Deborah Blakeley Zoneone Arts Interview

How did Zoneone Arts come about?

It was a slow process, beginning with TA@G, Textile Art @ the Guild.  This was the Embroiderers’ Guild of Victoria, where I helped to organize a monthly textile speaker.

This went along for a long time but found its end.

It allowed me to know that there was an interest in artists and their art practice.  My husband asked why not do a similar thing on the internet? He even suggested that I could take the idea further and go beyond Melbourne, even beyond textiles.

With much planning I prepared the site and Zoneone Arts was born.

I asked Lauren, a textile artist from the USA, if she would answer an online interview or conversation.

Lauren Camp interviewed, June 2012

Very promptly she said yes, she would do an interview, but could not have it done for a fortnight.  Wow! I was so excited.

I was on my way.  Perhaps it was also the words of wisdom that Lauren gave me, “get out of your zone.” I am indebted to her for that gentle push, or was it a great shove?  But it worked.

What keeps Zoneone Arts going?

It is the fun of the chase.  Where is the next interview?  So many artists and so many different mediums.  The list of mediums has grown along with the number of artists interviewed, coming from many countries worldwide.

Where do you find the artists?

Over the years I have been fortunate to have travelled extensively and I am always on the look out for interesting artists.   For instance, while travelling in Iceland I saw this work by Valdis Harrysdotter, using handmade vegetable paper formed into bowls.

Valdis Harrysdotter, Interviewed September 2015

There were three further artists I interviewed following my trip to Iceland, two painters and a photographer.

I am sent many invitations to exhibitions.  With one gallery, Union Gallery in Edinburgh, and the gallery director, Alison Auldoj, I have built a close relationship. Alison Auldoj drew my attention in the very early days to the artist Barbara Franc with an interview in March 2013.

Barbara Franc, Interviewed March 2013

Later Henry Jabbour, in 2017.

Henry Jabbour, Interviewed 2017

Damian Callan, Interviewed, 2019

Most recently Damian Callan in 2019.  It has been these links and the building of friendships, often via emails, that has led to the introduction of such an array of wonderful and different artists.  I cannot begin to express my debt to people such as Alison Auldoj.

Often it is an artist who shares another artist with me.  They may be a friend or they may share a studio or have been to art school together.

Two places that have introduced great networking onto my radar have come from both ends of the world, London and Canberra.  In London I have interviewed many artists who have had, or still have, a studio at Cockpit Arts, an amazing incubator for artists.  They support each other, learn from each other and develop their art within the one space.  Each artist is so different but I will name two. First Katharine Morling working in ceramics interviewed in July 2013.  Katharine still works out of Cockpit Arts.

Katharine Morling, ‘Glasses,’’ July 2013,

Secondly  Eleanor Lakelin, working in wood, who shared her story with Zoneone Arts. in June 2018.


Eleanor Lakelin, Photo by, Interviewed, June 2018,

Closer to home Canberra, Australia, and the wonderful Canberra Glass Workshop which allows the general public to visit and watch the glass artists at work.  They also have a great residency program, that brings together both local and international artists sharing, learning and supporting each other.

Lisa Cahill was given a wonderful commission to celebrate the end of WWI for both Australia and France at the opening of the new Australian Memorial in Villiers-Bretonneux, north of Paris, and produced this glass ‘Rising Sun’.

Lisa Cahill interviewed May 2018.

I am always going to galleries, as do many of my readers, visiting both local and international galleries.  These can be exhibitions in private galleries or exhibitions held in large public galleries.  I visited the Immigration Museum in Melbourne, my home city. I discovered the work of David Monahan.  There were a large collection of photographs (36) by Monahan depicting Dubliners who were preparing to migrate, some to Australia.  Hence the reason for the exhibition at the Immigration Museum.   Each of the photographs were taken with the same old suitcase, but the Dubliner was set in a favourite or personal space that needed to be remembered before leaving Dublin.

David Monahan, Interviewed April 2013

Explain some of the surprises that have come out of interviews.

This is easy, one of my best faux pas, was what I thought to be a simple question,  that I posed to Peter Randall-Page.

Here is the question:

Your work is in many Public Collections, can you take one that you remember as giving you a huge boost to your career?

Here is Peter Randall-Page’s very honest answer.  Also, he has been so forgiving to me in tactfully mentioning the many places where his work is in a public collection. 

Honestly, I am still delighted every time a work of mine enters a public collection but without question, the biggest boost was when the Tate bought Where the Bee Sucks.

What a gentleman, thank you Peter.

Peter Randall-Page interviewed January 2015

What have you learnt in the growth of Zoneone Arts?

That art is always on the move, with different artists, different medium, different techniques within a discipline.

Technology has changed so much since the first artist, Lauren Camp, to the last, Robyn Stacey.  Images are still so important but the images that artists now send to me are huge and the reproduction of them is beautifully clear.

Hopefully, I have learnt to ask deeper questions.  This has been summed up so well by Vicky Forrester and I am wowed by the generosity of her comments.

Founder Deborah Blakeley is on a mission to expose the pulse of contemporary arts and crafts practice.

Through her in-depth dialogues with makers across the globe, from all disciplines, Deborah artfully brings to light the common threads that drive the creative spirit.

Deborah diligently researches the featured artists in order to elicit from each their deeper motivation. Often questions juxtapose elements of their working practice that, in answering, bring to light new connections for the artist-maker and audience alike.

The ever-expanding collection of interviews present a comprehensive view of the creative arts today, making for a fascinating and informative read for both appreciators and makers.

I am honoured and delighted to be a featured maker. Vicky Forester.

Vicky Forrester, interviewed April 2015

I truly believe what Vicky has written so well; it is exactly what I have always endeavoured to achieve and will continue to do so in the future.

Are there any questions artists don’t answer?

Very rarely.  Every artist is so generous.  Sometimes they will combine questions, others they will have answered within another question.  No! they just keep on giving.

Do you find language a barrier?

I am very fortunate that most speak and write English.  An interview coming up in the next few weeks is with Steffen Dam from Denmark.  Steffen was concerned that he doesn’t write or type easily.  So together we were able to put together a wonderful interview.  He happily added to my research. Steffen filled in the gaps.

Steffen Dan, Interview interview, coming in 2019

Talk about a few answers that have brought laughter with the responses?

I still smile when I think about a comment made by John Short.

I know it will make you smile and perhaps laugh too.

This shows just how confident the artists are and how they are so happy to share small stories with Zoneone Arts.

John said,  “Some time ago I ditched the ubiquitous bouncy castle at one of our son’s birthday parties in favour of having the kids all sit individually for small watercolour portraits, which they all got to take home with them in their goody bags. It really was great fun, it’s a bit of a real party trick actually and at one point as I was painting one of my sitters, I was conscious of a boy watching over my shoulder and nearing completion he called the others through to look and said ‘Wow! It starts off crap and then it’s cool’

Actually, sounds like a metaphor for my career.”


John Short, interviewed January 2013

Discuss the people who have helped with Zoneone Arts?

Keith Marais from Comma5 who is always there for me, just an email away for any technical support.  He has become not just my IT man but a valued friend.

Anna Harley for her proofreading for this interview Her continuing encouragement of Zoneone Arts.

My readers who often comment and many who will be unaware that their kind words of encouragement have kept me going.

All the 300 artists, without whom there would be no  Zoneone Arts.  Thank you from us all but especially myself.

Katharine Coleman MBE, interviewed January 2018.

My family who have always supported me throughout the life of Zoneone Arts, several times gently suggesting that I go back to the computer and find another interesting artist.  Don’t give up.

Euan, my son, who every week patiently produces my In-Conversation signature that closes each week’s email.  Thank you for always doing these with a smile and often a valued comment on the art.

My husband, John Blakeley, thank you for being my numero uno fan.


Deborah Blakeley from Zoneone Arts,  “Take a seat and join me each week to meet a new exciting artist.”

Contact details:

Deborah Blakeley

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, April 2019