Ten years on from its inception, Bowerbird Design Market is etched into the calendars of South Australians seeking creative and unique designs.
Bowerbird: Meet the makers
Ten years ago, Bowerbird Design Market was just emerging on Adelaide’s design scene. There were 40 stallholders in the Queens Theatre.
A decade on, the market is onto its third venue, with 200 stallholders packing into the Adelaide Showgrounds.
The brain behind the event, Jane Barwick, was working as a contemporary jeweller and exhibiting at interstate and overseas design events, when she realised there were almost no South Australians involved.
“There was a need for a curated platform in Adelaide where South Australians could promote and sell directly to the public,” Jane says.
“Bringing all these designers and makers together, local and interstate, emerging and established, was always an intentional part of our approach for the sharing of information and the opportunities that this creates.”
The market has now grown to include food and beverages — Friday night is promoted as an after-work experience, with a bar, cocktails and roving drinks trolley. Saturday and Sunday is all about families, with children’s activities on offer.
A host of stallholders have been returning to the market year after year since its inception, and they’re continually bringing on fresh talent.
Kyrie Kolhagen has been setting up her Bowerbird stall for a decade. “The energy, the inspiration, the vibrancy and connection bring me back year after year,” she says.
In the early days, Kyrie sold stationery products, and has now shifted focus to her wellness brand, Kindred Self.
Kyrie started Kindred Self four years ago, after completing a psychotherapy qualification. She’d used essential oils for emotional support during a health crisis years earlier, so her self-care range, including pure oil blends and mists, was a natural step.
Because Kyrie’s products are sold through different retail outlets, she often misses out on customer reaction, unless they stop by her Port Adelaide shop, so being at Bowerbird gives her that chance to connect with the public.
“I love seeing my customers exploring and sampling the range. It helps to know I am on the right track when they share with me what they like, hearing how they use my products day-to-day, and even what doesn’t work for them.”
Kyrie has seen the market evolve over the decade, making connections and friendships along the way. “When you are a sole trader or creative working from home, these kinds of events are such a support from a networking point of view. It’s amazing to meet and connect with people who also work independently and know the struggles and challenges of running your own creative business.”
Linda Marek quite simply credits Bowerbird with the success of her business. She started out creating artworks and decorative homewares and the brand has since evolved into jewellery label Linda Marek Design.
“I’d only been running my business for about four months when I did that first event and I took my very first wholesale order — I had no idea what I was doing, it was quite hilarious,” she says. “Fortunately, my neighbouring stallholder was a very seasoned wholesaler and he helped me through the process, explaining how to write up an invoice.”
That experience sums up exactly what Bowerbird is about for Linda, who has made lasting friendships with other creatives.
She also relishes the chance to meet customers. “I’ve actually designed a new pair of earrings after chatting to someone at Bowerbird. You just can’t get those chance interactions sitting and designing in your studio.”
From that first fortuitous market 10 years ago, Linda Marek Design is stocked nationally and online, and has a retail store in the Adelaide Hills, a combined space with fellow designer Mim Clarkson. “Some customers have commented that it reminds them of a mini Bowerbird, and I couldn’t think of a better compliment than that.”
Kristen Fazzari has been coming to Bowerbird for as long as she can remember, but this year, she’ll be a participant, rather than a customer.
“There have been many times I have found things and will think, I can make that, or I would do this to that design,” Kristen says. “I have been waiting for the right timing to put my products forward to see if I would be selected to have a stall, and I was!”
Kristen’s dream of displaying her children’s clothing line, Blue Sparrow, will become a reality this month.
Qualified tailor and seamstress, Kristen has made several wedding dresses and evening gowns, but her passion is in children’s clothing. “Even now my children don’t want me to make their clothes anymore, I have nieces and all of Adelaide to sew for.”
Kristen’s talent came from her grandmother, Marni, who taught her to sew with traditional methods, and the business’s name was inspired by jewellery Marni gave her.
“This is the legacy I have been given and I would love for people to be able to hand down my clothing, pass in on, and for each child to have their own stories attached to them.”
Bowerbird Design Market will be held at Adelaide Showground from November 1 to 3.
This article first appeared in the October 2019 issue of SALIFE magazine.