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
My friend Marian has led a colourful life. With her late husband, Gordon Clarke – a filmmaker and photographer – she travelled around the world before settling down in Balmain here in Sydney.
Over morning tea recently she showed me some of Gordon’s pictures from the 1960s. I adore portraits – my favouite place in London is the National Portrait Gallery – so I was enthralled. This is an image he took of Marian, and it reminded me so much of the famous soprano Lina Cavalieri from a Piero Fornasetti drawing, I begged to borrow it so I could share it here. My plan is to have it digitally printed on white canvas before turning it into a cushion. Marian has given me her blessing.
My no.1 favourite material to work with at the moment is oilcloth. It’s great for making tablecloths and aprons because it’s waterproof and wipes clean easily, but oilcloth is also fab for hard-wearing purses, bags and storage. I’m loving some of the retro-looking prints available, and having a lot of fun mixing simple polka dots with prints.
I heard about this MCA workshop a while back and was sorry to have missed it. Then on a recent visit to see the Louisa Bufardeci & Zon Ito exhibition saw it was running again.
Kate Scardifield – an artist experimenting with fabric, stitch, appliqué and soft sculpture – gave us a brief tour for inspiration before talking about her techniques; mainly the creative use of Vliesofix (iron-on appliqué webbing) in collages, but we did some stitching as well. With just over an hour to put pieces together it’s more about giving you ideas to take home, but I really enjoyed the round-table atmosphere. I met a number of interesting women (mainly artists) and was mightily impressed by the whole set-up. And get this, it only cost 15 bucks. And they gave us lovely free wine & cheese! And all the materials were included! It doesn’t get much better than that.
When I got home, I added some linen given to me by dear friend Catherine for the border, popped more Vliesofix on the back and ironed it straight to the wall. Voilà!
Wearing reclaimed pieces from head to toe can be a bit much at times. No-one wants to feel like Second Hand Rose, after all. But many so-called luxury items aren’t what they used to be; and by that I mean well-made or rare. It leaves me wondering why I aspire to buying them on the few occasions we treat ourselves.
That’s why I got such a thrill visiting Harlequin Market yesterday – they have an excellent collection of high quality vintage jewellery you won’t see everywhere. The Chanel chains & belts are a particular highlight, but they also have exquisite pieces from fêted design stars Kenneth J Lane and Laurence Vrba, amongst others. And Sasha the sales assistant gave the very best kind of service; her knowledge and enthusiasm for the jewellery was infectious.
When I next have the spare change, I’m spending it here.
I bought a stack of these henna hand stencils from a little hole-in-the-wall Indian boutique on South King St, Newtown for $1 each. They’re slightly sticky so hold against the wall, but won’t leave any marks and can be peeled off with no dramas.
Try it – they come in all sorts of colours and patterns and look great above a light switch.
So I saw this image on the web a few days ago and it came back to me at 3am, when I found myself inexplicably awake. I’ve no idea who the designer is, but what a brilliant idea. You can easily make your own version; battery-operated clock hands are available from good crafts stores all over the place, and a collection of random objects, some glue and white paint is all you need in addition. Plus a piece of wood or board to mount them on.
I’ve had a play with some stones, sea glass, bits of shell, a rusty screw with a beautiful green patina I found on the shore and ceramic doll parts from a flea market. Okay, so you have to imagine the feather and the leaf are actually the clock but what do you think? And does the clock even need to work? Why not stick it to the wall as is for your own art installation? Is it art, and who really cares? I like it. I’m not even going to whitewash it.
These are a couple of the most inspiring design books I’ve bought in the past year – I can highly recommend them:
Bazaar Style: Decorating with market and vintage finds shows an eclectic collection of places furnished with a gorgeous jumble of new, antique and second-hand pieces. Each home is incredibly unique and really conveys the personality of its owners – I felt like crawling into the pages so I could live inside almost every single one.
My next favourite is Family Lifestyle: Home by Anita Kaushal. The pictures are amazing and it gave me loads of ideas about how to create a home for both adults and children, which doesn’t feel too grown-up or too overrun by all the detritus that comes with child-rearing. Quirky & elegant.
I visited my friend Rebecca yesterday for afternoon tea and she gave me a stack of divine new fabrics, as well as some felt flowers as a (very) early birthday present. Feeling inspired when I got home, I had a rummage through the crafts cabinet; finding a short, bright orange zip and some pretty vintage fabric to go with the patterned yellow linen.
Look what I made: it’s a medium-sized purse to store all the random bits and pieces floating around inside my huge tote – hands-free phone cord, mints, snacks for Olive, etc… I’ve lined it with plain beige linen to sturdy it up and hide any loose threads, and stitched the flower to the outside through both layers. Thanks lovely friend!
When I began making things I quickly found myself addicted to visiting Paper 2 in Surry Hills for my ribbon fix. If you’re looking for small-ish quantities, it’s perfect as they have a well-edited collection (the striped grosgrains are particularly fetching). But as things progressed I realised I was spending a small fortune. Friends suggested Specklefarm and The Ribbon Jar, both online suppliers with a lovely-looking selection, but my need grew too great… that’s when I discovered Vandoros Imports.
They only wholesale so you need an ABN, and you’ll have to spend $100 minimum, but it’s well worth the trip to industrial Artarmon. I love incorporating ribbon into craft projects and it’s also nice to be able to tie up gifts for friends with a none-too-stingy amount of delicious ribbon.
For ribbon fetishists visiting London, check out VV Rouleaux: possibly the best source of passementerie on Earth (discuss).
At Rozelle yesterday I ran into an old workmate from my uni days, when I used to moonlight as a barista at Badde Manors Café. He told me about this market, held at the Reverse Garbage site in Marrickville. It’s been running for a few years now so I can’t believe I haven’t gone sooner.
The stalls are a great mix of organic fruit & veg and food from small producers (think delicious cheeses, meat, bread and condiments); as well as clothes, bric-a-brac, books and flowers. Check it out if you haven’t already – I love Orange Grove Market in Lilyfield for this sort of thing but it’s become so busy on a Saturday it’s often impossible to park nearby or move through the crowds. Addison Road makes a nice alternative and definitely has a relaxed, lazy Sunday feel about it.