Friday, January 23, 2009

Interview - Ebony Bizys

Tanabata’ festival inspired installation by Ebony Bizys at ‘Kawaii Pop’, Kudos Gallery, Paddington, Sydney, June 2008.

More pieces from Ebony's 'Kawaii Pop' show in Sydney last year - 3D 'pop-up book' style paper sculptures (spot mini-Ebony in the yellow jumper - so cute!)

Ebony Bizys - love this shot! Don't you just wanna give her a hug?

I think it is possible that Ebony Bizys and I were separated at birth. Too many similarities to mention. A passion for design and visual gorgeous-ness in all its forms, an infectious love for all things Japanese, and an obsessive hoarding of reference images in categories such as 'type', 'layout', 'home decorating' and even... *shudder* - 'weddings'! (It's only 'cos I love flowers!)

Ebony also seems to have about 12 side-projects on the go at any given time - just like me! In addition to her day-job as Senior Designer for Vogue Living, she's also an exhibiting artist, and is currently completing her Masters in Fine Art at COFA. In the last few years she's also squeezed in the odd installation at Sydney's favourite florist - Grandiflora, a custom-designed Zaishu stool, trips to Japan (for work) and Beijing (for study), and more recently, Japanese language study at TAFE and her first solo exhibition entitled 'Kawaii Pop'! Phew!

Anyway, freaky co-incidences aside, I am so glad the lovely Ms Bizys agreed to an interview, because I have been so excited to learn a little more about her! Having worked her way up the ranks of Vogue Living in the last few years, we've all come to know her name... but there's so much more to learn!

Read on for a window into the frivolous, fun and super-kawaii world of Ebony Bizys!

ps) Also, if you're in Sydney next month, look out for Ebony's upcoming show 'Kawaii Pop 2' at the Ivan Dougherty Gallery in Paddington - details at the bottom of the post.

Ebony's gorgeous Kawaii Pop video, created for her solo exhibition last year

Tell me a little about your background - what did you study and what path led you to what you’re doing now?

I studied Fine Arts at COFA, UNSW and majored in Painting and Drawing. At the same time I began working on reception at Vogue. I would go to uni in the morning dressed as a – well let’s say ‘experimental’ art school style person and then transform into a corporate woman to work at the Vogue offices in the afternoon. Back then, I was working one or two afternoons a week and from there I moved into different departments within the company. Before I knew it, I had a full time job. I started on Vogue Living as Editorial Coordinator and just over a year ago, I moved into the role of Senior Designer. Currently I am finishing my Masters in Fine Art at COFA and studying Japanese language at TAFE.

Working as a designer for Vogue Living seems to be what many people would consider a ‘dream job’! Was it what you always wanted to do? Does it live up to the ‘dream job’ expectation?

Haha. Well yes, for me, it really is a dream job! Ever since I started working on Vogue Living I wanted to be in the Art department. Corny as it sounds, it has lived up to the ‘dream job’ expectation! It’s funny, when I was at high school and putting in my applications for uni, my parents encouraged me to put ‘design’ as my first choice, but I was adamant that I wanted to go to Art school, and now here I am doing Design. When I started at Vogue I couldn’t even scan!

a recent Vogue Living layout created by Ebony - love the Alice in Wonderland feel!

What is the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is being able to do what I love and be creative all day long. It’s a blessing to be surround by creative people. My Art Director is just wonderful and encourages me to be free and creative with my design and work outside the ‘template’. It’s such a fantastic mentorship, I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my graphic design career. In fact, the entire Vogue Living team are great people to work with and create a fun work environment.

More of Ebony's work for Vogue Living

I’m lucky to be working with a beautiful product and one that features inspirational and eclectic interiors. The artists, designers and creative people we feature in the magazine never cease to inspire me and it’s exciting to work with some of the world’s most talented photographers. One day I would love to do a job with Todd Selby and Tim Walker.

Vogue Living has a small team and therefore I have involvement in various production aspects outside my regular role. For example I was recently in Tokyo for Tokyo Design Week and produced a two-page report on the event. It was exciting to see those pages from start to finish, from producing, designing, writing and then colour correcting the page at the printers. It’s a really fun process.

Ebony's round-up of Tokyo Design week in the current Jan/Feb issue of Vogue Living (I actually posted the second page of this story recently here).

And the worst?

Hmmm the worst thing is probably the deadlines. Say no more!

You are also an exhibiting artist and manage to successfully juggle your work at Vogue Living with your own creative projects... how important is it for you to dedicate time to these independent art projects outside of your working life? Do you have trouble striking a balance between the two?

It’s really important for me to dedicate time to my own creative projects because it’s so energising and nourishing. I think I would go crazy if I couldn’t express myself creatively through my own art. You can express yourself as a designer of course, but there are certain rules and formulas to follow when doing a layout, so when I make my art, I enjoy being as free and offbeat as I like.

Yes, its very tricky striking a balance. Deep breaths help. Outsourcing works too! Haha! For my last solo show I had my boyfriend and my dad helping to cut out giant timber ice creams. Poor them! I work best if I set myself deadlines and make artwork for a specific show or installation.

Matsudo Sandwich Mountain, mixed media on paper, 30 x 20cm, 2008

How would you describe your artistic style?

Cute, quirky, fun, silly, sensitive, pretty, Japanese flavoured.

Still frames from Ebony's Kawaii Pop video of 2008

What are you most proud of professionally and/or creatively?

I was pleased with my first solo show ‘Kawaii Pop’. It was fantastic to get all of my work up in one space and see it come together.

Flyers for the 2008 Kawaii Pop show

In 2007 I was one of four postgraduate COFA students selected to travel to Beijing to give a presentation about my artwork at a drawing symposium held at the Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts. It’s always nice to think that they still remember me at COFA, even though I can’t spend much time on campus anymore.

I am also proud of my collaborations with florist Saskia Havekes of Sydney’s Grandiflora. My artwork was used on the cover and endpapers of their latest book, and I recently completed an installation in her Potts Point store.

Installation for Sydney’s Grandiflora florist, December 2007

Where do you find creative inspiration? (ie books, magazines, travel, the internet…)

Absolutely everywhere! Books, websites, magazines, people, stylists, friends, colours, flowers, tacky hologram patterns on cheap gift wrapping in 2 dollar stores, street signs in Tokyo, bento boxes, an odd looking garden gnome, a Campana brothers soft toy chair
Anything fun, unexpected and a little offbeat is inspiring to me.

Actually, it’s a bit embarrassing, but I’m kind of known for my extensive collection of ‘inspiration’ books. Just call me the ‘indie-pop’ Martha Stewart. I have one for almost everything. One for typography, one for layouts, one for home decorating ideas, one for weddings (one day), one for…well, you get the idea. People may tease away, but the truth is I cannot live without them and I refer to them almost everyday for ideas and inspiration.

Spreads from Ebony's inspiration scrapbooks

In addition to the scrap-booking madness, I am also a bit of a hoarder. I have piles and piles of ‘potential craft and collage’ materials including a metallic Easter egg wrapper, a piece of fluro-coral ribbon, a fifth-colour pantone chip and an envelope with a special font on gorgeous stock. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and at any time.

*Note from Lucy - OMG! - me too with the inspiration books! Except mine are ring binders with hundreds of clear plastic pockets in them... I can't throw a magazine in the recycling without slicing out every possible reference image first!

Which designers, artists or creative people do you look up to or are you in
spired by?

In my art making I am inspired by the new group of Japanese micropop artists in particular Hiroshi Sugito, Shintaro Miyake and Chinatsu Ban. Each time I travel to Tokyo I visit Tomio Koyama gallery to see their work. It is my dream to be Hiroshi Sugito’s artist’s assistant. I’m in love with Japanese fashion designer Tsumori Chisato who turns her own delicate illustrations into divine fabrics.

It’s inspiring to see the work of fellow COFA students. There is a girl working there at the moment who makes these super-cute paper cut-outs of owls and windowsills. So sweet! I have a big art crush on her! Cy Twombly, David Hockney and Yayoi Kusama are some old time favourites and I love art brut.

Design wise I am inspired by Art Directors such as Kazunari Hattori from Ryuko Tsushin and M/M (Paris). I also love the design of Korean Vogue Girl and Spanish AD.

Other creative types that I like to keep up to date with are my friend Shojo no Tomo, Designers ‘Pixelgarten’, The Narrows, Artists Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger, Japanese band Kiiiiiii (with seven i’s in case you were wondering) (They are so cool – the drummer, Reiko Tada is also a designer and an illustrator. This is the cutest video clip). I also really love Dutch stylist Frank Visser of IJM.

Ebony's layout for Vogue Living feature on the London apartment of Australian fashionista Pippa Holt in March/April 2008 (remember I posted some of these shots way back here? Love this apartment!)

I find it exciting to stay in touch with projects by all passionate creative professionals such as Anna Plunkett from ‘Romance was born’, the lovely Dinosaur Designs team who are gorgeous people that produce wonderful, eco-friendly products, and the Ortolan girls who are just too clever for words.

What are you looking forward to?

I can’t wait to teach myself video editing software such as ‘Final cut’ and ‘After effects’ so I can make more super cute animations from my drawings. After that I’ll learn ‘Pro tools’ so I can make the music to go with it.

I’m really looking forward to starting a new series of artworks based on Japanese ‘purikura’ sticker club booths. Another project I am really excited about is to create a Tokyo city scene made out of timber and board.

Shimokita, mixed media on paper, 25 x 23cm, 2008

Sydney Questions –

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?

Bento set C from recently opened organic Japanese café Wafu. Teriyaki salmon on brown rice, tuna sushi (complete with handmade ginger), ohitashi spinach and snow pea salad, Prawn katsu with homemade mayonnaise on western style salad. The owner is just divine and now speaks to me in mostly Japanese. I don’t have the heart to tell her that I don’t understand a lot of it! Gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, no refined sugar, organic Japanese. Yum!

Your favourite bookshop in Sydney?

Kinokuniya – I love flicking through the imported Japanese books. They have a great design and art section and a fantastic Asian literature section. Oh and cute stationery too – now who doesn’t love a good fluro coral ball-point pen? And when you are done you can pop outside and have some Miso ramen at Ichi-ban boshi.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Studying Japanese at TAFE in Ultimo or at the gym trying to work off that yummy ramen! [Sigh]

Sydney’s best kept secret?

Is it too cheeky to say my mums vintage shop? Mum is a milliner and has the cutest little hats and vintage clothing boutique called 'Sandie Bizys Hats’. It’s in Annandale. Please visit! I am forever ‘borrowing’ (okay, stealing) pretty 1950s dresses and lacy aprons. Like mother like daughter as they say!

Zaishu stool commissioned by David Clark, Editor, Vogue Living for SPACE Furniture 2004

Thanks so much for your time, and all the inspiring links and images Ebony!

Ebony's 'Kawaii Pop 2' exhibition will be a reprise her acclaimed 'Kawaii Pop' show of 2008, and forms part of her final assessment for her MFA. Do pop in if you get a chance!

18-21 February
Ivan Dougherty Gallery
Selwyn st, Paddington

Opening Wednesday 18th Feb
5.30pm - 7.30pm

Gallery opening hours
Mon-Sat 10.00am - 5.00pm
Closed Sundays and public holidays


  1. wow - entirely great. the installation at the top kind of reminds me in some ways of the work i have seen featured in various places of gerda steiner and jorg lenzlinger (at the ACCA now)
    this interview is a smorgasbord of inspiration and new bookmarks to pursue!

  2. Oh thankyou! Isn't Ebony's work incredible and so varied!? I love it.

    Did you see Ebony mentioned Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger as one her inspirations! :)

    Thanks so much for your lovely comment!

  3. whoops- i am sorry to reproduce! i must have been text-blinded by all of ebony's wonderful japanese inspirations and references:)

  4. no no don't be sorry - it is a very overwhelming amount of visual stimuli! Lots to get through!

    I thought the gerda steiner and jorg lenzlinger thing was a very astute observation given you hadn't seen Ebony's mention of them yet :)

    Thanks so much! x

  5. Wacky & fun, looks like something the wiggles would have in their lounge room!

  6. and you both love pop-up books!

  7. FAB and Inspiring interview!!!!
    Love Ebony!



  8. OH MY GOSH!!!
    i didnt know ebony did all this!!!!

  9. I'm loving Ebony's work! The interview is superb and her works are very very inspiring.

  10. Great interview! I would also add that Ebony is a super-nice person, I love her to bits! xxx