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The Natural Artisan










Mixing straw and clay by foot to form cob. Photography: Rebecca Park


Winter 2014




Cover Photography: Jeni Lee, Carousel Media


Editor: Rebecca Park

Design: Tiam Whitfield


The Natural Artisan: bringing together ‘the creators’ of all kinds to celebrate and share the art of crafting beautiful spaces and objects. We do this with a collective intention to live in tune with nature. As Tolkien said in The Fellowship of the Ring: “We put the thought of all that we love into all that we make.” A ROCKCOTE Publication 3



Chris Leach right at home in his workshop on the Sunshine Coast

The Natural Artisan

Chris Leach Chris Leach Designer Furniture Sunshine Coast, QLD


I was bought a lathe as a kid. I knew I wanted to do something where the fruits of my labour would be tangible and practical. I started making small items for family and friends and found a passion for timber and what could be accomplished with each individual block. It’s hard to find the right word that describes how I feel when I am here in the workshop. I guess it is contentment. Contentment in the knowledge this endeavor is my livelihood but also my creative outlet. I look around and see what can be done - in the chaos of all this timber I see individual pieces and the potential of what each piece could become. Being surrounded by the potential is motivational and keeps me focused. I love finding something that has been discarded, like the rusty old wheel on the bench, and turning it into a functional piece of furniture that is also a work of art.

Photography: Rebecca Park

This is a space I love to work in. It’s like a cocoon – a safe, inspiring home away from home.

Winter 2014


AUSTRALIA’S FIRST GREEN STAR RATED LIBRARY The Melton Library in Victoria is a superb example of what can be achieved when innovation meets a resolve to minimise environmental impact. This stunning Five Star Green Star building which opened late in 2013 is made from 40% recycled materials, with 80% of construction waste recycled. Energy efficient design initiatives combined with photovoltaic cells on the roof greatly reduce electricity and gas consumption. There’s never been a better incentive to lose yourself in literature! More at and search for Melton Library 6

The Natural Artisan

MANDY GUNN: REIMAGINING THE FAMILIAR Mandy Gunn is an acclaimed and award-winning eco artist who works with recycled materials. Mandy is known mainly for her constructions, installations and sculptures all hand cut and reconstructed from familiar everyday materials such as books, inner tubes and rusted steel. We especially love her Architext works, featuring recycled book pages on collage construction (pictured). More at

MELBOURNE ECO-OASIS A decommissioned rubbish tip has been transformed into an eco-oasis in suburban Melbourne. CERES – the Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies – is an award-winning not-for-profit sustainability centre in East Brunswick. Visitors can check out green technology displays, an organic market, café and permaculture nursery seven days a week. More at

Winter 2014

A NATURALLY BEAUTIFUL BAKERY Amidst a busy main street in urban Bondi is a delightful little bakery that embodies the spirit of naturally beautiful buildings. Owners of the Tin Pin Bakery have really embraced their theme Organic, Passion, Flavour with natural rendered and polished clay walls. More at 7

The versatility of lime plasters means that a skilled artisan can create a unique look and finish to suit your taste and space.


The Natural Artisan



here’s nothing quite so elegant in a bathroom as a seamless finish – the smooth, flowing curves and unified meeting of the elements create a sense of ease and continuity not felt in a standard modern bathroom.

The grace of a seamless finish is achieved by smoothing out the usual harsh angles where surfaces meet: where floors meet walls; walls meet ceilings; and where bathtubs and showers interact with their surrounds. There are various options for creating seamless finishes including complete wall panels, polished concrete and a variety of plaster finishes which are by far the most versatile. CONTINUED

Seamless ROCKCOTE Marrakesh bathroom walls in Noosa, Queensland Photography: Ross Eason | Artisan: Shannon Whitehill, Australian Artisans Winter 2014



Lime based plaster allows an artisan to create a unique seamless bathroom, tailored to any particular style, colour and finish. Create a traditional Tadelakt or Moroccan plaster finish or for a contemporary look, a glass face marble plaster. Lime based plasters such as Marrakesh can retain the charm and stunning look of a traditional Tadelakt but with the ability to perform in a modern bathroom – and consistent results. Bathrooms have always been one of the most difficult areas of a home to clean but lime plasters have an inbuilt resistance to mould. The reason is that mould can only grow in an acidic and wet or damp environment. Lime plasters breathe and do not retain moisture so there is no food source for mould to spore. Being completely natural, lime plasters are not just carbon neutral but carbon positive, meaning they eliminate more carbon dioxide than they contribute to the atmosphere. An added bonus is they don’t emit any of the harmful chemicals used in many bathroom fixtures, and therefore help to improve air quality.

Polish level options Glass: a reflective, highly polished finish, also described as a mirror finish Lustre: a slight sheen or glow that reflects soft light at different angles 10

Preparation and application of lime-based plasters The application of lime plaster is a complex craft and should be carried out by a skilled artisan. Correct application requires careful surface preparation, skilled application of the plaster, and effective use of black olive soap for waterproofing. The versatility of lime plasters means that a skilled artisan can create a unique look and finish to suit your taste and space. Each artisan will have different finishing techniques depending on where they trained, experience and the variety of specialist tools they use.

Care of lime-based plasters Giving a completed natural lime plaster bathroom the right tender loving care is important. Grime is much less likely to build up on it in the same way that it can on other surfaces because lime plaster is finished with a layer of natural black olive soap. This makes it easier to clean and is especially useful in areas such as showers, where grime can be an issue. Any grime can be removed with a small amount of black olive soap on a soft sponge. Most importantly, avoid using any harsh chemicals such as bleach, as this could damage the surface. The artisan should provide full care instructions. The Natural Artisan




A trip to Morocco for a friend’s wedding inspired Sieh Mchawala and Jeni Lee from Echunga in the Adelaide Hills to recreate the romance and mood of traditional Tadelakt in their own bathroom. When it came to refurbishing their bathroom, Sieh and Jeni recalled staying in a four storey Moroccan apartment with Tadelakt walls. “The entire interior including a staircase that opened to the sky was done in Tadelakt. We sat there and said ‘wow … this is the way to do it,’” said Sieh. “We wanted to avoid the boxiness of traditional bathrooms and create beautiful, smooth curves – a seamless, continuous surface throughout the room.” Chris from Sky High Renders helped plan the bathroom and suggested that Marrakesh could achieve the desired look. Winter 2014

Sieh said the lime-based plaster finish was ideal for their family. “It’s a very practical bathroom. I am not a fan of tiles, mould, grout or silicon. With this finish, you jump in, get it wet and then walk away. There’s no mould and it’s low maintenance.” “We definitely achieved the Moroccan feel we wanted. The smooth seamless surface creates a beautifully soft ambience especially when candles are added.” PROJECT DETAILS

Country home, Echunga, South Australia ROCKCOTE Marrakesh bathroom Owners: Sieh Mchawala and Jeni Lee

Artisan: Chris Walker from Sky High Renders Photography: Jeni Lee, Carousel Media


BUILDING COMMUNITY by inspiring healthy living

LOHAS Cafe angels Rosie, Tahnee and Misha

It’s a warm, blue-sky Saturday morning in Burleigh Heads, Queensland. The winter sunshine beams down on the courtyard as we sample the tasty morsels lovingly prepared for us by Raw Connections – dairy-free caramel slice, vanilla chia pods and delicious chai made with organic coconut milk. Words and images by Rebecca Park


The Natural Artisan


eople are kindly greeting each other with smiles and hugs, the place abuzz with lively conversation. A handful of alternative health practitioners gently treat clients; tables are filled with baskets of leafy green produce; plump, juicy tomatoes are sold by local growers; a graceful young man sells bouquets of edible flowers to delighted passers-by. It is this vision of community that Kym from Life Changing Events dreamed of creating when she established the LOHAS precinct – a place where people passionate about Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (hence LOHAS) could gather regularly to learn, share and embrace all aspects of healthy living. CONTINUED

Winter 2014


The LOHAS market was a natural progression from a series of successful film nights that Life Changing Events has run at venues across the region almost every month since 2009 – 77 inspiring and informative films designed to change the way people eat, drink and think. The film nights have attracted more than 11,000 people over that time, and Kym said the interest continued to gain momentum as the community became more informed. It was clear to Kym that the next step was establishing a place where people could buy chemical-free foods and so the LOHAS precinct was born. A former city banker who moved to the Gold Coast 27 years ago, Kym is still surprised at where this journey has taken her and the incredible community that has built up around her responses to the terminal illness of way too many dear friends and family members. “My first wake-up call came when my best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer 25 years ago. She was immediately thrown into this spin of fear along with her family and me – other than surgery the only options provided were radiation and chemotherapy.” “I began to think that what she was eating or not eating together with high chemical exposure in her workplace might have been a contributing factor to her deteriorating health. I started reading everything I could get my hands on. At that stage, I didn’t even know anything about organic food.” Kym prolifically read books on nutrition, many that suggested a link between chemicals in our food supply and various forms of cancer. A local naturopath who provided guidance and mentoring suggested Kym make changes to her own diet including giving up dairy, sugar and bread. She began sourcing organic produce for her family and sick friend from farmers as far afield as Lismore In the meantime, Kym became something of a walking library and began loaning fact sheets and books to anyone who was interested. 14

Kym O’Connell from Life Changing Events with some of the delightful organic produce available at the LOHAS markets

“I can’t understand why mainstream doctors don’t question the food that cancer patients are eating or discuss food as medicine.” - Kym O’Connell

The Natural Artisan

While supporting her friend, Kym’s mother-inlaw was also diagnosed with cancer. Another seven people in Kym’s close network have suffered from cervical, thyroid or breast cancer and she remains horrified that none of them were ever asked by doctors about the types of food they ate. “I can’t understand why mainstream doctors don’t question the food that cancer patients are eating or discuss food as medicine.” Kym embarked on an organic farming course with David Forrest, one of the region’s pioneers in organic farming. Her fellow students were traditional farmers, city farmers, and people like Kym who just wanted to grow healthy food for their families. “One by one David was converting traditional farmers from chemical-based methods to certified organic practices through information and education. From him I learned about the chemicals used and their impacts as well as how to produce natural, chemical-free food.” Films began piling up in Kym’s library to complement the books she had been reading. “It’s really a horror show for anyone who eats food – if you want some insights into how our food is produced, check out The Future of Food or Food Inc. It is really very scary and the mainstream media doesn’t want to know because there are too many large companies trying to protect their interests. The reality is that people are getting sick and our food supply is under threat. If we lose our food supply, we are screwed.” CONTINUED

Bryn and Colin from Raw Connections serving up some of their lovingly prepared raw food Winter 2014


Lawson with some of his beautiful, edible bouquets. 16

The Natural Artisan

Kym found her calling in sharing information about what goes into our food and so the films began. The first five screenings were held in a friend’s health food store but they soon outgrew the venue and moved to the Gold Coast Arts Centre where the screenings regularly attracted 200-300 people. Panel discussions led by doctors, nutritionists and farmers gave attendees the opportunity to ask questions and share in dialogue about the issues presented. A grass roots community grew around the film nights with enduring friendships and connections made, resources shared and people making proactive changes to their lifestyles and eating habits. Kym was constantly approached by people wanting to purchase chemical-free foods and environmentally friendly products but there was nowhere on the Gold Coast that brought these products and support services together. In partnership with the Burleigh Heads Market and Burleigh Heads State School (where the film screenings are now held), the LOHAS market was born, described by Kym as a “sacred space where like-minded people can gather to gain awareness, be inspired and take action.” The precinct includes an alkaline “bar” borne to produce healing drinks including a range of delicious natural juices and smoothies, and the Village Café that offers delicious healthy food and snacks.

Winter 2014

Kym remains humble about her impact on the thousands of lives her generosity and compassion continues to touch. “This community does not happen because I foster it. There is a certain caring and thoughtfulness inherent in people who embrace this lifestyle. Our artisans are all completely committed to health and not turnover as the main driver – it is a different approach to the mainstream.” “An artisan is the maker of something special from nature that is offered as a gift to the consumer. It is something money can’t buy. I believe that connection with the artisan is the next step to a brighter future for us as consumers. Whether the artisan is a foodie, a farmer, a producer or the creator of something beautiful, the intention that goes into that creation can never be available in goods found in a department store.”

LOHAS Markets

Every Saturday 7am - 1pm Burleigh Heads State School Hall, Queensland Details: Life Changing Events films

For upcoming screenings, visit


HOW TO CHOOSE HEALTHIER AND ENVIRONMENTALLYPREFERABLE PAINTS Paints and coatings can have significant impacts on the environment and human health, depending on what ingredients and components they contain. Paint is made from three basic ingredients: pigment, binder and solvent. In addition to these it can contain a variety of additives, including biocides (to prevent bacteria or fungal growth in the can or on the painted surface). By Emma Lloyd

Each of these ingredients can have an impact on the environment during the life cycle of the paint. PIGMENTS Pigments provide the colour, the opacity and the protective barrier in the paint. Titanium dioxide is used widely in the paint industry for this purpose. Its major environmental impact is in its manufacture, since it has high embodied energy (total amount of energy required to produce and transport a product), is a limited resource and its production results in both air and water emissions that carry an environmental impact. BINDERS The binder is what forms the film in a paint, helping it to adhere to the surface and influencing the resulting shine or flexibility. They can consist of synthetic or natural resins such as acrylics, polyurethanes, vinyl acrylics, melamine resins, epoxies or oils. Some binders cause a greater environmental 18

impact than others. In particular, linoleic acid production (linseed oil) causes significantly more environmental damage to an ecosystem due to crop growth and agriculture. SOLVENTS The solvent can be thought of as the carrier. It evaporates as the paint dries on the surface. Water is obviously the preferable solvent as it causes no environmental problems as it evaporates, whereas organic solvents release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the surrounding environment. Solvent-based paint also contains around 50 per cent more embodied energy than water-based paint. VOCs are detrimental to indoor air quality. They can trigger allergies, asthma, headaches and other irritating symptoms as they readily vaporise into the surrounding air. VOC levels in indoor environments rise dramatically immediately after you finish painting, and can continue seeping out of the walls for several years to come. The Natural Artisan

VOCs are also suspected to cause cancer in humans and have been associated with “sick building syndrome”. Occupants of a “sick” building typically experience “acute health and comfort effects” that can be reasonably linked to time spent in a building but with no obvious specific cause. Sufferers may complain of headaches; irritation to eyes, nose, throat or skin; fatigue and difficulty concentrating; a cough; or dizziness and nausea. They usually feel a sense of relief soon after walking out of the building.

a 12% reduction in average hours worked each month. This suggests that their productivity improved dramatically following the move. There were also improvements for the workers’ health, with significant reductions in the frequency of headaches, colds / flus, sore eyes, fatigue, and reported poor concentration. The other components of paints can contain ingredients that are toxic to those producing the paint and those applying it. Many chemicals are used as biocides, and these are necessary. However,

under the most recent Paints and Coatings standard meet the requirements of the VOC credit under indoor environment quality as part of Green Star. While it is still legal to use products that emit nasties like VOCs, the issues caused by using these products are becoming increasingly apparent to specifiers, procurement officers and DIY enthusiasts. A lot of brands available on the market offer low-VOC or no-VOC alternatives, with several taking the extra step of attaining third-party certification to demonstrate that

Evidence of independent thirdparty certification is the best way to ensure the claims are genuine... Interior sources are often the main culprits of poor indoor air quality in a “sick” building, with VOC emissions coming from adhesives, upholstered furniture, flooring, paints and cleaning products. And poor indoor air quality doesn’t just cause people to feel sick - it can also affect their productivity. A 2009 study by the Kador Group into the tenants of Green Star-rated 500 Collins Street in Melbourne investigated the effects of indoor air quality on workplace productivity. The existing tenants – a small law firm – were in the process of moving to newly refurbished space in the same building, with the refurbishments obtaining a 5 Green Star rating for Office Design and meeting criteria for environmental and human health standards. The new office resulted in significant reductions in sick leave (down 39%), increased average typing speed (up 9%) and accuracy, and a 7% increase in the billings ratio for the lawyers, despite Winter 2014

some can be carcinogens or cause mutations, so it’s important to avoid these. Some biocides can also release VOCs, even when you purchase a water-based paint, which is why no-VOC formulations are best. THIRD-PARTY CERTIFICATION The easiest way to determine which paints are environmentallypreferable and better for human health is to study the manufacturer’s claims on the packaging. Evidence of independent third-party certification is the best way to ensure the claims are genuine, such as the ecolabel scheme run by Good Environmental Choice Australia. GECA-certified paints and coatings do not contain known carcinogenic or mutagenic chemicals, and there are limits placed on the amount of titanium dioxide used. GECA only certifies water-based paints with low VOC content. Those certified

they’re environmentally preferable. Most will cost the same and give the same end result as standard formulations, so it makes sense to switch to safer paints which are better for you and for the environment. Emma Lloyd is the Communications Officer for Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA), which runs Australia’s only independent, not-forprofit ecolabelling program. References:

Sick Building Syndrome fact sheet – Environmental Protection Agency factsheet.pdf Sustainability Victoria 2009, ‘Employee Productivity in a Sustainable Building, Pre-and Post Occupancy Studies in 500 Collins Street’ library/Employee%20Productivity%20 in%20a%20Sustainable%20Building.pdf



Heart of Darlinghurst

From a dense jungle to a minimalist laboratory, from the romance of thousands of miniature roses to being knee-deep in foliage – every day at Hermetica Flowers is distinctive according to co-owner Jai Winnell.


The Natural Artisan

Winter 2014


Photography: Sue Robbins


or a small florist shop, Hermetica is making a big impact on a busy Darlinghurst street. Nestled between terrace buildings in a cosmopolitan café strip and three doors down from Australia’s most adored ice-cream shop, Gelato Messina, Hermetica has quickly become known for its unique sculptural arrangements and stunning window displays. Upon moving into the space last year, Jai, and business partner Edward West, immersed themselves in a transformation that drew on Jai’s floristry experience in central London and an overwhelming desire to deliver something different to current floristry trends.

“Ten years ago, my first job was as a florist in this space,” says Jai. “I worked here for a few years and then moved to London. When I returned, the opportunity arose to take over the lease and the transformation began.” “The shop was outdated with old tiles and cabinetry. Black walls created a rather gloomy mood, much like a garage,” explained Jai. The new look was to be contemporary and minimalist in style, very different to the vintage look currently on trend in many urban florists.

Selecting the right materials for the walls would be key to delivering a fresh, clean elegance that complemented the natural beauty of the flowers. “The intention was always to use natural materials. Our vision was for the work space to feel like a sophisticated natural laboratory with clay or lime walls.” Designer Jennifer Fair recommended artisan Peter Holmes who suggested Clayset for its soft, lustrous finish and ability to maintain a cool, regular temperature. “The result is beyond amazing. Shimmer, shape, shadow…the walls have life and allow the flowers to cast a shadow that is irregular and soft,” Jai said, the delight evident in his voice. “The freshness

of the walls really lets the flowers speak for themselves.” Polished concrete-look floors complement the walls, and cabinetry handmade and painted by Jai’s father maintains the clean, contemporary design. This stunning space reflects Jai and Edward’s philosophy of delivering much more than simple floral arrangements for their clients. “I like to show people what can be done with designer flowers that people won’t see elsewhere. It’s not just about making a bouquet - it’s about creating a beautiful space where people want to be, accessing the best produce available, and bringing an amazing sculptural artwork to life every time.” “Buying flowers is the ultimate luxury. You can’t eat or resell them. They will ultimately die but bring so much joy while they last. I’m lucky to be able to deliver that joy to our customers every single day.” PROJECT DETAILS

Hermetica Flowers, Darlinghurst, Sydney Owners: Jai Winnell and Edward West Photography: Sue Robbins

Design: Jennifer Fair Interiors

Artisan (clay walls): Peter Holmes, Tadelakt Sydney


The Natural Artisan

“Shimmer, shape, shadow… the walls have life and allow the flowers to cast a shadow that is irregular and soft.”

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Contact: WINTER ISSUE FEATURED ARTISANS: Chris Walker, Sky High Renders Jeni Lee, Carousel Media Chris Leach, Chris Leach Designer Furniture Mandy Gunn, artist

Shannon Whitehill, Australian Artisans

Jai Winnell & Edward West, Hermetica Flowers

Ross Eason, Eason Creative Photography

Peter Holmes, Tadelakt Sydney

Bryn and Colin, Raw food artisans

Sue Robbins, Sue Robbins Photography












The Natural Artisan: Winter 2014  

Bringing together creators of all kinds to celebrate the art of crafting beautiful spaces and objects.