More watercolour patterns

Here are some watercolour patterns I painted yesterday and today, when I realised I had a full blank pad of watercolour paper that I'd forgotten I'd bought. I've been quite into making freeform watercolour doodles lately - it's fun and therapeutic and relaxing. And because I'm so colour restricted with screen printing and with ceramics, I've gone a bit nuts on colour overload. Who needs a colouring in book? 

Happy Friday.

Urban and sweets

There is something about decaying urban landscapes that I just love, and the old typography/signage/handwriting that often goes alongside it. There's lots of this in the photos I've taken this week, while walking around my neighbourhood (and bits of the city). I've also got a thing for sweets and baking, it would seem. Happy Monday.

Vegetables

I just love fruit and vegetables and most weeks I go to the local farmers market and buy produce directly from those who grew it. Although often not perfect looking, it tastes so good (and who wants perfect looking produce anyway?) I like that there's dirt on the potatoes, mushrooms and beets, that the apples and pears have russeting. 

The other day I decided to draw some of the produce I'd bought that weekend. I'm no great drawer but trust me when I say that the first few greylead sketches looked terrible. I was about to move onto doing something else but then I picked up a new pen I bought in Japan and it was like the pen took over (seriously!) and I was drawing things in a different way. And the drawings just all seemed to fit together. Yesterday I finally had time to sit down at my computer and turn the drawings into a pattern. I might yet tweak it a bit but think it might soon find itself onto a tea towel. 

Autumn/winter

I feel like I'm getting nothing done lately...just running around in circles each week. But I just had a look at the photos I've taken in the last month (it seems I take my camera with me almost all the time) and I realise I have been doing things, just not what I was planning on doing. So instead of making ceramic things, refining new designs and doing lots of printing I've been walking the dog, cooking winter food (it seems I also do a LOT of cooking), shopping at the market, hanging out in my local Masonic hall and then doing other, non-fun work. But that's OK, because Melbourne in winter is pretty nice. 

Patterns: Watercolours (& fabric packs)

Because screenprinting requires a different separation for each colour, I tend to think about design/patterns in a certain way. As I'm also a massive fan of minimal colour palettes (two or three colours maximum), this has been just fine. But lately I've had a hankering for a change, so the other day I bought a set of watercolours. Here are a few patterns I've been playing around with (ie: me going colour crazy).

On a different note, I've just posted a couple of fabric packs in my Etsy shop. Snap them up while you can...

Japan Things

One of the things I most love about travel is noticing the differences between the place I'm visiting and home - the architecture, the light, the plants, the people. I find this stuff fascinating, even if the 'travel' is just going to a country town an hour away. Going slight further afield, say from Melbourne to Sydney or Hobart is great, as each city is so different in terms of climate, architecture and more. And going overseas blows my mind - I notice everything, am fascinated about how & why things are the way they are.  

All this year I'd been reading about Japan (well, I'd read bits of Hello Sandwich's Tokyo Guide and also Tokyo Precincts and Monocle's Tokyo Travel Guide, all highly recommended, along with a few general online travel guides and some blogs) and I knew what to expect generally. But when I got there, there were all these little quirky differences that I loved. So I decided to write them down, so I wouldn't forget them. And as I know a few people going to Japan soon, I thought I'd share them in case they're interested.

I'd heard there were vending machines everywhere in Japan but I didn't know they'd often be surrounded by so many well tended pot plants.

I'd heard there were vending machines everywhere in Japan but I didn't know they'd often be surrounded by so many well tended pot plants.

JAPAN THINGS:

Thank you. I don't speak Japanese but I already knew one thing - "thank you" is "arigatou". But when thanking you (which happens a million times a day - everyone is so polite!) people actually seemed to be saying something else. It took me a while to figure out it was the more formal "arigatou gozaimasu" (pronounced "goes eye moss" with a silent "u").

You get hand towels at eating and drinking establishments. Sometimes it's a real towel (face washer sized) and it's hot. Sometimes it's a small wet napkin in a plastic bag (like you used to get on planes!) It's always nice.

You don't need to press the button at traffic lights (and often there is no button). Well, this was the case pretty much everywhere we went. Occasionally you need to press the button at night but generally the lights just cycle through, as there are always pedestrians everywhere.

People wait for the green light at traffic lights. Yep, no crossing on the red! Generally, anyway. Why rush? 

Crows. There were loud, squawking crows everywhere we went. Initially they freaked me out (is it an omen?!) Then I got used to them. Apparently they're very smart, remember faces and do swoop people, so don't be mean to them, as they'll remember you next time!

Footpath = road. It's not the case everywhere, but in lots of places we went to there's no footpath and you just walk on the side of the road. It's how it's always been so it's very safe, but it took me a little while to get my head around the idea.

So many pot plants. It's definitely not the case everywhere, but in the first area we stayed in Tokyo, there are pot plants all over the place. There often isn't room for everyone to have a garden but you can still have greenery this way. Excellent!

The train station music/jingles. They're unique, to say the least. According to the sister of someone I know, the tunes have "baroque foundations and excellent augmented triads." So kawaii.

Stripes. So much striped clothing. Who would have thought you could have so much variation with stripes!

Folded toilet paper edges. Everywhere - in all the AirBNB places we stayed, in little bars, restaurants, even in department stores. Everywhere. And public toilets are everywhere and clean, amazing. But finding a bin...well, that's another story.

Toilet flush confusion. Sometimes it took me way too long to figure out how to flush a toilet (push a button here? Push a button there? Hover your hand over a sensor? Pull a lever?) that I'd accidentally hit the flush sound effect button. Yep.

Craft beer. OK, I knew Japanese craft beer was a bit of a thing. But it's actually a super big thing and there are so many great local artisan brews. If you're into beer, prepare you palette and your wallet - they're excellent but can be pricey.

A beer stall at the UNU Farmers Market.

A beer stall at the UNU Farmers Market.

The taps at The Watering Hole.

The taps at The Watering Hole.

Hydrangeas and ivy. Unfortunately we couldn't time our holiday to coincide with cherry blossom season (just missed out) but the hydrangeas everywhere more than made up for it. They're one of my favourite plants but I had no idea they came in so many varieties and in such vibrant colours. And ivy, often variegated, also seemed to be everywhere. I used to hate ivy and thought of it as a weed but now I'm going to have to find some and pot it in an indoor hanging basket ASAP.

Let me know if you've been to Japan and have more things to add to this list! 

Oh, Japan

So I've been on holiday in Japan for a couple of weeks and oh my, I wonder how it is that I've never been before - it's is soooo amazing! So many people but so much order, so much politeness, so much good food, so much good coffee, so many adorable pot plants everywhere, so much matcha everything, amazing hydrangeas and ivy everywhere, home of the best sweets ever (mochi!), so much good and simple design in the right places. And the home of Muji - going to the flagship store was a semi-religious moment for me (sad but true!) And I cannot wait to share the latest instalment of Studio Space, and the first international workspace. Here is a really brief edit, in photo form, of some of my highlights so far. Now I'm off to Nippori Fabric Town, home to more than 80 fabric stores. It's going to be a good day :)

Sneak peek of the next Studio Space shoot.

Sneak peek of the next Studio Space shoot.

Hydrangeas are one of my favourite plants and are just everywhere, so great.

Hydrangeas are one of my favourite plants and are just everywhere, so great.

Delicious matcha icypole from Paletas.

Delicious matcha icypole from Paletas.

There are so many amazing gardens everywhere.

There are so many amazing gardens everywhere.

Simple soba and beautiful ceramic wares.

Simple soba and beautiful ceramic wares.

Ivy is so popular in Japan!

Ivy is so popular in Japan!

There has been a bit of karaoke! This dapper gent speaks no English but sings very, very well.

There has been a bit of karaoke! This dapper gent speaks no English but sings very, very well.

So much simple but good everything in Japan, including graphic design.

So much simple but good everything in Japan, including graphic design.

Patterns: Teeth & Legs

I've had a sore tooth all week, which has totally sucked. But it's inspired me to draw the offending tooth and turn it into a pattern. Can you tell I'm a fan of simple colour palettes and imperfect lines?

So here are a couple of sore tooth inspired patterns and below that - some hairy legs I drew last week, which I kind of think would make a cute tea towel. I hope your week has been better than mine and your teeth are happier than these!

Autumn/Fall

It's starting to look a lot like autumn/fall around Melbourne - the leaves are turning amazing colours and the weather is even weirder than normal. I've been wanting to go the Botanic Gardens for yonks, as it's been years since I've walked through. Today's forecast for some sun, combined with actually having some free time, meant this was the day. 

The gardens are situated right near the centre of the city and are huge - around 38 hectares (94 acres). And I chose the weekend of the annual plant sale, where you can buy plants propagated from some of the gardens' 10,000 species. How did I come home with only three plants?! I could have bought so many, but could not carry them! If you're interested in having a squiz and you read this in time, the sale is also on tomorrow, Sunday 17 April. More info here.

I feel so inspired by plants and gardens and the older I get, the more interested I become with  what looks good, what grows where and how I can have a bit more greenery in my life, so I went a bit snap happy. Here's a selection of shots of the gardens and also the War Memorial, which has the most amazing cacti.

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You never arrive

You think it's just you - you work by yourself, you question what you're doing, why you're doing it, whether you're any good at it. Then you listen to two podcasts in a row with people who you look up to, who are super talented, famous, prolific and successful (like Lisa Congdon and Jason Munn), and they both say they often question themselves. They don't always feel confident in what they're doing. And then one of them articulates it perfectly, by simply stating YOU NEVER ARRIVE. And that's a good thing (thanks, Lisa Congdon.) Ah, it's all about perspective! That happened to me last Friday.

Coincidentally, yonks ago I'd booked in for the monthly Creative Women's Circle (CWC) morning tea, first thing this Monday morning. The topic, which I'd forgotten about, was Building Confidence Within Yourself And Your Business (Especially When You Work Solo). At that morning tea I was surrounded by about 12 amazing and inspiring women, all creative, all with different businesses or business ideas. And we all talked about the same things - how do you confidently sell your own work/services? How do you know what you should be doing when there's no boss over your shoulder telling you? How does it feel when you're at a market and don't sell much? How do you have the confidence to take a business from a part-time thing to a full-time thing? (That one's for me.)

After that I re-listened to the two podcasts and jotted down a bunch of things that Lisa said, because I realised the advice she has, as a seasoned creative, is so helpful and inspiring. It was, basically, the answers to the questions we'd been asking at CWC. So no pictures, just more words. I hope you find them helpful. And if any of this piques your interest, go listen more - details of the podcasts are below.

LISA CONGDON

Lisa Condgon is an artist, illustrator, author and educator who currently lives in Portland, Oregon, USA. She's a prolific creative who takes on year-long creative projects, has published a number of books, is an exhibiting artist, does a heap of illustrative work for clients and also does some teaching. She's been working for herself as a creative for a number of years is really open about giving advice on what she's found has worked for her. She's even published a book on this topic, called Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist. Her blog's also a great resource, full of open and inspiring words and ideas and she's even posted a list of all the tools that she uses and loves - how great is that!

Here are some of the things she mentioned in the Creative Peptalk podcast with Andy J. Miller:

I thought, for a period of time there, that if I just got organised enough, worked hard enough, worked with this client or that client or did this thing or that thing or won this award or whatever, that I’d somehow arrive in this place where everything was magically, I don’t know, easy and flowing and that I wouldn’t have any worries and that I’d be super confident.

And what I realised is that I’ve really done a lot of the things I aspired to do, I have accomplished most of my goals and I still feel like a nervous wreck most days. I still have a lot of anxiety. I still question whether my work is any good.

You never get to that place where it becomes easy. Yeah, it becomes easier but you never arrive. And if that’s your goal, then you’ve got to do it through meditation or another means. Getting to this place in your career isn’t gonna somehow make you magically feel happy or feel fulfilled. It might just make you feel more stressed out, if anything!

You never arrive because life is a journey because it’s not about arriving.

Lisa then goes on to talk about how she now approaches each day with joy. Waking up and feeling joyful - that is a super great idea. Be grateful for what you've got, for what you have achieved. Thanks, Lisa!

AND A BIT ABOUT JASON MUNN

Jason Munn, who formerly went by the name Small Stakes, is a graphic designer/illustrator/poster artist who lives in Oakland, California, USA. He's best known for his screen printed posters for indie bands such as the Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens, The Postal Service and so many more (basically all my favourite bands. I have his posters all over the walls in my house!) In 2010 Chronicle Books published a monograph collection of his posters, The Small Stakes: Music Posters. His use of typography is impeccable and his work is bold, geometric and stripped back - he has a way of taking common objects, finding their essence and making them simple and beautiful. 

If you'd like to hear Jason Munn talking about his work and some of his though processes: Jason Munn with Mark Brickey of Adventures in Design.

And if you are a female creative, live in Australia and have not heard of Creative Women's Circle, take a moment to visit their website. And maybe even become a member and go the the next morning tea, if there is one near you. 

Pinterest

I think I keep away from Pinterest for fear of falling into a pit of beautiful fun...plus I already spend way too much time on Instagram, I don't need another addiction. But I spent some time there today, pinning a bunch of Studio Space pictures. So. Fun. See here.

Seeing all the shots of all the studios in one space is pretty cool - so much prettiness. Here's a selection of shots from the first two shoots, of local legends Maze & Vale and Like Butter:

Cloud9 in Australia! Duh!

Did you know that you can get yardage from the amazing Cloud9 Fabric Collective in Australia, at shops? I have been a fan for so long but I did not know this. Where have I been, hiding under a rock?!* Yep, and from Spotlight, no less. And maybe other stores too? Please do comment if you know of other shops around Melbourne that are stockists. And yes, I know I could have bought the fabric online but there is something to be said for going into a shop, seeing the colours and feeling the texture (organic and so, so soft!), watching someone cut your order to size and then going home with it there and then. Yep, super old school.

Here's a selection of what I've bought recently:

Leaf Sampler from Eloise Renouf's First Light collection for Cloud9. Photo by Susan Fitzgerald.

Leaf Sampler from Eloise Renouf's First Light collection for Cloud9. Photo by Susan Fitzgerald.

Rows. Columns. Pink. From Sarah Watson's Garden Secrets collection for Cloud9. Photo by Susan Fitzgerald.

Rows. Columns. Pink. From Sarah Watson's Garden Secrets collection for Cloud9. Photo by Susan Fitzgerald.

Midnight Flora from Elizabeth Olwen's Wildwood collection for Cloud9. Photo by Susan Fitzgerald.

Midnight Flora from Elizabeth Olwen's Wildwood collection for Cloud9. Photo by Susan Fitzgerald.

Escapade from Avril Loreti's Let's Have a Party collection for Cloud9. Photo by Susan Fitzgerald.

Escapade from Avril Loreti's Let's Have a Party collection for Cloud9. Photo by Susan Fitzgerald.

True Colours from Avril Loreti's Let's Have a Party collection for Cloud9. Photo by Susan Fitzgerald.

True Colours from Avril Loreti's Let's Have a Party collection for Cloud9. Photo by Susan Fitzgerald.

Now I'm hoping I'll soon be able to get, locally, the Cloud9 collection from Skinny Laminx, called Up, Up and Away, Kindred from Lisa CongdonLandscape from local superstars Ink & Spindle and the brand-new, amazing TWO collections from Leah Duncan, Lore and Yucca (here's a full list of designers & their collections - pretty impressive). Fingers and toes crossed.

And if you're not familiar with the US-based Cloud9, here's a bit of background, from their website:

Since 2009, Cloud9 Fabrics is the proud leading source for organic cotton fabric for the home sewing enthusiast. Cloud9 Fabrics uses only 100% certified organic cotton in the manufacturing of our base cloths and eco-responsible low impact dyes for printing and dying. We work closely with mills that are committed to ethical and responsible conduct. This includes respecting the rights of all individuals, a devotion to sustained social compliance, and an accountability to the environment. We work with artists who inspire us, so that we may inspire you. Cloud9 Fabrics is committed to bringing beautiful and unique fabrics to the home sewing marketplace and places a strong emphasis on the distinction of our artists, designers and licensing partners.

And why organic fabric? Cloud9 put it so well:

Organic cotton has a low-impact on the environment and handlers. It is grown and harvested by methods that do not use toxic pesticides, herbacides, fertilizers or defoliants. It relies on natural methods which includes (but is not limited to) crop rotation and cow manure for soil fertility; beneficial predator insects; lengthened growing periods for natural defoliation; and hand-picking, which results in less waste. The statistics from various countries on the health issues of the farmers and handlers of chemically treated crops are startling. The health benefits of organically grown cotton are clear, as are the environmental aspects: reduced toxins and pollutants which infiltrate both the soil and water systems and consequently all living things. It might also be interesting to know also that the cottonseed meal, which is a byproduct of the ginning process, including that of chemically treated cotton, is fed to livestock and can come to us in the form of cottonseed oil in our foods.

As an aside, years ago I remember reading co-founder/creative director Michelle Engel Bencsko's new year's resolutions (well, that's what I think it was...) on her blog - an inspiring list of how she was going to expand the business. Well, her hard work really has paid off, it's great to see. Now to find the time to actually do some sewing...

* Disclaimer: I have such a huge fabric stash that I've not allowed myself into a fabric store for a very...long...time. So while I've been under a rock, the entire rest of Australia is probably aware that you've been able to get Cloud9 here forever!

2010

This is what I was doing back in 2010, which is what, SIX YEARS AGO NOW (?!) - taking photos while on holiday in Europe. I always take the same kind of photos - of rusty old things, plants in cracked pots, washing on lines, dodgy shops and buildings that are falling apart. And food. I think it drives Jed, my boyfriend, mad as I'm always stopping...but when I see a fern growing in an old coffee tin I just can't resist. We were away for two months and covered a bit of ground, so I had the chance to snap a lot of pot plants, be prepared. Enjoy!

Coffee tin pot plants in Croatia

Coffee tin pot plants in Croatia

More pot plants in Croatia

More pot plants in Croatia

Balcony pot plants, also in Croatia

Balcony pot plants, also in Croatia

All the main stops on a bus trip from Montenegro through to Croatia

All the main stops on a bus trip from Montenegro through to Croatia

Plants on steps, Bosnia

Plants on steps, Bosnia

Bosnia

Bosnia

Abandoned, Bosnia

Abandoned, Bosnia

Sarajevo, Bosnia

Sarajevo, Bosnia

Balcony plants in Serbia

Balcony plants in Serbia

More pot plants in Serbia. I told you I take a lot of photos of pot plants!

More pot plants in Serbia. I told you I take a lot of photos of pot plants!

I'm now obsessed with preserving things, probably because I saw this in Serbia

I'm now obsessed with preserving things, probably because I saw this in Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia

Mannequin in Hungary

Mannequin in Hungary

Hungarian pastries

Hungarian pastries

Falling-down pastel buildings in Hungary

Falling-down pastel buildings in Hungary

Jed and I, smiling like dweebs, proper tourist style

Jed and I, smiling like dweebs, proper tourist style

Giveaway!

Just a heads up - if you join the mailing list before the end of February you'll go in the running to win a gift pack including fabric mix pack. Woo! And I'll be listing fabric mix packs in the shop soon and am keen to know if sewers out there are interested in small packs of scraps, medium packs for cushion-type things or larger packs with more pieces, for quilts and things like that. And is quilting fabric preferrer over a medium weight?  I'd love your feedback, let me know what you think!

X Susan

January

I spent a lot of January doing nothing. Here are some pictures I took from the very start of the year, at Lakes Entrance, East Gippsland (where my boyfriend's dad lives) and Sale. We often visit mid-winter, so I was super excited to be going to the lakes and the beach in summer. And then it basically rained the whole time we were there. Oh well, I read a lot. And took a lot of photos, as you can see. I love taking photos of other people's houses. I hope you like looking at them.

Happy 2016!

The new year is already zipping past and I'm only just reopening the shop today! As a special welcome back to the year I'm offering free international shipping for the rest of the month, using the code FREESHIP. Some things will be discontinued to make way for new ideas and new work (including the discount fabric bundles) so if there's something you have your eye on, get in now.

I hope you had a great festive season and got a bit of a break to refresh. I had a full 10 days off in a row, amazing! And now it's time to get into the new year. Looking forward to seeing what fun 2016 brings.

Some of the many biscuits baked with my friend before Christmas. The speculaas (on the left) are amazing, I'll have to share the recipe!

Some of the many biscuits baked with my friend before Christmas. The speculaas (on the left) are amazing, I'll have to share the recipe!

Annie Smithers' Christmas Baking Masterclass

Sometimes you just need to do something completely different and break the routine, clear your head and feel refreshed. So rather than working last Wednesday, one of my oldest friends and I took a cooking course in the country with the renowned Australian chef Annie Smithers

L-R: Annie's baked goods - mince pies, shortbread, speculaas and almond crescents

L-R: Annie's baked goods - mince pies, shortbread, speculaas and almond crescents

For the last six or more years, just before Christmas, this friend and I set aside a full day for baking sweet Christmas goodies. We're both pretty into cooking and the day is super fun, though it's often 12+ hours of prepping and cooking, so full-on! But we're getting a little tired of our repertoire, so by doing this course, the Christmas Baking Masterclass, we thought we could get some fresh ideas to be added to our production line.

Annie covered 10 recipes, including classics such as mince pies and fruit cake, to florentines and even nougat. There was no mucking about - we had to stick to a tight schedule to get through everything - and much was learned, as it's so great observing a professional chef. We then checked out Annie's amazing and massive garden, where she grows produce for du Fermier, her bistro in Trentham. While we did this, Annie made us lunch - some delicious roast chicken and homegrown asparagus sandwiches, with mayonnaise she had just whipped up in front of us.

Here are the rest of the some photos I took at the course. I'll also make sure to take photos of the annual Christmas cooking day, which will happen sometime in December, and share them here, along with a recipe or two.

One of Annie's adorable cats, a British Shorthair called Kitten

One of Annie's adorable cats, a British Shorthair called Kitten

Just some of Annie's massive 'backyard' garden

Just some of Annie's massive 'backyard' garden

Going to seed

Going to seed

Annie's other adorable cat, Fenn

Annie's other adorable cat, Fenn

The greenhouse

The greenhouse

How is it that a washing line of dish rags look so good?!

How is it that a washing line of dish rags look so good?!

Garden boots

Garden boots

Just picked asparagus

Just picked asparagus

Lunch - chicken sandwiches, homegrown asparagus and homemade mayonnaise

Lunch - chicken sandwiches, homegrown asparagus and homemade mayonnaise

So next time you need to clear your head and reset, do something you really want to do rather than what you always have to do. You won't regret it and no doubt your work and your life will benefit from you being refreshed and rejuvenated. And as an aside, I've been so inspired by Annie's garden that I've spent hours and hours since then in my own garden, prepping and planting summer seeds and seedlings. Fingers crossed I will soon have some produce I'll be able to share here. And I want a mini greenhouse. They are amazing!

X Susan