Pouring talent and heart into a dream job
Torquay creative Eliza Francombe is forever adding strings to her bow.
Photographer, graphic designer, artist, stylist, businesswoman and mother are among her multiple roles.
Then there is classically trained singer and former competitive hip hop dancer.
Now she is adding ‘teacher’ into that wonderful mix after starting a series of creative workshops based around the bestselling Artisan Sud Bar from her homewares brand, FrancHome.
Eliza runs the weekend workshops from her Ashmore Arts studio and admits to being delighted by the positive response she’s had so far.
Attendees have jumped at the chance to make six personalised sud bars in their own choice of colours and fragrances, as well as enjoying a glass of champagne and a sweet treat.
Eliza, a former senior designer at Cotton On, started FrancHome while on maternity leave after having her daughter Sahara almost five years ago and finding herself craving a creative outlet.
“It was strange but when I had Sahara I almost felt like I had all this time on my hands and I have to admit she was a great sleeper so I was really blessed,” Eliza says.
“I found myself in her nap times thinking ‘what am I going to do to keep creative?’.
“I actually started making the soaps and really experimenting with them because I wanted to do something tactile with my hands.
“I already did big colourful artworks and I thought it would be really cool to somehow incorporate that into my soap making too.”
The hand-poured Artisan Sud Bars are mini masterpieces (they even come with an optional display easel) and were a hit in the market, with National Gallery of Australia shop among a select group of quality stockists.
Eliza says her vision was to create a brand which championed individuality over mass production.
“Coming from working in such large-scale businesses that are full of mass production I kind of felt almost a bit angry about the whole thing and just seeing so much waste,” she explains.
“Then we bought a house in Torquay and I started looking for things for my own home and I just found that the more I shopped, the more I saw lots of the same thing.
“The pursuit of discovering something a little different inspired me to start FrancHome, along with an obsession with texture, luxurious fabrics and alluring colour palettes.”
Eliza is the sole driving force of the brand whose product range includes sud bars, artworks, cushions, kitchen towels, fabric baskets and wall clocks.
A new range of fabric homewares was supposed to launch in late 2019 but the products, which were made overseas, arrived in unsellable condition which was a huge blow to Eliza’s business, forcing her to cancel large orders from the likes of the NGV and Elm.
Unable to find an Australian company which could meet her strict colour-fasting printing requirements, Eliza is still working to find the right supplier overseas and will then aim to have the homewares range made on home soil.
“Everything is a learning curve and it sounds so clichéd but there is always a lesson to be learned by a failure – you have just got to figure out what the next move is.
“Eventually I should hopefully have a perfect product – I’m working through that at the moment.”
In better news, she recently collaborated with ABI Interiors who ordered 400 of her sud bars in time for Christmas last year.
“That was huge and exciting,” she says.
“That’s the thing with business, you’ll have a bad day or something will go wrong and then something like that happens.
“It’s just a constant rollercoaster really, up and down, up and down, but that collaboration was really amazing.”
Mid last year the former Sacred Heart College arts captain also launched boutique branding agency, Be Franc., which draws on her broad range of expertise and has allowed for partnerships with talented people she has worked with over the years.
Those great working relationships was also the inspiration behind starting the workshops.
“Working for yourself by yourself can be really isolating,” she says.
“I’m such a people person and really missed connecting with others.
“I wanted to create a fun experience that was different, allowed me to step away from the goddamn computer and helped others, including myself, take some relaxing time out and slow down.
“There are six to seven people in a class and generally they don’t all know each other but by the end of the class they are all talking and laughing.
“They are having a great time and I’m having a great time too.”
Eliza points out it is a creative workshop, not a soap making course, and she doesn’t give away trade secrets during the two-and-a-half hour session.
“Everyone always makes something different, there’s never two soaps the same,” she says.
“They can pick their own colours, fragrances and additives and it is always so great when they unmold them at the end – I get the warm and fuzzies.”
Workshops are proving so popular that Eliza has added extra dates during May, while also working on FrancHome and BeFranc., as well as renovating a home and preparing for the arrival of her second child due in August.
“I always keep my notebooks and when I’m having a bad day I love looking through them and it’s a really nice reminder of how it has all evolved,” she says.
“Everything happens for a reason and it’s really rewarding that I can look back on all my skills I’ve gathered along the way and how they prepared me for where I am now.”