Working alongside some of the best in Australian fashion, Christina visited Newcastle setting up at the Olive Tree.
We caught up with the extraordinarily talented Christina Mclean of TRADE the MARK.
Christina’s dedication to crafting hand-made textiles and ceramics has seen her become a leader in the textiles industry and work alongside some of Australia’s most recognised fashion designers including Sass & Bide, Willow, Bianca Spender, Romance Was Born and Ginger & Smart.
Working out of her studio in St Peters, we dropped in on Christina to get a behind the scenes tour of her stunning work space and a first-hand glimpse at just what it takes to bring her beautiful collection to life.
Lovely to meet you Christina, thank you for inviting us into your studio.
How long have you been working out of the St Peter’s studio?
I moved into May St in June 2012, so it’s nearly been 5 years.
When did TRADE the MARK first come to life?
TRADE the MARK was born late Dec 2014.
Multi-disciplined is a good word to describe you, working with ceramics, textiles, paper and even leather, are they all intertwined or does each require a very different set of skills.
I think everything I’ve done before informs my practice now. I worked with clay in the 90’s for 12 years and then moved to textiles, primarily print within fashion. I’m now back working with ceramics and textiles, however the way I approach cloth now, is markedly different.
My mark making certainly crosses over each material. In saying that, each medium has it’s own qualities and respond to the marks very differently. Each medium most definitely requires it’s own set of skills, particularly ceramics. There is so much involved in producing a clay piece. It all starts with creating the actual form, developing the skill to be able to throw the form or handbuild it. To then have the knowledge base to understand the firing cycles needed to give the work permanence and of course there’s all the glaze theory too.
When people ask me about the process I really love to talk about it, there’s a long story within each piece. Creating a pot is an extremely time consuming process, it’s probably why I have such an appreciation for clay as a material.
Your business has evolved a number of times over the years, how important is it to change things up and evolve?
As a creative, I believe it’s essential to develop and evolve as an artist. It’s really an organic process for me, I’ve spent over 15 years working with clay and I see it as a natural progression. If you’re curious about materials, the world is your oyster.
Do you think TRADE the MARK is here to stay for a little while?
Yes I think TRADE the MARK is here to stay. I think this is the creative vehicle I’ve been working towards in my other businesses. It’s kind of a morphing of the past, with no limitations placed on my practice. It took me a while to come up with the name, as I really wanted it to symbolise the path once trodden, with a nod towards the future and what’s possible.
Have you always been able to just focus on your art or have you needed to work elsewhere at times?
Oh yes, I’ve had to work elsewhere at times over my career. I think a lot of artists have. I’ve taught at TAFE, done a lot of freelance, and back in the 90’s I cleaned houses to keep my dream alive. Whatever it took when times were lean or I was at the beginning of something new.
You’ve worked with some incredible brands in the fashion world, do you have a project that you are most proud of?
I’ve been so fortunate to work with so many wonderful brands. It’s hard to single out just one. I’m always thrilled to see one of my prints on the catwalk.
How difficult has it been to remain true to your hand-crafted practice given the mass produced world we live in.
This is one of the main reasons why I birthed TRADE the MARK. I was feeling so disillusioned by the state of our throw away culture and it was a direct reaction to the mass produced, disposable world we live in. Hand making, dying, throwing, handbuilding, glazing, decorating, firing, works with my own hands is really an essential part of the process for me.
What’s heartening and helps to keep me going is that my vision and concerns are shared by so many. That work that is handmade and crafted with skill is valued and appreciated. Yes there are challenges within a business construct. Wholesaling is difficult, when you are producing one off works. You are up against mass produced product and prices reflect that. I face challenges daily in regards to my sustainable choices, I just try to connect with like-minded people that share similar values.
Are there any disciplines that you haven’t yet tried that you would like to?
Oh yes so many, metalwork. I’d love to be able to create my own structures to support my work. I’ve dabbled in embroidery and weaving but would love to further these skills.
What do you love most about what you do?
The freedom to be able to create work, I feel very, very lucky!