Although Tess Guinery isn’t technically a local, she has spent the last 6 months living in the Mother City. We’d like to think this makes her at least a little bit Capetonian, if only for a small while. Tess owns and her runs her own design studio, which specializes in graphic design, photography, content creation, painting, styling and various other realms of creativity. She is also the mama to 3-year-old Peaches Wilde and as some of you may know, balancing motherhood and a career is no joke. Tess shares with us some insights into her world.
Image: Anke Loots
1) When and how did you discover that design was your passion:
I was four months fresh to motherhood, romantically in love with my new bundle of baby love, an awkward fumble, hop and skip in the dark, a lot of passion, a lot of trial & error and a whole lot of guessing. I didn’t want to go back to 9-5, the motherhood loving struck me deep and creativity was calling my name. This forced me to find another way.
With a advanced diploma in design, a passion for creativity and a few years of industry experience, I dived into a not-so-smooth sail into the freelance world with an awkward thud that sounded much like the unknown. But I’m glad I didn’t give the idea of giving up too much thought. What felt like a swim against the tides has lead me to these days, the days I know I’ll look back at and call the “good old days.”
What is it that I actually do? What is this passion that makes my heart flutter? Basically – I create. My certified piece of paper tells me I’m a graphic designer but I find myself doing all things creative for my day job: writing, styling, art direction, painting, type & logo design, branding, photography, poetry, communicating, creative teaching and travel. It’s actually a dream. One thing I firmly believe is that there will never be a perfect time where everything aligns, where the stars write a message in the sky and where your world is a perfect oasis ready to take the #freelancefall. My freelance fall came at the craziest time in my life!
2) From the outside it looks like you’re nailing being a working mom. Having said that, are there any parts of this journey you feel insecure about or things that you feel you’re still trying to work out?
This interview comes at a very interesting time in my life. Let me start by saying that curated and pretty photos doesn’t mean I’ve “got it all together.” There is an immense and intense juggle behind it all. I’d love to say being a working mum is all lollipops, creativity, sipping on peppermint tea and listening to tunes whilst tinkering away and creating, but at times it’s quite the opposite. I am currently living in Cape Town for a 6-month season whilst my Husband is working as a stuntman on a Hollywood feature film. I came along for the ride with our 3 year old “wild and busy” daughter, Peaches Wilde. Optimistic, perfectionist, hustler-me thought I could come here, transition smoothly, enjoy the country, meet new friends, be present, stay in touch with friends and family back home whilst working and keeping all the plates spinning (simple, I thought?), yet the transition has taken some significant time.
My priority has been settling in personally to a new and very different culture and most importantly, making sure our daughter Peaches is settled. I think I underestimated how big a transition like moving to another country would be. I am having the time of my life and I’m definitely not wishing this adventure away, but I have definitely had to take an intentional step back from the creative capacity I was working with back at home in Australia. It’s been a challenge and through it, I have come to see some old and new creepy crawly insecurities that I didn’t realise were there. Transition does that – It’s the great revealer. Having said that, I’m thankful – because although confronting insecurities can be hard and ugly, it’s also an opportunity to grow as a human. My current mind battle is finding worth in just “being” as opposed to “doing,” because wow-oh-wow I’m a “do-er,” and when the doing comes to a rest, all that is left is beige old me in all my plainness. I’m learning to be ok with that. We can’t always be glitter!
I suppose right now I feel like I am “un-making” my life so I can “re-make” it, and this excites me. I LOVE healthy change that is spurred from realising that the way you were once doing something can no longer carry you to where you are headed next. Maybe it worked in the past, but your ways of functioning become void and force you to cull, change and grow. My most recent cull was turning off social media (which feels like a bit of a business risk). It can be overwhelming how many platforms people can contact you on – Instagram / Facebook / text / Whatsapp / email, etc. I have closed all streams besides email and text and I’m still blogging for my own creative outlet without deadlines attached. It’s bringing some peace and allowing me to be present. My business will likely slow down naturally from these decisions, which in this time is needed, but once again I’m learning to be receptive to what each season of life is asking of me. I’m calling this season “slow the heck down!” and I’m loving it.
3) If you had to choose one nugget of advice for a woman juggling motherhood and her career, what would it be?
“Know your season.”
Ask yourself just this… “What is my now?”
There is no point hustling for your creative dreams if your intuition (that still, small voice) is telling you that now is a time to rest. There’s also no point in resting if momentum is circling you like the beautiful hurricane it is.
This question is so important to me and my creative seasons in running my design studio. I need to be asking myself this question season upon season in order to be productive, fruitful and live out what I’m called to live. It’s easy to miss your season if you don’t make time to listen to the winds of change. It takes a quietened heart to hear it’s motion.
4) What rituals do you keep in place to stay motivated and focused?
I’ve found that creating a tranquil space around me makes for more muse-ifying design results and maximises my creative output. I try to make a point of having tangible, colourful and lively elements around me when I’m working. I believe that in the creative process there is a good kind of “distraction,” such as to have great magazines close by, fresh cups of water, rocks, plants and music. Taking 10 to distract yourself creatively will pay off and set you on your merry track to achieving a wonderful end result. I make creating an experience. I also make sure I see the ocean every day. I start my day at 6am, grab a coffee from my local and then hang out at the beach for some chill time. I then clock in at 10:30am and begin a full day of design. You gotta know what works for you and create yourself a little bit of fluid structure. Write lists, stay on top of your emails and keep the flow. This is a big one for me, as being in the backlog of a zillion emails is my downward spiral into the dark pit of disorganisation and despair. When my emails aren’t tended to, everything else around me slowly follows and before I know it, I’m sitting in a uninspiring, virtual and cyber mess! Everything is linked. Stay on top of the things that matter.
Image: Anke Loots
5) As a mom to a little girl, what qualities and values do you hope to instil and teach her to prepare her for womanhood in today’s world?
Empathy is a BIG one – Being in touch with not only her own inner thought life, but the awareness of being able to put herself in someone else’s shoes and feel their feels. Also: confidence, self worth, dignity and above all a sincere love for God. I’d hope she would allow herself to be beautifully “her” and own it with inner peace and exuberant love. One thing we encourage a lot in our little family is communication. I think being able to be honest and open in the family unit is key in life, and key to growing into a confident person.
6) When do you feel the best version of yourself?
When stress is not present. I don’t like the stressed version of myself. I find I go to that place too often because I always bite off more then I can chew. So, part of my current life change is eliminating stress. If there is any stress, I don’t want to go there. I’m learning to live within my capacity and learning that it’s ok to say no, even if it means disappointing people. I like the care-free and creative version of myself best.
7) Any South African #femalestofollow you could recommend to our customers?
When I first landed in Cape Town, I put out an “Aloha” on social media asking locals to suggest some great places to visit. A few people mentioned that I check out “Gather Kindly” in Woodstock. I jumped in an uber with my little 3 year old adventurer and we made our way to Woodstock. We were dropped in front of an inconspicuous art gallery. A secret passage way lead us to a beautiful courtyard where “Gather Kindly” was curiously nestled.
Upon arrival I was stoked to meet the owner Filippa Harrington. She shared with me her beautiful vision and served me up “THE BEST MEAL” I’ve had since arriving in Cape Town. It was here that I also learnt about the severity of Cape Town’s current water crisis. The Gather food ethos is rooted in environmental sustainability and in sourcing produce from Cape Town’s peri-urban organic farmers, working with surplus or would-be-waste crop wherever possible. The space as a whole follows zero-waste policies and encourages the community to engage, for example, by bringing in one’s own takeaway containers in exchange for a discount on their purchase.
I was so inspired by her vision and the space she is facilitating for the consciously minded.
This movement and woman behind it is definitely someone to follow.