I've had my Mum staying this week, its been so nice. She got to come to the boys' performing arts concert and see them dance. On Thursday, a beautiful spring day, we all played hooky and had lunch in the Botanic Gardens among the trees and flowers with the dramatic backdrop of the city behind and glimpses of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House through the leaves. From the top you can see down to Woolloomooloo and the big warships and cranes and wharf, and watch the busy harbour in all its glory.
Highlights in the Gardens were age old giant figs, windy paths through rare plants, checking out the big eels in the duck pond and the Spring Walk which had an avenue of blossom trees underplanted with huge tulips. The only negative was all the sacred ibis hanging round the cafe trying to steal people's lunch!
Sadly Mum had to go back on Friday, it was just a flying visit. I consoled myself after I'd dropped her at the airport by stopping in at Remnants Warehouse and taking advantage of their two for one FQ deal on Fridays. These fabrics were $1 or $2.50 after the discount - a fun and guiltfree way to add to the quilting stash. I also got some (more!) zips for my collection and some lovely denim for cushion backs.
I first came to Leslie Keating's work through her beautiful scrappy quilts a few years ago. She has a great eye for putting fabrics together and I love her often eclectic mixes and the random piecing style she uses. They are still some of my favourite quilts.
I started following her blog (formerly onegirl but now maze and vale) way back then and have followed it avidly ever since. Leslie loves fabric and it shows. Her creative experiments over that time have included many forms of printing, dying and sewing with fabrics. She is also well known for her beautiful soft toy designs, the much loved Oobees and Fleurs.
On top of that she's run two handprinted fabric swaps in the last year or so that have motivated loads of people to print their own fabric, inspiring them to try out techniques and designs on material and swap them with new friends around the world. I've joined up both times, and both times I've loved playing with a block printing technique that I might not have tried without her motivation. Her swaps gave me the incentive to put ink to fabric and have given me some favourite patterns, and I was gifted with many beautiful handmade fabrics in return.
Generous with her process, Leslie shares a lot about her experiments, her equipment which is often inexpensive and homemade, and her methods. Her blog and pinterest is full of handprinting inspiration and technique.
Leslie changed directions creatively a bit last year, her blog and business became Maze and Vale to reflect this new venture, screenprinting her own fabrics in small sruns. Since then she has been producing beautiful and distinctive prints in favourite colours in her small home studio.
Read on to find out what she's going to do next! Thank you Leslie for being part of Show & Tell today.
1. Can you give us a short description of your blog/style/work
I'll tackle my blog in the second question and focus on the style/work part here: I'm a graphic designer turned textile designer, avid sewer and mother of two little girls. I'm drawn to muted colours, interesting angles, asymmetry, disarray in patterns, simplifying the most compelling forms of nature and screen printing it all by hand in my wee tiny studio (ahem, the third bedroom).
2. Why blog? How did you start?
I started my blog when I first moved to Melbourne in 2005. It was great to let my family and friends back home in Canada know what I was up and turned out to be a brilliant way to meet people in a new city. I've gone through varying stages with it over the years, where my writing is more personal than others and lately it is mostly about my creative pursuits. There are oh-so many things I want to actually write about, I compose meaningful blog posts in my head daily but entertaining a 2 and 4 year old all day takes it toll on my brain power and usually by the time they go to bed, I can barely string a sentence together, let alone find the energy to type it out. I find the time to share what I'm designing and printing to help build my little hand printed fabric business, Maze & Vale, and just hope that some magical day I'll find the way to string all those other sentences together.
3. Family taught/Self-taught/Trained?
My mom sewed a ton when I was young, making most of my clothes, halloween costumes, Christmas stockings, etc but I would say I'm basically self taught. I was too stubborn to learn from my mother and thought Home Ec was pretty boring in junior high. I used my mom's sewing machine a bit in my teens to hem jeans and turn pj bottoms into shorts (ah, the grunge years) but it wasn't until I moved to Melbourne and bought my own machine that I really started figuring it all out. As for printing, I studied Graphic Design & Illustration in college and did a short and very impractical screen printing course right after I graduated. It was fairly technical and didn't use any materials/equipment that you could easily use at home and so all these years later I taught myself how to do that, too. There are so many amazing books available and clear video tutorials online, I seriously believe you could teach yourself anything you could ever want to learn.
4. Workspace - studio or kitchen table?
I use a spare bedroom as my studio and luckily have a carpenter husband who can outfit it to suit my needs. He's made me a huge tabletop for printing and a narrow desk for sewing (I can always move my sewing machine to my printing table when I need to do quilts or other large projects) and built an amazing amount of storage shelving into the closet.
5. Blog/Shop name, where does it come from?
Maze & Vale is my oldest daughter's nickname and my youngest daughter's middle name.
6. Favourite media to work in?
Can I just say fabric? I loooooooooove fabric. LOVE. Always have really. Sewing is the first craft (and I've done/tried pretty much all of them) that I've been inspired to keep learning and continue to be thrilled by, because it lets me work with fabric and create things that are both beautiful and useful. And now that I can design and print my own textiles, in whatever colours I want, I'm pretty much in heaven.
7. Ambitions/future directions/future projects/medium you'd like to try?
I'd like to get back into making custom quilts, improvisational and unique, using mainly my own fabric. I have dreams about designing a commercial fabric line with Kokka, Yuwa or Cloud 9. I'd love to do some collaborations with quilters and designers that I admire and someday I'll dream up an idea for an exhibition and try to get that happening. For the next couple of years I'm going to stay small and enjoy hanging out with my two kids, printing when time allows and sewing in the evenings.
8. Are you neat and organised or, ahem, creatively messy?
Hmmm, maybe both? When I'm working to a deadline or on a large project, I am messy. I throw scraps of fabric and thread on the floor, make piles of stuff everywhere, shove things on shelves or into boxes, wherever they will fit. But I regularly tidy and organise my studio, especially if I'm about to start something new. I like to know where to find things and remind myself of supplies I'd forgotten I had, projects I'd forgotten I started. I get super inspired when my studio is neat and tidy, all set to get messy again.
9. Favourite handmade, handcrafted item you own not made by you.
Oh man, I have so many... I'll pick three that stand out: a small, dark grey rake vase, resembling a wasp's nest, that a dear friend brought me from Japan, an amazingly beautifully made doll from Sara of A Little Sprout that I purchased while pregnant with my first daughter and more recently, the stunning simplicity of the pod vase and mug from Melbourne local, Shiko.
10. Favourite food/recipe?
It's a bit boring but truly, popcorn. Tried and true, I will choose homemade popcorn over almost anything. I make it on the stovetop with rice bran oil and cracked rock salt and it is AMAZING.
11. Favourite colour?
Grey has been a long time favourite but a muted, smokey teal would be a close second these days. A quick look at my colour board on Pinterest reveals many examples of each!
12. Star sign?
13. Favourite place, landscape (not necessarily Australian)?
I have a special connection with Vancouver and always feel immediately at home there. Something in the air, maybe. I enjoyed every minute of the two years I lived there, near Commercial Drive and then right in the West End with great restaurants and shopping, Granville Island, Stanley Park, the beach, the seawall and pretty much anything else you could ever wish for just a hop, skip and a jump away. The whole city, made up of all its varied neighbourhoods, is just amazing, I think plus I met my Aussie husband there so its got a million great memories tied to it.
14. Any tricks for juggling life/work/family with creative pursuits?
Having my own space is hugely important, I think. Being able to just shut the studio door and then go back to what I was working on, untouched, when I have the time. Right now I keep my Maze & Vale work pretty separate from its namesakes. Aside from trips to the post office and checking my email while they eat lunch, when I'm with my kids, I like to be focussed on them. As they get older I hope to involve them more in my creative life, if they're interested. I have daydreams of the girls hanging out in my future, larger, outside-of-the-house studio, doing their own printing or sewing or homework while I do my thing.
16. Your favourite thing you've made/written/done.
Probably the quilt we use in our living room. The front is pieced with different shades of grey, using cloth that I hand dyed, and it's really heavily quilted. I think the quilting alone took me about nine hours but the texture is so beautiful.
17. What do you like to do besides creating?
I'm a huge treasure hunter so I love op shops and those antique warehouse type of places but it also extends into nature. Be it the beach or a walk through the forest, I just can't help coming home with pockets of beauty - shells, feathers, stones, seedpods, leaves… Sometimes if I have my camera, it's enough to just capture the treasures that way instead. I've always loved photography and that has only expanded since having my kids, documenting them as they grow is so important to me.
Friday night was a parents' cocktail party up at school to celebrate the School's 125th birthday. The first photo shows part of the amazing artwork produced for the Anniversary, a collage of the school and all its students, drawn by the kids. The party was lots of fun with fantastic catering, decorating, djing, lighting, bar and even a smoke machine organised by our clever parents.
It was with a slightly fuzzy head that Mr F started the day early Saturday with the kids for a new season of little athletics at 8.30. I caught up with them later and we all regrouped for four hours up at the local park bandstand for Music in the Park from our high school girl and her friends and schoolmates.
Don't you love the mosh pit of tiny people hanging off the front of the stage drawn by the wonderful music. All the bands and choirs were excellent and it was lovely family day catching up with all the families from our other school while lying on a blanket listening to music.
Sunday was soccer presentation day spent with yet another community, our wonderful local soccer club.
By the time we made it home to collapse I was exhausted, but feeling very lucky to have such wonderful, interesting and involved people in my family's lives. We are part of a big friendly, supportive community, who luckily don't mind a laugh, a dance, good food, music and friends!
I did mean to pop in here earlier to remind you about this month's Show & Tell!! She is someone else interested in community, family and sharing ideas. She's also madly creative and has inspired me for many years with her skills and creativity.
So please do make it back here to find out more about her tomorrow.
Making something with my Prism and Star block printed fabrics has been top of my To Do list for too long. I finally bought some new black quilting cotton yesterday to back them with and got to work on this cushion.
I've been sewing for my shop update and Spring Sale but made the mistake of putting this cushion on my couch to take a picture. Mr F now has designs on it and I must admit I love the way it looks there!
A couple of people have asked me about sewing with invisible zips and so this time I took some photos as I went along so I could write up an illustrated tutorial for these simple cushions. I've given some hints on sewing with the zips before, a couple of years ago, but I think a detailed tute would be a nice thing to share. Rather than being the scary things that so many people fear, I find invisible zips more simple than regular zips. Just make sure you invest in an invisible zipper foot because you need one to sew them properly.
p.s. excuse the crumples, I'd take another photo but its very grey here today.
Better Homes and Gardens Live is Sydney's biggest home and garden event, and its on again this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (14-16th September) out at Sydney Showground at Sydney Olympic Park, Homebush. The Show will feature food, renovation, art, craft, gardening and pets, with 350 exhibitors and a packed schedule of free live demonstrations and plenty of giveaways.
I was gifted a bunch of free tickets from Umi Loans (no this isn't a sponsored post) and I'm keen to share them with you guys. I'm giving away three sets of two adult tickets (kids under 16 have free entry with an accompanying adult). So if you think you'd like some please email me or leave a comment below with your email address and I will send you the relevant codes to redeem tickets online - two each to the first three entries.
I'm hoping to get a chance to pop out some time over the weekend, sounds like fun.
I love these two recent treasuries which feature flowerpress wares. Such beautiful springlike colour schemes and coincidentally they go together beautifully. The first 'storm in a teacup' was made by Grace Gladdish, one of my favourite instagrammers (gladdish). Grace has a newish online shop called trees4thewood. She lives on a flower farm in Tasmania and has the most picturesque landscapes and ethereal sunsets on her instagram feed.
The second treasury, 'its a bit cloudy' is by Lamina who I had the fun of meeting in person recently. Lamina has just opened an Etsy shop called doabit like her blog. I was so excited when she gifted me this beautiful zip purse as I've loved this pattern since she first printed it. I was reminded of it today when my new Camellia bloomed, they look a bit similar I think!
Spring was in full swing on Sunday for Father's Day. I rushed to get my camera when I saw my little gang hanging out together on the trampoline. My sweeties.
We seem to have relaxed and slowed down to welcome this new season, taking time to catch up with people we've been wanting to catch up with, spending more time outdoors, taking a little breather before it all speeds up again. There are still cold spots, it snowed in the mountains on the weekend, but the warmer days are on their way and we are making the most of it.
My little garden is a bit bare and barren, a bit winter drab. I've been quite tough on it the last few weekends, unceremoniously hacking and moving plants to get rid of some insidious weeds and make way for more productive spaces. In the meantime, though, some small treasures have bloomed their way in hidden corners and long green tendrils reach out to cover the bare spots.
Its been way too long since I've had time and motivation for creative Flower Press work, and I'm hoping to get back to it this week. I've decided to have a Spring Clean Sale in the Shop in the next couple of weeks and get myself organised. So look out for that!
p.s. first pic is broad bean flowers, planted by Mr J!