Interview by Madeleine Dore
Photography by Prue Aja
Meet Iolanthe Gabrie – a wordsmith, style aficionado and Creative Director of Ruby Slipper Consultants.
After time abroad, Iolanthe returned to Australia several years ago to became a fully fledged real estate agent and auctioneer. But a love of writing soon took hold and so Iolanthe made the leap to create a copywriting agency coupled with an adored blog covering all things art, fashion, personal style, food and creative pursuits.
Recognized as one of the thirty most influential bloggers by Voices of 2014, Iolanthe covers art and fashion events for Ruby Slipper, maintains a local real estate blog Home Truths Melbourne, and is the co-founder of social media training workshop Leaders of the Pack.
While attending multiple exhibition openings and launches each week sounds like the epitome of sophistication, it was refreshing to discover the person behind the glamour, 'I would appear as an extravert but really I’m an introvert. I spend time coaching and training people, clients and events, but that’s in the work basket, although it is pleasurable.’ A busy schedule of mentoring young writers, covering events, and juggling clients is balanced with down time reading, eating brunch, visiting galleries, afternoon tea, and pondering – a delightful antidote to a fast-paced world.
Iolanthe shares her thoughts on how appreciation drives us to do better, the importance of finding time to communicate with loved ones, tips on how to start your own blog, and pursuing a life of creativity.
PART I: DAILY ROUTINE
When I wake, I lay in bed and the first thing I reach for is unfortunately my iPad. I check my blog stats, Facebook, Instagram and mail to see if there is any urgent client stuff.
The urgency isn’t real, but for some reason technology makes you feel more urgent than it is. [Laughs]
Then I turn on the radio and listen to 774 ABC Melbourne in bed for about ten minutes. I really like listening to Red Symons and Jon Faine. I don’t really read news sites on the internet, I just listen to the radio.
Three times a week I will go for a run or walk around Carlton Gardens for around twenty-five minutes. I’ll do my exercise instead of laying in bed listening to the news.
The bathroom is off limits as my husband is busy getting ready, so I make myself some breakfast. At the moment I’m making porridge with banana and I’ll make a chai tea or an earl grey tea. I’ll beaver away on my iPad, replying to things or chatting to my friends, some of which are overseas at the moment.
While I have my breakfast I listen to ABC News 24.
I’m relatively fast in the shower – I only wash my hair every four days because my hair is so thick that when I do wash it, it is like a Wookie has lived in my home, I could weave a mat out of it! It’s awful!
But the thing I really enjoy most about the morning is taking the time to put on my makeup, I really enjoy the process. It just feels nice, and gives me a chance to think about what I’m going to wear that day, how appropriate a look may be, if we are doing a photo shoot that day it may be a bit heavier, so it’s like a meditation.
I’ll head to the studio and listen to 774 again in the car. I really love my 774 because I like local politics. It’s really important to me to understand what is happening in my community.
I’m usually one of the first people at my co-working hub, so I like to listen to a bit of Talking Heads while I’m getting ready.
My interns usually arrive and go and get their coffee, or if it were a day were I was doing a photo shoot, we would do them first thing when my makeup and hair is still fresh. We will find a space in the building to do it, or we will go into the street and find a lane or a house that looks nice. They will take some photos, which feels weird and uncomfortable, but it’s stock-in-trade in what I do so it has to be done.
I will brainstorm with the interns about what the work will be for them that day.
I’ll start the work that I have diarised for the day. My week is very structured in terms of work. When you’re freelancing, unless it’s a piece that’s due on a certain day, when it comes to social representation and ongoing dialog it’s really up to you to structure when that work will be done during the week ... otherwise it will snowball.
On a Monday I do my weekly plan where I write up the days, know what my dues are for the week and then divide them up based on how long I know the tasks take, so I usually know what is coming up.
At eleven I will usually break and have a cup of tea.
I usually bring some lunch from home, which is usually last night’s leftovers. In summer I make wraps, and this really wanky but delicious George Calombaris Cypriot salad which is full of cracked wheat, sultanas, raisins, lentils and pine nuts with a yogurt dressing with cumin. I’ll make one bunch and have it with tuna all week.
Working in the co-working space is very social, we are usually always talking. When I take on interns, for the first three months it’s very time heavy in terms of teaching. I give them a lot of guidance in terms of what they are building and executing, and then we edit the work. We are in very close proximity. So I balance that and along with executing my own work.
About twice a week I’ll have a client meeting where they will come into the studio.
For afternoon tea I’ll go out for a coffee and get a biscuit or a sweet.
I usually blog for Ruby Slipper about twice per week. If I have a really heavy week the other work will be prioritised.
I’ll drive home from the studio, or if I have an event I’m covering for Ruby Slipper I’ll go straight there which is usually twice a week. I might have a change of clothes for the event, so I change at the studio and freshen up my makeup.
I use these little rice powder blotting papers from Daiso and it lifts off all the grease and keeps the makeup. They are amazing – that’s my “secret” to pre-event freshness!
I’ll usually play music on the way to event because I’m a bit tired and I need to pump myself up.
I’m usually always the first to an event – I’m painfully early to almost everything! I’m also somebody who leaves an event early, which some people used to make fun of, but I kept doing that regardless! I like going home, my husband and I both work really hard so we’ve only got really an hour or two hours a day together.
I will just have one drink, or half a drink. Alcohol doesn’t agree with me very well unless it’s good alcohol, which sadly it often isn’t at events. They don’t usually have food either, but if they do, I’ll eat their food! [Laughs]
If I’m not at an event I’ll cook dinner at home. I enjoy cooking but sometimes it can feel like a chore. For my favourite meal to make at the moment I use this seasoning from the Mediterranean Wholesaler on Sydney road – it’s so dodgy but so awesome –it’s called Kentucky Fried Chicken seasoning. I don’t know how they get away with it in terms of copyright, but it's probably just made by some Nonna somewhere! [Laughs]
I just get chicken thighs or scaloppine, dunk them in egg and put them in this mix and bake them for twenty minutes, turning twice, and they are delicious. I serve them alongside braised Brussels sprouts.
For dessert, caramel crowns are an unfortunate favourite... or icecream.
If I’m returning from an event and I haven’t eaten, then I will have what’s left of dinner that my husband has cooked. Or I might just make a jaffle or something. Then I’ll check in on the social media for the event and retweet and share any relevant things about Ruby Slipper.
I might watch a little bit of a TV serial. I just finished Twin Peaks the other day, I loved that, it took me a little while to watch because the themes are quite heavy but I really enjoyed it.
I will have a shower before bed and put on my heavy moisturiser. There is an amazing product called British Nanny from LUSH and it’s a very heavy, rich jasmine face cream – it’s really nourishing and smells incredible. Then I go to bed and I might read. I read fiction mostly, sometimes I read history. I just finished the most amazing book called The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It deals with a close-knit group of Classic students in an elite fine art university in Vermonth. It’s a mystery and it’s very frightening yet beautiful and the scenery is crucial to the tale's success.
PART II: WEEKEND ROUTINE
My husband works on a Saturday, which means I kind of have the day to myself. In the morning I usually have a cup of tea in bed, listen to the radio and read a magazine or a book.
I always go out for breakfast on a Saturday. I’ll get dressed up, bring a book, sometimes I'll bring a girlfriend but often it's just for myself which is quite nice.
I have a blog called Home Truths Melbourne where I investigate the auction culture of a suburb in Melbourne. I’ll also have a look at what’s in that suburb, so I usually visit a café nearby an auction. Then I will go and take videos of the auction and live tweet the content.
On Gem TV they have really awesome 1960s movies on a Saturday, so I’ll pop that on in the background when I get home. When Anthony gets home we usually have a late lunch. Most of the day I’m on the couch reading or writing a blog post, but it's really nice – I light candles, have lots of tea and might bake something.
On a Saturday afternoon we will get anything that’s special for Saturday dinner, so we will head to the supermarket and come home and have an early dinner and watch movies or the football. It’s not so much watching, just more the sound of the AFL in the background. It’s sort of relaxing.
We usually exercise in the morning, usually together unless Anthony decides to go on a crazy 10k run which I have no interest in doing. [Laughs]
We might go out for breakfast to Vincent the Dog, or if it's too busy we will go to Brunetti. It’s really nice to watch the families come in on a Sunday morning, everyone is really relaxed. If we are going to visit my parents we will usually do that mid-morning, then we might go to a gallery, or a wander through the city, and have a coffee or go to JB Hi-Fi to see if there are any DVDs we want. Then have an early dinner and watch TV. There are usually really good docos on ABC on a Sunday night, like Louis Theroux.
PART III: BEHIND THE SCENES
On where her self motivation comes from…
I think because I like what I do, it doesn’t feel painful – it’s self motivating because it’s pleasurable.
My parents are both artists, so in order to create art you need to be self-motivated. So it may be a genetic predisposition.
My parents made me do piano at a very high level, and I was good at it for some time but I didn’t really enjoy it – it wasn’t natural to me. But it probably taught me about sticking to things and creating a schedule.
On appreciation as the main currency in life…
I think the things that I do, I’m good at. Humans need to feel that what they do gives value and meaning. That is why you can be in a job that pays a lot, but if you never get praise and all you get is abuse, it doesn’t matter how much you are paid you won’t want to do it.
So if praise is the main currency, then naturally you will want to create things that will allow people to appreciate you. It may sound narcissistic, but part of any successful entrepreneur, self-starter or artist is narcissism. If you don’t feel you have anything to give, you simply won’t give it.
If I haven’t seen many people one week I might feel a bit little lack-luste. But then a client will text me with how well I am going, and that’s not money – I obviously need the money to live – but I they are telling me they also like what I do, and that’s the bit that makes me feel good.
Advice to those wanting to start a blog…
When people come to me and ask to pick my brain, I’m often disappointed because the first thing they want to talk about is money.
I think asking 'How can I make this project make money?' is coming at things in a counter-intuitive way. Put simply, a creator creates.
If you’re just navel-gazing and you’re not making anything – if you're not taking photos, writing, blogging or doing what it is that would make you a creative – you are not creative, and thus you are not a creator.
Even if you are working at NAB and you hate it, and you have something that you are good at – whether it is making badges, or writing stories, or training dogs – then make sure you do that every week. You must. And eventually you will become that.
On constantly being surrounded by objects and inspiration…
My mother is an artist, anthropologist and curator and my father is an artist and musician, so the environments I have lived in have always been full of objects of interest and art. They have often been spaces that would be completely overwhelming and crazy for someone who appreciates a more minimal aesthetic.
But I understand why a creative’s space can often be messy and overwhelming – it’s where they get their juice! It’s a background of ongoing inspiration which eventually pushes through in your work.
On there being no place like home…
I’m a creature of habit, and I really like knowing what I’m doing , where I’m going and I feel most comfortable when I’m in places that I’m familiar with. I don’t really like travelling all that much.
I lived overseas for a few years and I have travelled a bit, and I do a bit of tourism and journey around Victoria for the blog, but I psych myself up for it. I enjoy it while I’m doing it, but I’m not someone who can’t wait to get away – I’m more like, “Gee, I like it here.”
On daily communication with a partner…
We usually chat throughout the day, he might call a couple of times a day. But during the week it’s usually just what we are having for dinner. You know, if I’m going out that night, how he should cook something when I’m not there. [Laughs]
It’s really benign, but that’s alright, there is beauty in the benign.
Factis non verbis (by deeds not by words)
– Latin Proverb