Thursday, February 24, 2011

Putting love into every stitch...

My mum, Nanette, made my youngest, Lou, a beautiful handmade cot quilt for her first birthday. To me, it’s a little work of art, in peaches and pinks, hand-stitched hearts, and small floral prints. And even though I helped Mum pick out the fabric, the first time I saw it all made up and beautiful, I couldn’t help but be emotional. I just loved the time and the care that had gone into it, and I could see her love for Lou in every stitch.

What I didn’t expect was how much Lou would love it too. She holds one corner in her small hand as she falls asleep – the corner that Mum had sweetly hand-stitched “Love Mama” onto. When she feels unwell or needs comfort, she will pull the quilt through the bars of her cot, and tuck it up under her arm, the rest trailing behind her on the floor. It’s been a constant companion for the first few uncertain weeks at day care, goes with us on long car trips, and needs to be checked-up-upon while drying on the line after a wash.

There’s just something so lovely about a handmade quilt. They’re soft, warm, traditional, and comforting, yes - but they also speak to me of rest, of a safe place, of family.

I also love the quilts that take pride of place in the home. You know the ones – draped over the arm of a couch, like an old companion; the more intricate ones, with months and months of work, hung with delight on a lonely wall.
A friend of mine has a beautiful marriage quilt hanging in her home – it’s a mismatched collection of decorated squares (each family had their own square to adorn), all sewn together. Nothing matches, and the individual styles are so varied - but it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen; it shows the devotion of an entire family and their shared marriage blessings of longevity, lifelong happiness, and the sweetest of love for the newly wedded couple.

Do you have a favourite / comforting quilting story? 


Ps. Nanette’s beautiful handmade cot quilts will be available at our stall at Mathilda’s market on Saturday, 12th March.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Diaries, journals and childhood keepsakes

Lately I’ve been reminiscing about my child/teenage-hood diaries.
Most of them had cheap locks on them, that if you pulled with even the smallest amount of force, it’d practically fall open. I’d also often only write on half the page, or until I made a spelling mistake; and then frustrated with myself, I’d either tear the whole page out, or start again a few pages along.
I was a girl obsessed with perfection, and to some extent, I still am.
And the content? When I was young, it was random rememberings of beautiful days; as I grew, it became a collection of crazed rantings in which I fixated on the unfairness of situations and things, or in rare entries, the boys I liked.

There is one thing that I’m sure set me apart, in terms of journaling - that is, once they were full up with all my secrets, I burned them, one page at a time, in a stone furnace in our backyard. For some reason, I remember looking forward to this (almost) yearly cathartic burning – it was almost like by doing it, I was able to shed the skin of the previous year, leave behind all the nonsense, worries and craziness of the previous months, and start completely anew on paper.
And in terms of journals, starting anew is the best, isn’t it? Crisp blank pages, sometimes a brand new pen, neat orderly writing, and wild stabs at being poetic and/or imaginative.
I just loved those new journals; they each had such possibility.

As I got older, the burnings slowed, then stopped altogether – and now I have a small collection of journals that I don’t think I could part with, each one wrapped in tissue paper and stored carefully in a huge box in my closet. They’re sticky-taped shut, dated, and brimming with secrets and forgotten parts of my life – almost like mini time capsules. I like the idea of opening them up again when I’m wrinkled and grey and rediscovering my young, impulsive self.

Because I’ve been remembering journals and diaries, it’s made me think about whether my two little munchkins would be the type to keep them as they grow up. Granted, they’re still very young and can’t even write their own names; but if I can think of them as pseudo time capsules, it may just give me an opportunity to start a wee bit earlier.
And then, as if it was all meant to be, I stumbled across this blog post by Katie Rich, a Brooklyn based creative mum-extraordinaire, and promptly fell in love...

Ruth's journal entry from April 21, 2009 from Katie Did

Katie’s two girls, Eve and Ruth, illustrated the best part of their week in their own journals every Sunday, and with some explanations from mama Katie, produced something so beautifully age specific and special – an treasury of the best bits of their life over the course of a year, as seen through their own eyes.
Isn’t that just precious?

So, I thought I’d give it a go with Judah. At two-and-a-half, he’s able to tell me about what he’s drawing, and loves pencilling intricate spiralled objects, which could turn out to be our dog, a blue truck, or his little sister. I’m hoping that it’ll be an evolution of drawings over the next however many months and years, and an opportunity for me to pass on something I loved as a girl.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wait a minute, Mr. Postman!

Vintage postcards from my own personal collection - aren't they beautiful?

I really love getting letters in the mail, but isn’t it becoming a lost art?
With email, twitter, facebook, texting, and other forms of social media leading the way, the humble letter seems to have taken a back seat in terms of the preferred way to communicate.
I think I’d like to change this; well, within the way I personally communicate with the people I love. How much nicer would it be to flick through a pile of wretched bills and piles of junk mail to find a beautiful hand written letter on delicate paper, maybe a recent photo of a beautiful day out slipped inside? Or to find an invitation to afternoon tea or dinner at a friends’ house, written into a sweet handmade note card?

I think I’ll start today.
Luckily, I’ve got plenty of beautiful Quill & Ink cards to choose from…


Monday, February 14, 2011

The good, the bad, and the gruesome of fairy tales

Rapunzel and The Princess and the Pea Papercuts by Quill & Ink Handmade

You may have seen some of our beautifully intricate fairy tale papercuts at markets or on facebook – they’ve actually been an interesting and challenging extension to my obsession with childhood fairy tales.

I’m sure I loved fairy tales (as much as I do now) as a kid; I mean, who doesn’t? Aside from the ‘handsome prince rescues beautiful maiden’ scenario, I love the way that the stories are so predictable; each one follows a similar formula – no matter how the tale starts, you know that the bad guys will be punished, that the prince figure will always find his way to the beautiful maiden, that good will eventually triumph over evil, and the world will be set to right. I love the predictability, the tales’ certain path – I’ve always found it very comforting.

Over the years, I’ve read stories from all over the world, studied the way they work, applied and tested various well known formulas, and written plenty of my own. But the thing that has struck me the most? The disparity between my remembrance of childhood fairy tales – the stories that were soft, warm, rosy and beautiful – and the gruesomeness of reading the same stories as an adult. They’re violent, bloody, scary, filled with double meanings and suggestive adults only content. They almost always involve some kind of ghastly sacrifice, true love is constantly put to the test (and left to the pure-hearted maiden to master), and yes – Stepmothers are always, always bad.

Briar Rose Papercut by Quill & Ink Handmade

When I started reading them again as an adult, I’d often find myself laughing out loud at the content. Take for example, the original version of Rapunzel by the Brothers’ Grimm - the na├»ve, unmarried Rapunzel alludes to a lover (yes, a lover) and the child that she’s carrying by complaining of the increasing tightness of her gowns to her captor, Dame Gothel.
And the wicked Stepmother in the Juniper Tree decapitates the head of her small stepson, then props him up against the wall, his head balanced precariously on his shoulders, and goes on with her chores. She later goes on to chop up his corpse, adding the meat to a stew that she feeds to his father.
As gruesome as the tales are, I actually think it adds to their specialist appeal – they’re able to span the divide between childhood and adulthood, making the tales accessible to a wider audience. As a child, I glossed over the horrid for the happily ever after; as an adult, I’m able to laugh at the scandal, decadence and the audacity of the content.

The Seven Ravens papercut by Quill & Ink Handmade

It’s also one of the reasons I started papercutting the tales – I wanted to encourage adults to re-read these astonishing and beloved stories. While most of the papercuts are for children, containing sweet scenes with beautiful girls trapped in their beautiful worlds, each one comes with a blurb of the story, which I hope prompts a rediscovery of the classic.  And in some, there’s also a hint of the true nature of the tale - like the small knife in the hand of the girl in the Seven Ravens, which she uses to cut off her finger in order to save her enchanted brothers.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

1000 Journals Project

Journal #981 by Whitney Sherman

I watched a documentary a little while ago about the 1000 journals project – did you see it? It was about an experiment that started more than a decade ago, in which one person ‘launched’ 1000 paper-based journals, destined to travel the globe, to be written on, illustrated, passed around, poured over, and loved by total strangers, before being posted to the next recipient (or writer) on a very long waiting list.
Some of the journals were amazingly beautiful pieces of art; others a brief written insight into the lives of the people it came into contact with. There were a lot of sob stories, bad poetry, and tales of frustration, heartache and joy; there was also a journal that simply went missing, which the project managers are still searching for.

The 1000 journal project became so popular, and the waiting list to receive a travelling journal so long, that organisers recently launched another initiative, inviting people from all over the world to launch their own travelling journals, and for others to sign up to receive them.
I was so excited when I found the site again yesterday, that I signed up on the spot – I’m now waiting on journal #4818, and I’m 15th in line, which is not too bad at all! It was released in Australia in November last year, so it may be a while before it gets back to me; but sometime in the next couple of years, I’ll get a random parcel from someone I’ve never met, and I think that’s worth the wait.


Ps. To join up or to read more about it, go here.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

In the beginning...

The quest for a new doll starts out as just a pile of oddly cut but beautiful fabric, threads of all colours and sizes, and the noisy whirr of my 20 year old sewing machine; but, it isn’t until I attach the two wee shiny buttons for eyes, and a wide, deep pink smile that these little treasures come to life for me. Add to that a cute pair of shorts or a high waisted skirt, their hair neatly done, and a beautiful old-fashioned name, and look – they’re alive!

Old fashioned names have always evoked a sense of nostalgia and charm for me, so all of the dolls I make get a specially selected, carefully matched name. But, like a new parent, sometimes the hunt for the perfect name can be a long one. Does he look like a handsome little Hudson who can’t resist jumping off the sofa in an attempt to fly? Or does she look like a carefree Collette, who would love nothing more than to spend a hot afternoon jumping over a cool sprinkler in the backyard with her dog? 

You see my predicament?

What is never hard is finding absolutely mouth-watering fabrics from our local and interstate suppliers.  My heart beats a little faster, and my eyes get a little wider when I step into their stores, or go to a bustling fabric fare. I must admit, I have bought fabric for no project or purpose other than the fact that it is so beautiful - but, more often than not, a little red headed boy with a cheeky smile, or a daintily and perfectly dressed blonde girl slips into mind - and I can’t wait to make them, name them, and see them with a special little someone I know - being hugged tightly, or curled up for bed with their new best friend.

Sleeping Lou and Bonny Bea

The first doll I made was for my darling niece, Lou, for her first Christmas. As I made it, I hoped that little Bea would be a perfectly-sized friend for her, and something she would love and treasure for years to come. I hoped that she remembered Bea fondly as she grew older, and I put my heart into the making of her.
I’m pleased to say, that she is still a favourite – she’s been chewed on, hugged, tossed and washed more times that I can count, but Lou still loves her, and won’t sleep without her (and the rest of the entourage – Bea was joined by Charlie, Audrey and Millie all before her first birthday).
Lou also tends to claim every doll that enters the house as her own ‘Bubba,’ and it warms my heart to see her take one wherever she goes - tucked under her little arm as she waddles about.


Ps. Bea, Charlie, and Audrey are all available in our Etsy shop now. Millie is in production and will be available online soon.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Simple Pleasures

When I was little, I had a small box of paper dolls that I painstakingly handmade and gave personalities to. I’d cut them all out together in one big long paper doll chain, then give each one a different hairstyle and clothes with my bright coloured felt pens. They were all named after characters from my favourite childhood movies, had complicated, busy lives, were always getting into romantic scrapes, and the girls always needed to be rescued by one of the ‘handsome prince’ type figures.
I loved those paper dolls; they were my most favourite and for some strange reason, an entirely secret game. Maybe I just liked having a creative outlet that was all my own.
I also remember being really upset if one of them got too fragile for use and I knew I’d have to make a replacement (which was never quite the same or as good as the original).
I saw a paper doll for sale on Etsy this week, and it spurred the memory of my own; and then in searching for some to go along with this post, I found these which I actually wouldn’t mind owning myself…

Miniature Moveable Valentines Dolls by Hollandsworth

Summer Fun Paper Doll set by Little Mo and Friends

The Cat made me Steal by PaperThinSaga

I kept my paper doll box until I was well into my teens, and then just before moving out, in a fit of grown-up-ed-ness, I threw out the lot. I regret it now - having a small daughter of my own, I can’t help but imagine showing them to her when she’s a little bit older – a small glimpse into the childhood I can barely remember.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A second 'home' among the gum trees...

I have this wonderful fantasy that I’d just love to indulge in – a purpose built studio. Just one small room, with wide doors looking out onto the garden, tucked into the back corner of the yard near the fence. And I’ve been obsessing about it for years.

Currently, my ‘studio’ is in the dining room on our big, wooden table. It’s noisy, hot, and at the centre of the house; it’s also perfect for my two small fidgety children, who like to pull off and run away with anything I happen to be working on. Not ideal, to say the least; but I’ve managed so far, and will probably manage for a good while longer.

To keep me going, I dream studios. I imagine being in a space all my own, with all my creative bits and pieces housed neatly around me - a place where I always know where things are, and where beloved items never mysteriously disappear into the void. I dream of filling orders, playing with ideas, and drinking tea, of planning out the week, working late into the night, and listening to the sounds of the garden.

If I was allowed to dream up a space that was all my very own, this is probably what it’d look like:

Image from readymade

And on the inside? Shelves brimming with the sweetest stacked vintage prints, neatly folded, just waiting to be used; a big wooden table to work on, a comfortable old-fashioned fabric covered chair, a beloved sewing machine. Shelves with new beautiful stock ready, waiting to be sold; draws with all the patterned papers and cardstock we could ever need; a blackboard for notes and reminders, an ipod dock and all my favourite songs, and the afternoon to work away uninterrupted...


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cool, calm and collected in the kitchen

Every time I look at these cards, it makes me feel like baking.
In my imagination, my fake self is baking ridiculously beautiful cakes and tarts, wearing a sweet frilled apron and high heels, and has perfectly coiffed hair. The kitchen is gleaming, the children are clean and sweet as sugar, I'm multi-tasking like a professional, and even manage to sit down (daintily) for a cup of real tea in a china tea cup.
You can see it too, right?

Available in our Etsy shop now!