Keepers of Our Craft: Julia Atkinson-Dunn

As part of our Mixed Six Cider and Mixed Six Seltzer launch celebration, we’ve teamed up with six creators across a range of industries who inspire us every day. We wanted to know more about each of them and their craft, what inspires them and how they make space in their busy lives to connect with the people who matter most in their lives. Next up in our series is Julia Atkinson-Dunn. A true renaissance woman, Julia is a designer, blogger, author, gardener, floral designer, artist, framer – to name just a few!

We spoke with Julia to learn more about her many crafts and sources of inspiration. She describes herself as someone fuelled by the possibilities of finding inspiration in her ‘everyday’ things and spaces, and shares some words of wisdom for other multi-passionate creators out there.

Read on to hear more from Julia herself and go check out her Studio Home website or her awesome Instagram accounts that are steady streams of beautiful and inspiring creations! You can find her at @studiohome and @studiohomegardening.

Can you tell us how you’ve mastered so many crafts and what drives you to keep learning and discovering new skills/passions?

I guess the bottom line of all the directions I have explored is the hunt for fulfilling self employment! I remember the distinct realisation in my late twenties, just as I finished up my first and last salaried job, that I work so much harder and better for myself. Equally, in my late thirties it dawned on me that I was also now pretty unemployable in the fact that while I’d developed good skills in areas I wasn’t formerly trained, my expectations of salary vs. mainstream employment hierarchy probably wouldn’t match up! So yes, I am hugely fuelled by creating my own opportunities knowing there is likely no back up haha!

In hindsight, training in interior design in my early twenties provided an invaluable platform for me to experiment and hunt out my creative passions further. My lifelong love of writing found a home when I created my design blog in 2008, and ever since I feel I have thrived in having no restraint or oversight in that aspect. I thank my lucky stars that I get to work with people now that don’t seek to tone down my language or personal style. People like Colleen O’Hanlon and Jo Butcher from Stuff and my amazing publisher; Tonia Shuttleworth of Koa Press with her editing team. If anything, those years writing what and how I wanted on the internet has paid off for me.

On reflection it feels really clear to me that each direction I have explored has been well supported by the ones before. Being a ski instructor in my early twenties taught me to not fear public speaking and easily engage with authority with people older than me. This was an invaluable skill when it came to being a young interior designer and taking on the responsibility of my clients’ homes and budgets!

My time as a designer taught me to open my eyes to style, craft and creative points of view beyond my own, which drove me to seek out the stories of artists, designers and now gardeners. I relish learning about the creative process of others and even more, sharing what I find.

My appreciation of art grew from here too, as did the positive connections I made while blogging. These allowed me to pursue my idea of curating and presenting others art in my own format with the trust of artists that may have thought I was a bit of a risky outlier if they didn’t already know me. I had an incredible few years representing the work of some of my artistic heroes, which in turn, fuelled my passion and confidence in exploring my own.

Over the last 14 years, Studio Home and my readership have magically been able to coral and support my ideas and projects as they have flowed into each other. Somehow my audience has coped with the movement and progression through them as well haha! I have to admit, I don’t enjoy battling away in a crowded industry and am always looking forwards as to how I can work in a way that stands me apart in my respective industries. I like to exist in my own little space.

It might be like picking a favourite child, but do you have a favourite amongst all your many crafts?

It’s almost too difficult as each seems to inform the other! My garden does wonders for my head and is the place I play and explore for my books and column. Allowing me to write for an income not just self indulgence.
The garden also, quite literally, grows my artwork! I absolutely love playing with photography within its little realm and the outcome is both imagery for my writing projects and for my following artwork.

No favourites but I do feel that without a garden I would be floundering in all areas!

Do you have any main sources of inspiration you draw on for fuelling your creative fire?

I was recently asked this question and hoped that I would be able to list a scree of people and places that spin my wheels! But in all honesty, I am intensely inspired by the personal responses I can find in my own domestic surroundings. The sentimental feelings I have in the family photos down the hallway, the fact each piece of art I own attaches me to the those I know that have created them and the low golden light when I do my watering rounds in the garden during summer.

I guess I am fuelled by the possibilities of finding inspiration in my ‘everyday’ things and spaces. I’m a very nostalgic person who can romanticise a pinecone given the opportunity haha!

Any advice or words of wisdom to share with other multi-passionate creators?

I feel terrible saying this, as it used to make me wild as a 25-year-old! But the fact is, everything just takes time. My advice would be that while you should embrace the long game, you definitely need to take a look at your projects with a commercial eye and be prepared to stray from your original plan. It took me a long time to realise that while many ideas are good, ultimately, they are only worth all your (unpaid) hard work if there are opportunities for income! So, be critical and understand who and where your customers are.

I also strongly recommend putting your blinkers on. Find your lane, unfollow any perceived competition and just get to work within your bubble. I think, in this fabulous age of access, its very easy to emulate what you see as opposed to taking inspiration and forming something unique. Creating and offering work that already exists out there makes success much much harder, whereas work that is born from your own ideas can always mature and transform. Equally, don’t freak out if someone starts “copying you”. Its my experience that those using others’ ideas so literally kind of ‘time out’ as they can’t evolve the same as if it dreamt up on their own.

Be open inspiration from everywhere but work hard to identify your points of difference. Then support your potential by ensuring your growing audience understand them.

Do you have a favourite Zeffer product?

Yes! I am quite obsessed with the Rosé cider! Wow!!!!