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The Fortynine Studio's Guide to Marrickville

The Fortynine Studio's Guide to Marrickville

Under Australian law, 49 is the maximum number of objects that can be made in order for its design to be protected by copyright. Once a multiple of 50 is made a design is considered mass manufactured. 

It’s a concept Sydney-based creators Harriet Watts and Ben Elbourne have taken to heart – and to market.  They launched their company, The Fortynine Studio, in 2011 with a few other friends – all of whom graduated with Bachelor of Design from COFA and had their eye firmly on championing the handmade. 

“We came out of uni talking about sharing studio space and equipment that we couldn’t have afforded on our own, and creating a supportive environment where we could encourage and learn from each other,” explains Harriet.  “It all happened pretty quickly.

After being accepted to design and curate an exhibition, ‘ReForm’, as part of Sydney Design 2011, things started taking off.

The first work that the team produced and sold has become their signature: the Flip Flop Slip range. Originally commissioned by Bill Granger for his cookbook ‘Easy’ back in 2012, the range has since been refined and colour palettes extended.

Shaped from flat slabs of clay ‘flop moulded’ (formed over moulds) and decorated with a liquid ‘slip’ clay in teal or pale blue, each piece is only ever fired once at 1280 degrees celcius -  invariably resulting in magic colour variation, shrinkage and delicious warping.  In keeping with The Fortynine Studio’s love of rule bending, only the interior of each piece is glazed, and the exterior is impressed with hand woven hemp to create a curious, delectable texture. The process from opening a bag of clay to pulling a finished piece out of the kiln is normally about two weeks.

Central to the Fortynine ethos is a curiosity about the natural environment, which fuels a love for working with local materials. This manifests itself in small ways throughout Harriet’s commentary: they always knead little clay scraps back together to create new pieces, and the single glazing is a conscious decision to reduce the amount of embodied energy in each piece.

These days, The Fortynine Studio is made up of Harriet and Ben in a gloriously sunny studio in Marrickville filled with kilns, an enormous slab roller, and shelves upon shelves filled with tools, equipment, materials, and ceramic pieces in various stages of the making process. They share the space with Sydney’s favourite green thumb, The Planthunter, and there’s also a workshop space for teaching classes.

“When we’re in we have our front door up so people can drop past anytime,” says Harriet.

Failing a walk-by, you can see it for yourself at one of Fortynine’s monthly ‘Shop Days’, which happen once a month on a Saturday. (The next one is Saturday 17 June.)  And so that you can make the most of your visit, we asked Harriet to give us an insider’s tour of her home suburb.

THE FORTYNINE STUDIO’S MARRICKVILLE GUIDE

If Marrickville were a person, Harriet says they’d be ‘big, lovable and a little bit weird.’  These are her favourite haunts and insider’s tips.

Where did you eat your last great meal in Marrickville?

Eat Fuh on Illawarra Road was my last amazing meal out. 

The best place to chill out?

Enmore Park is my all time favourite. It’s a relaxed, well-used and surprisingly peaceful space.

When friends come by, you always take them to…

Paesanella, a cheese factory up the road. They have the best fresh ricotta and bocconcini.

What will you see in Marrickville that you won’t see anywhere else?

Diversity in food, culture and people, and many small strong communities – that’s what makes it so special.

Best place for a knock off drink?

Gasoline Pony is a short stroll up the road and has a great energy and live music.

Best spot after dark?

The Red Rattler is a great not-for-profit community venue – I always enjoy going there.

Marrickville’s best kept secret?

Marrickville has the best skies. I love the view over the Sydneham Water Reservoir that I cycle past on my way home.

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The Fortynine Studio’s ceramics are available now.