What were you doing before Blackbird Corner and what inspired you to open your own shop?
Prior to launching Blackbird Corner in 2006, my partner Sean & I had been living in gorgeous Central Melbourne for six years. The opportunity arose to nab a small corner spot on Darby Street through family connections & after much deliberation we realised that we just couldn’t say no! I had been sewing & storing stock for my label Wayward Girl for a couple of years, whilst also selling creations made from recycled fabric on consignment at Peril Underground in Elizabeth Street. Sean too, had heaps of ideas ready to print on Tees for his label then called Rolf Collective (now called Anorak Designs.) My Sister/best friend Jenni had always been a keen sewer/creative person & so we decided to all go in on this venture together! We had each been creating & stockpiling without clear intent basically. I had established the first clothing shop on Darby Street back in the 90‘s. It was called Spinster Wares and I’d eventually sold it to a friend so we could move interstate to have adventures. So we knew what we were getting into plus we had the benefit of regular customers from that shop ready & waiting for us to start again. Newcastle always draws you back it seems!
Explain the story behind the name of the store?
Well with our first store having had quite an unusual name with a lengthy story behind it (that I will not go into here) we decided to go with a name that was pretty. It is located on a corner so that part is self explanatory and after many many lists & silly ideas we just liked the way Blackbird Corner sounded! The fact that we all love birds contributed to the final decision significantly. And we adore the Beatles song Blackbird – thanks Mum for playing the Beatles obsessively in our formative years!
What kind of treasures can we expect to find at your store?
At Blackbird Corner you’ll discover an ever growing range of Locally Designed & Created clothing + accessories + badges + cards made by Myself; Sean & Jenni plus close friends & family members. These are One Off pieces or Limited Run items.
We cater for Women in sizes 4 to 18+ and Men from Small to 2XXL. Of late we have also taken a few select items on consignment but only from long term customers due to the size constraints of our tiny shop. We also stock Australian Magazines including Frankie & Wooden Toy Quarterly + Lomo Cameras + retro toys; trinkets & jewellery. Oh and just last week we started stocking Zines by Suzy Pow from Bird in the Hand Zine Distro! www.zines.wordpress.com
What special features do you look out for when selecting stock for your store?
Well basically because we design/make most of our stock we pretty much just make what we like and have never really been particularly interested in what’s in or out of fashion. We all love anything to do with birds. Oriental fabric/styles are definite faves too. When adding to our stock of toys & trinkets we seek the things we had when we were young that make us feel nostalgic & happy.
What has been your biggest challenges in doing what you do?
Our shop is a labour of love. I work part time for a large company to pay my bills so that I don‘t feel that I have to “sellout” the shop’s values to make a quick buck. So finding time to do everything I want/need to do can be a bit challenging at times but it is definitely worth it.
What is the Newcastle art & design scene like?
Newcastle has always had a thriving creative scene. It hosts several festivals annually including Cultural Stomp; T.I.N.A (This Is Not Art) & Electrofringe which attract interesting & inspiring folk from all over Australia. Currently there is a Project called Renew Newcastle focusing on filling empty shopfronts by offering reduced rental on month to month leases. It is primarily aimed at Artists & Designers and is the brainchild of devoted Novocastrian Marcus Westbury. www.renewnewcastle.org
What advice can you give to others wanting to start their own business?
Do it – if it is for love. Owning a Business is a 24/7 commitment. You are probably not going to become a millionaire overnight – don’t believe everything you see on Today Tonight – but that is OK if you love what you are doing like we do!
Do be aware that you need to be in it for the long haul – don’t throw the towel at the first setback. Businesses can sometimes take years to develop. It is definitely worth it if you stick at it. The satisfaction of seeing an item of clothing you made being worn by someone strolling down the street is priceless. Another piece of advice is write LISTS. I’d be completely lost without my To Do Lists. We also believe that the feedback of customers is the best source of “advice” there is & it is FREE!
What’s next, what does the future hold for Blackbird Corner?
We evolve every day. We are currently trying to develop more of a presence online – not just because I’m addicted to the Internet – and have met some lovely creative people to share ideas with so far! Also one day we’d love to buy a building in Darby Street & live upstairs so we can pop in & out of the Shop anytime we like! (If our friend Kylie has her way – one day we’ll open a second store in Newtown too! Yes she lives in Sydney)
All the specific details:
70 Darby Street
(cnr Queen & Darby Streets
Next to Cooks Hill Books)
Cooks Hill, Newcastle NSW 2300
Phone: 02 4929 4350
Our opening Hours:
Wednesdays – Fridays 11-5