Plants on walls are kind of a big thing nowadays. If you’re looking for fresh ways to add plants to your home- then you’re going to like Kirralee & Co. I discovered her work and was instantly drawn to the simplicity, the raw minimalism and the functionality in her creations.
Kirralee is also so inspiring! I really enjoyed getting to know about her creative process, and I think you will too!
Let’s hear what she has to say!
My name is Kirralee Robinson and I was born and raised in Brisbane, Queensland. I am happily 10 years married and we have 3 little munchkins aged 7, 5 and 2. My work life is a juggle of many different areas of creativity. I am an art installer, a gallery assistant, beginner framer and I am owner and designer of Kirralee & Co.
My Co. includes my husband who offers technical support on the hardware side of things; he makes jigs and shows me how to use the tools. I am also fortunate enough to be surrounded by creative friends who have offered their time, skills and encouragement along this journey. I honestly couldn’t do what I’m doing without them – support like this is just so vital for any new venture.
I love the minimal yet powerful styling in your work.
Thank you. It’s the ultimate compliment when people just ‘get’ what you were going for.
It’s so cool that you worked as a florist too. I find it rather interesting that you see the beauty in a single stem- in contrast to the number of plants/flowers that a regular florist has to add in an arrangement. Can you share a bit more about how your present style of arrangements at Kirralee & Co has evolved?
Floristry is akin to any other client-driven creative business. When it comes down to it, most days your own personal taste has very little to do with the end product. I think I became visually tired after so many years of bright clashing colours and always found a kind of peace in just the greenery – in particular, the lush leaves and the variety of textures found mixing them. We would go to fancy floral display shows and I remember test tubes being used there – there was a great appeal for me, probably because it was generally unseen in day-to-day shop life. In floristry, the customers always need to see value for money and there’s always a need to balance quantity and quality. In the places I worked for our customer base didn’t really value the intricacies of design so we rarely sold anything design heavy.
I think when you mix these experiences with the creative drive of an artist you would probably come up with what I make today. I feel like I can have a bit of creative control now over what goes on people’s walls. I also like that there’s an option now of displaying flowers in an elegant and simple way; you don’t have to be a florist to use these vases.
How do you maintain the balance between regular life and your work?
All of my daytime work hours in art galleries are really unpredictable and Ash is a paramedic so our family schedule is quite unique. We have to be really flexible but also very disciplined. I guess I’ve just learnt to take the time out for my creativity and give it 500% when it’s there. We maintain balance by being aware of everyone in the household (kids too) and their needs and each having something that is just our own, and taking turns doing this. Because of the shift work I may make nothing for a month, then only make and photograph for two weeks straight…and it’s all okay because we all love each other and have this common understanding that this is how we help each other to succeed.
What was the hardest (and easiest) part while starting your business?
I find the ideas part to be the easiest. Before Kirralee & Co, I used to procrastinate about finishing anything and to be honest this is the first project I feel like I’m really pushing through – mainly because I just love it. Photography and website related things were hard at the beginning and the financial part is really tough because it’s very new to me. But ideas are really easy.
What makes you the happiest in your creative process?
There’s so much that I love, like the grains in the wood and problem solving a new design- but mostly I find joy in creating something in my head and then being able to hold it in my hands – the faster between these two, the better. There is something really special about making the intangible a reality. Other people liking and buying it is just a bonus really!
Could you give us a glimpse in a typical day of your life?
We have a lot of regular things that get done, but never in the same order… My day always starts with coffee, then there’s housework and school / daycare, lots of playing outside. I have learnt to design in my head while driving or going for a walk with the kids. If I’m not doing something, I’m planning something so that the times I can get to the shed I’m very productive…. The nights that Ash is off on shift I try to use by either watching something inspiring, designing on paper, or sanding / finishing the vases.
What qualities are needed to keep up and also enjoy running a creative business?
I think vision is really important – being able to see an end result in your mind’s eye that others can’t see can really motivate you to keep going, even when it looks impossible. I find the easiest way to enjoy your own creativity is to spend time with other people’s creativity. I frequent movies, performances, dinners, and gallery openings … anything (legal) as long as I am trying new things and engaging my senses in new ways. This keeps my brain engine warm and the rest of my life fresh.
Where do you see yourself in a few years?
I have a bunch of very specific ideas on where I would like to end up, but I’m also really open to where life leads. I would be happy if any of these things happened: Buying a house, not buying a house, stocking Kirralee & Co in some national and international stores, owning an artist run space, landing a job as a gallery exhibitions officer, travelling with my art and/or design work, installing some great art shows around the world, travelling with my family, travelling with my husband, helping artisans in Mexico make some real money from their crafts, moving to Melbourne for a few years.
What motivates and inspires you the most?
I believe that things can always be better no matter how good or bad they currently are and this is what really gets me out of bed each day (after coffee). Kirralee & Co exists because I believe there’s a simpler and more sustainable way of decorating our homes. And I make art because I have things to say that could be important to someone somewhere. On the days where nothing creative is going right, I usually turn on a documentary about another artist, doesn’t matter who, and hear the stories of their days that don’t go so well and the success they still have just from pushing through. Something usually stands out to me and I go to bed ready to try again the next day.
How long have you been interested in floral arrangements and home design? How did you think you could convert your hobby into a business?
My motivation for being a florist wasn’t because I particularly liked flowers but because I wanted a creative job I could do during my study. 10 years later, I can happily say that the more I work with flowers and foliage the more I like them. My interest in home design came about because I spent 2014 learning about ethics and sustainability in fashion and it motivated me to make some changes in our family, not only with clothes but everything we consume. I designed the first vases as an answer to my own question about how we could decorate more responsibly.
I had several of my friends say, “hey! You should sell these, I would buy one!” So I listened. I also signed up to an Etsy challenge where we were given advice on setting up an online store and given support and mentoring through the process. That was a real turning point for me.
What’s your favourite colour, flower and food?
Yes I know, it’s a shade, but, black. Always black.
Favourite flower changes all the time but currently hydrangea.
Mexican food, chocolate, cheese, wine, repeat.
What are some topics and trends inspiring you nowadays?
I’m really loving all the Palm Springs related Instagram accounts, @palmspringsstyle , @meganmckean, and @modernism_week, they have inspired a collection I’m currently working on. I’m also always interested in learning more about living sustainably / minimally / essentially, we have a long way to go there.
(bright hues for Kirralee’s next project! ^)
What would an ‘ideal’ day be like for you?
Any day where I feel like I’m at least one step ahead of where I was that morning is good. BUT if I can indulge myself a little, ideally I would have a coffee, kiss my husband and kids, head off to a work shed / art gallery / studio and work hard with my hands while listening to good music, more coffee, get sweaty, complete something, come home and shower, put on pretty clothes then head to an event or date with my husband.
What’s the significance of art and design in your life?
As long as I can remember, I have been involved in making things, dreaming, crafting, thinking… My parents were wonderfully supportive of all my quirks and always taught us that being a [__name any suit job__] isn’t necessarily more important or significant than being an artist. I have tried to ‘give up’ being a creative a couple of times but I always come back. Even during the seasons of time, where I’m not able to get into the studio I find my cooking amps up in creativity (sorry family). I just know I will be working with my hands and in art galleries for the rest of my life. It’s part of who I am. Now it’s going next level as well with having three kids, all of whom are showing signs of being creative, I’m really looking forward to growing this with them.
I have just started growing some tropical plants at home, which I’m sure will feature in my work in the future. Other than that I source the single stems from my garden, around my neighborhood and the work shed, as it is surrounded by a lot of gorgeous greenery. I also buy the occasional stem from my local florist, (particularly when I have a specific photo in mind).
The test tubes are sourced from a variety of places. Although I would love to make these myself this would increase the cost of the pieces significantly and there are plenty of people out there already making them. Apart from the factory few I have bought, a lot of them have been given to me. I’ve had a few people say things like this to me, “I’m a hoarder and I’m not going to use this, but it seems you will!”
What makes a satisfied customer?
A happy customer gets more than what they expected. Each order I send is gift wrapped with care and sent as soon as possible with a note straight from me. Wherever I can, I add in a stem of foliage so the vase can be used straight away.
What would you like to convey to a customer through your work?
I would like people to see that good quality design can transcend trends. It’s worth looking around for small businesses and makers because the service and quality is much more personal. I think having a home decorated with handmade items can fill a space with love and warmth and this is what I hope for my designs.