Get yourself a cup of tea or coffee, maybe a biscuit or two and set aside some time to read about artist, traveller and story teller Pia Blair of littlelandofpia. Living in her adopted city Ho Chi Min, Pia creates her very own little land through collage and screen print techniques. Unique fragments beautifully compiled on paper, Pia's little land is truly imaginative and colourful! I am sure you'll be hooked reading about her adventures, life, inspiration and work so check out her blog and facebook page too. If you fancy snapping up an original piece head to Greenhouse Interiors. Run don't walk.
How would you describe yourself?
Cheeky, impulsive, sarcastic, loving and optimistic.
What was your childhood dream?
I had many! To own my own business, and have a shop and create something that was my own. Own and renovate a beautiful period home. I think I was the only 11 year old I knew that was obsessed with watching Maggie T’s Home Show on the ABC on a weekly basis and would tell adults that I wanted to either be an interior designer or masseuse?!! I always saw myself traveling the world. At a young age I wanted to be the next Catriona Rowntree on ‘Getaway’! I also wanted to be the next Michelle Timms, aka the point guard on the Australian Women’s Basketball team. So from this all I can gauge is the fact that I had an identity crisis from a young age!
What led you down your current path?
I studied Fine Arts Sculpture and Printmaking at University and after finishing those three ridiculously fun years I had no idea what I wanted to do. I really didn’t have any self-belief in my own artistic practice and felt a bit lost really. After a road trip with some of my besties I thought that I would like to have a job that allowed me to travel and live in different places. So the natural choice was becoming a Secondary Visual Arts teacher I taught for 5 years in Frankston, which was tough but really good for me. I became bored by the monotony of being at the same school and yearned for adventure. Fortunately my boyfriend then (now lovely husband Luke) felt the same. We travelled the world for 6 months before landing a Visual Arts job at an International School in Guangzhou China. From there I got a job at the International School of Ho Chi Minh City, where I have been teaching kids from all over of the world Visual Arts for the past 3 years. After a big trip through South America this time last year I was sitting on yet another 36 hour bus ride and decided that I need more in my life and really felt like I needed to produce my own work. After living in Asia for 5 years it became apparent that you could not buy interesting or well made greeting cards anywhere. So I started a small range of screen-printed and collaged cards. I took them to the coolest shop in the Ho, ‘L’usine’ and they bought the lot. This gave me the confidence I needed. I showed them to my best mate Emma Cleine from Lumiere Art + Co who kindly passed them onto our now amazing sales agent Julia Green of Greenhouse Interiors and she loved them, but advised me to make artworks not cards. So I started making screen printed, and spray-painted and collaged works on paper. I became so busy doing full-time teaching and making that I decided to throw in the towel last month and now I am working full time on my business and I am the one-woman show behind littlelandofpia! So for the last 6 months I have been creating large and small mixed media works on paper and now have 20+ stockists Australia wide! I have now just started making bags, cushions, digitally printed designs onto silk and who knows wheat else will emerge! I’m so excited to see what will come from this time away from teaching.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love that I can be in my workspace at home in Vietnam and be totally engrossed in what I am making. I am very fortunate that I can spend my days making what I want to and I don’t think there are many people out there that can say that.
I am so flattered if anybody shows interest in what I do, and wants to buy one of my artworks or a shop chooses to purchase a littlelandofpia or a magazine or blog show cases my work. I am so excited to have this coming year to focus on making and feel so fortunate to have this time to focus on my practice.
How and why did you make the leap from making works on paper to pieces for the home?
I realised how fortunate I was to live in Vietnam and how I have a mecca of possibilities on my doorstep. Finding ‘leather street’ and a company that will digitally print my designs onto silk were highlights. Seriously, I am the luckiest lass in the world! I also need to remember that this is my livelihood and I need to make an income. So it was important for me to diversify and try my hand at multiple things so I can appeal to more stores and clients.
Where do you feel most inspired?
When I am travelling or on our motorbike travelling the streets of my beloved ‘Ho’. I see so many photographs that I wish I could take, but invariably find myself without a camera because bag and phone and camera snatching is rife! I really truly love living in Asia and love the chaos and obscurity that occurs in my world. I usually come up with my best ideas on long bus trips in far away places. I have a notebook that I write everything in and then refer to those ideas for months after. I read a motivational book when I was travelling last year that really gave me a kick up the backside and gave me confidence to believe in what I do. I love talking to my mate Emma and hearing about what she is working on. I really feel that we feed off each other’s enthusiasm and give each other great ideas and direction.
Who do you admire?
Anyone that has the balls to put their stuff out there! I think that takes courage! Living in Asia I feel rather disconnected to what is happening in Australia and that is a strange dichotomy when you are living in a far away place but making art for customers in a place that you call home but don’t live there! I see so many brands all doing the same thing and really want to try and remain true to myself and make unique things and not follow trends. I love Miranda Skozcek’s work, Spacecraft backing cloth paintings and Bonnie and Neil are the forefront of Australian homewares for a reason. I feel that they have created a unique and well-constructed product and there are too many brands copying what they do which is a shame.
What challenges have you had to overcome?
Trying to do two full time jobs at the same time was pretty tricky. I was working long days and often had to make pieces when I really wasn’t in the right headspace. Managing my time will be a big challenge for me. Working from home will really test my ability to procrastinate! I go through bursts when I doubt what I am making and myself and when I see other businesses flourishing and selling lots I wonder if I will ever reach that level of success. It can be quite lonely and isolating when you are working away from home and I get such a lift when people give me positive reinforcement.
What's been a 'pinch yourself' moment?
Being featured on The Design Files was HUGE for me. But having said that, I pinch myself when ever somebody buys one of my pieces! I am so flattered and in disbelief! I am also pretty flattered when I see strangers pinning my artworks on Pinterest. I have some amazing stores stocking my work and that is most definitely a pinch myself moment when Julia my agent tells me they have purchased.
What are your top creative resources?
I really feel out of the loop when it comes to trending online resources!
I love the blog line x shape x colour, because it inspires me to capture beautiful images.
My collages are so dependent on what I manage to find to create with. So I scour my lovely city with vigour and find the most amazing books from the 1940’s-1980s from France. Russia, Vietnam and elsewhere in second book shops and antique shops in Ho Chi Minh. This is an invaluable resource for me and gives me new ideas every time I find something golden.
I find Pinterest a great time waster! But it is a good way to gather and categorize things that inspire me. Often I don’t realise what I am attracted to until I see patterns in what I am drawn to.
I really miss seeing great exhibitions. So whenever I travel I try and see as much art as possible whether that’s a planned incident or just general observations on the streets. The MOMA in New York, and the TATE Modern in London are guaranteed winners! Street Art in Tokyo, Japan, Bogota in Colombia and Rio de Janiero Brazil were standouts. Havana in Cuba was just stunning and I love anything weathered and a little dishevelled so this city really pulled at my heartstrings. I would love to visit again. I felt alive and it was my most favourite place ever.
What is your idea of happiness?
Being with my loved ones and laughing. Feeling confident and inspired. Sitting in the sunshine with a breeze. On holidays or travelling somewhere new always makes me feel happy. Sharing champagne with friends and having a late night boogie is always a good way to make me the happiest lady on the planet. Oh and a new outfit is certain to turn a frown upside down!
I would like to have an exhibition, I would like to promote myself and sell more work in Asia and make links with stores in Hong Kong, Singapore and Ho Chi Minh. I am thinking I may go to India in the next couple of months and see what I could create there. I think the artisans in India are incredible and the colour and diversity seen there when I travelled a few years ago was exquisite. This trip is guaranteed to getting my heart beating a little faster. I am showing my new wares at the Life Instyle Fair in Melbourne August 2-5 and this will be great work experience for me. Seeing what sells and what does not sell will be invaluable for me. I am just interested to see where I fit into the market in Australia and what is not being done so I can expand my range and continue to make work that has a unique aesthetic.
When the weekend rolls around what do you love to:
Read – emails from my girlfriends at home.
Watch - Something ridiculously trashy! I’m too shy to admit the crap I watch.
Cook - Omelettes with fresh Basil for Luke and I.
Create - something involving a little cut and paste
Listen to - Florence and the Machine, The xx, Fat Freddies Drop, Ray Charles, and Kanye West.
Dream about - Meredith Music Festival, Greek food and beaches on Kefalonia, having my besties from Australia at my house in Vietnam. Oh and shopping in Melbourne for new outfits!
Look forward to - Sunday brunch with friends and free flow Veuve Clicquot champagne at my favourite brunch place in town in the Ho.