Summer in November

I'm doing a bunch of screenprinting today, to ward off Monday-itis and get some orders sorted out. The ink colours I'm using are very pastel and I just realised it's kind of summer here in Melbourne, though it feels like we got no spring. Oh well, at least that means endless salads, like the beetroot and cabbage slaw I had for lunch (and yes, I get to keep the reject plates - this one's got a hairline crack in it, what a shame!)

I'm thinking of using the paper I rest my squeegee on between prints (bottom photo) to wrap some orders - I usually throw that paper out but today the mess of ink and patterns looked pretty cool. Watch this space.

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September

Not only is it September, but it's nearly the end of September. How did this happen? The Royal Melbourne Show is on, another radiothon is over for my favourite station RRR and it's definitely spring in still-cold Melbourne.

Here are some snaps of the things I've been working on lately - lots of ceramics, lots of watercolour patterns and lots of fabric (that I don't have proper photos of yet), soon to be added to the shop and/or for sale at some upcoming events

Lots of new ceramic spoons including the above.

Lots of new ceramic spoons including the above.

The first and only mug I've ever made. 

The first and only mug I've ever made. 

Lots of hand painted porcelain studs  now available in my shop .

Lots of hand painted porcelain studs now available in my shop.

I'm obsessed with pattern making in watercolour. This is my latest.

I'm obsessed with pattern making in watercolour. This is my latest.

I did an ink audit this week and sorted them by colour group. Pinks and reds win.

I did an ink audit this week and sorted them by colour group. Pinks and reds win.

This cake is  THE best banana cake ever . Thanks, Hello Lunch Lady.

This cake is THE best banana cake ever. Thanks, Hello Lunch Lady.

On a different not, today I listened to this podcast from The Jealous Curator while working (found via Tess at Creative Minds Publishing & CWC) and recommend it to any creatives who love hearing artists talking about their work and their thoughts. Sandra Eterovic is so generous with her thoughts and her ideas, what a gem.

And finally, there's a post about me at the Maribyrnong Makers Market blog. 

 

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. 

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. Or maybe ravens? 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 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.

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