Behind the scenes with Notely founder Jenica Smith

Behind the scenes with Notely founder Jenica Smith

Behind the scenes with Notely founder Jenica Smith

Notely’s been around for four whole years now (hurrah!), so we thought it was high time we took you behind the scenes of our HQ for a peek into the habits, inspiration and creative process of our founder – Brisbane-based designer Jenica Smith.

Talk us through an average day…

I go through phases depending what time of year it is. There’s times when I’ll be out in nature finding inspiration and thinking about future ideas. Then I might be drawing up possible designs, experimenting, playing with colour palettes, creating mockups, and pricing up designs and combinations. If I’m working towards an event, or in the Christmas rush of markets, I go into full production mode where I’m cornering and bundling sets, packing stock into boxes and orders. It’s a full mixed bag of skills and tasks, but I love the variety!

Why are you so passionate about what you do?

I love design and I love how a well-designed and thought-out product or brand can give someone that special experience. Even four years after starting the brand, I still can’t help but squeal with delight when I see friends scribbling in their Notelys!

What’ve the biggest challenges been?

Having worked as a designer for many years, I’ve always traded time for money in terms of getting paid for a project or via an hourly rate. My biggest hurdles in running a small business, especially a product business, are keeping track of stock – and trying to work out the best systems or ways to do this.

Jenica designing in Notely Studio

Where do you take inspiration from?

Getting outdoors, in my garden (or even other people’s gardens!), travel, reading, and going to art shows or comedy nights for a laugh. I have regular ‘creative dates’ with a couple of creative friends, where we talk about our projects and any hurdles we might have, and brainstorm a way through it. This really motivates me and gives me a fresh outlook on things I might be dealing with. It’s also rewarding to know you’re helping them through something too.

How do you get yourself out of a creative rut?

When I’m stuck, I usually have to do the opposite of what it is! If I’m stuck on something creative, then I’ll do a repetitive task like bundling notebooks. Or I’ll get out in the garden, pull some weeds, prune plants and do something different with my hands.

To avoid a longer-term rut setting in, I’ll take a few days away from it all and spend more time with my family and friends.

What are you most proud of?

Finally launching my own illustrations into the range after nearly four years in business! I’ve always been designing and curating the Notely range, but it’s been in collaboration with all of our wonderful guest artists. It’s nice to be able to make a space for some of my own designs – the first of these being Bottle Blush – and have more confidence to see these through to production.

What’s your best piece of advice for creatives?

Make sure you’re looking after yourself! Eat well, exercise and take time away from all things digital. I find I’m not at my best when I don’t have those things in balance. But I still haven’t mastered this by any means! I’m constantly trying to incorporate all of these things alongside life and deadlines.

Notely Brisbane Studio


It’s a process I find incredibly helpful when I have lots of ideas floating around and I’m not sure which to pursue or act on. Whenever I feel a little burnt out or need to re-energise, I’ll go through a few weeks or months trying to write every day.



Any favourite podcasts, books or people that have changed the way you think?

I love the Reply All podcast – they investigate such interesting, techy things. As for books, I try to read as much as I can, but one I come back to almost annually is The Artist’s Way – an amazing book by Julia Cameron. It encourages you to write three long-hand pages of anything that comes to mind first thing in the morning, every morning, in order to get all of the chatter out of your brain and onto the page.

It’s a process I find incredibly helpful when I have lots of ideas floating around and I’m not sure which to pursue or act on. Whenever I feel a little burnt out or need to re-energise, I’ll go through a few weeks or months trying to write every day.

Notely Australian native Bottlebrush notebooks

Outside of work, what’s your favourite way to relax?

I love yoga and catching up with friends for brekkie. Good coffee and breakfast while talking it out solves most of life’s issues and puts everything into perspective! And I find that a good yoga sesh to stretch out and breathe deeper usually resets me.

If we peeked inside your Notely, what would we find?

So many to-do lists! And a whole heap of scribbles, names and product ideas for future collections. I always have a pocket Notely in my handbag, and then usually my current one on my desk for day-to-day lists. With so much of my work being digital, I find that hand-writing out my list every morning kind of sets my brain in motion. It’s a great way to start the day.

Photography by Cathy Schusler.

See Jenica’s Bottle Blush notebooks in the shop →