This article was first published by Onya Magazine on 14th March 2013
It’s been open for less than a day but you’d find it difficult to walk down Church Street, Hawthorn and not be distracted by The Woodsfolk. A huge crest in the centre, cascading pom poms and large ‘hello’ signs in cheery brights all greet you from the display window – and who could simply walk past such cheeriness?
We arrive slightly early at the launch, deciding to take advantage of the time before everyone else arrives to have a close look at all the goodies on offer. The colour continues inside the white and wood interior, with one long wall seemingly stocked full of bright, colour-popping items – shelves of pastel and neon tumblers, tea cups and saucers, bottle-shaped candles, ‘heartfelt’ garlands and rainbow coloured pom-pom ‘freckle’ rugs.
Everything is artfully arranged – each section of the shop styled to a slightly different theme yet still managing to come together cohesively to make The Woodsfolk’s unique look. Towards the back is a colourful child’s bedroom, felt animal masks on the dresser table, a vintage tea set laid out on the desk and a large Ponyrider forest throw hung on the wall as a feature piece above the bed. Another section is largely monochrome, with vintage looking sewing equipment from Merchant and Mills, tiny porcelain animals and beauty products displayed in a beautiful peach-coloured leather pouch.
Owner Amber Clohesy, also founder of wholesalers Down to the Woods – whose products are found in abundance in the store – is no stranger to the whimsy. Describing Down to the Woods as ‘wholesalers of whimsy’, walking into The Woodsfolk certainly feels a bit like entering an enchanted forest from a childhood dream. Toadstool, deer, rabbit, and scotty-dog shaped lamps are dotted around the store and line the top shelves, and a deer’s head (draped with a pom-pom garland!) looks down from its prime place mounted on the wall. A few pastel-coloured ceramic bowl-shaped objects from Angus and Celeste are also on display, which I initially take to be interesting looking jelly moulds, until I glance up to see them full of flowers hanging from the wall – they are plant pots.
The Woodsfolk stocks approximately 25 discerningly picked different designers and labels, including Coral & Tusk, Kip & Co and Leah Duncan. Clohesy does extensive research to scout both local and international talent to stock.
“Many I find when I visit the trade shows, which I’ll do once or twice throughout the year – in New York, Paris and South East Asia. I try to keep it half local Australian and half international and for a few of the labels, we are one of only a few Australian stockists.”
She’s wearing a striking fluorescent necklace from one local label – EMELDO by Emily Dornbusch, which I, along with other guests, immediately admire. More are displayed alongside some other colourful accessories – multicoloured enamel bracelets, soft bird print scarves and leather bags and wallets.
The cool change that had arrived earlier that day was greatly appreciated as the steady arrival of guests quickly filled up the shop. A rack of interesting looking guitars and other musical instruments (which I initially thought were for sale or simply on display) were suddenly picked up and played, filling the room with the lively sounds of bluegrass/country music – adding to the already jovial atmosphere.
In the centre of the room, displayed amidst wreaths and vines was the food of the evening – gorgeous mini stuffed mushrooms nestled atop a single leaf, a modern take on a miniature steak sandwich as well as a delicious looking cheeseboard and a vibrant fruit platter of wild berries. There was no need to forage for drinks either – heading to the front counter there was a choice of pear or strawberry and lime cider or sparkling water for those not drinking, all served in glass jam jars crammed with fresh mint and lemon, complete with brightly coloured patterned paper straws and handed to you by two very good-looking waiters!
Halfway into the evening Clohesy slightly nervously makes her way to the front of the shop and gets the crowds attention. It’s a modest speech – thanking everyone who was involved in the “amazing collective effort” that was opening The Woodsfolk and expressing surprise at just how many people turned up to the opening “of what is just a local store in Hawthorn.”
By the constant chatter and laughter that fills the room the whole evening, guests obviously think it’s a lot more than that. Throws are admired, objects picked up and cooed at and congratulations are given in abundance. We’re well looked after – a steady supply of drinks remains and the food table is once again rushed when a huge round tray of homemade chocolate brownies are put out, followed by cute mini choc tops. Guests don’t leave empty handed either – presented with their own wine bottle-shaped candle.
For an idea she originally had over eight years ago and has been working towards for two, how does Clohesy feel to have The Woodsfolk finished and the doors finally open to customers? “Relieved,” she laughs, “but as corny as it sounds it really is a dream come true for me.”