I first noticed the work of Broadcroft Design a couple of weeks ago when I was strolling through the Sunday morning Peregian Markets. One of their beautifully formed Teardrop planters caught my eye and reeled me in. When I introduced myself to the stall owner Natalia, I had that overwhelming feeling that I knew her face, but couldn’t place where from. It wasn’t until later when, driving home listening to the radio, the Party Rock Anthem came on and I had a lightbulb moment - the song was theme for Channel 10’s reality renovating show from a couple of years back ‘The Renovators’ and it suddenly hit me that Natalia had been one of the finalists. Thinking back, I remember her coming across as a super capable, straight talking, gutsy and innovative contestant who totally looked the business in a pair of overalls… Well, after spending some time with Natalia and her lovely husband Duncan - the other half of Broadcroft design - I can add a couple of other adjectives in there; warm, welcoming and seriously passionate about design.
To say Natalia and Duncan’s sculptural work is impressive is a bit of an understatement. They specialise in commissioned pieces - bold works that seem to enhance and flow into the landscapes surrounding them. The day I visited their workshop they were putting the finishing touches on a simple yet strikingly effective circular piece (now in situ), taking advantage of the misting rain to further encourage the delicate rust patina on the surface. Their sculptural pieces are beautifully finished, with the craftsmanship and care evident in every curve. If you've visited the Maroochy Botanical Gardens and sat on their ornate powder coated steel bench (or Natalia’s gorgeous metal challenge bench from ‘The Renovators’ which is now a permanent fixture at South Bank) you get a feeling that this couple are not only passionate about design, but they are also passionate about how their design interacts with us - their ‘simple yet bold’ forms nearly always serve a functional purpose as well as aesthetic. With pieces like their sculptural planters they encourage not only user interaction, but input as well - by choosing the foliage type that grows within the sculpture, the owner can influence the evolving aesthetics of the piece.
They are a couple who aren’t scared of hard work too - at their Kin Kin home they are developing a section of wetland on their property specifically to showcase their designs, with several pieces already installed.
Natalia and Duncan are very easy to be around; together they are a warm, unassuming and refreshingly honest couple who obviously have the dynamics worked out in both business and in life - which is a rarity in itself. If you haven’t already, do yourself (and your garden) a potential favour and take a look at Broadcroft Design’s impressive folio - or better still, next time you're at the markets, stop and have an enlightening chat with the oh so talented duo behind this iconic and design savvy Sunshine Coast business.
What’s your Sunshine Coast story guys? What brought you here and how long have you lived on the coast?
Duncan: We came here on a holiday many years ago, loved it, and when we were looking for somewhere to move to, the Sunshine Coast was our first choice. We’ve now been here for 7-8 years.
What’s your design background, and what was it that inspired you work with metal?
Natalia: Well, neither of us are qualified designers but we’ve learnt the skills over the years from working in the theatre and television industry.
Duncan is a qualified AutoCAD draftsman and project manager so he’s got the skills to do the drawing side of it. I went to TAFE and did an advanced certificate of art and design… I would say most of what we do just comes from years of experience and just sort of knowing how to get things to work. It’s dissecting the structure base to some extent - you come up with a concept and then you dissect it to make it work.
Duncan: Natalia designs things, I make things... (laughs)
How did Broadcroft Designs come to be?
Duncan: We started up the business about a year and a half ago. We’ve done stuff for people for...always, I suppose - since we’ve been here. We picked up some jobs and did some work for Kabi Golf Course where Natalia was working. And then after the ‘Renovators’ we thought, well, it’s now or never. Natalia had had the exposure from the show and we‘d also just sold a house in New South Wales so we had a bit of money to get started.
Natalia: When we started up our business we didn’t, necessarily, have a firm directive - the focus wasn’t going to be specifically for gardens. We just wanted to make stuff out of metal, but being on the show and having done some of the garden challenges, that kind of pushed us in the direction of doing garden art. Before, we made just entrance ways and gates and stuff like that, which we still do, but it’s now given us more of a focus.
How would you describe your design style?
Natalia: We decided that we would describe it as being ‘bold yet simple’ but also with functionality.
Duncan: Form and functional. Things that work. A lot of our pieces can be used as other things - like the planters. They look good in their own right but people can also plant things in them if they choose to - and by doing this they put a bit of themselves into the piece as well...
Natalia: And we always try to and design things people can move around. When you have a big bold sculpture nine times out of ten you’ve got to make that decision about where it’s going to go, and it stays there. Whereas, because our stuff is moveable to some extent - especially the Eumundi range that we do - you can have it in a spot for a certain time then move it somewhere else, and you can change the plants and it brings that person, who bought it, into evolving it as an object. I think that’s what gives us the biggest buzz - that’s what I’m wanting to design more of. The chooks and the flowers and everything are like the fluff! Ultimately, we want to be known for our sculptural planters. I just think that you can get a sculpture, but it’s something else to bring the two mediums together, the plants as well as metal – we feel it’s more personalised as well...
Can you describe the process that takes you from the initial concept to the finished piece?
Natalia: Sometimes I do a doodle or a couple of quick sketches, or I’ll see a shape and then work from there, and then other pieces have evolved from pieces we’ve already created. For instance, the way you lay one piece down on another, then you’d get a whole new kind of design out of it. I would say that I’m always thinking about objects and shapes - always thinking about making stuff. It doesn’t really stop!
So then, from the sketch, if it’s got a fairly complex sort of structure to it, we then nut it out and Duncan then ends up putting it on the computer. It’s somewhat like pattern-making but in metal. You pull all of the components apart and, because Duncan does it on the auto cad, you know it’s going to be accurate. That way it breaks something apart and lays it flat. And from our years of building theatre sets, you know how far you can push steel a certain way - a lot of it we also hand roll as we don’t have a lot of machinery yet. So, to do certain elements, occasionally you have to think outside-the-box to get the piece to do just what you want. If we waited until we had the perfect shed with all the tools, nothing would get done!
Duncan: We can do things with other sources and suppliers if we choose to. Because of my previous work, we have connections to people who can do rolling, bending, folding - that kind of thing...
Natalia: Duncan’s project-managing skills really come into play quite a bit as well – it’s about sourcing and costing out things that have to be done somewhere else – but doesn’t restrict you from what you want to create. It just would be nice to have all of the gear - we could have even more fun - but you have to built it up slowly...
Are there any designers/artisans/crafts people that you’re particularly loving at the moment?
Natalia: There’s an Irish landscape designer named Diarmuid Gavin. He has his own television show there (in the UK) as well and he always incorporates fabulous bits of metal into his designs. Like, he would make a massive ball out of rings and fill it with cushions so you can sit in it! He does kind of kookie stuff like that so we quite like him...
What’s your preferred social media choice?
Duncan: We use Facebook, and we do have a website. We’re yet to do Instagram, but we’re going to have to give it a try...
Are there any plans in the pipe line to diversify? Any additional lines of business you are keen to pursue?
Natalia: We’re trying to work more with Landscape Designers, and we would really would like to get into Foyer Art, for apartment buildings. We do apply for public art projects as well but, so far, we just haven’t been successful yet...
Duncan: We’ve got something in the Maroochy Botanical Gardens - a bench seat - and also a Japanese Lantern in the Japanese Garden, just where the actual building is. It’s just like a steel square in the style of a Japanese lantern.
Natalia: Even though we love doing the Eumundi Markets, we’re both fuelling this business and we want it to be successful so we do need to land some of those bigger projects.
What are the best things about being your own creative boss?
Natalia: Well, you can have coffee in the morning and enjoy it!
Duncan: Natalia’s my creative boss! (laughs all round)
Natalia: I would say the best thing is just actually giving it a go, and being in control of what we do. If being your own boss was easy, more people would do it. The perks are great that we can spend time with our daughter and she’s got both her parents at home, we get to enjoy where we live a lot more. But, there also comes great burden with that - especially starting up the business - you have to really watch everything all the time.
Duncan: Like the mortgage.
Natalia: Yep, like paying the mortgage! Some days you sit at Eumundi and... I think that some people think you are doing it as just a hobby. Whereas, it’s our livelihood, and you have to make it work. Our work’s not a hobby, it’s our business. We don’t get money from the Government, it all come from what we sell.
I’d like to be able to say, when we’re both sixty, that we gave it a good go. I think, in hindsight everybody would have wished to have done stuff ten years ago when money was around and life was fabulous but, If we can survive this and be creative enough to get around those normal hiccups, then I think we’ll be fine.
Fav Sunny Coast designer/artisan? Duncan: My favourite one is Natalia! (laughs all round)
Fav Sunny Coast retail outlet/s? Natalia: I really like Eclectic Style in Noosa. I wish we had more Junkie kind of shops – we don’t have enough of that kind of stuff here. We’re parents, we don’t have that kind of loose budget but I go in there and dream about it!
Fav Sunny Coast cafe/restaurant/foodie paradise? Duncan & Natalia: Ricky’s!!
Duncan: It used to be called Ricky Ricardo’s a long, long time ago. Now it’s called Ricky’s Bar and Grill.
Natalia: Ricky’s is sensational - it’s that kind of fine dining, yet relaxed. It’s expensive but we go there on special occasions like a birthday - great service, beautiful white aprons, polo shirts. They’re really friendly and chatty, no snobby atmosphere. Really great food.
Fav Sunny Coast weekend routine? Natalia: The weekends are usually filled up with going to the markets because that’s were we get our exposure - Peregian and Eumundi - or planning for special events, like the Nambour Garden Expo that’s coming up in a couple of weeks. Because you work for yourself, every day you’re doing something.
Fav Sunny Coast icon/landmark? Natalia: We do like to go to Rainbow Beach, but I guess that’s technically not the Sunshine Coast! Duncan likes the Glasshouse Mountains… We’re yet to do the walk though. I think there’s plenty still to discover here!
Fav Sunny Coast hangout? Duncan: We do like Rainbow Beach, we take our daughter there because it’s quiet. We also like spending time at Sunrise Beach.