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
A few weeks ago journalist Katrina Lobley visited to discuss the new book with Amanda & me. Click here to read her lovely article, featured in SMH’s Spectrum last weekend.
Last week we had a small shindig (at home, of course) to celebrate the launch of the new book. This was really so I could thank everyone involved for all their hard work and for being so supportive.
It was truly special working with the team we had on The Crafty Minx at Home. Here’s some of my favourite images – more to follow soon.
When I partnered with Vinnies for the last retail campaign they asked me to donate my time to the Vinnies ‘Shop in Style’ competition. One lucky winner would receive $500 worth of vouchers to spend in any store, along with a days’ shopping with yours truly. As you can imagine, $500 goes a long way in Vinnies but I was game.
Last Friday I met the winner – council worker Kirrily Welsh of Wagga Wagga – to deck her out in a whole new winter wardrobe.
We had such a brilliant time.
Kirrily came prepared with two empty suitcases and her best friend Rebecca Hillis, an artist & milliner. Together we scoured the racks of Vinnies Waverley looking for anything fun, anything flattering and anything eighties for these two party girls.
Both of them were so adventurous. Often when I go op-shopping with friends they’re less likely to try on the more outrageous styles (that’s up to me), but Kirrily and Rebecca gave pretty much every item I handed them a go – with some brilliant results. They were such individual, creative women. Kirrily’s a sewer and mad collector with a home full of cool vintage LPs, cassettes and eighties clothes, and Rebecca’s hats have been worn by the likes of Natasha Stott Despoja and seem to travel all over. She makes them from a range of recycled materials such as old Vinnies frocks and flyscreen. Truly inspirational.
My favourite finds of the day were two figure-hugging black frocks for Kirrily and a lamé-threaded Vivienne Westwood-style jacket Rebecca picked up, along with stacks of useful sweater dresses and a pair of fab tan leather seventies boots. Plus a few pieces for myself, of course (I couldn’t resist).
Last night I hosted a workshop on upcycling called Treading Lightly. I spent days and days sourcing materials people could use, sewing tools and various other bits and bobs I thought guests might have fun with, so I was feeling prepared.
But halfway into the demonstration I lost my confidence; it quickly became apparent several women had far greater sewing skills and were seriously accomplished dressmakers (whereas I’ve made exactly two clothing patterns from scratch in my life; a kimomo and a puff-sleeved top sometime around the mid-90s, and didn’t do a particularly good job with either). And here I was telling them to fancy up old items with repairs, jewel-toned dyes, easy alterations like snipping off hemlines and sleeves, or adding a fun embellishment or two with embroidery thread, sequins & beading, tassels, pompoms or handmade fabric yoyos… all the simple projects I’ve talked about in my books. I thought they couldn’t be getting much out of the talk.
By the end of the evening I realised those with the greatest skills seemed to be having the best time of all. They were really going for it, chopping into secondhand clothes I’d brought along with gusto and experimenting with all sorts of techniques I hadn’t thought to mention. As always with my workshops, I left feeling inspired. Then I woke up at crazy o’clock from a Marge Simpson Monorail dream (remember that episode? I call the big one Bitey) trying to make sense of my sudden panic attack.
I think the point is that all this stuff feeds off itself, and by stuff I mean creativity in general. Often when I finish a book I’ll go through a short phase of non-craftiness, where I can’t sit down to my sewing machine for a spell, or even lift up a needle to fix a tear. I feel really guilty about this, but it’s the danger of turning your passion into a job. In truth I’m just worn out. I tend to turn to writing during this time instead, or attend a class to learn new skills before my craft brain’s replenished and starts whirring again.
So my suggestion is, be kind to yourself and keep at it. Creativity doesn’t go away, you just need a break sometimes. And interaction with other like-minded souls to keep you feeling inspired. Craft should feel like fun – not a test!
I’m hosting another upcycling workshop next Thursday 18 April at Ashfield Library (fully booked but there is a waitlist) however, here’s something else for vintage lovers: Eleanor Keene, Historic Fashion and Textiles Specialist is teaching an 8-week course at North Sydney Community Centre on Tuesday evenings, starting 30 April.
Eleanor lived in the UK for 9 years where she studied a Masters in History of Fashion & Textiles, then went on to run the Costume & Textile auctions for Bonhams over there. She now lives and works in Sydney. Eleanor will be bringing along items to see and feel in the classes, and sharing stories from her years of working in the industry. This looks fab to me.
When I pitched the book proposal for The Crafty Minx at Home, I knew it had to include illustrations to convey many of the ideas in the text and balance out all the real imagery we’d be using. I’m so thrilled with the result, which I think offers more than the previous books in terms of sheer design and all the information we’ve tried to pack in to make it a home crafting & upcycling bible of sorts.
But this is still an intensely personal book - it’s about the way I live, and I think so many of us are heading towards a similar lifestyle nowadays. I feel so passionately that all of us need to consider and appreciate the objects in our lives, and avoid mass-consumerism; both for the environment’s sake and our pwn sense of personal fulfilment. Crafting’s one of the best ways I know to feel zen and connected, and I love sharing it with like-minded people. Upcycling also means we can keep our homes fresh by updating their style more often, without making overly costly mistakes. It’s win-win, and a therapeutic, amusing form of domestic curating.
Kristy Allen of The Pencil Sessions was our illustrator for the book, and here’s some of my favourite drawings which she created especially for The Crafty Minx at Home.
Kristy is one talented lady - she works as a designer for Australian Women’s Weekly by day, and moonlights in drawing by night. I first fell for her quirky scribblings when I heard about the +365 Project, where she vowed to draw a new picture every day for a year to track her progress as an illustrator and dabble in all sorts of styles just for the hell of it. And she’s about to launch her new range of greeting cards and illustration plates for framing soon through her online shop.
Follow her blog for more, and I hope you enjoy perusing her drawings as much as I do. And for all her Crafty Home illustrations, you can grab a copy of the book when it hits stores in a couple of weeks.
I popped into Calico & Ivy recently to source goodies for the event at Surry Hills Library on Monday (which went so well, btw – I had a ball!) and chat with the lovely Sarah Wheatley, my Girl Friday at the demonstration table for the evening. That’s where I found Designer Beci Orpin’s book, Find & Keep.
Now, I’m a little dyslexic when it comes to reading certain craft patterns but Beci’s book is a dream - totally gorgeous and inspiring and simple enough to undertake with kids. And yet the projects are all stylish enough for adults to be proud of, too. It’s easy to follow, with ideas for inspiration rather than prescriptive, tricky projects I would never bother attempting. Goodness, I just love this book.
Have a look at some of these projects. I’ve already made the mobile below (twice – one for us, and one for a friend who’s having a baby), Tiny Town, the succulent garden and Beci’s confetti. Olive and I spent almost the entire weekend crafting, and James even got in on the act chopping out bits & pieces for Tiny Town.
Her style is just so fresh and clean… did I mention how much I love it?
Grab yourself a copy post-haste, I’m sure you’ll adore it as much as I do.
And the good news is Ms. Orpin has a new one due out at the end of the year. Can’t. Wait.
Finally I’m able to share more about the new craft title (out on 1 April with HarperCollins) and the team who put it together. Stay tuned for updates over the next few weeks as well, because I’ll be posting some gorgeous illustrations and spreads from inside.
Firstly, the entire book was shot in my home in Sydney’s Inner West with the wonderful photographer Amanda Prior (Inside Out, The (Sydney) Magazine, etc.) over the course of two weeks. To see some of Amanda’s work in interiors, click here. Amanda and I worked together before on shoots for The (Sydney) Magazine and Sunday Life, so when the publisher and I were trying to come up with a new look for the next book, she was the first person who sprang to mind. I love Amanda’s style – she’s truly gifted at shooting still lifes, interiors and compelling portraits, which is rare in an industry where most people tend to specialise in one field. I adore the sense of calm and light Amanda brings to every shot, and she’s such a fun, easygoing person. Natalie Walton once interviewed Amanda for The Daily Imprint (which is sadly no more) - read this to see what an interesting character she is. Amanda also manages to juggle a successful career with two small girls, so she’s quite an inspiration.
Claire Delmar was our stylist - also a freelance mama who works for Quintessential Duck Egg Blue, Inside Out, Country Style and used to be at Elle Decoration, the top international interiors magazine. Claire brought such energy and passion to the shoot, and I honestly don’t know how she managed to stay so sprightly with all the running around and long days of constant shooting we squeezed in. Claire simply has impeccable taste, and it was a joy to watch her do her thing to create the mood and atmosphere we were looking for with the book.
I really wanted The Crafty Minx at Home to convey the sense of peace and pleasure I find in making things and creating a beautiful home, and everyone who worked on the book seemed to get what I was trying to achieve and add to it tenfold. Jane Waterhouse, the in-house designer at HarperCollins did a beautiful job of realising this vision, giving us a layout to be proud of. I love how she’s blended the various elements of design, photography and illustration (more on our exceptional illustrator later) as well as writing to create a harmonious style… not easy at some 300+ pages.
For more on the book or to pre-order copies now, click here, and more news to follow soon.
I’m having one of those weeks where I feel full to the point of bursting with passion for what I do. Yesterday I sat down at 8am and just wrote and wrote and wrote until a whole chapter was done, and I could write no more. But still, I went to pick up Olive from crèche and we went out for an early dinner together around 5 o’clock (James was out with friends) and then I put her to bed, before sitting down to find I still needed to write more. I love my characters. I love this novel I’m working on. And I feel extremely lucky to have the space and the energy to explore them.
A couple of nights ago I visited the Anish Kapoor exhibition with my friend Kristy, followed by dinner and drinks at the MCA art bar. God, I heart it there – a band was playing haunting covers of The House of the Rising Sun and Something for Emma, the sun was setting, and we drank a smashing rosé to views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Recently I went to see the Francis Bacon exhibition at the Art Gallery as well and was so moved by some of his pieces – particularly the earlier, darker works from the 50s. They were visceral and twisted and had the feeling of nightmares transferred to canvas. By comparison, Kapoor’s installations were just as affecting but in a completely different way. Rather than feeling on the edge of a dark precipice like I had with Bacon, all of Kapoor’s pieces were playing with my sense of space and grip on reality, making me wonder where the universe ends.
Whereas Bacon made one feel deep and full, Kapoor conveyed that speck-of-dust insignificance of being human through the creation of gaping spaces, trick-of-the-eye convex and concave shapes, and depth of colour – so much more than mere optical illusions.
Just seeing these exhibitions inspired a whole new set of characters for my novel that I’m now familiarising myself with. They’re almost like living, breathing people inhabiting my world – I dreamt about one the other night, and we had a whole conversation. She was riffing on her life, telling me about herself. Trippy, I know, but true. I’m still getting to know her, even as I sleep.