For the past 45 years, South Australian craft institution JamFactory has built up an extraordinary pool of talent featuring some of the country’s finest artisans.
Set up in 1973 as an initiative of the Dunstan government to connect craft and industry to help grow the state’s economy, the not-for-profit organisation is about more than just showcasing bespoke pieces across glass, ceramics, furniture and metal design.
“Craft in its inherent sense is about respecting skills that have been around for a very long time, some are technology changers,” says JamFactory CEO Brian Parkes.
“I meet with bureaucrats around the country who would love to replicate something like JamFactory but there isn’t the political wheel or budgetary bravado to produce anything like it, so it’s something that will be for a very long time, a great South Australian unique property.”
“There is nothing else like it in Australia and nothing quite like it in the world.”
JamFactory, located on Morphett Street in Adelaide’s West End and at Seppeltsfield in the Barossa Valley, features purpose-built ceramics, glass, furniture, and metal design studios.
It offers a place for artists and designers to hone their craft and access equipment and gallery space as well as further their skills in business.
JamFactory’s glass studio is the largest open access glass studio in the southern hemisphere and has welcomed a number of elite craftspeople, including two of the country’s most renowned designer-makers, Clare Belfrage and Nick Mount.
JamFactory has enjoyed some “pretty stellar growth” in the last five years, with its turnover increasing and supported by a growing retail income.
The craft and design centre also houses exhibition and retail spaces that showcase not only SA artists, but high-quality contemporary designs from across the country.
“Our retail (income) last year grew 10%. This year after the first quarter it was 32% on the previous year. That’s pretty amazing stuff and that’s the interest in craft,” Brian says.
JamFactory also has an online retail store and between this and the two brick and mortar shops, more than 200 independent artists and designers are represented with total sales coming in at about $1.4 million.
JamFactory takes on a handful of emerging talented designers and makers from across the country who undertake the intensive two-year associate program. Associates take up space in one of the four studios and produce work with the potential of selling it in JamFactory’s stores.
The associate program was a launching success for ceramic artist Stephanie James-Manttan who began her journey with JamFactory in 2007/08.
Since completing the program she went on to continue her love for the pottery wheel and has since built a solid career in the local ceramics community.
In 2019 she will again take up a spot at JamFactory, taking over from Damon Moon as head of the ceramics studio, mentoring associates, undertaking research and development for commission projects, and ensuring the studio runs safely.
Stephanie’s work has been acquired by the Art Gallery of SA and the Department of Premier and Cabinet, while through her own practice she’s collaborated with clients including Well Made, Beaumont Tiles and the SA Department of Environment and Water, among others.
British actor Dev Patel – who stars in film Hotel Mumbai which was mostly shot in Adelaide – even bought one of Stephanie’s pieces through JamFactory’s shop.
Stephanie crafts stonewear pieces such as mugs, teapots, travel cups and bowls, as well as bespoke ceramic bowls and vases with woven-like characteristics.
“Porcelain has a really beautiful quality about it, it’s a flesh-like quality, it’s translucent, it’s sexy, it’s sleek and it translates what I do so well,” she says.
“The way I squeeze into the clay, it affects the balance and the lightness of the work, it’s just a beautiful material to work with. It’s very fickle though, it will crack and it makes you stop and slow down.”
Stephanie says many of the skills practiced at JamFactory’s studios should be cherished.
“The things that we make here and the studios we have here … these are trades that are dying, we’re actually conserving the skills and the abilities required to make things out of the materials we work with,” she says.
“In this mass consumed world, people should be buying homemade things. They last longer which means less landfill.”
Stephanie commends SA’s training pathways in the craft sector, including TAFE SA and university courses that offer creative arts courses incorporating ceramic teachings.
Industry in focus: Craft industries
Throughout the months of November and December, the state’s craft industries will be celebrated as part of I Choose SA.
South Australian craftspeople make up some of our most creative thinkers and makers of sustainable and innovative goods. Read more craft stories here.
Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.