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Taking five with local creative, Leah Heys

Starting your own clothing business as well as designing a tour t-shirt for the John Butler Trio are significant achievements in themselves, however accomplishing all this by the age of 18 is something else.

Last week, I had the pleasure of chatting with local creative, Leah Heys about her journey so far in starting up SYEH Apparel .

When did you start drawing, and what has been your main sources of inspiration?

It’s interesting because people think I’ve been drawing all my life when in reality I only started around four years ago. I began to draw because I was inspired by one of my friend’s illustrations on her longboard. Since then I’ve filled my Instagram feed with artists that inspire me such as Felicity Palmateer (@flickpalmateer). In some of my earlier works, you can really see my appropriation of Palmateer’s work. Now however, as strange as it sounds, my biggest inspiration is myself.

What kind of feedback do you receive about your work?

Some people love my style and the intricate detail within each design. On the other hand, others get a bit freaked out by all the eyes within the drawings. I like that though, if my work can make someone feel something, even uncomfortable, that’s really cool.

When did your drawing become SYEH Apparel and what motivated you to branch out to clothing?

I created the name SYEH Apparel in 2014. This was solely because I wanted to start a clothing business. I liked the idea of wearable art and a lot of my friends and family would see one of my drawings and say, ‘That would look awesome on a shirt!’  Fun fact, the name ‘SYEH’ is derived from my last name spelt backwards.

In 2014, one of your designs was picked up by the John Butler merchandise manager and used on one of their US tour t-shirts. How did that come about?

Some of my mates and I went down to Hobart to watch John Butler Trio’s show for their Flesh and Blood tour. I’m a huge fan and decided that I wanted to create something to give to John Butler if I got the chance to meet him. What not many people know is that the design I drew was simply some of my doodles on the band’s original arrow logo. Anyway, I got down to Hobart and was looking at some merch before the show and the guy behind the desk asked about the drawing and offered to give it to John Butler for me. I had my name and email on the back of the drawing with a little personal handwritten note.

A few months later my mum asked me if I had heard anything about it and the craziest part of this story is that as soon as she asked, I received a Facebook notification. It said, ‘John Butler Trio commented on your photo.’ It so happens that they had been trying to get into contact with me for the past three months to no avail. Long story short, I chatted with Butler’s merchandise manager and organised for them to use my design for their US tour merch.

Your artwork has recently appeared at local cafe, Shots on Wax. How did you get your foot in the door and is your piece temporary or long-term?

My wonderful art teacher and also probably my biggest artistic inspiration, Kat Camm, is heavily involved with Shots on Wax. She recommended me to do some artwork for them so that they could decorate up the store. It’s long-term, I hope, as it took me around 40 hours to complete and is a huge mandala painted onto a black wall with white posca pens.

You’ve had some pretty amazing experiences already, is there anything exciting on the cards for or SYEH Apparel?

I’ve already had an unintentional half a gap year due to some issues with the school I’m planning on studying at this year. This hasn’t been so bad however, because I’ve had the chance to explore Tasmania. Every week I’ve been climbing a new mountain and swimming in the ocean. I’m living the dream, really.

As for SYEH Apparel, we’ll have to wait and see. I still owe my parents money due my last printing venture of 400 tees for my stall at Party in the Paddock. In all seriousness though, I would really love to see myself getting into hand printing my own designs. It’s rather tricky because it’s quite an expensive process. I would also love to branch out and draw on some more surfboards and skateboard decks. I might even design some car stickers!

To see more of Leah’s work head to SYEH Apparel on Facebook or @syehapparel on Instagram.

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