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Samantha Wills

Some people endure things that makes you wonder how they still go on. Jodie Priestly is one of them, and yet has not only continued on, but launched her own business in the face of loss, and significant personal health hurdles. Her story is sad, and beautiful, and strong, and inspiring. Read how she became a pilot at 16 years old in the Australian Bush & now has turned skills & craft that her parents taught her, into her passion. I don't doubt that KNOTTED is just the start of very big things for Jodie. read her full story, told in her own words below.... 

KNOTTED Founder & Designer; Jodie Priestly

KNOTTED Founder & Designer; Jodie Priestly

NAME: Jodie Priestly

COMPANY: Knotted


AGE: 32

INSTAGRAM: @_knotted_


How would you describe yourself in 5 words? Kind, Loving, Loyal, Determined, Passionate

What is the long version of how you got to where you are today? Wow… where do I start? I’ve definitely had some pivotal, defining moments in my life. More than most, I think. I grew up in the country, with my younger brother and my parents. I know it’s a little cliché to say your Mum is your first best friend, but my Mum really was. We are extremely close. Our whole family is close. We grew up sailing, with Dad instilling his love of the water firmly in us. He taught me to ‘knot” on ropes on the yacht. My Dad died 2 and a half years ago, while I was on a plane flying home from Europe. He waited until he knew I was safely on a plane on my way home. I hated that I wasn’t there, but I think Dad was doing what Dads do best, and he was protecting me from something he didn’t want me to have to experience. Obviously I was extremely sad. What I didn’t expect was the anger that came with it, because, you see, Dad, at one point in time, had the opportunity to change his path. He had the chance to get better, but he didn’t take it. I don’t know if I will ever be OK with that in my mind, he is missing out on so much here.

My Mum looked after my Dad so selflessly, and she kept us all going after, too. Nothing at all makes you appreciate your parents more than becoming a parent yourself, and I have even more admiration and respect for my parents now, and all they did for us and taught us. I never appreciated all my Dad taught me until he was gone. All those mundane things as a kid that are paramount as an adult.

As a teenager I had the opportunity to sail on the STS Leeuwin and also won a scholarship to learn to fly. Both of these experiences were those absolute once in a lifetime, unforgettable ones. The personal growth you go through with something so life and death in your hands is enormous.

It was in the bush, at 16, getting my pilots license, that I met my best friend, Ren. As you can imagine, not many teenage girls were there in the bush, so our friendship began probably out of necessity (like, it was necessary to find someone to cling to when you thought you were going to be eaten alive by rats/mice in the WWI ORIGINAL accommodation). Ren and I kept in contact all through school, and then after, and that’s when our staying power was really forged.

As a young adult, I began to get extremely sick. I was diagnosed with Coeliac disease and ulcerative colitis. I had a total colectomy (my whole large intestine removed) and a colostomy bag at 23. I was so sick that there were times we didn’t know if I would live through it- and times I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to. I had my colostomy bag reversed (which very nearly didn’t happen) after 6 months. Mum never ever left my side. Ren, who had 2 young girls by now, was there through it all, too. Once someone has seen that much of you and stays, willingly, you know they’re in it for the long haul.

I met my husband, Ben, not long after my major surgeries, and we hadn’t been together all that long when I was yet again back in hospital, fighting for life. Ben has been my rock. I am so grateful I have found someone so loving, loyal and patient (He really puts up with a lot!). I look forward to life with Ben, growing old together and growing our family.

Ren’s eldest daughter, Aliyah, was also very sick. Aliyah was diagnosed with epilepsy and Cerebral Palsy when she was just a toddler. Her seizures couldn’t be controlled and were causing more and more brain damage. Aliyah became palliative at 7 years old. Ren was now a single Mum to a 7 year old, a 4 year old and a 15month old. We always joked that I was the girls’ Dad or 2nd Mum. I went with Ren to all of Aliyah’s appointments (perks to working opposite a childrens hospital). I picked her up when she collapsed in the carpark, put her in the car with Aliyah and drove them home when the Doctors had told her there was nothing more they could do. I watched my best friend losing her child. I watched a child I loved as my own, slowly dying, and watched her younger sisters struggling to understand. Aliyah’s life, and death, changed me. As a person, a daughter, a friend, a wife, a godmother. It shaped me into the Mum I am today. My perspective changed. My own illness had shown me the how precious life was, Aliyah’s showed me just how fragile and uncertain it is.

Last year, in February 2010, Ben and I welcomed the most beautiful little girl, Willow Aliyah, into the world. (She really is the cutest thing EVER!). Unfortunately, after my straight forward planned caesa delivery, I had complications (due to my pre-existing bowel problems) and spent Willows first 2 weeks of life, fighting for my own in ICU. I underwent 3 major surgeries in 8 days. Again, Mum, Ben and Ren never left mine and Willows side. They had a roster worked out so someone was always with Willow, and someone always with me, 24/7.

After finally getting to take Willow home, I started to suffer major anxiety and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I had fought, literally for my life, so many times, that my anxiety about something happening to me or another of my loved ones, became quite debilitating. I have had so much love, support and understanding from my friends and family, and am now doing well. I think my experiences with my own illness, my Dad, Aliyah and all Ren went through, made me realize the importance of being honest and open to receiving help. I am lucky that I have unconditional support around me, so I was able to open up and say I wasn’t coping. I am sharing this because it is an issue that isn’t discussed enough. People need to know that it’s ok to struggle with your own mental health, but it’s not ok to do it all alone. So, talk about it. Ask for help, because it is life changing.

I started back at work again, part-time, towards the end of last year (2015). I am lucky that I absolutely love my job, but I was feeling a bit lost, and needed “something” more. Something for me, that allowed me to de-stress and be creative. I wanted to do something to honour my Dad and all he taught me. Then one day, I started tying knots with my Mum. She showed me how to macramé, and I took to it instantly. I went out and bought supplies and 'Knotted' began!

It stared off as macaramè- hangers and wall features, but expanded quickly to include metals and wood and leather! My hands cannot keep up with the ideas in my head! With the support of my Mum, hubby and friends (#BCA), I decided to set up an Instagram account and facebook page, and had so much interest I needed to set up a webpage. I held my first market in December 2015 which was a sellout. I now have several stockists, an increasing following and steady orders coming in. I held my second market just this past weekend and sold out once again! I have been able to gauge the market and customize my designs accordingly.

I have always wanted my own business, Knotted is just the beginning of a much bigger vision. Watch this space!

I think it is really important people can explain their main message in a concise paragraph – if the above is the full version - What is your elevator pitch on what you do? Custom homewares using modern materials- such as leather, ply wood, cord, and plants.

Are you doing what you thought you would be doing 10 years ago? (If not, what did you think you would be doing?) 10 years ago I really had no idea where I would be… I was just starting to become very sick at that point and my main priority at that time was trying to keep well and away from surgery (which, in the end, was inevitable). I was working as a bank teller at that stage, however I left when I had no choice but to have surgery. I went to see my gastroenterologist on a Wednesday and was booked in for my first major surgery on the Saturday. Luckily I didn’t have time to think about what was ahead.

What does ‘success’ mean to you, and do you consider yourself ‘successful’? Success to me means doing something you love, something that keeps you on your toes, that you are passionate about, gives you a spring in your step. I do believe myself to be successful. I always give everything my all and once I have the vision and can see what I am going to achieve there is nothing stopping me… Just ask any of my family and friends

What do you still want to achieve (personally & / or professionally) Personally I just want to keep discovering who I am as a new mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend. Professionally I still have so much to learn. The world is my oyster and there are so many exciting opportunities ahead that I just want to sink my teeth into. I am fortunate enough to have a fantastic (day) job too… This is where my main challenge will be. That fine line between staying in a safe everyday job with fantastic opportunities, or taking that risk and becoming my own girl boss…

Did you study anything specific for the career you are in? No, purely self taught, drawing on my life experiences from my parents, my sailing and flying adventures and like minded creative’s. I did however study to become a pilot at the tender age of sweet 16 where I meet my life long bestie Ren (illness in the end put a stop to this- the flying, not the friendship!)

What have been the most rewarding things in your career to date? I feel it is such a compliment that my work has received so much positive feedback (and people like yourself have given me the opportunity to tell my story.)

Tell us about your workspace (Office / café / couch / aesthetic) what inspires you about your workspace? My workspace at home is mainly our patio out the back! When I’m on a roll there are knot’s, leather, pots and plants everywhere! My day job workplace is hugely inspiring. I work in the commercial fit out industry and deal with interior designers and architects on a daily basis. In this job I get to see all of the projects become reality from initial planning stages to supplying the best products on site and seeing how it all comes together. It is a very creative industry to be in. Our own office/showroom is always being updated with new products and samples.

What are some frustrations you have experienced on your career journey? To be honest I have been extremely lucky so far. I only started this in December so fortunately haven’t had any frustrations.

When was the last time you were overwhelmed & cried from something provoked by work / work load? I got quite upset the other day when I was working in my dad’s workshop on all of his tools… I went through quite a range of emotions… I was sad that he wasn’t there teaching me all of his many woodworking skills then was angry at the same time…

Would you say you put pressure on yourself? Has this gotten more or less as you progress in your career? I definitely put pressure on myself. I work very well under pressure. I have been putting more pressure on myself to keep growing and creating new products. I don’t stop until I make the idea in my head a reality… I always say yes to requests from clients even if I haven’t done it before and just work out the details later. I love the challenge…

If you are a business owner – and you often can’t just check out / have a week off when you are dealing with personal things – how do you keep on keeping on with your business when things get tough? I have unfortunately had an unplanned trip to hospital (damn kidney stones that required laser surgery) right before my very first market and was out for about a week. I had a very clear vision in my head on how it was going to look and a concrete plan to make it happen. I ended up having to compromise on a few things in the end (i.e. how my products and my stall were styled as I would have simply run out of time to complete all my ideas). I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I did without the help of my mum and husband. Mum who looked after my daughter and hubby who copped my stress head perfectionist self the morning of and helped me set up (my way) and take it all down… In saying all that… my first market was a huge success (a sellout) That was a great experience for me, I got a great feel form my market and have been able to tweak my product range in response to this.

Has your career affected your personal life / relationships? If so how? It has to some degree. My family and closest friends have been hugely supportive of my new venture however there is an underlying tone of jealousy in some other women I know and have met along the way… I think because I am a go-getter and very determined I always make things happen, I don’t mess about… Not everyone is like this though, and that’s cool, but just be happy for me and my achievements…

What causes you anxiety / sleepless nights? A lot of my anxiety is caused by my PTSD and letting things get on top of me... I have recently taken up yoga again and found this has helped me. Being through the amount of surgery I have, you get to know your body pretty well. I have really learnt how to tune in and listen to my body and have learned when to stop, slow down and breathe.

If you had your time over again, from when you started your career to right now, would you do anything differently? To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t change how this has all happened for the world! I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of these so-called life experiences. It makes me who I am...

What advice would you give your 21 year old self? Learn to appreciate a compliment… It’s hard to hear/accept compliments your when you don’t necessarily believe them yourself… There’s also that balance of knowing when someone means the compliment they are giving you or if it’s sort of a back handed dig… Learn to ignore the backhands and relish in the positive…

Who are some women in business you admire & why? Apart from the one and only SW… I have been lucky enough to meet another amazing woman in business. Ascher Lindsay (Smith) from SolScapes Landscaping. We met through mothers group and immediately hit it off. From having the dream of one day running her own landscaping business to making it a reality and a huge success at that, is a massive credit to her (and hubby). Her determination, drive and what she has achieved, especially this last year with a newborn, major house renovation and overseas wedding, is second to none. We are kindred spirits and have very similar visions of where we’d like to grow… A fusion shall we say of like-minded creative’s.

What traits do you admire in people you surround yourself with? Family orientated, loyalty, passion, dedication, attention to detail, strength

Work life balance… Does it exist (I don’t think it does!) and how to maintain it, or a sense of it? I don’t think it does either… It’s more about trying to juggle everything in life at once… I have learnt through my life journey how to listen to my body and know when I need to rest, when to stop and smell the roses. It is so important to listen to your body and take that time out to recharge and rejuvenate otherwise we’ll all end up burnt out!

Have you ever thought about giving up / quitting? If so, does that feeling hit from the same triggers? Why haven’t you quit? Professionally no… Personally yes… I have had a few times when in hospital when one setback after another hit and I have wanted to give up. I remind myself that there is someone who is always worse off!

What is the biggest misconception about what you do? That it’s just going to be macramé… My vision is so, so, so much bigger than this… I’ve always wanted to have my own business but was never sure on where/how to start, or what I wanted to do for that fact… This is just the beginning for knotted. It all started with one knot…

What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your industry? Try and be different, be unique, be you. There is always going to be criticism out there but you just need to keep on going... be true to yourself…know what your brand is about, be accepting of constructive criticism and be willing to grow/change direction.

If you knew what you know now, about how much work was involved to get you to where you are now, would you do it again or do something different? If so, what? Would do it all again in a heartbeat!

I like the quote ‘Don’t just have a job, have a purpose’ - What do you want your legacy to be “Anything is Possible” there is no reason why I cant keep growing and developing this business.

The SAMANTHA WILLS FOUNDATION is about bringing women in business together – why do you think this is important / (why did you want to be involved in this interview)? I believe the Samantha Wills Foundation is bringing all the RIGHT women in business together… The type of women who are 100% supportive of each other and are willing to help each other grow.

What are some of your favorite quotes?

'Carpe Diem' - I have this tattooed on my left wrist. When I was 15 I went on the S.T.S. Leeuwin for a 10 day team building/personal development voyage and at the top of the main mast there is a little plaque. This is on that plaque and ever since then (even more so when I became sick) I have seized every day… You never know what is going to happen tomorrow.

'Eventually all things fall into place. Until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moments, and know everything happens for a reason.' BIG believer in the last five words… everything happens for a reason.. Even if it is a shit thing that has happened, I still believe in this… It always works out in the end…