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In Conversation with West Wind Collector Market’s Lucile Sciallano

Featuring local hand-made products from leading Melbourne designers like Min Pin Design, HTML flowers and more, West Wind Collector Market offers a unique experience, putting the buyer in touch with the maker and their materials and process. We speak with market curator Lucile Sciallano about taking pride in local producers and the benefits of understanding creative processes.

Melbourne is brimming with talented designers. How did you curate this market with so many makers to choose from?

I arrived in Melbourne only a couple of years ago and met some amazing makers which in time, became great friends. When we organised the first big backyard sale at home last year it was only friends who were part of it. I really enjoyed sharing this time with them selling our work and meeting customers. I wanted to keep that in mind when I curated this market with the same core group of friends and some other makers I always admired. It was quite an organic process where I got to meet some great artists which will be part of the West Wind Collector and at the same time get to spend the weekend with my friends!

This is the second West Wind Collector Market, the first taking place in Brunswick back in April. Are you featuring many of the same makers, or are there new stallholders this time round?

There will be some of the makers from the first West Wind Collector and I have got some new artists and makers on board. It is an amazing feeling to see a strong supportive community coming together to create this event.

Tell us a bit about what’s on offer. From ceramics to zines it sounds like there’s a huge range.

Yes, we’ve definitely got two flavours – zines and handmade objects. We’re focussed on local handmade works. We found at other markets that there were many objects that were mass produced overseas, which really undercuts the value and skill which goes into making genuine craft driven objects. We wanted to get a variety of work, from fashion, clothes, jewellery, illustration, skin care products, science books, ceramics – to show a very fruitful community.

Everyone taking part is an independent local artist or maker. Are most of the products hand-made originals and one-offs?

Yes, everyone is independent. We like to think that this is as much a chance to connect with customers as it is to have a chinwag amongst ourselves. We are all facing similar challenges and enjoying benefits related to being independent practitioners. Most pieces are handmade, and those that aren’t are at least batch produced locally. For instance, one maker is an illustrator who paints originals which are turned into printed cards. They’re not necessarily handmade, but we know that the process of producing them is ethical and local.

There will be many one-off pieces, samples and even some seconds which will make it onto the shelves. Most of the larger markets don’t cater to testing ideas and connecting with customers, so at the West Wind Collector, because it’s smaller and there is more space, we feel free to put out our more experimental ideas and see how they fare!

You’re a ceramicist and everything you make for your store, La petite fabrique de Brunswick, is moulded, cast and glazed in Brunswick and fired in Northcote. How significant is the origin of the material and it’s manufacture if you are to promote yourself as a local designer?

Actually everything is cast, fired, glazed and fired again in the tiny studio at the back of my house in Brunswick. Local is relative, and everyone is local somewhere. We can be proud of people who produce in our street, in our suburb, in our city, in our state or in our country. And ‘Local’ is also used to sell objects when they’re not really produced anywhere local at all. Often you’ll see ‘designed in Australia’ which obviously means, not made in Australia!

At the scale of my manufacture and the costs I incur, there is no way I can compete with big manufacturers, and I don’t even want to try. The origin of the material is in some ways important, but most ceramicists in Victoria would have clay sourced from Victoria or NSW, so the manufacture is more key to promoting oneself as local. I’m proud of my tiny studio, and I think it suits my aesthetic and the things I produce – the space, the material and the method of production inform the outcome – and I promote it as truthfully as I can.

At the market, you’ll also be able to meet the artist and speak to them about their creations? How important is that experience in todays market? 

As a maker or an artist, I think it’s important to show your work and hear feedback from your audience. Working in your studio is bliss but can become quite isolating. As an artist, you can feel quite removed from your audience, making beautiful work but never knowing who is buying it. I love when people buy a piece from me and a couple of weeks later I hear back from them. It’s also great from a customer point of view to meet the person who has worked on the piece you want to buy, to understand where and how it’s been made. It’s important to have a link with the object you purchase and who made it.

Buying handmade objects is more expensive than buying mass produced cheap items – but by coming to these events you can understand what it takes to make an object. Research has shown that having a greater understanding of the objects which we buy to fill our lives, as well as connections to an object’s origin, imbues that piece with greater sentimental value. This also drives sustainability as we’re less likely to replace objects which we value, and makes us happier!

By bringing so many designers together, it gives people an opportunity to get an overarching look at the Melbourne design scene. It must be a great way to connect with audiences who might otherwise be hesitant about stepping into a design store or studio?

There is a real mix of designers and makers at Westwind. For some makers it’s their first market and for me it’s my tenth market day this year. We all get more confident by being with other people like us, so we hope the designers connect with one another and share stories, and also meet many visitors who come along to see their work. Some of the makers don’t have a public studio at all, they might work in their spare room or out the back of their house, so this will be an unusual chance to see their work.

Some of the designers already have huge audiences, like Min Pin Design with more than 16,000 Instagram followers and HTMLflowers with more than 11,000. The market must be a great opportunity for their audiences to be exposed to other makers.

Bringing different makers with their audiences together definitely helps to promote and show everyone’s work. Even if all the makers and artists are different, the core value of all our audiences is that they value something which is handmade, crafted at a small scale, and made with passion. This translates to an interest in people’s careers or practices. Building audience is also not just for driving sales, but also helps inform one’s practice. It can seed collaborations. For instance, since the first Westwind, I’ve been working with HTML Flowers on some ceramic pieces with decals of his illustrations.