John and Isla Wilson at The Dust Temple
John and Isla are the type that just can't help but live a creative life. It seems to be as compulsory as breathing. When looking at the bricks and mortar they have crafted into a design masterpiece, you realise there is something magic about them ... as is the community around them that seems to have it's own heart beat.
Plants grow so naturally throughout every industrial nook and old and new materials are combined seamlessly to tell a truly unique story. There is always a beautiful floral installation somewhere that looks like it's been plucked from a Vogue editorial crafted by mother nature herself. All set to a backdrop of industrial lines and shadows to a moody soundtrack, that will impress even the snobbiest music lover.
The Dust Temple is a creative precinct that houses studios and creative offices. It has a gallery, cafe and event space with a calendar full of local, national and international exhibitions and events. The Dust Temple is a true creative space where ideas are made and a community is grown. We are forever thankful to share it.
With fearless creativity, we introduce John and Isla Wilson ...
Where did the idea for the Dust Temple crop up?
"Dust is actually an evolving story that was born out of necessity and the power of fearlessness. We had turned our back on corporate work, you know, searching for more balance in our family. John had been offered a directorship in a Sydney company and we both looked at each other and were like 'I don’t want this!' so we literally packed our 5 kids in the car and said North or South kids? North won. We arrived with pretty much nothing, no job and just a little savings. So, we went into full survival mode and started making paper bags, hand folded out of newspaper. That then morphed into exploring other materials - architectural paper, cool old found magazines and we just built up this range of products. We got some into 'Unplugged' in Byron, the owner of which knew Australian artist David Bromley. He showed him the bags introducing them by saying “Look what these crazy people are doing”. David cold called us and John went to meet him and Yuge his wife as they needed some conceptual hand made packaging for some products they had coming out and ... that's where it started! We needed a space to do the concept and creation from so we leased a shop in Tugun, put a studio on one side and chucked a coffee machine on the other because we drank so much of the stuff! Next minute, we had people wanting coffee so we started serving, learnt on the job and called the place 'Shit Coffee' just so people's expectations weren’t too high." Isla giggles when thinking back. "We gained a resident poet, showed local artists and had musicians come and play. It was so much fun and it just kind of worked. The coffee went well and John's design and manufacturing with Bromley was growing. We had Cat working with us, she was sewing the Bromley quilts for us back then. You’ll see her behind the counter at Dust Temple most days now. Eventually, we moved the design part over to a factory in the Currumbin Industrial area. John used to drive past the building that now houses Dust Temple every day and was like 'That’d be perfect!' His architectural eye had picked up the potential of the building. When it became available, he made the call and next minute we held the lease. It actually took a bit of convincing to get me to agree to move the coffee shop but being able to work out of the same space again was the real draw card."
What did you do before you did this?
"John worked primarily for development companies doing urban planning, designing communities on the Gold Coast, Wanaka and lastly out of Sydney where he worked on projects in China also. I was a stay at home Mum for over 15 years. Before that time, I was a florist having trained under experimental and boundary pushing New Zealand florist David Anyon."
What do you love the most about coming to work? Is it work? Or is it true if you love what you do you will never work a day again?
"No, it doesn’t feel like work in the sense of having to be here - we love being here! Some people comment on how hard we work but it's kinda that farmer mentality, you get up and you work your land, or in this case, our business. It's so freakin' rewarding seeing it come together. We are truly thankful everyday for the support and engagement our business has received."
What's one tip you would give someone wanting to start their own gig?
"Be prepared to give more of yourself than you ever thought possible. Love what you do and don’t expect overnight success. You have to have grit, determination and the ability to solve problems without throwing it all in. It really does become like another being you are raising and nurturing, so frustrations, tests and unbelievable satisfaction and joy will be of equal measures."
Isla ... you are a flower lady, what’s your favourite flower?
"Mmm ... I don’t think I could name just one! Each season brings a new delight. The smell of an old fashioned climbing rose that has been basking in that easing light of autumn is just heavenly. The honest simplicity of daisies, blossoms in spring, the architectural form of bird of paradise and tropical gingers, the shock of red in the landscape from flowering bottlebrush or Pohutakawa, the drupe of kowhai, the pungency of rosemary and the calling to bees of lavender. Freesias, violets, stock, delphiniums, but I guess ... yep, nup can’t choose!"John is a plant man. What's his favourite plant at home or in the Dust?
Something in your house you couldn’t live without?
"Kermadec Pohutakawa. As simple as that. But I'm going to add that most of the plants that are at Dust have been rescued by John, the ones people are discarding. He really does have a genuine love of plants and can never say no to one. So his favourite ones are - and I quote - "any plant that needs to be loved"."
"Sounds cheesy but it would be our kids ... haha - they are what makes it a home!"
Where are you from and how did childhood in New Zealand make you so fearless?
"John and I are both from the Far North of New Zealand - country kids. Me from the small village of Opononi on the Hokianga Harbour and John from the farming community of Ruawai on the Kaipara Harbour. I guess there is an expectation of creativity and problem solving when you grow up in the countryside. A lot of the time you just had to make do. Growing up, we had very little in the way of possessions. No TV, telephone, scant toys, we had no car for most of my childhood. On reflection, it was the greatest blessing. We played, discovered and worked and had the best sense of freedom. I guess that's why we both struggle with conformity and being told what to do ... we have always been the makers of our own destiny. We believe in self governance, firstly for ourselves, our family, those close and then our community - the ripple effect."What are some of the great events on your calendar this year?
What has been a real high point in the dust journey so far?
"We have had some beautiful events already this year. Some amazing artists have exhibited with us. The Neumann Dust Temple Portrait Prize is always a highlight on our annual calendar. I think the stand out though has been the Empty Bowls Project. It was such an amazing community driven and focussed fundraiser. Coming up we have some fantastic events in the pipeline. The Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos on the 2nd Nov with our first resident chef Krystal Smith from Pop Taco is shaping up to be a bit of a cracker!"
"So many but I guess the major one for us, which has been a game changer, was coming through the 20+ month approval process with council to allow us to do what we do now."
Thanks guys. We are inspired daily by you and your way. So excited to see your natural evolution and share space with you.
Jan and Sandy