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  • Writer's pictureJames Treble

The Stories Behind Australian Makers

Creativity is the brain's ability to come up with solutions that satisfy one or everybody's needs: it's curiosity at work, imagination, research, experimentation and finally achievement. I find it funny when people say they are not creative, as I feel that all humans are, even though in many different ways! Creativity is a skill that distinguishes humankind and leads us to social evolution, sometimes driven by necessity, or by pure creative drive. Creativity is also a skill, a talent which I strongly admire, and whether visiting National or International design fairs, large or local markets, I'm always in awe of the talent that is all around us, and how very differently each person, can view and interpret their own inner creative voice. At the recent Life In Style Sydney Event last month, I wondered through stands of beautiful, unique and inspiring products, catching up with some familiar faces and meeting new ones, and once again I got to witness creativity at work. Here is a small sample of that display and a few of the stories that make these products unique.

Emma McNamara is the creative force behind Sunday Folk Textiles, creating cushions designed to inspire a sense of laid-back eclecticism or bold expression. Loving the different effects and possibilities and the speed of working on paper, Emma uses gouache and oil stick crayons to achieve her textiles creations. Describing her style as painterly and colour-driven, she believes "that the best interiors are the ones that make you feel at ease in the world, that tell your story, that are timeless. Function and Aesthetic are probably the two guiding principles of our actual textile design. I also think a lot about the details of what I'm painting and how they will translate when printed. Sometimes I'll paint something beautiful that won't translate to a cushion or a textile without losing the character of the design... so some days are all about experimenting, but that's usually when I end up with something I love. Having said that, Colour is where I start. I always have a palette in mind for the collection, usually the result of much pondering, mostly classic colours and a few fun, trend-driven colours. People live with things they love and feel comfortable around. For some home is a total calming sanctuary and for others it needs to be vibrant and express their love of bold colour, so I tend to design each collection keeping this balance in mind. Each design must be beautiful in it's own way, painterly and interesting as a stand alone cushion, but also work well as a part of an eclectic collection." Their upcoming Winter 2018 collection entitled "Beachcomber" is an eclectic mix of warbly artworks in earthy tones inspired by patterns found on our Australian coastline - deep blues, clay, moss, sea-mist greys. The new collection launches on April 9th but is available now for preorder from their website.

caroline c is a boutique business, producing hand-made ceramic gift tags and home-wares from a studio in Broadbeach, Queensland. Their products are designed with clean lines with an uncomplicated style and monochromatic details. After studying Industrial Design in NZ and interior design in London, Caroline was offered a job in the Algarve, Portugal, designing kitchens and bathrooms with Bosch. These 3 years being trained in Germany and living in Portugal gave her a love of hand-painted ceramics. “I started importing Portuguese tiles to Australia and also painting my own tiles and this progressed into making ceramic tags with motivational quotes pressed into them and from there the range grew. Now we gain great pleasure making not only a range of ceramic tags but also personalised pieces for christenings and weddings, little dishes and home-wares. Each ceramic product we make is handmade using our slab roller giving each piece an organic quality… imperfection is perfection in our eyes. It is an incredibly labour-intensive process with each piece being handled up to 9 times to produce the end result. In today’s mass-produced throw-away society I am so mindful of creating pieces with meaning and able to create joy in a home. Clay is an amazing medium to work with and the design possibilities are endless. The flexibility of working with clay means we can personalise our handmade bowls with postcodes or with the name of somewhere they spent a fabulous time at... my favourite ones would probably be the personalised pieces. I love the feeling I get when we create a cross for a christening gift knowing that it will be treasured within that family forever. We are also very proud to be able to create pieces using all Australian sourced materials and turning them into a locally made product. I would like to think I am creating a place where you can come to get that unique gift made for the special people, places and memories in your life."

Emilie is from London, where she ran an award winning textiles company, creating high end bespoke textiles and wallpaper designs for commissions including a shoe designer, a vintage circus, the Turner Prize, hotels and a palace in Saudi. Now in Australia, Emilie O'Connor Homestore is her new venture, and presenting her first collection she describes her work as Elegant, Accessible and Ethical. “I love to take my customers on a journey through stories and providing opportunities for them to engage as part of something bigger. I guess this comes from my background as theatre designer/art director. With a theme in mind, when creating I play with function, materials and looks. But as a designer, I believe I have a responsibility to use sustainable materials and manufacture products in ways that have minimal impact on the environment and people. I believe what we buy matters and how we use it can make a difference to the environment and our lives. For example my first collection is based on the coral reef and the sea in Australia... it has the most amazing blues and wild life, but also is getting impacted by our way of life, in particular our use of plastics. So, with this in mind I have created designs that celebrate this beauty and products that are made with bamboo fibre and offer an alternative to single use plastic." The Coral Reef Collection is now available through their website.

I could have interviewed many more out of the exhibitors at the Life In Style Sydney Event and would have discovered with each of them an original story and unique products. Next time you approach a maker's shop, I encourage you to walk through with curiosity and ask yourself how this or that product distinguishes itself: what are the points that the maker has intended to achieve, the aesthetic choices, the practical solutions... ask the makers themselves and encourage them to keep creating.

Also, I encourage you to support and celebrate these creative skills by happily spending maybe a few more dollars in exchange for something which is unique and handmade, because in whichever field these are applied, Creativity and Artisanship are skills that we cannot afford to do without. These are skills we strongly need to keep alive, as part of our on-going human story and as a way to create beauty, which we can then enjoy in our homes for many years to come.

James Treble is an ambassador for Planet Ark and firmly believes in sensible purchasing, recycling and creative re-purposing. James has three decades of accumulated experience in the Building Industry, Real Estate and Interior Design and regularly shares his knowledge and experience in adding value to properties through effective design & styling. Watch his free videos on YouTube, and follow him on Facebook and Instagram for more free information.


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