If you’ve walked down bustling Smith Street in Fitzroy, Melbourne, chances are you’ve passed the strikingly pink in.cube8r gallery. But this vibrant space isn’t just a gallery – it’s a haven for lovers of all things handmade that provides customers with the opportunity to purchase unique jewellery, clothing and homeware items from local artisans. From hosting a range of mini stores within the space to holding workshops and fortnightly exhibitions, in.cube8r is challenging traditional ideas of the market stall while supporting and celebrating artists in all their different crafts.
In.cube8r opened its doors to a new owner six months ago when Elle-May Michael made the move from Sydney after working as a marketing and communications manager for a charity fundraising company. Passionate about creativity and using her skills to support local artists in new and innovative ways, in.cube8r was the exciting venture Elle-May had been looking for.
Working with a unique system that means all artists get to keep 100% of their profits, in.cube8r offers cube, wall, rack and shelf spaces in the gallery for weekly rental charges starting from as little as $22 per week. “Artists can use their cube as their very own little retail store, so can integrate it into their online and market strategies,” says Elle-May. “Having a bricks and mortar presence is still super important for artisan wares, as photographs often can’t capture the beauty or tactility of the items. Plus, people are more likely to buy something they have touched!” With pieces by almost 100 artists available in the gallery, Elle-May says there is real power in the way in.cube8r is able to build awareness for each designer. “For example, we can hold group events where everyone can run their own promotions and we can advertise all together. We hold regular events and offer our artists use of our space to run workshops, hold launch parties or anything their hearts desire really!” In addition to this, the team are taking their service up a notch by offering coaching and marketing advice to really help each label shine.
When you buy handmade you are supporting one person; you are directly having a positive impact on their life, both financially and emotionally, as you are giving them a pat on the back and saying, ‘Good job, buddy!’
Established labels such as Vanessa Bean, A Skulk of Foxes and Strange Beautiful Society have become part of the in.cube8r family, but Elle-May also finds joy in supporting local emerging artists. As a longtime lover of handmade items, she delights in seeing others discover just how unique each piece can be and says there are real positive impacts made when buying local. “Why would you buy a baby bib made by someone in China when you could support a local mum trying to make ends meet when the cost is the same?” she says. “When you buy handmade you are supporting one person; you are directly having a positive impact on their life, both financially and emotionally, as you are giving them a pat on the back and saying, ‘Good job, buddy!’ Handmakers are real people who make items for real people. When you buy from a maker you are feeding an artist.”
Since heading up in.cube8r, Elle-May has introduced an online store to the company’s website, but it’s clear nothing quite beats the physical vibrancy of the gallery space. “Someone recently described our gallery as the IKEA Antichrist!” she laughs. “It is a bright pink cabinet of curiosities full to the brim with creativity; we have over 5000 unique handmade items in store at this moment and around 500 on our online store. The walls are lined with glass cubes stacked four-high, and each one is individually decorated by the artist to suit their aesthetic and branding.”
Elle-May and her team are all about fostering a stronger community for local artisans and offering perks along the way for buyers, hosting fortnightly exhibitions as well as opening nights that feature 10% off in the gallery. “We are also holding workshops in this space and have teamed up with Laneway Learning to assist us in promoting these,” she says. “It’s all about making the space more fun and interactive, because that is the whole point of handmade! We are striving to be more than just a shop or gallery.”