From this side of the screen Georgia Brunmayr sits fresh faced and blushed from an interrupted run. This interview has, like so many things in the new world, been pushed and pulled all over the calendar, from in person to on location, to the phone, back again and now in the middle of runs. Making plans, it seems, is a pandemic’s main enemy. It is decided we’ll do it in half an hour. Popping onto the monitor, Brunmayr’s wood-lined house in country Victoria appears cabin-like in the background, the slatted boards line the walls and the ceiling. It’s cosy and warm and perfectly apt for her knitting business Curio Practice.
Taking its name from the curiosity or curio cabinet, a quaint 19th and 20th century concept our grandparents and their parents maintained, it is essentially a glass enclosure that teased the possibility of use, but really more of a transparent tomb to hold the family’s best assets in perpetuity, because the cruel irony of anything in the curio cabinet is that they’re too good; sometimes even for guests!
“It’s from a time when everything special warranted the preciousness of the cabinet, but never really got to be touched,” says Brunmayr, “the curse of the curio!”
She won’t have it though. Curio Practice knits weighty, soft and dense wool blankets to be used. She also designs wool blankets to use a lot of wool. Coming in at around 2 kilograms, that’s sumo weight in the blanket game, Curio uses the finest merino she can get her hands on.
“I use high quality merino wool because that’s what we have in Australia and I knit on a fine machine to ensure the quality is high and at its widest. It means I use a lot of wool, but that means I can support the farmers and the industry.”
Her signature tight knit ensures a crisp, sharp edge to graphics that pop and register with a kind of retro charm, just without the naff nostalgia. They’re clean, like a new sweater and like a new sweater you’re dying to drape them over. The simplicity belies their complexity and Brunmayr’s prowess.
About 6 years ago Brunmayr was working in Melbourne based businesses and not finding it super appealing. She moved to China, to a knitting manufacturing company and helped set up a material innovation centre.
“It’s still there,” she says proudly, “it was really interesting and fast paced with up to 12 projects at once, developing new things for a multitude of industries and working out the very best material for the job.”
Back in Australia and at the beginning of the pandemic, Brunmayr and her husband, a winemaker, decided to make a tree-change and leave for Harcourt, a very small town near Bendigo in country Victoria. “We just thought we’d move out and see how it goes. I was looking at factories to work with - at that time I was working on material, trend forecasting and consulting. That all stopped when the world changed,” Brunmayr says with the same acceptance we’ve all gone through.
In what feels like no time at all, Curio Practice has gained a legion of loyal fans, buyers and converts. As is the way with overnight successes, they’re almost always made up of many nights, sleepless or otherwise. Georgia Brumayr is not even a year into her business and her wonderfully designed and executed blankets are keeping her busy more than she or anyone could imagine at this early stage of a business. Something must be right.
“I had been working on having a brand, and the seed of a brand had been planted; I just didn’t know what kind of plant was going to grow.”
Quietly laser focused on a career in materials and textiles, Brunmayr studied textile design and then knitting and having been working in mills and textile factories since she was 18 she kind of knew then that she had put herself in the niche of niches.
However this specialisation has given Brunmayr some very exclusive opportunities. Her textile development work in China impressed enough internationally that her own star is now being recognised worldwide. Earlier this year she was asked to bring her knitting and technological nous to a large multinational’s designer catwalk presentation, her skills quietly on show for the world to see amongst a team of super talented people used by the attention-seeking creative director.
“I have been specific with who I want to work with,,” she says “and Jardan have been excited about the making process, in the sense that it matches the furniture making process. I love working with the team. The way they make their furniture is in line with the way I make my blankets.”
“If you’re not telling the story and the truth of the origin and if you don’t know it, then you’re not telling the truth of your product.”
So often we’re unaware of the origin of the things in our lives, the effect they might have, positive or otherwise on people’s lives or the impact on the environment. Working with people like Georgia Brunmayr and Curio Practice, Jardan extends its own philosophy of honest, quality Australian made goods with the truth and warmth of local creatives making a genuine impact here and around the world.
Curio’s new range extends her playful designs in both new and familiar ways. Still graphic and bold, they’re classic and will find a home as much on the bed as they will for anyone wanting a warm woollen hug on the sofa. With a sense of irony too, they’re built to last and will find a place in any curio cabinet for generations to come.
“I’ve had clients tell me that they don’t let anyone touch the blankets and she laughs, “that must be a very closed cabinet house, I have the dog on them,” she says with a giggle.
There are more things coming and Brunmayr readily admits “I need to work on my business, we’re yet to turn a year,” she exclaims, “ but I think there’s something beautiful about an Australian product, made in Australia and then respected internationally.
“But slowly, no rush.”