Learning is at the heart of Museum of Brisbane. Extend your skills and knowledge through creative-led experiences and learn more about our city!

Q&A: Busy Head

16 APRIL 2020

Busy Head was born from a love of bright colours and novelty, creating earrings and accessories inspired by Australian flora and fauna, houseplants and tasty things. These wearable delights are bound to make your ears happy!

The maker and designer behind Busy Head, Therese Smith, tells us about her latest release The Museum Collection and the unique technique she uses to make her vibrant accessories. See the new Busy Head collection online at MoB Shop.

You recently released a new range, The Museum Collection. Tell us about the inspiration behind this collection?

I got into illustration while I was studying archaeology and ancient history at uni; we had to draw a lot of artefacts and pots and I really enjoyed it. I’ve always loved museums and after spending five weeks in Europe over Christmas and visiting every art gallery and museum I could manage it was only natural for me to create a range that married my love of earrings with my passion for antiquity.

You must have an incredible personal collection of earrings by now! Do you have a go-to pair?

Unsurprisingly I wear mostly Busy Head earrings. I trial every pair I design before releasing them to make sure they hang correctly, so at some stage or another I’ve worn them all. My go-tos are the snakes, bottle brush and brush turkeys. I have quite a few Concrete Jellyfish dangles that I LOVE wearing and I adore all of my Molly Coombs Marr pieces.

When did you feel the first urge to pursue Busy Head?

I started Busy Head in 2016 after some prompting by friends and random strangers who really liked the earrings I was making for myself. I had a creative small biz in the past that didn’t really work out to be financially viable, so this time I consciously set up a more sustainable business. I spent months figuring out manufacturing processes and branding before anything went live.

Wax flower earrings by Busy Head. Courtesy Busy Head.
The technique you use to create your pieces is quite unique. Can you describe the process, and tell us how it came about?

When I started out I was making shrink earrings for my own use by using any type six plastics I had in the recycling; at this stage they were all completely hand drawn. Since starting Busy Head though, I use my original digital illustrations and print them onto polystyrene sheets. They start out two times bigger than the finished size; I then hand-cut and heat-shrink them. They get pressed, sealed and then mounted on stainless steel hardware. Doing it this way means that it’s all in-house and thus I can make to order; it means I don’t produce unnecessarily or wastefully.

How does living in Brisbane influence your creative practice?

Brisbane has such a fantastic community of makers and small business owners. The feeling of camaraderie and support from these people spurs me on to keep creating. I also draw inspiration from our natural surrounds; Australian flora and fauna feature heavily in my designs.

You started Busy Head in 2016, how has your style evolved over time and what has influenced its development?

As with any skill, the number of hours I’ve spent drawing has improved my illustrative prowess. I think it makes for a more polished-looking end result. The main ongoing influence is my desire to keep developing the styles. I want to make new and different things to maintain my own interest and the interest of my customers. I’m also constantly tweaking manufacturing processes to make the product more durable and to produce less waste.

Bee earrings by Busy Head. Courtesy Busy Head.
We recently had the pleasure of collaborating with you on a tea towel for MoB Shop, what was the inspiration behind this piece?

I draw a lot of my inspiration from our natural surrounds and, like many other people living in Australia, I am lucky to have a plethora of beautiful native birds visiting my yard. I wanted to create something that people would have an affinity with, but also something that tourists who visit the MoB Shop would enjoy as a keepsake from our lovely little corner of the world.

What does a day in the life of Therese look like? Tell us about your creative process.

I’m very lucky to have a home studio so my day wouldn’t generally involve me needing to leave the house. I try to have a routine where I wake up at the same time everyday and start work at the same time. I’ll spend the first part of the day checking emails and making a list of tasks that I need to see to, then just tick those things off. Busy Head is a one-lady show so those tasks involve everything from illustrating and making earrings to managing stockists, accounting, building and maintaining my website, and photographing promotional images. Typically I’ll do all my drawing in bed or on the couch for maximum comfort beside my best four-legged friend. I’m always drawing other people’s pets for custom pet portrait earrings and having my Kelpie Mia there helps keep the creative juices flowing.

Career highlight to date?

I still get so much joy out of seeing people wearing the things that I have created, whether on social media or in the wild. I’m stoked about all the collaborations, events and features I’ve been involved in, but the ongoing thing that makes me proudest is the fact that people like what I’ve made.

Bottlebrush earrings by Busy Head. Courtesy Busy Head.
How has your practice been affected by the current state of the world?

My daily routine hasn’t changed too much because I don’t often leave the house anyway, but I’m making a lot more time for creativity as a means to keep my spirits up. My heart is breaking for those who have lost work or loved ones and I’m missing my friends and family, but the generous and strong spirit of everyone around the world encourages me to keep plodding along.

What are the things you’re trying to do to stay creative on a daily basis?

I’m a big list fan, so each week I write down a few things to achieve and then try to do something everyday. It is anything from building little bits of furniture to sewing or painting. I’m not an expert at any of these things, but I love trying things and learning with every attempt. At the moment a lot of the projects revolve around thrift; repairing and making things at home so I don’t have to go out and buy them.

Who are your favourite Brisbane makers?

Moonshine Madness, Yippy Whippy, Sewloist, Lorraine and Blair, Kirralee and Co and Alice Nightingale just to name a few. But also shout out to Megs and Zoe at Alphabet Café in West End who are the makers of the most delicious food and drinks.

Do you have any exciting projects coming up?

Nothing huge in the works at the moment. I had already resolved to spend this year collecting myself and spending a bit more time tending to myself. The current crisis is ensuring I don’t deviate from that plan so I’m just going to go with that flow.


Bloom earrings by Busy Head. Courtesy Busy Head.

You might also like

19 Apr 2024
2024 First Look
Back to Explore