Whether you are the arts and crafts type, the inveterate browser, or the just plain interested in anything unique, a trip to Opendrawer is an absolute must. This little treasure trove will always be a work in progress due primarily to the innovation and ethos of its owners Prue Barridge and Robyn Steel-Strickland who stay true to the values that underpin their reason for being in the business.
This artistic oasis is a unique one-stop shop. It has been described as "Vintage Lace to Cane Toad Skins" and yes, they have them both. As you approach the entrance, a large glove with an open gusset showing "open" gives the impression that this will be no ordinary little craft shop. The front, or display shop, is the retail part of this multi-dimensional business and displays a comprehensive and versatile range goods. Items come mostly on assignment and must fit within the range of Opendrawer's criteria.
Opendrawer has felt hats, gloves, unusual jewellery, knitted slippers, handbags, scarves and robes. There are quirky suits, knitted animals, toys, photos frames, books and paintings as well as homewares such as odd little salt and pepper shakers, dishes, cups, quilts and linen. They are all individual designs, made here in Australia. There is such an eclectic mix of brilliant colours and textures that the place has a warm and very exciting feeling to it, evident as soon as you walk in the door. You just don't know where to start as there seems to be no beginning and no end to this voyage of discovery.
If you actually manage to tear yourself away from the Front Shop, you'll find yourself in another facet of the arts and crafts. There are two art galleries above the decorative wooden staircase, each exhibiting the wonderfully creative talents of local artists. Subjects range from portraits to tango dancers and from ballerinas to bustiers. There are a couple of outstanding portraits spilling out into the hallway, and keep an eye on the colourful craft area on the floor beneath.
You'll also find one of the largest collection of buttons you are ever likely to come across .There are hundreds of them, spilling out of open drawers: all shapes, colours and sizes. Surrounding this button mecca are baskets full of felt pieces, rolls of material, and bundles and strands of wool, beads, vintages laces and cane toad skins. Where possible, all products are from Australian makers and made here in Australia. So if you're into quilting, sewing, knitting, felting, embroidering, scrapbooking, painting or the like, this is definitely the place for you.
Drawers Loaded with Buttons of Every Shape, Size & Colour
To be true to the owner's original idea of an all-encompassing arts and crafts haven, the third dimension to this business is the training section. Robyn and Prue impart their knowledge in the two large rooms set aside for training purposes. When I visited, in the first room Robyn was showing her class how to physically make the felt used in so many of the articles on display at Opendrawer. The room was filled with artistic displays of one kind or another and it was evident that everyone was having a really good time.
The second room, filled with sewing machines, is where Prue teaches the art of sewing to students ranging from primary school age to the quite elderly. The focus is to understand the entire gamut of the machine's capabilities and to be able to expertly utilize as many of these as possible. There are some exquisite examples of Prue's work from sewing through spaces to patterns made with a myriad of fancy stitches, scattered around the room.
The workshop currently displays some very innovatively decorated busts made by students from the nearby high school. What's next? Who knows? Maybe a class for blokes on emergency sewing skills? It really wouldn't surprise me.
Opendrawer has really blossomed since it opened its doors last year and you only have to visit to understand why. The owners combine their philosophy of displaying and utilizing only the works of local and Australian artists and their crafts and providing a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere for their customers, with the ethos of a drop-in, always welcome place to come when you need a cuppa and a chat, that makes it unique. You don't need to buy to feel welcome in this establishment. It is evident that much hard work and support has been given behind the scenes, from personal partners and from friends, both new and established.
As Opendrawer has blossomed, Robyn and Prue have grown from novices in the business world to street-wise entrepreneurs, now able to ensure that only the best is offered to their clientele.
There are no words or photos enough to describe to you accurately this exotic oasis in Camberwell. Having a background as a formally trained dressmaker and designer, I have seen many, many establishments in the same genre and I believe this one to be unique. It costs nothing to visit, or to have a cuppa and a chat, so set aside a date on your calendar (closed Tuesdays) to visit Opendrawer.