{STYLE SESSIONS WITH...} Jacqueline Fink, Little Dandelion

Jun 1, 2013

STYLE SESSIONS WITH... Jacqueline Fink from Little Dandelion - super knitter and super mum from Sydney's Northern beaches Jac shares a few of her favourite eat read loves with us, and her journey in creating the most amazing large scale blankets that most definitely make people stop and look! What a treat to have Jac join us on the blog this Wintery weekend. 

It is the first day of Winter and it is now that I dream of lazy weekends curled up with my family on the couch with a cuppa and a good book, and of course a beautiful warm blanket. So it is perfect timing to introduce our latest guest on Style Sessions! I have been a massive fan of Little Dandelion since I first spotted them in a magazine about a year ago and have been following Jac's knitting adventures ever since. It is hard to believe that Jacqui never considered herself a creative person, originally choosing to study law before finally deciding to follow her creative path to find something to truly call her own. Thank goodness she did! I hope you enjoy my little interview with Jac...

Before we begin, tell us a little about you Jacqui...
I'm a 40 year old stay at home Mum living on Sydney's sunny Northern Beaches with my Husband, three children (10, 9 and 6), one dog, two cats and a menagerie of Cockatoos, Lorikeets and a possum who visit for their daily feed. It is quite a zoo! We like to live very casually and you can always be assured of some lovely food and good wine should you visit. I grew up in Northern New South Wales and studied law at Bond University. I met my Husband at Bond and followed him to Sydney on completing my degree. I practised law for a few years but found it not to be my cup of tea. I was very much a round peg and a square hole and a tremendous load lifted off my shoulders once I left it all behind. I don't regret studying law but I do look back sometimes and wonder "what was I thinking?".   I know it sounds ludicrous but I never considered myself to be a creative person.  I certainly whiled away the hours of my childhood engaged in very creative pursuits and demonstrated as a child a tremendous capacity for patience for very menial tasks involving my hands (which is essential for my work now). But not once did I ever make the connection that perhaps I could make a career out of it.  The concept of making large scale highly textured blankets and throws came to me in late 2009 and I launched Little Dandelion in March of 2012. It's been a steep learning curve but I have met some wonderful people along the way and have received tremendous support from Australian stylists, Lifestyle Magazines, our amazing farmers and from other women, who just like me, are on the search for something that they can call their own.

How did the Little Dandelion story begin.... 
In late October 2009, my Mother was in the end stages of a terminal lung disease. As I flew north to say my goodbyes, my Husband took our son Remy for a long walk, taking in the beautiful artworks of Sculptures by The Sea. My Little Fella found a little dandelion and, as we always do in my family, picked it up and made a wish. He looked up at his Dad and asked, “Will my wish come true?”. My Hubby answered, “if it is a heartfelt wish, it will come true.”. “Oh good,” said my Little Fella happily, “because I’ve just wished for Nan to get new lungs”. “Oh bugger”, quietly thought my Hubby. Many hours later, in the precious care of some awe-inspiring doctors and nurses, my Mother received a double lung transplant. Thanks to a generous and loving donor and their dear family, Remy’s wish came true and my Mother was given a second chance at life. I found the post transplant recovery haze a very surreal time of intense reassessment of everything in my life. It was during this time that I had a very vivid dream in which I was told, by I do not know who or what, that I was to knit blankets. The message was as loud as it was profound. I had been searching for something to turn my mind and hands to for sometime before then. After a law degree, some seriously hard work in my Hubby’s business over many years, three children and 8 house moves, I desperately wanted something to do for myself and I wanted it to be creative. I needed to nourish my soul and to find a “room of one’s own”. I also wanted to show my children that if you are passionate about something and you work hard you can make anything happen. And so I started to knit....

In the days and weeks that followed, I knitted a blanket for my eldest son using hand dyed woollen yarn in a rainbow of colours. It's a confection only a child could love and nothing like the throws and blankets I now make but that first blanket sent me hurtling towards the creation of Little Dandelion. I didn't know the how's, the when's or the where's at the time. But, I certainly knew the why's and I also knew that I wanted to make chunky and highly textural pieces that took on a life of their own; 

"rebellious and large scale blankets that would make people stop and look. I also wanted to provide immense comfort to people".

The idea of “Little Dandelion” teetered on the edge for quite sometime until one afternoon, over a cup of tea, a dear friend said to me, “Jacqui, so many people have “good ideas” but unless you actually do something to get your idea from A to B it will always remain just a “good idea”. My friend’s advice really resonated with me and it has sustained me through some considerable curve balls thrown in Little Dandelion’s path. Fast forward three years, an interstate move and back, 3 school changes, much experimentation, numerous mistakes, some very good advice and countless hours of knitting I have a business and a product of which I am very proud. 

How do you describe your signature style?
Natural tones and beautiful large scale textures combined with a pop of colour. I hope that people recognise my creations as being classic in their construction and contemporary in their design. 

Everything I make is unique and they take days and often weeks to make. My process is very involved and I often think to myself that people would think I am completely mad if they knew how much goes into making one of my creations. It's certainly time that I can never account for from a commercial point of view but I am not driven by a commercial imperative at all. I do this purely out of love and in the hope that I can make something beautiful and yet functional for another person to love as much as I do. I mostly source my raw materials from Australia and New Zealand as it is important to me to support our local industries. It also helps make what I do as low impact as possible.

Best chapter in Australian interiors right now? 
The appreciation of handmade creations and the push against mindless mass production is exciting to witness. Obviously mass production has its place but I love that people are seeking to introduce comfort, creativity and interesting one-off pieces  into their homes not just items of convenience. Traditional crafts are enjoying a huge insurgency and I love watching creatives transform these crafts into contemporary works of art and objects which bear relevance to how we live. That someone devotes their time and energy to create something with their two hands is a very noble enterprise because it is born out of love and passion for what they do. I am in awe of creatives who manage to eek out a living doing what they love because it is not easy. BIG RESPECT!

Any artists/designers/stylists that send you weak at the knees?
Oh so many. My favourite Australian Artist is Fred Williams (1927-1982). I love his use of colour and paint. His works make my heart beat faster and one day, somehow, one of his works shall hang on my wall. It's one of my life's missions.

The luscious textures that come out of the Dana Barnes Studio are outstanding and the work of Spanish designer and architect Patricia Urquiola is beyond clever. Rachel Johns - a UK textile artist - does extreme knitting like no other and I'd love to sit down and have a chat with Christien Meinderstma from the Netherlands

With regards to stylists, I am the self proclaimed number one  fan of Amanda Talbot. Big love for this kind hearted woman. The exquisite work of Glen Proebstel was instrumental in setting the tone of Little Dandelion from the beginning. Glen, together with photographer extraodanaire Sharyn Cairns, styled and shot my initial brand images. Those images continue to open doors for me. I shall always be grateful for his talent and skill but, more importantly, his generosity. Glen is a beautiful human being and it's a joy to be in his company. And last but by no means least, Lara HuttonLara is a doyenne of good taste and when she is not run off her feet styling for all manner of clients in various parts of the globe, Lara turns her hands to the most incredibly delicate, tactile and beautiful ceramics imaginable. Lara and I are planning a joint and curated exhibition of our works this year and I'm so excited by our collaboration. Stay tuned for more details.

What inspires you to get out of bed in the morning?
Coffee actually. Breakfast is also my favourite meal of the day so I'm pretty keen to hop out of bed in the morning. The thought of a full day of knitting makes me feel very inspired but they rarely happen I'm afraid. My work is very stop/start in its nature and there are, of course, three little people to manoeuvre around. I've learned to steal moments whenever I can. 

Summer or Winter?
Summer hands down. I grew up on the border of New South Wales and Queensland so I like nothing better than a hot day. I  even enjoy humidity. I'm the type who wears a jumper grocery shopping. The refrigerated aisles get me every time. The cold is not my friend. 

Local coffee stop love?
There's not a lot of coffee love over my way I'm afraid. Not that I can walk to anyway. We have a coffee machine at home and our morning routine revolves around its delicious offerings. So now the conversation is more about who has the best beans rather than who makes the best coffee. I am a fan of Campos and Allpress coffee and Bellaroma have some amazing single origin beans they roast on site over our way.

If you could travel anywhere tomorrow where would it be/why?
I am very poorly travelled so I'd be happy to go absolutely anywhere at this point. I went straight from high school to Uni, Uni to work, work to motherhood, motherhood to business. How quickly time passes. However, I like to think wonderful travels are ahead of me. In that vein, I'd love to be in India for the Holi Festival of Colours. I don't consider myself to be a very adventurous person but India calls out to me. I feel compelled to go there and absorb all of its beauty, its textiles and for cultural exchange. I also want to show my children how the vast majority of the world's population live. I'm more interested in showing them the developing world before they get to see the developed. But let me be clear, I cannot wait to get to New York, Paris, London ......

EATING Now its getting colder I usually end the day with some chocolate, and I am also eating way too much of Sonoma's Miche loaf at the moment. We are a little starved for good quality bread in our area so whenever we, or our neighbours, are in the Eastern Suburbs we stock up on bread from Sonoma or Bourke Street Bakery. We have a good thing going! 

READING I'm an avid reader and right now I'm enjoying non-fiction. Since setting up my business, I've lost the desire to escape into a good story. It's a curious thing actually. I wonder if it's because my work feeds me enough creatively that I'm just not hungry for the escapism. Or maybe it's just my inner nerd dictating my choices. I tend to read a few books on the go so currently on my reading list is Amanda Talbot's "Rethink: the way you live" which is a very clever and thought provoking book, "He'll be ok" by Celia Lashlie (I have two sons) and a gorgeous book called "The Paper Garden" by Molly Peacock. It the story of a woman called Mary Delaney (1700-1788) who started her life's work at the age of 72. Mary, with a fine pair of scissors, created a new art form - mixed media collage. Over 10 years, she created 985 botanically correct cut paper flowers which are now housed in the British Museum. It's a very inspiring read.

LOVING Instagram, natural fibres, summer, candles that capture the fragrance of gardenias and jasmine and, now that the little people are back at school, 6 hours of uninterrupted time to devote to Little Dandelion. I crave solitude as it recharges my senses and puts me in touch with my creativity.

Favourite corner of your home...? 

We live in a 1940's P&O style home in Sydney's Northern Beaches. When we first moved in I was a little circumspect with regards to the curved walls because they make it really difficult to place furniture well. Now I love the softness that comes with the curves. In our living room, we have a large curved wall in front of which we placed a French antique lounge covered with lime green linen and a blue Jeilde lamp. Above the lounge rests a beautiful painting by Fiona Greehill. It's a calm space and perfect for reading. 

We have always loved the juxtapositioning of contemporary furniture with old bits and pieces. I am big on the notion of re-use and I find objects that have been preloved even more beautiful because of the history they possess. I have a particular penchant for Depression era pieces because of the inherent ingenuity. They are also painted in gorgeous colours.

What's next for Little Dandelion...?
I do like to have a sense of where I'm going and I'm a big fan of putting one's heart's desires out to the universe and then practising positive affirmations to draw those desires to me. So for 2013, those stepping stones for Little Dandelion include my collaboration with Lara Hutton, finding the time to expand my range to include colours and setting up an online shop. On a personal note, my Husband is currently creating an app which is due to be launched in April this year. The app has been in development for many months now and during this time my Hubby has been doing his fair share of the household work load to allow me to concentrate on Little Dandelion. However, as its completion draws near and my Hubby is increasingly less available,  I very much have a sense that maintaining the momentum of my own business will become harder and harder to manage. So if I have resolved to do anything in 2013, it is to maintain a sense of balance and perspective in my life. 

You can follow the adventures of Little Dandelion on Facebook and instagram

A huge thank you to Jac for taking the time to join me on STYLE SESSIONS! I am totally in love your work and your passion for creating beautiful things and love the wonderful knitting updates on instagram too! I get excited everytime I see those massive knitting needles (seriously how do you do it?!) and when the new blankets pop up on the feed. All the new colour combos are amazing! Thanks again Jac. Natalie x x 

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