Talking with MONIKA WYNDHAM from OPEN HOUSE PROJECTS

K: I came across a super old article and was not surprised to find out that you used to be an art director in another life…I loved seeing your earlier work, especially the sentiment around your ‘Funny Cool’ folder & Google images — dare I ask if you could share a collage from this era?

M: Ha! You're a good journalist! Yes in a past life I used to do art direction and make large scale collages and sculptures for a Canadian fashion company. They were used in stores as part of the permanent interior design, and the 2D work was used on everything from marketing collateral to building wraps. I'm sure my older work is just a google away for those who care to dig ;) 

K: On the topic of Google images… Do you have a favourite meme? 

M: You know, I can't think of any one favourite, though the distracted boyfriend ones are good and stupid and usually give me a chuckle. Here are a couple for ya:

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 M: I also just really love The Far Side by Gary Larson for quick good jokes, I think he gave us a huge gift with his work. This is the mug I use every morning:

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K: The ‘Sister’ earrings that you created many years ago are so good that you’re constantly getting copied. Do you have any advice for emerging designers and artists on how to protect their work?

M: Copyright Copyright Copyright. I can't say I've had a ton of success defending our original Sister Earrings design but a copyright is the legal leverage you need to get taken seriously. Many "design" companies who steal work and market it as their own will respond only to public shaming or a lawsuit. We all have huge power and also a responsibility with social media to call out those with unlawful practices and foster a creative environment that supports small scale designers. I really feel for anyone who has had their work stolen. It's hard to fight even though the injustice is clear, and can take a huge toll on your creative energy and livelihood.

K: When we first met a couple of years ago, I was highly impressed with your use of non-traditional materials in the presentation of Open House Projects pieces. I especially recall the bricks you collected from an abandoned building in Cuba, which you painted and repurposed. When was the last time you felt truly inspired? 

M: Thank you. Yes I really get excited to build environments around each collection that help deliver their story. I love contrasts in texture and setting my work in a palette that suits the mood or the feeling. When I have the ability to travel to make a jewellery collection, I find easy inspiration in being outside of my regular world and schedule. I have a one year old now so it's not so easy any more! I'm glad to report that inspiration still strikes, even when I'm busy and tired! A few months ago I was hit suddenly with the idea shown drawn below. I was at a restaurant, and had to scrawl it quickly on a napkin to not lose it. This led to the "eaten pear" necklace design, with 2 faces hidden in the bite marks of a pear. 

 I just love the feeling of having ideas, and thinking through how they can take shape. To jumpstart the process, I have a toolbox labelled 'METAL DO-DADS OF INTEREST WITH POTENTIAL". This is a collection of objects that hold a little spark for me, but I don't yet know what they're good for. I collect (hoard) little things year-round for their colour, shape or texture to add to my box. 

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 K: I recently moved to a bushfire prone area but the payoff is being surrounded by nature and trees, imaking a list in my head of things I would save in the event of a bushfire (aside from my husband & dog) eased my anxiety. Do you have objects you are very much attached to? What is one of your most prized possessions?

 M: All I can think of at this moment is a little ink drawing of my best friend and me in a hotel room in Morocco. We made an Australian traveller friend for a few days in Fez and he's a really great artist. He drew us sitting on our newly purchased rugs, scheming as we always do when we're together about whatever our next plan was. I just love it.

 K: What are some of your favourite places to spend a day off in Brooklyn?

 M: Lately I've been trekking up to the Central Park Zoo (not in Brooklyn!). My baby Felix loves Owls so much so we go visit the big old owl there so she can hoot at it and yell OWL OWL OWL way too loud.

K: Who are some of your favourite living artists, who are still ‘active’/producing work?

M: I am really moved by the work of Mark Baumer, who was a poet and environmental activist. He was killed by a car 2 years ago while walking barefoot across the country to raise awareness about climate change. His art, beliefs, and activism were merged in a beautiful and inspirational way, and he was very very funny. 

https://www.instagram.com/baumerworld/

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Images from Mark Baumer’s Instagram

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 K: Do you have a ritual when you are in the studio to help you create? What kind of music do you play?

M: I listen to NPR (and get fired up and freaked out about the world) or stream bad shows on Netflix or listen to Chances With Wolves which I highly recommend! http://www.chanceswithwolves.com