This week at Artisans - 24 August 2017
I'm talking to Kirsty Mackirdy, an artisan of a different kind - jeweller/ silversmith and a very welcome (and always smiling) face behind tasting bar at Artisans of Barossa.
Unlike kiwi Pete Schell who I talked to the other week, Kirsty is South Australian through and through and can trace her ancestry back to the Clark family who arrived as pioneers back in the 1840's, settling in Hazelwood Park. An early generation of the family would be soon involved in establishing the historic Stonyfell vineyard in 1860. Grapes and wine are deeply embedded in the Mackirdy DNA.
Twenty or so years ago, Kirsty and (now) husband Beau both decided on a vine change. Kirsty from life in Adelaide where she grew up, and Beau from Sydney seeking a quieter place to write. It was Beau who discovered the old Schoenborn Lutheran Church in the parish of what is now known as Gomersal to the south west of Tanunda. The Church was built in 1855 and served as the hub of the community for many years before the congregation moved to a new site in 1927. The 'new' Church sits alongside the Gomersal Road and is well known by Barossans for the cryptic messages of faith that appear weekly on the sign board out front. The old church became a Lutheran school, and then a state school before being vacated in 1952. Between that time and 44 years later when Kirsty and Beau purchased their 'renovator's dream', the only residents had been rats - both the four legged and winged variety. The south side wall had disappeared entirely, as had the floor of what is now their bedroom. And cracks through which you stick your arm through snaked their way across most of the interior walls. But 18 months later, with the modern comforts of hot and cold water and a flushing loo, Beau and Kirsty moved into their new home. A kitchen would come later!
Kirsty Mackirdy, jeweller/ silversmith - an artisan of a different kind
It's from this point in Kirsty's telling of her Barossa story that the pace quickens....so much for the quiet country life. There's talk of sons Angus and Alex, of times working the cellar door at Krondorf, then Saltram and Artisans, the occasional switch hit to discuss hockey, of kick starting her jewellery design business, and then something to do with herding sheep in high heels after a long lunch at 1918. And then this during a pause....'oh yeah, I also ran my own catering company for 13 years!'. It's the kind of life story that makes you tired just listening to.
Kirsty's initial connection with Artisans came about through her work as a jeweller, holding 3 pop up exhibitions before constant demand from our customers required her work to be permanently on show. "People get really excited when they meet one of our winemakers in the building, and it's the same with me when they realise I'm the one making the jewellery. I think people have a real love for things that are hand made...and 'meeting the maker' establishes a more meaningful link with what we make - whether it's wine or ear-rings." As we started to finish up talking, I had meant to ask Kirsty to name a few of her favourite wines, but we ended up talking in closing more about what she loves about this place. Kirsty freely admits she begged for a job at Artisans - so enamored was she with the beautiful light filled space and the small family winery feel that runs through the business. "It's a very sociable job, constantly involving human interaction - a nice contrast to working solo in the studio at home. But most of all, our winemakers make bloody good wines - that's what I really love about Artisans."
I can't disagree with Kirsty 'Mac' on that last point....and yes, we have plenty of bloody good wines on tasting this week at Artisans.