The Food For Everyone founder's artworks capture the simple pleasures of everyday homescapes.
Gemma Leslie’s Queenslander Home Is as Joyful as Her Food-Inspired Artworks
The Food For Everyone founder's artworks capture the simple pleasures of everyday homescapes.
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans, and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we tour artist and Food For Everyone founder Gemma Leslie's welcoming home and studio in Brisbane.
Gemma Leslie is the founder of Food For Everyone, a culinary poster shop that collaborates with chefs, cooks, and restaurateurs to transform their written recipes into art. It was initially a fundraising project she undertook during the midst of the pandemic, but it quickly became her full-time job. Food for Everyone has worked with the likes of Jessica Nguyen, Julia Busuttil Nishimura, and Lennox Hastie, and is currently partnered exclusively with SecondBite donating the equivalent of 10 meals to people in need for each poster sold – 240,000 meals and counting!
Leslie's playful, still-life artworks capture the simple pleasures of everyday homescapes, with a particular focus on food. "I am clearly very inspired by food. I enjoy going to the market and seeing the array of fresh produce and seafood, and the vibrancy of their natural colours," she shares with Bed Threads Journal. These joyful works are characterised by organic silhouettes and vibrant colours.
Before turning her attention to a full-time career as an artist, Gemma worked as a graphic designer and in marketing. "I’ve worn a few hats so far in my career but have always been drawn to creative tasks," she says. "...as many people in creative industries would agree, there isn’t a predestined pathway that defines your career, but rather it evolves as you do and can lead you in several directions."
Gemma's home in Brisbane was the first house she and her partner inspected. The pair were immediately enamoured by its homely feel and classic Queenslander charm. They have decorated the abode with an array of mid-century and Victorian styles, incorporating plenty of timber furniture. "I find that a mixture of aesthetics makes it feel like a home, rather than a showroom!"
Louvred windows filter light into the dining area which features ‘Razorblade’ oak dining chairs made by Henning Kjærnulf in the '70s. An array of colourful artworks hang on the shiplap panelled walls throughout the home, including many of her own works, enlivening each of the rooms.
The primary bedroom is minimal and peaceful with warm tones of Turmeric and Terracotta. "It makes me look forward to going to sleep and to waking up."
We took a tour of Gemma's inviting home and spoke to her about her creative process, her philanthropic work, and how she styled her Queenslander abode.
Hi Gemma! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
I make recipe posters! I have a business called Food For Everyone – it’s primarily a culinary poster shop where I collaborate with chefs, cooks, and restaurateurs to transform their written recipes into art.
I’ve worked with some stand-out names in the industry, like Jessica Nguyen, Hetty McKinnon, Julia Busuttil Nishimura, Lennox Hastie, and Andrew McConnell, just to name a few. I also donate to food banks where each poster provides 10 meals for people in need.
Outside of Food For Everyone, I paint for leisure with a focus on naïve still life scenes and everyday homescapes, having recently had my first solo exhibition earlier this year.
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
Making has always been a big part of my life. As a kid, I was always making something! I love doing things with my hands and am not good at sitting still. My father is very much the same.
I have a joyous disposition that flows through to my work. Everything I make tends to be bright and cheerful which I hope is recreated in the people who gravitate to my works.
Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
I’ve worn a few hats so far in my career but have always been drawn to creative tasks. I studied photojournalism and public relations, and have a degree in communications majoring in design.
I also have a deep love for the fashion industry and have worked within fashion houses as a graphic and textile designer. But as many people in creative industries would agree, there isn’t a predestined pathway that defines your career, but rather it evolves as you do and can lead you in several directions.
And in early 2020, I was led in a brand new direction! At the beginning of the pandemic, I took some time to rest and paint, and for months I painted every single day.
I had a realisation then, that this is what I truly loved, and I began receiving commissions for paintings. This creative burst also led me to start Food For Everyone, which began as a fundraising project and is now my full-time job.
Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
I begin the process outside my studio! I am clearly very inspired by food. I enjoy going to the market and seeing the array of fresh produce and seafood, and the vibrancy of their natural colours. It’s not uncommon for me to walk through the door after being outside and to go straight to my studio to paint for hours. I’m not a sketcher or planner – it’s all very instinctive when I approach the canvas.
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to further your career?
To be kind, then the rest will follow! (But if you want a more practical answer, I would say that my graphic design degree has been pivotal in building a brand. It’s a valuable skill to have in an increasingly visual world.)
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt so far in your career?
I would say that the most challenging lesson has been learning to trust my gut! Although data is used to drive a lot of decisions, sometimes things just don’t ‘feel’ right. In those instances, it’s important to listen to your intuition and do what is right for you.
Also, I’m still learning how to manage work and well-being. In a fast-paced world, there’s a tendency to act with immediacy which can leave you sprinting towards some foggy goalposts. I have to remind myself to slow down. You can't run your business if you aren’t looking after yourself.
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your career?
Starting Food For Everyone! The most beautiful thing about this project is the support from the community and that it has brought joy to so many people.
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?
Do an internship. Learning from others in the industry gives you that real-life insight that sometimes university doesn’t provide. I pursued four internships after university which allowed me to get a feel for the places I wanted to work and what made my heart sing.
Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?
It’s coming up to a year now. Previously I was living in Melbourne with my partner when we came to Queensland for a holiday in the middle of winter 2021 – and then ended up staying for a whole year!
But while I’ve loved my time in Queensland, Melbourne is my home and I’m excited to be moving back soon.
How did you initially know this was the space for you?
This house was the first one we looked at during inspections and we instantly fell in love with its homely feel and classic Queenslander charm.
During the warmer months, we open the louvred windows which let soft breezes flow from the back to the front. The dappled light and rustling palm trees at dawn make me feel like I’m worlds away.
Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?
No big changes, just new curtains and some light fixtures. It always seems to come together when you fill the room with your belongings.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
I’m drawn towards wooden furniture and have a deep appreciation for the craftsmanship of woodwork. My partner and I love art – so we always love having art on the walls ... the more the merrier! And, I am a bit of a collector of ‘things’ and have an array of mid-century and Victorian styles. I find that a mixture of aesthetics makes it feel like a home, rather than a showroom!
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
My oak dining chairs. They are the ‘Razorblade’ chairs made by Henning Kjærnulf in the '70s. And my sideboard that my friend made. They’re good quality pieces that will be with me forever.
Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
I would love some family pictures on the wall. I think that would be the cherry on top!
Which is your favourite room in the house?
The dining room is definitely my favourite. It sits next to those wonderful louvres! And I am a big fan of my bedroom – it’s minimal and peaceful with warm tones. It makes me look forward to going to sleep and to waking up.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
I have always loved having a piece of art in the bedroom, paired with some linen that complements it. There is something about the perfect harmony of the two that makes it a relaxing space to be in.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
I have just released two new posters of my favourite vegetables – tomatoes and zucchinis. Rather than recipes, these posters showcase the beauty and diversity of vegetables in their seasonal prime. I’m always inspired by the natural shapes and variances that are so abundant in nature.
And I can’t wait to share some big projects we’ve been working on — our first edible product in collaboration with a legendary Melbourne institution for the festive season, and a special collection of recipe posters that I’ve curated, introducing six new chefs to the Food For Everyone family, as well as six artists!