Glasswork extraordinaire Finn O’Sullivan of Lawn Bowls and ingenuitive fashion designer Elinor “Nel” Hedger of Nel brand are a Meanjin (Brisbane) sharehouse dream team, both talented young creatives working alongside one another, in their home studios.
Up-and-coming design talent Nel is helping put Meanjin on the fashion map, with her brand recently featured in Fashion Journal Magazine’s emerging designers to watch and her designs showcased at Brisbane Fashion Festival. Known for her whimsical, hyper-wearable designs that experiment with texture and form, Nel produces garments by hand that she describes as “playful clothing for playful bodies.” Nel’s exciting graduate collection At Play featured bold, graphic floral motifs and delicate petallike layering, experimenting with unisex designs, natural dyes from foraged leaves, deadstock and repurposed fabrics and artfully crafted reversible garments.
Lawn Bowls pieces are handmade with love using a process where each item bears their own unique qualities. Finn best describes the intricacies: “Small irregularities and wayward details adorn each piece. Bubbles or wobbly edges that cannot be commanded are part of what makes glass a magic material to work with.” Lawn Bowls’ characteristically bright combinations of vivid palettes and patterns have quickly earned a cult following, particularly her charming anthropomorphic glassware designs of bowls and plates featuring faces. They’re undeniably joyful, functional objects which enrich any space they’re placed in. Recently, Lawn Bowls has branched out with the launch of a new jewellery collaboration with Bianca Mavrick Jewellery.
Seljak Brand had the pleasure of being invited into Nel and Finn’s home they share with Nel’s partner Jacob and Finn’s shaggy pup Daphy, for a peek at their studios and the space they’ve made their own.
Daphne, Finn and Nel in their backyard
How did you end up as housemates?
Finn: I met Elinor at an exhibition opening and when I saw she was looking for housemates, I got in touch. We met at The Burrow for a drink and started looking for houses, that was over three years ago!
Nel: That pretty much sums it up! I think the fact that we both had creative practices and were looking for a place where we could have home studios really helped with the connection. We also discovered we went to the same high school in different years, so it’s been nice to have that shared connection.
You both make work at home, what do you think makes for a good creative space?
F: I find that I need a calm space to think through ideas and a clear workbench to spread out while making a piece. I take lots of breaks in the backyard, it’s definitely important for me to step away every few hours and reflect on where things are going.
Finn sitting at her workbench
Closeup of Finn’s works in progress
N: I love to have natural light in the studio, and a connection to the outdoors is very important to me. I will often be mid-sewing and realise I’m frozen, just staring out the window, thinking through the next idea. There are lots of moving parts in making a garment and my dream studio definitely has a lot more space, but I’m very grateful to have a dedicated space at home. I’m always whipping up something new in my free time.
Nel in her studio
Nel working on her sewing machine
Closeups of pieces in Nel’s studio
What’s a favourite, stand-out feature of your home?
F: My studio is probably my favourite place in the house, it’s where I spend most of my time with my dog Daphy. I love that there are windows to the garden and that it has the original built-in shelves from when it was used as a rumpus room.
The shelves in Finn’s studio
Finn looking out the window that leads to the garden
N: I love how open our house is, it was definitely built as a family home and while it’s not large, there is a lovely natural flow from room to room. There are elements of timber and brick throughout the house which gives it a lovely cosy feel, especially in winter. It always feels like I’m home when I step through the front door, like a big hug.
Left: The covered patio, featuring a cactus garden made by Jacob and one of Nel’s signature Bloom cushions. Right: Nel standing in the doorway of the living and dining space
You’re both dedicated creatives, what originally drew you to your choice mediums and what keeps you coming back to them?
F: The enchanting visual qualities and possibilities for processes [of glass] are endlessly exciting to me. I’ve always been obsessed with playing with shape and colour combinations and I love that when making glasswork, I can revise and re-shuffle compositions until it feels right.
Glass beads and sheets of glass ready to be broken into different sized pieces
Finn’s collection of multi-coloured glass shards – she uses a waste-free practice, turning every offcut into a new piece
Finn picking through the larger shards
N: When my sister and I were little, my mum made most of our clothing and I definitely think that had a big influence on me. I can still remember the excitement of being measured up for a garment and the wonder in the process of the final piece being made. I’ve always loved clothing and getting dressed. I love the way clothing can influence our experience of space and often can either make or break a day. I like creating with the idea that I can bring joy to people through clothing.
Left: A poem in Nel’s studio. Right: the bookshelf in Nel’s studio.
What’s inspiring you both lately?
F: My Saturday morning market trips always spark ideas. I love the dense environment of colour and texture and the kitschy craft stalls. There is something very intriguing to me about aesthetic objects and arrangements that are made outside artistic intent.
Left: Finn’s order wrapping station. Right: closeup details of Finn’s studio shelf.
N: At the moment, I am finding myself very inspired by shape and movement. The ability to move freely in clothing can make or break a garment, and I love playing around with and contrasting big shapes and slim-fitting items. I’m also feeling very inspired by colours at the moment, particularly the way they interact with each other.
Left: Fabric in Nel’s studio. Right: Nel’s garments.
Nel’s working moodboard
How do you like to use your space when you aren’t working?
F: If I'm not in the studio, I’ll be cooking, throwing a ball for Daph or napping in the hammock outside. I really try to prioritise rest. It helps that I’m a homebody and reading or watching a film after a day in the studio and a walk around the neighbourhood is heaven to me.
Left: The backyard. Right: Finn wrapped up in the Dugong Mango cotton blanket.
N: I am loving sitting on our little front deck at the moment. It's currently getting the most glorious winter sun throughout the day and it's the perfect spot to warm up in the morning, or have an arvo nap. My partner Jacob and I are very social beings, so we often end up having friends over. The house has so many separate spaces for entertaining which is a lot of fun.
Closeup of the sunny front deck
Meanjin (Brisbane) seems like it’s starting to gain a bit of recognition as a place for young creatives. What do you love or think is special about our city?
F: I definitely feel that! I think creatives who live in Meanjin are generally really open-minded and down-to-earth. In the past few years, so many new platforms for artists to share their work have opened up with huge encouragement for local creativity without elitist exclusion of medium or distinction between art and craft.
N: I definitely have a big soft spot for Brisbane, and I’m so glad to see it getting some of the creative recognition it deserves. I think the creative community tends to be less pretentious and more easygoing than some cities, which I really love. I also love how green it is, especially around where we live. We are lucky to live in a city that feels so surrounded by nature.
Is there anything you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?
F: Currently, I am experimenting with glass processes that allow me to make new work from pieces that didn’t reach completion. I’m really enjoying patching together fragments from my accumulated cast-offs. I will be bringing some of these pieces to a market event at Vacant Assembly on June 17th!
N: I am working on a new mini collection featuring a different colour iteration of my mesh pieces, and some new styles that I’ve had in development for a little while. I’m moving a bit slower at the moment and making sure that I have every base covered before I launch, but it will definitely be launching in the next few months. You can see a sneak peek of the new work in my studio.
Nel working on a new piece from the mini collection
Closeup of Nel’s work in progress
Finn, we know you have not one but two Seljak Brand blankets! What’s your favourite way to use them?
I always make my bedroom a little sanctuary, full of lovely things and comfort. In the cooler months, I have my Indigo blanket at the end of my bed. The wool layer on top definitely locks in the warmth and Daph is always curled up on it. My Gather blanket is so nice around the shoulders when I’m out in the yard or making tea in the morning. I also love to pack it with me when I take time away at the beach or bush.
The Indigo blanket on Finn’s bed
The Gather blanket in Finn’s studio
Nel with the Cockatoo Lemon blanket
Finn with the Dugong Mango blanket
Closeup of the Cockatoo Lemon blanket
Finn showing off the Dugong Mango blanket
Nel showing off the Cockatoo Lemon blanket
Nel’s work is stocked at Nook and Meanjin’s beloved Practice Studio. Get your hands on Finn’s work on the Lawn Bowls website or find pieces stocked around the country at Jolie Laide, Pinky’s, Open House, Artisan, and more!