Jess Webb and Emily Glover are two talented ladies hailing from the isolated and quiet suburban town of Toowoomba in Queensland, Australia. They met at uni and soon fell into a deep and special friendship which encompassed a shared love of plants, print-making and lemon boobs. Jess started capturing their time spent driving around town listening to music, climbing into gardens and old houses on 35mm film. And Velvet Milk was born.
Jess moved to Brisbane a few months ago and we felt like we had to get them back together with a big, special, exclusive shoot directed, produced by and starring Velvet Milk. We also had a chat to Jess and Em about collaborating, backyard urban jungles and strawberry milk voms.
Read on and have your heart warmed with Pears, plants and the power of gal love captured in grain.
Who are you both and what do you do?
We are Emily and Jess – we like print making, ginger beer, dancing at inappropriate moments, talking which is actually screaming, admiring each other’s wardrobes and most of all taking photos together.
E: I’m in my last year of Uni in Toowoomba, I spend most of my time making chocolate cake and playing in my forest garden.
J: And I’ve just made the move to Brisbane with all my plants, working around records and books – missing Em all the time.
How did Velvet Milk come about?
J: I was in a drawing class with Emily at University and would see her across the room every Friday. She would wear corduroy and striped skirts and used teacups to hold her paint. Each week I would move my easel closer and closer to hers. I’d always dreamt of finding someone like her in a town like ours and it just worked.
E: After class one afternoon we bought a 2L bottle of strawberry milk. I went home and vomited everywhere. After that day I considered Jess my friend. Our time together became my special place.
J: I called Em Strawberry Milk Lady, and I already had a blog called The Velvet Insides. Our milk dates were taking its toll on her dairy intolerance so we began making things together in the printmaking studio. Soon other people were calling Emily strawberry milk lady – we became partners in crime – there was even a point where every time we were together we would zap each other.
E: I turned to Jess in the car one day and said “We are Velvet Milk!’
What drives you to collaborate with each other in this way?
E: Collaborating with Jess makes me happy. The way we interact with each other and the spaces we went became really important to me.
J: I started bringing my film camera around with me when Em and I would go exploring. We would run into old ladies gardens and she would dance around and whisper to the plants, so I started taking photos of this. I think once you find someone that shares your interests and inspires you, it’s hard to not want to spend all your time with them.
E: Our photo adventures are a place where we connect, but a velvet milk meeting could be anything from cactus hunting to a dumpling party. We have overly loud conversations in the middle of town, dance around in Coles or when we were at Uni together we would meet and print – everything would be ok when we were together.
J: I think our friendship and the way we work together made me want to keep going and see where it took us. Em has strengths and so do I, so when combined it’s a pretty loud, crazy, glitter fueled energy we work with.
Where do you look for inspiration?
J: I am attracted to plants and surfaces that have nice light. Em and I would go driving and listen to music and chat and that’s where we would plan projects or talk about ideas. We spend our time talking about people we admire or things we find relevant and appealing – our online friends always keep me motivated and inspired.
E: We would drive around town looking for places that were interesting, that we felt a connection to. I would meet the places and we would become friends.
J: We have a long running ‘dream house’ project so different houses and gardens are always a topic of conversation. Em will start dancing or bury herself in an entire wall of leaves – it’s hard to explain something that comes so naturally, especially when its something we do so often and share with each other. I started putting some of the photos online and the response we got back was really exciting – especially from the people we both admire.
E: I didn’t have instagram for nearly 2 years and had a very old nokia….
J: Emily wasn’t exactly down with technology, but that was really nice because what we shared was intimate and special. I would come back to class and show Em the response we got from something and it made me feel like this could keep growing and developing.
You’re both often getting lost in gardens and thickets of green in urban environments in your work. What is it about plants that drives you absolutely bananas / totally fascinates you both?
E: It’s all we wanted to do. We would go around town and cuddle all the plants.
J: Yeah we started forming bonds with local plants and would visit them on a regular basis; I think it’s also because we are both collectors. We like seeing things grow and surrounding ourselves with the things we love.
E: I found the honey man when I was walking home from school with my sister one afternoon. The honey man is this lovely older man that has a honey stall set up outside his front door. He has a garden full of all these different cactuses. A little while after we started our adventures I told Jess about the honey man.
J: I nearly lost it. We had been taking photos around cacti and all these plants and she had been withholding this amazing information. We knocked on the door and asked if we take some photos in the garden.
E: We tell stories and share our lives with each other. One of my favorite places to visit became the leaf wall, which is a giant building covered in vines on the main street of Toowoomba. The leaf wall is a place of significance and reflection. I would go there almost every Friday to bury myself in the leaves and say hello. The photos we took there one afternoon are some of my favourite because of my emotional attachment to the wall.
J: And that’s where the theme for a group show we curated at the end of last year came from – Plants and Personal Memories – we wanted to bring what we both loved to our town. We had some of our favourite artists respond to the theme and to see the work that was on show was really special. We asked two of our favourite ladies, Leona Fietz and Carla McRae to design our logo, and the fact they were willing to be a part of the project has been a highlight for the both of us.
Any new projects in the works that we can start getting excited for?
J: At the moment I think we are both trying to deal with not being around each other so often.
E: We were so involved in each other’s lives – Jess was practically my wife.
J: Emily is pretty much my emotional companion so she is always there for visits or phone calls to discuss what we have been eating or how many man buns we have seen during the day.
E: Because our time together is special, I want to keep working with Jess.
J: We are both huge fans of Odd Pears so taking photos of them was really exciting. I would love to be able to shoot Em for similar projects. We are always planning odds and ends so I’m hoping for Velvet Milk to have something tangible or in printed form sometime this year.
If you could design the ultimate Velvet Milk Pears, what would they be and what would be on them?
E: Pink and yellow with lemon titties on them
J: Yeah we went through a stage at university of doing collab lemon boob screen prints and etchings. So if there were boobie socks I’d buy them all.