business while I was working full-time and then resigned to waitress again by night and work on my label by day. I had that brand 'ebonyeve' for ten years before I started Auguste five years ago.<br></p>
Was it always a dream to have your own label, or did that come about organically?<p>Well, my Grandma taught me to sew when I was eight-years-old and I continued sewing my whole life. I've always been a massive vintage and op shop trawler and I'm creative, so the whole design part came quite naturally. The business part I learned on the job!</p>
Did you have your girls prior to starting Auguste, and if so, what was that transition like?<p>I had Coco when I was 28 and then Frankie when I'd just turned 30 so at that time, I was still running my previous label 'ebonyeve', so yes I had a business. I never stop working and throughout pregnancy and when the girls were young this didn't change… I was living in Bali at the time that the girls were young though so I just worked wearing a few less items of clothing! Work-life balance will be my lesson in this life – it's something I'm still trying to master.</p>
What's been the biggest challenge of motherhood? And the biggest blessing?<p>The thing I find most challenging is the work-life balance juggle and the fact that I have missed out on so many precious moments due to my work commitments. The biggest blessing is all of it! The whole apple, even the seeds. </p>
You've lived in Melbourne, Byron, Bali and Sydney. Do you feel that you're settled now that you've moved back to Byron, or do you crave change? What were some of the challenges and joys of living overseas?<p>Yes, I've moved around a lot in my life. Auguste HQ has always been based in Byron so moving home to here made sense for us and we always wanted to bring our children up here. I'm very settled now. I've travelled enough for ten lives! Honestly, we didn't find living overseas challenging, we adore different cultures and the perspective that they give you. We are so grateful that our girls started their life like that. All four of us loved living abroad right up until the very end but you just know in your core when it's time to come home.</p>
Is there something about Byron that called you back? Has moving to Byron influenced your designs or your process?<p>Auguste HQ has always been based in Byron so coming back here was the natural decision. Growing up here as a teen I was super eager to get out and experience the world but after I had my children, I definitely felt a strong pull to bring them up here, but more so to the hinterland where we now call home. I just love being in nature, surrounded by my children and as many animals as I can fit in! My designs have always naturally thrown together bohemian and vintage inspiration so I suppose, yes, growing up here could have been the beginning of that attraction.</p>
What are your time management tips?<p>Oh god, finish emails in your evening bath? Between the kids, the horses, the business and my embarrassing attempt of a social life, there is very little time to stop and try to time manage anything, so I pretty much fail constantly, no tips here!<br></p>
How would you describe the Auguste aesthetic?<p>Classic, bohemian, feminine, timeless.</p>
Who is your ultimate Auguste muse?<p>That's a tricky one. Stylistically, the ever-influential Jane Birkin has always been a huge creative inspiration and a measuring stick for my designs. Would Jane wear it? Yes? Good, let's do it. Her sense of fashion was just so easy going and feminine, it's everything we make Auguste to be. I've also always felt inspired by Brigitte Bardot and her femininity, she just made it so approachable. My main inspiration though is Jane Gooddall. Her connection to nature, work with animals and bravery in her field, particularly as a young woman, have given me so much courage to create, stay true to myself and use my platform to give back to the planet. </p>
Auguste is such an ethical label, from your fabrics and factories to your ongoing charitable initiatives. Is that something that has always been important to you?<p>Absolutely, I always wanted to get to a point in business where I was able to give back. To have a platform and a voice is a gift and one that I believe should be used wisely and for greater good.</p>
Do you think the fashion industry is becoming more conscious?<p>Absolutely and largely that's being driven by consumer demand, which is just awesome. It won't all happen at once, but the fact that more and more consumers are seeking out eco-friendly fashion alternatives means that more brands will follow suit. They're starting to realise that if you're not thinking about your impact on the planet, you're not being competitive, or responsible really, and that's the only real future for fashion. </p>
You regularly design collections in aid of a charitable cause. Tell us about your latest 'Hero' campaign...<p>As a mum and as a member of the global community, I wanted to unite people in recognising the dangers of bullying and how important it is to use your position to stand up for others. We designed a range of Hero slogan tees as a call to action and donated 100% of the sales to the National Centre Against Bullying and the Cybersmile Foundation to continue their work preventing abuse and giving support to sufferers. I'm incredibly proud that our message of solidarity was shared by thousands around the world and we raised more than $85,000 for our partner charities. </p>
Why is charity work so important to you?<p>It's just part of who I am and what I've always believed in, but when I had children it became a larger priority in my life. If we're not working to leave the planet a better place for our little ones, then what are we doing? How can you see what's happening in the world and not respond? I've worked hard and now I'm fortunate enough to have this platform, so I use it. To me that's just good sense, simple as that! </p>
Little August is your childrenswear line. Tell us about the inspiration behind it?<p>My daughters were my inspiration here. I created little Auguste when my girls were little and loved spinning around in full skirts, it was made for princesses – and even though those two princesses now will only wear ripped denim shorts and Auguste tees I'm so happy that there are so many other little angels out there still spinning in our creations.</p>
What's your parenting philosophy?<p>Shower them with so much love and kindness that they don't realise you often forget to do story time. Also I believe in teaching my girls independence – if they are able to do it themselves then they do. Also have fun with them and keep phones down.</p>
One of your most popular charity campaigns was your 'future woman' tee range. What sort of example do you want to set for your daughters?<p>The 'future women' tees were part of our charity campaign raising money for UN Women and promoting female empowerment, and as a mother of two daughters this meant so much to me. A big lesson I hope my daughters learn from me is to not be passive. Make opportunities, don't wait for them. Offer to help, don't wait for someone else to. Use what's at your fingertips, and then reach for more. </p>
How has COVID-19 changed the way you think about your business?<p>Covid brought a lot of perspective for me. It showed us all that everything can literally stop overnight, so for me it was a reminder to make sure that what I was doing was right for me personally and was to the standard that I wanted. We are doing a lot of work on our ethics and sustainability and really our whole brand identity. It's a time to contract and refocus on not necessarily being big but being great… and I am LOVING that.</p>
What changes will you be making?<p>We made the decision around the beginning of Covid to exit from wholesale entirely and focus on our own vertical channels, making Auguste exclusive to our online store <a href="http://augustethelabel.com/" target="_blank">augustethelabel.com</a> and our Brisbane and Byron Bay boutiques. The exit was a huge decision for me, however I know it was the right one. Being a purely vertical business means we can retract and refocus. There were many factors in this decision however the most important was the ability to continue on our journey to being a more ethical and sustainable business, because that is what it is, a journey – it is not about any one decision, it's every decision you make. Being a vertical business means we have the flexibility to make the decisions we feel are right.</p>
Just over a week ago, I stumbled across a piece on childfree women in The Guardian, after a couple of women I follow on Twitter were sharing it, outraged by its contents. The piece, part of a 'Childfree' series, was essentially a conversation between Guardian editors Summer Sewell and Jessica Reed, who, having read Sheila Heti's Motherhood, discussed their own personal reasons for not having children over drinks.
The story we are told of motherhood is one of lightness that leans into the beautiful, the incredible and the magical. However, for all the lightness there is shade, and in the shadows lies a rollercoaster which pushes you to your limits and at times breaks you. Both sides are important for open, real dialogue around motherhood. As a health professional I entered motherhood confident. I had all the resources at my fingers tips as a women's health physiotherapist. Despite this, my journey was far from smooth. Even though I was well informed, it didn't make me immune to the real emotional and physical challenges of motherhood that are still so rarely discussed.
My Motherhood Journey<p>When I first fell pregnant, I was blissfully happy. I felt I had realistic expectations of what motherhood was going to be like. I was also very aware of the high rates of mental health conditions that come up during the perinatal period and knew what to look out for. I was primed and ready to be the earth mumma I was destined to be.<br></p><p>Then my pregnancy had a slight curve ball, I had placenta previa which meant many unsettling vaginal bleeds, no exercise, and the very real threat of complete bed rest. Thankfully, my placenta lifted around 35 weeks, and I was able to have a vaginal delivery. I was induced, the birth was fast and intense, and I needed a ventouse and an episiotomy. Despite this, I felt very positive about my birth mainly because I was informed, supported and respected through the journey. We had a healthy little girl, and I was in absolute awe. Pure. Magic.</p><p>And then the post-natal period began. I had feeding issues, my baby wasn't gaining weight, she had blood in her stool, and chronic vomiting. Paediatricians prescribed various medications and prescription formula, but the constant crying from my bub and the sleep deprivation for all of us continued. For many years. </p><p>Bit by bit my confidence began to crumble. I was anxious that she wasn't getting enough nourishment, I felt guilt that this was all my fault and I started to doubt myself and believe I was a bad mother. This was not the motherhood I had pictured. But as all 'good' mothers do, I put on a brave face and pushed on. I continued to run my business, treated patients, and carried on with life. Under the surface, I was utterly depleted and hanging on by a thread. </p><p>And then we fell pregnant with our second baby. During this pregnancy my level of exhaustion hit a new low. I was still getting up through the night, working and studying, and I became highly anxious about how I was going to care for another baby.</p>
Culture influences birth on so many levels, through beliefs we hold about our bodies, our sexuality and our innate power for example
Byron Bay-based doula and mother of two boys – Dei, 10 weeks, and Pablo, 6 - Nathalie Solis Pérez had an incredibly eclectic childhood. She was born in Lübeck, raised in Germany, Guatemala and Spain, before she began her adult life in the USA and Australia. She now lives between the hinterlands of Byron Bay and before COVID-19, Berlin.
You were born in Lübeck, raised in Germany, Guatemala and Spain, and later moved to the US and Australia, and now live between Byron Bay and Berlin. What was your childhood like?<p>My childhood was spent growing up in northern Germany (which is where my Mum is from). What I loved about growing up there was the mild summers we spent swimming in the Baltic Sea and going for long walks through ancient lush green forests. The city I grew up in always felt very cozy to me due to its narrow cobble stone streets, buildings dating back a thousand years and old ships along the port.<br></p><p>Every year we would fly to see our family in Guatemala and my time there was spent playing with wild animals and absorbing all the tropical sights and sounds of parrots and monkeys, the smells of tortillas and black beans always on the stove. I loved the social gatherings and feasts my grandmother would put on and everything seemed to have a different kind of magic over there. </p><p>I went to primary school in Barcelona and have strong memories of the hustle of that city, summers spent in swimming pools, weekend drives into the Pyrenees to collect fresh spring water and visiting little Mediterranean villages for lunch. </p><p>These places I grew up in really couldn't have been more different to each other but as a child I just thought that was completely normal. My childhood is an eclectic mix of places, people, languages and cultures.</p>
Do you see lots of differences in the maternity systems here and in Europe?<p>I think overall the birth systems are quite similar. In Germany you have better access to birth centres and midwifery care. Hospital midwives often also offer acupuncture, homeopathy and naturopathy, all of which provide additional pain relief for labouring mums. In Berlin we even have an Anthroposophic labour ward where women have access to both conventional medicine and naturopathy. They even make an effort to move all technology into the background so that mother and baby are really in the centre of attention. <br></p><p>Germany has slightly lower intervention rates than Australia, but both birth systems suffer from similar problems. High-intervention births are financially 'rewarded' which makes it less likely that a wait-and-see approach is adopted where labour can unfold on its own. Labour wards are often already under-staffed and lack funding, so this system makes it difficult to support physiological birth. Care by independent midwives (in the home birth and birth centre setting) is also under threat due to rising insurance rates.</p>
You have a background as a cultural anthropologist and you've said that in your work as a doula you "derive inspiration from many different cultures and traditions". In what ways do you think culture influences birth and the postpartum period?<p>Culture influences birth on so many levels, through beliefs we hold about our bodies, our sexuality and our innate power for example. The language we use to talk about birth also affects how we perceive and experience it. Take the word 'delivery' for example. It's surprising that this term is still in use as it suggests that women are not active birth-givers but someone else 'delivers' their baby. Babies are not delivered - mothers give birth to them!<br></p><p>Culture also influences the way we perceive the postpartum period. In Western societies this time is seen as a time of transition, but it does not have the same significance for the woman's future health, strength and wellbeing as it does in countries such as China, Japan or Latin America for example. These cultures have more practices in place to honour the 'First Forty Days' after birth. We can learn so much from them in this regard and I think it's important for mums to know that their need for rest, recovery, healing and nurturing after birth is so valid. It's hard to live in a culture that does not fully acknowledge this as it makes us feel as if this adjustment should be easy, but without the support of our community and culture it certainly is not.</p>
Your first birth inspired your transition to becoming a doula. What was that birth like?<p>I gave birth to my first son Pablo at home after a beautiful and calm five hour labour. It was beyond anything I had ever hoped for at the time and that sense of empowerment I felt after birth has stayed with me ever since. I loved how labour and birth was simply a natural part of our day together at home. This feeling of homeliness made me feel safe and enabled me to find my way of coping with the rising intensity and pain of the surges. I love thinking back of the moment where I talked to my unborn baby assuring him I was ready and would follow him wherever he'd lead me. I knew I had to give myself over completely to this process so that labour could unfold smoothly and quickly. An hour later he was born and to this day I feel so grateful to my midwives for creating the safe space for me to do the work I needed to do.<br></p>
Did you choose to do anything differently for your second birth? Why or why not?<p>During my pregnancy with Dei I invested a lot more time preparing for breastfeeding and postpartum as I knew this would be challenging again for me. With my first I had such a hard time breastfeeding and was in tears and ready to give up on day three after birth. At the time I didn't know that lactation consultants existed which would have really helped me as I was trying to breastfeed a tongue-tied baby which caused so much pain and lead to recurring mastitis infections. I did not want to go through months of pain again with my second so I started preparing for breastfeeding in late pregnancy by working with a lactation consultant and coming up with a plan. It was so worth it and although breastfeeding has been difficult again I was able to push through all these challenges with the help of my support team. To prepare for the postnatal period my partner André and I had a postpartum planning session in pregnancy with one of our doulas which was amazing. Having a plan for this period is a great way to make this transition as smooth and enjoyable as possible for your family.<br></p>
You've referred to the mother's partner as the 'postpartum manager'. Tell us about the importance of this role?<p>After birth the partner's role is to keep something cooking on the stove, put the phones on silent, ward off or let in visitors, look after older children, put on the laundry and bring the mother water, food and snacks or whatever she might need. Keeping everything running smoothly and freeing the mother from all her usual chores is key to ensuring she can fully recover from pregnancy and birth, learn how to breastfeed and bond with her baby.<br></p><p>Traditionally a female relative would have moved in to provide this type of support but nowadays the partner often needs to fulfil this role whether by choice or necessity. </p>
When it comes to birthing and postpartum, do you follow your own advice? And do you hire a doula?<p>Yes, absolutely. Everything I teach I also applied to my own pregnancy, birth and postpartum period. André and I had several doulas and midwives supporting us through our journey this time around which has been wonderful. <br></p><p>In pregnancy and birth, we are all equal and even though I am a birth doula I need as much support as any other mum going through this life transition. </p><p>I realised that as birth professionals we sometimes need to work even harder to get out of our head and back to a place of trust and surrender as we embark on this journey ourselves. Because I'd been to so many births and seen so many things, I constantly needed my doula's and midwife's reassurance that everything was ok and would be fine, and that other people's experiences had nothing to do with my own. It was a really beautiful experience to be on the receiving end of this type of support and just reaffirmed its value to me.</p>
What do you think we could learn from traditional 'village' models when it comes to the postpartum period?<p>We could learn the importance of surrounding the newborn family with community support in the first forty days after birth. Organising a 'meal train' or some sort of meal delivery, or for someone to come in and cook is so helpful. Looking after the mother is looking after the baby. She is giving to her baby 24/7 so she needs to be cared for too. The newborn mother might need a shoulder to cry on, nourishing and warming foods and drinks, a massage, a chat, someone to tend to her older children, someone to hold the baby so she can rest or have a shower. No traditional culture would <em>ever</em> leave a mother with a newborn baby alone, but in our Western culture this is considered normal once the partner needs to return to work (which is often after two weeks). In the 'Fourth Trimester' (the first three months after birth) no mother should be without the support of her community. It's a very vulnerable and significant time for the future of this family. So, we can learn a lot from traditional cultures who have always known this and put practices into place to ensure there is a circle of support around the mother and baby in the first forty and sometimes even the first hundred days after birth.<br></p>
What's the number one thing you think women can do to prepare for birth?<p>Understanding the concept of <a href="https://spinningbabies.com/" target="_blank">Spinning Babies </a>and Optimal Fetal Positioning during pregnancy. If we want an optimal birth experience we need to become proactive about ensuring our body is in an optimal state of health, balance and alignment. Gail Tully introduced this paradigm into the birth world to teach mothers how to create balance in their body to bring comfort and ease to their pregnancy and birth. Simple exercises and techniques can be applied to create more space in the pelvis and lower uterine segment so baby can settle into an optimal position for labour. Many issues in childbirth are due to fetal malposition, so this knowledge is vital to have during pregnancy but not something that is commonly shared by our care-providers. Many interventions and Cesarean births can be prevented by applying this knowledge in pregnancy. This approach is all about using balance before force and while there is no magic formula to help all women to have a physiological birth this has been helping many women. Optimal Fetal Positioning is enhanced by receiving regular osteopathic care throughout pregnancy and research has shown that this has benefits for all pregnant mums, not only the mums with posterior or breech babies.<br></p>
What's been a career highlight or a favourite birth you've attended?<p>Every birth I attend is a highlight. I mean how could it not be? Seeing parents meet their baby for the first time always makes me cry, every single time. It's always an absolute miracle and something so special and powerful to witness. I feel incredibly privileged to be invited into the birth room by my clients and feel honoured to serve them during this most pivotal time in their life.<br></p><p>My career highlight was to learn from Dr Michel Odent and Liliana Lammers, his doula friend of 20 years. They embody such a wealth of knowledge, wisdom, inspiration and their candid humour is refreshing. I have learnt more by spending time with them than I have in any other training. They instilled in me an unwavering faith in our bodies, the birth process, and our sovereignty as birthing mothers. I feel so grateful to have been able to spend time with these luminaries of the birth world.</p>
What's the most challenging thing about your work?<p>Definitely the night shifts, and the unpredictable working hours. Especially while also juggling family responsibilities. I couldn't be a doula without the full support of my partner, as I might head to my client at an hour's notice at any time of the day or night, so both of us need to be organised. We've become an amazing team over time, but it's challenging to not know whether I'll be home in three hours, or two days<u>.</u><br></p>
If you could change one thing about the Australian maternity care model, what would it be?<p>It would be for all women to have a primary midwife who cares for them during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Being able to establish a relationship with your care provider is so important, and research has shown that midwifery-led continuity of care is the safest type of care for most mothers and babies. Women who receive this need less interventions at birth, less pain relief and are more satisfied with their birth experience. It's frustrating, exhausting and carries more risk if women receive so-called fragmented care and see different clinicians at each prenatal visit and don't know who will care for them during labour. We are not meant to give birth surrounded by strangers, but instead with a team of respectful, caring, nurturing and supportive people which we have built a relationship with.<br></p>
The Grace Tales is a global lifestyle platform for mothers searching for style, substance, and solidarity. Driven by creating content, community and connection, we celebrate the paradox of modern motherhood; the struggle and the beauty, the joy and the relentlessness.
Sophie Harris-Taylor captures something we often try so hard to hide: our vulnerability. As mothers, we're supposed to be strong and powerful, yet what is often overlooked is that our transition into becoming a mother is the most vulnerable period of our lives...
"I think we're often afraid to show our vulnerabilities," agrees London-based Harris-Taylor. "Perhaps we think by showing this side people are going to judge and only see weakness. Where actually I think there's something incredibly powerful and strong about being openly vulnerable. I'm in awe of the people I photograph, its often about striking the balance between confidence and vulnerability. I've found my work to be a very therapeutic experience, it took me a while to open up myself, but by doing this it has allowed my subjects to open up and engage in an honest conversation."
You’ve said: “I think most importantly that looks don’t define who you are, and in the end don’t really matter.” Why do some of us take so long to come to this realisation? And tell me your thoughts on beauty and how it led you to create Epidermis?<p>I think when we're younger we get so caught up on our looks, perhaps before we know where we're headed in life, it can seem like the be-all and end-all. And sometimes it comes from a place where you just want to fit in. And perhaps it just comes from life experience that you start to realise other things matter more.<br> <br>It sounds cliché but beauty is of course so subjective yet in the mainstream media we are often not exposed to this kind of diversity. Epidermis for me was a way of showcasing beautiful women in skins less often seen. Most of my personal projects seem to come from my own life experiences and throughout there is always some element of my own vulnerability – I began to reflect on my own past and feelings towards my skin, I'd suffered from severe acne. Back then, there were no idols, role models and people to look up to who had anything but flawless skin. Which obviously meant I struggled with my own self-image. We've come a long way since then, what with body positivity and generally people speaking out about beauty standards and promoting diversity. However, I still felt that there was a lack in representing skin in an honest and open way. </p>
Your work captures a character’s vulnerabilities – why do you think we sometimes hide our vulnerabilities and what have you learnt about being vulnerable through your work?<p>I think we're often afraid to show our vulnerabilities. Perhaps we think by showing this side people are going to judge and only see weakness. Where actually I think there's something incredibly powerful and strong about being openly vulnerable. I'm in awe of the people I photograph, its often about striking the balance between confidence and vulnerability. I've found my work to be a very therapeutic experience, it took me a while to open up myself, but by doing this it has allowed my subjects to open up and engage in an honest conversation.</p>
For your series Sisters, you photographed and interviewed over 70 sets of sisters, of all ages and backgrounds – and have said that it was a way of reflecting on the difficulties of her own relationship with her sister. Can you describe this relationship?<p>At the time I created the work, there wasn't much of a relationship there if I'm honest, we'd not really been able to see past our teenage years and sisterly disputes. Since then we've started to rebuild our relationship as adults. I think I tried to understand a bit more about the complexities of sisterhood and the journeys of this kind of lifelong relationship.</p>
You’ve described mastitis as more painful than childbirth – tell us about your experience with breastfeeding?<p>Yes looking back I really did! It was very much a love/hate relationship. In some ways I was lucky, my son latched on quickly in the hospital and fed well. But getting mastitis early on meant it became very difficult and painful to feed him at times. I seemed to always be overproducing which led to the ducts becoming completely blocked and then getting infected. The pain combined with sleep deprivation was pretty exhausting. My son used the breast as a comfort a lot so for months I felt like he was completely attached to me, but never that full. I started mixed feeding after about 4 or 5 months.. this helped him sleep through the night. Once he started weening there wasn't much milk left and in one breast my supply had pretty much dried up all together. As soon as I stopped, I missed it.</p>
How would you describe the intimacy or closeness of breastfeeding and how did it make you feel?<p>It's pretty magical. I loved the intimacy, the comfort it gave him which in turn it gave me.</p>
There’s sometimes a longing for personal space, as mothers feel they have a baby constantly attached to them. Did you ever feel this?<p>Absolutely I felt constantly clinged too. Being pulled and tugged whilst covered in milk really did make me long for personal space. Then again, I felt this huge guilt, because I'd met so many mums that couldn't for various reasons breastfeed and there I was complaining about it.</p>
You’ve always had a complicated relationship with your body. Can you tell me about this relationship – and how did breastfeeding change the way you felt about your body?<p>Having had an eating disorder since my early teens, it's been an ongoing battle really. I don't know if breastfeeding really changed the way I felt towards by body but certainly postpartum I was desperate to get back to my old body. And having never had large breasts before, this made me feel pretty uncomfortable, physically and mentally, and it was weirdly unfamiliar.</p>
You felt lost after you gave birth – can you take us back to this period of your life and how you felt?<p>I did, I think because you've got this new identity suddenly as a 'new mum' and your life as what you knew it has completely changed overnight. But you know deep down, you're still you and your identity hasn't really changed at all. Don't get me wrong, I actually loved becoming a mum, but I found the day to day, the monotony of it all at the very beginning pretty boring. My friends were working, and I felt in some ways a bit bored and not that stimulated. When I started to make work again felt like I got a bit more of myself back.</p>
What were some of the most vivid memories you have of shooting MILK?<p>Zenon my son, was there for most of my shoots. This was in some ways really fun and a real bonding experiences between me and the Mum. But looking back a complete nightmare. Logistically. At the beginning when I started shooting, he couldn't even sit up by himself so he'd often be just out of shot, lying on the bed next to the other Mum feeding. Then towards the end, he was running all over the place, pretty much destroying the house..</p>
What messages do you hope women will take away from MILK?<p>It'd be nice for other women, to feel they can relate to the images and experiences of the other mums a bit more, than the typical nursing Madonna-like images we are used to seeing. For a lot of people and not just men, they find it kind of gross. Even though we've all seen a cow being milked, I guess women's breasts have become so sexualised, that actually what they are originally for has almost been forgotten. I think the more we talk about these things and make them more publicly seen, the less taboo they become. At least, that's the hope.</p>
"I know that abandoned is a word that has been used in telling that story, but I actually don't want to use that word anymore," Zoe Hendrix tells me, when we go back to the beginning of her life, when she was born amidst the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war...
When she was five years old, she went to live at an Ethiopian orphanage with her twin brother. In her own words, "It sounds like you abandon an old tire on the road or something, and to me, it's more that she surrendered us because she was very unwell. I only learned this recently as well, so that's why I want to correct the wording I have used previously." Hendrix and her brother were later adopted by a Tasmanian couple and moved to Australia. Fast forward to 2015, and the country watched Zoe marry Alex Garner on the very first season of Married at First Sight. The couple went onto have a beautiful daughter Harper-Rose, but have since separated.