In a world obsessed with endless consumption, driving endless mass production supply lines, it can be nice to turn off the madness of the fast lane, take a deep breath, and take the slower, peaceful and scenic route.
Andrea Hurley's gorgeous Hattie And The Wolf gift boutique in Ballarat embraces the ideals of "slow living", selling an extensive range of eco-friendly, sustainably and ethically sourced items. Making a conscience decision to purchase products from planet-first merchants like Andrea is a step towards a brighter future for all humanity and our ailing home, Planet Earth. The consequences of consumer inaction is ineffable.
Andrea talks to Calder Western about the trials and tribulations of running her store, her boundless creativity and her love for the beautiful regional city called Ballarat.
Your foray into bricks and mortar retail first began with selling at markets. What would be some words of advice to market merchants thinking of establishing a permanent store?
I spent eight or so years selling products for my hand-made business Bird & Blossom at markets across Victoria. I loved the market vibe and made some invaluable connections during that time.
Bricks and mortar retail is quite different from the market space so my first piece of advice would be to prepare yourself to be in this business for the long game; it won’t happen overnight!
Second, ‘Resilience’. Remember that word because you will need it in spades! Retail is all swings and roundabouts, and you will need to pull yourself up on more than one occasion.
Thirdly, it’s an oldy... 'Love what you do'. It’s best to decide if you love the making, or the customer service, before you take the plunge into bricks and mortar.
What is the inspiration behind the name of your store? I understand it represents courage over adversity? Was leaving the relative safety of the markets for your store a somewhat terrifying experience?
To be honest, Hattie And The Wolf was a combination that I came up with after a weekend brainstorming my options for a shop name. The story has evolved around the name. The wolf represents my fear of failing, however, Hattie now sits courageously on the wolf’s back having conquered her fears and now they are best friends.
What has been one of the greatest challenges of operating Hattie And The Wolf?
We are a ‘bootstrapped’ self-financed business so cash flow has always been the biggest challenge. Second, to that, our shop is a little off the beaten track, so people are still finding us. Creating a successful marketing strategy to target those potential customers has been a challenge
You have a lovely online store. Has it been a boon for your business?
I wish! Unfortunately the ‘build it and they will come’ philosophy isn’t true for online shopping either. Of course, our online shop is a very important part of the business. It allows us to reach people far and wide, but it is very hard to get people to 'check out’ online, contrary to popular belief that everyone is doing it.
You are a very talented designer. Were you always creative, even as a child?
Oh my, thank you! [blushing] Yes! I loved doing anything and everything creative as a child and it wasn’t all craft. I loved to sing and perform too. There is no doubt that all of that experimentation has shaped me into the creative soul that I am today.
What words of advice would you offer a young Andrea Hurley?
Keep trying new things, it doesn’t have to be perfect, just give it a go! Accept praise graciously.
You produce a diverse range of products from prints, jewellery, fashion and toys. Where do you find inspiration and how do you maintain your creative drive?
I am surrounded by inspiration. Something as simple as glimpsing a vintage bead in my studio conjures up a plethora of creative ideas. I like to say that I am 'environmentally inspired'!
Inspiration is everywhere and it is so accessible. I love a Pinterest session from time to time and scrolling through Instagram is always fun. I like to read creative books and magazines - I have lots of those at home - and then sometimes I like to switch everything off, just to silence the 'noise', and hang out with my thoughts.
I have enough creative ideas to keep me motoring for the next ten years at least. Switching off is a bigger problem for me.
Do you ever suffer from self-doubt, as many artists do?
Yes, I am my own worst critic. But I have learned that you need to put it out there regardless because nine times out of ten someone else will love it!
What piece of design are you most proud of and why?
I won best overall painting at an art show many years ago that was pretty special. I didn’t think it was any good and priced it at just $30! Overall I am pretty chuffed any time somebody purchases one of my creations. That never gets old.
Can you talk a little about the ‘Hattie’s Wardrobe Green’ component of ‘Hattie And The Wolf’?
Hattie’s Wardrobe Green is a collaboration between Bianca Flint from The Wardrobe Green and myself. We both share a common interest in sustainable fashion and pre-loved clothing so it seemed only natural that we would come together to merge our businesses to create Hattie’s Wardrobe Green. We offer a curated collection of high-end, pre-loved fashion for women in the upstairs space of Hattie And The Wolf.
Bianca also educates women of all ages about body image and runs private styling sessions too.
We hope that we are helping to raise awareness and educate people about what is available on their doorstep and that 'cheap' and 'mass-produced' quite often translates to unethical production
Are there any milestones in the business that you are particularly proud of?
Making it to two years in business is pretty special! Many other businesses both large and small have unfortunately fallen around us in that time. We look forward to continuing to evolve and grow as a business. The future for Hattie And The Wolf is exciting!
How do we reignite people’s passion for locally produced products when offshore manufacturing offers price competitiveness? Can it be reignited through education on the environmental impact of globalisation?
I am seeing a strong shift from people wanting to know where their products are coming from, which in turn has seen a return to our customers buying locally or Australian made and/or produced products, so I think for a lot of people the passion has been reignited already.
Hattie And The Wolf houses many grassroots makers and producers. We hope that we are helping to raise awareness and educate people about what is available on their doorstep and that 'cheap' and 'mass-produced' quite often translates to unethical production.
Which artists have been an inspiration to you?
My very first artist ‘crush’ was on the works of D’Arcy Doyle and Pro Hart; I loved the vibrant colours they used and their unique depictions of outback Australia. Now art is so accessible, it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few artists.
I admire the work of local illustrator Travis Price. His work decorates the walls of many local businesses and alleyways in Ballarat and we are so very fortunate to have him here.
Kate Mason, Flora Waycott, Rebecca Jones and Helen Dardik would all be on my inspiration list and I could go on…
What makes Ballarat such an appealing place to live?
It’s not the climate; let’s get that out of the way! [Laughs]
Ballarat has a rich art and craft culture, which I love. There are so many creative people doing fantastic things and my job is to find them!
The region is produce rich and the food and coffee culture is ahh-mazing.
And finally, it’s so close to everything! We’re just a short drive to the coast and a quick train ride to the city. In under an hour we can visit a winery or indulge in a mineral spa! This region has so much to offer.
What places would you recommend people visit while in Ballarat?
We run walking tours around central Ballarat twice monthly, so book yourself into one of those and we’ll show you all of the good stuff!
Is travel important to you? What are your “must see” destinations?
Oh yes, I love a holiday! Japan is a personal favourite; I’m looking forward to visiting again with my family soon. Austria is one of my all-time favourite countries and Luxembourg was an unexpected delight. The history in Rome was hard to fathom and I loved visiting the Roman baths in Bath, England too.
Then there is our great country: Uluru is just 'WOW'! The Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef are all must-see destinations.
Do you love music? What artists are currently on high rotation?
I do love music, but if I could choose I prefer silence, to be honest. Of course, I always have music playing in the shop with a Spotify acoustic covers playlist on rotation.
Are there websites that you frequently visit for inspiration or a good read?
If I’m in the mood for reading I would prefer to grab one of my favourite books or a magazine like Flow and peruse the pages than read online. I am a paper lover and nothing replaces the feel of the pages between your fingers.
Uppercase is another mag I like to read; it is full of creative inspiration and clever people doing wonderful things creatively. I always have more than forty tabs open on my Mac at any one time, so I do read a lot online too, but I don’t really have online go-to’s.
You can have three people over for dinner, living or dead. Who would they be and why?
Nan and Pop Mackenzie, my dad’s parents, who I never had the chance to meet, because they died before I was born. Nana Rose Baker, my mum’s mother, who died when I was very young. I would love nothing more than to be able to sit with them and to get to know them.
I would love to hear my Pop play the violin and to give my two Nans a big warm hug.
How do you relax after a long week?
On the couch with paper and pens, a cup of tea, my Mac and probably a dog or two on my lap.
What would you like life to have in store for you over the next five years?
Travel, plenty of creativity, good health, a successful business and a happy, healthy family.