It is often said, usually in hindsight, that a tough client makes for a great project. The same goes for a complex set of constraints, whether material, financial or urban. Limits and restrictions establish a framework within which creativity can truly shine, cleverly and with subtlety. Watching a harrowing project settle into its own is a beautiful thing indeed.
Jodie DUDDINGTON is not your typical interior designer and if anyone knows about complicated briefs, it would have to be she. Over the past few years, she has designed the interior of several super-yachts, including the Necker Belle (owned by Sir Richard Branson); Think small spaces, cabinets full of pumping equipment, flexing hulls and you begin to understand the level of complexity involved.
It is with a similar, although refocused, discipline that Jodie has established Loop Studio, the land-based counterpoint to luxury marine Duddington Design. In an ideological balancing act, Loop Studio aims to maximise what we already have by adopting a minimal waste approach to design to create safe and healthy living environments.
For our interview with ALOUD, we discussed her involvement within Hunter Sustainability Designers + Consultants, a collaborative of independent designers and consultants facilitated by Renew Newcastle, how constraints and creativity can work together to set up the foundations of a business and why she chose to call Newcastle home.
ALOUD: Hi Jodie, could you start by introducing yourself?
JODIE DUDDINGTON: I am a designer based in Newcastle. I run Duddington Design, a luxury marine interior design studio and Loop Studio, an interior architecture studio which focuses on the lifecycle of an interior and creating spaces that are safe and healthy.
In the marine industry, which benefits from very high-end budgets, I observed an extremely wasteful attitude to resources which didn’t sit easily with my own principles. Loop Studio positions itself as a counterpoint and while these businesses are at odds ideologically, they mutually sustain each other as well.
ALOUD: What is the difference between designing the interior of a super yacht compared to a house?
JODIE: When you go and work on a boat, you start to understand how it works, how the crew use it. A super-yacht is a hotel, a home, a workplace, a vehicle and it has to operate perfectly in all those realms.
Then, the budgets are very different as well. Every single element is custom-made and responds to a very precise set of constraints. In a boat, all the systems are very organically intertwined. You might have the pumping systems going through a cabinet so you have to literally stand on site and design it on the spot. Boat builders are very different to house builders. They are very passionate and need to be more creative with their approach. The challenge is often to create space where there is none.
ALOUD: You are originally from Fremantle, what brought you to Newcastle?
JODIE: When I finished my studies (Interior Architecture), I worked for a ship builder and spent some time working on yachts. Eventually, I was offered a job designing boats in Newcastle. The GFC struck and I found myself jobless in Newcastle. I could have left but after years of traveling, Newcastle was the first place that felt like home. It reminded me a lot of Fremantle but it also has this blank canvas feel to it, like it’s about to turn into something else.
I did a small business course (NEIS). It gave me funds and encouragement to first start Duddington Design and Loop Studio soon after.
ALOUD: Did you always want to work for yourself?
JODIE: It is in my nature to want to forge my own path. Working in a big company stifled me; I always thought I could do it better. Some days are a struggle but I love that sense of elation and pride when you have made something happen for yourself.
ALOUD: Although you work independently, you are also part of the Hunter Sustainability Designers + Consultants collective, one of the many initiatives facilitated by Renew Newcastle. Could you describe your experience with RN?
JODIE: It feels like being back in a creative studio. It is so refreshing to get away from my kitchen table and to feel legitimate. When working from home, I felt that I didn’t have either a work life or a home life; it all became a confusing mess.
The collective has become a great marketing opportunity for us all. It increases our visibility and outreach. It has also been an invaluable resource for sharing information. Transitioning from yacht design to building design, there was a lot I needed to relearn. On my own, I probably would have missed some very crucial points.
From a marketing point of view, the idea of finding so many different aspects of design (architecture, landscape, interior, ESD consultancy etc.) under one roof is very attractive. The collective is only just finding its feet but I look forward to our first attempts at working together.
ALOUD: How did you learn to run the business side of your practice? How do you find a balance between creativity and business?
JODIE: I learned not to be embarrassed to ask questions. It’s about creating a system that works for you and ‘designing’ your business. It might not be a perfect system but it will evolve over time.
Design, like business, is a mechanical process with limitations and restrictions. To feel creative, I need to do things where no one demands anything of me, like paint or write. I need that balance so I don’t resent my business for taking away my creativity. Just like you can’t expect a person to give you all the things you need in life, you can’t expect a business to give you everything either.
ALOUD: You have been in Newcastle longer than I have, how do you think this city is evolving?
JODIE: When I came here, I didn’t know it was an industrial steel city. All I could see were the musicians, the graffiti artists, the arts. People from Sydney only see the industrial side but it piqued all of my imagination senses. Before the America’s Cup came to Fremantle, it was a very similar place. It was inhabited by poor starving artists and had a drinking problem but it was a beautiful part of the world. The America’s Cup poured a lot of money into the city and it’s now a very expensive and desirable place to live. What I like about Newcastle is that through all its changes, it fights really hard to maintain its identity. There always seems to be a battle about something. Money will come and things will evolve because where the artists are is where the culture is but when it gets to that point, Newcastle will staunchly stay Newcastle. I’m glad it fights for itself.
ALOUD: What about you? What you are doing is challenging, as a woman and as an outsider. What do you tell yourself to keep going?
JODIE: Just be fearless. To be taken seriously as a woman in the building industry can be a struggle but you have to fight for who you are. That’s what I try to do.
If you are an artist or designer and have found ways to turn your passion into your livelihood, I would love to hear from you and help you get the word out there. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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- Maria LE MAZOU – Interior Architect – VIEUX-MOULIN, France (interviewsaloud.com)
- ALOUD interviews STUART McBRATNEY – Filmmaker, Musician – NEWCASTLE, Australia. (interviewsaloud.com)