Renske Carbone Founder Of Colours Of Australia
Renske Carbone’s studio is like stepping in a fairytale. Beautiful soft animal toys, dolls surrounding everything in her art studio. The workbench is filled with colourful beads, buttons, brown paper patterns hang from the walls and many books on the wooden shelves.
Renske is a colorful, flamboyant, individual with a style of her own.
The Dutch born designer was at a standstill a couple of years back. She found herself by losing herself and travelling to exotic lands. She has always loved creative work and textiles, she was making things at an early age. Renske as a child was always making things with her mum the seamstress. Everything is color and textiles excites Renske. But she didn’t find herself until he migrated to Australia in 1981 at the age of 19. Renske, loved the brightness all around her. She states that, “I think only people who have spent considerable time in grey old Northern Europe really appreciate this.”
Loving her new home Australia and her textile passion, Renske studied textiles in TAFE in Perth and later on completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts course at Curtin University. Completing her degree in 1991, she started making hard crafted scarves in a backyard shed under the name of Colours Of Australia.
“I got big orders from Dorian Scott in The Rocks, Sydney, and the old Georges department store in Melbourne straight away and that gave me the confidence I needed to make the business work.”
Fifteen years down the line, Colours of Australia was doing extremely well, and Renske also developed bed linen; opened a factory in China; had a range of painted rubber boots; moved to Melbourne; travelled for new products and ideas and exported her designs around the world.
But one day, Renske woke up and realised it was no longer for her. She wanted a more creative life, not so much pace and she was in a state of depression. So the factory in China closed and Renske even considered closing the shop in Melbourne. But being an independent spirit, she didn’t like the idea of working for someone else. She no longer wanted to work with huge companies, she wanted to design genuine craft products and she wanted to be more involved in the design process.
In 2006, Renske found her passion, it came to her at the Ambiente trade show in Frankfurt. The Nepali felted hand made products were staring at her the face. She thought, “How gorgeous, that’s what I want to do, a knit felt bag.” She had some experience with felt and felt is the oldest fabric known to mankind.
Felting is a traditional skill from Asia. People living in the mountains felted carpets, blankets, and shoes from course wool. Renske found four Nepalese companies to make a sample bag using her design. “Within three weeks, the bag was finished without even asking for any money. I took that as a good sign and flew to Nepal to meet them. When I arrived at the airport I realised I had actually contacted the wrong company, but was to embarrassed to say anything!”
It was destined because what happened later on was a truly and rewarding relationship. Working with the company owner, Maheswor, and his mainly female staff of local craftspeople under the fair trade agreement at their factory of Kathmandu, Renske made samples of her new range using felt. Her range is called Papoose. “It’s a native American word meaning ‘swaddled baby.’
The Papoose range, is made of 100% pure wool, including bed linen, slippers, shoes, scarves, rings and hair bands, toys and dolls.
Felt Products by Colours of Australia
Renske loves working with the Nepalese women at every stage of the process, the wet felting, the stitching, the decorating. When Reske is working with felt, she feels connected to her creativity and a greater sense of herself, her true self. The Nepalese are far better at felting than Renske but with her design ideas and colors, Papoose is a hit.
Renske loves color and feels her life empty without color around her. She gets her inspiration from everywhere. Nature, fresh fruit, vegetables, exotic flowers and her travels.
There are other reasons for returning to Nepal. After five visits, Renske has fallen in love with the country and its people. “The Nepalese are beautiful human beings. The team I work with have been so welcoming and their smiles are so warm and genuine. I consider all of them friends, especially Maheswor, the boss, and his younger brother Rabin, who always looks after me during my stays. Maheswor’s mother and I have a lot of fun together at the factory, too. I talk away in English and she talks in Nepali, but we understand each other enough. All the women at the factory are really nice to me. They bought me some special bangles when I was there last time.”
“Even though it’s hard work and long hours physically, spiritually it’s a holiday for me. Every morning I would make a coffee, sit on the terrace of the house I was staying at next to the factory come to life. Hundreds of birds would welcome the day, and the sun would creep slowly over the mountains until the early morning chills had been banished and I could take off my jumper and enjoy the warmth of the sunshine.”
“I can’t wait to get back there. I love the tranquillity, the warmth of the people, looking at the mountains and just being for a while.”
“It’s funny that something as inherently simple as felting can satisfy my creative side so completely, but it does. I guess you could even say felting has brought me out of my depression. I’m back producing craft, not just trading products. Everything is bright and colourful again, just the way it should be.”
For more information on Renke’s products, visit http://www.coloursofaustralia.com and http://www.papoose-felt.com