How did Provider store come to be?
I started Provider in 2014. I was working in Fashion (menswear) and hated sitting in front of a computer all day. I went to Japan for the first time that year and it was eye opening. I felt like everyone had so much respect for their belongings. The streets are so clean, there are no dirty cars, everything is so well designed and made to last.
Although trends are in every country, I felt that Japan had a real emphasis on buying products that you will keep. I was so inspired by my trip that the day I arrived back in Australia I quit my job. I had no savings, no financial backing - nothing - but I just knew that the job I had was not in line with what I wanted to do.
As a kid I used to stamp linen fabric by using stamps made out of carved potato. I have always been crafty and knew I wanted to do something that involved hand-making things. So Provider started out with me making pillows and then handmade candles, and then concrete furniture etc– but at that point I didn’t have the means to make it a full time thing so I was mostly freelancing whilst working on Provider once a week. I gradually dropped more days freelancing as Provider picked up, until it was viable to do full time.
Do you think it’s important to own things that tell a story or hold special value? How is this different to our current consumer society ?
I think it’s important to have things in your house that you can look at everyday that have a story and spark a nice memory. You are more likely to hold onto those things and not continually discard and re-buy.
I love having things in my own house that I have collected along my travels or that I have gotten from somewhere special. Being around those things is comforting. Once the trend changes you don’t need to chuck those things out to buy something new, which is a common practise here in Australia, with the likes of retailers such as Kmart etc where items come and go and aren’t things that are made to last. Good design doesn’t out-date, it’s timeless.
On a deeper level, do you think that the fast transactional culture we see in the context of purchasing and disposing consumer goods can sometimes cross over into the way we do relationships/friendships (fast, convenient, surface level)?
I do think that people come in and out of your life for certain reasons at certain times - for example the way dating is now with tinder and things - it tends to be the way our world is going. Advertising and magazines have changed dramatically, because everything is so accessible and it’s so instantly available to us. You can get something online that’s delivered to your doorstep within 3 hours; you can plan a date with a stranger and have met up with them within 20 minutes. Life is changing and as a small business owner you need to be aware of how things are shifting and evolving and the pace in which it’s happening – but it doesn’t always mean you need to jump on the train. You can adapt but you don’t have to conform or compromise your values.
You mentioned that Japan has a big influence on your design philosophy and values as a brand. Tell me more about this…
Although I have had many jobs and wear many hats, in Japan it’s ok (and even valued) to do just one thing and to do it really well. The little brushes I source from makers over there is one persons job- and they have totally mastered the art and skill of making them. I feel like we don’t often master one thing over here – everything crosses over and the expectation to be multi versed/skilled is more valued. I’m inspired that no job in Japan seems frowned upon or less than another. Retail assistants in Japan are called ‘shop masters’ for example. Every job seems to be respected and people can take real pride in what they are doing because of this. We sometimes miss the mark on that here.
Do you think that has an impact on their overall well being over there?
I think it gives people a purpose. Obviously every culture has societal issues and I’m only talking surface level, but generally there is less judgement around career choice etc. I think it allows people to master something and be really proud of that. It’s less transitional and more focused.
How do you make meaning and find purpose in your everyday?
I come to work with a smile on my face everyday - even though it’s really tough sometimes and I worked really hard to get here – having this brand and having drive for it gives me purpose. Purpose doesn’t necessarily come from a job – it can even be doing a little routine in the morning that you love and can look forward to. Having a place gives you a purpose. I feel like for now my place is here and it’s also at home with my dog and my family. Giving yourself purpose and drive can come through in many forms, and you find it in doing the things that you love doing.
If you were to describe purpose in a word what would this be?
Grounding. Having Provider as a place to go and be and create has made me feel very grounded.
Tell me about the joy and satisfaction you get from meeting and knowing the makers behind the products you source?
That’s the most rewarding part of my job, especially when you are doing it in another country because it also connects you to other people’s worlds and cultures. Being a maker myself, I am always inspired when meeting other makers and to swap stories and relate to each other. It’s also nice to tell each other’s story.
What is the biggest challenge and biggest reward of what you do?
Biggest challenge is to constantly find time. Biggest reward is having a clear dream, backing myself and putting the effort in to then see results. Last year I worked six months straight without a day off, but the reward was coming to work every single day and loving it.
I was listening to a podcast recently where they were discussing the idea of “passion” being a distressing word for people who have no idea what their passion is. She suggested the idea of just following your curiosity. Do you think you followed your curiosity to lead you to this point, or was it something you always knew was your passion?
I think there is a difference between having a passion and being passionate. You might not know what your passion is but you might be a very motivated person and I think that’s where the curiosity comes into it. I was lucky that I have always loved homewares and design and sort of fell into that, but if you are just open to trying different things, that is how you find your passion.
What is your greatest strength as a business owner?
Having a balance between being creative and being business minded. But what has gotten me this far is that I can hold a conversation. Whether I am in the shop, in another country, dealing with a supplier, you have to be able to give people time.
Finish the following sentences….
I feel most alive when… I’m travelling; seeing new things and meeting new makers.
The world needs… Motivated women and more kindness.
Photography & Interview by Hannah Darkins (The Unfold)