2017 Un-Conference

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Trying to put together a roundup of a year's worth of dreams come true isn't easy. We’re on a total high, so inspired by the women who are part of Make Nice. Our speakers, our partners, our team, our volunteers and especially our attendees - you ladies really know how to put on a show.

In her welcome, Founder and Director Ngaio Parr talked about the importance of supporting each other and building community to increase equity. A 'rising tide lifts all boats' being a sentiment we’re very keen on here at Make Nice. We love that Ngaio’s generosity, commitment, talent, and drive was reflected tenfold in everyone's approach to the whole damn un-conference: inspiring, practical and nice as fuck.


Our Friday night exhibition was a pretty sweet way to get things started, that's for certain. Curated by Ngaio (what can't that girl do!?) the show featured work by the very talented Elize Strydom, Bridgette McNab, Evie Cahir, Kitty Callaghan, Arielle Gamble, Ondine Seabrook and Lara Merrett. Just a couple of hundred women, quite a bit of wine and cider, some generously poured tea-based gin cocktails and lots of stunning artwork. The work was outstanding, and so was the crowd.

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Nashville designer and illustrator Becky Simpson did the honours of opening conference day. And that little lady packs a punch - she was as smart and insightful as she was laugh-out-loud funny. Becky had honest and very useful insights, like 'life is more like a web than a ladder' and 'it takes discipline to design a life for ourselves.' Her assurance that everyone changes their mind and her experience in making hard decisions felt like a godsend at that hour: Becky made it feel OK to be real, and gave everyone in the room permission to be exactly where they were in their careers.

By the time Leah Procko joined us to talk through the ins and outs of the (always messy and beautiful) creative process, we were settled in. The reality of 'never giving up' was writ large, a lesson in collaboration, communication, and patience. Leah made it clear that being nice as fuck (and we should know) doesn't mean being a pushover - it means treating everyone with respect, including yourself. It means giving up on being the expert in what you do, and just being an expert in yourself.

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Our first afternoon session was a masterclass in beauty and belief. Stanislava Pinchuk (Miso) floored us with the detail of her work and her extensive and considered research component, where it’s 'eyes open, mouth shut'. Her process is startling and inspiring, as is her conviction. More than her beautiful work, it was her approach to her practice that we connected with. She explained how to 'create a job to suit your own brain'. Creating jobs and spaces for ourselves is what Make Nice is all about.

And then Ann Friedman, our long-distance bestie, brought it all home. Ann's engaging talk was about finding the confidence to put your name front and centre of your work ('if it's good enough for Oprah, it's good enough for you!'), balancing the work you want to do with the kind that pays the bills (ammirite), and curating how you want to be seen. Her pearler? 'It's up to YOU to show people what you want them to see'. Ann's professionalism, clarity of vision and integrity shone through, not to mention her keen negotiating skills. By the end we all felt equipped to 'ask for more' - for our work, and for ourselves.  

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We see our round-tables as big group therapy sessions. It meant we got to talk about lots of very important things at once (if only we could have attended them all!) including:

  • How to Business with Anna Ross

  • Habits and Routines with Madeleine Dore

  • Self-Promotion with Stanislava Pinchuk

  • Women Helping Women with Lex Hirst

  • Confidence with Courtney Sanders

  • Negotiating with Ann Friedman

  • Making Time for Side Projects with Rachel Chew

  • Pitching with Amy Nadaskay

  • Personal Finances with Sarah Nguyen

  • Creative Leadership with Leah Procko

  • How to Scale as a Maker with Becky Simpson

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Town Halls

Jess Scully skilfully led the morning panel, 'I've started My Thing, Now What!?' and explored the realities of burnout, momentum, and collaboration. Amy Nadaskay of Monogram reminded us that no matter what the pressures, we always have a choice around what work we do and how we do it: 'should is a dangerous word' *prayer hands emoji*. Brenda Briand of Benah had lots to share around the intrinsic relationship between money and creative work, and Anna Ross of Kester Black added to the (extremely refreshing) money chat. She noted that being upfront is what being a boss is about. Becky Simpson told us 'find your accountability buddy' (underlined in nearly every notebook in the house). That is, someone (not necessarily a friend) who you respect and who you can just talk business with. And that, my friends, is what will get us past the ‘now what!?’.  

'Imposter Syndrome & Pressures to be Perfect' was the (relatable AF) theme of our final panel, led by Lex Hirst. Amrita Hepi, Ann Friedman, Leah Procko and Stanislava Pinchuk lead us through a killer exercise in being brutally honest with yourself. Once we got all our deepest, darkest fears out of the way, there was room for lots of positive tips, from coping mechanisms and strategies to deal with the pressures we feel to be perfect. Amrita's hot tip: when you're worrying about what 'everybody' will think, ask yourself, 'who IS everybody!?'. As she so brilliantly reminded us: 'everything you do is an access point'. Being yourself is an essential part of your work - you can't be an imposter when you accept and believe in who you are, and hurrah for that.

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Nice Stuff

The thing about Make Nice is our obsession with, well, making nice. To see the amazing designs of our fearless leader and creative director Ngaio Parr come to life was a sight to behold. Ngaio directed the whole creative output, and her intern Angela Tam designed all the colour, shapes and beauty that is Make Nice. Set designer Bronte Wright of Dept.Of made it happen IRL. Hire them all already!


The best thing for us was having our community all in one room. If you're not already there, our Slack channel is an absolute haven for creative babes looking to support, share, collaborate and (let's be honest) vent. It's important stuff, and you get in just by signing up right here. What could be nicer than that!?  


A ridiculously big thanks, as always, to our amazing Partners.

An opening isn't an opening without important things like cider, gin and wine. We had a time of it. 

And as you can imagine, getting through all that good content the very next day was made possible by lots of excellent cold brew and Earl Grey hot choccies, and quite a bit of CAPI.  

Our friends at Milligram spent the whole day patiently and so beautifully hand-foiling all our attendees notebooks. Talk about the personal touch!

Honestly, we couldn't be happier with how it all turned out. 


All images by Yaya Stempler.

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