Imagine the scene. A crowded late Saturday night. Beaumont Street kebab/pide/hot chippy/boxing ring, Cappadocia, full to the brim with karaoke swingers fresh from The Kent. Peak fighting time. Suddenly one man parts the crowd – a local idiot. He pushes the crowd back from the till and drops to a knee – he is asking his girlfriend to marry him. Everyone is sad for a moment and then the fighting and chewing continues.
Now take what you would from this story and statement, but I believe you would never catch Newcastle newcomers Campbell Walker & Felicity Handley (AKA @struthless69 on Instagram) at Cappadocia at any time beyond 12am. This is purely because their ship sails home (Stockton) once the clock strikes midnight. We caught up very much in the daytime to see how their transition is going.
I should say thanks for meeting up first. You guys are the first Instagram profile group thing I've interviewed.
Campbell: [laughs] No worries.
How are you going without the ibis population here in Newcastle?
C: Pretty good. There are actually a few around, even in Stockton. Graphically I think I've retired it. It was a really fun motif for a long time, but it might be getting into the… flogged horse territory [laughs]. You want to change before people want you to change, I think.
Where did all that stuff start? I read somewhere that you drew it in a bar or something?
Felicity: I remember that night.
C: Sort of a weird story. I used to work for this artist guy – Marc Schattner. He does Dogman and Rabbitgirl, these sculptures, with his wife under the name Gillie and Marc. I asked him one day how he became an artist – how did he even start? He said to me he took one thing and repeated it. Again and again, forever. I thought it was really cool. I think people really only have a tiny bit of attention for some things – especially on the internet. So I took the ibis for a few months…
How long ago was that?
F: It was winter last year…
C: I haven't been drawing very long.
F: It must have been May 2016 – we started selling online in June. You were working on stuff for about a month beforehand.
C: I guess I was frustrated that there was nothing built, if you know what I mean. I had worked on things before but they were always kind of scattered.
Were you drawing before the whole Struthless thing started?
C: I enjoyed it, but it was never anything like what I'm doing now. It's kind of habitual now.
F: Campbell had an art teacher in Year 7 that didn't really like what he was doing. He put the pen down for a few years.
C: It was brutal.
If that never happened you might be drawing nice landscapes or something now.
C: [laughs] Yeah.
What has brought you to Newcastle?
F: We've been here before on holidays – it seemed like a nice change of pace. The community up here is so much more connected too; everyone is doing something. If you want to work on a creative project with some friends it's not hard to find the director, photographer, cinematographer and editor all in the area. It feels like a really good place to live and work here.
C: Totally. It's really supportive and accessible.
What drew you to Stockton?
C: We looked at a map and decided it would be a good idea to ferry into town. Also the rent is really cheap.
F: Compared to a unit in Marrickville it's crazy. Now we have a giant backyard, five bedrooms (that we don't need) and a huge garage.
C: The ferry makes you feel like Cinderella, too – you've got to be home by 12. If you miss it you're stranded [laughs]. It tames you a bit.
F: Now that we've got all that space Campbell's built himself a blue screen for videos. I've got my sewing room for making stuff. It's great.
C: I've got some plans for some weird shit.
Do you see yourselves joining the Newcastle creative scene in some way? You've done a couple of murals in the past...
C: Yeah! I'm working on one at the moment for Pedestrian TV. I want to do more for sure – they're really high-impact.
I'm not sure what it means to ‘join a creative community’ but I thought I’d ask anyway.
C: Absolutely – I'm definitely open to it, to something, I guess. I don't really know what it means either. Is there a cool meet-up club where we all have a badge? I would like that.
What do you have in the future for Struthless? The blue screen?
C: Getting hell weird for sure. I’d also like to do more clothes.
F: I would love to expand the range of what we're doing. We're thinking of putting together a touring show next year – something performance-based. As for clothes, we've sent stuff all around Australia, everywhere except the Northern Territory. People seem interested, I guess. We would be doing a heap more shirts and clothing but I'm actually struggling to keep up with filling the bum bag orders.
C: It's been really surreal. This whole thing has taken us completely by surprise. We haven't really built in much scalability to this thing [laughs].
It's a pretty new business model, isn't it – people connecting with the comedy aspects of what you're doing via Instagram. It's almost like, what else can you do under that umbrella?
I don't really have any idea of what you could do though.
C: It makes three of us I think. The second-best time to make the plan I didn't a year ago is probably now though [laughs].
If you're reading this in NT please buy stuff at struthless.com and follow @struthless69 on the Instas.