Featured Designer: Polli

FK chats to Maja and Tess the lovely ladies behind Sydney based jewellery label, Polli

How would you describe your label and how did you get started?
Polli is a forum for us to bring together things we love and stay true to our sustainability ethos. Polli is Certified Low CO2 our products are made in Australia from recycled and sustainable materials. The pieces are designed to last and be loved for years. We hope that years down the track you will still wear them and enjoy them.

Soon after graduating from Industrial Design and into consultancy roles we sought the fulfillment of making our own products together. We set ourselves a brief – something fun that we could make by hand, that we would use ourselves and that we could afford to buy. So we started making and selling bright polypropylene baskets at local markets. Saving all the off-cuts from the baskets we turned them into brightly coloured earrings to sell alongside the baskets. The earrings proved more popular than the baskets so we explored other production methods and produced a range of etched stainless steel jewellery. This range forms the basis of Polli today, some of our first designs are still best sellers and we are constantly inspired to create new designs and work in new materials.

What are your backgrounds and how did you meet?
We both come from families of strong design backgrounds and cultures of making things (anything and everything). Our childhood memories are of art galleries, foreign lands, bush walking, watching our grannies sewing and getting messy creating. Maja is the child of a Cabinet Maker / all round amazing sewer and an artist/architect. Tess is the child of two architects with a passion for art and design. We met at university while studying Industrial Design, a group of us would hide out in the ABC cafe, drink tea and chat.

Who or what do you draw your inspiration from?
Traditional cultures are probably our most enduring inspiration and can be seen in nearly every range. We are also constantly blown away by the amazing shapes and details in nature, a beautiful flower or an endearing dog are obvious sources of inspiration. Outside the studio we pursue hobbies like sewing, knitting, cycling, collecting vintage objects and cooking, these loves often find their way into our sketch books and the designs.

What has been the most exciting thing to happen since starting your label Polli?
We ran Polli as a hobby for about 5 years before taking the plunge to leave our full time jobs. Within a few months of leaving our jobs we were on a plane to New York, within a year we had a wonderful team of 6 and we’d moved out of the spare bedroom and into our Polli studio in Stanmore. It was such a high to see our little dream blossom so quickly. Spotting Polli on a ‘stranger’ always gives us such a buzz. It happens nearly every day and always leaves a smile on our faces and us itching to tap them on the shoulder to say hi.

How important do you think it is to keep production based in Australia and any tips for others starting out?
Having worked in the industrial design field we are so aware of how many Australian designed products are produced overseas. Producing Polli in Australia started for practical reasons but has now become a core business value. Continuing to find Australian suppliers is a challenge as many manufactures close when jobs move overseas.

Tips for new businesses, it sounds pessimistic, firstly – don’t quit your day job! You’ll be unlikely to pay yourself in the early days so it is good to have a full time or part time income safety net. Secondly: do what you love. Since you won’t be paid for a while you need to love it. Plus, how can you sell something you don’t love and wouldn’t want yourself? Thirdly, when looking to produce products in Australia visit your favourite manufactures and see what else they can do – it might inspire you to change your material, method or design to take advantage of these skills that could be just around the corner. Our new timber range is produced within 5km of the studio!

What do you have planned for the label this year?
We’ve been known for our stainless steel collection for so long we’re looking forward to release of our new wooden range and exploring new materials, colours and patterns. We’ll be showing our range in Sydney, Melbourne and New York.


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