As someone who is still quite relatively new to the wonderland that is the music scene, I’ve never really grasped just how much work goes into putting together a show until I joined NANC. I still remember all of us collapsing dramatically to the floor when our first event, Parramatta In Retrogade wrapped up – tired and out of our minds. On that night, I felt a deeper appreciation for those behind the scenes – putting together the lighting, set design and so much more. These are the people who helps artists and performers shine even more on stage.
As exemplified in her work for the brilliant Sampa the Great, Kodi Graham is an incredible artist in her own right. As we await to see the lovely floral designs that she has in store for New Age Noise: Saturn Return on the 15th of Nov, get to know her below in her conversation with NANC member, Jenny (Wytchings) and NAN alumni, Tanwee Shrestha (design work here).
J: Hi! Can you please introduce yourself?
K: Hiiii! So I’m Kodi, and I spend most of my days playing with flowers as a freelance/studio florist for events.
J: What is on your playlist right now?
uhhhh it’s ALL over the place at the moment but I’ve been playing Warrang by Slim Set and Shady Nasty on repeat! Also, Remi’s newest track Brain ft Lori, Swan Lingo, and Wytchings of course. (Editor’s ~note~ aw, too kind! Thanks Kodi ^_^)
J: The moment that we saw the work that you did for Sampa The Great, we immediately fell in love! Could you tell us a little more about how those gorgeous designs came to life and what was like working with her?
K: Awww thanks so much! The whole experience still feels pretty surreal, it was kind of a dream job!
I was lucky enough to work on it with some very dear florist friends who run a studio called xxflos, they’d worked with Sampa and her team in Tasmania for Dark Mofo, so it felt pretty natural for us to all jump on the Melbourne show. With ‘The Return’ drawing upon Sampa’s heritage, we wanted to bring a bit of the Zambian wild to the stage so lots of tall grasses, dried palms, powerful earthy colours, and of course, a bit of glam because Sampa is the queen!
The florals came together over two days; with market, make and bump in on the first day and then final adjustments and placements right before the show. The whole production was a dream to work on though, and Sampa and the entire crew were incredible. I think we could all sense that everyone was just so excited and humbled to be a part of such a special show. There was a sense that everyone was elevating their work to a whole new level, and creating something we were all so proud of.
T: How do you balance your own designs and visuals with the needs and personalities of the artists that you work with?
Yeah, that’s definitely a tough one. I think it varies from brief to brief, and often comes down to working with people who you respect creatively, and who also trust you and your craft. But, I do also think that “good” personal style is adaptable – in the sense that it can take on a whole range of different forms or influences and still have a kind of essence that is yours. And more to the point, I think a part of good design is collaboration and a deep understanding of the purpose your work serving as a whole, so in that sense as long as your engaging with artists/clients in a really genuine way, you’re kind of finding that balance instinctively.
T: We notice that lighting plays a harmonious role with the florals. How much of stage lighting do you take into consideration or does it usually start with the florals first?
Yes! So for me, this is the biggest difference between other types of floral installations and florals for the stage. Lighting plays such an important role!
Approaching a brief for stage florals, you’re developing designs based on an understanding that the colours will be changing under light so you want to have a palette and products that work with that. You’ll also usually begin constructing the florals with a vague idea of what is happening with lighting and then once you’re at the venue pre-show, you’ll be working with lighting designers/projection artists to refine how the two elements are interacting.
Some work is also more heavily focused on lighting than others too. For example, if I’m working with xxflos we’re also often collaborating with a designer (Rhys Newling – the designer responsible for the incredible visual projections for Sampa!) who projection maps onto the florals, so in that case, we’re looking to create forms that will respond well to those visuals.
J: Who are your creative influences and why?
K: Ahhhhhh there’s so many! I think I’m pretty lucky to be surrounded by a dreamy community of creative people who inspire and encourage me daily, and who are a major influence on my work/life. As well as that, the freelance florist community is full of exceptionally talented, creative humans who are so generous in sharing their knowledge, and I think they will always have an influence on my output. Beyond that, Fjura, Mary Lennox, and Wife NYC are a couple of favourite floral designers who are just always producing the most amazing and innovative work. I love that their work challenges the expectations of what floristry can or should be, and I hope that my work is able to emulate that in some way.
J: Why did you decide to be part of New Age Noise: Saturn Return and what can we expect?
K: I’ve actually been itching to work on something with New Age Noise for a reeeeaaalllly long time because I adore everything the collective is working on and the ethos behind the work. So with Saturn Return happening as I was coming out of a wild few months of floristry, it felt like the right time to reach out and luckily, the whole crew jumped on board with the idea.
For Saturn Return, we’re cooking up a bit of a celestial dreamscape, so you can expect some otherworldly, floaty floral vibes.
J: Favourite flower?
K: Bearded Iris (but the answer changes daily).
Follow Kodi on Instagram to see more of her work.
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*Photos provided by Kodi. 🙂