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In Conversation with Ink & Spindle

We speak with Sacred Heart tenant Ink & Spindle about their hand-printed textiles, artist collaborations, mother nature's inspiration, and find out just why sustainability is so important for a small business.

We speak to Caitlin Klooger (left) and Lara Cameron (right) of Ink & Spindle to learn more about their design process and partnership.

How did you two come together to create Ink & Spindle?

The two of us met a long time ago when we first started venturing into textile design, when we both used to design and sell homewares and fabrics at markets and shows. Lara originally started Ink & Spindle in 2008 with two other designers, and in 2013 when she was looking for a new business partner it was the perfect opportunity for Caitlin to come on board.

You make a variety of homeware products all from hand-printed textiles. What’s the biggest advantage to printing by hand?

Hand-printed textiles have a tactile quality that just can’t be replicated by other means. We love having control over our colour palette, mixing ink by hand here in the studio, and hand printing allows us to experiment with screen placement and overprinting which yields some really amazing results. Hand-printing also allows us to print onto a wide range of organic and sustainable cloths.

How do you two work as team to create the final product?

During the design phase, one or the other will be leading the design, taking it through from concept to finished product. During this process we will bounce ideas off the other and get feedback along the way. During the printing process we definitely work as a team at all times! Our screens are 1.8 metres tall and 1 metre wide, and require two people to print, passing the squeegee to each other back and forth across the table.

Is hand-printing as much about sustainability as it is design or aesthetics?

A huge part of it is about sustainability for us. Hand-printing allows us to use environmentally friendly inks, basecloths and processes. It also allows us to print only what we need – most of our work is custom printing or to make stock for our shop, so there is very little wastage.

Australian fauna and flora are a hallmark of your designs. Where does that inspiration come from?

Caitlin’s background is in Landscape Architecture and Lara has always had a love for indigenous flora and fauna. To us it feels natural to celebrate the unique beauty which surrounds us.

Your studio in the Abbotsford Convent’s Sacred Heart building is one of the largest onsite. Is this the first time you’ve had the space to have a retail component inside your studio, and how will this space allow you to develop your business?

We love our new Sacred Heart studio and it had provided a great opportunity for us to have a retail space. It’s not something we have had the capacity to do before, but feel it is a fantastic opportunity to showcase our wares to Convent visitors, where they can also see our production processes in action!

In addition to ready-made products, you also work with clients to custom tailor designs. How does this process work?

Often we have retail or trade customers come to us with a specific project in mind – often it’s for window furnishings or upholstery, or a small creative business that will use the fabric for their own product (e.g. bags, lighting, beeswax wraps). We have a set range of designs, ink colours and basecloths for them to choose from, and they can specify exactly how much fabric they need. We also have a handy tool on our website which allows customers to preview exactly what their custom colourway will look like.

Your textiles have been used by other local makers in their designs – are you hoping to tap into the established creative community at the Convent for more collaborative opportunities?

Most definitely! We have loved collaborating over the years with various creative practices, both within our old Kensington building and across Melbourne and Australia. We’d love for any fellow Convent tenants to pop up and say hi, and chat about what we could possibly create together.

Have you ever worked with other artists to create the textile designs themselves?

We haven’t as yet – since that is one of the parts of the business that we enjoy doing most ourselves, we’re reluctant to share that task!