When Ballarat’s Shelly Kent couldn’t find anything to wear, she decided to make her own clothes.
Today she has her own business and is sharing her ethically-made garments with the rest of Australia – meaning you can shop guilt-free for your next outfit.
We caught up with Shelly to talk about her business, Orange Owl Textile, and her plan to host screen printing workshops.
What drew you to textiles?
When I was in my late-teens I could never find clothing that I liked or could afford and always found the op shops to be a fascinating treasure trove of ill-fitting garments and fabrics.
My housemate owned a sewing machine, so we were always altering garments to fit ourselves and tracing off garments we liked. These were sometimes held together by safety pins and some terrible sewing.
How did you get into clothing design and screen printing?
I had worked in many administration type roles, from banking to insurance and never felt this was something I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life, it had always just been a means to go on adventures overseas.
After returning from another exciting adventure I decided it was time to really consider what it was I wanted to be pursuing, and came across the RMIT Diploma in Textile Design and Development. I’d always loved textiles and now was my opportunity to explore it further.
During the course you learn machine knitting, experimental textiles, weaving and of course screen printing, among other subjects such as textile design and colour. I was instantly drawn to screen printing and majored in print for the remainder of the course.
What inspires your work?
The natural environment is my main source of inspiration for colour, design and composition.
You’re a big believer in ethically-made clothing, why is this important to you and why should it be important to more people.
Ethically-made clothing has a positive impact on the people that produce the clothing, and the environment. It offers a chance for many, especially women, to break the poverty cycle. My garments are designed and printed by myself in my Mount Helen studio and produced in Melbourne, making them long lasting and an option for guilt-free ‘fashion.’
What made you decide to start your own business?
After years of working for other people I decided to take the plunge into ‘self employed life.’ It was definitely scary but so well worth it.
I love having the creative freedom to design, and produce garments that I am proud of. There is something so rewarding from receiving feedback from customers who love the garments as much as I do, or spotting someone down the street wearing one of my pieces. It’s such a buzz!
What does Ballarat as a UNESCO Creative City of Craft and Folk Art mean to you?
It helps shine a spotlight on cultural diversity in the Ballarat area in the form of recognising local Indigenous artists as well as offering support and highlighting the importance of a sustainable city through the arts. This will help Ballarat as a whole, encouraging more visitors and bringing the creative community together.
For those interested in textiles, what piece of advice do you have for them?
Try your hand at various textile disciplines. I’ve experimented with weaving, machine knitting, tapestry, sewing, natural dying and of course screen printing.
What does your next 12 months look like? We heard there might be some screen printing classes on the cards.
During the next 12 months I will be looking into renovating my studio to be able to offer screen printing classes, as well as designing a new clothing and screen print range. Fingers crossed I will also be able to start travelling again for interstate design markets.
And to wrap up, what’s Ballarat best kept secret?
I’m not sure if it’s really a secret, but I do love to visit the The Eastern. I’m a big fan of live music and love to let my hair down with a drink in one hand, food in the other while watching some great music.