Scandinavian design might be on-trend, but Tara Bennett isn’t interested in it for that reason. The owner and founder of Provider Store, a new Surry Hills design hub on Riley Street, is more concerned with finding well-made, long-lasting and sustainable designs – a philosophy that also draws her to pieces from Japan.
Bennett started the company in 2014 but until now only used the small heritage building to create her own pieces.
The first iteration of the brand popped up in 2012 when Bennett and her then housemates started a vintage store from their home, five doors from where Provider Store is now. When the landlord renovated and the housemates moved out the business was shut down. But after a trip to Japan she decided to re-launch it with a focus on high quality, handmade items.
“In 2014 I went to Japan and I was blown away by how people live their lives, and how they have this great respect for design. Everything is made to last,” she says. “It made me think about Australia and how everything is trend-driven; you buy something and then a new thing comes out so you throw it out and move on to the next. I came home, quit my job the next day and restarted Provider Store.”
Bennett makes many of Provider’s objects herself – such as the candles, which are made in ceramic Japanese teacups. After they burn out the cup can be re-used. Bennett has plans to introduce candles in vases and planters, too. The rest of the products are from markets or found on trips to Japan and Thailand. A local Thai ceramicist has also been commissioned to produce pieces for her.
At the back of the new retail space is the studio where Bennett makes her products, which punters can visit. She shares the studio with hat maker Troy O’Shea and hosts candle-making workshops there, too. “I teach [people] about different waxes and scents, and people make a Japanese candle while they eat cheese and drink wine,” she says.