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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Global collectors blown away by SA glass artists

Glass artists from South Australia are gaining increasing global recognition as the state’s unique arts institutions help create opportunities on the world stage.

“When it comes to glass, on an international and national scale SA is renowned,” says Emma Fey from SA’s leading creative organisation Guildhouse.

She cites a group visit this month from Canada’s Corning Museum, revealing that Adelaide was specifically chosen for meetings with key glass practitioners over other cities in Australia.

Emma says that SA has “some really unique specialisations” that are a legacy of its strong teaching institutions created from the 1960s onwards.

She lists the likes of SALA Artist of 2018 Clare Belfrage who “has won a bucket load of prizes” and made several overseas visits representing her work this year among particularly prominent names.

Wakefield Press recently published a monograph Clare Belfrage: Rhythms of necessity exploring the significance of her contribution to contemporary international glass art.

Clare has maintained a distinguished practice for more than 25 years with her highly detailed blown glass making her one of the country’s most renowned designer-makers.

Clare Belfrage’s glass work, ‘A wash in greens’.

Then there’s the “extraordinarily talented” Nick Mount, whose work is represented in major private and public collections including state galleries and the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

And Tom Moore, well-known for his maximalist style and is one of Australia’s most respected glass artists.

Emma from Guildhouse believes the rich relationships between institutions like Adelaide’s JamFactory “where Clare still blows hot glass in the studio a couple of times a week” build a strong arts community.

“It’s feedback we often get from larger cities, especially on the east coast of Australia,” she says. “In SA we’re small enough that the ecosystem is dynamic and there’s lots of collaboration.”

The former development manager at the Art Gallery of South Australia took over the reins of Guildhouse about 18 months ago.

Established in 1966, Guildhouse was originally known as the Craft Association of South Australia, and is a member-based organisation promoting and supporting the careers of living SA artists, art students, curators, installers and arts workers.

Emma has overseen the peak body reaching record membership numbers, growing 15% to 830 members during her time in the role.

The organisation also moved to the Lion Arts Centre among other contemporary arts institutions in the West End of the city during December last year with support from Arts SA – which also has led to a “huge increase in the number of people popping in”.

Emma says it’s all about “connecting artists with the outside world and letting the magic happen”.

She refers to the organisation’s Well Made website – created to showcase high quality and bespoke creative work in SA and to give buyers looking for unique work the opportunity to connect directly.

Emma Fey from SA’s leading creative organisation Guildhouse says the state’s glass artists are renowned on a global scale.

There’s been a particular focus on strengthening the platform with Guildhouse last year winning a Google Adwords grant worth US$120,000 to spend US$10,000 per month on Google Adwords. The move has doubled Well Made website views, reaching up to 300 visitors a day.

It’s also seen an increase in enquiries resulting in commissions from the likes of Twentieth Century Fox to the City of Charles Sturt and The Gallery restaurant and bar on Waymouth Street in Adelaide. Emma says more than 50 artists now use the curated site.

“There are quite a few commissions coming through the website and we really want to grow that,” she says.

“We have a really diverse sector of artists working across all forms of visual arts practice – from the more traditional to new and experimental art.

“Some of the emerging artists are jaw-droppingly amazing. Likewise, we have an enviable cohort of accomplished mid-career and established artists that have chosen SA as their home and place of business – we are incredibly fortunate.”

Emma believes there’s been a gradual change among artists who look toward creating sustainable businesses, with Guildhouse supporting them through their website, workshops and funding opportunities.

“For a number of artists the language around marketing and understanding what they bring to the market place is something new, but it feels like that is changing,” she says.

“Still, the key thing I would say is that when it comes to succeeding, your work has to be excellent – the important thing is to have great work and from there anything is possible.”

Header image is of glass artist Clare Belfrage. Photo by Grant Hocking.

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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