Mon Palmer introduces the handcrafted goodness that is GRAFA. Stemming from a love of organic gardening and appreciation for recycling materials, GRAFA successfully represents utility, longevity and beauty. We gain insight into the brand and the wonderful people behind it.
I absolutely love the concept of GRAFA. How did GRAFA came about?
The small business we have is called Grafa, which means “to dig” in Old Norse. Travis’ surname originally came from somewhere in Scandinavia, so we thought it would make a good connection for the business. Travis makes (by hand) unique garden tools, mainly from new and old copper and bronze materials as well as timber.
The idea for the business came about during a period of time Travis spent with his cousin while living in Queensland a few years ago. They shared an interest in organic gardening and permaculture. They tossed a few ideas around and ended up making some garden tools from old copper tube that was lying around. They experimented with some pretty organic designs at the time and from then Travis’ interest grew. So when he decided to move to Melbourne he realised it was a great place to develop these ideas and try to start a business.
It started as an exercise in micro-manufacturing with an emphasis on the value of recycled and readily available materials, low waste processes as well as the utility of the end product.
It has now evolved into a business which exists largely because of these design efficiencies Travis developed over the years. Essentially, the tools look the way they do because he had to find a way to design without the use of expensive machinery. The single piece copper tube tools were there from the beginning, while the timber handled range came later, as the processes became more sophisticated.
Who is behind the brand?
There are two of us now. Harriet is much more involved now; she has a background in interior design and small local design businesses, which has been invaluable. We talk in a lot of detail about everything we do but we have pretty different roles when it comes to the day-to-day.
Travis largely does the making and handles all the production, while Harriet works a lot more closely with our retailers and customers. When it comes to the design, in the past it was mainly Travis’ department but with new products, it’s a team effort, we’ll come up with initial ideas together, then Travis will develop them and if that is enough, we stop there. But sometimes designs require extra work so we’ll often do that together. When it comes to planning for events, photography and social media, that is more Harriet’s department. When we are really busy we sometimes get help from a friend or even my Dad.
What does your average day look like?
Like most small businesses, it is quite varied. When making tools Travis will methodically cut, linish, de-burr, drill and bend each required part, not dissimilar to how a metal fabrication shop would do it. Because it is such a repetitive process Travis has made many jigs to make the job easier. We don’t have any hydraulic presses, so Travis will do all of the bending and folding of the material by hand. He made a 12V stereo from an old welding machine case a few years ago so he will usually turn the radio on and get into a rhythm.
We try and do most of the administration and publicity at night as both of us are contractors with our other jobs. Sometimes we take it in turns to work on the business side of things.
What is it about copper that you love so much?
Aside from the potential for copper to improve growth and nutrient
uptake in the garden, Travis has really come to love its other properties.
For a start it is very rich and beautiful, it also doesn’t rust, will easily work through soil and will last a long time. It is also self cleaning, so the more you use the tools, the cleaner they get.
We would really like to encourage people to enjoy their gardens as much as possible. We like the idea of beautiful materials helping to connect people more closely to their plots and patches, and therefore their kitchens.
What provides you with inspiration?
Through Travis’ interest in invention, he was researching ideas and found a website detailing some of Victor Shauberger’s work in the natural sciences. He was really taken by some of his observations of nature and water. Travis then read some of his material in books translated and written by Callum Coats and became very interested with his studies on the benefits of copper and copper alloys in agriculture.
What’s in store for the future?
There are lots of ideas. Travis has just finished designing the low waste custom packaging which I am very happy with, he even does the screen printing himself. After that he is going to complete the wall hanging device for people to use for their tools. There are also plans to include a watering can and plant stand. There is also a second range in the pipeline, as well as a few other accessories. Lots of ideas!
What is your vision for GRAFA?
We would like Grafa to be a design brand which turns everyday objects into products with a focus on utility, longevity and beauty.
What, do you believe, does it take to bring an idea into the world and turn it into a business?
We know this sounds cheesy but definitely teamwork. I don’t think we ever planned to work together but our skill sets just seemed so compatible, there was this weird sort of inevitability about it.
The short of it…
Melbourne based. Delivers nationally.