Etsy Made Local 2019 – Featured Stallholders Q&A with Frank Ideas.

This series of Q&A is all about shining the light on our 6 large feature stalls that we have in the upcoming Christmas market: Etsy Made Local – Saturday 23rd November – Sydney Town Hall. 

‘Feature’ stalls are new to our market this year, they are stalls that are larger in size and life than usual and you won’t miss them! There are 6 artists and designers that will be running featured stalls on the day and we’ll be chatting to each of them on the lead up to the market here on the blog.

First up is Rowan Shaw, the contemporary jewellery designer behind the unique and daring brand Frank ideas. – ‘Designed for individuals who love looking effortlessly fabulous’ 

She uses colour, form and texture to explore her ideas in exciting ways and focuses on the individual who has a rebellious streak and dares to be different.  A real gem to be part of our Sydney community!

Here’s what we chatted to Rowan about: 

Tell us about you and your brand! What is your creative practice is, how and when you begin and how long have you been an Etsy seller? 

Frank Ideas is the result of an eclectic background in theatre and design which has slowly evolved over the years into the creation of jewellery.  I’m fascinated by texture, form and colour and am constantly exploring ways of making, shapes to create and materials to use.

My design process is very materials driven. I gather things that I have no idea how I am going to use; I might be attracted to the shape of something or its texture…things sit filed away in boxes until one day inspiration will hit and I’ll start exploring ways to use it. I might see something: a branch, a shell, a piece of textile or a painting and the colours and textures will spark the beginning of a whole new collection. 

Things develop over time – I have baskets of things I’ve started that didn’t quite work, knots I’ve experimented with, colours that weren’t quite right, rubber that was too thick or the wrong profile. There is often a long period of time that elapses and suddenly these “mistakes” will seem perfect, or at least part of a solution.

I’ve been using Etsy as one of my sales and marketing channels since 2008.  Etsy opened up wholesale opportunities in the US and allowed me to experiment with selling on line.


Where do you call home and what are your creative hotspots where you live or beyond?

I’m so excited that after searching for several years we have recently bought a warehouse in Alexandria which means I now have a spacious studio downstairs and we can live above. We are working with an architect at the moment but even having the luxury of an unrenovated space to work in is absolute heaven.


What inspires you to make and where do you get your inspiration from?

I don’t think I’m actually “inspired” to make, it’s more that I find it difficult not to make. I’m a constant fiddler so I can’t even watch TV without doing something with my hands. A lot of my designs are quite simple to recreate so perhaps the making has become a form of therapy…

I’m a very urban individual and find buildings exciting but I couldn’t live without being near the ocean. Swimming is an essential part of my life, water makes me slow down and I often solve design problems after I’ve done laps. An annual  foray into central Australia always makes me feel very grounded but I’m as happy spending the day looking in a fabulous furniture showroom as I am walking through the bush.


What does your creative space look like? Are you a home based studio or do you have an external space? Tell us about your making process, what tools/materials/equipment do you use?

Well it’s a little primitive at the moment, but I have lots of space. I work in total chaos – half started projects everywhere – much to the horror and amusement of my family and friends, but that is how I’ve always worked. I survive in the chaos for quite a while and then periodically have a huge clean up, but the tidiness never lasts. 

I use drills and hammers, garden wire and automotive products as often as I use silver, polish and soldering torches.

Tell us about a typical day for you in your creative practice, do you follow a routine or have a different approach? Which part of the creative process is your favourite and why?

I start ridiculously early a couple of days a week, because I have a number of wholesale accounts in the US. I often have to make phone calls during their business hours or answer urgent emails before their shops shut.

If I have been in the US for a show or one of my reps has been at a recent show I will have a list of wholesale orders that are being worked through before being packaged up and posted. 

I spend quite a frightening amount of time on the internet sourcing new materials – so much of my design process relies on finding new materials to work with. I also spend hours checking on supplies, placing orders for rubber and beads and costing out designs. I’m a bit of a spreadsheet junkie and am always playing with numbers seeing how I can make new designs affordable for my buyers.

My favourite part of the design is keeping up with the latest fashion shows, researching colour trends for the year ahead and keeping on top of which ideas might work for my jewellery. Another, slightly more down to earth source of inspiration is Bunnings and I can often be found wandering the aisles hoping to find a tool or material that will help solve a design problem.


What would you say is the biggest challenge when running your own business, what is your favourite and least favourite part?

I love introducing new designs to customers. I love it when things just click with a buyer – I hate being sold to myself so I’m more likely to say you don’t need to buy this rather than “please buy my thing”. When it’s right, its right. I sell to grownups. Women who know their own minds, they might like to have suggestions   with a particular colour or a shape but basically they know who they are and what they want…it’s called maturity and its fabulous.

I hate having to be an expert in everything and then know which jobs you should outsource. 

I’m a control freak and but also a procrastinator so whether it’s working out when it’s time to let go and hire an expert or when it’s time to get someone to help me with the actual making of designs I have months of angst before I’m able to make a decision.

What would you say is your proudest creative business achievement to date? And if it hasn’t happened yet, what do you aspire to?

Being invited to show in New York in September this year has undoubtedly been the biggest highlight for me. I loved every minute of showing there and the fact that Frank Ideas was a huge success made me feel incredibly proud!  I’ll be returning to show again in February and really feel I have found my “people”.

Prior to that it was opening up a permanent wholesale showroom in AmericasMart, a huge conglomerate of permanent and temporary showrooms housed in 3, 10 story buildings in Atlanta, Georgia. I share a 3 year lease with a group of designers I met on the internet – it was an incredible risk but has opened up a whole new world for Frank Ideas. We have worked long hours as a group to make it work and it has been a fast learning curve in working as part of a team as well as marketing and finding my niche. I’ve been flying to Atlanta 3 -5 times a year …exhausting but stimulating.

What do you think is the best thing about being in the creative industry in Sydney currently? What would you like to see change? 

I adore living and working in Sydney. It’s a gorgeous city with lots happening all the time. The creative industry is very supportive of one another (hello Sydney Made!) and I’ve made many friends in lots of diverse areas involved in making.

I wish we had more Sydney based indoor market venues and I’m a bit tired of Melbourne market organisers swooping in with a heavy ratio of Melbourne designers taking up prime seasonal shows. I admire their ingenuity and creativity but it makes it difficult for makers in Sydney to get a look in sometimes. It doesn’t really affect me so much as my focus is on the US market but it makes it really difficult for new, Sydney designers to get exposure.


What would your dream collaboration or project look like and who would it be with? 

For a long time I’ve dreamt of working with some of the weavers from Maningrida or the Tjanpi Desert Weavers – I’m in awe of the culture and skills passed down for centuries and the textures and colours that are created in remote regions of Australia. One day I’ll find a way of being able to learn and create with these amazing women!

There a few fashion designers I’d also love to collaborate with: Australian Designers Akira Isogawa and Theresa Jackson ( Sark Studio) and Israeli designer Hagar Alembik (Alembika) have all been inspirational to me in their innovative use of textiles and their design aesthetic and discipline. It would be amazing to work together to create a line of wearable art.

Where would you like to see your brand in 5 years time? 

Eventually I’d love to have the luxury of being able to design more OOAK pieces and perhaps experiment more in sculptural / installation design.

I should probably shift my focus closer to home as Frank Ideas is pretty unknown in Australia and NZ, but at the moment I’m enjoying the travel too much!


What’s your favourite thing about being part of Sydney Made? Is this your first market, if not what do you like about attending our events?! 

I love being part of such a creative community and getting a chance to see so many wonderful makers being showcased to such a receptive audience. Sydney buyers are incredibly enthusiastic and are great supporters of handmade it’s a shame that there are still so few opportunities for them to experience all the talent that is here. The organisers behind Sydney Made work tirelessly behind the scenes so it’s exciting to see all their hard work come to fruition.


If you could give yourself a piece of advice when you began, what would it have been?

Just do it – don’t wait until you are ready. No one is ever totally “ready” but you have to believe in your ability and know that with hard work you can make things fall into place. 

Keep on making, don’t stop: the more you make the more skilled you become, the more you make the easier it becomes to actually put your designs into reality. 

Find your community and don’t hesitate to ask for advice, the stronger your network the faster you will learn.

You can find out more about what Rowan is up to here: Website, Instagram, Facebook

Thanks for sharing your story Rowan! We can’t wait to see your feature stall at the market!

Compiled by Sydney Made Leader – Katy of Shiztastic

To see more of our creative makers and designers, follow our Facebook page: Sydney Made