Cooks Hill


Scout on Darby St launch an incredible window installation

Scout on Darby St relaunches with a spectacular window installation by High Swan Dive & Film And Foliage.

Photo credit: Justin Aaron

If you’ve wandered down Darby St recently you may have noticed something pretty spectacular has taken shape in the window of Scout.

Owners Tim and Tiffany have gone all out working with local creatives Ash from Film & Foliage and Jesse from High Swan Dive to create a spectacular window installation. Keen to know all the deets behind this little masterpiece we set Tim the task of q&a'ing the creative duo.

Tim sat down with Jesse to get some insights behind the incredible business that Jesse and Sophie have created and chatted through the thinking, approach and inspiration behind the installation.

There’s death, rebirth, fortitude, fragility, the new, the ancient, all in that window. The true, the false, it all exists together, not in conflict, but in a kind of harmony.

Tim: You and Sophie collaborated with Ash from Film & Foliage on a massive window installation for our new Scout store on Darby St this month, you've titled the piece “Half Bloom Canyon”, can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration?

Jesse: Yeah, I guess it’s exploring ideas of relationships. Between life and death, beauty and destruction. Personally, I’ve been approaching, or trying to approach plants from a more ‘Ikebana’ like sensibility. Ikebana is the art of floral arrangement to mimic life. Which in itself is a wellspring of philosophy, but with plants, that don’t have to deal with issues of impermanence, like flowers, what is it that you are trying to evoke? To make them more alive? I guess that’s where sculptural and aesthetic sensibilities come into play.

Developing a sense of movement or a dialectic between dark and light. Or maybe a relationship of cohabitation, a sense of time and history.

Tim: You were recently commissioned by BMG Publishing Sydney to adorn their 200+sqm head office in Surry Hills… how did that go?

Jesse: Yeah, we were very lucky to get a chance to work with BMG Australia. They have a great vision as an organisation and allowed us the freedom to do what we thought would work for their space. Look out for it in an upcoming issue of vogue.

Tim: The pictured/featured maple tree by that coloured glass wall on the cross-axis parquetry is truly magic, must have been a super fun project. Are large scale works something you and Sophie interested to explore further?

Jesse: It’s not often that you get to work with spaces big enough to allow visually demanding individual installations. Its always a fun challenge engaging with new and unique spots. We’re always looking for the next challenge.

The original seed for this window was a picture of a river flowing through a barren grey landscape, the water was bright pink with mine tailings.

It was a dead landscape, which was at the same time, incredibly beautiful. Now, that is a hard concept to square. Or is it? It’s complex, beauty isn’t simple.

There’s death, rebirth, fortitude, fragility, the new, the ancient, all in that window. The true, the false, it all exists together, not in conflict, but in a kind of harmony.

Tim: When I first met you Jesse a decade ago, you were finishing fine arts. What were you majoring in and who are some of your heroes of the art world?

Jesse: I was at Newcastle Art School on Hunter St. Back then it was one of the most creatively vibrant spots in the city. I was majoring in sculpture, after a few years focusing on oil painting, but really art school was just about learning to think openly and creatively. Its important for some people to have an opportunity to learn how to flesh out ideas with no concrete intention. Like anything meaningful it’s a process of discovery.

Tim: Did you meet Sophie at Art School?

Jesse: Yes, she was a better painter than me.

Tim: What was the primary inspiration for opening the original High Swan Dive store together on King St?

Jesse: We had both been overseas for a while and came back to Newcastle pretty desperate to set up something of our own. The little shop that we first rented had been sitting empty there for years. I’d been walking past it daily, and had a few ideas floating around for what it could be. It was obviously cheap, so gave us a level of freedom to experiment and figure out what it was that we wanted.

Tim: At that time it was a ‘hole in the wall’ store with a deep offering of hard to find ceramics, both local and international including the likes of Emily Halpern and Recreation Centre… there was but a handful of small cactus and succulents...

Jesse: We stocked items we liked, usually from people who themselves were just experimenting and trying things out. It wasn’t really intended as a model to make money. We just hoped enough people could appreciate it. That section of King St was a very different place back then, there were no other shops around, it felt almost like an abandoned strip mall. Places that are underused like that are ripe for play. I miss those days.

Tim: Fast forward 5 years to your recently launched flagship store on Glebe Rd, Merewether, which has a HUGE offering of indoor plants including several rare varieties such as... how are you enjoying the new space and have you noticed a shift in clientele being essentially a suburban destination store?

Jesse: Plants are common ground for everyone. Doesn’t matter the age, education, wealth. Everyone has some connection, whether it's good or bad.

It's been interesting to watch how this landscape has changed over the past decade. At that first store we had a very small selection of plants for sale, but it became obvious there were a lot of people who weren’t really being engaged by the more traditional nurseries or hardware store selections.

It’s a subtle difference, but we’ve focused on plants as ‘specimens’, something to collect and respect on an individual basis.

Tim: I have been continually blown away by the custom timber joinery/interior design of all three stores to date, but this new space is really something else, AND you again designed and built it all yourselves… Have either of you studied interior design or architecture, or are you just this way naturally inclined… as in, “I have an idea, I’m just gonna make it happen”?

Jesse: There’s a stuffiness when you approach anything too dogmatically. The spaces we are drawn to are usually idiosyncratic, developed by someone’s personal taste over time. None of our spaces are perfect, but this allows you the freedom to change. No matter how hard you try to figure out how a space will be used, you’ll come up short. Sometimes decisions work, sometimes they don’t. But if you lock yourself into a set of ideas, the only inevitable thing is failure.

Tim also caught up with long-time Scout supporter and Film & Foliage founder Ash, to gain a deeper understanding of her beginnings, process and creative approach to floristry.

Tim: You’ve just collaborated with Jesse and Sophie on Scout’s installation, it features volcanic rock, rare succulents, cacti, granite plinths and LOADS of unique dried flowers… can you tell me a little bit about the experience & inspiration behind the piece?

Ash: When I was first asked to collaborate with High Swan Dive to create a window installation I had a few ideas floating around my head one of them was flower meadows sprouting out of rubble. When I said this to Jesse he immediately pointed at these volcanic rocks which he had been intending on using. They were so perfect. I love the colour palette of such pretty tones growing from a wasteland.It reminds me of then you see the weeds growing through the cracks of concrete or when a power station has been abandoned and overgrown as nature has taken over.

Tim: You have used some super interesting varieties including Lunaria, Bunny Tails, Rice Flower, Misty, Delphinium, Statice and Smoke bush all of which are dried. Does the longevity of dried flowers directly inform the way in which you approach an arrangement?

Ash: From early days I realised how much of an impact the Floral Industry has on the environment, which is crazy to me as we source our product from the earth. Over time I’ve made steps to reduce my footprint by refusing to use floral foam, extensively recycling my waste, and being conscious of not using invasive plants that threaten our wilderness. One of the ways I’ve done this is by drying florals after events and weddings that would usually go into landfill. I re-use these as much as possible and find they add another dimension to my work creating tones and textures that cannot be found in fresh florals. Dried flowers have now become a feature in my work and I love the long lasting designs they allow me create.

Tim: Film & Foliage is most widely known for stunning wedding arrangements, window installations are almost like a forgotten artform in itself… did you experience a particular floral display that set you off on your journey?

Ash: When I first started studying floristry I was working at Talulah Bar in The Junction. The owners Garth and Suzannah and their son Jacques were so supportive and would regularly buy flowers from me and let me hang crazy flower installations from their ceiling in the cafe. Not all of them were successes but they were a talking point for the customers and I soon learnt which flowers and techniques made the best impact. I’ve always loved creating installations and as my career has progressed it’s something I get asked to do more and more.

Tim: You have recently set-up a new workshop on-site at the flagship High Swan Dive site on Glebe Rd, how are you enjoying it and has the new environment informed your approach to arrangement?

Ash: I am loving my new space so much! My business was growing and I needed to separate it from my home (where my previous studio was) and I was looking for somewhere to relocate. Luckily I popped into High Swan Dive one day to buy a pot and Sophie and Jesse were looking for someone to share their new space. It was perfect timing.

I really enjoy having a workplace to go to (and leave) and it’s so lovely having creative people next door to brainstorm, collaborate or have a beer with when it’s been a long day.

Tim: Is there any particular region in Australia that produces some of your most revered varieties?

Ash: The cold climate areas like The Blue Mountains, Tassie and Victoria have some of the most stunning, delicate flowers and travelling there is springtime is bloody delightful, I highly recommend it.

When I was driving and camping through Western Australia last year I was so amazed at all the native wildflowers, it’s really cool to see the flowers we buy growing out in the wild and not in neat bunches in a bucket.

Tim: Do you have the opportunity to use many local flower growers?

Ash: Yes! We are so, so lucky in NSW that we have direct access to our growers at the flower markets which is so incredible. I can talk to them about how the crops are going, what will be best to buy in the next coming weeks, how the flowers are affected by different weather and soil and what they will grow for next year. I’ve also visited some of the local farms, which is pretty special.

When I first started floristry I didn’t realise this wasn’t the norm until chatting with some American floral designers who told me they just contact their wholesalers and receive their flowers delivered in a box. They were so jealous of this relationship we have with our growers.

I’m so grateful for our growers always intend to support them as much as possible, especially at this horrible time of fires and droughts.

Tim: Who are some of your floristry heroes?

Ash: There are some incredible Australian florists who I admire and it’s actually pretty cool I see them at the markets most weeks at 5am buying from the same growers as me. It makes me realise that we can all be given access to the same ingredients but we would all create something completely different.