Artistic Sydney duo Raquel Cabballero and Emily Hunt started out in business together collecting and selling vintage wares at local markets. You may have marveled at their oddball tastes and incredible curating skills in Duke Magazine, the publication they launched in 2006 after meeting at Sydney College of the Arts.
Lately, the pair’s eclectic taste and mutual obsession with collecting, printed matter, and scouring op-shops, estate sales and bargain bins, has culminated in a new venture – Big Ego Books.
“We've worked in the bookshop biz going on 20 years combined,” says Hunt. “Big Ego was an idea we've had on the boil for at least the past two years.” After its debut at Sydney’s Volume 2015: Another Art Book Fair this year, Big Ego Books has just launched its online shop.
The collection is, as you would expect, well curated and utterly unique. It’s split into categories including erotica, Australiana, fashion, craft, architecture, interiors, counter-culture and, the intriguingly titled, “trust us”.
When asked to name one of their current favorite books, Caballero definitively states, “Namennayo Cats. Hands down!” This photo book depicts an early ’80s craze in Japan, where, as Cabbalero explains, “They dressed up cats in tiny human outfits and posed them in different scenarios in cat-sized dioramas. How did they do it? Were the cats taxidermied? Every page in this book is awesome.”
Hunt is excited about Designer Fashion Dolls by Beauregard Houston-Montgomery. The obsessive dollhouse collector, writer, photographer and “historian of dolls” writes stories that are part factual research, part personal narrative, and really quite bizarre. “He’s a very funny writer, too,” says Hunt.
The fact that obsessive creative output fascinates the duo is not surprising. Both are practicing artists. Their works display hours of labour and obsessive attention to detail. Hunt makes oozing ceramics, which were on display in the 2014 Sydney Primavera exhibition at the MCA. Caballero painstakingly sewed more than a dozen large-scale renditions of Robin Williams characters for a solo exhibition.
After all these years of collecting, is it hard to know what to sell and what to keep? The ladies say, actually, it’s not.
“My tastes have become so specific now,” says Caballero. “I have to be seriously obsessed with a book to buy it. There isn't any problem knowing what books to part with. When we go book hunting, we are looking for books specifically for our customers and if we find something for ourselves, well that's a nice bonus!”
These days, Hunt’s reading interests are primarily dictated by someone else. “I buy mainly kids’ books now,” she says. “I like to have a huge range to read to my daughter, because I get bored. I am not the kind of parent that would allow a fairy, princess or some other God-awful illustrated book into the house. Her collection is taking over mine!”