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Creative Director


Can you please just introduce yourself in a couple of sentences, who you are and what you do? 

My name is Kayla Jurlina and I call myself a Creative Director. I work with creating a visual experience - styling objects or scenes that end up getting photographed. I had someone a while ago write a little bio for me, and they wrote something really beautiful where they said, “Her work is an ode to the beautiful and sophisticated playful blurs in the lines between fine art and commercial.”


That's such a beautiful thing to be written about you. And so how did you get into that? Is there a sense of purpose or drive that has led you here?

What drives me or gets me excited when I get initiated on a project is probably being able to create a feeling. I like to work on something where you look at my work, and it brings back a nostalgic memory or puts a smile on your face - and maybe there's a bit of tongue in cheek in it!


I guess people only see the end product of what you do, so it might seem quite glamorous. Is there something that you think is interesting that people might not know about your creative practice?

I think that’s a really good question, because there aren’t that many people in New Zealand in the realm of creative direction. When a client comes to me, I look at their business and their branding and come up with a look and feel of how they should be portrayed both visually, and through copy. So for a whole brand campaign, brand launch, activation or event, I help find that visual language and campaign. I don’t think people realise that I’m like an agency - doing all the sourcing and producing, from brand research, planning, set styling, sourcing and creation, to active creative direction on the day. After the shoot, I like to do the selects too and help finalise the execution of the campaign. There is a lot that goes on. 


People must have no idea the time and energy that goes into these creative works? 

Yes, if I want it to be done how I envision it, I usually need to be in the process throughout or else it can get lost in translation. I want to nurture it to the end.

You do have to be quite confident when you’re crafting a whole brand image for someone else. Is there a time that you feel like you've been super brave, either professionally or personally?

Professionally, I was 25 years old and left my nine-to-five. I was a designer for a New Zealand brand, and I got to travel the world like four times a year to Paris, Shanghai, Tokyo and London. I had my own fashion label underneath that too - my future was pretty set out for me. But I decided to give it all up, put my savings into a solo exhibition and launch myself into the New Zealand industry as a Creative Director. I went all out - it was a black tie event in a gallery, I hired a PR firm, and got Al Brown down there to personally shuck oysters. The exhibition was filled with styled photography of jewellery on food, and it just hadn't been done before so it was received so well. More than five years later and that decision is still paying off!


Wow. That would've been so scary, but so fulfilling I'm sure. 

Yeah - it was cool. It was such an exciting time - freaky to be doing that, but so fun to meet new people and just to put yourself out there. Right now I feel like I'm at my next challenge of trying to be brave again, and figuring out what I want to be. What do I want to stand for, what do I want to contribute to this world? My perspective has changed after having like six months off being a new mum. 

How has becoming a mother changed impacted your creative pursuit? 

Yeah it has definitely changed it. I have no time or interest for creating mediocre work, or getting a brief from a client where it's like, can you copy this? I want to create things with a sense of purpose or feeling, or else there's no point to me now. There is no point in taking me away from my child and family time if I don’t feel passionate about it. It's gotta really mean something. 


Do you think the way you look at creation is changing as your son gets older and as he's developing too? 

Totally. It's getting easier as he's getting old. I think at the start, no matter how many people warn you, you are hit with an enormous amount of overwhelming responsibility, and it's quite scary. But over time I’ve personally found a proud sense of purpose from that. 


Is there like a big piece of advice you could give to someone who's about to become a mother or into motherhood or even fatherhood? 

Probably to be kind to yourself, and take lots of time and don’t rush yourself to get back to 'life’. Everyone says that they’re only little for a blink of an eye and it's actually so true. It just goes by so quickly. One day you're holding him and he's so small, and the next day I feel like he's nine years old. 


Is there a kind of environment that you're striving to create for your son? 

We live in a mid-century group architect house, from Bill Wilson in the early 1950s. The house has got dark wooden beams all around it. When my son was born and we brought him home, he kept looking up at the beams. We were laughing thinking, now he’s gonna be an architect - he is so obsessed with these beams! We have a lot of art around the house, and I'm always constantly out in the garden cutting flowers, and styling and moving around furniture. I want it to be a beautiful and creative space for kids. A safe space for them to be who they want to be. Even though I want my house to be visually beautiful - I don't mind the mess. If he is having fun touching his food and moving around, who cares, you know?


Is your home your happy place?

Yes, it is. There is a really nice feeling with the house and the way it's been designed. When you close the door you’re kind of shut off from the world. We get beautiful light in through high windows, and nobody can see in. We can look out into a courtyard, and to these big established trees - it feels like a forest. Like a real oasis.

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