From butcher shop to leather craft studio

Raw red brick walls and the scent of leather surround talented bag creator Sasha Carroll in her old butcher shop studio at Mile End in Adelaide’s inner western suburbs.

“The locals say this was once a really popular continental butcher, it was one of the first in Adelaide making yiros and chorizo sausage,” Sasha says from the studio on a street lined with old workers’ cottages.

Now its interior has beautiful hand crafted leather handbags hanging from the original butcher hooks with sewing machines and stacks of leather scattered around the space below.

Sasha has about 15 different styles of carefully designed and handmade classic satchels, tote bags and wallets that she sells in rich colours like whiskey and tan through her Butcher Byrd business.

It’s a business attracting a growing number of fans including well-known Australian singer-songwriter and guitarist Dan Sultan who recently discovered Sasha’s work via Instagram and bought four bags.

Small hip satchel.

“It’s about simplicity, I just like really classic designs so they are mostly about the leather, there’s a place for the sparkly, crazy stuff, but I just like to create a lifetime bag, a bag you will have forever, and a bag that improves with age,” Sasha says.

It was about five years ago that Sasha started Butcher Byrd after having first studied bespoke custom shoemaking at the former Marleston TAFE and then worked together with well-known JamFactory shoe and leather maker Rose-Anne Russell.

She was still busy making shoes when her true making passion gradually emerged.

“It was when I realised that the satchel that I had designed and made for my husband and the tote that I had designed and made for my mother were still going strong after 10 years of everyday use,” she says.

“They were battered, soft and worn, better with age, and would get numerous comments from strangers and friends. My mum had often joked that she could have sold hers many times over.”

At the time, Sasha and Neil had moved into a Mile End house next door to her sister’s former butcher shop home – and, when her sister moved interstate in 2014, a new inspiration emerged for the building’s growing history.

Sasha Carroll in the old butcher shop which has been transformed into her leather bags and accessories studio.

“Suddenly, I was next door to this space and I said let’s turn it into a workspace as I was just getting into making bags,” Sasha says.

“The name Butcher Byrd made sense for the business, it was about the woman working in the butcher shop and working with leather, it was like it was meant to be.”

There’s been growing success for Sasha since she sold her earliest bags at One Small Room in Queen Street and later won a place at the Bowerbird market.

Now the bags are also stocked at Brick and Mortar Creative in Norwood, a café and store featuring more than 80 local, independent artists, along with Field Trip at Balhannah in the Adelaide Hills where Mim Clarkson and Linda Marek also sell their own clothing, jewellery and homewares.

Most of her sales are made through Etsy with plans underway to revamp the website next year and to possibly redefine the product range with some core designs and releasing two seasonal ranges each year.

Sasha says there’s a strong support network among designers in South Australia with the Bowerbird market particularly drawing the local community together to forge bonds.

Each bag is designed and crafted on site.

It was through the market that she also built solid relationships with Adelaide furniture designer, maker and I Choose SA ambassador Robin Wood and the team behind Frock Me Out who are “now going gangbusters”.

And then there’s Bulb Lighting that share her studio space for their growing events business.

Sasha says working from the Mile End studio has created an important life balance while her children Frankie, 6, and Bobby, 2, are younger, and it has also given her the opportunity to constantly reassess the direction of the business.

She plans to expand during the next few years and to employ staff to help with the making as she finds it increasingly difficult to meet demand from more stores wanting to stock her products.

Sasha is also considering using more of the traditional vegetable tanned leather, made using an age-old process that can take two to three months, with all her leather sourced through local retailer D.S. Horne.

“There’s something about sitting down with a piece of leather and a pattern and drawing it up, piecing it together, putting the handles on and then putting it up on the butcher hook that works for me,” Sasha adds.

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.

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Small online venture boxing up luxury on Limestone Coast

With her impeccable style, bubbly personality and passion for sparking joy, Katie Fox is a Mount Gambier woman on a mission to deliver happiness to the world – one luxe gift box at a time.

The popular make-up artist’s new online business Little Pink Fox ticks every box on the ultimate pampering wish-list.

Her distinctive pink packages filled with her own vegan body whip, hand-poured soy candles, crystal earrings and sparkling wine recently won the People’s Choice Award at the Limestone Coast’s inaugural eNVIes live pitch night hosted by Flinders University’s New Venture Institute (NVI)

Katie Fox at Flinders University’s New Venture Institute eNVIe awards.

Katie says the program handed her the tools and connections to refine her business model and broaden market reach.

“Joining this accelerator program was one of the best decisions I’ve made for my business; I learned so much, the guidance from the teachers and mentors was truly amazing, and the classroom camaraderie from everyone who went through the program was fantastic,” she says.

After 15 years working in fashion, the style guru switched her career focus to professional make-up and hair styling, and promptly became one of the Limestone Coast’s go-to girls for special events and photo shoots.

It was while working behind the scenes at weddings when Katie came up with the idea for her latest business venture.

The bridesmaid gift boxes feature candles, sparkling wine, jewellery and other wedding preparation essentials.

“I have worked on hundreds of weddings, and I have seen stressed out brides struggling to find the perfect gift for their bridesmaids, and I thought ‘I could do this – I could create the ultimate gift box for bridesmaids,” she says.

After launching last Christmas, she quickly realised the growth potential despite some strong competition.

“In a market this size, there is always room for unique, beautifully packaged gifts; Australians spent more than $11 billion on Christmas presents last year and attended an estimated 119,000 weddings, but it’s husbands and commercial businesses who have also embraced the click and send concept,” Katie says.

“Everybody wants the easy way to purchase the perfect gift.”

Katie Fox runs her own online gift and accessories business from the Limestone Coast.

Buoyed by positive feedback, Katie is now exploring wholesale markets and extending her range.

A Happiness Box is among the products in the pipeline, complete with inspirational cards and a short book containing tips on how to sustain a positive mindset.

Katie is planning to pay it forward in the community which has thrown its support behind her, and will donate part of the proceeds to Lifeboat South East, a group for people suffering stress, anxiety or depression.

The next NVI program intake is in September/October. Click here for more information.

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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.

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Your guide to WOMADelaide’s market scene

Will you be one of 90,000 festival goers who dance the world away in Botanic Park at this weekend’s WOMADelaide?

The four-day open air festival is back from March 9–12, but aside from the beats, street theatre and visual artists, be sure to check out WoMade, a South Australian-only design market featuring some of the state’s best creators.

The market will showcase fashion, homewares, accessories and goodies designed and handmade locally.

WOMADelaide is one of the strongest instalments in Adelaide’s Mad March period, as almost half of attendees are interstate visitors, delivering $15.1m to the SA economy.

So do your bit in choosing SA by stopping by WoMade.

Stallholders include Bluebell Design, the Butcher Byrd, Colour This. Design and Print, Delilah Devine, Hello Cactus, Hey Reflect’o, Julie White, Naomi Murrell, One Thousand Lines, Renee Damiani Jewellery, Shanghai Lil & The Scarlet Fez, Squink, Wonder What You Were and Wrappa Reusable Food Wraps.

Here’s our top six WoMade picks:

1. Julie White 

Adelaide-based artist Julie White creates these beautiful bold and original silk scarves and specialty socks inspired by native flora and fauna, deserts and the sea.

She recently gained a Master’s in textile print at the prestigious Glasgow School of Art and her label is renowned in Adelaide fashion circles for its individuality and colour.

Julie White’s new Gone Troppo collection will have you missing summer. Big time.

2.  Naomi Murrell

Spots, soft pinks and sailboat stripes are aplenty in Naomi’s new fashion collection Paradiso.

She’s been designing clothes, jewellery and accessories since 2009, working out of a small studio on Ebenezer Place in Adelaide’s CBD.

The accessories, which include earrings, rings, necklaces and bangles, are delicate and feminine with a bright and bold twist.

3. Renee Damiani Jewellery

Just looking at Renee Damiani creations will make you feel happier.

The playful, bold and original jewellery pieces are guaranteed conversation starters and once you purchase your first pair of earrings it’ll be hard to stop.

The jewellery line is handmade from Renee’s Adelaide studio from a mix of hand-dyed plastic tubing, PVC, acrylic, plastic bubbles and polymer clay.

4. Hey Reflect’o

Finally, safety is stylish!

Hey Reflect’o is a funky cycling safety gear designer, creating vests, caps and bag covers to ensure riders can be seen when pushing pedals.

Just look for the fluorescent stall.

5. The Butcher Byrd

These leather pieces are handcrafted by Adelaide’s Sasha Carroll and made in SA from start to finish.

From soft travel bags to structured old-school backpacks, The Butcher Byrd pieces are examples of craftsmanship at its finest.

Think trusty leather satchels, totes and purses that last more than just the weekend – but a lifetime.

A post shared by Sasha Carroll (@thebutcherbyrd) on

6. Wonder What You Were

These one-of-a-kind eco-conscious accessories are festival gold.

Designed in SA, handcrafted using recycled textiles and made in Cindy Choua’s home studio, these earth-friendly clutches and zippered pouches are essential for carrying your coins, festival passes, lippy and other essentials.

Many of the fabrics are vintage inspired, mixed, and clashing – exactly how it should be at WOMAD.


Can’t wait until WOMADelaide to check out an array of local artists and makers? Head to Shop South Australia, Brand South Australia’s online marketplace.

Visit I Choose SA to find out how you can support our state by choosing South Australian businesses, products and services.

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