Inspiring creative envy with Kelvin Soh and Joanna Alpe

Fancy making your creative self jealous? Here are two artists making waves in the world of all things imagination, creativity and design. Eat yo' heart out.

Fancy making your creative self jealous? Here are two artists making waves in the world of all things imagination, creativity and design. Eat yo' heart out.

Kelvin Soh, designer/artist,

Kelvin SohMy first job was ... Not really a job, but I used to make bootleg screenprinted T-shirts in high school using only paper-cut stencils.

And now the title on my business card is ... Blank.

Which really means ...That while I’ve worked as a designer for a long time, I do a lot of different things nowadays. But I still write ‘designer’ on my airport departure cards. Once I wrote ‘artist’ and then had to explain what conceptual art was. So I stopped doing that.

My day starts with ... Reading football news on the Guardian online.

And ends with ... Reading a book or magazine.

And in between, I ... work at my studio, DDMMYY, doing creative direction and design duties for my clients (Stolen Rum, Triumph & Disaster, and others); work on projects with artists for my new publishing label; and hopefully have enough time for my own personal artistic research.

My first artistic memory is ... Drawing Mr. Men characters with felt tip pens as a three- year-old.

If I weren’t doing this, I’d ... Be lecturing and/ or teaching.

I'm inspired by ... Surprising, idiosyncratic, thoughtful and/or unique points of view.

I can’t live without ... My books.

My work in three words is ... (Often) thoughtful. (Sometimes) funny. (Hopefully) surprising.

Joanna Alpe, creative mind, We Love Inc

Joanna AlpeMy first job was ... After school and at weekends I worked at a now-bulldozed Palmers Garden Centre in Lynfield, Auckland. It was right by a sweet skate bowl, which was clearly a drawcard. The people I worked with were also really interesting, like well-drawn characters from a Wes Anderson film.

Working there had a cinematic quirk about it. I got really good at advising people on how to grow ‘tomatoes’ indoors as they would never really tell you what they were actually growing in a room with no windows.

Working there was also my first brush with a micro-recession, in a way – Palmers went into receivership while I was on the payroll, so I got a rubber-hits-the-road view of a business in financial overhaul at a fairly young age.

And now the title on my business card is... Well, I don’t have one. When people ask me what I do, I talk about the projects we’ve just finished at We Love Inc. I guess the common thread of my contribution is imagination, creative direction and ideas. So if I have to – like on the landing card at immigration – I’d say creative director.

Which really means... I tell everyone where to put stuff. I’m pretty sure I won the ‘most likely to try and boss everyone around’ award at primary school.

Most of my time is spent ... At the moment I’m splitting my time between Auckland and Hackney, East London, going back and forth depending on the work and client engagement. They are both totally rad places to be.

We have a studio base in both places. I love them both, immensely. They share common values – good New Zealand coffee, a high appreciation of design and its value to business and communication, a desire to do things better and more sustainably. But there are definite differences too.

Obviously London is more establishment ... It’s a leading voice in global issues, a global leader in design. There are better mechanisms and a ‘well-trodden track’ for promoting and integrating art and design thinking into the life of the city over here. Auckland is far more emerging, exciting ... shaking off a gawky adolescence and really growing into itself
and its identity. The mini-me Sydney thing is wearing off and a quiet determination to be a global player is steadily growing. I love seeing how that has progressed each time I return. That dynamic coupled with global financial uncertainty and you start to realise all bets are off. It’s gonna be anyone’s game very soon.

My day starts with... Depends where I am. London – bike ride down the canal to grab a chai at La Bouche on Broadway Market with a side of email checking. New Zealand – ginger latte at Mr Morning on K Rd while drafting a super-sized to-do list.

And ends with ... Both places, high fives (hopefully).

And in between, I ... Hmmm ... sell ideas, thinking and things we have made to people.

My first artistic memory is ... Doing a handwritten typographic layout with paragraph spacing and indented bullets in my Form 1 written language book and liking it. What a nerd.

If I weren't doing this, I'd ... Be gracing a Ken Burns-style iMovie photo montage at my funeral.

I'm inspired by... People who unapologetically take New Zealand thinking and vision to the world. Think Peter Jackson. It actually is possible.

I can’t live without ... Friends. No-one is an island.

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).