They’ve been locked in the Officeworks Chadstone store for an entire night. During that time, they had access to just about everything – art and craft materials, office supplies, tech equipment, the printing section, even furniture if they felt they needed it – to create something truly outstanding, all under the watchful eye of host Lillian Ahenkan, aka Flex Mami, and competition judges Beci Orpin and Darren Sylvester.

The brief for the four teams of two: make something fabulous using whatever they fancied from within the store, and at the end of a long night of extreme creativity, one pair was judged the winner and awarded the $25,000 prize. Here’s your chance to meet all the talented individuals who took part in the first Create-a-thon.

SEE ALSO: Create-a-thon: Meet the Winners

Meet Create-a-thon’s Team Samara and Netti 

They came across the city from Melbourne’s inner northern suburbs to make their creative mark. 

Photographer Samara Clifford was part of Create-a-thon at Officeworks Chadstone.

After studying photography at Perth’s Curtin University, Samara Clifford began working with photographers and advertising and digital agencies. Then she moved to London, where she managed a team of 40 people producing photo shoots for record companies, all while making her own art and selling out a two-person show in Belfast. But her creativity was obvious long before that, when she and a childhood friend would sit beside one another for hours and make, according to Samara, “anything and everything”.

“From drawing to origami to Fimo to sewing and knitting, we’d egg each other on with ideas then fall silent for hours when we were in the flow,” she says.

Her former partner in creative crime now lives in Adelaide, so Samara instead teamed up for Create-a-thon at Officeworks Chadstone with Annette ‘Netti’ Wagner

Artist Netti Wagner tapped into her creative process for Create-a-thon.

“I was always a creative kid, a dreamer, curious and observant,” says Netti. “My mum first inspired me to be creative, as she practised painting herself.”

These days, she’s the creative director for Story Box Library, a website where local stories and books are read by Australian and New Zealand storytellers, and founder of Wunder Gym, a program of creative experiments that builds supportive communities working towards exhibitions, public art and publication. And because she’s not busy enough doing all that, Netti is also a practising artist studying for her PhD. 

“I'm inspired by way too many people to mention, but they all have one thing in common,” she says. “They're in the ring, actively doing or trying their thing, and not just talking about ideas.”

Meet Create-a-thon’s Team Simon and Matt

The men from Sydney arrived, and they meant business. Creative business. 

He’s an illustrator and cardboard creator. Meet Simon Greiner, a contestant at Officeworks Chadstone.

Simon Greiner is an illustrator and artist whose work has appeared on the front cover of The New Yorker. Fancy! He’s also illustrated a number of children’s books, including The Short and Curly Guide to Life and Stop the Dad Jokes!

“My creative journey began the moment I started drawing, at around two or three,” Simon says. “I haven’t stopped drawing – even through my brief foray into corporate work my meeting notes would be pages of doodles and drawings.”

Parents of crafty kids might recognise Simon from Instagram, where he and his two kids make fun, functional cardboard creations under the handle @thecardboarddad

“The cardboard craft really started in earnest during the first Sydney lockdown in 2020,” he says. “It was prompted by my kids requesting that I make very specific things – a violin, a helicopter with a spinning propeller – and it became a special activity to do together.”

Graphic designer Matt Roden was one of the Create-a-thon makers at Officeworks Chadstone.

At Create-a-thon, Simon melded creative minds with Matt Roden, who is an illustrator, designer and creative educator. He has also developed creative learning workshops for organisations including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Story Factory and Sydney Opera House.

“I always loved drawing, and illustrated my own picture books and comics throughout my childhood,” says Matt. “And I’ve got a hodgepodge of inspirations: the vintage 70s clips from Sesame Street, 90s zine culture, my high school art teacher who would make his own neckties from paper, maps in the opening pages of fantasy books, as well as people like Jack Kirby, Tibor and Maira Kalman, Miranda July and Mike Mills, Chip Kidd, and Mary Blair.”

Meet Create-a-thon’s Team Jess and Sarah-Jane

Jess Nikitina-Li and Sarah-Jane McMartin make up the local team. Both were raised and still live in Melbourne’s southeastern suburbs, not far from Officeworks Chadstone.

Lifelong creator Jess Nikitina-Li competed at Officeworks Chadstone’s Create-a-thon.

Describing herself as a “kind-of anthropologist and kind-of artist”, Jess uses visuals and writing to observe and unpick the mundane. Both her art and research interweave tales of generations and journeys; the movement of feelings through objects and space.

“My creative journey probably started when my granddad let me draw on the walls or my grandma danced with me around the house with costumes on when I was a kid,” says Jess. “Another key inspiration was seeing videos my aunties made about their travels – it opened my eyes up to visuals, sound, adventure and documentation of life, as well as sharing that with friends and family.”

Sarah-Jane McMartin is a fashion stylist turned crafter for Create-a-thon, Officeworks Chadstone.

Jess’s teammate, Sarah-Jane, wears many hats in her practice. She’s best known for her work as a fashion stylist, but she is a crafter at her core – if she can’t find what she needs, she will make it herself. And it’s been that way since she was very young.

“My practice enables me to express my emotions and thoughts visually rather than in words,” she says. “No one specifically inspired me, rather I needed an outlet to express myself to others.”

Meet Create-a-thon's Team Carla and George

The final team for Create-a-thon came together from afar. Projection artist Carla Zimbler splits her time between Melbourne and the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik. Creating with her was multidisciplinary artist George Goodnow, who was born in California, grew up in Canberra and now lives in the inner-northern suburbs of Melbourne.

From Australia to Iceland, Carla Zimbler is known for her art installations made from light.

Carla’s work has been featured at some of the most recognisable institutions and biggest arts festivals around the world. She creates site-specific installations by bending light across architecture and soaking sculptural forms in vivid textures as a live performance. Her work has been featured at the Sydney Opera House, National Gallery of Australia, VIVID Sydney, Melbourne Music Week, Distortion festival in Denmark and LungA in Iceland.

“My creative story exists in the space between Sydney and Seyðisfjörð,” says Carla. “It was a fortunate stroke of serendipity to stumble across this town, a bustling hub of energy and creative freedom tucked between two sky-scraping mountains, while travelling the east fjords of Iceland in 2013. It's a very alluring town that draws artists back year after year to share knowledge across months of daylight or extreme darkness. 

“Inside this dimly lit place I understood the power of light and, in its absence, the beauty of projection. On my return home, I taught myself how to manipulate animated visuals and stretch them across architectural space and sculpture, eventually pursuing a career in stage and installation design and live VJing.”

Multidisciplinary artist George Goodnow was one of the creators at Officeworks Chadstone.

George’s practice incorporates painting, sculpture and the use of salvaged materials to produce site-specific installations, often in collaboration with other artists. Their work frequently explores themes of binaries, disorientation and queerness with suburban and urban environments.

“I have been drawing and making since I was young, and never really stopped,” says George. “I’m really lucky to be able to continue to work as an artist today. I was inspired a lot by artists like Howard Arkley and Jeffrey Smart when I was younger, but also by TV shows like Art Attack.”

*Due to COVID, some finalists were unable to participate on the night and were replaced with participants from our final shortlist.  

SEE ALSO: 13 Art and Craft Ideas for Adults That Will Boost Creativity