Creatives of Brisbane
By Brianna Eden
Photographer: Georgia Wallace
Bianca Mavrick, Tom Summers, and Tiana Khasi are three creative producers choosing to refine their skills and cultivate their careers in the heart of Brisbane. Mavrick runs eponymous jewellery label Bianca Mavrick Jewellery, which is stocked and sold all over the world. Summers is a multidisciplinary designer currently focusing on ceramics that impact a space. Unlike Summers and Mavrick, Khasi produces a product more sonic in nature as an up-and-coming singer and songwriter who has just released her debut single, Nuketown.
Despite working across different fields, all three consider their experiences and thoughts on failure to be quite similar. As designers, Mavrick and Summers have experienced many of their failures during the design process. Even as Summers’ abstract ceramics are displayed and celebrated by others, they can still be considered failures in his eyes. “It’s a failure in my mind because it’s not what I envisioned it would be,” he says, “But that’s just part of the creative process and you can’t get too bogged down in it.”
Similarly, Khasi sees failure as a learning opportunity within her creative process and says that even when she has failed, she has still gained a learning opportunity. “In the moment, (failure) is really important and it does happen,” she says, “But sometimes those failures open up the more experimental side of the creative process.”
Accepting failure can be difficult, especially as when the product you create is closely linked to your sense of self. As creative producers, Mavrick, Khasi and Summers all feel it is important to separate yourself from the work. While it is not always easy, Mavrick recommends trying to not get too wrapped up in how others view your work. “You can’t derive self-validation solely from your work, there’s got to be other parts of you,” she says.
Creatives in Brisbane often follow the romanticised narrative of moving away to achieve success, but Khasi says she has no plans to leave. She considers success to come from having a strong vision for not only yourself, but your community too. “I think as a creative you have a responsibility to cultivate the community you wish you had,” she says, “Investing in your community by working and collaborating with people, even outside your field, creates a bit more of a long-term vision for the scene.”
Just like Khasi, Summers and Mavrick also feel Brisbane is the perfect place to cultivate their creative careers.
After living and studying in Sweden, Summers realised how much the tropical climate of Brisbane contributed to his creativity. “It’s not hot or sunny enough for me anywhere else,” he says. Mavrick agrees and says that it is important to work somewhere that makes you happy and that living in Brisbane hasn’t inhibited her career at all. “I don’t think me being in Brisbane is something that [my stockists] even care about. It’s just an address line,” she says. “You don’t need to leave to succeed in your creative practice.”
Aicha Robertson and Mikki Auld are a pair of powerhouse style makers making a name for themselves in the heart of Brisbane. Robertson is the entrepreneurial fashion stylist behind The Fashion Heist, a digital fashion platform and one of Australia’s top online content creators, which she founded just under a decade ago. Auld has mastered the art of hair-styling across the globe and has just returned home to Brisbane to found her own salon, Mikki Auld Hairdressing.
As entrepreneurs, Auld and Robertson consider their failings to be related to the professional expectations they had set for themselves. When Auld graduated from high school, she felt she failed to the fit the mould of going to university or working a nine-to-five job. “I’ve failed many times,” she says, “But I wouldn’t be where I am today without those things going wrong.”
Just like Auld, Robertson also felt she failed to fit into a traditional work lifestyle. With a strong desire to ‘do her own thing’, Robertson says it is important to not let failure stop you as you try to find your own way. “You’ve just got to keep pushing through,” she says, “Even if things get really tough, just be persistent.”
A good entrepreneur knows that great things take time, and success is not going to be instantaneous. According to Auld, talent is only a small part of achieving success. “Resilience is at the core of a good entrepreneur,” she says. Robertson says the key is also being able to own your mistakes. “There’s no throwing the blame on other people,” she says, “I think that can be hard, but in the end it’s good because you learn, and you adapt.”
Their incredible skills could’ve taken their careers anywhere, but for Robertson and Auld there’s no place they’d rather be than Brisbane. After experiencing life overseas, Auld says she realised Brisbane was the city for her. “Brisbane is a really beautiful city,” she says, “And it’s so important to me to help contribute the creative culture that’s growing here.”
Robertson believes the supportive culture of Brisbane’s creative scene was invaluable to her career. “We can all work together and everyone is supportive here,” she says, “And that’s really important when you’re an entrepreneur.”
In the game for 12 and 14 years respectively, Ben Chiu and Kim Sun are a pair of retail powerhouses. According to Libby Jane Charleston, editor at large of Women Love Tech, over 60 per cent of small businesses close after just three years, so Sun and Chiu’s lengthy careers have been no easy feat.
Alongside brother and business partner Nick, Ben runs premium menswear retailer Apartment, music event company A Love Supreme, and cult burger joint Ben’s Burgers. Clearly, Chiu is no stranger to Brisbane’s creative culture, and neither is Sun. Like Chiu, she also founded her own Brisbane-based fashion boutique, Violent Green, with husband Simon.
Failure is an old friend of Chiu and Sun’s as both admit to experiencing plenty in their journeys to success. Whether their failures were big or small, they all had an impact. And the pair prefer to view their failings as learning opportunities rather than disasters.
Sun laughs when she looks back on the learning curves of her past failings. She says they taught her to own her mistakes and to revisit them in order to make things better. “If you don’t acknowledge [your mistakes], you don’t learn,” she says, “And then you try to hide it and mask it because you’re worried that people will say that you’ve failed, but really, if you don’t own it then you don’t grow.” Chiu agrees wholeheartedly, and says failure is something you need to learn to accept. “You’ve just got to take it in your stride, learn from it, and bounce back.”
Failure has the ability to stop you in your tracks, but the pair know all too well the importance of pushing through the hardships. Chiu says it is important to find the balance between playing it safe and risking it all. “You’ve got to put yourself out there to fail,” he says. Sun says that being a young creative might make that easier. “Being younger, you’re a little more fearless, and I think that’s a good thing,” she says, “You just go for it.”
For creatives, Chiu acknowledges Brisbane can feel a little stifling. “There’s a lot of opportunity in Brisbane but it can feel harder to find,” he says. Chiu is a big believer that “Someone has to stay and start doing things otherwise Brisbane will always be the same.” Sun says that while it might be a little more work, creatives can still thrive in Brisbane. “There are opportunities, I would always say to everyone to stay,” she says, “We can make Brisbane better.”