Studio Visit

Sarah & Brooke of The Finders Keepers!

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
8th of October 2010
Sarah Thornton and Brooke Johnston of The Finders Keepers markets!  Photo - Gary Compton
Busy Sydney markets! Top pic - Top photo - We are Messengers by Alischa Herrmann, bottom photos Jillian Leiboff.
Favouites Finders Keepers finds - ceramics by Sharon Muir, necklaces by Naomi Murrell.  Photos Gary Compton.
I'm sure I'm not the only Melburnian who has spent the last year or so hearing whispers about The Finders Keepers and wondering what we're missing out on!  Sydneysiders Sarah Thornton and Brooke Johnston launched their unique bi-annual event in Sydney in 2008, following up last year with their first event in Brisbane.... it's safe to say they've achieved cult status in under 4 years - and this month finally Melbourne gets it's turn! Sarah and Brooke are such an incredibly dynamic duo - I cannot believe they have grown The Finders Keepers from a 20-stall event in 2008, to a HUGE event of over 150 exhibitors held in three states already!  It's got to be the best example of what can happen when two inspired and driven creative girls put their heads together!  It's so inspiring to see what can grow from a simple idea between friends.  Brooke and Sarah still manage almost every aspect of The Finder Keepers themelves - OH and amazingly, they both still have dayjobs! Oh my! All Finders Keepers events are free for the public, and incorporate live music, food and a licensed bar.  The vibe is more 'summer festival' than 'crafternoon' -  it's not surprising so many crafty peeps travel interstate to be part of the action! I can't believe it's taken them so long, but Sarah and Brooke have finally scheduled a Melbourne event and it is THIS WEEKEND!  EVERYONE you have ever heard of who is any good at making stuff is going to be there.  Don't miss it! Huge thanks to Sarah and Brooke for sharing their inspiring story with us! The Finders Keepers Melbourne Markets THIS  Saturday Oct 9th and Sunday Oct 10th 10.00am – 5.00pm Shed 4 Docklands

Tell me a little about your backgrounds – what path has led you both to what you’re doing now?

Sarah : I spent 6 years in the fashion industry, working on both fashion & accessories. I studied different areas of fashion including design & business but got my foot in the door by teaching myself graphic design and landing a job at Mambo.

When I met Brooke she was studying jewellery & object design and we found we had a lot in common in what we loved particularly art & design.

When Brooke started her jewellery label shortly after graduating she was feeling frustrated with no outlets to start selling her label. I also had tried and failed at producing my own label previously and the local markets could sometimes be a negative and often frustrating experience so after a few wines one Christmas we decided to start our own.

We decided to give it all we had, with no money or resources, we didn’t have anything to lose but managed to pull it all together with the help of others. To our surprise in 2007 Hope Street Markets started (our previous name) and the opening night was packed out, despite the weather being so bad rain was going at the building sidewards we knew we had reached out to a hungry design community and there was no looking back!

I guess ultimately there was something so much more fulfilling when working with emerging designers, in particular handmade work and the local community it was an amazing experience and we have grown from there.

Brooke : We both have an immense passion for Australian art and design and with our design backgrounds and experience, it just seemed like a natural progression for us to start the markets!

Can you give us a little history on The Finders Keepers? What was the inspiration for your very first market, and how has the FK grown and evolved since then?

Sarah : As mentioned above it all started after a conversation with Brooke in Christmas 2006. At that time ‘handmade’ was just starting to emerge, and there was really no opportunities around or anything we found particularly exciting or inspiring in Sydney.

We started really small as Hope Street Markets had only 20 stalls, we didn’t have any money so everything we did was at low cost from our pockets, or donated to us. It was amazing how the community support came together at those early stages, Frankie Magazine was our very first media sponsor and came on board from the very start, their sponsorship and support has been amazing and I think they saw the potential before we’d even really begun - we were embarking on something that really blossomed from those early days.

From there we grew really quickly, learning and building as we went along and then changing venues to being hosted by the amazing CarriageWorks, and to our own name Finders Keepers in 2008. The expansion in other states was mainly inspired by the fact that designers were travelling from interstate to be a part of the Sydney Markets and we knew we wanted to grow and help support other cities as well.

We have evolved as a little business, we had no clue what we were doing when we started, we have learnt how to build the business backwards now with a more sound structure and systems put in place we can sustain the growth and manage ourselves a little better than the early days. Its been a natural progression for us and its exciting to know we have done it all on our own.

Our curated approach to the markets has meant that we have been recognised as a little bit of a leader for what we do. Getting nominated in the Sydney Morning Herald’s the (Sydney) Magazine’s Top 100 Most influential people for Design last year really made our heads spin!  It was such an honour being recognised as an influence in design and amongst so many other great people!

Brooke : It all started out of frustration, which is where we really identified the need for what we do. Having tried most of the markets around Sydney we found that there was nothing available at the time, which was both inspiring and encouraging for emerging designers. So we thought why not start our own and do it the way we want to! We took the pros and cons from our own selling experiences and created the Finders Keepers.

Brisbane Markets 2010 - Top image - Liana Kabel accesories, bottom - Chimney House Shoes, photos by Mark Lobo.

You have a lot going on at the moment, with markets scheduled for Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney between now and Christmas!! And word on the street is you also have DAY JOBS!? Are you CRAZY!? How on earth do you juggle everything!? Do you have a team of helpers, and which significant things do you outsource?

Brooke : It is a lot of hard work and it can get tricky trying to juggle everything, however we both have flexible jobs and very understanding & supportive bosses! We also over the years have been lucky enough to work with some very talented and inspiring people and now have a little team working along side us, as well as some amazing friends who always donate their time and talents. Thanks guys!

Sarah : Yes haha we are part crazy! Especially now it’s coming up to Christmas it really is the ‘silly season’ for also so much fun. It was a big decision to add Melbourne into the mix but we decided now was the time to do it and we didn’t want to hold it off until 2011.

We are both really passionate about this and if we weren’t running round like crazy doing what we love we might just feel a little empty inside! We love the feeling and the buzz when we open a new market, every time we get to that point we know the hard work was worth it. I guess its not a lifestyle for everyone but Brooke and I are always doing something, if its not working its creating something and we’re always the type of people that happiest the most when we are busy.

We outsource a bit of everything from art, music, photography, floorplan help, catering, décor and general event management help! However we always collaborate and work with others on all of it.

Sydney markets at Carriageworks 2009.  Amazing.

The Finders Keepers has what can only be described as a cult following amongst local independent designers and crafters! What do you think it is that sets the FK apart from other design and craft markets?

Sarah : It still feels a little surreal saying that about what we do! At the same time we have come so far and seen so much grow over the past 3 years we know we have made a big difference in what we do. It’s the best feeling and really what keeps driving us.

We also love that people come to us now to find designers to stock in their shops, artists to commission or collaborate with and collectives to work with or new initiative’s its just so exciting to see the community alive!

I think also when we started there was a gap in Australia, we found markets were lacking any type of curation and we were bored. We really wanted to see a change in this area, and we wanted an event to exist that we really wanted to go to! As much as we love craft, we also wanted to shake up the original association of the word craft with the ‘nanna knitting’ scene!

Brooke : We put a lot of energy into creating not only a market but a event, we want it to more like a design festival than just a market so we were always devoting time to the atmosphere and approach of our events. We try and involve as many creative types as we can and are always thinking of new ways to engage the community in a creative way.

Brisbane music!
What is one of your favourite pieces bought at a Finder Keepers market? (please supply image if possible!)? Sarah : The most recent purchase was a beautiful bag by Okt-ober Dee at the Sydney Markets in May. I am sure we’ll pick up some new exciting things this Summer! Brooke : One of my favourite market purchases would have to be my owl wall hanging from Melbourne designer Bride & Wolf.
Sarah and Brooke's favourite market finds - bag by Okt-ober Dee, and owl wall hanging from Melbourne designer Bride & Wolf.
What does a typical day at work involve for you? Sarah : I work on Finders Keepers Mondays & Fridays. Mondays is largely the website day, but can be a mix of everything! Frankie our online assistant and I work together on all the web content together and I’ll spend time with Publissimo (our PR company) on any press requirements. We post on our blog at least 2-3 times a week and try and engage with our community 5-6 times a week it’s an important part of what we do! Friday’s is Brooke & my ‘everything’ day where we’ll do anything from 5 meetings in a day to approving applications together, putting floorplans together, following up emails and phonecall’s and generally getting all our events happening or working on new ideas. We usually cram ten million things in our Fridays but laugh our heads off all day & try and squish in a good lunch on the run even if it’s a 3pm. We love working together! Brooke : A typical days work for us usually involves lots of running around with meetings and the like. We are always working on something new for our events so there is never a dull moment!
Photos - Gary Compton
Where do you turn for creative inspiration – travel, books, the web etc? Brooke : I am constantly looking for new inspiration and I find that mainly on the net, I am serious blog lover! I also draw on inspiration from my ever growing book collection, there’s nothing like flicking through a beautiful hard cover book. Sarah : Everywhere! I spend a large part of my week online so that really is our immediate point of inspiration and access to all things in the creative community. I like reading Australian and International design & art blogs and love a good magazine – I love art magazines like Wooden Toy, King Brown & crafty ones like Peppermint, Frankie & Uppercase. If we find stuff we are always sharing it with each other. We’re constantly seeking new things, and are fascinated by the innovative, but also the nostalgia in the old arts & crafts of the world. We also try and get out and see and do as much as possible. The thing we love with Finders is you get to see product and talk to designers in the flesh, we like to switch off from the online world and meet people and get to experience exhibitions. We try and go to as much exhibitions and events as possible to engage more directly with the community. That said we don’t get to do it as much as we would like to!
Photos - Gary Compton
Which artists / designers / creative people do you admire? Too many to name! We are always so inspired by people around us everyday! Here would be some a few creative people we admire: - Liane from Dinosaur Designs : has recently become our mentor and she has been a great influence on us already! - Georgie & Milenka from TMOD : We are always blown away with their creativity and innovative talent. It’s been so nice to see them grow from strength to strength over the last 3 years. We also love having a catchup with them they are great girls! - Christina from Made590 : has been a great friend and support to us, being a business owner, designer and mum of 2 all under the age of 30 she is incredibly inspiring to both of us! - Lou & Lara from Frankie Magazine : We love their humble beginnings starting Frankie and the fact their vision still hasn’t changed. We can relate to their story a lot and think they are the most wonderful people to work with. We look up to them a lot! What are you looking forward to? Sarah : We’re looking forward to launching Melbourne of course! We are really looking to build and grow Melbourne as we have with Sydney & Brisbane and making them all strengthen, grow and expand in 2011. At the moment we have also been spending some time on some ‘new areas’ holding our first design workshops this year in Sydney (at the wonderful Gaffa Gallery), which we are looking forward to also growing next year. We have been talking about doing some new events and building our workshops so we’ll start planning that in 2011. Our plan is to eventually be holding something as regular as every month and engaging with the whole of Australia. I guess ultimately if we can survive off doing what we love we’ll be happy!
Love those special ceramics by Paper Boat Press! Photos - Jillian Leiboff.

Brooke : I look forward to the future of the Finders Keepers and reaching goals that Sarah and I never dreamed of actually happening. I also look forward to the day that we can do what love doing for a living!

Sydney Questions -

Your favourite Sydney neighbourhood and why? Brooke : My favourite area would have to be the Inner west, where we spend most of our time: Newtown, Erskineville and Enmore, I love the leafy streets and community vibe. Sarah : We both love the Innerwest of Sydney for living! I love spending my time in Erskineville / Newtown / Camperdown / Surry Hills. We both moved from seaside locations (myself Sydney’s Northern Beaches & Brooke from Northern NSW) to be amongst a creative community and one where you can walk everywhere and be around the best food, coffee and good friends. What/where was the last great meal you ate in Sydney? Brooke : Delicious Tapas at a small bar in Newtown called Corridor. Sarah : Love a good breakfast and Bitton at Erskineville recently made me a happy lady! Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning? Sarah : Saturday mornings I love heading to the Eveleigh Growers Markets outside CarriageWorks for beautiful fresh food , flowers & coffee, conveniently it’s a short walk from my house! Saturday’s have to start with good coffee and spending time with my husband, and trying to get away from the computer when I am not too busy! Brooke : I love to eat breakfast out we usually head to a little café down the south end of King Street in Newtown called South End. Sydney’s best kept secret? Brooke : South King Street in Newtown it’s ever changing with great vintage, cafes and new fun shops popping up all the time and still very humble! Sarah : You can’t keep much of a secret from Sydney!
Crafters love bikes!

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