Seven months ago, Dajana Dizdarevic took her creative venture from the confines of her carport and selling at markets to the streets of Geelong West with her first physical storefront.
“In the longterm I thought that would be something I’d like to do,” Dajana says of even the thought of opening an actual store, “but I went for a coffee and met up with Mark from Box Office and he said that space [next door] was available…so I leased it for six months, held my breath, jumped in and we fitted it out in about three weeks.”
Recently leaving behind the café adjacent retail space and the aroma of coffee each working day, Dajana has made the move up Pakington Street to the fastest developing creative hub in town: Rutland Street.
Located opposite Boom Gallery, her handmade concrete planters fitted with succulents full of character now share the same shed as a picture framer, local jeweler Ernest & Joe as well as other creatives in the gallery’s newest concept space, Boom Makers.
“As soon as I found out we were all going to be here I said yes straight away before I’d even seen the space,” which luckily Dajana confesses a love for. “Where I was [on Preston street] was a really good spot for me to start with and gave me a really great confidence to even start showcasing my stuff – coming from working under a garage under a carport to selling stuff is really daunting. That gave me a bit of confidence to take the next step – which is to give myself permission to be around other creative people, because they’re all amazing.”
After only being in the space for several days on meeting, Dajana already has plans to evolve: Both in her products and in the space she inhabits. There are hopes for a studio space out the back, a glass window lessening the divide between the outdoors and a jump into making her own ceramics – courtesy of a recently gifted kiln.
As it stands there’s already so much originality about what Mali & Wolf has to offer (a business name based off two of her children), with each product made lovingly by hand. Where she can, each product is sourced from recycled materials, plants are picked based on their rarity and instead of mistakes being admonished, they’re celebrated.
“I like it to appear perfect but when you get close and touch it, it’s tangible and not quite perfect. All the plants are wonky, a bit woody and off center,” she says. “Maybe if some residue fell in [the mould] that I wasn’t aware of I would be like, ‘Wow that’s amazing’. I tend to be pretty excited with the idea of the unknown.”
And there’s been plenty of experimentation to get where she has. First familiarising herself with the materials studying a fine arts degree, Dajana applied this knowledge to making planters but took it to the next level through experimentation and YouTube videos. As she tells me, the things she’s learnt with Mali & Wolf couldn’t be taught at university.
Pair her love for geometric harsh line work and growing up in a plant-loving family (“From a really early age mum would give me two dollars to take to the market and I would buy a cactus and take it home and take care of it.”) and the brand was born.
But at its core is wanting to create something that everyone can enjoy in their homes.
“Lots of us have shared housing and apartments and not the room to have your own garden, so if you can have a little green in your house it produces productivity, it’s good for your health, it’s good for your mind. Regardless of what kind of greenery you have I think it’s really important,” she says. “Also something that doesn’t occupy your space but enhances it. And they’re all designed to be indoors. You and I may have a very different living space but I like for you and I to be able to buy the same thing and for it to have the same effect.”
After seven months of operating her first retail space, she’s already been improving the homes of Geelong locals, and sets to continue doing so in the new creative space in Newtown.
Mali & Wolf is now located in the Boom Makers space at 14 Rutland St, Newtown. You can also find the store on Instagram (@mali_and_wolf).
Written by Amanda Sherring