Monk House Design


Wednesday September 10 2014

We've played host to a number of amazing installations over the years, but the shop is looking more super special than ever thanks to Sarah Parkes of Smalltown

Sarah has been making big waves in Melbourne for a number of years now. A prolific knotter, she works her magic with polyester rope to create some of the most amazing contemporary macramé from her Collingwood studio. Her belief in ‘simplicity of process and purity of material’ saw her break away from the crafty kitsch associations that usually categorise the craft.

We spoke to her about her practice, new project and juggling two kids & a business...

How did Smalltown begin? Did you have a set plan or did it happen organically?

Smalltown began as a jewellery label however all this changed when I started knotting and moved into large scale works. Macrame completely clicked with me creatively and all I wanted to do was experiment and see where it took me. So yes, it's been a very organic, slow and steady progression to where I am now. I always believed I could make a career from this however it's taken me a long time to build my skills and my brand. I'm not really considered a designer and I'm not an artist either but I enjoy the ambiguity as it means I create a whole range of work across different fields.

Smalltown distinguishes itself as more of a design object, removed from the kitsch 1970's world of Macrame. What would you say is the ethos behind your brand and how imperative is the history of macrame to this?

Smalltown is about quality, timeless and beautiful design. I've never wanted to be a craft brand and although the history of macrame is naturally a strong influence, I use it to set myself apart from this. Macrame is so much more than the 70's kitsch that everyone associates it with. Knotting has a strong presence in many cultures and people really respond to this. It is an amazing way to create pattern, texture and tactility which are things I love. I only use polyester rope which immediately has a different feel from the fibres from the 70's and I want my pieces to be sleek and styled rather than furry and natural! I want people to see past the 'macrame' and see that knotting has amazing scope and possibility whilst being a beautiful and practical design element.

Macrame has experienced a resurgence and for a long time I was wondering when everyone was going to realise how fun and awesome it is. There's now lots of people making hangings but this just spurs me on to create new pieces and try things that haven't been done. I have never wanted to create something that is cool or currently popular and I always try to make things that I've never seen before. Where's the fun in doing what everyone else is doing?

Can you tell us a bit about your newest collection Square*Squared?

Square*Squared is all about simplicity of process and purity of materials. The collection of lights and plant hangings all use rope as the sole material and are created through the repetition and manipulation of one knot, the square knot. The density of the knotting creates the surface and the addition and subtraction of rope creates the structure. I've also experimented with paint to add colour and rigidity to the rope.

What is next for Smalltown? Do you have any exciting projects on the horizon?

I'm doing the baby, toddler and work juggle so currently I'm just trying to keep it together!

The thing I love about my work is that I never know what's around the corner and who will approach me with an exciting possibility. I have a couple of large scale jobs in the pipeline, one 11m hanging which will be the largest I've worked on. But really if I can keep working and having fun doing this, that's pretty exciting for me!


Wednesday August 20 2014

As part of our involvement in Craft Victoria’s annual Craft Cubed festival we’ve hosted a month long installation featuring Two Hills.

The brainchild of Rhiannon Smith, Two Hills is a small jewellery label based in the heart of Melbourne. Rhiannon has been working with precious metals for a number of years and has just released her highly anticipated third collection ‘Echo’. During the month of August Rhiannon has been busily working on new pieces right in our very own window! 

We talked to Rhi about her jewellery, her influences and what the future holds... 

How did Two Hills come to fruition? Did you have a set plan or did it happen organically? 

The development of Two Hills as a label was very organic. I've worked and studied in various areas of the jewellery industry for over ten years so the possibility of starting my own business was something I'd always considered. I guess things really started to come together half way through 2011. I was doing a technical metalsmithing course at the time and began making some fine silver rings for myself and then for friends and it kind of snowballed from there. I started channeling all those different experiences into one avenue. To me it feels as though Two Hills is the culmination of many years of exploration and experimentation.

What is the ethos behind Two Hills? Does this heavily influence each of your designs?

To create simple, robust jewellery with a distinctive character and subdued femininity. It’s extremely important to me to maintain a high quality, locally made product that remains in touch with my roots in contemporary handmade jewellery. Therefore a large majority of production is kept in house and every element of each item is considered from front piece to finding. It’s fun to get carried away with possibilities when you’re in the design phase but I always try to pause and then work things back to their simplest form.

Can you tell us a bit about your newest collection Echo?

The Echo collection was conceived in part while I was travelling overseas. I had an amazing time cave diving on the Yucatan Peninsular in Mexico and the collection is a response to that experience. I became interested in the ways in which visual experiences become altered by memory. The collection features my remembrance of the water, sand, and refracted light as seen in these ancient caves. Like memory, the collection gestures towards these experiences, without speaking explicitly, it is characterised by a softness, a roundness, and a lightness.

What does your residency at Monk House Design entail?

Monk House Design has kindly let me take over their window for the duration of August as a part of Craft Victoria’s Craft Cubed festival. I have re-created my workbench in the front of the store and during the residency I’ve been making a collection of one-off pieces to be displayed in a kind of evolving installation. It’s a great opportunity to explore and respond to the change in my work environment and really, just take some time out to play!

Lastly, can you tell us what is next in store for Two Hills?

I’m currently in the process of moving studios for the first time in 8 years so there is lots of cleaning, culling, organising and daydreaming about how great my new space will be. Most excitingly though, I’m looking forward to an amazing holiday in Turkey in September!! No doubt i’ll come back thoroughly inspired and ready to tackle the next collection


Tuesday April 22 2014

Released last year by Perimeter Editions, Moved Objects is the visual record of the collaboration between Melbourne artists Georgia Hutchinson and Arini Byng. The book charts the duo's investigation of 'material juxtaposition, sculptural choreography and the photographic still life.' 

The book is visually stunning. Reflexive of their combined practices, their images are an interesting conversation between artist and surrounds, creating visual metaphors from lived experience and observation. By marrying together everyday objects they create imagery that it strangely surreal yet undeniably beautiful.

The girls came into the shop recently to create a super cool display, we spoke to them about their work: 

How long have you been working as a collaborative duo?  What are you both trained in?

Quite soon after we met around two years ago we started playing in the studio, creating work together. Casual arrangements and conversations soon resolved to be a cooperative practice and since we have exhibited around Australia and internationally — with photographic, curatorial and sculptural work, as well as a few publications including Moved Objects in 2013.

Arini had recently moved from Sydney after studying photography at the National Art School, and Georgia had just completed Honours in Industrial Design. We were both ready for experimenting with our work, and looking further into our shared aesthetic and theoretical concerns regarding material culture and thingness.

 How do you find your diverse backgrounds in training have influenced your projects?

With a background in Industrial Design and cultural production, Georgia takes a critical and rigorous approach to consumerism and post-materialist culture. Arini — emerging from fine art photography and sculpture practice — approaches the shared practice with a heuristic manner, finding nuance and richness in material communication.

How would you describe your work to someone who had never seen it? Installation, still life, photography?

A marriage of sculpture and image.

Can you tell us a bit about how you came to publishing a book and what this project has offered you in terms of your practise?

In 2012 we had a small photographic show up at Perimeter Books. Dan Rule and Justine Ellis (Perimeter co-owners) really liked our work and a couple of months later over some beers, they asked if we would like to do a book with them. They had just started Perimeter Editions in August 2012 and had recently released their first book Mad Deep Thoughts by Riley Payne. We started collecting and playing with materials and eventually had a large body of work that became Moved Objects. The book has had a great response both locally and internationally. Since, Perimeter have published the work of Polly Borland, Emily Ferretti and Jan Kempenaers — we’re very proud to be in such good company. 

What exciting projects do have planned for the future?

We’re looking forward to publishing further collections of work and are both working on solo projects as well as a Hutchison-Byng show at Edmund Pearce in November. After a flurry of exhibitions in late 2013, we’re enjoying studio-time.  



Monday April 07 2014

After a brief hiatus we are excited to announce that Seb Brown has returned to Monk House Design! Signaling his arrival Seb has filled our windows with an array of coloured paper shapes in soft pink, grey and blue. Drawing inspiration from everyday spaces, the raw angles and textures ever present in his work are reflexive of his interest in the materiality and nature of day-to-day life and the place jewellery holds within it.  

We talked to Seb about his jewellery, his travels and what the future holds... 

How do you define yourself? 

I define myself as an artist who makes jewellery. I am also very much interested in collage, drawing, sculpture and photography. I like the immediacy of jewellery and that it also has a use whether it is purely aesthetic or for a purpose (special occasion, wedding etc). I find it really interesting how people often place so much meaning on a piece of jewellery that they would never attach to a piece of clothing.

What inspires you and your jewellery pieces? 

As corny as it sounds my work is influenced by naturally occurring phenomena and the artfulness and chaos of growth. Bacteria, mould, rust, rocks, texture, dirt…

Do you now find your travelling lifestyle to influence what and how you make?

Not really, I find travelling to be very chaotic and spontaneous and my work is a base I can always return to. I find working in the studio to be very relaxing and grounding, whereas travel is so exciting, unexpected and often lonely. I never feel lonely if I have work to do.  

I'm constantly being influenced by everything all the time. Snippets of conversations, poles leaning against walls, piles of rubbish, smooth bumper bars, the tension and lightness of two shapes or textures accidentally interacting with each other. 

Your slab ring is your most popular piece, can you tell us about the process of designing and producing a piece like this and what you value in your designs? (i.e each piece being original)

I work quite fast, almost in a 'stream of consciousness' method. I sit down and play around with different kinds of wax to come up with something that is balanced. I often speak to other jewellery designers and they agree that sometimes they are defined by the first decent thing they make (i.e. my Slab ring) and will end up mimicking this design for the rest of their career. I love it when I get to meet the customer who is making a commission and chat and work out what they want. They become part of the design process.

My process is highly experimental and I often design or make something by accident.

I value the value someone else places on my work. I value the antithesis of mass-consumerism. I value being able to go into the studio and do what I love all day!

What is next for Seb Brown? Can you give us any hints?

Good question - I feel very much at home in Melbourne, yet I am moving to Europe to try and expand my market and have access to some new influences. I am constantly evolving my process and work so stay tuned for highly bedazzled rings and some coral and under the sea inspired work. I am also planning to get seriously into painting! 


Thursday December 05 2013

We were so chuffed to have launched PER-TIM's debut collection Club Bed with the amazing Mietta Coventry starring as our very own real life live-in model for 24 hours. 

We documented her bed-sit which highlights the PER-TIM concept of wearing the pieces in bed and outside without sacrificing comfort.

A huge thank you to Bernadette and Laura from PER-TIM and of course to Mietta.

Photos and video by Elise Wilken