I BLUE MOUNTAINS, NSW Art and parcel
Head west from Sydney for chic cookware boutiques, speciality tea and chocolate shops and covetable antiques
Tucked behind a cottage facade at the end of Blackheath’s Govett’s Leap Road shopping strip, Studio 52 is easy to miss. Inside, though, there’s plenty to catch the eye, with two small rooms full of contemporary pieces from the local creative community. There are photographs and prints, gift cards, women’s and children’s clothing, ceramics, textiles, handbags and jewellery. A stunning hand-crocheted throw and colourful screen-printed hemp tote bags catch my eye, and I can’t resist a Helen Poser fabric-covered bangle. Baskets are a specialty, hand- made from natural and recycled materials. (Sign up for a class to see how it’s done.) Established by busy mums Hannah Surtees and Emma Kelly, Studio 52 is open Friday to Monday. More: studio52.net.au. Housing the Blue Mountains City Art Gallery and World Heritage Exhibition, the swanky Blue Mountains Cultural Centre opened last year in the centre of Katoomba. Its light-filled shop showcases the work of local designers alongside major Australian names such as Dinosaur Designs. I discover beautiful amorphic etched-glass vases by Blackheath artist Kayo Yokoyama, sweet ceramic bowls and cups by Kanimbla Clay (Kanimbla Valley), Wyck candles handmade in Mount Victoria and screen-printed tea towels by Laughing Bird (Katoomba).
Check out the centre’s exhibitions (the National Photographic Portrait Prize is on when I visit), enjoy a bite at the cafe, then duck behind the centre to the historic Carrington Hotel’s cellars and deli for boutique local wines and produce. More: bluemountainsculturalcentre.com.au; thecarrington.com.au. Jodie Van Der Velden began creating her signature chocolates in 2005, originallyon the site now occupied by sister venture Cafe Madeleine (also on Leura Mall). Her delectably infused chocs are handmade from natural ingredients and preservative-free. . The sometimes quirky flavours include lime and basil, fresh mint leaves, strawberry and balsamic vinegar. I can’t resist a bag of orange and macadamia rocky road in dark Belgian chocolate (my non-sweet-toothed husband later devours the lot). So popular are Van Der Velden’s creations that a second shop recently opened in Sydney’s CBD. For a chocolate fix with a sense of history, I also visit Katoomba’s Paragon Cafe, featuring an original art deco interior and chocolates handmade from deco-era moulds. More: josophans.com.au; facebook.com/TheParagonCafe. Step into Ikou’s light and welcoming store and you could feel as if you’re walking into any skincare specialist. The difference is that it’s a proudly local venture, with Paul and Naomi Whitfeld using ethically sourced pure, natural ingredients in their skincare range, body products and
Emma Kelly and Hannah Surtees at Blackheath’s Studio 52
STUDIO 52, BLACKHEATH BLUE MOUNTAINS CULTURAL CENTRE GIFT SHOP, KATOOMBA