To me, Philippa Riddiford is like Russell Crowe or Crowded House - A New Zealand treasure that we've stolen and like to call our own ha! To me, Philippa is in a league of her own. She isn't distracted or influenced by the fleeting trends we see in magazines or on social media. Her work is all her - A collection of inspired shapes and movements that she spends hours pulling together in her works. On a personal level, Philippa is a constant support to me at Signed and Numbered. She understands the highs and the lows that come with our industry and always has sage words of wisdom to impart.
I am so regularly asked about Philippa and her work that I thought it was high time you all got to know a bit more about her!
Run us through an average day in the life of Philippa Riddiford!
I'm an early riser, after 2 rather large cups of tea gazing into our garden, I go for a fast walk around the neighbourhood for about 40 minutes. Breakfast & then into the office to take care of any administration, emails etc... I like to spend at least 2 to 4 hours on my art practise in the afternoon. As I am a digital artist, this involves sitting at my computer with my drawing tablet either sketching ideas or working on existing ones.
What tickles your fancy? What excites you? What gets you up in the morning? Do you listen to music or podcasts while you work?
I love to look at other artists work or galleries online whose works I find exciting &/or inspiring. I find Instagram fantastic for this. I like quiet while I am working as I find any distraction...a distraction! My full concentration has to go into the creative process!
I am asked about your works and the process behind them every day. Can you explain to us how your pieces are made?
My process has evolved over the years. I used to combine traditional art practises of hand painting, hand drawing, collage etc with the digital process. Now I find that increasingly I use the digital process on its own. I have a design background so I find that I spend a lot of my time on sketching/designing works before they get to completion.
I use Photoshop to create my works. I find it an astonishing program in that it has so many different tools one can use. I use a lot of layering techniques within the program. I always save my works from start to finish so at any point I can revisit the images & use bits of it to use in a new work etc. I have a gamer computer which means that I can store many images & create large works as well. I have always worked in a very contemporary way often ahead of my time as a clothing & fashion jewellery designer in my past. This is what I achieved recognition for prior to moving into my current practice here in Melbourne.
I found my first trip to New York City in 1991 to source old & new components for my costume jewellery business in Auckland incredibly stimulating & ground breaking. At the time NYC was the epicentre of modern design & new ideas & it had a profound effect on me. I continued to go there several times a year for many years for my work.
Digital printing processes are a slightly contentious issue amongst printing puritans! What are your thoughts on it?
I find the digital process fascinating & exciting all at the same time. It has taken me many years to get to where I am now. I am forever experimenting, playing with ideas. I like the fact that there is an immediacy about it all, as a designer I find that it has endless possibilities. I have always felt that the end result is what matters so whether it be a screen print or a digital print is of little consequence. In saying that, I can appreciate the skill & techniques that go with traditional forms of printing.
I suppose I would say that the digital/giclée archival print is different from the more traditional forms of printing in that there is an immediacy about the process. The digital process attracted my attention 15 years ago when I first started creating my artworks. As I don't have a fine art background but rather a design-based background, colour & composition are what was/is important to me.
It meant that I could through many years of intensive experimentation achieve the results that I was after. To me this was very exciting. This new method of printing allowed me to produce design orientated works without the messy procedures of traditional printing methods.
I certainly do not see that the digital print is of a lesser value than other forms of printing; it is just different. As to the value of the work in dollar terms, I would say as a modern-day practitioner that what one sees on the paper is what is of value.
What are some of the biggest lessons you have learnt over your career as both a business woman and an artist?
I was a late starter in the design world. I worked & studied in science in Canberra at both the CSIRO & the ANU in the early to mid-seventies. My desire was always to be involved in the design/fashion world so it was only when I left Canberra & moved to Melbourne that I started to fulfil that dream. I had to start from scratch again, I first started working in the first Fiorucci shop in South Yarra in Melbourne as a sales assistant. I then moved up to management in another boutique. I loved my work so much & felt that I had at last found something that I loved & that I was good at. I then made the mistake of buying the business which had high overheads & a large space to fill. I was designing garments as well as having other young designers’ clothes on the racks. It all took its toll on me eventually as I was doing far too much which led to ill health so I had to sell the business. I then went back to New Zealand & after a while started up again very slowly ending up with a very successful costume jewellery retail & wholesale business, Philippa Riddiford Accessories in Auckland.
Is there anything you wish you had of known as a young business woman or a young artist? What would you want to tell your younger self or perhaps other young women looking to head into a creative business career?
I do wish that I had taken more time in starting up as a designer in Melbourne back in the late 70's. I rushed at what I thought at the time as an incredible opportunity to get in to the world of fashion. I would say to young women wanting to get into to a creative business, take your time, look around, watch & learn from others. Do your homework. There is always enough time to start something new, work in the area first before you head off on your own
Are there any defining fuck ups in your life that have influenced you and your journey?
Oh yes, as I mentioned before, I ran at what I thought was an opportunity of a lifetime at the age of 29. I took on way too much. This earlier experience influenced me greatly as to how I then operated; a hard-painful lesson to learn but learn I did ha!
Why is it important to have art in your home - to live with art?
Art is such a wonderful, accessible creative form of expression. As a colourist, I find colour essential to have in the home, without it I would find life rather dull!