26 September 2017

Super-talented artist Cassie Byrnes splits her time between gallery openings in Melbourne’s inner-city and designing for uber-brands such as Anthropologie, Kuwaii and Häagen-Dazs.

Somewhere in all of this, she can add another impressive creative notch to her belt with her ever-stunning Squiggly Gum, an Australiana design printed over a range of bed linen and napery items for Linen House’s summer collection.

What’s more? Homebase managed to trap Cassie for a quick chat about her skyrocketing career, the creative process and what’s ahead in her very bright future.

Photo Credit: Annette O’Brien for The Design Files

Cassie, you’ve become quite the design icon since graduating from RMIT – how does it feel?

I think I have a few more decades in me to get to icon stage!

Personally I feel like I’ve just moved from a graduate to a professional, which is an exciting transition. I look forward to the possibilities and opportunities ahead.

How did being awarded the 2014 RMIT Linen House Industry Partnership feel and what have you taken from it?

I remember getting that phone call like it was yesterday! Maybe because it was the first time I had won anything in my life (plus hearing my work was going to be out into production as a cushion).

When you're a student and questioning your work constantly, those little confidence-boosters are so important. I got off the phone and called mum straight away! My family bought a lot of cushions that year and everyone still has them in their homes. Funny how no one gets that excited anymore!

Any further pinch-me moments to note since then?

A good moment was an article posted on The Design Files in October 2015. It was the first time anything was written about me and it summed my work up perfectly. I sent it to my family so they could finally understand what I do!

Squiggly Gum and Lakebed embrace a truly Australian style. How did they come-to-be?

I am a big lover of Australiana, it’s a major theme in my work and I was lucky to be given the freedom to explore that aesthetic in my role at Linen House.

Squiggly Gum is a pretty simple one, inspired by the leaves of the Eucalyptus tree. The great thing about gum leaves is you don’t have to do much imagining as they naturally form beautiful patterns cascading from their branches and then you have the flowers and gum nuts popping up throughout. It’s just perfection! I think it's iconography that all Australians are very familiar with and love.

I did reference my Linen House Rambler design from 2014 for the style of the flowers, which is something I do a lot in my work (little secret things that have sentimental value to me).

What was your thought-process behind your Squiggly Gum and Lakebed designs?

Nature is a passion and a huge part of my work, so I’m lucky to be from a little corner of the world with such a diverse and weird selection of it! I snap lots of photos on walks and buy and pick flowers so these always end up in my final designs.

Squiggly Gum was drawn-up from local gum leaves found around the area. After drawing them in fine liner, I scanned them to get a crisp, digital finish ready for printing. The colours were chosen from a master palette decided on at the beginning of the season. I love how gum leaves have slightly different shades of green and grey from where the light hits them as they twist and turn.

Naturally when you look at a bunch, they have a light and dark shade hence why I chose two contrasting colours for the leaves.

Putting Squiggly Gum into repeat was the biggest challenge. I wanted it to be as organic as possible within its limitations. I think it would have to be one of my best repeats ever!

How do you like to design? Does it evolve over time or all at once?

I would describe it as well-planned spontaneity. I always start with a considered palette and story allowing me to design freely and play with mark making, texture and composition.

The creative process is inspired through capturing the essence and spirit of the theme, rather than a literal interpretation. This allows the natural progression and organic development of ideas and workflow, constantly influenced by new discoveries.

Do you suffer creative blocks? How do you work around them?

Yes all the time! Not sure if it’s a creative block or I am just tired. I think I burnout creatively when I do too much work. The solution is always a holiday or a weekend away from the studio.

What drew you to textile design?

I started my professional life as an interior designer in Brisbane. I became interested in fabrics and patterns through a weird obsession with eighties dresses.

Knowing literally nothing about textiles and never having visited Victoria, I did what any sane twenty-something would do – I quit my job to move interstate and enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts (Textile Design) at RMIT.

Any designs you particularly love from your career thus far?

I created the Protea print over three years ago for my graduate collection and I still love it today. I remember playing around with paints at some ridiculous hour at night, and I picked up the painting way too early and it all started running.

I was initially so upset until I realised that if I did it with all of the motifs, it can become apart of the pattern. I love happy accidents like that.

It was also the first painting where I started leaving white spaces around everything due to my impatience with waiting for paint to dry, creating lots of negative space. This has now become one of my favourite ways to design patterns.

We hear you adore cooking – what the most recent dish you poured some serious love into?

I’m normally a Mediterranean kinda gal but recently I had a Chinese-themed dinner party. It was a first time working with these flavours so it was stressful having to follow recipes and I had no idea what I was doing.

Let’s just say I will be sticking with my usual souvlaki and moussaka from now on.

Three things you simply cannot live without?



And bed.

What’s next?

I release my new collection of print and clothing in a couple of months, which I’ve been working on for a while. It’s called Honeymoon, inspired by getting married and my travels across the USA (always exciting to release new work out into the world).

Also, I have just locked in another solo exhibition next year so I better keep those paintbrushes out!

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