First Published on Just Media Design

By Harley Barnes-Roos

Learn With Harley @ Work-Shop Brisbane


Like any graphic designer worth her salt, I spend a good deal of time exploring cool, arty accounts that pop into my explore page on Instagram. I often stay up late into the night on my art account Harley & Händen (@harleyandhanden), looking through various hashtags, stalking other creatives and dropping compliments left, right, and centre. I like to call it “business” rather than pleasure, but it luckily satisfies both.

My art consists of hand embroidery, which I started when I was young, and paper collage which I have begun recently. I have been lucky enough to have exhibited at RAW, Jungle Love Festival, Brisbane Street Art Festival, Stock & Supply, Paste Modernism (Sydney). I’ve also been published in the Etsy newsletter and To Be Continued Magazine, and also popped up with a handful of collaborations and markets as well.

Staying up late on social media is something we all do, but if you’re a younger reader, then I’m sure at some stage your parents have frowned upon your nocturnal scrolling. To them, there is no return on investment of your time spent on the fam’s WiFi.

In response, I have a nice little story to tell that shows just how social media has become invaluable to not only how we do business, but how we can develop real, life-altering friendships online too. So next time someone grumbles, you can print this out and mail it to them in the post

When the Brisbane Collage Club started in June 2015, to grab a few more followers, I would like and repost other artist’s collages on Instagram. I did this for a few months, and this is how I met Elsie (@elsiedoesart/ She lives across the world in Williamsburg, New York with her cat Rosie, her dog Winnifred, and a thick bunch of old mags ready for choppin’. After discovering Elsie on hashtag used by collage artists, I reposted her collage and a few days after we exchanged ‘follows’ and started talking every few weeks to catch up.

Around the same time, a very broke Harley decided to book a last minute ticket to Sydney to view the Brooklyn Collage Collective x Sydney Collage Society exhibition. This exhibition included some of my favourite artists from Brooklyn, who were a huge inspiration for me as I went through Design College. They were the first people I found who were living off this artform.

To see all of these artworks that I had been fawning over for years was super overwhelming. I could see the precise incisions, the ‘weaving’ techniques they had used, and the textures of the paper that just didn’t translate online. It was incredible to see them come to life.

At the exhibition, I started talking to Kara (@k.a.r.a.brooks), the curator of the exhibition who was from NYC. I told her I practised collage, was a huge fan of the artists, and we ended the night becoming Instagram and Facebook

Then in March 2016, I flew over to the states with my colleagues to attend SXSW, a huge tech conference in Texas. Having sent art to the States, and with my new-found Instagram friendships, I decided to put a call out to the Instagram community. With Elsie suggesting I pop over to the East coast, I direct messaged her, and we started talking. In the end, she invited me to come and stay in her Brooklyn apartment.

Staying with my new Instagram friend Elsie was such an eye opener for both art and life. She showed me around Bushwick, which is an area filled to the brim with street art. I even got to paste up some of my work. She took me to her studio and introduced me to some of her new pieces. We hung out with her mates, who I still keep in contact with, on her rooftop looking over the Manhattan skyline in the cold.

While in NYC, I also met up with the founder of @yeahrightnyc, Victoria. We connected via Instagram DM. Yeah Right NYC embroider sweet sayings onto T’s, underwear, and beanies. We talked over coffee and a bite to eat at Atlas Cafe, Williamsburg, about all things sewing and starting your own business. I found out about Yeah Right NYC on Instagram through the Discover page.

So the next time your parents or second-cousin-twice-removed gets up you for spending too much time on Instagram or Facebook (as long as you aren’t sending FarmVille requests and are hustling), link them to this article and let them know the ROI of the countless hours I’ve spent on my iPhone.