“When I was a kid I remember feeling creative energy and I guess I decided to hold onto it as I grew up,” says Elise Cameron-Smith, a miniature boat builder who also works as a sculptor, designer, woodworker and surfboard fibreglasser. As a child she would collect sticks and flowers. Today her collections extend to beautiful timbers, feathers, shells and other natural curiosities. After studying design for a few years, Elise changed across to a one-year intensive fine furniture making course at The Sturt School For Wood. Afterwards she focussed on commissioned furniture work but heeded advice from a sculptor, John Van Der Kolk: “Make more, think less." Elise says, “I took this as having fun in your work, make a lot of it, and get really good at it.” Based in Stanwell Park, south of Sydney, she now focuses on making miniature boats, sculpture and other objects, such as bows and arrows. “For me boats represent the great adventurer, sailing into the unknown to a new life, a new world where anything is possible. Only you - the captain - the wind and the sea can make that happen,” she says. Elise will be exhibiting at The Society Inc on May 21. Her works are also available through Shop U in Bondi Beach.
Which five words best describe you? Sensitive, thoughtful, happy, creative, energetic.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? My first job was making sandwiches at Subway. I've worked incredibly hard since then and now I make boats.
What’s been your best decision? I seem to do my best decision-making when I rely on my intuition and sense if something feels right. Often what seems perfect on paper doesn't work out the way I planned and I need to constantly remind myself of this. My top four decisions that have enhanced my life in positive ways (in no particular order): be an individual; work incredibly hard; don’t own a television; embrace creativity.
Who inspires you? My friends and family are my biggest inspiration, all of them are so special and strong. I am extraordinarily lucky to be surrounded by such fantastic creative people. I also find crazy inspiration in fairy tales, pirates, explorers, dare devils, goddesses, mermaids, mischief-makers, monsters, princesses and surfers.
What are you passionate about? Learning - I'm forever trying to learn and understand all kinds of new things. From new skills and crafts, to human beings, and just life in general basically is all a big lesson. Family, friends and relationships - the most important things to be passionate about. Surfing - it's super fun and enriches your soul. Camping - the best way to holiday. Making - whether it’s dinner, a thank you card, a birthday cake or a beautiful boat. Making can be in every day. Coffee - the morning ritual/addiction.
Who would you most like to meet? My grandfather Jim Cameron-Smith. He passed away when my dad was real young. We found a diary of his recently and it was amazingly weird to read the words of a man I've heard so much about but never met. And what was especially cool and thought-provoking was to read about my father, as a child, from his father’s perspective, from the exact time it was all happening.
What dream do you still wish to fulfil? I really, really, really want to go to Arnhem Land.
What are you reading? I’m answering these questions whilst on a family surf trip in Raglan, New Zealand. So I’ve really enjoyed having the time to read whilst here. I’ve just finished White Fang and The Call of The Wild by Jack London.