Kerry-Anne Blanket is the Director & Curator at international art brand KAB Gallery, where she is responsible for the art collection exhibited.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I am an art lover at heart and have always known this was the industry for me. Initially aiming for a career as a professional artist, I sought formal art training from the University of Sydney’s art school (Sydney College of the Arts), where my interests in art theory and the art market grew.
After several years of postgraduate studies in art theory and curatorship I worked in fantastic roles at museums, and some of the industry’s leading investment galleries and auction houses.
In 2013, I took the plunge and opened a new art gallery, KAB Gallery based on my vision for creating a gallery that I believed lacked in the market at that time – a gallery which was approachable, professional and female-led.
Fast forward eight years and I now own and operate an additional KAB Gallery, where, my current role as founder, Director and Curator sees me responsible for the art collection exhibited at both galleries, as well as our online site.
As a commercial gallery, it’s also my responsibility to market and sell the artworks, which is the most enjoyable part of my job – I love nothing more than meeting a prospective buyer and being able to help them select a work that will not only light up their home, but also bring joy to their life – yes, art has the power to do this!
I also have the privilege of managing a great team of gallerists in both our Terrigal and Sydney gallery spaces, and it’s a big responsibility to assist them in both helping our clients as well as helping them to grow in their roles individually.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Every day is different, and I never quite know what to expect when walking into the gallery.
Even on my most structured days, there will be many things that come up on top of planned activities, which I put down to the fact that it’s both a fast-paced and customer service-based environment.
KAB Gallery at Terrigal is open seven days a week, so I am pretty used to managing the administration and curatorship side of day-to-day operations and client needs. Before the gallery opens at 10 am each day, my workday often begins with an early short half-hour shift from the home office to touch base with any international clients.
This way, I can generally catch up with anything urgent between the various global time zones. Then it’s time for a break for breakfast with the family of my husband and two young kids.
The days when I work in either the Terrigal or Sydney gallery are great; I love them! On these days, I usually get into the gallery at around 9.30 am to prepare, before spending most of the morning working face-to-face with clients admiring great Australian art, listening to their requirements, and providing art options to suit their taste and budget.
Often, I will also arrange meetings and studio visits with my stable of artists to view their new work and select pieces for upcoming exhibitions, and occasionally also chat with new up-and-coming contemporary artists who look to me for mentorship. While it can be hard to provide artists with honest feedback on their creative output, it is an essential part of my job to ensure artists meet the needs of the market.
Afternoons usually afford the time to hunker down at the desk and get onto my role’s more mundane admin tasks. Then it’s off home for dinner and reading with my children – a part of the day we all love.
I’ll often spend an hour or two once the kids are in bed catching up with more admin work or chatting to clients from different parts of the world, before turning in for the night and doing it all again tomorrow. My days are often crazy and chaotic, and while I sometimes wish they were more structured, I wouldn’t change it for the world as I genuinely love what I do.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Absolutely, and that is such a great aspect of working for myself.
It’s so important to appreciate the privileges that come from owning your own business, and while the workload can be intense and there aren’t many days that I can completely take off, I appreciate that I am in a position where I can primarily tailor work to manage my time and suit my needs.
I know that by running a successful business, I can, in turn, enjoy time with my children when they need it, and I haven’t had to miss out in any way. My maternity leave looked very different to that of my friends.
Still, I appreciate that when other mums headed back off to work full-time, I could continue to juggle my routines without question, working during their nap times and evenings so that they had my full attention at other times.
I understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it was mine, and I wouldn’t have changed it because we are all happy, and the business continued to grow along the way.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I think balance means different things to everyone. It can be as simple as balanced time between work or as complicated as the juggle between family or family plus health, relationships, career, finances, lifestyle and more.
Balance for me is about being happy. As a wife, mum and art gallery director, I am constantly driven by providing for my loved ones and the enjoyment my role as Director of KAB Gallery brings to me.
No two days are the same, and I celebrate every success, small or large, both personally and professionally, which I believe helps to keep me motivated, even when the chaos can seem overwhelming.
I remember talking to a friend who said some people live to work and some people work to live. I am not so sure about which side of that equation I’m on at this stage in my life, so when I look for balance, I am pretty much looking for a lack of guilt.
If I feel guilty about not spending enough time with my family or guilty that I am not working as much as I should, then I know the balance must be off. It’s a constant juggling act, but by being self-aware and prepared to tweak my schedule to shift whatever I am doing, I know it can always get better.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I now don’t look at work, texts, emails or socials first thing in the morning until I’ve at least had a cup of tea.
I was starting to get way too stressed before I even rolled out of bed, so the ritual of having a tea first helps calm me down and steel me for the work to come (and perhaps the caffeine helps too)!
It allows me to think and communicate more clearly when addressing the emails and messages, whilst also allowing me to compartmentalise better between work and home.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I would be embarrassed to tell you the lowbrow paperback novels I read for leisure, so I won’t mention those. But with a coffee in hand, I love picking up Artist Profile magazine; there are always great write-ups on contemporary artists and styles.
In terms of reference books, I constantly reach for the Norman Lindsay etchings and The Art of Pro Hart. Both are great to look through If you like Norman Lindsay or Pro Hart’s artworks, but I find it helpful with many art collectors excited to discuss their own etchings and paintings. It’s a great way for me to open and find the exact image or related painting series they are discussing with me.
During my commute to KAB Gallery Sydney from my home on the Central Coast, I like to make the most of the time spent in the car.
I’ll often speak with my team members working in our other gallery to help plan out our days, but once we’ve done that, I like to listen to podcasts which help me be a more effective businesswoman in marketing and running my business.
While I don’t have any regular podcasts set, I am very likely to tune into anything fresh with Mark Bouris. Even though I am an art specialist, I love learning more about successful Australian businesses.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I honestly believe it would be physically impossible to do my job without my iPhone. From chatting to clients and artists to receiving images of new works, or capturing quick product shots for my socials, it’s an invaluable tool.
The other is Skype. Now that I have the two galleries, we keep the team connected everyday using it. Whether it’s a quick video call to check-in, or a random question messaged, it’s fast and immediate, which helps so much.
I have it on my phone, too, so even when I am out of the office, the team can Skype through any urgent messages and feel confident that I’ll be able to get to them quickly.
Then, of course, there are industry-specific products like auction catalogues and cataloguing tools, but I can’t give away all of my secrets!
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Julie Bishop. I have admired her for a long time as someone who was so totally devoted to her work as a politician and senior minister but also seemed to have so much time for interests and events outside of work.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I’ve learnt to relax and take each day at a time. No two days will ever be the same, and one bad day can often mean a great day tomorrow! I have also learnt to welcome client and team feedback because it helps me to grow into a better leader and curator.
Not only does feedback help to build your confidence when positive, but it also opens your mind to areas for improvement that you may have never realised and could have been costing sales, affecting client satisfaction, or lower staff engagement.
Oh, and don’t ever check your phone or reach for the laptop until after breakfast – or at the very least, a cup of tea (preferably in bed)!
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