On the Couch with Kate Challis

Arts Review Kate Challis on the couchWho is Kate Challis?
I am curious, I love the imperfection in beauty, I am constantly changing and try to move through the world from a position of not knowing and wanting to learn. Right now, I am an interior designer, a mother, a friend, a yogi who has started to do weight training, I love coffee and champagne, but also green juices. I like contradictions. I am passionate about how our environment influences how we feel and who we are. My path here has not been a conventional one. It started with a PhD in early Renaissance illuminated manuscripts at the University of Melbourne, then as a corporate trainer, worked as a yoga teacher and even opened a yoga studio.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
Have more balance in my life. Lack of time seems to be the great struggle of Western society these days.

Who inspires you and why?
Children. They have such a great take on the world. Most of all I love their curiosity and also their openness to change and possibility.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Make sure everyone had shelter that they loved, called home, was safe, secure and inspired them.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
India. I love the vibrancy, the colour and chaos of the place. It is a sensory experience. In many ways, India gives me insights into what Medieval Europe would have been like. I also adore Bali and have been a regular visitor there for the past 10 years. During this time I have formed some strong connections with local families. It is familiar, yet also other-wordily. I am constantly inspired by the how many Balinese live. They are in the moment.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?
Melbourne is a great place just to drift and experience without an agenda. It is not a place with a list of must-see tourist highlights. So, it’s about independent coffee shops such as Industry Beans and Sonido in Fitzroy, the Queen Vic Market and also some of the incredible farmers’ markets which are on every weekend. Dropping into Readings or The Hill of Content and checking out some independent galleries and jewellery shops (jewellery is small so it’s a great souvenir!) like e.g.etal for the best of local design and the French Jewel Box in the Block Arcade for the most superbly selected antique jewellery, a stroll through the Exhibition Gardens and a drink at Everleigh in Gertrude St in the evening. A visit to Heide never disappoints.

What are you currently reading?
I usually have a few books on the go at any time. For interior design: Ilse Crawford, A Frame for Life. Art history: Andrew Pettegree’s The Book in the Renaissance. Health and Food: Hemsley and Hemsley, The Art of Eating Well and to my son, Rene Goscinny’s Nicholas.

What are you currently listening to?
I love podcasts: This American Life, Conversations with Richard Fidler, The Shortest Longest Time, Start-Up, Radio Lab. Music: whatever my husband is listening to. He has quite quirky taste and listens to everything from classical, ambient, world, minimalist, electronic to Nick Drake. He had a radio show for 15 years so music is his love. When I am home alone I actually really love silence and hearing the noises on the street. Nothing beats the sound of a car driving on a street through the rain.

Happiness is?
wallpaper . . . my son falling asleep in my arms . . . discovering something new and unexpected.

What does the future hold for you?
I am looking forward to finding out.

As a child, Kate Challis spent hours cutting pictures out of magazines and pasting them into scrap books, rearranging and decorating her bedroom, setting the table for her mother’s lavish dinner parties and creating fantasy interiors in my attic bedroom which housed all the spare furniture.

When she was seven, her family moved from Australia to a small town in Germany where they travelled extensively across all of Europe for the five years they lived there, visiting countless churches, galleries and museums. Kate again moved to Europe in her early twenties, this time to London, where she lived in an apartment belonging to one of Australia’s preeminent painters.  Among her neighbours there were artists, writers, furniture makers and musicians.  It was from those adventures that her visual DNA was formed.

However, not yet realizing how best to utilize what she absorbed, Kate pursued a Ph.D in Art History and later ran several successful businesses outside of the design field.  It wasn’t until she became a mother years later that she returned to what she first loved as a child.  It all started innocently enough with a blog focusing on interior design.

An alumnus of the University of Melbourne, Kate first encountered the Rothschild Prayer Book in the early 1990s at the National Library in Vienna while researching for her honours thesis which investigated the fashion of jewelled borders in early 16th century manuscripts. Subsequently, she completed her Ph.D at the University of Melbourne focusing on the Rothschild Prayer Book and related manuscripts. Kate’s study and research in to art history influences her design today.

An illumination: the Rothschild Prayer Book & other works from the Kerry Stokes Collection c.1280-1685 will be on display at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne – 28 August to 15 November 2015. For more information, visit: www.art-museum.unimelb.edu.au For more information, about Kate, visit: www.katechallis.com for details.

Image: Kate Challis