Jewellery Designer, Creative Director, Community Builder / Violet Gray
They say that curiosity killed the cat. I call bullshit. Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, a stagnant, unfulfilled life did. A life without smiles did. A life without quenching curiosities did. A life without love, killed, that cat. Enough of cats; for this #careerstory is about magic, it’s about a divine woman, fulfilling her curiosities, with plenty of magic.
Girl, please meet Alexandra Olsen, or Alex as she is fondly known. Alex is the Founder, Designer, and Community Leader at Violet Gray, an intentional jewellery business connecting women from all over the globe. In this interview, you will find that Alex is a gypsy, a dreamer, and a modern day mystic. A star that shines so brightly that I swear she puts the ‘Gold’ into Goldcoast.
Alex’s journey started 32 years ago, growing up in the Gold Coast Hinterland. Her as a young girl, her life was saturated with barefoot, peaceful endeavors. Experiences so rich that they fostered her interests in creative pursuits. From the get go Alex was grounded and sure of herself. This interview will take you from her time at High School, to studying Journalism at University, and to her journey abroad. We dive into how she started her business, and what the future of Violet Gray looks like (believe me… it’s bright) If you feel a gut-churning need to “organically live outside of the confines of normality” then this interview is for you.
It is with much love that we bring you the #careerstory of Alex Olsen.
Oh, Alex, we are SO excited to have you here. Welcome to The Cool Career. Can you tell us a bit about where you grew up, and how your experience shaped the person you are and the career that you are in today?
I grew up barefoot and free, with my three siblings on land in the Gold Coast hinterland. My Dad built our sweet A-frame timber home by hand and the first 12 years of my childhood were full of nature adventures and play. There was no sugar (apart from a Friday night treat) or television, and I had parents that spoke about art and film and politics (my Father working in the film industry, my mother a teacher). There wasn’t a lot of spare money, but we never went without. In these formative years, my mother was the master of creating artistic entertainment for her wildlings! Perhaps this is where my love of crafting with my hands began.
As a teenager, around 14 years of age, my mum suffered a breakdown, and my father stepped in to raise us full time. Growing up quickly, I learned to be independent, resilient and empathetic – qualities that have definitely shaped the woman I am today.
Growing up in the Hinterland sounds s amazing Alex. So where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?
I went to what is known to be a ‘rough school’ – Beenleigh State High School. Once upon a time, I would have been ashamed to admit that – but now, I say it proudly as I experienced people from so many cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. Where we were raised (Cedar Creek) was a small community and our primary school had only 100 kids – so this was one of the closest high schools to our rural home.
I remember being 12 and enrolled in the closest private school to home. The interview was done, uniform hemmed, but I changed my mind just before term began, telling my Mum that I wanted to go to school with my best friend and that if I could succeed, I could do it anywhere.
I never felt like I truly belonged there, but I spent my hours either playing a ridiculous amount of sport (athletics, to soccer, volleyball, touch football) or in the photography dark room bringing to life the moments I had caught on film. Mainstream, logical and scientific subjects didn’t interest me – rather, my attention was always towards creativity.
How incredible that at only 12 you told your mum that you could make it anywhere! How sure were you? Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?
At the end of high school aged 17, I remember feeling quite alone and unsure. Then, of course, I had to make that all important ‘what is next’ decision. I felt pressure (self-inflicted) to go to University – so I did (more details below). I wouldn’t say that the school helped me to work out my direction or future career(s) – simply moving forward, experimenting with life and travel has been my greatest teacher.
Did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience.
Gosh, you are taking me back! At that time, I don’t think I was particularly interested… I did complete internships in University (at Channel 9 and Channel 10). When I think about it now, I don’t believe that pressuring teenagers into ‘working it out’ when they are too young is beneficial. A feel like a compulsory year off after year 12 to feel it all out, work, have fun and travel would cultivate more clarity than forced decision making.
How amazing that you were able to intern for TV companies. So, you did go to University then, can you take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?
Yep! So originally I applied for Interior Design, but I just missed out, so I went on to start a ‘Leisure Management’ Degree. I hear you, what the hell is this anyway?! Haha! Then I started a Teaching Degree, which after less than a year already felt far too restrictive for who I am. Finally, I landed in a Bachelor of Journalism, majoring in Theatre and Public Relations. I did an exchange program and studied in New York for a semester in my second year, before returning to finish and graduate. I am not sure why I chose it at the time – honestly, I probably wanted to expose the mass media that we are forced to believe. And shed a little more truth… Well, and become a star!
Tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights.
I have been working since I was 14 and have experienced so many roles in my life to date. From the part time positions during school / University (think fruit shops, discount stores, surf shops, promotion work, bartending, cafés and dentistry assisting). To then working for Virgin, on privately owned yachts sailing around the Mediterranean, production/researching roles at Channel 9 and as an Assistant Editor for a Travel Magazine.
To now. I started Violet Gray in 2012 when I was living in Indonesia, but I had always made jewellery and operated smaller brands for a few years prior. It has ALL been a highlight – I look back and I love it all. How do you know what you really love doing if you don’t say YES to experiencing different industries and roles?
Today where I stand, I am so grateful to be working for myself and having the freedom to shape my reality. I create for a living, I travel, I build communities and host sacred events for women. Right now, it is all so soul enriching.
Ha! We can not believe how much you have accomplished. You are right, all of those experiences are totally soul enriching. So, how did you decide on the career that you are in now?
I pursued my interests and curiosities. It was just after my role with Channel 9 ended as the show was discontinued and I wasn’t sure what my next move would be, so I retreated to doing what I love – using my hands to create. From there, I began to attend markets. And very quickly I was making more money creating jewellery than I had been working 40-50 hours a week for a national television station.
What is the hardest part of owning your own business?
I would say juggling so many hats. I am in a huge phase of redevelopment, so we stripped the business right back to focus my attention on where it counts. Staying focused and on task can be tricky when the ‘to do’ list is so long. Then, outside of just operating the business – I still need to make time for creativity and play, which isn’t always easy to do.
What does a day a typical business day look like for you at Violet Gray?
I always start my day with stillness and movement, whether that be high-intensity training, yoga or a walk with my chocolate Labrador love, Louie. The office is always filled with intentionally chosen oils diffusing and loud music. I try to tackle the ‘necessary’ operational tasks in the morning – emails, packaging, accounts, curating marketing material. And then in the afternoons, I attempt to create – whether that be designing, strategizing, writing and play (unattached to outcome) – because this to me is an important part of the creative process.
What an idyllic day Alex! Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?
Probably my older sister. Being younger, I always looked up to her and knew she was right there in any moments of indecision. She always created opportunities for herself and I was (and still am) constantly inspired by the way she organically lives outside of the confines of normality.
We love how Violet Gray has in fact turned into a movement, not just a jewellery business, it just keeps on evolving. What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career
Give it a shot! Dive in and learn along the way. If you truly love what you do, you will find a way and succeed! And there is nothing to lose…
List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your profession?
- Favourite Blogs or Websites: yogaglo.com (because a regular yoga practice encourages you to connect with yourself and operate from within, to not be so externally influenced by others).
- Name an Instagram Account or Snapchat that you can’t go a day without checking: I Well, I deleted snapchat (too much external stimulus and time wasted). And in terms of Instagram – there is no one I seek out. But I gain inspiration from authentic souls like @aubreyyrenee @jannerobinson @humansofny @tessguinery
- Books: The Alchemist changed my life at 20. Read it, girls!
- People: My boyfriend, my family, my close friends and the VG community.