Benny: Can you tell us a little about yourselves firstly and then tell us about The Establishment Studios? How did you come together?  

Tamara Maynes: I started my career in Sydney in the early 90’s as a signwriter for a record store amidst a High Fidelity-esque haze of loud music and cigarette smoke. Vowing to always follow a creative path I went on to work in visual merchandising, fashion and product design, editorial prop making, and commercial styling. Along the way I worked as the craft contributor for Inside Out Magazine, exhibited work at London and Milan Design Weeks, relocated to Melbourne, authored a craft book called The Maker, and was offered the role of creative director for The Establishment Studios - which I accepted and is where I met Carly.

Carly Spooner: I was six months shy of getting a Bachelor of Arts in gold & silversmithing before dropping out and spending the later part of my twenties working in hospitality and occasionally making jewellery. After a ‘What am I doing with my life?’ crisis, I returned to school and studied Interior Design whilst working at a prop house, which went on to become The Establishment Studios. I’ve always geeked out over film sets and interiors so, alongside managing the studio, I began freelancing as an interior stylist for a variety of editorial and advertising clients. In 2018 I was approached by renowned street artist RONE to create dilapidated film-like interior sets for The Omega Project followed by his next project, Empire, in 2019 for which I won The Design Files TDF Awards for best Styling & Art Direction and Collaboration.

TM: Carly and I worked well together from the start so when the original studio owners offered to sell to us we didn’t hesitate. As co-owners/directors our creative vision and determination has supported us in taking the studio in a unique direction that we are really proud of. What began as an already inspired photography studio and prop house has evolved into a boutique creative space where we also offer art direction, set design and styling for clients whose vision we align with. The space itself is a grand 19th Century church hall in the heart of Fitzroy which we have converted into a commercial photography space complete with a highly considered set build and prop hire collection.

BC: You’ve chosen quite a different approach to your set. Can you tell us a bit about the thought process behind it?
TM: We set out to create our ‘happy place’ for this set. For us that place needed to be something that represented a feeling more so than a space or room and why the end result is quite abstract in nature. We literally sat in the studio and threw ideas around based on what we had available to us. There was happy hand clapping happening at the thought of being surrounded by pink velvet and giant busts so it was a relatively organic thought process.

BC: Tell us about the busts…. Where did they come from, who are they and how were they created!?
TM: Carly and I are both big lovers of classical European interiors and architecture, especially Italian, so we find these references creeping in constantly. These oversized busts are locally cast from plaster. Some of them form part of our studio prop collection, while others are on-hand specifically for an upcoming project. Pictured from left is Agrippa (c.63 BC) a Roman general and architect who assisted Caesar in making Rome a city of marble; Guiliano de Medici (c.1453 AD) 'Golden Boy' and co-ruler of Florence; and two versions of Michelangelo’s Venus de Milo.

BC: What came first, the busts or the background?
TM: I think it was the background? We had just acquired some of the larger plinths and thought they would look really amazing covered in the pink velvet. Is that right Carly or did I just make that up? I definitely remember we took a playful approach to designing the placement of the plinths, walls and floors and rather than drawing it up we pulled all the elements out and physically moved them around until we were happy with the composition. I remember feeling sore the next day so I know I didn’t make that part up…
CS: I don’t know, I have brain fog! I remember we got carried away and had to rein in our concept A-LOT when we realised we would need a Tim Walker budget to pull it off.

BC: You’re both individual artists with different creative aesthetics, how does this help when working together?
CS: Although different aesthetically, we have complimentary ideas and skills.
TM: Exactly, and this pushes us to reach further than perhaps we would as individuals. That sweet spot when our differences align to create something special as a team is such a great feeling.

BC: Anything else you’d like to add?
CS: We’re not as serious as our portrait suggests!