Carla McRae, Illustrator & Designer.

Meet Carla McRae, overall good human and sock entrepreneur. We are thrilled that this busy babe took time out from her design studio to chat to us about her creative practice, her female role models and the formative powers of Björk.

What do you do?

I’m a freelance illustrator and designer and I work from a little nook in my bedroom. I spend half of my week working as Creative Director for sock purveyor Odd Pears and the rest of my time working on illustration projects, commissions or personal work!

Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?

Lately I’ve had a mantra of ‘take time / be kind’ rotating in my head. I’m not sure where this came from, if I read it somewhere or whatever. But it does act as a good reminder for me to make space for the stillness I need to get work done, or take time out for head space, and even just making time to be a good person to my friends. And as for being kind, that’s just a nice reminder to be a good human!

What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?

The first would be choosing to study design after I finished high school. I wasn’t sure what design really was, just that it was visual. It’s given me a really practical skill set and knowledge that has been super helpful navigating my way through freelance life and independence.

Then, making the move from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland to Melbourne in 2012. Although it was quite difficult and I miss my family, the life I can have for myself here is incomparable to that of a small coastal town. There are opportunities for growth everywhere. I’ve found an incredible community of passionate, talented, like-minded pals and it’s just such a fertile, supportive ground for art.

Finally, quitting my hospitality job and plunging myself into full-time freelance life was a big risk but a huge turning point. In the last year, I’ve proven to myself that by keeping my head down, working hard and being disciplined good things will come and pretty much anything is possible!

A mural collaboration with ghostpatrol (David Booth).

A mural collaboration with ghostpatrol (David Booth).

If you could choose to hear any female contemporary present at Make Nice, who would it be and why?

I guess the first woman that pops into my head is Björk! She burst into my life when I was 13, opened my mind and changed my world! I’d never seen or heard a woman as powerful as her before, and I think everything about her helped me understand myself better. I would look to her for inspiration for everything in my life and although I didn’t dress outrageously, make crazy art and wasn’t very outspoken, she helped me get in touch with my emotions, and made me feel better about little insecure teenage me. Everything she does is powerful and groundbreaking, and everything she touches is art.

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?

I think this is more of a case of the best advice I’d been given multiple times, but wish that I followed through with sooner. Everyone tells you to reach out and ask for help from others, to surround yourself with like-minded people and learn from them. I guess this is also known as networking (but I hate that word!). I spent quite some time in my own world, particularly when I moved to Melbourne, trying to make things work on my own, waiting for people to reach out to me. It really just boiled down to shyness, intimidation and a dash of imposter syndrome. But the people you can learn from are just an email or an ‘@‘ away. Most people are really happy to help or offer you a leg up, all you have to do is ask (nicely)!

Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?

Absolutely! I would say most of the peers and people I surround myself with are strong, powerful, articulate, inspiring females! We all share information and support each other immensely. It’s so important. The creative field is still dominated by men – it goes without saying that women still have to work really hard to prove themselves, have people hear their voices, or be taken seriously and recognised. I haven’t always had this network, and it’s been so helpful for me in the last couple of years to be surrounded by these women. Especially when it comes to teaching each other how to call out the sexist bullshit, or coming together to rise above it – it’s all power.

A beautiful commission by Carla McRae. 

A beautiful commission by Carla McRae. 

'You Are My Moon' - letterpress card produced in collaboration with Hungry Wokshop

'You Are My Moon' - letterpress card produced in collaboration with Hungry Wokshop

What is your dream project?

I think I’d love to collaborate with a range of creatives – industrial and fashion designers, musicians, architects, thinkers and other artists – to take over a space and create some kind of super immersive, interactive, colourful environment that teaches and makes people happy.

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

I’m currently getting stuck into a body of work for my first solo show. I’m really excited about that one! For the rest of the year I’ve also got some travel plans in the works, more murals, collaborations with people I really love and admire, and working out how I can develop some workshops. On a boring note: I also really need to redesign my website – but no designer wants to fix their own website, right?

Self portrait in Asakusa, Japan.

Self portrait in Asakusa, Japan.

A work in progress. 

A work in progress. 


What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?

Podcasts: Savage Lovecast and Design Matters with Debbie Millman (I love her!).

Music: Miscellaneous ambient or soft electronic “wormhole music” playlists and mixtapes, with bursts of R’n’B that I dig through on soundcloud. Berlin Community Radio is also back online which I’m really enjoying.

Watching: Videos of Dick Bruna (creator of Miffy) working. I find him so inspiring and am always blown away by the simplicity of his work. I could watch him draw forever.

What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?

I’d like to see women recognised publicly more often for their work. Make Nice has really hit the nail on the head by exclusively showcasing women. I feel like every conference line-up I see is majority male. There are hard-working, passionate women killing it in the creative fields, so why aren’t they getting the same recognition or exposure? It shouldn’t be an issue, and the fact that a separate, exclusive space has to be created where women’s efforts can be celebrated says it all. The reality is, until that equality is reached, these exclusive events are really important and do need to happen. We need to see and share what we’re capable of.

How can we find out more about your work?

Website -
Insta -
Blog -
Inspiration blog -

Japan journal by Carla McRae.

Japan journal by Carla McRae.