Teresa Nunes is a Portuguese born, Melbourne-based, ceramic and textile artist . She has has learnt the power of taking risks along the path to defining her own definition of success.
I grew up in a full house in a quiet neighbourhood in Lisbon, with my parents, my sister, my grandparents, an aunt and uncle and two cousins. This upbringing definitely had a big impact in my life, as I ended up literally being raised by several people.
Most of the adults around me were employees, had nine to five jobs, that they had been doing all their lives. Some were passionate about them and some weren’t.
My mom was always very passionate about her teaching job, but I learned from her struggles the importance of establishing your own limits and saying no. She also taught me that the positive impact you can have in a community is an important aspect of success.
My grandfather, who I lived with, is still a big inspiration because of his positive attitude. A free spirit who would always find joy in whatever job/task he had. He worked hard on his veggie garden, his animals and fruit trees, which were a huge gift to all of us. But he also knew how to rest. You would often find him taking a nap or playing his harmonica. His simple way of living, by finding happiness and gratitude in the little things, has been a reminder that success can be exactly like that.
When I went to kinder and discovered drawing and painting, I felt like I had discovered the best thing ever. Using my hands creatively made me very happy and it became a bit of a refuge from a full and busy home, where it was hard to find moments of quietness. It was a time just for me. By the time I was 4, I started saying I wanted to be an artist.
I didn’t know any artists personally and began to fear pursuing art because I’d started believing what I would hear around me - that I could never make a living from art. So when the time came to choose a course of study, I choose a degree in communication design.
I always felt like I wasn’t quite in the right place. I was scared of what I really wanted, I was scared of not being able to find a job that fulfilled me, or scared that my 5 year degree had been a waste of time. I felt very lost after finishing my degree and tried different jobs and practices, from freelance graphic design, to art exhibition assistance, to writing, and ended up teaching art for 4 years.
As meaningful as this experience was, I missed the practical side of art, using my hands and focusing on my own practice. It was also around this time that my anxiety escalated. A big warning sign to look after myself and change direction. Up until then I had no idea about self care, but taking my first yoga class started changing my relationship with myself.
“Prioritise time for yourself, for the things you love doing”
My dad was never very adventurous in his personal and professional life, but despite his own fears and limits, he has always supported and encouraged both my sister and I to be brave, follow our dreams and create our own jobs.
I’d met my husband in 2007 when on an exchange in Italy. He has been an entrepreneur since high school, and has been showing me all these years that it’s ok to be different, to try new things, to take risks and create your own path. Freedom doesn’t come without fears and failures, but they are all part of an exciting process.
When I moved to Australia in 2014, I brought my watercolours and started sketching and journaling random ideas. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I was determined to find out. To experiment and learn different crafts and see where that would take me. I found a textile design studio called Ink and Spindle and decided to apply to be an intern with them. There I found a beautiful community of women who had their own creative businesses and that inspired me to create my own. Things moved a bit slower as I fell pregnant in my first few months in Melbourne.
It was only in 2016, when my daughter was 1, that I decided to take a day a week to develop my creative practice. Struggling with the demands of motherhood made me realise how that one day a week was so important for my happiness and mental health.
I was keen to work with textiles and wanted to be as sustainable as possible in my practice. That brought an interest in botanical dyes, so I decided to do a workshop and learn as much as I could. Creating jewellery was a natural progression because these pieces don’t take a lot of space, if you are working from home, and that was when I discovered clay as well. It took almost 2 years of practice and development to launch my website in 2018.
I believe working with your hands can have a lot of health benefits and be very healing. When our hands are at work, our brains can focus in the present moment, and dive into a meditative state. Plus the joy of creating something that is palpable. Whether we see ourselves as creative people or not, we all start exploring life through the sense of touch and creativity is a big part of being human. As we go through life many of us lose that. We are made to believe that working with our hands is not important, or that we are not good enough.
Working with materials like clay results are never guaranteed. Through my practice I’ve learned to slow down, to embrace the unexpected, the failures, the downs as much as the ups. Some days my energy is just not right to follow what I had planned. And that’s ok. When I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed I like to write, and I find it extremely cathartic.
Working from home it’s important that I have rituals that support the transition from work to rest. I make a conscious effort to put my phone down and not rely on it too much when I’m not working. I also like to turn off the light on my working table as a reminder that work is over.
To help my mind settle, I practice yoga, meditation, read books in Portuguese and head to bed earlier when I can.
Advice for those seeking great alignment in life:
Be kind to yourself. Understand your boundaries, and listen to your body. Prioritise time for yourself, for the things you love doing. Learn something new. Maybe a craft. Gardening. Use your hands. Discover a few little habits that help you feel at peace. It can be a run, or meditation, or simply cooking a meal. Spend time with loved ones. Go outside and leave your phone behind. Sleep. Remember that it’s ok to say no, and that you make your own path. Success has many faces, and nobody will know better what it looks like than yourself.