JAPANESE TEXTILE FRIENDS SERIES
By guest blogger Sarah MacDonald of BeBe Bold in Europe
ARC-ET-SENANS FRANCE Behind the hills of Byron Bay, on the east coast of Australia is my mum Jane MacDonald’s design studio—a space which celebrates Japanese textiles and crafts, and a place which has grown as an extension of our family home.
It all began as a single room—with a sewing machine, a design board, and piles of work-in-process patchwork quilts. Today, from the street, nothing has changed.
Raised on stumps and encircled by a large verandah, the house sits comfortably amongst the other weatherboard homes commonly found in towns close to the Queensland border. And yet, if you were to walk up those timber steps, an unlikely space lies waiting.
Through the French screen doors, the heart of BeBe Bold is in motion—with orders being packaged, stock being shelved, emails being sent. Whilst my childhood nostalgia may lie in the pressed metal ceilings and the wooden paneled walls, there is little else to show that the room you first enter was once our living room.
Now the walls are lined with double rows of yarn-dyed takumi and tsumugi fabrics, plus samples of kits and patterns promising to be a next favourite project. Walking past needles packaged in red-tassled pastel boxes, a turning stand of sashiko threads sits where our sofa used to be.
Whilst this room might one day return to the way it was, a place to relax at the end of busy days, at the moment it seems like a dynamic place to be. This studio has been built from my mother’s creativity, her strong aesthetic sensibility, and her keen willingness to learn about a material culture which has engaged her for many years. This space now leads to a packing room, an office, and more rooms lined with shelving and boxes. It is always inspiring to see how the studio continues to evolve.
Whenever I visit my parents I am always impressed with the energy my mum dedicates to her craft. Similarly my dad Peter, whilst known to grumble from time to time at the encroaching lack of domestic space, always shows a generous amount of pride when speaking of my mum’s achievements with BeBe Bold.
I always knew this project would grow and move beyond that room. However I think locating the latest BeBe Bold extension within the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of eastern France may even have been a stretch for my mum’s vision of her business.
And yet, here we area–with another BeBe Bold studio, sitting across the road from the UNESCO listed La Saline Royale (Royal Saltworks) in the commune of Arc-et-Senans.
Perhaps it seems a surprising choice of location, but for us, it makes sense.
My husband Yves and I decided to move to the region of France where he grew up. It offered us not only the opportunity to present BeBe Bold to a new European audience but also offered new challenges for me. I’m trying to learn more about French culture: the language, the geography, the seasons and very happily, the food.
So whilst I have left Australia for now and the hustle and bustle of the Northern Rivers studio, we have managed to create something new for BeBe Bold’s future. Jane has already taught two workshops at the French studio and participated in craft and quilt fairs in UK and Europe.
This new part of the BeBe Bold story has moved beyond that one room at the back of my childhood home, and it feels like there will be plenty left to tell.
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