Hi everyone, my name is Chantelle Kramer and I graduated in 2010 from Interior Architecture with Hons 1 in 2010 and have since cultivated a portfolio that focuses in high-end residential work in Sydney. Post-graduation, I had no previous design-professional experience and opted to treat university as a vacuum, sealing myself in to this world dedicated to research as leisure. I enjoyed approaching my degree from that perspective, at times a tumultuous and emotional endeavour fraught with worry about no ‘intern’ experience but it allowed me the time to focus during uni and post-graduation to reflect on the type of firm I wanted to approach and typology of work I wanted to develop.
My first experience in practice was working for Genevieve Lilley Architects, a former Associate of David Chipperfield Architects. Genevieve is the Creative Director of a combined practice, producing high-end artisan jewellery; Venerari and Architecture. As a student, I had worked for a progressive-artisan jewellery gallery and so I approached Genevieve based on our shared interest in architecture and jewellery. I spent 2 years working with Genevieve and a small team of architects (and jewellers) which provided me with my own projects and responsibility. Having the opportunity early on to work out the broad strokes of architectural practice within an intimate office enabled me to gain a comprehensive and thorough understanding of all the relationships inherent to practice: the relationships between clients, design process, local authorities, builders and consultants, design on site. Working in a small practice, I also developed a solid foundation of design principles, through quality, timely conversations with senior architects transferring and sharing their knowledge and experience with me.
After two years of practice, I wanted some time to re-calibrate from a singular work environment. So I managed my time between contracting for Redgen Mathieson architects and tutoring Design Studio at UNSW. Working for Redgen Mathieson, a prestigious, rigour driven studio, I learnt to detail and develop projects at a Micro scale. RMs palette is exquisite and timeless. I cannot emphasise enough the power of working for a practice that is driven by the quality of materials and craftsmanship and is dedicated to material detailing. After Redgen Mathieson Architects, I moved to Renato D’Ettorre Architects, another boutique studio focused on producing thoughtful, historically inspired architectural moments in a rigorously contemporary way. The body of work I was fortunate to be involved in with Renato was some of the most enlightened architecture gestures of my career. Renato really focuses his practice on crystallising the moments of the unconscienced moment, to provide an architectural threshold that frames and provides for the stray moments in our day to become poetic.
During this two-year period of balancing both design practice and an academic studio, I thrived in the multiplicity. So it seemed a natural idea to accept more work, in the form of an opportunity with Aesop. In place of one full-time job, I now had 3, whereby several interesting things occurred from my decision to rejuvenate and diversify my career pool. I increased my network of professionals, I engaged with design in 3 very diverse platforms and I learnt about the way in which I like to work and what I want from my career and work environment. I learnt that I thrive in community driven contexts grounded by a cultivation of unique individual talent, experience and ideas. I desired to be a part of an identity that thrived on the ideology of the work it produced and promulgated. I wanted to be a part of a dynamic that strived towards a bigger picture.
My time at Aesop, I want to high-light as after spending a healthy amount of time being employed, I was interviewed by the Aesop architectural team to be an Aesop designer for their stores, based in the Hong-Kong office. This opportunity was created by my seeking out the CEO of brand management and expressing my desire and enthusiasm to work for Aesop as a designer. I empathised with their company ethos and the design-driven nature of the company. This conversation is still on-going and perhaps one day will manifest in a working relationship.
I now work for a firm I long-aspired to work for, Smart Design Studio, and it is like finding the culmination of all the aspects I enjoyed from separate jobs. I still maintain my connection with UNSW as an Associate Lecturer which is incredibly rewarding. I am so fortunate to have found two environments where I can equally learn and share my experience.
In reflecting on my 5 years since Graduation, I can say I curated my portfolio and work experience, which was not always easy – in fact it is stressful and requires you to be both patient and persistent for an opportunity you desire. I have inadvertently worked for companies driven by a progressive Sole Creative Director, which in reflection is not something I strived for from the outset, but it certainly has had its benefits. To learn from one craftsman and learn their trade, you have clarity and a deft understanding of how to achieve a rigorous outcome. There is no cloudy or unresolved mess, but curated and crafted design.
As a result of these multiple work experiences, I was able to have a clear understanding of where I wanted to be career wise. I have learnt that it is really important to nurture your skills by defying the expectant singular and sequential work pattern that can often ensue post- graduation. It requires being open to people, opportunity and understanding and respecting your career needs as much as your employers.
My advice to students and graduate students is design your career and take control over your skills and desires. That plan needs to be thought about during your tertiary years (in all subjects, especially technical and theoretical) so that you have a strong, interesting portfolio of work that exudes your ideas and skills. Upon leaving, it is your only lifeline to demonstrate to someone your enthusiasm and perspective on design. During your early working years post-grad, I recommend seeking out conversations and pitching yourself to people you admire and whose body of work you feel a synthesis with. I loved the journey so far and the things you learn from diversity. I love that all knowledge is incremental, one studio practices builds on another and all experience is circular, it all meets eventually.
Be brave, be willing, be invested, be humble and seek out experiences that are challenging and where you have to put yourself on the line as it pays the most rewards and remember opportunity is created only by you.
Photographs: Redgen Mathieson, Renato D’Ettorre Architects, Smart Design Studio