Artist Profile: Millie Fairhall

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When I decided to start featuring artists on my new site, one of the first names that flashed into my head was my friend Millie.

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The lovely Millie

I met Millie way back in 2005 while spending time on the beautiful island of Siargao. I immediately found her to be warm, a bit quiet, and incredibly talented. In fact, I was so captivated that I wrote a story in the Philippine Star soon after about her clothing line Eillim.

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In the years I’ve kept in touch with her through social media, I’ve seen how Millie came make the most simple things turn intricately beautiful.

I invited her to have a chat with me the other week to share what she’s been up to since we last spoke.  I hope you enjoy our talk and the beautiful photos of her work as much as I did.

Cat JL:  Thank you for taking the time to chat with me for the site. You ready?

Mille Fairhall Yep!! and thank you for thinking of me.

I know you to be a woman of many talents. Can you share with my readers what it is you do?

I think I’m a professional multi-tasker! But generally I handcraft homewares. clothing. art. design.

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Lovely. Where exactly are you based?

I work from my studio at home on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland…Australia!

Are you chatting with me from there now? Can you describe it a bit?

I am! Well, we just moved into this house so everything is still a bit chaotic. Basically there are 2 studio spaces in the backyard which I work from, one is purely for my timber work and the other is for drawing/sewing/printing etc. I have delicious veggie gardens outside my studio and 2 big old mango trees.

Sounds awesome! When did you know that creating things was your calling?

I don’t think I ever knew, I think it’s just been instilled in me since forever. I don’t really know any different I guess.

When did your love for creating things become your livelihood?

When i was in primary school, kids used to pay me 20 cents to draw on their wooden rulers…that was the beginning of creating for a livelihood! hahaha. But seriously, it was throughout the end of high school and after high school that I started selling my paintings and since then it’s kind of grown from there. Throughout that time I lived entirely on my creations and or was working part-time jobs to sustain myself, but I’ve always been creating.

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I love the ruler story! Can you talk me through a usual day in your week?

It’s pretty funny! I try to wake up early so I can get as much work done as possible, plus its a lovely time of the day. I usually do screen-printing in the morning and then spend the middle of the day doing woodwork and then the afternoon I try to get everything prepared for working at night, just things that don’t require me to be outside or sunlight! So I paint/package orders/check emails etc. at night time. In the late afternoons I try to take some time out to take my 2 boys (my dogs!) for a walk either at the beach or in the bushland around us or go dancing in the sea and also for me it’s important to make a delicious dinner and sit down and enjoy it.

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Nice! When I met you way back in 2006 (it’s been that long!), you were focused on your clothing line Eillim. I understand you recently decided to close Eillim. Do you still make clothes?

I did end Eillim. I’d been working with that label for 8 years and at that time a lot was coming to an end and beginning again for me, so I thought I’d start fresh with my work and what I wanted to do with my life etc. So I started working under my own name so I could incorporate all the things I love under one title I guess.I do still make clothing, but it’s mainly focused on a small amount of quality pieces made from organic fabrics, handprinted, vintage fabrics and trims.

What do you enjoy making the most these days?

At the moment I’m enjoying working with different timbers. It’s something i’ve been wanting to do for so long, but have never had the time.Its a new medium for me and I’m enjoying learning new things every single day.

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I’ve seen your lovely cheeseboards online. What got you started on making them?

I wanted to start with something that wasn’t too intensely difficult, but also something that would be functional and a bit artistic at the same time, so the boards were something I thought would be great as I could incorporate my painting/design work into them as well as play around with different timbers.

Do you polish and carve the boards as well?

I make them entirely from scratch, I try to use reclaimed timbers which means that generally I’ll need to plane the timber, then cut it, shape it, sand and burnish them.

Wow! How long does it often take to go from buying the timber to having the finished product? How many boards do you make a week?

I buy some timber and some timber I find, but it takes a bit over a week to finish a board because after the board is oiled it needs to cure for a week. At the moment I’m making approx. 20-30 boards a week.

20-30 boards a week?!? Where do all these boards go after you’re done with them?

Yep! Its a bit crazy and I still can’t catch up!! I sell them at my online shop, at markets and through stockists both here in Australia and in New York and LA.

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That sounds full on! Can you share the links of your stockists? Do any of them ship internationally? To the Philippine perhaps? *hint hint*

You can find most of them through Instagram! SCOSHA in New York, The Shop in LA, PROFORMA. SOUTHSET. KLOPPER. INK AND FEATHERS in Melbourne. FOSSICK HANDMADE in Western Oz. I also ship internationally from my online shop!

How do you decide what you’d like to paint on a certain board? I remember seeing a post where you found the wood of a few boards so beautiful you DIDN’T want to paint on them. What happened in the end? 

I ended up painting on them!! And keeping them. Hahaha. But I try to use colours and patterns that will either compliment the timber grain or completely contrast with it so that timber stands out even more. Timber is just naturally beautiful and some timbers have such intricate patterns,it’s sometimes difficult to paint on them! But I do try to let the timber be the feature.

Do you ever accept made-to-order projects?

I do! I’m working on custom orders all the time, generally people know what they want and they know that it’s along the same lines of what I’m already doing. There’s no crazy requests of drawing Mickey Mouse on a cheeseboard or anything like that. Haha.

Let’s talk a bit about your unique style. Tell me a bit about the type of designs you like painting.

I love colour, but I also appreciate white or black by themselves. Nature is a gigantic influence for me, there are patterns and design in nature that inspire me greatly and to know that thats how they occur…nobody is altering it or no human being has created it completely blows my mind. I love raw, organic designs.The exoctic,and native art of other cultures inspires me too.

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You mentioned that you want to continue working with wood. What other wood projects would you like to focus on?

At the moment I’m working on some small stools for the home. They’re made from a combination of eucalyptus timber and reclaimed timbers and are painted on the top of the seat, they’re a bit crude looking, but I like that. And I’m also making some wooden utensils for the kitchen. It’s all just trial and error and hopefully I won’t injure myself in the process, but it’s fun!

Are there any artists who inspire you?

I’ve always loved Picasso and Gauguin, They were the first 2 ‘proper’ artists I ever learnt about. I also really love Basquiat, his work is so disgusting, but simultaneously beautiful. There are sooooo many artists out there in the world that are amazing, but generally I try to not look at other people’s art, which is weird, but I guess that way iIm just reacting to the world around rather than absorbing other peoples creativity. iIm inspired by artists around me mainly for their motivation and enthusiasm, it really inspires me to keep going at times when i just want to have a nap. hahaha

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Haha. What do you look forward to when you wake up every morning?

Sunshine!! It’s like the thing that instantly makes me happy and motivated. Other than that, I look forward to making something, doing something fulfilling and just appreciating each moment for what it is.

What are your goals and dreams for this year and beyond?

This year I just want to continue to establish myself out there in the world and continue to build my label, but still keep it all handcrafted and small. I believe that success doesn’t mean being this gigantic corporation, but being able to keep it small and constantly produce lovely things!

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You’re half Filipina and half Australian. How have both cultures influenced your creations?

I’ve always been drawn to decay and just that generally layered chaos of colour, texture. pattern within art and the first time I went to the Philippines I realized where that came from! The Philippines for me is where that inspiration comes from, whereas Australia is more of a softer, less vibrant, but more spacious vibe and that influences me also.

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Any words of advice to people who want to get into creating clothes, artwork, or homeward?

I think to keep going, It’s difficult in so many ways, but the reward for all the hard work is well worth it.

Thank you so much for your time, Millie! This chat has been a lot of fun!

No thank you!!!! I hope the answers were all ok!

(All photos courtesy of Millie)

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