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  • Writer's pictureElle

Em De Matteis x Ohti

Em runs and owns a studio in Mullumbimby NSW, Studio 54 while managing another studio Small time. I met her through a good friend Ali while we were homeless for two weeks, where she let us set up base. Em’s home is a highlight from being up North as it is surrounded by nature while being close to Mullum and Byron, it’s a haven. Em is a kind, interesting, creative human who I was so fortunate to chat to. It was my first time in person as I was feeling pretty weird doing it but listening to Em speak reminded me why I wanted to share about her. This is a chat that is raw and unedited.

I guess our first question is about you and your studio, how you got to this position of owning/running a space…

I moved back from Melbourne because of Covid to Mullumbimby, I had originally saved up to move to New York and after a bit of bumming around, I thought fuck this, I’m going to bring New York to me. It started with event series at my old work, Saint Maries in Bruns doing poetry, comedy and stuff…. I guess I've been a part of a lot of studios in Melbourne and then moved back here, I thought I could start one myself (Studio 54) and ended up taking over another one from a friend who moved away ‘Small time studio’. Whenever negative thoughts came into my mind, it was the one time I chose not to listen, I thought fuck it if it all comes crashing down, who cares, I might lose money but I believe in it and if it fails who cares.

Currently getting distracted by some car chaos beside us and regrouped. “What did you get up to when you first got the space?”

I painted the loungeroom white, it was dark and unmotivating, shop Toni moved in and in the first few months just focused on renovations, polished the floors, ripped the carpets (to note here, Em has the strongest work ethic, she seems constantly busy) I go through cycles, if I feel inspired I can work on nothing but I go through phases where I go slower, it is important you know how you work. Some suit 9-5, I am attracted to film making work mentality, work away for three months having bursts of energy and then having time off.

“Mullumbimby, is such a unique place, I guess for people who have never been here, what is it like?”

It’s so strange, Mullum has changed so much since finishing school, there is a massive cross over with Melbourne as everyone would finish school and move there. Since COVID, all the best friends had moved back and are living in this small town. Sometimes I feel like I’m on a tv show rolling around with my crew, living in paradise.

We started chatting about things Em is working on personally and with her business.

So at the moment in a studio sense, we are starting curated film nights, at the other studio ‘small time’ we are having a silent auction to raise money from 25 works donated. Basically, raising money so we can hold a show every month, pay rent and that way the artist can put on a free show, encouraging experimental shows. There’re so many studios that focus on wall-based / commercial painting, thought it would be nice to do something different.

I’m also working on a moving play that will happen sometime soon (walk around as the play happens). Personally, I am doing a painting for the silent auction and trying to do more filming stuff, I’m working on a clip for an RnB artist.

What sets your soul on fire?

I think I know but it's kind of weird. I feel most alive in random moments of beauty but it’s not even beauty. I’ll be driving and see the grass in a certain way or anything really in a different way and it sets me alive. In the studios, I try to create those environments of peak human experience. Surrounded by creative people doing what they love. I surround myself with people all the time, but what really sets me on fire is the moments I have by myself by accident. I’ve been experimenting with meditation lately and if I smell something, say the coffee is boiling, it will remind me of a time such as at my grandparents in Italy. I am relaxing my awareness but with that memory, if that makes sense? Life isn’t past, present and future, it is all existing at the same time which you can tap into at different times.

I couldn’t agree with Em anymore here and we were chatting for a bit about those beautiful moments where you feel you are somewhere else. I’ve done a fair bit of thought/time looking into this and really enjoyed the book, the divine matrix. If you’re reading and keen to delve deeper / start this one will get the brain ticking.

Ohti creates playlists for different moods, being able to put one on when drinking one of our teas, with your ritual or because you can’t be fucked to make a playlist. Em has shared her favourite which is in our collab playlist.

At the moment music has to be on 80-90% of the day. My favourite is 'I trawl the Megahertz'

it’s a really long song and basically, it’s kind of a spoken word song, it’s a song by Patty it’s a long song and basically, it’s kind of a spoken word song. He was going blind at a certain point and he was feeling really depressed, he started listening to radio stations and writing down beautiful words and then used this to make a narrative of how he was feeling.

Instragram links -


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