Looking at Rachel Castle’s artworks is like devouring golden slices of sunshine. Delicious combinations of colour and imagery abound, bursting with youthful exuberance.
The renowned Melbourne-based artist, who grew up in a small country town, attributes pop culture as her biggest source of inspiration.
“In my day there was no internet, the only way to access the outside world was via music and TV. So Boy George, Countdown, Dolly magazine, all the fluoro, spots, pop songs, pom poms, all my teenage ’80s influences just came rolling out in a very organic way when I finally started creating my own little things.”
Now her fun artworks have been taken off walls and made into bed linen and beach towels. And thanks to collaborations with the likes of Gorman and Sportsgirl, you can now wear these whimsical prints to a garden picnic or to bed!
We caught up with the lovely Rachel to hear about her creative journey and what it’s like to have found her ‘thing’.
Can you tell us how you got here in your career? Were you always creating and designing?
I spent the first 15 years of my working career in branding. My first job was at Country Road in the marketing department, and from there I moved to the UK and worked at The Conran Shop, organising all the catalogue shoots. We then started an agency called The Nest and developed projects for various companies, including Michelin, Lancôme, and British Airways. Although I was heavily involved in the direction of product and creative, I wasn’t the one actually creating the imagery. At that time I loved my job and didn’t really feel any need to change direction. I hadn’t developed my own aesthetic, and was developing aesthetics for the companies we worked with.
It wasn’t until I had my children and moved back to Australia that I found myself at home alone with a very real urge to just ‘make things’. I fiddled around with embroidery, did a screen-printing class at TAFE, started painting and finally when I had the space to do my own thing, discovered I had quite a lot to say and do.
There was never a grand plan, never a plan of any kind at all, really! I just started making things, set up a website, drew up some bedlinen designs on a very rusty old version of Quark (what a dinosaur!) and had them made locally in Melbourne. I guess I had a LOT of experience in how to create a brand, and had to just let the creative process develop with a little bit of space, no timelines, no briefs, just making things for friends and family, and then eventually popping them online for sale to the general public.
When did you first start calling yourself an artist?
I don’t think I’ll ever call myself an artist. I think the art world can still be quite elitist and that’s not what my work is about. I’d rather call myself a ‘maker’. I make stuff I like, and so far it has been really well-received.
What’s your latest collection all about?
The Castle for Sportsgirl sleepwear range is all about having fun. Sleepwear allows us to be ourselves, we wear what we like around the people we love. I wanted the collection to be super playful, combined with colour and comfort. There’s no real rules, I designed the collection to be mixed and matched. The styles are based on key designs for this summer, so if you’re into it, the kimono is perfect for daywear!
Where else can we see, wear or use your work?
I sell paintings, embroideries and screen prints online. They’re quite popular at the moment, I’m turning over new works each week. We also sell our Lucky and Nuts sweaters online, and I have an exhibition in Melbourne at the end of this month with The Design Files, which is very exciting.
We imagine your house must be a beautiful collection of colour and prints. What is your at-home style?
It’s a pretty ‘mess’ of all sorts of different things I love. It’s cluttered and chaotic, with a LOT of books and art and yes, plenty of colour. I never put anything in a cupboard (except cutlery!) so there is a lot going on, but somehow this is great comfort to me.
In three words, what do you want your artworks to make people feel?
Love, love and love.