The new 'Australian made'
Shoe time in New South Wales
Master shoemaker Andrew McDonald, one of only a handful of traditional cobblers in Australia, has been shodding his clients since 1992, from locals to celebrities (Nicole Kidman owns a pair) to Hollywood characters (he has created boots for actors in Superman and the Star Wars Trilogy). He learned his trade in the New South Wales capital, and later worked in London under famed John Lobb of London, shoemaker to the Royal Family. These days, he and his team of four design and make bespoke handcrafted shoes from his workshop in the elegant Strand Arcade, one of Sydney's historic shopping arcades in the Central Business District. Here you can choose from ready-to-wear stock or be fitted for your custom-made shoes. For the latter, McDonald prefers three fittings in person and asks in the first instance for clients to bring along a much-loved pair of shoes.
McDonald's footwear is made from various materials, including horse leather, bison leather and even vegetable tan kangaroo leather, finished with an iron filings stain. "We see leather as the blank canvas and look at ways we can give it some texture," said McDonald. "We also try to replicate textures and colours that reflect the Australian landscape's earthiness – its colours, tones and textures." Prices start at 1,600 Australian dollars for a bespoke pair of shoes.
Strumming in Tasmania
After heart surgery in 2005, Mark Gilbert was told by doctors to rest one day a week. But he said he could not then and cannot now. Instead, from his workshop in Hobart, Tasmania, Gilbert makes electric guitars for local and international clients, including the Canadian-born blues guitarist, Wolf Mail.
Formerly a teacher, graphic designer, screen printer and a long-time lover of blues music, Gilbert made his first guitar in 1987. He lent it to some friends who played in a band, and it hit a high note. They spread the word, and the rest, as they say in showbiz, is musical history.
Gilbert's superb electric guitars are all made from Tasmanian timber – all from a sustainably managed forest – including black heart sassafras and fiddleback blackwood, both internationally renowned tonewoods. Models include the delightfully named Thylacine (another name for the native Tasmanian Tiger; decorative stripes cover the top) and the Spotted Quoll (an Australian marsupial; with large dots inlaid into the top). Buyers can also specify custom inlays on the body or fret board.
Gilbert spends around 150 hours on each guitar and prices start from 5,000 Australian dollars.
Caffeine crazes in South Australia
Ever since Greg Pullman, founder and owner of Pullman Coffee Tampers in Adelaide, South Australia, resized the ill-fitting tamper for the his new coffee machine in 2002, he has been fixated on the process. So he started making bespoke coffee tampers – a small round disc with a handle used to press, or 'tamp, the ground coffee – for commercial and domestic coffee machines. Ten years later, he has sold more than 8,000 individually numbered tampers worldwide.
The tamper-making process requires great attention to detail. Pullman personally measures, cuts and sizes metal bases for different coffee machines. A local wood turner then makes the wooden handles using local hard woods, such as jarrah and Australian oak.
Sometimes, Pullman will use wood supplied by a client. "One recent client who was opening a cafe in a former World War II bunker in Queensland sent down some of the bunker's ironbark wood," he said.
Pullman said that of all the equipment to make a coffee, the tamper may be the smallest – but is the one with which you have the most relationship at a personal and physical level. "You wrap your whole hand around a tamper," he said. "The ideal tamper should be comfortable and ergonomic, and made to the perfect size for the coffee machine. As far as possible we design our tampers to be an extension of the user's hand. If you do not get the tamper right, it can cause problems with the coffee."