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