It’s a small world in the Castlemaine gift shop, Tribe. A small, unassuming shopfront tucked away in Barker Street reveals a vast array of products, all handmade with natural materials, and many of them tiny.
Ange Rosemann opened the store 8 years ago, showcasing the work of local artists, such as Katherine Wheeler and Bridget Farmer, and local small-scale makers like Mimosa Botanicals. She quickly expanded her focus to offer quality tools and materials enabling customers to explore their own creativity.
Over time her focus has also sharpened to become a haven that connects people to nature and the wonders of Mother Earth.
Offering considered, sustainable alternatives to mass-produced products, everything is made from natural materials, such as clay, wool yarn and felt, linen and hemp fabric and fibres, reclaimed timber, plants and natural oils.
Why so many small things?
She explained that in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives we can lose our connection to Mother Earth.
“We crave nature, we are intrinsically part of nature, and drawing attention to the tiniest details reminds us of that connection, hopefully inspiring us to deepen it and protect our environment more.”
There are 100s of people involved in the works. Over 70 independent makers contribute to her shelves, with 40 of those from within a 2 hour radius. Locals drop their pieces into her personally while others send by courier or post.
While Ange is passionate about shopping local, she also believes as global citizens we are in a privileged position to be able to support artisans in less developed communities, enabling them to keep their traditional crafting skills alive. She links with a dozen operators supporting scores of fair-trade village-based craftspeople, such as felt makers in Nepal, knitters in Peru, timber carvers in Indonesia and weavers in Laos.
With millions of tonnes of war scrap still littering SE Asia, enterprising artisans in Cambodia reclaim and melt down metals in traditional earthen kilns using basic wood ash moulds to creative jewellery. In Ghana, handcrafting beads from recycled glass in home-based “factories” is a highly regarded craft and major export earner for the country.
The advantage of these transactions is that makers often benefit their wider communities as well when selling their products here. For example beautiful handwoven towels and cloths from Laos needed to be cleaned before shipping, so neighbours opened a laundromat business to provide that service.
Closer to home Ange connects with local Dja Dja Wurrung social enterprise, Murrong Mammas, stocking their bush tucker dukkah, salt and curry powder.
With both a shopfront and an online store, avoiding plastic is a priority. Online orders are posted in recyclable and biodegradable packaging, often re-used, with only a small amount of bubble wrap used for protecting fragile products, which is always reclaimed.
Her carry bags are brown paper, her beautiful gift wrapping is all reusable, biodegradable and recyclable. Makers’ packaging is minimal, with only a few products protected by cellophane which can’t be recycled but it is biodegradable and can be composted.
To reduce emissions further, online customers can choose to offset their purchase by adding $2 to their order through Carbon Click, supporting nature renewal and clean energy projects around the world. Ange purposefully does not bank with the Big 4 and pays rent to Pay the Rent Grassroots Collective. https://paytherent.net.au/
She uses Green Energy company Diamond Energy for her electricity (she doesn’t have gas) and as a small business donates to charities and organisations in line with her ethos of protecting the planet, including Greenpeace, ACF and The Orangutan Project. She’s also a long-term supporter of I am someone, a Castlemaine based non-profit devoted to lifting children out of poverty in African communities.
So it’s a big thing you’re doing when you go into her shop to buy one of her little things.