Kristy Dickinson is the woman behind Australian-based jewelry label Haus of Dizzy. Dickinson specializes in hand-cutting bold, statement acrylic earrings. Her jewelry making empowers her, allows her to convey political messages, and acts as therapy to help her deal with her PTSD. We discussed the ins and outs of starting your own business, the forced politicization of young Indigenous Australians, and what inspires the “Queen of Bling”.
MINNA GILLIGAN: Hi Kristy! Could you tell me the meaning (if any!) behind the name ‘Haus of Dizzy’?
KRISTY DICKINSON: Sometimes when my friends are being annoying I call them “Dizzy Moles,” I actually ended up moving in with a couple of “Dizzy Moles” and the name caught on and everyone in the house ended up using the term. We then had a house warming party and called it “Haus of Dizzy” and then I was looking for a name for my new range of jewelry and it was right under my nose all along!
Could you take me through your very first experiments and experiences with jewelry design and production? What drew you to the medium?
I have been making jewelry for 16 years and have used a lot of different mediums, metal, beads, feathers etc. I wanted to make super light-weight earrings that were bold and bright so I decided to start using acrylic and a laser cutter. It gave me the opportunity to design anything I wanted and to use bright colors and glitters, which I adore!
How did you begin Haus of Dizzy as a professional business? I think a lot of readers would like some advice on taking their own handmade products to the next level of professionalism!
I was in between jobs and really wanted to finally work for myself so I raided my wardrobe and began culling all my designer shoes, handbags and clothes and took them to Glebe Markets in Sydney and sold them to fund my business. Over a few months I saved for materials and began to make a small range, then a friend designed my logo and it was all coming together. It wasn’t until I approached a local graphic design team and launched my website that things really kicked off. I now stock over 10 stores throughout Australia including The Museum of Contemporary Art and America’s cult fashion online store Dolls Kill.
What is the hardest thing about running your own creative business?
The hardest thing I think is people copying all your hard work, I have had it happen a few times now and it’s so shit. All the hours you spend designing, cutting, hand painting and assembling each piece and then for someone to then just send a photo of your work to get made in China is heart breaking.
The style of your jewelry is loud and proud. You describe yourself as the “Queen of Bling”. What is it about adorning yourself with statement jewelry that you love? Is there an intrinsic strength, power or self-confidence that comes when you yourself put on your earrings?
I actually feel naked when I don’t have any jewelry on. I love jewelry and I always have since I was a little girl. All of my friends know how much I love anything shiny and named me ‘The Queen of Bling’. I love making my jewelry with positive quotes to give people confidence and spread as much Girl Power as I possibly can.
There is also a commanding self-confidence in photographs I’ve seen of other people wearing your designs. How do you feel when you get to see people all over the world in their selfies wearing your jewelry and looking amazing?
It makes me feel so proud and actually gives me butterflies. Even when I see people in the street wearing my jewels I’m like “OMG, I made that!”
I love that you and your work are openly political. This is necessary in the current climate. Do you think that being an Indigenous Australian has forced you to be more politically aware and outspoken from a younger age? Have you faced any prejudice within your creative business because of this?
Yes, I think it has made me aware from an early age, I endured a lot of racism at school especially in primary school. It wasn’t until high school I really became aware of what was happening in our Indigenous communities. I think people really embrace me as an Indigenous designer and want to support what I’m doing. I really want to be a role model for young Indigenous kids and let them know if you really want something “Go for it!”
Could you tell me more about your amazing STOP ADANI earrings and campaign? Why is this cause important to you?
I collaborated with the AYCC (Australian Youth Climate Coalition) with the earrings because it was a way to make people aware of the “Stop Adani” campaign. The plans to dig dangerous coal mines that will threaten the land, water, climate and local communities is disgusting and if I can encourage more people to sign a petition to help stop this from happening I will do whatever I can.
I read in an interview you’d done previously that you lost your mother when you were just 19. How did this unimaginable loss shape you (for better or worse!) to be the woman you are today?
My mother was the most kind, giving, creative person I have ever met. She had a lot of mental health issues after losing her mother two years prior. She was a single mother and raised us in housing commission accommodation and did an amazing job, we never went without. Losing her changed my entire life. I dropped out of university where I was studying Visual Communication (I wanted to be a photographer) to look after my younger brother and sister. It made me grow up fast and realize how short life is. She was only 37-years-old when she passed away.
Do you think there is a pressure for people to contain their grief to short periods of time? I believe that sometimes you can never “finish” grieving; it can be a lifelong process, which has its waxes and wanes. This is not necessarily a bad thing! Did you ever feel pressure to just suddenly be “OK” and “get on with your life” after your mother died?
Yes, definitely. I had to look after two kids who were in tears every day. I had to be the strong one. It wasn’t until five years ago that I started having panic attacks and depression I then started seeing a therapist who diagnosed me with PTSD. Making my jewelry is actually a therapy for me as it makes me concentrate and not think about anything else. So really I am making pretty things to empower my customers but also helping myself deal with the PTSD.
As well your work conveying a power, strength, and self-confidence, it also champions an incredibly uplifting color palette. Looking at your wares set out at market stalls—it looks like a candy colored rainbow. Could you tell me what it is about color that you love to incorporate into your work?
I love color. It makes me happy. I want my customers to feel like they are in a candy store and the combinations of colors are endless.
Who currently inspires you? Jewelry makers or artists or activists or others?
Every day I get inspired, I love to explore my local surroundings. I have just moved to Melbourne and already I’m eager to explore and get in the studio and create.
What are your aims for yourself and Haus of Dizzy in the future?
I would love to open a store here in Melbourne and then up in Sydney.
Could you give me three “famous last words” to describe yourself?
Fancy as fuck. ♦