For those who might not know you, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name’s Sienna Barton, I’m 28-years-old (soon to be 29) and I’m a Naarm-based artist and writer. I have an academic background in creative writing and I’m currently in my second year of a Master’s of Fine Art program at RMIT, which I’m loving. I live in Windsor with my grandparents, my auntie and my dog Scout - as I write this, she’s showing me a snail she’s found in our garden (my dog, not my auntie).
We’ve recently discovered your articles for Fashion Journal, can you tell us what informs your writing?
I recently got back into writing kind of by mistake. After sleeping with someone that criticised my body, I just felt myself internalising a lot of his negative comments and I thought “Fuck that, I’ve gotta get these feelings out” so I wrote an essay about my relationship with my body. On a whim, I sent my essay to the good people at Fashion Journal and they loved it. I’ve been writing for them ever since.
Lately we’ve seen you around alot in the Melbourne fashion scene. We peeped you at the Sister Studios’ runway earlier this year and all over RAQ Apparel’s IG. How has it been working with all these incredible local brands (including our own) and seeing a greater representation of bodies in fashion?
I’ve felt so lucky to be able to have relationships with local brands, and so much work goes into grading clothing sizes so that they fit plus sized people properly. The fashion landscape has changed so much since I was growing up, where no one in the magazines looked like me. I’m really proud to have worked with local brands to increase their representation of body types, and I hope it makes younger people who are a bit curvier feel less alone.
As an artist, things are prone to get a little messy in the studio. What’s your favourite SUK look when you’re behind the brush?
I do love a one piece, so the jumpsuits are fab BUT the wide leg pants are my absolute favourite SÜK look. As someone with a huge bum, hips, thighs and tummy, but also a small waist - finding pants that fit me without needing alteration is a true rarity. Being able to wear the wide leg pants straight off the rack was a nice change, and they only get comfier with wear.
What gives you joy and/or inspiration in your work? Be it writing, modeling, painting etc -
I love just being able to play. I think that, especially as a student, we’re often conditioned to work to reach a specific outcome rather than just for the fun of it. This is probably most evident in my painting, where I let myself just play with colour and textures to see where the work ends up. I can spend hours painting and it feels like it’s only been minutes.
What is difficult, and how do you overcome that?
Oh, the modelling is definitely very hard. I’m a pretty chatty person but I think I’m just slightly more introverted than extraverted. I get very anxious before attending social gatherings, even if it’s with friends I’ve known for years, so getting in front of a camera in a bikini with people I don’t really know is very confronting. I’ve also got a lot of unresolved body issue stuff that I’m trying to face head-on, but in a way, I think saying yes to the modelling work is a bit like exposure therapy. The more I do it, the easier it gets.
Do you have any advice for other women exploring creative careers?
Brace yourself, babe, it’s going to be really hard. I don’t say that as a deterrent, but as someone who heard other creatives say the same thing and arrogantly thought “Maybe I’m the exception to the rule?” (I wasn’t). Creative work can be isolating and feel like it’s taking over your whole life, and sometimes you have to raid your coin collection to pay for petrol. But on the other hand, I find it very fulfilling and I’m happier working creatively than I have been anywhere else. I’m not sure if I’m going to “make it” but I’m definitely going to give it a crack, knowing that it’s not going to come quickly and easily - it’s going to be a slow burn. I think if you go in with that mindset, then you’ll be ok.
Sienna works on Boonwarrung land / Naarm / Melbourne.
Photography by Tatanja Ross from On Jackson Street.