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: Melbourne

Interview: Oscar Lake

While the concept of what is considered good or bad sartorial taste comes down to personal choice and personality, it’s hard to deny the appeal of a man in a well-cut suit. It’s even harder to deny the appeal of a personally tailored suit, especially when it’s being offered as an affordable clothing option by Oscar Lake, a man who, at the ripe old age of 30, is proud to call himself Australia’s youngest tailor.

Oscar Lake photographed by Sam Wong

Oscar Lake photographed by Sam Wong

“I’m not aware of anyone else my age that is in this line of work,” Oscar begins as he sits down with Makers over a glass of whiskey at the Oscar Hunt showrooms, where the youthful blonde has held the position of head tailor for the past 12 months.

It’s easy for Makers to see the parallel between the tailor and his employers. The retail operation has its own humble beginnings; the once itinerant fashion brand was born out of temporary showrooms in both the Cullen and Olsen hotels before finding itself a more permanent home in the Melbourne CBD, while Oscar studied fashion design at Box Hill and was working in womenswear before making the decision to plunge into a more traditional trade.

“I thought that bespoke tailoring would be the most difficult thing I could do,” he says with a chuckle, “so I decided to learn how to do it.”

The young tailor spent the first five years after graduation working in Armadale before joining the ranks at Oscar Hunt. The way he tells it, the decision to move in to made-to-measure seemed like a no brainer.

The new Oscar Hunt showroom in Melbourne's Hardware Lane

The new Oscar Hunt showroom in Melbourne's Hardware Lane

Oscar: “I felt like the move to made-to-measure would be a smart one as the bespoke community here in Australia is decreasing in size. (Mine) was a decision to try and work with a business that is at the head of the new frontier of suiting, where service is still the most important aspect. We can produce something that is as close to bespoke and handmade but with less cost and more efficiency, but retaining the same amount of style and quality.”

It’s an important distinction to make: few and far between are men with the money – or even the desire – to opt for truly bespoke suiting. As American author, Meg Lukens-Noonan came to explore in her awarded book, The Coat Route, this most traditional of all tailoring schools is a dying art.

Made-to-measure offers the next best thing: where bespoke involves hand making a pattern for each individual, made-to-measure finds its niche in creating individualised alterations from a pre-made pattern. It takes a keen eye to distinguish between the two.

Tailors like Oscar, while not preserving the skill of bespoke, are at least helping to keep the dream alive by drawing new clientele in to the realm of tailoring with an option that finds itself occupying the high ground somewhere between off-the-rack and a true bespoke service.

Photograph by Sam Wong

Photograph by Sam Wong

Oscar: “We’re able to tailor for men with unusual body types and help them find clothing that they wouldn’t generally be able to find somewhere else. We’re selling a luxury product, meaning that our clients expectations are very high and they expect a good quality finished product.”

Oscar Hunt’s new CBD quarters tell the tale of a successfully growing business and – for Oscar, at least – the reason behind the rising appeal of a service that embraces both tradition and the day-to-day financial realities of the working classes is clear.

Oscar: “If you’re looking at a man across the room in pretty much any suit, regardless of how expensive the fabric is or how much they’ve paid for it, it all comes down to the fit. And if it fits well, a man will feel more confident.”

Oscar Hunt showroom  - 3/43 Hardware Lane

Oscar Hunt showroom  - 3/43 Hardware Lane

Interview: Rone

“I do become conscious of what I paint and what people expect me to paint. It’s good and bad: you become a slave to your style but there is also an ownership of a style that I’m proud of – that idea of sticking to you guns.”

                                  - Rone

Rone in his new Collingwood studio

Rone in his new Collingwood studio

There is a moment in Rone's new Collingwood studio that catches both the artist himself and Makers a little by surprise. Seated by a window as our photographer takes aim, the scene is interrupted by a voice from the street. “Can I take your photo,” comes the request. Rone nods in good humour and throws up a peace sign. The contented street snapper wanders off, but not before thanking him by name.

“That guy knew my name,” Rone says with a grin, shaking his head a little. “It’s weird when it happens, and it’s happening more and more. It’s especially strange when it happens in other countries: I get recognised in Miami a lot, and in London because I’ve been doing a lot of promo for the exhibition.”

London 2013

London 2013

Perhaps Rone shouldn’t be surprised.

More than 10 years after his beginnings experimenting with graffiti stencil art, the 30-something artist has become a fixture on the international street art scene courtesy of the stunning female faces that have captured the imaginations of all who view them.

Seductive, soft and in stunning contrast to the masculinity of the concrete spaces upon which they are painted, his choice of subject proved eye-catching for its very feminine energy.

Rone: “The idea behind the women was that everything in street art and graffiti was very macho at that time. You’d have a screaming face, or a really sexy girl or an angry looking Frankenstein guy. To have this calming beauty was different to all of that. It’s not shouting and it wasn’t over-awing, but I was painting in this overwhelming size so the piece still had presence. And, being posters, they would fall apart and decay but they still held their beauty. I love that juxtaposition, I loved how they looked on the street.”

Paris 2011

Paris 2011

Clearly he wasn’t the only one. In the past few years Rone's success is such that he has been able to give up his graphic design day job and become a full time artist: one who has in the past few months held a solo exhibition at London’s Stolen Space Gallery, as well as painting a multi storey wall (by commission) in Berlin as part of a project with Strychnin Gallery.

Just a few weeks ago he stopped traffic in the CBD, moving in a cherry picker to allow completion on a project for Rue & Co’s newly opened shipping container dining precinct at the Paris end of Collins Street.

It is the kind of success that has allowed him (along with his Everfresh crew of likeminded Melbourne artists) to occupy a bigger and better warehouse studio space off Collingwood’s increasingly gentrified Smith Street.

That is, when he is in town at all: international invitations to various events and festivals call thick and fast. Makers catch him just before he jets off again, this time to Taiwan for Pow Wow.

Rone: “I didn’t see myself here. Go back 10 years and the only successful street art graffiti artist, the biggest thing they were doing, was a tee shirt brand. Just to be purely living off the artwork – it was impossible. I had never intended to do it. I never studied art. I studied graphic art and I was pretty happy making my income there. This was something I always did for fun and now, 10 years later one took over the other…”

Not that Rone sees his success as merely a happy accident. He has immense appreciation for the street art movement, admitting to finding something exciting in seeing people operate outside the “flow of things”, in working out their own way to creative success beyond the traditional routes of art school and under studies.

He also knows well the trials of being seen and heard in what is fast becoming one of the biggest art movements in recent times.

Rone: “With graffiti you can start right now. You don’t need any training. And while that doesn’t mean you’re good, in that sense the numbers of people playing the game means it’s quite hard to get your name out there.”

Perhaps it’s for this reason – his visibility in a field of wannabes – that one finds it impossible not to appreciate his genuine sense of gratitude. There is the grin that stretches ear to ear, of course, but – more than that – this incredible feeling of enthusiasm and glee that he exudes for the place he currently finds himself.

Certainly one gets the strong sense that, somewhere along the way, Rone has fully made the transition to legitimate artist: he is unapologetic about his preference to paint canvas for private commissions and no longer works illegally.

Berlin 2013

Berlin 2013

There is also the due diligence being given to the evolution of his style, something the painter is conscious of contemplating as he moves in to the next phase of his career. Not to mention his awareness around balancing the offers of international travel against time that must be spent creating in the Melbourne studio.

Rone: “It’s surreal. This month I had to think about whether I was going to go to Taiwan or go to San Miguel, Mexico, because I need time to paint because that’s how I make my money. So these are my problems now – my ridiculously good problems. It’s a life I couldn’t have imagined having five years ago.”

Interview: Nkechi Anele, Saskwatch

Nkechi Anele fronts Saskwatch at the Palais Theatre, May 2013

Nkechi Anele fronts Saskwatch at the Palais Theatre, May 2013

Phone interviews are always a strange affair. It doesn't matter how much you prepare in advance, you never know what's going to happen on the other end of the line. Or what’s going to happen with your phone line.

It’s 1pm on a Wednesday afternoon and Makers is desperately trying to get a hold of Nkechi Anele, front woman of Melbourne band Saskwatch. Our PR supplied calling card has failed, and when we do finally get in contact with the diminutive singer our phone reception is faint and tinny.

After a couple of minutes struggling to hear each other I decide to hang up, with the promise and hope that when I call back our reception will be crystal clear.

I dial a complicated set of numbers but once again the call rings out.

About a minute later, Nketchi phones me direct. “It’s so much easier this way,” she states understandably after I apologise profusely for the shoddy phone line.

It’s nice to hear that after five years of recording and touring both nationally and internationally, success hasn’t gone to the singer’s head. The 9-piece indie-soul outfit have had a hectic schedule since the release of their second album ‘Nose Dive’ a little over a month ago and so far this year have found themselves playing a string of festival shows including WOMADelaide, Panama Festival and Bluesfest Byron Bay. They’ve also just finished up a support slot on British singer John Newman’s debut Australian tour, and were recently announced on the lineup for this year’s Splendor in the Grass. Not to mention that the band will be headlining their own national tour in June and July; travelling through regional Victoria, the ACT, Adelaide, Sydney and Perth before wrapping it all up with a homecoming gig at Richmond’s Corner Hotel on the 5th of July. 

Saskwatch perform at the Australian Independent Music Awards in October, 2013

Saskwatch perform at the Australian Independent Music Awards in October, 2013

Saskwatch started out as a bunch of University students busking outside of Flinders Street Station “It was a quick way to earn money to go out and party,” Anele explains while discussing the heritage of the group.  It was only after PBS radio announcer Vince Peach waked past the band that things started to get more serious. The DJ asked the buskers to perform live on his show and later invited them to take up residency at his soul night at Cherry Bar.  “That’s when I joined the band,” she continues “and we ended up playing at Cherry for two and a half years before moving into festivals.”

 Nkechi: “This is the second band that I’ve sung in, the first was more electro and Saskwatch actually supported us when we launched our single. There were a couple of nights that the former singer of the group wasn’t available to play and the boys asked me to fill in, then I was asked to join the band full-time.”

Things continued in an upward trajectory after those auspicious beginnings, “We were performing at Cherry bar and the night began to pick up to the point where it was selling out every time we played. There was always a queue and each week people were being turned from the door. From there we found a manager who helped us get on the lineup for Golden Plains, that was the big kick off for us.”

Saskwatch perform at the Heart of St Kilda Concert at the Palais Theatre, May 2013

Saskwatch perform at the Heart of St Kilda Concert at the Palais Theatre, May 2013

I recall seeing the band play a scorching set at the 2013 Sacred Heart Mission’s Heart of St Kilda concert. It was the first time that Makers of Melbourne had experienced a Saskwatch performance and we were blown away by their efforts on stage that night at the Palais theatre. I tell Nkechi that from my outsider’s point of view, the band seemed to go from playing the charity concert to suddenly being everywhere. (Laughter) “From the outside I guess it does seem like that. A lot of people think that we’ve only been around for about a year and a half when really we’re up to our fifth year of playing together.  I don’t know how to explain it, but there was an interesting period of time when my face was on every poster that my friends saw around town. I’d be getting text messages everyday saying “you’re on the radio” or “I just saw your face at the tram stop.”  

 I mention that the bands sophomore album ‘Nose Dive’ has a darker feel to it than their first release, the 2012 album ‘Leave it all Behind’.  “It was a little nerve wracking making the second album because at the time of releasing our first record the soul scene was huge here in Melbourne. We were trying to keep our writing up to that original standard of music, while moving away from that soul movement. We didn’t want to fall into the trap of being a novelty soul band that could only play themed nights. It sounds so exclusive, and creatively being a soul band is quite limiting. As much as the scene had helped us, it felt like it was time to move away and establish ourselves as a more serious band in our own right. The second album was written as a reaction to personal experience.”

 She continues “Our first album felt like a party album and I think that’s because we established ourselves in a bar where it was like a party every week. Now we’ve grown up and have moved away from that university lifestyle, we’ve started taking on responsibilities. Moving through life there are some dark sides to relationships and reality and I think we’ve all reached the stage where we are happy explore that. The culture that we find ourselves in as a band reflects our creative output.” 

Interview: Rob Adams, Urban Designer

The city is its own fragile eco system and, like all eco systems, is damaged – or dies – usually because of a lack of understanding about what nurtures it.”

                                                                                         - Rob Adams

When Rob Adams relates the city of Melbourne to “a fragile eco-system”, be clear in the understanding that this is a well-thought sentence owing nothing to hyperbole. As our city’s chief urban designer for the past 30 years (and counting), Rob is well acquainted with the intricate interplays of space, design, utilities and movement that turn a collection of concrete and asphalt in to an environment capable of sustaining creative life.

It’s not too much to say that he, along with his team, has nurtured Melbourne back to life with such success that – for most of the city’s current inhabitants – it appears there has never not been a time when ours was the epicentre of food, fashion and festivals.

Rob: "Most people think laneways have always had coffee shops in them, but if you’re looking at side walk cafes there were probably only two in the central city in 1985 compared to about 450 in 2014.  It’s the cumulative effect over 30 years of just slowly improving what are signatures of Melbourne. A lot of the works that we do are tiny interventions – we’ve taken out 30 hectares of asphalt in the city by building bigger side walks, turned roundabouts in to green space and widened median strips to make playgrounds – people don’t notice, but we do them hundreds of times a year and then, in time, you get the result.”

Outdoor cafes in the CDB - growth in numbers between 1983-2004

Outdoor cafes in the CDB - growth in numbers between 1983-2004

But like any paternal figure, Rob knows the truth of his charge’s history: the growing pains resulting in challenges that – almost paradoxically – have led Melbourne to becoming the lauded landscape it is today.

It started in the ‘80s, when a groundswell of opposition rose against the destruction of ‘Marvellous Melbourne.’  Combine this with an exodus of retail from the CBD as everyone moved to suburban shopping centres, and a council that was too broke to enact grand schemes – underground trams, and big structures built atop the historic Queen Vic Market – and the stage was set for a man of particular vision to restore the landscape much as a trained art conservateur might restore a Da Vinci: with a sure and subtle touch. 

Rob: “It starts with a political movement more than anything, so I was fortunate enough to arrive here at a time when the politicians had come in to change Melbourne. Their vision was very simple – they wanted the centre of Melbourne to become a 24-hour city, but they wanted it to look and feel like Melbourne. Nobody wanted Dallas.”

Without the cash to splash, moderations had to make the most of the landscape that was already there. Sure, the reinvigoration of the famed laneways were a large part of it, but so, too, was the reconnection of the city to the Yarra, the expansion of green space and – key to it all – the bringing back of human life in to the frame of the city’s daily function. 

Birrarung Marr - the first new park near Melbourne's CBD in over a century

Birrarung Marr - the first new park near Melbourne's CBD in over a century

It’s a sure fire equation for success when enacted sympathetically: much of the difference between central London and central Paris – Haussmanian planning aside – is the presence of living residents in every street of the French capital city. That kind of pedestrian interaction that brings normality and continual movement.

Rob: “On the back of the collapse of the economy in the late ‘80s we came up with a project to turn commercial buildings in to residential – it succeeded in taking a whole lot of existing buildings and putting them in to multiple ownership. Ironically, the one thing that will now save the city from over development are these same small scale buildings – the Hero and the Majorca buildings – that will be difficult to develop because of the fact of having to get all these different owners to agree to sale at the same moment.”

The last is a comment forthcoming, not as a result of paranoia, but in response to recent planning decisions that Rob (and others in the know) fear are already on the way to upsetting Melbourne’s fragile balance.

Because despite their concrete spines, cities are fluid. As such, both changes and challenges are continual. Rob talks of the damage that is being wreaked by the current allowance permitting developers to build to up to 56 times the site area, something he says no other city in the world permits.

(Translated, this means a structure with full site coverage can rise up to 56 storeys, or with half site coverage, On a double site, a tower could reach 112 floors high.)

In some ways it could be said that the very success of Rob’s work has turned against him: so accustomed have we all become to the beauty and usability of our city, that it appears we may have forgotten how delicate a balance it is to maintain. That a city we feel has always been thus took no less than 30 years of thoughtful planning to construct.

Rob: “The city is its own fragile eco system, and like all eco systems it will die usually because of a lack of understanding about what nurtures it: too much fish out of the ocean, too many trees taken down. Right now I have never seen the take out of the city as huge as it is without having anything being put back.”

It is difficult not to feel panicked by Rob’s point of view. Certainly he himself feels deeply the change of focus, knowing Melbourne as well as he does.

And perhaps this, in the end, is what makes an audience with Rob so revelatory. While as residents we love to talk up the city’s creative heart, its Euro vibe and thinking-person’s tag, Rob is capable of pinpointing the programs and decisions that contribute to what goes in to creating what is essentially an ephemeral feeling.

The arts and events strategies that serves to broaden our cultural horizons while contributing financially to the city’s needs (“the return for the dollar is $1 given to $11 back for the arts; for road projects you are lucky to get $1 back”), the secret, “funny” spaces, carefully planned for, that make Melbourne a city for exploration in the model of its European cousins.

The State Library on Swanston Street during the White Night Festival

The State Library on Swanston Street during the White Night Festival

Rob: “Look at the difference between our newer areas Southbank and Docklands and the CBD: people like to walk through Melbourne, go inside and find a bar, and then someone directs them down a dog leg lane with rubbish bins in it to the next stopping point. They feel they are discovering a place for the first time. Kill all the opportunities for secrets and turn them in to a single product, and you kill the dream.”

For Rob, the death of that dream – his dream – would be a tragedy.

Rob: “I think Melbourne’s a cerebral city. This is a city where people get pleasure out of coming together, having conversations, talking about creative ideas and developing those creative ideas. And the future is in asking the question – how do we hang on to these things?” 

Interview: Patrick Martinez

My family were blue collar working people. I didn’t know anyone in galleries or whatever. I use that difference as ammo: to keep working and pushing and keep it honest.”

-       Patrick Martinez

Patrick Martinez

Patrick Martinez

When local shoppers of the Los Angeles-area supermarket, El Tapatio Markets, took to the their ritual visit in October last year, they could have been excused for failing to notice, well, a little subtle redecoration.

Forget a new chocolate display, this was a full-scale, contemporary fine art installation: from the neon works casting subversive comments on life as we have become accustomed to living it, to the mixed media works camouflaged by our own indifference (think a plaster and paint Tupac ‘cake’ slipped in the dessert cool freeze). 

The artist was Patrick Martinez, the exhibition was “Break Bread” and the sentiment is something Makers sits with him to discuss off the back of his compelling Carbon forum as he prepares to return home following a brief visit to Melbourne.

"break bread market installation" - A one day site specific installation in a market context 2013   - Photos by Brandon Shigeta

"break bread market installation" - A one day site specific installation in a market context 2013

 - Photos by Brandon Shigeta

In a new art landscape where widespread interest in graffiti is being used by street artists as a launch pad in to an artistic career, Martinez presented as something different: a young artist of incredible focus for whom graffiti simply served as a small step on the climb up the fine art ladder.

Patrick: “The graffiti stuff, it’s place in my art was kind of like putting together a piece with colour and composition and subject: I was doing my drawing, then it was marker drawing and then it was a spray can that I picked up and then I was 22-years-old and always doing canvas work. It’s part of the journey.”

The “journey” is something Patrick has been on since sketching his way through a childhood filled with likeminded artistic family members who, despite their gifts, never succeeded in converting their creative passions (photography for his father, painting and sculpting for his grandfather and uncle) in to viable careers. 

'A dream deferred' - Neon 2013

'A dream deferred' - Neon 2013

But perhaps it was his mother that most influenced him, a woman with a passion for objects that got him thinking about the way we use decoration to construct the set that works as the backdrop to the performance of our lives.

Patrick: “She would buy things that she thought would enhance our house, but it was not quite right – china that was not great or mirrors with frosted bouquets of flowers that were meant to imitate a Rococco frame. She was just trying to work with what she had and that was interesting to me: people really try to dress up their situation and that stuff is inspiring to me if anything.”

Perhaps it’s this genuine curiosity and lack of judgement that (for the most part) saves Patrick’s works from falling victim to cynicism. In its place there is a spirit of the quizzical observer who is keen to present us all with a different perspective on life’s more mundane freeze frames. 

'Bread, butter, milk and eggs' - mixed media on acrylic plex and neon 2012

'Bread, butter, milk and eggs' - mixed media on acrylic plex and neon 2012

Patrick refers to it as keeping his gaze on “the phenomenology of his surroundings”. And it is this idea behind the art – as opposed to the catchy neon light box works that have garnered him such attention – that he prefers to think of as defining his artistic vocabulary.

Patrick: “I understand that right now, with technology, the neons are easy to digest. The internet is visual. It’s a perfect square to fit instagram which, as a medium, just kills for that stuff. It’s seductive. Having said that what I find interesting is the way that social media and the internet just gets it and multiplies it. But it’s not really my signature.”

So while we’re all busy regraming his incisive commentary – Pawn Your Dream For A 9-5 – Patrick is birthing his next powerful expression.

'Tough love' - Melted down hand guns, hard plastic, metal (bow) automotive paint with flake and clear 2012

'Tough love' - Melted down hand guns, hard plastic, metal (bow) automotive paint with flake and clear 2012

Patrick: “I love to be in my studio and just have my ideas and some of them are set and some of them come at me and I am taken aback – I will have to work on that piece.  Right now I’m working on an eight-foot by sixteen-foot piece and it’s huge but I had to stop because I was slammed by inspiration for another piece, and then I’m also working an a sculpture right now. It’s just about continuing to create and find that relationship in what it is I’m creating.

'Savage Journey To The American Dream' - mixed media on plex and neon 2012

'Savage Journey To The American Dream' - mixed media on plex and neon 2012