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Matea is an artist, designer and maker of tangible, functional, and charming things. She designs and handcrafts everything from footwear to leather jewellery from her Adelaide studio.

15 May 2020

Designer Spotlight: DONE by Matea

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Shoemaker / Jewellery / Designer – creator of tangible, functional & charming things, Matea: ‘I NEED to be able to get my ideas and thoughts out as physical objects. It’s my form of meditation and release.’

Hi, I’m Matea from Done by Matea. I’m a designer and maker, and I make all sorts of things!

For my label Done by Matea I make sandals, shoes and boots made from kangaroo leather, children shoes, vegan shoes, leather earrings and belts. On the side I make things like puzzles, recycled clothing, rugs, artworks and some writing.

Flowering gum and Sturt Desert Pea Australian botanical inspired artisan leather earrings handcrafted in Adelaide by DONE by Matea

I’ve been on Madeit since March this year after searching for handmade gift shops online, as I was looking for additional stockists to expand my business. Madeit seemed like a nice professional platform, and after looking into it I absolutely appreciate that it is Australian focused – it feels more personal and sincere to me than other third-party online shopping platforms.

Matea is an artist, designer and maker of tangible, functional, and charming things. She designs and handcrafts everything from footwear to leather jewellery from her Adelaide studio.

I’m a solo artist, working on my own, designing and creating everything. I’m based in Adelaide, South Australia; living on my own on the outskirts of the CBD. At the moment I still have a hospitality job on the side, but ideally, I’d love to live off my business.

Adelaide artist, designer, jewellery and shoemaker, Matea: ‘I’m a solo artist, working on my own, designing and creating everything.’

Image by David Court

I mainly work from my studio space at The Mill, but occasionally from home. Since isolation has started, I’ve definitely been finding ways to do more things at home!

Solo artist, designer, jewellery and shoemaker, Matea, making shoes from her shared Adelaide studio at The Mill

My studio space at The Mill is a 4x5m space in a large shared warehouse in the heart of the Adelaide CBD. The space is full of creatives from a range of disciplines, which makes for a great community environment. Having other creatives around is great for problem solving, inspiration and support!

Work in progress: shaping shoe heals from timber using shoe last: ‘Being in the city means that I’m really close to many of my suppliers’

Being in the city means that I’m really close to many of my suppliers, and can usually walk to them if I need anything. Aside from those suppliers, I order the rest of my materials and tools online.

A display of Matea’s handcrafted footwear and leather earrings in her Adelaide city studio at The Mill

It’s also really convenient having the studio space in the city because it’s a public space where I can meet with customers and have appointments for fittings, plus - so many great places for lunch nearby!

Arial view of the DONE by Matea studio and workshop in Adelaide’s downtown The Mill shared creative space

My studio space houses my work bench, industrial leather sewing machine, all my hand tools, my materials, my old work, and a small display area. I recently renovated my space by painting a wall, re-arranging the layout so it’s more inviting and easier to work in, and added some warm lighting; replacing the cool fluros. Changing the lighting was really important for me - I’m a generally anxious person and putting in the warmer lighting has had a calming effect and allowed me to be far more productive.

A pile of leather flowering gum earrings in progress on a workbench with plyers, tape and other tools: ‘I’m a generally anxious person and putting in the warmer lighting has had a calming effect and allowed me to be far more productive’

Aside from the individual studio spaces, we also have a shared communal workshop at the Mill - that has a great dust extraction system! This is where all the noisy, dusty things happen. I keep my jigsaw and industrial grinders in the workshop, and use a drop saw that belongs to another artist.

Matea’s home sewing machine on a small table looking out to the tree tops

At home I only really have my basic fabric sewing machine, but if I need to do shoemaking things on it, I’ll change the needle over to a leather needle (which is sharper), thick polyester thread (which is stronger) and adjust the thread tensions. It’s not ideal, but it can get the job done! Aside from that, I bring a lot of pattern making work home, as that’s mostly just pen and paper kind of stuff.

A vignette of Matea’s collected inspiration including rocks, shells, and second hand art and objects

When I work from home, as I have been more recently - I work from a small desk under my bedroom window, which is north facing, meaning it’s fairly evenly lit throughout the day. Again, lighting is very important to me, so this location keeps me alert, focused and calm. As I’m in an apartment building, the window looks out into the treetops and often feels as though I’m in a little tree house, and it’s very peaceful and calm - which is great for letting my brain do its roaming around idea making!

Closeup of a vignette of Matea’s collected inspiration including rocks, shells, and second hand art and objects: ‘I love collecting shells, rocks, random bits of metal and plastic, as well as unique objects that I find in second-hand stores

I have always been inspired by the motifs, patterns and compositions that can be found in nature. I love collecting shells, rocks, random bits of metal and plastic, as well as unique objects that I find in second-hand stores. These all provide inspiration whether it’s in their colouring, unique design, handmade feel or just the way they were found lying on the ground.

‘Hey CuTie’ colourful and playful handcrafted sandals

I’m often inspired by my dreams, feelings and visual analogies - representing a feeling in an object. With footwear, it’s usually a feeling of fun and happiness that I’m trying to convey.

DONE by Matea artisan leather hoop earrings reminiscent of blue ringed octopus markings: ‘The act of designing itself can be quite inspirational, finding ways to fuse practicality, functionality, and longevity’

The act of designing itself can be quite inspirational, finding ways to fuse practicality, functionality, and longevity within something that is handmade and still aesthetically appealing and expressive. I’m also inspired by materials and processes from different industries, and how they can be reapplied and explored.

Leather cuttings, thread and tools on the MADE by Matea workbench; ‘It’s generally assumed that I draw, but I don’t do well with drawing and never use drawing as a method of resolving creative ideas’

My creative process generally starts as a vague idea that just pops out at me, and from there I’ll make mock-ups in 3D, from fabric or leather etc. It’s generally assumed that I draw, but I don’t do well with drawing and never use drawing as a method of resolving creative ideas. While making the mock-up, my method is additive - so I’ll slowly add elements one at a time seeing what works and what doesn’t, until I end up with something I am happy with.

DONE by Matea work in progress covering wooden a wooden shoe heel in metallic green material

So how did I get here?! Well, I started by studying Industrial Design - now known as Product Design – at UniSA. Through that course I got a feel for CAD, working with briefs, hand making, and prototyping. However, it was a bit too heavily focused on the automotive industry at the time, so I decided to try Visual Art at UniSA. There I explored my motivations for making, and mostly took textiles, jewellery and sculpture subjects.

Early jewellery work by Matea; a silver ring with flowing organic lines and textures

I ended up finishing and specialising in Sculpture and Installation, however I still wasn’t satisfied due to the fact that no practical elements needed to be considered when creating artwork, and this left me feeling a bit lacking.

Early art work by Matea on exhibition; back-lit nature-inspired art works in a gallery

At this point I decided to study the Certificate IV in Custom Made Footwear Production at TAFE. I decided on footwear because it’s an object that is practical but also aesthetic, sort of like jewellery, but slightly bigger, easier to work with and without the flames.

Early footwear creation by Matea on exhibition, a wooden wedge sole with grey leather footstraps and ankle cuff; ‘I decided on footwear because it’s an object that is practical but also aesthetic’

The materiality also had an appeal - leather surprisingly ended up being one of my favourite materials to work with due to the fact that it’s kind of like a mix of fabric and wood - it can be sewn but it can also be machined, it can be cut but it doesn’t fray.

DONE by Matea work in progress – black vegan leather children’s shoes being awaiting soles

After finishing the footwear course, I opened up a small space called Trans-Form with my friend, an architect and furniture maker, which was part of the Renew Adelaide program, activating unused property in the CBD.

The colourful facade and window display of Matea’s early venture; an urban retail space for local artists in downtown Adelaide, called ‘Phase Space’

Trans-Form functioned as an occasional studio and brief retail space for our work. When our lease was up, we closed Trans-Form and I went on to open another retail space in the city - a little shop called Phase Space. It was created to give local artists, whether they were working with traditional or experimental aesthetics, a public platform for their work.

Early work by Matea, a pair of conical opal earrings; Eventually I decided to start my own making business, and fully focus on my own work.’

Eventually I decided to start my own making business, and fully focus on my own work. I have rebranded a few times over the last two years, but I’m happy with Done by Matea now and excited about the direction it’s going in. I am slowly seeing what comes to me in terms of making as well as the market response to my work.

Children’s bright yellow boots hand crafted by DONE by Matea

There are a few reasons I’ve opted to stick with hand making as opposed to mass production, or just being a designer for a large company:
1. My personal need for creative expression. I NEED to be able to get my ideas and thoughts out as physical objects. It’s my form of meditation and release.
2. The energy that an object has when you know it’s been made by one person as an extension of themselves - it becomes more an artwork than a product; its inherent value is more than that of its physical parts.
3. Ethical concerns - the desire to reduce slave labour, waste and environmental impact. For this reason I take care to be extremely mindful of what I use and where I source it from. I aim to use local, recycled and low impact materials where I can.

Black and white close up of Matea’s hands at work nailing leather to a handcrafted boot

In this sense, my approach to making at the moment is a bit of a juggle given I use leather. I do have strong ethical views regarding animal products, and while I don’t call myself vegetarian or vegan, I generally avoid eating animal products and never cook meat at home. While leather’s materiality is second to none, this does make using it a bit tricky!

Aerial view of Matea’s workbench with shoes in progress and tools of the trade

When leather is required, I use kangaroo leather where possible, as it is the most ethical and sustainable leather available. If I need to use bovine leather, I keep quantities to a minimum, and use either veg tan bovine leather or end-of-job lots.

Vegetable tanning has less impact on the environment as it uses less harsh chemicals, and produces biodegradable leather. End-of-job lots are hides that were part of large orders for other businesses that didn’t end up getting used, and would otherwise be sent to landfill.

A pair of black flat sandals, Matea’s early work: ‘Ideally nothing gets made and then thrown away – nothing contributes to unnecessary landfill.’

I don’t make any new orders to suppliers for chrome tanned bovine leather. I use cork and EVA foams in place of leather in some soling applications, to try and minimise the use of bovine leather. Where possible, I use recycled rubber if I can find a local supplier at the time.

Matea with some of her shoes, leather jewellery and accessories at an Adelaide market

If I use plastics, they are either recyclable, used in small quantities or only made to order, (or in place of leather for vegan orders). I also reuse my own offcuts as much as possible, to reduce waste. Ideally nothing gets made and then thrown away - nothing contributes to unnecessary landfill.



Visit DONE by Matea to find artisan footwear and leather jewellery: DonebyMatea

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