Hencla is a spectacular island. An oasis of sandy coves and glittering shores, juicy fruit and a focus on leisure. But it’s also a figment of Gina Hart’s imagination. A dream island she would retreat to while we were locked down. Hencla was her escape, and now North Bondi’s Hencla is too.
“There’s an island called Kastellorizo, nestled between Greece and Turkey, which is my go-to [travel destination]. Hencla’s loosely based on that island,” Hart tells Broadsheet. “[The store is] about travel, experiences and good times.”
Hart started creating jewellery to keep her mind busy, play with colour and tap into those goodtime vibes while we were confined to our houses. “I saw a girl in New York [beading bracelets] and I thought, ‘I can do that, and put a Bondi or an Australian spin on it’ – so that’s what I did.” Making the technicolour threads of beads was therapeutic – meditative for the mind and delivering a sense of accomplishment when the final knot is tied. “I found there was such an array of colour, texture, which tapped into my graphic design background. But it calms your mind, and it’s entertaining … and very easy.”
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What began as an at-home hobby grew into a brand with a distinct personality (Hart’s expertise with colour and form is as clear from a quick glance at her Instagram as from her wares). Stands of Hencla strands began to pop up in flower shops and local boutiques, the business growing organically without a plan. When a North Bondi florist decided to take a break, Hencla popped up for a while, taking over the teeny space on Glenayr Avenue and swapping blooms for beads.
“When I took over the space, I thought ‘How can I beef it up?’ I wanted to bring in stuff that was aligned with Hencla, stuff you couldn’t get everywhere – things that are a bit unique and feel international, and obviously very colourful.”
There’s now SPF50 and merch from Miami label Vacation, bringing an ’80s-cool edge to sun protection; candles by Goldbug, a store on Sullivan’s Island, off the coast of South Carolina; incense made in Bali by Bumi Being; and sunny ceramics direct from Morocco.
“I love that they’re all random finds [via Instagram]. People are after things that are a little more experiential, not just seen through a screen. People come in and can hold them in their hands, and they say it feels like a holiday. I’m like, ‘My job is done.’”
The signature bracelets – and a few necklaces – are all made in small batches in Bondi, with beads Hart sources from across the globe via Etsy and “a few secret spots in Sydney”. There are some that are gold and shiny, some that are fruity, and some that are inspired by the locale. “We did a little Bondi series, and have a bracelet based on The Shop & Wine Bar,” Hart says. “It has a fish and a heart – I tried to encapsulate the whole venue. It’s very bright and just keeps selling out.”
Hart’s favourite is bracelet number 22, featuring lilac, a “bit of the sea and some abstract shape”.
She hosts monthly Beads & Bubbles nights, where up to 10 vacation-ready people can pop into the breezy store to chat, sip sparkling and get creative, while Hart offers gentle encouragement, plus tips and tricks to bracelet beading. “I’m pretty generous with the bubbles, so everyone gets a little loose. It’s very casual – you can’t really stuff it up.”
Of her new full-time venture, in now-permanent digs, Hart says she’s happy to “just keep up that love of a holiday. It’s exciting cos [Hencla’s] all been very unexpected.”
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