Christmas countdown

“Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.” ― Janice Maeditere

I know I say it each year, but I can't believe Christmas is once more upon us and the end of another year is nearly over.  2013 has been a busy year, with exciting work projects, a new house and a fast-growing little toddler. 

Christmas for me still has all the nostalgia and associations with growing up in England......cold, dark days with twinkly lights in shop windows, Christmas carols being played at home on the record player (yes that's the generation I come from when we grew up with record players) and if we were very lucky some snow for snowmen and sledging.  So, sitting here writing this on a bright sunny, steaming hot 35C day and planning what food I need to organise for our orphans Christmas, doesn't really feel much like christmas.  But really, however and wherever Christmas is spent, it's a great opportunity to catch up with friends and family and take some time to enjoy being together (for a short time anyway!)

Wishing everybody a wonderful Christmas and all the best for the New Year.  :)  

Port Macquarie long weekend

We recently got back from a mini escape to Port Macquarie, which was just lovely.  We were only away for a few short days, but the mini break was perfect to just unwind and take it easy for a day or two.  Little Mr J loved playing on the beach and paddling in the soft waves, and we even found some crabs to put in his bucket which was very exciting.  My formula for a perfect long-weekend escape is quite simple:   Sun + sand + waves + ice-cream = bliss :)  

Teacup etchings

A few weeks ago I wrote about an etching workshop I did with Bridget Farmer and I've finally managed to find time to photograph some of the prints from my weekends work.  As well as some black and white etchings, I managed to produce several coloured artworks of my favourite teacups.      
The top image was my biggest print, with all three teacups printed onto one sheet of paper, whilst the rest of the prints were single teacups. 
Such a fun weekend and great to learn a new process which is totally different to how I normally work.  Thanks again Bridget x    

Strawberry kettles & crochet mats

On two separate op-shop expeditions recently, I picked up this very sweet old-fashioned whistling kettle and a collection of crochet mats.  I already have a couple of vintage whistling kettles, but it was the pretty strawberry pattern that appealed to me with this one, and it was just too cute to resist.      
The crochet mats in assorted sizes and patterns were picked up for the pricely sum of $1 for the lot!  I don't really use crochet mats for anything, I just loved the different patterns (they're rather like enlarged snowflakes) and figure I'm sure to find a use for them sometime in the future.     

Duck Duck Goose & Larder

For a small town Kyneton really punches above it's weight with a great selection of shops, cafes and fresh local produce, with Duck Duck Goose & Larder being a rather gorgeous addition to the scene.   
Housed in a large brick building (I believe used to be the old Kyneton Market) Duck Duck Goose & Larder stocks locally sourced fruit, vegetables, dairy products and meats, as well as a really tasteful selection of local, Australian and international range of sauces, pastas, olive oils, cordials, teas, preserves, and delicious pantry items.
At the front of the store a cafe opens onto an outdoor area facing Piper Street, with a selection of delicious home-baked pies, cakes, tarts and a yummy breakfast / brunch menu.  Dotted around the place are terrariums and succulents planted in old pots and enamel containers, which is right up my street (makes me realise how much I've neglected my little succulents recently) and I want to take them all home with me.
As well as food produce, there is also a small selection of very cute gift items, including this fabulous yellow Scandi-style teapot and cup set - cute! 
Saturday was a beautiful sunny day and the Gelati was very popular with little mr J. 
The selection of goods available has been really carefully selected - almost curated like a gallery - and I love all the beautiful packaging of the food.  How gorgeous are these small Panettoni boxes, I'm sure the sweet breads are delicious, but I'd buy them for the packaging alone.   
Duck Duck Goose & Larder 17 - 19 Piper Street, Kyneton

Weekend print workshop

Over the weekend I took part in a Dry Point Etching workshop in Daylesford with Bridget Farmer.  Bridget specialises in various forms of printmaking, but it was the Dry Point Etching I was most interested in learning.  Myself and fellow local designer Fran Pidgeon headed to Bridgets fabulous studio armed with rubber gloves, aprons and itchy fingers ready to print!             
Bridget has dedicated 2013 to 'The Year of the Finch' and has been drawing and creating prints specifically on this little bird.  Above is one of her very cute dry point etchings of said Finch. 
The etching workshop took place on Saturday and Sunday, and it was so lovely to have a creative weekend for completely personal enjoyment - no brief to work to, no commercial limitations, (no toddler around) just me, Fran, Bridget, some 1930's music, choc-chip cookies, cups of tea, and lots of chatting.  Fabulous! 
I love being in other peoples studios and workspaces, seeing how creative people work, what inspires them, are they neat, messy, organised etc.  Most studio's house a lovely mix of random bits and pieces (I like to think of it as studio flotsam and jetsam) that have been found and gathered to serve as useful equipment or inspiration.      

I decided to take some of 'my girls' (vintage teacups) to use as a basis for my etching prints. I started off roughly sketching the teacups, before engraving my illustration onto the plate.  We were using acetate as a plate, which makes it a really easy substance to engrave and allowed us to work very quickly as no acid is necessary to eat into the more traditional copper plate.   
We started off printing our etchings with single colour prints, before progressing to applying several colours to the plate.  This is called 'a la poupee' (multiple colours applied directly to the plate) and Bridget has a tutorial about this technique on her website.    Above you can see Fran's very intricate and detailed beautiful bird print (left) and my sketchy-style teacup print and inked acetate plate (right). 
A big thanks to Bridget and Fran for a wonderful weekend! 

New house bits and pieces

Five weeks ago we picked up the keys to our new house and began the upheaval of shifting all of our belongings into a new space. On the one hand it's exciting to be moving, but it's always an exhausting and overwhelming process.  We were lucky with a sunny day for the move, and with our things piling up in the garage Mr J checked out the new pad, whilst Jolly cat was a bit bewildered with it all!

Slowly we have been unpacking, cleaning, dusting and trying to locate things buried in forgotten boxes.  The empty new house we moved into is gradually turning into our new home.  Books are finding their way onto shelves, clothes are in wardrobes, pots and pans are in cupboards, and I'm trying to find new 'safe' homes for teacups, coffee pots and all my ceramic bits and pieces - having them all out on display was fine before having a two year old running around!

My studio space is a lovely light filled room overlooking the garden, and I've got all my favourite pieces of reference material / inspiration images pinned on a big wall in front of me to gawp at.  I'm trying to be organised, de-clutter and have a big clear out - but I'm such a hoarder that I struggle to let go of a lot of things!  Consequently my studio is packed full of things I love - which makes it a great personal workspace for me :)         

The kitchen is relatively new, so I'm doing my best to 'de-newify' it by getting all my favourite second-hand tins, retro cups and general vintage kitchenalia out to break up some of the plain white cupboards and laminated work surfaces.  I'd like to put up some more shelving to display kitchen stuff I use on a regular basis......but I'll have to persuade Mr B to get his tool kit out for that!     

Cute vintage children's memory game

How adorable is this children's memory game!  I picked this up recently at the Daylesford Mill Markets, it was only a few dollars as the cardboard box housing the cards was a bit old and battered.  The sweet little cards (measuring 5 x 5cm) are in great condition and I just love all the different pictures and illustrations.  There are 54 pairs of cards in total, with the idea being to spread the cards out picture side down, gradually turning the cards over to reveral the pictures, and to try and remember where all the matching pairs are. 

The game was manufacturerd by John Sands in Australia, 1966, and some of the pictures in the game are taken from 'House of Cards' by Charles Eames - which explains why I love the images so much.

Kyneton Daffodil Festival

Over the weekend we had the annual Daffodil Festival.  Kyneton is just bursting at the seams with Daffodils at this time of year - they bloom in all the public parks, along pathways, and every garden shimmers with yellow.  The Festival celebrates this yearly event and also welcomes the start of Spring - hurray!   
The children's petting farm was a particular favourite event with chickens, ducks, sheep, goats, rabbits, turkeys and even a deer roaming around, happy to have a cuddle and a stroke.  Very exciting for a two year old - and even for some adults!            

Kyneton turned on a fabulous Spring day with beautiful warm sunshine, and it was great to get out and support the local schools and CFA with their fundraising - sausage sizzles and buying yummy home-baked cakes isn't too difficult to support!  It's a really social event and lovely to catch up with people and see all the community getting involved.        

Lovely patterned old tins

I seem to be adding old vintage and second-hand tins to the list of things I find myself collecting these days! I've picked up the above beauties over several months from various different places - second-hand shops, vintage markets, and the rather lovely blue willow patterned tin was given to me by a very sweet friend. 

The blue willow tin and the yellow floral tin are old Australian 'Willow' brand designs, whilst the tin with the bird illustrations and the gorgeous floral tin tray are vintage designs made in England. 

Vintage teapot & jug

Several months ago I bought this very sweet vintage teapot (I think I bought it when I visited Inglewood), which is made in England by Arthur Wood, with a pattern called 'Summertime'.  I was really drawn to the stylised floral pattern, and the colour palette of the florals on the yellow glazed teapot - definitely not the usual old-fashioned florals found on English vintage ceramics. 

Then a few weeks later in Daylesford I came across this large jug, and instantly recognised the pattern as being the same as the teapot.  I thought it was a bit unusual that the jug was white, whilst the teapot had a yellow glaze - and on turning the jug over I learnt the jug was made in New Zealand, and wasn't part of the English Arthur Wood collection. 

It's a bit of a mystery how the two pieces have the same pattern (maybe the pattern was licensed for the Australia-Pacific region?) but either way I like that the two pieces don't match perfectly, and they make a great addition to my random collection of vintage chinaware.

Kitchen sketches & illustrations

During the past few weeks I've been working on some sketches and illustrations, based on
things in the kitchen - pots and pans, utensils, food items and condiments etc. The majority
of the sketches have been created using an ink dip pen - I don't very often use a dip pen to
do my artwork, so it's been a fun excercise to practise with this medium and experiment
with drawing in a slightly different way.

As a left-handed person I've had to get special left-handed nibs to use, and I don't think I'm
holding the pen 'correctly', but I like the effect nontheless and I've gradually started to find
my way with how to acheive the quality of line I'm after. I've predominantly used a Speedball
C-3 nib for the outlines, and a much thinner C-6 nib for any fine detailed areas.


Several of the illustrations have been created quite loosly with ink and a paintbrush, or I've used a wash of ink to add in a few subtle shadow details.  I've found the ink dip pen forces me to be quite simple with linear markings, but I like how the contrast between thick and thin lines is enough to create a sense of detail, perspective and shadow in a very minimal way.         

Here we go again!

It was just over a year ago that we packed up our life in Melbourne, and did our own little Escape to the Country, moving north and settling in Kyneton. We've absolutely loved making the move out of the city, and have formed great friendships (with many other 'ex-pat' Melbournians) as well as enjoying fabulous local food, wineries, markets and lots of new vintage places to explore.

We've made our life in the country a little more permanent, as a few weeks ago we purchased a house here in Kyneton. And so I find myself again surrounded by boxes, packing up daily life and carefully wrapping treasured items for the short journey across town to our new home.

Many of the items I'm carefully wrapping up aren't worth anything - teacups and teapots found in the bric-a-brac section of the local op-shop, plates gathered at vintage markets and miscellaneous ceramics and kitchenalia from garage sales. However, I'd be devastated if I lost my collection of bits and pieces. If my TV / DVD / bike / kettle / toaster etc breaks - so what - I just get a new one. No big deal. Go to the shop...choose new item.....purchase....bring home. Easy.

However, my favourite teacup or plate might only be worth $5 - but I bought it because it was different, unusual, individual. I bought it because I loved the pattern, the shape, the colour, the old-fashioned feel and look of it. I bought it because it's not something you find everyday in every high street shop - but because I might never come across that same item ever again. Not so easy to replace.

It will be exciting unpacking and finding new homes for all of our belongings (many of which need a little dusting!) and I'll look forward to sharing some of our new house adventures here.  Above is a sneak-peek of the house - we've gone for a cheeky 1970's number.  Wish us luck for the move and fingers crossed my ceramic treasures survive the journey!

Little Golden Book - Animal Book

Cats cuddle. Cats purr. Nothing's as smooth as cats' fur.
Mice scuttle. Mice squeak. When the cat's about, Mice sneak.

Owls hoot and Owls blink. No one knows just what Owls think.

I'm always on the hunt for second-hand Little Golden Books, and I've collected some fabulous ones recently.  One of my favourites is this My Little Golden Animal Book, which is full of very cute animal illustrations - farm animals, domestic animals, flying animals and swimming animals are all here.

The book is dated 1963 and features little rhyming dities to accompany each animal, with the very sweet illustrations drawn by Moritz Kennel.