Tess guinery for tessguinery.co

River bennett ( Photographer River Bennett)

Tess Guinery is a firm believer that there is beauty in just about everything. Her work is in Graphic Design, branding, styling, digital print, production and concepts, and as a visual communicator she has navigated numerous creative companies to their desired haven. And people are asking for more. 

Wife to professional stuntman, Caleb Guinery and mother to Peaches, Tess shares with us her journey to becoming a designer, the reality of motherhood and the story of how she and her sister founded the Gray Girls.


When I was a little girl..... I spelt my name backwards, I refused to wear pants and preferred dresses, I had a pet blue-tongued lizard name Loui, attended ballet classes but cried whenever I had to wear my hair in a bun. I snuck milk and drunk it out of the carton and clicked my heels together three times pretending to be Dorothy. I had a husky voice, was insanely sensitive and was always busy producing a live concert for an audience that was my family.

I started Graphic Design.... without even knowing what Graphic Design was. I got engaged to my Prince Charming in 2009 and at this time I was running a dance school in a 3-way partnership with 2 close friends. It was a crazy, creative and demanding full time job where I often found myself doing long and intensive 12 hour days. At this stage of my life I had 6 years experience of running a dance school behind me and was craving creative change amidst the exciting new chapter of marriage. In this time of love, haze and transition I was curiously looking into the prospect of studying film. In the daily doings of running a dance school I often found myself leaning towards the production side of things dabbling in areas like music editing, lighting, and video production, and would spend countless hours on the computer making the monthly dance newsletter look pretty.  

Ironically, a massive multi-million dollar Design school opened up across the road from our dance studio. A German lad by the name of Karl Von Busse decided to bring a taste of Sydney Design education to our humble little town in Mollymook! I was so curious about it - the building looked so sparkly and pretty and just downright 'wow'! So one afternoon I paid a visit and it was ... amazing! Immediately I thought and inwardly declared, 'I am going to study here'. And that I did.

I didn’t really know the extent of what I was about to study and at that point didn’t really know what Graphic design was but it felt super exciting and I had constant butterflies at the thought of learning something new! I’ll never forget my first day in class sitting in front of the massive shiny large screen Mac computer in a crispy white Design classroom relishing every word that came out of the lecturer's mouth. I actually wanted to stand up, dance and shout “ YOU SPEAK MY LANGUAGE!” “I UNDERSTAND!” “THIS MAKES SENSE!” Something in me connected with every word he was saying and I knew instantly that I was in the right place. I learnt that Graphic Design was so much more then making a logo and that it was basically a tool kit of skills that would allow me to communicate visually! For me this was the most freeing and liberating experience ever! Studying Design has taken away so much inner frustration and allowed me to creatively articulate things.  

I wasn’t a bright kid in my school years and never really knew the feeling of  “understanding” something well. School was a big confusing blur and I pretty much bluffed my way through it! But Design school was different! It’s like all the colours and questions inside me were dancing and it all made sense!!!! I surprised myself in my 2 years of full-time study and walked away with Dux of my year (which let me say is crazy nonsense!). It was a real nice feeling to learn and understand, and then to be able to do it well and be rewarded for it! I have become so passionate about Design and have found that it completely complements and acts as an outlet and expression for many of my weird and impulsive quirks. I feel like being able to do this as a job and get paid to be creative is a crazy awesome dream come true! 

The Gray Girls started... as a means to an end. It all started in early 2013 when my little sister Sharee, made the leap from quiet, coastal Mollymook to hustling, bustling Sydney. Jobless and completely broke, forced to raid her own collection of vintage loves and begrudgingly sell them via Instagram to make rent. The clothes sold like hotcakes. As demand for the vintage items grew, what appeared was an opportunity for Sharee to do what she loves - “buy clothes” and “share” her finds with other lovers. A common conversation between us Gray sisters - Sharee (Fashion designer + stylist) and me  (Graphic designer + Visual communicator) was how the two of us could collaborate our skills and create something beautiful! It appeared the opportunity was calling us - et voila - The Gray Girls was born. The Gray Girls is a project that really allows my sister and I the opportunity to get creative together and collaborate with many other creatives! We are honestly having the time of our lives!

Living with a Stunt man is... wild, un-predictable, prone to winds of change, constant force to not-let-me-live-comfortably lifestyle.

Three years ago we were living in the small quiet coastal town of Mollymook. One night we were sitting in our little beach shack and had a “now or never” moment.  We literally typed “How to become a stunt man?” into Google search.  A website lead us to a phone number, a phone number lead us to a meeting in Sydney and within 2 months we found ourselves packing up our comfy little coast life and moving to the northern Beaches of Sydney. Caleb started training immediately and was qualified and graded within 2 years. I'm actually blown away by the opportunities that have come his way since his grading! His first ever paid job was 2 weeks on the recent film Mad Max, Fury Road. What?! Totally miraculous to be given these opportunities so early in his career.

Since the early age of four Caleb’s mum started referring to Caleb as a "stuntman". His wild and bold nature often found him in hazardous situations. I have always been a true believer that words are powerful, and in this case these powerful words have shaped a path that we are now living. It’s a completely unpredictable lifestyle as I said earlier, often has me on the edge of my seat, even in tears some days. Sometimes we get phone calls the night before a job starts and Caleb is off on a flight somewhere and sometimes I get to join him! We could be anywhere within a matter of 24 hours. I’ve had to learn to be very fluid and hold lightly to any plans, I love how my day job as a Designer works in-sync with his dream to be a stuntman. My job as a free-lancer allows me to work from anywhere in the world so long as I have the internet and my laptop with me. I always prayed as a little girl that I would live a big out-of-the-box crazy un-predictable story-filled life, I guess I’m getting what I asked for. 

When I met my daughter Peaches...... I’d love to say I had one of those Kodak mum and daughter moments, but let’s be honest, I was overwhelmed and actually a little shocked by her cone-shaped head! I had a really long labour, it wasn’t a bad labour, just long! The most beautiful moment for me was when they first put her on my chest and she literally squirmed her way and started feeding. I was so taken aback by her instinct and that immediate natural connection with her. Human nature baffles me and seeing a fresh little person, my daughter, enter the world and know how to do something without me showing her has me dumbfounded at creation and all of it’s intuitive nature. 

I want her to always know... that no matter what she does, who she is, the choices she makes, the person she becomes, that she is worthy, worthy of love, loved by us and crazily loved beyond comprehension by God.

I believe life should be.... lived with a spirit of adventure, loads of good conversations and a heart ready to celebrate and embrace others. To love your lover, share a meal and glass of wine with your tribe. Don’t be stingy with what’s in your hands, be generous with your words, your creativity, your love. Live large, and listen to your convictions. Don’t let the sun go down on anger, and be bold even when you feel like retreating to your safe little cave! Most importantly have faith and love God.

Favourite design job so far... This is a hard question, I have so many favourites! I guess in choosing my favourite I would purely base it on a combination of things! 

Firstly, The relationship with a client throughout the job is such a big part of whether on not I love the job! It’s all about those good vibes! Communication is key! I get super excited when my clients fill out my briefs and I read over them, and immediately can understand the direction and the ideas in their head! This gets me super excited and the creativity naturally flows! Then, adding to the process would be the content of the job. It’s super awesome when you believe in the brand, you love what they stand for and the project naturally progresses to an incredible end result. I can’t pick one job but here’s my top three to date!

1. Recent logo design for dear friend The Honest Jones

2. A logo design for creative duo Calypso Warehouse 

3. A logo design for the uber classic Reedsmith Co.

All these clients have been super easy to work with! I think it has helped that they are all creative in nature, so they too speak the global creative language. 

Go-to font of choice? Always Gotham or Baskerville! They do no wrong!

I can't live without.... my morning cup of coffee.

My killer wardrobe essentials are .... my black boots and my hat, more often than not. 

Shoes or bare feet? Bare feet for sure! This makes me laugh actually. When my sister and I were both attending the same uni with me studying Design and she Fashion, we both lived by the mantra that shoes ruin an outfit. I was so proud of my sis because every assessment she did, she presented her model without shoes... the panel was always confused. She stuck by it and I cheered her on! Then I moved to Sydney and found that it was less acceptable to be barefoot than Mollymook allowed, so I have come to find a new love for shoes.

Best takeout in Dee Why? Cooh for sure! Good coffee, great food!

Dream holiday destination? I often retreat (in my mind) to a beautiful cobblestone house on the water in the Greek Islands. I see a table of food, a beer in hand, I’ve had moderate sun, hair is salty and Caleb is cooking the fish we caught from our early day's adventure. I hear the sound of street music echoing against the cobblestone walls and the sun is setting over the water! Perfection! 

Not many people know.... that when I was 7 years old I was diagnosed with a severe case rheumatoid arthritis and Doctors predicted I would never dance. I guess they got it wrong! My parents were amazing, in finding out the news they never told me of the diagnosis. They are true believers of words and their power. They new that if they told me I would personally accept it and speak it over my life. My parents enrolled me into dance school, kept active and spoke words that were anti-diagnosis. I believe their faith and inner ethos on words and the power of words has seen me free of this predicament.

If I was in a band I would be.... the playing the flugal horn. Seriously, I actually played this hideous instrument in high school! It’s a massive joke in my family that gets mentioned at most family dinners and there is always plenty of laughter at my expense. Mum used to send me into the garage to play if that’s any indication of my brilliance or lack there of.

When I close my eyes I..... see too much. 

First impressions are... not really that important. Everyone has a bad day and I’d hope that people would give the common grace back. There are many days when I’m not feeling myself, or it’s that time of the month (which often makes me conversationally strange), or I've had no sleep and was up with a sick child. If I'm having one of those days, people out there in the world certainly are too .... so I’d like to give people masses of opportunity to show their beauty and colour that goes beyond a first impression. There are lots of people in my world that I'm so glad I persisted with, even on some of the off and ugly days - these people have become the gold in my life. Putting all aside, there are some people I have met and instantly thought based on first impression, “I want to know what you are about”, or “You inspire me”. I guess it’s just being open-minded! And some advice that I have carried with me since the day I heard it from the mouth of Caleb’s Dad was, “ Be kind, because you never know if someone is living in their darkest hour”. These words have honestly shaped so much of the way I deal and respond to people. I think mostly because I have had some of those dark hours myself, and have been greeted by others with such grace and love in these times, and wow! what that love has done for me in that time has been life changing.

Friends are... important to me! My friends are all so different! I have practical friends, creative friends, friends that you feel safe to bare all with, and friends you go to the mall with. Friends you go on holiday with and make Britney Spears dance clips with, and friends that speak wisdom at the right time! I have friends that you can cry with and friends that can tell you when you're being an idiot - and you know it’s because they love you! We have been blessed with an abundance of incredible people around us! I feel we have found our tribe! and we are blessed.

I like to tell people to.... live large! I get excited about hearing people's dreams and cheering them on! Seeing the people around me succeed in life truly excites me! BE A CHEER LEADER!!!!! Be generous with encouragement, let it pour out of you!


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