Sunday, 5 April 2015

today...




Harry is rationing the little eggs. But, he doesn't know that I have two Lindt chocolate bunnies in my drawer, heh heh :)


In this politically-correct, heavily consumerist age, where easter eggs are termed "spring spheres" (no, I'm not kidding) and arguments rage about whether one should/shouldn't celebrate easter if one isn't christian, and whether the southern hemisphere should/shouldn't celebrate easter when it is clearly not spring, I will say anyway...  Happy Easter everyone!


 





Thursday, 26 March 2015

Mad as a March Hare


A little over a week ago I applied - and was accepted at the last minute due to a cancellation - to a popular market.

With just one week to prepare, I found myself hare raising and clay making, day and night… all while I battled the onset of the flu.
It’s been some years since I caught the dreaded bug, but, I’ve been run down and my defences are low, so, I guess it was my time for a bout.
Couldn’t have come at a worse time. But then, when is there a “good time” for the flu?

Downing cup after cup of my herbal “swamp water” brew, to reduce the time the flu hung on, I glazed for days in preparation for firing.  Then, I cut, stitched, stuffed, painted and patched hares.
I had intended to finish three… oh how hopefully optimistic I was.  No matter how I tried, the flu slowed me down.
With aching sinuses, I sneezed, wheezed, coughed and spluttered my way through the week.  All I wanted was to go to ground, rest and allow my body to recover – I’ve always considered that’s the best remedy.

So, once more, I decided to finish one soft creation rather than cobble together three hastily. They deserve better than that.

Currently, there is a tangle of striped legs and coffee stained calico paws in my sewing cabinet, waiting to be buttoned onto soft bodies, and fringed lashes to be attached to bright eyes.

On the eve of the market, with ceramics finished and packed up, I turned my attention to the pieces of unborn leveret on my sewing table.  I bent my head and worked long into the night.

At 5am on market morning, my ebony hare emerged out of the darkness into the dawn.
I drew a sigh at the look of her. Beautiful.

Harry and Elliot thought so too :)

A few hours later, feeling as though someone had thrown sand in my eyes, and with hubby shaking his head at my ability to stand upright, we arrived at our location and set up our stall.

We were blessed with perfect weather – sunshine and just the slightest of breezes.
As the hours rolled on, we chatted to our lovely stall neighbours and happily greeted customers. Ceramics were popped into gift bags and there were many admiring comments about our long eared trio.




One lady took quite a shining to my newest addition. She passed by the stall twice, hesitating each time and cast longing glances at her.
When she passed by the third time, the look of hope on her face turned to disappointment. The dark hare had gone.
Sold to another stallholder. A lovely young lass with lavender tinted hair who creates the most exquisite black & white fine art pen illustrations. I wish I’d remembered to take a photo of the two of them. But, as usual, I was a little overcome. Or maybe was I just plain exhausted.
I prefer to think it was the former. And I hope I will always feel a little tug at my heartstrings when I sell a textile creation. I get to know their personality as they are brought forth into the world.

There was something in the back of my mind in the wee hours of that morning as I battled flu and defied sleep. The small voice within that pushed me on to finish - no matter how I longed for bed.  For, this particular hare was destined to be found by that particular girl on that particular day. I like to believe that.

And now as I write this late at night, the kiln is firing a load of bisque ware, which I must glaze over this coming weekend and prepare for the big Easter Festival Market next Saturday.  Then, I will attend an autumn market the following weekend.

Already, 2015 seems to be marching on steadily.

Soon, my thoughts will turn to new characters, as they all jostle for attention in my head. One at a time please, I tell them. But my mind isn’t quiet as they chatter at me.
Who knows which one will make their debut.  But for now, they know they have to take a back seat while I tend to the promised Easter Hares.

After that, the creative floodgates open...




Sunday, 8 March 2015

Hare Raising Moments


Late, on the night before yesterday’s market, I put the finishing touches to two new little fellows that I created… or were they born, with just a little help from me?

Holding each one up in front of me for assessment, I warmed at the look in their eyes, and gave them a kiss on the nose.

As I busied myself preparing my trusty, sturdy, huge cane basket for the next day, I caught Harry giving the “newbies” a pep talk on how not to be nervous on their first outing into the big, scary world.


He’s such a wonderful mentor, that worldly hare.


I only took two hares to market on Saturday.  I had hoped to have three or four ready for their first debut this month, but, it was best I give two the attention to detail, rather than more that would be hastily put together.
I don’t want to condemn myself to “mass production”.  These are to be one of a kind. Some may be similar, but never be carbon copies.

Harry, of course, was not for sale, but was present for moral support – for me, as much as for the new boys.

To be honest, I haven’t had much confidence in how the new additions of soft sculpture art dolls would be received at my stall.

“Will people like them?”
“Are they too weird for people to get?”
“Do they look okay?”
“Are they appealing to others, not just me?”
“Have I asked too much or too little for them?” Especially considering the work that went into them - or did I not put in enough?
“Am I crazy to even attempt this?”
“Who buys such things?”
“WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?”

I dropped my head, stared at the floor and thought finally, “what a stupid idea to think of doing this. I’m not a seamstress. I feel like a phoney.”

Too many questions.  So many doubts.
The tortured mind of an artist with little self confidence.
Again, I am plagued with demons from the past.
How bloody hard it is to get my own mother’s acerbic comments swept out of the shaded recesses of my mind corners once and for all.

***

Once, long ago, I came home with a “less than ideal” school report.
As usual, my maths mark was a fail.
Watching the disappointment on my mother’s face, as her gaze slid from subject title to the result, my heart withered and my stomach twisted.
Even though my Arts and English had an A+ in the column next to them, I knew she was vexed.

Reaching into the top drawer of her bedside table - the one that rattled with bottles, upon bottles, upon bottles of pills for all ailments, real and imagined - she pulled out a small black velvet box.
With venom in her raspy voice, she said, “I was going to give this to you if you came home with high marks in maths”, as she grasped the lid with nicotine stained fingertips and slowly opened it to reveal a pretty sterling silver bangle inside, nestled on a bed of cushioned cream coloured silk.
“But instead, I’m going to give this to your best friend Denise, because she is so much smarter than you and deserves it more”.

I died a little that day.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t forgive her for that. And, try I have. Even after all these years.
Move on. Yes I have, but such a poison filled barb can’t be removed. It’s lodged too deep.

***

And so, “the boys” were the last to be put out.
My hands were trembling. My heart in my mouth.
I wanted to hide, as stall holders watched them be placed high on the old wooden crate.




Then, one by one, they came to the front of my table and commented… no, gushed, in admiration.

“Did you MAKE THESE?”
“Can I touch them?”
“Of course!” I replied. “You can HUG them. They like that.”

A hug. Something so simple. Yet, so POWERFUL.
Something I very rarely ever received as a child. A heart devoid of hugs. So very sad.

As the boys were cooed over, held, appraised and delighted in, I felt something in me relax.
The breath that had caught, and been held, in my throat, gently escaped in a low sigh.

Even a market organiser came by, took a photo and told me how wonderful they were.

As admirers drifted back to their stalls, customers began to turn up.
Many stopped to buy a brooch, pendant, incense holder, plate or mini jug.  Or, to place an order for this or that.
Comments on my “lovely ceramics” were, as always, gratefully received.
But my surprise was how many stopped short to say how “amazing” my soft sculptures were. “They have so much character!” was oft exclaimed.
A few people asked if I took credit cards, as they didn’t have cash. No, I don’t. They said they’ll be back next month, if I will still have them for sale. I replied that there will be more to choose from, and they beamed me a smile.

More than once, I was asked, “how much for the larger one”.
I think Harry looked a little terrified at one point, as one particular lady wouldn’t leave without being convinced that I just wouldn’t sell him :)

What I am astonished by, is the amount of men who stopped and slowly appraised my trio, then leave with a wink and a, “very nice work”.
Considering that women make up the greater number of market goers, while their partners stand silently by their sides as they make purchases, it was interesting to note that men actually commented on my creations.

As the day drew on, a woman approached me, her husband next to her, and said, “I’ve been by your stall three times, and I honestly can’t go home without this one”.  She pointed to the stripy legged hare.
I think my mouth was agape for a second as I stared at her almost incoherently.
Then my brain began to fire on all pistons again and kicked into gear. “I’ll pop him into a bag for you”, as I reached over and held him, for the last time.

“Does he have a name”, asked her husband.
Remembering back, just a couple of nights ago, to when my own hubby came home from work and walked into my studio. He took one look at the hare sitting on my knee, resplendent in his oh-so-cute black and white striped leggings and black fabric boots, as I sewed a little patch of red linen over his tummy and said, “Nice. He looks like a Randolph”.

Randolph.
I contemplated his noble Roman nose and bright eyes.
Yes, Randolph.




I told the couple his name.
As the husband paid for him, the woman looked at him with a smile as she grasped the bag lightly and said, “well Randolph, you’re coming home with us”.

She thanked me, then walked away with my - now her - hare facing backwards, towards me.
The jaunty, bobbing motion of her walk made it appear that the wee coffee-stained calico, gentle young hare was waving me goodbye with his soft paw above the brown paper bag. His carefully fringed eyes twinkling in the light, as he disappeared into the crowd forever.

And, I wept into my scarf.

Such emotion over a silly little thing. But one that meant a lot to me.
It wasn’t so much the sale of my sewn creation.
It was the immense support given to me by a total stranger. Support in the purchase of something created from my heart. From my very soul.
Support that I never had from a parent. No matter how much I craved it.

In that very moment, if I could have packed up my stall right there and then and gone home two hours before market end, I would have been happy.
I wanted to go to bed. To sleep upon the crest of a wave of euphoria and gratitude.
A rare moment.

So, a new chapter in my life opens. It's a start. A wobbly one, but a good one.

I remain forever humble, but quietly – ever so quietly – proud of my Self.
Seeing as I couldn’t have that as a child, only I as an adult could give that back to the damaged child within.

And, thank you all, dear friends here at my blog, who come with me on my - often rambling - posts, or rather… journeys.
Your comments lift me when I need them most.
My faith in humanity - and the kindness of strangers - restored.

Strangers no more.



Harry, Randolph and Elliot.






Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Hare, there, everywhere


An anonymous photo was sent to me this morning...

Recently spotted in a swanky French-style café.




When asked about this, Harry said that he, “wanted to be alone with his thoughts for a while”.

I think he’s been watching old Greta Garbo movies.  Heaven forbid if he sees Casablanca. 

“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world…”

I must admit, poor Harry has been quite busy supervising me in the studio in preparation for this Saturday's market, so he does deserve some alone time.
I'm just awfully glad there are no "bunny bars" anywhere nearby  ;) 



Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Fit for a King





Sometimes you walk into a café, and it fits. You know, like coming home.
That’s how I felt when I first visited the newly opened King Henry Arts Café on the mountain.

I’ve been a regular there ever since.

Built in 1902, the old cottage interior has been tastefully renovated inside and out.




Delightful old furnishings grace the interior.






 A cosy table for two - lucky number 13






 The man himself, HRH…


The ambience is warm and welcoming, and the cottage wears its antiques well.

There is even a stunning four poster bed in a room off the front entrance that would make anyone feel like a royal sleeping in it, I’m sure.



Outside on the wide, wooden deck, comfortable bench seating overlooks peaceful gardens.




A path lined with graceful, lush tree ferns that winds its way down into a secretive forest gully to a shaded winter creek hidden below tall trees.




One can almost expect a lyrebird, echidna or wallaby to pass by at any moment.
And, if you sit awhile, you might be rewarded for your patience.

The grounds are a wonderful place to explore and delight in sights, sounds, scents and textures.




Venture across the bridge to a magical, forested world...


Even esteemed four legged visitors have a stately font to drink from.


Back at the café, the large open corner window offers an enticing glimpse into the “engine room” filled with gleaming wares and machines at the ready for brewing that perfect cup of choice.




The friendly staff are there to greet and seat with a chilled glass of water while viewing the menu for breakfast, lunch, Devonshire tea or coffee and cake.

To me, the test of a good coffee is a flat white - no sugar.
If a well made coffee has correctly heated milk, then it’s sweet enough. Taste the full bodied flavours – without the sugar mask.
That goes for espresso too. There should be a hint of caramel, but never be “bitter”.
At King Henry, the head barista is always on point.  She knows coffee.  Has an affinity with it and builds a great coffee.  Fresh roast, grind and milk.  Correct dose.  Never burnt/bitter.  Never cold.  Just right.  Consistently.

And, when a barista samples their brews throughout the day, you know you’re in good hands.  Always something to look forward to.

On Saturday, hubby and I decided to drop by for breakfast.

I drew a sigh of contentment as I sat in now familiar surrounds on the deck.
Cradling our kick starter coffees, we relished the still cool, crisp mountain air - a welcome morning respite before the heat of the day.
We enjoyed a well prepared, cooked and served breakfast.  Each mouthful was savoured.

The old saying goes, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper”.

Well, we dined like a king - and queen - and were comfortably replete for the rest of the day.

We really are fortunate to have wonderful places such as this so near to home.
A restful haven to sit a while, replenish the senses and recharge the batteries.

I hope this café does well and draws visitors from near and far. A royal reward for all of the hard work and passion which the owners, and staff, have devoted to it.

Long live the King!




Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Dirty Harry


Meet Harry the Hare.




The first time you saw him, he was sewn but still, flat and lifeless, waiting for me to fill him with puffy soft clouds.

As I padded him, bit by fluffy bit, he came alive in my hands.

His long ears were wired, coloured and jauntily placed.
I used warm wooden buttons for his moveable joints.
And, I gave him a soft little cotton tail.

At 97cms (38 inches) from toes to tips of his ears, he sat comfortably upon my knee as I sewed for him a final flourish of fluttery lashes.
His character was complete.

Or, so I thought.

Late one night, while I slept, Harry snuck outside.

In the morning, I awoke to find him sitting on my studio table - just as I’d left him the night before.
But, as I entered the room, I gasped at his appearance.
He stared at me, as I stared at him - damp, dishevelled, dirty and... defiant.
“Well, haven’t you had quite the time, good sir”.

By the look of him, he’d traipsed through muddy puddles as he explored the big wide world of tall, tall trees and thick forest floor under the cover of darkness.
Creatures of the night must have looked upon this strange and unusual being with their large, round eyes wide in wonder, and suspicion, as he passed them by.

He'd nearly got the stuffing knocked out of him - from racing past sharp brambles, tumbling over slippery logs and sliding down mossy banks, no doubt.
I had to hurriedly stitch his torn seams and patch him up to make him better again.

And he is.

Although now, I think he has an air of shabby worldliness that he didn’t have before, with his ever so distressed countenance and a kind of knowing in his eyes.

Seeing as Harry is a curious hare - and to discourage him from wandering about on his own - I’ve decided that, if he behaves, he can come out with us sometimes.

So, keep a lookout for him - you never know when he’ll appear in photos on future posts...





Monday, 26 January 2015

The town that gold built


Hubby and I had been planning a road trip to a historical gold mining town situated at the base of a deep valley in Victoria’s beautiful Gippsland region, for quite some time.
As we were coming up to a long weekend, we decided to make the trip on Saturday.

First, I had to make sure our son would be home to look after Jack. A long drive on a warm day in a stuffy car to unfamiliar places, where a lot of walking would be required, is too much for his dear old self these days. He spends much of his time sleeping on our bed - in between cuddles, treats and toilet breaks outside to bark at unseen strangers.
He much prefers to stick to a daily routine walk in his favourite park, where he can sniff his way around his usual route safely.
Just like on market days, he is comfortable at home as he awaits our return.

We set out early for the two hour drive to Walhalla - named from Norse mythology, “The Valley of the Gods”.

The deeply forested road twisted and turned back on itself for miles.
A short distance from the town, we stopped at the Thomson River Bridge.


As I stared down into the beautiful, wild river, I realised that the little telltale rippling wake of water I watched in the distance was not a fish, nor a duck, but a platypus. I could just make out the occasional sideways action and its rudder like paddle tail as it made a bee-line for a little burrow among a tangle of tree roots on the riverbank, returning home for the day after an early morning forage for breakfast.
This is indeed the perfect environment for these most elusive, secretive creatures.
Sadly, my small camera lacks any decent zoom, and there would be nothing distinguishable in the walnut brown water anyway. One day, I’ll be in the right place at the right time for a good photo.
But, it was exciting nonetheless.

A little farther on, we drove into Walhalla.


When gold was discovered in the small, remote valley in 1862, a town quickly grew, flourished and became home to over 4000 residents in the boom of 1863 - 1900.
During that period, over 70 tonnes of gold was mined, making it one of the most prolific gold producing towns in Australia.
Amid the hardships of living, the community thrived, for a time.

Transport was by horse only. There was the need for a railway.  But, by the time the train finally arrived in 1910, it was too late.
Gold yields had dropped dramatically. Major mines were closed, and by 1914, Walhalla was all but abandoned - until the 1980's.
Today, there are just twelve permanent residents who live in, and care for, this peaceful, pretty place.

Interestingly, Walhalla became the last mainland town in Australia to be connected to a reticulated electricity supply in December 1998.

Here, Down Under, it is the middle of summer, so I was pleasantly surprised at the still grey sky and definite cool, crisp nip in the clean mountain air.

Just 40 kms (24 miles) away, is one of Australia’s (few) winter snow fields - Mt Baw Baw, which is on the southern edge of Australia’s Alps and the High Country beyond.


Heritage stories abound about the struggle of settlers determined to carve out a life for themselves and their families in these rugged, inhospitable, densely treed mountains.

 via

Where sure footed brumbies (wild horses) roamed the area for nearly two centuries.

Tales of bushrangers, hiding out in remote caves and canyons in their attempts to evade the law, are told around campfires.

Cattlemens' tin huts sit rusting in small clearings - many are preserved living history, and today, they are essential shelter for alpine adventurers.

Novels and movies weave narratives around this historical bygone era.


We arrived to a town still asleep.


None of the quaint little shops were open.


Coffee was yet to be brewed.


There's always time to stop and smell the roses.


No residents were about and, as yet, there were very few other tourists - just as we like it :)
So peaceful was it, that I felt anything above a whisper would intrude on the almost eerie, muffled silence. And, in a valley such as this, any noise travels far.

As we walked the deserted street, I caught a glimpse of a man standing by the old fire station. His green shirt and dark blue pants discernible, yet somehow blurred.
I turned to face and greet him with a “good morning”, but, he was gone.
A trick of the morning light? A fanciful optical illusion? Or, something else…
The feeling that someone was watching me remained in the chilled air.

I can imagine what it must be like here in the dark of night.

The dead far outnumber the living in this historic village.
There is indeed a sense of spirit about the place - it is undeniable.
Ghosts of a ghost town.
Over one hundred and thirty years of human emotions held and absorbed by the forested mountain walls and deep within the very soil that contained the veins of gold they sought – and died for.

I felt enveloped by an ethereal veil as I stood staring into the road.

We walked on, quietly remarking on the buildings, pretty cottages and the crystal clear creek that bubbled alongside the main street as it wound its way out to the deep river.





 
Some of the cottage entrances had wooden bridges over the creek.


Stringer's Creek, where summery golden shadows reflect echoes of the past.


The old fire station.

Photo courtesy of hubby

Due to the lack of suitable flat ground, the building was built in 1901 straddling Stringer’s Creek, and is considered to be the most unusual fire station in the state.


Bank of Victoria Vault.  The bank was demolished after the mines closed, but the vault still remains, as a reminder of the vast cache of gold once stored therein.



The post and telegraph office.


Before the train arrived in 1910, all mail was delivered by horse drawn coach. Miss Doreen Hannan purchased, and continued to operate the post office until 1963. She lived there until her death in 1988.

Post office side garden.


 Where we each bought a delicious scoop of liquorice ice cream in a waffle cone.


 The dramatic, textural shale and slate which define the town.
Photo courtesy of hubby


 The quintessential outdoor dunny.


 A classic red telephone box. Rarely seen these days.


Pretty church in the bush.
Photo courtesy of hubby


 Extra, extra, read all about it at the Chronicle.



Nods to the mining days still remain...

 Photo courtesy of hubby

 Photo courtesy of hubby

Photo courtesy of hubby

 Photo courtesy of hubby




Mines from another time.




Boo!


The old smithy looks just as it would have a century ago.


Texture and light - outside the smithy.


 From the town lookout.


 Photo courtesy of hubby


Images of long ago show a once bustling mini metropolis.


 via

 via

 Geological Survey party leaving Walhalla for Mount Baw Baw, January 1904


Many of the buildings were torn down after the bust. Some were relocated. Others that burned in bush fires were rebuilt in keeping with the originals.
Luckily, some survived the fires unscathed and have been lovingly restored.

There is so much more to tell about this old town, but I couldn’t do it justice in a few words. To find out more about its history, you can read further here.


The dreamlike silence was soon broken as the town filled with more and more - what felt to me like irreverently loud - day trippers in a continual procession of four wheel drives. 

We sought out what we hoped would be the last refuge of peace in the now busy township - the Walhalla Cemetery.

 Photo courtesy of hubby

High up and hidden from the road, the cemetery is recognised as one of the most unique in Australia.
Legend has it that people were, “buried standing up”, as the ground was too steep for flat plots.
However, this is of course untrue.


Even in the crisp morning light, the permanent solitude lent a haunting, melancholy air on the wild unkempt hillside.


The terrain makes it difficult to maintain, and nature will have her way.

 A pine grows from the grave of a mother and child buried together.


It somehow seems right to let the dead sleep undisturbed by petrol driven mowers and grass trimmers - so jarring to the ear.

 Photo courtesy of hubby

 Photo courtesy of hubby

Individual stories of hardship, heartbreak, triumph and defeat are carved onto every monument.

Photo courtesy of hubby


An unusual wooden marker weathering gracefully.


In the peaceful morning between the graves, this young early bird got her worm.

Photo courtesy of hubby


Walhalla is truly a fascinating place, and we feel that not enough time was spent investigating it further. So, we have decided that sometime in the autumn, we will return - for an overnight stay in one of the old cottages.
My curiosity to find out what it would be like at night will be satisfied, I hope.

But then, you know what they say about curiosity...