This featured interview is with our Business Showcase designer + New Zealand artist Rosie Thompson A.K.A Rosie Squish. A one of a kind creative she is inspired by all things Kawaii and pastel, she creates adorable custom accessories and homewares on her Etsy shop here. During this interview we sit down to chat about how her creations came about, what inspires her and the realities of being a creator in little old New Zealand.
Rosie is pictured at home in West Auckland. She lives near the sea with her partner and three children. These photographs were taken in her workspace and around her home which she decorated herself true to her own style. She shares her musings and regular creations through her Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/rosesquish
Interview with Rosie Squish
1. How would you define your style?
Mermaid everything! ‘Mermafied’ I suppose, but there’s not really one genre to describe it. There’s a bit of pinup, pastel goth, random punk happening, a whole lot of things that I smush together. There’s just not a lot of people over here in NZ that have a similar style, that’s why I connect a lot more with people in America and other places, they feel the vibes.
2. When did your style start?
I think ever since I was a kid I had my own thing going on, and as I got older I would mix it up. I would wear my long hair with a shell necklace and crochet shoes at one point. I basically did what I liked, no rules applied. I remember after I left school and I felt I was different from everyone, so I made an effort to track down other similar minded people. That’s when I met Amy, (Amy Trouble) and we became best friends pretty much instantly. There weren’t many others like us then. Back in those days it was such a mission. Now you can go on Etsy or Ebay, type in Kawaii or Pastel Goth and there’s a whole lot of stuff. I used to go to Glassons and get white clothing, then dye it different colours because [that look] was so obscure. I was really into Japanese styles, Harajuku and Kawaii stuff.
"That’s why I started making my own pieces because they just weren’t available."
My style basically just evolved from little bits and pieces. You could also say I was predisposed to it! My grandmother was really into Betty Boop, vintage, the 50’s and she wore leopard print outfits with pink or purple hair. She didn’t give a f*** about anything, and I am like that. I suppose genetically, it’s kind of in me to be like that. I don’t care, I wear what I want and I do what I want.
[So how did Rosie Squish happen?]
Rosie Squish kind of happened about 6 years ago when I wanted one of those big pastel bones. I couldn’t find anything anywhere! My friend’s husband did mould making and knew about resin and the process. He helped me a lot in the beginning and pointed me in the direction of some great contacts. He made my original bone moulds and taught me so much about the process. I started experimenting and using different resins, but there was a lot of trial and error. In the end I made one of the bones, and people thought it was really cool so I just decided to do it for myself rather than a specific reason. Then some of my friends suggested I do [the event] Craft Bomb, and after the first time I did it it just went bang! I pretty much sold everything. Then I just continued and other opportunities came up. Etsy eventually came up because I wanted to move the product overseas more. I think part of the reason people responded quite well is because I am my brand. Quite a few of the designers I liked all used their names so that people would associate the brand with a human as opposed to an object. I deliberately did that [Calling my brand Rosie Squish] so that people would identify it with me. I use specifically those colours because they are cute, and I want people to feel that way when they put it on.
"I want to draw stuff out of people, like you can be whatever the f*** you want. That’s what I try and do with my work."
3. Who or what influenced your work in the beginning?
I grew up without television, so I played with 'Polly Pockets' and 'Teenie Weenies'. I never had 'My Little Ponies' or anything like that though. Which might be why I live through my children (laughs) But I used to watch all of that 'Hanna-Barbera' stuff, all of those really cool 80’s and 90’s shows. Even Disney stuff. I have quite a photographic memory and I get quite obsessed with things! I look back and toys from our childhood were so cool, I have kept so much of that stuff. The aesthetic feels are a big influence in my stuff.
4. What is the biggest difference between when you were starting Rosie Squish and now?
I think my process has changed and now it’s about finding better and more efficient ways of getting it all done. I supposed I don’t put myself out there as much as I used to because I have kids now, and I don’t like my stuff to be accessible all the time. People will just get bored. I’m constantly changing what I am doing, trying to find new things. Even my mermaids are up-cycled reproduction pieces. I am experimenting more, like with the pins and patches that have taken it up a level. The pins are actually made overseas, because no-one makes that stuff here. I have to off-shore outsource those pieces. If someone could do it here, or I could do it here I would. I do want my stuff to be all New Zealand made but just can’t with some of it.
[So the issue I’m hearing from you is about a lot of your stuff is actually getting it completed and available because of where we live?]
Yeah, in America you can walk into Walmart and you’ve got resin and pigments and everything you need. You can’t do that here. Mitre 10 might have some stuff but just to track it down is a mission, so I have to outsource quite a lot of the materials I need.
[So as an artist you’d say that’s your biggest challenge?]
Yep. A lot of my stuff and all the pearls I get from Etsy. I make it all here, but people don’t understand that side of things. They don’t understand how much I put into what I make and how much love and time goes into it. I have people come up to me and tell me how easily they think they can replicate my work!
5. Who have you worked with that you’ve learned a lot from?
Amy Trouble, and my friends Sharodactyl and Shannan Meow are big influences. Here in new Zealand Amy is closest to me, and offshore would be Shannan. We just have the same aesthetic. But we have always had this hard out connection and when we get together we talk about heaps of stuff.
"It’s about having someone that gets you."
Amy is really independent and she has her shit down, we used to live together and she was always painting and always drawing and stuff. Her creativeness encourages mine. We’re such best friends. We’re working on a project about that girl gang aspect that's pretty cool. We do lots of stuff together and it works. It’s the same with Shannon, her stuff is amazing - she's the bubble goth version of me, but we encounter similar experiences.
[So having these connections has been really important for you, that sounding board to discuss problems or things you’re going through?]
Yeah, and just being inspired. You definitely bounce of each other. That’s why we need to come together so we can push each other forward.
6. How has your style changed and why?
I’ll be something, such as my rockabilly or pinup stage and take bits and pieces from each thing and put my s*** together. All of a sudden something new will be there and it’s cool. It’s evolved rather than changed. I’ve brought lots of pieces from those different times with me. It depends how I feel. Sometimes I’m inspired by mermaids, other days it’s Morticia Adams or pinup style.
7. What is your goal as an artist?
Always to be me. To portray myself through the things I make. When I walk down the street I don’t feel different than anyone else. People look at me differently but I don’t give a f***. I wouldn’t be me if I couldn’t express myself through what I wear, what I make, how I paint my house, what kind of bed I sleep in, what kind of car I have. I always have to 'Rosie-fy' everything I do. I’m transparent and I don't want to be something that I’m not.
[You’re an artist, and you’re living out your art then?]
Yeah, that’s right. I know some people and you can see they are on the verge of being themselves but not completely. I want to inspire others to be brave.
[So what would you say to other girls who aspire to a similar style as you?]
If it’s you, if you put that stuff on and you feel amazing then own that s***. It gets easier. But I’ve been like this for so long, that I think it would be harder when you get older. You have to brave. Mostly I don’t get a negative response from people, but sometimes I do and I don’t let it bother me. You just gotta have good comebacks!
8. What was one of your favourite things you’ve created?
Probably the mermaids and the seahorses because I can change them the most. I get super bored with repeating things. That’s why I don’t make stuff all the time and it takes away the fun part of it.
9. What would you say your proudest moment along your journey would be?
I just think there’s a lot of moments like when I’ve completed pieces and people are really happy with them, or people post photos of my pieces. I can’t pinpoint one time but it was probably when I did a mermaid shoot with Miss-T Pinups, that was one of my favourite times because it had all of my pieces and me in it. It was just me displayed in a photograph. That was in 2012 and it was really cool. I’d love to do more stuff like that.
10. What would you say your biggest failure has been that you’ve learned from?
I think probably when I had my Etsy shop open and my husband and I split up. I just wasn’t able to keep on top of stuff. That wasn’t a good time, but I got everything out though. I haven’t had many negative things happen, but I am not that good at the business side of things. That’s why I like to do things like conventions. Then I can make all my stuff for those and people can just come and get them. I don’t have to do so much of the other side of things. It’s too stressful.
11. Do you ever get stuck creatively?
I have a thing, my thing is that I walk around my house and look over my work. Sometimes for me it’s often having something to work towards. If I don’t I can have a big creative block. So for me it’s just always working on a project.
12. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’m open to people’s thoughts but again, there’s not a lot of others that do what I do. Though I have had people take my stuff and do it themselves, either by making moulds from it and this happened overseas recently. People that know me and my stuff, know that I’d rather have fewer loyal fans as opposed to countless fans who are just consumers. At the end of the day there’s always gonna be things that are similar but you can tell when it’s come from within, or if it’s come from an external source and you’re just making it with your hands.
13. What would you say your biggest strength is?
My strength is just being myself and putting myself into every piece that I make. I’m comfortable with who I am and what I like.
14. What do you do when you’re not creating?
I do boxing, and that channels my aggressive side, but I always need an outlet whether it’s writing or creating. I am always busy and have stuff going on. I do makeup, I make coffee and I have three kids. I love my kids but I need an escape. I need a place that I can channel all my stuff.
We’re not allowed to talk about that as parents, we’re not allowed to say that in New Zealand. That actually - sometimes I struggle being mum, that I need this.
I think we can lose our identity when we have kids, and this is me not losing myself. If I didn’t have this and my stuff then I wouldn’t be me. Being a mum is forever, and it’s rewarding and draining, it sucks and it rules. It can be hard with three kids, so I want to look good for myself and I want to feel good for myself. If it takes me putting on ridiculous makeup and pastel clothing and making pastel accessories then that is what it is.
15. What do you want your legacy to be, how do you want to be remembered?
My brother actually died recently just over a year ago and he left a big legacy behind, through the military and other things that he has done. I suppose not in the same way as him because we are completely different but when I pass away I just want people to take bits from my life and not be afraid. My legacy would be to be yourself, to not be afraid, not to care what other people say. If you like something, if you love something, then do it. I think since my brother has died my perspective has changed completely and things like love, know no bounds. Love is one of the most amazing and most cruel things in life. I suppose in all areas of my life I feel you have one shot to be true. I’m going to do everything that I can to live life and live it well. You have one shot and then it’s over. I’m gonna f** up along the way. But I want people to think of me and think “She did everything she wanted to do, and she tried to do it well. She was herself and she wasn't afraid.” That’s what I want to leave behind, and while I’m alive.
"I want to create my own wonderland, and a place where people are free."
Photographer. Creator. Dreamer ♥