You really don't have to go far to see three of the best examples of contemporary craft/art pop hybrids we've seen in quite some time.  Craft Victoria's opening volley this year involves four of our favourite artists Troy Emery, Lucy James, Kent Wilson (BONUS CARD) and John Brooks all presenting their own very particular perspectives on the decorative arts.

Troy Emery's From Far Away is an extremely clever exhibition. Using a range of pre made 'kiddie' craft objects like pompoms, tinsel and fringing in glorious candy-shop excess he immediately pushes viewers into a challenging and dichotomous position. Using a barrage of conflicting associations (trophy/ comfort/reductive totem) and the visual traditions of plush toys, museum display and traditional decorative arts he creates animal sculptures that are as much fairy floss dreamscape as they are animated nightmare monsters. An exposition of delicious repulsion and utter genius.

Loom of the Land sees Lucy and Kent create a collection of totemic objects reminiscent of oceanic and african tribal masks gleefully decorated in a carnival of saturated pop colours and geometric shapes. By using materials like wood, paint and textiles common to both 'traditional' tribal art and the sub cultural tribes of the west (think everything from gypsies to hipsters) they consciously mash up visual codes, notions of privilege and ceremonial culture. Thought provoking, and challenging beyond the super seductive 'decoration'.

Weaver and visual artist John Brooks pretty much had us from the moment we saw his studio textile grad work, so we are incredibly happy to the development of this new work Transgenesis. Brooks has taken full advantage of his insider knowledge of construction and materiality to create textile technology hybrids that explore the Darwinian concept of difference and mutation. One part Tom Baker era Dr. Who and two parts super shagged Yeti these bejewelled pelts are seriously something to see. Ignore the hotness outside and get amongst it. BECK

From Far Away, Loom of the Land and Transgenesis 
all on at Craft Victoria
31 Flinders Lane Melbourne
until February 15.



building blocks

Well the summer school holidays are stretching on in that usual way. kids underfoot, hard to get started, heatwaves etc. Not to mention an intense work period for Beck and I which involves us texting, emailing, phoning and typing all at the same time. The nature of collaboration for us at this time of year is all electronic despite being in walking distance of each others house! In between I've continued making little things, mainly gifts for friends and family. the blocks are for Mr M who works at the museum as a preparator - it's my version of an executive toy! The beards are for my sister in law's birthday -not 'til April so I'll make a little pouch for them too.

The log lady brooch (my favourite Twin Peaks character) was for me but Beck has made me promise to make her one. The doily bowl is to hold my newly acquired crochet yarns (I'm determined to MASTER it). The houses are a house warming gift, much overdue and the beads are for my daughter who as a 19 year old design student is very picky, but she loves these. None of these projects took longer than 30 minutes so they are all achievable for even the busiest bees. I hope you are all finding the time to make in between everything else you are doing. RAMONA

ps. clearly I'm loving orange and blue combos!



green machines

The creative collective known as NorthCity 4 are starting their year off in a thoughtful an engaging way. Their contribution the Sustainability Festival is a terrific seminar that examines the nature of sustainable practice and the impact that has on communities. North City 4, from the outset have shown great commitment to sustainability. Just some of their studio strategies include using 100%  green gas, 25% green electricity and using recycled and reclaimed materials. You'll need to book HERE to secure your spot for the seminar.

Other highlights of the festival are the Create from a Crate design show hosted by the Victorian Woodworkers Association, the Undress Melbourne Sustainable Fashion show and the Bamboo Building Workshop. The Festival starts Feb 8, which is closer than you think people! RAMONA




a scene from Just's 2013 UK Knit Hope project
It would seem that these are dark days indeed for women worldwide. Violent acts against women in seemingly safe areas are being widely reported and quite frankly are distressing and disturbing. This is why so many of us were uplifted my weaver Maryann Talia Pau's recent 1 Million Stars to end Violence Project.

The cynical amongst us may question the power of craft to solve or even salve these issues but community craft, heart and soul is about bringing people together. As a group we  process these terrible events in a way that can make us feel safer and stronger.

Australian Artist Kate Just, fresh from the success of her similar project in the UK 'Knit Hope is undergoing a new version here in Melbourne titled 'Knit Safe'. The idea is to come together, everyone knit a section of a large black and silver banner and then take to the streets as a craft army. If you would like to know more about this community project you can visit the face book page here. the next knitting workshop is February 1 at Westspace Gallery from 1-4.



ye olde excellence

We here at HML have had some very intense discussions this past year about crafts. the loss of skill, things that are on trend (macrame! polymer! weaving!) and crafts that seem to have fallen by the wayside somewhat. So much so that it is hard to find current practioners of not only excellence but also forward thinking contemporary craft practice. We know of course that this goes beyond having a great website or a profile on the Design Files but if we can't find them, then who can?

I was thrilled to find this book, the very Anglocentric 'The Book of Forgotten Crafts' which focusses on skill specific crafts that seem to have become so specialised and arcane there are fewer practioners than ever. The titles alone should pique your interest enough. They put each of these crafts in an historical context and then give an extensive interview with a current practioner. The overarching theme is skill and tradition. I'd love to see more of an emphasise on preservation and skill sharing.

As damning as we can all be about 'hipster' culture we have many things to be grateful for. This new generation of interest in artisanal living has meant there has been a resurgence in some long forgotten crafts. Last year saw traditional sign writing making a big comeback. Handmade shoes were everywhere at the design markets along with handhewn furniture. 

As a domestic crafter what interested me about the profiles in the book is how their craft is a lifelong process of learning and refining. They were pretty singular in their passions. I can't imagine the dedication it takes to be a lobster pot maker or cricket bat maker or even a gunsmith. There may not be a big call for broomsquires these days but there should be (I am now obsessed with learning how to make my own broom).

The book also includes illustrations taken from The Complete Book of Country Crafts published in the 1970's - not that long ago really, but so very long ago in many ways. The Book of Forgotten Crafts, though published in 2011 is a throwback book that not everyone will like. I love it and it's a great reminder to not always get lost in the visual splendour of the internet. Some days it's important to sit quietly with a good book, or a loom, or a pair of needles and learn how to make something slowly and well. RAMONA




dip dyed beads, chalkboard paint gift box, stitched card and polymer clay jewellery
While Beck and her boys are sunning themselves (with periodic rain drenching) down coastal way I'm stuck at home with my brood wishing I could get away. But alas alack both funds and work commitments mean that this summer is a stay at home vacation for me. So I've been crafting a lot, what a surprise right?
wool stash being used to help me learn crochet fabric eggs are a bit pre-emptive I know!
Just little projects that only take 30 minutes or so (the fabric eggs took longer but were 'tv' craft) in between work work and home work. I'm starting to want to get stuck into a major project but am yet to settle on one thing. So for now I'm happy to puddle along, going through craft boxes to finish some works in progress and make the odd card or two for early birthdayers.

crepe paper flowers, cards and gift boxes.
Those of you that follow me on Instagram will have seen these so apologies but there are still so many of you who haven't crossed over to the shorthand social media. so I thought I'd share these with you. I hope your summer (and winter if you are northern hemisphere brrrrr) times are going well and you have recovered from the TRAUMA of 2013 (yes everyone had a bad year). This one is going ok so far? RAMONA



How low can you go...

While Ramona holds down HML HQ me and the boys are spending time in our 70's caravan down in San Remo. The show of the year down here is the annual Kustom Nats which is pretty spectacular, and you know what fans of a rocking subculture craft we ladies of HML are. Hot Rodders and to a lesser extent muscle car enthusiasts all make the pilgrimage for a three day gathering of the clan. 

photo by crcooperphotography
There's a lot for the craft lover to like about the custom car scene and we've long been of the opinion that pinstriping in particular should be celebrated more within the craft lexicon. 

Such highly specialised skills are practiced by masters that have spent a lifetime learning their impressive skills. Like sign-writing and letterpress we hope to see this craft make a comeback as a new generation of graphic artists fall in love with the allure of super sized motor art and join their local club.

photo by crcooperphotography

Of course I'm a big fan of graduated glitter, matt black and ghost flames but I was particularly pleased to see the resurgence of lace paint jobs, - serious lowriding awesomeness that almost had me convinced to approve the architects purchase of a 64 chevy impala station wagon for his next project. Almost. BECK
wanna see more? crcooperphotography or #kustomnats2014 on instagram.



NY door branch made with air dry clay
The ladies of HML aren't big fans of New Years Resolutions. There is a tendency to self criticise in those lists that we find unhelpful (eat less! walk more! Make more! Buy less!). We try and make those kind of resolutions quietly and every day and just get on with things. We do have a few crafty resolutions that we thought we'd share with you. Most of them are already underway but we are calling this the Year of Consolidation so it's as good a day as any to make the list

5. Include a handmade element with every gift
4. invest in handmade ceramics, jewellery, wood, glass and textiles
3. See craft and design based exhibitions every month
2. Visit regional galleries and retailers to see what is happening beyond the inner city
1. Finish our MAJOR NOT SO TOP SECRET PROJECT (nearly there)

oh and of course eat less, walk more, make more, buy less.

Happy New Year
Love Beck and Ramona x