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madeit designer spotlight curlyjo

Tell us a bit about yourself

Hi there everyone…my name is Jo Kealley aka Curly Jo.

I am 35 years old, and often wonder what I might do when I grow up…it is then that I pinch myself and realize that this isn’t all a fantastical dream…I am a Daughter, Sister, Wife & Mum, but mostly Best Buddies with Matt 36, Brodie Anne 5. I am truly blessed with the most wonderful family, a home in Australia’s BEST city, Brisbane, and some wonderful friends across the country. In a previous life I was a Graphic Designer, Sales Manager & Retail Buyer among other things…now I can not imagine ever dancing to the beat of any drum other than my own. More often than not I think I lead a charmed life.

I dream in colour, I talk in my sleep, I have a not so secret desire to be a stand up comedian, I have a little crush on Hamish Blake (which fortunately Matt is OK with), I have traveled to some wonderful places, I have been on stage with Lano & Woodley because I wore a hat, I have a handful of super great friends who I could trust with my life, I always wear a flower in my hair because of the lyrics in a song, I often wake up in the morning with aforementioned flower still in place and have been asked 11 times in one day if I am going to a Wedding, I love my life.

madeit designer spotlight curlyjo

Can you explain your craft/art and the material you like to use?

My Craft is technically classed as ‘Glass Fusing’ although I use many other techniques along the way to create each of my pieces, including gold overlay and enamel. At the moment all my finished pieces would be classed as jewellery but I like to think of them as one off wearable art pieces too. I love all sorts of art & craft and often go out on a tangent buying scraps of fabric, wool and other goodies dreaming up things to make in my ‘spare time’. At the moment I have a craft stash that could stock a small store and a studio that has taken over the double garage and is potentially eyeing off spaces unused in the house…not that there are many.

Where do you get your inspiration and what is your creative process?

My inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere, but is highly reliant on nature, it’s colours and forms, along with anything floral, this I attribute to my dear Nanna Irene’s love of flowers. I usually start with pen and paper sketching out a few designs, this quickly leads me to the studio table where I start cutting and layering my glass. It is one of the best and worst things about working from home, as all I need to do is open the door from the kitchen to garage and I am at work. My daughter now calls the garage ‘The Jewel Factory’ which I love, and my husband I am sure quietly laments of a time when the garage was his to tinker in…

How long have you been creating and how did you get into craft/art?

I have been creating for as long as I can remember…Everything from HobbyTex & Fimo to ’Gods Eyes’ with wool and pop sticks, you name it I’ve tried it…(Golly the HobbyTex probably ages me …ahhh so be it)

My parents, taught me the craft of glass fusing a few years back thinking it might interest me, to be honest I was a little dubious UNTIL I saw the magic that happened when that little kiln struck it’s desired temperature. My Mum is an artist in the truest from, my early years I saw her paint, exhibit & sell in almost every medium; her work is in private collections across the country and overseas. She has taught many Art & Craft classes over the years which my younger sister and I have both benefitted from learning these various things along the way. My Dad managed a large Industrial Ceramics business for the latter part of his formal career, and like most men of his generation did not have the time to allocate to a creative pursuit until he retired. It is now such a joy to talk ‘shop’ with both of them, having the odd ‘Business Lunch’ and getting to hang out with Dad or Mum on a Sunday selling what we make and love. It’s also great ‘employing’ my husband for the day as my ‘Sunday Casual’…it’s like a date I keep telling him or my beautiful sister who denies being creative and yet is the inspiration behind many of my pieces. It is a wonderful foundation to have both Creative and Technical expertise in the family, and a great buzz to be able to work along side them. Dad, Mum, Matt, Brodie and Tissy are responsible for keeping Curly Jo loved, alive & inspired.

How did you come up with your business name?

‘Curly Jo Design’ was born at the end of a wonderful third year studying Graphic Design at Curtin University in Perth WA. We were asked to come up with a concept for our own Design business…wayward curly hair+Jo=Curly Jo. A quick sketch done with my left hand, enlarged a few times on the photocopier and I had a logo…the rest I would love to say is history...but ‘Curly Jo’ as such sat on the shelf while I tried out various ‘real’ jobs, if I knew then what I do now I would have realized that none of those jobs came close to being as real as what I do now is. After Brodie came along I thought Curly Jo might have been the name for a handmade children’s toy range, not long after that my dreams stretched to it being a cookbook of great home recipes and comfort food, and yet when I look back it never sat well with me as a Design Business in it’s pure form…I would have never anticipated it to evolve to what it is had you asked me in 1993…

What resources 'have or do you' use to help your creative pursuits (i.e. groups, classes, shops, websites etc)?

While I actually haven’t taken any formal classes in glass fusing, I have spent many, many hours learning the best way, hands on and by mistakes or happy accidents as I prefer to call them. I do a lot of research on the internet and have just ventured into the ‘Blog-o-sphere’ where I am really loving the creative community both in Australia, and overseas. I think a lot of my skills have been learnt in what I like to call my ‘previous life’, whether they are creative such as my experiences at university or more practical in the retail world.

What's your best advice for someone starting up?

I would love to say “just go for it” but the reality is that many people are not as lucky as I am, in that I have a very supportive husband who really encouraged me to chase my dream and enthusiastic parents & friends who helped me get on the way.

So I think the best advice is to start small, get feedback from family and friends but most importantly get out there and show your work, talk to people and get their feedback. I have been selling at various markets in and around Brisbane for over three years and it is both terrifying and exhilarating to show your work and talk about it. It isn’t too expensive to hire a stall, and it gives you a chance to make a little bit of money to put back into the business so you can keep growing it. I also firmly believe in pricing your items so you have a good range of prices form inexpensive to higher end, I like to think that almost everyone can afford a small bit of ‘Curly Jo’ even if it’s a hairclip for $5.

Do you have any advertising/promotion tips for sellers to be successful?

I have a customer database that I email whenever I list new items in my madeit store and try and send a newsletter update to once a month with a few pictures of my new creations. I also have a fan page on Facebook, and a blogcurlyjodesign.blogspot.com that I am really enjoying working on. I have always spent the money and had a business card professionally printed and more recently a colour flyer to give customers, even if they don’t purchase right there and then, they have something to take away to remind then at a later date. I also love to treat my family, friends and often strangers to a freebie, I believe that each of my pieces find where they need to go as wacky as that sounds. It’s amazing what a kind deed can bring back to you ten fold…a bit like the pay it forward principle, I believe kindness and generosity goes a long way and love to know that someone has been made feel great by something I made. Recently a customer purchased a small pendant from me as a gift, she went away and read my flyer and came back to tell me that after reading my little story she too wanted to own a piece of my work. She picked out a pretty piece which I wrapped for her and then told her it was my gift to her, to my horror she burst into tears, and said that I couldn’t just do that, what a buzz it was to say well actually I could and I was. It’s these moments that remind me that I am so lucky to love what I do and so fortunate to be able to do it.

Can you share any lessons that you have learned the hard way?

Working from home can have it’s downfalls, while you can fit it in around all the other stuff you need to do, it is hard to just shut the door and walk away from, sometimes at 11.45pm I still find myself wondering if it’s too late to fire up the kiln one more time for the day. It can also be quite solitary and self absorbing, as in the studio there’s no one else but the iPod playing away to keep me company, so it is important to get out and see people otherwise you could end up a recluse quite easily. This is the great thing about my weekends at the markets; it keeps me in touch with my customers and allows me to re focus on what is working and what’s not. It is also a hard thing to get the recognition that you are actually running a full time business when you work from home, a lot of people think that you are just pottering around, so you have to decide early on to either let what people say and think bother you or just to get on with it. Most importantly I have come to realise that sometimes everything can’t be perfect, this is particularly tricky for a self confessed neat freak with scary OCD tendencies...don’t ask me about the clothes peg obsession that I have had to let go. goes here

What do you like to do besides creating?

There’s nothing I love more than a wintery day spent curled up under a rug with a great book, but the reality of living in Brisbane is that these days don’t happen very often and the other reality is that there is always something else to do.

I love listening to my husband sing, reading to my daughter, cooking treats for them both and I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t mention my love of shopping and having a meal cooked for me (especially if it’s Dad’s standing Rib Eye Roast…hint hint)

What is your favourite music, television show, film, book, website?

MUSIC - Ben Lee, Jack Johnson, The Guild League, Counting Crows & Matt Kealley when he plays on the front deck (oh why only 5???)

TELEVISION SHOW - I am a shameless reality TV lover, but I do have my limits, they must be Australian and feature clever people doing things I would never dream of doing (well maybe just the singing and dancing as I do quite like to cook… Australian Idol, So you think you can Dance and Masterchef. I also love good Aussie dramas such as All Saints and was once a LOST addict before it was put on WAY past my bedtime.

FILM - Chocolat, Love Actually, Gran Torino, Blood Diamond and the latest Disney Movie as long as I get to see it on the big screen with a Gloria Jeans Decaf Mocha in one hand and Brodie in the other (not animated flicks tho’ must be the real deal)

BOOK - The Guernsey Literacy & Potato Peel Pie Society, People of the Book, The ‘Shopaholic’ Series and anything by Diana Gabaldon

WEBSITE - kelanifabric.com.au,twigseeds.com,

What would be your perfect day?

My perfect day would involve no commitments or ‘must do’s’ it would be spontaneous and defiantly involve my family some special friends and a lot of great food…

Maybe like our Wedding Day all over again but this time with Brodie at the party too… (At 5 years old she can’t figure out where she was on that day 11 years ago… “Was I at Nanna’s?” she often asks)

Music, laughter and giggles, heaps of photos taken to remember it all by, champagne, chocolate, great cheese with crusty bread, an afternoon nap under a Fig tree, a movie under the stars, one more cuddle with my old dog Rusty …the list could be endless…but perhaps my most perfect day would end being able to introduce my husband and daughter to my Nanna who they never had the privilege to meet, and seeing the look on her face when she spies real curls that she wouldn’t have to coax into being with a dampened hand…oh and maybe a bit more chocolate while purchasing the perfect handbag…

Who is your favourite madeit seller, explain why in less than 10 words?

PaperTeacup - Paper Teacup EXQUISTE HANDIWORK…Immaculate presentation

Curly Jo Design visit store

30th August 2009

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