Creating with Melbourne Surface Artist Jamie Lee O'Shea
INTERVIEW BY IMO
WITH Jamie Lee O’shea - Surface Artist
MeLbourne . VIC
Jamie and I met in 2012 working at a restaurant in Melbourne’s CBD. Outside of hospo, I was at Fashion School and Jamie was already working as an artist doing commission pieces all over Melbourne. We both grew up outside of the city in smaller towns, I grew up in Cairns and Jamie grew up in Swan Hill. We’d both moved to the city as teenagers, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Jamie has an energy that leaves you wanting more and the ability to show you the beauty in everything. She’ll walk into a room, take in every inch and then proclaim loudly – in her husky voice – all the things that she loves about it, with a few hand gestures thrown in for drama. Jamie is an observer and a sharer.
Since the early 2000s, Jamie has been leaving her mark all over town – quite literally. Her work as a Surface Artist has seen her work on projects including The Espy, Kekou, a few little cafes interiors, countless commissions and 18 stores globally for Le Labo on behalf of See-Studios New York.
“Stripped right back to almost the barest of all bones, proofed, then brought back to life from scratch. I like to keep the buildings natural dirts and etchings from the walls, ceilings, beams, ledges, turning them into pastes or custom paints and putting them back into the artwork. I also use fallen rocks or plaster as chalks or scratching tools, limiting external or unconnected materials entering the space. I think this maintains as much of the building's soul as possible.” - Jamie Lee O’Shea
I had a chat to Jamie about her latest collection Honey Hole – a series of artworks that we’ve featured in many of our photoshoots. It seems like as much as we both love the city, we’ll always love the feeling of dirt between our toes.
Following you on Instragram @jaaimjaaim it's clear you gain a lot of your inspiration from your surroundings. do you feel more inspired in big cities or country towns?
Ideas generate from everything. I think it's really important to catch them where you can. The country for example, allows me to slow right down. To realise the small simpler things and their beauty. To explore them and expand them. Where as cities rush with an abundance of opportunities. Sometimes I crave that overwhelming array of complexities and developments. But as a whole, I think slowing things down definitely lessens distraction and you can open your senses right up. That's a hard one to answer actually, haha.
JAMIE LEE O’SHEA
"A tiny shoulder of a big landscape. My first paint on canvas in years. When you paint large scale, for me anyway, it's so important to lay on the floor and stretch, eat, drink, watch and listen to it. Just being really in it. I barely plan anything but a vague idea of colour and concept, but the best parts are when you are fully connected and warm and physical with it, because it all seems to make much more sense. I've tried painting on an easel, and it's just not for me. I literally find myself trapped and vacant for it. Or I paint really tiny and strange. I am so happy for myself to have gotten to a point where I can now say, I can make a living out of this. I still have so far to go, but it makes me feel I am missing nothing and it makes me feel so me to have this special place. Nobody can touch this space. From dusk till dawn is where my best self comes forward. I don’t know why entirely, but it’s my purest of selves. So I don't wake up for the 9-5 and I love that the rules are changing. I am totally free and will dive in for this until that changes too. Letting go of these works from these experiences, actually hurts because I love them. But it's here I teach myself valuable lessons on attachment, purpose and self. And to me it's really important to keep investigating this, so I am better for myself and others. I just really wanted to write that down for anyone who wants to make a living out of what they love that might not be conventional. I love this painting. Cannot wait to show you the full thing."
Jamie, you're a country girl who's lived in Melbourne for 17 years and currently travelling around the UK and Europe. Do you think your most recent collection Honey Hole was in a way your roots in the bush calling you back home?
Absolutely. It's so important for anyone really, to connect to their roots. I think I'd lost myself to a number of ideals about who I was and why I was doing what I was doing. Connecting again to my childhood bounced me back into my fuller self and the next person I am developing into.
Can you give us insight into your inspiration, processes as an artist and the journey of Honey Hole
'The Honey Hole' is my dad's favourite fishing spot on The Murray, haha! I guess these pieces were created from the rapid undertow of my own personal current at the time. Inspired purely by the state of love and magic. Not only had I reconnected to myself in a beautiful way, but suddenly life was attracted to my very existence again, all through the change of my mind. I just wanted to get that out there and see what happened. It made beginning everything really easy. It also made staying in it so much easier as well. I work at best a few hours after I've been awake, making afternoons until after dark my favourite times. I get so much done, it’s unbelievable. I guess this is part of my process. Setting the tones for my work. I'm very autonomous and change frequently, so I'm at my best when I'm free of restraint. Aren't we all... All I know is I love the drama in my artwork. I love things on grand scales and of meaning. So when you are at your of 'peachiest' of states, everything you seem to pull out, comes from your honey. Thus, realising 'The Honey Hole' It's innocence is so attractive to me. I still quite possibly live in my child mind when it comes to exploration. I like things sometimes to be a free for all wonderland. Where there you are, in profound, colourful chaos, with complete balance. I suppose it's pretty obvious in my style, haha!
You spent your weekends out of the city circulating your collection of art through rural Victoria, calling it your ‘travelling desert gallery’. why did you choose to do that and what is it you love so much about country town markets?
This was purely a way to distribute artwork to people whom may not have access to something so simple that can change their lives. Art, colour, concept, composition – these things when in your space, change the way you connect to your environment and yourself. Obviously the audience is tougher than in the city. City folk have much more access to such ideas, but I really loved helping introduce people to new ways of thinking, and the potential to have something unique. That and I was literally broke rubbing stones together, making everything from scratch, and would have done anything with 'some' purpose, to get ahead, to be able to do more.
You're currently ABOUT IN THE MIDDLE OF MOVING TO Berlin. what are you most excited to create There?
MORE! Ha! I'm excited about bringing what I've learnt with me. Stirring it around with others, and watching it grow. I'm excited about cultivating it with German brot und wässer. I want a sense of history. Layers. More depth in my work. More secret codes!
We met [Imo and Jamie] working in hospo many moons ago - if you could go back in time and chat to us in the restaurant what advice would you give us?
First thing is to drop what everybody else thinks. It gets kind of boring, and it's hugely counter productive. Never give up. And if you do, that's fine. There's knowledge from every nose tip of situation you find yourself in. You will not die. And if you do. Come back. You'll feel amazing. It's bittersweet. Most of all, don't be afraid to ask questions. Ask every day. You'll feel beautiful with the answers.
Advice for others wanting to pursue their passion?
There is opportunity in absolutely everything. Everything. Never forget that.
And, nobody got anywhere without going a bit crazy. Go wild. You'll survive.
Oh, and, don't expect things to just come to you. You have to create it. So read, collect, collate and enquire. Go to everything. Be involved. Learn the lingo then ditch that and create your own. And don't assist somebody else towards their dreams for too long. You have your own. Share, listen, absorb. Practise makes perfect. Practise, makes perfect!
“Learn the lingo then ditch that and create your own.” - Jamie
Lastly, how do you slow down?
First and foremost, I take my shoes off. I love food and wine and getting back to the basics, so I forage out on the land for a while. My family have farms and land with river frontages. Connecting to the land again with little concept of time is such a beautiful feeling. Just the truest of your being and your fullest surrender to your needs. It's a really juicy state to be in. I love it – for a little while.
We’ve started this journal in hope that through us sharing stories like Jamie’s it encourages others to -
To follow your passion project.
Support local artists and makers.
Our hope is that through us showcasing small, local and ethical artists/ makers/ businesses it encourages others to support locally, handmade.