There is a story that renowned Australian Interior Stylist Shannon Fricke once shared with me about how close she came to missing out on having her very first book published. When I first heard it, the enormity of its message had a great impact on me. Its truth is very simple. The value of our intention, when we are driven by what we believe in with unwavering passion, has the capacity to overcome any setback, obstacle and transcend the views of those that are reluctant to share in our belief.
It’s a concept that Shannon is intimately acquainted with. Her initial book idea was rejected by every single publisher in the country and the blow of that rejection resulted in even further emotional distress when she was ditched by her book agent with the parting words: You are just too hard to market.
Then something happened. Within 24 hours of recovering from the debris of that shock and reconciling the fact that this idea would not be realised, she received an unexpected phone call from the one publisher in the country her agent hadn’t bothered to contact. The proposition? They believed interior design was going to be the next big thing to launch in publishing and would she be interested in arranging a meeting to discuss the idea of writing a book? That meeting led to a signed book deal, the invitation to write a follow-up and the success of those books being translated into half a dozen languages, including Spanish, Danish, Slovenian and Chinese.
Sometimes, it’s the blow of experiencing our deepest rejection that leads to the breakthrough of our greatest success. The depths of those all encompassing lows make room for our greatest truth to be realised.
Although interior decorating and styling has very much been at the centre of Shannon’s success, writing has always been the driving force anchoring, facilitating and cultivating the ideas that have led to that success. Her writing voice enhances and informs her styling voice, leading to a more authentic creative practice. I hope you enjoy our interview, inspired by the power of the Writing Practice:
You wouldn’t typically associate a stylist with being a writer, yet as a published author, you have managed to achieve both. What inspired you to write a book on the topic of decorating?
A long time ago, I had a mentor who asked me to describe what I did. What I associated myself with the most in terms of my working life. It was a tricky question because I wear many hats and this was an exercise in trying to pin down exactly whom I was to make it easier to market my business. My answer? I’m a writer. He was totally blown away by this response as on the face of it all, most things I do revolve around design. But. Deep down. I am a writer. It is my first creative port of call when I’m looking for a way to express myself. I find once the word reaches the page then the idea begins to crystalize and then take form. It is my way of manifesting what I desire into my reality. It all begins with the word.
There is the recurring theme of Story that runs through all your projects – whether it’s a bed linen range you’re launching, a decorating workshop you’re conducting or a photo shoot you’re preparing. Tell me how the concept of Story comes to shape and anchor how you approach these projects?
I believe in the power of our personal stories. How the layers of our life experiences ultimately weave together. Unravelling our story to understand ourselves better – where we’ve come from, why our lives have taken shape the way they have. To penning a new chapter and looking at how those stories unfold to add another layer to life. I find that staying close to story allows me to maintain a positive state of conscious awareness. I try to ensure that my life is lived in this state of being every day and that every experience has been invited into my life rather than me recklessly accepting what is being thrust upon me. I like to think I’m the engineer of my life experience. And a keen eye on story allows me to stay close to my plot line.
How has your writing practice come to compliment the work you do as a stylist?
I always begin with the word. Words are magical for me. I play with them, and try to learn new words and ways of expressing myself, every day. I find once I have a grasp of the language around what I am trying to express then the rest will fall in behind that. If a design project then that would include the colours. The textures. The experiences. If a new business then I begin with a written ethos of the business; a what am I doing and why. Then bringing it to life seems so much clearer.
The topic of Voice is one that fascinates me as I believe it informs everything about the way we approach our creativity. Does your writing Voice differ from your styling Voice?
Not really. They are both a reflection of the deepest parts of me and in alignment with each other. In all the creative work I do, I am always working in the genre of Magical Realism. The place where magic and whimsy are brought forth into the manifest world and become real. I play around in the space of the ‘other world’. The light and the dark. I am always looking to uncover a kind of truth in the work I do. The core of things. I play at emotional heartstrings as a way of trying to move people to feel. And sometimes to heal. I always walk my own path in terms of my approach and hope that it resonates with others. I feel very much that my work is a self-expression and I approach everything I do with this kind of honesty – my styling, the writing of my books, workshops, design etc. I believe that we all have a role to play in this tapestry of life – and I try to play to my role always.
What is the most rewarding aspect of the Writing process for you?
I can find the writing process quite difficult at times. I liken it a little to coughing up a fur ball! It can be icky at first but once it’s up you feel such incredible relief! My job as a writer is to catch the pearls and write them on the page before they get away! In other words, my role is to channel ideas that are coming through me rather than from me, if that makes sense. In this way, I try to always stay connected and open to the most ‘divine’ parts of myself to ensure that what I am expressing is as true as possible. I keep my ‘head’ out of the game as much as possible. Getting into this place can be tricky in our modern world. But when I do it’s absolute bliss. Sometimes, I’ll look back on what I have written years later and wonder where on earth the words and thoughts have come from. I say, they never really come from me. They come through me. That’s how creativity works.