Once a freelance illustrator for our very own CHILD Magazines, Aussie artist Madeleine Stamer has since been making colourful waves in the local art world. Jenna Templeton chats to her about how she’s grown as an illustrator from ceramicist to mother to teacher to professional artist.
Before having children, I worked as a practising ceramicist from 1991 to 2000. During that period, I completed a Bachelor of Teaching and began a Masters of Fine Arts at Monash University. I shared a wonderful studio space at Monash with a small group of artists who I’ve maintained friendship with all these years. I landed permanent part-time work at two schools as an art specialist. The teaching jobs became increasingly demanding, so I put my Masters on hold, pushed ceramics to the side and decided to focus on teaching, which strangely satisfied my inner geek.
The consistent cash flow and decreased intake of clay dust made for a healthy change. On my non-teaching days, I turned to freelance illustration and began building up a stockpile of personal work. The concept was a bit misdirected until my husband Karl gave me the big push that I needed. Karl is a professional printer by trade which led to us partnering our skills – I create the artwork while Karl scans and generates prints. This was pretty much the impetus for Little Circus Design. I’ve seen my range grow from print media to limited edition homewares, soft furnishings, collaborations with brands and artists.
A marriage, an entertaining thought of starting a family plus a yearning to build something from the ground up while on maternity leave inspired the hatching of my business Little Circus Design.
At one point, I was illustrating for CHILD Mags each month, sometimes I created single images and other times multiple illustrations. CHILD Mags was one of my first editorial jobs and I was very grateful for being given the chance to freelance with them.
Illustration has always been integral to all aspects of my work.
It played a huge part of the designing process when I was a ceramicist. My lecturers also placed a massive emphasis on developing our drawing skills and techniques, which I thoroughly appreciate. I’ve known since I was a young child that I’d be an artist and my parents were always understanding and supported my vision from the get go.
I was the youngest of five and my siblings and I all pursued very different career paths. My parents always supported my creative urges. They believed in me and always encouraged and challenged me. I was very fortunate to be surrounded by a loving family, nature and humour. It’s not always easy street but I am very aware and embrace life’s peaks and troughs.
In the last 10 years, I’ve passionately built up my business with a strong emphasis on illustration and painting. I predominantly create works on paper using traditional methods such as brush and ink. First and foremost, I’ve always focused on developing my own style. That in itself is an intrinsically pleasing process. Pushing boundaries and challenging yourself even on a micro scale whether experimenting with new materials, introducing new colour or altering the size of your work can often dictate fresh possibilities and new directions.
I’ve recently moved into my dream studio, lucky me! It’s been nearly 20 years in the making, but I can finally say I’ve hit the jackpot. My husband and I bit the bullet mid 2015 and decided to transform our old tin garage into a studio. It has a huge square window that our clever builder designed which overlooks our little backyard and into the back of the house, so I’m in constant visual contact with my children. Our liquidambar tree acts as a huge green umbrella in summer, keeping the temperature relatively cool inside. If I have an urgent deadline, you’ll find me in there around the clock, otherwise I’m in and out processing orders or bunkering down for a few solid hours here and there creating new work. It’s such a lovely space and I could happily sit and gaze out the window if time permitted.
There are a few pieces of my work around the home, but I prefer to reserve any spare space for my children’s art and other artist’s work.
On my non-teaching days, once the kids go off to school I prioritize jobs in order of deadlines. I prepare my online store and pack prints, which is sometimes a little tedious and time consuming. I usually have work from either of my agents (Greenhouse Interiors or Jacky Winter) so I tend to those jobs as well. Throughout the day, I usually have deliveries or pick-ups, which I try to avoid but I can sometimes delegate those to my husband Karl, then before I know it I need to pick up the kids, prepare dinner etc. Once the kids are settled, I’m pretty much back into it again, working late on new work.
I feel very blessed to be a part of two amazing Melbourne creative families, The Jacky Winter Group and Greenhouse Interiors. The camaraderie amongst the artists is pretty goddamn special and I love seeing what everyone’s getting up to across their respective social platforms. My husband runs Lantern Printing and I’m often bumping into his clients, some who have become good friends.
I’ve been very lucky to work on some magic collaborations over time and befriend many amazing artists and have networked with talented like-minded people whose input I highly value. Once, I was contacted by American musician Zia McCabe from The Dandy Warhols who had two of my images tattooed onto her forearm – that was a big random surprise. Recently, I worked with the team at Sportsgirl. It was such an eye opener working with a group of experienced creatives who had a very clear vision and invested so much energy into the project. I’ve worked on a few amazing campaigns with Haymes Paint and loved the entire creative process from a rough vision through to a highly polished end product. Those experiences are invaluable.
One of the most exciting places to have seen my work featured is Instagram. Not only does it give me the platform to showcase my art, it also enables me to share a little of my home life and the things that inspire me. This is particularly great for family members who I don’t get to see as often as I’d like to. I’m very grateful that people connect with me through Instagram. It’s created many wonderful opportunities for me. I’ve been very fortunate over the years to see my work translate through many mediums. Some highlights have been collaborating with a few of my favourite Australian brands such as Gorman, Third Drawer Down and illustrating a children’s book for The National Gallery of Victoria. Last year, I painted a life-size fibre glass kangaroo for the Alannah and Madeline Foundation. It was pretty surreal to see it in situ with a mob of real roos at the Melbourne Zoo!
Parenthood gave me vision and direction. It was the push I needed and my studio practice has flourished since having my babies. I’ve always followed my heart and been given the creative freedom to do so. I want the same for my daughters.
When teaching, my young students often limit themselves to one profession that they aspire to. It’s my job to encourage them to be many things, be it an artist, a doctor, a parent, a princess, a vet, a unicorn wrangler or all of the above!
Madeleine Stamer, 43, is an artist, teacher and mother. She lives in Victoria with her husband Karl and two daughters, Wilhelmina, 9, and Ada, 7, along with Hug the cat and a few goldfish. You can see Madeleine’s latest pieces via her website / shop and keep up to date with her current work in progress on Instagram.