L: Self-watering mini planters made from recycled wine bottles R: Sophie Smyth at her Wickham studio with recycled bottle light pendants ready to be hung.
Wickham is such a wonderful pocket of Newcastle where industry and residential collide and it’s so close to the CBD, waterfront and Islington Hamilton. Quaint weatherboard cottages sit side-by-side with auto-repair workshops and woolsheds (auctions and Pigeon Coop Studios long gone). There’s The Lass, Croatian Club, Sourdough Baker, Fig Tree Community Garden and its neighbouring playground, Dark Horse Espresso inside of French Patina Studio which overlooks the Greenway Street art wall, The Albion, Fishermans Co-op and Wickham Motorcycle Co. Oh and I nearly forgot Inner City Winemakers, Arts Systems and of course, The Wicko! I often lament not buying an old warehouse there fifteen or even ten years ago.
Another little creative enterprise that has make Wickham its home is a stone’s throw from The Lass and is occupied by three women, one of whom is Sophie Smyth of Vintage Last Tuesday. Sophie’s designs mainly focus on lighting (including dip-dyed string shades not photographed here, but available via Sophie’s Etsy store), however there is also a clever range of leather bags and planters included in the mix. As for two others in this trio, I have an another excuse to come back to share their goings-on.
I am an industrial designer, graphic designer and artist and received my Bachelor in Fine Arts/Sculpture from Sydney College of the Arts, Rozelle in 2007. I then went onto further study in design at TAFE and finally, Enmore Design Centre to study product design. My work would then bring me into contact with some of the best architects and interior designers in NSW in my role as a decorative and architectural lighting consultant for well-respected designer retailer, Dedece in Darlinghurst. It is here that my love of lighting was cemented and in the creation of Vintage Last Tuesday, I can now finally combine all of my loves, focusing on handmade, unique and sustainable design.
What has been your most memorable project?
Working with local craftsman, Neil Keats, a wood turner who helped realise my Turned series of recycled wood drop-pendant lights. He is a gentleman and a true artisan.
What would be your dream project?
I would love to do more interiors for hospitality. You can be so much more free and creative. I also am currently working on curating a new space in Newcastle for artists and other creatives to rent studio space. A collective of creative people in one place, sharing ideas and resources. I hope this becomes a reality because it would be so great and it’s so badly needed in Newcastle. Watch this space!
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Having the courage to quit my job and move cities to follow my dream.
L: Sophie shares her studio space with Jess Coleman aka The Wedding Designer and Emma Guy from Dreaming of Stepford. R: A sweet little bottle pendant.
What is your most treasured possession?
My kitten Hunter. He tolerates my constant overbearing love and cuddles with patience.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
It’s pretty varied from day to day but a studio day involves, getting up and out and coffee’d by 9am. Spend the day at the warehouse/ studio either sewing bags, working on a project or researching. Maybe a gym visit and home for dinner at 6pm. There is also A LOT of trips to Bunnings. I may as well live there.
What is your most valuable pearl of wisdom gained since starting your business?
Don’t expect everything to happen all at once and quickly. Take one task at a time and work on that, then move to the next. Be methodical. I personally struggle with that.
Where do you derive creative inspiration?
I constantly flood my mind with images. These all seem to merge and I can hopefully take the best of each and make something new. Also my work is often inspired by the material itself. I like to use recycled, repurposed and found objects wherever I can.
Which other designers, artists or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
For leather bags I cannot go past frrry. He’s a designer out of Amsterdam and I LOVE his stuff. Kate Stokes from Coco Flip is an amazing Australian designer and also Jess Coleman from The Wedding Designer and Emma Guy from Dreaming of Stepford. I share the warehouse with these girls and they are such hard workers and so talented.
R: The Stepford / Wedding Planner / Vintage Last Tuesday shopfront (by appointment) L: VLT’s sunshine-dipped trolley table.
What are some of your favourite websites or blogs?
Apart from your work, what other interests, passions, hobbies do you have?
I like to swim (but only in the summer!) but mostly I love hanging out with my friends and eating. Eating and drinking are definitely hobbies of mine. My talented boyfriend Graeme Townsend from Casa De Loco never disappoints on the cocktail front. ;)
How long have you been a Novocastrian?
Well I was born here but we moved to Sydney in 1996 and I have just made it back in January this year.
Newcastle in a word?
What do you love and hate about living in Newcastle?
I love the closeness of your friends and everything to you at any one time. I love the beach and the lifestyle. I hate the drivers…. For some reason people are terrible drivers!
How is Newcastle different to anywhere else?
Newcastle isn’t afraid to be itself. Whether you love it or hate it, it is what it is.
L: ‘Turned’ Sophie’s locally made wooden long drop pendants. R: The warehouse space utilised for props storage for Sophie’s studio mates.
Where are your favourite places in Newcastle / Hunter to:
Saluna (137 King St, Newcastle)
Casa De Loco (10 Pacific St, Newcastle)
The Lass O’Gowrie (14 Railway St, Wickham)
What is Newcastle / Hunter’s best-kept secret?
That it’s an awesome place to live (people don’t know)!