Etsy is a dynamic international community of designers, creators, artists and entrepreneurs. In this series, we’re spinning the globe to take a closer look at country-specific maker scenes around the world. Check out our other posts on the Etsy community in Greece, Israel, Latvia, and Japan.
From handcrafted soaps with scents inspired by the capital city’s streets (mandarin, grapefruit, litsea, and benzoin) to tote bags made from sustainable kangaroo leather, creators Down Under are busy turning out extraordinary, only-in-Australia items — and the scene is growing by the day.
Read on for some insight into this humming Etsy hub.
You can credit geography for at least some of the Australian maker scene’s success. The island country’s location, bordered by the Indian and South Pacific Oceans and more than 3,000 miles from the outstretched tip of the next nearest continent, has had a huge impact on the development of the creative community. “Being so isolated has made Australia an entrepreneurial place out of necessity, and this isolation has also seen the market overlooked by many global brands — until recently, anyway,” says Melbourne-based Georgie Cummings, whose eponymous accessories line includes foil-printed leather clutches and cord necklaces adorned with porcelain beads. “So this meant Australians were doing their own thing for the local market because, really, there was nothing else and no place quite like here,” she says. Even as international brands become more commonplace here, Australians are still partial to locally made products, and many of the country’s Etsy sales go to domestic buyers.
Australians’ characteristic affability and openness have also helped shape the supportive scene. “In general, we are known for a laid-back, friendly culture and I think this is reflected in our ability to share ideas within the community,” explains AMMIKI designer Simone Downey, who says that in Melbourne, where she lives, even designers who are in direct competition will help each other out by offering advice and answering questions. In fact, Australia’s DIY community is so strong and fast-growing, Etsy even chose Melbourne as the location for one of its handful of offices.
Australia is unique in the inspiration it provides as well; the country’s very essence is found in much of what’s being created there. Downey’s own work — art prints featuring abstract shapes and soft-hued color palettes — embodies Australia’s laid-back vibe. “My designs are purely instinctual and I enjoy the process of letting my mind wander and take me to wherever it wants,” she says.
Likewise, Etsy seller Penny Ferguson’s take on her home country — “a hodgepodge of many different cultures,” she says — is reflected in her eclectic array of Etsy wares. Metal necklaces of Saturn and Sasquatch, plastic dinosaur brooches and illustrated prints of patterned eyeballs: all have a home in her pastels-happy Min Pin Shop.
Other makers are moved by the country’s more tangible attributes. “I am particularly fond of designs that are inspired by the Australian landscape, flora and fauna,” says Jacqueline Chan, who also draws from nearby ocean life to create the watercolor images she turns into art prints and postcards for Whimsy Milieu.
Even the vintage scene shows a taste for homegrown talent, says Cara Weinstock, purveyor of Cara Mia Vintage. Alongside ever-popular essentials like old-school sportswear and broken-in denim, Weinstock is seeing a renewed interested in pieces from Australian designers, “particularly ’80s designers such as Linda Jackson and Jenny Kee, Coogi, Desert Designs, Ken Done, and Studibaker Hawk,” she says.
But it’s the pairing of Australia’s endemic sense of community and its island locale that explains why Etsy is such a big hit here — it gives the makers a way to connect with and support one another, while virtually eliminating the country’s geographic isolation. Weinstock says: “Etsy is all about connecting with a global community of people who are passionate about the same things, and that is something really inspiring and enjoyable to be a part of.”
Shop the Scene
Here’s a selection of items proudly made or curated in Australia.
Hey Aussies! Australian sellers with active Etsy shops are invited to enter the Etsy Design Awards. Win a trip to Etsy’s headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, and be featured in the December issue of Inside Out. For more details, head to the Etsy Australia Blog.