Tara Bennett sources the pieces for her Surry Hills shop, Provider Store, from all over the world, but in particular Scandinavia and Japan. ‘The first time I landed in Japan in 2014 I was so taken back at how their designs are made to last. They’re so well thought out and not as disposable,’ she says. ‘I wanted to bring those values home.’
Four years later, and Provider Store is an important part of the neighbourhood. Customers swing by to give Pocari treats, the elderly man across the road loans her his tools, and people stop in for coffee and chats as much as they do gifts. ‘Pocari’s become my store mascot,’ Tara laughs. ‘I can’t post a picture of her unless she is physically in the store now as people turn up and get real disappointed if she isn’t there. She’s started to think she’s the boss of Provider.’
Tara is drawn to makers who have mastered their skills over time. A family in Japan’s Shiga, east of Kyoto, for example, has been making shino-yaki pottery, with its scorch marks and thick textural glazes, for more than 30 years. ‘They have three fire kilns in the backyard that the uncle, the master potter, built,’ she recalls. ‘After he makes his pieces by hand, they are loaded into the kilns and for 10 days they are fired. The temperature can’t drop during this time so someone monitors it like shift work.’ Turns out there’s slow, and then there’s slow. ‘You see a lot of this in Japan,’ she adds. ‘Right down to their brooms and odd household items that we wouldn’t really put much thought into.’
Next month Tara will return to Kyoto where she’ll spend her days wandering the antiques market near the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, riding along the Philosopher’s Path, and meeting with new and old makers. ‘When I’m sourcing new and exciting things for the shop I feel totally in my element,’ she says.
Tara is a firm believer that you don’t have to be ‘creative’ to create something by hand. Provider Store holds workshops where you can pour your own soy wax candle into a perfectly imperfect Japanese vessel (their Komorebi candle, in particular, smells like a Japanese pine forest). Once the candles burn out you’re left with an ergonomic tea cup, which you can return to the store to refill. ‘It’s good for the brain and soul when you can learn a new skill,’ she says. ‘Especially one that makes you step away from a phone or computer and use your hands.’
Tuesday – Friday, 10am-5.30pm
381b Riley Street
Surry Hills, NSW