• Kate Neilson

This humans wants to create a party in your shoes

Newcastle-based creative babe Silje Soldal is excited for you to treat your feet to something special with the launch of Tuna Fish Feet; locally made sockies that'll get your toes a tappin' and your face a smilin' – her first range is a homage to all things Australian.

Silje speaks with Twenty Something Humans about her creative process, what she's learning about being a sustainable business owner and shares what she loves most about the small town she grew up in.

Describe your vibe in three words.

Bright. Fun. Mindful.

Tell us about why you decided to make sockies.

I’ve always loved patterned and colourful socks. I remember getting a pair of plain red socks as a kid that I wore to absolute death because I thought they monumentally shadowed my usual white ones. As I've got older and more aware of my consumption habits, I started to find it progressively harder to purchase fun, colourful, and ethically produced socks.

Recently, there has been a massive shifting of gears towards sustainable living and ethical choices, which is so amazing. I also thought it was a shame that sometimes there is less awareness around the origins of more 'mundane' day-to-day wear, like socks and underwear.

I had the graphic design know-how and the drive to make it work. So I kind of just thought, why not make my own product in an effort to start bridging that gap between consumer and product transparency?

Describe your design style.

The design style for Tuna Fish Feet is quite bold. As a brand, I want to encourage the party in peoples' shoes, but I don’t want the patterns to be the stock standard umbrellas and moustached patterns you get your dad for Christmas from Target. Our Australiana Collection is what we are in the process of releasing at the moment - it has a focus on bold primary colours and strong repeat patterns centered around quintessential Australian iconography. Who know what our next season might hold!

How do you keep your creative flame alight?

This is something I’ve definitely had to train myself in to doing better(and being more empathetic towards lull periods). Too much free time definitely allows me to fall off into a ‘holiday’ mood mode, where I find it hard to self-motivate. I’ve learnt to have two or three projects going at the same time that I can bounce around, which helps keep my creative momentum flowing.

When you have a full-time job, free time is precious. I want to make sure I utilise that time properly and work on things that I'm passionate about.

I’ve also learnt that it's okay to take breaks. If I am at a road block, taking a few steps back and giving whatever I’m getting stuck on some breathing room is sometimes the best method. It's too tiring to keep on pushing yourself to keep on creating when you’re not inspired. I try not to be too hard on myself about the process or I’ll never be happy with the outcome.

What makes up your ideal weekend?

Now that it’s getting warmer, definitely a swim in one of Newcastle’s gorgeous beaches or bathes. I also love a good bush walk and picnic. Anything that doesn’t involve being behind a screen for a day or two is desirable.

Who/what inspires you most?

My friends doing their own thing is probably one of the most inspiring things for me. Just knowing and surrounding myself with other people who also have the drive to work on their own creative projects is the most encouraging and inspiring environment I could put myself in.

What's the most interesting thing you've learnt about recently?

I’ve been trying to teach myself a bit more on the composting and recycling systems and how different materials break down. This wouldn't be everyone's idea of "interesting" but I really want to to make my business as low-impact as possible.

I've been having a really good time looking into how different cotton or materials break down, how long this can take to occur naturally and what combinations are best, environmentally speaking. I’ve also been doing a lot of research in to mailing options, as my business is primarily online, and how to do this as plastic free as possible. Shoutout to @betterpackagingco for providing home compostable alternatives to the traditional plastic options.

What's the best thing about your hometown?

I grew up in Maitland (about 40 minutes inland of Newcastle) and as a kid I didn’t love it there. But the older I get, the more the nostalgia seems to pull me back to it with a fondness. It’s been so nice to see its slow transformation; from an agricultural-based small town into a really (vibing) little area with amazing coffee, art galleries and op-shops. Also the Allyn river and Barrington Tops (national park) aren’t too far away and some of my favourite places to go for a day trip.

"Absolutely everything can be worked through if you have a drive behind what you’re doing."

What's your advice to people thinking about making art but aren't quite sure how to take that first step?

As cliched as it sounds, just do it. My issue was thinking too introspectively at how and what I needed to do to get my socks out there. I kept on focusing on making lists and only once I had completed the next point on the list could I move forward. In hindsight this was just a very elaborate procrastination tactic.

Once I got stuck in to making my socks for real, it wasn't as hard of a process as I had thought it would be. There are always going to be issues and hurdles regardless of how meticulous you are. Absolutely everything can be worked through if you have a drive behind what you’re doing. Work out what you’re capable of doing yourself and do some research on how to make the other elements fall into place that might be outside your expertise.

If I was still going about getting Tuna Fish Feet started with my list structure in place, and waiting for all elements to be perfect before setting anything live, I wouldn’t be where I am now, which is a very happy girl with a big handful of socks!

Where can we buy your fab socks?

Head to my website: www.tunafishfeet.com. I also have an Etsy store up and an Instagram and Facebook page all under the handle TunaFishFeet!

Images: Nick Mckinlay (@nick_mckk).

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