lifestyle travellers

Our daughter Arkie taking in a street scene in Can Tho, Vietnam. Photograph by  Emma Byrnes

Our daughter Arkie taking in a street scene in Can Tho, Vietnam. Photograph by Emma Byrnes

My husband Pete and I have hatched a collaborative project called Lifestyle Traveller. For six weeks now we have been on the road in Vietnam with our three kids in-tow and the whole "working remotely" gig suits us both down to a tee. We love being free of the constraints of everyday life in Melbourne (read: alarm clocks, school, homework, laundry, dishes) and spending our days with our children, sniffing out wonderful adventures and meeting interesting folk along the way.
And the great thing for us is that our journey has only just begun!
Pete is a journalist who writes about food, travel and lifestyle and if you know me then you are aware that I am interested in visual storytelling on anything related to food, textiles, ethical business and family life. Lifestyle Traveller will bring together all of those interests as well as exploring some ideas around education and unschooling/worldschooling, which I'm particularly interested in (if you'd like to jump right in to that, read this post). Pete and I have been together for twenty years and have never joined our skills for anything vaguely work-related, so it is an exciting occasion for us. If you have a moment, please head on over and have a look around - I'd love to hear what you think. 
Em x

a sense of belonging

photograph by  Emma Byrnes

photograph by Emma Byrnes

I love small business. I have always been a keen observer…I watch and notice things. I pick up on nuances and energy. Not in a psychic kind of way but more of an intuitive thing. As a child I loved the feeling of belonging that I got from walking along the strip of shops in our neighbourhood…I knew all of the shop names, the shopkeepers and many of them knew my name too, or at least knew me by sight. I would note the handwritten signage in a shop window, the faded patina on a milk bar wall, the way the shelves were neatly or haphazardly arranged, the way a particular shop owner would shuffle from out the back when a customer set the front door bell off. All of these details delighted me and, to be honest, they still do.

From my early days I sensed the despondency of the workers stacking shelves at Franklins supermarket - sensations that were in stark contrast to the warmth and connection I felt at the local family-owned grocery store, even though their tasks were relatively similar. What was it about the family-owned business that made such a difference? 

From when I was 14 until I was 22 my mum owned a fabulous little continental-style coffee house, in Sydney. My sister and I would work there on weekends and it was such a beautiful place to be. It was a tiny shop stuffed full to the brim with the finest continental delicacies – quality chocolate, jams, biscuits, freshly roasted coffee, French pastries, Austrian strudels...the list goes on. A couple of kids would always stick their heads in the door on their way home from school just to take a whiff of the heady aroma of freshly ground coffee. Mum employed my calligraphy skills to write all of the shop signage – a job I absolutely loved and to which I would take my most meticulous penmanship. Over Easter and Xmas the shop would be filled to the brim with amazing German gingerbreads and papier mache decorations. Locals would always peer in through the shop window to see our festive display. It was like a miniature Myer window.

Working behind the counter as a young adult was a terrific way to gain a greater understanding of human complexity. No two customers were the same. I learnt to work around the trickier personalities and became friends with people of all ages. Maybe it is the sense of belonging and the way it gets in under your skin that can make small business so rewarding. If I close my eyes now I can still smell, see, hear, taste and feel that special space - crammed full with memories.
What it evokes for me still informs my creative and everyday pursuits and I am very thankful for that experience.  

Some special businesses that I really love and that foster grassroots connections are:

  • Plump Organic Grocery - OK as a co-founder I am biased but Plump really is a special place that makes such a strong connection with the village that it operates in.
  • The Flower Exchange - These guys pour all of their love into their very own rural vegie patch and flower garden during the week and then on thursdays bring the weekly harvest to Melbourne. My favourite aspect of their business is the Flower Exchange. They don't sell their flowers but instead have chosen to "create community, share abundance and make conversation instead" by exchanging their flowers for something other than money. This is so up my alley as I am very interested in the notion of alternative economic systems and the benefits they have to those involved. Am looking forward to signing up for my first posy very soon.

Em x

hello and goodbye and hello

Photograph by  Emma Byrnes

Photograph by Emma Byrnes

It is 8 months since our third child was born. He is a beautiful gift. He has brought us so much joy and a much deeper perspective on what this big old journey is all about.

I’ve gone from leading a busy life running a successful textiles studio and keeping a household humming along with my husband and two children to a slower, more contemplative existence. But it’s just the kind of speed our newborn baby needs. 

I went on maternity leave from Harvest Textiles in mid 2013 and much has changed in that time. The studio is winding down and very soon will be closed for good. And it’s with mixed feelings – sadness and fondness – that I look back on the company I co-founded and imagine the next chapter. 

One of the best parts about Harvest Textiles was the creative journey it took me on, allowing me to indulge my love of visual storytelling, make with my hands, learn new skills and build a successful business we could all be proud of. But most of all, I’m grateful I met so many wonderful people along the way.

The Harvest concept – a textile studio that made products, ran workshops and hosted artists and events – was such a dynamic force and provided so many people with so much inspiration. For that reason it’s hard to finally say an official goodbye.

But that’s partly what I want to take with me into the future: a desire to do work that inspires people and promotes those creative connections we all love. And if I can continue to bring that energy into daily life with my family I’ll be one step closer to true satisfaction.

Which is why I created Heartland.

Heartland is a place for me to follow my intuition, make mistakes, challenge ideas and, above all, play. You might find the pace slow at first - with bubs in tow we’re all taking baby steps around these parts - but my inkling is that, like little ones everywhere, inspiration has a habit of starting off small and growing bigger and stronger with every square meal. I hope you can join me at the table and come along for the ride.

Em x