Liv­ing Neale Whi­taker gives a nod to Aus­traliana style.

Botan­i­cal prints are no longer kitsch if new na­tive Aus­tralian de­signs are any­thing to go by

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Neale Whi­taker is ed­i­tor-at-large of Vogue Liv­ing.

Think of Aus­traliana and May Gibbs’s il­lus­tra­tions of the gum­nut ba­bies, Snug­gle­pot and Cud­dlepie, prob­a­bly spring to mind. Cute, sure, but not ex­actly cut­ting edge. More banksia than Banksy. But some­thing’s afoot in the de­sign world, and those en­dear­ing lit­tle bubs – part hu­man, part seed­pod – might just be the Next Big Thing.

Take this sea­son of The Block for ex­am­ple. We saw Vic­to­rian cou­ple Ja­son and Sarah us­ing Banksia wall­pa­per by Porter’s Paints (porter­spaints.com) to stun­ning ef­fect in one of their guest bed­rooms. I de­clared Aus­tralian na­tives a “thing” half­way through the se­ries. There were the bril­liant day-glo Pop Aus­traliana prints by Roo­fus Aus­tralia that put a mid-cen­tury spin on gre­vil­leas and bot­tle­brush, and pho­tog­ra­pher Katie Clu­low’s at­mo­spheric Obe­lia Gum Blos­som (both at the­block­shop.com.au). And while not strictly an Aus­tralian na­tive (it shares that hon­our with South Africa), the fig­u­ra­tive Protea by Perth-based artist Anya Brock fea­tured in fel­low Western Aus­tralians Ron­nie and Ge­or­gia’s hall­way.

It’s fair to say Aus­tralian na­tives are hav­ing their time in the sun, de­sign­wise, some­thing Utopia Goods founder So­phie Tat­low (utopi­a­goods.com) puts down to “Aus­tralia’s cul­tural cringe fi­nally be­com­ing un­fash­ion­able”.

Tat­low and her part­ner, artist Bruce Slo­rach, founded their de­sign stu­dio in 2012 and have led the na­tive charge with a vi­brant, af­ford­able range of tex­tiles, prints, wall­pa­per and home and fash­ion ac­ces­sories bear­ing names such as Waratah, An­gophora and Flow­er­ing Gum. Tat­low de­scribes Utopia Goods as “a love let­ter to Aus­tralia”, a col­lec­tion that “draws at­ten­tion to and pays trib­ute to the essence of this coun­try”. She feels lo­cal de­sign has looked be­yond our shores for in­spi­ra­tion for too long and that – hope­fully and fi­nally – “we’re ma­tur­ing and feel­ing proud to say it loud in all as­pects of our iden­tity”.

That sen­ti­ment is shared by Syd­ney-based artist Kate Swin­son, who launched her Na­tive Swin­son (na­tiveswin­son.com.au) stu­dio in 2016, in­spired by a “ru­ral up­bring­ing and con­se­quen­tial love of the nat­u­ral world”.

Swin­son sees this rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of Aus­traliana as “beau­ti­ful and con­tem­po­rary, rather than sim­ply some­thing kitsch and harsh”. Both she and Tat­low de­scribe their work in terms of “au­then­tic­ity” – it’s a word that has more cur­rency to­day than ever be­fore. “We live in com­pli­cated and chal­leng­ing times,” Tat­low says. “We need to spend our dol­lars on things with longevity that we love.”

“Aus­tralians are ma­tur­ing and proud to say it loud in all as­pects of iden­tity”

IN FULL BLOOM (from top) Vic­to­rian cou­ple Ja­son and Sarah’s Banksia wall­pa­per on The Block was a hit; an Aus­tralian na­tive print By­ron Bay-based pho­tog­ra­pher Lisa Sorgini.

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