Rachel Burke’s journey from dreaming about art to being commissioned by Miley Cyrus
Growing up, we all had visions and dreams of what we would like to be one day. Some of us wanted to be astronauts, some doctors, and some wanted to be painters. Sometimes, those dreams can be a little silly, but it doesn’t stop a child’s imagination from running wild. One of those people is Rachel Burke, whose dream was to become a fairy once she grew up. As a child, Rachel would spend her time playing with tinsels, glitter and everything girly. Fortunately for Rachel, no matter how childish that dream may sound like to an adult, she did find a way to make it come true!
This week, let’s take a look at Rachel Burke’s evolution as an artist and how she found her way against all odds.
Who is Rachel Burke?
Rachel Burke is a multidisciplinary Australian artist, designer, and mother. She is on Instagram by the name @imakestagram, where she has over 200K followers. Her Instagram feed is splashed with colors, and it becomes quite clear that she does not have to follow a rule book to bring her visions to a reality. Her dresses and jackets are made of rainbow tinsel, pom poms and everything sparkly. Her creativity and cheerful personality oozes out of her designs, and the fact that she unapologetically does what she’s always wanted to do is a massive achievement!
Rachel’s work has been exhibited in multiple galleries across Australia, including Saint Cloche Gallery, The Australian Centre of the Moving Image, Hamer Hall, The Museum of Brisbane, and GAFFA. Moreover, she has collaborated and worked with various well-known clients including Disney, Barbie, LEGO, Audible, Airbnb, Pottery Barn, Sephora, Nikon, My Little Pony, Visa, and many more. She has also provided services to artists and celebrities including Miley Cyrus, Harry Styles, Lauren Conrad, Drew Barrymore, Kesha, and Mindy Kaling. As if she had not already made her mark in the world of art, she has also written and published three books: Be Dazzling, Craft Roach, and Daphne & Daisy.
How she expressed her creativity as a child
Listening to Rachel talk, it’s easy to imagine her as a child. Lively, funny and a little mischievous, Rachel did not fit into her environment. She grew up in a household that wasn’t too big on choosing art as a profession. An obvious reason why that was the case was that no one in Rachel’s family had ever chosen this career before, so one might even say that she was a trailblazer in her house. For Rachel, being creative was not a pastime or a hobby, but rather something that she enjoyed. She was always attracted to glittery and feminine objects, and was obsessed with fairies. However, because of her inclination towards arts, she always felt this pressure of being and dressing a certain way, when she obviously did not want to.
I felt like an outsider in this world that was trying to make me something I wasn’t.Rachel Burke
Once Rachel finished her high school, she was admitted in Victorian College of the Arts, a musical theater school in Melbourne. For her, it was a chance to come out of her shell and get to enjoy the freedom she craved. However, soon she came to realize that going to Broadway was not really what she wanted to achieve. And so she dropped out after a year at school.
On realizing her goals and ambitions
For Rachel, becoming what she is today was never an easy path. She had to cross all these stepping stones before she could become a designer.
All I can say is, nothing has been linear.Rachel Burke
After dropping out, Rachel worked at a book store for some time before she felt inclined to start her own blog. She was fascinated with the idea of telling other people her stories, and there was still something that she wanted to talk about: her love for making clothes. Even though Rachel had no sewing skills or training, it never stopped her from experiments with clothing items. She would put together these dresses for her friends that she calls “very patchworky”. At this point, her skills were coming from her experimentations and that opened avenues for her which a person with formal sewing education may not consider.
Being able to design clothes on her own terms
As Rachel started her blog, she documented the dresses she would make for her friends. She made a dress every week for twenty weeks and was ultimately able to raise $5000 for a charity, which was a big deal for Rachel as this was the first project she was able to finish after dropping out of school. In the middle of all the hopelessness, being able to raise money made her realize that maybe she could do something.
I had really like lost faith in myself I think over that time.Rachel Burke
This success boosted Rachel’s morale, and she made a dress every day for a year to raise more money. At this point, Rachel had fully embraced her talents as a designer and had started her first brand Yellow Cake.
Rachel did what she could do best in such circumstances. To make up for her lack of sewing skills, she started experimenting with putting embellishments, gems, pom poms etc. on dresses. In a short time, she would be able to transform a $5 dress into a $200 dress. Ultimately, she was hired as an in-house designer in a boutique, and since then, she has been unstoppable!
Creating Apomogy and dealing with insecurities
As Rachel embraced her new role, she admits that through her journey, she burned a lot of bridges and had her own regrets. So, she ended up making an apology on a pom pom and share it online. She would make these personal apologies, and people started to related to her and connected with her. She ended up getting all these anonymous apologies on her website where she would then match them with her pom poms. It was about saying an apology while getting crafty. That is how Apomogy began in 2015, which was a “community art project about saying sorry with a pom pom”. Apomogy has been exhibited in galleries like The Redlands Art Gallery and Adderton’s Mini Mercy. The last project Rachel did on Apomogy was to make 2000 pom poms over two years. While Apomogy has not been active since 2019, its official website states:
Apomogy is currently on hiatus for now, but may return again one day…stay tuned!Apomogy’s official website
Rachel talks about how having no art background did contribute to her insecurities, but at the same time, she gets strength from her work. Apomogy was not just a project for her, but it also became something that made her realize that she liked this space. It was then that she started to take herself more seriously and said yes to the projects coming her way.
Art is subjective. Everyone can have an opinion.
That’s not for us to judge each other on like whose story is most worthy to be told in whatever form.Rachel Burke
Finding her inner voice
Rachel has come a long way since she started dreaming about fairies. She has created her own brand with her own identity, and has stuck to it. It was Rachel’s steadfastness that she was able to bag all the opportunities that came her way. More importantly, Rachel was able to say yes to projects that aligned with her work.
All that opportunity comes from producing the work that you love. It’s not contrived.Rachel Burke
Having said and done all this, Rachel acknowledges that it hasn’t really been easy.
I love working with these brands. But, yeah, it’s difficult at times because you want everything to be perfect, like in a movie.Rachel Burke
Rachel has had to work harder, especially after having her baby. But despite these challenges, she made it through! Her advice to other artists is to find the community of likeminded artists and connect with them.
People should support each other and have a positive mindset.Rachel Burke
Rachel’s journey of becoming a designer was not simple. She stumbled and lost faith on the way, but one thing she never did was give up her dreams. Despite having self-doubts and no external support, in her heart, she knew what she was meant to become. She followed her instincts and listened to her gut without having any formal skills. It’s an important reminder to all the artists who feel like the world is against them; you don’t have to know it all to make it, you just have to keep pushing, and ultimately, what’s yours will find its way to you!