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November 16, 2018

How Bowerbird is incubating Adelaide’s design scene

Bowerbird is not just a place to browse and buy – it's changed the way Adelaide artists operate.

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  • Words: Alexis Buxton-Collins
  • Images 1 & 18-21: Belinda Mock
  • Images 2-17: Meaghan Coles

Jane Barwick knows that there’s a lot more to success as a designer than simply crafting a beautiful product. Developing the business side of a practice requires a lot of time and effort, and those challenges are part of the reason she co-founded Bowerbird Design Market nine years ago.

“It’s one thing to create a product and another to turn it into a business and brand that requires a website, social media, online shop, printed promotional material, product display, signage etc,” she says. “If we can help that process, that’s a good thing.”


Bowerbird Design Market
Friday 23 to Sunday 25 November
Wayville Pavilion, Adelaide Showground.

Friday 4pm – 9pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am – 5pm

Adults $5
Children Free (12 and under)

That first iteration of Bowerbird had 40 exhibitors who largely relied on word of mouth and interstate trade fairs to connect with potential customers. In a barely remembered time before Instagram and small bars, when buying handmade local goods with small production runs was something that consumers were still warming to, it was a game-changer.

And from the beginning, it was not just about sales but about creating a community. Exhibitors took advantage of the chance to leave their stalls and meander about the market, connecting with other makers and designers and forging new collaborations. Today, Bowerbird supports emerging artists with free visual merchandising workshops and signage sessions, and the results are evident in the eye-catching displays of Adelaide’s most visually sumptuous event.

This image: Meaghan Coles.


Bowerbird has been both a driver and beneficiary of the change in attitudes since that first market. Now approaching its 20th event, it has grown incrementally over time, moving from the Queens Theatre to the Stirling Angas pavilion and its current home in the Wayville pavilion. But as the number of exhibitors has increased (there are now over 200 from across Australia), so has the number of applicants and Jane has to be judicious when deciding who will be a part of each event. New exhibitors sit alongside long-term favourites and Bowerbird now hosts artists, makers and designers working in an astonishing variety of media.

Furniture and lighting designers have brought larger scale pieces than Jane ever envisioned when she began the event, and the food and drink options have expanded significantly – this year there’ll even be a mobile gin and tonic cart.

Rather than a place to browse for a few hours, Bowerbird is now a place where you can get lost for an entire day. The expanded workshop program that encourages visitors to join in and explore their own creativity only reinforces this impression. Christmas-themed workshops will teach participants how to make lino-printed gift tags or long-lasting wreaths alongside evergreen activities like dog collar making, tea blending and watercolour painting. Jane is a huge fan of the “lovely industrious energy” that results from attendees getting involved not just as consumers, but as creators. And it’s no surprise – she’s invigorated Adelaide’s design scene with exactly the same spirit.

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