I lived with a fashion designer once and absolutely adored her, her life and her wares. She inspired me to think about my own creativity in new ways. I’ve always been creative. I was the kid who would create anything and everything from anything and everything. My mum is incredibly creative, she cooks, sews, paints, draws, writes… so I grew up in a pretty fertile home. I used to wander down to the creek behind my home and scrape clay from the water beds to make cups and plates and tea pots for my dolls. I’d swing from the branches of the willow tree, then pick the vines and create wreaths. I picked flowers from the garden and created magical flower installations around the home and if there was nothing for me to pick or scrape or rip or sew, I’d either write or just indulge in imaginative role play for hours on end. What I didn’t know was that creativity was inextricably linked to my happiness – my soul loves the opportunity to create, design, play and without it I’ve found my brain gets restless.
I studied art and media and technology and science at school and couldn’t decide what I liked the most. The thing that worried me the most was the question everyone kept asking “what are you going to do with your life?” “What do you want to be?” “What job will you get” – hell i hardly knew who I was let alone what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. This was before the days of social media and blogging and the information available was through friends, family and the school – I wasn’t like anyone in these circles so I was struggling to work out where I would fit and what I should do. I paid attention to every piece of feedback I was given, searching for clues! I was a bit of an all rounder, I was doing well in all my subjects which were so disparate that it wasn’t really helpful. I asked everyone around me and they weren’t helpful either “you can do anything you put your mind to!” – really lovely but hardly helping me narrow down the options. In the end I chose to study a business degree at Monash university, I thought of it as a sample platter of goodness for my brain, an opportunity to study lots of different things to see what may spark my interest. Year 1 was fun, boys, beer, business, but when it came to the second year, I was struggling, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I graduated and I was starting to feel a little lost and worried. My anxiety started in this year, I was dating someone pretty nasty (again hindsight is a beautiful thing) who chipped away at my self confidence and erode my self esteem. I thought I wanted to quit uni, I was never going to get perfect grades and qualify for one of the elusive grad programs so I may as well quit, I missed nearly a semester of uni just mucking around and failed 2 subjects. I told my mum I wanted to quit – she suggested instead I nurture my spirit through creative activities and as always, mum was right – in starting uni I had stopped writing, I had stopped drawing, I had stopped creating. So I bought some paints and a camera and started taking photos and writing and painting again, suddenly my grades were back on track and I found my groove again.
I graduated uni with a Credit/Distinction average (dragged down by that nasty semester!) – but was so proud to have a degree under my belt. I hustled my way into a really well paid graduate role and was feeling good.
My soul called me to Sydney in 2005 – anyone who has had the call knows the feeling, suddenly you need to be somewhere and the pieces just fall into place. I got a great job, doubled my salary and felt pretty awesome about it all, but as the months went on, I struggled to find outlets for my creativity. I found that as work got more serious and the world demanded more from me, I had less time to invest in myself and my creative outlets. I even stopped writing. At 22 shortly after moving to Sydney I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, it was pretty surprising for me as I considered myself a very happy and positive person, but mental illness doesn’t discriminate.
I realised after a month of anti anxiety medication that this wasn’t the answer, I started walking on the beach every day, meditating, journaling and one day as I walked back from the beach, I was walking past an art shop and it suddenly hit me – I needed to create! I needed to design! I spent nearly my entire discretionary wage on art supplies and excitedly ran home to start something. Wow, that felt good. It suddenly was clear, having a creative outlet was and is key for me!
So in 2013 when I had my first little angel Sienna and she started walking, creating some shoes for her seemed like a totally normal thing to do. I have confidence in my creative abilities and knew that I could make something special just for her. So I found a manufacturer when I was in Bali for my sisters wedding and had a few pairs made up. I had sketched some designs in a notebook and he helped me bring them to life! I had 20 pairs made and set up an instagram account and used big cartel to create an online store. I posted some photos online and sold 5 pairs in the first week! I was so excited. Creating is one thing, creating something beautiful for others is a totally different experience! I was hooked!
I’ve learnt so many lessons in this business from design to manufacturing, importing, customer service, online sales and so much more, we have lost a lot but gained so much too. The hardest lesson was in 2015, while I was 7 months pregnant – I had signed up to do one fine baby and ordered a lot of stock from my factory in Bali to make sure I had enough, people who had done one fine baby in the past and they had made a killing, I was hyped!! First thing, only 1/6 boxes of stock arrived, secondly, the stock was not to spec! The soles were all 2-3cm thicker than I had designed and were so heavy! Part of my design was ensuring the foot got lots of neurological feedback through being able to feel the ground, these shoes were thick enough to tile the roof of a house. I was frantically trying to chase and return stock and for some reason my manufacturer was not returning my calls or texts or whatsapp messages, what was going on?
In the meantime, I had teamed up with some amazing brands to do a pop up shop in Armadale – “The Little Pop Up Shop” – (this is a normal thing to do at 8 months pregnant when you are hemorrhaging money from your business and trying to track down your lost stock right??) it was so much fun but I learnt a few more things fast – I had too many designs and too many sizes – I had to simplify.
Around 4 months later I finally gave up when I spotted my shoes for sale on a Facebook page in Bali, the shoes I had designed and paid for being sold by the manufacturer. Pretty devastated. I was ready to pack it in. But instead I decided to find a new factory. I would use my tax return to pump capital into the business to redesign and manufacture with a new factory. I found one and was really happy with the quality of the samples but the minimum order quantities were SO much more than I was used to ordering – ah well, time to grow right?
Fast forward over 3 years and I can’t wait to show you the new designs that I have just designed for http://www.bockersandpony.com including our very first boys shoe! Yay!
Keep your eyes on www.siennababy.com.au for all the new designs 💖
Sienna in the very first “Munchy Boots”