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Kate Monk

Kimira Studio - Landscape Architecture & Design

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Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the ‘burbs of Melbourne and my folks still live in the family home in Mont Albert, but somehow I have always felt a strong pull to the sea. I spent a couple of years living in St Kilda and then in October 2014, after 12 months travelling and volunteering in Europe, my husband and I made the decision to move to Mornington. We’ve been here for about 15 months now but it has felt like the right decision from the very first day.

What did you want to be when you ‘grew up’? 

In my grade 6 year book my 12 year old self stated that I wanted to “travel the world and become a twister chaser”(!!!) I also remember being very impressed by a volcanologist who did a presentation to the class, but once I got to high school I didn’t really love science so I fudged about with music, studio art and literature. It was during a gap year after high school that I decided to trust my creative instincts and applied to study landscape architecture at Melbourne Uni.

When and how did you transition from working for someone else to working for yourself?

I met my partner Kendall at uni and after completing our studies we both worked for private landscape architectural practices – he started in commercial LA and I managed the design office of a residential landscape design company. I don’t remember exactly how we got our first private job, but it was in 2009 and we took it on while still working full time so were basically doing our private work after hours and on weekends. This might be why it took 3 years to finish that first job!!

In any creative field, it can be difficult as a young designer to be heard or have your ideas and concepts taken seriously. It was out of frustration at having our creative wings constantly clipped and from a strong desire for artistic freedom that led us to establish Kimira Studio, but it has not been an easy or straightforward journey. We have both needed to work part time on and off over the last seven years, and there was that time when we decided to shut up shop and spend 12 months traveling and volunteering in Europe…

But Kimira Studio survived the hiatus and is now fledging its feathers in its new environment based on the Mornington Peninsula.

What’s your why?

I believe that we all have something unique to offer to the world, and it would be really selfish of us to keep it all to ourselves…..we’ve all got a song to sing.

What do you love about what you do?

Landscape architecture is a fascinating blend of social, cultural, natural, historical and personal reference points, coming together ultimately in the design of spaces and making of places. I consider myself lucky to work in a field where you can explore these concepts and theories deeply while at the same time creating spaces that are functionally practical and aesthetically beautiful. It’s also amazing to work with and attract clients who value the design methods and approaches that I bring to each project, because this strengthens the bond we have together and builds a relationship that is more than just client and designer…friendships have been forged through the lifespan of projects and this part of what I do is probably what I find most rewarding.

What’s challenged you most since being in business?

If I’m brutally honest, it was acknowledging that I have what it takes to build a legitimate business and run a successful, thriving design practice. For a long while I don’t think I believed that it would really work out, because I thought I didn’t have the skills, experience or business know-how to make it happen. So overcoming that deeply ingrained belief of “I’m not good enough to do this” has definitely been one of the biggest challenges so far.

What are your greatest achievements to date?

I’m pretty proud of my track record when it comes to securing new work – in 7 years of being in business I haven’t had a client reject a fee proposal, which I think must mean I’m doing something right during the initial consultation. I think that’s a pretty great achievement.

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned along the way?

Fear gets in the way of everything. Acknowledge your fears, forgive yourself for having them, and then accept that, unless you’re being chased down by a hungry tiger, there’s never actually much to be afraid about!

What’s the toughest decision you’ve had to make since running your own business?

I feel super fortunate that when I think about the answer to this question, there’s not actually much occupying the ‘tough decision’ column. Does choosing a template for my website count?

What are some resources you or your business can’t live without? 

Google Earth aerial imagery, both for site assessment and conceptual exercises (looking at landforms from above is awesome fun); Google Drive for constant access to my business files; the ever-improving array of web apps for things like calendars (I love Sunrise), time tracking (I use Tracking Time), to-do lists (To-Doist) and productivity (Pomodoro Technique), synced across all my devices (whoop).

What advice would you give someone wanting to start their own business or change jobs to an industry/role that they’d love?

Face your fears, ignore the naysayers, surround yourself with positive people who will support you and figure out a way to do it – it’s the most rewarding and empowering decision you are likely to make.

What’s something most people wouldn’t know about you?

I used to date an old school punk, wear metal spikes around my neck and hang out at metal bars.

What does your ideal day look like?

Sunrise yoga, long lazy breakfast reading the Saturday paper and drinking too much black coffee, swimming in the sea, walking in the bush, an Aperol Spritz at sunset and then grazing for hours over antipasto with friends (obviously, from the newspaper reference, I unconsciously picked a Saturday…)

What’s one of your favourite quotes?

“You get there by realizing you are already there” – Eckhart Tolle

Who or what inspires you? 

This one is a “what” for me, and it always comes back to the natural world. It’s always when I’m immersed in a natural environment, either new or familiar, when I feel simultaneously inspired, creative, energised and at peace. And I also think that anyone who selflessly dedicates their life to helping other people is pretty inspirational. And Batman is also pretty great, because he doesn’t have superpowers per se, but he is still committed to fighting the bad guys and bringing peace to the city, which is admirable.

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