Where to Find Local Handmade Sustainable Souvenirs in Sydney
One of the best things about travelling to a new city is the anticipation of rummaging around in the local markets or craft shops for that hard-to-find item that would make the ideal tasteful gift, or that little piece of village craftwork that would look amazing in that empty corner of your living room. In a city like Sydney where there are shops galore, it’s overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. So if you’re thrilled at the prospect of supporting a local fair trade business, or watching a skilled craftsman put together a piece that specially designed for you, then ditch the souvenir shops and read our guide to some of the best shopping experiences in Sydney.
Looking for something uniquely Australian that would also make a great gift for someone special? Australian opals are a beautiful addition to anyone’s jewellery box and come in a range of beautiful colours from white to beautiful azure blues and aquamarines, and can be set in any type of jewellery. Opals were discovered in Australia in the 1800’s, and are mostly mined in Coober Pedy and Lightning Ridge. Opals also feature in many aboriginal dreamtime stories, which gives them a unique place in Australian folklore. Australian Opal Cutters is where you’ll find Australia’s most affordable authentic opals. This is a family-owned business that has been running for three generations. You are welcome to come in and design your own truly unique piece. $150 – $600 for an opal pendant or ring. Unset opals are also available.
Australian Opal Cutters, 3rd Floor/295-301 Pitt St, Sydney NSW 2000
Australia’s aboriginals are the oldest civilisation in the world and they first started using art to convey their important cultural stories tens of thousands of years before Europeans had even considered setting sail for the Great Southern Land. The first art was drawn on rock walls, tools, in dirt, or as ceremonial paint.
The stories that are the subject of the paintings are passed down through the generations and different groups inherit the right to tell these stories through their family. Artworks will differ in style depending on which region the artist is from, and the symbols chosen represent their secret knowledge.
The Aboriginal Dreamtime Fine Art Gallery,has over 20 years experience in Aboriginal Fine Art, and has relationships with artists and staff from diverse communities throughout Australia. The gallery adheres to strict guidelines when dealing with indigenous artists, so when you purchase from them, you’re ensuring the ethical treatment of Indigenous artists. Some of the works represented come from prize winning artists who are represented in major public and private collections, and others are young and emerging artists. The gallery also has rugs and small artifacts, so there’s something for every budget.
Either way, you’re getting a genuine piece of Australian culture that you’ll love for years to come. From $200 for a small painting
Aboriginal Dreamtime Fine Art Gallery, 36 The Corso, Manly.
The Rocks Markets
The Rocks markets are definitely a go-to for those who are looking for somewhere central to buy locally sourced artisanal wares including jewellery, clothes and food items. There are great souvenir stalls for those who love to buy unique items that still pass as Australiana. Think chopping boards handcrafted from Australian hardwood or portraits of emu heads. Most of the goods are made sustainably, many from recycled materials, and all are authentically Australian made. There’s usually a selection of local food showcasing the range of Australia’s ethnic diversity, and the charming cobblestone streets on the laneways and historical pubs are fun too.
The Rocks markets, Playfair Street, Jack Mundey Place and George Street, The Rocks
A leather handbag mightn’t be the first thing everybody thinks of when they think of an Australian souvenir, but when it comes to good-quality locally-made items, Leo’s handmade goods are at the top of our list.
The Leo Monk flagship store at Newtown has been dubbed the “Jewel of King Street” for good reason. Customers keep coming back to the store to see the latest designs as they evolve from the workshop on the premises. This is one of the few places where you can still see a classic artisan at work in his workshop, as each item takes shape right before your eyes. And the results are spectacular. Think richly textured genuine leather in an array of stunning colours which is the distinctive trademark to the Leo Monk leather goods range.
The Trading Circle
The Trading Circle is one of Sydney’s only dedicated fair trade operations whose products are sourced through ethical trade channels that empower women and girls in south-east Asia to trade their way out of poverty by establishing sustainable economic opportunities. And the pieces sold in the store are definitely one-of-a-kind from cute toy animals to laptop covers, tote bags, back packs and slippers. This is one place where you’re guaranteed to find a great gift for friends of all ages, especially kids and toddlers.
The other great thing about the Trading Circle is the communal eatery. The eatery is run by a different group of refugee women and their families for an eight-week stint, and teaches them the skills they need to start their own businesses. Check the website for what’s available, but be sure to check yourself in for the African breakfast, and the lunch or dinner which may include Syrian, Georgian or Iranian depending on who is on the roster that week.
The shop is located at Lackey Street, Summer Hill, just get off at Summer Hill Station and cross the road.