22nd January 2016
There’s nothing I love more when travelling than tapping into the creativity of the local community and going to a class or workshop. Leather making in Italy was out of this world and gave me a hunger for travel that involves more doing and making – not just for the sake of the craft but for the opportunity to meet talented people. Which is why I was excited when Etsy invited me to visit one of their star sellers when I was in Byron Bay recently, as part of the launch of Etsy Resolution (I talked about it a little while ago here). If you’re not up to speed, Etsy Resolution is a free four week online bootcamp to guide new makers through the process of opening their Etsy Shop under the mentorship top sellers. All you need to know to turn a passion for making into a business!
I was super excited to visit the screen printing studio of Carla, who runs Bubbles at the Head, a store with the most amazing cushions and textiles. I loved every minute of exploring her studio (I am sooooo nosy!), and the lesson she gave me in the process of screen printing. Carla is passionate about hand made, Australian designs and showing people how they can screen print themselves and I felt so lucky to get a personal screen printing lesson. Read on for a few questions I put to her when I was there including how she got started, the process and the major lessons she’s learnt from running her own business. Here’s to exploring the spaces of more creating people in 2016.
How did you get started as a screen printer?
In my mid thirties I stopped in my tracks for a “sea change”. I was working in the catering industry for many years until I felt I wanted to explore the art-making world. When I left school it was always going to be art or food, food or art. I actually fell into food in my younger years, as there were many opportunities to find a job in the food industry. I enrolled in a Visual Art Degree at Southern Cross University and explored my creative side and absolutely loved every moment of it. I was dabbling in Wearable art and costume at the time so screen printing for me was freedom in taking my designs further. My first screen printed fabric was to incorporate hand embroidery into the design; from there the love affair began.
Can you explain the screen printing process for us?
Sure! I’m all about sharing the process with other makers, in fact we hold workshops where we teach people all about this.
- Draw: I start by hand drawing my designs mainly with India ink and a glass calligraphy pen or brush. These are drawn directly onto paper.
- Transfer: Then we use a process not dissimilar to old school film developing to essentially expose the design onto the screen, so essentially the pattern is burned out of the screen allowing the paint to get through.
- Paint: After we cut the fabric to size, we lay the screen on top and paint the fabric by using a big squeege to push the paint through the design. We go over it a few times and then remove the screen to reveal the pattern. It’s a pretty good feeling to see the design laid down on fabric like that.
- Set: We set the design onto the fabric using a big iron so the paint doesn’t fade over time.
- Finish: One dry the fabric is then ready to be sewn into the final product, whether it be a cushion or napkin.
How has Etsy helped you to build your business?
Etsy has an incredibly supportive network through teams and fellow Etsy businesses. It really does have a sense of community with lots of information and stories about other peoples experiences, which after reading I didn’t feel so isolated and related to what others has to say. I have gradually built my shop and products up over the last two to three years with nearly all my wholesale inquiries coming through Etsy. I find a lot of retailers are looking for unique, handmade and locally made homewares for their business that sets them apart from the major labels.
What three important lessons do you wish you knew when you started?
- The most important lesson of running my own business is to find your passion. If you haven’t found your passion, it will find you. It may even change over time, but give it a go. If you have then nurture it, know it, develop it.
- All the self-doubt and the unknown will dissipate over time with experience. Experience is everything and in the meantime no amount of reassurance will help. Other’s may say it’s going to be OK, but until you live and breath your business you will feel unsure of your journey. That’s ok! Take small steps at first, leap if you must, it all comes down to experience.
- Your brand needs to be consistent. To build a following and trust with your audience, consistency is the key. You can build your brand by keeping your product, images and information tied together via connections through blog posts, Face book, Instagram, website and what you present to the public as in Markets, Pop-up Shops and retail.
Thanks Carla! If you’re pondering starting a business based on your making or craft, think about signing up to Etsy Resolutions, because more is more when it comes to knowledge right? And you just might meet a few nice people too. Oh and make sure you check out those amazing cushions… asap!
This post is in collaboration with Etsy. Photos by me.
20th January 2016
Ok so whilst the reference to insta in the title is completely tongue in cheek, I love the thought of visually stunning food that’s hugely impressive without being too hard to create. Case in point, I came across these platters on insta and snapchat via the ladies over at Spell Designs and found out they were the creations of my friend Mel. They’d been popping up at various Spell events (this full table spread had me drooling) and I really really reallllllly wanted to learn how to create one too. Of course, when I landed in the same Byron Bay postcode as Mel last week I couldn’t help but beg her to show me the secrets of the platter craft.
You might be thinking ‘dont you just, like, chuck some stuff on a board?’. But, it turns out that in the same way you don’t just throw your stuff on the ground when you’re doing a flatlay, nor do you do this when creating a food platter. In fact, I surprised that Mel had such a foolproof formula to making your platters amazing – more of a food experience than an ordinary platter. And actually super easy!
- Cheeses – minimum of 3. (catering for more> approx 1 block per 5 people). We chose one brie, one cheddar and one blue. Grab some quince paste if you get blue!
- Dips – minimum of 2 (catering for more> approx 1 dip per 6 people). Choose colourful ones like Beetroot dip.
- Olives, Sundried Tomatoes, Artichokes etc. We got one small tub of these each.
- Assorted salamis and meats. We used one or two packets. Naturally you can leave these out if you’re veggie! Add more marinated veggies if so.
- Crackers. We got 2 boxes but always buy more than you think you’ll need.
- A big bag of rocket
- Fruit: Strawberries, blueberries, grapes, figs (get only a few if they are expensive), passion fruit, pomegranate, one or two pears.
- Nuts like cashews and almonds (pick the salty ones :))
- Chocolate. We got the Lindt with a touch of salt because… no words.
- annnnnnd whatever else you want to add. So long as it’s yummy and colourful.
Tools of the trade
- a large platter or piece of wood (make sure it’s a clean natural piece of wood rather than a composite that may have been treated).
- small bowls
- cheese of normal knives
Before we get into the process, the biggest thing I learnt from doing this with Mel is that you want to fill the whole platter up so it has a feeling of abundance, and it’s overflowing with no holes or gaps. Therefore, your main focus is filling every single gap with something delicious, hence all the smaller items like blueberries, nuts and rocket. By the end you want absolutely no board showing through. Another thing is to embrace the chaos, don’t try to place it all out perfectly in the shape of a clock (or whatever), as that can look contrived. For this, rustic is better. Let’s get started!
1. Lay out a framework
You’re generally going to focus on an organic layout, but first you’ll want to use your cheese as markers on your board. Thus, a little bit of structure. Lay them in a row or on the sides. Break or cut your blocks if they are too big. Then, add rocket underneath to prop them up and fill any black spaces.
2. Add bowls
Think it’s ok to wack those plastic dip containers on your platter? Think again! Probably the only major rule for this platter – decant your dips and olives etc into small bowls. Then, place your bowls around the platter. Try to avoid placing them too symmetrically, we’re going for a rustic ‘whatever’ feel here. Remember to keep adding rocket around what you add to fill any gaps.
3. Swirl your crackers
Add a few swirls of crackers around your platter, mixing them between the cheeses and making sure to press them close to what’s on the board already. Don’t put all your crackers on at once unless you’re doing a huggggge board because they’ll crowd it, you can always add more later as people eat them.
4. Create themed sections
Kinda. Now’s the time to start adding more to the board including the cut fruit, rolled salamis and meats, and if you can, it’s nice to kinda group these things together. For example create a Mediterranean area and a fruit area. You don’t have to be too militant about this but it can have a nice effect. If you’re working with a bigger board, you can put a pear or two on whole. You can do a swipe of quince paste if you’re using it.
5. Fill the gaps
Once you’ve added all the big items, go through and fill all the gaps with blueberries and the nuts. Add as many as you can so the platter becomes more of a 3D pile of food rather than being flat. This is gonna get you the ‘oooooohhhhs’ and ‘ahhhhhhs’.
6. Push from the edges
Once the board is almost done, time for the best bit. The chocolate! Pushing from the outside in, make room around the edges for adding the chocolate. This will help build up the middle of the platter and make it denser. Break up the chocolate in rustic way rather than into squares, and fill the outside gaps with it. Done and done.
Chances are after all that you’re going to be too excited and hungry to bother taking photos, time to tuck in!
Q: But can I do this on a tight budget?
A: As I mentioned the key word for a platter like this is ‘abundance’. You want your guests/friends/etc to be overwhelmed by choice and the sheer size of the platter, so you’re going to have to spend some money to make this happen. That said, I felt this can actually be a rather inexpensive way to casually feed lots of people – I spent $80 on all this food and we felt it could have fed 10/12 at least. Not bad if you’re having a dinner party! Mel also mentioned that with more people it becomes even better value (aka economies of scale blah blah blah). In the past she’s created huge table sized platters for 30 people and spent only a couple of hundred dollars. Considering a caterer will charge you 10x that, DIY really is best! If your budget is tighter, bulk up on certain elements of the shopping list that are better value, like grapes, crackers, less fancy cheeses etc. Presentation can go a long way to making your platter look expensive.
We added some grapes around the platter after we laid it on the picnic rug. And poured ourselves some Prosecco because we’d earned it. (Lugging the food from the car was actually the hard part).
Thanks Mel for the lesson and your beautiful photos. Can’t talk. eating.
18th January 2016
The white shirt, kind of like the white flag of your wardrobe… Perfect for this time of year when dragging yourself out of the house is difficult enough without complicated outfit choices.
Wave Throw on that white shirt and away you go. But don’t think of it as giving up (at least not out loud), because in my experience a white shirt can help you look completely together, even when you’re far from it. Just *try* not to spill any food on it… If you’re feeling motivated about tomorrow’s outfit but don’t want to stray far from the comfort of your favourite white shirt, I suggest you contemplate mixing it up. Knotting, wrapping and tying it up in fact, to create these off the shoulder, one shoulder, skirt and backless styles. Enjoy!
The Off The Shoulder
The Bow Back
The One Shoulder
Photos by Bryant Lee
15th January 2016
I’m really excited to share with you an episode of the DIY mini series that I’ve made with Starworld! If you live in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam or the Philippines and tune in to your TV regularly, you’ve probably already seen it when it played in December. For the rest of you, I give you one of the easiest zip projects ever. And yes, it goes against all the conventions of how you would actually insert a zip (sorry to all you purists!) but that’s what makes it quick, easy and so so doable.
Watch the video here:
Thanks to the amazing Starworld team for coming into my studio and making it the most fun experience… ever!
- A skirt in a fabric that won’t fray when cut like jersey or stretch (mine was from H&M)
- A zip
- A sewing machine
1. Start by pinning your zip to the skirt.
2. Sew it down all the way around the skirt, making sure to fold the ends under so they are nice and tidy.
3. Once you’ve properly attached the zip to the skirt, use your scissors to cut the split in the fabric of the skirt.
Stay tuned another episode coming soon – we’ll be talkin’ tassels.
Wearing: DIY Skirt, Grana Tank, Boda Skins jacket, Mode Collective heels.
Ps. This year I’ll be focusing very much on video – it’s the perfect medium for all the projects I do and I’m looking forward to being challenged to do something really different. Lotttttttsssss of ideas in my head right now. Anything you want to see?