In conversation with Tess McCabe

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we chatted with Melbourne-based creative Tess McCabe. A successful graphic designer and coordinator of Creative Women’s Circle, Tess is an inspiration to women (and men) all over the world.

Tell us a bit about yourself… Tess McCabe

I’m 32 years old and I live in Melbourne with my husband and young son. I studied graphic design in Brisbane after leaving school, and worked as a designer for a large publisher in my first year out of university. I’ve since worked as an independent designer and run CWC part-time for the last 5 years. I love drinking tea, reading magazines, seeing movies and eating delicious food!

What motivated you to take over the coordination of Creative Women’s Circle in 2009?

In 2009 I was still a relatively new citizen of Melbourne, and I had also just gone out on my own as a graphic designer. It was a scary thing but I loved the realm of possibility of being a self-employed creative. But living in a new city, and leaving the social aspect of an employee position meant that pretty soon I was craving some creative colleagues and independent creative business people I could relate to.

I had been attending Creative Women’s Circle meet-ups semi-regularly for about a year, and had become friendly with CWC’s founder, Dearne Mills. In 2009, Dearne found herself too busy to continue running the get-togethers, but I had found being a part of a network of creative women in Melbourne who met regularly in person had been extremely positive for my work and creativity. On a whim I suggested to Dearne that I take the reigns of CWC. It has grown and evolved under my direction since.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your work and what do you believe are the biggest challenges women in business and, in particular, those in creative fields face?

Different periods of my life have offered different challenges when it comes to work and being creative. As a design graduate, it was a challenge to land my first job in what was (and still is) a very competitive environment. Settling in a new city was exhilarating but there were also some hard times. More recently, starting a family has meant devising a new structure and more relaxed expectations with regard to my career and business, not just in the short term, but long-term as well.

Now more than ever, it seems that work & life (and not just my life, but my family’s collective lives) are inextricably linked, and this poses quite a few challenges that I’m sure many women can relate to! Some days, finding the physical space to be creative can be the biggest hurdle. Other days, finding the time and energy to be creative after all of the business-side of the business is taken care of requires super human strength. That’s where, ultimately, my passion for what I do has to override all the challenges and keep me going!

What’s been a significant learning during your career so far?

That you can have it all, just not all at once.

What’s one dream you’re working towards?

It’s been a goal of mine for a while now to hold CWC events in other cities around Australia. I just had to find the right women to collaborate with, and I’m pleased to say that I’ve got some trusted and talented women in both Sydney and Brisbane running events there this month and next (http://www.creativewomenscircle.com.au/upcoming-events/). Ideally, events in other locations around Australia will happen before the end of the year. It’s a very exciting (and nervewracking) time, but I’m confident women outside of Melbourne will love what CWC events do to strengthen their creative community.

Who or what inspires you?

I love listening to TED talks, Creative Mornings talks and podcasts about people’s lives while I work, drive or potter around the house. It doesn’t really matter who they are or what the subject matter is, anything is interesting if the person is talking about it passionately.

What made you happy today?

So many things. My son not waking up too early this morning; dinner plans for my birthday; easter eggs from a studio mate; a nice review of my book in a magazine; trains running on time; a funny YouTube video someone sent me; and a good cup of tea!

What does the future hold in store for you?

Later this year CWC will release its next book, Owning It: A Creative’s Guide to Copyright, Contracts and the Law. This is a big deal for me and CWC, working with a renowned Intellectual Property lawyer, Sharon Givoni, to put a comprehensive guide about the law into the hands of Australian creatives. We want it to be amazing and are throwing our heart, soul and respective talents and skills into making it the best it can be. It’s been a hard slog so far, but it will be worth it!

If you could share one piece of advice with other creatives, what would it be?

Be a creator, not an imitator. I understand it’s difficult when it seems like everything that can be created has been created, and there are so many sources of inspiration at the click of a button. But you CAN be original if you set your mind to it. Be confident in your creativity and great things will happen!

And, of course, what’s one stationery item you couldn’t live without?

My to-do list!

Visit Tess’s website here and the Creative Women’s Circle website here.

All images by Martina Gemmola.