Stepping inside the doors of Adelaide’s Jam Factory, heat surges towards you from the ground floor glass studio. In the glare of shimmering furnaces molten baubles drip, turn and stretch. The ambient noise of the studio floor is so great that communication between the artists is unspoken. Like scuba diving, hand gestures are the preferred mode. Sometimes up to three artists work together to turn, blow, hold, cut and carry.
It’s a privilege to be part of the Jam Factory experience any day, but being on the Jam Factory board is another privilege again. The Board is a good example of governance for creative enterprise. Business SA CEO Peter Vaughan chairs the group comprising pathologist and former Minister Jane Lomax-Smith, UniSA’s head of the School of Visual Art Professor Kay Lawrence, respected arts administrator Libby Raupach, Flinders University professor Christine Nicholls, KPMG’s John Ronaldo and me.
The Jam is one of those audacious initiatives from the flourishing era of the impatient, creative and transformative Dunstan government. Since it started in 1973, it’s been training, producing and selling craft and design. It gets its name from the original base in the old jam factory on Payneham Road in St Peters, Adelaide. Since 1991 the Jam has anchored the West End as part of the Lion Arts precinct adjoining UniSA’s city west campus. The original workshops focused on the disciplines of glass, ceramics, leather, textiles and jewellery. Today, the leather and textiles may have lapsed but ‘furniture’ has been added.
The Jam makes things. Both the gorgeous products you’d expect from a creative cauldron with foundries and furnaces, presses and jigs. But it also produces extraordinarily gifted artisans. The Jam runs an associate program – attracting applicants from around the world. Once complete, associates become part of an ‘alumni’; sharing studio space & working together on projects inside & outside the walls of the Jam.
A few weeks ago, a small independent gallery in Hindley St (Paper, String, Plastic) showcased the work of Jaan Poldaas and Danielle Rickaby (trading under the name Marble Merchants). These two former associates now rent a studio in the Jam and, under the tutelage of Nick Mount, have revived the lost art of marble-making. Inside the Jam, artists like Deb Jones, Lex Stobie, Christian Hall and others work in glass, ceramic, timber, metal and other elemental materials to keep creative enterprise alive (the Jam is 40 years old next year).
The Board decamped to the Barossa earlier this week for a look ahead at the business of the Jam, and to plan for it’s 40th year.
The Barossa is the right place the explore the business of craft, design and making. Ever since the Barossa RDA (led by the dynamic Anne Maroney) signed on as a partner to Prof Laura Lee’s Thinker in Residence program in 2009, the region’s been exploring what sustainable development really means for this precious part of South Australia.
Our base for the day was the little hamlet of Seppeltsfield, nestled in a small valley with stone, tin and timber sheds, homesteads, cellars and workshops in which the Seppelt family ran an integrated business of barrel making, blacksmithing, grape growing and winemaking. Alongside are the signs of Victorian era Australian bush life. A tennis court. Formal rose garden. The family mausoleum.
What’s exciting is that the current owners are thinking about rebuilding the Seppeltsfield site as an integrated business once again. From winemaking and tourism, to eco accommodation and local skills development. And re-introducing the artisan crafts that were once essential to running a community like Seppeltsfield (the Cooperage has been rebooted, with old and new casks being made & rebirthed).
Couple this with a virtually complete library of artifacts – bottles, labels, record books, original essences and potions used to construct the ‘aroma architecture’ of a vintage – and you have a comprehensive almanac of the built, landscape and social history of a place.
Places like Seppeltsfield prompt the question of how we can retain the heritage of a place while seeking to give it new life. This means balancing our desire to protect what is a rare and loved landscape, with the potential to expand opportunities for local employment in fields like wine and viticulture, tourism, food and agriculture through appropriate development. Too often we see these as mutually exclusive. But they don’t have to be. Good design can enhance heritage if we let it. Well-designed development can grow the programs of places like the Jam to share the practice of craft, art and design beyond the borders of the Adelaide CBD.
Dr Janis Birkeland, member of the Integrated Design Commission’s Advisory Board and author of ‘Positive Development: from vicious circle to virtuous cycle‘ asks; can development not just reduce the impact it has on our environment, but can it positively contribute to our environment? Can we grow the ecological base of our places? In the case of places like Seppeltsfield, this question goes as much to the environmental as the social, artistic and economic base of our regions too.