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Inventor Insights: A Q&A with Jaccob McKay, Sustainable Natural Material Artist and Craftsman

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Jaccob McKay is a photographer, artist and craftsman from Melbourne, Australia who works with sustainable natural materials and recycled metals to create unique jewellery and homewares inspired by nature. From his home studio in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges and at the entrance to the Yarra Valley, Jaccob creates a range of beautiful and bespoke items.

We’ve brought him along for a short Inventor Insights interview with us, so that we can begin to explore what it means to be a maker. Jaccob may not be creating completely new products, but it’s exciting to see him work with sustainable and recycled materials to create various adaptations of utensils that have existed for thousands of years.


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Over the past few months, we’ve been coming across more and more stories from the sustainable industry (which we’ve been sharing with you on the 22 Review), often linking to things like new energy production, city planning, or even exciting milestones in science. But creating industry around sustainability is not just about the large enterprises, it’s also about the little people making a difference and changing the way they partake in daily activities as well.

It’s refreshing to see Jaccob’s products being made from materials that haven’t been processed through a factory, rather his workshop instead, like we’re used to these days. Even better to see through the photos he shares on his social media, which includes the locations and surrounding areas where his materials are sourced, the process of him making his products, and the beautifully decorated pop-up/market stalls where he sells his goods to locals of Melbourne area.


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Jaccob is an exciting new artist/maker/designer whose work you should definitely check out. To get a quick insight into his world, continue reading for a short interview with him. If you’d like to join him on social media, there are links to his profiles at the end of the interview.


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V22: Tell us what you do in one Tweet. 140 characters, go.

Jaccob: I reimagine, repurpose and recreate pieces of nature.


V22: Where do you source all of your materials from?

Jaccob: The area I live in is mostly National Park, so it’s a luscious green landscape of bushland and the houses around here are similarly bursting with plant life. I collect the majority of my timber from these residential properties, either when a tree has fallen or needs to be removed or pruned. The collection of materials is always a secondary reason for the removal of the trees – I never cut a tree down just to make something from it.


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V22: What material have you always wanted to work with, and why haven’t you yet?

Jaccob: Lately I’ve been brainstorming ideas for items created from stone – heavy, ancient and raw rocks. While I’ve incorporated stones in some jewellery pieces already, I’ve never had the chance to work with it as a medium to create something new. This is mostly due to a lack of time and equipment.


V22: What preceded the decision to start your business?

Jaccob: It wasn’t really a decision to start it. I was working on some sculpture pieces and began creating little items such as my copper and brass leaf pendants, then some people wanted to buy them and it grew from there. The real decision came when I chose to indefinitely postpone my studies in music to focus on this full time.


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V22: If running a business wasn’t an option, what other profession would you have taken on?

Jaccob: I’d already been working as a photographer for a few years leading up to this and was studying music composition at the time, so for me it was always going to be something creative and with a good degree of self-direction.


V22: How do you record your ideas?

Jaccob: I always take a small notebook with me to sketch down ideas but I work best with my hands so most designs start as an idea jotted down in my Google Keep app, which syncs between my phone and laptop. I’m lucky enough to have a good memory and visual brain so that a three-word note is enough for me to remember an idea from two years ago.


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V22: What single achievement are you most proud of?

Jaccob: In July this year I had my debut stall at The Finders Keepers market in Melbourne, which is a large design market showcasing local designers and makers. Being accepted was worth celebrating alone but I’ve been overwhelmed with the response I’ve received.


V22: What’s one thing you keep in mind that keeps you going when business is hard?

Jaccob: Things are tough when you’re trying to make it on your own and pouring your life into your work, but the reward of creating something you’re proud of and passionate about makes it worth it. You’re also allowed the freedom to act like a kid and excitedly chase whatever ideas spark your interest, and the faces of people at markets who catch that spark and fascination when seeing your work is an absolute treat.


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V22: What’s one thing you’ve bought for your business under $100 (AUD) that’s had the greatest impact, and why?

Jaccob: A dust mask. Health and safety first – plus no more sneezing!


V22: What one thing (besides a sweet stack of cashola) would you have to make every business day easier?

Jaccob: Employees. Running the business alone means I do the jobs of ten or more people: product designer, maker, photographer, graphic designer, salesman, marketing team, shopkeeper, distributor, administrator, accountant; and probably more I haven’t thought about!


V22: What are your business plans/goals for the next 12 months?

Jaccob: At the moment I’m focusing more on wholesale which will allow me more time to create new products. I have at least 100 ideas in my phone ready to be worked on so if I can have other shops take over some of the roles I mentioned above then I can get back to doing what I love: creating.


V22: Where can our audience go to find out more about what you do?

Website: jaccobmckay.com
Instagram: @jaccobm
Facebook: @jaccobmckaystudios


Up Next…

We plan on sharing more Inventor Insights with you over the coming months, and if you have any businesses in mind that you’d like us to get in touch with, then please let us know!

Until next time.


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Photos credit: Jaccob McKay