A Story in Every Stitch with Sunshine Coat Project

Image source: Contributed

Nambour’s reputation will never be as unshakeable as the stories woven into its fabric. Georgia Beard discovers how two artists are transforming perceptions of this eclectic community one coat at a time.

Down a sticker-slapped backstreet and inside the creative co-working studio of ArtsCoast’s 2nd Space, a seamstress and a photographer are making the final adjustments to a story told in threads.

Boxes overflow with fabrics, patterns and off-cuts. A sewing machine and all its paraphernalia litter the workbench. Magazine cuttings and moodboards decorate the walls with inspiration.

But the eccentric collection of statement-making coats truly catches my eye. Woven into every design, memories and experiences jump out from the furs, pom poms, prints and confronting slogans.

Through layers of fashion, photography and video, Shaye Hardisty and Ketakii Jewson-Brown have captured the voices of Nambour locals and Nambour-loving locals in a total of 18 coats.

This is the Sunshine Coat Project, a celebration of diverse histories, places and communities in a town too often shoehorned into a single identity. These unsung narratives will finally be heard when the exhibition takes over the Old Ambulance Station from 4 to 29 April 2023.

It started with the Mill Street Fashion Walk, Shaye and Ketakii’s Instagram page capturing street fashion in Nambour – the fashion capital of the Sunshine Coast, as they confidently call it.

“We started coming down once a week and sitting at Small Change Espresso, just waiting for interesting people to walk past,” Ketakii said. “Half the time we would have to chase people down – in a non-creepy way.”

Originally from Mapleton and Maleny, Shaye and Ketakii used to be self-described ‘hill snobs’ before creative projects and events brought them down to the flatlands.

Expressing their creativity while connecting with the casually stylish Nambourians made them fall even harder in love with this unapologetic and eclectic community.

“We came to highlight the beauty of what we saw here as outsiders. We dipped our toes in, and then the community knew us and knew what we were doing,” Ketakii said.

“The Mill Street Fashion Walk enabled us to follow on with the Sunshine Coat Project without feeling like we were going to step on toes or put people’s noses out of joint.”

While many love Nambour for its potential, Shaye and Ketakii love Nambour for what it already is. After collaborating with community members and 11 other artists, the creatives have allowed the Sunshine Coats to tell the town’s story unashamedly.

Shaye has constructed each coat from organic or recycled materials such as Next State Print’s Eco Drill cotton, fabrics sourced from Nambour op shops and materials gifted by friends.

The Community Coat is the exhibition’s centrepiece. Reminiscent of an embroidered quilt, this sprawling, multicoloured cloak came about when Shaye, Ketakii and psychologist Kirsty Williamson hosted stitching workshops at Sunshine Coast Libraries.

Locals of all ages sewed into patches their stories and experiences of Nambour, from a child’s love for his soccer team to a woman’s memories of ‘black snow’ from the old sugar mill raining down on her clothesline.

“What adults have done is gone back to their own childhood memories,” Ketakii said. “It’s interesting watching the current childhood memories versus adults’ memories of their own childhood four decades later.”

Working with urban artist Ben Hines, Shaye and Ketakii created an armour-like coat from silver building wrap. The lining reflected the secret street wars between Nambour’s art factions – fine artists, graphic artists and sticker slappers.

Honouring celebrations of underground punk and metal music in Quota Memorial Skate Park, Phil Dalton collaborated on a grey, gritty blazer which collages photos of the hardcore community at his Nambour Block Parties.

Nambour’s natural environments also flourish across the fabric, such as the jacket remembering Ketakii and musician Lee Hardisty’s kayak trip down Petrie Creek – hand-painted and decorated with buttons fashioned from creek branches.

“I hope we showcase that beyond tough and rough exteriors, if you give people and places a chance, you will see what’s behind them,” Ketakii said.

“This town offers so much beauty. You have to just sit and let it show it to you, and not judge it from the outset.”

After 18 months spent developing their project, Shaye and Ketakii realised they’ve already done what they set out to achieve.

They’ve stitched together not just the Sunshine Coats but the diverse and undefinable communities who came to collaborate – that is the greatest story woven into the fabric of this collection.


Sunshine Coat Project Opening Night

Tuesday 4 April, 6pm – 8pm

Featuring a local member of Nambour’s First Nations community to share a Welcome to Country and local musicians. The Sunshine Coats will be on display alongside photography and a multimedia essay sharing the voices and stories of Nambour until 29 April.

Sustainable Fashion Conversation

Friday 28 April, 6pm – 8pm

This event will see local sustainable and slow fashion advocates including Louise Visser from Sinerji Organics, Amanda Knights from Sunshine Coast Tafe, Karina Seljak from Seljak Blankets, Somar Xavier from Sapling Textiles and Pete Trimble from Pete Sews come together in a panel like discussion moderated by Deborah Fisher from the University of The Sunshine Coast.

Closing Night Party

Saturday 29 April, 4pm – 9pm

Join the artists to celebrate the culmination of The Sunshine Coat Project. Enjoy a food truck, bands, a dance performance and something fun planned with the coats – all they need is you!

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