After eight years’ working as an art teacher at high school Emma Cleine found a way to create a business that was successful enough to leave her full-time job. It was during a six-month stint on maternity leave that she set her plan into action. She wanted to return to her art-making ways - but make it a viable business. Emma started selling decorative objects at markets and soon had some stockists. She then came into contact with Melbourne stylist Julia Green, who helped get the word out on Lumiere Art + Co. Now Emma’s business is stocked in more than 70 stores, and has expanded into homewares. She has also been commissioned by national retailers, writer's festivals and televisions programs for her products. Emma is launching her latest range at this year's Life Instyle, which opens today.

Which five words best describe you? Hardworking, thoughtful, fun, inspired, sensitive.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I started studying sculpture. Having a fine arts background has been the best start for what I’m doing now. Being an artist is all about resolving and problem-solving and setting yourselves visual challenges. I feel this was the most practical way for me to do what I do. I studied teaching after fine arts and taught secondary school girls for eight years. During this time I incubated all of my plans and things that inspired me. I had six months’ maternity leave from teaching and started Lumiere Art + Co, selling at small markets locally. I picked up a few stockists and from there the business has now grow into a bespoke boutique homewares and artworks company with over 70 stockists. I employ the most inspired gorgeous staff and this year have started taking on the creative of my husband’s furniture business, Industria X.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? It’s natural to doubt what you do but, it’s very important to see the silver lining in every situation and realise that a new day will bring new opportunities and is a chance to start afresh. I have a very naive approach to starting new projects, which is an attribute and a drag! Sometimes I don’t think things through.

What’s your proudest career achievement? I’m always very proud of a new range I make. I do it all by myself  so just to get some new ideas together and see them come to life always makes me proud. I don’t have any formal training in working with textiles so it’s always a gamble when I put together some designs for screenprinting. Every time I see a work of mine in print in a mag or online I am thrilled. If a friend mentions they saw a print or cushion of mine in a shop, it makes me very proud. I don’t take what I do for granted, I am very blessed. 

What’s been your best decision? To work with stylist Julia Green. Julia and I met a few years ago and quickly had an understanding that it’s better to work with like-mined people around you rather than be an island and micromanage everything yourself. I’m successful at what I do because I work with a great team and always look at the big picture.

Who inspires you? I love the work of Australian artists Sally Smart, Miranda Skoczek and Del Kathryn Barton. I always go back to my favourite Australian Modernist female artists Thea Proctor and Margaret Preston. I used to think that inspiration had to come from faraway places and from far-fetched people. I’m now more inspired by those working close to me. 

What are you passionate about? A few things that get me very animated in conversation are the importance of surrounding yourself with good art and design and the importance of an arts education. With these you can make sense of almost anything.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I would like to meet my grandmother again. Now that I am a mother and have Lumiere Art + Co, I would love to talk to her about all that I am doing, what I have done and tell her all about my boys whilst showing her some photos on my iphone. I imagine this meeting would be quick like catching up with someone in the supermarket so I would be animated and brief and finish the conversation with a bone rattling hug and kiss. 

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I would like more travel in my life. To travel is to live. So many places I still need to go. In terms of my work, I hope one day I can finally make that transition from homewares to artworks and work towards exhibitions rather than ranges. 

What are you reading? Lena Dunham’s Not that kind of girl. What an inspiration! I wish I knew her when I was growing up. It’s a revelation that she makes being awkward so okay.

images courtesy of emma cleine; photography armelle habib, styling greenhouse interiors