Many of Handmade’s designers painstakingly create their products by hand. Whether it’s a stitched leather bag, a hand-thrown pot or a hammered silver ring, these are the true artisans of Australia. And there are some who take these traditional methods and create products that not only look beautiful, but have a story and a purpose, bringing together communities and making a difference.
Publisher Textiles is a business we’re delighted to welcome back to Handmade on 23 & 24 March. Based in Sydney, Mark and Steph use traditional hand screen-printing techniques to create bold and colourful textiles, wallpapers and clothing. Everything is done in-house, from design, to printing and the sewing of the clothing by a small and loyal team.
Publisher also works closely with several Indigenous communities throughout Australia, printing their artwork onto fabric and turning some of their designs into clothing. We asked Steph some questions about the business.
What’s the philosophy of Publisher?
Publisher Textiles & Papers is all about doing things the old-fashioned way, by hand, using traditional hand screen printing techniques and small-scale production. We create fabrics, wallpapers and clothing using our own range of exclusive prints and designs from remote aboriginal communities. We are proud to be able to be able to see a product come to life from start to finish, having a hand in each step of the way. Over the past 10 years we have been lucky enough to become part of the growing movement of indigenous textiles, partnering with Bábbarra Women’s Centre to create a clothing line featuring the work of artists.
Can you describe your printing process?
From the drawing board to the heat setter our skilled team oversees every part of the process. Using traditional screen printing techniques we operate with a small two man team on two 20 metre tables. Our long print tables are fitted with metal rails and adjustable knobs which can be adjusted to the specific repeat of each job. The ink is pulled across the screen, passed between two printers along the length of the table. The printers work in tandem skipping every second repeat to allow the ink to dry. Once the inks are dry the fabric is run through our ovens to set the ink, the fabric is then rolled and ready to be used.
How did the Bábbarra project come about?
In 2009 Publisher began working with Bobbie Ruben, a teacher and textile artist who runs print design workshops in remote Aboriginal Art Centres. Bobbie initially reached out to Publisher on behalf of Bábbarra Women’s Centre, from remote Northern Arnhem Land, who had begun to receive orders beyond their capacity to print. Mark fell in love with the work being produced in the workshops Bobbie ran and jumped at the chance to continue working with indigenous textiles. Over the next 5 years the number of Babbarra designs on screen expanded at Publisher. In 2018 we collaborated on a clothing collection based around the theme “Colours of Country”. The women of Babbarra created colourways that reflect the natural dyes created to colour the Pandanus leaves used in their weavings and the colours of the land on which they live. The collection is a celebration of the stories, dreaming and life of the women of Northern Arnhem Land.
What’s your favourite fabric at the moment and why?
My personal favourite is Deborah Wurrkidj’s Manwak (Mumeka Blooms). Manwak, the beautiful large flower, grows near Mumeka creek, on the artist’s homeland. The inside kernel resembles a strawberry in appearance and flavour, but is also very spicy. The inside of the flowers are eaten fresh, a favourite manme (bush food) of the region. The design has been one of Bábbarra’s most popular prints and has been used for everything from clothing to wall hangings. The design has almost endless colour options and is one of the most satisfying to watch come to life on the tables.
We can’t wait to see you at the market again. What’s the best thing about coming to Handmade?
The community of makers! Handmade has done a truly amazing job at fostering a sense of community among the stall holders. Over the years we have formed friendships with both stall holders and customers alike, we feel truly welcome in Canberra and leave with good stories every time, usually from the Saturday afternoon stall holder drinks, which are always a highlight!
What are your favourite things about Canberra, particularly in Autumn?
While I’m at the Markets, Mark spends his days touring the National Art Gallery and Library, forever on the hunt for the inspiration behind his next design. As we sometimes bring our 4 year old along and Mark is a kid at heart, Questacon is also a favourite destination. A highlight of the Autumn markets for us is the variety of unique food and drink offerings in the food hall! We always stock up on chocolates for Easter and make sure we pick up a couple of bottles of locally made gin (which Canberra is getting VERY good a producing).
You can find Publisher Textiles at the next market, 23 & 24 March, 10am – 4pm at Exhibition Park Canberra.