Life beyond Radford

Last updated 10.04.2017

Tae Schmeisser

Class of 2000
OCCUPATION Jewellery maker
Lives Melbourne, Australia
Attendance at radford Years 7-12
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What does life look for you now?

Happy, busy, demanding, humorous and full.

I design and make two jewellery brands in my Melbourne studio (‘Bёuy’ – pronounced boy – seasonal collections, stocked in over 60 stores Australiawide, including MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), QAGOMA (Queensland Gallery of Modern Art), NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) and in the U.S.A, New Zealand and New Caledonia.

‘Taё Schmeisser’ fine jewellery is stocked in galleries including MONA (Museum of New and Old Art, Tasmania), Pieces of Eight Gallery (Melbourne) and Beaver Galleries (Canberra). I also do privately commissioned engagement and wedding rings.

Family and laughter still reign supreme and as long as I get to go on overseas adventures every year, make/eat good food, and use my hands, head and heart to create things while our dogs run underfoot, then I’m pretty darn happy. Hobbies include baking, legos, pretty much anything that keeps my hands busy.

What is your favourite Radford moment?

Year 9 Outward Bound camp was an amazing eye-opener. For a bunch of pretty privileged kids, this camp was a great way to strip back the superficial layers and leave technology behind, work as a team and develop a healthy respect/loathing/appreciation of nature and the elements. My sister had been on the same camp seven years earlier and when she came to pick me up afterwards, she surprised me with a mountain of chocolate, trashy videos (yup – pre-DVD days, folks) a freshly made bed and a big fluffy towel … best sister EVER. I’ve never valued a hot shower more than I did that first night after camp.

Do you have a particular role model or inspirational figure from Radford or now?

My business/design icons are Vivienne Westwood and Issey Miyake.

Issey Miyake’s work is so distinctive, contemporary and bold and he has full command over fabric and its capabilities. His use of colour and form are continually jaw-dropping, and his pieces are without doubt wearable artworks. The way he keeps manipulating and pushing the boundaries of his medium is inspiring.

Vivienne Westwood started in underground fashion and now has a fashion empire encompassing couture as well as more accessible lines and collaborations yet retains that rebellious streak through her work. She’s had financial difficulty several times, yet that willingness to put it all on the line and never throw in the towel is truly gutsy.

In everyday life, my mother is a titan walking among mere mortals. She’s strong, resilient, funny as hell and can take you down with a single look and, combined with my father’s sense of adventure and endless curiosity to learn and achieve, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have such role models throughout my life. Their support and sometimes disapproval has made me critically process where I’m at, where I want to be and how to get there. That, combined with listening to my gut, and the three phrases below is what have kept me inspired and eager.

1. Everything has been done before – your job is to do it better
2. Curious, restless, then focused
3. If there’s any doubt – there’s no doubt (that it's wrong).

How easy was it to decide what to do in life?

I was a killer on the primary school yard marble scene ... maybe lame but at the time it was a huge deal! I racked up an amazing collection of glass marbles (the custards and princesses were my favourites) and would spend my pocket money buying them from the O’Connor shops. I found the weight, transparency and colours completely captivating and in Year 4 I told my mum I was going to study glass so I could have the biggest collection (life goals in 4th grade… priceless). I only studied art briefly at Radford, but I guess when you know what you want nothing on paper will stop you.

After graduating Radford I applied to study Glass at ANU. During the interview, they asked where my second preference uni was and I realised I hadn’t even applied anywhere else because I was set on going there. They only take infour to six people a year, so I was lucky that my tunnel vision worked out and I was accepted.

I heard early on that on average, people have five careers in their lifetime.

This still gives me the fearlessness to really explore the things that I’m curious about and interested in. Travelling and integrating into different cultures has always been intriguing to me (not to mention the food!) so while at uni I went on exchange for a year in Japan and after my studies, did a residency in Greece and I make sure to head overseas at least once a year.

Listening to others is also a big part of realising where you need to be and how to get there (as is trusting when you need to disregard it). When graduating art school, a lecturer from the gold and silver department offered me an honours position as all my glass work was wearable. Oddly enough in the five years there I hadn’t even noticed that fact, and it was he who made me refocus and zoom in on learning about metal.

After working many other jobs to support this passion, some amazingly interesting: I was a collectables specialist in pre 1960’s diecast toys for an auction house for 4 years, and some not so great (retail during stock take…urgh), and tinkering away late at night/early mornings before work/weekends, it makes it that much sweeter that I now get to spend half my time at the bench making pieces and the other half either designing/in the office.

Did your further study or career go exactly as you'd planned?

I didn’t plan that far ahead! I’ve just made sure to focus in on what interests me most at every turn and to listen to my gut and stone cold logic. Making money and having a ‘career’ was never the goal – the goal was and is to do what I love (designing and making pieces), and make works myself that are resolved and that I’m proud of (not have a factory or hire others for this). I realise this caps the capacity for having an ‘empire’, but for me, that’s not what it’s about.

It hasn’t been completely smooth sailing; I did do the artist thing of living on 2-minute noodles in a studio apartment in the dodgy end of town for three years, where the apartment below caught on fire and random drug-addled people would ring my door bell and stand there dazed while I freaked out on the other side of the door. I even had someone try to steal my identity (don’t put your birthdate on facebook, people!) and worked many unfulfilling jobs so that I could have money to buy the supplies I needed for pieces I wanted to make. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t that hard because I knew I was doing it for something I truly enjoy.

What do you know now, that you wish you'd known when you were at Radford?

I wish I’d appreciated the free home accommodation and food more! I think the best part of high school and college is that feeling that you know everything in the entire known and unknown universe – to be honest, I’d love to have some of that unbreakable confidence back every now and then!

What advice do you have for current students?

Don’t stress out about ‘perfectly figuring out’ your future. Stick with your gut, surround yourself with people that are good to you and honest, and keep your eyes and ears open. When you stumble upon something you love that keeps challenging you, grab it with both hands, bite down hard and don’t let it go.

Also, get at least one dog. They’re the best.

Where are you now?