Just popping in quickly to let you know that I am still alive and very busy being creative! This weekend I have my return to the Handmade Markets in Canberra after a 4 year absence! Well – I wasn’t really absent, I was working for Handmade Canberra, but this is my return as a designer, so it is a bit exciting! I have been flat out making and designing and getting carried away with ideas, so here are a few of the products I will have on sale and on display at the markets this weekend!
All that colour!! I will be back soon to fill you in with more detail of what has been happening in the nest, what other projects I have on the go and, of course, how the markets go, so stay tuned!
I have been reflecting over the last week on what it is that I am doing with my time! When I worked full time I seemed to have more time to sew, to blog, etc. Now that I am self-employed I seem to be running in circles all the time. I am not sitting idle, and am not spending hours surfing the internet, yet I seem to not get to the things that I want to do. This was frustrating me for quite a while, until I realised that the things that I have added in to my days are the very reasons that I am no longer working full time.
Over the last few years I have had to shift my priorities. I have had to change my parenting style. I have re-invented our day to day life. (Not just once!). The reason that I have less time available to sew, or blog, or return phone calls, or pay bills (oops!) is because I am more present in my children’s lives. I am still not engaged at the level that I could be, and am certainly not a saint (heaven forbid) but I have come to realise that by spending more time putting the children first our life is better. Now when my boy is starting to get angry and lash out I can normally pin point the cause within a few minutes. I can usually remember the strategies that will help him to calm down without escalation. (Usually. Definitely not always.) When my artist-in-residence is collapsing in a ball of spiky frustration I can see where it has come from and help her to unravel and calm down. (Sometimes). And when my eldest chick is having completely out of character episodes of appalling behaviour I have no idea. Until I empty her rubbish bin and realise that she has been sneaking her little brother’s snacks – full of gluten – and her body is attacking itself.
Much easier to be kind to myself when I think about what we have dealt with each day and how we have resolved it!
I have had a couple of great moments this week that I wanted to share. I was fortunate enough to be invited to see Mary Poppins, the musical, being produced by the Free Rain Theatre Company at the Canberra Theatre. (One of the amazing up-sides of the Human Brochure experience has been invitations to so many wonderful events!) I took the artist-in-residence and we absolutely loved it! It was, to quote Mary herself, ‘practically perfect, in every way’. We even had a chance to have our photos taken with some of the cast afterwards!
The artist-in-residence having a night at the theatre.
This weekend just past was also very special. The Handmade Markets were on, in a new location here in Canberra. I am still not at the point where I am ready to return to having my own stall, but I love my role in the background of the markets, which allows me to interact with all the market designers on an individual level. The exposure to so many talented people is a true delight. Even better, I was able to take the children with me and when we stopped to talk to different stallholders the children had the chance to interact with them too. They got to taste beautifully handcrafted chocolate (thanks Cicada chocolate!), to receive hugs and rainbow roses from GG’s flowers (special hug thanks to Gayana), and the artist-in-residence was able to talk to different artists about their work and her own art. Mick from Leafy Sea Dragon presented her with one of his cards depicting one of his own artworks as an encouragement to another artist. She was thrilled!
The eldest chick and her two friends ran their own business throughout the markets, providing stall holder support. They were exhausted but very happy and very proud at the end of the weekend. This band of 12-year-old young women are learning about money management, customer service, hard work, planning, and innovation at a young age and I could not be prouder of them!!
I also managed to sneak myself a treat on Friday night. I had an hour to fill between finishing helping with the market set up, and when I was to collect the children from their father’s house. I thought about ringing friends etc but decided to take myself into town for a meal on my own. We have an area here called ‘The Hamlet’ which is where the gourmet food vans park, and various funky shops are tucked away. I went to the Mr Papa van – Peruvian Street Food. Oh my goodness.
The burger made with slow cooked pork belly, sweet potato, and a very tasty sauce and salsa combo is heavenly! I then followed it up with a little trip to the Frugii Dessert Laboratory where the ice-cream alchemist creates beautiful ice-creams, and desserts! (The owners are also delightful people!)
I had the choux pastry with hazelnut cream, and blood orange syrup. And even better – I had time to sit and enjoy and just have time to myself. Talk about bliss!
A custom order set for a baby overseas
After all this inspiration my plan was to sew, design, and create all week. Hmmmm…… the best laid plans! Between routine medical appointments, school meetings, housework, and general family commitments, I have managed only a very small amount of sewing.
An ipad case, coin purse and key fob for a birthday girl in Melbourne.
The good news though is that I have created some new pattern templates, which is speeding up my process a lot. (Instead of measuring and cutting each piece I am now using a template to cut each piece – such a simple thing but one I just hadn’t done!!) I also finally made a key ring fob – something on my ‘to do’ list for a long time. I like it! Maybe I should make some more….. where is that ‘to-do’ list again?
Wandering on the farm is a delightful pastime
The dam is the source of much entertainment – and home to some venomous snakes!
I love the skies out here!
I did spend time with my boy down at our dam finding rocks, sticks and long grasses to try and create ‘survival tools’ like spears and knives. We haven’t been particularly successful yet but we have had a lot of fun trying!
And I indulged in some fabric shopping – with no particular project in mind! It is just so lush! The new range from Skinny la Minx, via Hawthorne Threads. Drool.
Now to decide what to do with it! Choices, choices, choices!
I hope that you have been able to find time for yourself in your week too.
Our two weeks of school holidays start today! The children definitely need the break, and their mother isn’t complaining either! While we have a camping trip planned for the second week of the holidays, for the first week I thought we might explore a bit more of the city we live in, rather than sitting at home with eyes glued to screens. (Wish me luck!)
There are some amazing classes, programs, and activities available during the holidays, and my children have a long wish list. However money is a little tight, and I realised that it was probably time for us to craft a list that focussed on things that don’t cost a lot of money, but will be really enjoyable.
These giant snails next to a floral wall spelling out Floriade are beautifully colourful!
1. Floriade. Yep – it may be clichéd but the huge floral displays are open throughout the holidays, are free to enter, and provide lots of different opportunities for being involved. There is a different program of activities every day. The tips I gained from head gardener, Andrew Forster, were to check the program first thing each morning before planning your day. There are great things in the ‘Fun for Kids‘ section, including potting their own plants, attending Bunnings workshops, a circus playground with workshops, and more! (And Bindi Irwin will be at the inspiration hub giving talks one day.) If all else fails, take a picnic and let the kids run around on the big grassed areas.
2. Arboretum. The national collection of plants is free to enter, and roam around. In addition to the wonderful wooden pod playground, there are also open spaces for picnics and running around, and amazing photographic opportunities. There is a free creative corner during these holidays, plus a program of workshops ranging in prices from $10 – $30. My personal plan is to pack some food and take the kids there with their cameras/iPods etc and run a family photo competition. If it works I will publish their entries here for you to enjoy!
3. National Archives of Australia. You might remember that I enjoyed a tour of the National Archives as part of the discovery phase of the Human Brochure. I have been wanting to take the children there ever since, and with the opening of the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize this week, the timing is perfect! Entry to the archives is free, and there is a great range of exhibitions that I think my children will enjoy exploring – including one of ‘banned’ material that I think will appeal to my son!!
Industrial remnants installed at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens
4. National Gallery Sculpture Gardens. I suspect that taking my active children (well, let’s be honest, my son) into the Gallery could be a recipe for stress, but I think that exploring the Sculpture Gardens, with reflective sculptures, floating heads, and my favourite, the James Turrell installation “Within Without’, could be much less stressful! I might even include that in our family photo competition!
5. Geocaching. We have been a little slack in our geocaching for about a year (oops) but the upside of that is that there will be lots of new caches around town that we haven’t discovered. If you aren’t aware of geocaching it involves looking for hidden caches/containers that contain a log book, and occasionally swap-able or track-able items, using GPS coordinates. You can download a free version of the app to your phone, or use the GPS from your car (or go really rustic and use a compass!) and search for different caches hidden in public spaces, and logged on a website so that others can look for them. I like to pick a geographic area, park the car and then go for a walk with the kids to find as many as we can before someone gets tired and complains!
6. National Museum of Australia. The museum is always great for an interactive experience with kids, and these holidays they are running free drop in workshops in their Discovery Space, including one where you can make your own wire sculpture. (Wonder if the kids will realise that I am there to do it for me, rather than to entertain them?!)
7. National Library of Australia. On 2 October the Library has a story time session and a movie for children, both of which are free. But the thing that appeals to me for my children is the Library detective – a free ‘find it’ trail of discovery.
Plus one more. Handmade Markets. Entry to these amazing markets (no I am not at all biased) is free! Of course it won’t end up being truly free as the temptation to buy so many of the beautiful products there is hard to resist, so I haven’t included it in my list of 7 – but wanted to remind you that it is a great day out! 4 and 5 October at the National Convention Centre! (I won’t have a stall there but will be there helping out anyway!)
There are many more things to do in Canberra over the holidays, but this list will keep us going I think! What ideas do you have for free activities these holidays?
This weekend just past was a long weekend in Australia, in celebration of the Queens’s birthday. (Which is amusing really as her birthday is actually in April.) Anyway, it means a three day weekend, and who am I to argue the semantics of whether we should or shouldn’t be having a day off in June? It also means that winter has started, and, more importantly for me, that the Handmade Markets have been held.
I know that I have written about these markets before, and that I am a bit biased as a stall holder at the markets, but they really are quite fabulous. The standard of handmade, Australian made, goods that are available is very high, and the diversity is wide. (and to show that it isn’t just me that thinks so here are some links to media coverage of the markets! ABC news coverage, Canberra Times article)
I have been working flat out over the last weeks to ensure that I had enough stock to take to the markets, and that it was of a sufficiently high quality. (Which explains my relative quiet here on the blog – I have been busy sewing!) It definitely paid off. I was very happy with the presentation of my stall this time (learning and refining each time I do a market) and with the bags and bibs that I had on offer.
Making bibs for the markets
I had planned to make pencil rolls to take to the Market as well, and had left them as my last bit of sewing to do on Friday. Until the mailman delivered a parcel from Spoonflower (that I had ordered 5 weeks earlier) and I was compelled to wash, cut and sew the fabric into bibs – it was too cute for words! Needless to say – no pencil rolls.
Very cute fabric from Spoonflower
Then, to top off an already exciting day, I had a mid-afternoon mail delivery of a magazine called ‘Love Sewing Australia’ which is a new publication released by Practical Publishing, an Australian publishing group. Why was it so exciting? Because a pattern that I wrote was published in the magazine!! I was approached to submit a project back in January/February and prepared a tutorial for making an Oma tote (named after my grandmother, Oma) and a yarn bag – a pouch with holes for yarn to feed through so that you can knit or crochet on the go. And there it is, in radiant colour! The magazine is available in Coles supermarkets and newsagencies here in Australia. I might have to go and buy a couple of spare copies!
Page 22 of “Love Sewing Australia”
The markets were busy. I was on my feet all day of each weekend, with few exceptions, and talking to the most amazing customers. I think that attending markets and interacting with customers is the icing on the cake for me. There are so many wonderful people who want to talk about products and learn about them, and who are interested in what I can provide them, that it is really energising. They were also so busy that I had to do a bit of sewing on Saturday night to re-stock in time for Sunday! (Luckily common sense kicked in so I only made a few bibs, then went to bed – I was bone weary!)
There were two big differences in my experience of the markets this time. The first was that I didn’t need to call on my friends to help out with last minute prep, or set up. However I did utilise my children. The artist in residence spent time on Wednesday night attaching stickers to bags and cutting out care instructions. Then on Friday night the eldest chick rode her bike to my house straight from school (while the other two were still at their father’s house) and helped all afternoon, and into the evening, with packaging, counting, cutting, labelling, etc. Then she attended the markets all day Saturday and helped with the set up, and served customers. She interacted with them, told them about the products, made small talk, and made a few good sales!
The morning sun made for warmth on a cold morning, but not for great photos!
The artist-in-residence attended on Sunday morning but was a little shy and didn’t feel comfortable talking to customers on her own. That, of course, was okay too. She did join in a conversation with a lovely couple who overcame her shyness by talking to her about things she was interested in, and she was able to tell them that she is having a painting submitted for an exhibition shortly. They were suitably impressed and asked for her name so that they could say they had met the famous artist when she was a child – and that made her day! (They also bought a bag, so that made mine!!)
The second difference was that customers knew me from the last market, and came looking for me specifically! That was a real buzz! I had a great position on the side of the market hall, which meant that there was room in front of the stall for people to chat without blocking the stall, and they could browse without feeling they were holding other people up. I was also interviewed for a TV show by the delightful Kitty von Tastique whose hair colours put mine to shame! This is definitely not my best angle, or shot, but a selfie was required!
The interesting thing that I am finding about the markets and my products is that I am constantly growing. I am developing my ideas, my style and my approach, and feeling more comfortable in my skin every day. Being able to say, quite honestly, “This is my full time job” felt good.
I also had my very first experience of someone being openly shocked at my prices. Of course it happened when another designer I know, who has attended one of my mentoring sessions, and who also makes fabric bags, was at my stall. I had just been giving her a pep-talk about how her prices were too low when a lady came and admired my bags, decided that she liked one, and then asked the price and recoiled in horror, thrust the bag back at me and said ‘Oh no, I won’t pay that” and walked away! I didn’t mind personally but thought that the timing was more than a little ironic!
For now, though, I am back in the sewing room, making new stock for my Etsy shop, for the Handmade Shop, and filling custom orders. I also need to catch up on my posts about my experiences in the Human Brochure – they have been amazing!
Ah Friday. The end of the week. In days gone by the night that I went out drinking, dancing, flirting and enjoying myself. These days I am happy if the house is peaceful, relatively clean, and I have some decent music to listen to while I sip my cup of tea! How times change!
Speaking of change (nice segue huh?) I am extremely happy and very proud to report that today, at the first Junior assembly of the year at the new school, my boy not only (jointly) compered the assembly, but received an award from the Principal for showing principled action in making the right choices. Wow! His stepmother and I were both able to be there and were so proud. While this is still early days, and as we have all experienced, anything can happen, it is certainly a very pleasant change to have such positive experiences with him at school!
The eldest chick has returned from her school camp, and from the excited conversation we had on the phone, it was a resounding success! They were able to participate in so many wonderful activities like archery, abseiling, a disco, and the experience of being away from home for 3 nights. She was a bit put out that for the second year in a row their raft building activity was cancelled due to weather! Her absence also meant that for the last two days I have only had the middle chick at home. She and I pottered around quietly and kept commenting how very, very quiet it was! We agreed that while it was nice for a change, neither of us would like it for much longer! (I didn’t have the heart to point out to her that for the next two weeks I will have a much quieter house while they are all at their father’s house!)
With all of this quietness I have been sewing! I decided that I don’t really like the way that the camera that I appliqued in my last post has turned out – the pattern on the fabric is wrong for the shapes, so I have put that aside for a while. My other appliques however, have turned into these (excusing the photos taken with my phone!)
I have discovered iTunes radio on my new iPad so I can report that these bags were all made while I listened to the familiar tunes of 1980’s rock! Trips down memory lane while sewing – so much fun! Two weeks until the Handmade Markets – I see a lot more dodgy music in my very near future!
I hope that your week has had a great balance of quietness, creativity and music!