5 mins with Ken Wallis of Seasonal Concepts
Ken Wallis of Seasonal Concepts has created a store filled with curiosities, utilitarian objects, and collectables all tied together with seasonal flowers and foliage.
20 July, 2016
The Redfern store celebrates the Australian lifestyle and allows visitors time to get lost in a world of nostalgia. We were fortunate to have a chat with Ken about his store and his connection with the Australian lifestyle.
For those who haven’t been into your store, can you tell us what to expect when you step into Seasonal Concepts?
Step inside and you’ll be met with a sensory arousal, the smell of fresh flowers and contrasting light, says Ken. You’ll see wall to wall objects, layers, textures; it’s a tactical space.“A lot of people tell us they get a sense of leaving the real world behind on Redfern Street. If that was true, the only thing I would wish for is that mobile phones wouldn’t work in here to break the magic spell.”There is also a reflective space, which is part history, part nostalgia with a lot of curiosity and intrigue.
When did you get the collecting bug?
“I was a collector from the day I was born. I used to drive my parents mad. Every trip to the beach I would come home with buckets of souvenirs of various things from seaweed to shells.”There was always a collection of things at the back door that I was never allowed to bring in, Ken reveals. Collecting for me was very innate.
In your ‘Ode to Flo’ film, you talk about a love for farm sheds. Where did that extend from?
My love for sheds goes back to my childhood where I entertained myself in the sheds on our farm and my grandparents.“Sheds were endless source of imagination, creativity and there were no restraints. In a sense, these sheds were my Star Wars.”
When you drive past a shed, does it beacon you to explore it?
“My blood pressure rises”, jokes Ken. “It’s all about the imagination. The damn thing could be empty, but not in my mind. It’s full to the brim.”
Is your connection with Australian collectables and native flowers a direct reflection of your country upbringing?
I’m a tail end baby boomer and grew up with grandparents and parents who were all affected by the consequences of war and the hardship of the depression in the 30’s.The things I’m still attracted to are the useful objects that were the right hand of my grandmother and the right hand of my grandfather. They were the everyday utilitarian items that have been around forever, and if they broke they were refashioned into something else to be used again.That was the ethos of my childhood and I think in today’s age of waste and disposability, I find it something that we should be more conscious of.In the store, you’ll find Australian natives and locally grown items. I feel very strongly about supporting local makers, framers and growers. Do I buy New Zealand honey or Australian honey? I’ll buy Australian honey every time.
At Eco Outdoor, we’re passionate about living outside and enjoying the everyday moments. How does that translate into your life?
We’ve just enjoyed a wonderful Indian Summer here in Sydney and for the first time two weeks ago, I closed the backdoors which open onto our courtyard. We very much live a life where the outdoors and indoors flow together as one.When I think living outside, the simple concept of camping comes to mind. Would I choose a caravan with a hot and cold shower or a bucket shower? It’s the bucket shower. It’s the kero stove and light. It’s back to basics.I love that sense of outdoor living stripped back to the bare necessities and comfort. There is something about the outdoors that is enduring. When you’re living outdoors by the fire people slow down; things stop. They talk and they listen; they evolve.Whether that’s by a barbeque, an open fire or a comfortable chair in the corner of a garden. Spending time outdoors allows us to stop and reconnect with each other.
It’s not just the Seasonal concept store that has captivated many. Ken has restored an old 1962 Bedford truck called Aunty Flo.
Can you tell us about a memorable adventure you’ve had in Aunty Flo?
The most memorable trip for me was bringing her from Leongatha in the house I was born in, to Sydney. We spent one night of the journey with my mum, then onto my brother’s farm for another night, and then my sister’s the next night, before heading across the plains towards Sydney.It was a long trip, but a memorable one. Every time we stopped to fill up with petrol, every single man, women and child who had a Bedford in their life were drawn to it. It was a magnet; I didn’t realise so many people were connected to Bedford trucks.
Did you have the idea of sharing Aunty Flo with others from the outset?
No, offering it to hire came about during the process of restoring it. There was such great curiosity from people to hire and use it. Sharing her came about through us having a playful and nostalgic experience of doing it up.
The Seasonal Concepts store is worthy of a visit, but it comes with a warning. Allow some time to explore and step back in time. There are so many curiosities to look at, many of which will trigger memories about your own childhood.
Head here to see more of Seasonal Concepts in Redfern and take a look at the captivating film of Aunty Flo below.