How Artist Dom Gauci Turned Her Side Hustle Into A Dream Gig

By Morgan Reardon
5th May 2021

Artist Dom Gauci crouches down next to a framed piece of her art work

If you’re anything like us, you spent the majority of last years’ lockdown giving your living spaces a facelift (as well as baking endless banana bread of course). While you were pouring over Insta and Pinterest saving images of all the lust-worthy designs you wanted to replicate, chances are you stumbled across (and fell head over heels for) artist Dom Gauci’s iconic geometric-style prints. 

From famous magazine covers and pop culture icons, to adorable animals and now your favourite AFL stars, Gauci’s striking prints are covering the walls of many desirable homes across the country (and around the world). 

We caught up with the Melbourne-based artist to find how she turned her passion for art from a side hustle into an awesome full-time gig. 

What is your earliest memory of art?

My earliest memory of art is actually of my own. I remember sitting with my Grandma (I must have been around five) and designing my own picture book called “My Brother The Alien”—which is totally ironic considering I don’t have a brother (or sister). I came up with the story (handwritten by Grandma of course) and drew all the pictures to go along with each page. Looking back, I think that is probably the earliest indicator of the direction my career was going to go down.

Education-wise, did you go to art school or are you self-taught?

I had always taken art subjects in high school and dabbled with drawing while growing up. Uni was where I really stepped it up a notch when I began studying communication design. This is where I transitioned from fine art into digital design. I know a lot of entrepreneurs who didn’t go to university and preach that it’s unnecessary—but had I not gone, I definitely don’t think I would have learned the skills to be in the position I am today.

Dom Gauci sits behind a desk, flanked by her art work

Now the question everyone wants to know, how did you turn your passion into a business?

Accidently. DG DESIGNS was initially a side hustle for some extra cash to fuel my shopping addiction. It wasn’t until it began to grow organically that I knew I could take a risk and quit my job. The minute I started working for myself I knew I would never ever work for someone else again. My work ethic has gone through the roof and every day I wake up to a “job” that doesn’t feel like work at all. Being self-employed doing something that I love has made me incredibly fulfilled in life.

Who or what inspires your awesome designs?

Initially my designs were inspired by who inspires me. I love the hustle—so I focused on icons like Biggie, Kanye and Anna Wintour. Over time, my customers inspired who came next. The point of my work is to celebrate your heroes on the daily, so I listen to what my customers ask for and try to expand my range as wide as possible.

What are some of your favourite pieces that you’ve designed so far?

I would say the Mr Bill is my favourite (and also one of the best sellers), I’m a 90s baby, so the nostalgia is real. Nothing reminds you more of long summers as a kid, than unwrapping a Bubble OBill that looked nothing like the packaging (laughs).

Artist Dom Gauci pokes her tongue out while posing with Mr Bill art work

What’s one of the biggest hurdles you’ve encountered in your career so far, and how did you overcome it?

The biggest hurdle I’ve encountered and continue to navigate is the lack of experience/business knowledge. I studied art, not business, and never had any subjects offered in my all-girls high school that related to self-employment. For me, accounting has been incredibly hard to get my head around. Negotiation is also a big one. Thankfully I’ve built a team around me that excel in the areas that I lack strength in.

And on the flipside, what’s been one of the biggest ‘f*ck yea’ moments with your work so far?

One-hundred per cent the AFL licence. To collaborate with such an iconic Australian industry has been mind-blowing. Honestly, it was a pipedream, and the thought that I could get this contract was almost laughable two years ago. But, if you keep the hustle alive, I think anything is possible and that’s clear with what has happened here.

How did the AFL collab come to be?

In 2019 Richmond FC commissioned me to do a series of drawings for their social media to celebrate the premiership win that year. The response was overwhelming. I had people emailing and DM’ing me non-stop to purchase the art which unfortunately I was unable to sell. At the start of 2020, during my goal setting session, I wrote down in my ‘super stretch’ list of goals: (super stretch are goals that are totally absurd but you put them down for fun anyway.) “Get a deal with the AFL” was top of the list. Then, COVID hit. But to my surprise, the business began to boom. So, with that momentum I had the confidence to try my luck in achieving this super stretch goal. It was one of those friend-of-a-friend, of a friend, who knew someone that could get me a meeting with AFL licencing. A few awkward zoom pitches later, we got the green light and here we are today!

Dom Gauci poses in front of a wall featuring her AFL art work

Do you ever get creative blocks? How do you overcome them and recharge your batteries?

Absolutely. Post-Christmas I am absolutely drained. Unless I take an actual holiday (not a Christmas two week holiday filled with events—I mean a sit on the beach for eight hours a day drinking margaritas and not looking at your phone kind of holiday) I can’t recharge. Post-break I always come back extremely motivated with a ton of energy to get things done.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received and from whom?

Raise your prices! This was the first thing my business coach ever told me. He taught me to see the value in what I do, and that if people wanted it—they would pay for it. It would also free up my time while making the same or if not more money. This was extremely scary for me, but the minute I flicked over to the new pricing structure—sales actually went up and the demand just continues to grow.

Artist Dom Gauci poses with a piece of art on the side of a street.

What’s a brand or artist you’d like to collab with in the future?

Dina Broadhurst. She is my boss b***h hero. To see what she has achieved inspires me daily. I’m already building a small collection of her work but would hopefully one day love to collaborate. She’s on my Super Stretch list!

Finally what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs out there?

Get ready to do hard work. Starting a business can seem like a great idea but there are as many hard days as there are great ones... Also don’t expect to become rich and successful overnight. It’s a long game! You gotta be in it to win it.

For more inspirational chats check out our Getting The Gig hub.
Image Credit: Supplied, Dom Gauci Designs, Alex Drewniak

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