Unravelled Stories. Meet Carmellia from Studio Chillimarini

Interview by Maggie Zhou.

It’s hard to pin down exactly what Studio Chillimarini creates. The owner of the Melbourne-based design studio makes what she affectionately calls “doodads” – which roughly refers to lifestyle bits and bobs ranging from coasters to necklaces. 

Somewhere along her creative journey, Carmellia Indrawati made little sculptures out of sugar. Enamored by their organic shapes and challenged by their short lifespan, Carmellia was then led to her preferred medium: epoxy resin.

“I just want people to feel happy when they see, hold and touch my creations,” she says. With Studio Chillimarini’s array of toast-nipple necklaces, flower candle holders and bread mirrors, it’s obvious that joy is imbued in everything she does. 

TSS: You're an artist who has dabbled in a lot of mediums. Can you walk us through how you've gotten your career to where it is now?

Carmellia: It took me a long time to find resin and for it to become my preferred medium. I’ve always loved painting and making since I was young but decided to become an interior designer and eventually an urban planner. In 2015, my husband and I moved to Colombia. It was a challenge to find a job whilst learning a new language. I started dabbling in arts and crafts again (mostly embroidery and painting) during my time off. 

Eventually, it turned into making petite sculptures out of sugar. I was in love with how light passed through the blocks of tinted sugar! Unfortunately, they eventually melted and I had to throw them away. I was obsessed with making the ephemeral visual characteristics of translucent candy last. So, I had to find a different material to work with.

That’s how I found epoxy resin. I loved it as soon as I started playing with it, it’s such a versatile medium! I continued to make resin objects after moving back to Australia in 2020 and pivoted from small sculptures to homewares which led to my creating Studio Chilimarini. I still have a lot of things to learn about running a one-person business but I see growth on the horizon and can’t imagine my life without doing art and design!

TSS: Your doodads are colourful, tactile and fun. What serves as your inspiration?

Carmellia: So many things! It could’ve been a painting at a gallery, the colours on animals I saw while taking a walk through the Botanic Gardens, or sometimes a random doodle I made on a scrap piece of paper. Most of the time the inspiration to make an object I’m truly passionate about happens when I see something that catches my attention (could be anything and anywhere!) [and it’s] followed up with an ‘ah-hah!’ moment. It's difficult to explain but it’s like when two puzzle pieces fit together but it could be a texture and a form, or colour and light. 

An idea excites me when I can visualise an object and it just feels right. The final outcome of the homeware piece might not always look like the original vision for it to be functional. This is where the use of bright and contrasting colours comes in! Good use of colour has so much power to make a simple object feel alive and to bring joy. I just want people to feel happy when they see, hold and touch my creations.

TSS: What considerations do you have when creating your products?

Carmellia: Making sure whatever the object is, that it feels good in your hand. I’m a very tactile person and I don’t really like holding things that don’t feel comfortable like things with unexpected sharp edges and corners, prickly parts [or] textures that feel out of place. I sand all my designs by hand to make sure their edges are smooth and no one has to be worried about cutting their hand (resin can be sharp!). I’ve also recently become interested in matte finish[es]. I love how it can make something that’s hard and solid look and feel so smooth and velvety.

TSS: What's been the biggest challenge you've had to overcome in your career?

Carmellia: Having to learn about the business side of things. I love making things, playing with materials, and exploring shapes for new products! I dread having to sit and think about numbers and making hard decisions about sales. I always need a lot of help with this and I’m grateful to have a husband who’s always there to help me because you really can’t do everything on your own.

TSS: Who are some local artists and makers you admire? 

Carmellia: Tantri Mustika, Marisa Mu, Jen Von Klitzing, Indigo O’Rourke, Annita Maslov. I wasn’t expecting the list to be made up of all women but there we go! I think this is because it motivates me to continue working on my craft when I see them share their work. The art they make and the thoughts they express seem like a genuine reflection of them as individuals. I like their honesty.

TSS: Can you share any upcoming projects or plans for the future you have in the works?

Carmellia: Bigger homeware items! Starting with small furniture pieces like side tables, stools, and mirrors. [They’ll] of course still [be] small-batch and handmade.