Kath O’Sullivan from Tribe & Temple is more of an artist than a seamstress. Creating handmade cushions and textiles, she has an online shop where she offers custom made cushions, sourcing, and bespoke collections. Using an eclectic mix of contemporary designer fabrics, tribal and vintage textiles, Kath creates pieces that reflect personality, character and sensory delight. Collaborating on custom orders is her favourite way to work. Ready-made cushions are also available via her online shop. Kath collaborates with interior designers and stylists to create collections for their clients’ spaces. She has a wide range of fabrics, textiles and trims to suit any interior style.
The textiles she uses to make her cushions come from artisans in Thailand, Japan, Africa, Vietnam, Peru and India, “Mum’s” old fabric stash, her late Aunt’s chest full of vintage treasures, surprising finds in op shops, and contemporary fabric design houses.
“Foremost in my mind is giving my buyers alternatives to mass produced homewares. Fast fashion décor has a short life and will likely become landfill when the next fad comes along” Kath says. Online platforms, Etsy and eBay for example, have opened the world up to small enterprises in villages everywhere there is an Internet connection. “I source many of my vintage textiles direct from these (mostly) women. I like that these come directly from a small, local business, supporting that business owner and her community” she continues.
When Kath is designing, she tries to honour and be led by the textile itself. “What design will preserve as much of it as possible; how can I avoid cutting the textile at all, and if I have to, how might I use the leftovers in another project” she asks herself. She has started making her own inserts, so that her cushions don’t have to be a standard size. This means she can use bits and pieces that might otherwise be discarded. Buyers will notice that the packaging in which their order arrives will already have done some travel miles. She tries to recycle as much of the packaging from incoming deliveries as possible.
Kath is chief cushion slinger, fabric wrangler, designer and founder of Tribe & Temple. As an artisan, writer and psychotherapist making a new creative life in Bellingen NSW, Kath’s eclectic past is reflected in her designs. “My very talented Mum, makes all the tassels for my cushions. She’s also started making crocheted cushions for Tribe & Temple, which are just gorgeous” she adds. She says her hubby Alex, aka Mr Tribe & Temple has several important roles: Voice of reason, picker-upper and dispatcher of parcels, generous provider of love and support! Bellingen sewing dynamo Janine, shares sewing duties with her. “I would be lost without her and Beau the cavoodle has designs on the Quality Inspector role, but he performs best as jester and beloved object of distraction!” she says.
This is Kath’s third career incarnation. She started out as a professional writer and ethical brand strategist, then retrained in counselling and psychotherapy which led to a specialisation in trauma. “It’s heavy work and eventually I burnt out. Luckily, one of the self-care tools I managed to keep up my sleeve was having a Plan B. Plan B was, if this all gets too much and I can’t do it anymore, I’ll move to the country and make cushions. And here I am” she says.
Kath’s tips on being more sustainable at home
- Trends come and go but the anatomy of real homes lies in the expression of our true selves, our memories, values and sources of inspiration.
- Objects that bring us joy are arguably as much a part of this as the people with whom we surround ourselves.
- Throw-away fashion decor is wasteful and lacks meaning.
- I hope Tribe & Temple can help create havens of safety, a sense of place and belonging, and environments that are beautiful to the eye of each beholder. Not only do such environments sustain our planet, they sustain us as well.
- In terms of interior décor, experiment to discover and articulate your own style and taste, then be true to it. Let go of what’s ‘on trend’ and curate your home in a way that brings you joy.
You can find Tribe & Temple here to look at the latest range or request a custom project