I am absolutely brokenhearted to be writing this post. I just found out that Australian / Croatian artist Sandra Eterovic has passed away suddenly. I don’t know how or why, what or when… but I do know that the world is now short one amazing person, and one incredibly talented artist. I didn’t know what else to do, so I immediately wrote this post. I wanted to share her work and her story. I am so happy that I had her on my podcast, not only because I got to know her better and could call her a friend, but because now this artist’s story is documented. Look and listen to episode no.66 to get to know this lovely person a little better. I’ve also included her words, from her Etsy shop, which beautifully describe her life and work. Until we meet again, Sandra. I am so sad that you are no longer with us.
“I was born in Melbourne and have always lived here, but I am lucky to have travelled to many places. As a child, I spent several summer months in my parents’ hometown of Pucisca, which is on a beautiful island off the coast of Croatia. I vividly recall widows in black dresses with tiny floral patterns, unfamiliar packaging in the supermarket and the quaint kitchen in my grandmother’s house; these things have informed my aesthetic immeasurably.
I studied art history at university but decided that I preferred to make art. After a couple of years at a TAFE college experimenting with ceramics and illustration, I landed a job in the fashion industry diligently redrawing Taz the Devil and Mickey Mouse in humorous poses for boxer shorts. This led to work as a surface designer for t-shirt prints, fabrics, bed linen, accessories and occasionally even toys. Late in 2010, I decided to leave my job at Seed Heritage to devote myself to making my own work. I also take on freelance illustration and other projects.
I am a homebody. I enjoy hanging pictures, arranging flowers, moving my tchotchkes around or replacing the colourful fabrics that I use as curtains and cushion covers. I also love to read about food, experiment with new recipes and then share them with friends. When it’s warm enough, I like to read in the back yard or a nearby park. I am trying to educate myself about gardening.
My inspiration comes from vintage books, toys, and games. The island that my parents are from. My 1970s childhood. Strange and funny old people on the tram. A day of exploration at the library. The huge number of wonderful artists local to Melbourne but also the thousands I have discovered online. What a world! Everyone and everything around me is potential inspiration. Who knows what will be next? It’s that surprising element that makes creating so exciting.
I love handmade. Handmade things carry life itself in their consideration, imperfection and uniqueness. They deserve to be cherished forever and are the exact opposite to the piles of discarded televisions that seem to be proliferating in our streets right now.
I come from a family which rarely puts its feet up. My mother always sewed and knitted our clothes, and to this day bakes bread and cooks the most incredible meals. My father trained as a fine stonemason and is a great gardener and winemaker. My brother is a brilliant designer, craftsman and motorbike restorer. To be constantly making or fixing something is as normal as breathing for us.
I feel much more comfortable with the term “maker” than the term “artist,” which I suspect has to do with both of the B.S.-intolerant cultures that I am from. I have always loved making things, from clothing for my dolls, writing and illustrating pretend magazines, to playing cooking show host while helping Mum chop vegetables. Designing at a computer screen eight hours a day for 15 years was never going to feel right for me, and now I can’t believe I persisted for that long.
For years, I have been keeping notebooks in which I sketch or paste images that I admire or which might trigger an idea. Strange phrases pop up in my head, and I note those too. My ideas are often like a jigsaw puzzle that is waiting for the missing piece. I rarely get ideas by spontaneously playing with materials because unfortunately I rarely allow myself time for that.
I find every studio I visit interesting, but if I had the opportunity to go back in time I cannot think of anything more exciting than to watch Michelangelo run his atelier, Leonardo come up with his brilliant inventions or Rubens paint an enormous canvas alongside his apprentices. Not only would it be enormous fun, it might call into question the modern concept of what an ‘artist’ actually is.
I own my paternal grandmother’s wooden tatting tools, which are carved with decorations and worn with use. I have no idea how tatting is done, so for me they are magical because they hold the secret of a dying art and the culture of a very different time and place. I also own a traditional bright blue stonemason’s outfit that my maternal grandfather never wore and kept especially for me, as he understood my interest in workwear.
To get out of a creative rut, I might bury my head in a new book or magazine at the library, go to an exhibition or walk down a street that I have rarely visited. I have vowed that on my next spare day I will go to the main railway station, board the next train, get off at whichever suburb has the least familiar name and explore it.
In ten years time I would like to be living in a peaceful and beautiful home by the sea, with a wonderful family knowing that there is a bunch of things out there in the world that are loved and that I am proud to have designed and/or made. And to be able to afford a holiday almost every year to explore a country that I have never been to would be wonderful.” ~ Sandra Eterovic, 2012