Radical Yes meets Santiago Sunbird
Last year, we ran a competition to seek out the hidden talents behind our wonderful customer base. We received amazing entries from around the country, showcasing creative skills and studio environments big and small. We were blown away by all our wonder woman out there but were struck by one entry in particular.
The colourful, feminine style of Santiago Sunbird is a perfectly balanced collaboration between Melbourne sisters Bree and Sarah Hankinson. A talented fashion illustrator, with works featured in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Elle, Sarah’s fluid watercolour scenes are harnessed by Bree’s graphic design know-how. Bree shapes her sister's illustrations into functional pieces of art in the form of stationery, wedding invitations and textiles.
In addition to collaborating on Santiago Sunbird, the siblings are co-founders of The Windsor Workshop - a working hub for creative freelancers and an event space hosting art, craft and design workshops.
We chat to our winning duo about how they manage their roles as sisters and business partners and find out more about their creative processes and inspirations.
Bree and Sarah, have you always worked creatively together? Describe an early memory of collaborating on something artistic.
Bree: My earliest memory is a choreographed dance sequence to Madonna’s song Hanky Panky. I would use my foot to prod Sarah into the correct position for the dance. I was pretty bossy back then, and it seems like not much has changed …
We started working together professionally about five years ago when Santiago Sunbird was born. It was never a planned thing and happened quite organically. We collaborated on a job together - a wedding stationery suite that Sarah had been commissioned to illustrate. I’m a Graphic Designer so my skills helped with the layout. It was obvious then that our skill set was complementary to each other, and so far, so good! We have never looked back!
How do you juggle your roles as sisters and business partners? Is it an easy balance or does it require different hats?
Bree: Our role as business partners is enhanced by us being sisters - we have the ability to laugh at ourselves (often!) and this can diffuse any tricky situation that may arise!
Sarah: We are very close and complement each other in almost everything we do. Despite working together, we still manage to see each other socially a few times a week!
Describe the design process behind the Santiago Sunbird watercolour prints. How does each bespoke commission come together?
Sarah: Bree project manages each job, meets and greets clients and gathers a brief, which are usually their ideas and themes for the wedding. I then create a few illustration options using watercolour, which gets used within the design for the final piece. We have loads of fun creating beautiful and romantic pieces and love it when we get an unusual brief – like a tropical or harvest theme.
Sarah, your background is in fashion illustration, was it a logical step to create the Santiago Sunbird 100% silk scarves, and will there be any other textiles to follow?
Sarah: Our Mum is a bridal dressmaker, so we have an innate love of exquisite textiles and fabrics, and this is definitely a direction we would like to head in. Our ultimate dream would be to create materials for an Australian fashion designer.
Bree: We’ve been invited to take part in the West Elm Local program, which will involve a Santiago Sunbird Pop-Up later this year. You’ll find a brand new range of Santiago Sunbird textiles there – mostly tableware, like napkins and tablecloths. We can’t flippin’ wait!
Apart from Santiago Sunbird, you're also co-founders of The Windsor Workshop. How did this project come about? Have you always had a passion for community projects?
Bree: After “shared housing” in other studios for some years, Sarah was ready to create a space that ticked all personal and professional boxes and was a little to closer to home. At the time, everything was mostly city based or north side, so we wanted to create a beautiful space on the south side of Melbourne – a place where like-minded professionals could gather, and people who were in creative industries could work and support each other.
Leading on from this personal need, we created a co-working space in the architecturally designed ex-Paterson Cakes building (the building turns 100 this year!). We started with around ten desks and in no time at all, we had a brilliant collective of creative minds.
Last year we expanded and began facilitating artist run workshops and events. Our aim is to seek out, promote and nurture local Melbourne artists. These workshops are something we've always been interested in and is basically a career dream come true.
How do you select events and curate the programme at Windsor Workshop?
Sarah: We’re looking for traditional art and craft techniques that translate into a contemporary design or template. We want to use artists that are succeeding in their area of design, but also support the up and comers too.
As much as possible we want our attendees to walk away with an almost finished product, and if it’s not finished, then, at least, the materials and tools to complete the works and to continue with a new skill at home.
What are some workshops coming up that you're particularly excited about? How can Radical Yes fans find out more?
Bree: We’re thrilled to be hosting creative duo Kelly Thompson and Andrew Archer in their workshop From Play to Pay. This workshop is about how to turn your creative hobby into a profitable business.
Along with our other business partner Belinda Galloway, we all have a keen interest in the non-profit sector. We’re running a series called Colour for a Cause on the last Thursday of every month. These workshops will be a mindful colouring in session, using commissioned artworks from local Illustrators. The best bit is that we donate a portion of each ticket to the artist’s chosen charity. Plus there’s a grazing table and a glass or two of bubbly! A unique Melbourne experience.