Bowerbird’s first market was held in 2009 at the Queen’s Theatre with 50 stallholders. Today, Bowerbird Design Market is one of Australia’s leading design markets and a firm favourite on the SA event calendar.
In 2019, we are celebrating our 10th anniversary and our upcoming event in May will be our biggest yet with over 200 designers and makers from across Australia filling the expansive Wayville Pavilion at Adelaide Showground.
We asked Jane Barwick, Bowerbird’s co-founder and director, to go for a trip down memory lane and share how it all began…
You are a contemporary jeweller by trade. Can you tell us a little about your own creative practise and career path before you added Design Market Director to your resume.
I established my own practice after graduating from Gold & Silversmithing at RMIT in 2000, and then co-founded In-sync Design in 2006, designing and exhibiting a range of work that we exhibited at design events interstate and overseas. It was exciting. I continued this until 2010, after co-founding Bowerbird in 2009 and juggling both proved too much. Before that, I’d studied Recreation Planning & Management and undertaken roles in community development, which still interests me, plus publishing, mental health and earlier work in hospitality. All these experiences have informed the way I run Bowerbird now.
What led you to start Bowerbird Design Market?
A realisation that there was no curated platform in SA where designers and makers could promote and sell directly to the public. There was also very few South Australians exhibiting interstate or overseas at design events. There was clear need for South Australian designers and makers to exhibit locally, as well as an opportunity for interstate designer and makers to expand into the Adelaide market. There is a richness in ideas and opportunities when bringing everyone together, and there have been lots of benefits for those taking part: the ability to sell at retail prices creates income that can be used for production and equipment, establishing a mailing list, getting direct feedback from buyers, testing products and pricing, forming friendships and collaborations and taking part in other events through meeting other designers. It’s fertile ground for discussion and tips.
What was your vision for the market and has this changed over time?
To create an experience and opportunity that was well run, maintaining a high calibre, that was community/customer oriented and supportive and linked with retailers and media as well as the public. The interaction in discussing and buying a product directly from the designer has been central and over time, it’s been important to keep the event and program fresh and interesting and continually raise our own bar. We are now in our third venue and each change and the additional space, has created new opportunities, growth and collaborations. We have a new media partnership with Solstice Media, event partnership with KIDDO Magazine (more details to come) and we also offer professional development workshops for stallholders such as visual merchandising and signage.
What is your favourite market memory?
Seeing each market take shape and watching people enjoy the event, interactions and workshops, and finding an item that they love. Watching the designers catch up with each other, and conversation at the stallholders’ drinks on the Saturday night and the collaborations that form. There’s a genuine warmth and support that this community shows us and each other, a genuine interest and loyalty that people attending the event show towards them and the event itself, that has been lovely to experience. I’m enjoy watching the event go from strength to strength.
The next Bowerbird Design Market will be held on 3-5 May 2019. You can view all the participating stallholders here.
Photo: Belinda Monck