Many may blame the rise of the hipster for the sudden prominence of ‘artisan’ goods overtaking our marketplaces. From endless taps of craft beers sprouting up at every pub, to markets overflowing with homemade wares in every corner of Sydney on any given weekend.
But not all of this should be dismissed as a bit of froth and bubble. The City Hub has sought out some of enthusiasts of traditional trades, whose craftsmanship has opened the doors for the people of Sydney to experience the pleasures of the artisan.
From a store that offers traditional cut-throat barbering by day and old-fashioned cocktails by dusk, to a school where just about anyone can forge blacksmithing skills, and a couple who left their day jobs to pursue business in bespoke leather goods.
Be A Blacksmith
Operating out of the historic Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops in Redfern since March this year, Be A Blacksmith has been introducing people to the world’s oldest trade.
“The cool thing about blacksmithing…they were once one of the most important people in the town because they literally made the tools for every other industry…they were responsible at key stages of just about every part of life before the industrial revolution,” course instructor Matt Mewburn enthused.
Mewburn has become involved in teaching “just about all” the Be A Blacksmith courses since founder Guido Gouverneur discovered him demonstrating at a gathering for blacksmiths and knife makers.
The range of classes on offer have been sharing the art and skill of metalwork with people from all walks of life, from retirees to the odd teenager. Mewburn remarked that many of the people taking up the weeknight courses are city workers, and considering his own unconventional path to fulltime blacksmithing (abandoning a corporate career to pursue his craft), he finds it quite humbling to help others find enjoyment in the craftsmanship.
Be A Blacksmith hopes to revive interest in traditional metalwork with courses covering everything from sculpture, to hand engraving, to axe and knife making. For anyone uncertain of where to begin, Mewburn recommends the Blacksmithing Fundamentals course, the most recent group learnt the nitty-gritty of metalwork while making custom BBQ kits. “[Although] I don’t think anyone shows up to the Fundamentals course because they need a BBQ tool set,” Mewburn added.
Another artisan trade that has been enjoying it’s own reinvigoration of sorts is the traditional barber.
“The modern gent is switching from going to get his hair cut at a hairdressers to going to see a barber again,” observed Mikey Enright. With more than 25 years experience in the bar industry under his belt, Enright had a business idea that would bring two traditional trades together to create something unconventional.
At its flagship store on York Street, The Barbershop is more than it appears. The parlour-style barbershop up front exudes the nostalgic atmosphere of a bygone era. Head through the partition doors at the back of the store and you’ll find yourself in a refined, dimly lit bar serving only the finest selection of gin.
While the York Street venue is “more a bar than a barbers”, the popularity of the old-fashioned grooming service soon prompted the opening of the sister store at Barrangaroo, which is “more barbers than bar”.
“Its all the smaller elements of a barbershop that make up the experience…I also think that the banter in a barbershop is important,” said Enright. “What I wanted to do was create a bar atmosphere within a barbers.”
With a nod to vintage styles of the “late 1800’s to the 1940’s” and the addition of modern comforts such as WiFi and phone charging ports, Enright has created a relaxing atmosphere for the person who gets a haircut once a year to the patron who frequents once a fortnight.
Enright assures that his venues are not boys only clubs, with many women enjoying a sharp haircut, and all are welcome in the bar, where he always recommends a neat martini.
Over the coming year The Barbershop plans to host grooming sessions with the assistance of Oscar Hunt Tailors of York Street. Closer on the horizon, patrons can expect the launch of Enright’s own specially developed gin scented hair paste and hand soap. Stay tuned to their website and Instagram for announcements.
Hands Head Heart
Cultivated from a couple’s love of learning and desire to create, Hands Head Heart specialise in the craftsmanship of three core elements: iron, timber and leather. It is the way they have embraced contemporary purposes for traditional leatherwork that has garnered the most excitement however.
Geordie and Zaya saw their passion grow from hobby to lifestyle, eventually deciding to ditch their day jobs and establish their business in January this year.
“Leather is almost in my DNA,” explained Zaya. Growing up in Mongolia, she spent her childhood occupying herself at her mother’s small shoemaking and leather goods factory, finding any opportunity she could to make something.
After a chance meeting in the frozen tundra of Siberia during a charity motorcycling event in 2013, Geordie and Zaya are continuously learning from each other, with Geordie having complementing skills in traditional crafts.
They tell their backstory through their goods – smartly designed, detail oriented products such as travel wallets, tool rolls and belts. “Our stuff always looks better once it’s been around for awhile,” said Geordie.
The pair are constantly developing new product lines, such as wallets, with each product thoroughly researched and tested before being released. They are currently fielding enquiries through their website, with their full e-commerce store launching shortly.
BE A BLACKSMITH
Courses range from $250–$880. Info & bookings: blacksmithingclasses.com.au
Barber services $25-$55. Luxury experiences available (and don’t forget the bar). Info & bookings: thisisthebarbershop.com, 02 9299 9699 (York St), 02 8096 1481 (Barrangaroo).
HANDS HEAD HEART
Various products & prices. Enquires & soon to be launched e-commerce store: handsheadheart.com
BY ALANNAH MAHER