You can hear Katie Harvison’s passion for life in her voice; you can feel it seeping from her soul.
She speaks with enthusiasm for her family, her art, her work and her town – the quaint village of Eumundi, which inspires her on many levels.
“There is something in the water in Eumundi,” Katie says with a gentle laugh.
“I’m not just passionate about the community. I’m passionate about the village I live in. I’m passionate to call it home. It’s a town that seems to draw so many like-minded souls together.”
It was 1999 when Katie and husband Trent arrived on the Sunshine Coast in search of a sea change. At the time, Eumundi was more country than coastal village and its natural charm called to the Sydney-siders who were longing to escape the city for a slower pace.
Katie was working in corporate public relations and realised she had the capability to work from anywhere in
“I spent my twenties backpacking to far-flung spots between PR and media contracts,” she tells salt.
“As soon as we discovered Eumundi, we knew it was something special. Beautiful big wide main street, historic buildings, two cracker pubs and a great live music scene,
a sensational market, and a fab Hare Krishna restaurant that is no longer here, but as a couple of vegos it certainly clinched the deal for us. We found a cute little Queenslander cottage and were smitten.”
The change of pace gave Katie the opportunity to work on projects close to her heart. As the years passed she moved away from the corporate world and into an industry with a little more soul – music.
Today she is known for her contribution to the Sunshine Coast’s live music scene, helping to promote bands and festival events. She and Trent are also the brains behind the much-loved Starry Nights mobile outdoor movie concept.
While this work has established Katie as a local identity, there is still so much more to discover about this creative woman who says stumbling across Eumundi was nothing short of life-changing.
“I became entrenched in the community. I focused more on things I love,” she reflects.
“The village… has certainly grown up a lot in the last 20 plus years, but it still has that laid-back groove and friendliness, and the colour and creativity that drew us in in the beginning.”
Katie felt the pull of that creativity and was drawn to the kaleidoscope of talent, art, craft and beauty of the Original Eumundi Markets.
Established in 1979, the market had its start with three stalls, which attracted a total of eight visitors. Through the late ’80s and ’90s it steadily grew in popularity among tourists and locals alike, and today is one of the largest craft and artisan markets in Australia. It attracts around 1.2 million people each year.
And this is where you will find Katie every Wednesday and Saturday. It’s hard to miss her among the bold patterns and bright colours that feature in her clothing stall.
Her products are created right there in Eumundi at Katie’s purpose-built studio, which is located under the family home. It is a creative mess – wall-to-wall with fabrics spilling from cutting tables and onto the floor. Outside, chickens roam freely among the green plants, their soft clucking providing a unique soundtrack.
With large bi-fold doors overlooking the garden, this room is Katie’s Zen place. Her “side hustle” Red Fish Blue Fish centres on comfortable and quirky beachwear and has steadily grown since launching 21 years ago.
“I was working at home on my computer in my home office and I really wanted to be involved in the markets in the village that I had moved to,” Katie recalls.
“I always enjoyed making things – anything crafty. I got the wheels turning and thought about what would be a good fit for Eumundi. When my son Jack was approaching one, I made him a little beach coat and realised the potential in beach retro clothing.
“As a child of the ’70s… terry towelling was big. It brought back that nostalgia, that sense of comfort, of retro goodness.”
With time the business grew and Katie added a line of drawstring elastic pants, skirts and shorts to her beach coat collection. Known for being a hardy material, the clothes wear well and are loved by everyone from children to grey nomads.
Each garment, designed and individually hand-cut by Katie, is a one-off piece. She outsources the machine work to a Sunshine Coast seamstress.
“I find the designing and cutting quite meditative in a weird way.” Katie tells salt. “I listen to podcasts and get in the zone.
“I haven’t followed any design trends. I’ve just been on this funny little journey on my own for a long time. My clothes are not mass produced. It was never an idea to make a million dollars. I wanted to make something bespoke that will last, and celebrate quality slow fashion.
“I like a creative outlet. If I’m not doing that, I’m painting and playing with clay, which I’ve dabbled in over the years. If you are a maker, you are a maker. If you’re a creative, you’re a creative.”
You’ll find Katie’s Red Fish Blue Fish store in the handmade section of the Original Eumundi Markets, which are located at 80 Memorial Drive, Eumundi. Market days are Wednesdays, 8am to 2pm and Saturdays, 7am to 2pm.