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With a love for upcycling and a belief in the ingenuity of making new things out of the old, Jodie Bellamy has created Tree to Sea Designs, a small furniture and decor business based on Northern Beaches of Sydney.
With an ethos of simplicity, sustainability and resourcefulness, Jodie uses her innate creativity to make custom and refurbished products out of timber palings that she sources locally and hauls back to her workshop where the real work begins.
“I’m passionate about what I do because it’s fun, rewarding and affordable. To wake up each morning and think “What am I going to create today?” or “What materials can I reuse to make something one of a kind or a conversation starter in somebody else’s home?”
A long held passion and itch to use her hands to make creative things for her family spurred Jodie to make her hobby into a business and a desire for design into learning how to work a belt-sander. With the encouragement of her partner Tommy, who is a carpenter, Jodie took her desire for design and borrowed his tools until she could purchase her own equipment and kickstart her business.
“I threw myself in the deep end and I started off by making a large coffee table. Tommy taught me step by step instructions on how to build it it. My pieces have always been unique from the beginning. I painted it in beautiful coastal colours and then cut out the centre and popped a horizontal flower garden in place,” explains Jodie.
Before committing herself to the business full-time, Jodie worked as a nanny for eight years and as circumstances changed she found the right moment to make the transition.
“I set up a Facebook business page when I thought that I’d come up with enough stock to list and worked really hard to get my followers and to be exposed. As I got busier, I finished up with another one of my nannying jobs as they were leaving the country. I was devastated but felt it was meant to be as I would never have left the children I looked after. But I now believe that that door was suppose to close for this door to open and to be able to put 100 percent into my business.”
The act of upcycling and refurbishing is not new. For millennia, people have been manipulating and transforming objects to suit their needs. As Chris Anderson puts it, ‘We are all born makers.” But, what makes Jodie’s business unique is the way she handles the timber, adding texture, warmth, colour and turning something dull into an beach inspired piece that suits the customer’s home.
“It gives me goosebumps when I receive photographs from my customers of my work in their home and the beautiful comments that are sent along with it. To think that I have created something that they utterly love and is being used and viewed by all their family and friends is amazing,” says Jodie.
“I have people contact me all the time who have the perfect sized piece of furniture, with the perfect amount of storage, or something that is sentimental to them that has been passed down in generations but they don’t have the heart to throw it out or it could just be outdated and the colour is all wrong. That’s where I come in and custom paint their item in colours that suit their home, add new handles or I add recycled timber to it for a complete new look.”
For now Jodie has set up her workshop in the far corner of her backyard, working under a bargola, which can be tough when the weather is windy or cold but it has allowed Jodie to keep her expenditure costs low for now.
“I’d say one of my biggest challenges is running the business from home. I don’t earn enough to have a nice big workshop that I could work in and have a big storage area where I could have all my furniture on display. I do my best to fit my items in a small shed I have available but currently my lovely dining area is piled with my finished furniture. I don’t always have a quick turn over so things just pile up. All I have is my business online so photographing my items perfectly is a must.
Running the business mostly online, Jodie has focused on building her own website and social media channels like Facebook and Instagram to get her work noticed and reach new clients. She has also begun doing markets and plans to travel up and down the coast on weekends, hoping to find a balance between stocking up her regular stalls and completing orders.
“Market stalls are a great way to expose my business and really show what my products are about. Photos don’t show the different shades of timber, textures and sizing.”
“I also sell some of my products to the local homewares shop and also have my items in the local coffee shop. I would like my own shopfront one day in the future with maybe a little coffee bar up the front.”
Since starting her business, and as it continues to grow and evolve, Jodie says that she has learnt to stop been so hard on herself and not to comparing herself to other business who have been doing this for many years and are well known.
“Good things take time and small businesses need a chance to grow, no matter how hard things get or how financially tough periods are, I just have to keep pushing forward and continue to strive and create new designs that haven’t been seen before.”