Monday, August 27, 2012


Today I had a moment.  One of those 'I'm going to cry' moments.  Sure I could tell you it was over an issue of world peace or grave illness; famine or drug related crime ... but it wasn't any of that.  It was over this building.  A beautiful heritage listed Launceston building.  Built in the 1920s.  This morning I felt so sad because the 'developer' has now replaced those beautiful wooden windows and doors on the upper levels.  Replaced them with ugly modern aluminium frames.  Apparent improvements?!?

So today I had another moment. I checked the heritage register ... clear as a bell ... 143-149 St John Street- permanently registered. So for the first time ever I took action. I rang the council and logged a complaint. I spoke with Heritage Tasmania.  They were wonderful. Because you know what ... it's a crime against Heritage Architecture ... and I feel so sad people thinking they can get around it by applying for planning permission 'retrospectively' and hoping it will slip through.  Other complaints had already been received.  The more they get, the more pressure there will be for this to rectified, I guess. They had already spoken with him.  Now I hope that he is made to replace those frames (that may not happen).

So that was my moment.
Just had to get it out... because I'm really pissed off.  I care about this stuff. This is our local history. That aesthetics are part of what gives our community its unique flavour.  We've got enough aluminium in the rest of our commercial buildings ... leave these ones alone! This property was purchased knowing it was part of the heritage register.  That comes with responsibilities.  If that's not your thing ... then don't buy it.

Soap box away.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Urban Archaeology

Today Tassie turned on the glorious.  A bright, warm, sunny winter's day lifted out of the morning fog - the perfect canvas for brunch with dear friends in our newly paved ' sun trap'.  When they left, it was too nice to go inside, so we stayed. With one of the lads opting to snooze, the wee girl and her wee brother filled the splash pool and donned the bathers.  Yes it is winter.  They were happy.  The girl even told me she won an Olympic Gold in diving.  We sang the national anthem.  I thought happy thoughts to keep me off those ones about pneumonia.... and I pottered.  Dunc welded - mending our soon-to-be-painted 50s outdoor setting (this has taken 4 years - see how motivating winter sun is?)... and I started doing a spot of archaeology.
 When we first moved into our house the back yard was entirely gravel ... it turned out on further investigation (ie when we decided we would put in garden beds) that under the gravel was a foot of compacted road base over black plastic ... low maintenance gardening, eat your heart out. A weekend of a hired 'dingo' digger and we broke through and freed the soil beneath ... but a really lovely discovery lay beneath ... our house is over 130 years old and at some stage someone had added fill ... whilst this fill contained shards of glass ... the bulk is made up of old ceramics.  So whenever we dig, or garden or even just go outside after heavy rain we find treasure.  This treasure gets placed along our fence , along with the old bottles and other interesting finds our soil turns up.  The ceramics, judging by their patterns and thickness vary greatly in age. Some is stoneware,  some porcelain.
Today, after much thought, and a whole lot more pottering around in the sunshine ,
I decided I might actually do something with these little treasures.  This post will have to act as a gentle kick up the derriere so that it is not waiting the same amount of time as the outdoor setting! We shall see!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

For my Aunt

A couple of months ago I took myself off to an embroidery workshop run by Mae Findlayson at Milkbar. It was such a gentle and relaxing way to spend an afternoon, sipping tea and learning some basic embroidery stitches.  It was an eye opener; a door opener really which prised apart a long held belief that there was something tricky about this.  Mae encouraged us to approach it almost like colouring in and I was at once lost in it.  And in that place I remembered. I had once been taught, long ago to embroider.  Young fingers aged about 8.  Squares of hessian and needles threaded with brightly coloured wool.  Lazy daisies, chain stitch, running stitch, back stitch.  I remember filling my hessian canvas with those woollen flowers, one after the other, each becoming more uniform and dainty than the last.  My Aunt taught me those stitches.  My mother's only sibling.  Every other year she would visit us and stay, usually alone. Some years we would make the trip to country South Australia. Her skills in sewing, both machine and hand were beautiful. Each Christmas she would make my sisters and I a Christmas Dress.  Usually the same style but different fabrics and we would wear them and pose in front of the decorated tree or out in the garden, blinking in the bright West Australian sunshine.  One year, after completing a short course, she made us the most exquisite petticoats with matching knickers.  For me I just grew up thinking not much of these skills, taking for granted they were just there, easily accessible and run of the mill.  My mother and Aunt just could.

I think differently now.  As I stumble through those stitches I am remembering.  I am remembering my Aunt.  My Aunt who in the late 1950s was the first person (let alone woman!) in her whole extended family (and her community) to go onto tertiary study.  From waterside workers and butchers and tanners and barmaids came my Aunt who not only went on to Year 12 but then on to teacher's college. There are proud photos of the all the Aunts and Uncles and cousins, smiling faces, surrounding her in her achievements. As a young teacher she took herself off to the incredibly remote Aboriginal community of Warburton at a time when nomadic families were walking in from the desert during a time of extreme drought and seeing white fellas for the first time.  Her sense of adventure then took her even further from her home town of Fremantle ... on a boat to Canada to work and marriage and a child ... before she came back to Australia.  My Aunt was always the accomplished figure to me.  She was a deputy principal and she always had games and work sheets and a way of speaking to us that was always a little instructive. I guess, looking back, I was a little in awe of this woman so similar and yet so different from my own mother ... but when we were all together there was always adventures and laughter and a togetherness that we took for granted.  In my twenties .. after a stint of living in Victoria, I collected my Aunt from the South Australian Riverland and together we drove my 1965 Holden across the Nullabor back for Christmas in the West.  We got to talk, just us.  I now wish I had of talked even more because so much of what I want to ask my Aunt is lost.  After a succession of tragic twists and turns my Aunt has dementia.  She no longer remembers her youth, her mother, her father.  She speaks in regret and anger.  My babies are confused as my mother's.  My Aunt's experiences and skills and stories are buried beneath a blanket of fog.  Until that afternoon embroidery class I had not really really given myself time to think about my Aunt.  Distance and babies and a mother who picks up and soldiers on had provided a sort of buffer that let me look on from a distance, intellectualising not feeling.  But that afternoon I wished that I was sitting with my Aunt again. That between back stitches I had got the chance to tell her that I thought she was extraordinary, knowing that despite her amazing experiences and achievements and adventures she sadly thought very little of herself.
This weekend I picked up my embroidery again.  In the stillness of stitching I thought of her.  And when my wee girl wanted to help me, I instead hooped up her own favourite coloured fabric and taught her running stitch. She took to it immediately and without guidance, she fittingly stitched a freestyle heart. I guess as I get older I realise that it is by sharing and teaching and doing together that you really keep things close and warm and alive.  And whilst my daughter can never know my Aunt, without knowing it she is part of my story of her.  Who knows, she may even find herself in adulthood remembering the Sunday we sat in our jammies and she learnt to embroider.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Delivering a Design Brief

The wee girl got invited to a birthday party.  Theme: Dress Up.  A week out I casually mentioned that we should look through the dress up box and put together an outfit.  That suggestion was countered by a, "No.  It's OK.  I already know what I would like to wear".  A flurry of footsteps and a rustling upstairs followed before I was excitedly presented with this:
Ah ... The Enid Blyton Book of Fairies. I was then given my design brief.  "I want to look like the Queen of the Fairies".  When I tried for the sneaky "Should we just add to something we already have", it was rejected on the same level as if it was some really stinky French cheese.  Alright ... so the client is always right, right? It could have been worse ... she might have wanted to look just like that magic mushroom carrying frog, non? (The rabbit and mouse clearly are keen to get them some of that action, true?)
So here is the close up... after some thought, I decided the easiest approach would be to make a simple elasticated skirt and then a separate top.  The skirt was easy- 60cm of dance satin - sewed it up at the selvedges and popped the elastic in the waist.  I deliberated on the top ... then had a brainwave (rare round these parts) and used the bodice from New Look 6694 - View D or E.  I cut the back panel as one (removing the zip), added a little extra width, just incase it wouldn't go over her head - and put press stud closures at the shoulders.  A few stars and flowers cut out of felt (the majority machine stitched on), et voila!
One happy Fairy Queen a la Enid Blyton.  (Wings, Wand and Crown Model's Own)  The top is a different shade of pink because I didn't buy enough fabric.  I returned to buy more, without the skirt for comparision, feeling confident I could easily remember the shade.  Clearly the confidence I place in my cerebral abilities is misplaced ... but the Client was happy with the error.  She felt it was an improvement.  Cool.  I mean ... yes ... that is exactly the look I was going for.
 I took a little artistic license on the flowers ... I sewed on some vintage glass buttons for extra sparkle.  This met with the cient's approval.
And me?  I loved it.  I like doing this kind of stuff. I like a little challenge ... and the trance producing whirring of a sewing machine is my kind of yoga, swami.  Stoked smiles from smalls, payment enough.