CONSCIOUS COUPLING: Ophelia and Ryder

How do two creative souls co-exist? We talk with photographer Ophelia Mikkelson and artist Ryder Jones on partnership, collaboration and balance.

Interviewed, photographed and styled by Adam Bryce.

Ophelia wears suit by Low Classic. Ryder wears his own jeans and Workshop zip hoodie.

Ryder wears jacket by Loulou Studio.

Can you both describe what the other does?

Ryder: Ophelia has an atmosphere that manifests in all of her work ­— a tacit knowledge. Whether painting or taking pictures, the feeling remains the same. Soft and clear.

Ophelia: I feel the same about Ryder. He has a language through making that is truly his own. He’ll chainsaw a log found around the rocks, write a story and make a sandwich and they will all look like his and only his — tactile, layered and alluring.  

You create separate work but do you feel as though the other inspires your work in any way?

Ryder: For sure. There is contamination and overlap. We are different people, our tastes separate and converge. But, through proximity, I’m given the opportunity to see in another way. I’m inspired by Ophelia and our life together. 

Ophelia: I am always drawn to the physicality of Ryder’s work. I often watch him walking around, headphones on, shirt off, thinking, critiquing, truly making with his whole body. There is an immediacy and playfulness that reminds me of how I enjoy making too. 

Do you collaborate at all, in terms of helping each other, critiquing the others work etc?

Ophelia: Ryder is really good at drawing me out, asking questions, prompting and encouraging me. We collaborate through conversation, proximity and excitement we have for each other. 

Ryder: I think criticism, when balanced, is an act of love. And, if we consider criticism as that, then we are always trying to help each other’s work. The two of us are both incredibly sensitive people, this is our likeness and power. 

What are you working on at the moment?

Ryder: We are working on our new house, an old (barn-shaped) sculptor’s studio. Last night, Ophelia painted our table a muddy rainbow. I was trying to make dowsing rods out of willow branches and bronze. We’ve been looking for water. 

Ophelia: We’ve been working in the garden a lot too. Planting and building. Next week, we will paint the house, we are trying to decide whether to paint it lilac or green. I’ve been taking lots of photographs too. That’s constant. Taking in the new landscape around us, observing the shapes of trees, finding clay in the garden. 

How do you find balance in your lives when you work and live from home? And both work in such creative ways?

Ryder: Calm and lightheartedness. I find and lose balance and find it again. Routine is important. Each day I see or go into the ocean. I think a measure of computer life and physical work is my balance.  

Ophelia: Things are pretty blurred. For example, cooking for me is an important creative outlet, something that I have to do. Gardening is becoming the same. I think we both find balance by being in nature, by being in the ocean. 

What do you enjoy doing together when you’re not working?

Ryder: I just came in from surfing, Ophelia was walking the beach. Everything is work and none of it is work. We cook together. Water the plants in the evening. Most of everything is shared.

Ophelia: I love dancing together in the kitchen. Talking and swimming.

Are there any challenges you find as a couple with you both being artists?

Ryder: I don’t believe any life is easy. We are taking a risk living the way we do. This is an unorthodox path. But we have both come from families who have lived adventurous lives. There are challenges when you are answering only to yourself, there is no in-built stability. Faith and confidence arrive and depart. I have tried treating it like a normal job and sometimes it works. My Dad is incredibly hard-working but he is also always out surfing. Sometimes, when our house is our studio, the house is messy.  For me, it is about deciding what is work and what isn’t, this is not always clear. We have learnt and are still learning. 

What are your plans for the upcoming summer?

Ryder: Look at the trees we have planted. Save water. Go surfing. Try to read Moby-Dick. Get into a good routine. Be surprised. Work hard in the shade. Wear lots of hats and sunscreen.

Ophelia: I want to grow dahlias that are taller than me; hopefully taller than Ryder. That’s my plan this summer. And to paint the lone kauri that we can see from the kitchen sink. 

Ophelia wears suit by Low Classic.

Ryder wears jacket by Loulou studio. Ophelia wears shirt and jacket by Isabel Marant.

Ryder wears his own jeans and jacket by Loulou studio

Ryder wears Workshop zip hoodie

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