Dillybags and fine designs
The southwest of WA has a feast of creative talent
TODAY’S trendy young things are expert multi- taskers so it’s hardly surprising newly opened Sugarman is an eclectic combination of coffee shop, art gallery, clothing boutique and furniture showroom. Twenty-something owners Patrick-James Matan and Sam Oliver gutted an old skate shop in Margaret River township, polished its concrete floors, gave the place a lick of paint and built their own cost-saving fittings — clothes racks, service desk, changing room — from discarded cheese boxes and wine crates. The result is a cool space where visitors can pop in for a cup of coffee, a flick through the ‘‘mature urban’’ fashions — quality T-shirts, trousers, summer dresses, shoes — or to browse works from local artists on the walls. Grooming products — shaving packs, body balms — and gadgets such as old-fashioned magnifying glasses and compasses are quirky gift options for that hard-to-buy-for male. For larger budgets, handsome reproduction antique furniture may appeal. More: Facebook.com/sugarman. BEFORE relocating to WA, NSWbased Talei Manners was a retail visual merchandiser and senior stylist for a fashion magazine. Her keen eye for detail is evident in the bright and airy boutique she opened in August on Margaret River’s Bussell Highway, housing a well-curated range of women’s fashions, shoes, accessories and homewares. Expect dreamy evening dresses from Gold Coast designer Lisa Brown, pretty, floaty resort wear from Yallingup-based Humidity, sequinned bolero tops to throw over T-shirts for a beachside soiree, or Italian ankle boots in bold gold. One-off pieces of jewellery, such as a dramatic Indian-style necklace displayed on the wall like a work of art, complete the picture. More: stellarandthechief.com.au. THIS repository of gourmet delights in Metricup, a 15-minute drive north of Margaret River town, is what every well-stocked larder should aspire to be. Olive oils of every description? Check. Relishes, curds, spice packs, honeys, wines and smallgoods? Too many to count. There are even pre-packaged mixes for whipping up a serve of lime and vanilla pancakes with syrup, or baked rice pudding. Most of the ingredients used in the prettily packaged products are sourced from Providore’s vineyard, organic olive grove and vegetable garden. There are tastings (including a cellar door for sampling wines and liqueurs) and a small section of homewares. More: Providore.com.au. IF paddock to plate is the catch-cry of the food fraternity, this unusual fashion business in Metricup could happily own the phrase cocoon to couture. Silk Road cultivates silkworms to produce cocoons that are sent to disadvantaged communities in Cambodia, who reel, dye and weave them into luxurious silks. The work contributes to jobs creation in poorer communities and in turn keeps the family-owned WAcompany supplied with what it claims is Australia’s first ‘‘home-grown’’ silk. At their Harmans Mill Road store, the final product is on display in the form of pretty silk dresses, scarves and bags, bolts of fabric, bedspreads and cushions. Berries from the property’s myriad mulberry trees (the leaves are the silkworm’s meal of choice) have been turned into jams, syrups, teas and infusions. The pretty courtyard cafe serves mulberry muffins and scones. More: margaretriversilkroad.com. FOR a glittering souvenir of the southwest, a visitor would be hard-pressed to find anything more precious than the creations from brothers Francois and Nicholas Payet, who design and make all the jewellery in their small work studio and gallery on Boodjidup Road, five minutes from the town centre. Freshwater pearls set into yellow gold earrings and drop necklaces, pretty weave bracelets and rings studded with elaborate gems are inspired by nature. Watch the Payets at work through the window of their attached studio. Also visit the family’sMargaret River Gallery, on Bussell Highway in town, housing everything from locally cast ceramics and whimsical bronzes to resin bangles. More: Payetgallery. com.au; margaretrivergallery.com.au. THIS marvellous collection of Aboriginal art is a jewel in the region’s creative crown. Pieces are sourced only from indigenous owned and run art centres and the gallery has assembled an enviable catalogue of works from emerging and established artists in 35 communities throughout the NT, WA, SA, Torres Strait and Tiwi Islands. Beautiful Maningrida bark paintings share space with Tiwi Island animal sculptures, acrylic prints and etchings. Baskets from Tjanpi Desert Weavers and natural weave dillybags from Arnhem Land are as appealing as the dramatic ochres on canvas adorning the walls. Hours could be spent hunting through the unframed prints stored in the drawers of a large wooden cabinet. More: Tunbridgegallery.com.au. FURNITURE makers Gary Bennett and David Paris have been working wonders with wood — salvaged local timbers such as jarrah and marri — under their JahRoc Furniture label for more than 26 years; their beautiful pieces shipped around the globe. At their multipurpose gallery on Bussell Highway there are creations to suit every budget, from intricately carved bowls and serving utensils to bar stools and wave-shaped dining tables. This split-level space also features rotating exhibitions from other creative types, including glass blowers, sculptors, ceramicists and painters. David Bromley’s striking paintings of female nudes are among the stars of the show when I visit. More: jahroc.com.au. WHEN Louis and Edwina Scherini’s three children, who suffered from eczema and dermatitis, needed an alternative to soap and shampoo, the couple set about solving the problem by creating chemical-free alternatives using extra virgin olive oil and essential oils. Originally known as The Natural Oil Soap Factory, the couple’s business went from strength to strength, and alongside its gentle soaps and scrubs, body lotions and potions, Vasse Virgin now stocks an ever-expanding range of preservative-free edible goodies, from flavour- infused olive oils and vinaigrettes to spicy dukkahs, tapenades and pasta sauces. Staff hand-blend the natural products in an adjoining work factory; watch them in action while being careful to keep out of the way of the busloads of tourists stocking up on blocks of soap and body oils, and moreish macadamia pesto. More: Vassevirgin.com.au. PREPARE to step into a timewarp at this trove of retro treasure in Witchcliffe, a few kilometres south of Margaret River township. Dedicated vintage shoppers could spend hours ferreting through the tables of trinkets, old vinyls, serving- ware and treasured childhood toys many thought had gone the way of the dodo, arranged in a series of rooms. Simplicity sewing patterns — good lord, is that a pair of culottes? — are a steal at 50c each, and how about some lace doilies to keep those wooden tabletops pristine? A copy of The Western Mail Annual Christmas Edition 1948, replete with a couple of women smiling brightly amidst a field of kangaroo paws below a headline reading ‘ ‘ Gay Display’’ reinforces just how much times have changed. Old sewing machines, a corner with hangers groaning with great vintage clothing, granny’s favourite paintings and a selection of multi-coloured harlequin glasses complete a pleasantly crowded display. Michelle Rowe was a guest of Tourism Western Australia.
Silk Road’s Metricup store, top; Stellar and the Chief above; wooden bird sculptures at Tunbridge Gallery, left; co-owner Patrick-James Matan at Sugarman, far left