As we glide towards the East coast of Australia opening up and possibly shimmying our way out of lockdown jigsaw puzzles and zoom wines on a Friday night, it's nice to know that existential wonderings staring out the window or up to the roof may be over soon. For the freelance community - creatives - musicians, designers, photographers, stylists, the list goes on - not being able to work on the things that are usually a weekly staple, finding motivation and a spark has brought bonus hurdles for free (except for the price of sanity on some days) in lockdown both last year and during 2.0.
Annie Hamilton and Rosie Fitzgerald know these feelings well. Both create in many ways - visually, sonically, most often with words. Annie Hamilton is a singer songwriter who also designs and produces clothes under the same name. Rosie Fitzgerald is a musician too, who plays in Sydney band I Know Leopard and takes photos. Their friendship has allowed them to collaborate in many ways - musically and other, and now more than ever, having lived together throughout the pandemic. Stepping into their bubble for a moment is a refreshing reminder that living in a creative share house at a time like this can be an opportunity to work together and has its challenges that can be valuable lessons in the process too.
A: So, we’ve been working together creatively for five years now! That’s wild! How did this happen?
R: Well, I remember modelling some of the clothes for your label, and taking some photos of you working in your studio...
A: And then you came over and took the photo, which became the single artwork for Fade. So it’s cool that this series of photos was created in the same environment.
R: Yeah, that was a cool moment. It was exciting because photography for me was like a little secret hobby, or a thing that kept me sane while travelling and doing music. It was like my own little creative baby that I never wanted anyone to touch, but I always wanted to do something with. I didn’t know that I could create something like that, so it was a big thing. I felt really honoured doing it for that song as well, because I felt really connected to it.
A: It was awesome because we were just experimenting and trying whatever random ideas that popped into our heads.
R: Yeah, definitely. And there wasn’t any negative pressure or stress.
A: Yeah, it wasn’t like ‘we need ten good photos’ because we just figured, if we didn’t get any good photos we could just do another shoot. And that’s kinda how we’ve always done it. And I also feel like… you can read my mind…
R: How important is collaboration in the creative process? For me, it’s definitely important.
A: I work on my own projects a lot and it can get really exhausting, so it’s so nice to have someone else to bounce ideas off and to get excited about things with.
R: You can get stuck in your own little world and there are things you can’t see, then other people come in and show you something from a different angle. It’s really essential. I think every form of creativity comes down to being able to connect with another human, to know that you’re not alone, to have that exchange. So it makes sense to invite other people into the process.
A: How do you think we inspire or influence each other’s creative pursuits?
R: You have always been a mega inspiration. I’ve always been inspired and impressed by the honesty in your creative pursuits and your ability to get shit done. In your label, your music and your life in general, from my perspective you’re always planning and continually looking ahead.
A: Awwwww *embarrassed shock* - I think being in lockdown together has been really cool because we have really egged each other on. The thing I love about your creativity is that you’re always doing interesting secret projects. Like, you disappear into your room and draw or do tattoos or learn the cello or take photos. You always have these secret creative projects and I love them. I have also loved doing this shoot because we’ve really encouraged each other to keep creating, which can be really tough in lockdown.
R: I think most people can relate to that lockdown feeling - like everything’s a bit pointless. So this project has really spurred us on.
A: I also think that when you’re creative for a living it can really drain the enjoyment out of it, because all of a sudden there's financial pressure and that can kill it. It becomes your job and you can lose the spark, the thing that made you do it in the first place. But you’re really good at finding the spark. Like, you're doing it because you have this urge. It’s really refreshing.
R: Aw thanks Annie! My new favourite one is rearranging spaces.
A: Our house is also a really nice environment to just sit down and play the piano. There are instruments everywhere.
A: Do you think we approach creativity differently as a practice? Like, some people wait for the muse to show up, some are more of a routine sit-down-and-work type…
R: I can say you are a sit-down type. A constant worker.
A: Yeah, I think I need to set myself really strict routine times to work because otherwise I would just potter around the house and garden all day every day. Like, I wouldn't get anything done.
R: You might be one of the most consistent creatives I know, to be honest.
A: But I think the only way to do it for me is to treat it as a 9-5 job. I mean, it’s often way more than 9-5, but if I am getting up early and sitting at my desk at the same time every day, it becomes more normal. I have to do that because otherwise I wouldn't do anything. I’m a real procrastinator.
R: See the problem is, I feel like that’s the right way to do it, but I can’t do that.
A: I don’t think it’s right - I don’t think there is a right way to do it.
R: But when you look at how people create, it feels like that’s the way people get shit done. But I've never been that way and I have to be fine with it. I think I'm trying to learn how to work with myself - having bipolar and figuring out how to live with that. It has been really frustrating for me because I can't be consistent - I have these times when I can't do anything.
A: And if you have the pressure to be constantly doing stuff, it just makes you feel guilty and it doesn’t help.
R: It doesn’t help at all. Sometimes there is too much negative emotion attached to one creative pursuit, so I have to put my energy into another area that works for me at that point in time. That’s why I like to have lots of different things going on at once - that is self-care for me.
R: How has lockdown affected your creativity?
A: I have found it really hard. Like I've been bashing my head against the wall a lot of the time trying to come up with good stuff.
R: There’s nothing to look forward to - do you think that comes into it?
A: Exactly - so much of music for me is playing live. That’s the thing - that’s why I do it. So it has been hard not having that in my life. And I miss travelling - I used to write so much on planes. When you get really emotional in the altitude, do you get that?
R: Haha yes
A: I get so emo at altitude and I write so much stuff. Maybe it’s just the sense of moving or going somewhere. But I also think the only way to get over it is to just keep going. And keep doing stuff. Sitting and just playing for fun. Practicing piano. It has been really nice, like rediscovering the joy of music that’s not necessarily for an end goal.
R: Nice. It’s weird - I feel like this second lockdown has made me nostalgic for that feeling of being a kid. First lockdown I didn’t want to do anything - I was just sad. But this time I have got to a point of just exploring things and finding things that I like and that interest me. Even not seeing that many people is kinda refreshing, like you don’t have that pressure all the time. You can explore yourself in a new way.
A: It’s true, it’s refreshing to not always have to be productive.
R: As a kid you spend so much time in your house anyway, just playing. Reimagining different areas around the house has been fun - like our little sunbaking spot on the roof and our romantic table in the back corner of the garden.
R: How do you feel when you’re creatively blocked?
A: I try to do something else creative.
R: But how do you feel?
A: How do I feel? Horrible!
R: What’s that for you? Explain it!
A: When I’m creatively blocked, it’s like, ‘I suck, I’m not a musician, I will never write a song ever again, I’ll never come up with anything ever again, I’m not good at music, why am I even bothering, why am I even trying, I should never have begun, I’m a loser and everyone hates me”
A: That’s what’s going through my head hahaha. And the only way to stop it is to do something else creative, even if it’s cooking or gardening or going for a walk. Just do something. How do you feel when you’re blocked?
R: I feel like this big thing - the main thing that I like in life - is not there, and I don't know how to get it back.
A: Omg that makes me so sad!!!
R: Hahaha it’s so dark. It’s awful. It’s such an identity crisis, like it’s a part of you that’s gone.
A: It really is. Especially when you open up instagram and you see everyone else’s achievements. You see this highlight reel of all the amazing things they’ve done. And then you’re like, oh my god, I can't compete with this, I suck.
R: Yeah fully. So true. Also this lockdown I’ve tried to be off social media as much as possible, which I’ve really enjoyed.
A: Yep. I’ve spent a lot of time deleting instagram… redownloading it, deleting it, redownloading it, posting, deleting… redownloading it every now and then to check in, and then being like no no no no no i’m not ready, delete.
R: Funny. So true.
A: But I’ve also been trying to remind myself of the value in procrastination and daydreaming. I don’t come up with my best creative ideas when I'm sitting at my desk. I come up with those when I'm outside, going for a run, walking around the garden, procrastinating. And then I scurry inside and quickly write them all down. Procrastination is really important in my process. You have to let your mind wander because that’s where your imagination is and you need to indulge it. Giving yourself time to sit and stare out the window is the most important part of the process (completely contradicting my strict desk hours!)
R: It's true! I love those times. I know that feeling.
A: Which do you enjoy more - taking the photo or being in the photo? How do you find they differ creatively?
R: That’s a cool question. At times I have felt like I had to do one or the other, and it didn’t make sense to do both. I honestly love both - they both have so much space for expression.
A: Either way, you need to be engaging with the person on the other side of the lens. It’s not like taking a photo of a tree.
R: It’s like a conversation.
A: My favourite photos are the ones where it feels like you’ve stumbled across an in-between moment, like you catch a little glimpse of something.
R: That's the coolest thing about it right! When it all works together. We have those days where we take so many photos but there will be one where all the elements come together perfectly. Which do you prefer?
A: Now I love both, whereas I used to hate having my photo taken. Especially working with you, I can relax and be myself and there’s no pressure. The best photos are when I’m not thinking about how I’m looking, whereas I used to be really self-conscious and then get really awkward.
R: It gets back to the childlike thing - dressing up, playing, expressing yourself, feeling in your body, it’s so fun.
A: It’s about practice as well. It’s about not taking yourself so seriously.