Celica Aura Austria is Marketing Manager of our favourite watch brand AÃRK Collective - a business founded by her boyfriend Sara Su (Company Director) in partnership with her brother Auver Austria (Creative Director). She moved from the Philippines to Australia with her family when she was two years old and lives in Melbourne with Sara and her dog Milo. We first met Celica many years ago when working together at a creative agency and her impeccable personal style, intelligence and fun personality have been a continuous source of inspiration ever since.
Here she talks about how she got her start in the creative industries, what inspires her and what she has learned along the way.
Can you tell us a little about your background – what path led you to working in the creative industries?
I grew up in a small country town, pre-internet, so you could say there was a lack of example of creative industries in my surroundings and upbringing. Nonetheless, when we were being primed in high school to think about our future career path, I knew I wanted to pursue something in a creative field. I distinctly remember expressing this in my work experience placement forms and being positioned at an industrial sign-writers factory where I was made to clean vinyl off billboards for two weeks, which left me feeling uninspired and confused about what it meant to work creatively.
One thing that I was certain of was that I wanted to move to the city after graduation. As well as my own sense of independence, there was a side of me that was seeking change and adventure. I ended up moving out of home at 18 to study Creative Advertising. Following my degree, I questioned whether the advertising industry was a good fit as I wasn’t fond of the aggressive and often loud nature of creative output. Luckily for me, I ended up working for a few creative agencies (as opposed to advertising agencies) as an Account Manager. During that period I had the opportunity to work on a truly diverse array of projects and met a lot of intelligent people doing interesting things, which exposed me to the endless possibilities of creative thinking. At the same time, my exposure to entrepreneurial thinking was fostered by my partner. On top of a Business degree, he has a strange affinity with numbers and an innate ability to break processes down into actionable plans. Naturally it became our aspiration to start something together that we could build from the ground up.
In partnership with my brother whose academic background is in Design and his girlfriend who works in fashion, the idea of developing our own range of timepieces evolved organically and slowly through a series of conversations about why certain objects pull on people's heartstrings. Although we were not typical watch enthusiasts, we had a design perspective, which we felt was worth expressing. AÃRK Collective was born from a mutual desire to create beautiful objects for like-minded people. A melding of all our skillsets, passions and ambition is what helped the business come to fruition. Once AÃRK was established, I decided to take the plunge to work in the business full-time and haven’t looked back since. Having the freedom and flexibility to run our business the way we see fit is something that I am truly grateful for. I feel blessed to be able to work alongside my partner and family whom I trust wholeheartedly.
When do you do your best work?
I’m a visually driven person and an introvert by nature, so I feel I have the most clarity when I’m alone and have the headspace to reflect on what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard. That’s when I can best digest information and draw from my experiences—whether it be previous conversations, memorable visuals or recent reading—to inspire ideas that will help drive the business forward.
How do you avoid inspiration fatigue?
By breaking away from repetition! Sometimes we do things on repeat because we have to, other times because we want to. Meeting new people, going to new places, experiencing new things etc. really helps to reset and refresh the mind. Travel is an obvious solution for this but sometimes something as simple as listening to a song you haven’t heard before, or walking down a street that you never knew existed can help provoke a new train of thought.
What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?
I’ve learnt that it's important to take the time to think about what you truly want, unaffected by conventions, social norms or other people’s opinions. A lot of time can be wasted trying to please others instead of living your own truth.
What does style & substance mean to you?
Style is having a strong sense of what you like, substance is being able to articulate why you like it.
Currently obsessed with?
Taking photos. Whether it be for AÃRK or personal use, capturing is something I really enjoy doing. I wouldn't call it ‘photography’ because I don’t have any technical skills or knowledge in this area, but I think that’s why I find it so fun. It’s a fluid and experimental form of expression for me.
What’s your mantra?
It’s not always easy to exercise, but I believe in positive thinking and something that has stuck with me is a quote by American writer, Dale Carnegie:
“It isn’t what you have, who you are, or where you are, or what you’re doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.”
What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
Make short-term sacrifices to achieve long-term goals. Being able to see the bigger picture in life is important because without vision and conviction in what you’re doing, and more importantly why you’re doing it – it’s easy to lack direction. Understanding what you want to achieve (no matter what it may be) and what it takes to get there forces you to forward-plan, identify obstacles and in turn recognise your own strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, being self-aware pushes you to be the best version of yourself.
What’s next on the itinerary?
Keep building the business and growing with the business as we mature both professionally and personally. Keep setting new goals and seeking new challenges. Keep surrounding myself with people who inspire and empower me.here, and her brand AARK Collective here