Meet the Melbourne photographer scouted by Converse as a young creative to watch


WORDS BY Aisha Hassan

Fern Arisara is one of Melbourne’s most promising emerging artists.

When it comes to women in creative fields, I regularly find myself overwhelmed by their sheer talent, innovation and artistry. As I move within these types of spaces, when I see other women who are pushing the boundaries of what it means to be creative, I instantly feel energised and empowered.

After chatting to Melbourne-based, Thailand-born artist Fern Arisara, this was how I felt. Inspired, understood, and motivated to pursue my creative practices. Fern is one of Melbourne’s most promising emerging artists. Best known for her photography, Fern also creates beautiful paintings, crochet and rugs and has recently established an online retailer, Baan Store.

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The concept store curates a selection of garments and accessories by local Thai designers and creatives. Garnering attention from many within Melbourne’s creative scene, Fern has also been selected to join Converse through its All Stars program. The initiative spotlights creatives who are looking to connect globally with like-minded individuals and provides a chance to participate in both digital and physical experiences.

Converse offers a range of resources to their All Stars, such as commissioned work projects, mentorship opportunities, and a safe space to make friends and network. Despite both Fern and I engaging as members of the Converse All Stars initiative, we had never met before. So speaking to her for the first time was a testament to how we, as women, are often so comforted when working and collaborating with one another.

And as Fern put it, “there needs to be more women in not only creative worlds, but also the corporate worlds… and every kind of world”. Throughout our hour-ish long chat, our conversation spanned from exploring experimental practices to everything Converse All Stars-related.

Hi Fern, it’s so nice to meet you! Tell me a bit about yourself.

Hi! Yes, it’s lovely to meet you too. Well, my name is Fern Arisara and I’ve been doing mainly photography since 2018… or maybe late 2017. That was kind of what I was most known for, until very recently – I would say since COVID when I started with making rugs, painting, and crocheting. I guess now it’s also a lot more of exploring different things and trying to stay more experimental.

That’s cool! Is that sort of what you’re working on now? Like direction-wise, something that is more experimental.

I guess for right now – and this might be a bit off-topic, but I think a lot of people can relate since COVID – it’s been really hard earning money through creativity and trying to make it a profession. So right now, I’m actually just trying to work more on being myself and getting back on track to just doing random things again. But I am also working on making this photo book series.

Wow. I love the idea of a photo book!

Yeah! There’s something so cool about it being physical, I mean we’re just so used to everything being online. Also, I’m not sure if you know this, but I completely forgot to mention that I also just launched my store. It’s where I sell all Thai clothing from friends back home. It’s just trying to give them a platform, where they could emerge and show their labels and work on my platform to a more global audience. So, that’s actually one of my main focuses.

But what was I was saying before about all that digital stuff is, when I first started shooting for the store, I was so excited. But afterwards, I was kind of like ‘Ahhhh, I wish it was in some sort of physical form’. This is why I’m starting to turn all my photo stuff into print, which would just make it so special.

Of course. Even for myself, I remember my mum use to take film photos of us as kids and then have them all printed out. So one of my favourite things to do years later was to get them out and just flick through them all, reminiscing. I would love to see yours when it comes out. So, thinking more about your journey with Converse, I’d love to know how you got started as an All Star.

I’m not sure what year it was, it could’ve been 2019. That’s when I was introduced to the whole All Stars thing. My friend Justin, who is also a photographer, just said to me one day that he has this thing with Converse, and they said I could bring some friends along. So, that’s how I was introduced and ever since then, we have been doing collaborations and stuff.

When I started, it wasn’t so much in the global scene, and now getting to talk to and see work from people overseas is really cool. I’m so used to seeing so many things in Melbourne, so seeing how everyone expresses themselves so differently overseas is really refreshing.

Yeah, I totally agree. I started with Converse during COVID times when they were looking for All Stars and I just found it so cool meeting so many amazing people. Even people in Melbourne, I was like ‘Wow you’re so cool, how come I’ve never met you before!’.

Literally, like us right now! So, how do you feel about working alongside Converse?

It’s so fun! In my opinion, there’s no brand (that I know of) that is doing it like Converse right now. Especially for young creatives. Like, the last event I went to was the Renew Labs workshop where we literally spent the afternoon dying shoes… like that’s so fun.

I saw that and I truly agree! I worked with them on a project where I was asked to provide a self-portrait and after telling them that I don’t really take photos of myself they were so cool to just let me draw something instead. They’re just very open and nice to work with.

This month, Converse is celebrating women through its International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month Collection, We Are Stronger Together. Inspired by the female spirit, Converse has released a selection of shoes and apparel that were designed by women, for women. The concept draws on wildflowers that grow independently and thrive collectively. With this in mind, who are some of the women you’re currently inspired by?

Who I actually admire the most in my whole life is my mum and my grandma. They just always have worked so hard and given so much. They can never stop giving. And also, any woman who is a minority in their workforce is always inspiring to me. They always make me want to do more and give more.

Explore the Converse Women’s History Month capsule made by women, for women here.

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