conversations with amy snoekstra from stackwood \\ wholesome living

On the corner of Stack and Wood Street in industrial Fremantle, is a creative oasis of hand-made wares, a jungle of indoor plants, artist studios, workshops, events and Stacked café. Named after its location, Stackwood is an ever evolving project with a big vision to encourage a more wholesome way of living, through its passionate community of local creatives.

I had a chat to Amy Snoekstra — one half of Stackwood — about the vision behind it, how its evolved and why business is becoming more and more multifaceted. 

Could you elaborate a little on your mission to encourage a more wholesome way of living?

It’s Sarah’s vision which I share, basically, it’s kind of a reaction to contemporary lifestyle, or the dominant lifestyle, which is sort of about consuming and not necessarily having a really balanced life. At the other end, the sort of 'utopian vision' would be Stackwood as the centre of this network of community gardens and we’d come to work in our gumboots every day — that would be where we’re heading to ultimately. But even if we’re on our way and we don’t ever get there, it’s sort of about that special kind of feeling of being a part of a community and being in touch with things like old fashioned skills, making things, growing your own vegetables and knowing where your stuff’s made — so creating this kind of hub and bringing in makers and small businesses that are manufacturing on a small scale right here on the premises. Also having community events like food swaps, the venue available for community meetings and we’re going to have Pilates and yoga happening soon, so just being a bit of a hub for all those activities. We figure if you have this ridiculous utopian idea and that’s what your aiming for, everything you do is going in that direction and even if you get 5% of the way there with just a few of your activities, you’re still going the right way.

Do you remember the moment where Stackwood went from being just an idea to something that you and Sarah decided you were both going to buckle down and pursue?

The funny thing is, I’ve worked for Sarah in a very casual or part-time way with her other business for about three years and we’ve been having these discussions for at least two years, about this fictional kind of business where she could investigate these ideas that she had and we had these kind of discussions long before this building came up, so when it came up in this location with this amount of potential, it almost seemed like the universe was delivering it for us. When it did come up it was frightening cos we got what we wished for and that feeling of overwhelm has continued even till now because it’s such a massive building with big ideas and so we’re just sort of chipping away at it. 

So finding this particular building drove a lot of the momentum?

It drove everything and the vision adapted and changed and we were open to the potential of this space and open to a discussion with our very local neighbours and community around here about what they wanted. For example, one of the things they wanted was a café. It’s not something we necessarily planned for but that’s something that we heard from the community that they wanted.

Were there any hesitations before deciding that you were in fact going to make it a reality? If so, what were they and how did you push past them?

The dual feeling of being excited and terrified is very motivating. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad way to go about something like this, because it is so ambitious and such a large space and an old building with a lot of challenges, so I just went with the flow. We knew we were insane, but you just have to kind of go with it and think 'this is crazy' but just keep plodding along. We had a few unexpected things with the building work and there were probably a few moments, particularly earlier on before we had a lot of people in here, because once it became a working space, it was a lot clearer how it was going to be used, which was easier than to plan in advance. 

Since opening, you’ve been running some amazing workshops, events and growing steadily into a supportive community of local makers and creatives. Has Stackwood evolved from its initial vision in ways that you didn’t expect?

It definitely has. I think some of the elements have taken off on their own momentum. We really liked the idea of having a lot of makers in here and we hoped they’d collaborate and feed off each other and that the critical mass of creative energy would have its own momentum — and that’s what has happened. For example, Simone from Winterwares did a collaboration with Little Posy Co before Mother’s Day and sold it as a package. Stacked Cafe was an unexpected thing. We didn’t plan for it necessarily but it was something people wanted so we pressed forward with it. We didn’t expect to do a market, but because we had all these creatives under one roof it became something that seemed easier because we had this community of makers to draw from, which was really fun.

A lot of new businesses are moving towards offering a space with multiple uses. What’s it like running such a multifaceted space?

Particularly because we’re out of the way, I think it’s really important. The old fashioned ideas about shopping and stand-alone event spaces or cafes just seem a bit dull and outdated to me. Put a few ingredients together and you’re always going to come up with something a bit different. People expect more, they don’t want just a straight forward experience when they’re shopping or dining out. I think there’s a real appetite for it.

Why do you think businesses are moving towards this style of venue and what do you think it offers that a venue with only one primary use doesn’t?

I think a more varied and vibrant experience. I guess a lot of it is to do with the fact people want more value — and not necessarily monetary — out of a retail experience, a single transactional experience isn’t enough. I go to the supermarket and get bread and have a limited contact with someone at the checkout, people want more. I think there is a yearning for connection, perhaps that’s what it’s about. About connection and adding more complexity and that human element to something.

What’s the most exciting or rewarding aspect of being a part of Stackwood for you?

For me it’s been day-to-day contact with our resident creatives. That’s been really fascinating, because I get a little window into how the operate and what drives them. I’ve been interviewing people for our Stackwood blog, which is always really interesting for me. I think a lot of people are interested in creative practices, what drives people, how they make a local hand-made business work. Seeing it day-to-day working right is really exciting.