Thursday, November 5, 2015

Market prep... the truth

It's come around again, so quickly that I haven't managed a blog post since the last time. This weekend is the Spring/Summer Brisbane Finders Keepers market, and I've been preparing for it like a demon for weeks!

The truth is, though, that there's still way too many things not-crossed-off on the to-do list. There's outstanding orders to fill,  and lists-within-lists which feel a bit insurmountable.
There's stuff everywhere. Cupboards are uncloseable.
There's a cat shedding all over my stall setup, and every time I try to put something on it he either lies on it or knocks it off with utmost nonchalance.
There are concerns. Where are my new business cards that I ordered last week and paid 'Express' for? Will I have enough stock, and if not, what will I do? What can I do about my sad fingers? All the sanding and sawdust and plaster has given them a mummified appearance that is, frankly, starting to get painful and is too yuck to photograph! Is it going to rain? What on EARTH am I going to wear!?


I know it's going to be okay. I will find something to wear, and I will ultra-moisturise my hands. If I run out of stock, well... I will give people one of my new business cards. It'll be exhausting, but it'll be great fun. It always is!
So, do come. The markets are opening at 9am for the first time, and as there's no stalls lining the veranda this time, busy times will feel far less frenetic! I'm planning on making a jolly good start on my Christmas shopping... perhaps you will too?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Finders Keepers preparation

A big Wintry hello to you! Here, the days have been filled with woodsmoke and wearing slippers, and my belly filled with macaroni cheese and chicken pot pie. It's the only little sliver of the year when sitting in the sun in Brisbane is an attractive proposition. It's also (gasp) only three weeks until the next Finders Keepers market, and I'll be there!
I've been attempting a slow and sustained approach to my Finders Keepers preparation this time, as it can get a bit frenetic, and I'd like to avoid that. Plus, because my things often involve quite a lot of fiddly and repetitive finger-work, I'm trying to prevent my hands turning into cramped immobile claws. So far, things are going well, and I'm amassing a promising-looking pile of wares. It gives me a very nice warm feeling, that growing pile of wares!

So, I thought I'd share some of my new things that will be making an appearance that weekend. The delivery of a batch of new postcards always gives me a thrill, and is a reassuring thing to have crossed off the to-do list.
These cards, printed on uncoated recycled cardstock, feature my latest enormous cast plaster gumnut wall hanging, which I have listed in my Etsy store as a 'made to order' item. I have moulds of only eight of these little spotted gum nuts, so this wall hanging involves lots of rounds of casting and hand-finishing. I'm planning for it to take pride of place at my Finders Keepers stall, but in the meantime it's up in our bedroom!
Oliver Kitten seems to become very interested as soon as I try and take a photo of anything around here. He put himself right in the middle of the bed with no prompting from me!
I've become quite focused on gumnuts lately, probably because the beautiful ornamental gums around here have just finished flowering. The lorikeets and parrots all love to feed from the blossoms, and so the ground beneath every tree is often littered with buds, flowers and nuts. On my morning walks I've been coming home with handfuls of them, and some of them have been made into new moulds. The resulting new plaster casts have provoked the development of lots of new wall hangings, some of which feature gum blossom petals made out of unraveled hemp twine. I'm super excited about these new little gum blossoms with petals!
I've also been making the gum blossoms and their 'bud' versions into some little flowery sticks, a handful of which I'll have available singularly at Finders Keepers.
So, things are chugging along. Right now, my worktable looks like a plaster garden of delights!
Lots yet to do, but I'm tackling it in a methodical and very 'listy' fashion. Here's hoping that the next  three weeks are calm, and then maybe I'll see you at the market!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sticks and dust and bugs and hot, hot water!

I've started using some spotted gum branches in my wall hangings. I've never used spotted gum before, and one thing I have noticed about it is that it can be a bit buggy. If there's one thing you don't want to see as a person working with timber, it's this:
This branch, which had been sitting on top of my workroom cupboard for a month or so, ejected the most wonderful pile of borer dust, and got me thinking. Specifically, "Oh no!"

Until recently, I've only ever been using casuarina or she-oak branches in my wall hangings. I harvest them green and allow them to dry naturally for many months before stripping off the bark, and I've never seen any sign whatsoever of insect infestation. Perhaps the casuarina is naturally repellant, but there's been no sawdust or telltale 'exit' holes.
Green-harvested casuarina sticks. Dried naturally.
Now that I no longer live close to a reliable source of casuarina (waaah!), I've been eyeing off the timber to be found locally - here on the shoulder of Mount Coot-tha in Brisbane, it's predominantly eucalyptus, and we've loads of trees in our garden, regularly shedding lovely sticks. I've been casting lots of plaster gumnuts lately, so it's a natural progression to start using gum branches - if only it weren't so full of borer! It seems that borers love spotted gum, and it doesn't seem to matter whether the timber is green or dry - it's all full of holes.

Now, I love the holes. I do. They tell a story and can leave some lovely markings on the surface of the timber. But it would be pretty poor form of me to pass on some hungry passengers in a work that someone may purchase from me... eeek!

Much research on woodworking forums ensued. It seems that the most reliable way of ensuring that any timber-munching critters (and their eggs) are dead is to heat treat the timber. Big mills do this in 'kilns' which, these days, are actually giant industrial microwaves. Some woodworkers rig up  wood-fired 'kilns' where the timber can be baked. Some bugs can be killed by freezing, although the northern hemisphere people scoff at that idea - for don't their bugs come back every year after being under ice for months? Some treat their wood using steam. Others swear by boiling - and this is the solution I'm going with. Just a few weeks ago, C said to me, "I'm going to sell my mum's old copper on Gumtree, unless you want it?" At that exact moment I was boiling up a test batch on our gas stove in my biggest and most expensive saucepan!

So, the copper has been fired up quite a few times since then. It's basically a very large electric coffee urn, and it fits loads of sticks in it at once!
The general gist of heat treating timber is that it needs to be kept at boiling temperature for at least an hour and a half. Super easy! And the smell... it's incredible. A steamy gummy tang (curiously, nothing like eucalyptus oil) whenever I open the lid. Afterwards, the water is stained a dark brown colour (from the tannins in the timber, I think) which I imagine could be used to dye something... I may try that in some future batch!

For my new gumnut wall hangings that I am working on (which use the thicker branches in the photo above) I then dunk the sticks in a mild bleach bath. After a soak, this gives them a lovely pale glowing quality that I'm really enjoying working with... stay tuned for an Etsy shop update in the coming weeks!
Incidentally, my gumnut stick bunches in my Etsy shop are now heat treated, too. Previously, I've found that these smaller sticks tend to break when I'm sanding them, if they have been weakened by having a borer munch through them. So, I've been able to weed any possible passengers out - the heat treating will doubly ensure that any critters are inactive!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Last year our neighbour passed away, and sadly, noone in his family had room for his old worktable. Granted, it was super-heavy and covered in decades-worth of paint, oil, resin and who-knows-what, but I was delighted when George's son asked if we would like it. Yes please!
I'd been working on a too-large and ultra-wobbly trestle table, and this table was the solution: it was the right size, height, and was super-sturdy, too. I got the belt sander out, and promptly broke about ten belts taking all the muck back to bare timber. It was worth it.
A rub-down with some teak oil re-hydrated the dessicated pine while enhancing the years and years of work-marks, which I love.
The wobbly trestle has been banished to the storage room, and this little table is now proudly occupying a just-the-right-sized corner of my workroom.

So, today it's the last day of the year. I LOVE this day. To me it feels full of creative anticipation and possibility, and I like to spend it cleaning up and clearing out my workroom. I like to know that when I awaken tomorrow I'll go somewhere to watch the sun rise (because, for this early riser, staying up until midnight to see in the new year is just a jolly inconvenience!) and then come home to a tidy workroom to welcome the new year and whatever it may hold.

In anticipation, this morning I took everything off my pinboard and cleared the Christmas detritus off George's worktable. My first task in this newly-vacant space was to transfer all my 'stuff' from this year's diary to the next.
Now, I feel ready for tomorrow, and looking forward to making my own work-marks on this table in the coming year. A very Happy New Year to you!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hot cakes, Bah Humbug and other Kuberstore news.

Over the past few weeks I've been experiencing a phenomenon that I thought I'd never see again - my Etsy shop has been on fire. Figuratively. I've been filling a glut of orders that has seen me buying not one but three new rolls of packing tape, and I'm expecting another delivery of shipping boxes today. I haven't seen anything like it since those heady pre-GFC days in 2008 when I was sitting at work watching those thrilling 'Etsy Transactions' emails coming in and panicking because I didn't know how I would fill them all in a timely manner! This time my main concern is running out of the particular plaster I use - I bought the last three available kilo jars from Barnes two weeks ago, and the next shipment isn't arriving until January. Eeek! (I think I'll make it. Just!)
I do know what started the rush - one of my items was chosen as a feature image on Etsy's 'Home and Living' browse sections page, heading up the classification 'ornaments'. I've been making my little cast pine cones for a while and never (before this year) thought to list them as a set of hanging decorations - silly me, as it turns out, because this year they'll be adorning Christmas trees in Switzerland, Finland, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, all over America (including my first order from Hawaii!) and within Australia, too.
I've mentioned before that I love Christmas... I love trees and decorations and wrapping presents and making cards - and it just gives me so, SO much joy to think of these little pine cones arriving at their destinations, being unwrapped and included in someone else's festivities. I feel humbled and grateful and delighted and excited every time one of those 'Etsy Transactions' emails arrives - a buzz that has never, ever gotten old! These 'hot cakes' moments are rare, and thus treasured.

New in my Etsy store this Christmas are my 'Bah Humbug' plaster coal decorations, which have also been selling quite well at the markets - people seize upon them as a Secret Santa gift for someone who is, perhaps, less than enthused about the festive season. Referencing that story about naughty children receiving coal rather than gifts in their Christmas stocking, these painted hanging ornaments are cast in a mould made from a stone I've had since I was little. I kept it because it had two little sun-shaped fossils on one side, and the fossils came out excellently in the cast result. Hooray for Pinkysil!
Market news... I've been enjoying doing the markets lately. At the breezy Green Heart Fair at Carindale a roving photographer took what could be the nicest pic anyone's ever taken of me and my stall - generally I turn out looking a bit uncomfortable and gumby-esque. Here I am:
The BrisStyle Bazaar in the Whale Mall at the Queensland Museum was a busy day - and a great spot for a market as it nabs lots of passing trade and is protected and coolish. Plus the lights under the huge whales cast the most incredible electric blue and yellow shadows!
You might see on the left of the photo above that my new painted cast plaster necklaces have made their market debut. Followers of Kuberstore on Instagram have had a blow-by-blow account of their development, and I'm pretty excited about how they've turned out... stay tuned for a blog post about them soon.

I'm currently using up the last of my plaster to make a few final pine cones... my last market for the year is this coming Saturday at Brisbane City Hall - this special (and final!) BrisStyle pre-Christmas market has the extended opening hours of 9am until 4pm, and I'll be there. Perhaps you will be too?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A marrying.

C and I decided we would very much like to be married. Luckily for me, C wanted to do it with a minimum of fuss, too.

So, I had a ring made. C didn't want one, being the sort of chap for whom rings create an occupational hazard, so I gathered a few bits of gold I had stashed away and gave them to my market friend Clare, the wonderful and talented jeweller behind Small Green Leaf. The gold I had was a delicate too-small ring given to me by a dear friend, a too-large thin gold band (that, family legend has it, was discovered by my Dad in the 60s on the bottom of a pool in London where he was working as a lifeguard, having been employed purely because he said 'I'm Australian' when he inquired about the job) and a few little chunks that my Nana Mary had been keeping - remnants and offcuts from alterations she had had done to her jewellery over the years. Clare graciously allowed me to hover around her workshop while she chopped it all up and melted it down into the sweetest little ingot, and later presented me with a ring of undeterminable carat-age which beautifully fit my criteria of wanting it to look 'like something that had been dug up out of a field'.
The gold collection, Clare's crucible, Clare wielding fire, and the sweetest little ingot.
Next, we engaged the celebrant services of a jolly and champion bloke called Josh Withers, who was happy to come to our place and perform a brief ceremony that really just took care of the official bits as required by law. Easy.

The day arrived. The house was clean, Oliver kitten had been brushed. C ironed his good shirt while I got a haircut, and presently my Ma arrived with a van-full of flowers. She and my Fairy Godmother Helen had stopped at the Rocklea Flower Markets on their way up from the Gold Coast, buying masses of roses, jonquils, tuberoses, stock, delphiniums, lisianthus, and those wonderful waxy natives that I can never remember the name of.
Never one to wear white (or in fact any pale colour), I had found a lovely embroidered cream silk skirt from Zimmermann that I thought gave a nod to the idea of a wedding dress without actually being one. I wore it with a simple black jumper and a long string of beads.

So, with every vase full of flowers (and some buckets, too), our house smelled incredible and was completely bedecked! Helen tucked some tiny roses behind my ear, and we were ready.
C, me, and Oliver kitten.
Our nearest arrived, followed by Josh, and we stood around our kitchen table and said those simple, lovely, timeless words. There were smiles and laughter, and afterwards some champagne and cake. That evening we went to Mondo for dinner with the rest of our immediate families, and it really was the most uncomplicated, perfect day.
Me laughing about the transparency of my skirt, and me and C.
So now, we are married. We've had a road-tripping/camping Central Queensland honeymoon holiday, and I'm getting used to wearing my ring. Every now and then I look over at C and say 'You're my husband.' and he looks back at me, and says 'You're my wife.' and frankly, that delights me!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

There will be more markets...

Hi there. It's been a long time. Like many of the people whose lovely blogs I follow, lately I've dropped off the blogging radar in favour of the immediacy and gratification of Instagram. It's quite the addiction, isn't it? I've been busy, too, and I'd really like to tell you all about it, but this week I am preparing for a market. It'll be my first in quite a few I've got lined up for the rest of the year, and I'd love to see you there.

Brisbane City Hall. 9am - 3pm. There will be painted eggs and there will be wall hangings, there will be plaster gumnuts and some nests, and there will be me, if you would like to say hello!

I will be just inside the door of the first room, where the tantalising smells from The Shingle Inn will taunt and tempt me all day. Do drop by!