imageimageChristina Mclean of TRADE the MARK is a design powerhouse, a multidisciplinary artist making her signature and haute hand-painted marks in slow tradition, on both ceramics and textiles from her base in Sydney. Super cool is she, her high vibes and joie de vivre evident in her work. Rhythmic and celebratory. Art is life right? I particularly love her black and white works (because that’s my thang) but she has become well known amongst aficionados all over for her indigo textiles and ceramics. I’ve been wanting to style some of Chris’s super and tribal inspired pieces for months and finally got my hands on some. I wanted to show the versatility of black and white and did so three ways, predominantly with a “Hint of Pink” and then, “Memphis Masai” and “Gold is Love” as seen. Chris’s studio is super inspiring in itself, so thought I would add a few pics I’ve taken there over the last couple of visits too. Here, Chris talks textile gurus, how to keep at it on a bad day and her love for tribal decoration and adornment. Enjoy. X


Tell us a little about yourself?

I’m an obsessed mark maker, horder of textiles.
I’ve been pretty fortunate in my life, in that I’ve worked across a lot of disciplines. My creative journey began with ceramics and painting designs and pattern onto clay. From clay I moved to textiles, where I was able to develop prints for some of the best Australian Fashion brands. My latest incarnation TRADE the MARK builds on both of these earlier practices, I’m just trying to work in a more mindful way whilst playing with clay and hand painting onto textiles.

– Yoga, it’s the only exercise that I’ve ever kept up with in my life.
– Gardening and propagating plants, particularly Bromeliads.
– Walking my dog every morning at beautiful Sydney park.
– Dancing, lots of dancing!

I’ve heard great things about a shop you used to have here in Sydney. Can you tell us the story. Is retail something you would do again?

Chowk Ceramics was the brainchild of a fellow art school mate, Penny Evans and myself. We started small in a little studio in Darlinghurst straight after we graduated from SCA and this evolved over time until we found the premises at 111 Enmore rd, Enmore. The shopfront had two beautiful art deco curved windows that we used to fill with all our ceramic wares. Really you couldn’t have asked for a better space… we had the whole building, gallery space in the front, workshop and studio with kilns out the back. Our work evolved and developed because we had a gallery/shop space to showcase it and receive instant feedback from our customers. Ceramics wasn’t as popular in the 90’s as it is today, but we made a modest living out of it.
I don’t think I’d go into full-time retail again, pop-up shops possibly, yes. There’s a lot of commitment needed to keep a bricks and mortar store open and online is so prevalent now. Maybe a collaborative space with other like minded creatives could work..


What drives you every day? What drives you on a bad day?

I’m driven to make everyday and to continually grow my practice. On a bad day, my mantra is, never give up and I try to remind myself how lucky I am that I can do this.

We share a love of ethnic and tribal decoration and adornment. What country do you derive the most aesthetic pleasure from?

I have such a deep appreciation and love of craft and artisans who produce anything handmade. I seek this out when I travel, whether its dyers, weavers, potters, leather artisans or jewelers. This is what inspires me the most and it feeds the soul and my own practice.
I don’t think I could narrow it down to just one country; I was blown away by the weavers and embroideries in Oaxaca, Mexico. Travelling through Rajasthan in ’96 was where I first fell in love with Banjara textiles. I bought so many pieces and have continued collecting for the 20 years since. The wax resist Batik work from Indonesia has continued to floor me too.


If you were to set a table with your best wares, who’s coming to dinner? 

Oh I do this regularly, I love to cook and have intimate dinner parties. The best of my grandma’s napery goes on and a mix of ceramics, wood and cutlery is set. Friends and family are always at my table.

Who is your textile guru?

Gosh there’s so many, I’ve just recently come across the work of Rieko Koga, her abstract embroideries and installation works are beyond. I have such admiration for Sheila Hicks and her site specific textile installations. With a practice spanning over 50 years she has developed such a diverse body of work, I just love her.


You work solo in your studio. What are the pros and cons of working like this?

I can definitely be a hermit and just work, work, work. This can be isolating, so I need to check in and balance this out with seeing other makers and creatives. In saying that my studio is in a larger warehouse of creatives so I can stroll down and chat to others when I need to throw ideas or concerns around.

It’s your Sliding Doors moment…What would you be doing if it wasn’t TRADE the MARK?

Travelling full time, doing workshops in every port and connecting with makers and artists and collaborating on exciting projects.

What makes you happy?

I’m at my happiest when I’m making. When I’m working on something and flow is abundant.


TRADE the MARK mix ‘n match PIZZA. 

Raw pizza is super easy, especially if you buy the base up front. I was heavy handed with some delicious cashew cheese from Peace, Love and Vegetables. Then I liberally applied some beetroot carpaccio, POWER Super Foods dulse leaf, enoki mushrooms, dehydrated olives and a new favourite Moroccan Cumin kraut from vitalbiome. Done + yum.

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