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Interview: Aimee Davis | Coco + Dama

Coco and Dama hanging plant

If you’re a plant, you’ll be pleased flora fashion from the 70s is making a comeback! Hanging plants and succulents are sprouting up everywhere and I kind of like them.

Cue today’s interview with a girl who, spurred on by a love of plants and the desire to start her own business, has found her own niche: handmade string and moss and coconut shell hanging plants, terrariums and plant pouches.  Come and meet young Brisbane-based entrepreneur Aimee Davis and learn about her fledgling business Coco + Dama.

Aimee Davis of Coco and Dama

Please introduce yourself …

Well, I’m from a family of green thumbs and my mum is a little bit of a plant addict and a keen renovator so she has rubbed a lot of that onto me. I originally wanted to be an arts teacher when I finished high school but somehow ended up finishing my arts degree and working in property. Being surrounded by different types of property really inspired me and I began studying a diploma in interior design and decoration through CATC Design School. I found that I didn’t feel I was getting what I wanted out of the jobs I had from a receptionist to a display home assistant so I thought working for myself would be the best way for me to get what I wanted career wise.

When and why did you begin exploring with ‘green homewares’?

I think being the generation that I am, we’ve been made aware to try and make things as sustainable as possible from buildings to cars so why not interiors and homewares?

Coco and Dama hanging plant

Explain the different plant-based items you make and the benefits of having them in your home?

We have kokedama plants which are a mix of string and moss and also coconut shell based plants and I hope to perfect recycled terrariums sooner than later. Plants just make people happy and keep you inspired and creative and make you feel welcome.

Explain the meaning behind your business name?

Coco+Dama is a combination of coconuts and kokedama, our two staple hanging plants.

What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced in setting up your own business? What’s one piece of advice you would give to others wanting to do the same?

I think just trying not to doubt myself and to make sure I do things the way I want them done, a lot of people like to put their five eggs in but at the end of the day I’ve got to do the work not them so I would say just lay out a plan of what you want as a business and strive for it.

Coco and Dama hanging plant

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love spending time with my two dachshunds Louie and Doogie.

My guilty pleasure is … shopping and sneaky tips to the markets and cafés.

The best thing about living in Brisbane is … the emerging culture and activities that are happening.

Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?

Yeah for sure! The moment when I look back and think that 17-year-old me would have thought I was crazy selling plants I made in my spare time.

Coco and Dama hanging plants

Thanks Aimee and good luck with your new venture!

My store is having a sale!

Sale: $10 off all orders $50 and over

 Come on by the store this week and get $10 off all orders $50 and over

See you there!


Interview: Tina van den Broek | The Food Artist

Tina van den Broek - The Food Artist

Tina in her studio

I think I might have to put up two warnings here in advance of reading about today’s interviewee, artist Tina van den Broek. The first is: there is a high chance you will get hungry while reading this and second, you may also get pangs of jealousy at how Tina has been able to incorporate two of her favourite loves (food and art) into pretty much everything she has done. It’s even taken her to a catering a job at a chateau in the south of France. Although her various jobs have been diverse, food and art have been a common link and the skills she’s learned along the way have helped to shape her current venture and enabled her to go out on her own. Hence, The Food Artist was born, where she creates tasty food related illustrations for businesses, products and services wanting to spice things up a bit. She delightfully calls it ‘food communication’.

'A Beautiful Mess' by Tina van den Broek

‘A Beautiful Mess’

Tell us about yourself and how have you ended up where you are today?

When I was a child I remember thinking I wanted to be an artist. I drew all the time and would trace around the images in my colouring-in books. Growing up I also spent a lot of time in my Oma’s kitchen helping her cook and outside making mud pies in an old wood fired oven. I loved making actual food too!

In 2003 I completed a Bachelor Degree in Visual Arts at Auckland University in New Zealand. The first few years of the fine arts degree were multi-disciplinary so I could dabble in painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, design, printmaking, jewellery and film. In my last year my major was sculpture. I minored in fabric arts and screen-printing, and throughout my degree drawing was compulsory. During my time at university I worked part-time in the kitchen of a local café which I enjoyed immensely.

After university I worked for a painter and decorator for five months and then got a job working in the sign industry for a year, where I learnt some office and sign-making skills.

In 2005 I moved to the South of France to a château in the countryside called Pont-de-Barret. I lived and worked there for six months, cooking, cleaning and entertaining up to 30 new guests each week, as well as having my own little studio. We had themed weeks where guests came to paint, sculpt, cook, play bridge, bring their motorcycles and relax in the countryside. Every second day we shopped at the markets and catered all the meals. We even delivered food on-site to guests so they could picnic in crumbling down old churches while they painted.

'Anzac Biscuits' by Tina van den Broek

‘Anzac Biscuits’

After France I lived in Holland briefly where I did visual merchandising, painting and decorating.  I then moved to London for two years and worked for in their online trust and safety department. The company was owned by eBay at the time and we shared a building with PayPal and Skype. It was then that I was introduced to the online world and ecommerce.

In 2008 I moved to Melbourne for a year and worked in the large format digital printing industry for a while, until the global financial crisis hit Melbourne and I lost my job. In 2009 I moved back to New Zealand and started working in advertising and marketing doing administration, quoting and print buying for a year and planned to return to Melbourne to continue what I had started.

In 2010 I moved back to Melbourne and started working for a large advertising company where, after a year, I found I had an interest in online marketing, specifically managing Google Adword campaigns.

2013 was a year of big change and I knew I needed to get back to my original artistic pursuits. I attended the inaugural Big Hearted Business (un-) Conference, which is run by Claire Bowditch. This provided me with the skills I wish I had learnt while doing my visual arts degree and decided I was going to pursue my creative interests. As I was working full-time, I spent the most part of 2013 working weekends and after hours, learning how to build my website, reading, drawing, making and researching.

In the beginning of 2014 the company I was working for announced redundancies and I instantly saw an opportunity! I invested in a business coach to help make a plan to start the transition to work for myself. I had previously being doing my various art practices under the name The Visual Citizen but it was hard for me to articulate to people exactly what services I provided as I was doing all sorts of random things from illustration, painting, printing, face painting.  I wanted to create a business that was extremely specific and told a story, which is how The Food Artist was born.


'Hot Dog' by Tina van den Broek

‘Hot Dog’

Food artistry is quite specific. When and why did you begin exploring with drawing food?

I wanted to create a business and life that I loved, something I did because I enjoyed it, not just because of the money. In order to articulate what it is that I do and can offer people, I had to think long and hard about my core values, beliefs and passions.

All my life I have loved food. I enjoy freestyle cooking where I whip something up based on the ingredients at hand. I can cook for hours and be in that same ‘happy place’ I go to when I’m making art. I also love making people happy with food as I also do with my art. It made sense to bring my two passions together: food and illustration.

I’m now having fun exploring different ways in which I can use my food illustration skills to take it to the next level and offer more than just an illustration. I want to use my passion for food and illustration as a communication tool to help people who don’t have the artistic skills or time to add personality and interest to their business, product or service.

Tina van den Broek at work in her studio

Tina at work in her studio

Can you share a bit about the creative process and materials you use?

I am inspired by making and tasting food, seeing food on display, food blogs, recipe books, design and homeware brands, fabrics and textiles, plants, animals and people.

I will often start with a light pencil sketch, followed by outlining with fine liner (just like my colouring-in books), colour with watercolour inks or pencils and then alternating layers of pen and colour until it feels finished. I love colour and enjoy experimenting with combining colours that traditionally clash, similar to how I experiment with combining food ingredients.

Recently I’ve started experimenting with using apps on my iPad to draw digitally, although I want to stay a traditional hand-drawn illustrator as I think that pushes me to constantly improve my style. Design software allows you to undo, delete or edit if something doesn’t go the way you planned. However when drawing by hand I can incorporate my ‘mistakes’ so they no longer remain a mistake and contribute to my quirky style.

'The Truffle Family' by Tina van den Broek

‘The Truffle Family’

Who or what are some of your influences? What other artists, designers, peers and creatives do you admire?

Other illustrators, food stylists, design trends and positive people influence me. Here are just three from an ever growing list:

Herakut – HERA + AKUT = HERAKUT. An artist duo from Germany. Their art works can be found in big cities around the world – from Toronto to Kathmandu, San Francisco to Melbourne. Their drawing/painting style is raw and often they combine quotes or text with the images.

Claire Bowditch from The Big Hearted Business – Claire is an Australian musician but also a creative entrepreneur who teaches creative people about business, and business people about creativity, in ways that makes sense.

Claus Oldenburg  - an American sculptor, best known for his public art installations typically featuring very large replicas of everyday objects. Banal everyday objects inspire me and Claus puts them on a pedestal.

'Food for Thought' by Tina van den Broek

‘Food for Thought’

What would be your dream project/commission?

To illustrate a coloring in book, or children’s book.

To take my illustrations from 2D to 3D and do visual merchandising, styling, installations, collaborate with set designers or prop makers on TV, film or music videos.

To license my artworks for use on products.

Do you get to eat the food you’ve been drawing? Or are you so over food by the time you’ve finished?

So far, yes I do get to eat it! Sometimes I photograph the food and don’t draw it until after I’ve eaten it so that perhaps a bit of the flavour goes into the drawing.

What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced in setting up your own creative business? What’s one piece of advice you would give to others wanting to do the same?

The biggest challenge for me was myself. I first had to believe in myself. I had to figure out what I was trying to achieve and then get to work making, talking to people, researching and finding people who needed what I did. I needed time to pursue all of that and it was hard to do while working full-time in another job.

My advice would be that you can’t do everything yourself so get help, such as a business mentor/coach. Have people you can rely on for support and outsource what you can. There is always something you can work on so accept it and set yourself tasks rather than working yourself into the ground in a never-ending attempt to finish just one more thing.

'Croissant' by Tina van den Broek


What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to attend workshops where I can learn and practice new skills and meet people. Recently I’ve been doing face painting, sign painting and hand lettering.

I like to spend time with friends and enjoy delicious home cooked meals (or try out a new cafe) with scrumptious conversation.

I love to travel to new countries and back to New Zealand to spend time with family and friends. I love soaking up the Kiwi culture that I miss out on living ‘across the ditch’, like food products, and TV commercials – I love NZ TV commercials.

I enjoy Melbourne’s eateries and finding new artisan products to sample.

What’s your favorite café/restaurant hangout in Melbourne?

Tiggy at Schoolhouse Studios, 81 Rupert St, Collingwood is a little café where you’ll find me. It’s the resident café at my art studio with awesome owners and one cool dog called Romulus.

Short Round in Thornbury – lovely staff, delicious food and not too bad on the eyes either.

Vietnam Noodle House on Swanston Street.  When I’m in the city I love a bowl of the vegetable noodle soup. It’s packed full of fresh veggies, noodles and sits in a chicken broth; it’s quick, cheap and filling.

Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?

Actually I have a Pinterest board all around that ‘who’d have thought’ moment.

The Food Artist logo

The Food Artist logo

Thanks so much, Tina, for your inspirational and tummy-rumbling inducing story!

You can also find Tina on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

Interview | Andrew Hayim de Vries

Andrew Hayim de Vries

Andrew Hayim de Vries

Melbourne-based artist and designer Andrew Hayim de Vries is so passionate about the health of the environment and the practice of upcycling and recycling in both his personal and professional lives that it forms the basis for everything he does. The the idea – and his ideal – is to not just educate others on the importance of these things but to actually empower change. He wants to ‘explore the value of what we consider value to be’ and to impress upon ‘the need to up-cycle, recycle and reuse’.

He is, in fact, so deeply passionate about this cause that I’ve had to ‘bleep’ out a couple of words in the interests of not offending anyone!

Andrew’s professional background is diverse – ranging from painting to performance art to building houses as art works as well as to live in. He lives and breathes his cause and his latest project follows along similar lines. ‘Lighting Conditions Do Apply’ is a series of upcycled designer lights Andrew has made using found and collected objects in an original way. It’s all about the importance of recycling as a practical need and the bringing back to life items that are now thought to be value-less.

'Noted Figure as Self' Lighting  by Andrew Hayim de Vries

A rather lifelike, tongue-in-cheek light entitled ‘Noted Figure as Self’

The current collection reflects a string of narratives, including ‘Digestive Vehicles’ (food), ’Anatomical Waste’ (body waste), ‘Loaded Plastic Pistols’ and ‘How the West Was Lost in 6 Tonka Trucks’, which highlight aspects of society’s waste and neglect.

The project is a continuation of an exhibition he did in 2004 entitled Home Wheres’, which came about from the large collection of interesting objects gathered from his first home, 100 Hubble.

Come and meet Andrew and learn more about what makes him and his work tick …

'How The West Was Lost in 6 Tonka Trucks'

‘How The West Was Lost in 6 Tonka Trucks’

Tell us about yourself. What’s your background and how have you ended up where you are today?

I have a BA in Fine Arts and have been a practising artist in painting, performance art and object construction for more than 30 years. I’ve travelled extensively overseas and throughout Australia and am very interested in cultural living systems.

I created two very unique homes /dwellings as art works: 100 Hubble and Garage Mahal Home [both are in Fremantle, Western Australia].


’100 Hubble’ house made from upcycled and recycled materials, including other’s ‘junk’ attached to the fence

andrew-hayim-de-vries-100 Hubble

100 Hubble  is a property I renovated four times over a period of 20 years [from 1985 to 2005], using completely recycled building materials, including an old wooden railway carriage as a bedroom, a wheelhouse of fishing boat as a kitchen, telephone box as a shower, and so on and so on.


The experimental eco-house Garage Mahal Home

Garage Mahal Home [2005 - 2013] is a personally designed and built home. It was an experiment in a cost-effective, meccano-style building system, ecologically designed to the extreme that features one of the largest green wall systems designed to heat and cool the property.

When and why did you begin exploring with reclaimed objects and lighting?

This interest began 35 years ago, while residing in my home ’100 Hubble’ in Fremantle, which was adorned with many thousands of donated ‘junk’ objects over the front of the house as a form of public participation. The objects were given by the public and put to new life through the creation of the facade of the building.

Towards the end of my 20 years in this home, I began to create isolated objects into artworks – the ‘Hubble in a Bubble’ exhibition, 2004 – 2005.

'Drop Dead Funerals: Vehicle No. 1 on Speed Hump' light by Andrew Hayim de Vries

‘Drop Dead Funerals: Vehicle No. 1 on Speed Hump’

Where do you source your materials from?

Primarily from local tip shops, hard garbage and a handful of flea markets around the world. For example, the checkered flat conical shapes used on some of the lighting objects are unused speed humps off the road, which would normally go to landfill or re-mulched.

Tell us about your current work ‘Lighting Conditions Do Apply’

I want to bring people’s attention to society’s hell-bent obsession with consumption by creating new items of value from discarded items, which are then seen in a new light.

It began through 100 Hubble as a pre-occupation with lights and lighting objects, housing 127 unique working lights. The project’s aim is to produce 100 works by the end of 2014, which celebrate history and bring the past into a body of work. Some of the works will be also dealing with the composting decay of materials, like coffee grounds, within the lighting structures.

It is a continual narrative based on humour, satire and social and ecological values. I’m a great believer that waste = food.

Who or what are some of your influences? What other artists, designers, peers and creatives do you admire?

My source of inspiration is looking at history and cultures. These are my teachers! For example, throughout history we have, at times, needed to be extremely resourceful. People had to improvise because of necessity and the by-product of these predicaments created a greater sense of unity, community and a shared common sense of the basic fundamentals.

By looking at indigenous cultural systems you see people who have survived through make-shift, reused and upcycled objects – and this excites me!

Of course there are many designers, artist friends, and quirky naive outsider artists, who have all contributed to my interests as well.

'Pelican Torso'

‘Pelican Torso’

You have also designed a special composting system and have a business dedicated to composting, Compost Instead. Tell us a little about this and the importance of the environment and sustainability in your daily life and work?

Composting is a waste bi-product. We are so *#!$!*dumb that we can’t get our *%#! together to make it productive. We’re exploring it, attempting it but we are way behind in our technology, our maturity and knowledge of the necessity for effective composting systems to deal with the excessive toxic waste which is filling up the air, land and sea.

I’ve been composting for 30 years and designed a unique system, which incorporates a truly effective composting system that directly feeds into a veggie garden. It is an odour-free modular system which can be implemented and designed based on space and need. The other is a vertically designed system, which can be used in small spaces.

By the way, if I’ve sounded a little animated in my word use, it is because it is the most neglected area in our food waste management cycle in our present society.

My guilty pleasure is …

Let’s talk sometime.

Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?

I am amazed when I look back in history how society has not learned from its mistakes. When we look at civilisation over four millennium, who’d have thought that today we’re still in a form of social organised chaos, where we’ve lost touch and become, not people, but ‘disposal objects’?

'Anatomical Waste on Speed Hump'

‘Anatomical Waste on Speed Hump’

Thanks Andrew for your time and enthusiasm! 

You can see more of his unique and quirky lights here. They are available for purchase or consignment.


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