The purpose of my journal is to connect with other creative women who are committed to exploring their individual artistic pursuits. I have an insatiable curiosity to discover what drives these wonderful women to fulfill their vision. In turn their journeys provide me with a constant source of inspiration which propels me to strive forward with my own work.
I feel like we are always striving to become the woman we want to be, to live life on our own terms. For Kara Town, it took a sabbatical to Paris with her husband Chris to begin her evolution towards the life she leads today. Those who choose to seek out a multidisciplinary life fascinate me.
Part creative, part entrepreneur Kara divides her time between running her stationary company AHD Paper Co to fulfilling her love of design while working on her online journal NEST. I recently chatted with Kara about her upcoming projects. She opened up about her impending kitchen renovations and her love of the California desert. It was great to find out how she manages to live a holistic life that remains true to her creative vision.
Can you share some of your journey with me? I’d love to know the history that shaped your story.
I have a degree in Art Theory and History, a background in Fine Arts, studies in Fashion Design and spent a number of years working alongside interior designers and architects as a Lighting Consultant. In 2010, my husband Chris and I both left our jobs in Sydney to take four months off and live in Paris. At that stage we had been married for four years and were somewhat discontent with the direction of our lives professionally, we wanted more. We took that time in Paris to consider what it was that we wanted to do. It was there that we came up with the idea for a paper company that worked directly with artists, designers and illustrators. We felt there was a gap in the greeting card market, and so the idea for AHD was born. In the first few years of the business we both worked full-time in Sydney whilst managing AHD at night and on weekends. It was not until we moved to Adelaide in 2013 that we made the decision to work for ourselves full-time and in doing so, the business grew exponentially. It’s still just the two of us, doing everything. For now, it’s just the way we like it.
Three years ago I also started NEST with my partner Sanam Miremadi, who lives in Seattle. NEST is an online journal that celebrates the creative community, with an emphasis on fostering relationships with fellow creatives, sharing their stories and work. I currently work on that in my downtime.
I’ve also recently had the pleasure curating a show for NY-based, English ceramicist Romy Northover at China Heights Gallery in Sydney. Romy is a close friend and someone whose work I greatly admire. It was an incredibly satisfying experience for me given I completed university studies all those years ago, with the intention to work in that field, but somehow lost my way. It is something I hope to do more of in the future.
It strikes me that the content on Nest | Together is completely in tune with your personal aesthetic. Is this something that happens naturally? Or is there a defining philosophy underpinning the curation of both your personal life and your journal?
NEST is an accumulation of both my personal aesthetic and that of my partner, Sanam. While our aesthetics are mostly in line with one another, we also both bring differing thoughts and interests to the table. Largely we value and employ an aesthetic that is timeless, pays homage to good design and craftsmanship, and is mindful of the environment.
You seem to have quite a few projects on the go, how do you manage to juggle it all?
I realised many years ago, I function much better as a human (and am far kinder to myself) when I’m kept busy, both physically and mentally. I’m always conscious not to have too much on the go, but a well-balanced schedule is integral to my productivity and quite honestly paramount for my mental health.
As I’ve grown into my 30s (I’m 34 this year) I’ve realised that I have an undeniable thirst for knowledge and this encompasses a number of different fields (although admittedly all design orientated). This means I have to be mindful to dedicate time to all of these interests so I can best learn, process and exercise that information.
In short, mornings and Sundays are for personal projects, the day is for AHD and the evening is for us. It’s how my time/our time is best divided these days.
I love the stationery company that you run with your husband, can you tell us a little about it?
Thank you, Rose. AHD Paper Co. is a boutique stationery company. We work with artists, designers and illustrators to produce environmentally sound, Australian made: greeting cards, wrapping paper and (soon to be released) notebooks. We are stocked in a great number of stores nationwide, as well as in the US and New Zealand. All products are offset printed here in South Australia on 100% recycled stock, our envelopes are also made locally, and all of our cards are packed by hand.
What are the ups and downs of running your own business?
If I were to say just one, quite simply, that you are your own boss. This means yes, there is freedom of scheduling, freedom of thought and creative freedom, but you are also solely responsible for your income, for your livelihood; I don’t think many people, unless self-employed, understand the pressure associated with this. Though, having said that, if we can continue along this path for many more years, we would not have it any other way. We never take owning our own business for granted. We consider it a great privilege and indeed, a great freedom.
What’s your favourite spot in Adelaide?
I have a number of favourites, Adelaide is a beautiful city (highly underrated in fact). We feel quite passionate about it, having chosen to make this our home:
We are so fortunate in greater South Australia to have such beautiful coastal areas surrounded by rolling green hills, like Second Valley. It’s a place we would love to live one day, for now we are just content driving down the coast to visit and admire.
We are also blessed with beautiful wine country, like the Barossa Valley. Fino at Seppeltsfield is phenomenal, as well as the newly renovated St. Hugo.
In the Adelaide Hills we love to visit Aptos Cruz Gallery, a thoughtfully curated collection of object, furniture and art, both new and old (we recently bought an incredible new light fitting and stools for our kitchen from there). There is also Shaw and Smith Winery, it has to be one of the most beautiful spaces to sit and enjoy a glass of wine and some cheese on a sunny day.
As far as Adelaide city, I would have to say the Art Gallery of South Australia, as well as a friend’s new restaurant/bar, Sunny’s.
Our neighbourhood of Port Adelaide is also a favourite, so rich in history and full of potential. It has already grown so much since we moved here and continues to do so. We know there are some exciting things on the horizon for this old shipping port.
Your home is filled with beautiful objects, are there some special pieces that have a story behind them?
Everything in our home reflects our personality and has a story. We are emotionally attached to most pieces within our home. We are firm believers that objects/art/furniture in your environment heighten your everyday happiness. Axel Vervoordt perhaps sums it up best:
“Everything we chose to surround ourselves with created an extra dimension to our daily lives, as well as our way of thinking and seeing the world.”
A sculpture by local artist Ben Leslie and a large black ‘Odin’ vase by Romy Northover (from her exhibition at China Heights) are amongst my favourite pieces, as well as various paintings by my husband that hang around our home. There is also our Marcel Breuer Wassily chair, purchased directly from the previous owner, its only owner. It was, in fact, their first major design purchase in the eighties and now it’s ours. We also have a pair of unusual metal and vinyl chairs that sit in our living room (maker unknown, we suspect from the 80s) which are always a talking point and surprisingly comfortable.
I find that people fall in love with a travel destination. For me it’s Italy, do you have a favourite destination and could you share a little about why it is magical for you?
For the past three years we have been fortunate enough to travel four times to the US, each time for just shy of a month. In that time we have fallen for the desert. It started with the Californian desert: Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley and Palm Springs and has recently extended to the Chihuahuan Desert in Marfa, Texas. I personally feel most alive when in the middle of nowhere, in the heat, immersed in nature, design and art. All of these places offer that experience – it’s like a spiritual awakening. My husband and I are planning a trip later this year where we intend to drive from LA back to Marfa.
We have been chatting lately about kitchen renovations. Is there a special piece or detail that you are looking forward to installing in the new kitchen?
This new kitchen of ours has been a work in progress for two years now, every little detail has been thought out, talked through and agonized over by the two of us; it is truly a space that reflects our design style, our way of life and pays direct homage to our home (a 100 plus year old Federation river stone cottage) while encompassing our love for 20th century design, French interior design, texture, tone and detailing.
To directly answer your question, I’m most excited about the custom Blackwood shelving that wraps around the tiled fireplace (that houses our oven). This shelving will become home to a few of our most treasured objects, including two incredibly beautiful vases from you, and pieces by our wonderfully talented friend Romy Northover. We also have a work by artist David Griggs that we bought years ago from Roslyn Oxley Gallery, it will have a new life in that room.
What is your favourite thing to cook and what is special about it?
Of late, in the very warm Adelaide weather, I’ve been making Yabby Jaffles from Monster Kitchen, Canberra. We stayed at Hotel Hotel last year with a friend, and ate there a few times, the Yabby Jaffle and a glass of champagne combination is one to behold (though I must admit I have ‘tweaked’ the recipe a little). I serve them with a side salad of: watercress, radish, endive and seeded mustard vinaigrette.
I’m also looking forward to making more homemade bread and pasta when the weather gets cooler, we aren’t afraid of carbohydrates in this household.
Books, magazines or both?
Both. Though much of my magazine reading is done on the iPad these days.
Do you have any daily rituals?
I often get up early, make coffee and read, write or research for an hour or so. I then head off to our local beach for my morning walk, followed by fresh green juice. It is a winning combination for mind and body.
What’s coming up next that’s exciting for you?
Currently we are all about our upcoming home renovations, it is consuming a great deal of our time outside of work. We are also launching our notebook range for AHD in a few months.
There is also a personal project in the works, a small business offering a curated collection of art, object and furniture to purchase. I hope to launch this by the end of 2017 (that is, should all things go to plan).
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