Creative Corners: Hello HOLT & Muster Point (Part 1)

Sitting down and chatting with Kristy and Tanille Elley made me really remember why I started this series. Originally approaching Kristy in hopes of chatting about her art venture as HELLO HOLT, it seems the stars aligned because when I reached out they were on the verge of opening Muster Point. 

Muster Point, located in Mayfield, is home to The Cutting Divison and The Feeder. The Cutting Divison is a place freelance hairdressers can rent a chair and run their business without having to outlay the massive costs behind setting up a salon. For all those who come to get their hair pampered at Muster Point, or if you're just someone looking for a damn good feed (I recommend the Hawaiian toastie complimented with the Vanilla Malt milkshake), The Feeder has a bunch of food up for grabs, including meals available in takeaway containers for you to go home and heat up for yourself later.

With Muster Point now open to the public for a bit over a month, I went and sat down with these fun, energetic and down-to-earth ladies to chat about their journey up until now, while also learning more about Kristy's artistic talents. I felt like I could have chatted to these two for hours and the length of the article this conversation created reflects that. So to not lump you with everything all at once, I've decided to break this Creative Corners piece into two parts. For Part One, I chatted to Kristy and Tanille about their backgrounds, the process behind bringing both Hello Holt and Muster Point to life.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background    

Tanille: I suppose we both bring something completely different. I’ve worked at the uni for 17 years and in the last two years we’ve both been studying as well as working full time. I completed a Master of Business. And Kristy completed a certificate in surface design and a diploma in colour and design. So my background is more business and corporate and team development. I’ve managed quite a large team at the university that has become known as the go-to team for innovation. Kristy then brings this absolute design flair and is creative in every single thing that she does. We’ve also always played with a bit of property as well, but for me, it was mostly residential and Kristy had more of a background in commercial.  
   I think we’ve both always loved fashion and design and hair, and we’re also locals in Mayfield, so we love to see the progressive nature of this suburb unfold.

Kristy: It’s always been in my blood. As far as career goes, while ever art runs through me, it was never really encouraged as something you could make money from in my family, it was probably considered below average in its income. My mum is more from the second-hand trade and my dad has had the one job all his life, so I didn’t really look up to them as inspiration, they didn’t show any kind of creative qualities that I draw from.
   While ever that was my dream I also invested in property, I worked in different jobs that I collectively got ideas from and different mentors as well, from working with different people. I saw different thought processes behind business. So my idea was always to be a landlord that would provide great businesses for people. I did hone in on one person, whom I still have as a mentor. He built one building and put a shop in it, then sold that shop off and did it again and again and again. I thought, what a great idea, and thought he had a great concept. That was the idea for me, to do something small business that will in time be income for us. Then in that same realm, I was able to sell a property and have a little bit of money to live off and then really go full-time with my art, whereas it had always been something burning in the background and I’d never had that opportunity to step out completely, because you know, money is a factor. Now it’s all sort of aligned and that creativeness has come more into place for people to enjoy in this space, which is a really lovely thing as well.

Tell us more about Muster Point and how it came to be?

Tanille: When the opportunity came up it was amazingly a ‘meant to be moment’. It was a private sale, no one knew it was happening, it took us six months to secure it, but that whole six months we were keeping a lid on it and planning to open a collective of independent hair stylists, so that was always in the pipework. I think the other driver is the whole purpose of the hair collective, to try and allow independent, young entrepreneurs have that chance to run their own business but who don’t have a wad of cash behind them to do a fit out.
   We haven’t cut any corners doing the fit out. A lot of the furniture is custom made, every detail has been so considered that it’s taken us every waken hour, we’ve completely lost our lives this year.

Kristy: But we knew it was only for a time.

Tanille: Yeah. We haven’t had a weekend or a night off, but we don’t take about that in a negative way because we’ve done it because we wanted it to be perfect.

Kristy: It hasn’t felt like work really.

Tanille: And I think the approach we took was, we wanted to build our dream home, and that’s what we did. So if we had our hands on a warehouse to convert into our home, this would be exactly it.
   Kristy really does have an eye for things and I think her background of being quite safe with spending help, whereas I’ll have a whopping credit with a big David Jones bill, and if there’s a $500 pair of shoes I’ll be like, oh we’ll work that out later. Kristy is also so resourceful with everything that we’ve done and while we haven’t cut corners we haven’t wasted any money or materials, it’s been quite a sustainable build.
 We read this book. My boss actually gave me this book to read, and I think that he thought it was going to spur me on in my current job but all it did was really motivate both of us to go, we can really do this with this property. It was called The Element by Ken Robinson, and it talked about when you’re aptitude and passion align. For Kristy, that is in the studio when she’s creating and time falls away. The book also talked about working as a collective and as a team, and how these greatly successful people are so much more advanced in their lives and their careers where they’ve had that influence from like-minded people. So we were reading this book, and it wasn’t the easiest book to read at times, it was quite academic, but it just resonated. We always wanted this ‘rent a chair’ concept but then we saw the benefit of really assembling the right people and how they would then uplifting each other.

So tell me a bit more about Hello HOLT and the art you create.

Kristy: As we’ve touched on, it was always something I did in the background as I worked other jobs, and I think, as an artist, and you’re not encouraged during that period where you think you’re good at something and it just sits by the wayside. I just started to enter a few competitions and thinking, how can I do this without going into an exhibition. I’ve always had this gift of being self-taught and sometimes that can hold you back, because you think, oh I haven’t got a diploma and I’m not in that league with them. Through entering a few competitions and doing quite well, and selling my art, I really started to think, oh maybe I do have something here. That kind of gave me the encouragement and that confidence was boosted, so I proceeded to do it more often.
  I did get approached by P&O. I managed a winery out in the Hunter Valley and I had a customer who would come in quite often and he actually was pretty much the owner of Carnival. He had a three-day cruise he was putting together, which was based on food and wine, and he saw all the art I had hanging in a gallery I was managing. The collection that he required was going to be auctioned on the cruises, so it was a new thing they hadn’t done before, and there were some local cheese and wine makers from the Hunter Valley. So I thought ok, maybe I can do this. The challenge was to come up with 100 art pieces in six weeks. Other artists that were on board were more from a printed background, so that’s a lot easier. Mine were big canvases, so I effectively had to quite the winery to do it, but I saw it as an opportunity to really launch my name, I thought the audience would be quite broad. It went pretty well. They ended up purchasing all the artwork from me for a wholesale price and then they auctioned it off. So while I got a third of what it was worth retail, the exposure was really good and even 18 months to two years later, people were still recognising my art and bringing my name on P&O. Logistically and financially I didn’t continue with them because it was an effort to get it to the boat and it made me quite stressed that it might get damaged. So while I didn’t continue down that path, I’m sure there are 100 pieces out there internationally and it was a great concept that really kicked it off for me.
   From there I went into hospitality, though I still sold my art on the walls and was working on my name. Then when I sold off a property and had some money in the bank, I thought I could really do my studio up.

Tanille: But it’s been like, every time you’ve been on that trajectory to be a full-time artist, something has dragged you away.  So it seemed like there was a launch pad, but then she opened a café because the opportunity was there, and then it was working in someone else’s business, and then it was supporting your mum in her business. But I remember when we meet, when people would ask Kristy what she did, she would say, oh I work for my mum and I do this and that, oh and I’m artist. I trained her to say artist first, because that’s who she is.

Kristy: Well I didn’t feel like I was putting it first, so I would say it how it felt.

Tanille: I think it comes from a selfless place where Kristy doesn’t like talking about herself and she puts others first. Even writing stuff for her website, she couldn’t articulate and admit to herself that she is a full- time artist.

Kristy: People, I think, associate poor with artist. They either think you’re a poor artist or that you just ‘think’ you’re an artist, that’s the reaction. Times are changing and I think we’re walking into a time now where arts and crafts and all of that are coming to the rise and being recognised.

So if someone was to ask you how you define your style, what would you say?

Kristy: I usually describe it as semi-abstract. So it’s quite loose and expressive, but you can still identify the portraiture. Female portraiture is more my flavour. I think there’s also a little bit of graphic design, with the study I did, coming through with the simple and balanced state of it. It’s quite timeless really. There’s a limited colour palette, if any colour, because I find it’s easier to work with, and it’s what I like myself. When commission requests do come along, I’m a bit rigid on saying, this is what I work with. There’s also a bit of an introduction to patterns with this next range that is coming out, which is quite fun because it’s evolving.
   As far as an art style, since completing my diploma it’s more refined. A lot of artists will generally say this inspires them so they paint this, or they’re inspired by that colour or the sunsets, so they start painting those colours. I found I was one of those because I was self-taught and always so inspired by my surroundings. Having completed the diploma, I refined what it was I liked, and I started to find more of a theme or signature that I could roll out to be more identifiable to my customers. The diploma taught me that it’s really about trends, you do have to be in contact with trends and I never had been. I’d always come from a sort of second-hand contact world, and even when I created the café it was all those kind of vintage, nostalgic flavours, I was unaware of trends, I just did what I knew and liked. Trends also refine colours and art is effectively a product of the house, so if you’re in tune with trends then it’s easier for people to connect and picture that at home.

Tanille: I think you’re also quite distinct in how customer focused you are. With some of the sales Kristy has made, there’s no drive to just get the money out of someone, it’s all about working with the customer and pleasing the customer, and I think that has come from your hospitality background. In everything Kristy does there’s an endless amount of patience, and that includes in completing a commission work or sealing a sale. I think there’s a complete commit to making sure a customer is happy and because she has that concept of it being all about the customer, she thinks about art in a different way. She’s been able to identify how difficult it is for people to identify what they like in art and articulate what they like. It takes a bit of support to spend a few thousand dollars for a piece of art to put on the wall. I think that’s something Kristy does very well.

Keep your eyes peeled for Part Two coming soon ...

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