A truly beautiful Minxy mix of charm, inspiration, practical advice, and pretty projects to simplify and beautify your life and home. - Jane Brocket, The Gentle Art of Domesticity
Sometime last year I went to a writing workshop at Faber Academy with novelist Carrie Tiffany. The title was Fiction Mining, and it was all about taking inspiration from your experiences to perform a sort of alchemy within your writing. But the lesson I learnt most was through an offhand comment she made, about the process of essentially doing nothing after a book is done.
The suggestion was to take time off to visit galleries or go on walks, listen to music. To read and recharge the batteries for a good few months, at least. I realised I’d never actually done this. I’ve always been so worried about being without another project to keep me busy, I don’t actually stop and chill for a bit, or really savour each small success.
I feel so uncomfortable in limbo. Even if you love what you do, being in the middle of something’s all about the daily grind and the importance of simply getting it done – whether that’s a creative project or otherwise. But limbo does give you energy to keep going, and puts things in perspective. It’s also a time of endless possibility, which makes things exciting.
Lately I’ve been forced to rest. I’ve started taking pleasure in long walks around the bay and just stretching. Towards the end of last year I was punishing my body with training as a way of counteracting the work of sitting at a computer all day long, nutting out writing problems. All go go go, then stop & atrophy.
The other day I sped over to the bay to do my relaxing walk(!), ready to listen to some music to make me walk faster and beat my time from the day before. Then I realised I’d misplaced my headphones. I almost went home, but I didn’t. And that was the first time in years I found myself alone, without stimulation, simply walking and breathing.
I slowed down. I listened. I watched some clouds, and didn’t let myself think about anything too much… It felt good.
Yesterday Jess and I had a stall at the Round She Goes Market at Marrickville Town Hall. It’s such a gorgeous venue with these high ceilings covered in original ornate mouldings and lightshades, and the organisers did a wonderful job of promoting it. I was clearing out the closets and some of the dresses from Minxy Vintage because space is such a premium in our tiny cottage and, really, there’s only so much you can keep. I was on buying frenzies with each of the books; first with fabrics, then with vintage clothes, then with wool and more fabric and props to style The Crafty Minx at Home, now it just feels good to streamline a bit and pare the house back to basics (or my basics, which is the things I use, and those I love or which have some special memory attached – the rest seems unnecessary).
It was a little strange for the both of us because Jess has closed her vintage clothing business, Coco Repose, and is in the process of becoming a very fine artist (check out her Instagram feed to see some of her oil paintings and illustrations, or her website here) and I’ve been focusing so hard on the novel it feels like I haven’t had time to do much in the way of craft or fashion upcycling. But in truth that’s not so – I’m always doing small things each day, like re-arranging a bell jar display or collecting leaves and flowers to dry and press with Olive for cards, or simply cutting out scraps from fashion magazines and collaging them with watercolours in my home recipe journal to liven up the pages a bit. And I never stop rummaging – most weekends you can find me at Rozelle Markets or popping into boutiques for inspiration – or thinking about the new-season styles when I’m not writing or researching.
I was feeling drained when we arrived but just being with Jess and all those visitors – there must have been a thousand or more who came over the course of the day – was invigorating and fun. I brought my books along thinking, why not, and besides selling a few it was truly lovely to meet some women who’d already read them. I’d kind of forgotten how nice it is being told how much someone enjoyed the book you wrote and hearing other people’s recollections of their own finds and stories.
Today we’re indulging in a cruisy day at home and I’m stuffed full of these pancakes, which James made for breakfast. I thought it couldn’t get any better than his Crepes Suzette, but this is the healthier version we just ate, topped with yoghurt. De-lish.
P.S. Olive actually took most of these photos – I gave her my phone and she just went for it!
My friend Maggie once said something along the lines of, ‘although winter seems so bleak and cold, there’s lots happening beneath the ground. When spring arrives, everything bursts into life - but it was growing all along.’ That’s been my spring. And summer. And the beginning of autumn. Yes, it’s been awhile.
The last year has been beyond hectic in our household. Olive started school, I’ve been working on redrafts of my novel for a period which feels like eternity (but is actually only six or seven months), and both James and I have been struggling with health issues. My neck got so bad recently, I haven’t been able to sew, cook, exercise or even write at times. The universe is trying to tell us something, but I’m still figuring out what that is. Actually, I know what it is, but I’ve only just admitted it. I’m getting help and – with Sydney Writers’ Festival on next week – not a moment too soon. Now is always one of my favourite times of the year.
Today I had lunch with the beautiful Pia Jane Bijkerk and came home feeling so inspired, I knew I couldn’t leave the blog appearing so unloved any longer. It’s early days, but we’re cooking up something special. Something collaborative, something you can be involved in, and – most importantly – something nourishing. Because it’s been too long playing hermit (for me, at least) and I’m missing that connection. Stay tuned; more details will be coming soon.
Another dear friend gave me this card last night. A passage inside reads ‘I know you’ve had a rough trot, but hopefully resolution is nigh. Simply gaze plaintively towards the horizon, raise a (mildly) strong cup of tea to your lips and know you’ll get there.’ Thanks, Katrina. I’m onto it.
Almost six years ago I left a rewarding, stimulating job for the uncertainty of writing fulltime. My daughter was born a few months later. The sacrifices were not easy (such as delaying the home renovation we’ve been planning for the better part of a decade, and going through heavy times of work, illness and stress) but the gains have been tremendous.
I managed to stay home and slot in work around Olive, something I’ve been particularly grateful for and couldn’t have achieved without the support of my husband and friends. But despite the challenges, somehow we managed it.
Yesterday she went to school for the very first time. And though it’s early days, she seems so ready and so thrilled to be there… I wasn’t expecting to feel so relieved. So light. So new-chapter about it all. I’m pleased as the sun for her.
In five years I rarely had the opportunity to write for more than one day at a time. But this morning I did. And it was GLORIOUS.
So what I’m saying is, do it. That thing you’ve always wanted to do. It’s going to be hard (sorry about that, no point lying). It will take you to the very edge of what you thought yourself capable of, and humble you greatly in the process. But it will change you. And it’ll be worth it. This I know.
How can you not love this song?
Is this the uniform of the Aussie creative? I’m not sure what it is about Gorman, but I think it might just be the chosen label for women in the arts. Maybe it’s the organic cottons. Or the inspired mix of prints and patterns. Or the wild enthusiasm with colour and collaborations with the likes of Rachel Castle. Because everyone I know has the designer Lisa Gorman’s clothing in their wardrobes, or at least one piece. Ms. Gorman’s married to another designophile, Dean Angelucci of Angelucci 20th Century. Did you see their home in Inside Out? It’s freaking gorgeous. I’m wondering when she’ll launch the new homewares range into its own retail stores. Soon, surely? I’ve got my eye on those cushions and mohair throws, even if I’m too busy prioritising fashion at the moment (always with the compromise). The separates go with vintage a treat, too.
Last week I visited the launch for Stillways at Better Read than Dead – a raw, lyrical, hilarious memoir of childhood by The Big Steal star Steve Bisley (a great Australian film – remember Ben Mendelson before he got scary, and Claudia Karvan in those cowboy boots? Heaven) – and met a book editor wearing a checked short-sleeve Gorman blouse. I had on a Gorman spotted shift, so we bonded over our love for the label for a good few minutes before realising we had loads more in common.
The socks and knits are staples, plus a dress from each season if you can manage it. How could you not love these shots from the previous seasons’ lookbooks? Her clothes just make me, I don’t know, so… happy.
Look at these new images by The Crafty Minx at Home photographer, Amanda Prior featured in last weekend’s Sunday Style. Fabulous.
Styling – Emma Freebairn
Creative Director – Mary Talato
Yesterday I went along to the Big Hearted Business morning tea hosted by musician, actor & singer-songwriter Clare Bowditch, on a tip from my friend Jess (of Coco Repose). It was really inspiring – the premise being an opportunity to gather creative people together to talk about monetizing their art, and making a realistic future from pursuing your passions. Such a worthy business idea, don’t you think? The truth is most creative businesses fail within the first two years, so the real question isn’t how to start, but how to keep going and evolve in the process.
Most of the people I met (predominantly women, although I did notice one bloke) were from the fields of music, art, writing and design. It was energizing to be in a room networking (for want of a better word) with others from the creative community. As a writer who works from home, it’s not often I get the opportunity to meet new people. It was the sort of environment I imagine any artist would benefit from being involved in.
So many readers have been in touch with similar hopes for growing your own creative businesses over the years since I’ve been blogging and writing books – I hope you’ll look into BHB and be part of its excellent business model. I think the plan is to incorporate short courses for creative business entrepreneurs, amongst other resources. Check out their Inspiration Bombs, for a start. They’re like TED videos for Aussie creatives, with gorgeous illustrations you can watch as they’re being created. I’ll certainly be following BHB in future – I think the potential is huge for this to span the country and indeed the globe.
Last Friday I was invited for a sneak peek inside the back room of Lawson’s Auction House at the contents of their upcoming sale, featuring a spectacular archive of vintage and designer pieces from Lisa Ho. See some of the beauties above… how gorgeous is the silk kimono in particular?
Sadly the designer fashion label’s gone into receivership, but this Friday’s 2pm auction will see items similar to the feathery frock below going for a fraction of the original price. I adored the midnight blue one above – the heart quickens.
I have my eyes on a twenties beaded number and brocade/velvet evening coat. I hope you won’t beat me to it!