Riverland nature the inspiration behind Jax and Co

The Riverland’s native flora and prime horticulture crops including pistachios, citrus and olives are often the inspiration behind handcrafted contemporary jewellery label Jax and Co.

Maker Jax Isaacson doesn’t have to wander far to gather materials used to make the durable and sustainable pieces made predominantly from resin and reclaimed Australian Mallee wood.

“I use all local reclaimed Australian wood, and my signature wood is white Mallee, which is indigenous to this region,” she says from her home studio in Waikerie.

“It’s all reclaimed from naturally fallen trees or agricultural clearings, and I use a bit of orange, pistachio and olive (trees) that people might be pulling out.”

Jax and Co spheres encase botanicals sourced from Jax’s garden. Photo by Rosina Possingham.

Living on a pistachio farm, Jax can forage around the property to collect the fallen bits of wood, while she also sources botanicals from her garden and those of family and friends.

The botanicals are preserved and set in resin – a glass like material – and made into decorative spheres and ring holders.

“I am originally from Waikerie and the environment and area is very special to me,” Jax says. “I want to share the beauty of Waikerie and the natives which a lot of people don’t get to see.”

For jewellery pieces such as earrings, pendants, rings, bangles and cuff links, Jax predominantly uses resin and the sustainably reclaimed Mallee wood.

She will set about to collect the burl – a knot or lump that grows on a tree and often sought after by artists and furniture makers – before cleaning the bark off and naturally drying out the wood for 12 months.

Mallee burl. Photo by Rosina Possingham.

The wood, once dried and cut, is mixed in with the resin and set before the product is carved, shaped and polished into finished statement pieces.

Jax has a background in graphic design, but decided to experiment with resin kits as a bit of a hobby while at home with her small children.

“I always loved the bright colours in the resin and the durability of it. At one point I put wood into the resin and the outcome was spectacular,” she says.

“I was wearing one of the pieces of jewellery I had made when somebody saw it and wanted to buy it, so I let them, and I made another one and sold that too. I got all this interest just through word of mouth and it was really quite full on, I wasn’t expecting that.”

In 2016 Jax decided to officially start her own label, giving it a name and using her graphic design skills to launch the brand.

Aside from online, Jax and Co now sells in four stores in Adelaide, a handful of shops in the Riverland, and also interstate.

Jax says there is growing demand for sustainable and handmade goods in the marketplace.

“In the last couple of years I think there has been a real shift in consumer attitude towards sustainability. People are starting to see that the outcome of our throwaway culture isn’t positive,” she says.

“A lot of people are happy to pay more for a quality product that offers a difference, and is handmade locally and they can appreciate that time and effort has been put into it.

“I like the way we’re heading.”

The Jax and Co workshop. Photo by Rosina Possingham.

Header photo features Jax Isaacson with a Mallee burl. Photo by Rosina Possingham.

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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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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McLaren Vale centre of organic, biodynamic winemaking

McLaren Vale – one of South Australia’s most renowned wine regions – is often noted for being home to some of the world’s oldest grape vines.

But did you know that McLaren Vale is also home to a high concentration of sustainable grapegrowers and winemakers?

A local industry program, Sustainable Australia Winegrowing (SAW) is an initiative of the McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism Association (MVGWTA) and says the region is the nation’s centre of sustainable winegrowing.

The program captures data from 130 local vineyards and wineries who can identify as sustainable through a set of environmental, economic and social considerations.

MVGWTA general manager Jennifer Lynch says grapegrowers who are part of SAW account for more than 70% of McLaren Vale’s entire crush.

Grapevines at Paxton Wines, McLaren Vale.

“The evidence-based farming practices are collected through more than 130 different data points across seven different subjects of sustainability … it’s a very holistic approach,” she says.

“The environmental indicators are quite obvious (soil health, fertiliser management, pest and disease management, water and waste management) but you have to also consider economic and social indicators, such as their worker and social relations, community relations, and overall profitability of the business.

“We are ecstatic the SAW program accounts for more than 70% of McLaren Vale’s entire crush, and for a voluntary program it’s an exceptional membership rate. It shows the industry is conscious of sustainable production.”

Jennifer says 10% of SAW McLaren Vale members are certified organic or biodynamic wineries and vineyards, while a further near 10% are practicing (but not certified) organic or biodynamic producers. The remaining percentage use low input conventional management practices to control pests and diseases.

Organic farming uses no synthetic pesticides or additives, while biodynamic farming involves a more holistic approach, identifying the property as entire ecosystem and also taking into consideration the lunar cycle and astrological influences.

Members of SAW account for 70% of McLaren Vale’s entire crush. This includes fruit from Gemtree Wines, pictured.

But a wine business can still be sustainable without adhering to organic or biodynamic practices.

“The important point to note is that sustainability does not favour one particular farming method over another,” Jennifer says.

“Sustainability covers conventional, certified and practising organic and biodynamic, and low input management with integrated pest management practice. There are various farming methods that sustainability can encompass – it is a continuum.”

Some of the wineries at the centre of McLaren Vale’s sustainable winemaking operations include the organic and biodynamic certified d’Arenberg, Paxton Wines, Gemtree Wines, and Wirra Wirra.

Melissa and Mike Brown at Gemtree Wines went certified organic and biodynamic in 2011, building upon Gemtree’s history which dates back to the 1980s.

They say biodynamic farming practices make a “huge difference” to the health of the soil and vines.

Melissa and Mike Brown of Gemtree Wines.

“As soon as we removed the chemicals, the herbicides and the pesticides we noticed that activity was back in the soil, the vines seemed to become a bit more resilient and were able to deal with extremes a bit more,” Mike says.

“We’re not saying we’re under a beautiful cloud and we’re not affected by the weather, but the vines seemed to be able to bounce back and have much a much more even, balanced structure.”

One of the bases of biodynamic winemaking is the use of horn manure (500) to build up fertility of the soil. Fresh cow manure is put into cow horns and buried in the ground for six months prior to the winter solstice.

Last year Gemtree separated itself from the usual biodynamic producers when they aged a single-vineyard shiraz in a wax-coated French oak barrel buried for eight months underneath the vines from which the winegrapes were grown. The wine was completely chemical free, with no sulphur added. Another barrel was buried for 18 months.

Mike says the result was an “absolute reflection of the place it comes from”, and he describes the drop as “broody, earthy and textual”.

A 15 minute drive away is fellow certified organic and biodynamic producer Paxton Wines, a family owned and run wine business that, like Gemtree Wines, farms without the use of synthetic fertilisers and fungicides.

Paxton Wines chief winemaker Richard Freebairn.

Operations manager Ben Paxton is son of highly respected viticulturist David Paxton and says his father was inspired to experiment with organic and biodynamic grapegrowing after attending a conference on the movement in 2004.

By 2005 the entire vineyard was converted to organic and biodynamic practices, before full certifications were achieved in 2011.

“We had a desire to increase grape quality, we wanted the vines to thrive naturally, have better balances of acidity, sugar and flavour,” Ben says. “The disease resistance increased dramatically, and the cell walls are thicker and stronger.”

The Browns and the Paxtons both believe consumers are increasingly wanting to know where their produce comes from and how it was made, and Jennifer Lynch of SAW agrees.

“If we look at who the core wine consumers are and our future consumers as well, it’s the millennials,” Jennifer says.

“The ethical and sustainable consciousness of these consumers continues to increase.”

Paxton Wines’ cellar door.

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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JamFactory a breeding ground for craft industry talents

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.

Ceramic artist and designer Ebony Heidenreich in the ceramics studio. Photo by Andre Castellucci.

“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.

A jewellery maker’s workspace. Photo by Andre Castellucci.

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’s Adelaide retail space. Photo by Andre Castellucci.

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.

Stephanie James-Manttan will head up the ceramics studio in early 2019.

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.

Some of Stephanie’s works.

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.

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New botanic fashion label with eco layers

As models took to the catwalk at Raj House in the city of Adelaide last week, Lauren Crago saw the fruits of her design labour appearing in more ways than one.

Not only was she showing the first ever Solomon Street collection of ethical clothing after a hard year planning and designing – the collection also centred around her own designs featuring bold, fruit-inspired prints.

“At the moment the designs are inspired by fruit and vegetables, there is a real beauty in them,” Lauren says.

“The current prints are focused mainly on apricots and figs, they hold a special place in my heart with family, my mum and grandma, and my love for cooking…. I have great memories of me and my mum picking figs.”

The clothing range is also remarkable on another layer. All the garments were made from carefully selected, sustainable fabrics including recycled fishing nets, and were printed in Australia. The label was greeted with strong support for the launch at the Feast Festival headquarters in Adelaide’s West End.

Among the family, friends and loyal customers were other local makers and those involved with other eco fashion brands including Huntermade and organic sleepwear label Jager.

Solomon Street’s pieces are centred around fruit and vegetable prints and made from sustainable fabrics.

It’s been a whirlwind month for the entrepreneurial 25-year-old as her burgeoning label also opened its first bricks and mortar home in historic Regent Arcade off Rundle Mall with support from Renew Adelaide.

In a world dominated by consumerism, Lauren says it’s been a passionate pursuit. She first started Solomon Street to sell eco-friendly biodegradable textiles and stationery online about a year ago, creating bound books she designed and cut herself along with cards.

The name for the clothing and stationery label came from the street in the Adelaide CBD where Lauren previously worked at Fairweather coffee as a barista.

But she kept her eyes on the end goal; to produce her own eco fashion label. She is now creating bold designs then taking them to a Melbourne manufacturer for the fabric to be printed.

The fabrics range from organic cotton, a linen and cotton blend, and recycled nylon made from fishing nets in Italy, used in her line of swimwear.

Garments including bathers, leisure wear and jumpsuits are then sewn either by Lauren or through another Adelaide business with the final products landing in the store or being sold online.

Lauren Crago recently celebrated the opening of her bricks and mortar fashion store in Regent Arcade, off Rundle Mall.

“My inspiration comes from changing the way businesses behave, we are a very consumerist society, the fashion side of things is a large part of the business,” she says.

“There are so many facets to the designs. I wanted to create clothing that was comfortable to wear but in a flattering silhouette, it’s reminiscent of the ‘70s, A-frame dresses and flared, wide-leg pants. They are vibrant and fun but comfortable and they will last a really long time.”

It’s been a boost for Lauren, moving into the like-minded hub of Regent Arcade.

There’s a vegan juice bar nearby along with Have you met Charlie?, a gift store featuring homewares, jewellery and prints from independent South Australian makers, many with a sustainable bent.

Oh Deer Sugar is nearby with its non-edible bakery making ‘food for the skin’ bath and body products – all handmade in Adelaide using cruelty free, vegan ingredients to replicate desserts.

And there’s the small design studio Leatherworks Adelaide that specialises in quality, handmade leather goods. It’s owned by Lauren’s family friends and she created the store branding.

“I’m really excited to be in Regent Arcade, it’s known as a hub for a lot of young and up and coming designers in Adelaide and being part of that cohort is pretty cool,” she says.

Solomon Street’s line of swimwear is made from recycled nylon from fishing nets in Italy.

Lauren is also working hard to make Solomon Street a zero-waste brand with the current packaging bio-degradable and products which can be recycled or are also biodegradable.

She also says customers buying her clothing can bring them back for alterations – like tightening straps – to ensure they last longer.

There are plans to use some of the sales profits as loans for those experiencing poverty to gain financial support.

“I want to create ethical and sustainable fabric and paper products from beautiful prints that fund life-bettering projects for our local and international community,” Lauren says.

“We believe that humans are innately generous and kind. Our beliefs lie in the idea that even as one person, one team, one community, we can make the world into a better place.”

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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Bottling the nation’s best gin

South Australia is aiming to become the gin capital of the nation as 27 craft distillers produce dozens of award-winning bottles and create their own industry association.

Last month, Adelaide was also host to the Australian Distillers Association conference with its finale event held at the Prohibition Liquor Company Tasting Room in Gilbert Street where its owners showcase gins from across the state.

“We serve 40 plus SA gins,” says co-owner Adam Carpenter, adding that the new state industry association also held its first event at the same venue in August.

“We’ve been trying to own the title of the gin state, there are more distillers in other states but they don’t work together as collaboratively as we do, that’s where we have a real strength.”

The Prohibition Liquor Company Tasting Room on Gilbert Street, Adelaide.

It’s been a rapid growth story for the SA industry and the Prohibition Liquor Company started by Adam Carpenter and Wes Heddles in 2015 has been riding the wave.

The two have a range of five core gins along the selection, including the Original and the 69% proof Bathtub Cut Gin – “1% higher and it’s officially a dangerous liquid” – both winning a swag of national and international awards.

Adam and Wes opened their tasting room and bar a year ago to showcase their own gins produced at Applewood Distillery in the Adelaide Hills, along with 90 others from around Australia and the world.

They have educational gin tasting flights with many locally crafted brands rotating through the SA version. Adelaide Hills Distillery is in the mix at the moment, a clear sign of Adam and Wes’s commitment to supporting other craft distillers.

Their inclusion marks Adelaide Hills Distillery opening its own tasting and bar venue Lot 100 near Nairne this month. For Adam, it makes sense to work together to jointly promote the state’s rich offerings.

“SA logically is one of the best places in the world to produce gin, first of all most of us use grape-based spirit and we have access to some of the best in the world,” he says.

“Then we have that quality in the gin coming from the best botanical ingredients, some of the best Riverland citrus, we use Adelaide Hills lavender and there’s a whole range of bush ingredients.”

On the bush ingredient side, Something Wild and Adelaide Hills Distillery are making Australian Green Ant Gin with the unique bush tucker hand harvested in the Northern Territory by the Motlop family of the Larrakia people and the product handcrafted and bottled in the Adelaide Hills.

Ambleside Distillers in Hahndorf produces Kifaru Gin using native botanicals found at Monarto including mintbush and wattleseed – with money from bottles sold supporting threatened Southern White Rhinos.

Ambleside’s Kifaru Gin, in collaboration with Monarto Zoo.

While Kangaroo Island Spirits forages for native juniper on Kangaroo Island for its award-winning Native Gin, also using fresh limes from nearby Fleurieu Peninsula.

Some of those capitalising on the state’s top quality fruit include Rowland Short in McLaren Vale. He uses Japanese native yuzu being grown for the first time in the Riverland, bottling under the Settler’s Gin label.

And Twenty Third Street Distillery – owned by the Bickford’s Group and based in the old Renmano winery in Renmark – has created an award-winning Signature Gin with “tiny explosions of Riverland sunshine”, using local mandarin and lime.

It’s an industry daring to be different, and Prohibition Liquor Co is keen to continue being at the forefront. This month, the company is installing Adelaide CBD’s first functioning and visible distillery at its Gilbert Street venue.

The gin bar at Prohibition Liquor Co.

Red Hen Gin uses a copper column still for its London Dry Style gin in the city but it’s not on display. Adam says the new still will be used to make existing gins along with some new offerings crafted on site.

Prohibition Liquor Co gins are now distributed nationally through Dan Murphy’s stores along with other independent bottle shops, online and the business is exporting to New Zealand and Singapore.

Adam says the new year will see an even greater focus on expanding exports along with the two continuing to build strong relationships with other SA gin makers. Wes is treasurer for their new industry association.

“We were about the fifth on the market in SA when we started out, now there’s 27 or 28, it was all starting to emerge in 2015 but it’s just exploded in the last three years,”  he says.

“We have been working together well as an industry on an informal basis since about 2016 but as more and more emerge we are bringing them into the fold, we’re sharing the knowledge so everyone benefits.”

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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Sustainable hemp at the heart of Good Studios

Ethical fashion designer Anny Duff is championing the use of hemp fabrics to create her contemporary clothing designs with minimal environmental impact.

Her South Australian-based ethical and sustainable fashion label Good Studios features clothing and homewares made from luxurious hemp linens and hemp organic cotton blends woven in Adelaide’s sister city of Qingdao, China.

Industrial hemp is still a fledgling industry in SA, with a number of growing trials rolling out in the Riverland and South East.

Anny, Brand South Australia’s latest I Choose SA ambassador, is passionate about hemp linen as a sustainable fabric, which she uses to create simple and minimalistic pieces, with colour palettes of blues, greys, naturals, blacks, earthy oranges and khaki greens.

Hemp linen is made from the largely misunderstood hemp plant, which aside from the clothing industry can also be used in the manufacturing of some health foods, skin care, construction materials, paper and biofuel.

Anny is quick to point out the differences between the hemp plant and its infamous cousin, marijuana. While it’s a variety of the cannabis sativa species, the chemical compounds of hemp are different to marijuana as hemp contains little to no levels of the psychoactive ingredient THC.

I Choose SA ambassador Anny Duff is behind sustainable fashion label Good Studios. Photo by JKTP.

“I could spend hours talking about the vast differences between marijuana and hemp, they are completely different plants, just of a similar species. If you were to smoke a field of hemp you’d just get a headache,” she says.

“It was only recently that SA changed legislation that allows farmers to apply for licenses to grow industrial hemp. But we still have a long way to go.”

Anny works hard to ensure as much of her supply chain as possible follows sustainable paths.

“We have really tried to find companies who are doing really incredible things and we showcase their fabrics as much as possible with really simplistic designs,” says Anny, who has showcased her pieces from creative workshop, retail and gallery space Ensemble Studio since 2016.

“One of our suppliers is an incredible organisation and is the first Chinese company to be fair wear certified. We work with them to get their surplus and deadstock if we can, so we try to not make too much from scratch.”

Once Anny has sourced the fabric, it is dyed by Oeko-Tex Certified dyes before all design and manufacturing is done in Adelaide.

Some of Good Studios pieces are made from Australian wool, while the label’s line of swimwear is made from up-cycled nylon from salvaged fishing nets.

Good Studios also has a homewares line with bedding made from 100% hemp linen, known for its durability, antibacterial properties and for being naturally thermoregulating. The bedding is made to order with the help of Anny’s mother, a talented seamstress.

Anny says having a sustainable supply chain is sometimes a challenge due to cost and logistics, but she “couldn’t do it any other way”.

“There are moments you have to compromise but my mantra is to try and not compromise as much as possible,” she says.

“There are things you could just turn a blind eye towards but at the end of the day why should some people have less of a livelihood than you just because of the way things are? “Things need to change and need to be transparent.”

Anny founded Good Studios in 2012 after working in the film industry but longing to get back to the roots of her upbringing.

She grew up on an organic farm at Wistow in the Adelaide Hills and attended Mt Barker Waldorf School, a Steiner school offering an education rich in creativity and dynamic learning.

Ensemble Studios has a small retail space showcasing wares made by fellow SA makers, as well as a few selected pieces from sustainable makers across the country.

After completing Year 12 she got an apprenticeship in the film industry as a camera assistant before moving into art direction and production design. She worked on local feature film One Eyed Girl as production designer and set out to find simple, minimalistic, op-shop-style outfits for the cast.

“That sort of aesthetic of really paring back design to the bare minimum was really enjoyable for me and was definitely the first seeds of Good Studios,” Anny says.

“It (fashion design) started as something on the side in-between film projects but then it took on a life of its own and I was hanging onto the proverbial coattails.

“I had no background in pattern making or sewing, I have done a pattern making course since, but it’s been a baptism of fire making sure I work with the right people to deliver my vision.”

Filmmaking still takes up some of Anny’s time. In August she travelled to China to document Good Studios’ supply chain beginning in the hemp fields, and hopes to release a film in the near future.

Aside from Good Studios, Ensemble Studios is also home to two other resident designers, Beccy Bromilow of BB Shoemaker and plant stylist Emma Sadie Thomson.

“That’s probably the best thing that has happened from starting my label, meeting an incredible group of people,” Anny says.

“Consumers are placing a lot more value on the handmade and it’s such a human thing to make. To be able to do it for a living is really special.”

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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Robyn Wood crafting bespoke furniture pieces from Adelaide

Despite still being on the road travelling home from three long days at The Big Design Market in Melbourne, furniture maker Robyn Wood is keen to talk about her passion for the South Australian industry.

The talented designer runs her own studio from The Mill creative studios in Adelaide and is firmly behind the state’s craft and making industry growing its presence on the national stage.

“We have such an amazing culture for the arts, the next step is getting people to embrace the designers and makers, the artisans along with that, to somehow connect the dots,” says Robyn, Brand South Australia’s latest I Choose SA ambassador.

“I’m really keen to see the craft and making industry becoming like the food side of things, the wine, food and cheese in SA that is so well known.”

It’s been four years since the aptly named Robyn Wood – she married into the name, “how is that for serendipity?” – set up her own design studio at The Mill in Adelaide’s CBD.

After working as an interior architect for 20 years, her interest in furniture making was particularly stirred during a seven-year stint with joinery firm IJF.

Furniture designer and I Choose SA ambassador Robyn Wood at Neigbour Workshop. Photo by James Knowler/JKTP.

Robyn remembers a moment working with IJF after the Adelaide company won a three-year contract to fit out Federal Government embassies around the world.

“It was in Paris, 1995, 15th arrondissement. I was overseeing moving furniture out of an Embassy apartment complex as part of an interior fit out,” she says. “But this wasn’t just any furniture – it was mid-20th century. Timeless, elegant, iconic, built to last. It was beautiful.”

The experience stirred a growing appreciation for beautiful furniture, and in 2014, Robyn opened her own studio.

She now makes furniture and bespoke objects for architects, galleries and “lovers of good design” throughout Australia, selling at galleries, online, at two markets – The Big Design Market and Bowerbird – and on commission.

Her very first piece made for small production is a favourite, a hand turned timber base Bud Lamp. It drew committed fans among the 70,000 people streaming through The Big Design Market held in the Carlton Royal Exhibition Building last weekend.

“Some of those people at the market saw me there four years ago and they bought my lamp and they came in just to say hello and thanks for the lamp,” Robyn says. “I can still remember their faces from when it was sold, I have some bizarre connection with it.”

There’s also a Reflect desk, vases, candle holders, along with a glass topped coffee table she’s recently finished. Most are made from wood and Robyn has a particular soft spot for sycamore maple and “walnut is lovely to work with too”.

There are other pieces made with glass and steel, with Robyn committed to ensuring each is made from sustainable, renewable materials.

“My design philosophy can be summed up in three words: warmth, simplicity and connection,” she says.

Her plan is to scale back selling smaller pieces with the focus turning to one-off larger designs “to show what I can do” through exhibitions, high-end galleries and stores.

It’s a carefully considered decision in a local industry where artists and designers are working to raise their profile and build stronger business models.

Robyn is a member of craft and design industry group Guildhouse and features on the organisation’s Well Made website, also regularly attending its professional development programs to hone her skills.

She believes there are enormous opportunities to develop a more vibrant local industry.

“I think there’s growing confidence coming through from artist and designers,” Robyn says.

Her career has been marked by the local scene’s strength in collaboration. Robyn regularly works with other makers like Tony Neighbour from Neighbour’s Workshop in Kensington.

“Adelaide is still small scale, its designers and makers are a tight community and I have access to all of that, there’s a lot of old school skills that are still around and I’ve a lot of people mentoring me,” she says.

“The collaboration and skill sets in SA are wonderful, we have so many great makers here.

“Guys like Tony, they don’t get the press and they don’t look for it, but he would be one of the preeminent production makers in SA – if you speak to (acclaimed furniture designer) Khai Liew and others in the know, Tony would be a guy they would all work with.”

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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MJP Studio a showcase of quality craftsmanship in our city

Crafting timeless pieces that are made to last is at the core of South Australian furniture designer Matt Pearson’s studio in Adelaide’s north eastern suburbs.

The craftsman is behind MJP Studio, maker of handmade and one-off designs that are manufactured from high quality materials with precision and passion.

Matt has an eye for refined style and a drive to make use of SA’s local supplier base wherever he can, and says Adelaide’s strong support networks allow the small but strong craft and furniture industry to flourish.

Matt Pearson in action at the Hendon-based MJP Studio. Photo by Lewis and Wilson Photography.

“The thing about Adelaide is that people support each other, they support good design and culture, they give back, and that instils confidence in me and my business,” he says.

“Supporting local is incredibly important and it’s something I’m doing in my business as well, I use local suppliers as much as I can. If local businesses expect people to buy local then they should be supporting local too.”

Matt strives to craft furniture pieces “to be woven into the fabric of the family home” but also builds custom designs for commercial and retail markets.

The Husk chair features Australian Wool-blend fabric. Photo by Heidi Wolff.

He encourages consumers to see the value of investing in high-quality locally made products and not fall victim to “high turnover consumerism” where furniture is mass manufactured and likely to be thrown away – not repaired – if broken.

He says a market of consumers who choose well made and sustainable bespoke pieces does exist, helping to sustain not only his own business, but the industry as a whole as the effects trickle through.

“With low cost furniture, if it breaks people will just throw it away, whereas if you’ve spent time with a furniture maker along the process you become connected to the maker … good furniture is made so it can be repaired,” Matt says. “A lot of contemporary makers push that and it’s always something MJP Studio has always done.”

His playful yet sophisticated works are made from high quality, locally sourced timbers from Australian and American origin, while leather and Australian wool also works their way into the fabric on some pieces, such as dining chairs and armchairs.

MJP Studio’s coffee table, the ‘Crossover’. Photo by Heidi Wolff.

Matt is originally from Sydney and moved to Tasmania in 2011 to complete a Bachelor of Environmental Design with Honours at the UTAS School of Architecture and Design, majoring in furniture.

He had heard of SA’s renowned craft and design hub JamFactory during his time at university and ended up applying for a coveted associate position within its furniture studio.

Matt was successful in gaining the spot at JamFactory in Adelaide and worked under the guidance of furniture designer Jon Goulder before going on to have his own studio there for one year.

Matt says he made the decision to remain in SA because Adelaide “ticked all the boxes”, with MJP Studio now settled as one of the city’s high end furniture manufacturers.

“Aesthetically, my style is influenced by Scandinavian design and contemporary Australian architecture and I think that comes from my training in Tassie,” he 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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Agostino & Brown craft timeless pieces for much-loved spaces

From historic Adelaide Hills hotels to trendy metropolitan eateries and regional distilleries, Sam Agostino and Gareth Brown’s timeless furniture pieces can be found in popular places throughout the state.

The furniture and interior designers are behind custom furniture label Agostino & Brown (A+B) and are strong believers in the power of using high quality materials, while employing skilled South Australians to make the goods here in Adelaide.

“Our focus is making furniture in Adelaide where we can supply a national client base,” says Sam Agostino.

“We make everything in South Australia, we also work with other local makers and manufacturers to keep the making business local in SA.”

Aside from Sam and Gareth, A+B employs at its workshop in Wingfield four highly skilled furniture makers who have more than 70 years’ of experience between them in crafting handmade furniture.

The label’s showroom is based in Adelaide’s CBD where Sam and Gareth will meet with clients, usually interior designers after classic yet stylish timber pieces developed in strong consideration of the environment.

A+B’s work can be found in award-winning projects including the redeveloped Crafers Hotel which took out Best Hotel in Australia this year, as well as in the Stretton Centre which won Best Architecture Award in 2016 and at the Stirling Hotel which took the gong for Australia’s Best Restaurant in 2016.

Sam Agostino and Gareth Brown of Agostino & Brown. Photo by Mark Brake.

A+B works are also scattered around bars, restaurants and retail spaces including Twenty Third Street Distillery in Renmark, the Adelaide Central Market, Mitolo Winery, Angove Winery, the Feathers Hotel pavilion, and the Morphett Arms Hotel, among others. Other clients include Bendigo Adelaide Bank, Origin Energy, Westpac, Jones Lang LaSalle, RAA, Beerenberg, Monash University, Hub Australia, Qantas, and the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

“Having our furniture in beautiful public spaces designed by the most amazing interior designers and influential business entrepreneurs is most inspiring for us,” they say.

“We feel proud seeing our products being used by the general public and the great thing about using natural materials in our products is they tend to wear in not out, so they get even better with use. We welcome people looking for these same quality customisable furnishings in their own homes.”

Hub Australia Melbourne by Hassell Studio Adelaide, photo by Rachel Lewis, featuring A+B’s Woodsi table and olive stools.

Sam and Gareth started their working lives on differing career paths, they hadn’t yet met each other when Sam studied interior architecture at the University of South Australia, and Gareth worked as a chef in Adelaide before heading to Europe to broaden his culinary repertoire.

Gareth ran restaurants in the UK and France for many years before deciding it was time for a change, deciding to study traditional handcrafted furniture making in Bristol.

In 2007 he headed home to Adelaide, taking a spot as an associate in renowned craft studio JamFactory, and deciding SA was home once again.

During her studies, Sam had worked with designer and curator Khai Liew at Augusta Antiques, home to extremely rare and old Japanese, Danish, Australian and French pieces restored by hand.

Once she had graduated university, she worked as an interior designer at Adelaide graphic and interior designer company Enoki, and fast realised the difficulty in sourcing locally-made products.

It was while working for Enoki that she met Gareth, and later the two decided they would work well together and that making furniture from Adelaide was a viable venture.

Twig House by interior designer Allison Pye, photo by Lisa Cohen featuring A&B’s Tambootie table in custom colour finish.

Their business was registered in 2010 and soon after they began designing their first product, the Fig stool, a classically shaped solid American oak and Australian pine piece that “set the tone for our style”.

“Our furniture style is simple, functional and practical with a clean aesthetic,” Gareth says.

“It is always custom made with the highest quality of finish and construction and an environmentally conscious design process. We simply solve problems in manufacturing and the availability of good furniture. We respect our craft, value craftsmanship and enjoy the process of making objects that will last a lifetime.”

The main material used for their collections of tables, seating, storage cabinets and shelves, mirrors and lighting is solid hardwood oak sourced from ethically managed and sustainable forests in Australia and America. A+B also uses re-claimed timbers such as Oregon and Messmate, as well as quality leather, marble, stone and steel.

Sam and Gareth say design and manufacturing in Adelaide is of high quality and that the city is home to strong support among businesses.

“We feel part of an exciting, innovative and growing community,” Sam says.

“Adelaide is an amazing place to live and provides endless opportunities to work with prominent clients on superior projects.”

Header image: The Stirling Hotel by proprietor Sarah Matthews, featuring A+B’s olive stools and doughwood table.

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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