Folks We Love with Holly McCauley, art director at Smack Bang Designs
Tell us a little bit about your journey and how you’ve come to arrive here.
Born and raised in Sydney to a Chinese mother and Anglo father, I moved to Byron Bay when I was 21 to take a job at frankie magazine and never looked back. I lived in a wild share-house with a group of girls who I still consider family, I travelled and always work, work, worked my butt off. I met my partner, Nich, and we started a life together of adventure, fun and constant support. We had a little stint in Sydney for work, then found out I was pregnant and on the same day, bought our now home. A few months later we packed up again and moved to Bangalow. Then our daughter was born.
Who’s in your family? Ages? Names?
We’ve got one daughter, Della May Plum, and she is 9 months old.
How did you choose your kids names?
We heard the name Della somewhere and loved it instantly. It’s a really old fashioned American name that pretty much died out in the early 1900s and we liked that it had old school charm, but wasn’t popular anymore. Della’s grandmother, great-grandmother and aunty on her dad’s side all have the middle name, May – we were told recently that it was the maiden name of her great-great grandmother. My mum is Chinese and her middle name translates to Plum Blossom, so that’s where Plum came from!
We live in a half-renovated fibro shack in the small town of Bangalow on the NSW Far North Coast.
I’m the Art Director at Smack Bang Designs https://smackbangdesigns.com/ a boutique design agency in Sydney. In my spare time, I also work on print and publication design with the occasional styling job thrown in.
What’s on your manifest board?
Short term it’s a sun-kissed, barefoot summer with Della and her dad. Long term, it’s creating a life that will allow us to work, travel and live the way we want to, on our terms.
What is your favorite book?
Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy. It’s so dark, but I love it. I wouldn’t recommend it to those with a weak stomach or delicate mind. I’m hooked on anything Wild West and also a closet history geek.
How do you unwind?
With a cold beer and some sort of cheese board featuring cured meat.
Tell us some of your most loved ways to spend the day with your clan?
We are still getting used to life with three of us, but at the moment we are loving taking Della to the beach in the morning and watching her explore in the sand while we sip coffee and dream up our future plans. An ideal day would also include a delicious meal, lounging on the deck, a drive out into the bush and a bottle of wine. We also can’t wait for more camping adventures with Della once it warms up.
What are some silly/fun things that the kids do or say?
At the moment, Della loves dancing and chatting. We can’t wait to see more of her personality (which is already quite extroverted and loud!) come out as she grows.
What is something you wish you had known before having kids?
That the preconceived idea that you’ll lose all your freedom after having kids is a total lie! We believe in creating a life that she can fit into, not one that she dictates. But ask me again when she is a toddler or at school, and I might have changed my tune.
When you were a teenager what did you dream of? Do things look different?
I didn’t really dream of much, I was more consumed of the day-to-day stuff. I just assumed things would work out and one day, I’d feel like an adult. Now, I look forward to the future and all the things to come, and most of the time I still don’t feel like a proper adult. I look back at my teenage self and don’t even feel as if it’s the same person.
What are some things you really believe in?
Kindness, manners, family and hard work. I also believe that we all need to slow down and try not to sweat the small stuff. I am still working on this.
Has your relationship with your other half changed since having kids? How do you stay connected?
I think I’ve become a bit more demanding of him, sometimes I have to take check and apologise if I’ve snapped. I’m a bit crazy when it comes to order and tidiness, especially around the home, so I have to try and let go of that. We love hanging out the three of us and I think watching Della gives us both so much joy. We still do all the things we used to do before she came into our lives but the odd date night never goes astray. We have also tried to give Della a really early bedtime so, at the moment, Nich and I pretty much spend 6pm onwards together just the two of us.
What are some of your favorite life lessons you’ve grown to love? (even if learning them at the time was hard)
See previous question! I also learnt how amazing the female body is. Before getting pregnant, I never thought much about my body, it was a burden to carry and a thing to get annoyed at, or ignore completely. I had a dream pregnancy and birth and it made me stop and appreciate how amazing my body, and all women’s bodies really are. It sounds super lame, but growing a baby, carrying it for 10 months and birthing it is truly one of life’s great miracles and mysteries. It still blows my mind when I think about it and I can’t wait to do it all again one day.
What do you wish you could’ve told yourself when you were a teenager?
Life is what you make it. And I also would have told her that it’s ok not to follow the crowd.
What do you find most challenging about being somebody’s parent?
The constant worry! I find myself dreaming up the worst possible situations and what I would do if any of them ever came true. I think the realness of life and death becomes much more acute after you have a kid. I also find the idea of raising her to be a good person really challenging, I am already putting so much pressure on myself to make sure she grows up to hold a really great set of values. Oh, and there is so much talk of raising strong and confident girls, which I totally get – but I also want Della to be respectful and gracious and kind, I’m quite an introverted person, so the idea of an overly confident or obnoxious kid really scares me!
What do you want your kids to learn about the world?
I want Della and any future kids of mine to see the beauty in nature, I want them to be adventurous and inquisitive and I want them to see diversity in all its forms. We live in a really beautiful part of the world and lead a pretty privileged life, I don’t want my kids growing up to think that this is normal or to take any of it for granted. I want them to see past their little bubble. As much as I want to give them the best life possible, I also think they need to experience struggle and challenges.
What are 4 things you can’t live without as a parent?
Della and my partner Nich, a cosy place to call home, future adventures to plan and look forward to and my epic group of girlfriends.
Holly is a mum and designer living in the northern rivers of NSW with daughter Della and partner Nich.