Monday, December 30, 2013

... on Christmasness and the coming year.

You know, I breathed a sigh of relief after my final market for the year. Unpacking the car for that last time felt like... like when you're finally on holidays from school, and they've been a long time coming! Don't get me wrong - I have enjoyed taking Kuberstore to the various markets this year, but I have to add that they wore me out in more ways than one, and I think this is why Christmas crept up on me this year. The house was unadorned until only a few days before, and I'm ashamed to say that this is the first year that I can remember that I haven't managed to send any christmas cards out. I'm more disappointed than I expect about this, because I did try! Making my christmas cards had, until this year, been an annual joy for me, but this time my first idea failed badly, and my second even more so, and then it was all too late and the whole lot sat in an accusing pile on my workbench until yesterday, when I chucked them out. But I have missed the rest of the process - the writing, the envelope-sealing, the addressing, stamp-affixing and the dropping-into-a-postbox. Perhaps some 'Merry January' cards might be in order?

But the past few weeks have seen rather a lot of company and a mild case of overeating rich foods - I feel like I would like to just eat plain lettuce for a while. A christmas tree was out of the question, given the interest it would generate in our monstrous teenage cat, so the Airspeed fan was bedecked, which was mostly-out-of-reach. Mostly.
A trip to the Rocklea flower markets a few days before Christmas saw me coming home laden with armloads of New Zealand christmas bush, and some of those bunches of northern-hemisphere-type festive greens that enlivened the house (and the cat) and filled up every vase I have. Their smell, drying slowly, made me think of snow, which was a good mental antidote to the heat here in Brisbane. I took refuge in our little air-conditioned house and also in the odd night away at my Ma's place at Currumbin, where ocean swims were had and my newfound interest in Instagram was indulged. Instagram is fun, isn't it?
Christmas itself was calm and foodful. Ma and I had our annual prawnfest on Christmas eve, and family came for breakfast on Christmas morning. C smoked out the neighbours (and alas, my washing that I'd forgotten was on the line) with the barbeque. Oliver-the-kitten (who was born on Christmas day) turned one.
"Me? Pull down your christmas decorations? Not me!" Yeah right.
Now, though, the greenery is in the compost heap and all the sparkly things are packed away. My home-made mint creams are all gobbled up, and the recycling bin is clinky with bottles!

I do always look forward to a new year, as it's a time of list-making and mental clearing-out, both things very good for my soul. It'll also involve an actual clearing-out for us, because we'll be moving house. It'll be sad to leave our little house here at Oxley, and I'll miss my lovely studio like mad, I suspect. But there's a room put aside for me at the new house at The Gap, which I'll report upon soon. For now... think termites, bagged eighties bessa-block, shagpile carpet and never... been... cleaned. But also... a great outlook and a big old pool that's like swimming in a sandy lagoon. Aaaah!

Happy New Year, all!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

... on eggs. Real ones!

I've got a few eggs to show you. A while back there were some mickies nesting in the wattle tree out the front, and one day, soon after tiny whistlings started coming from the nest, I found an egg on the ground. It was almost-intact, save for a small hole in one side, and it must have been shoved out of the nest as a dud. 

Then, another bunch of mickies nesting at my Ma's place. They'd built in a hanging branch of a paperbark tree, quite low to the ground, and it contained three of their lovely brown-speckled eggs. A few days later though, my Ma reported that the nest must have been raided by a bigger bird, for the eggs were gone (as were the mickies) and the nest was hanging crookedly from the branch. Did I want the nest? Oh yes please!
Can you see the wonderful stuff they've used to pad the nest? I'd seen a few nests where the birds have sourced fluffy building insulation to use, which is generally white or grey, but these mickies have found some two-toned synthetic green material, and used that. 

There has been some interesting chicken egg action around here lately. Normally my Pekin bantam girls lay white-to-pale-brown solid-coloured eggs, but have at look at this delight that awaited me in the nestbox recently. 
A speckled egg! There has been only one, and I have my suspicions that it's the result of some antibiotics that I have been giving Ginger, trying to combat an ongoing case of bumblefoot. Isn't it special? (Ginger is much better, too!)

Lastly, a couple of oddities.
That big egg at the back is a regular Pekin bantam egg. The little white one in front is an end-of-the-season egg from my Ma's English Game hen, Major Hoolihan. The tiny brown one to the right there is a bit special because it's come all the way from Stanthorpe, through the mail, from fellow BrisStyle member, Sarah. I believe the egg came from friends of hers, and it's extra-special because it's the very first egg one of their bantams has laid. Shortly I'll make moulds of those two wee eggs, and see what happens next!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

... on Finders Keepers... far out!

Oh my goodness. It feels like about three weeks since Friday afternoon, and yet the weekend flew by, too. I'm not sure that's possible, but it feels true to me right now! The studio is a shambles, the car is as-yet not unpacked, my feet are sore but I'm smiling, still!

In case anyone missed it, Kuberstore was a debutante at this past weekend's Brisbane Finders Keepers market. To me, Finders Keepers is a big deal. It's only on twice a year, and it's been something I've aspired to ever since I first visited one. The stalls are always so beautiful, and there's a cornucopia of desirable things on offer. If you have the stamina you can do just about all your christmas shopping in one hit, as you hone your ducking-and-weaving skills amongst the mad crowd.

What a fabulous weekend! I had a wonderful spot beside some beautiful red brick arched doors on the veranda of the Old Museum, and the only problem was my stock of paper bags running dangerously low on Saturday afternoon. If you had told me beforehand that the number of paper bags I had taken wasn't going to be enough then I would have laughed, because that would have meant that they were going off out into the world in the hands of buyers, filled with Kuberstore things. Well, they did! At 3 on Sunday morning I awoke, worrying about this no-more-bags issue, and got up to fashion some up out of brown paper on the sewing machine!

So. Two days of a pace so frenetic that it verged on nuts. At times I simply couldn't get around the side of my stall to tidy or restock the other end, so it got a little unruly down there. (Note to self for future stall design... ability to access it all from behind!) Lots of chats, and some degree of tablecloth wrangling as they did Monroe skirt impressions in the strengthening breeze! I saw a number of dear friends, (some of whom I hadn't seen for too long) and it was so lovely to spy their familiar faces coming towards me along the crowded veranda. The weather held. It was a long weekend. It was over in a flash. I'd do it again!

Many, many thanks to those who visited, your support and words of encouragement are absolutely cherished. Extra thanks to my Ma for minding the stall while I had a quick break, and to C for that fabulous breakfast you made us on Saturday morning, and everything else, you splendid man!

Three cheers for Finders Keepers! HURRAH!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

... on countdowns and crossings off.

Well, the countdown is almost over - it's Finders Keepers this weekend. I haven't done it before, so it's  a shot in the dark, and I'm apprehensive because I have no idea what it'll be like or how it will go and whether the wind will blow my veranda stall away and will the folding table bear the weight of my display and what are 'fire resistant timbers' (I'm just ignoring that little piece of info in the stallholders manual!) and what will I do if I run out of change and... and... can you tell I'm anxious!?

But, I'm almost there. I've got lists, MULTIPLE lists, with lots of things crossed off them, and only a few more major (but achieveable) things to do before bump-in tomorrow evening. I've got stock levels that I'm comfortable with in two ways - if I sell out of a particular thing that'll be surprising and delightful, and if I sell none of a particular thing then it's not too much to have on hand. I've got a new cast plaster letter display that fits in much better with the look of my stall.
The map of stallholders has now been released, which I have popped up on my Facebook page. I'll be at stall D10 which is on the veranda near the stairs going down into the garden. Visitors who stop by can have a first look at my newest wee linen nest, containing an extra-special speckled egg.
In the spirit of getting things done, recently I crossed a big thing off my list of things to do. You know you're a bit slack in the 'do website' department when you get an annual hosting renewal notice before you've managed to get around to designing your site. Hello!

I've done this using Squarespace, as their level of customisation potential was able to balance my 'desire to make it look a certain way' with 'I am a web design gumby' and 'I'd like to be able to change this whenever I want'. Doing Finders Keepers was the kick I needed to get my website sorted out, and I'm glad, as quite a lot of traffic is coming from the FK stallholder profiles right now!

So. Fingers crossed for mild weather and smiling faces and non-collapsing tables! See you there if you're going, or stay tuned for a Finders Keepers wrap-up next week. Cheerio!

Friday, October 11, 2013

... on little bits of signage.

I'm just about ready to pack everything up for tomorrow's BIM at City Hall. You know, every time I'm preparing for a market I find something that I can do better. Each market I've done up until now has seen me scurrying about at the last minute sorting out something small but vital - pricepoint signage.
These folded cardboard signs have worked well in terms of angle and size, but as they've been taped together at the start of the day and then thrown out at the end, I've been having to re-create them each time. I can only fit three to an A4 page so I was going through lots of card. Plus they have a tendency to blow away. I liked the look, but as I've got at least three more markets to do before Christmas and I'm almost out of card, I wanted to sort out something less disposable. Enter C and his mad saw skills. Bless the man, again.

He rummaged about and came up with a piece of timber from a pallet, and chopped it up into lots of triangular prism shapes for me. A once-over with some sandpaper and they were just as I'd imagined. All my pricepoints fit easily onto a single printed piece of A4 card...
... and they certainly won't blow away! They tone in nicely with my old wooden display items and my little wattle forest, and my shredded paper egg display nests that are also making their first appearance at tomorrow's market.
Is anyone's market setup ever 'finished'? I feel that each little thing I improve upon contributes to a better display, but I don't know whether it's ever going to become a static or finished thing... and that's good!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

... on plants.

There has been so much going on in the garden recently. It seems that just about every day there's been something new to sniff. One of my favourite flowers as far as scent goes are those little old-fashioned white freesias. This year I got a stack of bulbs from The Digger's Club and put them in a big shallow pot on the deck.
The native bees are still around, and it seems they like freesias too. Look at their little pollen balls!
My big pots of pansies, heartease and anemones have been flowering spectacularly for weeks. I don't think I've ever had such success with flowers in pots before!
The vegie garden (with the new hardwood edges) is packed full of greens, and they're now at the stage where we can hardly keep up with the output and need the chooks to help out! There's some carrots up the back there too, they should be ready in a couple of weeks.
This morning there was a first flower on my extra-special purple beans. I do so love purple food.
Speaking of chooks, (who are somewhat garden-related as that's where they live) Marilla had been sitting in an expectant trance for three weeks. Over three weeks, actually, as it took me about ten days to source some fertile eggs for her!
Of the twelve eggs, five hatched, which isn't a bad result considering the eggs came through the post. There was a possibility none would hatch, as who knows what happens to a fragile package en route? But there's now five one-week-old Pekins cheeping in their coop, which is just a wonderful thing. 
Look at those feet! Time for me to go and pick a colander of greens for our dinner, and squeeze a few chicks. Not a bad way to finish the afternoon!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

... on finding, keeping, and other excitement.

Excitement comes in funny forms around here, sometimes. One recent burst was a result of a delivery of recycled shredded paper from Ecocern. It was some days late, having been misdirected from Sydney to Perth, but seemed none-the-worse for its WA holiday. Not so hot on the carbon miles, however!

It came in a large tightly-rolled bale, 20 kilograms of it. As it wasn't available in Brisbane I found two other BrisStyle girls to share the costs with, and once unrolled, each share filled a huge (wheelie-bin sized) garbage bag. I've got enough shredded paper to last forever, as you can see by my little foot in the photo below. Mountains of it. 
As soon as the paper arrived, I just had to pull a bit off to try out an idea I'd been chewing over. I wanted something to display my large hanging egg decorations in at the markets, and I had in mind a messy shredded paper nest on a sanded branch sitting on my linen tablecloth.
That's a work-in-progress photo, but you get the idea. A couple of those will almost certainly work a lot better than my previous paper-bag-with-the-top-rolled-down technique, which was admittedly only a temporary fix!

So, now to begin preparations for the upcoming markets. The next City Hall BrisStyle market is on the Saturday-after-next, on October 12, and I'm currently making a batch of my large natural-toned eggs. 
Dry, trimmed and sanded, these cast plaster eggs are ready to be drilled.
Once they've had their little metal rings glued into them and the glue has cured for 24 hours, it's time for the eggs to be painted with their base colour.
Maggie Beer's fruit paste containers make excellent mixed-paint pots. Thanks, Maggie!
Now for a most exciting happening. I did a happy dance in my seat (you know the one) the other day when I received news that my application for the next Finders Keepers market here in Brisbane had been successful. I'll be occupying a debut stall site on the veranda of The Old Museum, so let's all cross our fingers for calm weather, or I'm sure Kuberstore will be taking flight (in many, many pieces) out over the RNA showground! Weather predictions aside, I'm so delighted to have this to prepare for, and I'm sure the next six weeks will simply fly by. Eeek! But HURRAH!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

... on taking an idea and running with it.

Last week I shared some in-progress shots of the speckled egg cards I've been making for the upcoming BrisStyle Indie Market, which is next Saturday. They're now all packed up with their stripy brown-paper envelopes in A6 plastic sleeves, and C has made me a nice little plywood box to display them in on the day. Many thanks, C!
These will be available for $4 each on the day. Hurrah!
Then, I wanted to try a more random assortment of eggs... different sizes and varying shapes, and arrange them like the photo of the real eggs displayed in the Launceston Museum that my friends had sent me. 
I set about taking this idea and turning it into a repeating pattern. I photographed my paper eggs, jumped into Photoshop, and three days later I had just about figured it out! I'd never made a proper repeating pattern in Photoshop before, so I learned a few things along the way. One thing I wish I'd figured out sooner... start with the corners. I wanted this pattern to work as a tile - that is, for the original piece to be able to be repeated infinitely without any discernable join on any edge, not even by one pixel. So, once you have got one corner sorted out, you essentially have all four. Wish I'd figured that out sooner.
Anyway, here's the resulting pattern. This is a piece slightly larger than one tile.
One thing I'm glad I realised early on is that it's helpful to work at the highest resolution you can, although I did eventually figure out that there's a 2GB limit on Photoshop file sizes on my computer. This amazed me - and then didn't, when I remembered that the first computer our family owned had a hard drive with a total capacity of 2GB, and that it cost almost $20,000. Phew!
So, I worked big - this is about actual size:
After I'd triple-checked that everything was in order in terms of the repeat, I could then start to play. Oh did I play. I'd forgotten how lovely working in Photoshop can be, and in fact it's very easy to go crazy with variations and become a little overwhelmed. Once I'd got myself back under control, these were the results:
I'm feeling like it's Christmas morning! There's so many possibilities. I feel like uploading them all to Spoonflower, digital printers of fabric and wallpaper, and ordering lengths of silk and upholstery linen, and wallpapering my whole house.
I'd love to know your favourite version... do let me know!

Friday, September 6, 2013

... on a recent curious visitor.

A little while ago I mentioned that the studio was unusually tidy on account of a curious visitor. That visitor was Susan Schwartz, who had contacted me to ask whether I would like to be interviewed for an article for her new blog, Susan arrived, enviable camera in hand, trailing tripods and notebooks, and we spent over an hour chatting and poking about the studio. It was quite lovely to show her around. I enjoyed it!
StyleTribe has just gone live this week, and the article about Kuberstore appeared yesterday. I'm loving Susan's high-contrast photographs, and I'm delighted that one of my Pekin bantams has made an appearance too! Susan hopes that the blog will become a resource for all things design in Brisbane, and I wish her all the very best for it. I'll be checking in often!
You can find the Kuberstore interview here. Hurrah!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

... on variations on a theme.

Friends sent me a couple of photos they took on their recent trip to Tasmania. They saw these in the Launceston Museum and thought of me, egg-fancier that I am.

Isn't that just the most delicious collection of eggs? Such a beautiful way to display them, too. I saw them, thought of my stack of nice old coloured pastel paper (found for me last year by my excellent-op-shop-rummager-friend Beck) and my mind started racing. 
The result was a little stack of speckled bird egg cards. Each one is a little bit different, given the random nature of the speckle, and I've really enjoyed the simplicity of this cut-and-paste project.
I'm using thick watercolour paper as the base card, and I've found a supplier of some lovely stripy-brown-paper envelopes to go with them. I'll make another handful, pop them into some C6 plastic sleeves and try them out at the next BrisStyle Indie Market in City Hall on the 14th September. 
It's always refreshing to try variations on a theme - just call me Egg Girl!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

... on a seedpod adventure.

At the end of the market last weekend, my stall neighbour Brenda gave me a seedpod that had been part of her table decoration. I had noticed it earlier, and we'd talked about how it was most likely the 'nut' version of the same macrocarpa eucalyptus that I used (in bud form) for my most recent seedpod wall hanging. When we were packing up she gave it to me.
We had both wondered whether I would be able to make a mould from it. It had some fairly deep openings, but Pinkysil is very forgiving and I thought it might just work.
It did work... that is, until it didn't any more. Pinkysil IS very forgiving but it can only handle being stretched to billy-oh for so long. Even though I cut down through both sides of the mould to gain access, the interior voids of the nut were quite intricate, and extricating the plaster cast required some degree of force. After only a couple of casts, pop!
The mould broke. Bugger!

Still, I did manage to get three decent casts from it before it busted. Never mind.. this is one of the perils of mould making. Sometimes you make it one way only to realise it would have worked better another way. For example, this one would probably work better as a two-part mould, but even so, interior spaces are difficult to deal with, and it still might not have worked.
Always learning.