When I attended the Gathered Design Market in July earlier this year, I was drawn to these luscious, eco-dyed silk scarves that boasted of a variation of bright and neutral tones. Created by South Australian local Jenni Willis, the business marries her love for gardening and creativity in the form of fashionable and trendy wearable art that can complete any look!
With the upcoming Gathered Design Market in October, I had a Q&A with Jenni about her anticipations around participating in the market as a stall holder – have a read of our exchange below:
Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, Jenni?
Jenni: I live in Booborowie, which is a small country town in the Mid North of SA. I returned to my hometown to help my parents and raise my daughter. Always being interested in the natural environment, it was natural to turn to gardening as a way of healing and to return colour to my life, whilst suffering from mental health issues. I love living in the country and continue to gain strength from my garden.
Tema: What made you decide on starting up your own business Jenni’s Garden to Gallery?
Jenni: I became involved in an art group and when it was decided to start an arts collective and open a gallery, I knew I wanted to be involved. However, I felt like my painting was not gallery-worthy. As I was printing fabric with dye, I decided that this was the direction I would take. At the time, I was not confident enough to consider myself an artist and chose to use a business name instead – the beginning of Garden to Gallery.
Tema: How did you decide on what to offer via Jenni’s Garden to Gallery?
Jenni: I always had a love of fabric, flowers, and gardening and so, silk scarves dyed with natural dyes was a perfect match.
Tema: What’s it like to work with silk and nature (flowers) together? Is it a bit tricky / is there an art to it?
Jenni: As I became aware of the damage caused by synthetic dyes, I looked for natural alternatives. My fascination with plants and reading an article on dying with flowers began my experimentation with this form of art. Working with nature, you need to be ready for the surprises that come your way, as the colours produced are not always predictable. This is also one of the joys. I use silk, as it holds the flower dyes very well, is non allergenic, and just because of the way it flows; through the sensuous feel of it.
Tema: What inspires you to create your designs for your wearable art? Where do you often go to get some inspiration if you’re going through a creative block?
Jenni: I am totally inspired by nature! Working in the garden, growing the plants I use for dyes is constantly giving me new ideas. Just observing what is around me every day, being aware and finding beauty in the simplest of things brings me inspiration.
Tema: How long has Jenni’s Garden to Gallery been in business for? How have you found the journey so far?
Jenni: I began my business about 5 years ago. It started off slowly, but has been gaining momentum in the last couple of years, as I have devoted more time to it.
Tema: What are the key materials that you need to source for your scarves and scrunchies (among other accessories)?
Jenni: I use silk as the medium, due to its wonderful affinity with natural dyes. I grow most of the plants and flowers that I use. I do occasionally collect fallen leaves from the roadside and friends also donate flowers at times.
Tema: What do you think helps Jenni’s Garden to Gallery unique and a stand-out?
Jenni: I believe that the colours from the flower dyes make my scarves truly special, there is a softness to the hues which makes them unique. Also no 2 are the same as each scarf is individually hand dyed and every flower gives a different concentration of colour. It is truly special when a customer tries a scarf on and you see the joy in their faces. The scarves really do choose their owners.
Tema: What have you found rewarding about being a small scale business in Adelaide / South Australia?
Jenni: I love the experimentation involved in the creative process, the continual learning of what can be achieved with what’s on hand and how amazing it is to paint with nature’s gifts.
Tema: What have you found challenging about being a small scale business in Adelaide / South Australia?
Jenni: I have been challenged with time restraints as I also work, but would love to be able to devote myself wholly to my business.
Tema: How did you get involved with Gathered SA?
Jenni: I found Gathered whilst researching markets that I thought would be a good fit with my product.
Tema: What are you anticipating from the upcoming Gathered SA market?
Jenni: I’m always excited about Gathered. It’s like catching up with family, all the stall holders are so supportive of each other and Jenna does an amazing job. Gathered produces a wonderful vibe which I’m sure the customers feel. I look forward to seeing previous customers and to meeting new people.
Tema: What can people expect from visiting and/or supporting your business at the Market?
Jenni: It is always a pleasure to show people what can be achieved using natural dyes, I am passionate about what I do and enjoy sharing. I encourage customers to try on scarves even if it’s just for the fun of it. So I guess a good chat, a bit of fun and hopefully they leave with a smile. There is something quite special about wearing these scarves and I hope that magic is felt every time they wear their unique piece of art.
You can visit Jenni’s Garden to Gallery at the Gathered Design Market onOctober 26 + 27 from 10am – 4pm at the Queen’s Theatre in the Adelaide CBD.
Entry to the market is $2 and there is $4 (flat rate) parking available on Saturdays and Sundays at K Park along Playhouse Lane.
With thanks to Jenna O’Dell from Gathered SA for the interview opportunity.
Interview conducted by Fatema “Tema” Sitabkhan
Answers + images supplied by Jenni Willis // Jenni’s Garden to Gallery