Jack Stillman was our Grandfather/GreatGrandfather. He was an ex Navy man in the Second World War and saw action in North Africa and in the Pacific. He endured one of the heaviest theatres of naval warfare in North Africa in June 1942 when Axis forces unleashed hell on a fleet of British and Australian ships committed to protect a crucial merchant convoy. Despite horrendous loses over 3 days of battle, Jack survived.
After the war he then went on to be a Christian Minister; despatched across Australia with his family to set up missions in New South Wales and Western Australia. I have photographs of him, my Grandmother, my Father and Uncle all crammed onto a Harley Davidson motorbike with a side-car; off to church on a Sunday morning.
He was a devout man. Jack was a man’s man. He certainly didn’t take any shit. But he loved life and my fondest memories of him are on family holidays at the beach in Busselton Western Australia. Him waist deep in the ocean covered in kids; each one trying to pull him down or climb on his back. All the kids called him Grandad Jack. That was my Grandad. Jack Stillman passed away in 2004. He achieved 87 years.
My Grandfather and my father taught me what it means to be a man in Australia; to take responsibility, to be honest, to work until the job’s done. I am the product of this upbringing and 20 years of soldiering and policing. I became a man’s man. I pursued excitement and occasional violence and I took no shit.
In February 2013 tragedy changed my life. It took my somewhat perfect existence and dashed it on the floor like a beloved Lego project: how fragile our competitive lives are. I was forced to quit my lucrative job, sell my house and go on welfare for the first time in my life. Significantly it also left me as the single parent to a beautiful little 2-year-old girl who, up until that point in time, had never lived with me. Suddenly I was a full time mum.
Overnight I was all about potty training and Jimbaroo and Pepper Bloody Pig! By March I was Googling “5 Important Care Tips for Curly Hair” and researching the pro’s and cons of immunisation all the while coming to terms with a very complicated yet intense grief and a sweet little girl who was puzzled over the absence of her mother.
2013 wasn’t my best year. But it wasn’t my worst either. Not by a long shot. I quietly packed up my Lego and put it back in the bucket. I couldn’t reassemble what I’d had. I’m glad I didn’t try. Sometimes we just need a complete re-set on our priorities in life. It’s like moving house: you end up finding crap that you’ve been hanging onto for years and you decide “Sorry old friend, you’re taking up space. I’m not bringing you along”.
2013 was my re-set. It was a challenge but thanks to Jack, I was made of more resilient stuff. So out of it was born some new priorities for the Grandson of Jack.
And so how the hell did all of this lead to a luggage brand for motorcycle enthusiasts?
Despite the fact that the majority of my working life was dedicated to guns and violence, I have always been a creative at heart with an entrepeneurial bent. I have also always marched to an alternative beat when it comes to fashion. In August 2013, on a whim, I enrolled in a part time jewellery making class at Contemporary Metals in Perth. It was an instant awakening to me. I was designing again. I was creating again. It felt good to convert a thought into something useful and beautiful. In those crucial weeks the seed of Jack Stillman, the fashion brand, was born.
I created Jack Stillman so I could raise Maddie and her brother and sister Jake and Tia. But it's more than just a business, it's become a passion. It's allowed me to connect with people all over Australia and the world who appreciate what I do. Is there a greater reward in life than feeling wanted?