Tales of textile meaning & making

Ink & Spindle

Ink & Spindle

As far as entrepreneurial stories go, it doesn’t get much better than this. Three friends, tinkering solo on creative projects, decided to start a textile label together. Months later, the art teacher, graphic designer and marketer found themselves the first occupants of an abandoned wool store in Melbourne’s Kensington. With all the vitality of a fresh start, Tegan Rose, Lara Cameron and Bianca van Meeuwen tore up lino, painted and ultimately transformed the top floor at Young Husband Studios into a glorious work space.

And that’s where the knocking on doors started. For, despite their collective skills, these three had never created their own hand printed yardage. With all the gumption of do it yourself legends, they got on the phone and asked questions of anyone who would listen. And listen they did.

Lara found herself talking to a retiring printer who was happy to divulge a lifetime of experience before he hung up his apron. He talked, Lara wrote. Reams of notes detailed the tools and techniques of their new trade, as well as minute instruction on how to construct their 10m printing table with interlocking stops. Although the information made little sense at the time, the advice turned out to be pure gold.

Perhaps it was in these moments that the girls sealed their open approach. For the past six years, Ink and Spindle has openly shared their process and journey with many, including Caitlin Klooger, creator of Pippijoe, who became a natural partner late last year when Teegs decided to act on a call to travel.

In addition to playing their part to strengthen the industry, this openness has brought the label respect, friendship and a glorious morning tea ritual. Creatives of all genres quickly became Young Husband neighbours, with many sharing the journey with cake and a cup of tea at ‘Ink and Spink’.

These good intentions were also woven into their design process. With the environment at its core, Ink and Spindle worked hard to source sustainable cloth, non toxic inks and develop processes to minimise water usage and waste.

Lara Cameron, the only remaining member of the original trio, said “Our desire to live, work and create in an ethical and sustainable manner has influenced how Ink and Spindle began and developed. Everything from the materials we carefully select, to our production processes, to our everyday business decisions. It all reflects our aim to walk softly on the earth.”

“We love Australia’s native flora and fauna, but also the energy of the urban environment in Melbourne. It is very important to us that our designs have inherent longevity. Rather than following current design or fashion trends too closely we try to develop textiles that will fit in your life for many years to come” she said.

So Ink and Spindle’s original designs still sit proudly beside their slow grow counterparts. Each roll of organic hemp, linen, cotton and yak is adorned with native motives and the occasional pattern, printed in earthy and neutral hues, along with trademark pops of duck egg blue and turmeric.

Like Waratah, designed by Lara after a trip to the 2012 Capturing Flora exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Of the process, Lara said, “I knew that I wanted to firstly develop a lino print and capture the beautiful texture of that medium in a screen print. The carving was done over one rather warm weekend down at Fairhaven, perfect weather to soften the lino!”

This relatively large print sits harmoniously with Silver Gum, also released in July 2013. Lara said, “Silver Gum is another one of those designs that spent a lot of time brewing in the back of my mind before finally coming to life. The tricky bit was finding the perfect shaped leaf, but once that happened the rest of the process was fairly straightforward”.

“The design came to life one morning during a bicycle ride to work through Royal Park. Enamored by the leaf forms, I picked the almost-flowering stems for photographing later in the back yard. Both colours in this design are printed from a single screen – the second is printed with the screen rotated 180 degrees,” she said.

These screens measure 1.8m tall and require two people to print. With a person at each side of the table, the ink is passed from one to the other in a series of interlocking repeats. Through all of the studio activity, the mesmerising printing of their cloth is a constant, with the harmony of each stroke captured beautifully in Artisan Magazine’s fourth issue late last year (non apple viewers can see it on Vimeo).

This process only happens to order, a production choice that minimises wastage and allows Caitlin and Lara to customise a design based on a client’s colour choice. You can explore these options using the Customise  tool on Ink and Spindle's award winning website.

From every aspect, Ink and Spindle strikes me as such a healthy business. With sleeves rolled up, hearts open and a desire to enjoy their journey, an inspirational business has been created. Starting from little, the label is now strong. Their organic fabrics are truly delightful, and resonate with all of the thoughtfulness and respect with which they are created. I, like many, look forward to the next sure footed and thoughtful steps.

Photos by Sean Fennessy, courtesy of Ink and Spindle

Shilo Engelbrecht

Shilo Engelbrecht

Rouse Phillips

Rouse Phillips