Reviving a retro craft and giving it a modern edge is all in a day’s work for this creative.
Wildly successful macramé business, Smalltown wasn’t always built on ropes and knots. “It began as a little jewellery label,” explains maker and founder Sarah Parkes. Inspired by her collection of vintage craft books, Sarah eventually introduced a small macramé-style collection to the range. Soon afterwards, a friend opened a store in the Melbourne CBD and asked Sarah to create a large-format commission piece for the retail outlet’s fitout. “After I did that, I knew I wanted to pursue macramé full-time, and the jewellery dropped off,” she says.
Now, working primarily with polyester rope sourced from a local manufacturer, Sarah’s point of difference is her distinctive style. “The traditional craft can be very decorative, but I wanted my work to be a little different,” she says.
"It's bold and chunky. I've never wanted to go along the pretty road of fine and feminine pieces."Sarah Parkes
Despite her studies in graphic design, Sarah has never worked a day in the job. The thought of spending most of her working life behind a computer was enough to deter her and, in the 10 years between earning her unused qualifications and launching Smalltown, she tried her hand at other creative pursuits.
“I had a little clothing label in the early 2000s and did hand stitching, screen-printing and hand embellishments,” she says. “I’ve always been more interested in things that were hands-on. That, and I’m a sucker for things that take a long time!”
Sarah’s creative streak can be traced back to her high school years. “My mum taught me to sew back in the 1990s, so I was working with old fabrics and making skirts out of tablecloths,” she recalls. “I think that’s when I really realised that you could have an idea and see it through to fruition with your own hands.”
Why Sarah does macramé:
“Because I want to live a creative life, have a creative job and I want to create with my hands," says Sarah. "Macramé gives me all the challenges that I need and I get to work for myself.”
From pot hangers to pendants, most of her work serves a specific purpose or function. “I really enjoy seeing an idea through to fruition and the satisfaction that comes with seeing others use it.”
All of Sarah’s pieces are made to order. “I’m a bit of a cheat at the moment,” she says. “I’ve got two awesome assistants who do all of the product, while I work on bespoke and commission pieces. I just don’t have the time to do it all!” It’s hardly surprising, given she juggles her business with raising daughters South, seven, and Blue, four, and one-year-old son Killick. “My partner Scott also works for himself, so we are lucky that we’ve always had quite a fluid parenting style,” she says.
With a growing demand for her thoughtfully created products, Sarah sees the cherry on top as a societal shift away from fast furniture towards handcrafted pieces.
"Across the board, there is now a greater awareness of how long it takes for people to make good-quality items."Sarah
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