Words by Anthony Thomas
“We’re just making stuff for everyday use, trying to make a small improvement on what we have now,” Alana Kingston tells me down the phone as she wrestles with a gate. She was in the process of moving house with her sister, Annabell, when we spoke. Together, the two sisters’ are the brains behind the Melbourne-based collective, Paradise Structures.
Paradise may seem an odd concept when attached to a creative effort run by siblings but Alana insists it isn’t all that bad. “Sure, we fight a lot but it’s really easy to work through ideas with each other because we get along really well. Being siblings, if we disagree we can just tell each other and move on from there.” This dynamic makes sense given the idyllic work they have produced together. Lush with pastel colours and natural imagery, their work displays no sign of tension on the surface, which pleases Alana when I mention their application of an almost soothing colour palette.
“It’s really funny with colour because it’s one of those things that we disagree upon a lot of the time. We’ve got out individual preferences and we’ll say to each other, “Look you like these colours and I like these colours, let’s just use them all,” and it ends up clashing but it works.”
Practicing in a creative space that spans from installation and sculpture to fashion and other wearables, the pair certainly aren’t afraid to experiment. Though both trained in the arts, Alana as a painter and Annabell a photographer, this is the first time they have had a chance to collaborate and I’m curious as to what they’re hoping to achieve.
“We were making stuff for people like us. It’s a way of saying that we’re trying to be a little bit environmental. We’re thinking about how things are going to go throughout our lifespans and making things a bit greener without going all out and saying we make the greenest things ever. There are always improvements that you can make. I think about that a lot, like what the impact is of what you are making and putting out there.”
It’s an admirable mission and a refreshing voice in the environmental debate, one that would typically be drowned in the oceans of extremity surrounding the issue. While an avid gardener, Alana remains pensive to label Paradise Structures as “green”. Regardless, Monk House Design fell in love and had them create an installation as part of their Craft Cube festival.
“We started playing with clay and making these vases. I’m fairly new to ceramics, mainly making plates and cups with really smooth surfaces but I tried getting away from that by making things with really lumpy surfaces. Things I’m not used to making. Then it kind of led on from there and we thought about how we could transfer a vase into something else. We moved along into clothing and some other uses.”
Other uses? “I guess the idea is that a dress can be tied in different ways or the bags with vases in them can be played with in store but it’s never truly your thing. Whoever owns it in the end gets to put the final arrangement in and they decide how they tie it up. So I guess the idea was creating something that people can alter in their own way to actually make it theirs.”
It isn’t their first foray into fashion either, having previously created a dress printed with an exact replica of a table tennis table for a 2orMore show earlier in the year. “The table tennis dress was a really nice way of being able to wear a dress to a party and maybe take it off and play table tennis.” They have since expanded their fashion apparel range into a line of bags and jewellery, Alana tells me, “We just go with whatever works, it really depends on where the idea takes us.”
Before I let her go, I had to ask Alana the obvious question. What is your idea of paradise? “I’m always thinking about that actually! The idea of paradise is always a let down because you’ll never, ever get there. The whole idea of design is to try and improve or make something new again but as soon as you strive to make something new it’s acknowledging that the thing you’re trying to improve isn’t good any more. Paradise isn’t necessarily this entirely utopian concept, it can be a let down as well. That’s what I like about it. Maybe the reality will be utopia or maybe it will be apocalyptic.”
She has a point. We are all driven by some internalised motivation to continually improve every aspect of our lives but for what? The pursuit of happiness? Of validation? Of understanding? Whatever it is one thing is for sure, Paradise Structures has created a unique position for themselves by offering a small slice of solace from this seemingly primal instinct for perfection.