MEET THE ARTIST: Shelley Conway

MEET THE ARTIST: Shelley Conway

Life Apparel's customer love & logistics guru, Shelley Conway,
is the woman behind the "Island Totem" collection.

Get to know Shelley in our Q&A!

Who is Shelley Conway?

I'm all about doing what you love, being a bit of a goose, personal accountability, spiritual growth/healing and family. I am a creative soul that thrives in nature and cannot for the life of me settle on one shade of hair colour for any significant length of time. If I am not being creative in some small way (painting, designing, sewing, gardening, writing, baking and yes, colouring my hair) or connecting with the ocean/earth, then I feel incomplete and become restless and stroppy. If I start showing the signs my man sends me to the beach to "sort my rainbow out" haha. I am also a qualified quantum and reiki healing facilitator when I'm not doing my thing working with the Life Apparel team.

What lights your fire?

People. I love to make people smile and feel good about who they are and what they bring to the world. We all offer something so perfectly unique and exciting and I truly believe that it's just a matter of giving yourself permission to tap into that goodness and shining it out to the world no matter what that looks like to others.  I'm passionate about transcending the shallowness that exists in our world and highlighting the beauty and intrigue in all of life's imperfection. 

What Indigenous ties do you have? Talk us through your passion for your culture.

My parents were an interracial couple that met in the Tweed area of northern NSW. My mother's grandfather was brought over to Australia from Vanuatu as a Kanaka (cane cutter) and married an Irish woman (my great mother), and they had my grandmother who in turn married an Aboriginal man (my grandfather). This leaves me as a delightful mix of South Sea Islander, Indigenous Australian, Irish and from my Dad's side, Dutch and English.

I've always had a strong connection to the earth and especially to the red soil of the Tweed caldera. My mother's family worked in farming, and she has, in turn, worked the land for all of my life, so I grew up with my hands either in the dirt or reaching for branches to climb. As a mother myself now I encourage our kids to get their hands dirty as much as possible and to express themselves creatively in whatever way feels right to them.  

"Island Totem" by Shelley Conway

What was it like creating your work, "Island Totem"? 

There were times when my mum had come over for a coffee and to drop off some vegetables to me and I'd be out the backyard at my easel painting this piece. It felt right to be painting and chatting to her at the same time, painting parts of the childhood she gave me into the colours and talking about our family history. Nanna Hamilton passed on when I was only 9 so my mum was the same age as me now when she lost her as her mum. Thinking about this filled me with a huge sense of gratitude and nostalgia for the women that have come before me. I felt like they'd be proud of me. 

 What makes you feel proud?

Seeing people break the mold of childhood or cultural conditioning and thinking for themselves to create a more loving community we can all be a part of.

 Who would you want to have at your dream dinner party?

Honestly, I'm not sure because I don't mind who is there. As long as someone brings a karaoke machine, they leave their bigotry at the door, and everyone is friendly to my kids, it will be a good time!

What do Cowry shells represent for you?

For me, they represent the mystery of the ocean and adorning your home and body with things that connect you to nature. I have a cowry necklace hanging from my easel and off the side of mirrors and doors in my home, just like Aunty Rita when I was a little girl admiring all her island trinkets and tapestries. 


Digging Shelley's vibe? We don't blame you. Give her a follow on Instagram here.

Reading next

Bringing More Colour into Australia's Mainstream Media
Djuki Mala are Coming to Town

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.