Tuesday, 31 March 2009

one pane short of a window

......or in this case kicked in at 2.48am.
Not a nice way to wake up. Calling the police and putting in a report, cleaning up and digging out cardboard boxes and trying to find where you left the packing tape last, fighting off a kitten who is desperate to have a look (that old curiousity/cat equation) and is a little scared and wants to be with it's human.
I had great and glorious plans for this Tuesday. I'd done a whole pile of prep and envisaged a long day of solid work. But now I'm sitting here waiting for a call from the glazier. I didn't get back to sleep until just before 6 and then had freaky dreams. Bugger, bugger, bugger.
The upside of feeling like a geek when the police arrived was that they stumbled on a burglary just up the road......... Neighbourhood Watch huh!

The window is on top of someone ripping out a whole section of  the doily tree on Saturday night. Luckily that was a simple repair and I had a big doily that stretched into the spot perfectly. That made me realise how low on doilies I am. I think some doily harvesting is in order.

Monday, 30 March 2009

special project

Here's a few quick snaps of the Special Project. I have go get it finished before the end of the month. I picked up a batch of thread the other day before I had put pen to paper, sometimes you need the colours before you, and even though I had the image in my head I'm still curious about the colours I chose. I need to go back though and get more of the in between shades that I didn't get as I was trying to be careful with how much I spent- ha ha. This week is going to involve a lot of juggling, of both time and money, which is going to be very very frustrating. Not looking forward to getting  things sorted.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

another sunday

Well it's been a peaceful- if somewhat long- Sunday.
I went to Camberwell Market to see the Paper Man. He has the best paper blocks for drawing designs on. And cheap. And he's been there forever.
Back home just after 8 with Babka danish and hot cross bunnies and the newspaper. I took to my bed with tea and papers- perfect. Sadly I don't remember anything I read. Jethro spent hours sitting in the sun in the window watching the birds on the roof over the way and making little squeaking noises when he spied a particularly good one. I think deep down his goal in life is to one day catch a real-life-soon-to-be-dead bird. Top target would be a duck, that would include his two favourite passions, birds and water. I have never met a cat who simply loves sitting under a running tap or playing paw deep in a basin of water for hours. There is a constant trail of wet pawprints through this house.
I've managed to get 6 dyepots on and we now have new new glove colours- I think we are up to 22 at the moment (one pot was a repeat dye). Today's main job though was to get the design ready for the Special Project. I've started actually making it so that is a good thing. Stay tuned. It got too dark for me to photograph anything.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

the final word

Once again thanks to everyone for their messages, some people even took the 'Discuss in 500 words' challenge! Excellent!

I've been agonising over what to write. I've felt a little at siege here, that there have been things taken out of context or people have chosen to read into the article what they wanted to hear (or perhaps not wanted to hear). I've written and deleted and brainstormed and have decided that what I need to write is..............

 'This is My Craft'.

My Craft is not female. My Craft contains the other 50% of the population. It is not exclusive. It is not ageist. 
My Craft is about skill, learning, improving and continuously developing. It is grounded in history and tradition. From this launch pad I can go anywhere. 
My Craft is not static. It is a journey, with many sidetracks and dead ends, many glorious vistas and many dark, winding and dangerous paths.
My Craft is how I make my living. Making is hard and dirty work. It is exhausting and physical. It injures and tires.
My Craft makes my heart sing. If I could not create I would not be me.  My Craft is not your Craft.
My Craft is Me.

Ok, let's ditch the 'poetry' and talk turkey.
I do not see criticism about craft as being knocking other women (as you see My Craft is not restricted to women only- I'm quite open to criticising craft made by men too!). I've written quite a bit about Feminism throwing the baby out with the bathwater- cooking and handiwork are disenfranchising women's work, don't do them! Get a job! This lead to a whole generation devoid of craft skill, a new generation of conspicuous consumers. These conspicuous consumers are now spending their money on craft products. I worry that craft's new fashionable face will not last and that it has gone hand-in-hand with an unrealistic 'frilly-apron-cupcake-sugar-plum-fairy' view of craft. Maybe it is payback for Feminism turning it's back on craft.

I am not one of those people who think that you should get a certificate just for turning up. How about a certificate for quality and effort and originality? That would mean something! Learning to be critical and analytical are very good skills, they are how we improve and how we develop in our perception of the world. Yes criticism can be demoralising but it can also build you up and spur you on to other more exciting adventures. Some people wrote that they couldn't do their craft after reading the article, that they didn't feel good enough. Well I say get a backbone and prove us all wrong! Interestingly those that felt the whole article was positive were for the most part people who have been making for a long time, that have developed a confidence in their work, they did not feel threatened. So this comes to the 'how long have you been crafting?' issue- there are no awards for length of time making and doing but these more often than not correlate with skill levels. Skills are accumulative. The longer you do them (hopefully) the better you'll be at them. So sorry, I've changed my mind, you do get a medal for how long you've been crafting. 

I've decided that I'm not going to look at blogs for a few days (except for those of a few close friends) and that I might only post about what I'm making for a little while. This whole issue has taken a lot of energy and I am actually hoping that in the long run all these discussions lead to people viewing craft in ways they haven't done before.

I saw a bit of the David and Kristen Williamson interview on the 7.30 Report this evening. David made this comment and I think that it is probably a good way to end. 

"If you put your work out there, you must be prepared to be criticised."

Monday, 23 March 2009

grab a cuppa, pull up a chair and let's have a chat

First off I'd like to say thanks to everyone who texted, phoned, emailed or left a message about yesterday's article. 100% positive feedback. 
That is 100% positive feedback from those that chose to get in touch with me but I am no fool and am quite aware that there are a few people out there who aren't happy about some of the issues raised. Sadly none of them have chosen to enter the conversations here. 
So I thought I might write a bit more and hopefully they might have a think about a few issues that I think are important.

OK, first off the rank, there seems to be a problem over the terms 'Amateur' and 'Professional'. So I've pulled Mr Macquarie off the shelf- when in doubt check the dictionary!
An amateur has two relevant (in this case) definitions, the first is 'one who cultivates any study or art or other activity for personal pleasure instead of professionally or for gain' and the other is 'a superficial or unskilled worker; dabbler'. The latter stings a bit doesn't it? It's the former that I tend to use, the important bit 'instead of.... for gain', that means you aren't selling the things you are making for money or reimbursement of some kind. 
Now if you call yourself a professional then you are 'following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain; one who makes a business of an occupation, etc, especially of an art or sport, in which amateurs engage for amusement or recreation.'
So you've sold something you've made, for money, are you a professional?

Well 'professional' brings some baggage with it. 
You've taken cold hard cash (or Paypal or Spanish Doubloons or .........) and you now have the responsibility to give the government some of that. Remember when you applied for that ABN, registered the name you wanted for your business (could be your blog name but remember it actually has to be registered and confirmed with your state government to be legal- someone else might have it and you might be illegally using it or someone might 'steal' it out from under you) well doing these things brought commitments- things like tax, keeping records of money spent and earned.
There is also the commitment you make to the buyer of the item. This is that the item they are purchasing should be of an agreed quality, that it shouldn't fall apart when they get it home and that it should do what it was sold to do. This can be an area that is somewhat subjective and open to interpretation. Probably easiest to define as 'how would you feel if you got it home and it fell apart?', be honest with yourself about this! Don't settle for the 'but it's handmade' line- handmade should be well-made! 

When you made that 'thing' that you sold, did you work out how much it really cost to make?
Did you buy the components retail? (Remember each piece was therefore twice (or more)the price it would've cost wholesale. 
Did you have to buy a metre when all you wanted was 20cm? 
Did you have to drive for 4 hours to get it? 
Did you have to pay postage if you bought it mail order? 
You made the first few out of some op-shop fabric you had in the cupboard but now you have orders for more and you will need to actually buy fabric at a real price- did you take that into account when you came up with the original price?
You stayed up all night with the lights burning in the spare room that is now your studio, you've been taking internet orders over your broadband connection, you've been using your car to get supplies............ can you see where I'm heading with this? The sales of all your creatively produced items need to be able to contribute to these bills. They need to pay their way!
Did you know that if you sell a product retail with a wholesale component (that is you are selling your wares to a retailer who sells them on to the public) that the final price will be 5x the base cost (materials and labour and utilities). So the (hopefully) 2 1/2x that's coming your way is going to cover costs, profit and a tax component.
Go on have a go! 
How much have you been selling that 'thing' for? 
Have you ever worked out an 'hourly rate'? That's the money you need to get back just for your time (and that includes the 4 hours in the car hunting that special component down). How much do you earn in your 'day job'? What does the government define as a base wage? Rude shock huh? Remember most artists and creative types survive on their part time/full time jobs rather than on their artistic endeavours. 
Realistically, how much do you need to make to survive? 
How much do you need to sell to cover costs? 
So work out an hourly rate and time yourself. Remember making a production run is quicker per unit than doing sampling or making one-offs. 
Sometimes you might need to sell something for a low return but these are products that you intend to sell a lot of, so quantity wins over a high profit. Other times you might find that you can sell something and make more of a return. Swings and roundabouts.

Now about the ethics of being a professional. Have you noticed down the bottom of that pattern you've been using that it says 'This pattern is for personal use only. Do not sell items made from this pattern'. It might even have a Copyright symbol and the designers name and a date, this means that you are not to sell the final product created from the pattern. You can not get monetary gain. You can make it for yourself and to give to your family and friends but that is it. NO GAIN!
Some things I make are part of a long tradition of functional objects, tea cosies are a good example of this. These things are in many ways exempt from copyright in their look, but as I cut my own pattern and chose to create them in a particular manner they become my intellectual property. Many designs have a zeitgeist feel in their development and creation, that is many people come up with similar designs at the same time. Call it fashion. So if you are going to develop a product that is of a recognisable heritage then think how you can make it your own.

And this brings us to POD.
POD stands for Point of Difference. What makes your product individual, interesting, unique?
What story are you telling? Are you just 're-packaging' something, putting your brand on it?
Do you have a concept? A theme that runs through the pieces you make?
Will people come out looking for your work? What is your market? Who buys your product?
Are you selling to a small pool of like minded people, is this a 'closed' pool, will it run out one day? Are you inventive enough to come up with fresh ideas- regularly?

OK so I've bombarded you with questions...... are you thinking about them? Are you being realistic about the amateur/professional scale? It is a scale you know, a sliding scale, you don't just end up in one group or the other, you work you way along depending on a multitude of things.
 The main thing is there is no amateur=bad/professional=good part to this. What it is about is that if you want GAIN then you need to treat it seriously and produce work that you have designed and made with integrity and quality. This is were the definition of craft comes in......

Craft can mean 'skill, ingenuity, dexterity; an art requiring special skill, especially manual skill; a handicraft'. Now I know a heap of hugely talented people whose craft and design skills are seriously beyond belief but they without fail consider themselves amateurs because they don't aim to sell their work. They spend their creative time developing their skills and enjoying creating. Excellent! To me craft is all about skill, it's not about expensive branded products as I wrote yesterday. Sadly modern hobby craft is being driven heavily by consumerism, 'buy the equipment, buy the fabric designed by XX, etc', which is a sad indictment of what is meant to be a return to basics movement...... but that's a post for another day.

So I'm going to repeat- you don't need to sell your craftwork to justify why you are doing it! 
You see (and this is the bitter pill)............... 

Not all craft is equal.
(And you know what?-that's just fine!)

Discuss in 500 words.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

sunday papers

I had plans to have a nice new post up and ready for this morning but left the camera attached to the computer and had a flat battery. My battery was a bit flat too after a crazy day in the shop yesterday. 
So yes there is an article on Craft in today's Sunday Age and yes there is another exceedingly average shot of me. I'm toying with the idea of hiring a stand in for photos (although the one in the local rag last year was very nice... and the one dear Mel took that I use in the sidebar....), I've never been photogenic and in today's media age that is a hindrance! I suppose I either accept it or organise plastic surgery........ I think the stunt double might be cheaper and far less painful!
I also don't know how I feel about being called a 'craft traditionalist'. I use craft techniques that have been around forever but I hopeful put them to use in new design driven ways. Traditional crafts, yes, craft traditionalist, no. Oh, language, you are a fickle mistress!
So I've done my grizzling for a Sunday morning (view it kinda like Confession and needing to get it off one's chest!). 
If you are new to this blog and want to read my rantings about craft in this day and age then check out the cupcaking and copycat posts.
And most of all remember that everyone should be doing a bit of craft, everyday, for their mental health. We talk about eating the right food, drinking in moderation, excercising but craft is meditation and sensory delight, problem solving and the joy of creating all rolled into one. You don't need expensive branded equipment, coffee table books or need to join a group. A set of knitting needles from the op-shop, a ball of wool (here I will say do try to go for the natural fibres if you can they are so much nicer to handle and much more forgiving when they need to be re-wound) and a comfy couch. Craft is a journey that once started on is a lifetime's adventure. It never ends and will take you down many paths. (Hey I sound a bit new-agey there- my apologies!)

And I think most of all, when you are participating in a craft you are linking back to thousands of years of making, and really what could be more mind-blowing than that? You are a link in a very, very long chain.

Saturday, 21 March 2009


I've been wondering for awhile how long it was until Jethro negotiated the fence into the nextdoor's backyard. I'd noticed long periods were I couldn't hear his bell or it took him ages to come when I called. 
So this morning he disappeared and I knew he was around. A little tink of his bell gave him away. He was sitting still as a statue on top of the fence looking at me. You could see that cat-look of 'damn' when I looked up at him.
The main problem with all this fence jumping is that is very hard for him to get back to this side. And there is the bit where he climbs up higher onto the lattice work and wanders along trying to workout how to get down into the Outside World. And there lies an even bigger problem...... there is No Way Back from that side. Sheer fences and no gaps to squeeze through.
Jethro is too 'growed-up' now. He wants to run and jump and chase birds. What is a protective mother to do?

By the way today is the last day of our First Birthday Sale so be quick if you want to pick something up- 11am 'til 6pm!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

shake, rattle and doll

There I was in the middle of class, 10 floors up and the floor began to shake. We thought they we just doing something crazy downstairs. 
I'm feeling like Melbourne is a bit topsy at the moment (or should that be 'tipsy' right now?!).
Very strange.
There is a song on the new Neko Case album titled 'Never turn your back on Mother Earth'. Do you think she's giving us a bit of shake to wake us up?

One more class to teach this week and back into the studio on Friday. So far in the last two weeks I have been in there one day...... not greatly productive, very annoying, aggravating, arrrggghh and lots of other 'A' words. I have been doing double amounts of teaching but that ends this week, less money more time. When I went into the studio on Tuesday it felt like it was someone else's and I was trespassing. It was also very dusty. And messy.

I went to the Rosalie Gascoigne exhibition last Friday- wonderful! I 'saw' so much of it as superb textile pieces. The 'Earth' series was Amish quilts made from natural dyed fabrics, madder red and brown. I'm sure one work could have been pieced from flour bags. The enamel found object groups made my heart sing- oh how I love enamel ware- really inspirational.

And if you haven't been- you missed it, it closed on Sunday.

Friday, 13 March 2009

the cottage turns 1 and we are giving you the present!

This weekend the Cottage is turning 1 year old.
(I really can't believe it.)
To say thank you for all your support over the last year we are giving 20% off on all stock...... yes, you read that right....... 20% off ! This includes new stock too! (But, sadly, no laybys and it applies to retail sales only.) 
Our little 'thank you sale' is on from this Saturday the  14th of March to next Saturday the 21st.
So if there is something you've been eyeing off then now is the time to come by!
(I really, really, can't believe it's been a year.....)

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

36 hours in a day

I haven't managed to get into the studio since Friday. Sometimes all the other things one needs to do just get in the way. Normally I like to spend holiday days in the studio, its quiet and peaceful and I tend to get lots of work done. Yesterday though, I stayed home to try to get a few things sorted. The tides of crap keep lapping across the floor and over all the horizontal surfaces. I've been here a year and finally yesterday I got around to hanging some pictures. I think having spent so long painting the walls here I couldn't bring myself to actually banging a nail in! Of course I ran out of hooks half way through but at least some of the pic are up instead of leaning against the wall!

I can't believe how quickly the light has changed and even if we do get more warm weather it is definitely autumn here in Melbourne Town. I love this time of the year but it also makes me melancholy. It's all tied up with accidents and broken bones and long hospital stays and years of recovery. Just to remind me, my body has gone haywire over the last week, with spasming and pain........ hmmmm......... anniversary-shmanniversary.

But now one anniversary is overlaid with another..........stay tuned!

Exciting to see our Divine Miss Bianca, Supreme Leader of The Toy Society in today's Age newspaper! Excellent! All she needs now for world domination is a cool leather swivel chair and a fluffy white cat (toy version of course).

Today's busy-ness was filled with emails and phone calls and packages and running around.
And I still need to prep for tomorrow's classes.
Indeed 36 hours in a day.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

still trembling at the knees

After our 5 seconds (if that!) of excitement last night..... life gets back to normal.
Today is all about KNITS.

The new batch of gloves is ready to go into store today. Three lengths and lots of colours (but no black quite yet, still waiting for the mailman to bring the parcels from interstate) including 'danger', 'rhubarb', 'smoke' (that's a dark grey for those needing monochromatics), 'primula' and a host of others. No photo yet and anyway photos never do justice to these fluffy lil paw warmers. This year's batch is especially nice, the yarn spinners did a really nice job and the knitting is most fine.

The chilly weather of the last week- oh how wonderful it has been- has put me in a panic about autumn and winter stock for the shop. There is going to be a bit of a wait on some stock (as usual) but I have managed to get these  boiled wool cardi-jackets ready. The fabric for these has been knitted in the studio and then felted down. The jackets have raw edges and seams and fabric covered press studs. Each one is different depending on the variegations in the yarn.

The first skein of handspun is coming off the knitting needles. Made from silk and wool this is a medium weight scarf, really soft and drapey. I think it wants to have a fringe. Funny how some pieces dictate the way they should be made. It is an interesting thing about making handmade, whilst you guide the creation of a piece you also have to 'listen' to what it wants to become. Sometimes work needs to be tamed and other times if you fight it you end up throwing it across the room in frustration.

Friday, 6 March 2009

yes dear, the earth moved for me too

Well it really happened.
I had to wait and check because I thought I was imagining it.
Jethro jumped and looked shocked. 
I jumped and looked shocked.
We both saw the whole length of the building from the couch to the bedroom move back and forwards.
So far we've had a drought, bushfires and now an earthquake (tremour)........... what next?
Plagues of boils and toads raining from the skies? I hope not- I don't own an umbrella.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

of puddles and ugg boots

I couldn't believe it when I ran into a friend this morning and she said in a grizzling voice 'can you believe this weather?' and started to complain about the rain. I said, in shock, that she better not say another word, she stopped and back-tracked saying that she just wished it was a little bit more humid. (This is a person whose mother has been evacuated from Warburton 4 times in the last few weeks . Go figure!)

I love the rain and I love that it has been cool and not humid and hope this continues. 
A good drenching is food for the soul.
I walked through the rain to school today. 
It was so drippy and dreamy I walked down the wrong road.
I got my ugg boots out last night. 
I have potatoes, pumpkin and haloumi roasting in the oven.
Joy, oh joy, it is autumn.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

raincoats and wishes

Quite apart from the dire message that went out to all or mobile phones yesterday, I'm loving lying in bed and hearing the rain tick down the gutters.

I'm in the throws of sampling a raincoat for winter. I'm viewing it as a plea for a winter of gentle, constant, soaking rain (no 'all of a months rain in 24 hours' sort of downpours please- and we must specify this when we wish because you know Fate will play that game with us and send floods just to f*ck us over).

Sunday, 1 March 2009

tie our love in a double knot

Well the dyeing has been happening today. Stockpots and puddles everywhere, the washing machine going, strangely coloured fingers. Being the first day of autumn it was probably a good day to get as much done as possible. The blotch rate is down, except for the coral dyepot I forgot to put the grill in the bottom of, this batch is going to be messy. I sometimes think that I don't have enough patience for dyeing, unlike the Clever Girl! Nikki's dyeing is always lovely!
The photos on Nikki's blog of her new range are looking simply beautiful. 
Nik sent through a link to the Pluckyfluff site and I got excited and the next thing I knew I had the spinning wheel whirring around.........
It's here I have to admit that when I was a youngster I was a member of the Handweavers and Spinners Guild, in fact their youngest member. I used to do a lot of weaving and we had looms and spinning wheels and all that sort of stuff at home. So it's been quite a few years (gulp) since I did any spinning but it's amazing how craft remains in one's fingers

A couple of skeins later.............

....... and I just need the time to do more.
I forgot how meditative spinning is. I had been in the need of some 'craft for the soul' and the making of such an elemental thing as yarn is really quite joyous. Nikki recently posted about 'slow fashion', a sister movement to 'slow food' and espoused by makers and designers like Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin. In this financial climate, as we watch businesses like Pacific Brands move off-shore and go for profits over all else, we should stop to think of the 'soul' in the clothing we put on our backs. 

p.s. the post title is because I was listening to Dolly Parton whilst working this morning and it's one of those song lines that just stick in your head. You know how it is!