Mother and daughter team Jennifer Dayment and Samantha Everett are the faces behind Sweet-Pea and Mumma and a Little to the Left Studio & Gallery. Jenny and Sam are waging their own “war on waste” … and here, they explain their motivation and inspiration.
Tell us a bit about Sweet-Pea & Mumma and A Little to the Left Studio?
Jenny: We have always called each other Sweet-Pea & Mumma. It became our brand name when we started sewing and doing markets probably five years ago now. A Little to the Left Studio & Gallery is where we make and create. The art gallery is organised by Sam; concentrating on emerging artists and fibre artists.
Sam: Our space is in the Taree Literary Institute Building. Literary Institutes or Schools of Arts came into existence after the Industrial Revolution, when people had more “leisure time”. They usually included a library, art, craft and other activities. Our library opened in 1864 and is still operating! It is such an interesting space.
You’re a mother and daughter duo; what is it like working together?
Jenny: Generally it is a collaborative relationship and we bounce off each other well – I treasure it. Sam is very creative and has the ability to draw it out of others.
Sam: Mum is the backbone of this place, and it wouldn’t be much without her here. It is so precious to watch Mum continually grow in confidence creatively. I have huge respect for her and for the most of it, we are on the same page and work well together.
When you have shared interests, passions, ethics and vision, I think you have potential for a great relationship.
I’m still learning not to personalise constructive criticism from Mum and to keep my “Professional Business Hat” on! We are lucky to have the strong relationship we share.
Your studio is a gallery and community space. What goes on there?
Jenny: We host workshops in a variety of arts and crafts. This includes bringing guest artists from other areas here also. We encourage local people to call in and share our space with us. We have started a group on Tuesdays called The Common Thread, so that like-minded people can gather and connect over creative activities – to take time out – mindfulness time.
Sam: The space is first and foremost our working studio. Something creative is always going on, from workshops, to one-on-one lessons, to various community groups meeting here. I am part of the Manning Fibre Artists, and the Manning Valley Creative Collective, and it is wonderful to have a space to offer for meetings and play days! The gallery changes exhibitions roughly once a month and there are opening events for each show that the community can come to for no cost.
Many of the students come via the NDIS. I work with adolescents who are on the Autism Spectrum, or have mental health and/or intellectual challenges. Art is the way we connect, and our space provides community inclusion, along with opportunities to build on social and life skills.
What are some of the benefits of this community space?
Jenny: Collaboration with like-minded people, learning and strengthening skills, building confidence and restorative time for your personal wellbeing.
Sam: People can come and feel part of something. We’ve created a colourful, safe, inspiring, fun, collaborative, unique, inclusive, special and warm environment.
A big part of your ethos is re-purposing; what does this mean and involve?
Jenny: Repurposing is being able to use existing, available materials (rather than purchasing new) to create, recreate and extend the life of objects, as opposed to things going into landfill. This can be clothing, old sewing patterns, haberdashery, painted canvasses that can be painted over, picture frames, etc.
Sam: Re-purposing or up-cycling is the process of making something new, out of something old and destined to be waste. As an art student living in Sydney, I learnt how to be thrifty! It’s creatively satisfying to make something new and interesting out of waste or pre-loved/used materials.
We are both passionate about vintage fabrics and haberdashery, sourced from op-shops, Council clean-up, tip-shops, passed down from grandmothers or donated by wonderful community members who appreciate and support what we do.
The war on waste is a hot topic; how have you embraced this concept?
Jenny: When you realise how much waste consumerism creates, as makers it is hard to ignore. Through repurposing and valuing the impact this has on our environment, we try to lead by example. We don’t use polyester to fill the soft toys we make; we work with natural fibres as opposed to man-made synthetics, and we shop locally and/or buy second-hand.
Fast fashion is a major contributor when it comes to waste. How can you help someone re-purpose items in their existing wardrobe?
Jenny: We have examples in the studio to inspire, books, and loads of encouragement to share. We have a pattern library too. We have recently partnered with J. R. Richards and have started doing op shop tours and repurposing workshops.
Sam: Fashion is about finding one’s individual style – and embracing that. I love clothing and am confident in helping others find and finesse their own style. I have repurposed clothing since I was a teen! I enjoy it and love sharing my knowledge and skills.
You are co-hosting workshops with Jane Milburn, the author of the book Slow Clothing; tell us about the philosophy behind it?
Jenny: Yes, we are very excited to have Jane Milburn coming to Taree and Forster. Her philosophy / manifesto is a way of thinking, choosing, wearing and caring for clothing, and having a meaningful connection to your own style – not just being dictated to by the fashion industry. The consideration of planetary health is of great importance, and Jane’s philosophy is based on this.
Sam: The Taree Literary Institute and J.R. Richards financially got behind Mum’s idea to bring Jane to our area, which is fantastic. Jane Milburn is a pioneer in the Slow Clothing movement and featured on The War on Waste series. Her philosophy is similar to ours, and we have learnt so much more about textile waste since reading her book. She will be in our area for two book launches, and also workshops.
What can we learn from the workshop?
Jenny: The workshop will empower people to explore ways of extending and restyling existing garments, creating one’s own individual style and reducing one’s carbon footprint.
Sam: I’m looking forward to her workshops, because I’m inspired by her creative cleverness with re-purposing, and her knowledge on the subject of textile waste and slow clothing. Her philosophy is similar to my own, and I know that I have much to learn from her!
Where can we book or find out more about the workshop?
People can call into our studio to find out more about the book launch or workshops. They can also contact J. R. Richards or go to their website. The Taree Literary Institute Library has information too. We are hoping to attract school students, since sustainability is in the curriculum now.
Anyone interested in sustainability, fashion, textiles or socialising at book launches should come!
The booking links are:
https://www.trybooking.com/XJFY – Taree launch.
www.trybooking.com/XJGU – Taree Workshop – 15 people.
www.trybooking.com/XJGA – Forster launch.
www.trybooking.com/XJHB Forster Workshop – 15 people.
A big thank you to the new FOCUS team for their support of our creative business, and we look forward to contributing to our beautiful area’s calendar of events!
Interview: Bronwyn Davis.