My name is Blaise van Hecke. I was born in Richmond in 1968 and today I live and work in Montmorency. During my childhood, I lived in a commune, on and off, for about five years. My older sister, my two younger brothers and I were home-schooled by my mother, who is a writer and an artist. When I was twelve we moved to Carlton, and my sister and I began boarding school. That was a shock to my system.
In the bush we didn’t wear shoes, have to attend classes nor brush our hair, and now I had to wear a uniform, tie my hair back and stick to a routine. I was bullied because I was considered strange, but in the bush, I’d learned to adapt, so I made some friends and was very quiet. I loved school; till then I had only been to school for a few months at a time.
At the commune we were encouraged to read and create art, and I’d read anything I could find. In the ‘70s there weren’t as many books for kids, so I’d often read adult books. At school I excelled at English and art, doing really well in photography. I wanted to go to film school, but being 17 I was considered too young, so I enrolled in photography at Preston TAFE, thinking I’d apply to film school later on. During my first year, I met my husband, Kev, and slowly lost interest in studying film.
When the photography course ended I began freelancing. I had a second hand Nikon, a small dark room at the back of mum’s house, and would photograph local musicians, plays, and portraits. Kev and I planned to travel so we saved as much as we could. We backpacked around the U.S, the U.K, Europe, and Thailand, taking lots of photos for a whole year, and then returned to Melbourne to get married.
Once married we moved to Greensborough. At the time the area was considered lower class, mostly because it was far from the city. In ‘91 the place was different, with an outdoor public pool and a much smaller shopping center, yet the community was as close as it is today. Living in Montmorency since 2005 we’ve always enjoyed its village feel; Carlton is amazing and everything is within walking distance, but you don’t get to know all your neighbours, whereas here it feels like a country town.
About 15 years ago photography started going digital. Kev set up a digital studio, but I wanted a change. I’d always been passionate about books and writing, so I enrolled in a publishing and writing course at TAFE. I thought I’d focus on my writing, but there were elements of editing and publishing that I loved. That’s when I decided to head in that direction. I still take photos, but words give me other ways of articulating ideas.
Becoming a publisher took time. Kev and I looked at what we were doing and how we could help people; we started by putting together one book and then built on that. Our business ran out of our house until six years ago. With two growing teens, and with clients having to visit, we needed our own working space and some separation between work and home.
One day, while walking our dogs, we saw this place was up for lease. We originally signed for one year, but within months knew it was the right decision. People could now see us; they could come in for advice or to attend our workshops. When we started here we wanted this place to be a creative hub where people could come to write and interact.
When you are a writer everything is in your head and working from home can be very isolating, so it’s good to hang out with other writers and find ways to connect. Our Open Mic nights are heartwarming for me; people have told others that this is a nurturing space, so in our sixth year we have writers from all around Victoria come to share their work.
A lot of creative people struggle searching for perfection, and if you wait for your art to be perfect and everything to be in place, you are never going to move forward. In terms of my photography, my writing, and my art, I think that they are good, but not fantastic. Yet if I waited around for perfection they would never happen.
I’m the sort of person that makes things happen. Every time I’ve decided to do something, it may have taken me a while to do it, but it has gotten done. That comes from my mother, who is a very strong and creative woman. And also from having the support of a good partner.