If you haven’t seen her work around the streets, then you probably don’t live, or haven’t been to Melbourne in the past year or two– or, you don’t pay attention to all the blogs and websites that track down her work when it goes up. She’s been quite prolific in recent times, and her work always has a tranquil, at ease, naturalistic feel to it. This is the kind of street art that makes you stop walking, and take a few moments in appreciation of its presence.
Urban Cake Lady is as down to earth as her images. With work pasted up all over, and having partaken in several shows and events in the past year, such as the Irene arts festival, Sweet Streets, as well, this coming Sunday, the first Melbourne Tiger Translate show, there doesn’t seem to be any stopping her – and, really, who would want to?
Invurt was really happy to get a bit of her time this week, and to finally find out a bit more about this highly expressive, creative lady …
There’s a bit of an air of mystery about you and your work – can you tell us a little about your background, and why it is that you started putting work out into the street?
I moved to Melbourne from NZ about three years ago. The plan, like a lot of kiwis have, was to save for about six months and then go travelling. Well – that didn’t work out, and after a year or so I felt like I hadn’t done anything really creative, and I really missed it. I’m not really sure where the idea of doing street art came from, exactly, probably just from living and breathing in the Melbourne culture. My hometown is fairly small and quiet, so there’s nothing like the laneways of Melbourne there.
When I moved into my current home, my housemate instantly said she’d be keen for some late night missions as well – having a buddy to go with initially was a huge help.
Your work is colourful, vibrant and instantly eye catching – can you fill us in on the processes and methods that you use when you are putting your work together?
It usually goes from a photo, to a sketch, to an acrylic painting – then it gets pasted. The smaller pieces can take me about eight to ten hours, and the larger ones anywhere between fifteen to twenty hours.
I actually work full time during the week, so I paint into the nights and weekends. I’m usually pretty wrecked at work, but I’ve pretty much got the painting routine down … take photos and sketch it up in a night, paint the stripes the next night, use the weekend to paint the rest and then start or finish a second painting – then paste!
The following night I usually crash out early – and then I just start again …
In the past year, your work has really progressed from your earlier experimentations and you seem to have hit a stride – one of your recent characters is now instantly recognisable – zebra tights, red hoodie, head down, crossed legs – does this character have a specific story, or do you prefer to leave that up to the viewer?
Her character really resonated with me from the first one I made of her, it’s been something I can relate to, and something I’ve put a lot of love into. I’ve been actively making goals, and trying to challenge myself, so i can keep improving – and I’ve been loving every second of it.
They’re self portraits in way, but only in the sense that, physically, it was me under there for the photo – but I see her more as a character that I create and explore, not just sticking up paintings of myself all over the place.
She doesn’t have my face underneath the hood, so people can fill in those unknown details themselves.
Many of your works also often involves an organic or naturalistic nature as well – tendrils, vines, and flowing hair – animals themselves also play a very prominent part – what is it about these natural elements that you feel adds something special to your work?
I’ve always loved natural, flowing, whimsical kind of things, so I guess it’s a real part of who I am. To me, they evoke feelings of calmness, and a bit of nostalgia … and I like to think that I can stick up a quiet little moment, that’ll maybe make someone zone out from whatever might be going on around them.
How do the (il)legalities of this kind of stuff affect the work that you put up – have you so far managed to avoid any run ins with authorities, or complications of that nature?
I’ve been caught a couple of times, but have never had to do a runner.
I think the police were more amused than anything, and I hate to say it, but being a polite girl probably worked in my favour. I’m not risking as much as others are if I’m caught with just paper and paste, but I’m still fairly cautious, and I try not to draw attention to myself.
The time that freaked me out the most, though, was when some guy in Fitzroy yelled at me from his apartment “Piss off! We don’t want your art here!” – I guess it could’ve been a lot worse. I can laugh about it now, but I’d only gone out a couple of times by myself at that point, and it did get me pretty jittery. After a while, you do desensitize to these things sometimes, so it’s good to keep from getting over confident.
You also have a good use of positioning with your work – how do you go about finding an appropriate placement for your pieces, and do you believe that location plays a key part in the effectiveness of them?
I usually try to avoid using brick walls because of the red on red – so that cuts out quite a lot. I often keep my eyes open for other coloured walls, and go for little scouting missions to look for new spots. Otherwise, it just ends up being a pretty long night biking around and looking for somewhere – I prefer to have a place in mind, and be focussed on that.
Where would you like to take your work to, are there any larger plans for it, or are you happy with where it is taking you at the moment? I see Tiger translate in the cards – what other shows or events or just random adventures are coming up for you in the future?
I’m still spinning out about being in Tiger Translate, I’m not sure how I got to be a part of it! Adnate is a legend. My nerves are working over time, but I’m really looking forward to it. Having such an amazing line up of artists involved is a really good incentive to make sure that I end up with paste-ups I feel area going to be worthy of being alongside these other artists – all of whose work I follow and admire. I feel very appreciative to a lot of people who have been positive and embracing about what I’ve been doing.
As for the future … I might be getting some prints for sale soon so that’s pretty exciting. I’ve been saying no to a lot of lovely people who’ve asked for commissioned work – it didn’t feel right to do it just to make a buck, but I was recently approached by someone I really admire, and it felt like a natural, and comfortable, way of moving into potentially selling some work – so fingers crossed that that works out.
Apart from all that, I’m saving at the moment so I can take a pile of paste-ups overseas and do a bit of a mission around – I’d like to be able to do that next year some time, but for now, Melbourne has my heart ♥
Check out Urban Cake Ladys blog – theres a lot more awesome art on there. Also, check out the Tiger Translate site, where she’ll be doing some work this Sunday alongside a bunch of other incredibly talented people.