It’s amazing how one little place is able to change your image of an entire area.
As most of you will know I’ve been living in Adelaide for a few years now, yet in that time I’ve had very little cause to visit the suburb/hamlet/urban-sprawl-subsumed-community of Port Adelaide.
I guess the associations I had toward it derived from my general perception of port towns – grimy, depressing vestiges of an age I have no inclination to romanticise – all shored up my actual experiences of Port Adelaide as a grimy, depressing vestige of an age I have no inclination to romanticise.
The fact that it’s also given its name to an AFL team was also not in its favour.
But in the last couple of weeks I’ve been merrily disabused of my opinions, and I think the moment that the penny dropped was as I stepped into the shop of Ned Bajic, appropriately named Remake/Remodel. Crossing his threshold is like the sun coming out from behind the clouds; behind me the aloof and washed-out stone and cement of the Port, in-front: colour, canvas, non-geometric shapes, in an organised clutter that speaks not only of prolific production but of a proud intent for each piece to have its own space in which to be appreciated.
And if bright orange walls don’t immediately brighten your day, then I suggest you check for a pulse. It helped that the owner, Ned, was standing there, grinning through his beard, in a flat cap and a t-shirt almost as bright as his shop’s paint job.
It’s obvious that Remake/Remodel is the product of passion; the paintings on the walls are painted by Ned, and the furniture and furnishing he sells have all been handmade by him, entirely from recycled, repurposed or reclaimed materials.
“I grew up with parents who basically said ‘When you need a kitchen, you build the kitchen’,” Ned chuckles. “You’ve got something that’s a one off, and that’s basically the concept of the shop. I never said specifically that I make custom work, but I think that philosophy is why people have naturally started ordering what they want.”
“The idea of having a shop is quite recent, maybe the last year and a half. I was just making things for myself and I thought that I could probably take this somewhere.”
“In this environment I’ve got more control. It’s not giving your work to somebody else, and having a middleman between you and the customer. There’s something special about talking to the person who makes the thing, that you can’t get from a normal retail shop.”
And just in case a completely personalised piece of furniture was not enough for you, Ned also likes to keep in contact with the people who commission him, using Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Remake.Re) and his blog (http://remakeremodel.blog.com/) to give them regular photo updates on the their piece’s progress.
As a Port Adelaide resident, when the tiny shopfront became available through the local renewal initiative, Renew Adelaide, Ned leapt at the opportunity. Within months of applying, he was offered space and had the shop up and running. This month Remake/Remodel celebrates its first birthday.
[To read more on Renew Adelaide, see my recent article in The Adelaide Review]
As you might have picked up from my initial descriptions of Port Adelaide, Ned’s shop is not what you’d naturally expect of Port Adelaide.
“It was slow at first. I had a good response straight away from the creative community but I think the landowners and local businesses were a little sceptical, which I wasn’t surprised about, but we’ve slowly won them over,” he said with a smile that communicates that he’s enjoyed doing so.
“Apparently Port Adelaide is the largest artistic community per council area maybe in the state. But you wouldn’t know it, that’s part of the problem, it’s all in the little back streets, hidden away.”
Ned is right; Port Adelaide’s charm is not skin-deep. Though graced with old and impressive buildings, Port Adelaide is not pretty. Its main street is almost deserted; it feels like every third shop is boarded up, unable to fight the ebb tide of money and employment away from the area.
Port Adelaide looks like a victim. But things are changing in the Port and to dismiss it, I realised in Ned’s company, was to prematurely judge a book by its cover.
“Before Renew Adelaide, all I remember is places closing down around here, they couldn’t survive anymore,” Ned recalled. “I’ve had so many friends who have left to go elsewhere and you lose their knowledge, you lose their skills, and their ideas. But we seem to be going the other way now.”
Also assisted by Renew Adelaide are an increasing number of unique and exciting shops ranging from a DVD rental store, to a designer child’s clothing label, to a photographic gallery initiative.
“Port Adelaide’s a unique spot. Anything creative or cultural is going to do well here. Previously we’ve have problems with bringing people down here every week but I think people have just recently realised that there is something really happening; there’s places opening and they’re not chain stores, not the same old sort of stuff.”
“I’m hoping that local business owners and land owners and the government – all those people in power – actually support things like Renew Adelaide. We want to get the ball rolling and keep making it bigger and bigger. I want people to understand that it might take a few years, so we need people to stick around. I think sometimes there’s a bit of panic.”
“We’re building something for the long term here, which is usually not the case.”
To read my article on Remake/Remodel and the broader Port Adelaide development, see my website.
To visit Ned and meet the man himself, Remake/Remodel is open Thurs – Sun 10am – 5pm at Shop 03, 70 Commercial Rd, Port Adelaide.
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