I’m a proud Melbournian, but DAMN sometimes Sydney gets me a little… how can I say… distracted!?
Usually, it’s the balmy weather and sparkling water that beckons me… but on this occasion it’s something a little less glamorous. It’s the council. City of Sydney are just SO GOOD at supporting creative businesses and start-ups, I’m beginning to think Melbourne could lift its game.
Case in point – Foley Street in Darlinghurst. This amazing little enclave is part of the Oxford st and Foley st Creative Space Program, which provides affordable studio and retail spaces for artists and designers. It’s a sweet little laneway of five neighbouring shopfronts, each inhabited by a different creative business. We recently popped by and met a few of the inspiring creatives based here.
JESS POLASCHEK – THE TRIBE
With a background in design and visual communications, Jess Polaschek is the founder and director of The Tribe – a store, gallery and creative community supporting a diverse range of Australian makers and artists. Aside from simply stocking their work, The Tribe hosts regular events, workshops and exhibitions with her artists, and even provides an area on site for small businesses and students to do photo shoots!
Tell us about The Tribe?
I launched The Tribe as an online store in 2014, and it has developed from there. The name was inspired by the idea of forming a strong group, a family of like-minded creative thinkers and engagers, whether you shop with us, exhibit with us, attend a workshop, or help out creatively, I want you to feel like an important part of a community. Each member of our tribe is as important as the next, and they are all doing great things for our creative small business community.
How would you describe your offering at The Tribe?
Well made, eclectic, colourful, original, and fun! We believe art and design should be inclusive and have a sense of joy about it. There is enough serious, minimal design out there, The Tribe is all about inspiring happiness and creating connections!
Product wise, we stock a range of prints and offbeat homewares, everything has a story behind it. Affordable art prints are the area we are growing at the moment, we offer a diverse range from digitally printed, open edition, through to signed and numbered, limited edition, hand screen-printed works.
We support artists and designers at differing stages of their careers. We have the wonderfully fun products of Georgia Perry and Ahoy Trader, who are both quite established as brands, colourful designs from the currently booming conservationists Eggpicnic, as well as the very original cardboard art of Jeff McCann. We also champion the work of emerging artists like Le Riquiqui with her colourful, abstract, modernist prints and Earlies with his surf culture inspired screen prints.
What influences the pieces you decide to stock, and do you have any criteria for making your selections?
Firstly the work needs to be on brand for us, it needs to encapsulate that sense of joy and personality. Secondly, authenticity is a big factor for me. Imitation is not the highest form of flattery, and we try and work with people who are making every effort to be original, while still maintaining a high standard of finish and presentation.
I also love working with multi-faceted businesses and artists, the people that excite me the most are those who can create original artworks, produce high-quality prints or products and also run workshops or engage in events with us, all under one cohesive brand and distinctive look.
When did you become a part of the Oxford Street and Foley Street Creative Spaces Program, and what impact has this had on your business?
I found out The Tribe had been accepted into the program over New Years 2015/16, it was a fantastic way to start the year!
The initial application itself was the first way the program impacted my business, having to go through that kind of process is an incredibly helpful thing for a small business, I had to really think about what The Tribe’s goals were, and it helped clarify a lot of ideas for me around what we stood for.
Once accepted, the program’s impact only increased. Working with a city council and everything that comes along with that has been a fantastic learning curve, and having their support and mentorship has been invaluable.
The exciting part is the future impacts the program will have, the next three years is a chance for The Tribe to really thrive and experiment, take risks, become more involved in the local creative community and leverage the subsidised rent and support of the City of Sydney for the benefit of our whole Tribe.
The connections I have made through this program have had the biggest personal impact on The Tribe, we are now working with several artists we met through the creative spaces initiative, and all of my laneway neighbours are the bee’s knees. It is so important to surround yourself with a community of likeminded people, and I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of creative legends to share this little slice of Sydney with for the next three years.
What are your hopes for the small business?
To survive and thrive, continue to build and help promote high quality locally designed goods and artworks, but most importantly become known as a place for connections. I want to build a strong community of creative folks who are into collaboration and sharing their passions and processes with others.
Our mission has also become a lot about education – many people have forgotten what goes into creating something, people have been conditioned to expect rock bottom prices and mass manufacturing, this disconnect people have with how things are made and the costs associated with ethical and local production is upsetting. I hope we continue to challenge these perceptions and help encourage people to really understand the value of supporting small business and the arts… all while surrounding themselves with colour and fun, of course!
Visit The Tribe at 21 Foley Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney.
Foley Street is part of the City of Sydney’s Creative Spaces program which aims to foster the creative community by providing more affordable spaces for artists and designers. To find out about the types of spaces available, go here.