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Native Artists

These six designers explain how their work is an expression of the local atmosphere. Sydney has an inborn quality, an innate talent that is seen in several disciplines: interior design, cuisine, fashion, cosmetics and more.

Bianca Riggio, 24, an artist specialising in industrial design and cofounder of the page thirty three design agency (

HER SIGNATURE. With my partner, graphic designer Ryan Hanrahan, I like to subvert everyday objects, taking them away from their original function and turning them into unexpected fantasies. For this Wooden Milk Crate, we took the plastic crates normally used to deliver milk bottles and reproduced them in plywood. The idea came to us after we saw our fellow students shamelessly using them for a wide range of everyday functions such as a table, a stool, a storage unit or bookshelves by using several of them. The idea was convenient, ingenious and very decorative. A pure generational object. We improved it by making it more durable because it is illegal to resell real delivery crates. They belong to the businesses which use them meaning that they have to be returned with empty bottles inside.

WHAT SHE LIKES ABOUT SYDNEY. It is a place that seems very open to new ideas and to young creators starting out in design. At the moment, no-one can do too much, everything is still being designed. This city inspires us. If I compare it to the immense American market, there is a certain freshness here, which I like. My favourite place? You would have to get far away from town, about a four-hour drive south of the CBD (Central Business District) between Batemans Bay and Eden, the two landmarks on the Far South Coast. I regularly escape to its isolated farms and ragged coast with my partner so we can recharge our batteries, have discussions to generate ideas and inspiration, and admire this raw, magnificent and desolate landscape.

Jennifer Jones, 35, Interior designer and founder of her own business, Have you met Miss Jones (

HER SIGNATURE. I love ordinary objects. Would you believe le if I told you I collect plastic bags, drinks cans; glass bottles ans old cameras? I decided to duplicate all these objects which were useless, but so precious to me. The shape of the vintage cameras inspired me so much that I used them as a design for my Bone China lamps. This could be seen as a tribute to their previous purpose in life, which was to shape the light.

WHAT SHE LIKES ABOUT SYDNEY. I was born in the Philippines and spent some time in Europe before I came to Sydney twelve years ago. I live at Bondi Beach as I love being able to wake up only five minutes from the beach, go running in the soft morning sand and then being able to get into the city centre barely twenty minutes later for a business meeting. I fell in love with the harmony between the urbanity and the wilderness and when you go for a jog along the wild coastline between Bondi and Bronte, you really notice it - particularly between July and September when the whales migrate. It is a cosmopolitan place, full of culture and excellent restaurants, particularly Italian ones (like Buzo in Woollahra where it is like home- cooking, only better). But Sydney is most of all a new city, a modern metropolis, so it’s the perfect place for emerging talent that want to make a mark. There is no tradition to uphold, no ‘droit du Seigneur’ or an old guard clinging desperately to their privileges. There is an entrepreneurial freedom in this market, with much less jealousy than in Europe. Here young people are allowed to grow up in peace.

Sam Mckay, 35, Executive manager of the jurlique range of beauty products and cosmetics (

THEIR SIGNATURE. The word Jurlique was derived from the two founders’ names (Jurgen and Ulrike Klein): in Australia, abbreviation is the language of relaxation. This Australian business is well-known for its natural, organic beauty products. Our ‘Australian touch’ in this market comes from believing that a cosmetic product can be effective whilst being kind to the skin and free of chemicals. Our products are sourced from a 60-hectare farm in the hills of Adelaide in South Australia where most of the ingredients we use are hand-picked. The climate and legislation mean we can pick most of what we need. For ingredients that have to be grown in other places we try to use a Fairtrade type approach.

WHAT HE LIKES ABOUT SYDNEY. It’s the place where we were born, the place that understands us the best and is a great place to export, particularly to the Asia-Pacific, where we have been very successful. Sydney is like a life-sized laboratory because it is such a cosmopolitan city. Logically, if a product works here, it should work everywhere. When we launch a new product designed for the Asian markets, such as a natural range of whitening creams for example, we notice that it will be unexpectedly successful here as well. Sydney is also a showcase because tourists always come here first before they go out into the countryside. Some of them go back home having discovered us during their trip. My favourite restaurant? The Bambini Trust in the City, my downtown Italian diner.

Eliza Godman, 43, Stylist specialising in business fashion, creator of the art of war clothing line.

HER SIGNATURE. The name of my clothing line (The Art of War) was inspired by Sun Tzu’s famous book because it became bedtime reading for business men and women all over the world with its modern-day strategies. In my philosophy, clothes are a tactic used strategically by businessmen and women. I cut my styles light and loose, to be comfortable without any unnecessary padding. I do come from the world of cinema though, where I was in charge of costume for big productions such as ‘Moulin Rouge’ and ‘Australia’ starring Nicole Kidman, but this experience has inspired me in more of a technical way than an aesthetic one. I particularly like good styling and elegant accessible cuts. My experience working on various period films meant I could draw on my knowledge of vintage clothing to modernise a jacket from the forties, for example.

WHAT SHE LIKES ABOUT SYDNEY. I’ve lived here all my life, I love this city. Not so much because it is inspires me but because it allows me to flourish. In my opinion, the best fabrics come from Europe and my tastes seem a bit foreign here, where the local touch is all about laid-back styling. I’m much more interested in what we have not got here. But I am still very attached to the area where I grew up – a spectacular surfers’ beach called Maroubra Beach on the Sydney coast.

Shelley Simpson, 48, Porcelain designer and founder of Mud Australia (

HER SIGNATURE. I work with Limoges porcelain, taking an approach that I would describe as organic, using a wide range of colours. I don’t really know what ‘smooth’ means, but I don’t think that’s a problem! I work with bumps and irregularities, the expressiveness of hand-crafted items that gives them a unique identity. My work consists mainly of making things that I would like to have at home, with the assumption that other people will share my tastes. My designs are functional, operational and don’t need to be handled with care. You don’t need to worry about putting them in the dishwasher or microwave. They are not going to force us to go back to those barbaric times where people ruined their hands doing the washing up!

WHAT SHE LIKES ABOUT SYDNEY. I was a late arrival, only moving here in my thirties, with a flatmate who was very skilled with a potter’s wheel. She let me into her secrets, and I immediately fell in love with pottery, starting to teach myself. I started with little presents for my friends. When I saw how keen they were, I gave up my job in catering to sell my wares at the markets, which is where I was spotted. There’s nothing planned about my success, it just happened, thanks to this city that attracts the whole world. What do I like most here? The colours are magical and bright, like fresh paint. The light is different from Europe, it somehow seems less shallow. I love travelling, but I’ve never found this ideal lifestyle anywhere else – there is always something unbalanced, which makes up the charm and imperfection of other cities. Just head down to Bronte one weekend to see the picnics, great big public barbecues, where everyone cooks their meat and vegetables – the Japanese with their teppanyakis, the Indonesians with their satay, and locals with a great big, parsley-sprinkled steak.

Oliver Smith, 37, Silversmith (

HIS SIGNATURE. I work with silver by hand, forging it with a hammer and anvil. I mainly make cutlery. Spoons are the easiest items to make, because it simply involves pulling the metal a little to form its definitive shape. In my opinion, the value of manual work is becoming rarer and rarer. It’s a difficult path to follow, where your handicrafts become a masterpiece, a lifetime’s work. I feel like I’m here to serve the raw material. The shapes that I form spring out spontaneously from under the hammer like a miracle. I work the silver in a simple way; in the way that today’s top chefs use the best ingredients and avoid getting trapped into a complicated recipe. My job is all about listening to the material and working with what it suggests to me. Today’s world is full of increasingly complex objects. I’m trying to make them a bit simpler and easier to understand through my designs. I’m obviously open to innovations, provided that I don’t lose touch with the primary elements. The strength of my work lies in bridging the ever-increasing gap between human skills and sophisticated technology. Our hands require constant education, because they have an innate intelligence that is accessible to new languages and techniques. Touch and feel will never be defeated by digital technology, because style is the hallmark of humanity, that personal touch.

WHAT HE LIKES ABOUT SYDNEY. I ‘inherited’ this craft from an ancient family tradition (my surname “Smith” is no coincidence). My apprenticeship started at home, but I also went around the world, to New Zealand, Germany and the UK learning from the old-school masters, as well as visiting the mining cities in the Mexican highlands. Why did I come back to Sydney? For the light, which I missed so much that it was breaking my heart, and because it’s a city of opportunity. There are many successful restaurateurs here and I work with a number of chefs who commission me to make bespoke cutlery to go with their food, crockery, interior design and aesthetic tastes. I was asked to capture the spirit of Tim Pak Poy who works at the Wharf, an incredible gourmet restaurant perched under the steel spans of Harbour Bridge. In general, Sydney seems to me to be a city that respects, even protects, its artists and craftspeople - its chefs, ceramicists or smiths.

Production Sandrine Giacobetti Text Julien Bouré Stylist Elodie Rambaud Photography Jean-Claude Amiel

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