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Roots of The Olive Tree

The Olive Tree Market has become a staple event on Newcastle’s calendar, with artists and customers alike travelling far and wide to get amongst the buzz of all things handmade, contemporary and local.

2019 marks The Olive Tree Market’s tenth anniversary, so like us, you‘ve probably attended the markets more than a few times yourself. Rather than make founder Justine Gaudry sit through the same old questions, we decided to focus on her lifelong affinity with artisan markets and the incredible work she does to support our city’s creative industries.

It seems Justine was inculcated into the world of the handmade market scene from a young age. It’s in her blood. It’s as if her role was chosen for her long ago.

One of her favourite things as a child in the seventies, was visiting her Uncle Brad’s stall at Paddington Markets. Brad would travel from his farm in Gerringong on the South Coast to sell coloured beeswax candles, tie dyed shirts and incense made by Hare Krishnas. He also made Honey Surf Wax, Australia’s first surfboard wax.

“The stalls on either side of my uncle were Jim Burlington, the leader of the Marijuana Party and Bob Ellicott the local Liberal member who became the Governor General. Jenny Kee, the fashion designer was there as well,” Justine says. “This was the beginning of my fascination with makers and the culture and community that grows around a market.”

As she grew older, her passion for culture, community and the handmade also grew. Her grandfather, who she says travelled more than anyone she’s ever met, backpacked from London to Kathmandu at the age of seventy. His tales of adventure and distant treasures inspired her to start exploring abroad.

“My grandfather started me travelling young, he was the first person I travelled with and we went to markets in Greece, Italy and Turkey,” she explains holding up an ornate mask that he purchased from a Mexican market. “My favourite markets were in Egypt and Morocco in the late eighties.”

As Justine sorts through her collection of market finds, it becomes evident that ceramics are one of her obsessions. But apparently not everyone in her family feels the same.

“My daughter really hates this one, she finds it scary,” Justine says pointing at an articulated ceramic figurine. “Whenever I display it in the house, it mysteriously disappears, and I find she has hidden it away.”

Scouring through Justine’s assortment of ceramics is a who’s who of the Novocastrian art world. “Ellie Hannon is one of my favourite artists from Olive Tree,” she says, holding up one of Hannon’s ceramic faces. “I usually buy things from people who I think are really talented or I can see are evolving as artists.”

Her passion for local artists doesn’t stop at ceramicists. She spots another piece in the pile of treasures and grabs it.

“Do you know Maggie Hensel Brown? Maggie specialises in textiles and now focuses on needle lace making. She recently travelled to Europe to do Italian lace making workshops in Somerset, went to the International Lace Makers Guild Conference in Amsterdam and attended Dutch lace making workshops,” Justine explains, showing a beautiful stone covered in ornate lacework crochet. “She currently has work in an exhibition at the Hunterdon Art Museum in New Jersey, featuring contemporary artists who use lace making in their art.

Watching Justine sort through her collection it’s evident why she was drawn to create something like Olive Tree. Each artefact she holds renews her enthusiasm as if recharging her batteries.

When asked how it all came together, Justine explains that she, and Olive Tree’s co-founders, Bec and Ally, had a very strong vision for the markets from the start and spent four to five months planning and interviewing potential stallholders.

“We had to work hard from the beginning to show artists that markets were a viable option for them,” she explains.

“We’ve stuck so strictly to the handmade component and supporting that community, so it wasn’t long before it really took off.”

“It’s been an ethical decision but it means we’re now a market with one of the highest levels of handmade products in Australia, which is a huge selling point for us and obviously something we are quite proud of.”

Justine is passionate about supporting start-up businesses. To commemorate the market’s ten year anniversary, she recently launched the Emerging Artist Stall Start-Up Program which allows businesses or emerging creatives, with a focus on young people under age thirty, to apply for a free stall package.

“I think one of the biggest challenges for creatives is the outlay of trying to get ready for a market,” she says. “There’s a lot of cool things happening with young people in this city and they need our support.”

“The next twelve months will see a number of new activities happening alongside the markets,” she shares. “A huge focus will be on supporting the next generation of emerging artists, and we will continue to run workshops and a range of other events.”

As you join the crowds, coffee in hand, to wander the many stalls of the Olive Tree Market, you can’t help but feel inspired by the creativity and talent of the artists, musicians and foodies on display. There is a strong sense of community spirit and of supporting one another, which is a true testament to Justine’s hard work and passion for local creatives. We can’t wait to see what the next ten years bring.

As seen in Swell Issue 1.

Words: Hannah Mills & James Turvey | Photography: Zoe Lonergan

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