warp speed

Plastic pop culture and old school handicraft come together in a happy and all too short marriage in Mardi Nowak's new tapestry show 'Sampler' at Handheld Gallery. Images of Kylie, Lady Gaga and Roisin Murphy are frozen by the pause button and lovingly recreated in small but simply fabulous work.

Anyone who grew up glued to RAGE or MTV (do kids still do that?probably not) will sympathise with Nowak's love of the musical moving image. Those saturated colours, heightened emotions, melodrama and mayhem all feed into an adolescent fantasy life unmatched by any other medium.

If you are looking for perfect weaving, clean edges and neatness then this isn't the place to go, and I think that is just fine. There is something so joyful, so youthful (for want of a better word) about the work I can't help for a little Gaga on my wall. RAMONA

'Sampler' by Mardi Nowak
until Feb 16
Handheld Gallery
paramount Arcade
108 Bourke Street
Melbourne City



Our North City 5/ Kirsten Perry Workshop  grand prize was left unclaimed by first winner Cherry Ripe so we've redrawn and our runner up (and now winner) is JULES - commenter number 11 and author of the lovely Wollenflower blog. Jules contact us ASAP via email at handmadelifeproject@gmail.com so we can connect you up with the NC4 gang. Cherry Ripe if you belatedly read this we have a special crafty consolation prize pack for you too.

Our long weekend is longer than usual so we'll be back tomorrow with our usual craftiness. RAMONA



so hot right now

The relatively new Artifice store could be seen as a little slice of Fitzroy in Williamstown. Beautifully curated by business partners Jess Morrison, Coconut Lu and Matthew Bracken, this lovely space is full of the very best handmade and designed goods to indulge a a bit of retail therapy in between fish and chips and splashing in the sea.

They are also fortunate to have a light filled room for classes and lectures. They are kicking off the year with a very fashion forward Terrarium workshop by the brilliant folks at Petite Green. Terrariums are trickier than people think and a little professional advice is always good to have. what a lovely excuse to cross the bridge!

Spots are limited so call Artifice on 9017 5446 to make a booking pronto. RAMONA446 



inner space

Like many craftspeople, notions of the interior are continually considered by the ladies of HML. Working creatively within a domestic environment is both rewarding and fraught, as anyone who has to take 'breaks' away from the bench to put on laundry, mend toys or make dinner will attest. And the idea of private space for anyone with children, especially those of the pre-school variety is a kind of mythical nirvana only spoken about in glossy magazines. Both of us have often dreamed of the wood lined studio yurt in our backyards so this new exhibition featuring works by Kyle Banyard, Sarah CrowEST, Georgia Perry and Terry Williams kind of blew our minds. Curated by Craft's Debbie Pryor, Magic Mountain explores the notion of spacial and interior design, domestic decoration and the psychology behind creating personal or private space via a series of wooden 'huts'. 
The compulsion to 'decorate' is one we both feel keenly, and much of our craft practice both formal and informal has been tied almost symbiotically to this urge. Clearly we are not alone. Georgia Perry's tribal cubist geodesic entry arch set the scene and totally had us wanting to run home and start printing up an old school Queen Latifiah Mu-Mu. IT IS JUST SO GOOD. 
Regular readers will know that we are massive fans of Arts Project Australia, so we were particularly happy with the inclusion of Terry Williams. Again we were so inspired by his painted exterior - a colour and pattern explosion reminiscent of both baroque silk tapestry and pub carpet, and his interior soft sculptures of broken fridge and decaying contents were both hysterical and tragic. 

But for mine it was Sarah CrowEST's linen draped hut housing the star of the show that won the day... Obviously I'm a massive sucker for a swathe of raw linen and ceramics but it was her deft handling and light touch on far darker imagery that completely won me over. I kept thinking this could either be the space of a rainbow glittered unicorn or Satan worshipping, textile loving serial killer... or any combination thereof. The accompanying ceramic stalagmite tables and objects are complete genius and now totally on my must have list. 
Brilliant work by all the artists and a major achievement for curator Debbie Pryor. A must see. BECK
18 Jan – 2 March 
31 flinders lane Melbourne.



you are my sunshine

As is so often with the domestic crafter, I was inspired by what seemed a simple project in a magazine. 5 steps to a lovely sunburst mirror - brilliant! I wanted mine to be a bit more glamorous and opted for longer twigs and gold paint. Little did I know that this Saturday project would in fact take a week to finish.

Half a day was lost just trying to find a mirror. One thing that irks me about craft is how hard it can be to source suitable materials for projects. I do most of my supply buying online now because it drives me so nuts. A mirror is too heavy to pay for postage and I wanted it NOW! So some quality time in the car was required.

For most of this project it was truly a hot mess. Sticky wood glue, twisty branches, lack of patience made for not so much fun. The stick sticking alone took two days. Much of it involved resticking what seemed to be unstickable. I left it all overnight only to lift it up and have half the sticks fall off. Change of glue required.

Once the sticking was solved it looked terrible. I repainted the whole thing white so that my gold paint would have a nice even surface - 4 coats of white paint. Sigh.

Spraying the gold was the most satisfying part of the project. It looked actually kind of amazing after this process. A process that took 6 hours and 3 cans of spray paint. I also accidentally sprayed my shoes.

So here it is in situ. It took 6 3M Velcro tabs for me to feel safe sleeping beneath it. I do love it tho. It is up high enough so I don't catch myself in it at all (hate that) but makes the room feel lighter and bigger. Now having lived with it for a week the pain of the process is a fading memory. I'd like to make a smaller black lacquer version for a friend's birthday gift next month. At least now I know what I'm in for. RAMONA




Our seventh commenter Cherry Ripe! You are now on your way to having your creative mind blown by the fantastic Kirsten Perry. Please email us with your details (name, email, postal) at handmadelifeproject@gmail.com

We'd like to thank everyone for entering. We had so much fun we are sure to do it again! Thank you to North City 4 - we love you ladies! We'll be back next week with an exhibition review (Magic Mountain!), a book of the week (Orpin!), an insane project reveal (starburst mirror), and lots of other handmade goodness. Leave us a comment and let us know what you think of the new look. xx HML



Perry Good

The amazing artist and jeweller Kirsten Perry is one of our all time biggest craft crushes. We've sung her praises many times here on handmadelife, we totally get crazy dancing feet (Beck) and jazz hands flapping (me) whenever we see her inspired (and inspiring) work.

How excited are we that she is imparting some of her knowledge in a two-eve workshop at North City 4? I'll tell you how excited we are: the ladies of hml pitched a bedazzled tent in the NC4 driveway in the hopes of being first in line for this amazeballs event. So much so that the lovely ladies (in a kind attempt to make us go home to our families) have allowed us to offer one of you dear hml readers a FREE SPOT in this super cool class! you lucky ducks!

all you have to do is leave a comment answering this one simple question:

who are the 5 Board members of North City 4?

Entries close Thursday at midnight with the winner announced Friday morning.
Remember no jewellery experience is necessary and you will find yourself creatively inspired and energised for the rest of the year (and take home your very own piece of jewellery!)  




boxed in

The rather unappealing poplar box trio was picked up on sale for $1. The original intention was to paint them as a set for desk storage but once I worked out their individual uses I had to break up the band. The little blue one is now a small gift filled with nice miscellany for my first birthday friend of 2013

The middle one is now glitter glue storage (yes I do require glitter glue storage, sad but true) of course the one meant for me is the one I like the least. But the glitter is now safely tucked away.

Thom is always in need of storage as he is a candidate for the new show Mini Hoarders. You can tell just how seriously he takes these little projects. I've worked out there is nearly always at least one step he can manage on his own really well so when it's finished he has a sense of ownership over the object. He painted his grey and chose the comic strip paper. It's now home to street signs and wooden folk. As you can tell it is a very slow crafty start to 2013! RAMONA



Bourgeois See

This new resolution of seeing the shows we tell you about is working really really well for me. I announced on Sunday morning that I 'had' to go to Heide Museum of Modern Art to see the Louise Bourgeois exhibition. What an art indulgence! Heide has that seductive quality of combining art, architecture and nature that can make me feel better almost instantly.

Of course Bourgeois is one of the most important 20th century artists but of course for me it is always the craft in her work that draws me in. Her family were tapestry makers and restorers so she was brought up with a respect for the needle and constantly refers to handiwork in her art. It is so important that all textile artists, be you professional or domestic go and see this show if you can. The work is strange, deeply personal, sometimes grotesque and often beautiful.

There is also a marvelous adjunct show of Australian artists influenced by Bourgeois in Heide 2 which is well worth a snoop. Of course there is the requisite museum branding on mugs and tea towels and placemats if that floats your boat too. Her work is so deeply rooted in the ideas of home and domesticity I don't think she would mind!
If you'd like to know more about this encredible artist before seeing the show (recommended as it is a great story) this eloquent obituary that appeared in the Guardian is the perfect primer.

Show runs til March 11
If you want to eat breakfast or lunch at Cafe Vue the BOOK! The queue was insane.
Ph 9852 2346




I know it's post Christmas but I though I'd share some of the handmade gifts I received this year. For no other reason but to show you I'm not the only Christmas crazy out there! Speaking of which, one of the craziest and most delightful gifts was my knitted taxidermied squirrel mounted for display from my artist friend Miss B. She also made the very mini planter out of polymer clay. The mugs were a very special gift from Miss I to celebrate the launch of my partner's new business.

Beck of course outdid herself with an amazing basket and glow in the dark party beads - perfect for New Year's Eve fireworks viewing. Funnily enough, I didn't make her anything. As is often the case with the people closest to me, I leave them til last and run out of time/energy. Every year I tell myself I'll make the 'inner-circle gifts' first - perhaps I should start now (I'm just kidding).

I made myself a present too - having bought this kit a year ago. I've been laid up with a bad back, the one advantage being I was able to finish a project from start to finish. My stitch skills aren't great, but it did temporarily ease - or at least distract from - the pain.


contain yourself

This time of year the craft show scene is pretty quiet so it is a great opportunity to walk through the big institutions and see new acquisitions, revisit old favourites and in this case see a gallery full of some of the most well crafted vessels made in this country. The NGV hosts the triennial Cicely and Colin Rigg Design Award with each year themed to bring a highly curated touch to the show.

Emma Davies ghost vessels were a welcome shot of colour

They dropped the world Craft from the title but we all know it still looms large in the criteria. This time instead of going for a medium category (the past has included jewellery, textiles, ceramics) they went for a theme 'Containment' allowing for different media (and makers) to be included. The winner was venerable gold and silversmith Marion Hosking, and without doubt her work was impressive. Hosking always manages to pull off the impossible I think, balancing the robust and the delicate without one making the other appear clunky or flimsy. I have to say that there was some really impressive work in the show.

L2R clockwise Robin Bold, David Pottinger, Marion Hosking, Katherine Wheeler

For my money I would have pinned a gold star on the work of Katherine Wheeler. Her work really genuinely excited me. Her strange hybrid forms combined beautiful hollow ware shapes with strange organic off shoots like roots of a plant or limbs of an alien. They looked as if they could spring to life at any moment.They  far from being grotesque, there is great beauty there, like finding a perfect shell or fossil. A fantastic show and a lovely quiet time of year to go and enjoy it.

Katherine Wheeler
Show runs until 21 July (good grief, what is going on at the NGV?)

PS there were many many makers I think should have been included in this show and there are no textile artists (basket weaving anyone?) which seems an oversight to my mind. Not enough glass and no paper anywhere. hmmm...



Clean Slate

That amorphous time between Christmas and New Year has already passed. For list makers like Beck and myself New Years Day is probably the best day of the year. I have my new diary, journal and notebook ready to go. There is much to look forward to in 2013 and there are a few craft resolutions that we've made that we'd like to share.

Top Five HML craft resolutions for 2013

5. Actually see all the shows we tell you about
4. Have a handmade element in all our gifts (not just Xmas but birthdays too)
3. Share our craft failures as well as successes (eek)
2. Continue upskilling by attending workshops and classes
1. Write a book (deadline November 29 - that's all we are saying for now)