ADELAIDE's current creative milieu is an exciting one. In recent years a number of artist-run venues have shown that the city is rich with local artistic talent.
Emerging artists regularly exhibit in these galleries, with many taking their work to the streets, contributing to Adelaide’s growing reputation for innovative public art. Local furniture and object designers are also turning heads with products being showcased at international design fairs, while interior designers and architects are producing hospitality and retail fit-outs that are as dynamic as they are rigorous.
Such growth suggests Adelaide is experiencing something of an art and design renaissance; it is certainly not in the shadow of either Melbourne or Sydney anymore. The calibre of work being produced in Adelaide is simply too good to be overlooked, and the arts organisations often associated with this work are some of the best in the country. It should come as no surprise that JamFactory is a significant player in this shift, and its 40-year anniversary celebrations in 2013 helped thrust Adelaide into the creative spotlight.
The culmination of these celebrations was the opening in November of the new JamFactory satellite facility at Seppeltsfield in the Barossa Valley. Such expansion symbolises the current climate of design renewal and artistic regeneration in South Australia. For JamFactory, the opening of its new off-site facility was one of many landmarks in its proud 40-year history, not to mention a watershed moment. As JamFactory Board Chair Peter Vaughan notes, ‘We’re thinking ahead, and we’re thinking of national and international activities that will generate reputation and revenue for the organisation far beyond that which applies now’.
Studio tenant Rose Anne Russell
JamFactory is well on the way to realising its Board’s vision, with a new presence in the Barossa. Located in the former Stables building on the expansive Seppeltsfield property, it features an exhibition gallery, retail shop, studios and workshop spaces. It is a major strategic development for JamFactory, and significant in terms of reaching new audiences and encouraging public awareness and demand for art and design. ‘It ticks those boxes and more,’ says Vaughan, ‘which just about renders it unique in the type of offering it contributes to the Barossa region.’
The partnership between JamFactory and Seppeltsfield represents an exciting opportunity for both parties to explore the synergies between wine, food, cultural tourism and design. In reinvigorating the Seppeltsfield Village with art and design, the possibilities for renewed business and creative outcomes are numerous. ‘We’ve known for a long time that tourists don’t just come to the Barossa for wine—they come for food, art and culture as well,’ says Seppeltsfield’s Tourism and Events Manager Nicole Hodgson. ‘With Seppeltsfield, in particular, they also come for the gardens, architecture and history.’ Both JamFactory and Seppeltsfield have a strong heritage of fine craftsmanship, and in this respect the partnership is an ideal and mutually beneficial match.
This unshakeable association with quality and artisanal traditions suggests Seppeltsfield Village has the potential to become an internationally recognised cultural hub and centre for excellence. Critical to achieving this long-term goal is the role the JamFactory studios and workshops will play in driving tourists to the area. A walkway in the middle of the split-level facility functions as a ramp allowing visitors to walk from one side of the building to the other, and to stand at a viewing deck overlooking the studios. This effectively simple device allows people to engage with the artists and designers and watch them at work, which makes for a ‘value-add’ experience. It is not unlike the experience visitors have at the JamFactory’s Morphett Street premises, when standing on the viewing platform overlooking the Glass Studio—the same sense of theatre and spectacle prevails.
The studios are an integral part of the attraction for tourists, but they also succeed at a practical, grassroots level. ‘Most of the artists in the studios are local,’ says Hodgson. ‘We’ve just filled the gap and given the region’s art and craft a home.’
Studio tenant Scott French
Three of the facility’s initial studio residents are glass artist Brenden Scott French, knifemaker Barry Gardner and shoemaker and leather artist Rose-Anne Russell. Their high quality, artisanal approach is in keeping with the philosophies of both the JamFactory and Seppeltsfield, and French, in particular, is looking forward to his new association with the facility, having recently relocated to the Barossa with his family. ‘I hope to develop my work within this supportive community and be representative of a dynamic creative art practice to the many people that visit Seppeltsfield each year,’ he says. ‘The region seems to have real momentum at the moment. From a marketing point of view, this seems to be a great opportunity to embrace that exposure.’
As the first stage in Seppeltsfield’s tourism master plan, the JamFactory venue is part of an ambitious development that will eventually include accommodation and a five-star restaurant on the property. Although the vision for a complete epicurean experience will not be realised overnight, the highend art and design centre is expected to have immediate impact. Seppeltsfield currently attracts 90,000 visitors annually, but JamFactory Board Chair Vaughan predicts this figure could jump to 150,000 annually once the facility begins operations
But, of course, size does not matter—it is about quality. This motto extends to every aspect of the new facility’s development, including the selection of the project’s architect. In many ways, Grieve Gillett was an obvious choice—the Adelaide-based practice did, after all, design JamFactory’s Morphett Street building when the organisation relocated there in 1992. It is yet another subtle connection to the city location and a practical consistency that worked in everyone’s favour.
Grieve Gillett had quite a task ahead of them, since the unused former Stables building dated back to the 1850s and was heritage listed. The practice rose to the challenge with an adaptive re-use solution that is certainly one of the best examples of its kind in South Australia within recent years.
The design of JamFactory's new facility is meant to show off the scars and history of the building - as well its future.
‘We wanted to keep as much of the old building as possible and let it tell its own story,’ says Grieve Gillett Associate Michael Buchtmann. ‘We didn’t want to renovate it, we wanted to stabilise it and allow it to display its marks and scars so people get an idea of its history and of its future.’
The sense of authenticity that pervades the new facility’s interior is refreshing—this building is not pretending to be something it’s not. Stone walls are left exposed, central windows are left uncovered and the original numbers of the horses written on the wall in the main studio have been left untouched. Buchtmann has ingeniously hidden the air conditioning and heating ducts beneath the walkway, which also serves as access for wheelchairs. In a stroke of luck, he found reclaimed unused materials from elsewhere on the property, and incorporated them into the interior. Large half-tonne slate slabs, originally used as lids for open-top fermenters, are now the walkway’s flooring, and disused timber serves as the retail store’s sales counter.
Grieve Gillett’s sympathetic and respectful approach befits a property with a heritage dating back to 1851 and which, to this day, remains the only winery in the world to release a 100-year-old wine annually. Founder Joseph Seppelt purchased the property and planted vineyards after migrating to Australia from Silesia in Eastern Europe in 1849. Over the years the Seppelt company has been acquired and sold by a number of different groups; however, since 2007, Seppeltsfield Estate Trust has privately owned Seppeltsfield. In 2009, South Australian entrepreneur Warren Randall purchased a 50% share in the business (increasing to 90% in 2013) and, in his role as Managing Director, has driven the ensuing development.
JamFactory and Seppeltsfield Estate Trust previously had numerous interactions, but the real catalyst for their current partnership was the report by Laura Lee, Adelaide Thinker in Residence for 2009. Lee’s An integrated design strategy for South Australia – building the future places people at the centre of planning and development, and proposes ways in which design process and product can better help people achieve levels of excellence. With Regional Development Australia Barossa (RDA Barossa) as her Residency partner, Lee also developed a design agenda for the Barossa region. ‘I put Laura in touch with Seppeltsfield for a discussion about the design agenda, and the partnership with the JamFactory arose out of that,’ says RDA Barossa CEO Anne Moroney. ‘She was amazed by the JamFactory as an incubator for new designers and what it has to offer in terms of design, creativity, education and training, and suggested it would be a good fit for the Barossa.’
If the Barossa is to become a growth region as suggested in the 30-Year Plan for Greater Adelaide, it has to be managed well. Part of this management involves incorporating the input of organisations and individuals that can contribute to the future sustainability of the region. ‘People understand that to get a good outcome you need all the right people at the table first,’ says Moroney. ‘So you throw forward and work out what the purpose and function is, then work backwards to understand how what we do now will deliver the common view of what it is we’re trying to do.’
Like the studios, the gallery in the new JamFactory facility will play a pivotal role in attracting tourists to Seppeltsfield. It will present a program of changing exhibitions, including some curated specifically for the site, others drawn from the JamFactory’s exhibition program at Morphett Street and some touring exhibitions from other organisations. The calibre of work on show will be high, and a major drawcard for many visitors will be the fact they may not be able to see these exhibitions elsewhere. Providing an exhibiting venue for the work of local artists alongside a retail store also assists in sustaining the individual practices of these South Australian artists.
Studio tenant Barry Gardner
As the facility becomes established, its activities will also include education and public programs. The philosophy of excellence is not restricted to creative endeavours, but extends to learning and education—all aspects of the facility will support these programs. Artist and curator talks, facility tours and workshops contribute to a valuable and memorable learning experience, engaging school groups and local audiences.
A great sense of collaboration has characterised this ambitious project at every turn. The many parties involved in realising the next major step in the progress of both JamFactory and Seppeltsfield have been generous in their commitment and open to new possibilities. ‘It’s not only what South Australia does well, but what the Barossa does very well—we collaborate and bounce off each other,’ says Nicole Hodgson, Seppeltsfield’s Tourism and Events Manager. ‘There’s a point where you have that critical mass and that helps everybody.’
The State Government, through Arts SA, and the Commonwealth Government through the T-QUAL tourism funding program, also provided assistance for the new JamFactory satellite facility. Before it was even completed, Vaughan and the JamFactory Board were looking to 2023 and beginning talks on how to take the JamFactory experience from a successful 40-year anniversary to a great fiftieth. Opening more satellite facilities in South Australia and interstate could very well be on the agenda—there is certainly a demand for it. Continuing innovative thinking is vital to achieving outcomes focused on sustaining JamFactory’s business and creative agendas for the long term.
JamFactory’s integration into the Barossa region is yet another facet of the art and design renaissance currently taking place within South Australia. It also acknowledges the essential role that partnerships across different industries play in allowing businesses to move forward and prosper. In this particular partnership between JamFactory and Seppeltsfield, the emphasis throughout has remained on quality. The intention is not to make things beyond the reach of the everyday person, but to undertake all activities at a level of excellence so that as many people as possible can experience something extraordinary. By all accounts, JamFactory’s new satellite facility at Seppeltsfield will do just that.
Leanne Amodeo is a freelance design writer who contributes regularly to national and international publications such as Urbis, The Adelaide Review, Design Quarterly and Indesign Live. She is the former editor of Monument and (inside) magazines.