31 October 2023

Handmade collective gives creatives a Goulburn shopfront

| John Thistleton
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two women in shop of handmade products such as gift cards

Two Birds Handmade Collective owner Brenda Lewis met Belle Mitchell (right) at markets in Moss Vale and invited her to stock her products in the Goulburn shop, on the corner of Auburn and Bradley streets. Many of her greeting cards featuring Australian birds are sent overseas. Photo: John Thistleton.

More than 50 artisans, hobbyists and distributors at Two Birds, a handmade collective in a corner shop in Goulburn, come with their own stories of creativity and turning points as they build their own businesses.

Opening in February this year, Two Birds came about after a former aged care worker from Goulburn, Brenda Lewis, and a friend were on a road trip to the Far South Coast, visiting other collectives and thinking their hometown could use a shop like the ones they were visiting.

Since then, a wide circle of creative people has either been invited into, or asked to join, the Two Birds collective. These include two separate makers of children’s clothing in Wagga, an artist and illustrator from Camden, a mother and daughter with separate ventures in Windellama, a stockist of dried and fresh flowers from Towrang and others from Grabben Gullen, and many from Goulburn.

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Goulburn’s Peter ”Dusty” Field, who has Norrie’s disease, which blinded him from birth and later damaged his hearing, turns pieces of wood into pens and pencils, which he sells at markets and to Two Birds.

In 2011, a mate from the Goulburn Men’s Shed, the late John Cody, took Peter to a wood-turning demonstration in Canberra, where he was invited to try his hand at the craft. Assuming John was by his side, he sat down and turned a small piece of wood.

“I didn’t know people were watching me and they started clapping,” Peter said. He realised John was not by his side, but he was hooked on wood-turning nevertheless.

Later John taught him how to use a router and these days his support worker, Lorraine Taylor, identifies pieces of teak, maple, rosewood or recycled timber for him before he goes alone to his workshop at home.

blind man and wood-turning gear

Wood-turner Peter Field of Dusty’s Pens, who is blind, would not advise anyone to turn wood like he does, fearing they would probably lose a finger. “I am president of the 10-finger society, I have all 10,” he said. Photo: Lorraine Taylor.

The 62-year-old hobbyist with artificial eyes and a Cochlear implant sells at markets, as well as Two Birds.

“I live in my world and compete in yours,” he said. “I am an ordinary bloke with a couple of missing parts.”

He trades under Dusty’s Pens Handmade by the Blind Man.

Drawing with colour pencils and graphite, Camden artist and illustrator Belle Mitchell first photographs Australian birds and animals and creates their images on greeting cards, planners and notepads.

Belle said the collective had one-of-a-kind-type products and provided a great opportunity for small operators such as herself to get their products out in the public eye. Some of her customers send her greeting cards to friends and family abroad.

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The shop’s aisles display embroidery, the work of silversmiths, wooden spoons with burned-on impressions, and Rod Peacock-Smith’s handcrafted lamps made from reclaimed wood and new copper.

Caroline Dow of Towrang, trading under Nature’s Gifts and Oddities, provides dried-flower arrangements and has also started a floristry venture, providing fresh flowers every Thursday.

“People are after something a bit unique, something different, something they can’t go to department stores and buy,” says Brenda, whose marketing on Instagram with 900 followers is complemented by her stockists’ social media sites.

woman making natural products for sale

From Windellama and trading under the name Feather and Heart Candle Collection, Sandie Walsh makes candles, diffusers and oils from natural ingredients. At Two Birds she is joined by her daughter Lana Lawler, who has her own small business, Lawler and Co, which makes products such as goat’s milk hand and body wash and a men’s range at Tarago. Photo: James Walsh.

As she talks, travellers from Shellharbour stop at Two Birds while taking a break in Goulburn from their journey to Victoria.

“You get people passing through and they ask your advice on where to go in the town, where to eat and what other stores are about to go and visit,” she said. “I have lived here all my life and have a good idea of the town.”

Previously, Brenda worked at Waminda’s aged-care dementia unit for more than 10 years. Years earlier, she worked in a dress shop, gaining a taste for customer service.

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