little machines

Well we made it through January. Such a weird nebulous month. We always feel that the year starts properly by February. People trickle back from coast and country, makers return to benches and kilns, galleries install new shows to inspire us all. Which is exactly what's happening this week with Pieces of Eights first exhibition of the year Dougal Haslem's The Turtle and The Merman

As you can tell by these images the show has a lot of whimsy to it but rest assured Haslem is no slouch as a maker. a masters in gold and silver smithing at RMIT and an acute eye for detail undercut the cutesy aspect of the work. 

I do have to admit there is an almost overwhelming desire to see if this turtle winds up and scurries across the floor. Show opens Feb 1 and there is a floor talk Feb 9 - more info at Pieces of Eight. RAMONA




It was that kind of day. Last year's invasion day bbq was sunny, hot and full of the sound of willow on willow as we enjoyed a massive klopathon in the backyard. This year however dawned grey and cool so it was ALL about the food. And there was a lot to keep us occupied. The menu included: mint and ginger punch, grilled haloumi, olive dip, roasted balsamic mushrooms, grilled asparagus, garlic and rosemary turkish bread, roast cauliflower, rocket, fetta and duhkah salad, apple, walnut and cos salad with a delicious yoghurt dressing, tomato, bocconcini and basil salad, green pea and haloumi fritters, butterflied lamb roast, spicy italian pork sausages, and chicken skewers cooked on the architects japanese import fold up hibachi.  And then there was cake.

I got so excited about tucking into my platefull of food that I couldn't even wait to get the camera into focus.

And apparently the sausages were so delicious that the womble even managed to pull James into the station in order to squeeze one in.

the Hagrid handed in-house primary teacher DJ even brought along an amazing selection of beers from around the world, which to quote him were "good and strong... burp".

Max of course held out for dessert... Miss P's famous Ginger Fluff Sponge and Shula's pomegranate topped version of Maggie B's now infamous chocolate pavlova. DELICIOUS. we all realised that by the time we'd managed to empty the groaning table full of food into our now groaning bellies it was well after 5 and there was no time for Klop.

Which was just as well because as it turns out, within minutes of getting home all of us were pretty much in the same position as Master Maxwell... completely unconcious on the couch. Top afternoon. BECK



misson brown 

To be honest while Ramona HATES the op-shop I love them, but for some reason (read inhouse architects demands for clean surfaces)  i've been sadly neglecting my passion for a few months now. Maybe its because i've been clearing out so many precious things from the study in anticipation of the new 'arrival' that I found my op-shop antenna twitching yesterday. I don't know - something about out with the old and all that. I'm very glad I gave in and headed out on a mission.  As it turned out with the first three things that fell into my lap it was in fact Misson Brown.

A little brown ceramic measuring metric cup jug, these amazing brown, fawn and lime green fairisle mittens and the brown bird tea-towel below.

As you can see from the brown owl detail below, the bird teatowel was really unputdownable. And I do love it when the op-shop gods start styling things in color palettes for you.

Then however things started turning blue...

This brilliant Better Homes and Gardens Barbeque Manual featuring fabulous thematic outdoor eating options like the one below. All the printing is that gorgeous litho style hypercolour that only the early sixties printing press can deliver.

Followed by this Richard Scarry What Animals Do book,  

Which, while a faded tanny- red on the outside opened up to a brilliant turquoise interior, emblazed with the following...  

and filled with the kind of illustration work that makes the ladies of HML such massive Scarry fans.

And the last find couldn't have been more topical (or indeed tropical) - and straight out of Miss P's amazing Queensland Flood Relief effort of last week...

I even managed to stash all my finds before the architect got home. Not that I was worried. BECK



little things, big things grow

The ladies of HML have made a decision. Every time the gutsy little Handheld Gallery has a new show we are going to plug it. We have been so impressed by the enterprise we have serious craft crush. Every time we go there we are inspired and energised - what more can you ask for?

For fresh ideas on installation of objects this is the gallery to look at. At the moment there is a great show by artist Kathy Fahey: Penang and Back - inspired by a residency there. Artist books, sculptures and drawings (some as small as 10cm) crammed into this tiny space.

Looksee! Chock full of zines, books, posters and objects - its an Aladdin's cave really.

They are also accepting proposals for shows in the second half of this year - maybe it's time to get that proposal together?

Craziest location of course, which in some ways makes it even more interesting. Handheld Gallery, just doing its thing. RAMONA

Suite 18, upstairs
Paramount Arcade

108 Bourke Street
Melbourne, 3000

Entry via Bourke or little Bourke street. Go straight up escalator to top level. Tues-Sat 12-5.



a soft place to fall

The wonderful Miss Pen Pen of Cottage Industry has whipped up some gorgeous Queensland themed cushions and is donating 100% of sales to the Flood Relief fund.

The cottage is also paying for postage so this is an extraordinary opportunity to support and honour the people caught in this terrible natural disaster and score a lovely cushion at the same time!

The last day of the fund raising is tomorrow but there are still some beauties to be had.

Ring the cottage and place an order or drop in today or Saturday and give Miss Pen Pen a big hug- she deserves it! (you can phone the Cottage Industry on 03) 94192430.



The ladies of HML have many things in common as do our 2 year old boys who both have a passion for trains. Max is definitely in the Thomas the tank Engine fan club and Womble has wasted many an hour watch You Tube clips of signal crossings (not kidding - Japanese ones are his favourite). So there was no avoiding going to the model railway show last weekend at Phillip Island.

Now I am not a train fan and I have been desperate for Thom to show an interest in something (anything) else, but I think this show sealed the deal for him and perhaps me too. My Beloved also revealed that his father had been an avid model train builder, dedicating an entire room of the house to a complex countryside layout. So for Thom it turns out to be an inherited trait.

I was captivated not by the trains but the model making that surrounded them. Whole villages, mountain ranges, farms, seaside towns. The miniature scenarios playing out, weddings, funerals, holidays. This was something I could really get interested in!

Most magical was the train that circled the circus big top. The ring leader at the centre of the action was fantastic.

I see a trip to Hearns Hobby Store in my not too distant future. RAMONA



Whenever Maggie B goes on holiday I try to take the opportunity to make her something. If I was super organised I'd have also planned on her Mothers day present but I didn't quite get there. I did however paint, decoupage and wax a magazine holder for her gardening magazines
I didn't want to do something too twee but it had to be something pretty for her room. We are both huge Margaret Preston fans so I took some photocopies from an exhibition catalogue.

I kept it pretty simple. Truth be told this was meant to be under the Christmas tree but I just didn't quite get there. Hope she likes it! RAMONA



triple threat

It's a big week for the ladies of HML. Beck is back at work as a craft superhero - fighting the good fight for craft and design everywhere. I'm taking a break from making valentines posies and cards to polish off a little speech for the opening of Elfrun Lach show in Gallery 2 of Craft Victoria. Elfrun is an extraordinary artist. Her jewellery is so evocative and distinct, it will be easy to sing its praises.
The amazing ceramicist Susan Robey is exhibiting in gallery 1. I was honoured to write her catalogue essay and can't wait to see the work in the space. These paperclay structures seem to defy gravity. They are really spectacular and have to be seen to be believed

In gallery three is the ceramic work of Gerry Wedd. This Adelaide based artist does creates extraordinary tableaux - this time inspired by the idea of 'Australian gothic' - one of the HML ladies' favourite genres. It's fantastic when three such extraordinary artists open the year with such a bang.  Hope to see you at Craft Victoria on Thursday night between 6-8. RAMONA



jam session

This year hasn't been a great one for stone fruit... too much water and not enough sun has left the trees shooting out branches and leaves rather than fruit and the fruit on offer hasn't had enough sun to get it ripe quickly or uniformly enough to beat the feasting beaks of birds and bats (well bats don't have beaks I know but you get the drift) Nonetheless I have been determined to make something of the harvest before it all fell of the tree bug riddled and bird pecked.

Thankfully, I found a gap on Monday between holiday sickness abating and work starting with the added benefit of grandparent babysitting of Master Maxwell to get to work and get some jam made.

With the house blissfully empty save for the sounds of bubbling apricots and my dodgy collection of 60's soul, 70's disco, 80's metal, 90's grunge and noughties folk and nuevo new wave I enjoyed myself  thoroughly, and hopefully managed to recapture some of the magic of last season's jam session.

I say hopefully because it would appear that last year I set the bar rather high and had myself some jam addicts jonesing for another jar after the first one had been consumed in record time... Oh and Pen, I hope you won't mind my recycling your jam jars as long as you get at least one jar of mine back in return :)

Given that there was going to be some waiting around time while the jam bubbled into the correct consistency I decided to finally use the Gingerbread and Shortbread dough that had been sitting in the fridge since Christmas eve and bake myself (and my loved ones) some cookies.
While the gingerbread did crack a little on top it was deliciously chewy and spicy. Max has subsequently developed a perhaps unhealthy crush on them as apparently "mummy's biscuits are quite tasty" and "very nice for my breakfast"  hmmmm.

I love making the cranberry and pistachio shortbread, not just because the end result is so damn tasty, but because the mix is really, really pretty, surely incentive enough to make and extra batch?




Dear Readers,
Following the terrible flooding of QLD we are taking a day off as a mark of respect. Both of us have friends and family up north (all are fine) and Ramona was born in Brisbane so it's a state dear to our hearts. We've often talked about our dream Queenslander house, of creating a life up there. Our hearts and prayers go out to all. We hope that the sun will break through sooner rather than later so recovery can begin.  The simplest way to help of course is to give money. There are many places to do so - one of the easiest is online at the Premiers relief Fund website.

Take Care Everyone
Beck and Ramona xx