I have to admit, I’m prone to a certain amount of trepidation these days when researching and writing about ‘craft’. It’s not that I’m not a fan of all things handmade – on the contrary, we cover a LOT of handcrafted things around here, and in many ways, almost every story we run links back to craftsmanship of some description.
But, not all craft is created equal! Whilst the simple act of making is always to be encouraged, the craft that really excites us these days usually has a special magic about it – a level of skill or expertise that truly stands out, and, hopefully, a feeling of ‘wow, I haven’t seen anything like this before!’.
Some crafters are true masters in their field, and it is these intensely talented creatives who have inspired a beautiful new book by Melbourne maker, stylist and creative director . The Maker is a celebration of some of Australia’s most mind-bendingly talented craftspeople – people like Jacqueline Fink of (she of the giant knitting!), Benja Harney of (paper engineering wizard) and Bern Chandley of old fashioned chair-making fame, to name just a few. The book documents the talents of these impressive makers, and also includes a number of craft projects designed by Tamara to try at home.
Tamara is originally from rural NSW, but spent most of her adult years in Sydney, before moving to Melbourne two years ago. For as long as she can remember, she has been consumed by all things creative. Over the past 20 years, she has worked as a freelance designer / maker, creating props commissioned by various Australian stylists and editors for magazine features. She has also contributed countless DIY projects to many Australian lifestyle and decor magazines, such as Real Living and Inside Out. Since living in Melbourne, though, Tamara has been focusing more on styling and creative direction, which perfectly complements her all encompassing creative role at in Prahran.
We were thrilled recently to receive an advance copy of Tamara’s book. It is truly SO BEAUTIFUL, with photographs by one of our favourite local photographers and collaborators,. Click through the slideshow above for a little peek at the magic these clever ladies have created… and read on for an insight into Tamara’s hyper creative world!
The Maker is $59.00, published by Murdoch Books, and available for pre-order online . Tamara be hosting a book launch and market featuring eight makers from the book at The School in Rosebery, Sydney on Saturday 5th December from 10am to 5pm (details ).
Tell us a little about your background – what did you study and what path led you to what you are doing today?
I grew up in a very creative, resourceful farming environment, and my young parents always supported whatever creative project I chose to pursue. My childhood revolved around making and watching my mum run her craft supply store and teach craft classes, so my career choice came as no surprise!
Before leaving home at 17 to move to Sydney, I did my HSC while studying sign writing at TAFE, and experimenting with fashion styling and photography on weekends. My first job in Sydney was as a sign writer for a record store, and it was here, painting to loud music all day, that I made the decision to always honour my need to work creatively. After a couple of years I moved into a visual merchandising role with Sportsgirl, and then created and produced my own small clothing label.
By the late ‘90s, I had been introduced to and was now fixated on the world of interiors via Elle Decoration UK. Launching a handcrafted homewares range introduced me to many stylists, like and , who at the time were also in the early days of their careers. They began to commission me to make custom pieces for shoots and events. I feel so old thinking back that far, but my current creative roles developed organically from there!
You’re a multidisciplinary creative, juggling all kinds of styling and crafting projects with your role as creative director of in Prahran. Considering these varied pursuits, how would you best describe the work you do and your style?
My husband wants the answer to that too, he never knows how to describe what I actually do! I really just consider myself as a creative, and my style, which is a combination of uncomplicated nostalgia and modernity, is probably what keeps my various output aligned.
Your first book The Maker is due for release on December 1st! Can you tell us a little bit about this book and how long this project has been in development for?
Would you believe me if I said seven years?! Admittedly, over those years, it morphed from a simple book of craft projects into the extremely considered ode to makers and making that it became.
Full of beautiful photography by , and the work and words of 48 makers, the book embraces design and craftsmanship to inspire the reader to craft a space and ‘make’ a home, in the most perfect sense. This book is all about the spirit of creative collaboration.
What are one or two of your favourite projects included in the book, or some of your fondest memories in the creation of The Maker?
I had an amazing group of people, from my publisher through to shoot assistants, help me create this book. It really was a dream team! I will always have incredibly fond memories of working closely with my dear friend , who designed the book, Eve our photographer, my project assistant Kate Farrell, and conceptual artist Karina Sharpe.
Besides being a stylist and now author, you are also a maker yourself. You host regular craft-based classes for Megan Morton’s The School, as well as creating specialty props for shoots. Can you give us a little insight into your creative process?
It varies with each project or piece, but my process always begins with sourcing raw materials. Once I feel inspired enough by what I have found, and depending on how intimately I know the raw material and the technique used to shape it, I will either sketch something up or just delve in and start making, experimenting as I go.
I have my favourites, like macrame and embroidery, both processes I now know so well, but as a maker part of the enjoyment for me is exploring what raw materials are capable of and how far I can bend traditional techniques. This means that often my process will involve extensive research or sourcing before I even get my hands dirty.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
The only thing typical about my days is that they start with a round of hitting snooze, followed by a walk if I’m lucky, checking in with my favourite blogs while I eat a bowl of porridge, and end with late-night Netflix! What happens in-between is always different considering it’s always in response to the various projects I have on at any one time.
If I’m not shooting, I’m usually out and about sourcing materials or product. Then it’s back at the studio liaising with the studio manager, Carly Spooner, regarding new props and surfaces to add to the hire inventory, developing creative concepts for future projects, or staying back after-hours to paint sets for a shoot.
And then there are of course the endless emails!
What have been one or two favourite recent projects or commissions?
My favourite projects are those I do for myself, and because I rarely get the time they are SO satisfying.
Recently I bit the bullet, called in one of my lovely styling assistants Bronwen Loftus for some extra muscle, and updated my workspace. I inherited this office two years ago from Glen Proebstel when he moved to New York, and although it was already beautifully considered, I really needed to make my mark on it. Finally allowing myself the time to align it with my own style has given me a whole new headspace.
Which other Australian designers, artists or creative people are you loving at the moment?
I am always loving my friend, designer . I can’t believe what she makes happen. I think approach to floristry is so authentic and completely beautiful. Simone’s work actually led me to the incredible sculptural ceramics of and yet another maker crush.
Can you list for us your top resources across any media that you turn to when you’re in a need of creative inspiration?
My top resources would be: Hardware and salvage stores for building materials; art supply stores for craft materials; Pinterest for colour and architecture; and my inherited collection of 70’s craft and making books.
What has been your proudest career achievement to date?
Authoring my book, The Maker.
What would be your dream creative project?
Building my own house. It would be small, understated and all about craftsmanship.
What are you looking forward to?
Switching off and spending some long overdue time out with my husband this weekend at Sydney’s newest boutique hotel in Chippendale, , and a night at in Canberra on the way back to Melbourne!
Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
I still feel like a relative newbie to Melbourne so this title remains up for grabs. I am however becoming more and more fond of Thornbury, and can see myself moving there sometime soon.
What and where was the best meal you recently had in Melbourne?
Poached eggs and hash browns done to perfection at in Fitzroy.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
In bed with big ideas about heading Northside for food and exploring.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?