I first came across Seonaidh Murphy’s Soft Constructions last year when I attended one of her exhibitions at the café Mrs. S in Maylands. What caught my attention that night was her distinct style of drawing and her delicate use of watercolour. All of her work is exceptionally pleasing to the eye, but what makes Soft Constructions even more special are the values and ethos driving the brand. I interviewed Murphy recently to discuss her inspirations and all things Soft Constructions…
> Please describe Soft Constructions and what it is all about…
Soft Constructions is about allowing people to become more involved in art and design and allowing them to tap into their own creativity by being involved in the production and design processes of our products.
I started Soft Constructions in 2013 when I saw that there was an ever-growing gap between artwork and design products that were being produced and the viewer/consumer that it was aimed toward. Having worked and studied in the Fine Art and Fashion and Textiles areas I am all too familiar with the alienation and discomfort that can often extend from art and design circles. The fear of engaging in exhibitions at art galleries; the embarrassment of having to venture into high end, boutique, designer stores and not feeling like you’re intelligent enough or “in the know” to be able to appreciate good design and art. Soft Constructions aims to bridge that gap by incorporating art into everyday, practical, functional and affordable objects and by offering a “make your own” option to clients.
I create ranges of artworks that draw on popular culture, recognizable subject matter and current trends for inspiration. These artworks are then used as the building blocks for textile and product designs. I also incorporate a little bit of witty word play into my designs because well, lets be honest we can all benefit from a little bit of pun in our lives.
> I particularly love the concept of the consumer playing a part in the design process, why did you choose to do this?
I think there are two reasons for it.
The first is that I wanted to break down a bit of the arrogance associated with the “art world”. Art should be something that can be appreciated and interpreted by anybody. I think incorporating clients in the design process allows for the product that emerges to resonate more personally with them. And they get to choose their own level of involvement. Everyday I have clients tell me, “Oh, I’m not creative, I can’t even draw!” Well guess what? Everyone can be creative and everyone can draw it just takes a little bit of patience and a little bit of a push in the right direction.
The second reason is because I see a massive problem with the environmental and economic factors associated with the textile industry. After the mining industry, the textile industry is the second largest polluter worldwide. We create more clothing than our current population could even wear. We exploit people so we can produce more crap that nobody wants to buy at cheaper prices so that we can make a higher profit margin, forgetting about the millions of workers that suffer just because we want to buy a bikini for an unrealistically low price of $4.99.
I’m not saying I’m perfect, the design industry by all accounts is about producing product but I have a pretty simple mantra that I apply to the way I live and work.
JUST USE WHAT YOU NEED.
So with that in mind I try to keep stock levels as low as possible, encourage customers to use the Make Your Own initiative, use fabrics that are 100% natural and products created or sourced locally, within Australia or by fair trade.
Why make products with the hope of selling them to consumers? Why not make consumers exactly what they want?
> What inspires you and your work?
Intelligent and clever thinking inspires me. I enjoy a good bit of wordplay and good joke. I really enjoy it when I see people looking at my work, particularly the food inspired collection- #EATart, and a little smirk comes over their face after a couple of seconds because they get it. And then they kind of look around to see if anyone else has got the joke. It gives them a point of interaction with the work and with other people. Communication I think is important when you create visuals. Having a little fun with things and creating a dialogue between the viewer and the work makes for a more personal and memorable experience.
> Do you think your past study and work experience in the fashion industry influences you and your work now? If so, how?
Yes definitely. I have studied fine art and fashion and textile design so I have a mix of ideologies from both art and design backgrounds. After studying Fine Art at Curtin I struggled for years to shake the starving artist stereotype. Transferring my artistic skills into Fashion and Textile Design at Central Institute meant I was able to know the worth of my skills and also gave me a more business-oriented approach.
I’ve always adhered to a sustainable ethos when it comes to production- my fashion graduate collection was created entirely from recycled garments and materials. Which is why I think I never saw myself heading down a fashion designer road. It is already a flooded and overproduced market and to be able to implement a sustainable production line seems near impossible. For me being able to channel my creativity through textile and surface design has meant I can create without the guilt of creating excess that nobody wants.
> Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming exhibition?
I am in the process of preparing a new body of work for an exhibition at Bivouac Canteen and Bar (198 William St, Northbridge). Keeping on the same path of making art easily accessible to a wider audience I think it’s important to showcase artwork in an environment that is approachable to most people. Art, food, music, design, theatre, dance they all operate a cultural exchange with each other. Bivouac particularly encourages this way of thinking by creating their own little cultural hub nestled between artistic institutions such as the State Theatre, Pica, AGWA and The Blue Room and supporting local artists of all genres. It opens on April 28th so pop down and eat some great food, drink some dranks and enjoy some Soft Constructions creations.
> And lastly, what’s on the cards for you and Soft Constructions in the near future?
I’m currently working on a new collection and am aiming to sneak in another exhibition at some point this year. I will be travelling to Melbourne in May to show at Markit in Federation Square and I will also be popping over to Sydney for some tradeshows later in the year.
I have some plans to further develop the brand and extend the graphic and logo design side of things. There are also talks of perhaps offering some illustration and textile workshops but you’ll have to wait and see…
All of the work pictured is available on Soft Constructions’ online store > here.