Emma Pegrum

Emma wearing Apron Top in Granola Blend over Man-tle Weather Shirt in White 

If you’re feeling uninspired, how do you transform your energy?

I think anyone who works in a creative field knows it is an emotional rollercoaster. If I’m having a day where I feel flat or negative, I find it’s useful to simply remind myself that it will pass. I tend to apply myself to the really basic components of my work when I feel this way. My work varies between more explorative, conceptual ideation and interrogative writing to more nuts and bolts stuff like editing and project management. If I’m feeling less inspired, I focus on really specific things. This helps me tune out noise. I find eventually I emerge feeling restored and able to reconsider the bigger picture. Also, my creative community can always reignite my flame if I’m feeling lost—just knowing what other people are up to, vibing, looking at or reading gives me energy, as well as getting excited about prospects together. Finally, on my “in” list for this year was to spend more time in the real world as opposed to the digital world. A quiet walk around my neighbourhood is often enough to shake off the weight of a dreary day.

What rituals do you have in place to take care of yourself?

The only thing I am quite religious about is doing the cryptic crossword every Saturday morning over coffee. Other than that, I’m not the most ritualistic person; I don’t find strict routines serve me very well and I’m lucky most of my life and work fits into a shifting schedule quite easily. I swim multiple times a week, either in the ocean (when at home in Perth) or at the local pool (when in Melbourne). Swim and sauna combo if possible. I also view reading as self-care—it helps me achieve a bit of quiet and escape.

Emma wearing Apron Top in Granola Blend at her 30th birthday party with Mess Books co-founder Bec Stawell Wilson

Who has been an expansive influence to your career so far?

So many people. As a journalist and writer, my early editors really helped whip my writing into shape. My close friend and fellow writer Anne Louise-Willoughby was one of the first people with whom I really started to have dialogue as a writer; I met her when I interviewed her many years ago for a story and we really connected. Among a handful of other friends who are writers, my friend Simon Webster is a big influence and confidant. Then there are the writers I read; too many to list comprehensively but the likes of Jia Tolentino, Naomi Fry, Margaret Simons, Kate Holden, Rick Morton, Chloe Hooper, Rachel Cusk and Miranda July are big influences—as well as Richard Flanagan, George Saunders, Zadie Smith and Joan Didion.

In terms of my other creative and production work, I was really lucky in 2021 to work under contemporary artist Ian Strange at the Art Gallery of WA; that was a transformative experience for me in that it gave me the confidence and the skills to start going after bigger projects on my own. My mind is constantly expanded by a number of friends and individuals from across all sorts of disciplines: researchers, publishers, designers, architects, artists, filmmakers, activists, social justice workers, psychologists, teachers, lawyers, scientists. There’s also my business partner at Mess Books, Bec Stawell Wilson, an amazing art director and graphic designer. Collaborating with her has enabled me to articulate my ideas visually and has led to lots of interesting work for both of us, plus it’s a really emotionally rich working relationship—a rare thing. There are a number of other designers and creative studios—like Perth’s own Gesture Systems—by whom I am also constantly inspired. Too many to list.

Also, I maintain a photographic practice, and lots of my inspiration across all my work comes through contemporary photography and the visual arts. My brother first got me interested in cameras and I still enjoy exchanging thoughts on photography with him. I am also really grateful to have ongoing creative dialogue with photographers Duncan Wright and Isabella Moore, who have always been big inspirations to me in their pursuit of ambitious work in cultural environments that don’t always reward it. Other photographic artists I look to include people like Odette England, Ilsa Wynne-Hoelscher Kidd, Madeline Bishop, Anu Kumar, Jamie Hawkesworth, Josefina Santos, Molly Matalon and Sasha Arutyunova … and photo editors and curators like Emily Keegin, Emma Bowkett and Isabella Burley—but honestly, the list goes on and on. Because I do lots of editing and commissioning, I am always researching photographers, artists, editors and curators and I’m lucky that as a result I feel literally surrounded by inspiring work. And I haven’t even started on my favourite painters!


Found image, Odette England

How do you successfully get out the door on time?

Simple answer: I choose to work from home because I know I’d never have any chance of getting out the door on time. 


How do you manage boundaries with your phone or computer?

I use iPhone’s sleep schedule, which has been really helpful for creating wind up and down periods in the mornings and evenings. I very much live on my computer for work and manage my work and social calendars and to-do lists on it too, so that one is harder—but to be honest, after seven years working for myself from home, I feel I’ve grown pretty good instinctive boundaries. What I can say for sure is that when I can, I take a lot of pleasure from decisively leaving my phone at home for a day out or my laptop behind for a trip away. 

Lauren Bamford

How do you successfully get out the door on time?

Simple answer: I choose to work from home because I know I’d never have any chance of getting out the door on time. 


How do you overcome feeling anxious, uncertain, or nervous?

Talk about it! There is no greater unifying force than our shared anxiety and at times paralysing uncertainty. I always find it’s amazing how easily these feelings can be dissolved when voiced—if only until the next time. 


What are your rituals for sparking creativity?

Reading and looking at things (photo books, art). If I feel something spark, I find writing things down in an ordered way helps me sustain a creative flow; arranging words or ideas in a certain pattern or system on paper, connecting them. It’s like following my thoughts.



Emma Pegrum is a Journalist, Editor, Publisher & Creative Director/Producer living in Melbourne, Australia. Her work can be found here and here.

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