Renew Newcastle – David R. Hampton & Zookraft

by Jenny Butler
Monday 30th April 2012

This week we welcome Siobhan Curran back to the Guest Blog! You might remember Siobhan’s Cooking From The Heart Guest Blog last year. This week she is profiling the inspiring Renew Newcastle project, an incredible not for profit program which pairs creatives and community groups with buildings in the CBD area which are vacant or awaiting redevelopment.  Bringing business back to this beautiful beach-side town and establishing a solid network of creatives, by the end of this week I can guarantee you will be looking at Newcastle real estate! (I already have!!) – Jenny x

Hello! I’m Siobhan and am super-chuffed to be showing you some Renew Newcastle projects on the TDF Guest Blog this week.

My story of falling for Newcastle is akin to a plot of a John Hughes teen flick. Girl tries to win affections of Mr Popular (Sydney) who is throwing mixed messages left, right and centre, such as a hectic work commute and exorbitant property market. Girl seeks solace from Mr Rough-Around-The-Edges-With-Beautiful-Eyes (Newcastle) who treats her kindly with holidays spent at crowd-free beaches and excellent hang-outs. Girl decides Mr Popular can take his insane traffic & rent and stick it while simultaneously coming to the realisation that Mr Rough-Around-The-Edges-With-Beautiful-Eyes offers everything she’s ever wanted in a man (city) and more. He’s all ‘Derr…’, but in a super-nice way. They kiss and head back to the prom to dance the night away (she moves to Newcastle).

Aaaaanyway… Newcastle. Yes! I am one of its biggest fans. This place is filled to the the brim with so much goodness. Renew Newcastle has certainly played a part in exposing some amazingly talented, driven creative individuals that make this city so special, and this week I will be shining a light on just a few of them.

Today’s tour of two Renew Newcastle projects demonstrates just how eclectic Newcastle’s design scene truly is. Both are located atop a favourite Hunter Street coffee haunt, One Penny Black in Hunter Street Mall.

David R. Hampton

First up, is David R. Hampton a man immersed in a Victoriana world of old-fashioned wonders. Locomotives, paddle steamers, submarines, giant octopus, shipwrecks, dirigibles, gaslights and whales are just some subject matter his artwork covers. His everyday wardrobe is distinctive; bow ties, straw hats, and woollen coats dusted with soot from steam locomotives. This is someone that lives and breathes their art!

David R. Hampton in his Renew Newcastle Studio

When David’s not print-making, drawing, reading railway magazines or listening to Dr. Who radio plays, he organises locomotive-themed holiday workshops and photo exhibitions at the Newcastle Museum, while keeping an eye on the restored steam engine housed within the museum’s walls.

Visit: By appointment only

Can you give us a super brief bio about yourself and your practice?

I’m a printmaker and illustrator with a fascination for steam locomotives and maritime melodramas. I was attending art school at The University of Newcastle when the concept of Renew Newcastle first began to take shape. Attending an art school that leaked like the RMS Lusitania and didn’t provide its students with individual studio spaces made the concept of a cheap and safe place to continue my artistic practice very appealing. Along with a couple of friends I submitted a proposal and we were lucky enough to be given a beautiful studio to work in.

How have things changed for you since being part of the Renew Newcastle?

Renew Newcastle gave me an outlet to indulge my passion for art and allowed me to turn that passion into something approaching a career. Physically separating the space I work in from the space I live in gave me the ability to approach my practice in a professional manner and pursue some very ambitious commissions. Using the studio I managed to complete 100 finished illustrations for Newcastle Museum in only a couple of months, whilst also producing huge prints to adorn a full sized operational steam locomotive!  Renew has also introduced me to an inspiring range of passionate and talented people. Life would be a lot duller without them.

One big lesson you’ve learnt from the whole experience?

How valuable a creative community can be in providing positive change. Renew has quietly reinvigorated the CBD whilst a lot of other people have huffed and puffed about removing things and replacing them with a multi million dollar whatsit and yet ultimately done nothing. I think Renew has proved that the world (or at least Newcastle) really doesn’t need another gargantuan shopping centre.

Some of David’s fantastic work!

What’s your favourite local neighbourhood and why?

Cooks Hill, primarily because it’s where I have just started living and the novelty of being able to walk to both the studio and the museum where I work hasn’t worn off yet.

Newcastle’s best kept secret?

Its incredible and dramatic history. Also, all the pirate gold hidden under the city in abandoned coalmines dug by convicts (prove that I’m lying).

Finish this sentence – ‘Newcastle is… ‘

Like an old steam locomotive; beauty and elegance shine though the grime and worn out parts – and she’s still ready for a hard days work.


Whilst many design graduates from The University of Newcastle split town for the bright lights of Melbourne or Sydney, Carl and Lara decided to stay in Newcastle. They’ve since carved themselves a raft of commercial design and illustration work as design outfit Zookraft.

Lara, one half of design studio Zookraft

An unassuming design duo, they also produce Newcastle’s only design festival Look Hear, encouraging local creatives to connect and get inspired by teeing up speaker line-ups that have included Beastman, Beci Orpin, and The Hungry Workshop.

To keep informed of Look Hear 2012 announcements like them on FB. It would make a nice excuse to visit Newcastle, don’t you think?

Visit: By appointment only

Can you give us a super brief bio about yourself and your practice?

We run Zookraft, a graphic design and illustration studio in the belly of Newcastle. This is where we get up to no good between long periods of painting, drawing and design projects. Our work is made up of a range of commercial design projects through to artistic commissions and we also created and manage the annual art and design festival, Look Hear. Before we had a Renew space, we were working from home…when our cats allowed us to.

How have things changed for you since being part of the Renew Newcastle?

Renew has allowed us have a dedicated workspace, free from the distractions of home. Our studio is a place of creativity and hard work, and has taught us to be disciplined in our work.

One big lesson you’ve learnt from the whole experience?

Almost anything is possible with enough determination and diligence. We’ve taken on some major projects that we weren’t sure we could pull off until we reached the end, and realised that we did.

What’s your favourite local neighbourhood and why?

We’d have to choose Newcastle (CBD) because of the handsome architecture, surrounding beaches and the variety of strangers open to all types of discussion.

The Sanitarium Building where Zookraft studio is located- what a lovely view!

Newcastle’s best kept secret?

We’re not sure if this is a secret, but Newcastle is centred amongst beautiful and peaceful nature reserves, perfect for reaching your inner Zen.

Finish this sentence – ‘Newcastle is… ‘

Evolutionary and revolutionary

- Siobhan x

by Jenny Butler
Monday 30th April 2012


  • Georgina 3 years ago

    WOW… It has been years since we went up to Newcastle. Feel inspired to make the trip.
    Cant wait to hear what else is new up there.

  • Linda Drummond 3 years ago

    We moved back to Newy 10 years ago because I could see the glimmering potential. To continue the analogy: it was much like Andie’s mum’s pink prom dress, it just needed a few tweaks to become the fabulous town we needed.

    There’s so much to love, and I think it’s precisely because of Newy’s special vibe that it seems to entice a truly unique individual to this town. There’s so much creative talent here it’s almost blush-inducing. It’s also full of surprises – like this gorgeous Sanitarium Building – how beautiful is that and yet I’ve never seen it before. Can’t wait to see the rest of this week’s posts – looks like you’ve done the town justice.

  • Robert 3 years ago

    Newcastle. Steam trains. Design. Creative people.


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