Five Questions – Tango and James


Ten years ago, Julie Nichols was preparing for her first Handmade Market. Also ten years ago, Lisa Barrett was writing the Canberra’s Got Style Blog and had started a little hobby business, making very unique, textile based jewellery and fabric handbags, and with only an online Etsy store, she needed a real market place to sell, meet her customers and get great feedback. “The lead-up to very first Handmade Market felt very optimistic, though we really didn’t know if there would be a good crowd – boy were we blown away!! It was packed! It seemed like all of Canberra came to The Albert Hall to see an all new, local designer market, which, 10 years later keeps breaking record crowd numbers!! And it was a wonderful thing for local makers – a venue to put the goods and the right customers together.”

Over the years, Lisa’s business, Tango and James, has changed and she has now found her niche producing unique textile based items and upholsteries for the home. Every piece is individual, or very limited edition, so she’s been able to keep the range fresh for each market, and now because she gets so much custom work, she regards the Handmade Market to be equally exhibition and sales. “The pace of the quarterly market is perfect for keeping new customer orders rolling in, and I have a loyal customer base who seek my stall out every time to have a chat, see whats new and order more amazing pieces!”

Lisa in her studio and her Handmade stalls over the last ten years, including The Yarralumla Woolshed, The Kamberra Wine Company, The National Convention Centre and EPIC.

As Lisa was there right at the beginning and has grown with handmade, we asked her our five questions.

What’s the best thing about being a designer?

The greatest thing is being able to create at my whimsy, and by that I mean stretching my creativity to make what I really love – and its an amazing bonus that there are people  out there that also love it and now seek my bold style. I think thats the pinnacle of design, when you get to be creative within your own style!

Have you got a current favourite product and why? 

My products are each so very individual, so I guess that’s my favourite thing about my products. Each piece presents a completely new challenge and outcome. For me, the thrill is recycling something old, maybe worthless into something covetable and amazing, ready to be re-loved!

What is your studio like?

My studio space is at home, I have a work room with an astonishing fabric stash to rival any other, sewing machines, work bench/cutting table, computer and tech for designing and businessing, pin boards for inspiration and organisation, and it’s a deliciously creative mess most of the time – pom poms everywhere! I also have a display room where finished, ready to sell pieces live until they find a new home, and I have quite a massive collection of old chairs, destined to become fabulous. Upstairs in our living room is my favourite spot to style and photograph finished projects – which just might be my favourite thing!

What are you most looking forward to about the October Handmade Market?

The thing I look forward to the absolute most is seeing my regular customers come back, and of course meeting new ones! This market is pretty special being the 10 year anniversary … how amazing to have an event that is still smooth, professional, well organised and massively popular as ever!

What’s special to you about Spring?

I adore Spring, it feels like such a wonderfully optimistic time, like we are coming out from a hibernation!  I’m filling it with nature, blooms and beautiful creatures! And lots of fabulous colour!