Joost Bakker

It's difficult to pin down exactly what this Dutch-born, Melbourne-based discipline-crossing dude does.

He builds houses. He mills flour. He delivers flowers. He creates art installations and he believes firmly in the power of urine.

Perhaps the easiest way to describe Joost Bakker's work is in his own words: “I makes things from the stuff other people throw out.”

Joost (pronounced 'Yoast') is the darling of Australia's green-chic set and migrated to Australia at age nine. His father was a flower farmer who experimented not just with flower varieties, but with the construction of sheds, green houses and glass houses. The family's first Australian crop of chrysanthemums failed in the hot, drought-stricken summer that they arrived, but they were undeterred.

“Our family never seemed to give up,” says Joost. “Friends were always dropping into the farm, helping or simply providing emotional support.”

Deciding that school wasn't really his bag, at age 17 Joost returned to the farm and began wholesaling a new variety of blue tulips both internationally and to Melbourne-based restaurants. His empire grew from there.

“I started bringing vessels [to clients], as well as flowers. But I'd also bring things I'd found on the farm, such as wire baskets and test tubes,” says Joost.

Think jumper leads, clamps and fencing wire - all interwoven with flowers and vines.

His clients were restaurants like Gin Palace, Hairy Canary and Vue du Monde so it's hardly surprising that word got out about the good-looking florist with the penchant for recylcing. (He modelled for a while after he left school. No biggy.) Eventually Joost was asked to exhibit at Melbourne's Space Furniture – and it all went gangbusters from there.

Two Melbourne Cup corporate tents and a rooftop exhibition later, Joost decided to build a house. Constructed from natural materials on a block in country Victoria, the family home became the prototype for the Greenhouse project – a temporary installation in Melbourne's Federation Square and the only place to be seen in 2008. It was the first in a series of pop-up cafes around Australia and the world, all of which were made from recycled materials and featured rooftop gardens growing the produce served on the menu.

You could say that Joost's experimentation with homewares was inevitable. Dedicated to 'bringing food back to the beginning', Joost began to collaborate with local artisans to launch a range of dishes, bowls, and glassware made from raw and recycled materials. Think terracotta jam jars hand dipped in paint, glasses made from recycled beer bottles, and ceramic fruit platters moulded from farmers' apple packing trays.

Earlier this year, Joost decided to wind down the homewares production so that he could focus more on his building business. No longer in production, what's left is highly coveted.

Joost may be a man on a mission – who else would wax lyrical about the huge amounts of fertiliser-friendly nitrogen present in urine? – but don't give this guy a megaphone.

“I don't believe in telling people what to do,” says Joost. “I'm more comfortable collaborating with like minded people who share a similar philosophy. And if I can inspire people to think and act differently, what more can be said?”

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With help from Stephen Crafti
Top image by Newtown Grafitti

Check out Joost's remaining homewares here and here