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Heavy on Talent

Text by John Lampard

Creating an on-line talent catalogue while backpacking probably isn’t something a lot of travellers would consider, especially while half a globe away from home, but then again life as a traveller is often anything but predictable.

And while many of us may find the diversions a new and foreign city overwhelming, for Melburnian Rhett Dashwood arriving in London in 2001, it was a new computer that proved to be the biggest distraction of all.

The next thing was to find something to do with it, and it wasn’t long before the idea to establish Heavy Backpack, a project showcasing the work of visual artists and designers, emerged.

“I’d just bought a Mac laptop, so I was looking for any excuse to use it. I treated the project as a platform for my own education in web, an experimentation, while providing something worthwhile for the visitors. The web was pretty new to me; so was life in London and travelling, so it was all one big distraction,” says Rhett.

Artwork by Rhett Dashwood

And given the project started life on the road, some people are surprised to learn Heavy Backpack’s name is inspired by a moral story, rather than the more obvious travel connotations.

In fact there is very little travel associated with the Heavy Backpack story, as Rhett didn’t see the inside of too many hostels either. The dot-com boom was in full swing, and with work easy to find he soon settled into expatriate life in London.

“When Heavy Backpack was first created I was very much tuned into the life of a struggling designer and thought that there were probably plenty of other artist out there needing exposure, and also plenty of surfers looking for inspiration,” he says.

Artwork by Rhett Dashwood

But it’s not just drawing attention to the work of designers and artists that Rhett enjoys, the project also provides an opportunity for him to make contact with people whose work he admires.

“It’s actually a really great excuse to talk to like minded people, get in touch with talented artists, and vent all creative, visual, and just generally interested stuff that crosses my path from day to day, onto others that might also care.”

Rhett, now living back in Melbourne, is currently working as a freelance designer while studying Visual Effects for Film and TV, and between re-launching the Heavy Backpack website in June, has also been producing some short films recently.

Artwork by Rhett Dashwood

Rhett is assisted by his wife, Maggy, in maintaining the site, and while ten news editors keep the news column ticking over, he is happy to hear from anyone who has some design related news to share.

“Heavy Backpack has had many different contributors over the years. I’m pretty much the only constant. The site’s currently open for all to register and become a contributor, and I encourage anyone that stumbles over work that they think is deserving of a mention to post it up.”

As with the creators of many other long term projects, there have been occasions when Rhett has thought of discontinuing Heavy Backpack, but has always found a rekindled enthusiasm.

“I did consider dropping the site altogether because the rewards weren’t seeming to equal the effort. But then, all of a sudden I have an idea for the site, or a certain approach to try, and promptly there’s renewed interest.”