If you love all things natural and ethically made then visit Ange Rosemann and her stunning store Tribe in the heart of Castlemaine. Ange sat down and talked to Calder Western about her love of nature, creative expression, gardening and the challenges of running a store in a small town.
You made the big move from the Central Coast of New South Wales to Castlemaine. What drew you to the area?
I’m from Tassie originally and I’d always wanted to live somewhere rural, near a small country town where you experience the different seasons. We wanted a Steiner school for our children and when we started looking into Castlemaine, we were attracted by its creativity and lifestyle.
Did you grow up in a creative family?
Not really. My father was a precision toolmaker and took a lot of pride in building things to perfection; for my entire childhood he was building our house. My mum was a keen gardener.
How long has Tribe been operating for?
I’ve had Tribe for just over 4 years. It’s evolved a lot in that time and been a very steep learning curve, but I’m pretty chuffed to have made it this far. It’s a tough gig running an independent retail business in a small town.
What would you say has been trickiest part of running Tribe?
The hardest part is being a one-man band and having to manage every aspect of the business. You could work 24/7 and still feel like there’s more to be done. It’s a challenge balancing work with managing a family, and my complete obsession with my garden, but I’m learning to be OK with family/lifestyle first and business second.
Have you always been involved in retail? What were you doing before establishing Tribe?
No way, I was a complete novice! I spontaneously took over Tribe. The woman who started it decided to sell after 6 months and I just thought, “I’d like to do that”. I’d been doing markets with my brand Elfin Trail for a few years, but didn’t know anything about retail when I started. I’ve just been making it up as I go along.
'Elfin Trail' is a wonderful name for your range of toys? How did the name originate?
Honestly, it would’ve just popped into my head. I started making playthings when my children were young at Steiner school. I truly believe in the elementals - gnomes, faeries, and elves living and working in nature. I love that children innately believe in them as well, and I try to keep that magic alive for them.
What was the first piece you ever made for Tribe?
My 'Faerie Garden Kits' were the first things I made for Tribe and the first product I made for Elfin Trail too.
Your creativity has evolved to making functional items. Does the design come first or does the material tell you what it wants to be?
The bonus of owning my shop is that I can explore crafts and randomly make things and someone might buy them or they might just sit there looking pretty. I see a big part of what I do as facilitating other people’s creativity. I’m loving experimenting with eco-dyeing with plants at the moment, and I also love papercraft. So I’ll look for things to dye – like wool felt and silk ribbon – that others can use in their craft. Then I’ll spend a week playing with paper, and create things like the 'Nature Pack' and 'Ephemera Pack'.
Your shop is filled with natural and organic pieces. Has nature always been an inspiration to you?
For me, connection to nature is paramount because without it, we’re doomed! I grew up in a natural setting, beside the Tamar River; it’s always seemed normal to me to be in nature. My main aim with Tribe is to connect people to nature, to draw them away from mass-produced, manufactured things, to choose individually crafted pieces, made ethically and sustainably by a real person.
How do you go about curating the items in the shop?
There are a few things I consider when curating items for Tribe. Is it handmade or does it enable people to be creative and make things themselves? Does it have a connection with nature, or does it enable people to live more sustainably? Does it enhance childhood and imaginative play? At the end of the day, do I love it, would I have it in my home and do I connect with the maker? For me, it’s all about those connections, with people and with nature.
What does the future hold for Tribe? What things would you like to see happen?
I’m pretty happy at the moment, so I’ll keep pottering along, finding lovely makers and displaying their beautiful pieces. I’d like to keep traveling each year and discovering what’s being made by hand in other cultures and bringing a taste back to Tribe. Supporting local makers is my primary focus, but supporting a global community of makers is important to me too.
How has working with other artists influenced you?
Every week feels like Christmas in my job, with all these amazing makers. They are always creating and bringing me something new, so I’m constantly evolving the shop display to arrange their work as beautifully as possible. It’s inspiring how hard most makers work. Like me, they are generally solo business-women, so we face the same challenges.
Is your home filled with handmade things? What is your most treasured possession?
My home is a mix of handmade, rustic and botanical, but I don’t have a most treasured possession. Unless you count my garden!
How does Castlemaine influence your designs?
I guess that Castlemaine feels like a place where you can create anything. A shop like mine wouldn’t survive on the New South Wale's Central Coast. I think the influence of where I live, is that it gives me the freedom to create the space I want to create and people embrace it. We do experience distinct seasons here, and I love the rhythm that brings to living and making.
What places would you recommend people visit while in Castlemaine?
We’ve got a lovely little selection of shops, galleries, and cafes here in the ‘East End’ of Castlemaine. Then I’d enjoy our Botanical Gardens and explore everything on offer at The Mill.
Do you listen to music when creating and designing? What artists are you currently listening to?
I have to say I completely rely on Spotify to choose my music, when I’m making and when I’m instore. After 4 years, it’s honed in on my taste for chilled, funky, groovy tunes. If I had to pick an artist at the moment it would be Flight Facilities or Thievery Corporation, because I’ve seen both of them play live recently.
What people inspire you?
I’m completely inspired by Greta Thunberg at the moment, and young people across the globe who are standing up to say “Enough is enough, we need to act now to save the planet and the human race”. Activists like Jane Goodall and Bob Brown have always impressed me.
What would be the best advice that you have ever been given?
Parenting advice: "Don’t take it personally." Business advice: "If you’re not making money, then it’s just a hobby." A business mentor said this to me about two years in and it hit home. I still find it challenging though to pay myself, rather than invest back into the shop.
Do you enjoy travel? What would be your ‘must-see’ destinations? Where would you love to visit?
I do enjoy travel, but having kids over the past two decades I barely managed to pull together a camping trip. In the last two years, I’ve had the chance to go overseas to Cambodia and then to Chile, to see friends. I’ve loved the opportunity to explore those countries and discover what people are making by hand, whether it’s traditional crafts or emerging makers. I want to do more of that. Japan is top on my wishlist.
What do you do to relax after a busy day or week?
Definitely gardening! I feel like everything else in the world gets in the way of my gardening. My garden is only three years old, so there’s still a lot of work to do in creating structure and beds and improving the rubbish Castlemaine soil, but it’s reached a point where I enjoy the daily rewards of seeing plants grow and attracting more native birds, which are awesome.
Are you a tea or coffee person? What is your favourite cafe in Castlemaine?
If you could have three people over for dinner, living or dead, who would they be and why?