Bunyip Craft – Indie of the Month
Back in March, Stella Nicholls, our content editor, popped down to Fore Street, Exeter to visit Mattie Richardson of Bunyip Craft to chat about what it means to be an independent retailer in the city. Enjoy!
Step off the High Street
Entering the tactile world of Bunyip Craft down on Fore Street is a feast for the senses and one that draws a person in to experience the beautiful beads, materials and crafts on display. In fact, Mattie Richardson, owner of the store for the past 15 years, says that they deliberately leave their stock open so that people can touch and experience the textures, the softness of the fabric and silk ribbon and the coldness or warmth of the different materials. It is important that adults and children not only see but experience the shop with all their senses as it inspires them to be creative.
As an Exeter Bid director for Fore St, Mattie is passionate about the Indie trade and says that without the valuable support of locals and tourists, the independents wouldn’t survive. She says that the independents are scattered all over the city and sometimes difficult to find but that you just need to step off the High Street to find them and she encourages people to look for them and support them as much as possible. Of the Indies, she says, “We are ‘brand Exeter’. We are the difference”. The indie stores are unique and not to be found in any other city so need to be kept alive.
I asked Mattie if she had seen a change in the trend towards crafts and textiles in a world often dominated by smartphones and the online world. She replied that it had slowed down slightly but that once children arrived to do a workshop and began creating a project, they became totally engaged and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of making something. She has always believed strongly that both boys and girls be catered for in the stock that they keep, having a son and daughter of her own, and says that they have lots of workshops and birthday parties for children which are great fun and create quite a vibe in the shop.
Classes are not limited to children, people of all ages are welcome to come along to learn about the various crafts and learn sewing skills and they even have a concession for knitting (a lovely lady called Lisa runs the walk-in session). Knitting has become very popular amongst young adults who take on tasks such as big chunky scarves which they make at a fraction of the cost of a shop bought one.
One of the random best sellers in the store at the moment is darning wool and darning mushrooms (for those like my husband who had never heard of such things, darning wool is generally used to repair socks). Mattie has expanded their colours in darning wool due to popular demand and jokes that perhaps the moths have been rampant or that people are feeling more compelled to mend things rather than discard and buy new, which is better for the environment. Whatever the reason, they always listen to their customers and strive to stock whatever has been requested.
Bunyip’s name comes from Australia and is of Aboriginal origin. Mattie’s husband, a keen surfer, has a favourite Australian Surf Movie called ‘Bunyip Dreaming’ and Bunyip was Mattie’s nickname for a while. Mattie decided that she wanted a strong brand name which people would remember, hence Bunyip Beads and Buttons was born. Although the name of the shop was later changed to Bunyip Crafts to more accurately reflect all that the shop offers, the name Bunyip still draws people of all ages to the store.
One of the high points in Mattie’s career as an indie trader was moving on to Fore St from McCoy’s Arcade. On leaving Uni, with a degree in history and politics, she chose not to work for a big company and found her passions had her heading towards McCoy’s where she traded for about ten years. Largely due to needing more space, Mattie and her team moved to Fore St about 5 years ago, to much bigger premises with offices downstairs and enough space to house a beautiful craft table which is situated in the shop. With the craft table occupied by children enjoying a workshop, on the morning that I visited, I found my creative side being sparked to sign up for a cross stitch lesson. Classes are run as a one-off, which would suit the often hectic schedules we adults have as people don’t need to commit to a long course. The shop also endeavours to have an education programme running alongside everything that they sell.
‘Just do it’- the best life advice Mattie received from her dad – has seen her shop grow into the beautiful craft environment that is sorely needed in Exeter, especially due to the fact that sewing and crafts are not typically covered in school curriculums. Mattie says, “There is something joyful about saying ‘I made this’”, it is therapeutic and brings balance. She says that there is nothing more calming than knitting whilst watching TV as it helps turn her ‘brain off’ before going to bed.
Aside from the creative environment that Bunyip Craft offers the city, Mattie says that there is a real sense of community amongst the staff and customers, with people from all walks of life having the opportunity to bond with each other and share, so she believes in always facing the world with a smile. Sometimes people are lonely and not part of a family unit, they love to have the human interaction, or just need someone to listen and Mattie says that they are committed to being there for people. Although money is needed to run the business, it goes beyond just making a profit, people need each other.
When asked what advice she would give young people at school, college or uni, Mattie said,
“take every opportunity that you can while still studying, as there are so many opportunities that are much harder to access once you are out of the system. Never be afraid to ask, don’t be embarrassed, or think that you aren’t important enough to talk to every person that you can get to”.
I asked Mattie what 2018 holds for her business, her honest answer was that at the moment they are in ‘real flux’ with their lease being up and the new rent being unknown, and this has led to her having some really ‘big thoughts’ about the future. She is excited to be attending their biggest trade show soon, which always gives her a new way of looking at the business and gives insight into the way the industry is going.
Let’s support our local independents by visiting their stores and their websites, they are just a short walk off the High Street and offer so many alternatives in the city.
You can reach Mattie and her team at Bunyip Craft, halfway down the hill on the left at 111-113 Fore St, or pop online to www.bunyipcraft.com
Photos by Stella Nicholls or provided by Bunyip Craft