"I'm in a lucky position that I can only take on the projects that align with what is important to me personally - mostly feminism, community, music, knowledge, nature, and travel. This way, every project is enriching my life."
Ngaio Parr's goal is to build a studio known for being truly interdisciplinary - and if anyone can make that happen, it's Ngaio! The multidisciplinary designer, illustrator, and curator is also founder and director of Make Nice - an online and real-life platform for, by, and about creative women to meet, support each other, make plans, and make it big. From her Sydney base, this powerhouse of passion is breaking down boundaries and not-so-slowly turning dreams into reality.
Tell us a little about your current work - what do you do, and what inspires you to do it?
I like to do a lot of things at the same time! I work with clients like Thames & Hudson, Redbull, and Sibella Court from my independent studio. I also oversee everything going on at Make Nice - an online platform and real-life conferences for, by, and about creative women - and I teach design at the University of Technology Sydney. I love any project that helps me learn something new, challenge myself, introduce new people into my life, do some good, or let me travel.
How does your work enrich your life or the lives of others?
I'm in a lucky position to be able to only take on projects that align with what is important to me personally - mostly feminism, community, music, knowledge, nature, and travel. This way, every project is enriching my life. I hope that my work inspires, challenges or helps those that see it. With Make Nice, I feel perpetually thrilled that what we've created has helped women feel more supported, confident and powerful on a very practical level.
Can you share a recent project you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of?
The inaugural Make Nice Un-Conference was an exercise in willing a project into being. I didn't have the skill set, knowledge, or money to create something like Make Nice, but my naivety and love made it work.
What was the pivot point that set you on your current path?
I've had a few but they all involved the same thing - stepping away from what is expected in any situation, and making the decision based on my own priorities and interests. Each and every time it has been a difficult decision - leaving a good secure job, changing fields, declining a 'sought-after' position, jumping into freelance, turning down opportunities. I've never regretted a decision that was made based on my wants instead of society's expectations, and they have all led me to my current path (of which I'll be forever grateful).
What advice would you give to others to identify and embrace those moments of action?
I know it is cliche but listen to yourself and what you're feeling. Usually, if I've taken a wrong turn it is because I didn't listen to my gut.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give someone who’s going through their own transformation?
Bravery in uncertainty - you have to learn to feel that uncertainty and fear and sit into it. If you are making big changes it is natural to feel fearful or uncertain, but if you learn to feel those feelings and push through them that is a game-changer.
Who or what has been your biggest inspiration in shaping your career?
My biggest inspiration has probably been following my interests - I get bored easily and it has shaped my career into something that is ever-changing and evolving.
I've had countless unofficial mentors in my life guiding me on, but never a real-life mentorship. If I did I might ask Kate Harmer, Leslie David, or power-duo Miranda July and Mike Mills - they all seem to dance to the beat of their own drum.
Where in the world would you describe as the place that speaks to you - your soul place?
Endless Summer is the dream for me - I'm a true Queenslander in that sense. Sydney (Clovelly), Gold Coast (Burleigh), Kauai, Los Angeles, and New York in spring/summer are my happy places - and anywhere else you can smell the salt in the air. I'd also love to visit Tangier, I feel like it'll be magical!
If you could do anything, what in the world would you want to do next?
I'd love to have my studio known for being truly interdisciplinary - set design, book design, murals, artwork, illustration, strategy, surface design, creative direction. I'd love to travel more for work, and if the dream job came up I'd love to work in LA or NY for a few years (anyone?!). The ultimate dream is to have a big plot of land near the beach with a little home, a seperate studio, and a guesthouse for friends, family, and artists to visit us year-round. One can dream!
All images used with permission from Ngaio Parr.