This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Meet The Leather Crafter Keeping Traditional Techniques Alive

Studio Visit

Walk around any of Melbourne’s major creative hubs and you’ll see an alarming number of empty shop fronts, or construction sites slated for development. With rental rates across Melbourne on the rise, many creative businesses have been forced to leave their inner-city spaces and come up with other options.

Such was the case for leathercrafter Jess Cameron-Wootten and his partner Krystina Menegazzo, who recently relocated their workshop to Ballarat in Victoria’s Central Highlands, after losing their previous workshop in Melbourne due to redevelopment. We chat to the creative couple about their relocation to Ballarat, how Wootten has evolved since we last spoke to them, and their ongoing commitment to local craftsmanship.

9th November, 2018

The enormous new workshop for leather crafters Wootten, who recently relocated from Melbourne to Ballarat. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Jess Cameron-Wootten and Krystina Menegazzo. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

‘Ballarat is an amazingly capable city’, says Jess. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Starting off as shoemakers, Wootten have expanded their range to include leather bags and accessories. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The new Wootten workshop is housed inside Ballarat’s old Gun Cotton Factory. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Historic footwear brands such as Rivers and Olivers have all produced their product in Ballarat. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Wootten boots on the production line. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The Ballarat workshop will soon house a shopfront as well. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Krystina and Jess maintain a Wootten store in Prahran, open Fridays and Saturdays. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Jess’ aim for Wootten is to ‘walk the line between traditional craft and modern aesthetic and process’. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Racks and other machinary were sourced from a nearby shoe factory that had recently closed. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The new workshop is right down the street from Jess and Krystina’s home in Gordon. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Wootten is dedicated to handcrafted, locally made product. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Sally Tabart
Friday 9th November 2018

‘Ballarat is an amazingly capable city,’ – Jess Cameron-Wootten.

When we last spoke to leather crafter Jess Cameron-Wootten of Wootten in 2012 he was excited to have recently moved his handcrafted shoemaking business into a historic red brick building in Prahran. After almost eight years of operation in this creative hub, earlier this year Jess and partner Krystina were forced to reconsider the future of Wootten when their premises was earmarked for redevelopment. ‘Melbourne rentals are insanely expensive for the floor space we need to house the workshop, so we had to think a little outside the box,’ explained Jess, ‘Ballarat was an obvious choice – there is so much happening in this regional city, so many amazing old spaces and a great amount of support from locals and councils alike.’ Considering the regional Victorian city’s history of shoemaking (both Rivers and Olivers used to produce footwear in Ballarat), it certainly seems like Wootten has found their sweet spot.

Now located in Ballarat’s old Gun Cotton Factory (just down the road from the couple’s home in Gordon), the new workshop has enabled Jess and Krystina to expand their offering, adding leather bags and accessories to their range.

With an aim to ‘walk the line between traditional craft and modern aesthetic and process’, design plays a huge part in keeping Wootten contemporary. ‘Our vision is to be able to offer a high quality, durable and refined range which we will continue to make locally, to try and maintain what is increasingly an industry in decline in Australia,’ Jess explains. Following the sale of competing brands like RM Williams to LVMH (the iconic Australian brand is now 100% foreign owned), it’s more important than ever that we support people like Jess to protect these historic and important local industries.

Retaining a shopfront in Prahran open two days a week, Jess and Krystina will split their time between Melbourne and Ballarat, and will soon open a second shopfront out of the Gun Cotton Factory. ‘Ballarat is an amazingly capable city,’ Jess explains of his new home, ‘Our neighbours are incredibly helpful and there is a real sense of looking out for one another and an excitement for the future.’

To find out more about the creative movement unfolding in Ballarat and to experience the craftsmanship for yourself, make sure to visit madeofballarat.com.au

Wootten (Melbourne store)
20 Grattan Street
Prahran, Victoria

Friday, 10am-5pm
Saturday, 10am-4pm

This Week

Shopping

Craft Victoria Has Your Christmas Gifting Covered

Works from some of Australia's finest makers on show in the just-released, conscientious prezzie guide - 'The Collector: Sustainability of D...
Elle Murrell

News

The Great Barrier Reef + Human Vulnerability Under A New Lens

A powerful exhibition by photographer Tamara Dean, created on a life-changing trip to Heron Island with the Climate Council.
Elle Murrell

Homes

Finding Bliss In Byron Bay With Courtney Adamo

After a year travelling the world, Courtney Adamo, her husband Michael and five (!) kids have found their paradise at home in Bangalow.
Lucy Feagins
  11 hours ago

Creative People

Alice Oehr In The Big Apple

Our favourite food illustrator recently travelled to NYC with iPad Pro in hand, care of Apple (yes really!) - today she shares her highlight...
Alice Oehr
  3 hours ago

News

Inside The Minds Of Australia’s Future Innovators At MSDx

The biannual exhibition from the Melbourne School of Design showcases our next generation of original thinkers.
Sponsored
40:47

Podcast

TDF Talks With Travel Photographer Kara Rosenlund

From photography to styling, to building a successful online store and lifestyle brand – there is nothing this wonder woman cannot manifes...

Shopping

A New Store For A Much-Loved Local Ceramicist

Celebrated Melbourne ceramicist Chela Edmunds opens her own store, Takeawei Shop, in Fitzroy.
Elle Murrell

Events

'Meet The Makers' @ Mercedes me with Stephanie Stamatis

Don't miss our inspiring Q&A with this top stylist, art director and Instagram idol!
Lucy Feagins
  2 hours ago

Architecture

A Futuristic Apartment in Footscray

BoardGrove Architects show us a glimpse of what the future might look like, with this sleek apartment renovation in Melbourne's inner West.

News

The Ballot For Nightingale Sky House Is Now Open!

You have 11 days left to throw your hat in the ring!
Sally Tabart

Architecture

Going Up In Albert Park

Dan Webster Architecture gives us the architectural answer to business at the front, party at the back!

Dream Job

Julie McLaren · Curator, Art Gallery Of Ballarat

Is the highly-coveted role of 'art curator' really all it's cracked up to be? Julie McLaren has the answers.
Elle Murrell

Food

Julia's Weeknight Pasta Trapanese

Julia Busuttil Nishimura shares a super tasty, super easy pesto pasta, but not as you know it!
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

News

Bec Smith's Cameo Role

A new solo exhibition exploring the beauty in impermanence.
Sally Tabart

News

Bean Bags Are Back, Baby!

Shop the new range of design-focused indoor/outdoor beanbags from Lujo.
Sponsored

View Comments

Similar Stories

Homes

Jess Wootten and Krystina Menegazzo

A simple though idyllic country home in Gordon, about an hour west of Melbourne.

Studio Visit

The Architect-Turned-Furniture-Maker Championing Local Craftsmanship

A workshop visit with Adam Markowitz of Melbourne's award-winning Markowitz Design.
Elle Murrell

This Week

News

Inside The Minds Of Australia’s Future Innovators At MSDx

The biannual exhibition from the Melbourne School of Design showcases our next generation of original thinkers.
Sponsored

News

The Ballot For Nightingale Sky House Is Now Open!

You have 11 days left to throw your hat in the ring!
Sally Tabart

News

The Great Barrier Reef + Human Vulnerability Under A New Lens

A powerful exhibition by photographer Tamara Dean, created on a life-changing trip to Heron Island with the Climate Council.
Elle Murrell

News

Bean Bags Are Back, Baby!

Shop the new range of design-focused indoor/outdoor beanbags from Lujo.
Sponsored

Architecture

A Futuristic Apartment in Footscray

BoardGrove Architects show us a glimpse of what the future might look like, with this sleek apartment renovation in Melbourne's inner West.

Homes

Finding Bliss In Byron Bay With Courtney Adamo

After a year travelling the world, Courtney Adamo, her husband Michael and five (!) kids have found their paradise at home in Bangalow.
Lucy Feagins
  11 hours ago

Food

Julia's Weeknight Pasta Trapanese

Julia Busuttil Nishimura shares a super tasty, super easy pesto pasta, but not as you know it!
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Dream Job

Julie McLaren · Curator, Art Gallery Of Ballarat

Is the highly-coveted role of 'art curator' really all it's cracked up to be? Julie McLaren has the answers.
Elle Murrell

News

Bec Smith's Cameo Role

A new solo exhibition exploring the beauty in impermanence.
Sally Tabart

Architecture

Going Up In Albert Park

Dan Webster Architecture gives us the architectural answer to business at the front, party at the back!

Events

'Meet The Makers' @ Mercedes me with Stephanie Stamatis

Don't miss our inspiring Q&A with this top stylist, art director and Instagram idol!
Lucy Feagins
  2 hours ago
40:47

Podcast

TDF Talks With Travel Photographer Kara Rosenlund

From photography to styling, to building a successful online store and lifestyle brand – there is nothing this wonder woman cannot manifes...

Creative People

Alice Oehr In The Big Apple

Our favourite food illustrator recently travelled to NYC with iPad Pro in hand, care of Apple (yes really!) - today she shares her highlight...
Alice Oehr
  3 hours ago

Shopping

A New Store For A Much-Loved Local Ceramicist

Celebrated Melbourne ceramicist Chela Edmunds opens her own store, Takeawei Shop, in Fitzroy.
Elle Murrell

Shopping

Craft Victoria Has Your Christmas Gifting Covered

Works from some of Australia's finest makers on show in the just-released, conscientious prezzie guide - 'The Collector: Sustainability of D...
Elle Murrell

Similar Stories

Homes

Jess Wootten and Krystina Menegazzo

A simple though idyllic country home in Gordon, about an hour west of Melbourne.

Studio Visit

The Architect-Turned-Furniture-Maker Championing Local Craftsmanship

A workshop visit with Adam Markowitz of Melbourne's award-winning Markowitz Design.
Elle Murrell