Saturday, 17 October 2015

Raising Hens

Anything - growing plants, making art, keeping chooks, raising kids - looks easy when it's done right, by someone who knows what they're doing. It was gratifying to have a laugh at this cartoon being somewhat of a city person in a regional environment.

However, I have had a few wins - the hens started laying again after (to me a very mysterious) egg-less stint of maybe 4 months. I relocated their house to the less soggy back corner of the garden which is a pleasanter experience for the carer at least. Constrained their movements to a fenced portion of the yard, so that they aren't free to poo under the carport, on the lawn and on the back deck. Spent a day in the hot sun building the fence higher to stop them going next door and kicking the mulch out of my neighbours garden beds. Even clipped most of their wings with Emmy's help - though flying may have helped them escape a fox I saw run from our yard early one morning -  the decision was made based on the havoc they can create and my available time & energy to spend fixing it.

So it's taken nearly a year, but I think I've got it working fairly well - eggs, pleasant clucking and scratching, good compost creation, minimal garden damage, and happy neighbours.

But now one of the hens has started to crow.
In the morning, once they wake up, the girls make their way as close as they can to the house and make a racket of clucking and squawking until I bring their food out to settle them down. I should add that often their feeder is full of pellets, and of course their area has ample space to scratch and explore, but this is the routine. It's at this time that the one Em calls Jodyhighroller, has started to position herself on a treestump, flap her wings, and blast out a croaky, gutteral crow, like an adolescent rooster. And like a trained seal, I run out instantly in my dressing gown with an icecream container full of food to shut the noise down before the neighbours think I have a rooster. Which I don't. Incidentally rewarding and reinforcing the whole routine.

It will be interesting to see if she stops laying and makes further gender identity changes, or whether the crowing is just a dominance thing... Otherwise she might have to go to the special rooster farm as Fil of Howash has explained.

Eggs are available on weekends from Bayside Emporium. The dozens are a mix of sizes - the tiny ones are Lucy's.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

A stitch in time

Revamped lamp with twine-wound base and map lampshade

Peeling off the paper template for appliqued sketch book cover

The finished cover... inspired by Alabama Chanin's (far more amazing) work

One of a batch of hand-made recycled notebooks

This notebook cover has a little window

They are recycled from art-reference printouts, childrens story books, atlas pages, tracing paper and old schoolbooks among other things. And hand-bound with crochet thread. And there's a fair bit of sewn paper in there with the threads all left dangling.
Sometimes a fabulous thing happens and I find time to float off on waves of inspiration, and make and do things that make no economic or logical sense.

Other times another fabulous thing happens and I find time to calmly address undealt-with things that have been filed as too difficult or time-consuming or overwhelming to resolve. Often as I daily chip away at my 'urgent' list I'm also building little barriers in my brain. Things which need doing or resolving that I will possibly never tend to. These last few years as I've embarked on a bit of a rediscovery of my creative nature I've observed these patterns but I'm still a little clueless as to why the mental doors get shut on some things, when there is so much satisfaction in the unlatching.

For example the thread on my sewing machine kept tangling and it would jam up and refuse to sew. So I thought I'd have to get it serviced. My sister said that would probably cost at least $70 and she sent me a link to a brand new machine at Aldi for $99. So cheap! But I'm not a person who likes to chuck things away. I still feel guilty about throwing away my microwave a few months ago, while it still worked perfectly, tho I got it second hand in the 80s. So anyhow I just stopped sewing for a while. Then one day I suddenly found the focus & patience to give it a good looking at. I googled the problem, read a few forum comments and then dug out the manual. The last page had adequate instructions on how to clean & oil the machine. I didn't really imagine that I could make much of a difference to the serious problem I was experiencing but I committed to the process anyway, regardless of what the outcome might be. I had to overcome some mental barriers like the tools supplied didn't seem the right shape to easily carry out their purpose, and fear of losing parts or not being able to return parts to their previous position. But these were just little tests that faded to insignificance once I was empowered by each successful stage in the process.

I think I spent about an hour on the machine, increased my competence with it and knowledge of it's components and operation. Increased my mood and feeling of ability and control. Increased my bond with my trusty machine. And when I ran the first swatch of test fabric through it sewed like a dream.

I also hand-hemmed a pair of pants which I've had pinned for about 18 months. It took maybe 20 minutes. And now when I put the pants on my shoe doesn't get hooked in the pinned hem. I know, it's not Einstein's theory of relativity. But what the hell IS it?

Anyhow I'll get back to my inspired time-consuming craft creating, much dominated by the well-oiled stitching of my trusty Singer. The pictures tell the story - sewn paper, appliqued patterns and recycled things. Tactile, rife with tattered thread ends and rugged twines, details of maps and random sentences from children's stories. I'm loving these projects so much, and though making them to sell makes no economic sense, they are available in my little store in Huskisson.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Sticks and Sewings

I'm not much into material things. Only mostly because a fancy new thing that costs a lot, is only new and fancy for so long. But almost any thing can be defined as new if it's new to your environment or experience and can enhance your life or space or way of doing things. So maybe I AM into material things, because my whole day or life can be transformed by the way a stenciled heart combines with old denim and a bit of stitching, or a remnant of floral cotton or gingham.

 So here are 3 buntings made from my daughter's old jeans. With a beautiful weight and drape that reminds me a little bit of leather, they each have 15 triangular flags alternated on nylon cord with loops tied at the ends.
An order from a (very patient) regular customer, shown here one of two bedside lamps with the shade made of twigs. The base is a metal touch lamp, which I think is really convenient for emergency lights-on rather than hunting for switches in the dark. I say twigs here but I really think of them as sticks. I think of sticks as building blocks for so many things that I'm almost reluctant to poke them into my blazing brazier. I am very rich in sticks.

Some more sketch book covers. Or should I say 'visual diary'? I buy these little sketch books and make beautiful fabric covers from calico, remnants of vintage linen, old hand-done needlework, re-purposed cords, straps, buttons. They have pencil-pockets, and wrap shut so you can throw them in your bag for your Artists Date (aka The Artist's Way). C'mon you visual people, I know how it feels to want to record everything with a sketch or diagram! Anyway, these books are for you. And for the handy hand-crafters who toiled to make the original needle-work I've used in these - here's to your efforts! Here's to your contribution to the artisan world! I honor your efforts and hope to spread the love!! The bird design above is a vintage iron-on embroidery pattern, which I think looks very elegant in it's original blue-only form.

So I was going to wind up with something about how sticks and sewings can break my bones... or tie in to the idea of the value of material things against the value of experiences. But now I've been delayed by a discussion with my daughter who in her final year of school has managed to refine her focus and study to a very neat degree, so much more so than I at that age. And the day has grown dark and delicious and there are so many exciting possibilities for tomorrow that I leave with that tension... Happy Friday

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Making time for making...

This week I've found the 'to-do' list at a manageable level, with minimal emergencies, no double-bookings, no desperate deadlines, car breakdowns, health dramas, pet crisis'... in short, none of the things that regularly shape my (moaning now) chaotic, busy days. 
So there have been hours of blissful creating of things and experimenting with materials, and revitalising and reworking things, which has materialised in some new items for the Husky store.

 Satin cord - so many ideas, these were just a couple of experiments. I started to look at chinese knots - wow. I'd love to perfect the butterfly knot! But for now I'm working with some standard macrame knots and braids.
 Doily earrings - these ones I dip dyed. Some I tea-stained. But I thought they were a nice fresh variation on the plain doily.
 Upcycled bottles - I love the whole bottle, twine, aged label thing. Vintage images, combined with scans of old worn paper printed on some lovely beige stock. The printed image is fixed with spray matt varnish.
 More little bottle necklaces - some tiny pieces of local seaglass, a magic potion, and a paper butterfly cutout. A lovely customer already bought the potion one - an Alice in Wonderland fan like me.

A 'found' branch with birds, jewellery pendant, refashioned into a choker. I love how the clasp matches.
And a table runner made from printed linen and backed with calico. This fabric is super pretty and I've also made t-towels to match with the neatest mitered corners I'm ridiculously proud of.

I've also made a pair of twig lampshades with touchlamp bases that were an order for a regular customer. I'll photograph them to upload next time.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have time to make time for making - if that's the sort of thing you like doing. :-)

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Wood & String

 Last year I was asked to sit with the neighbour's lovely girls for the day, and as a craft activity I showed them some little glass bottles. They were so inspired, filling them with tiny seed beads and wrapping the tops with wire or writing tiny notes on tea-stained paper and rolling them up to pop inside. I've made some more bottle necklaces for the shop, I love the sciency look of them, and the idea that anything that fits inside can become jewellery. When I was at school I had a collection of jars with creatures in metho, these days I am a little more practical but the fascination is still there.

When I was a schoolkid I went through a macrame phase and made several pot hangers, owls, and even a halter (i had a little obsession with horses). 
It seems quite difficult to find appropriate materials for macrame - cords and ropes can be quite costly and fairly large quantities are needed. So when I found some nice fat white acrylic at the op shop, I excitedly matched it up with a beautifully sun-bleached gum branch and some wooden op-shop beads for a lovely seaside wall hanging.

I strung a tatted doily on an embroidery hoop with knotless netting to make this dreamcatcher. There is a wire nest which has a brass bird searching for it.
These beautiful frames made from recycled timber are begging for some gentle, natural artworks. I've started with a deer which has been on the table unfinished for some time now. I will get them done at some stage but if they turn out very, very pretty I might have to keep them. :-)

I should mention that I no longer have a shop at JindyAndy Mill. Any remaining stock is now at Huskisson in the Bayside Emporium.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Happy New Year!

This is just a quick mish-mash update on what's been happening with Pebbles and Pods! 

In November I was offered a space at Jindy Andy Mill, which is in Pyree, East of Nowra, in charming green dairy land. Such a beautiful location, and alongside JindyAndy Antiques and Lisa's The Store. How could I resist? The offer meshed perfectly with my moving house and having several, somewhat "homeless" pieces of furniture available to use as display. The environment is very serene and the people are delightful. I have currently joined forces with my old neighbour, Susan, who has truckloads of baskets, desks and vintage mirrors she's been collecting for years. If you're in the area, stop in and have a coffee at Greenfields cafe. Susan and I sat outside yesterday watching a sweet little swallow in a nest built on top of a light fitting. 

I made a wedding gift for a loyal customer for "J" and "S", something quite different for me. 

I met the recipient of a commissioned painting I completed about 12 months ago. She was very pleased with her gift, and it was really something special to meet her and also to be reassured... it's an ugly, gut-churning, insecure feeling when you send off a portrait, hoping in your heart of hearts that it is well received. (I think of the movie Napoleon Dynamite - laughing!).

Moving house has been an epic upheaval, as it also involved separating from the lovely Andy with all his birdly wisdom. But I'm building my own nest now and enjoying avian freedom :-). In my new garden at Sanctuary Point I miss the little finches and wrens, but I love the Lorikeets and Corellas, and the kangaroos that lay outstretched on front lawns or barrel into our backyard and gawk at us through the back windows while they comfortably scratch their bits.

We've adopted 6 hens from a local family who are moving far away. I just love hens and their gentle, homely natures. We had applied for ex-battery hens, but then these ones came up - and needed to be taken right away, so I had to work fast to get their space ready, setting posts and swinging a gate, adapting the two-hen-house to suit 6. 

My daughter has a range of jewellery at the Huskisson store, look for the shipping tags with the vintage gorilla stamp. She's got a great eye for quirky, cool pieces, and she's raising money to buy herself a little 2nd hand car.

The Emporium in Huskisson is crazy-busy at the moment which makes for a great, bustling atmosphere! Please be patient with the staff, we aim for friendly service to customers but unfortunately our system is not designed for fast turnaround. Bring a coffee from Kiosk across the road and take your time ;-)

Playing with display ideas on my kitchen bench! I just wanted to share this because I think it looks super pretty. Found dollhouse, vintage silk flowers, made nest & wreath. Can be seen at my 2nd store at Jindy Andy Mill. 

More sketch book covers. One has a repurposed horse cross-stitch and shoelace 'rope', the other is made from a cushion cover with a broken zipper.

No pencils included with these ones but they still have a pocket inside the front cover.

A commissioned wedding horseshoe for the lovely Maree of Tricky Words

The letters S and J made from beading wire are stitched alongside a bow & key.

Cutout card made as a gift for the wedding couple.

Going through my photos I realised that this image explains everything I love about grasses. There are no adequate words. It's a couple of streets down from my new house, by the water in Sanctuary Point, early in the morning.

Near the boat ramp at Sanctuary Point, just back from the saltmarsh, looking along a creek. So inspiring, this pretty place!

A pair of bedside tables I've doozied up for Jindy Andy. The drawers are lined with the prettiest paper, too. Why did I not photograph the drawer liners??

An octagonal terrarium table. So pretty, this old thing. I gave it some love and put it in the shop at Jindy, and it has sold already.

This guy turned up at the back door or our new house, as if he'd seen an "open" sign.

The result of a workshop with the lovely Robyn Broughton in her elegant garden. My first dreamcatcher. This one sold the morning I hung it in the store at Huskisson.

Some little birds fashioned from fencing wire. I made these a long while back, but put them aside, as I didn't consider them a proper, completed product. But when I went through all my craft things I rediscovered them, and I think they're like 3D sketches and are quite appealing, so they are now in the shop at Husky.

Lamp with shade made from sticks. The lamp base is slightly off-white and has a gentle crackle effect in the glaze. The sticks are cut from my vast supply. I also made some more jar-stick vases. Our new house has at least 6 very large gumtrees, so there is no shortage of sticks. In fact, my dream of building a giant nest may be achievable from my own trees alone.

Swan sketch-book cover, repurposed longstitch, hessian, and vintage linen.

Pocket detail inside front cover - vintage linen. And a feather from the swan :-) [this one is sold already]

Doily dreamcatcher. This guy is hardly much different from the doily wall art things I make, but I've decided it's ok to put the dangly bits at the bottom. Some of the tassels on this one are made from homespun wool which is delightfully crimped- looking.

I added some macrame for good measure.

Another sketch book cover - salvaged cactus cross-stitch, salvaged yellow frog closure, and fabric remnant.

Calico and salvaged embroidery, cotton lace tie. This is one of the prettiest bits of embroidery I've ever seen, the petals and butterfly wings are 3D, and I think it's done on silk. The lining and pocket are made from vintage linen.