White Night – Melbourne 2016

White Night Melbourne 2016 was interesting and I’m pleased to have gone but sadly it failed to pack the visual punch of previous years. Arriving in the city around 2am the streets were busy as we got closer to Swanston Street but negotiable unlike some past years. Unfortunately by dividing the city into 5 quite spread-out precincts to ease the crush, organisers sacrificed the stunning street installations in Flinders Street and St Kilda Rd. As a result, the whole night felt quite low energy … it lacked overall impact and a central focus. In keeping with Melbourne’s character lots of terrific events took place inside iconic buildings which left the city streetscape disappointingly empty and missing the wow factor associated with White Nights. That said, we loved Tae Gon Kim’s ethereal drifting Dresses in the Queen Victoria Gardens and magically transformed Domed Reading room ceiling in the State Library.

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We also took the opportunity to visit the Ai Weiwei exhibition again and thoroughly enjoyed the whole vibe of the very full gallery in the early hours of the morning.

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Wanted to get to the Exhibition Building in the Carlton Gardens – it was apparently stunning – but it proved a physical stretch even though we didn’t head home until after 5am. In retrospect I’d prefer go to White Night with nothing in mind, virtually no preconceptions apart from the certainty that I’m be going surprised, charmed , challenged in different ways throughout the night.
Favourite installation of the night was definitely Josh Muir’s amazing expression of indigenous experience in Australia after European settlement … this extraordinary hyper-real montage of familiar buildings and the city swept you along as it moved across the façade of the NGV Gallery.

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Will we go next year – of course we will. It’s the perfect way to experience and engage with the city in a new way but we’d tackle it differently to get to each precinct. This year might not have been critical success but all creative endeavours are a process which is what makes them interesting and worthwhile … so roll on 2017.

Melbourne Dog Walk

This week started perfectly with a dog walk through the centre of Melbourne. Sunday was one of those
beautiful clear February mornings but part of reason for joining was to see the MPavillion which was the
meeting place for the group. MPavillion is a contemporary architect designed pop-up hub in the gardens
opposite the Art Gallery and has been a feature of Summer in the city since 2014. The 2015/16 design was an
open space filled with dappled light from the roof of over-lapping translucent leaves and sat perfectly within
the lawns and mature trees of the Queen Victoria Gardens. With a very simple coffee bar and seats it
provided a space to pause, rest, engage, enjoy music or meet up before stepping off into the city.

Dog Day 1

Dog Day 2

The walk itself was a very relaxed, non-structured affair but our mob of happy canines prompted lots of
smiles and much amusement particularly from tourists. It was an interesting experience and brought home
the fact that, unlike Europe, dogs are not part of the usual central Melbourne experience. Back at MPavillion
we enjoyed a coffee and listened to a children’s book reading that was underway while Patrick, Finn and
Oonagh cooled down after what was a longish walk for the team. At the end of last Sunday MPavillion was
dismantled for another year but next October a new design structure will pop-up to bring another element to
city environment.

Dog Day 3
Patrick, flat out like a lizard.

To check out more dog photos go to Heather Lighton’s site www.dogphoto.com
Heather is a photographer who enjoys snapping dogs and organised the walk.

Australia Day

The Australia Day week-end is now a distinct memory and the Tennis Open over for another year,
Melbourne is suddenly much busier. Schools are back, the roads are chaotic and 2016 has started in
For many Australia Day is slightly self-conscious affair, an excuse for a holiday …for others its a
day of sadness. Once again the actual date itself was called into question, quite rightly in my
opinion and fed into a wider debate about identity and the nature of the day itself. That aside, it
was still a timely reminder of the rich diversity of contemporary Australia and the energy that this
diversity brings to a city like Melbourne.

Diversity is clearly going to be the catch cry for 2016. Cultural difference has been at the heart of
ak traditions from the very beginning … my aim in starting ak was showcase and celebrate those
differences as expressed through textile traditions. Our first handmade felt dolls Mia and Dinara
were central Asian and grew out of love from this rich and ancient region. Others of Australian /
European heritage have joined them because they were created for grandchildren and family
members but we’ve always encouraged people to make things that reflect their own histories and
reality.

As my own take on Australia Day in the park shows you can always design or tweak your own kits
but this year I’ll be making it easier to select from a more inclusive range of skin colours and possibly
clothes.

Feb Dolls 2

Interestingly, as I was just putting the finishing touches to my picnic diorama a couple of things
happened to support the idea that ‘diversity’ was going mainstream.
First of all Dolce and Gabanna’s new Abaya Collection which payed homage to the Middle East,
Hijabs and scarves started to generate coverage. D&G have always borrowed decorative details
from across the global and this release follows similar ventures by other designers. A genuine
attempt at inclusion or a commercial acknowledgement that their Muslim customers wanted more
wear than shoes and bags, who knows.

Then, Mattel announced that Barbie would be available in a range of body shapes from curvy to
petite and tall. Commercial concerns doubtless played a part and as a card carrying feminist from
the ‘70s I’ve never had an issue with Barbie but was a welcome shift for many.

Top 5 Hits for 2015

2015 has been a rather stop – start year, in part because the shift from bricks and mortar store to a
purely on-line site was difficult physically and took far longer than expected. And all the while I’ve
been in a state of permanent frustration because logistics had to take precedence over creativity.
I’m naturally task orientated and usually turn ideas into products quite quickly – by necessity I’ve
numerous of projects still at ‘works in progress’ stage which doesn’t sit easily.
That said, after 14 years in business the move provided a much needed circuit breaker, a pause to
take stock. Developing ak has been a blast and I have absolutely no intention of stopping … in
fact I wouldn’t change anything but my original concept has expanded in so many interrelated
directions … it was time sort out exactly which aspects I enjoy and which I feel most passionate
about. Running a shop as well as designing and manufacturing its easy to get bogged down in the
day to day business rather than focusing at the reason you started the business in the beginning.
As the pointy of the year approaches, the logistics are sorted, well mostly .., we have a rather cute
new brick warehouse, I’m feeling re-energised enough to start dealing with IT issues and ak’s
communication and generally enthusiastic about the New Year. We may do a trade show in
Germany in January which is interesting and I’m excited to get stuck into all those ‘work in
progress’ projects. And despite the challenges there have been some highlights worth noting
year…so, in no particular order, here is my slightly eclectic top 5 hits for 2015.

Creative Workshops at Cutting Cloth:
2015 marked the beginning of what I hope will be a happy and ongoing relationship with Cutting
Cloth in Fairfield … running classes in Kellie’s light and airy workshop space definitely helped to
save my sanity this year. Workshops were always a big part of the ak shop experience but to be a
guest tutor in this it lovely shop without the need to coordinate competing demands was luxury.
Cutting Cloth is beautifully designed shop, a delightful space filled with an extensive range of
thoughtfully edited fabrics, kits and stylish textile related gifts. It was opened about 10 months ago
by Kellie Wulfson who is well known in patchwork circles both here and around the world.
Patchworkers are Kellie’s natural audience but Cutting Cloth is not your ordinary patchwork shop
… so if you’re a fabric tragic or just enjoy being in a gorgeous environment take a trip to Fairfield
and soak up the ambiance. Visit nearby Beancounter for coffee.

I’ve really loved doing my doll workshops this year, thoroughly enjoyable days right down to Kellie’s
delicious nibbles and the sit-down lunch . Next year we’ll be creating more ak dolls and adding
wall hangings and mobiles – check out the website for classes including Kellie’s inspiring patchwork
workshops.

Cutting Cloth also stocks ak traditions books, sewing kits and wool felt. Look forward to seeing new
and old ak customers in 2016.

Workshop 1

Workshop 2

Cutting Cloth, 282 Wingrove Street, Fairfield, 3078
0409 860 402
www.cuttingcloth.com.au

Spain:
In April we had a wonderful holiday sailing around the coast of Southern Spain and ending up in
Barcelona … where I fell totally in love with just about everything. We even started checking out
apartments to buy. There were simply too many visual treats to list here but the architecture,
attention to detail in everyday life, the food … the extraordinary Alhambra, the Roman ruins in
Cartagena, the Soller railway on Palma de Mallorca and of course Gaudi standout.
Being a dog lover I quickly became fixated on the extraordinary number of dogs around the town
streets everywhere we went. In apartments, shops, restaurants …often small dogs in pairs being
walked by men, both old and young. I started to document all my sightings but people were not
always happy to stop and pose and in the end I abandoned the project. But the idea is still there
floating around and I’m quite intrigued about the role of dogs particularly in the life of young
Spanish men.
We visited Brussels en route which was a first … loved the Be Manos which is a design hotel
tucked away in the old part of town. Filled with contemporary sculpture – the huge fibre glass
babies climbing the wall next to lift were amazing – and photography. Only time to scratch the
surface but this hotel seemed to tap into the stylish underground art vibe of the city.

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Dog Balcony

alhambra

Spain 2 – Discovering Pinzat:
This high happened in Barcelona but it definitely deserves a separate note, in fact it one of best
experiences of the whole trip. Pinzat was started around 10 years ago by a trio of artists based in
Barcelona describes itself as a ‘one-of-a kind brand working with graffiti artists around the world’.
Starting with bike the team create unique, durable back packs, bike bags and seats characterised
by original artwork by 35 very different local artists. Everything is made from locally sourced
materials such as recycled seat beats and if you’re lucky you even see the bags in production in
Pinzat’s wonderful studio – showroom.
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many interesting places but sadly the world is increasingly
homogenous … it takes quite a lot to get me excited. Luckily I’d read about this unique creative
team before our trip and they were a destination visit but I was overwhelmed by the originality and
charm of the work and could have moved in and stayed. Huge respect for what they’ve created.
I bought two different bags hand painted by Emilio Cerezo and have used my computer every
single days since we got home. Definitely a bag for life…

pinzat

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Pinzat
Carrer de Grunyi, 7, 08003, Barcelona.
www.pinzat.org (great web site)

Heart Health:
On a more personal note, there were some positives in the area of health. In the early part of the
year my mother had treatment for cataracts and macular degeneration which were both very
successful and far less arduous than expected. Small victories but of huge importance.
Then, my extremely fit husband had a heart related glitch that has been resolved, hopefully, with
some minor surgery and medication which was of course a major tick.

Out in the garden:
I’ve always been a passionate gardener and for years we had a out wild picking garden filled with
roses, perfumed perennials and herbs of every sort. We even had a well loved camomile lawn – I
obviously had too much time on my hands. Unfortunately wild gardens require a lot of work to
achieve just the right balance and since starting ak, time has become scarce…. as a result the
garden was seriously neglected. Working from home in the studio this year I’ve had the
opportunity to start sorting it out – which is not to suggest I’ve slowed down or retired to garden, far
from it. But I have made the time replant large areas of unusual herbs and perennials like
Angelica, Meadowsweet and Borage as well as all the usual culinary suspects. The dogs and cats
now have cat mint and dog grass scattered through beds and best all all, I’ve got my vegetable
patch going. Not huge at this stage but we’ve 20 or so tomato plants heavy with fruit, beetroot,
lettuce, spring onions, beans and spinach – all our everyday staples. Next project will be replacing
a large section of garden with a network of raised beds – not exactly a walled garden but a practical
way to get more sun within a large heavily treed space.
A simple highlight – but one which is definitely life enhancing and to be recommended. There is
nothing like the sweet summery perfume of tomatoes in the warmth of the evening. Now if I could
just reach an understanding with my much loved possums who spent last night perched in the Fig
tree stripping the tops of our scarlet runner beans. Errr, tonight i’m setting up a possum feeding
table as a distraction, we’ll see.

Handmade Fair Cafe

Postscript to the Handmade Fair

We’ve been home a couple of days so I’m taking the opportunity to jot down some thought about the past week.  If you get the chance to visit Hampton Court is quite wonderful and was an inspired choice for an English craft festival.

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Friendly herds of deer wander the grounds

Overall the whole experience was thoroughly enjoyable but also hard work. It was also unseasonably hot and humid which wasn’t a plus inside the tent and set up day was a nightmare due to the weather.  Despite the heat rain was forecast on the first night and the organizers feared flash flooding meaning we had to pack up the stand, cover it as best we could and put lots of stock into storage.  Setting up again on the second morning was not amusing and needless to say the heavens did not open during the night.  Logistics at shows take up a hugely disproportionate amount of time.

But back to the Fair itself which looked terrific as to be expected from someone with Kirstie’s background – pretty, charming and quirky.  It was laid out like a village with traders, workshops and other featured events such as talks and interview sessions housed in huge white marquees’.  Lots of thought was put into the design of the site with solid pathways and signage brightened by retro bunting that fluttered happily just about everywhere.  There was an interesting selection of quality food on offer in the smaller tents and from some beautifully refurbished food caravans which added to the overall vintage feel of the week-end.

It is always so difficult to capture a true sense of a show you’re involved in because invariably you rush out at the end of the day when things have died down and by then the place is empty and looking ready for a tidy up.  This show was heaving everyday and looked marvelous when viewed as a working venue which is not as these slightly sad images suggest…but they give you a taste.

Handmade Fair Cafe
One of the Cafes

I absolutely loved the skilled workshop spaces which dressed quite simply with lengths of mismatched fabrics and large posters.

The Handmade Fair
The Yarn & Textiles Workshop Space
The Handmade fair
The Yarn & Textiles Workshop Space

Participants were seated at long trestle tables dressed with bright printed fabrics and quirky decorative details related to relevant to each craft.  All very cleverly laid back and happily not over styled.  Each tent was inviting and interesting and different but the décor looked just what it was, temporary which was refreshing and appropriate.

After 6

Handmade Fair
Wood Chalkboard Easels along walkways directed everyone to the right spot

After 6

The Food Decoration Tent Entrance
The Food Decoration Tent Entrance

 

In the food decoration tent each participant at the cupcake session received readymade cupcakes
In the food decoration tent each participant at the cupcake session received readymade cupcakes.

I’m sure everyone who visited the Fair over the week-end went away feeling very up-beat after had a relaxed and engaging day.  Kirstie was keen to create a Fair that was different from standard craft shows – a festival of all things handmade rather than purely a commercial exercise.  It was quite brave move to bring introduce a new event into a market which is already overcrowded with craft shows and overall I think she succeeded well.  No doubt there will be tweaks and changes for next year but there was a generosity and friendliness to this show that was unique – from the organizers to the volunteers without whom it couldn’t have happened at all.  Our own Fair experience was definitely improved by having a couple terrific neighbors with whom we’ll stay in touch…not all that usual for shows despite having a nodding relationship with lots of regulars.

Hi everyone at Blossom, sugar art who were an absolutely laugh and made it a ball.  If you’re looking for gorgeous cake decorating moulds check out their web site.   So Cosy across the way had the most beautiful throws and rugs which I intend to chase up now that I can think clearly – thank you Vily for posting even if it may have been better to button up.

And finally the gorgeous Vina, one of the volunteers who was a joy to meet and someone we’ll see in the future.
And finally the gorgeous Vina, one of the volunteers who was a joy to meet and someone we’ll see in the future.

 

 

 

Art and craft ideas

‘Kirstie’ on the stand

Watching Kirstie over the week-end – she was there each day out and about, all day to the end – she seems to be true to her TV persona – very warm, a bit self deprecating and rather jolly in the best possible sense…a natural communicator.  On the first night she actually came back with her boys after the show was finished and there was no one left in the tent to have another look which was thoughtful.

All in all I’m really pleased about the Kirstie project because it was fun and the perfect way to connect with the Fair from a distance.  The clothes definitely hit the mark perfectly…as did the shoes but I do wish I’d left the hair brown because in the flesh Kirstie’s hair is definitely brown and not as dark as some photos suggest.  And I wish I’d done a much better job with the eyebrows which ended up being are far too severe and arched giving ‘Kirstie’ a cross, rather grim look that certainly isn’t not true reflection of the real Kirstie at all.

How to make handmade dolls
Kirstie visits our stand at The Handmade Fair
How to make handmade dolls
Kirstie & “Kirstie”!

 

How to make handmade dolls

The Making of the Kirstie Doll – Part 14

Well we’re here and the stand is set up – it is very, very humid and sticky in the tent but I’m looking forward to a great day. The vibe around the site is promising and all the logistic people are helpful and friendly – special hello to Annie. Our hotel is ideally located across the road from Hampton Court gates but is not well suited to the weather. Built in 1635, it is a listed building so has no air conditioning – and windows which do not open. Not sure how we’ll cope if the heat persists because our room is like a hotbox.

Shortly after the Fair opened Kirstie arrived to meet her namesake which was a nice surprise unfortunately I had temporarily removed not only my shoes but my jewelery and was under the stand sorting stock. I emerged looking rumpled and looking like I’d done a full days work already. Wonderful! Now that I’m here at the Fair I have become slightly concerned not to come across like a crazed fan – Kirstie is followed everywhere by admirers hoping for a photo. But I think she gets it and is amused. And interesting, despite knowing nothing about the whole creative process and my angst over the fabric choice, she immediately honed in on the Opal print and wants to purchase some for a dress. I’ll now have to hope its still available.

The Making of the Kirstie Doll – Part 13

The past few days have been a mad rush to get kits finished, printing completed, patterns tweaked and generally get pack up all the bits and bobs needed for the Fair. The logistics of fairs are always challenging however when you’re half way across the world it gets even harder. We have stock, display material and printed matter in storage in Harrogate but we had such a short time to pack up after the Spring show at Olympia that I’m not even sure what is there. Hopefully we’ll get time during the Fair to sort out boxes and do a proper inventory but this can be easier said than done.

On the plus side Kirstie is virtually complete apart for the swatch to hide the scorch – and I intend to do this on the plane.

Handmade doll making

The Making of the Kirstie Doll – Part 12

This morning decided to revisit the dress and separate the bodice and skirt in order to change the design from front opening to a simple gathered style – the front opening simply refuses to sit well.  I think this will be much more successful but the inside of the dress looks like a dog’s breakfast.  Having finally got the construction right, at this point I just want to cut a whole new dress and make it afresh – which I might do at the very end after I’ve completed everything else on my show ‘to-do’ list.

The scorched coat lining still needs to be sorted but first the fit had to be adjusted.  The coat sits exactly as I hoped however the over sized shawl collar is problematic on the doll because ak dolls characteristically do not have swan like necks or indeed any necks.  To address this I hand rolled the collar to ensure it stays back in place and have reworked and lifted the hair to ensure it clears the collar and sits better.  This works – yah!

I’ve decided that I’m going to leave the existing lining as is and cover the scorch with a label.  A label was always part of the plan but I’ll have to make it a little bigger …needs must.

The Making of the Kirstie Doll – Part 11

Another long day in the sweat shop looms (my husband’s words).  The coat has gone well but unfortunately when I gave it a final steam this morning the iron was a little too hot – tired and not concentrating – and I’ve scorched the lining at the hem.  Why do these things happen at the worst possible moment.  Rather devastated but there is literally no time to make over so I’ve set it aside while I have a think.

Despite early promise the dress has been also created issues.  Usually I throw things together quickly but when you’re under pressure nothing seems to work.  The shape is ok but working without a pattern I’ve had to fit it and undo and sew again several times and this is never a good idea when using pure silk.