Have you ever wondered what’s behind that roller door covered in graffiti? Ever caught a glimpse of something exciting happening and wondered what it was? Instead of demolishing these old factory warehouses, people are choosing to adapt and mold the space to suit their needs - we've spoken with a few to see what it's like.
Let’s explore these transformed garages in the hidden backstreets of the suburbs, to tell the stories of the businesses who use these workshops for their unique projects.
Driving along Glenlyon Road in Brunswick you may have glimpsed at a blue wall on the corner of Eveline Street and noticed a window display with some lamps and not thought much of it. If you were to walk around that corner, beyond the messy graffiti, you would discover a shutter door which opens to reveal a workshop full of interesting things. Is this a shop? Is it someone’s garage? Is it a plant nursery?
I wanted to find out what was hidden behind that roller door, so I popped my head in to see a large display of beautiful plants and wooden structures. A table displaying some gorgeous wooden trays, ornate lamps, and marbled ink sketchpads. Looking up from a connecting room, surrounded by planks of wood and tools, a man in a dust mask came out from his workshop.
Matthew Miles greeted me and explained that this is Opus in Wood - his personal business which has been on this corner of Brunswick for the last 16 years. I wonder if people even know he is there, working away in a cold back room under the tin roof of what was once an old panel beater shed. "Every project is different. I work with each client to bring them solutions that are tailored to their needs and life. I'm interested in traditional crafts, because they are the human relationship with the world. They are how we, with our hands, fashion the materials and our environment.
When things are made by hand they take a long time, if it's hard to make something, you do it well, and right, because you want it to last and you don't want to do it again in a hurry.”
The unique pieces that Matthew makes are vastly different to what you might find in a high street chain store and this comes down to his strong beliefs against throw-away furniture, “I'm saddened by the proliferation of vast industries, and the simplification of our physical existence, which has resulted in the loss of skills and disconnect from the natural world. The processes and materials that big industry uses, results in poisoning the environment. Anything made of chipboard or mdf will inevitably find its way into landfill.
We can save forests by making things that last, with recycled materials, solid timbers, and traditional joinery. It's also important for things to be made beautifully. If something is loved then it will be looked after and cared for, passed on to friends or as an heirloom down the generations.”
Matthew is originally from Canberra, then moved to Sydney before realizing the place to be artsy was Melbourne. “Brunswick as a neighborhood now is a completely different place to what it was, originally it was pretty much a backwater. 20 years ago, it was probably a slum for those that lived here, it was a bit edgy but not in a cool way. Change is always strange, but it's very exciting to see all the new creatives, and spaces here and there being filled by people having a go trying their hands and hearts at pursuing their own dreams.” The population growth and the younger demographic living in Brunswick has meant his business has evolved and he is now selling plants as a collaboration with Little Leaf Pop Up which is bringing more people in to see his pieces.
I ask him what it’s like working in a space like this, “Having an open workshop is a great way to be part of the community. However, it’s cold in winter and it’s hot in summer, I feel like I understand the weather well!”
So next time you’re walking the streets of Brunswick, have a look for the blue roller door, open or shut, Matthew will most likely be in there working away on his next project, be sure to stop by.
For more information:
23 Glenlyon Road, Brunswick, VIC 3056
Words by Netta Justice
Photos by Sarah Caust