“I find all of it a bit of a challenge really, and all the time (but that’s ok, because I’m convinced that is normal!). Since becoming a mum I feel I have completely changed as a person so it’s that adjustment that I quite struggle with internally. I used to like this, do that, think this way, and now my answers would be so different. You know, I never used to really understand when women would say, ‘One day I just woke up and didn’t know who I was anymore’. I totally empathise with that now,” says the disarmingly honest Lara Burke on motherhood.
Brisbane-based Burke – mother to Milo, 7, and Lucien, 4 – is one half of the clever duo behind new independent publishing house, We Print Nice Things, which she founded with Louise Bannister (based in Byron Bay and mama to Harriet, 4, Pearl, 3, and Bon, 10 months). The talented team have spent over 15 years working in magazines and founded hugely successful publication frankie back in 2004 (they handed the reins over to Morrison Media in 2014).
They’ve recently launched their first parenting magazine, Lunch Lady, which is based on the blog by Australian photographer and mother of two Kate Berry. The quarterly publication launched last November and is more like a coffee table book than a magazine, printed on beautiful stock and filled with the kind of thoughtful, considered content that you’ll want to come back to time and again. “Lunch Lady was destined to be a keepsake. There is so much love and energy put into each issue right down to the paper and printing choices, it can’t be a throwaway. We love tactile things and Kate’s photography and recipes really needed to be housed in something quite special,” says Bannister.
It was such a pleasure to learn more about these talented women and I hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I did.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given about motherhood?
Louise: My mum has always said, “A little bit of everything does you good” and it is a saying that has resonated with me my whole life. The quote for me is about balance and trying everything whether it be food, culture or any experience. It’s about trying to have a balance and not being extreme about things. I want to pass on that perspective to my kids.
Lara: Pieces of advice I have never forgotten were given to me by strangers. I was getting a blood test just before my eldest son was born and the nurse passed on her mantra for raising good kids. “Yes means yes, no means no, lots of praise, and keep boys busy.” And a mother of four grown boys once said to me in passing, “Just keep it short. And make eye contact. Clean. Your. Room.” Awesome. No one wants to hear a monologue.
Can you tell us about your childhood?
Louise: I was born in England and then moved to Africa when I was two-years-old and onto Australia when I was eight. My Dad was an oil mechanic and spent time working on trucks all over the place – he used to tell us stories of frying eggs on his truck while working on some vehicles in the Sahara desert. We lived in Zimbabwe and looking back it was quite an adventurous life. My brother has stories of travelling to car breakdowns with my Dad and seeing elephants and monkeys on the side of the road. I remember we had a big tree we would swing from, a pool and no TV.
Lara: I grew up in a small country town in Queensland. It was idyllic, a really sweet and happy time. My parents are encouraging, loving and kind people. They are both hard working and very creative. Always making and doing. I don’t recall them ever lounging about. My Dad was a fireman and his shift work allowed him to be very involved in our lives and a modern, hands-on parent. This of course is not unusual these days but it was in 1985. He would come to reading class at school, and volunteer at swim carnivals etc. I sensed at the time how lucky my sisters and I were. I was always the envy of the kids when Dad came to school. His childhood was difficult and sad and in some bittersweet way my sisters and I benefited from this and he was a total super dad. Thinking back, as youngsters we were really well behaved and did as we were told, and not even begrudgingly. My parents were definitely not strict and they barely raised a voice. Hmmm, they must have had the magic touch!
When did your love of magazines begin?
Louise: Funnily enough I never really read magazines before I started making them, but I’ve always loved storytelling and books. I remember in Year 8 some girls bought Dolly to high school and I thought it was so boring. Finding great stories and interviewing people has always been a passion of mine. I think most people are fascinating and I’m very curious about what they think and why. Magazines have been a way for me to share “ordinary” people’s stories.
Lara: As soon as I started studying design I couldn’t get enough of fancy magazines but they were purely design, print, production reference books for me, particularly the ones coming out of Europe. I had no interest in the glossies, even when I was younger, their content and aesthetics were never my cup of tea.
Have you always been ambitious? What led you to launch frankie magazine and then move onto launch We Print Nice Things/Lunch Lady…
Louise/Lara: Yes, we have always been overly optimistic and driven. We always thought anything was possible with hard work and a bit of luck. We are very like-minded and have had a brilliant creative partnership. Coming up with the idea of frankie happened over a glass of wine and a notepad and we can’t remember for one moment thinking it wouldn’t work (!). In hindsight and with age we’ve realised it was quite impulsive. After 15 years working together and co-founding frankie, smith journal and other titles for someone else’s business, we really wanted to move on and own something ourselves. We always wanted to start our own boutique publishing company, producing beautiful printed products, run a real family friendly business on our own terms (and not have a boss!). Leaving frankie and taking the big jump to do this was the best thing we have ever done.
Lunch Lady is more like a coffee table book – would you agree and was that your aim?
Louise/Lara: Yes! And quite by accident. Magazines and books really take on a life of their own once the content gets going and Lunch Lady was destined to be a keepsake. There is so much love and energy put into each issue right down to the paper and printing choices, it can’t be a throwaway. We love tactile things and Kate’s photography and recipes really needed to be housed in something quite special.
Can you tell us about Kate Berry and how she inspired Lunch Lady to become a magazine?
Louise/Lara: We were working on a project for a client and stumbled across a story about Kate, her partner Rohan Anderson and their four children between them. We knew Rohan’s story as we had worked together on a few things during the frankie era but we had never met Kate. We were surprised because after working at frankie press for so long we thought we knew most of the creative community. After reading Kate’s blog we were super excited. Here was a mother talking about her kids with a raw honesty we hadn’t come across before. Kate’s writing really resonated with us and her photos were so beautiful. We immediately reached out and said hello. Kate had started the Lunch Lady blog because her daughter Maya was being bullied at school for bringing in homemade lunches. Kate wanted to boost Maya’s self esteem and help her through this difficult time so together they made a blog about food and life. We just knew we could work with Kate and take the concept of the blog and create a really great magazine together.
Where will print media be in 10 years?
Louise/Lara: Full of really great niche magazines with incredible content (We hope anyway!). Magazines that try and cover everything are dying – you can’t compete with the Internet, as it does that so well. And the Internet can’t compete with a beautifully photographed book with engaging content on luscious stock that smells delightful, and that doesn’t need a charger after two hours.
What’s your approach to digital media?
Louise/Lara: Louise: Digital media is a powerful way to get your product to lots more people. We love digital because it connects communities quickly. It’s amazing in that way. However we don’t love the way it can be lazy from a content point of view. Digital is a beast that needs to be fed which sometimes makes content questionable.
What has been the most challenging stage of motherhood for you?
Louise: When Harriet, our eldest, was a newborn, we’d just moved our house onto a block of land and were in the middle of renovating. I felt very isolated as I didn’t know anyone in the area. I remember feeling really helpless at times because I had no idea what I was doing or why she was crying or not sleeping. So I ended up reading a lot which kind of messed with my mind!
Lara: I find all of it a bit of a challenge really, and all the time (but that’s ok, because I’m convinced that is normal!). Since becoming a mum I feel I have completely changed as a person so it’s that adjustment that I quite struggle with internally. I used to like this, do that, think this way, and now my answers would be so different. You know, I never use to really understand when women would say, One day I just woke up and didn’t know who I was anymore. I totally empathise with that now. Letting my boys grow older is also a challenge. I have told them they are not allowed to grow up. I don’t want this lovely little-boy stage to end but I cant stop it for some reason! Letting them go, now that will be a challenge.
What are your time management tips – how do you juggle it all?
Louise: After having our third baby I’ve had many moments where I feel I may have pushed it too far and my juggling skills have been tested in ways I never knew possible! For me it’s all about really making the most of small moments and being super focused in those moments (which is hard with Instagram). Like when the baby is sleeping, when the girls are at pre-school, after 7pm (the amount of parents working at that time!!). Some days I juggle terribly and other days not so badly. I always have to remind myself that things change quickly with small children and before I know it they will all be at school.
Lara: I am quite strict about working every second when the kids are at school and daycare, and making the most of it so I can be offline when they are at home until they go to bed. It requires a lot of self-discipline. I like to get up early and just get stuck into the day. Time is more precious than gold to me. There is so much to manage when your kids go to school that I actually just can’t think about work until they are dropped off. The mornings can be a bit of a disaster sometimes but it’s something I am working on. It’s a real energy zap for me starting the day in such a rushed chaotic mode. Ps. It is 10.20pm at night and I am answering these questions. So clearly my time management is still a work in progress. Dying to go to bed!
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the juggle?
Louise: Yes! Constantly. When I was pregnant with Bon I started dabbling in meditation and it really helped me. I try to put some of it in to practice when I feel overwhelmed. I also think life has a way of helping you gain perspective. My father recently passed away after a short illness and experiencing that has really made me realise not to make mountains out of molehills. I have definitely learnt to surrender more with age.
Lara: Of course, but I feel like all mums whether they are working or not are jugglers. To me that’s just part of motherhood. And when I think of it as just that and not ‘juggling’ then for some reason it’s easier to deal with. I feel less and less overwhelmed these days and just tend to go with it. Surrender. Tomorrow will be another day. This temperature won’t last forever. The tantrum phase will end next week. The crying will stop in 15 mins. The work will get done in the end. Tomorrow night I’ll serve up a healthier dinner.
What’s your favourite social media platform and why?
Louise: I have a love/hate relationship with Instagram. I love the visual nature of it but boy, have I have wasted some time on it.
Lara: For work purposes I find great benefits in Pinterest. For researching, filing and sharing visuals with a team working in different offices, it is such a helpful tool for me in that aspect. On a personal level I’m not a big social media user and don’t have any personal accounts. I find it quite suffocating and not at all enjoyable. I am very aware that I am in the minority here however I really am just not that into it. There is only one downside to this for me and that is I have become one of those annoying people that is forever missing calls because I am not attached to a phone, much to the frustration of my husband!
What is your approach to health and wellbeing?
Louise: I do not spend nearly enough time thinking about my own health and wellbeing but I have grand plans to do yoga, meditate regularly, drink turmeric milks, start barre classes, run on the beach, play soccer and the list goes on. One day!
Lara: Yes – grand plans!
What are your daily beauty essentials and how long does it take you to get out the door in the morning?
Louise: Sometimes I should spend more time getting ready and less time getting out the door.
Lara: I don’t have any daily beauty essentials. Umm a shower? If I’m up to it I’ll blow dry my fringe, otherwise it’s a Nanny Plum bun and bobby pins for the day. OMG, getting kids out the door, Struggle Street!
How to you treat yourself?
Louise: Dinner out with a beautiful glass of red is a real treat. A spa treatment is also right up there with winning lotto.
Lara: Dinner that I don’t have to cook is such a treat for me. Could even be eggs on toast for all I care. Anything that doesn’t require me to do the cooking makes my day. Another treat for me is time spent with my girlfriends when we don’t have our children around or are not on a time-limit, this actually never happens at the moment! But if it did, it would be a big treat.
Do you prefer to text or call?
Louise: I like texting for everyday things and calling for the big moments.
Lara: If I know the person, I definitely text. I would never phone anybody before 8 or after 8, however I think it is perfectly acceptable to text sisters and girlfriends at 2am in the morning. We are all awake then aren’t we?!
Coffee or tea?
Louise: Coffee! Two a day!
Lara: Coffee! Two a day!
Who is your role model?
Louise: My mum – for her resilience. The girls I work with – Kate and Lara because we’re all doing our best trying to juggle life responsibilities while creating something awesome. My friends who run small businesses – I love sharing challenges together and helping each other.
Lara: No one person in particular. I get a buzz from people all the time. Brave selfless people achieving extraordinary feats in their lifetime that really change the world in a positive way.
What is your definition of success?
Louise: Balance and not wanting more than I have or need.
Lara: Feeling like I am serving a purpose and doing my bit. Contributing in a positive way in all of the relationships in my life. Getting to that point when I can be truly happy with who I am. Finding the joy in life that is not in ‘things’. And having well-behaved kids!
What did your own mother teach you about life and motherhood?
Louise: To be resilient, to always get up no matter what life throws at you, to be kind, to have a voice, that you have to work hard to get what you want, to never think you can’t do anything because of your gender, that education is the key to freedom, that children need boundaries and that life should be full of adventure.
Lara: To make do and mend. To look after your possessions. Gossiping is not cool. Be patient and allow kids to just be kids. Custard after dinner every night. Don’t worry about something that has not yet happened (it rarely does). Keep busy.
What do you love about where you live?
Louise: I love the community vibe and that everyone looks after each other like family. I love that people say hello to you at the local shop and sometimes even wave as you drive by. I love the greenery and the space – it helps me think.
Lara (Brisbane): I love living in the inner city, albeit a small one. I like the hustle and bustle, lights at night, background traffic and the ease of everything at your finger tips. I like (and like my boys to be) surrounded by the diversity that a city offers. My street alone is filled with the elderly, young families, share houses, student houses, backpackers, million dollar properties, housing commission flats, and people from every corner of the world imaginable.
What’s your approach to cooking? How would you describe your kitchen?
Louise: I find cooking – especially baking – relaxing. I love baking with my girls who are very interested in food. I do not find cooking during the week relaxing though. I never know what to make and am always out of ingredients. My kitchen is organised but lacking a few essentials, mainly because our girls pilfer the drawers when they’re playing and I find wooden spoons and measuring cups all over the garden!
Lara: I am tiny bit of a Debbie Downer when it comes to cooking. It is definitely on the Daily Chore list for me. It is also on the Things I Need to Work On list. My kitchen is small but so is my house so it’s in proportion! I try to have a clean bench top at all time. I think better with clear surfaces. I’ve been told this is a graphic-designer thing!
All time favourite recipe that you can make with your children?
Louise: There is a wonderfully quick banana pancake recipe doing the rounds at the moment – it appeared on Lunch Lady Instagram recently. It’s just one very ripe banana mashed, two eggs and a dash of vanilla essence. Mash this up well and viola you have pancake batter. Be careful when you flip as they are fragile little things. You can add more banana to the batter too. Sweeten with maple syrup. Yum.
What do you love most about raising children in Byron?
Louise: I love that it forces me to live simply because there isn’t much to do with kids except play outside, go to the beach or visit friends. This can also be very frustrating when we have had nonstop rain – those are the days I crave a museum or art gallery or shopping center!
What will we find in your handbag?
Louise: Some nappies and wipes, an odd sock, my wallet, some Hurraw lipbalm, hairbands, phone, a soft toy, business cards and crackers of some description.
Lara: Suncream, inhalers, pens, a note book, hair ties, bandaids, tissues, Panadol, spare pair of boys briefs, some sort of bill, a roll of fruit tingles, hand wash, scissors, Lego, lens cleaner, purse and a tape measure.
What are your business tips for launching a magazine?
Louise/Lara: Speak to people in the industry first. Make a two-year plan. Understand that a business plan and cash flow are two different things.
What, in your opinion, makes a great piece of content?
Louise: A really great interview with an ordinary person that leaves you with some life advice.
Lara: (and supported with a beautiful evocative portrait, or thoughtful illustration!)
What’s the biggest career lesson you’ve learnt?
Louise/Lara: To always give credit where credit is due and that it takes a collaborative effort to make great things. To find people who are better than us to do the jobs we aren’t so good at.
What keeps you driven?
Louise: Where I live. To be able to stay and live in the Byron area means you have to constantly push yourself work-wise, as normal work is hard to come by.
Lara: Just the mere thought of having to go back and put in the long days and nights for someone else, without flexibility and not being able to really benefit from all your hard work. That’s a pretty good driver to make this work.
Louise and Lara’s little list of loves:
Fridays because I try to stay offline and spend the day with my kids adventuring.
Outdoor fires. They are always worth the effort.
Podcasts. Whenever I go away for work I cram in the podcasts. Currently on rotation is Longest Shortest Time by Hillary Frank, Conversations with Richard Fidler and This American Life.
Fresh croissants and coffee – such a treat.
Iceland and Sweden – I’m a little obsessed with planning a trip there (one day!).
After 7pm when my husband Rick and I get to download.
Meeting new people – so many good people to meet, so little time.
The TV series Stranger Things – I just love how it makes me feel I’m right back watching the Goonies again!
The Brisbane winter – short but sweet.
All Flying Eye books – I love reading them as much as my kids do. They have a heavy design and illustration focus.
My Leah Jackson ceramic cup – I keep my coffee change in it, so I can touch it every day.
The Katering Show – Holy smokes, so funny.
The Reply All podcast – It’s a show about the internet, feel just that little bit informed and entertained after each episode.
My husband’s electrical bike –because it is so cool!
Decluttering – it’s cheap therapy for me.
Milo and Lucien!