Cleo Woman

Tess Guinery

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to where you are today?

Woman, lover, mumma, maker; My heart, hands and soul lean into creating, instinctively— and whether I’m doing it subconsciously, intentionally, amidst the mundane, the routine or in the time set aside in my studio—I feel most alive here

I was born and raised for the first 7 years of my life on the small Island of Phillip Island found at the bottom of Australia. I recognise from where I stand now, there’s a very real part of me that has always had a sincere resonance for small town living due to my early childhood. In saying that, I am equal parts curious and visionary and due to my need for adventure and mystery, I have visited and lived in many different places all over the world. So after a very large 38 years of being human, with travel and color and exploring multidimensional expressions of art, I find myself here, right now, eager to ground, in a new town that feels quickly familiar, a place I am having a love story with, eagerly happy to kiss the ground (for longer than just a little while).

We have 3 spirited daughters (twins in that mix) and I get to do it all with my lover by my side. He is a stuntman in the film industry which has lent favorably to our love for adventure. We have gotten to show our daughters so much of the world due to his job. We just celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary and as I look back over where we began and where we have come, I am just so darn proud of us, our connection, our choice to lean in and the family we are creating. Life is beautiful.

As far back as the small age of 3, I remember feeling deeply about how I was designed to live—creativity being instinctive. I truly believe it’s in all of us and I feel so blessed that my mother nurtured this in my siblings and I, making space for us to live in resonance with our natural state of being. My mother’s intention carved an understanding in all of us that art isn’t just something “we do” but something we live.

My upbringing has carried me to choose the creative route in almost everything all the way up to now. All my career choices and major life decisions have been chosen with passion, love and an inclination to express something creatively.

Dance has been an anchor in my journey of creative expression, it’s here in this medium I feel most at home. There’s something about the way dance intersects and holds hands with so many other mediums acting almost like an electric undercurrent. Dance is like a wave that most mediums can sit upon, a framework to see art move from a flat dimension into something that has body. Choreography is where I found my feet in expressing myself honestly, creating art using the human body—forming, moving, shaping, defining, growing bodies together to see art come alive on the stage.

Later, when I began to dabble and play with pieces of prose and poetry, I remember it very clearly feeling rhythmic, I could see the words almost twirling with a sense of movement and fullness. It’s like what I was trying to say came out like a dance, but with words. It was very childlike and imperfect but felt necessary for me in my journey. From this uninhibited sense of play, my 3 books were birthed. Publishing a book was never something I really saw myself doing, but that's the magic thing about creativity, you never really know where you’ll find yourself and what you’ll end up doing in telling stories of the heart.

I have ideas around experimenting with words and dance and intentionally marrying them together and I look forward to some space in the future to play with these ideas.

I studied design almost 12 years ago and it was foundational for me but was also a bit of a creative awakening—it gave me the tools to bring ideas to life through paint, digital, paper, textiles, photography, typography, film and so many other means. It took the fear away from crossing mediums, giving me courage to give everything and anything a go, even if I was really bad at it. Design has been fundamental in my ability to communicate as an artist and has helped me with the visual side of storytelling taking away so much frustration when it comes to seeing ideas move from dream-state to real time.

The pursuit of seeing beauty and being awake to it is the undercurrent of where I find all my inspiration. I seek it through conversation and electric communion in my prayer life, it’s here, my eyes become awake to beauty and from this place, I create.

Art is in the everyday. 

What is your favorite part about being a creative and your own boss?

Having art intentionally threaded throughout my everyday and having the freedom to create without bounds or briefs—I get to choose when I work, what I work on and have the freedom to weave all my dreaming and creating, in, around, and through what is most important to me and that is, my family. 

What has been your biggest challenge you have faced with running your own business?

The nature of our lifestyle sees us moving around alot, this is equal parts my greatest muse yet also my biggest hurdle. The last minute nature of my husband's job in the film industry sees us traveling to some incredible places, but often with very little notice. There are always complications to iron out with a sudden geographical change and most often we have to act quickly with the hurdles, as a family we have together become familiar with the art of improvisation. I must say, I am getting better at the rhythm of our adventures and quicker at regulating myself, but as a creative, you can imagine the implications that come with sudden change particularly if you are mid-project. In this season though, I am committed to grounding for an entire year in one place, for my daughters to ground and have some sense of normality for a little while after mostly moving around for most parts of their lives. I am so excited to have a schedule and structure and some sort of consistent rhythm, this is a foreign concept to us all. 

What is a favorite poem you have written? Or if you can’t pick a favorite, one that seems especially applicable to where you are now?

I wrote this last year upon landing in the sweet little town we now call home, it was only a few weeks after writing it that we found ourselves traveling (again) for what was supposed to be 6 weeks turned into almost 5 months. I exhaled as we arrived back here and these words still echo in my heart, right now. —

I find myself writing from a small sense of place,
it’s lasting a little while, here
and if you know,
you’ll know it comes,
and goes often too quickly
so while the electricity
is floating above
in both colour and sound
and my feet
feeling the ground in a way they often feel heights
you’ll find me here,
in this sense of place
listening to sounds...
...I don’t feel it to be a painting
or poem
although it could be
but I’ll call it communion
while I’m still looking or not looking
for the word.

I’m learning I must see water,
and what holds its masses is less of the matter—
and so my hair it floats here
softly in its rivers
and the absence of salt is made up for
in the way words are exchanged with people of salt.
It’s a different kind of breathing here
and I must admit,
I’m teaching my lungs their natural resonance
but not on my own
the trees are kind
and mountains too
bringing their ease to the cause

and I’m thankful
so darn thankful
for the things that are right on time
in all kinds of time.

and the more I am here
being alive
the more I believe that I am seen
and known
in a deeply personal way
by something greater than existences...
...and I could call it all happenstance
but wouldn’t that just be “calling it a day”?
to know spirit
is to live by it
and to live by it,
I think,
is to be truly awake
eyes open
heart pulsing

Tell us about living in Australia. What are your favorite parts? What is special to your home?

We are currently living in the Northern Rivers of Australia, and after having lived in many places all along the east coast of this beautiful country, I recognise a common chillness in the people, we are a mostly easy going culture yet get snobby about the right and important things, like coffee. Where we have chosen to call home and rest our heads for a little while has made me love this beautiful country even more. We live amongst the mountains and rivers and are only a small 20 minute drive from the ocean. It’s so green and lush and abundant in landscape, flowers and birds and butterflies and frogs (and toads), it’s very alive, very soothing and good for the soul—less noise, more beauty, slower in rhythm, kinder in pace… I love the people the countryside gathers—salt of the earth folk. This land has much diversity as does the people that dwell here, I feel very at home here. 

What is your favorite part about getting dressed during the spring/summer season?

Admittedly my wardrobe is 90% summer dresses, I am all about the summer dress. 

Do you have any daily rituals that help keep you grounded?

My morning coffee in my favorite mug (I even take it with me along with my entire moccamaster when we travel). The way I wake is important to how I approach my day. I’m strangely methodical in how I begin but completely open to improvisation as my main approach to life. I also enjoy long walks by myself to let my imagination wander and go where it needs to, this is so important for me and how I function to simply show up as a human being—I absolutely need space to wrap up thoughts that have been flying around for too long and make time to observe beauty with solace, it grounds me so much. I like to be alone but I love to be together. I enjoy the synchronicity of what these two life forces bring when they can marry through my week. It doesn’t always happen, but I am my most grounded self when I get the chance to know silence exists and also be amongst people and enjoy great conversation that brings color, life and connection. 

What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self? To your daughters?

Listen and trust your God given intuition. 

What is a favorite quote of yours? Or a special saying that you go back to time and time again?

“If you can celebrate it—Celebrate it!” 

Do you have any book or podcast recommendations that you are especially loving right now for our community?

I have a zillion books sitting on my coffee table that this stage of motherhood hasn’t made room yet for me to deep dive into some books— but when I do I’ll be diving into “Beautiful world where are you” by Sally Rooney and I also very much look forward to getting back into some of the ‘on-being’ podcasts by Krista Tippet, I absolutely love her mind, her approach to holding space for conversation and the diversity in guests she has. My favorite guests and conversations were with Mary Oliver, Eugene Peterson and Jon O’donohue. 


Shop the Story

Shop All