Meet makers at Bowerbird

Adelaide's Bowerbird market is a great place for product launches

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Humblee Eco founder Leonie Prater loves to launch new products at Bowerbird market.

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Markets play a key role in Leonie Prater's business making and selling sustainable products. And there is one market in particular where she likes to launch new products.

Leonie founded Humblee Eco to produce beeswax food wraps and bags and will debut a new waxed bag using hemp fabric at Bowerbird in May.

It is the fourth time she will be involved in the market - stallholders need to apply to be part of each billing - and she is still pinching herself to be lucky enough to participate again.

"We have amazing designers and artisan producers involved in the market and many are based right here in SA," she said.

"It's amazing what we have here in our own backyard, but it will be lovely to have the interstate producers coming back after Covid to showcase their wares.

"To be regarded at the same level as these designers is a fabulous boost to your self-esteem. It's the pinnacle of markets in SA, and people come from far and wide to purchase these quality products."

Making wax food wraps started as Leonie's way of reducing her plastic usage, by cutting out her use of cling film.

"We know a lot about the mess that we have created from using this material [plastic] and know that we can't continue this way," she said.

"I want to be able to look at my granddaughter and say, 'I knew this problem existed and I found something I could do to help'."

A reusable wrap and bag. Photo: Instagram.

A reusable wrap and bag. Photo: Instagram.

The wraps use a formula of beeswax, tree resin and jojoba, and she also has a vegan-friendly recipe using plant-based waxes.

The waxes are applied to two types of fabric - organic cotton and hemp. The hemp is hand dyed using Bengala earth dyes and Leonie often uses the Japanese Shibori design technique.

"With Bengala dyes, you get softer colours, which have to be kneaded into the fabric; the remaining clear water can be poured into the garden," she said.

The reusable wraps can be used for bread, veggies, cheese, fruit and sandwiches, can be washed with cold water and have an average lifespan of 12 months.

"The wraps cost the same amount as all the rolls of cling wrap we buy in a year," Leonie said. "We're just not throwing them in the bin to end up in landfill - we can tear them into strips and put them in the compost."

Her product range has since expanded into tea towels, aprons and napkins using the hemp fabric.

All the work to make the products is done in her studio at Seacliff Park, helped by her husband Jeremy. She does the designing, making, administration, marketing, ordering and bookwork, but gets outside help for graphic design and website support.

While her products are sold in eco stores and online, it's at markets where Leonie trades the most.

"I love meeting people and I love talking about the products," she said.

FACE TO FACE: Humblee Eco founder Leonie Prater enjoys meeting people at markets and talking to people about her products. Photo supplied.

FACE TO FACE: Humblee Eco founder Leonie Prater enjoys meeting people at markets and talking to people about her products. Photo supplied.

This year's market - expected to feature 150 exhibitors - will also be the fourth for its owner Peggy Byrne, who bought the business from founder Jane Barwick in early 2020. Despite a false start at the beginning of the pandemic, she has been able to host three markets to date.

"Bowerbird is a place where you can discover real treasures," Peggy said.

"The designers are asked to present their products themselves so you can hear their stories, share their passion for the work they do and get a sense of understanding of the talent and time and devotion required to make these products.

"Buying a product and knowing so much more about its origins is priceless. It turns a simple mug into a story, a piece of someone's life. It's really quite special."

OFF TO MARKET: Bowerbird owner Peggy Byrne. Photo supplied.

OFF TO MARKET: Bowerbird owner Peggy Byrne. Photo supplied.

Peggy described how the exhibitors are curated.

"First and foremost, we look for Australian designers and makers. Our vendors cannot sell products they did not design. That is key.

"Then we look at the quality of each designer/maker within each category and select the best, most innovative, those who have new products to showcase. Usually we end up with 50 per cent new and 50 per cent returning designers and a similar mix of SA and interstate vendors."

Peggy said Bowerbird's primary purpose is to support Australian small creative businesses.

"Bowerbird provides a platform for these small makers to showcase their work and share their passion with our audience. If we can establish a relationship between exhibitors and shoppers rather than just provide a transaction, then the value of that transaction is tenfold.

"We encourage new designers to participate to test the market and usually have 10-20 emerging artists at each event.

"We do require a certain level of business development, such as a working website with shop facility, and established social media platforms. This is to ensure we can facilitate an ongoing relationship between vendor and shopper after the event."

Peggy said the market is a great opportunity for designers and makers of any age.

"Established makers sharing their story with shoppers, face to face interactions creating memorable relationships. This is what Bowerbird is all about.

"As a collective, the designers at each event are very supportive of each other. We find that many gain as much from sharing their experiences with other makers than with shoppers. Many collaborations have resulted from neighbouring vendors having a chat."

She only listed the technological divide as something she had noticed from senior applicants.

"From a creative perspective, there is no difference between designers; talent comes to us at any age. However we have found that our older designers can have some resistance to the digital component of running a business.

"Bowerbird and the designer community work together to share knowledge, contacts and experiences to ease such resistance."

There was a "mini" Bowerbird in the Dress Circle foyers of the Festival Theatre at the Adelaide Festival Centre over the March long weekend

A selection of designers and makers who best represent the quality and variety found at Bowerbird were invited to be part of this mini event.

"There is nothing better than asking someone 'have you visited a Bowerbird event before?' and then sharing with them what we do and introducing them to our vendors and seeing their eyes light up.. It's like they've discovered something really special," Peggy said.

"We look forward to welcoming all our new friends in May."

Bowerbird is at Wayville Showgrounds, Adelaide, from May 13-15. Click here for more information.

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