The Life of Uscha

Handmade ceramics stocked at Uscha Fitzroy. Photography Joshua Stapleton

 

 

    The idea of the handmade object as something personal - as evidence of, for lack of a better word, the ‘soul’ of the artist or maker - has always been a source of inspiration for Uscha. In the same way that the nature inspires awe, the unpretentious, organic feel of the handmade object, whether it is a bowl carved from fragrant olive wood, a vase thrown from clay, or an intricately woven blanket, carries with it our personal observations of the natural environment. 


Barny and his son Louis. Photography Ushca Van Banning

For designer Uscha, the east coast of Australia is a long way from her native Netherlands. Having relocated seven years ago, Uscha and her partner Barny now call Byron Bay home - it is the place where they have chosen to raise their son Louis, where they feel a sense of community and connection to the environment, and importantly for the young family, where they are able to embrace their shared passion for simple, holistic living. However, Uscha and Barny believe that home can be anywhere - it is more a lifestyle than the backdrop against which we choose to settle. Creating their home together has been a process of carefully selecting objects with intimate meaning and purpose - take for example a wooden dish, honed and carved with intention, repaired countless times with sheets of metal - a humble treasure Uscha acquired when she attended a wedding in India. 
 
With a background in carpentry and interior design, Uscha has always been drawn to objects that posses the salient mark of the maker. She believes it is the tactile imperfections, the subtle irregularities in the patina of earthly materials - a thumb print in clay or a knot in wood - that are central to the unique beauty of the handmade piece.

 

Wooden wedding bowl brought back by Uscha from India / Leather bound journals stocked at Uscha Fitzroy & Byron Bay. Photography Joshua Stapleton

Everything in Barny and Uscha’s home tells their story. Theirs is a harmonious melding of cultures and ideas - instruments collected on their travels sit alongside ceramic pieces sourced locally, imbuing the space with a sense of communion and connecting us to their origins as well as our immediate surroundings.
 
Since opening the doors to their store in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy in 2014, Uscha and Barny have remained dedicated to sourcing unique, sustainable, well-made pieces that have minimal impact on our environment.  
 
“The shop is an extension of us - our lifestyle, our taste,” says Uscha. You get a sense of repose and wellness knowing that each object has been made with love. There is an ineffable beauty in the crude use of raw, natural materials such as leather, clay and wood, but ultimately the pieces are functional; they serve a purpose. 


“Our aim is to encourage people to be just as selective as we are - you don’t need a lot. We sincerely believe that when it comes to ‘things’, having less is more - when you have carefully considered pieces, you love them, they become special - when you have so much stuff it just becomes junk.”

 

Surfers in Byron Bay. Photography Uscha Van Banning
Not surprisingly, the pieces Uscha selects for her home need to function comfortably with her growing family. “Growing up, my parents were hippy squatters” says Uscha of her childhood in the Netherlands. “I had a great childhood, we made a big mess. It’s not about what you have - a fancy couch or whatever, its about putting love into a space, that’s what makes a home.” 

 

A corner of Uscha Fitzroy featuring cashmere throw stocked at Uscha Fitzroy. Photography Joshua Stapleton
On selecting which items to bring into her home, Uscha’s personal style is heavily informed by a love for simple, natural materials and earthly colours. “It just makes sense to me, there’s something nurturing about things that come from the earth, these things can trigger your senses and all kinds of memories.” Uscha’s favourite pieces are the ones that evoke the greatest sense of warmth. “A casserole dish, a pair of slippers, my teapot, all of these things for me feel like home,” she says. “Home is where you put your heart and soul. If you dont do that, its just a magazine cover or a hotel room. You need to put love and energy into it…like a relationship. We select pieces that we truly love, not pieces that simply look pretty…and white leather and glass table tops just don’t work with grubby fingers”.