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
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!
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.
I just wanted to share Krystal’s story with you here – this is why I’m so honoured to be involved with Vinnies:
Homeless from the age of ten, Krystal has spent close to a decade moving from one refuge to the next. “I was exhausted. It seemed no matter how hard I fought, I would have to start all over again” she says. After turning to Vinnies she was given the stability she needed to return to her studies and focus on the future.
One year on and Krystal has just moved into private rental, started part-time work and is studying social work. “It has been so nice for me to be able to give back by modelling in this shoot. People need to know the difference they make to lives just like mine, simply by shopping at Vinnies.”
And by the way, she’s wearing a never-worn silk Tibi New York dress from the Vinnies Waverley store. It still had the tags on when I found it. Unbelievable.
The campaign I’ve been working on with Vinnies finally launched across the nation yesterday, so now I can share some images from our fabulous fashion shoot back in August, styled head-to-toe with clothing & accessories from Vinnies stores.
This was such an incredibly fun project for me to be involved in. I’ll continue to be a Brand Ambassador for Vinnies – we’re making a series of web videos early next year with tips on how to update, alter and completely overhaul Vinnies clothes. Read below for more on the shoot & stay tuned for lots more news in 2013.
Vinnies was the first place I really started shopping and experimenting with fashion as a teenager, and it’s continued to provide so many of my wardrobe staples since then. So you can imagine how excited I was when they asked me to style the retail campaign (beyond). What wasn’t there to love? I was given carte blanche to all Sydney stores and told I could borrow anything I liked for the photo shoot. And I had the pleasure of working with the Vinnies marketing team to craft the campaign; a seriously inspiring bunch of people.
We worked out why people need Vinnies clothes – for work, casual and special occasions, and events such as music festivals – and sourced real people rather than models to show how they’re really worn. None of the images from the photoshoot have been retouched – they’re all as they were shot on the day. I love that we didn’t use models or retouching; these were real people with connections to the charity in one way or another, and it just felt right.
Photo shoots are always stressful because there’s so much riding on getting it right, but ours was a blast. I was creative director as well as a model, and loved every minute of it. We just had fun with the clothes and poses, and everything else fell into place. There were at least fifteen people involved – can you imagine re-scheduling that amount of people if we didn’t achieve the shots we needed? But the team at PMP Digital were professional and talented, as were our brilliant hair & makeup artists. The vibe was buzzy and fun but still completely relaxed.
Visit your local Vinnies to see some of the posters and advertising created with the shots from our campaign, and keep an eye out for booklets in Avant Card displays all over. They’re even running a competition to win $500 worth of Vinnies fashion and a day out with a stylist (yours truly) to help you spend it. Yes, that’s a whole lotta clothing!
On Saturday I had one of those super productive days that just makes you feel so good to be doing a job you love.
In the morning I met with my friend Catherine to discuss the novel I’m working on, sparking an epiphany or two. It felt like things were really coming together thanks to her feedback. It’s magic when that happens. Because in less than two weeks I’m starting Emily Maguire’s ‘Get it written: bootcamp for your novel’ course with Faber Academy at Allen & Unwin. I have five or six chapters so far and a plot outline, and it really is just a matter of getting it written and learning the rules of novel writing (before I go break them). Three years of English Lit at uni and I can critique a book till the proverbials come home, but actually writing dialogue and a compelling narrative has been an altogether more slippery process.
Then home for lunch with my peeps before heading off in the afternoon to meet another friend, Kristy, who’s been illustrating my next book. While chatting over plum tart from Victoire patisserie, a pot of tea and working our way through the pages (which are looking gorgeous, by the way, thanks to the talented team I’ve been working with) we marvelled at how incongruous it was that in less than 24 hours, we’d be up at 4:30 to make our way to Glenworth Valley for Tough Mudder.
Last year I was sick. I had a chronic illness which kept me floored with various ailments for more than a year, and it was kind of a living hell because I’ve always been active and healthy. Not having the energy to look after my family or keep up with work was the pits. But when I improved I started exercising again and working towards this challenge, just to prove I had it in me (cue Schwarzenegger-style boo-ya bravado).
I just loved the sense of camaraderie in our team of ten and with everyone completing the obstacle course, which was full on. Seriously. I suffered about 40 electric shocks, got mud in places it was really never meant to be, messed up my knees so badly I’m hobbling like a 70 year old today, almost blinded myself during the mud mile and blackened two toenails, which are probably going to freak me out when they peel off later this week. All that said, it was awesome. Truly. Nothing beats the sense of completing something you thought was totally beyond your capabilities.
But I wasn’t quite tough enough to go back to bootcamp this morning. Today I am working through altogether more effeminate projects and heading off for a pedicure this afternoon, as well as indulging in a spot of Christmas craft for Australian Women’s Weekly. Tough? Yes. Still a big girl? Definitely.
It’s been a mad few weeks meeting and handing over all the details of the next book to my *soon to be announced* new publisher… yes, the good news is I’ll be working with a brilliant new team from now on, and we’re all set to publish a book for the same date next year. Hooray! More news to follow soon.
It’s been chilly as, but perfect weather for making things. Quilting, crochet, decoupage and painting; just some of the skills I’ve been using in new projects. A favourite is using wallpaper glue to apply small panels and details to the walls and furniture. Such fun, and a great technique for covering up ordinary or inexpensive pieces. It’s also a wee bit addictive (James will find himself decoupaged soon if he stands still long enough).
What else? I’ve been cooking and eating like it’s my last few days on earth – always a downside of winter. Can someone please firebomb Doughboy? I’m rapidly turning into one.