Origins of Surface Art Original Fabrics
I'm Moyra Jones and I've created the labels Surface Art, Essaye and Theadora Jones. The three labels share a common “thread” – they’re all about the fabric.
I've always loved fabric and sewing. I studied textile design at the Scottish College of Textiles before moving to Sydney in the early 1990s. When I arrived in Sydney I was lucky to land a job with the artist Ken Done, translating his iconic Australian images into fabrics suitable for swimwear, clothing, and accessories.
In 2000, I started my own business, Surface Art, where I designed, hand printed and sewed products to sell at local markets including Paddington, Bondi and The Rocks markets. Surface Art was all about making and selling stylish cushions, homewares and fabric by-the-metre.
Surface Art designs are inspired by nature and objects, as well as popular art and design movements including Mid Century Abstraction, Scandi design, Orientalism, 1950s interior design, bold 1970s patterns. Whatever the inspiration, the fabrics always have a Surface Art signature – like a unique colourway, a clever repeat, a daring scale...
Selling at the markets is ideal for getting customer feedback. That’s how I discovered that people wanted to wear my designs and not just display them. I was offering fabric for sale by-the-metre for home sewers but I had lots of enquiries from people who wanted to buy readymade skirts and dresses.
I started making A-Line skirts and tunic dresses. Simple designs that showcased the fabric, were easy to wear, and suited a variety of body types. It wasn’t long before women’s clothing sales eclipsed homewares sales.
As sales grew and the business evolved, I began outsourcing the screen printing and some of the making to local suppliers but I've always stayed very hands-on.
I like to work with the local community and I like to make products that last. Being Australian-made and treading lightly on the earth are important to me.
Clothing Gets Its Own Label
As the Surface Art women’s clothing business grew, I moved further into wholesale and online sales. I stopped doing regular markets but signed up for the occasional design fair to meet with customers and like-minded businesses.
My clothing range was no longer confined to A-Line skirts and tunics in Surface Art original fabrics. I was now selling denim and plain garments to team with my trademark prints.
As the clothing range developed a life of its own, I thought it deserved its own brand: “Essaye” the Surface Art initials.
The Essaye Clothing Label
Essaye is a clothing label not a fashion label. Essaye is not about tapping into or setting trends, it’s about well-made clothing that I hope you’ll love and want to keep wearing.
We produce a couple of ranges each year with new prints and styles, but we also have some popular designs that are always available.
Customers really like our mikko print so we have mikko tops and mikko A-Line skirts in our all-year-round range and we add new colourways to keep things fresh. The colour combinations we could offer are endless.
We have started getting some of our designs printed digitally which has given us more choices in base fabric, and there are things we can do with digital that weren’t possible with screen printing.
The essence of Essaye is quality Australian-made clothing, natural fibres (with the odd bit of spandex for stretch or shape), easy-to-wear versatile styles – clothes that you’ll love and wear season after season.
Surface Art Studio Shop
In May 2016, I moved the design studio to 135A Catherine Street, Leichhardt in inner west Sydney. I run the business from the studio: designing the prints, liaising with suppliers, filling online orders, responding to customer emails, and doing some cutting and sewing.
On Fridays and Saturdays, I open the studio to customers. The studio shop provides the opportunity for shoppers to try on various styles, different sizes, and to mix and match. It also gives me the chance to gauge feedback on the prints and shapes.
Theadora Jones Limited Edition Clothing
It was through encounters in the studio shop that the offshoot brand, Theodora Jones, was born.
Visitors to the studio would see me wearing dresses that I’d sewn for myself from other designers’ fabrics and ask where they could get them. After numerous enquiries, I decided to create an offshoot label using fabrics that I purchased. I named the label, “Theadora Jones” in homage to my mother, Theadora, who inspired me to sew and create from an early age.
I carefully select the fabrics and either sew the garments myself or use local makers.
Theadora Jones allows me to indulge my love of fabric. I only buy small amounts of fabric, so once it’s gone it’s gone. You could say it’s a limited-edition range.