Another two fantastic Renew Newcastle interviews today – co-op retail space Make Space and jewellery makers Studio Melt. Renew Newcastle continues to go from strength to strength having placed 71 projects into 42 spaces since 2008! Founder Marcus Westbury has since expanded the program to Renew Australia, including programs in Geelong, Townsville and Parramatta. Such an outstanding effort and initiative!!  – Jenny x

Make Space

Edwina Richards out the front of at Make Space

Make Space is one of the longest running Renew Newcastle projects, going strong after more than three years. It currently comprises the crafty design talents of Edwina Richards, Jackie Smallcombe, Suzie Bailey, Trish Stenzel, Di Jones, Chloe O’Reilly and Allie Jane who together operate a co-op retail space, taking turns to staff the store. To ensure a wide and varied offering Make Space also stocks other local designer’s items on consignment.

Visit: 111 Hunter St, Newcastle.  Tue-Fri 10am to 3pm & Sat 11am to 3pm.

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

[Edwina Richards] I grew up in Warners Bay, completed a Communications degree at The University of Newcastle and moved to Sydney at age 20 to work as a writer with Greenpeace Australia. I did a Masters Degree in Photomedia at UNSW, worked there for while I explored my own photo art practice, and fell into film and television work in various roles. I’d just finished directing photography for a documentary, which I loved, when I found out I was pregnant with my first child. Ideas of time and space shifted. I started to love making functional things, mainly clothing at first, from whatever I had at hand. My family moved back to Newcastle the day the Pasha Bulker threw itself at Nobbys Beach, which I tried not to view as an omen.

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

I went from beavering quietly away in a chaotic domestic space to sharing a vision with beautiful and talented strangers (who quickly became life long friends) that was much bigger than me.

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

Ways to roll like a big gypsy caravan with fast changing developments.

Inside Make Space – how much fun!!

What’s your favourite local neighbourhood and why?

The stretch of the Fernleigh Track*, that winds through the back of Adamstown Heights and Charlestown. The bush is lush and wild with hints of sleepy suburbia through the trees and you may meet a family of swans if you seek out the hidden pond not far from the track.  I once came across a kid practicing clarinet in the old Fernleigh train tunnel. The acoustics are mesmerising, even the trickle of water through its old stone walls sounds like music.

*The Fernleigh track is a former rail corridor that stretches for 16kms through beautiful bush land in suburban Newcastle. It has recently been converted to a walkway/cycleway, with gentle gradients and coffee stop opportunities close to the track at Belmont, Whitebridge and Adamstown.

Newcastle’s best kept secret?

You’ve never seen your pink bits until you’ve seen them covered in phosphorescence at the Bogey Hole on a hot summer’s night.

Finish this sentence – ‘Newcastle is… ‘

Ready.

Studio Melt

One of the more recent Renew Newcastle projects to open, Studio Melt comprises two contemporary jewellery makers, Angela Hailey and Suzy Manning, who wanted to create a combined studio and retail space. Having an in-store studio allows customers to gain an insight into the production process of the pieces they end up taking home. Angela and Suzy also run workshops that teach basic jewellery design and production skills so anyone can create their own pieces.

Suzy and Angela of Studio Melt

Women’s fashion designer Sarah Harden of The Little Room also sells her creations in-store. Her tight edit of blouses, skirts and dresses made with eye-catching fabrics and modern cuts means new pieces are added all the time.

Visit Shop 4a, 113-145 Hunter Street, Newcastle. Mon – Fri 10am to 5pm (except Tues 10am to 2pm).

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

[Angela Hailey] Both Suzy and myself completed Fine Art Degrees in Sydney, majoring in jewellery and object related areas. Since graduating, I’ve produced small ranges of contemporary jewellery from silver, gold and non-precious materials and sold work through jewellery and object galleries around Australia and locally at markets.

Suzy has also sold through numerous Sydney retail outlets and galleries. She continued to study, adding a Graduate Diploma in Education to her degree and has many years experience teaching jewellery workshops to adults and secondary school teachers.

Sarah Harden, our resident fashionista, works from her home studio or ‘Little Room’ as her label is known. Sarah has a Diploma of Design and is responsible for all aspects of production from initial design through to sewing and pressing. Her designs are centred wholly on what she wants to wear, she uses small run luxury fabrics to create those pieces of clothing missing from her wardrobe that she just can’t find anywhere else.

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

Things are a lot busier! Working in a retail environment in the middle of the Mall is VERY different from working uninterrupted (and isolated) at home. Our shop also allows us to observe closely the way in which people respond to our work. There is also wonderful opportunities that find us. We’ve been open only a month and bloggers and interstate outlets interested in our work have approached us and many people asking for bespoke (custom designed) items. We just feel that we have jumped from being almost invisible practitioners working from home that have to constantly push our work out to customers to being ‘on the map’. It’s a nice change to have people find us.

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

It is not easy making a living in creative fields, but there are organisations like Renew Newcastle that exist to make it easier and indeed even possible for people like us. i.e. you are absolutely nuts not to seize an opportunity like the one we have been given.

What’s your favourite local neighbourhood and why?

My favourite local neighbourhood is definitely Newcastle CBD. It has the best architecture and slowly but surely is home to the best creative and independent enterprises. Over recent years nearby areas have been developed and bigger businesses have relocated out of the city, leaving a lot of empty space. Now great coffee roasting houses, Renew tenants, design stores and small restaurants are filling in these spaces.

Newcastle’s best kept secret?

Definitely the lifestyle and the number of arts-related people here make the town a very vibrant place with a lot of potential. I’m not sure that’s such a secret nowadays as people seem to be flocking here from Sydney and further afield. So, shhh!

Finish this sentence – ‘Newcastle is…. ‘

THE place to watch over the next couple of years.

- Siobhan x