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Discovering a Whole New Direction

Always on the lookout for ideas to enhance his business, the owner of a local 50-year-old business has been constantly keeping up with the changes in his industry and implementing them into his business. An out-of-the-box idea has expanded his existing business into a whole new arena.

Expressway Signs Owner Matt Connolly is well known for presenting his clients with the newest trends in signage such as vehicle wraps, illuminating signs and digital signage. While looking for ideas he discovered a completely new avenue that is different to, but complements his existing business – the designer wallpaper market.

Following extensive market research and industry analysis that lasted over 12 months, DesignCloud was born earlier this year.

This new innovative branch of Expressway Signs has an extensive variety of high-quality designer wallpapers for commercial and DIY customers to select from as well as giving customers the opportunity to create their own wallpaper from their personal images or artwork.

But, unlike other wallpaper companies, DesignCloud went a step further. Matt and his team are showcasing Indigenous art in a way that has never been displayed in Australia before – by introducing a wallpaper range with local original Indigenous artists work.

While a lover and supporter of Indigenous artwork for years, Matt came up with the idea while having coffee with a family friend, who happened to be an Indigenous artist.

“It was over coffee that the penny suddenly dropped,” Matt says. “Indigenous art in this region has wonderful artists and amazing history, so I thought why not combine the wallpaper with Indigenous art and showcase it to a global audience through the wallpaper medium.”

As an annual visitor to the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF), Matt tested the idea with some of the artists at the 2018 event.

“The artists I spoke to were very receptive,” he says. “I realised there was nothing like it on the market, and after speaking with the artists and getting their feedback, we moved forward from there.”

DesignCloud currently has several individual artists as well as groups of artists, such as those from Mornington Island, under contract. Ensuring the contracts were financially viable for the artists and DesignCloud while being respectful of the artists’ culture was crucial.

He says Indigenous art is not just eye-catching but can have a deeper significance that can reveal the culture or narratives of the connection to country of various Indigenous clans and nations. The deeper meaning behind the artworks strongly resonates with today’s art and cultural lovers.

“Indigenous art is one of the most unique art forms,” he says. “It reveals an extraordinary view into the culture and values of each clan and nation, treasuring the past, present and future.”

Francoise Lane, an Artist, Interior Designer and Co-Owner of Indij Design, a Gordonvale based architecture and design business, was immediately enthusiastic about joining forces with DesignCloud. As a well-known Torres Strait Islander whose artwork has been exhibited at Koorie Heritage Trust Federation Square in Melbourne and the Cairns Art Gallery, she recognised the opportunity to present the region’s Indigenous art in an innovative and exciting way.

“Indigenous art in this region differs to other parts of the country,” says Francoise, who was also a Finalist at the 2018 Creative Edinburgh Awards, collaborating with Scottish Fashion Designer Emily Millichip. “We have our own unique aesthetics and our own stories to tell about connection to country.”

While Francoise’s artwork has also appeared on textiles and on the outside of buildings, this is the first time her work has featured on wallpaper.

“I have been approached by other companies to license my work, and DesignCloud is the first one I accepted,” she says.

“The respectful way in which Matt approached the licensing process with artists, the willingness to include their input and the respect shown to the artists and their culture is really important to me as an artist.”

Matt says wallpapered feature walls in coffee shops, lobbies, offices, boardrooms and hotels are increasing in popularity. He uses environmentally friendly water-based inks and prints on demand to lower their environmental footprint.

“We have been receiving really positive feedback since we started,” he says. “The first interior decorating company down south that we showed our designs to signed up almost immediately. They picked four different artists’ work to showcase in four rooms, which was fantastic for both DesignCloud and the artists.”

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