Hooray! It’s Spring!

Monday September 5th, 2011, 3 years, 6 months and 4 days ago

One of the rituals of early spring…the Royal Show!

Posted in Snaps

From the Archives: September 1956

Wednesday August 31st, 2011, 3 years, 6 months and 1 week ago

From the comic strip Romeo Brown, Overseas Daily Mirror & Sunday Pictorial, September 26, 1956

Posted in From the Archives

Memory Lane: Stationery & Office Supplies

Thursday August 25th, 2011, 3 years, 6 months and 2 weeks ago

Who doesn’t love office supplies & stationery? Tell me – who??!!


Recent Kitchen Adventures

Monday August 22nd, 2011, 3 years, 6 months and 2 weeks ago

For the last couple of months I’ve been having a lot of fun trying out vegan recipes & experimenting with my own creations (some of which are best not talked about). I’ve bought a few new vegan cookbooks too (my favourites so far are Vegan Diner & Veganomicon), & I have to say, compared with some of the books I bought in the 80s & 90s, vegan cooking has come a long way! I thought you might like to take a look at some of my recent efforts…

Anti-clockwise from top…chocolate tart, lime & ginger pie (with my own experimental soy cream recipe), grainy spelt bread (please excuse the messy kitchen!), basil mayonnaise, & roasted fennel pizza.

Posted in Recipe Box

Making for Money

Monday August 15th, 2011, 3 years, 6 months and 3 weeks ago

Images in this post adapted from various editions of Woman and Home magazine, 1940s (my personal collection).

Last night, I watched with great interest, the documentary Making it Handmade, by Australian indie film maker Anna Brownfield that screened on ABC2 (if you’re in Aus, it’s available to watch on iView for the next couple of weeks). It was great to see such inspiring crafty ladies, such as the super-talented artist Gemma Jones, as well as uber-crafty Pip Lincolne of Meet Me at Mikes. Overall I thought it was an interesting little documentary which offered lots of food for thought. Which is just what I found myself doing whilst munching my morning toast…

There was one aspect to the film that bugged me – a discussion about the commercialisation of craft. In fairness, there was a distinction made between independent crafters (good) & the big corporations who adopt the indie aesthetic, sneakily pretend to be the little guys, or outright steal designs from indie makers (bad), but there was still some discussion that making stuff for money is somehow not in the true spirit of craft – that making a living by making doesn’t have the integrity of making things solely for fun.

I’m an artist rather than a crafter (although the lines can be quite blurry, which I think is great!), but I have been an independent maker for quite a long time now, & have made a living doing just that since 2006, so I think this entitles me to an opinion (despite not knowing one end of a knitting needle from the other). I don’t think motivations of love or money are mutually exclusive, or that making a profession from creativity cheapens it.

I come from a working class background. My first home was a modest little pastel green fibro house in the ‘burbs, & the schools I went to didn’t have a great deal of resources or instill a sense of ambition in their pupils. The most anyone hoped for us was that we would at least get some kind of a job & not end up on the dole. Since there was not a lot of dialogue about tertiary education or career options (let alone career satisfaction), the fact that I have ended up self-employed, independent, & doing something I absolutely love is quite an achievement. It’s hard work, & I’m not quite a millionaire just yet, but I still feel so lucky! So any suggestion that I am mercenary or somehow not as genuine as a hobbyist really bothers me, because I feel there’s a great deal of meaning & integrity to what I do, & I am proud of that. Plus, I don’t have the luxury of making purely for enjoyment, because I have to pay the bills!

Being independent, eking out a small, satisfying career competing against the big corporations, is incredibly empowering & also beneficial to society because it helps keep diversity in the marketplace alive, & in a modest way keeps the multinationals at bay from having a total monopoly. Independent artists & artisans are incredibly important to the economy – they’re small enough to fit in those tiny niches that the big corps can’t squeeze into, & nimble enough to adapt quickly to change, not only keeping up with market trends, but setting them. How great is that?!

I found it disappointing that the documentary celebrated craft on one hand, but lamented the commercialisation of it on the other. There were comments discouraging people from buying handmade (?!) or giving a career as an independent creative a shot. Faythe Levine’s comments about production work & getting burned out were perfectly valid – I’ve suffered burn out myself meeting demand for my work, & this time around plan to approach things differently – & I’m not suggesting anyone take a rose-coloured view & fail to prepare or research their options. But overall, I am fully supportive of people adopting an enterprising spirit & giving independence a go.

No matter whether you’re a professional, a hobbyist, sell your work or give it away, have an alternate income or not – all creativity is empowering (& fun!). And if you’re an appreciator & shopper rather than a maker, thank you for supporting people like me. Handmade might cost a little more, but you’re getting something truly unique & made with love. Let’s fill the world with arty & crafty expressions of who we are & what we believe in!

*Steps down from soapbox & puts the kettle on*

Posted in Soapbox

Memory Lane: Fireworks Typography

Friday August 12th, 2011, 3 years, 6 months and 3 weeks ago

Here’s some more fireworks fun – this time, a little something for lovers of vintage typography…


Vegan Breakfast Scramble

Tuesday August 9th, 2011, 3 years, 7 months and 1 day ago

I’ve been a vegetarian since the 80s, but have recently started to focus more on vegan food, pretty much all the time at home now, whilst still indulging in a little cheese, etc, when I go out. I am really enjoying the challenge of cooking vegan meals & have bought a few new vegan cookbooks, found some great recipes online, as well as tinkering with some kitchen experiments of my own (some more successful than others – I have a rock-hard lump of revolting vanilla tofu icecream in my freezer destined for the rubbish bin).

One of my all-time favourites is that old classic, scrambled eggs on toast & I have been looking for a tasty vegan alternative. There are some wonderful recipes for scrambled tofu to be found, but mostly they seem to be quite spicy & loaded with vegetables, such as onion & peppers – I guess to counteract the mildness of the tofu – but personally, I don’t like anything too savoury or spicy for breakfast. Also, as any scrambled egg aficionado knows, the perfect scrambled egg should be soft & creamy, not crumbly or dry.

I have tried to emulate the scrambled egg experience as closely as possible with my Vegan Breakfast Scramble. It sure does look like scrambled eggs, is loaded with protein, & I think it tastes pretty darned good too! I haven’t tried using black salt in vegan “egg” dishes yet – something about adding a sulphurous eggy flavour sort of puts me off – has anyone tried it? – I’m curious, so maybe I’ll have to buy some & give it a go next time. Anyway, recipe after the jump!

Please continue reading…

Posted in Recipe Box

Memory Lane: Make Do and Mend

Tuesday August 9th, 2011, 3 years, 7 months and 1 day ago

We’ve all seen the Keep Calm and Carry On British wartime propaganda poster (& the countless modern variations) – 70 years later, that’s still a great message to live by, isn’t it? No wonder that poster is so popular!

I have a big collection of vintage British, Australian & American magazines published during World War Two; reading them really makes it hit home how difficult life was with such limited resources, but how people used their tenacity & ingenuity to cope, & make life as comfortable for themselves & their families as possible – so many worthy practices came out of these times of rationing & deprivation. In some ways, with the realities of global warming & the uncertainties of the global economy, living frugally is equally relevant today.

Up to the 1960s, most Australian backyards contained a vegetable patch & fruit trees. Nowadays you’re more likely to find landscaping & lawn, yet how we’d all benefit from fresh, organic, home grown produce that hasn’t been in storage for months or transported across country. One of the positive shifts in the way we eat has been that people seem to eat less processed foods than, say, 20 years ago (despite time management being a constant issue for most of us), with a renewed interest in cooking & baking at home.

As well as Digging for Victory, other messages  from the British government during the war encouraged people to walk whenever possible due to fuel shortages (Shank’s Pony is such a reliable old nag!), & to Make Do and Mend. We all know the virtues of sustainable living, but can always do with some encouragement every so often to consider all the little things we can do that make such a big difference. Don’t you think these fantastic posters serve as a timely reminder, from an era when people had no choice but to buckle down, make do & carry on.