22 November 2022

Two years in the making: design market returns to gallery with gift ideas galore

| James Day
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Ceramicist Lea Durie cup

A cup made by ceramicist Lea Durie. Photo: Taylah Cunningham, Lea Durie.

In the panicked months leading up to Christmas, finding that unique gift, able to incite a riot of jealousy at the family table, can be difficult.

Fortunately for Canberra’s gift-seekers, the Undercurrent Design Market is returning to the National Portrait Gallery after a two-year absence.

Aiming to reclaim its glory as one of the best places in Canberra to procure a wide array of diverse, independently made and finely crafted gifts, the market will be open from Friday, 25 November, to Sunday, 27 November.

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The weekend market will give Canberrans the opportunity to turn that stressful scavenger hunt for end-of-year treats into a relaxed end-of-week walk with the family through some of the best handcrafted ceramics, jewellery, textiles and glass on offer in the capital.

Richard Baz and his wife, Melanie O’Hanlon, operate the market with their company The Curatoreum, which operates the bookstores at the National Portrait Gallery and the National Arboretum.

Richard Baz and Melanie O'Hanlon

Owners of The Curatoreum, Richard Baz and Melanie O’Hanlon. Photo: Supplied.

The couple started the market 13 years ago with items from Canberra artisans and designers and throughout Australia. This year the market will host 55 stalls, with about 70 makers present for visitors to interact with as they walk through.

Richard and Melanie have worked in the visual arts industry and saw an opportunity for a community-driven market “for people who don’t like to go to the markets”, says Richard.

“The market represents and celebrates Australian design makers,” he says.

“You are buying directly from an Australian producer, and perfectly timed four weeks before Christmas. Not something mass-produced out of a department store.”

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Whether shoppers are looking to splurge on their new partner or get a little memento to fill out the base of the holiday season’s living room tree, Richard and Melanie have brought together designers who have something for everyone.

Many of the vendors’ products, such as those of legendary Australian glass artist Harriet Schwarzrock, are already found in The Curatoreum’s bookshops. There will also be new makers like Lea Durie, a former public servant who now works through her company Mud Dept. as a ceramicist.

Tincture Vessel, made by Harriet Schwarzrock of Curtis Glass Art. Photo: Harriet Schwarzrock.

The market will cater to all budgets, with prices ranging from Missing Ink’s tattoo stickers that cost $8 each, to Wendy Voon’s knitwear that goes up to $400. The gallery’s bookstore will be open during its normal trading hours, and the cafe will be putting out extra sweets and cakes, along with drinks on Friday evening.

“The market is a little bit smaller this year, we did that deliberately to be more COVID aware,”
Richard says.

”We’ve just pulled out about 10 stalls so we can have a little bit more flow through the Terrace rooms and so it’s not as hot for people.”

The market is open inside the National Portrait Gallery on Friday from 5 pm to 8 pm, and over the weekend from 10 am to 5 pm. A solo guitar musician will be playing on Friday and Saturday.

Entry is free, with paid parking underground and in the surrounding streets.

For further details, visit The Curatoreum.

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