There’s a sign on the roadside ‘Recycled gallery’, and other similar signage dotted along the old fruit run, that attract curious crafters, generous gifters, loyal locals, intrepid travellers, and eco minded types into Isabella’s space.
It’s so much more than a recycled gallery though. And I’m not sure how you could capture what it offers on a road side sign. There are 4 rooms that house hundreds of handcrafted pieces. What began as a place for owner, Isabella, to sell her own creations, evolved into a hub where over 30 local artisans drop in and out to restock their wares. She tells me how the artists came to her. When she opened her doors, Isabella also opened her heart to other creative types. Others keen to work with meaningful resources and create beautiful pieces. Most items are created with predominately recycled or vintage materials. A browse through the rooms creates an amazing experience of nostalgia as a roll of wallpaper, pair of earrings or fabric bunting can pull you down memory lane in an instant. There is a wonderful blend of the familiar and new as a creative process has transformed materials into new beginnings. Isabella tells me about a custom request where a customer had her grandmother’s broken and worn leather satchel. It held sentimental value but was otherwise useless. Together they agreed how it would be repurposed. The customer was able to give her own daughters a pair of earrings each made from this special item. Something they could wear, appreciate and create new value.
As well as handmade goods, there are items that you might pick up in an antique or bric-a-brac store – a ceramic vase, a glass jewellery dish. Other items are simple raw materials – a ball of wool, buttons, which invite crafters to get their creative juices flowing.
And then there is the free craft room… but let me tell you more about the owner, Isabella Torrisi.
She’s a lawyer. Well, she was a lawyer. Living in Brisbane with husband Sam. They were a typical couple renting a house, working 5 days a week. They spent weekends out exploring.
Isabella continues ‘We turned 30 and realised that we were trying to cram our real life into our 2-day weekends. The ratio wasn’t right for us. Our jobs did not define our personalities and we wanted to change that. We sold our possessions and took off in a camper van. I sewed a few aprons and ipad cases and thought I would have a go at selling them. Things grew from there. In that first ten months we travelled based on the market circuit and worked at over 100 markets. We ended up in the Stanthorpe area in Queensland where Sam’s mum lives. We grew fond of the place and found a property with a workshop where I could really focus on creating pieces to sell. The space was on a tourist drive and had potential for a shop front too. It was an exciting time as I was also pregnant with twins. There was no longer a disconnect between who we were and what we were doing’.
Read more about Isabella and Sam here.
As she heads into her third year, Isabella acknowledges that being a small business owner is hard work, but she recognises her ability to be innovate and adapt her business to suit her personal life. Her passion, her work, and her home life are connected.
When Isabella needs to pause and pull back from hands-on projects, she relies on local artists to fill her shelves. Some of them are full time, professional artists, but 75% of them are hobbyists. In the process of opening a shop, Isabella has created a glorious community. So how about that craft room? This too seemed to naturally evolve. Whenever the shop is open, the craft room is open. It is a place of wondrous resources, a treasure trove of potential. As a crafter myself, I have dabbled in all sorts of things from stamping (it was a popular thing once – there were even stamping shops) to jewellery making and sewing. Crafters are creative by nature and their closets, garages, sheds or attics can be full of good intentions – materials that never break out of their packaging, projects that are half-finished, magazines that provided inspiration long before Pinterest. Donating craft related resources is a bit tricky because sometimes things are not retail ready and suitable for reselling to the public. This free craft room is a place where crafters can donate or swap these things. Other crafters can come in a take what they like – for free. Some people don’t have anything to donate but want to participate so Isabella has set up a donation system. There is also a rack of dresses that started with a one-off ‘Hot choc and frock swap’ event, and now sees a permanent standing. You can take in your old frocks and swap them for other frocks. Yep – this place rocks.
‘While I want people to feel they can take anything they like without obligation, some people feel more comfortable if they can provide a donation in exchange for taking items.’
Given the success of the free craft room concept Isabella wants to keep the momentum moving. She gives me a little smile and leads me to an unmarked door. I expected another little room. When she opened the door my eyes lit up as a huge warehouse space lay sprawling before us. In one corner she had an area dedicated to craft workshops. Some she runs herself. Perfect for a baby shower with a difference. Or people wanting to run their own workshops can hire this space. As the sunshine streamed in the large glass windows, the possibilities of what this space could be used for was just so exciting. We chatted for quite some time and threw around all sorts of ideas – A travellers coffee stop? Yoga classes? Sustainable fair? Exhibition space?
I can’t wait to see what happens.
The shop is called Bridget Bunchy. A name that was inspired by Isabella’s Oma and Mother – strong matriarchal figures that learnt to be resourceful out of necessity and taught her to appreciate beautiful textiles, home grown food and things well made.
I urge you to make a stop here as part of your weekend away in Stanthorpe or visit to the Granite Belt. Some of you will already be thinking about what craft items you can swap in the free craft room. And if you have any ideas for the warehouse space be sure to drop Isabella a line.
If you haven’t got a trip out this way planned, you can purchase many of her pieces and some of her artists items through her online store – bridgetbunchy.com.au.
When she isn’t at the shop, Isabella and her husband Sam head to their backyard to relax where they plant heritage seeds (available for sale in the shop) and generally soak up the country air with their two young daughters. You can read more about Isabella having a shop, making things and running her own business on her blog.
The shop is open from 10am to 4pm Thursday to Sunday.