In conversation with Bowerbird’s Peggy Byrne

Photo Credit: Andrew Beveridge
Peggy Byrne purchased one of her favourite events, Bowerbird, in February 2020. Then, the world changed.

Why did you buy Bowerbird, and how did you cope in your first year as owner?

I love buying directly from makers. Retail is great but the experience is really rewarding when you can take the time to speak to the maker. You get to hear their story and how the product came to be, and you can also provide feedback and inspiration for the next creation. So, Bowerbird was somewhere I loved to go and buy up! When it came up for sale a decade after its inception, I was looking for something to put my energy into, something that was rewarding and challenging and that I would love getting up in the morning for. It was a no-brainer.

Of course, COVID hit a month after my husband and I signed the contract, so dreams of making it my own took a backseat. The focus turned to ensuring we could run at all and to provide our makers with the opportunity to trade. Some rely on events like Bowerbird for 80% of their income, so they were in trouble with markets shutting down nationwide. Bowerbird’s most significant point of difference is that we showcase designers from across the country, not just local South Australians. With borders constantly closing and restrictions changing, it was a real challenge to curate the event for at least 18 months. But we did it, and our audience was very supportive, which made all the sleepless nights worth it in the end!

A woman sells wares at the Sweet Nola stall at Bowerbird

What do you think people love about Bowerbird?

The direct contact with the maker is critical. It turns a transaction into an experience; we all want more meaning nowadays. People pay big money for a dining experience where you meet the chef or the grower of the produce served, that’s because we want to create memories and add value to everything we spend money on.

I also love the relaxed atmosphere we create. We are fully licensed, so seeing a group of girlfriends checking out the latest earrings or deciding on which dress to buy while sipping on a glass of bubbles is lovely! It’s the opposite of the traditional retailer’s “hard sell” vibe. People can take their time to choose but also enjoy their time at the market regardless of whether they find a treasure or not; there is no pressure.

Our makers also love the event. They love getting people’s feedback seeing the joy their passion project gives others and they gain inspiration and energy from the other designers in the room! So even for them, it’s not just about the dollars; participating is an invaluable experience that helps them grow as a brand.

What’s next? Where do you go from here?

We need to focus on growth and ensuring the event’s security so makers can rely on us in the future, as they have for 14 years now.

I have ideas on how to make the market a must-attend event. One is to ensure we partner with other significant South Australian events and experiences. It’s early days, but I am keen to roll out some of these ideas in 2024.

What should we look out for in the November lineup?

I am excited by the quality of our lineup overall. Enki from Victoria, one of our new designers joining us, looks to have some beautiful skincare products I can’t wait to try. Bahru leather bags from Western Australia make a gorgeous leather duffle bag I have my eye on. I’m really proud that some of our super-talented South Australian producers, like Salt Gang and Mischief Brew, are joining us. Their yummy products will help me fill a few Christmas stockings!

Joining us are almost 150 designers, makers and producers, so there’ll be something for everyone! I recommend checking out our online directory and making a wish list before visiting!!


Bowerbird

17 – 19 November 2023

Adelaide Showground, Wayville

bowerbird.net.au

@bowerbird.au

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