shake it, don't break it.

Melbourne sculptor and mustachioed man about town Jarrad Kennedy usually likes to make big things, but it would seem that more recently he's been sweating the small stuff. Illusion Shaker makes over everyday bar items and ephemera in one of our favourite mediums - cardboard, displayed in yet another 'random wall in a hip venue' turned gallery: the Rooftop Art Space. Not to say that we don't like this particularly Melbourne tradition - we love a multi-tasking venue as much as anyone, especially if we can watch a movie, buy something handmade, eat good food AND look at art with a drink in our hand!

This is likely to be Jarrad's only 3D outing this year as he busies himself working on the hotly anticipated Nic Dalton/Half a cow doco for the rest of the 2012, and the show finishes up on February 19. That's only a couple of weeks away peeps... so if you like what you see hop to it, and while you're at it have a drink on us.

Oh and we should also mention that a little bird told us that Rooftop Art Space is looking for submissions for the 2012 program.  If you've got a little something up your artsmock sleeve you might want to let 'em know. BECK


Project of the Faux Long Weekend

It was REALLY hot on the weekend wasn't it. Some (us) would say too hot to do anything except maybe lie by the pool with a Pimms or hide inside watching the tennis with the aircon. Unless of course you have a house full of kids who need to be entertained. In which case you would have been more likely to find yourself splashing madly in some kind of water, regularly feeding small people frozen iced treats and trying to come up with something that is as mind numbingly simple for you to organise and as it is distracting for the small people. My suggestion - bead stringing. Good for at least an hour of heads down action selecting and stringing with an added 1/2 hour entertainment bonus for prancing about house in dress up mode checking out new finery in all available reflective surfaces.

Highly recommended. BECK


Craftist of the Week

gone to pot

Steve Wheen is a guerrilla green thumb making over the mess of London's roads and laneways. He's become quite the famous pothole gardener, with stories of his antics popping up almost as regularly as his miniature gardens. We love him because he turns this...

into this...

Genius idea, brilliantly executed. I especially love the way he uses weeny props to bring scale as well as wit to the little gardens.

Clearly a top bloke and our most definitely our craftist of the week. BECK


Project of the weekend

Sheltered workshop

When it's hot and it's Sunday I'm not up for much. I need a mindless cheery low-fi craft with a nice sense of achievement at the end and not much brain power expended. I'd put the desk organiser kit before christmas and hadn't bothered to even look at it. Perfect project for dealing with all the bits and bobs that end up on the kitchen bench. It's a little gaudy I know and it will probably last about a summers length. It was fun. RAMONA



another day another project

Ramona and I are big collectors of craft books - we love em. Between us we own a couple of hundred spanning a good seventy years of publishing. But we have discovered over the years that while we like collecting them, and flicking through them for "inspiration" we rarely get around to actually making any of the projects contained therein. And we think we might not be alone in this. Given that we've dubbed 2012 as the year of up-skilling we have come up with yet another hair-brained scheme (see jam sessions) to get us using our libraries for more than a housework diversion! 
We've decided to call it the CRAFT BOOK CHALLENGE.

The rules: 
1. pick a a book from your library at the start of each month (you can only use this book once)
2. identify your chosen project from said selection and publish the pattern/instructions (copyright permitting)
3. get crafting, you have one month to complete your project.
4. post your completed craft work along with review at the end of the month.
5. repeat.
We're going to have a red hot go at this one, and no doubt the results will vary between wildly successful and hilariously dire. If anyone else out there feels like having a crack at this, either each month or on a more random basis let us know! 

To be frank I got bugger all made last year as I was knocked up and nauseous for the first half of the year and then off my head with exhaustion and a baby for the second half of the year, so I will be happy to just get anything made. I have a few projects in mind though - macrame hangers (on top of the to do list for the past five years) single bed quilts for the boys and the big brother little brother mice above, and then of course there's my wish to make the ultimate linen smock dress for me to team with my jeans and sandals because it's going to be all about Scando style comfort this me year.

I'd also like to revisit some forgotten skills like cuttlefish silver casting, pinch pot ceramics and wood carving but given the workload I'm already facing this year don't be surprised if we end up with origami and spray painted pasta collage... BECK

My focus last year was very much on wood and paper. 2012 will see me determined to dust off the sewing machine, whip out the knitting needles and sort out the embroidery thread. It's back to textile based craft in my house for a while. I'm hankering for hanks, fat quarters, mitered corners and bias binding. The bottom book in that pile is a relatively new one for me and I bought it on a whim because I liked the styling. The images below are the four projects in the book I'd realty like to tackle.

I've been meaning to make a round pillow for Thom for ages but I still haven't been able to find an insert. The plastic bag holder is an absolute must as we have a stack of them shoved under the sink. The wire coat hanger covers are pure practicality. I share a tiny wardrobe with my beloved and it's in total disarray. one of the biggest problems is that we have wide hangers that take up far too much space. I'm not normally a fan of wire hangers but  I think with added padding and pretty fabric (colour coded perhaps?) . The peg bag is also a must because at the moment I have them in an ice cream container, very tacky. RAMONA




plum in front

Jam session number two done and dusted. I know it's supposed to be one a month but hey the big storm last week brought down a lot of fruit in the neighborhood - most of it ripe, and in my urban forager book if its on or over the footpath its fare game. So here we have it Foragers Plum edition one.

I'd call it a medley but I hate that word and would rather stick a burning hot poker in my eye. Mostly its Damsons (thanks Pene the human iphone plum identikit app.) with lashings of sweet reds as seen below (Pen we might need your help again here)

and a few wee golden numbers thrown in for good measure just because they were there.

Sweet and slightly perfumy with a nice tart finish, and quite lovely to look at with its deep rosy hue.

Will be most excellent on scones methinks. Yes Ramona that's a call out to you and the womble to start baking! BECK



And so it begins...

That's it people, holidays are finally over. Galleries have started to swing open their doors, makers have returned to the studio and there is a definite 2012 vibe out there. About time too as we are more than ready to look at some new work! Craft Victoria opens with three ceramics based shows by three very different makers.Gary Bish has created some optically mesmerizing vessels that explore architecture, perception and perspective in Vessel: A Space Oddity.

Jacob Ogden Smith looks like he may have lost his mind a little judging from this film still from one of the accomanying videos that support his ceramic work. Pottery Practice Project will challenge us to think a little deeper about how the srt of ceramics is represented in film and television. I'm seeing Swayze and Moore in my head but Im sure it goes a little deeper than that.

We love love love  the work of Kirsten Perry so are naturally very excited about her new show Home Time. Architectural forms with human characteristics? Yes! We suspect a piece from this show will be wining its way home with us. The openings to these shows is on Thursday night, so get out of the tracksuit and into your fancy pants - see you there! RAMONA

Shows run from 20 Jan  -3 March
Craft Victoria is at 31 Flinders Lane
you can find out more about these shows here...


Little projects of the week

Toot toot
Well I finally made T something. After watching how forlorn he was when all the handmade gifts left the house I knew he was overdue a little something. This tractor train tote was a pain in the proverbial, nothing went right. There was a mod podge crisis (don't ask), a sliced finger (blunt Stanley knife) and a spilt cup of tea involved. all turned out ok in the end. The ribbon tree was his own creation - tres chic Thom.
This is the last of the pencil boxes. They don't sell these anymore at my local hardware store so my friend Michael will be the last recipient. The bug paper is more than appropriate as he works at the museum and in fact LOVES bugs. It's his birthday next week and i'll fill the box with some good pencils and perhaps a plastic beetle or two! I'm craving some textile based craft now after all this wood. I feel some knitting may be in order over the next week. Ramona.


eat of the week

the fabulous baker brother

Last night Max decided he needed to do some baking, apparently it wasn't enough that we'd already had morning tea macaron, we needed cake for dinner. Something 'magical' as well. Thankfully I'd managed to keep fairy cakes up my sleeve so when I suggested them he was beside himself with excitement. Normally we'd go through baking them from scratch, but seeing as it was already 5.30 and the veg lasagna still wasn't in the oven I caved and used a Greens vanilla butter cake packet mix instead.

Max also determined that we needed to change the flavour to chocolate and orange - so Jaffa fairy cakes it was. He was super excited to be able to do all of it (bar the hot bits) by himself, and the ease of preparation fitted a 3yr old attention span perfectly. And, even though it felt like I was cheating I think we might even do it again! Truth be known, they weren't half bad neither. BECK



Student Days
It's still quiet on the gallery front so no 'show of the week' until next Monday. I will however share one of my new years resolutions - to gain more craft skills. By the end of the year I have committed to throwing a pot, sewing a skirt, making a brooch, screen printing a length of fabric, making a double bed quilt and making a stop motion animated film. Ambitious yes, with lots of room for failure! But the point is it's about learning. If you'd like to get some new skills there are lots of opportunities in the coming weeks:

We write about contemporary jewellery a lot both here and out in the world and one of my new years resolutions is to learn a bit more of the craft so i can write with more clarity about its subtleties and specialised attributes. I'm very keen on the Make a Ring in a Day class being taught by the amazing Tassia Joannides at the CAE first week of feb. She does amazing things with zippers that has always confounded me!

Our favourite print maker and artist Rona Green is running a variety of art classes out of her swish studio at Abbotsford convent starting January 22nd. We are huge fans and would actually be a little star struck if we took a class with this inspiring teacher!

The fabulous Thread Den will have to put up with my two left thumbs as I attempt their A Line Skirt class that starts on Jan 30 . I have often had dreams of seven neat skirts with the days of the week embroidered on them, like a modern day school uniform. Is that crazy?

Oh how my daughter wishes she could participate in the fantastic Harvest Textiles summer school. Alas funds don't stretch that far and she may have to wait til the winter course! If you are lucky enough to be able to hand over the serious cash dollar it is totally worth it people. Not on are the harvest ladies the nicest peeps in town they have the mad skills that will have you screen printing up a storm. Beck has already participated in one of their courses and still raves about it. Highly recommended.


blogs of the week

b is for breakfast, d is for dinnertime

OK so last year was all about me posting breakfast daily on Facebook. An interesting exercise for in which I discovered I consume more bagels in a year than they bake at Glicks in ten. So, this year I've decided try and branch out a little and try to find some new favourites and fall backs for my favourite meal of the day. I've also decided to follow Ramona's lead and put together a blog chronicalling my morning repasts rather than bore my friends stupid on facebag. 
So now you can see how I start the day, and how Ramona finishes it. Riveting no revealing definitely. Like they say you are what you eat. BECK



golden brown

I've been wanting to do some baking for my boys since before I did the annual Christmas cookieathon (153 cranberry and pistacchio shortbread cookies this year... a new record), but as we all know the difference between wanting and doing over the school holidays can be a very large divide. Still, once the January Jam Session was done (see yesterday's post) I managed a free half hour hour in the kitchen to try out something new.

Enter Donna Hay and her super easy biscuit recipe:
1 cup sifted plain flour
1 cup sifted icing sugar
1/2 cup sifted rice flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g chopped cold butter
1 food processor
about a cup of whatever the hell else you want to put in them...

Put flours, sugar, butter and vanilla into food processor and blend until the dough comes together. Add chopped extras - today I went for white chocolate and ginger. Wrap dough in glad wrap and refrigerate for around 15 minutes. Roll tablespoon portions into balls and place on baking papered tray. Flatten with your hand and cook 10-12 minutes at 160 degrees until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Makes around 25.

My dough was a little too buttery this time, and the oven a little hot, which is why they've spread a little more than they normally would. And with the white chocolate they're also a little sweeter than I usually like a biscuit. Still the boys don't care, and come afternoon tea time neither will I. BECK

eat of the week

jam session 1.

Well, despite the fact that we lost half the tree this year and as a result didnt quite get the "bumper crop" we were hoping for, I still managed to make more jam than both past seasons combined. The trick? Picking early and often - and BEFORE the flying pests and weird summer hailstorms got to the fruit. Lucky really, because every year the list of "please can I have a jar" requests grows longer and longer. Ramona has already snaffled two jars, one for scones and one to whip together in her new fangled ice-cream machine to make apricot vanilla swirl which looked delicious NOT THAT I GOT ANY TO TASTE mind you!

I love making jam, its so easy one kg of fruit, one kg of sugar and the juice of two lemons... and it's especially delicious when you use locally grown in season fruit. So of course we've decided on yet another HML project for 2012, one we're calling The Jam Sessions.

Each month we're going to whip up some kind of jam, marmalade, compot or sticky preserve with whatever we can scrounge, barter or grow and let you lucky readers and listeners compete to win a 12 jar basket of the fruits of our labour...including a choice selection from January's Jam Session (as shown above). Over the holidays I've spied a number of excellent fig trees around the hood, as well as putting in dibs on my italian mother in law's trees... it appears that Feburary will be Fig month.

Oh and if anyone has an idea about what to do with a bucket of apricot kernals please let me know! BECK


Little project of the week

Put a bird on it

My lovely friend B gave me a little nests worth of bird related gifts for Christmas this year. One was a lovely linen tea towel. B was very dismayed when we discovered there was a flaw (about to become a hole) in the material. I still loved it, (and I love B even more) so I decided to make the flaw a feature. I chain stitched around it then stretched the tea towel onto canvas. My friend B gave me this art work for Christmas - isn't it sweet? RAMONA



Summer Daze

January is a languid month here in Australia. particularly with the mercury rising, the cricket on the tv, kids at home and many people taking there annual leave. It's not a great time for exhibitions so it's an opportunity for some nice road trips and long afternoons spent in large mausoleum-like galleries and museums around the place. We are hoping to pile the kids in respective cars and head up to Bendigo Art Gallery to see the rare work of 1950's textile artist Michael O'Connell, maybe later this week when the weather breaks a little.

My beloved spent several seasons as a fisherman and so sees himself as a bit of a seafarer so it will be easy to get him down to Morning Peninsula Regional Gallery to see their Sea of Dreams show. All about the impact and influence of Port Phillip Bay at the turn of the 19th Century.

I'll be visiting a pal in Frankston so I'll make a point to stop off at the McClelland Gallery in Langwarrin to see the ceramics on show as part of the Senini Student Award.The work of 2011's award winner Kerry Peterson was a highlight for us at the RMIT ceramics graduate show. A little bit of craft, a little bit of art, a little bit of driving. Summer in the city/country is here. RAMONA


first day of the week


Can you believe it? Brand new year! The ladies of hml are looking forward to a craft packed summery start to 2012. This is the perfect time to just relax, slow down in the heat (or chill depending on your hemisphere) and work on little projects that bring you happiness. We never start on big projects in January. Sometimes a little paper wreath for the front door is all that's needed.

Ps. Inspired by Beck's 2011 365 project of documenting her breakfast, I'm doing dinner. Everyday I cook for 5 people between the ages of 3 to 69. The family dinner may seem like an odd thing to document and to share but I'm interested in how, over time, it will build a narrative of family life. Don't worry I'll include my culinary disasters, bad takeaways and dodgy desserts so it might be entertaining for you.
It's on a separate blog called 365 dinnertime. If you like to check it out please do!