Art Director, Designer & Artist Timba Smits

Currently residing in Melbourne, Timba Smits is Co-founder of Wooden Toy Quarterly, director of design studio FAD experiment, curator at Gorker Gallery and someone who definitely likes to keep busy. He was awarded the Desktop 2007 designer of the year, and is one of the guest speakers at this years Semi Permanent conference.

Hey Timba, tell us about your background – what did you study and what path led you to what you’re doing now?
My background is in fine art and illustration. I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can possibly remember. It’s something I always did growing up. It was either this or playing with Lego, which i occasionally still bust out! Shortly after i finished high school I took a computer course in Graphic Design at Shillington College in Melbourne and i fell over myself with the possibilities that computer based design opened up for my art and vice versa. This led to a deep rooted passion and feel for typography, magazine layouts and book design. 6 years later I started ‘Wooden Toy magazine’ which is where I’m at now, amongst other projects including ‘Gorker Gallery’ and my studio work under the disguise of ‘The FAD Experiment’.

What have you been working on lately?
Wooden Toy number 6: the ‘hand made edition’. It’s being released in April at the 2009 semi Permanent conference where I’m speaking this year so I’m pretty darn busy trying to finish the pages and at the same time trying to think about talking in front of 2000 eager designers. Eeeep! It’s all head down, bum up for me over the next 2 months. On top of that I’m working on the design of Melbourne MC PHRASE’s new album ‘Burn it Down’ Also due out in April. That’s been a bucket load of fun!

How would you describe your artistic style?
My artistic style is detailed, nostalgic and textured with a hand-made approach taking inspiration from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s and combining them with modern techniques and mediums. Kind of an old meets new approach. I’m a total traditionalist and love things from the past and don’t want to look into the future. I swear I was born in the 1940’s in my previous life.

What have been the highlights in your art-related career to-date?
Well, winning the Desktop 2007 designer of the year was pretty sooper and being invited to talk at this years Semi Permanent conferences is pretty dooper too but in all honesty, it’s the realisation over time that there are people all over the world who collect things that I produce, who’s own work I inspire and who’s day I make that little bit more special through doing what I do. In my humblest opinion this is the greatest achievement I could receive and one that I get a kick out of everytime I read an email from someone that’s bought my magazine for the first time and just wanted to let me know how much they loved reading it or that person that bought my painting from Gorker Gallery and said it’s the best thing they own now. These are the things that make me truly happy and give me the motivation to work even harder and produce more.

You create and produce a quarterly magazine, Wooden Toy. How did this come about and what is the philosophy behind the brand?
Wooden Toy Quarterly is a culmination of the amazing talent, people and ideas I see on a daily basis around me. It is a catalog of the progressive nature of worldwide creative culture. It started in 2006 born from a love of magazines, art, photography, type and youth culture. It was released during a moment where I found myself searching for something that didn’t exist in other publications at that particular time, well not here in Melbourne anyway. A magazine with no boundaries, no set template, a freedom of speech and a focus on its production just as much as what it was saying through it’s editorial. My philosophy behind the brand has always been to document and highlight the creatives that have in some way been influenced by youth, street culture and art while drawing in the creatives that we think can be, and are an influence and inspiration to creative cultures future progression and presenting this as a lifestyle that cannot be separated from a love of brilliant photography, street art, illustration and some of the best graphic designed layouts you’ve ever touched.

You’re also involved in Gorker Gallery in Fitzroy, Can you tell us a bit about it? Any upcoming exhibitions to keep an eye out for?
Gorker Gallery is the combined efforts of myself, Nate Holmes Trapnell, Luke Mathews and Lauren Biedrzycki. Together we organize and exhibit the artwork of artists such as Nior, Meggs, Ghostpatrol, Miso, TWOONE and James Reka just to name a few. The gallery was kind of a Shotgun experiment that turned into something BIG in just a matter of shows (months). We seriously came together in a fit of excitement over the idea when I met Luke for the first time with Nate at the sapce in early April 2008. We created the business, the name, the branding and our first opening “The Forty Thieves’ in just over 2 months and were steaming ahead to our HUGE opening by Mid June 2008. Crazy looking back at it but something that worked incredibly well for us. It was born through instinct and a lot of guts and we feel we’re left with a gallery and a brand that is truly unique in it’s philosophy and the surrounding environment. We have an exciting show planned for Ghostpatrol & Cat Rabbit opening on 19th Feb (check for details) with the two of them working together in transforming the space into an enchanted paradise of soft sculptures and original drawings. Should be a CORKER! Apart from that, there’s an ACORN solo show coming up and you can look out for my solo show in July.

You seem to be extremely busy with The FAD Experiment, Wooden Toy and Gorker Gallery, are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
Plenty! Oh so plenty! But right now i’m trying not to get a ahead of myself. I mean, trying to perfect my art, illustration and graphic design coupled with trying to run 2 businesses is already enough. I’ve been working very hard towards where I’m at now for almost ten years and I feel like I’m only at the surface trying to dig in so yes, there is plenty more for me to try but for now I am extremely happy with what I’m doing, the direction & speed in which I’m heading and I will push myself and my craft as far as It can possibly go. Only when i think it cannot go any further will i think of changing mediums or projects. However, i would like to have my own fashion label very soon. I have the name for it and the idea, unfortunately just not the time right now so i’m saving that one for a rainy day.

Which designers, artists or creative people are you inspired by?
Eeeeek! I always find this question a difficult one to answer simply because there are so many darn talented people out there that manage to blow my mind on a daily basis. I mean, I couldn’t possibly just narrow it down to a single few especially with all the people I’ve met through my magazine. They all have something different like the childlike peacefulness of a Ghostpatrol drawing or the imaginative world of a TWOONE artwork to the incredible detail of a Jae Copp Painting. Jeez, I could go on forever. I get different inspiration from many different artists. I’m inspired by art in general. I am really turned on by the design and artists of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. George Petty, Vargas and all those guys. But I’m also inspired by so many different aspects of life itself and not just people like Old typography on warehouse walls, cinema, Pretty girls on bikes, and the way my cat (smudge) lies in the sun on his back looking at the world upside down. He’s probably the only person I know , and yes I just called my cat a person, that can stop me thinking about shit and just bring me down to earth.

What can we expect from you in the future?
More editions of Wooden Toy, making it bigger, bolder and better! I feel like I’m only swimming in the shallow end with the ideas I have for the future progeression my mag and where I want to take it. Such as an edition 7 launch in London (UK) in September 2009 to help grow my world wide distribution and brand awareness outside of Australia and a large addition of Wooden Toy related collectibles that are not magazines. Apart from that I want to grow Gorker Gallery with the guys to achieve our goals of consistently raising the bar with our shows, breaking the mold of contemporary exhibition design and display, supporting local and international artists and working beside them with the same ‘no boundary’ approach I have set with my magazine. We want to show the public that art is more than just canvas on walls! It’s about emotion, feeling and bringing the environment inside the gallery. Hmmm, more Album art projects through The FAD Experiment would be nice. Those are a lot of fun, and there’s something about having a client that’s an artist themselves that beats the pants of any other client work i’ve ever done. They just get it!

What advice would you give to an aspiring Designer / illustrator?
Work bloody hard, be patient as this shit takes a while, keep away from coffee and cigarettes (if you can), and stay focused on the direction you’re going. Try not to get disorientated which is easy to do and work hard on finding your inner inspiration to stand out and be original in your industry. I could go on and on but I just want to end by saying have fun, be passionate about your work and what we get to do and always be confident to show what you’re doing to the world!



  1. Enjoyed this post very much…thank you..

    Chrisy, February 22nd, 2009 at 3:20 am
  2. Go Timba!!!! xo

    Bec WInnel, April 6th, 2009 at 3:17 pm
  3. [...] and Michael and Eva from Toko. There’s also some really exciting hand generated type from Timba Smits with his titles in Wooden Toy Quarterly and lovely stuff from Luke at Lifelounge. There’s [...]

    For the Love of Type with Mrs Eaves » Australian Edge, August 9th, 2009 at 3:06 pm
  4. timba is not all he claims to be

    hater, February 3rd, 2010 at 11:55 pm

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