Some years ago, on a whim I visited the studio of Catherine & Jennifer Strutt; twin sisters, musicians, synaesthetes, visual artists & designers. It was a once a year opportunity to see Artists in their natural habitat at the Newcastle Community Arts Centre Studio Open Day. I can’t believe I had never heard of them before and instantly fell in love with their colour and style. Truly, it was an incredible experience – but I did have the crazy hormones of a breast-feeding mother!
I then became Strutt obsessed. Seriously. Just ask my family and friends.

Meanwhile, Goodness Me Organics was taking shape and one sleepless night I had a light bulb moment of creativity! Imagine….. JUST IMAGINE…. A STRUTT CAFÉ COUNTER!

My girl crush was so bad I couldn’t speak to them without my heart racing and my words getting jumbled (embarrassing I know) but it was on International Women’s Day that I summoned the courage to tell them my idea… and…. THEY LOVED IT!

They got busy measuring, designing and building and finally a few weeks before our March 2nd Grand Opening they loaded up the Ute and brought it over to install. Securely in place it was quickly shrouded in black fabric ready for the official unveiling at our Grand Opening.

Seeing double: Jennifer and Catherine hard at work
Seeing double: Jennifer and Catherine hard at work
Handmade tile by tile by the Strutt sisters
Handmade tile by tile

Visit their facebook page and see the album of our Counter Artwork Progress from start to finish

Grand Opening Day: The Unveiling!
Grand Opening Day: The Unveiling!
Mrs Goodness Me with Catherine & Jennifer Strutt
Mrs Goodness Me with Catherine & Jennifer Strutt

Q&A's with the Strutts

What's in store next for the Strutt Sisters?

Well, we are flat out all year by the looks of it! At the same time as working on the counter we have been madly building up stock for two Art Bazaar markets coming up and a weeklong stall at the National Folk Festival. We are also getting together our entries for the prestigious Archibald and Sulman Art prizes. In April we have a guest spot exhibition at Sydney's Nicky Ginsberg, NG Galleries and have a possible exciting new commission for our fast growing interior decorating side of the business in Victoria!

What was the best bit about creating the counter at Goodness Me Organics?

We've had a blast doing the counter! Firstly, we had never worked in this way before- we had always made artwork as artwork. But this was a completely different way of thinking as it was still artwork but "artwork as shop fit out". The focus is not only on form, but form AND function which we've never done before. We've been lucky in that GMO’s brief WAS brief and we pretty much could run free. This enabled us to have some fun with the design and layout and try out new colour combos, textures and patterns. We made the theme all about a great day out doing something relaxing and fun with family and friends as well as on fresh produce.

Where did the inspiration come from?

We only work with images from between 1950 to 1960 with SOME exceptions from the 30s and 40s. When Anna came to us roughly pointing us in the direction of this as her preference we knew we were kindred souls! We have also kept to this theme when choosing the fabric, tin and stencilled tiles as well as, most importantly, the colour scheme.

What challenges did you face in making the counter?

There were not too many challenges we had to face as basically this was just one of our artworks on a giant scale and we are pretty much on top of our technique now as far as what works and what doesn't. What we hadn't come across however, is how to make an artwork durable and water resistant enough for a busy cafe. We coat our fabric with a type of resin which is extremely durable and waterproof but we have a lot of paper on the work as well which doesn't sit under resin well but at the same time we couldn't leave it bare. After much googling and emailing we have discovered a waterproof water based estapol for paper and after a few trials we are satisfied it will do the job we need it to do and seal the paper. We also had to choose a background colour which not only complimented the work and its varied coloured tiles but the existing colour scheme in the cafe itself.

What interested you in accepting the commission to make a counter for GMO?

This was one of those in the right time at the right place moments! We had, for a long time, been tossing around going into interior decoration as we have a pretty big love for colour and have over the decades learnt what works and what doesn't and why. We have always been certain we could make the tiles on our artworks work as feature walls, kitchen splash backs, flooring and anything else. Teamed with our sense of colour and design we had an itch we needed to scratch and the frustration was growing as to where to start!

Then one day, after a business talk we gave, a free looking spirit walked up to us and said she needed a counter made for her new organic grocer and cafe and did we want to do it in our typical Strutt style?!

It seemed an out of the blue and fateful question and we struggled not to blurt out "YES!!" before asking all the sensible logistical questions one should ask first! 🙂 🙂

Thank you Thank you Thank you Catherine and Jennifer for creating such an iconic and fabulous artwork for our Café Counter – We LOVE it!

Love Anna, Andy and the whole team at Goodness Me Organics