Meet Sydney-based artist Easty Beasty and Kamilaroi and Dunghutti jewellery maker Ebony Birks – two Australian creatives (and pals) who have come together to launch a limited-edition collection they’ve called ‘Yeah, Sick’!
Mixing Easty’s signature colour palette with Ebony’s considered style, the necklaces are made using recycled silver, threaded with hemp cord and feature Easty’s signature ‘brain litter’ symbols as charms. To celebrate the release of the collection, we asked Easty and Ebony to have a yarn so they can tell you all about it in their own words!
Easty Beasty: Um, should we do it?
Ebony Birks: Let’s do it. So… Who are you? And what do you do?
Easty: I’m Easty Beasty! I’m an artist and I work primarily with Posca pens and paper. I’m doing lots of cool, surfy, surreal things. Think fine lines. Who are you, Ebony? What do you do?
LEFT: MEL IN A SHELL BY EASTY BEASTY RIGHT: LEAVE THEM KIDS ALONE BY EASTY BEASTY
Ebony: I’m Ebony Birks. I am a designer and jeweller for my label, EB Jewellery. I do a lot of minimal designs, while also focusing on cultural practices and using sustainable practices too. I work with recycled sterling silver and gold. That’s me! I’m really bad at self-promoting.
Easty: Summing yourself up, I feel, is the hardest thing to do. Like no one ever has a rehearsed elevator pitch?!
Ebony: Yeah exactly! Well, how do we know each other?
Easty: Do we go way back to the traffic lights in [Fortitude] Valley?
Ebony: I mean, it makes the whole story amazing. If we are going to go back to that, we know each other through my boyfriend – your brother. I met Sam three years ago, almost four years now, by yelling at him when I was in the Valley, asking for his number. Then, the rest is history, basically.
QUIVER EARRINGS BY EB JEWELLERY
Easty: Yeah, he was in the car and you were on the footpath and you yelled at him. Polite young lady!
Ebony: Full of grace. I suppose since then, we’ve been hanging out heaps since Sam’s now in Canada. We’ve actually been able to hang out a lot this year which has been really fun: spending a lot of time at the house in Suffolk Park, going for some surfs, some swims, and making a lot of Bloody Marys and margaritas.
Easty: Yeah, I feel like we’ve become really close.
Ebony: I’m very, very lucky to have met Sam and then also to have been brought into the family as well.
Easty: It’s so funny because this is an interview context, we’re talking like other people are listening, but nobody is.
Ebony: We don’t need to justify it.
Easty: Oh, that’s so funny. So, what do we love the most about each other’s work?
Ebony: Well, I think my favourite thing about your type of work is that you have a lot of different inspirations and influences. But my favourite thing about that is a lot of it is purely just from your brain and your dreams. I really admire that because you have this really fascinating creative brain, and you’re able to turn a thought into something epic.
Easty: Oh, my.
Ebony: I think it’s really amazing the way that you’re able to capture your thoughts and turn them into a lifelong piece of work.
Easty: Thanks, dude. That’s really nice.
Ebony: You’re welcome.
Easty: Oh, my God… I don’t even know where to start with you. Ok, so there are two parts to my answer. The first part is about your output. Like the jewellery itself. I love how minimal and considered your design choices are. I feel like you’re very, very good at honing down to exactly what you need to make a piece of jewellery that’s just so classic and timeless and beautiful, but also modern at the same time. Nothing about what you do is dated, but there are no unnecessary bells or whistles. It’s just beautiful, considered work.
I really respect how you give the work the respect it’s due and the time that’s needed.
Then the second part of what I like so much about what you do is actually your practice and your process. I feel like you are – I know you might not feel this way – very disciplined about your practice and about your work. You don’t cut corners with the jewellery making or the process for the design. I really respect how you give the work the respect it’s due and the time that’s needed. And even that you use recycled materials, and go to whatever length you can to make sure that what you’re putting out is not to the detriment of anything else. I think that’s awesome.
LEFT: ABORIGINAL WATER SYMBOL RING AND ABORIGINAL WOMAN SYMBOL RING BY EB JEWELLERY RIGHT: RIVER DROP EARRINGS BY EB JEWELLERY
Ebony: You can do my PR going forward! This next question is actually my favourite. How did this collaboration come about and why do you think your work is so aligned?
Most of the time, or let’s just say all of the time, our conversations are quite deep.
Easty: Yeah. We like to get into it.
Ebony: I think we were speaking about it a couple of weeks ago, how we don’t necessarily have time for small talk and not meaningful conversations. That being said, we’re often talking a lot of fun, creative rubbish, too.
Easty: There’s a lot of equal parts smack talk and equal parts real deep, honest stuff.
Ebony: We can start up just having a pretty gentle talk, but then we’d come to the end of the conversation and we’re almost left with fulfilment, and then also inspiration – whether that’s us giving each other advice and support in a personal or business sense.
The last couple of times we caught up, we entertained the idea of creating something together. I think I hit you up a couple of days after when the idea came to me. And we just got the ball rolling and it wasn’t really a serious process. The thing that I really love about this collaboration is the way we’ve gone about it feels really natural.
Easty: Yeah, I agree big time. It’s been really fun, really inspiring and creative, and just really easy and nice to put our brains together and actually produce something. It feels like it’s been this very easy bouncing back and forth.
Ebony: When the idea kind of came about, I wasn’t enjoying my work and wasn’t really sure what to do with my work. So I think it’s funny how I was in that kind of turmoil and then from that, I was able to find something really enjoyable, which has taken me on another path. I’m not sure if you were in that realm as well…
Easty: I mean, yeah. If not at that time, I have been in the past. In terms of how our work aligns, I was on your Instagram the other day and I realised the similarities in our styles. I think it’s like the fine lines and the intricacy. There is some really nice stylistic consistency between us.
Ebony: I think it comes down to both of us enjoying really thought-out detail, basically. We both really admire each other’s work. And we’re both creatives but we’re doing two completely different things.
Easty: I really like how the necklaces look like each other’s work.
YEAH SICK COLLABORATION
Ebony: Next question. You describe the symbols as ‘brain litter’. How did you decide what symbols to incorporate?
Easty: So ‘brain litter’ has always been a cathartic way to finish off a piece. I started to just draw whatever my hand wanted to basically, and just let my hand make these satisfying little symbols. Then it turned into a signature – it’s become quite recognisable as something I do. We took those symbols and chose which ones to make as a silver charm purely out of practicality and what could physically be made into a charm on a necklace.
Ebony: I gave you the brief and then you could draw, whatever, but what we selected was what could physically hang off a necklace.
Easty: One of them is an adaptation of the Scorpio symbol. And the others are like flowers and moons. How did you make the pieces?
Ebony: Well, once we had all the designs for the symbols finalised, it was just a matter of actually getting into making the necklaces by hand. Over the course of two full days, I worked on the symbols and figured out the measurements, cut the measurements and shaped the symbols by hand. It was very hands-on, intensive labour.
We all sat around the table with these symbols and tiny glass beads and beaded the necklaces, one bead at a time, with snacks.
Easty: To put it into perspective, you made a total of 84 symbols by hand.
Ebony: Yeah, that was fun. And then I had to re-drill the pearls to fit the hemp cord. And then you came up to Byron and some family were staying at the house, so your mum and aunty and cousins joined us and we all sat around the table with these symbols and tiny glass beads and beaded the necklaces, one bead at a time, with snacks.
Easty: The fact that these necklaces were all made around the dining room table at the Suffolk Park house, which is where we often end up just sitting around and talking absolute rubbish, felt very full circle.
Ebony: And how the family got involved was really nice.
Easty: I feel really, really excited about what we’ve done. I’m really, really proud of both of us and proud of you. Well done. And thank you, Trudy, Karen, Alice and Madi for helping!
YEAH SICK COLLABORATION
Ebony: Yeah, thanks, guys! Alright, last question. How do you incorporate sustainability into your respective work and why is this important to you?
Easty: Well, I’ll start because I feel like my answer will be quite a bit shorter than yours. There’s not that much material that goes into my artwork that needs to be decided on to make it sustainable. Posca pens last a really long time. They’re refillable. And if you’re done with my artwork, the paper breaks down easily in the trash. But please don’t put my art in the trash, haha. As for the merchandise and clothes, I really make sure to always do the smallest quantity of clothes that I can so I’m not unnecessarily churning product out into the world. I always question, is it necessary? Do I need to do this? I keep it local with Sydney-based screen printers.
I think sustainability is a bit of a buzzword these days and it’s easy for a lot of companies to hide behind because there are no real standardised, regulatory bodies that actually hold that word up to a microscope. I think what it boils down to is that, right now, we’re at a tipping point. We can’t just keep taking, taking, taking. It should be standard business practice to make sure that how you make your money is at the absolute minimum cost to the environment. It’s not going to be perfect but you do the best you can.
Ebony: Companies and brands can kind of shy away from sustainability because it’s normally the harder route to take. It takes a lot of research. And I feel like I’m constantly improving and learning more about sustainability practices. In my studio, you’ll find the recycled materials and cuttings left in a jar and they are all melted down eventually to be reused. Also, all my metals are recycled and the batteries in my tools get stored to be taken to a battery recycling drop-off point. It’s also important for me to dispose of materials appropriately, and in my process, I use some chemicals but I’ve figured out ways to keep reusing them rather than just tipping them down the sink.
We are part of the land. We’re part of nature and what’s bad for the hive is bad for the bees.
Easty: Lots to think about. Lots of small things.
Ebony: Totally. Everyone should care for Country and do their part. Any small thing you can do is so important.
Easty: We are part of the land. We’re part of nature and what’s bad for the hive is bad for the bees.
Ebony: For these pieces, we used recycled silver and hemp cord for the threading. We also bought all the beads locally. We used hemp because it’s eco-friendly and biodegradable.
Easty: And taken from a crop that grows quickly, uses less water and breaks down easily.
Ebony: That hemp was actually really hard to thread, and literally there was a moment at the start where we weren’t sure if we’d even be able to use it. It made the process slow but worth it.
Easty: We persevered and we’ve ended up making a necklace as sustainably as we could.
Ebony: We even decided to do a short product run to make sure there’s not heaps of leftover product. Hopefully. I’m really proud of what we’ve created. It’s something with meaning that’s at an accessible price point.
Easty: Yeah, I’m really proud of what we’ve done. We worked hard for it. Please be nice.
Ebony: But we had fun as well.
Easty: We did have fun. We work hard. We play hard.
Ebony: Thanks for your hard work!
Easty: Thanks for your hard work! Anything else we need to chat about?
Ebony: I think that’s it.
Easty: Ok I’m gonna stop the recording. Cheers girl!