Wednesday, 31 December 2008

new year

So the bookcases are up. The floor is clean(er). A quiet night is planned (the country celebration has been cancelled due to illness in the host family). Really I hate New Year celebrations, the pressure is too great, behaviour dreadful, really safer to stay at home.

It has been a huge year at the Cottage. So many changes and new beginnings. There has been highs and lows for friends and family, babies born, life changing happenings, people arriving back from adventures in the wide world, all in one short year. We've had the Global Financial Crisis and the philosophies of the Slow Movement and Buy Local making even more sense. Some years just seem to cram it all in. 

To end this year I'd like to quote a great article that appeared in The Age today, a great interview with fellow Craft Victorian Damien Wright about the table he has made for the Koori County Court at Morwell. In the article he talks about 'craft', not of the cupcakey but of the 'skill of the hand' type of craft.
'For Wright, that this can happen is why is important that some things should still be made by craft workers.
"I relish being able to think about the way an object can be both functional and symbolic and political', he says.
That kind of thinking, Wright insists, happens more easily when things are made by hand than in the industrialised process.'

Remember, objects made by hand also come with heart and a story. They can be both functional and beautiful, giving both enjoyment and meaning to even the simplest of tasks. Drinking tea from a handmade cup, sleeping under a handmade quilt, become mediative experiences.

'Art will make out streets as beautiful as woods, as elevating as the mountain-side: it will be a pleasure and a rest, and not a weight upon the spirits to come from the open country into a town. Every man's house will be fair and decent, soothing to his mind and helpful to his work.'
William Morris

Have a lovely New Year, how ever you choose to celebrate it, and may 2009 bring joy and happiness.

Monday, 29 December 2008

ikea bad, bunnings good

Apologies- there may possibly be a spate of cute kitten photos until I actually get a life happening again. I apologise whole heartedly. Just go with it.

Note to self- don't attempt Ikea any time between Xmas and the New Year. Especially at 1pm. The only upside of driving around and around the undercover carpark was actually seeing a plasticky 4wd lose its side panels to a row of metal posts. He must have been spitting chips! (That's an euphemism for being exceedingly annoyed.) 

Bunnings was however much more civilised. Easy parking and hardware- what more could a girl want? So I checked out a few bits and pieces for the home reno project- and bought a clothes line- joy oh joy! 
Then when I got home I noticed Laurie was out the back of his place, with tools, and after asking if he had an angle grinder (see yesterday's post), he popped down and in 2 seconds flat had sheared off the wonky dyna-bolts that were holding up the shonky gate and the Summer Project can begin! Of course this now means that I need to buy 
1. paint
2. wood
3. decking
4. other stuff
I swore after the Big Shop Reno that I would never pick up another paint brush............ but I suppose this is just the tail end of that big renovation, the stuff I ran out of energy and time to do. 
Of course being excluded from Ikea means that I can't get the bookcases I need so that I can clean up upstairs. That's the excuse I'm going with at this point. I suppose I could get out of bed and get down there before the doors open, park in the pick up zone and run in and grab what I need before the crazy Ikea shopping crowd have even made it through the lounge room display area.......... but that would mean I would need to set the alarm and that at the moment is just not in the holiday spirit at all.

PS Jethro has taken to sitting in the dryer, with or without fabric bits and if the door is closed he will paw at the porthole until it is opened so he can pop in and sit watching the world. NO I am NOT attempting to shrink him to keep him kitten sized.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

bidulph the blue nosed reindeer

This is Rudolph's slightly younger brother. He's a bit of a cork-head. 

Well I do have to say it's been rather nice NOT DOING ANYTHING. I had a slightly pang of guilt about not opening the shop yesterday when I left the house for the sales and saw that Little Salon and Robio were open......... but then I thought 'bugger it' and went off to buy some new mugs (to replace the last one that Jethro knocked off the bedside table and broke) and a knife (to replace the good one I accidentally put in the oven and melted the handle of). I did get to bump into Max who had taken his parents shopping for saucepans and I attempted to wheel his perambulator down a flight of stairs to see how cross-country those new fangled 3 wheelers are (heehee). 
Apparently the Boxing Day Sales were complete mayhem and all the sales assistants were still  looking a bit frazzled the day after. Many years ago I got in the front of the crowd at a sale as the doors opened. I didn't plan to actually go in and buy anything, it was like an inner city version of the Pamplona Running of the Bulls. Once inside I turned around and walked out much to the amusement of the security staff. 
Every Xmas holidays I go to bed with a pile of books and basically only surface to venture out to buy more. When the TV was in the bedroom it was also supplemented with a pile of DVDs but now that's in the Big Room and it isn't so much fun. Also the lack of cleaning has made the Big Room the Big Mess. Jethro's new sport is running from one end to the other whipping up a flurry of paper in his wake. I can not tell you the amount of joy the little feller can get out of a brown paper bag from the Brunswick Street Bookstore. He is loving me being home and at leisure. If I'm typing on the computer he's curled up on a pile of papers on the desk snoozing. If I'm lolling around reading on the bed, he's curled up on the top of the Depression Era blouse drawers. He is also quite good at playing fetch.
I've managed to go for a few strolls, lug some rubbish out to the bins and get the washing on. Not bad really for some one who is DOING NOTHING and was feeling very tired and exhausted. The vacuum has made it to the top landing (not plugged in) so I feel that actual vacuuming may happen sometime in the near future........
I do need to venture out to Ikea soon, a real clean up and sort can't happen until I get some more bookcases. Tomorrow maybe. And Bunnings. Got to go to a hardware barn definitely. It wouldn't be a holiday break without a bit of a home reno project- more on that one later. 
Slight hiccup on that front which may only get under way with a bit of angle-grinding action...... bugger.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

always burn the last biscuits

For some reason I always manage to burn the last 1/2 tray of ginger hearts every Xmas. I think it's  a sacrifice to the cooking gods.
Our first Cottage Xmas is over. It was strange and sad not being at Brunswick Street, after 16 years, spending the lead up to Xmas with the girls of Ditto Day. New and exciting things are often tinged with a little sadness for what went before.

I'm taking a little break between Xmas and New Year- well earned I think!
I'd like to thank everyone who has supported this little endeavour over this huge year. All the lovely people both in the blogverse and the real-verse who have popped by for a chat. 
Thank you thank you thank you and see you in the New Year!

Lots of love
Pen and Jethro

ps you never know, we might blog occasionally over the holidays, as the mood takes us....... maybe photos......

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

thank god it's almost over for another year

I think exhaustion has set in. Still bits and pieces to do but it's been quite peaceful in the shop- in other words......... slow. Maybe everyone has finished their shopping. Or the over 30º days have sapped everyone's energy levels. Or the GFC has hit. Or everyone is spending their Rudd Bonus on plasma screens and beer. 

Jethro, as you can see, has about doubled in size in the last two and a half weeks. All legs and tail and teeth. He likes taking showers, sitting in the refrigerator, attempting to get out the shop door and stealing angora glove off-cuts. 
The house is a complete mess from the frantic making and then physically collapsing from sheer tiredness. Upstairs is also coated in a fine layer of silver glitter from someone's discovery that the glitter container makes a great toy when knocked off the table. As young Imogen has termed it- 'disco pigsty'.

I had that minute last night, standing in Leo's Supermarket, of feeling like I wanted a good cry. Normally it hits about Xmas or Boxing Day but it's been such a big year that it's come on a bit early. I haven't had the opportunity to stockpile mountains of homemade jams and ginger heart biscuits so I feel all out of whack- I'm still not at one with the new kitchen and stove which makes it all very  much more draining to whip some treats up like I would normally do. And it really doesn't feel right not have all that sugary goodness to give away. I have even been told by a few people that they were wondering whether preserved goodness would be happening this year. I'm thinking I'll just have to IOU everyone. It's coming just not before Xmas.......

Well I need to go find a few presents. Unlike everyone else I haven't had a chance to do any shopping (or making) of my own.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

a very toy society xmas

Four Toy Society toys to be found around Melbourne...................

And go to The Toy Society to get the WORLDWIDE (!) map of drop off points.
Good luck hope you find one!

(Remember to let The Toy Society know if you have found a toy.)

Friday, 19 December 2008

fingers to the bone

There has been a lot of work to do around the Cottage. We have been very industrious. Jethro has been helping to finish purse orders for Claude the Bird in Malvern.

There's new cushions going into store on Saturday morning. There are some great Melbourne ones, other capital cities too and lots of vintage tea-towel florals and swans and patterns.
And best of all the CWA Cushion Collection (I've been pondering a collective noun for a pile of CWA cushions..... what do you think of a 'scone of cushions'?), there is a Victorian, a West Australian and a Queensland. Fabulous!

My hands look atrocious at the moment. Blistered, broken nails, peeling skin, cuts and scars. It's been a tough couple of weeks and I think by this time next week they will look like cramped talons. It's hard work on your hands all this crafty toil, but we are almost there. 
And there is other new stock in as well. Granny purses made from vintage obi fabric, vintage fabric zip purses and hairclips, and Madame du Barry will be dropping more Xmas gift tags in as well.
Time for bed- I have to be up early in the morning....... remember tomorrow is The Toy Society Xmas drop. Go to the blogsite for Bianca's treasure finders info.

Monday, 15 December 2008

water pistol target practice

Typing has been a difficult occupation of late. Apparently Macs are designed to enable kittens to lie between the stand and the screen and to swipe the typist's fingers and hit the keys that make applications disappear, turn the sound up or down or just make life frustrating and difficult for said kitten's human.
Human has resorted to a small but effective water pistol. Guess what? It worked. When the little furry head appears over the top of the chair back- squirt! Kitten jumps, races around the room and finds something else to play with. Everyone is happy. Top result!

The somewhat intermittent posting is due to the long hours of work at the moment. There are long days in the studio and then home to do more work. Hours at the sewing machine have stuffed up my sciatic nerve again and I managed to pull a muscle getting out of the car tonight. On top of last week's black eye (dropped a sewing machine on my cheek- true!) and stitching the end of my finger on the sewing machine. I know all these silly little twinges are due to being overtired and overworked. I'll just muddle through.

Our gorgeous Dell got her gorgeous brooches on Michi Girl today! Go have a look.

Our favourite Punk Pensioner, Elsie, has been off travelling and has started posting photos of her favourite older street fashionistas.  I love the Japanese pink wearing ladies. I particularly love the visor/scarf hat thingies that I often see Japanese tourists wearing. Go have a look.

And dear Katherine Bowman has joined us in the blogverse. Go and have a look at her beautiful work and her photos from her recent travels.

I had lots of things to write about but I've gone and forgotten them all. Tomorrow.

(Jethro just attempted a computer invasion. Got him with the water pistol at close range. Rather sad, cowing, little kitten made me laugh and feel really bad at the same time. He's currently  hiding behind the fax machine, which he normally likes to walk all over, making the buttons beep.)

Sunday, 14 December 2008


With all this rain I thought I better start building an Ark.
It looks like the clouds have lived a bit and it would have been nice to spend the day in bed reading and listening to the putter-patter of rain but I'm shop-girl again today- I know it's Sunday but it is a week(and a bit) out from Xmas. So if you are in the 'hood the doors to the shop will be open.

Saturday, 13 December 2008


I think in all the frantic pace of this week I forgot to mention that the little fellow has been named- Jethro (and not Deathrow, as some smart arses have 'misheard'- although if this morning's antics have anything to go by, this name may come into play occassionally!).
Jethro is so teeth-achingly cute I can't believe he hasn't appeared off the lid of a biscuit tin. Perhaps this could be a new Cottage Industry line- merchandise showcasing Jethro.
He did manage to totally upstage me on Monday in a shop photo shoot...............

We were lying in bed this morning listening to the rain. I had a deja vu moment and was thinking of snow and drives in the country. But no, it's the new Melbourne tropical rain. I'm hoping no one comes in today moaning about the rain, we need it people and it's nice, although I'm not looking forward to a bit of sunshine because then it really will be humid and sweaty.

It's been a busy week of long days in the studio and evenings working at home. I still have so much stock to finish and a short time in which to do it. I loathe doing production and try to cheer myself up by making piles of finished stock. Or by eating chocolate. Or both.

animal adoption

Being the complete twit I am, I forgot to post  this for yesterday. Danielle Lu (aka Coconut Lu, Princess la Nutt) and Jess Morrison are having having a studio sale. You can go along and adopt one of their crazy lolly bright animal trophy brooches. These crazy critters have a appeared on Michi Girl and you can find them in Fat, Douglas and Hope and Craft Vic.
I think there is also other studios open at Carlow House this weekend,  Level 9, so it might be well worth the trip! One stop Xmas pressie shopping.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

what about the lost toys?

As you know I love The Toy Society, bringing toys to the unsuspecting, but one evening I came across this little feller. Over a couple of days I saw him a few times, each time he had been moved and repositioned around the Pax Invictis memorial at St Peter's Eastern Hill. I wondered about all those lost toys and what happens to them. Is there anyone out there to catch them when they fall, living on the streets, separated from their loved ones? 

Monday, 8 December 2008

xmas bonus

I've been meaning to post about this since I first heard about. Craft Cartel is having a 'make your own Xmas card' happening in the Bourke St Mall today. They setting up a work table and you can come along and make your own Xmas cards. 
Check out their website for a great list of were that Mr Rudd's $1,000 Xmas bonus will go if you spend it in the Big Stores and how much more of that money will go into the community if you shop locally and handmade. Let's hope there isn't a rush on Wiis and Plasmas today. 

Sunday, 7 December 2008

dreadfully sorry

There was a bit of a mistake in the article today- sorry to anyone who turned up expecting us to be open. We don't open on Sundays until next week and the opening hours will be 12 noon 'til 5pm.
He Who Might Possibly Be Named (just seeing how the name fits) has found his favourite spot, it involves comfort (think Princess and the Pea), warmth and a spot of people watching.

(I'll try and keep cute kitten photos to a minimum. It's really hard though- he's sooooo cute.)

sunday (media) sluttage

The old saying 'Never on a Sunday' certainly doesn't apply around here. We are quite happy to be a Media Slut any day of the week.
Today it's The Age M Mag Xmas edition, 'Wrap it up- Melbourne's best gift shops revealed'. Whoa-hoah! (Pump the air). Nice lil write up and we are all tucked up next to Third Draw Down. Perfect!

I was intending to get into the studio today but a quick inspection of the homefront made me realise that a bit of domestic order was in urgent need. Of course to create order you need to create even more disorder first. There is also a little someone who embodies the whole concept that there is an inverse ration between size and destruction. He-Who-Has-No-Name (still) has managed to demolish the display in the front window 3 times. Twice in the space of half an hour last night and this included dragging a 65cm square cushion out of the antique Turkish dough trough. I am considering installing a door between the shop and upstairs. Having the 'kitten sillies' he isn't very smart about open front doors, the battery is either ON or OFF (currently recharging on a pile of blankets on the floor in the bedroom). I knew I should have got that door at Steptoe's back when I was renovating- damn and double damn. Another job to sort.
I do have to say, that while the work load hasn't let up (and has in fact increased massively) and that I have a pile of appointments that will keep me away from the studio, having a smoochy little stress relieving fluff ball around is nice. It's made me think a lot about Spotty and how calm and self-contained she was.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

wild thing you make my heart sing

Yes it's true. We'll all be hanging at Utopian Slumps on Friday night. 
Dell and Adam have been encouraging us to Grow Wild.

9 artists all pondering wild things.
Michelle Arcila
Adam Cruikshank
Penelope Durston
Natasha Frisch
Nathan Gray
David Keating
Simon MacEwan
Niels Oeltjen
Dell Stewart

25 Easey St
Opening Friday 5th of December 2008
Exhibition 6- 21 December 2008

Monday, 1 December 2008

mainly monday

I can't believe how tired I have been today. It was a big day at the Melbourne Design Market yesterday. Early start and a blur of people. I was so tired last night I couldn't move off the couch to go to bed. 
Today was all about sorting deliveries to go out and another day not in the studio. Oh well I probably wouldn't have been very effective there anyway. Sometimes when I flog myself for not studio-ing I have to remind myself that there is other parts to running my business- like scooting down to Spotlight in South Melbourne..........

me: Hello, could you help me? I'm looking for a bottle of Fabric Stiffener.
saleswoman: What are you looking for?
me: A bottle of Fabric Stiffener.
saleswoman: What does it do?
me: Ummmmm......... it.......... ummm.........stiffens fabric............
salewoman: So you use it to stiffen fabric............ what is it called?

OK I might be the world's most impatient person (according to my mother) and I do not suffer fools well but really............... it's funny in hindsight but I was totally dumbfounded by the whole exchange.

Well it's the First of December today and mild vibrating panic is the order of the day. Check up in the corner for a daily Advent Calendar- what will it be chocolate or craft?