We first came across the Shiny Rabbit duo Cynthia & Adam through Kelly of Oldlove in Subiaco, one of their stockists, who proudly pointed out their goods and pronounced that they were made by a couple of locals in Perth. Well, that kind of got us a little excited. Anyone who puts in the effort to make their own laser cut, resin jewellery and wooden clocks, with such detail and passion, receives big points in our book. We are a little awestruck by their ladies and gents jewellery, as well as their gorgeous range of homewares. We hope you’ve got a cup of tea at the ready as Cynthia & Adam tell us what it takes to own a successful, creative business in this town.
Who is behind Shiny Rabbit?
Adam & Cynthia – partners in love, life and creativity.
Summarise your career backgrounds, how Shiny Rabbit came about, and how you’ve come to where you are now:
Adam is a hybrid – tech head and creative force with a background in tertiary teaching, welding, fabrication, construction, engineering, boat building along with some pretty significant stints in the art scene and he’s also an active musician to boot!
I, Cynthia, have had a long history as an artist, hold a BA (Hons) and am currently undertaking a PhD in cultural theory with my thesis being on the subject of zombies – no kidding! I currently work as a sessional academic at Curtin University in Fine Art to support myself financially along with Shiny Rabbit. I have held jobs as a store dick (undercover loss prevention officer), a photo lab operator, a bioarts teacher and a forensic photography lecturer amongst some other unusual jobs like a stint at the Hellfire Club in Melbourne… but that’s another story!
Where is the Shiny Rabbit studio based, and can you describe the space?
We’re still based at our home in Wellard at this stage and that’s kind of the beauty of not having a shopfront or pro studio – our overheads are manageable. The down side is the chaos that comes from intermingling home time with work time and home spaces with work spaces. Our computer room is used as our design studio (most of our work starts its design journey using digital techniques), our garage for our workshop and a third room for assembly and storage, but we work best for assembly in our galley kitchen! We have a fantastically large kitchen bench top and nice lighting so it’s always enticing to work on that. It’s definitely a mixture of chaotic spaces. We are better at organising the business itself than the workspace aspect but we are hoping this year to expand into a warehouse which will better suit and organise our process – sure it’s an overhead but it feels like the right time to be doing it.
For those unfamiliar with your work, can you briefly run us through the products that you make?
We make a range of jewellery for both women and men, though the men’s range is relatively new. Most of our work has generally been quite unisex anyway but the definite blokes range is proving to work well for us! We also have a homewares range which is quite popular including clocks, coasters and jumbo fridge magnets.
Grenade cufflinks and SIGNS tie tack, are part of Shiny Rabbit’s men’s range.
We love your laser cut clocks and resin jewellery. Where do you find inspiration for your gorgeous and quirky pieces?
Thanks! We are having so much fun with them! We have an eclectic set of tastes and we often have ideas that come from merging conversations together. We also offer up ideas individually and decide as a team of two whether they suit the both of us, the brand and what we are trying to achieve style wise, though it’s still quite open to growth of course outside of our prescribed style. We are mainly inspired by some of the cultures we used to be involved in such as the Goth scene, or that we admire such as Tattoo culture, and sometimes we like to bring something complex to current trends in our fields. The record clocks, for instance, aren’t a new idea in terms of materials used but are very toxic to cut with a laser and usually manifest as a particular flavour in the market, so we add our little quirk to it with chimeric animals (because again we love hybrids) or army men who look the same but still fight each other, cut it in a much safer and eco-friendly way, and hopefully bring something new to that field methodologically as well as stylistically.
Those amazing CNC Router cut record clocks!
We tend to like most images that connect subcultures with mainstream culture and urban cultures. Our Squirrel clock which is made from wood and acrylic is something we thought about in the essence of our desire to bring interesting materials together. We like to work materials and visuals into new and exciting ground. We really get inspired by mixtures of things rather than singular things and we often carry this on by combining two ideas into one new product. We are quite the hybrid style bunch ourselves these days and enjoy finding ways to give others that experience too. Who needs to be tied down to one style?! We like to think of our stuff as offering an opportunity for someone to branch out into the edgy side of life without taking that big leap of style faith you usually need. We do disagree sometimes on ideas though but we are both open to trying things out with each other’s ideas and are usually delighted with the outcome.
A lot of your work involves laser cutting, and I understand that Shiny Rabbit also sells the equipment for those interested in dappling in laser cutting. How did you get involved in this?
The laser sales started after we purchased our first laser machine. Adam (being the tech guy) was approached by the company asking if he would consider being the Australian agent since they were making quite a few sales to the country. They wanted someone local who knew the product whom which they could liaise with and take care of sales and importing. After getting to know the ins and outs of the varied machines and software he decided to take on the role. He also continues to help out with beta testing of their software upgrades and is an active member of the help forums. We would have loved to have had someone to turn to locally when we first got our laser as it was a huge learning curve. Adam is proud of the fact that he can be a reliable human being for scared or frustrated new laser bunnies!
Shiny Rabbit’s delightful deer coasters.
Take us through a typical day of your work:
Cynthia: We get to bed quite late, especially when Adam’s not working the next day. He gets up early I stay in an extra hour but I am usually the one who gets to it first, starting by checking emails. We discuss what we’re going to do on the day and any Shiny Rabbit related stuff is usually handled quite organically – you have to go where your creative juices take you – if it’s gluing, I glue, if it’s designing – I design. That’s how I keep my enjoyment levels up. And, I like to work ahead of time so I have the luxury of choosing what I will do on that day. We tend to work in succession where I will develop visually, Adam may be cutting some of our standard range while images are being produced and will then join me for further development and discussion. After this, Adam tends to continue the development of the work from his end visually and we both work on developing towards final products. We can often work until late but we don’t notice the time passing – our stomachs tell us when it’s lunch or dinner time too. It’s chaotic but a little predictable which makes for a nice mix.
Adam: Cynthia is the design master and with the right software she can create anything from a blank page, which is usually how it starts. We throw ideas around a lot, sometimes agreeing on them sometimes not, but generally we’ll try and give them all a go. As it turns out it’s the ones you didn’t think would work that turn out the best. After Cynthia does her magic I’ll take the reins. Being the CAD guru and machine operator I usually clean up and prepare the images for vector cutting and engraving via CAD software. This can sometimes be a lengthy process depending on the complexity of the initial design. From there it’s onto the machines for processing. A lot of what we do requires some clean-up, painting, staining, sealing and assembly which is something we both take part in. We usually wind up the day with a little dinner then kick back on the couch watching some of our favourite TV shows.
Wall geese by Shiny Rabbit – best against a bright wall for contrast!
What music do you listen to whilst you work?
Cynthia: Grizzly Bear at the moment (Adam’s sick of hearing them!), Marconi Union, Dead Can Dance… an array of 80s stuff as long as it’s a bit darkwaveish.
Adam: I play in a couple of metal bands so any form of metal is a staple for me, but I do like listening to a variety of music. Anything from classical (no violins) through to Dubstep, you can keep your county music though. I often listen to the radio and the odd podcast here and there.
What are you currently working on?
Adam: We’re always expanding our current range but we are right now mostly working on the clocks and a new line of homewares. We’re also working with a new method put out there by the laser community which cuts wood in a way that it bends dramatically (bendy wood?) – we’re having a lot of fun with it! The new machines we have purchased have enabled new possibilities so we are just beginning to dive into that potential. Larger objects are one of the things we are excited about – small furniture etc. We’ve noticed there has been a trend towards homewares so we are currently focusing a little on developing new products in this area.
Cynthia: Yes, I think homewares are easier to validate as a purchase these days as they’re not as indulgent and solitary as jewellery – but here’s the trick – you can make homewares quite indulgent too when you buy them from local creators! I think it’s a nice way around feeling a bit guilty about buying something for you when it’s for your house and your family too.
The popular POW! coasters.
What has been your proudest achievement?
Adam: Having a regular stockist who consistently purchases and sells our items. Having a business do well enough that we can mark the expansion of our equipment – we recently upgraded to a larger and more powerful laser cutter (letting us also expand our creativity and of course our range). We were also able to purchase a CNC router which has opened some doors for us. Seeing your business do well enough to justify equipment upgrades is a pretty cool thing to experience!
What’s the best thing about running Shiny Rabbit?
Being able to justify creating stuff – meeting interesting people – stockists, customers and beyond. It’s still a huge buzz to see money coming in from such a fun pursuit and seeing people enjoy our products!
What’s in store for Shiny Rabbit in the future? A brick and mortar shop perhaps?
We’re not too sure about that – we had a store in another lifetime and it’s a whole other ball game. We are having so much fun stocking a couple of shops that we can’t see ourselves committing to a shopfront and taking on extra work at this stage, but you never know what’s waiting around the corner. Luck is all about being ready for opportunities, so we don’t close doors on possibilities but we are not actively seeking a dedicated shopfront at this stage.
We do have lofty goals this year in regards to expansion though and hope to be stocked nationwide in some key shops around the country along with snagging a chain store (isn’t that every makers dream?!). We have some trade fair attendances planned and some markets just to get out there but it’s hard these days to get the space you need at those when you are trying to expand! We do have some plans to have a more professional space to work in though which is where the warehouse comes in. We also want to have a presence in a number of mags and media this year. This year is all about growing a bit more for us and we believe that we will make it happen! Ultimately quitting our day jobs would be the ideal future for us.
Which local artists/musicians/creatives do you admire?
We like artists who work outside of the establishment in terms of style – ground breakers that aren’t maybe recognised straight away for their work. Musicians? The same! We like creative people who are too caught up in their passion to worry about fitting in, or ‘making it work’ but at the same time we like people who are also aware that they share the world and the creative energy!
Any advice for those trying to enter into the creative community in Perth?
I think it’s really important to take things slowly – don’t expect too much too soon. Work on finding your brand (that’s most important) and be brutal – if something’s not working in your range, give it a loving kiss but firm kick out the door. It can always form a part of your private collection! You need to find a balance between what you love stylistically and making a living. Be professional, work on your stall or representation presence and your marketing (display, marketing materials etc). This all takes time through trial and error so again, don’t be in a hurry, plan for 1-2 years of developing your creative mark! Best advice I ever got about being an artist and traveling which I apply to all aspects of my life now and particularly Shiny Rabbit – learn to love the chaos!
What do you love about Perth?
Cynthia: The creative pocket we have here – it’s self sufficient and not like anywhere else in Australia. Our lack of proximity to other states has given us a very unique creative and cultural flavour we should be very proud of.
Adam: The pace is not too full on in Perth and it’s not slow either. It’s quite laid back and the people are easy going – in general creative people are also willing to help each other out here more. Because we are so detached from the rest of the country we have a nice networking attitude here as well. I love the fact we have a lot of coastline and that we are a coastal city – we have great weather most of the year. We have a really beautiful city as well, and it’s clean!
What does Perth need?
Cynthia: More support for the arts. Arts WA does a great job but we traveled to the Netherlands a little while ago and the support for professional artists and local creators is overwhelming and it shows in their creative culture. This has a massive value to their overall value as a country – it’s so interwoven and accepted amongst mainstream culture that the Dutch wouldn’t dream of seeing creatives as anything but a huge asset to their nation. I would love to see Perth, heck, Australia (!) take more of that attitude and sink some much more serious funding into all manner of projects.
Adam: More diversity in retail stores. We have so many national chain stores here and so many local creative people but so few niche shops. I’d love to see the shopping diversity of Melbourne and Sydney find its way to Perth.
Most frequented coffee spot?
Both of us are either at home or out on Shiny Rabbit business and living in Wellard there aren’t many opportunities to find nice cafés that suit us. We’re not coffee drinkers but when we are out and about we can’t go past MILKD in Subiaco for some blood orange soda and macaroons! That’s one place always on our to do list – in fact we often visit OldLove for the company and MILKD at the same time for the macaroons…. it’s a dual love affair!
Best live music venue?
Adam plays in a couple of bands and live music is more of a job than a night out – generally we stay home and work on our creative pursuits rather than go out, but when we do we enjoy Devilles for their food, drinks and atmosphere.
Point Peron – for its solitude – not quite a beach but it’s stunning with its rock formations, shoreline and its proximity to Penguin and Seal Islands.
Rottnest or Margaret River?
Definitely Margaret River. We often go for day trips down there just for dinner at Settlers Tavern. If you’re ever down that way try the “plate of joy”, a vegetarian delight Cynthia still dreams about between trips! We enjoy each other’s company during the drive down and it’s an exercise in not feeling or being rushed to go or be anywhere in particular. We often stop off at places or divert on a whim to other towns to discover some small town secret places. Cynthia & Adam.