Jenny Shaw is one of the original Lonsdale Street trailblazers.
Until 2008, she owned and ran the Hive Gallery. Being an artist and working with them fuelled her grand passion for colour, but by 2011, she felt the need for a break and a recharge, which saw her travelling Australia and redefining her goals.
On her return, she found that she had missed working with colour and the joy it gave her. But she also discovered that her commitment to the handmade, artisanal and decorative life was starting to be shared by many local businesses. Where once she had been the only one, now she found like-minded people wanting to spread the colour. It was time to return to retail and Handsome Pretty, the newest incarnation of her creative and decorative journey, was born.
Originally among the Londsdale Street Traders, the shop moved over to the Ori building in January. Jenny relishes the light and has turned the space into a mecca of what she calls “curated colour.” Where before, her commitment was to Australian products, she has broadened her scope to include homewares from around the world from Morocco to Asia, all still handmade and unique.
The name came from the 1970s TV show, Lost in Space, in which a green alien woman falls for the cantankerous Dr Zachary Smith and, seeing something in him that no one else sees, calls him “handsomepretty”. Jenny thinks we all have our own version of what is handsomepretty, and as the shop displays such a mix of products in such a mix of colours, it’s easy to find something that each of us thinks is beautiful.
Canberra, as we all know, is changing and Jenny has seen this first hand. “Ten years ago, we were all a little bit embarrassed to be from Canberra,” she says, “but now everyone is so proud of it!”
Her favourite haunts include the Local Press Café in Kingston and shopping local in Braddon, but if she’s feeling nostalgic, a walk through Down Memory Lane in Fyshwick does the trick. However, the sense of community that is evident in Lonsdale Street is, to Jenny, the best thing about the new Canberra. Everyone is trying to make a living, but does so in a welcoming and encouraging way.
And the customers have changed too. They’re no longer looking for replicas of the things they’ve seen elsewhere. Instead, they want something different and original. “Canberrans make their own decisions,” says Jenny, and she’s tapped into this because the first reaction many people have when they walk through her door is “this is different,” and that’s exactly what she wants to hear.
All of them will no doubt find their handsomepretty at Jenny’s place.