4.8 What Do You Actually Do? Q&A with Emily Baker by Ilsa Melchiori

I've got a range of diverse and interesting people coming up on the What Do You Actually Do series answering a few nosey questions about their work within creative fields. Over time I'll be sneaking in more and more 'not often asked' questions including those about the all shameful, yet all necessary, money. But that's later.

Up today we have teacher and documentary film maker Emily Baker talking about how she splits her time between teaching children in custody and working on Mariposa St Flims upcoming project I Am No Bird.

Describe what you do in 5 words or less.

E: Make docs and teach kids.

Now expand...

E: I direct documentaries, so that's half of what I do. I'm currently directing my second feature, working title I Am No Bird, which follows 4 women from around the world through their wedding ceremonies. And then the other half of what I do is work in the Vocational Education team at Parkville College, a school serving students in custody. I love both my jobs.

Movie still from I AM NO BIRD 

Movie still from I AM NO BIRD 

What has your career journey been like?

E: Really fortunate, and continually supported by other people. I started out as a journalism under-grad who felt pretty unenthused about mainstream media. I wrote to some guys who made a short film I really loved, and they told me to come to the States and work on their feature, Beasts of the Southern Wild. That was an incredible opportunity, which led to me working on other great films and documentaries. That, in turn, gave me the confidence to do my own documentary, SPOKE, for which I rode my bicycle across the United States. When I got home to Australia, I worked in VFX on a bunch of big Hollywood things, before deciding I'd like to teach. I'd volunteered to teach Saturday school for a few years, and it was something I really loved.

Best part of your job?

E: The best part of making documentaries is having a vehicle to step into someone else's life and see something you otherwise never would. On this film, that's included experiences like seeing traditional Naga dancers in North-East India and visiting a Pentecostal Church in Dandenong. Both are experiences I wouldn't have had without film. The best part of teaching is seeing a kid's confidence grow. It's a great feeling to take a kid from thinking they'll never understand a concept, to getting it and feeling great about themselves. It's the best.

Worst/hardest part of your job? E: The most boring part of filmmaking is trying to get funding. I'm pretty impatient so for my last project I just used Kickstarter funding rather than grant bodies. I just wanted to make it, I didn't want to wait. But I'm taking a different, slightly more professional approach with this one! The hardest part of being a teacher is wanting to protect your students from harm.

Movie still from I AM NO BIRD 

Movie still from I AM NO BIRD 

What does your typical work day look like?

E: It really varies a lot! When I was in production, I was basically just following these generous, patient women around and filming their everyday lives. Now I'm in post [production] I spend a lot of time in the studio, huddled in front of a computer with a cup of tea.

What percent of your time is spent on work that pays the bills vs your own creative projects?

E: About 50/50. I'm very lucky.

Movie still from I AM NO BIRD 

Movie still from I AM NO BIRD 

What are yourfavourite apps to use for work?

E: I don't really use any apps for work? Sorry, not cool enough.

What is it like working for yourself?

E: I don't really consider it 'working for myself' because while I do earn a little money from SPOKE, it's nowhere near enough to cover costs. All that comes from my day job, and I have bosses there. I used to do more freelance film stuff, but I found it didn't leave much time or energy for my own work. So I don't work for myself, I definitely have a boss (hey Dan)! But I'm really fortunate to work somewhere that's been flexible and happy to accommodate me.

What is your current work playlist?

E: Haha. WELL. At the moment on Spotify I'm digging of Montreal, LION BABE, Coda Conduct, and some old Turkish stuff by Nilufer that's getting me inspired for my film. Also that one DJ Khaled song with the Biebs that's everywhere right now.

Movie still from I AM NO BIRD

Movie still from I AM NO BIRD

Best career advice/tips you could give someone?

E: I don't really feel qualified to be giving advice to anyone, but I would say to ask for help and be grateful when you receive it. People are only as good as the help they are given, I don't believe in the 'self-made-man' concept overly.

Can you tell us about your next project?

E: My current project, I Am No Bird, follows 4 women from around the world in the lead-up to, and on the day of their weddings. We shot in Australia, India, Turkey, and Mexico, on a BlackMagic as well as Super8. Currently, we're in post-production and seeking finishing funding, so if you have too much money give us a ring.



What's your next step/move? Any future dreams/goals?

E: To finish this film and let everybody meet the four intelligent, strong, and diverse women it features. Also to get a cronut.

I Am No Bird is currently seeking funding to finish the project. If you are interested please head over to the website to get in touch with the team and find out more.

21.7 What Do You Actually Do? Q&A with Cassie Smith by Ilsa Melchiori


It's that time again! time to pry into the life of a freelance creative and find out what it's really like. This time we have Melbourne based Stylist and Graphic Designer Cassie Smith. This is one very talented young lady, who I've had the privilege to work with before, and who I also call my friend.

To see more of Cassie's beautiful work and find out how to get in contact with her, check out her website:

No onto the prying, I mean questions...

I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Cassie smith stylist 3
I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Cassie smith stylist 3

Describe what you do in 5 words or less.

C: Make things look pretty.

Now expand...

C: Well I have two jobs - I’m an interior/prop stylist & an event stylist for a company called Lettuce & Co.

Essentially as a freelance interior/prop stylist, I get approached by clients who want their products styled for photoshoots whether it be for catalogues, online, social media etc. Most people only picture a stylist working on the set of a shoot but there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes first. It will start with a brief from the client and usually a follow-up meeting where we talk about the nitty gritty - budgets, look and feel, props, colours, lighting etc. Then in most cases, I’ll go out sourcing props for the shoot (yes I get paid to shop for a living and yes it’s as good as it sounds) before you know it the shoot roles around and it’s usually a blur of craziness but always comes together at the end of the day.

Event styling has a lot of similarities to prop styling which is why a lot of stylists have spent time in their careers dabbling in both. Event styling works the same as a photoshoot but there’s much, much more work in the lead up to the event or wedding as there is a photoshoot. We’ll get the brief from the client, find out their budget, the venue they’ve chosen and the overall theme and colour palette they want. Months are then spent sourcing products, briefing in florists, hiring furniture, designing stationary, liaising with the venue and other suppliers... I could go on forever...

I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Cassie smith stylist 1
I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Cassie smith stylist 1

What has your career journey been like?

C: Super challenging and super rewarding. It wasn’t until half way through my Graphic Design degree that I realised I wanted to get into styling so I had a few long, tough years between then and now getting to where I currently am. It was one thing to develop all the relevant skills for styling without studying or working under someone else (I put this down to stubbornness) but getting consistent work is a whole new ball game. I’ve only been styling for 4ish years now so looking back at what I’ve accomplished and the clients I’ve worked for in such a short time at such a young age is a massive pat on the back moment.

I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Cassie smith stylist Officeworks
I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Cassie smith stylist Officeworks

Best part of your job?

C: Every day is different and the final product makes everything worth it. Seeing your work in a magazine or standing back after you’ve spent 5 hours bumping in a wedding or event on top of the 6 months of planning prior feels pretty great.

Worst/hardest part of your job?

C: The stresses that come with freelancing are absolutely horrific.

I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Cassie smith stylist Mark tuckey x cotton on
I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Cassie smith stylist Mark tuckey x cotton on

What does your typical work day look like?

C: I don’t think I’ve ever had a typical work day in my life. There are that many activities/jobs I could be doing at any given time but I’ll give you a sample of a few. Prop sourcing, meetings, mood boarding, on set shooting, driving around all over Melbourne looking for the perfect prop, emails, invoices, setting up an event. Basically, there’s lots of driving and lots of time in front of a computer.

What are your favourite apps to use for work?

C: I guess Instagram although there’s usually 2 other editing apps, VSCO and Snapseed, that I use to edit before I upload to Instagram. A lot of people think the pictures I post are professionally shot by a photographer but I’ve actually just got really damn good at making my iPhone photos look legit. I know how cliche this is but it really is all about faking it till you make it.

I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Cassie smith stylist 2
I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Cassie smith stylist 2

What is it like working for yourself?

C: Really really really hard. Nothing can prepare you for freelancing. Literally, everything is on you - meeting deadlines, replying to emails, sending invoices, chasing up overdue invoices, liaising with clients, producing consistently good work the client is happy with, spending days on end on the road prop sourcing, holding onto a million receipts so you can get reimbursed. I know a lot of this sounds like small trivial stuff but when you’re juggling multiple projects and trying to do all the smaller things that come with running your own business it can get overwhelming. You have to be extremely self-motivated and self-disciplined which I find to be impossible 100% of the time. In saying that, I don’t think I’d have it any other way - I love being my own boss. I don’t think I could go to the same desk day in and day out and sit in front of a computer all day. I love that each day and each job is so different. What’s that quote.. ‘Variety is the spice of life’.

I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Cassie smith stylist food
I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Cassie smith stylist food

What is your current work playlist?

C: Just some cute upbeat boppy songs... in no particular order: Best Coast, Frank Ocean, No Doubt, Little Dragon, Passion Pit, Metronomy, Santigold, Tegan and Sara etc.

I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Cassie smith stylist The little moon
I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Cassie smith stylist The little moon

Best career advice/tips you could give someone?

C: Work hard and be nice.

Can you tell us about your next project?

C: I’m about to design the interior for a new Health & Wellbeing studio! It’s still very early stages, especially considering the build is running about 4 months behind schedule (typical) but I have a feeling this is going to be a good one!

I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Cassie smith stylist OFFICE WORKS
I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Cassie smith stylist OFFICE WORKS

What's your next step/move? Any future dreams/goals?

C: Where to begin!? Short term is definitely to work with some new clients and find time to collaborate with some photographers on folio work. Medium term is to move to New York (or Copenhagen or Paris) and spend a few years there. Long term dream jobs are set design for a Wes Anderson film (a girl can dream) and I’d loveeee to design a boutique concept hotel like Ace or QT.

4.3 Just a Moment of Truth by Ilsa Melchiori


I will never be the perfectly put together fashionista.  The immaculate beauty guru.  I will always have a stain somewhere on my clothes, I will never have perfect makeup and my hair will rarely be 'done'. There will probably always be at least one dirty dish in my sink. Most importantly, I'm not going to hide this.  I like it when things are just a little bit 'off'.

I am working on juggling everything in life right now.  I choose to do this blog and I will keep choosing it.  Just give me a moment to re-balance my spinning plates.

Share your new endeavours in the comments below.


26.2 What Do You Actually Do? Q&A with Jess Lafrankie by Ilsa Melchiori


Ever wonder about the lives of self-employed creatives? How do actually make money? What does their work day look like? This new Q&A series will start asking creatives just that, what do you actually do?

First up we have Melbourne photographer Jess Lafrankie. To check out more of her stunning images head to her website:

Describe what you do in 5 words or less.

J: Fashion and commercial photographer

Now expand…

J: I’m a freelance photographer based in Melbourne who shoots for fashion brands. My style produces crisp, clean and colourful images that maintain a feminine aura.

What has your career journey been like?

J: I discovered photography when I was 15 and was put in the wrong class in high school. I started shooting paid work when I was 16 and from there relocated from a beach town to pursue this kind of career further. It’s been my sole focus ever since.

Best part of your job?

J: Having the chance to enjoy what I’m doing every day. I wake up excited to get to work and my favourite day of the week is Monday.

Worst/hardest part of your job?

J: Never clocking off. I didn’t realise I hadn’t taken a day off in 5 years and it started to affect my health. Putting my health above my career has been a struggle.

What does your typical work day look like?

J: As a photographer I don’t have a typical work day, which is probably the best part of all. I’ll either be shooting all day or in my office retouching and planning. Before this starts to become too much like a routine I’m generally on a plane for a work holiday.

What are you favourite apps to use for work?

J: Wunderlist - I’ve got my shooting gear list stored in here so I can literally just tick what I’ll need and what I have saves me heaps of time.

Ubereats -  I’m not even kidding. Having the piece of mind that if I’m exhausted from shooting or I’m too busy with deadlines I can just order some food is a life saver.

What is it like working for yourself?

J: It’s the best kind of job in the world. It’s important that you can self manage, self motivate and be proactive.

What is your current work playlist?

J: I’ve made a playlist on Spotify with all the songs that have the word WORK in the title or are about working. I’ll play this if I need a boost. I’ll play Ben Howard for good retouching vibes though.

Best career advice/tips you could give someone?

J: Read Timothy Ferris’s books.

Can you tell us about your next project?

J: It’s inspired by paintings. It’s going to be epic, my favourite to date.

What's your next step/move? Any future dreams/goals?

J: Become even more portable with my work life and get back to Europe!

17.2 Friday Favourites: 6 of my Favourite TV Throw Backs by Ilsa Melchiori


The other day, in a solid effort to procrastinate from what I really had to do I found myself re-watching an old favourite TV program, Gilmore Girls. This got me thinking about other great TV throw backs. Below is my top 6 (in no particular order)


1.  Gilmore Girls


2.  Sex and the City


3.  Bones


4.  Charmed


5.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer


6.  Friends

(all images via imdb)

The best thing is that all these shows run for at least 6 seasons each. SO MUCH procrastination material!

What are some of your favourite throw back TV shows?

13.2 Design: A Look into my Design Practice by Ilsa Melchiori


This is the start of  a new series of design posts I'll be doing, in order to document my design growth and evolution.

Design is just another facet of my creative addiction. Hope you enjoy.

Please contact me with freelance work enquiries, including Graphic Design, Interior Design, Interior Styling, Logo Design, CAD drafting, or Renders.


PROJECT: The Idea(l) - Micro Apartment Design

How much space to do currently have? How much of that do you actually use? Could you have less space? My answers... More than I need. Less Then I have. Yes, very easily.


The old 'Australian dream' of owning a large house in the suburbs is fast fading, due to financial reasons, due to a shift mentality, due to a strong desire to live in the inner city areas. There are many reasons one might ‘blame’ this change on.


The next step? How do we create the most out of the smaller, possibly more unconventional, inner city spaces? These are the areas we no longer have room for the McMansions of the suburbs, so now we have to get creative.


As an Interior Designer I examined different ideas of micro living from around the globe. From the slightly insane, to the pure design genius.

This post contains images, from design sketches, to final renders that show one outcome for a very unconventional site, beneath a heritage listed bridge. Each apartment is made up of highly functional modules to make the most of a small space.

The Home Office 


The Pivot Flexi


The Entertainer


Which apartment style would you pick?

6.2 What it's REALLY like living on a construction site... by Ilsa Melchiori


I've been sharing photos of our home renovations on this blog. All of the exciting new things that are happening. But on the flip side is the less fun, WAY less glamorous reality of how we have been living for the past 8 months or so. What's the truth? Well...

Honestly it's hard. I'm not going to sugar coat it. It's disruptive, and messy, and draining.

This post is inspired by  Helen Anderson, who did a great video on her YouTube channel called A Real House Tour.

It's easy to get caught up in these seemingly perfect worlds people present to us online, but the real life behind that, complete with dirty dishes, pimples and bad hair days, can sometimes be far more interesting. Or at least, more relatable.

Below are some truths, along with some real, unedited, un-staged, images of what it is really like to live on a construction site.


1.  There will constantly be a layer of dirt/dust on everything. You can clean all you want, it will always be there.

2.  You will potentially be completely or partially exposed to the elements on more than one occasion. It's been raining inside my house several times. I'm not talking about a drip or leak that you can put a bucket underneath, but full-blown rain.


3.  You will probably gain weight. You kitchen facilities may be 'creative' or non-existent. You will start eating convenient food. I have gained around 5kg since we started.


4.  Not a morning person? You will learn to be. Builders can start at 7am on weekdays and for the sake of productivity, you will want them to.

5.  You have to be very organised, but at the same time understand that your organisation is likely to constantly fall apart.


6.  If you have a romantic partner with you on this journey it will, at times, cause a strain.

7.  90% of what you own will be in storage. Which as a self-employed creative can really suck.


8.  There is nowhere that is clean, well lit and pretty to take Instagram/blog photos. Get creative.

9.  If you work from home, you will get cabin fever, bad!


10.  At any given time you may be without water, power, gas, walls, and for us, a section of our bedroom ceiling.


11.  Things merge. Lines get blurred. My bed is currently also my dinning table, my lounge room and at times my office. It is not ideal, but cannot be helped.

12.  By staying you can save money.

13.  But by staying you might be making it take longer as the builders have to work around you.


14.  It's not glamorous.

15.  It's not for everyone.

I'd love for you to share your experiences with home renovations below.

27.1 Friday Favourites: My 5 Current Favourite Blogs by Ilsa Melchiori


Today for Friday Favourites I am talking about some of my favourite blogs out there. I've been reading blogs for almost 9 years (including some of the ones listed below). A Beautiful Mess DIY, cooking, style, there's a little bit of everything on here. This blog is vibrant; in colour, style and personality. I have been following this sister duo for at least the last 5 years. They now have a team of people working for them, books, a subscription box service and lots more. They are #goals!

Chapter Friday I started reading this way back when it went by a completely different name and it was simply Founder, Yara, posting personal style photos. I love watching how she has developed this into its present-day adaptation. I particularly enjoy  the Careers section, with inspiring interviews with a range of amazing creatives and young business owners.

The Sartorialist Duh. Haven't we all lost hours of our lives staring at Scott's beautiful style portraits from around the world.

Nil Erurk Nil is a Turkish style blogger who, for some reason, I always related to. Check out her site for really beautiful personal style imagery.

Pages by Megan This is a new one for me, but I found myself instantly drawn in by Megan's kooky take on fashion. She is a self-confessed 'weirdo' and I love it! It's always so neat and refreshing to see people having such fun with clothing.

What are some of your favourite blogs? I'm always keen for some new discoveries!

24.1 A Day Trip to Montsalvat by Ilsa Melchiori


Today's post is going to be an image heavy one.

Recently I met with my friend Tegan and we went for a little day trip to the Montsalvat Artist Colony in Eltham, near where we both grew up.

Monsalvat was founded in 1934 by Justus Jörgensen as a artist's colony and home for practising artists. It remains today as a working non-for-profit arts centre. Set on 12 acres of lush, established gardens, there is a beautiful mash-up of buildings from charming mud-brick cottages to the impressive Great Hall. Growing up I always thought fairies lived at Montsalvat. Still kind of do...


Where should we go for our next day trip?

9.1 What if..? #001 by Ilsa Melchiori


For my birthday last year, my friend Tegan gave me this book/diary called Do You Ever Ask Yourself, What If? This book is a list of hypothetical questions to 'spark your imagination and inspire creativity'. I think the idea is to answer a question a day, but I tend to just answer a bunch at once whenever I think of it.

I've never really gotten into the whole 500 day journal, 5 year journal, daily journal etc. thing however this book interests me as it asks you a question, which makes you have to think about something/consider something potentially completely removed from your daily grind. It gets the brain clicking over, which is always a good thing.

So I've decided to share some of the questions and my answers in a little mini series. I'll post one every Monday for the next undetermined period of time.  Please comment with your answers as well, I'd love to read them!

Here goes!

#001 What if... You could write a book? What would the plot be?

It would just be a book filled with beautiful long descriptions.

31.12 New Years Eve by Ilsa Melchiori


What are you doing for New Year's Eve? Pressures from self, others and the disappointments they bring.

Is it okay to just NOT participate?

I was originally planning on doing a New Year's Resolutions post, but then I remembered that I hate the end of the year, New Year's Eve, resolutions, the whole lot of it.

This idea that

  1. This one night will define anything going forwards, and
  2. That a simple change in numbers means all these things in your life should/will change

The new year is the most fake holiday out there. But here's the thing, you can ignore it!

Honestly! if you don't acknowledge it, you also stop using it as an excuse.

You start exercising now, instead of joining a gym as a resolution.

You organise your life now, instead of starting fresh in 2017.

You see your loved ones whenever you damn choose... See the pattern?

Mainly, you just do it instead of writing it down as a resolution to do next year, because we all know 9/10 times it won't stick.

Am I alone in feeling this way?

When you read this I will be camping in the middle of nowhere Victoria. Not because I like camping (because I don't) but because I wanted to get away from the city/people and expectations.

Happy Saturday Night everyone!