Makers of Melbourne

Welcome to Makers Of Melbourne – the ‘go to’ guide for our technically integrated age.

Makers Of Melbourne has been created to consume and assimilate Melbourne culture. We're male focussed, but not male specific, sorting through the dross to weed out the creative stars, standout events and stylish folk that make this city unique. 

MOM aims to embrace all facets of what makes this city a creative hub. Our aim is to inform without condescending – to keep you abreast of what’s going on without regurgitating Press Releases & to seek out this city’s sub cultures to give our readers the inside scoop on what’s REALLY happening with the people who make Melbourne Melbourne.

Filtering by Tag: artist profile

Interview: Sarah Parkes, Smalltown

Macramé is having a serious resurgence in popularity thanks largely to artist Sarah Parkes.

Makers spies Parkes’ handiwork during visit to the Fitzroy design studio of Kloke, with whom the qualified graphic designer shares an open plan space. However this isn’t the first time that her intricate designs have caught our attention. With pieces hanging in various shops, cafes, bars and offices around town, it’s highly likely that you’ve seen her work too. She has truly modernized what was, until only recently, considered to be a very outdated craft.

Sarah Parkes work in Mr Banks, Melbourne 

Sarah Parkes work in Mr Banks, Melbourne 

Months later we return to the creative studio to meet with the softly spoken Parkes, where she’s deep in the thick of knotting a commission piece bound for Sweden, her first international job. The large rope sculpture fights for space alongside a sleekly designed wall hanging, several lights, pot holders and in the corner of the room, a baby’s crib, where daughter Blue is sound asleep, oblivious to the controlled chaos that surrounds her.

Parkes: “I’ve always looked at craft books and was looking at macramé. I remember that I thought it was time for a reinvention. At the start I thought, ‘I can’t believe people haven’t done it yet’, macramé was always around but nobody was really doing it and I’m still waiting for someone else to. My love is the big stuff and the big commission pieces and still no one is, thankfully, doing it at the scale that I’m doing it, but I was lucky."

Sarah Parkes work in Arrow Energy, Brisbane

Sarah Parkes work in Arrow Energy, Brisbane

It takes more than luck to run a successful business, especially one within such niche confines, but Sarah isn’t afraid to push artistic boundaries. What started off as a career in small run jewelry design progressed into large-scale macramé after her friend, Rob Maniscalco, founder of Claude Maus, asked her to design a 7-meter wall hanging for his CBD concept store in 2008. Parkes followed this up with a couple of two story pot hangings for Space Furniture and installations for FUR Hairdressing. A newly discovered passion was ignited.

Parkes: “As soon as I did it I was just, ‘this is exactly what I want to be doing.’ I’ve been lucky to get some good commissions along the way, I get to push my practice in different directions, that’s part of the reason that I love what I do, I’m not pigeonholed into one type of design, I don’t just make pot hangings. I get to work across different fields.”

Sarah’s design business, Smalltown, is divided into two sections – Challenging commission work balanced out by a more straightforward capsule collection (made up of smaller, more budget friendly lights, pods and pot hangings). The recent acquisition of two assistants, who help out with the knotting of the capsule range, has helped to free up Sarah's time so that she can focus on larger scale installations. “It’s amazing having people work for you”, she laughs, “I did it for so long by myself and it took me a long time to feel ready to teach people.”

Parkes: “I shouldn’t say this but I think it’s [macramé] deceptively simple, however I say that after doing it for however many years… But really you can just repeat one knot again and again, it’s all how you move the rope around. It’s been really interesting having people in and realizing what standard I want things to be made at, and how important it is for people to get a product that looks like what they’re expecting. I always want to exceed people’s expectations.”

Parkes’ work is impressive, as is her ability to reinvent a once tired craft. The skilled tradeswoman makes a firm point of not working with natural fibers, therefore avoiding the retro connotations. Instead she works with colourful polyester ropes (all lovingly made in Melbourne), experimenting with spray paints and enamel dipping, all new and successful methods for colouring and molding rope into harder to hold shapes.

Before we leave the studio Makers can’t help but ask for a better look around. A large knotted curtain awaits completion, although it may have to be put on hold until her Swedish job is finished. “I love to make things,” states Sarah, “It’s been a slow progression because I don’t do anything quickly [laughsand at the moment everything takes a lot longer because the baby needs a lot of attention. I never would have guessed that this is what I’d end up doing, but it just totally clicked with me.” We bid our goodbyes as baby Blue begins to stir in her crib. As much as Parkes adores her work she loves her family more, and right now the macrame might have to wait. 


Interview: Kate Rohde

If a picture equals one thousand words, then the first photograph that Makers of Melbourne snaps of sculptor Kate Rohde has this piece written. Looking down to admire the resin-stained floor of her Northcote studio, we spy feet encased in clog-like shoes so spattered with the detritus of her creative expression that they camouflage almost completely. It’s as if there is this person that has sprouted out of two seeds planted in the very concrete upon which we stand.

The urge to use this image to create the connection between the artist and her work – fantastical sculptures and vessels made with a psychedelic eye for colour and form – is irresistible, not least because of the obvious reversal: her zoomorphic sculptures balanced upon small paws serving as expression of her fascination with the natural world, while she herself stands upon feet given the appearance of art.

Kate: “I guess I kind of put all my energy in to making the work. It’s pretty consuming, in a way: I get a bit antsy if I don’t get something done, some way, in each day. At the end of the day, if I hadn’t ended up being an artist then I would still make work in some capacity.”

That she ended up an artist at all owes more to serendipity than concentrated intent. Raised in a “very un-arty, tradie family” in the Dandenongs, the young Kate segued a passion for arts and craft projects in to art school.

Kate: “I never had a strong direction. I was always open to opportunity and things that came up. So I just keep going, really: I still sometimes think about getting a real career, something that’s in the drop down menu that’s in the bank. I just imagined art school would be the hold music in my life until I did something else.”

Happily for lovers of her work, that “something else” never materialised. Instead, Kate has spent more than a decade perfecting an approach to expression that first manifested with her intense love for dramatically decorative arts inspired by her passion for Rococo sculpture – an era that still deeply informs her practice.

It has been, she admits, an obsession: that mix of animal imagery, the natural world and an unapologetic flamboyance lighting in her the fire of imagination that has given rise to Kate’s own unique signature.

What is intriguing in all of this is the apparent contradiction present between the basis of Kate’s art work and the element of control (self-expressed) that impacts upon her own nature. On the one hand there is Kate the sculptor daubing her vessels with ad hoc lumps of un-worked clay and dripping resin, on the other is Kate the facilitator expressing concern at the “clutter” of her highly organised studio space.

Not so much a conflict as a paradox, and one of which Kate is very much aware. It serves as the basis for the dramatic push and pull that engenders so much of the artistic tension that draws observers in to her creations.

Kate: “Deep down I always want to be more crazy and more out of control, but deep down there is a part of me that can’t. Stephen Bush, locally, is one of my favourite artists and, the way he paints… He lets these areas be completely random and other areas that are controlled and structured and I guess that’s what I do in my work: let some areas go unconscious – dumping clay and not doing too much to it, and then the other areas that you really work it up, getting that really fine detail and finish.”

Her unique approach has garnered plenty of fans, resulting in an inspired exhibition of flora with designer florist, Cecilia Fox, as well as ongoing projects with fashion designer, Alexi Freeman and fashion super duo Luke Sales and Anna Plunkett of Romance Was Born (Kate’s work is currently for view as part of the ‘Express Yourself: Romance Was Born’ exhibition at the NGV).

Along with her ongoing relationships with Pieces of Eight Gallery and Karen Woodbury Gallery, and her three-day-per-week art technician role at a Melbourne private school, these are all relationships that keep Kate's work rate at a constant high hum. It is a productivity she enjoys, though focus is maintained on keeping some free space should an unexpected proposal stoke her creative will.

It’s a well-maintained balance – chaos and structure poised in life as it is in her art. Requiring constant recalibration, Kate nonetheless appears as someone for whom predictability could breed a feeling of malcontent.

Kate: “It’s always a learning process and that’s what keeps me interested – that ongoing acquiring of skills and learning of new processes. Everything I make I want to live with and I would want to have around me, and then it’s a benefit if someone else would like to have that in their lives as well.”

Interview: Richard McLean

Richard McLean is a total surprise package. An artist cloaked in the outer shell of a man of otherwise ordinary appearance. Yet the very word – ordinary – is at stark odds with the voice expressed in Richard’s visual and written work.

He meets Makers in South Melbourne following a few false starts. The meeting is a little rushed and Richard’s discomfort with that is clear. The artist appears as one who wears his emotional skin on the outside: an uncomfortable day-to-day proposition, perhaps, but one that surely informs so much of his arresting illustrations – works that vacillate between description of a poignant moment and pictures of moving torment finely wrought with nuanced tension.

Richard: “If you pick your life before you come here, then I picked a hard challenge. As the artist you’re on the outside of society, and it’s the same for people with mental illness.”

This last point is one with particular relevance to Richard, one who speaks openly around his own journey in coming to terms with – in his own words, “recovering” from – the onset of schizophrenia.

Yet as difficult as the journey has been (deftly illustrated in his decade-old book, Recovered, Not Cured: A Journey Through Schizophrenia) the artist appears to value the focus it has lent him, the drive to conscientiously adhere to a continual practice of self-assessment and self discovery.

Jesus of Suburbia

Jesus of Suburbia

Steinberg Still Life

Steinberg Still Life

It’s a drive he clearly identifies as being the impetus behind one his latest works,

Richard: “The creative spirit is, for me, centred around talking about you and your place in the world and making peace with your past. It’s recreating your self in a way that’s looking over your whole life in a present moment. And the ultimate reason to do all this is love - love of the self, love of another and love of the greater universe and the way you fit in to it.”



And the fit of Richard? Like all of us, he is continually fighting for that knowledge – expressing his angst in those stirring illustrations while revelling in the playfulness of childhood with Grogan the Monster, a bright and nonsensical children’s book that will be launched during mental health week this this October as a fundraiser for The Royal Children’s Hospital.

Richard: “Not all of the art is dire, and not all of it is tormented. Some of it is very joyous. But creativity is something I will always do. It’s something I can’t stop doing: sometimes you feel jaded, you have success, you feel satisfied for a while – there is this cycle of up and down. Just like life."


Self Portrait Red t-shirt

Self Portrait Red t-shirt

Lemon Tree

Lemon Tree