CREATIVITY has always been part of De-Anne Strange's DNA.
The passion that started in hairdressing, then photography, has taken her on a four-decade artistic journey - and in the past two years - on an exciting change of direction.
Ms Strange's latest business, De-Anne Strange Designs, offers photography and surface pattern designs that can be used anywhere and on any product.
She now has more than 300 digital pattern designs available, inspired by the natural environment in and around the Strange family's farm, Cotswold Farms, at Bruce Rock.
Through collaborations and licensing deals, she sells her patterns for use on products from fabrics, to wallpaper, baby blankets and photo backdrops - and her ambition is growing.
Her aim is to build a design business with a steady, reliable passive income stream, which she can run around the family's busy cropping enterprise and while mothering her three sons, Jimmy, 14, Max, 11 and Harry, 9.
"I was looking for a creative career path, which gave me the flexibility to work on the farm and raise my three boys,'' Ms Strange said.
Having grown up in Perth, Ms Strange moved to the Wheatbelt as a 20-year-old after finding love while travelling around Australia.
"I'd never even heard of Bruce Rock before,'' she said.
"But as soon as I spent time out here, I knew this was right for me."
In 2002, she joined her husband Leigh on his family's agricultural property, which the couple runs in partnership with Leigh's parents, Karen and Stephen.
They are the fourth generation in the enterprise, which this year has 3500ha planted to wheat, barley, canola and lupins, and the family's connection to the land goes back more than 100 years.
"Coming from the city, I didn't really know the world of the country,'' Ms Strange said.
"But I was blown away by the Wheatbelt's natural beauty.
"I loved everything about it - being in nature on the farm and working on the land.''
Though born with a creative streak, Ms Strange felt that art wasn't something particularly celebrated or encouraged at school as a career path.
"Now I have a passion to shed more light on that: to say that having a creative interest is just as important as any other career path you can choose and that there are so many options for creative people to have successful businesses within a creative field.
"And I want to inspire young children to follow their dreams in a creative field as well.''
After school, she began a hairdressing apprenticeship in Perth and then after moving to the Wheatbelt, ran a successful hairdressing business for 20 years.
Inspired by the natural beauty around her, she also turned to photography to record what she was seeing.
Having fully educated herself in the industry - via online courses and by seeking out professional coaching and mentors - Ms Strange set up a photography business in Bruce Rock, which took her around the region.
As the only accredited photographer in a wide radius, she found herself in high demand capturing those special moments - weddings and engagements, newborns and family portraits - plus taking branding and marketing photos.
She also started selling some of her photos of native plants as creative wall art.
"My photographic artwork was different to what most people saw,'' she said.
"My pink flowering gum was one of my most popular pieces and was mostly custom-made on framed canvases.
"And from there I made them into gift cards, coaster sets and different giftware.''
Mr Strange also became an accredited drone pilot for the business.
Working together, the couple introduced aerial photography to their services and they got to see other farming properties and coastal tourist hotspots from a new view.
When Mr Strange bought her a painting class voucher for her birthday, it launched her into the world of mixed media and a four-year TAFE diploma in visual art.
The course was taught by renowned Wheatbelt artist, teacher and mentor Robert McCaffery, who travelled to Bruce Rock from Kellerberrin to deliver the lessons.
"He was a game changer for me,'' Ms Strange said.
"The hands-on training I had with him was fantastic.
"He was training us in mediums of artwork that we would never have been exposed to before and new ways to create art."
In March last year, she came across an online program for surface pattern designing and, being a person who likes to give 110 per cent, she jumped right in.
"I had never heard of it before, but it just grabbed my attention,'' she said.
"I looked into the course and my gut feeling was that I just needed to give it a go.
"So I made the decision to put my photography and my hairdressing businesses on hold and go back to study and learn how to do designing and see where it would take me.
"As soon as I started it, I loved it.''
Within six months, she had launched her first collection.
The process was challenging, and she found she had much to learn about the art form and the business side of the industry.
But it meant Ms Strange could combine all the art skills she has developed over the past years to create patterns that can be used on any surface and for anything.
Initially she did think to herself: "You are crazy. You have worked so hard to build these established businesses, why would you want to start from scratch again?".
"But it just felt really right for me and I had to keep having faith that it would work out,'' she said.
"It was definitely meant to be."
Ms Strange is focused on fabrics, at the moment, for use in apparel, quilting and homewares.
Her patterns are available worldwide on the United States-based Spoonflower textiles and home decor website and through an Australian company, Digital Fabrics.
Other collaborations have seen her work incorporated into wallpaper with Luxe Walls, photographic backdrops with Graceland Designs and with Wheatbelt businesses Little Minky Co's and Mumma Day's daily planners.
Little Minky Co makes super soft, baby blankets and Mumma Day produces beautiful daily planners.
In theory, Spoonflower and other collaborators could sell the designs forever.
Ms Strange also has projects on the go to make her work more readily available for home-sewers and crafters - her goal is to have her patterns in local fabric and craft shops around Australia.
"I have that in the works at the moment, so hopefully people will soon have really easy access to my work in person and online,''she said.
"And you can ask your favourite fabric store to stock my designs."
Ms Strange said she carefully creates, beautiful, meaningful, timeless and versatile designs.
With 10 collections now available with up to 30 designs in each, using a variety of colour ways and artistic mediums.
Her latest collection, called Country Garden, is based on a series of hand-painted watercolour flowers, she collected from her mother-in-law's neighbouring Wheatbelt garden.
"All of my designs are available for licensing on anybody's products for a small commission fee," she said.
At the same time as getting her head around the new design process, Ms Strange was learning how to create a successful design brand from scratch.
"I had to study the industry to work out how to make any money from the designing,'' she said.
"That was a whole other learning curve.
"It is a slow start up industry, so you have to become really good at your art and have a clear focus on where you want to go in the industry.
"Which is not easy to work out.''
At the start of this year, Ms Strange was accepted into a designer mentorship program with a top US designer, Mindy Young, from Indy Bloom Designs.
"This program has given me more direction and accelerated my business so much," she said.
Ms Strange has just returned from a conference with the group at Salt Lake City, in Utah.
She said building her brand name and reputation was important to her success so far, as brands wanted to work with others which already had a strong commercial following and shared the same values.
"I research brands that I would like to work with and then pitch my portfolio to them,'' she said.
Ms Strange said she would love to work with more small fashion brands by license, to print her designs on the fabric used for their apparel and with other local small businesses which were looking for stand-out designs for their products.
"What I love is that I create artwork that I hope provokes joy and inspiration for others and then they can purchase my artwork on fabric, or license and create that into another piece of artwork that they have made,'' she said.
"And we share even more creativity with the world.''
Ms Strange said it was also important to her to share a message that living in a remote location didn't mean creative people couldn't pursue a successful artistic career, on and around a farm.
"You can have almost any sort of education online,'' she said.
"I did all my education in photography online and I have paid professionals in the industry for one-on-one training and coaching."
And it was true that a rural-based business had its own benefits - customers and colleagues were generally very collegiate, supportive and grateful to have your business locally available.
"If I can do it, anyone can do it, if you have a passion,'' she said.
"It doesn't have to be through pattern making, it can be through any creative field.
"I am about three hours' drive from the city and I have had a successful hairdressing business, a successful photography business and a successful design business.
"There are so many people in regional Australia doing amazing things, be it either building a business or community, it is really inspiring."
Ms Strange said she was also fortunate to have a family which recognised and supported her ambition.
"Leigh has always been open to my ideas which has been very important and he helped me build a studio where I can operate my businesses from,'' she said.
"If I was needed to work full-time on the farm, I wouldn't have been able to do this as easily.
"And it has always been important to me to create a career I'm passionate about and a second stream of income to support our family.
"It has been my dream all along.''
Ms Strange also does the farm bookwork, provides meals for seasonal workers and pitches in with all manner of other farm jobs.
"The family and farm business is a priority for me,'' Ms Strange said.
"Designing means I can still do what I love and be available when Leigh or the kids need me.
"I can even take my sketchbook out in the paddock and create art while I'm waiting to help.
"There are many days where I will go from being a mum, to a farmer to a designer and back again and I love the variety "
Ms Strange said her children loved being involved on the farm, but were also happily engaged in her art world.
"I've taught them how to take photos, and they take my professional branding photos,'' she said.
"They have always been involved, right from the start, with anything we have been doing.
"This is the best part of having family businesses."
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