Em Hannaford of eMh Space is the creative talent behind many of the Eco Outdoor showroom installations. Transforming the large, warehouse-style spaces filled with stone and outdoor furniture is no easy task, but one Em has managed to take it all in her stride.
We spoke with Em about her design aesthetic, her company eMh Space and her success so far…
What inspired you to set up eMh Space?
I spent quite a few years working in various full-time roles and trying to fit in my real passion on the side, which I think is a familiar story for many people. I loved experimenting with floral, creating artworks and collecting pieces I found in my day to day travels and took on creative freelance gigs whenever I could.
I always knew I wanted to work for myself in the creative field, but I wasn’t sure what shape that would take.
In 2013, my partner (now hubby) and I took a trip to the Burning Man Festival in Nevada. This trip coincided with leaving a full-time role and considering making space for my own work. The festival was totally mind-blowing – so much colour, so many inspirational people and amazing art installations. It was such a unique adventure and I think the experience gave me the energy and inspiration to move in this new direction.
Fast forward to now and I’ve got my own studio space, some great clients and a growing network of talented people who I can call upon when I need to collaborate on projects.
You’ve got many strings to your bow…how did your creative journey start?
I think growing up in the country instilled a love of nature and a sense of freedom that shaped my creativity from an early age. My parents also played a role. Mum had a green thumb and planted the most amazing half-acre garden on our property and, aside from running a livestock property, Dad had an uncanny ability to design and build the most beautiful things from basic materials. The stables he built from hand-cut timber and recycled parts of machinery truly were a work of art. I’d like to think I inherited some of that ability.
Completing an interior decoration course at The Enmore Design Centre in my early 20s I feel really ignited the design spark for me. It allowed me to learn the basic principles of design and work on a variety of briefs from the initial concept development stage right through to completion. It also enabled me explore endless design methods and processes amongst a supportive environment.
I also later studied photography and floristry, both of which now really compliment my business. Over the years, I feel lucky to have to worked alongside a variety of people in the creative industry, from stylists and event managers to larger scale commercial and retail clients.
These experiences have helped me forge my own style, aesthetic and direction today.
How would you describe the eMh SPACE aesthetic?
Handcrafted minimalism. I am drawn to natural fibers, organic shapes and textures. I love to contrast these with clean lines, well-designed, refined elements to achieve a balanced space or create an installation.
I use sustainable or recycled materials where possible and prefer to incorporate natural fibers throughout my work that are gentle on the environment. I also try to support other artists, independent boutiques and brands when sourcing products as I enjoy keeping other small makers in business.
This also allows for the opportunity to have pieces custom made and tailored to suit a client’s preferences.
When and how did you begin working with Eco Outdoor?
I initially worked with Eco Outdoor years ago, in account management and marketing roles, quite different to my work now. I developed a real love for the company – their aesthetic, passion for design, their close-knit relationships with other design professionals in the industry and development of their own in-house furniture range was definitely inspiring.
It was around 2013 that I came back on board in a freelance capacity and began creating decorative hanging installations, assisting with visual merchandising and providing styling direction for each of the showrooms alongside Jen and the marketing team.
I love that the showrooms are an ever-evolving space and enjoy the adrenaline that each of our meetings brings.
Once we’ve laid ideas out on the table and brainstormed them to establish new concepts and directions for that season or event. I thrive on coming up with fresh ideas and am forever filing away images, sourcing materials and collecting pieces as a reference and inspiration for the next briefing. It’s always a rewarding experience and one that I am thrilled to a part of.
What’s your favourite installation you’ve created for Eco?
I think the giant floral tubes I made a few years ago as showroom installations would have to be my favourite. The countless hours and coffee fueled nights spent stripping and then weaving parts of palm fronds through chicken wire were well worth it when the sculptures were complete and hanging.
What are the essential items in your workspace?
Firstly my MacBook desktop, I love that piece of technology!
A drill, measuring tape, vases, secateurs, a saw, shelving, more shelving – to store all the bits and pieces I’ve collected and will one day utilise when needed.
Images and materials that I have collected or taken photographs of are a really important reference for my creative inspiration and often feature on my walls.
A piccolo and some floral.
Five words that describe you?
Energetic, determined, creative, grounded, easy going
Where do you find inspiration and motivation?
- Dumbo feather magazine or ‘mook’ as they like to call it. It’s full of interesting conversations with people doing extraordinary things.
- People such as Joost baker, who are pioneers for sustainable design practices and using recycled materials.
- Tracey Deep, her use of natural fibers and plant materials throughout her art is beautiful and so inspiring.
- Florists, especially ‘Samambaia’ in Bronte. Walking into that space is like being in candy store, I get so excited and could spend hours just admiring all the bits and pieces on display and admiring what fresh flowers they are featuring.
- Other creatives and entrepreneurs who are engaged, curious and determined to forge their own way.
- I also love owning and running a business, and making it successful is a large motivator.
- People who are trying to make a difference in the world and make it a greener and more livable place for the generations to come.
What’s next on the radar for eMh SPACE?
Since the arrival of our son last year, it is all about finding balance at the moment – between my love and commitment to my business and my new role as mum to this beautiful little guy. He has joined me for most of my days in the studio and some on-site installs, so possibly he is developing a taste for the creative work too!
I have so much I want to explore in the future.
New collaborations, more large scale installations, a few sourcing trips overseas, possibly an online store to feature some of the pieces I create…. watch this space!
Images + video: www.hannahmorgan.com.au