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A Bright Spark

Photo by Wendy Fenwick at Flash Studios for Dulux NZ and Homestyle magazine.
Maaike Lookbook cover, Photo: Sasha Stejko for Maaike.
Delight offices: Photo: Helen Bankers.
Evie Kemp talks to Dominic Hoey about her various artistic pursuits, her love of Instagram, and striking a balance between personal and professional projects.


Evie Kemp’s creative practice reflects the reality of many professional artists in 2019: juggling paid work and personal projects, and using social media to connect with other creatives and clients. 

You might know Evie Kemp from Instagram, where the self-declared maximalist shares eye-catching photos of her South Auckland home and various design projects. As well as her enviable DIY skills and knack for finding TradeMe bargains, Evie’s fearless embrace of pattern and bold colour makes you stop and take notice. 

Evie’s talent and unique style has landed her work with many of the country’s top brands, including Westpac, Stuff and Ceres Organics. She’s also a Dulux colour ambassador—a role which sees her inspire and assist Kiwis with choosing colours for their homes. Working with these particular brands is something she loves, she says. 

“It's really important to me to work with good people and to be able to build on those relationships, so to be a part of those brands is very cool.”

Juggling many hats 

She’s still not sure whether to call herself an artist or a designer. Evie originally trained in graphic design at AUT University, but found herself drawn more to the illustrative side of things, “so that by the time I left, I was much more illustrator than graphic designer.”

After finishing her degree, she spent the next six years creating art prints to sell online and in stores—something she recently put aside to focus on collaborative projects and one-off art pieces. 

Of the many hats Evie wears, she says textile and pattern design is her number-one passion, naming a 2018 collaboration with Maiike clothing as a particular highlight. “It brings together all the things I love—drawing, colour, fashion, and interiors. I love how scale and drape can take one design to 100 different places, and there's nothing quite like getting that perfect half-drop repeat nailed.” 

Maaike Lookbook cover, Photo: Sasha Stejko for Maaike.

Another of Evie’s passions is interior design, something she’s been interested in from a young age. “Even as a kid, I was super into sprucing up my dolls’ house and my own room,” she says. “Again, this is something Instagram enabled me to do, just by sharing my own home and projects, and making connections through there.”

Social media: the good and the bad

Like most commercial artists, Evie relies heavily on social media to connect with her clients. She describes herself as a “huge fan” of Instagram.

“I find a lot of work through there, as well as a really inspiring and supportive network, which is essential when working alone. It provides me with a platform to declare who I am and what I do on my own terms, and because I do wear lots of hats I find it to be an acceptable way to demonstrate that.”

Of course, she’s aware of social media’s downsides. “It can be a huge time suck and there are definitely negatives to it, but I'm dedicated to making it a positive space by who I choose to follow, and remembering to take time out.” 

Juggling the paid with the personal 

Although Evie is passionate about her work, she says it’s often difficult to strike that balance between paid work and concentrating on her own practice.

“I find it really hard to turn off the ‘Can I use this for a job?’ side of my brain and do something just for me.”

“It's a struggle, as any self-employed creative will know. Prioritising your own work is tough and can feel indulgent. I find it really hard to turn off the ‘Can I use this for a job?’ side of my brain and do something just for me. To be honest, I need to find a way to be better at this, because if it's not something for a client, then I'm thinking, ‘Is it something I should save for a future one?’” 

Delight offices: Photo: Helen Bankers.

A bright and busy future 

One thing Evie doesn’t need to worry about is getting bored, as is obvious from her upcoming schedule. 

“I'm designing and making styling elements for this year’s NZ Flowers Week shoot, they’re one of my favourite clients. In mid-November I'm co-teaching a textile design masterclass in Auckland with my friend’s Melbourne studio, Home Work, so I’m getting all my notes ready for that.”

She’s also excited about upcoming showings of her own work before the year ends.

“I'm working on a few art pieces at the moment for a couple of shows – Studio Home's Spring Fling in Christchurch in October, and the Seed Gallery Christmas exhibition, Point Blank, in November. It’s really lovely as I don't feel like I've had good solid ‘art time’ in a while.”

Read Evie Kemp’s advice to her 22 year old self on The Big Idea.

Written by

Dominic Hoey

25 Oct 2019

Dominic Hoey is an author, playwright and poet based in Tāmaki Makaurau. His debut novel, Iceland was a New Zealand bestseller and was long-listed for the 2018 Ockham Book Award.