Women in Design

Cassie James-Herrick on Self-Belief


Ashley Gladwish

Cassie James-Herrick, the Director and founder of interior architecture practice CJH Studio.

When I ask Cassie James-Herrick, the Director and founder of interior architecture practice CJH Studio, what she believes is the most exciting aspect of living at this time, she tells me it is the equal recognition, albeit slowly, of women’s worth — their effort, skill, and the world as a collective uttering words and owning its voice in standing up for women’s equality.

‘It’s critical for men and women to appreciate each other’s approach. I feel it’s a bit like the construction industry where there is this unnecessary underlying self importance: the architect and designer will say if it wasn’t for them there would be no building. The tradespeople will say there’d be no building standing if it weren’t for them. If it weren’t for the client, no project to begin with. All in some way are correct but are all incredibly important as is the positive and respectful relationship between them. I feel it’s similar for men and women in their differing approach. Both bring a unique and equally valuable approach to the creative industry, both of whom can benefit from the other’s strengths.’

— Cassie James-Herrick, CJH Studio.

Having previously held the position of Senior Interior Designer, and later Creative Director at a Melbourne-based interior design studio for over ten years, CJH Studio was born out of a desire to embrace new challenges and embark on a professional journey — one that called for complete self-reliance, requiring determination, self-belief and an appreciation not only for having an idea but nourishing it to make it happen. We speak with Cassie about why it is fundamental for both women and men to value women, the lessons that have shaped her own self-belief getting her to get to where she is today, and what she is looking forward to most in the upcoming months.

CJH Studio's Residential work, 'House P'.

Photographed by Ben Hosking.

Viewing advocacy for equality as a fundamental role of both men and women, Cassie believes that a contributing barrier that continues to stall the empowerment of women is women’s perceptions of their own significance. A long history of marginalisation and oppression has contributed to women not feeling worthy in their own skin. ‘Women need to feel their value and worth to understand their strengths — and this applies to every industry’ states Cassie. At a time when the collective voice has brought to light the value of women, global encouragement has strengthened women more than ever before and the outcome is that women are rising above barriers like the glass ceiling.

'Confidence: that we are good enough, worthy enough, brave enough to make our mark in the office environment.'

Photographed by Ben Hosking.

‘If we can appreciate how the opposite sex approaches challenges, articulates strategies and communicates with others, studios are much more successful because they are aware of where their strengths and limitations lie.’, she says. As a society, men and women are beginning to appreciate each other for their differences, with psychosocial and management research showing that the best outcomes come from mixed gender groups.  Cassie feels ‘very grateful to be living at this time’. Women are being recognised for their analytical capabilities, attention to detail and pragmatic approach to problem solving. ‘There is a lot of value in hiring people who can think three-steps ahead’, she says.

'I try to wake myself up with a strong coffee and trawl through inspirational imagery which usually gets me started. I love to visit the South Melbourne market and local beaches.'

Photographed by Ben Hosking.

Citing confidence as one of the biggest barriers to women’s success, Cassie states ’empowered women, empower women.’ Having worked with Australian feminine hygiene business TOM Organic, she tells me it is this mentality of their brand that stuck with her most. Reading that sentiment over, it is the circular element that takes my attention – it is a long-term cycle that strengthens future generations of women, stemming from empowering women now. By young women realising their worth, their equality, they go on to empower the next generation of women. Women are no longer seeing themselves, or what they are capable of, as limited. They are setting goals and using their voice to demand what men have always had. The effect of this could likely be that women are never secondary again. Gradually, issues like equal pay will be resolved as the perceptions of women’s limitations are outgrown.

'Women are innately conscientious. They seem to be three steps ahead.'

Photographed by Ben Hosking.

Only recently shaping the perception of her own self-belief, Cassie tells me that she finds inspiration in those who try and focus on improving their immediate world – ‘Those who instigate small changes to better their own lives sometimes make the biggest differences outside of themselves. There is something about finding what you truly love and immersing yourself in it, turning it into your strength and reminding yourself of the goals you want to achieve.’

Words by Jantine Vaartjes of interiors studio April and May that stand out to me: 'No one is you, that's your power. Believe in yourself, your story is unique and not worthy of comparison.'

Photographed by Ben Hosking.

At a time where social media acts as a comparison tool between us and the world, Cassie tells me that she often likes to remind herself that she is running her own race, no one else’s. Quoting the words of Theodore Roosevelt, ‘comparison is the thief of joy’, Cassie tells me that ‘we need to own our uniqueness, that’s the aspect that empowers each of us – we aren’t a replicate.’

Soon to launch another business in addition to her work for CJH Studio, Cassie tells me that she is thrilled to be finally collaborating with her husband as well as other trade craftspeople whom she has developed a strong working relationship with over the many years. With a deep admiration for the current clients she has had the opportunity to work with recently, CJH Studio is in the development stage of some new residential and commercial work, which she is excited to share with the design world in upcoming months. Thank you, Cassie, for the insights. It was a pleasure speaking with you.

The Dot + Pop and The Local Project Women in Design Series

Edition 1 – Melissa Bright of MAKE Architecture by The Local Project.

Edition 2 – Kylie Dorotic and Alicia McKimm of Design By GOLDEN by Dot + Pop.

Edition 3 – Cassie James-Herrick of CJH Studio by The Local Project.

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