About The Artist with Kylie Caldwell

First Nations artist and Bundjalung Woman, Kylie Caldwell is a renowned multidisciplinary artist, most notably for her weaving, fibre art and painting. Caldwell’s works explore contemporary and traditional Bundjalung culture and themes. She is dedicated to sustaining and promoting First Nations arts and culture through her artistic innovation. The artwork featured in this collaboration, ‘A Beautiful Chaos’, is inspired by Caldwell’s culture and Bundjalung Country. It explores the emergence of old and new patterns, and the discovery of beauty within life’s chaos. Caldwell works as Indigenous Arts Officer at Arts Northern Rivers and hopes to use her experience from this collaboration to assist and guide other First Nations artists venturing into textile design and fashion. A new textile pilot program is currently being developed offering a series of workshops and an individualised textile project with three Aboriginal artists.

1. Can you describe how the collaboration with Spell came together? 

The collaboration between Spell and myself was beyond what I expected. From the initial meeting, to working over a two-year period, the Spell team were open, respectful and valued my input. I felt blessed that they allowed me to have input into the design of the capsule range that fitted my taste as well as staying true to Spell style. Each piece is so versatile, and I hope the collection offerings will appeal to a diverse group including younger and older generations, as well as casual to evening wear. I’m very practical in nature and love clothing that can be worn both in the day or evening. In essence, the process was a true collaboration, where input and preferences took much consideration and time to deliberate to create this beautiful eclectic collection. 


2. We at Spell have learned so much working with you, what have you learned as part of the collaboration process?

Working with Spell gave me insights to the design process of a collection including sourcing options for production and types of fabrics, as well as looking at different colourways of my print. Fabric types and colours can totally change the silhouette and design of the garment - creating with a variety of fabrics enhanced the flow and movement of the final garments. Being involved in the design process has grown my understanding of the many considerations in creating a commercial range that meets desires of the customer, including the importance of knowing your customer base and how to balance their expectations with bringing in a new direction for the brand. 


3. When painting ‘A Beautiful Chaos’ did you ever imagine what it could become? 

When I painted the original print, A Beautiful Chaos, I never imagined it would one day become part of a capsule collection with a brand as large as Spell. It’s a dream come true for me to see my artwork on garments that I helped design. Even now, the enormity of the opportunity I’ve been given is still to be processed. The artwork was painted with me thinking about how life is never a straight path - as much you plan and dream, things can so easily change. It was an experimental piece where I allowed my creative energy to flow through paint. I really love painting with watercolour and the fluidity of it. The artwork is a piece that allowed me to accept life, the trials and tribulations of it all. I am truly grateful for Spell and especially Mel, the talent spotter, for seeing the potential in my art and giving me the chance to be part of Spell’s first ever collaboration with a First Nations Artist. If it wasn’t for Ashley, my number one supporter, I would not have been introduced to Spell. I am so grateful and blessed to be part of this opportunity. 


4. Tell us about your love of textiles and fashion. 

Ever since I was a young girl I had a love of fashion, my dream was to become a fashion designer. Life happened and child-rearing diverted my course, but my interest and love of textiles and fashion design never changed. When my daughter was born I would make her clothes and then my nieces, nephews and sometimes family and friends requests, but the demands of a mortgage and security required that I find stability in work. Through my work in education I had the opportunity to work with @casinowakeuptimeto reignite that passion by putting on several fashion shows at Casino High School with young, amazing Goori students. The making period was always hectic, creating a self-induced sweatshop in my shed while I sewed custom-sized outfits for each student. These experiences have given me so much in life, seeing the joy and confidence of young Aboriginal girls after a fashion show, to share that with their families and being able to learn weaving, an age-old ancestral textile practice of Bundjalung people. 


5. Describe (if it’s true) how working on a fashion collaboration could help with your work at Arts Northern Rivers.

The Spell fashion collaboration has helped in many ways my work as an Indigenous Arts Officer with Arts Northern Rivers. I now have first-hand experience that I can assist and guide other artist venturing into textile design and fashion. Last year I was successful in my application for a grant from the Australia Council to support a pilot program with three Goori Artist to transition into textiles and fashion through a series of professional development series. I look forward to working with Spell in the future to develop a burgeoning textile and fashion industry that embraces Aboriginal designs and artwork at regional level that still allows artists to maintains autonomy of their stories and designs. We have an amazing kaleidoscope of Aboriginal Artists, Creative Group and Cultural Practitioners within Bundjalung Country.

Alongside Kylie and on the recommendation of our First Nations consultants, we made the decision to create an open sourced blueprint of our Spell x Kylie Caldwell collaboration, for free usage by anyone in regards to artist collaborations. After announcing the collaboration we had many friends who owned their own brands and businesses approach us about how it all worked. We are really proud of not only the outcome of this collaboration, but the journey of learnings during our two year process of working with Kylie and many generous First Nations experts and consultants. Simultaneously, this journey went hand in hand with the beginning “Reflect” stage of Spell's RAP (Reconciliation Action Plan) journey. We hope you gain some useful insight from our blueprint and tips and knowledge that we learned in the process of this collaboration. View our Open Sourced Blueprint.