Above all else, freelancers have the ability to sniff out wi-fi hotspots. They move (laptop in tow) from cafe to library, hotel lobby to McDonalds franchise. Email required? Sign them up. Password free? Goldmine.
Print designer-turned-entrepreneur Cara Gibson is enjoying this nomadic lifestyle and its constant change of scenery. The location of our interview is a wi-fi-enabled cafe; Gibson arrives early and sees to her emails. The newbie freelancer (New Zealand-born and Bondi-based) says she often runs into her web developer at the beach. The new, no-rules schedule allows for a daily dip.
After almost five years working full time as a digital-print designer, Gibson decided to embark on her own project. In late 2014 she quit her job as senior graphic fashion designer at Seafolly – before that she’d been generating print textiles across 13 brands at Bendon and Pleasure State Lingerie – and headed to Europe to think. Printlandia was the result of that temporary soul searching. It’s only formally existed for two months, but the small-business venture presents impressively thus far: an easy-to-navigate website offering highly technical services, from print design to production. She runs it with the help of freelancers, mainly illustrators and photographers.
Printlandia offers clients an exclusive print library, or the opportunity to create a bespoke print from scratch. The real meat of the work, which Gibson relishes, is repurposing a design to rigid measurements, allowing for seams and tucks and fabric shrinkage. “You develop a specialised process for a variety of different fabrics and printing techniques, which needs to be constantly updated and revised,” says Gibson. “Once you’re inside a Printlandia collection [on the site] you see each print has its own unique story and concept. I once designed a full collection surrounding the mythology behind underworld caves in South America … I was fascinated with [photographer Sally Gall’s] images and intrigued by her theories of the pull of the darkness and the power of space and light.” Printlandia has also redesigned an existing lion motif for Palindrome, custom placing it across lingerie and silky robes.
The rates to licence a Printlandia design start at $750. As Gibson explains, it’s good value. You’re purchasing the rights to a unique artwork that, once the transaction is complete, is never sold again. It’s yours to print over this season’s dresses or hats or dining tables, rework in new colours, splash across marketing material and maybe dig up in a decade, adding it to a new collection. Whether it’s a melting Shibori stripe or intense, hallucinogenic scribbles of glaciers and mountains, it belongs to you alone.
Gibson is focused, sweet and talks very quickly. So much so that she forgets to drink her coffee. Her family, still based in the tiny town of Clyde in Central Otago, New Zealand, is proud of the new venture and eager to assist. Her mother has been picking and pressing wildflowers – butter-yellow petals, clusters of deep red, growing shrub-like or close to the ground – then emailing her the scans. Hand-plucked flowers wouldn't be out of place in Gibson’s collection; the origins of her design motifs are far flung. You can see her casing the joint for atypical textures and curious architectural features.
“I am very visually switched on to textures and designs,” says Gibson. “Not only when I step out the door, but sometimes even when showering in my art deco bathroom! It has the most intricate Mexican-style tiling and flooring … I always have a camera on me. Most recently, on a trip to London, I ended up wandering the Royal Botanical Gardens for the day. The historical Palm House there is magic, that led to some really great prints.”