In the lead up to our exciting collaborative event Just Drinks meets Kaleido on Tuesday 28th April, Jen catches up with Kate Armstrong, the mastermind behind creative studio OKYO and Just Drinks.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your practice OKYO:

I’m Kate, originally from the South Coast, via Wollongong and Rotterdam, I now live in Sydney.

Project OKYO (pr. O-Kee-Oh) is the studio name under which I produce creative projects. I collaborate with artists, designers and makers to deliver engaging projects that promote a successful and engaged creative community. With this, I’ve produced a random mix of projects that all enhance the careers of my collaborators and aim to positively influence the wider community.

One of your key concepts is to devise sustainable solutions. Do you think creatives have a key responsibility to produce socially responsible work?

I believe creative work has the power to move people, drive awareness and inform change. It’s combination of rational and emotional; an incredibly powerful mix. Having been granted this superpower, I think it’s irresponsible for creatives to not consider the social impact their work can have. Just to be clear though, socially responsible work isn’t always about being ‘green’ or saving lives, for me it’s about informed responses to ones environment. In my practice I aim to deliver solutions which promote social and cultural longevity in the hope of developing strong, integrated communities – like Just Drinks!

Did you find it difficult branching out into freelance work?

I somewhat fell into freelance work when I dreamed up my first project. I had no example of what I was meant to be doing and made it up as I went along, which unsurprisingly was challenging at times! I worked hard, kept a day job and still always have multiple jobs on the go so I never sit still and keep motivated.

I have succeeded so far by asking for help, engaging the skills of those around me to fill in my skill blanks and using opportunities to up-skill and learn. I have had to learn to edit my practice and only engage in projects that meet my personal and professional aims. It’s still difficult for me to say no to opportunities but I’ve now learned that (even if you’re a Libran) you cannot make everyone equally happy.

What are the key things you’ve learnt about establishing and maintaining your own business?

  1. My mum always told me, you never know who you may need on the way down, so be nice to everyone on the way up. Be nice, grateful, friendly and transparent. Always. I’ve learned that is translates most practically to marketing, PR and relationship building; elements that must be done with honesty. People, both in your team and in your Instagram followers are important and your practice wouldn’t be here without them.
  2. I have come to understand that working for free is not the same as working for nothing. It is paramount to decide what benefit will be returned for your skills and that this doesn’t always have to be cash! Work for ‘free’, but always negotiate exposure, marketing, contacts, resurces etc in return – these things can be very precious! I have also learned to understand the ‘real-cost’ of work and not to over-engage without return.
  3. Everyone is a human. Often in the creative world we get intimidated by artists or designers with large Instagram followings or big corporate colabs but when I comes down to it, these folk are just regular humans. Want an internship? Ask. Want a mentor? Ask. Want advice? Ask! The worst they will say is no.

How did Just Drinks come about, and why do you think it’s important to network in creative fields?

What’s important is that the creative scene is collaborative and as participants we support each other and work as a community. Through networking we increase our resources, opportunities, friendships, skills, knowledge and ultimately develop a more successful creative scene – so yes I think it’s important. Just Drinks is my response to a problem early career artists have building networks in the Sydney creative scene – for many it’s harder to crack than the dating scene! Everyone is settled in cliques or you only know people’s online profiles or worse still you’ve got to go to awkward proffesional events to meet potential collaborators. Just Drinks solves these problems by normalising networking, it’s just drinks with like-minds!

What role does collaboration play within your work?

I am all about collaboration. My practice is about creating and nurturing creative connections and finding opportunities for all levels of creatives. I use my strengths and engage others when a project requires strengths I don’t have.

Is it important for you to feel like part of a wider community?

Community is very important and above everything makes sense. Feeling part of a community as a creative is about knowing your work is respected and valuable and knowing even if you work alone, you have a team surrounding you.

Do you think traditional measures of success are changing for the next generation of young creatives?

I get the feeling the people I work with are experiencing new forms of gratification, measuring their merits by impact and reach rather than financial gain. Maximum exposure and instant feedback can challenge and encourage creative practitioners and used wisely this critique can be invaluable.

What can people expect from the upcoming Just Drinks meets Kaleido event at COMMUNE?

The event will be Just Drinks on creative vacation! An experimental mix of creativity, drinks and social experiment. Expect relax vibes, great Young Henry’s beer and a whole lot of similar minds with whom you can discuss your creative work. Don’t expect business cards, elevator pitches or portfolio viewings… The night is about unofficial networking, it’s Just Drinks.

Bring a friend and join us for a night of creativity and connection:

RSVP for your free ticket here.