This month for Coffee with a Creative, we caught up with Abbey Rich, a Melbourne-based artist who focuses on public space installations. Not just stopping at murals and public art, Abbey has also explored both tattooing and the fashion world, with a specific interest in how art can transform bodies.
Watch the full interview with Abbey here, or read the summary below
We caught up with Abbey as they were putting the finishing touches on their latest work beneath Flinders Street Station in Melbourne!
‘Public space is something that’s really interesting to me, because it’s more accessible and people can see art in a different way.’
‘Colourful’ and ‘textural’ are the two keywords Abbey would use to describe their art.
They love working in the public space and would describe themself as a ‘public artist’.
Abbey has a lot of experience with murals, but has recently become interested in sculpture and shape, which forms the basis of their Flinders Street Station piece.
Abbey has been a full-time artist for seven years or so. They used Instagram in its heyday and rode that wave to further their art and feels lucky to have been able to do what they love for seven years and counting. At one point working in a supermarket while going to university and interning it got to a point where there was too much to juggle. So Abbey struck out on their own and lived off savings for a couple of years.
‘I’m very lucky that I had such a stable job for a long time, and the security of a
bunch of savings, because otherwise I think it would be impossible to do [what I did].’
This is something that many artists struggle with, as supports and grants can be hugely competitive and scant at best. Whichever artistic discipline you’re in, when you’re first starting out, it can seem overwhelming. In fact, the biggest hurdle many creative people face is the problem of monetising their creativity. You’ve got to use every resource you have and be unapologetic in devoting time and focus to your art.
Abbey feels very privileged and was lucky to always have something to fall back on.
Their advice to aspiring creatives is to work really hard and follow what you really love, but Abbey admits that sometimes things just won’t work out. It’s a hard thing to give advice on.
Abbey was in the right place at the right time for many things, but also worked incredibly hard over the years, sacrificing weekends to work in the studio.
Basically, the only integral thing is that you commit to working as hard as possible.
‘You can say “Work hard” and “Take all the opportunities you get”, but often it just doesn’t work that way.’
So when does Abbey feel most creative? And what happens if you're just not feeling it on a particular day – are there some routines or tricks to enter that crucial creative mode?
Abbey has been in the game for a long time and has built up a way of working over those years.
Acknowledging that ‘work’ doesn’t just involve actively working on her pieces. There are many things that are geared towards creativity, which artists need to understand are also counted as work. That might be anything from watching a movie to having coffee with a friend.
Creativity isn’t binary; anything may spark an idea, from reading a book to taking a walk. There doesn’t need to be a strict delineation between ‘working’ and ‘not working’. If you love your job and are creative by nature, your whole life will feed into your work regardless.
You shouldn’t feel guilty if you’re struggling on a particular day. Go and do something else, something you enjoy. You might find it leads you right back to your work.
‘If I’m not really feeling creative, if I stop and read for a few hours, that’s still really useful and that’s still feeding into my work, so I can kind of not feel like I’m not wasting time or not feel like I’m slacking off.’
Abbey also confesses that running your own business is tough; there’s a lot of admin to get through. A handy trick for is immersing yourself in that admin world. After a while, you'll often find you're ready and excited to emerge and get back to the art itself. It’s all about balance and finding the right flow.
Abbey comes from a fashion background. So now living the life as a full time artist, how do they feel about fashion? How does it intersect with the art being produced now? Is there anything that they wear to get in a creative vibe?
Abbey’s outfit has a ‘utility’ vibe – wearing paint-splattered jeans and the Noskin Chelsea Boots. That’s the outfit that makes them feel most powerful, but it’s also practical for work.
Abbey reckons fashion and art intersect all the time. They're interested in things that respond to the body, and public art is very much about how we interpret public space – an extension of that idea.
All these aspects feed into one another. Abbey also views fashion as art – a piece of clothing is meant to last; it’s its own creative work. It’s been designed, tailored and worn. It becomes part of you and brings a story with it. It’s a fluid process, but one that’s extremely interesting. They think that’s why so many people are interested in and involved with fashion.
‘[Public art] is about changing space so it feels different.’
I’d like to thank Abbey for hanging out with me today. It was fascinating to get an insight into their process and watch them work.
If you’d like to check out Abbey’s work and keep up with their projects, the best place to go is Instagram. They have a lot of projects coming up in the future, including a collaboration with the Australian Open, workshops with the Immigration Museum, and painting a hotel!
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