Byron’s gypsy trader channels love of travel into business

GYPSY TRADER: Jai Vasicek, 28, owner of Ahoy Trader in Byron Bay.
GYPSY TRADER: Jai Vasicek, 28, owner of Ahoy Trader in Byron Bay. Megan Kinninment

JAI Vasicek spent his entire childhood sailing and has channelled his love for travel into one of Byron Bay's most eclectic art and home wares shops.

"I grew up on a boat," Mr Vasicek said.

"For the first 15 years my family and I sailed around Australia, then from 15 onwards we sailed the Pacific around Papua New Guinea," he said.

"After that I moved to Quebec, then Brazil.

"Everybody in my family is a gypsy traveller."

The gypsy life has paid off for Jai, whose Marvel St shop, Ahoy Trader, has grown from its grassroots craft stall beginnings into a flourishing art business employing four staff and stocking over 140 outlets worldwide with Jai's original, quirky art tiles.

"The tiles are collages I create with images of my travels to places such as Mongolia, Brazil or the Polynesian Islands," he said.

Living on a boat meant Jai rarely went to conventional schools and instead learned to be creative and independent while gleaning valuable craft skills from his boatbuilder father.

"I'm a self-taught artist and I use a lot of Dad's techniques of construction to create the tiles," he said.

Each tile is created from plaster, concrete and resin and feature quirky, vintage-inspired images - many of which are created from Jai's own photographs.

"I think the tiles appeal to people because they connect with their own journeys and travel stories," he said.

"I see the Ahoy Trader shop as like a boat; a vessel that holds my collection of objects and is always changing, depending on where I've last travelled."

After living in Byron Bay for nearly three years, Jai has also relished the opportunity to drop anchor in a town that attracts so many creatives.

"People really embrace the handmade in Byron Bay."

However, travel is never far from his thoughts, and right now Jai has Melbourne in his sights as a dream comes true.

"I have an exhibition coming up at Fenton and Fenton, in Prahran from October 17.

"It's a solo show of original mixed media artworks on fibreglass."

To see Jai's artwork visit:

Topics:  art business

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