Ruled by creativity, compassion, intuition, and emotion, we’re honoured to introduce you to sisters, Julia and Anastasia Vanderbyl.
Caring for a regenerative farm on fifty acres of Bundjalung Country in the Byron Bay Hinterland, these two inspiring women have stepped into their power. Living with conscious intention and in harmony with Mother Earth, they are working to create something magical at their farm Mother The Mountain; a self-sustainable future, where ecosystems are restored, and the abundance of nature is unleashed.
In addition to being caretakers of the land, Julia is an artist and Anastasia is a sustainable fashion designer. Meet the beautiful, enlightening Vanderbyl sisters below…
JULIA, PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF… I am an artist and shepherdess living on Bundjalung Country. Together with my sister, I farm regeneratively; caring for animals, growing food and working towards self-sufficiency. I also live with chronic illness and invisible disabilities and find balance between my health, regenerative work, and my art practice.
WHAT, OR WHO INSPIRES YOUR ART? I have always drawn from art history, but after living on the farm and spending so much time in nature and around very few people, my inspirations have become much more focused. I spend so much time observing the landscape, when moving the sheep, gardening, and building. I have begun to notice the shifting colours of the shadows in the hills, how they deepen with the seasons. Suddenly each of my paintings stems from a deep coloured shadow, an emotion; and evolves into a story rich with symbols and meaning.
WHAT ARE THE THEMES YOU LOVE TO EXPLORE? My paintings focus on the relationship between human and environment, always pivoting around the merging of opposites; the figure and its space, and the traditions of portrait and landscape painting.
HOW DOES YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS USUALLY UNFOLD? I paint big, and spend days sketching and scheming before I begin. Then, when everything feels right I paint a quick, fluid underpainting that defines the light and dark, the composition and the movement. I spend days filling in colour, focusing on details like figures, faces, eyes, playing with brushstrokes — until the painting fills out before me. While I work, Magnolia and Moth the goats always join me in the studio, nibbling on my plants and sleeping at my feet.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU? I have ME/CFS, which means that no two days are the same and I have to shift and adapt depending on my energy. On a good day I dig in the garden, I pull invasive weeds regenerating patches of bush, I build chook pens or tree houses with Anastasia. At this time of year, we spend the hot, middles of the day creating in the studio — and always find time for swimming in the dam, cuddling ducks, and playing under waterfalls.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO REGENERATE THE LAND THAT YOU CARE FOR? We work in harmony with animals, mimicking natural systems where the animals help us to repair and restore soil health, biodiversity and create a thriving ecosystem. The ducks and chickens help us in the garden; they dig garden beds, eat pests, and fertilise the soil. The sheep and goats eat invasive weeds helping us regenerate patches of bush, they eat fallen fruit in the orchards, naturally preventing fruit flies while fertilising the soil with their droppings. With these practices alongside composting and other principles of permaculture, we have noticed a natural balance returning. There is still so much to do, but it is so rewarding!
YOU HAVE THE CUTEST ANIMAL FAMILY; WHAT HAVE THEY TAUGHT YOU?
So much strength, and so much love! Magnolia the goat was an underfed tiny baby when we took her in, and watching her grow to be the strongest, most caring sweetie has taught me so many lessons in resilience.
HOW HAS YOUR JOURNEY TOWARDS SELF-SUFFICIENCY IMPACTED YOUR WELLNESS?
I have learnt to find joy in all of the smallest things; taking things slowly and facing each day anew, following the rhythms of nature and my own body, and celebrating seasonal food.
I’M CURRENTLY OBSESSED WITH... Documenting the landscape and people around me, mapping the seasons and my emotions in paint.
THIS YEAR I’M MANIFESTING… I'm working towards so many things; keeping bees, growing food, creating native wildlife sanctuary, further regenerative work. And shifting my art practice towards regenerative practices. I have started painting vases, homewares and recycled and reclaimed furniture and objects, and am excited to see where this goes!
ANASTASIA, PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF… Hi! I am a fashion student focused on sustainability and incorporating regenerative practices into the fashion world. I design and create pieces entirely from recycled materials. At the moment I am collecting discarded doilies, tablecloths and blankets, and transforming each special fabric I find into a timeless garment. By reshaping these pieces into garments I hope to become a part of the long line of craftspeople before me.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY INTO SLOW FASHION. I've always sewed, from when my mum first gave me a needle and thread as a tiny child and I turned our old tea towels into a wardrobe for my teddy bear. Although, while studying fashion I always struggled imagining myself working in the industry I was taught about, where ethics and sustainability were always an afterthought. I moved home at the start of the pandemic, and was so inspired by being on the farm, where life is slower. Every part of this slow life inspired my design and ethos so deeply, making me realise the fast paced, capitalist world of fashion wasn't the only option.
WHAT DOES YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS LOOK LIKE? My creative process is ever-changing and dependent on each individual piece of recycled fabric. Every piece has its own history and in my reworking I always try to honour it’s previous narrative, continuing it’s story rather than rewriting it. Recently I made a top from a hand embroidered tablecloth, using every inch of the fabric and designing it so that i didn’t snip or misuse a single piece of hand embroidered thread. This process taught me that fabric always writes its own story.
HOW DO THE CYCLES OF NATURE INFLUENCE YOUR DESIGNS ON THE FARM, AND IN FASHION? The cycles of the land around me influence everything about my design! Depending on the season, I’m always adding tabs to my skirts to hold foraged spring flowers, extra pockets for autumn, when the fruit is so abundant or making a dress that is easy to slip off for an impromptu waterfall dip in the hot months.
HOW DO YOU USE YOUR CREATIONS TO SPOTLIGHT CULTURAL ACTIVISM & GRASSROOTS MOVEMENTS? Both my designs and my process are always a direct response to the climate crisis and surrounding movements. I believe in using my privilege and skills in design to initiate change in this field of fashion, focusing on not just being sustainable but regenerative! There is a big belief that fashion is superficial and futile but I want to challenge this, showing both the practicality and necessity of design while also exploring challenging concepts.
TAKING ON A FIFTY-ACRE FARM HAS BEEN QUITE THE JOURNEY; TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE MILESTONES. It has been so challenging and rewarding! Living this close to the land has made the climate crisis so apparent to me; in the past few years we’ve seen the farm threatened by bushfires twice, floods larger than anyone has seen for generations, the longest droughts which made springs that had flowed water for as long as anyone could remember completely dry up. This hardship is balanced with moments that are so rewarding, like seeing our sheep, Aphrodite (daughter of the first sheep ever born on the farm) give birth to her own daughter, Harmonia. There are moments like watching native plants grow and thrive in areas of bush that were once too thick and weedy to explore (thanks to the goats, sheep and us!)
NASTURTIUM THE FLOWER GIRL WENT VIRAL: HOW DID THIS CHANGE THINGS FOR YOU? It was such a special moment! It meant so much to us that the meaning that we have found in these simple, playful moments of joy was able to spread around the world, and be shared with so many people. This feeling is what we hope to continue sharing at Mother The Mountain!
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR DREAM CREATIVE PROJECT? My dream creative project is to collaborate with different sustainable brands and designers, using their offcuts from production to patchwork together new garments, extending the sustainable process to a regenerative movement!
I’M CURRENTLY OBSESSED WITH… The history of patchwork!!
THIS YEAR I’M MANIFESTING… Launching a website to sell my pieces.