A Local’s Guide to Melbourne

Model and ceramicist Alexandra Sinclair shows Culture Trip around her home city of Melbourne.
Model and ceramicist Alexandra Sinclair shows Culture Trip around her home city of Melbourne. | © Keaton Goode / Culture Trip
Although her work takes her all around Australia, model and ceramicist Alexandra Sinclair is always happy to return to her hometown of Melbourne. Whether she’s drinking cocktails on rooftop bars, walking her border collie through Elsternwick Park or visiting a local gallery, the south side local enjoys scouting the city for new places to hang out.

In the last two years Melbourne has been named as the top cultural destination in Australia. There’s definitely a lot going on for ceramicist and model Alexandra Sinclair, who shows Culture Trip some of her favourite things to see and do in the city.

Sinclair loves that Melbourne experiences all four seasons in a day, something most residents and visitors could do without. © Keaton Goode / Culture Trip

One of Sinclair’s favourite things about the city is perhaps a point of contention among other locals.

“People hate this about Melbourne, but I love that there are so many seasons,” she admits. “I love using everything in my wardrobe. I am like, ‘yes, I finally get to wear that one jacket that’s appropriate for this sort of weather’.”

Modelling for local brands such as Hey Tiger and Leroy & Eli, Sinclair is pretty busy but also manages to run a pottery studio and teach ceramics too. Art is undoubtedly her main focus.

Growing up she was inspired by a relative who was a portrait painter and whose work was on display in the family home. “Whenever he would come to visit, I’d chew his ear off about painting,” she explains.

“I like anything design-orientated and with really good craftsmanship.”

Left: Alex browses ceramics at the National Gallery of Victoria. Right: Courtyard of the NGV © Keaton Goode / Culture Trip

As a kid Sinclair was also inspired by her visits to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), where she spent a lot of time with her mother. It makes sense therefore that some of her favourite exhibitions are the fashion retrospectives given what she now does for a living.

“My mum was a dressmaker and we would always go to the gallery together and she would be amazed to see how the dresses came together,” Sinclair said.

Sinclair admits she found her calling by accident when she and her friend, Melbourne-based painter, Lani Mitchell, enrolled in a six-week ceramic course.

“I thought I’d give myself a year and if I didn’t like it I’d change, but I ended up loving it.’

She also credits Mitchell for motivating her to keep up her artwork.

“Lani always encouraged me and said it was possible to be an artist and to follow through, even though there’s not a whole lot of security that comes with it,” Sinclair says.

Since completing her degree, Sinclair has been teaching pottery at Ceramiques studios in Elsternwick, in addition to opening her own studio and ceramic shop, Pot Dispensary, in South Yarra. She’s currently preparing to launch her first collection that focusses on ergonomic design.

“I’ve made all these jugs with two indents, [so] when you’re holding it your knuckles don’t have to touch the surface of the clay. They’ve been designed for use and function and I really like to delve into that side of things,” she says.

It was while studying at RMIT that Sinclair also discovered some of Melbourne’s best restaurants and bars. The rooftop bar in Curtin House is one of her favourites. “It’s just somewhere you can go and relax, let go of everything and just look at the view,” she says.

Left: Bright neon lights in Melbourne’s Chinatown. Right: Chefs make dumplings at a local restaurant © Keaton Goode / Culture Trip

She also recommends Chinatown for anyone who wants more bang for their buck.

“I really like it because often restaurants are BYO, and you can get an exorbitant amount of dumplings… and it only costs $10,” she says.

For Sinclair one of the best things about being south side, particularly South Yarra, where she currently lives, is the suburb’s friendly vibe.

“There’s a really lovely community feel here,” she says. “When I am walking down the street I always say hi to people; everyone knows each other.”

But one of the most important things about any suburb, in a city that’s revered for its coffee, is how many great cafés are within walking distance. Sinclair explains there’s no shortage on the south side. She recommends Abacus in South Yarra, where she favours a croissant dipped into a soy latte, and Kettle Black in South Melbourne, which is known as much for its architectural design and mosaic floors, as it is for its eclectic menu.

Left: The Kettle Black cafe in Melbourne’s South Yarra. Right: Striking Flora in Melbourne’s Parks © Keaton Goode / Culture Trip

The south side is also somewhat of a pet paradise with so many parks and gardens.

“I love that Melbourne is so dog-friendly, I take my dog everywhere,” she says. “If I am going to a casting, she comes too.”

One of Sinclair’s favourite places for a walk is Elsternwick Park, where she often meets friends and takes her border collie. It also has an AFL and cricket stadium.

Although Sinclair’s not so into football, she highly recommends visitors to the city watch a game if they have spare time.

“I feel like if you come to Melbourne you have to get a meat pie and see a game. [The rules of the game] might not make sense, but you have to experience it at least once,” she says.

Sinclair grabbing one of Melbourne’s city bikes for a cruise around town © Keaton Goode / Culture Trip