Endemic Design: Nature and Business

Q & A


WHO: Brandon and Samara Lee, Endemic Design.

WHAT: Furniture, Design and Homewares business.

WHERE: Launceston, Tasmania.


A mutual interest in hiking and a love for Tasmania’s wild places set the back drop for the evolution of Endemic Design.  When husband and wife team, Brandon and Samara Lee, faced a period of health issues and job instability, they channeled their passion for Tasmania’s wild places into a furniture and homewares business. Seven years later, the passionate duo now have a beautiful family of products, from scarves and cushions, to Tasmanian timber furniture and coconut wax candles. Our Assistant Manager, Skye, caught up with Endemic for the low down on what inspires them, and the realities of running a design business in Tasmania.
Endemic scarves printed with Brandon’s nature 
photography + Endemic tables.


What is your back-ground and how does it feed into what Endemic is today?

Samara: I’ve always loved the tourism industry so my first job was at the Tasmanian Travel Information Centre on the corner of Davey Street. That was a real eye-opener to people wanting to come to Tasmania, and experience what it’s really about.  I’ve always had a love for art and design. Brandon’s really good with design as well, exceptional actually as far as he can just think about something, sometimes it comes to him late in the evening or early in the morning and he gets up and he has to sketch it, and works out the details later.

 The photography side of stuff was a hobby and self-taught over the years. Used to do a heck of a lot of hiking. Climbing as many mountains as we could, so it was something else to do out there when the light was right. That’s just been a side-line thing that I’ve always enjoyed, so we’ve tried to encorporate that into what we do.

Samara: We met mainly through bushwalking. Through a group that used to go together, so we both had that passion individualy for the Tasmanian landscapes and to be out there with just your pack on nothing else distracting you and you can just be immersed in nature. So that just sort of came naturally too, it was a mutual interest.


What’s been the most rewarding aspect of running Endemic together?

Brandon: Well it’s certainly not getting rich… (laughs).

Samara: For me it’s the passion.

Brandon: Yeah, wanting to always look at doing something that is appreciated by others. If we like it, we’ll move forward with it, and hope that others will like it as well.

Samara: It’s such an awesome feeling when someone loves what you do. We’re not into trends. It might happen to be a trend, but it’s because we also really love what the product is. So our customers are very much individuals that don’t just want what everyone has, but something a bit different. Sort of an earthier feel to their décor or furniture.


What are your individual roles within Endemic?

B: The construction of the larger work is my job, although Samara does give me a hand. Especially, when we do a bit of the ‘burnt finish’. I get Samara and she does a bit of that for me, because it’s time consuming.

S: Yeah, Brandon makes it and I burn it (laughs).

B: The candle part of our business is mainly Samara’s side of things. I help out with stickers and the printing but she’s the main one behind the candles, pouring and developing the scents.

S: Yeah, I do check with Brandon about what he likes from a male perspective…what I think is nice may not necessarily be what other people like.

I like that about your work, its quite neutral in that it could appeal to anyone.

S: Yeah I have found that over the last year men are liking the savoury scents that I do.


How do you think living in a smaller community has impacted the evolution of Endemic? Is it a challenge or are there positives about running a creative business in a location like Tasmania?

B: It’s a challenge, the population, lack of…does affect your sales and viability of business so as much as we would like it to be our sole work, a few days a week I spend working in a construction role, to pay most of the bills. So it’s not our full time bread and butter, but it contributes a fair bit to it so we’re able to enjoy it.


And you’ve still managed to carve out a brand for yourself…despite it not being full time.

B: Yeah, we haven’t dropped everything and rushed it. We’ve slowly built it and just want it to continue until maybe one day it’s all we have to do. At the moment it’s a major part of it, but it’s not everything yet, and it’s still enjoyable.

S: It kind of complements what we do, because the skills that Brandon picks up along the way, and his previous skills in design, particularly the architectural area, can inspire him to do a new piece. So that’s been a bonus too.


Brandon and Samara.

Did you both want to start your own business? When you were younger did you think that you’d be working for yourself?

S: No actually!
B: No. It just sort of happened, I worked for a couple of different companies and did my apprenticeship, and worked for another firm after that and they were sort of starting to struggle a bit. So I left to ease their pressure and started getting a bit of my own work. So it just sort of evolved and wasn’t really anything we planned on having happen, just the way it worked out for us.

It’s nice how things can grow out of change, leaving your job created a space for something new.

How do you balance being in a partnership with business?

B: We come at it from different ways. I’m always thinking about how it’s going to be made and what base line costs are and all that sort of stuff. Sometimes I shut things down before I should, before I’ve fully thought about it, sometimes it is a good idea and I’ve given it enough thought.

It’s been lovely if I’ve been able to keep going with something and its gone really well, and vice versa. We’re both fairly down to earth and grounded, so we can keep it real as far as ‘ok what’s this issue’, if there is one, is it important? Can I yield? Can Brandon yield on something?

Also keeping it like, when your working you’re working, and when your not, you’re not.

That’s it, it’s kind of a challenge to switch off when you’ve got your own business. We try not to make that our full focus in life. We try to keep our life simple. We love just sitting on the couch watching a movie, getting out and going for a walk, going camping in our little van as much as possible.

It has been quite good because most of the time we have the same view, we’re very similar, which can be good but also can be a bit tricky. But most of the time we are on the same page, so it does just flow nicely. We try not to micro-manage each other when it comes to our passions. My area being the candles, Brandon’s area being the furniture.


Samara’s ‘Native Flame’ Coconut Wax Candles.


Advice for people looking to start their own business?

B: Don’t over capitalize. You can have the greatest idea but if you put too much into it at the start and it doesn’t take off when you expected…Relax, and enjoy the ride. It’s not always going to be a million dollar idea that’s going to take off straight away, so you’ve got to be prepared to work hard.

Don’t give up when bumps come along. You might hit a few roadblocks but just take a different way around. We went through that early on, but there are so many pros to having your own business, when you don’t focus on it being your main life.
I often work in the evenings when it’s quieter, put some music on, have a glass of wine and relax. Whereas before I would probably panic to get things done on time. So now I take more of a relaxed approach, but start earlier so I don’t get the anxiousness that comes along with a deadline. I’ve learned to plan a lot more. That’s my strength, and Brandon’s I think enjoyed that influence because there was a bit of stress early on. If you can get those little things down pat early on that’s great.


Endemic’s perfect Tassie outing?

B: Clearing out the van and putting the mattress in, including my kayak and some nice food for you (looks at Samara).

S: And the beach, walking barefoot anywhere, beach or grass. A nice wine. Heading off for a weekends camping trip somewhere. Camping or 5 star, when we can we’ll do something like that.


So you pretty much appreciate every facet of Tassie?


Food, wine, scenery. Anything is Tassie is good with us.


Big thanks to Samara and Brandon for their time!

Artist Feature: Ray Firth

Ray Firth spends a lot of time looking at the world from the sky. Wild Island caught up with our current exhibiting artist, for the low-down on his exciting body of work.


WI: What is your background and how and why did you get into painting?

RF: I grew up in Moree on the dry north west plains of NSW, going to university in Sydney to study architecture. I worked as an architect until the early 1990’s. My first exhibition was a solo show at the Burnie Street Gallery in Sydney in 1991, following a near fatal accident that led me to reassess things a bit. I became a full time painter around that time and continue painting and exhibiting around Australia.


WI: Your work is refreshingly bright, tell us about your use of colour and pattern?

RF: My work is a response to the patterns and textures of the land, the sky and the landscape generally. I like bright patterned things. Our world often shows itself to me through little experiences of exquisite beauty. Marvelous, beautiful things are there in the bush for that fleeting moment, and then they’re gone.The flight of a parrot, a ground orchid that comes from nowhere, performs fabulously and then is gone in a couple of days, the bright midday sun and deep shade, the colours of a bruising storm over the dry land.


‘The Beautiful Creek’ Acrylics and inks on rag paper, 59 x 55cm


WI: Each of your works has a wonderful poetic name, how much do words influence your practice?

RF: I think it helps to give an insight into the painting and its generation. A few words help to begin the journey of discovering the content of the picture. Just a little help to get started. Everyone already knows the answer, I think, but a little word mud map is a great help anyway!


WI: We’ve also heard you’re a bit of a pro with the hang glider… Do you think this influences your work at all?

RF: Definitely!!! It’s part of the experience of being in and understanding the bush I guess. The sky is a great thing to inhabit for a little bit. It’s all too wonderful really!


See Ray flying here:




WI: What do you hope people take away from your work?

RF: I love the world. I love the bush. I am part of this marvelous weather worn country.

I want people to get the feel of that deep love and respect I have for it.

Every painting is a little message from one mind to another. It’s a perspective, and an aspect of things as I see them.


WI: What will we be seeing in the future work of Ray Firth?

RF: More of the same…maybe more sculpture, and lots of flying I hope!


‘Coast and Cloud, Bruny Island’,
Acrylics and inks on composition board
75 x 73.5cm

‘Coast of Dust and Crumble, Marion Bay’,
Acrylics, oxide and inks on marine ply
122.5 x 81cm

See more of Ray’s work here.

‘South by Instinct’ continues until March 14 2017. 

Opening night

After months of preparation and hard work we finally opened Wild Island ! The launch was packed and the feedback has been wonderful. Thanks for your support so far. We look forward to promoting Tasmania as the Wild Island.

Thank you to Luke O’Brien and Paul Hoelen for the photos.

Help us launch a stunning exhibition featuring Peter Dombrovskis’ seminal work

Peter Dombrovskis was foundational in Australian landscape photography. Peter gave us a superbly crafted view of wild places that is evocative yet intricately detailed. His work and its role in campaigns for Tasmania’s western wilderness set an international benchmark. He helped change the course of history and of lives.

It is fitting that the opening exhibition of the new Wild Island centre, at the location of the Wilderness Society shop at Salamanca in Hobart, should showcase Peter’s work as its opening exhibition.

We need a little help…

We need your help to make it a reality. Go over to our Pozible campaign to gather the final funds required to remaster, print and frame Peter’s iconic images.



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