Rachel Elizabeth Duffin in her home studio. Photo – Bree Sanders.
I first chanced up Rachel Elizabeth Duffin (RED) when she provided a pop of colour at the corner of Scott & Watt Sts via a colourfully painted traffic signal box. Urban Smart Projects is the organisation behind this particular street art project (you can check out other examples in Newcastle here). After liking her Facebook page and subsequently discovering her colourful postcards and wooden brooches at Olive Tree Market I noticed RED’s signature hairstyle at in In Conversation event at Newcastle Art Gallery (Del Kathryn Barton – fabulous exhibit!) and made my IRL introduction.
Currently studying to become a high school art teacher.
2011: Bachelor of Fine Arts, University of Newcastle
2010: Advanced Diploma of Fine Arts, Newcastle Art School
What has been your most memorable project?
In early 2012 I had my first solo exhibition Through These Eyes at Watt Space Gallery. Although put together in incredibly short notice, it was such a validating experience to see my artworks together in the one space (and I had never realised just how colourful my work is until then). It also gave me the chance to do some larger-scale mural pieces which I would love to do more of.
Being involved in the Urban Smart Projects ‘Art Box’ project last year was a really fun experience too and so far I have received lots of positive feedback which is a really nice feeling. Leslie Duffin (my mum) and I are currently in the process of collaborating on another box at Mayfield. There are also some things in the pipeline that might be added to this list in the future.
L: Rachel hard at work. Photo – Bree Sanders. R: The traffic control box at cnr Watt & Scott Sts by RED. Photo – Rachel Elizabeth Duffin.
What would be your dream project?
In the long term, I keep coming back to the dream of opening up art-on-walls/art books/interesting things kind of little shop. I would love to have some work published in something like Frankie or similar too.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
The last 5 years of study have been quite full on and I’m proud that I’ve made it to where I am. Life is finally starting to fall into place and I honestly don’t think I have been happier – that feels like an achievement!
Studio details. Photos – Bree Sanders.
What is your most treasured possession?
If our house was burning down, I think our animals would be the first saved – my cat, Scout, and two ferrets, Alice & Bear – along with photos and my journals.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
Right now study consumes a large proportion of my time along with part-time work. Unfortunately, my creative pursuits have taken a bit of a back seat but this year I am going to make sure there is plenty of designated creative time.
What is your most valuable pearl of wisdom gained since starting your business?
The phrase ‘work hard and be nice to people’ has always stuck in my mind and I try my best to live by it.
A portion of product on offer at Rachel’s stall at Olive Tree Market. Photo – Rachel Elizabeth Duffin.
Where do you derive creative inspiration?
I’m drawn to everyday things, inner conflict, outward feelings and I guess I’m inspired by anyone that explores similar ideas in various forms. Making artwork for me is about trying to understand my immediate environment. Sometimes it takes a particular situation or event to spark inspiration and you never know when it is going to happen. I find that getting the ball rolling is often really difficult but once it starts it sort of snowballs.
Which other designers, artists or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
To be honest, I feel so lucky to have such creative people in my life whose determination to succeed at their individual endeavors forever reminds me to lift my game. Bree Sanders (photographer) & Brooke Stevens (painter) are a creative power couple
David Kurzydlo (an amazing painter), Ari Mayger (graphic designer), Boatfriends (making beautiful sounds) and so many others that I could be here all day. I’ve always been inspired by the words of ee cummings, Tracey Emin, Del Kathryn Barton, Catherine Campbell and Eva Hesse, too.
Rachel Elizabeth Duffin, ‘Restless (1)’, 2009.
Apart from your work, what other interests, passions, hobbies do you have?
I guess my free time is used for, but not limited to, reading, lunch/op-shopping dates with my nan, catching up with friends, making it to galleries when I can, writing letters and lately I’m doing my best to live a healthier life.
How long have you been a Novocastrian?
My whole life, although technically I grew up in Lake Macquarie (about a 20 minute drive from town).
Newcastle in a word?
What do you love and hate about living in Newcastle?
I definitely feel like the things that make Newcastle so great are the same things that can make me dislike it a little at times. There’s a great sense of community but at the same time everyone knows each other and it’s often hard to meet new people who don’t link to you somehow. There isn’t too much traffic but at times it would be nice to see more people around. I guess you could find pros and cons of anywhere you go. Newcastle will always be home, regardless of where I end up down the track.
Rachel Elizabeth Duffin, ‘Radial Blame (1)’ (Left) and ‘Radial Blame (2)’ (Right), 2010.
How is Newcastle different to anywhere else?
Nothing is ever very far away. It’s conveniently located at a handy distance from lots of things.
Where are your favourite places in Newcastle / Hunter to:
I don’t know that I have a favourite but anywhere along Darby Street or Honeysuckle is usually delicious
All of these places have great food too.
Merewether Baths (Frederick St, Merewether) – nothing clears the mind better than the ocean
What is Newcastle / Hunter’s best-kept secret?
I think the Bogey Hole (Shortland Drive, Newcastle) is often forgotten about but it’s a beautiful place to hideaway.
L: Rachel Elizabeth Duffin, ‘Those From Which I Came (Daughter)’, 2011. R: Rachel Elizabeth Duffin, ‘Those From Which I Came (Father)’, 2011