My Space: Organic Ash’s commercial home kitchen

Organic Ash

Ash Scott is a baker, photographer, and social media manager. When you ask her how she did it she’ll tell you it all came about via Instagram, and entirely by accident. She’s an inspiration for those of us yet to find our “calling” (or make a living from it at least) and a testament to the power of social media. Here I talk to Ash about the challenges and benefits of working from home as a baker. 

Organic Ash

How long have you been working from your home kitchen? What made you decide to work from home as opposed to using an existing commercial kitchen?

I’ve been working commercially from my home for about a year. My local council are really great, I registered with them very early on in the game and they have been so supportive. 

I choose to work from home for a number of reasons. First of all 90% of my baking is wheat free and I do a lot of gluten free baking too. It’s impossible to be gluten free in a commercial baking environment due to all the air borne particles. It’s hard enough getting up as early as I do – throw in the commute plus how cold it gets here in winter – I thought 5am in my kitchen is fine but 4:30am -1 degree in winter in a large commercial kitchen would be awful.

Also it came down to cost. I started my business with $500 and there was no give in that for rent. Financially I could do it now but I actually love working from home so probably won’t – I love walking out into my garden to pick flowers to garnish my cakes with, I love listening to my music/podcasts. Most bakers I’ve worked with have had shit taste in music and didn’t know what podcasts were so…

What do you love about your kitchen? Can you pin point any favourite things?

I had a love hate relationship with my old kitchen. It was tiny – the smallest room/largest cupboard in the house. It was 3m x 3m, including bench space, cupboards, fridge and oven… tiny. Everything was challenging, hauling all my ingredients from my studio into the kitchen daily, waiting for room in the oven because only two trays fit in at a time, the fact that there was one power socket that was frankly, in a really stupid position.

I’ve always had a work with what you have attitude so that helped. It taught me a lot, in particular to tidy as you go – not my natural way of being. I also learnt time management. Naturally I’m a very efficient multi-tasker but learning to slow down has (perhaps) been a good thing.

We have just bought a new house and my first big purchase was an enormous SMEG double oven. My new kitchen is a lot bigger than my old one. It was a do-up but the kitchen was top of the list (it had to be a certain standard for the council to give me the tick). 

Are there any challenges about this space in relation to photography? How does it compare to your old kitchen?

When it comes to photography there are a few tricks. My bench top is mostly a hideous green colour, so I do have to use other surfaces to shoot on, mainly my marble slab that sits on my bench covering a gaping hole (long story… but it was my doing). It’s the perfect surface to shoot on, it’s bright and simple. Compared to my old space it is still infinitely better!

Do you have a props collection? What are your favourite pieces to photograph with?

I don’t really have a very big props collection, everything in my photos is legitimately what we use at home. I tend to keep my photos quite simple and minimal because I prefer the aesthetic. I do see a lot of photographers that surround the dish they’ve made with every ingredient and vintage utensil they can find, and while I love that look and have experimented with that style of photography myself, it always felt forced. I guess I was seeing so many people doing that and I thought it looked quite cool but in the end it wasn’t me.

I guess all photographers try new things when they’re new and trying to figure things out. Needless to say that phase didn’t last long and I decided to work with what inspired me which is good food, space, light and shadow. I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out what time to photograph as we’re in a new house and the light has changed.

In terms of what we have at home it’s a weird mix, I have a lot of hand made pottery mostly gifted from friends, op shop utensils and odd mugs. My cast iron pans have to be my most loved and used items – everybody needs a good set of cast iron pans! As for equipment I believe in spending a bit more and getting a good quality item rather than buying products that are designed to last a year or two.

There are a few things I have my eye on like some good European bundt tins – the really tall ones, you just can’t get them here.

One crazy thing I have sourced is a set of stainless steel ice block moulds. eBay didn’t ship here so I got them posted to a friend in San Diego who held onto them and gave them to my partner when he was over there for work… it took months to get them made but it was totally worth it! I love them!

What do you wear when you’re working, and what do you like to listen to?

I wear the type of clothes that one would typically work out in. I don’t actually work out but when I show up to school drop off in ‘active wear’ I like to give off the vibe that I’m some one who would work out – leggings, t shirt and Nikes. Basically all about comfort and sensible footwear.

I listen to all sorts but mostly National Radio and podcasts. 

My fave podcasts at the moment are Heavyweight, The Memory Palace, Undisclosed, Strangers, Invisibilia, Kim Hill (she’s on National Radio but if I miss her Saturday slot I podcast her all week, she’s amazing), Violet Sessions, and The Guilty Feminist. If anyone has pod cast recommendations PM me. I’ve kinda exhausted all mine…

See more of Ash (including recipes!) on her website. Follow her at Organic Ash for baking, cooking, and HB life; Buttercream and Blooms for custom wedding and occasion cakes; and on Facebook for a bit of both.

My Space: Bunny Eats Design’s home office and studio

Bunny Eats Design

Genie De Wit is a graphic designer obsessed with food and bunnies. She’s also a food stylist, photographer, and blogger. Seriously living the dream – in my words and her own. I talked to Genie about how she makes her one bedroom flat work for her and her freelance husband, “The Koala.”

Why do you work from home as opposed to an office and how long have you been doing it for?

I’ve been freelancing full time since April 2016 and my husband, Kelvin joined me at the end the year. I started my blog about 6 years ago and we started our creative company, Monster Illustration & Design a year later. Both started out as side projects. Freelancing has always been a dream but up until last year, it wasn’t clear if it would be viable as a full time gig. I had a full time job in print but worked nights and weekends, slowly building up our client base and body of work. Eventually it was like I was working two full time jobs and that’s when I quit my day job to concentrate on my blog and on Monster. 

I love working from home because I need different work areas to be efficient (desk, full kitchen, photography area) which would be difficult to find in a traditional office or shared work space. I dislike the idea of having an office space elsewhere and having to commute between home and office every time I needed to switch between computer work or photography work. Also, Auckland traffic makes me furious so working from home is the best. 

How do you find working immediately next to your partner? Is he a distraction? How do you decide who has to do the next coffee run?

Having an office buddy has been great. It can be a little distracting, but also entertaining. We take micro-breaks throughout the day when we have to show each other hilarious animal videos. We pretty much keep to ourselves while we are working and at the moment don’t have any team projects, but we used to do more collaborations. It is good to have someone creative on hand to bounce ideas off though. We don’t go out for coffee as we’re trying to save money but we make coffee at home throughout the day.

Describe your work space and how you use it: 

We have our office set up in the lounge of our 1 bedroom flat. We got matching desks last year so our computers could be side by side and we share a printer/scanner and lightbox. The rest of the lounge can double a meeting room when we have clients. It works really well for us. Sometimes I think I’d like to have a separate room but it’s more social being in the same room. I had about 6 months as a solo freelancer and the work day can be long and lonely with no one to share the day with. My other work space is the kitchen which doubles as a photography studio. This is where food blog magic happens.

What do you love about your work space and what can you absolutely not do without? 

I’ve always been the type of person to decorate my desk so I love having a few bunny items on my desk and my whiteboard is starting to accumulate things too. My sister Joanne Ho is an artist and painted this calendar which features glorious outdoor and beachy scenes. I like having nature close to my desk.

Aside from my computer and camera, I love having a photography space permanently set up with my props in easy reach. It might be tiny but it’s efficient. Even if I’m not planning a full blog post, it’s easy to quickly set up and take a photo for Insta.

This year I have made a habit of using a diary to stay organised and I also list all my current jobs on a whiteboard. My lists are a reminder that I have other things to do besides check Facebook and Instagram and I get so much satisfaction from crossing off completed tasks. I work best when I break down big projects into smaller tasks. I have lists for everything. I love lists.

What do you find challenging about your work space? What would you change about it if you could? 

I shoot in natural light so planning to cook and shoot in daylight dictates my schedule. I own studio lights but they are huge and can’t be set up permanently in my kitchen. It would be awesome to have a bigger photography space (but still close to the kitchen) so I could have my lights set up permanently. I’ve been using a client’s flash lighting set up once a week at their place and now I want the same set up at my place but it wouldn’t fit.

Tell us about your photography area and how you use it:

My photography area is in our kitchen where the best light in the house is. We live in villa with close neighbours so we don’t get much daylight inside except in the kitchen. Often I will set and style a shot while I’m cooking so that it’s all ready to go when the food is cooked. This is a bonus of having a photography studio in the kitchen.

What would be your dream addition to your photography area/props department?

Floor to ceiling shelving for storage and a shit ton more props. I don’t think you can ever have too many props right?

What are some of your favourite props and why? 

I love handmade ceramics where every piece is unique due to the handmade process. I prefer neutral and monochrome because they allow the food to be the hero and have a couple of pieces from Miss Changy and Thea Ceramics that I adore. 

What do you wear when you’re working? Do you make a point of “getting dressed” or are you often found at your desk in your pyjamas?

I don’t work in pyjamas but I never wear a bra when working from home and before freelancing I didn’t own any track pants. Now I have a collection of trackies. I find working in comfort a luxury to be indulged in but I always dress properly for meetings or location shoots.

What do you like to listen to while you’re working (if anything)?

If I really have to focus or am writing, I prefer silence, but otherwise we stream Pandora in the office or kitchen. If I’m photo editing or doing a lot of product photography where I don’t have to read or write, I’ll put on a podcast. 

Do you eat while you work or do you make a point of taking breaks? What do you eat and drink during your work day to keep you going?

We don’t make a point to have meal times or breaks during the day. We just eat when we are hungry. What we eat can be a combination of blog or client related dishes, leftovers or whatever I feel like making. I make a point of incorporating a walk to the shops once a day where I’ll buy whatever is on special or in season. For example, today we had two types of salad leftover from last night and I added some spicy baked chicken wings. Yum.

Follow Genie on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest

My Space: Miss Changy’s home made studio

miss changy

Ruby White describes herself as “just a creative person who makes food and ceramics and occasionally things from wood.”

miss changy

But what she really means is that she’s an art school graduate who’s been hosting irregular pop up events in Auckland under the moniker of Miss Changy since 2014. These pop ups incorporate family recipes as well as Ruby’s take on Malaysian-Chinese cuisine (being half Malaysian-Chinese herself). But that’s not all. Ruby’s pop ups also feature her own handmade tableware from plates and bowls to chopsticks to cups to stainless steel straws. And chairs.

miss changy

Most recently Ruby has been working on a series of brown and white marbled plates and bowls.

Her from-scratch mentality naturally extended to her home studio. The white walls of the light filled room make what used to be the messy end of a suburban garage feel much bigger than it is and took three months of “chipping away” and $1000 to convert (catch a glimpse of the process here).

miss changy

What do you love about your studio? 

I love the light. I made a point of putting in a big window, two sky lights and a glass door. It gets a bit hot when it’s sunny but I wouldn’t change a thing – except maybe a window that opened. Whoops…

It’s also just a great feeling to have a space all to yourself. Nice amount of freedom that comes with it. It’s a great place to hide away from the world. I love my little kiln too. It’s been frustrating and fun playing with it. It’s a lot easier to experiment with different techniques and temperatures when you have your own kiln to do it with. Explaining yourself can get tiring.  

miss changy

What do you find challenging about your studio?

Not enough shelving, but that’s an easy fix. I wasn’t sure what level of production I’d be doing so early on, but I’m running out of room fast so that’s a good indication to me. I’m going to have to invest in a larger kiln soon. The current one can’t keep up with my making. 

miss changy

What do you wear when you’re working in the studio and what do you like to listen to?

I wear something comfy, an old pair of gazelles and an apron. I try to keep to my shoes rule because it brings clay dust into the house. I listen to the radio while I work. Normally bFM but I also go between flava, National, and this other classical station.

miss changy

Ruby’s ceramics have been featured in Cuisine magazine and are available at Widdess in Ponsonby and very soon at an online shop in the making.

Follow Ruby on Facebook and Instagram (as recommended by Design Sponge!)