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    Tasty Tuesday

    Mushroom and Salmon Onigiri with Pickles

    Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura

    This month we’re thrilled to welcome Julia Busuttil Nishimura to Tasty Tuesday once more, this time with her husband, Norihiko (Nori) Nishimura!  Both passionate foodies, this month Julia and Nori share with us four of their favourite Japanese dishes to cook at home, kicking off with two versions of a classic Japanese snack food, onigiri!

    Mushroom and Salmon Onigiri with Pickles.  Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Salmon, nori and rice ready to roll!  Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Norihiko demonstrates rolling mushroom onigiri! (Julia says, try rolling yours in glad wrap if you struggle with bare hands).  Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    If you’ve ever been to Japan you have probably come across onigiri, most likely in a convenience store! Onigiri are rice balls filled with a variety of ingredients and formed into shapes such as triangles or ovals. They are classically filled with things like umeboshi (pickled plum), salted salmon and kombu, but nowadays, there are hundreds of different varieties.

    Onigiri was created centuries ago to make rice easy to eat and portable. Basically, onigiri is the original Japanese picnic food! They are a fantastic alternative to sandwiches for kids’ lunches, and also make perfect snacks.

    We’ve made two varieties, one where you flavour the rice with dashi, soy, sake and mushrooms, and the other, a classic onigiri of plain rice and salted salmon. The tip is to work with the rice while it’s warm, and make sure you have wet hands, so the rice doesn’t stick to them. Also, only wrap the rice in the nori when you are ready to eat them, as it goes soggy really quickly. We eat ours with quick pickles of whatever vegetables we have around, umeboshi, and for a complete lunch, some warming miso soup.

    Mushroom and Salmon Onigiri ingredients.  Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Ingredients (serves 4 - 6)

    For the mushroom onigiri

    • 2 cups short grain rice
    • 380ml dashi stock
    • 30ml cooking sake
    • 30ml soy sauce
    • 200g Shimeji mushrooms, ends trimmed and roughly torn
    • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
    • 1tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

    For the salmon onigiri

    • 2 cups short grain rice
    • 200g piece of salmon, pin boned
    • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

    To serve

    • Toasted nori sheets, cut into 4cm strips

    For the daikon pickle

    • 1 small daikon
    • 25ml rice vinegar
    • 1 tbsp salt
    • 1/4 cup caster sugar
    • 1 tsp cooking sake

    For the cucumber pickle

    • 1 continental cucumber
    • 1 long red chili, sliced
    • 1 tbsp sesame oil
    • 1tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 tsp miso paste
    • 1 tsp mirin
    • 1 tsp rice vinegar
    • 1 tsp sugar


    For the mushroom onigiri

    Rinse the rice in a colander under running water; agitate the grains with your hands as you rinse them. In a medium saucepan, combine the rice, dashi stock, sake and soy and mix well. Lay the mushrooms on top of the rice and leave to soak for 30 minutes before turning on the heat. This helps the rice to stick together a little easier. Bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook until all water has been absorbed (approximately 15 minutes) and remove from heat. Leave covered for a further 5 minutes and add spring onions to slightly cooled rice and season to taste with salt. Once the rice is cool enough to handle, you can begin to shape your onigiri.

    To shape onigiri, wet your hands with cold water, take a large spoonful of rice and place in the palm of your hand. Cup your hands slightly and use one hand to rotate the onigiri and the other to cup it until you have a firm triangle. Try and work fast to avoid the rice sticking to your hand – if this does happen, you can dip your hand in water again. (If it proves to difficult or sticky with bare hands, try forming your onigiri inside a sheet of glad wrap).  Repeat with remaining rice and serve warm or at room temperature.

    For the salmon onigiri

    Rinse the rice in a colander under running water; agitate the grains with your hands as you rinse them. In a medium saucepan, add rice and 450ml water. Leave to sit for 30 in the pot before turning on the heat. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook until all water has been absorbed (approximately 15 minutes) and remove from heat. Leave covered for a further 5 minutes.

    Meanwhile, heat oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat, season salmon generously with salt and cook until salmon is golden, turning once (2-3 minutes each side). Flake into bite-size pieces.

    Season cooked rice with a little salt, remembering that the salmon has salt too. Wait until the rice is just cool enough to handle and then you can begin to shape.

    To shape the onigiri, wet your hands with cold water and take a large spoonful of rice and place in the palm of your hand. Flatten the rice out and make an indentation in the center. Place a piece of the flaked salmon in the indentation and carefully enclose the rice around the salmon. At this stage, you may need to add a small amount of rice to cover any gaps. Cup your hands slightly and use one hand to rotate the onigiri and the other to cup it until you have a firm triangle. Just before serving, wrap the onigiri in a strip of nori and serve warm or at room temperature.

    For the daikon pickle

    Half the daikon lengthways, and then thinly slice to make semi circles. Combine the remaining ingredients in a non-reactive container or zip-lock bag and add the sliced daikon, mixing to coat. Leave to pickle in the fridge overnight. The longer it pickles, the more intense the flavour will be.

    For the cucumber pickle

    Roughly chop or slice the cucumber. Combine the remaining ingredients in a non-reactive container or zip-locked bag and add the chopped cucumber, mixing to coat. Leave to pickle in the fridge overnight. If you prefer the cucumber crunchy and crisp, use sooner as the longer the cucumber stays pickling, the softer it will become.

    Julia and Nori at home in Melbourne. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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    Australian Homes

    Sarah Murphy, Matthew McCaughey and Family

    by Lucy Feagins, Editor

    Today we share a gorgeous, much loved Melbourne family home.   Despite its central location not far from Chapel st in South Yarra, this house feels much like a rambling farmhouse, with its timber lined walls, original details, sprawling leafy garden and generally perfect imperfect-ness!

    The South Yarra home of Sarah Murphy, Matthew McCaughey and their daughters Lola and Posy (plus Mr Wrinkles the dog, who sat still just long enough for us to snap this sweet pic!).  Wrought iron candelabras either side of back door brought back from New York (good effort!).  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Back porch.  Woven basket with firewood from the Eumundi market, vintage couch, a Mexican hassock (woven pouf), and planter made from Spanish roof tiles (front left) Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Gorgeous lived-in living room.  Light shade made with Marimekko fabric, artwork by Tom Nicholson, baskets on wall from Tjanpi Desert Weavers, owls on top shelf from Alcaston Gallery, Mirror from Mexico, (Lisa Roet artwork just visible in the mirror), some cushions made with Marimekko fabric, but front cushion on couch is by Lisa Corti from Roma!  Battery operated cardboard ‘Apple’ car on far shelf was one of Posy’s early science projects…!  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Living room.  Artwork on the left by Mark Howson, and on the right by Jan Senbergs. Little ship in  box is from Chapel St Bazaar, alongside this sit a Mirka Mora vase and a collection of Dinosaur Designs pieces.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Hallway leading out to kitchen and back garden.  Chest from The Curiosity Shop in Cooroy in Queensland, with green jugs and vases from Italy, France and the Chapel st Bazaar. (‘I have a bit of a crush on jugs and green ceramics and glass’ says Sarah!  Artwork on the left by Wendy Foard, centre by Sarah Faulkner and sculpture on the right by Kate McCaughey. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Hallway details.  Painting on left by Louise Tomlinson, and painting on the right by Stephen Eastaugh.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Kitchen.  Bonnie and Neil printed plywood tiles on bench, Spanish highchair converted into a stool.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Dining area looking onto back garden. Pressed metal lightshade from Mexico, lots of ceramics and glassware from Italy (available at Market Import), wonky Thonets from Leonard Joel Auctions.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Dining room details.  Portrait of the family pooch, ‘Mr Wrinkles’ by Tamsin Jackson, painting above by Louise Tomlinson and on the right by Wendy Foard.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    A collection of tiny tin pieces and ceramics from trips to Mexico. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Backdoor.  Depression era meat chest repurposed as a linen cupboard, from The Curiosity Shop in Cooroy in Queensland, the horseracing painting above the coat rack has been mysteriously signed ‘Pierre Lapin’.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Master bedroom.  Bamboo mirror from Leonard Joel Auctions, green and pink glass chandelier is French.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Master bedroom details.  Bedside lamp, marriage of some hard rubbish finds! 3D ship picture is a vintage find from New York, artwork above bed by Lisa Roet.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Posy’s bedroom.  Top left artwork by Emily Green, bottom artwork by Japanese artist Aiko Fukawa purchased from Hut 13, Mexican tissue art and hanging paper daisies. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Sarah at home with Lola (left) and Posy (right) and Mr Wrinkles!  Little hanging chandelier light (top left) found at Chelsea Market in New York.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    This endearingly homely abode belongs to Sarah Murphy, her husband Matthew McCaughey, and their two daughters Lola and Posy.  Matthew is a film director, whilst Sarah is creator of Murphy & Daughters, a homegrown bath and body products company.  (In a previous life, Sarah worked for many years as the buyer for iconic Melbourne homewares store Market Import, as evidenced by many of the colourful details and trinkets in her home!).  The family have been here six years.

    ‘We weren’t exactly looking for a new home, but came across this place on the internet and were pretty intrigued by the size of the garden’ explains Sarah. ‘Our home at the time was pretty comfortable, but we had two small exuberant girls who were kind of busting out of our little courtyard at the time’.  Sarah and Matthew went along to the auction more out of curiosity than anything else, as it was scheduled to take place on an election day.   ‘As is turn out, there was a pretty small crowd… and next thing you know – the house was ours!’ says Sarah.

    When they first took possession, Sarah recalls every room was a different colour.  ‘Only after we had repainted every room white and moved our things in did we discover the motivation behind Lola’s room choice – to her huge disappointment we had ‘whited out’ her half orange and half blue bedroom!’.  The family are in the process now of getting ‘psyched up’ to tackle a more serious renovation, though Sarah admits that finding the time and energy is proving a bit of a challenge!   ‘Our girls are nearly ready to drop us though if we don’t do it soon’ she admits, adding ‘it’s a lovely feeling type house, but there are a few scary and squishy bits!’

    With its aged patina and charming old world ‘wonkiness’, Sarah and Matthew’s cheerful Victorian home exudes an uncanny sense of familiarity.  It’s as if you’ve been here before.  In part, that feeling comes from the relaxed, eclectic decorating decisions Sarah has made here.  The home is layered effortlessly with antique and vintage furniture, picked up at nearby Leonard Joel Auctions, or found on the side of the road. Alongside these gems are lots of treasures gathered by Sarah on her travels through Mexico, Italy, Spain and France for Market Import.  Amongst all this are a smattering of much loved artworks by friends and local painters.  ‘We love all of our art, mostly it comes from good friends, including some we have been given as gifts or swaps’ Sarah says.

    Despite being a stone’s throw from Chapel street and the Prahan Market, this is also a surprisingly quiet and private home, tucked down a tiny street in a spot only locals would ever find.  ‘Its like a secret oasis’ says Sarah.  ‘As soon as we enter and come down the hallway, we’re miles away from the outside world… it’s like being in an old country farm house.’

    Huge thanks to Sarah, Matthew and family for sharing their gorgeous home with us today!  If you love Sarah’s aesthetic do pop over and check out her beautiful Murphy & Daughters range of bath and body products (all made in Melbourne!).


    Backgarden looking into dining room and kitchen.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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  • 10/08/14--12:00: MPavilion
  • Architecture


    by Stuart Harrison

    Today we are PRETTY excited to introduce our very first story from much respected local architect, author, speaker, and co-host of ‘The Architects’ radio show on 3RRR, Stuart Harrison!

    Stuart shares our view that discussions about great design and architecture should be accessible – buildings are, after all, for everyone.  Stuart’s stories for us will centre around public buildings and structures you can actually visit, not just other peoples’ houses!  He’s kicking things off with an introduction to Melbourne’s newest public space, MPavilion, a temporary events hub designed by Sean Godsell Architects and commissioned by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation.

    Melbourne’s first ‘MPavilion‘- a temporary events hub in Queen Victoria Gardens on St Kilda Road, designed by the office of Sean Godsell Architects (SGA) and commissioned by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation.  Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    MPavilion‘s perforated panels which rest in staggered positions creating a flower-like external shape when open. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    Architect Sean Godsell with Naomi Milgrom , who commissioned and conceived the MPavilion project.  Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    MPavilion‘s flexible wall and roof panels open the structure up to the park and city beyond.  Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    Utilitarian loose furniture allows for ultimate flexibility within the MPavilion events program. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    Just as the days got longer this week, a pristine box unfolded into Melbourne’s gardens, a host for the summer’s events, music and talks. Opened to the public on Tuesday, this is the first ‘MPavilion‘- a temporary events hub sitting in the lush green surrounds of Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Gardens. It’s right opposite the NGV on St Kilda Road, and joins the Myer Music Bowl as an architectural adventure in the parklands just south of the Yarra. And like the Music Bowl, we’ll remember what happens here as much as the backdrop.

    Designed by the office of Sean Godsell Architects (SGA) the pavilion was commissioned by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation as the first of a four year programme. It will host a jam-packed schedule of free events, talks, workshops and music over the next four months.  MPavilion is based on London’s Serpentine Pavilion, which is rebuilt each summer by a designer who hasn’t worked in England before. Here the commission has been given to one of Melbourne’s well-known architects in SGA, which has designed award-winning projects such as the RMIT Design Hub further up Swanston Street (the one with the circular discs all over it).

    This pavilion enters a grand tradition of picturesque ‘moments’ in parks, such as band shells, rotundas, follies. These typically provide shelter and a sense of enclosure whilst opening themselves to their surroundings. This one is the same, but in an ultra cool minimalist style – thin steel, glass and perforated aluminium.

    This building does, however, what most don’t – it changes. Giant flaps fold up on the square sides and roof to literally open the pavilion up. Each morning the pavilion is subject to an ‘opening ceremony’ – where the drama of the folding panels plays out with a commissioned soundscape by Geoff Nees. Many other Melbourne creatives have come to together for the project – the cheery MPavilion staff, for instance, wear uniforms designed by local fashion label Alpha 60.

    Inside the pavilion is a forest of thin steel posts supporting a glass roof. A recycled timber floor provides texture and warmth to the openable room. Loose furniture can be reconfigured for events which include talks, film screenings and performances as of part the Melbourne Festival. Events spaces normally tend not to have as many internal posts or columns, to allow for views and movement, but here the frequency of steel posts allows for a thinner structure generally, keeping profiles fine and lightweight. The architecture, when open, is reduced to its bare bones – posts, floor and roof – when closed the layers of perforated panels form a solid grey bunker.

    The panels swing up at different rates and rest in staggered positions when open, adding a varied flower-like external shape, in contrast to the closed box. The ability to change the various levels of ‘openness’ (with a remote!) means the pavilion can respond to the shifting light and conditions to suit different programs. Seeing the variation of form play out over the summer is something to look forward to.

    This year’s MPavilion is an exercise in restraint, a precise and disciplined container.

    It’s architecture in the minimalist manner – the search for distilled ideas, for merging elements into one.  Future pavilions from other teams will look to different styles and approaches for how to make good space for events, as the Serpentine Pavilion in Hyde Park has successfully done. Diversity is embedded into the commission through changing architects each year.

    The success of this (and future) pavilions will be as much about the activity programmed within, as the design of the structure itself. As with all great public buildings and spaces, MPavillion is designed for interaction and activity. It’s not just to be looked on from afar, as you’re speeding down St Kilda Road, or jogging through the gardens. This is a structure which beckons human engagement. Go inside, touch and feel. Spend a long summer’s day there.

    The MPavilion program runs until February 1st 2015.  It is open everyday except for New Years Day.  All events are free, check out the bustling programme at

    Melbourne’s first ‘MPavilion‘- a temporary structure and events hub designed by the office of Sean Godsell Architects (SGA) and commissioned by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation.  Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

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  • 10/09/14--12:00: Harriet Goodall
  • Interview

    Harriet Goodall

    by Amber Creswell Bell

    Our Sydney-based contributor Amber Creswell Bell is back today with another story from the Southern Highlands of NSW.  You might notice, this is actually our third story from this little pocket of NSW in as many weeks!  I’m not sure what’s in the water up there, but this beautiful spot appears to be a magnet for serious creative talent!

    Today Amber introduces weaver and maker Harriet Goodall, who explores the intersection of craft, art and design with her unique hand woven basketry, lights and sculptures.

    Harriet Goodall at work in her studio. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    Weavings and baskets in progress. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    Studio details. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    Baskets by Harriet Goodall. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    The studio of weaver and basket maker Harriet Goodall in the Southern Highlands, NSW. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    Studio details. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    Weaver and basket maker Harriet Goodall, based in the Southern Highlands, NSW. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    Harriet seeks inspiration for her works from nature. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    Harriet at work in the lush Southern Highlands. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    A basket in progress. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    So Lucy has tasked me with bringing you stories on creative NSW folk – and here I am lurking in the vert pastures of the Southern Highlands AGAIN! But it is for good reason.

    You may recall my last interview with maker Natalie Miller? Well, it would be completely remiss of me to not profile the rather exceptional Harriet Goodall – who just so happens to share her studio space with Natalie.

    Harriet is an absolute stalwart of the craft movement, and a true trailblazer in the field, having championed the recent resurgence of interest in weaving. Her work was first profiled on TDF in 2012, and has gone from strength to strength, seeing Harriet’s workshops quickly sell out for years both here and abroad.

    Harriet can be described as a functional and decorative sculptor, exploring the intersection of craft, art and design with her hand woven basketry and lights. Her materials of choice are found in the natural environment – plant materials, beach finds, farm detritus and discarded remnants, into which she breathes purpose, significance and beauty, with reference to traditional methods. Harriet’s craft is strictly non-machinated, and she shuns the idea of mass production and thoughtless consumerism in preference for more mindful simplicity.

    Like many creatives, Harriet’s path into the business of ‘makery’ was not a direct one. Country-raised and strict boarding-schooled, Harriet pursued theatre and media studies at uni – which led her through an enviable procession of career triumphs both here and abroad! I’m talking Sydney radio, Channel 4 and MTV London, Edinburgh Festival, and the Sydney Olympics in 2000…! Any one of those would no doubt herald a career high to many. But it was the life-changing intersection of four key events – some mid-twenties naval gazing; meeting her husband; extensive travel; and a discovery of textiles – that led her to her current place.

    Now based in Robertson in NSW, Harriet’s days are spent working on various weaving commissions, alongside running her new craft store and creative hub, Raw Craft, in collaboration with likeminded studio mate Natalie Miller. Some of Harriet’s most rewarding projects have included recent work with indigenous weaving groups, she was invited to the US twice this year for various creative projects, and next year she will travel to Poland and America again for different collaborative projects.  ‘Prolific’ is an understatement, but Harriet shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon – or, indeed, ever!   As she says below – ‘I’m going to throw away the computer and peak in creativity in my ’70s. Well, that’s the dream!’.

    Tell us a little about your background – what did you study and what path led you to what you are doing today?

    I had the best country childhood imaginable, then went to the kind of boarding school in Sydney where you took everything and you did it well or you were out. It suited the driven part of me, but I was very homesick and always getting caught being naughty.  Straight after school I did a Bachelor of Arts (Communications) at CSU Bathurst majoring in Theatre/Media, which often involved juggling, fire-breathing, unicycle riding, pretending to be a worm on the floor in the dark, getting nude and dancing around a burning maypole. It was the best!

    After graduating, I worked in media and events between stints of travel. I worked for a Sydney radio station, Channel 4 and MTV in London, the Edinburgh Festival and Metropolis Recording Studios in London, and when I came home I was VIP Coordinator for the Sydney Olympics Ceremonies Production Team in 2000 which was an extraordinary privilege. I then had a mid-twenties soul-searching crisis and did some navel-gazing trying to find ‘meaning’ and wanting my contribution to be worthwhile. This is when I met my husband Mat – he must have been part of the solution! So I taught Academic & Business English to foreign students for a couple of years, worked at various charities and not-for-profit organisations, and eventually we took off again on a big world adventure. I managed to see 35 countries in my twenties, so travel was fairly integral to the development of where I am now.

    We fell in love with textiles during this time and collected boxes full, to the point where Mat arrived home carrying eight massive stripy alpaca wool potato sacks in his backpack and not much else! We had spent time with Quechua weavers in the Andes, who were spearheading the fairly recent revival of vegetable dying and hand spinning of alpaca wool, and back home we started a small fair trade business, Warp & Weft and spent our weekends at Sydney and Canberra and Bowral markets, selling their beautiful gloves, beanies and belts. We returned after the first two years to find our weekend work had really been making a huge difference to the community and it was very gratifying.

    It turned out I had conceived in Cusco, and while I was pregnant, I was imbued with a lot of fertile energy so I took lots of classes and gently and happily fell into basket making which has been my day job for 7+ years now. I have been teaching regular workshops for five years, and now make woven lighting for commission and sculpture for exhibition.

    Although I never really enjoyed being behind a desk and those jobs seemed meaningless, every position, no matter how briefly held, gave me skills which I now use to manage my business. To run an independent artisan business you need to be good at marketing, graphics, designing websites, photography, teaching and writing. Basically Communications, which is what I studied – it all comes full circle.

    What brought you to Robertson?

    Our absolute abiding love of country life. We are both farm kids who grew up on large rural properties, so we came to fertile Robertson eight years ago and sank our fingers into the soil. Now we have quite a menagerie – a Blue Heeler, chooks, ducks, guinea fowl, finches, heritage breed pigs, sheep, a couple of cows and most recently a horse called Pokey. Oh and two lovely children. All those mouths to feed and would you believe we don’t own our own home? (Moving house would be a circus!) We were lucky to find a cottage to live on a beautiful farm looking out over the escarpment to the coast.

    We also thought ‘Robbo’ was so well-positioned – we could get up to Paddington markets on Saturday morning, have a night out with friends, do another market on Sunday and be home for whatever our week held here. Luckily, now, lots of our Sydney ‘posse’ have migrated down here or nearby on the South Coast, and there is so much goodness here, we hardly go to Sydney. There are many, many high calibre artists and makers living in the Southern Highlands – it’s not unusual to see Ben Quilty or John Olsen drive past on a trip to the supermarket. I hope that’s one of the things this area will be known for in the future; being a creative hub.

    What have been one or two of your favourite projects in recent years and why?

    After teaching basketry for some years and having experienced textile traditions internationally, I felt an obvious blind spot in my experience not having witnessed first-hand the ancient weaving traditions of Australia. No sooner than I began to think about that, I was approached about a project collaborating with Aboriginal arts groups. Good fortune, lucky timing or manifestation – I don’t know.

    A few months ago, I travelled up to Katherine, in the Northern Territory where I was invited by Djilpin Arts to lead a workshop with local women weavers from Beswick and Oenpelli. I learned from them to collect and strip pandanus and helped them with making bush dyes in beautiful deep charcoal, mustard, orange, berry-purple and red. Once we had dyed the pandanus, we used their existing weaving skills to create a range of sculptural woven lights. It was hot, hard work and my sitting bones definitely knew I was on the hard ground for five days. I was just visualizing that picture at the end with these incredible women holding up their glowing creations. I would love now to work with those ladies on creating amazing woven art for public spaces like restaurants or hotels. It is a triple threat project – preserving indigenous culture, creating opportunities for income and building self-esteem. (This is a call out to any interior designers and architects looking for some beautiful bespoke woven elements with integrity and kudos!)

    How would your describe your work and what influences your style?

    I make functional and decorative sculpture with a basis in traditional craft practices, such as basket weaving, felting and dyeing. I am driven by ethics, aesthetics and curiosity. Everything I make harks back to the rural landscape of my childhood. My father was a sheep grazier and farmer, and I spent many hours in his workshop helping him with welding or in the sheep yards. Our rambling conversation in these times always ranged poetically through world events or books we were reading. He helped me weld my first sculpture from scrap metal – a little horse that is still on their mantelpiece, and I made bird’s nests with little eggs from clay. Mum and Dad sweetly kept them all. Mum’s family all painted and Dad’s sister, Gail English was a landscape colourist, so I grew up around creativity.

    I find beauty in the patterns of nature and decay that I saw around me as a child; rusty iron, peeling paint, shades of whitish/grey, burred wool, eucalyptus leaves, charred bone and dried grasses. I respect fashions in design and interiors and read the blogs etc. but ultimately I am turned on by timeworn texture, layers and marks. I’d like to live ethically so I have a love/hate relationship with technology, and question overt consumption. I would say my art is influenced by this questioning. Most of the choices Mat and I make are influenced by aiming to let go of the expectations. He is tanning hides at the moment – it’s all hunt and gather!

    When creating your work, what processes and materials do you employ, is it an intuitive process or meticulously planned? Do you work on more than one artwork or project simultaneously, and how long does each piece take to complete?

    Weaving and felting both involve repetitive action, which allows you to become a bit trance like, and time flows at a different pace. I am happiest mid-process. Whole days pass in a flash! My best creations are intuitive and happen through the chance combination of seeing materials together in the studio. I have new ideas all the time and it’s dangerous to always act on them, as I end up with lots of works-in-progress. But oh! When the juices flow it’s so exciting and I can’t wait to get stuck in!!

    In my studio I usually have lots pieces on the go at one time, although if I am working on a big commission, I just put my head down and get it done – these can take weeks. If it’s going overseas, the logistics of crating, fumigation and freighting alone can take me days to organize.

    I am often commissioned to make work based on someone having seen and loved a previous work, but am always pushing clients to let me make them something new so I get a chance to experiment. I want them to trust that I will seek to resolve the balance of colour, texture, form so that what I hand over will be beautiful and original. Innovation is way harder than remaking old work, but so much more rewarding. Thanks to that strict education, I work pretty well under pressure and often with a deadline looming I can get much more made. Keeping the work rolling, unfortunately involves a lot of computer time (like now!), I am always itching to have more time in the studio. Time is a recurring theme for all working mums I think.

    At the moment I am also styling the exhibition hall for a local Designers & Artisans Festival so am overseeing the build/signage/lighting for that.

    What does a typical day for you usually involve?

    I am not a perky morning person, so I try to start the day with a walk down our country lane to clear the cobwebs, but realistically I spend most of my early mornings sopping up spilled Weetbix and searching for lost shoes. Once we all pile into the car we get to drive along through some of the most incredible scenery in the country with dairy cows on rolling green hills and stone walls on the school run to Kangaloon. Banjo’s little school is gorgeous; it is on top of a hill, has about 25 kids and is surrounded by paddocks. I drive back to Robertson and grab coffee and for about a year now my studio has been in the middle of the village so it’s all very central. I have a wood heater which I light first thing – it feels like ceremony and it takes the chill off. I work with music – always. I like Pandora – the Feist channel is good or I might listen to Radio National. I love The Inside Sleeve.

    I always clean up the studio first thing because it’s a massive mess and I can’t think clearly! I might lay out some wool for a felt work, or soak up some dried plant material for weaving. The studio is like a second home. I love being there at any time of night or day and it is quite social – out the back of my studio there are two more artists working; Natalie Miller and Rick Abel. They are great to bounce ideas off and people are often calling in for creative meetings or just a cuppa. Nat and I are collaborating on a new range of lights combining her pottery and my basketry, so we have a catch up on the progress of them (we actually gabber like maniacs until we make ourselves shut the door and get some work done!).

    As the day progresses, I get more into whatever I am making, and usually when the school bus is approaching I have to drop my apron and run. If we don’t have judo, ballet or swimming after school, we head home and feed the animals, and hang out in the garden with Mat. We cook every night and when the kids are finally in bed, Mat and I read or watch a show together while I weave or coil rattan. I usually stay up about an hour after everyone is snoring and catch up on emails or update new my online store, which sells basketry materials and wooden tools. Maybe this is why mornings are hard for me!

    Can you list for us 5 specific resources across any media you tune in to regularly for inspiration?

    Pinterest (I follow lots of interesting art pinners like Robyn Gordon and Willemien de Villiers etc so my feed is always inspiring), Trend Tablet is amazing, Lost In Fiber, Contemporary Basketry Blogspot… but we aren’t always virtuous, and when we’re exhausted Mat and I love watching a good TV series on our laptop in bed; House of Cards, Game of Thrones, The Wire, True Detective.

    Which other local artists, designers, creative people do you admire?

    I am going to list Australian artists who inspire me – there’s a feminine nature theme; locally Bronwyn Berman, my beloved Shona Wilson, India Flint, Petrina Hicks, Linde Ivimey, Rosalie Gascoigne, Brownwyn Oliver. My friend and studio partner Natalie Miller is a weapon of mass creation. Clare Bowditch is doing great things. I think women who can be a present mother and have a creative output are great role models for their children.

    What has been a career highlight for you so far?

    I was invited to America twice last year to teach in Boston at Gather Here stitch lounge and film my first ever online workshop at a beautiful creative gathering on Squam Art Workshops in New Hampshire. I shared a cabin, broke bread and belly laughed with smart, humble, talented illustrators, photographers, bloggers and crafters. It was heartening to witness the global return to the handmade and realise America is so much more than we see in films and on the news. I also made the startling discovery that some American knitters have groupies!

    What would be your dream creative project or collaboration?

    I am crushing on Lucy McRae. I would like to weave or felt some body architecture. Los Angeles designer Tanya Aguiñiga also felted her whole body and she works with weavers in Mexico – I would love to work with her. I would like to be commissioned by an innovative restaurant or hotel group like Hotel Hotel to create wall coverings or lighting in collaboration with a team of indigenous artists from Australia/Mongolia/Peru/India. Last year, Jade Oakley included some of my weaving as the basis of one submission for large piece of public art – a different design of hers was successful that time, but she’s so clever and I would love to learn that process alongside her one day. I just want to keep pushing myself in new directions.

    What are you looking forward to?

    Sunshine, as it’s been raining buckets. We’ve just bought a lovely horse; I’m looking forward to us riding her down to the crystal clear spring fed dam on the farm for a swim off the jetty when it’s stinking hot. I am so excited to be included in hardcover books coming out by clever creatives Tamara Maynes and Kara Rosenlund – I am excited to see those. I’ve been invited to both Poland and America next year for creative work, and I’m turning 40 in the middle so maybe a birthday somewhere on the road. One day building a shack in the bush and retreating – I’m going to throw away the computer and peak in creativity in my ’70s. Well, that’s the dream!

    Southern Highlands Questions

    Your favourite Southern Highlands neighborhood and why?

    Of course Robertson.  It is a place where 5th generation potato farmers greet artists and architects in The Friendly Grocer with a smile.

    Where do you shop for the tools of your trade?

    Raw Craft of course! I now have my online store for basketry materials and cool tools also.

    What and where was the last great meal you ate?

    Definitely at home. Mat is an incredible green thumb and good food provider so I get to eat home-grown veg with happy organic pork, lamb or wild-caught venison. He recently made a delicious slow cooked lamb with herbs (an Ottolenghi recipe) and it was Father’s Day! He keeps our insides way ahead of the game.

    Southern Highlands best kept secret?

    Our new little shop in front of our studios, Raw Craft. We are selling all the raw materials we keep in our studios and use for teaching basketry, macramé, knitting and weaving such as funky ropes, strings and wools. We are going to stock other makers and designers we love such as Slab+Slub, Gemma Patford and Bind + Fold. Come and see us!

    Harriet’s new horse, ‘Pokey’. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

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    The Design Files Open House 2014

    by Lucy Feagins, Editor

    The worst kept secret in Melbourne is finally OUT today – we are super EXCITED to let you know that our ever popular annual event The Design Files Open House will be BACK in 2014, and… we’re taking things up a notch!

    The Design Files Open House 2014.  Ceramics by Jessilla Rogers and Lightly, brass vessel by Lightly, plants and plant containers from Loose Leaf, all furniture and lamp by Jardan, cushions by Bonnie and Neil, rug by Armadillo & Co, flooring by Royal Oak Floors.  Wall colour (far ledge) – Dulux Sea Angel.  Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    The Design Files Open House artwork and product!  Artwork on wall – clockwise from left, Stephen Giblett, Emma Lipscombe, Fred Fowler, Belynda Henry and Sandra Eterovic (circular piece).  On ledge, ceramics by Jessilla Rogers and Lightly, brass vessel by Lightly, brass circular sculpture by Anna Varendorff, leaning artwork by Madeline Kidd and Sarah Kelk.  Bandy stool and Harper loveseat by Jardan.  Cushion by Bonnie and Neil.  Rug by Armadillo & Co, flooring by Royal Oak Floors.  Wall colour – Dulux Sea Angel. Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Sean Fennessy.

    The Design Files Open House 2014.  All furniture and bedside lamp by Jardan, bedlinen and pillowcases by Frank and Mint, printed throw by Shilo Engelbrecht, rectangular cushion by Bonnie and Neil, circular shelf by Bride & Wolf, a collection of small vessels from Lightly, Sarah Schembri and Jessilla Rogers, small plants on window ledge from Loose Leaf, herringbone flooring by Royal Oak Floors.  Wall colour – Dulux Mirage Blue.  Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, Photo – Eve Wilson.

    The Design Files Open House 2014.  Artwork from left – Stephen Giblett, Belynda Henry and Madeline Kidd.  Emma Lipscombe work leaning on ledge.  All furniture by Jardan, a collection of vessels from Dinosaur DesignsLightlySarah Schembri and Jessilla Rogers, small plant on ledge from Loose Leaf, flooring by Royal Oak Floors.  Wall colour – Dulux Canadian Pine. Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, Photo – Eve Wilson.

    Detail – Artwork on ledge by Emma Lipscom, hanging artwork by Madeline Kidd.   Teacup by Jessilla Rogers, brass sculptures by Anna Varendorff, small plant from Loose Leaf, brass vessel from Lightly. Wall colour – Dulux Canadian Pine.  Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, Photo – Eve Wilson.

    Mirrored lips from Bride and Wolfe, painting on wall and circular painting on floor by Numskull. Bandy stool by Jardan, flooring by Royal Oak Floors.  Wall colour – Dulux Mirage Blue. Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, Photo – Sean Fennessy.

    When we first launched The Design Files Open House in 2011, we never dreamt we might one day be building our own Open House location from scratch.  Call us CRAZY, but this year, for the first time, Open House will be custom designed and built by our hardworking and talented team, within the footprint of rather large split-level warehouse in Collingwood, Melbourne.  This means, for the first time, we get to design, select and customise EVERYTHING ourselves – from the layout of the space, to flooring choices and even kitchen appliances…!

    WOAH.  Deep breaths, people.

    Some things, however, haven’t changed.  The Design Files Open House still represents the ultimate ‘Australian home’ – a bustling, colourful space furnished with our favourite locally designed furniture, homewares and lighting, artwork by talented Australian artists, books by local authors and much more. As always, each and every item can be purchased on the spot!  This year, we have invited over 30 brand new designers, artists and makers to participate, whose work has never been seen at Open House before. These include some incredibly talented recent discoveries, such as local ceramicists Jessilla Rogers and Sarah Schembri, and artists Madeline Kidd, Emma LipscombeFred Fowler, and many more.

    Today you can browse The Design Files Open House 2014 website to see which fabulous brands, designers and artists are involved in this year’s event!  In the coming weeks, we will also upload a selection of product on the website, so you can see some of the original artwork and product we’ll have in store.

    Events on this scale don’t happen without the incredible support of a bunch of likeminded partners and sponsors, who invest in our vision, and help us bring all our crazy ideas to life!  We’re very selective about our sponsors – it’s imperative to work with brands who speak our language, and who trust us to do our thing.  This year we’re thrilled to introduce Bank of Melbourne as our inaugural Major Event Partner.  We are immensely grateful for their support, and we’re looking forward to co-hosting breakfast events with Bank of Melbourne for Small Business owners at Open House in early December.

    We also have five wonderful Major Sponsors supporting The Design Files Open House 2014.  Once again we have partnered with our pals at Jardan to bring the event to life.  Jardan have been with us ever since our very first event in 2011 – we are so grateful for their ongoing support.  Australia’s leading paint brand Dulux are also with us again this year, and we’ve selected a palette of stunning Dulux colours to feature throughout the house.  For the first time this year we’re working with a new vehicle sponsor – we’re excited to welcome Fiat to the Open House family!  We’ll be working with a local designer to customise a stylish Fiat500 especially for the event (more news on that soon!).  For our flooring, we’re working with Melbourne based brand Royal Oak Floors, whose beautiful range of wide oak and herringbone floors will be seen throughout the house.  AND last but not least, building Open House from scratch means designing and building a full scale KITCHEN ourselves (!), which we’re doing with the generous support of Siemens, whose sleek kitchen appliances will feature in the house.

    HUGE THANKS to all our partners and sponsors for their generous support of this project.  We absolutely couldn’t do it without them!

    SO, dear readers.  The next 2 months are going to get a little mad around here!  We’ll be receiving and processing stock.  We’ll be working on a few pretty RAD collaborations – Georgina Reid of The Planthunter and local planty peeps Charlie and Wona from Loose Leaf are joining forces to create a lush indoor garden for us, and I’m working with Robert Gordon Australia on a brand new and exclusive range of tableware and vessels especially for Open House (so excited!). We’ll be chatting to Seven Seeds about the coffee set up, and working with the amazing Cookes Food to dream up the yummiest catering for our opening night and media events.  All Saints Estate will be delivering lovely local wines for our VIP events.   We’ll be placing a big order with local label Habbot, who have generously offered to kit out our event staff in beautiful handcrafted leather shoes, and as always we’ll be working with The Project Agency to spread word of this year’s event far and wide!

    But YOU guys have only ONE TASK ahead.  Simply put a note in your diary and make sure you come visit us in the first weekend in December!

    Thankyou ALL for your endless support of this project and everything else we dream up around here!  We can’t wait to share another epic Open House event with you all – scarily soon!

    The Design Files Open House

    Thursday Dec 4th – Sunday Dec 7th 2014
    Open 10.00am – 5.00pm daily
    Collingwood, Melbourne

    (Location to be announced soon!)

    Oh, you know, just wistfully admiring a bunch of beautiful artwork – clockwise from left, Stephen Giblett, Emma Lipscombe, Fred Fowler, Belynda Henry (just cropped out on right), Madeline Kidd (in my hands) and   Sandra Eterovic.  On ledge, ceramics by Jessilla Rogers and Lightly, brass vessel by Lightly, brass circular sculpture by Anna Varendorff.  Wall colour – Dulux Sea Angel.  Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, Photo – Sean Fennessy.

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  • 10/13/14--12:00: Ivy Muse
  • Shopping

    Ivy Muse

    by Lucy Feagins, Editor

    We’re sensing a trend.  It’s been going on for some time now.  It’s all about getting your plants OFF THE FLOOR. Don’t ask me how these things unfold, but suddenly retro-inspired wire plant stands are popping up in Australian homes, shops and photoshoots left, right and centre.  We’re digging these ones, by local start-up IVY MUSE.

    Wire plant stands from local start up IVY MUSE. Styling - Alana Langan, photo – Annette O’Brien.

    The team behind IVY MUSE – Jacqui Vidal and Alana Langan.  Styling - Alana Langan, photo – Annette O’Brien.

    Wire plant stands by IVY MUSE. Styling - Alana Langan, photo – Annette O’Brien.

    Wire plant stands by IVY MUSE. Styling - Alana Langan, photo – Annette O’Brien.

    Wire plant stands by IVY MUSE. Styling - Alana Langan, photo – Annette O’Brien.

    IVY MUSE is a collaboration between Jacqui Vidal, founder and proprietor of Signed and Numbered, which sells limited edition artwork on paper from two shops in Melbourne (one in Greville Street Prahran and another in Degraves Street in the city) and local stylist Alana Langan, who runs online store Hunt and Bow.  With a shared interest in all things green, and each with limitations on outdoor space in their own homes, this industrious pair have joined forces to create a new collection of locally made wire plant stands.

    ‘Over the past year or so, Jacqui and I have been knocking about ideas to collaborate together’ explains Alana. ‘When we came up with idea for IVY MUSE, it just clicked for both of us. We’re both a little green-thumbed, I live in a rental property and Jacqui lives in an apartment with no outside space, so we were both keen on the idea of getting creative with bringing greenery indoors’. Having been friends for over 10 years, and each with successful businesses of their own, the pair were confident they would work well together!

    The debut collection from IVY MUSE is called Geoscapes – a collection of four timeless powder coated steel designs.  Each stand is available in matt black, matt white, ‘Classic’ (Champagne), ‘Feline’ (Soft Blue), ‘Butterfly’ (Teal) and ‘Hourglass’ (Burnt Copper).  Each piece is made from start to finish in Melbourne!

    IVY MUSE planters currently can be bought online here and here, and also from Signed and Numbered stores in Melbourne.  They start at $130.00.

    (And credit where credit is due, there are a bunch of other clever local designers doing various wire plant stands in all manner of shapes and sizes at the moment, other great examples include Mr Kitly and Wirely!).

    Wire plant stand by IVY MUSE. Styling - Alana Langan, photo – Annette O’Brien.

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  • 10/13/14--20:00: Okonomiyaki
  • Tasty Tuesday


    Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura

    This afternoon Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura are back with one of Japan’s most distinctive and popular dishes – Okonomiyaki!   Literally translated as ‘what you like’ (okonomi) and  ‘cooked’ (yaki), it’s a perennial crowd pleaser, and can be made in endless variations to suit your taste, with or without meat.  For this version, Julia wowed us by adding fresh squid to the batter, which she prepared from scratch!  TOP EFFORT.

    Okonomiyaki with all the trimmings!  Large plate by Valerie Resterick from Craft Victoria.  Small carrot chopstick holder – Julia’s own.  Flower-shaped ceramic ‘1616 Arita Japan Palace Plate’ from MINAMI. Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Okonomiyaki with all the trimmings!  Large plate by Valerie Resterick from Craft Victoria.  Small carrot chopstick holder – Julia’s own.  Flower-shaped ceramic ‘1616 Arita Japan Palace Plate’ from MINAMI. Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    We were INSANELY IMPRESSED by Julia’s seemingly effortless ability to prepare this squid from scratch, including removing the weird internal bone.  Julia, we salute you!  Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    There are as many versions of okonomiyaki as there are vending machines in Japan, which makes sense, seeing that ‘okonomi’ means ‘what you like’ and ‘yaki’ means ‘cooked’. The mixture varies from region to region, as do the toppings. In Hiroshima they layer up the savoury pancake with noodles and other ingredients, whereas in the Kansai region, they tend to keep it a bit simpler and go for an all-in-one batter. Nori’s Mum often made it with thinly sliced pork belly, which is tasty too!

    This dish is super popular in Japan – there are Okonomiyaki restaurants everywhere. My favourites are the ‘grill-it-yourself’ establishments – after choosing your fillings, your batter is delivered to the table where you then cook your own on communal hot plates. Because not everyone has one of these grill plates hanging around the house, you can either use the hotplate on your BBQ or a fry pan, like we do. If you’re using a fry pan, it’s best to keep the pancake relatively small to make for easy flipping.

    We add chopped calamari to ours which adds a nice texture, but you should embrace the meaning of ‘okonomi’ and literally add what you like, which could include: thin slices of pork belly, octopus or more vegetables would be delicious too. You can easily make okonomiyaki vegetarian by using a dashi stock made from mushrooms or kombu and omitting the calamari and bonito flakes. The pancake is then smothered in okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise and topped with things like nori, bonito flakes and spring onions – DELICIOUS!

    Oh, and I should also mention that you need to pay close attention to the bonito flakes when they hit the steamy pancake, or YouTube ‘Bonito flakes dancing’ – my number two reason why I love okonomiyaki. Number one is of course the taste!

    Ingredients (Serves 2 - 4)

    For the Okonomiyaki

    • 180g plain flour
    • 260ml dashi stock
    • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
    • 300g white cabbage, shredded
    • 2 spring onions, roughly sliced
    • 20g beni shoga (a type of pickled ginger available from Japanese grocers)
    • 150g fresh calamari or squid, roughly chopped
    • Vegetable oil, for frying

    To serve

    • Okonomiyaki sauce (available from Japanese grocers)
    • Japanese mayonnaise
    • Spring onions, finely sliced
    • Toasted nori, shredded
    • Bonito flakes

    Nori perfects the golden fried Okonomiyaki! Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.


    The first thing you need to do is make your pancake batter. To do this, put the plain flour in a mixing bowl and slowly add the dashi stock, whisking until it becomes a smooth mixture. Now you add the rest of your ingredients – so add the eggs, cabbage, beni shoga, spring onions and calamari and mix well to coat. Season with salt.

    Heat a fry pan over medium heat and add a small drizzle of the vegetable oil. Spoon in half or a quarter of the batter, depending on what size you are making, and flatten with a spatula, but don’t press too much as you don’t want the pancake to be dense. If you’re adding pork belly you can lay it on the top of the pancake at this stage.

    Cook the pancake for about 4 minutes until just beginning to set and the underside is golden. Flip the okonomiyaki over and cover with a lid. Cook for a further 4 minutes. You may need to adjust the cooking time for bigger pancakes to ensure it’s cooked all the way through as there is nothing worse than a floury okonomiyaki!

    Repeat with the remaining batter.

    To serve

    To finish the okonomiyaki, drizzle over the okonomiyaki sauce and then the Japanese mayonnaise. Scatter over your toppings of spring onions, shredded nori and bonito flakes

    My beautiful piece of honed carrara marble still smells like squid after this photograph.  I’m not kidding.  Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

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  • 10/14/14--12:00: Tamsin Carvan and Family
  • Australian Homes

    Tamsin Carvan and Family

    by Lucy Feagins, Editor

    I tell you what, if ever there was a poster child (adult?) for a ‘tree change’, I think that person would / should be Tamsin Carvan.  The lifestyle she has created in the lush green hills of South Gippsland in Victoria is something very special. We have 22 photos to prove it!

    The Gippsland farmhouse of Tamsin Carvan of Tamsin’s Table.   The kitchen was designed and handcrafted by Tamsin’s partner Allan. The cupboards and shelves are made from old Baltic pine floorboards, while the workbench has a mixed local handwood top and ironbark legs. The stools were found at a recycled garbage depot ($10 for 6) – Allan replaced the vinyl seats with soft, worn Baltic pine and painted the legs black.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.


    One of two oven / stoves in Tamsin’s kitchen. ‘The wood stove is a Rayburn and it burns pretty much constantly for nine months of the year’ explains Tamsin.  ‘The old cream can is where we empty the ash each morning before it goes to the chooks to dust bathe in. Al made the workbench next to the stove from an old painters plank, Baltic pine lining boards, legs from a salvaged 1920’s cedar door frame, and hand made steel brackets’.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Kitchen details. Most of Tamsin’s copper pots are handmade in Tasmania, using traditional techniques including hand tinning of the interior.  Tamsin says you can buy them from Lara Copper!  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Tamsin’s magnificent open plan kitchen, made by her partner Allan. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Garden adjacent to kitchen, with one of Tamsin’s oldest and most favourite chooks – a Silver Grey Dorking known as Mrs Cluck, who frequently likes to wander inside the house.  ‘She would happily move in with us if the opportunity arose’ says Tamsin! Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    A sweet corner in Tamsin’s dining room, looking out to her garden beyond. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Dining room detail.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Tamsin’s beautiful old table is on long term loan from her neighbours, the Olsens, direct descendants of the original Danish settlers of this valley! ‘It was made over a century ago by a local Swedish ship builder, so that stock agents who came from all around the district to the horse sales once held here could lunch together when business was done’ says Tamsin. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Living area.  The lamp is made by Allan, combining his skill with metal (he is a welder by trade) with his love of timber.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Living area details. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Study.  Desk made by Allan using planks of Oregon salvaged from an old service station.  The legs are constructed from pieces of a 1920’s cedar entrance door and frame.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Master bedroom.  Quilt made by Tamsin using fabric scraps collected over generations by Tamsin, her mother and her grandmother.  Allan made the bedside boxes from Baltic pine and hardwood offcuts. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Living room looking through to study.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Detail in the study.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    8 year old Martha’s rom.  Shelves salvaged from an old dressing table.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    AMAZING bathroom with the most incredible view! ‘The bath was on the farm when I bought it – it was buried in mud under one of the old apple trees where the cows were using it as a drinking trough’ recalls Tamsin.  ‘When we dragged it out we were pretty happy to find she still had her feet!’ Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Beautiful bathroom details.  Resourceful Allan whipped up the brackets for this bench in the bathroom from old mower struts and jack handles found on the farm. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Detail in the entrance hall.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Entrance.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    One tiny corner of Tamsin’s beautiful garden. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Tamsin and gorgeous Martha in their vegetable garden.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    This sweet and supremely photogenic little farmhouse on 113 vivid green acres in Poowong East, halfway to Wilson’s Prom in Victoria’s South East belongs to Tamsin Carvan, her daughter Martha (8 years old) and partner Allan Walker.  Tamsin moved here and established her farm almost eleven years ago, after many years living in Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra, though her childhood years were spent growing up in the Blue Mountains of NSW.

    Tamsin’s big move from Canberra to a farm in Gippsland didn’t happen by chance.  This is a carefully crafted lifestyle, evolved from a nagging desire to return to a simpler way of living.

    ‘For many years I knew I really wanted to try my hand at farming, and get out of the city where I always felt cramped up and claustrophobic’  explains Tamsin.  Despite her enthusiasm for building a new life in the country, Tamsin was also very pragmatic about the risks, and was particularly conscious of drought.   ‘I knew that I didn’t want to live anywhere where crushing drought was a real risk’ she says. ‘We opened up the atlas and marked all the places across Australia within a two hour drive of a major airport (I was still travelling a lot for work back then) where rainfall exceeds evaporation – and there actually aren’t many!’ Tamsins explains. ‘Once we laid our eyes on this part of the world we were completely sold’.

    The hills were so green that I cried. We found this farm on the internet while still in Canberra, and I hadn’t even seen it in the flesh when we made the offer on it. I just knew it would be right”.

    From here, Tasmin now runs her amazing little business, Tamsin’s Table, which sees her host an ever changing schedule of Sunday lunches, harvesting and cooking workshops, and other seasonal events.  Though it hasn’t been in operation all that long, Tamsin’s Table has been a runaway success, having made way for a steady steam of day trippers from the city, and connected Tamsin with many likeminded local creatives.  Tamsin’s Table gives guests an opportunity to get their hands dirty, as they join Tamsin in harvesting, preparing, cooking and eating the freshest vegetables, eggs and dairy produce from her little farm, alongside local wines, meats and other treats. ( You’ll learn much more about Tamsin’s Table next month when she joins us for Tasty Tuesday in November!)

    When she first moved in, Tamsin’s house was a typical dairy farming house.  With the help of her talented partner Allan and creative local friends, over the last few years the home has been thoughtfully transformed into a lighter, brighter and more open plan space, with a bigger kitchen and bathroom, larger windows, and views to the rolling hills which surround the property.

    ‘When we first moved here, I couldn’t understand why so many of the houses around here seemed so windowless and dark, given they were set in such spectacular locations with incredible views – but now I do’ Tamsin says. ‘They were warm and cosy and easy to heat, and when you’ve been up since before dawn milking, then out in the paddocks all day chasing cows, all you want is to come inside and be warm and feel that work is done, rather than settling into your chair only to see that there are troughs leaking or the cows have jumped the fence into the neighbours!’. Needless to say, Tamsin realised this only after having knocked out half the walls, replacing them with windows and raising all the ceilings!

    There’s something instantly comfortable about Tamsin’s house – there’s a warmth and familiarity here that’s hard to pinpoint.  It’s the kind of house you imagine might be the centrepiece for some popular film or drama set in the Australian countryside, with a cast of loveable characters you feel you’ve known for years.  At the heart of the home, of course, is Tamsin’s kitchen – a deceivingly professional set-up of industrial proportions, which somehow still feels like a relaxed, country kitchen.  From here, Tamsin can effortlessly whip up a feast for 20 (and she does, regularly!) using nothing more than farm-grown produce.

    There not much ‘new’ in Tamsin’s house. ‘Pretty much everything in the house I’ve owned for a really long time, since I was in my teens or early 20’s’ she says.  Alongside these much-loved relics are a few treasured pieces handcrafted by Tamsin’s partner Allan.  One favourite piece is the beautiful lamp that Allan made Tamsin for a Christmas gift, and the kitchen bench which Allan also made. ‘You know a bench or table works when everyone gravitates towards it, and wants to stay there all night!’ says Tamsin.

    There is a LOT to love about this home. For Tamsin, the joy of this place really is about much more than the sum of its parts.  ‘Even though I love what we have done to the interior of the house over the last few years, I lived here for many years prior to any renovations being done and loved it just as much’ says Tamsin earnestly. ‘To me, it is all about what I can see out the windows – space, the weather, light, birds, beautifully tended farm land, a community, and the trees’.


    Afternoon sun over the hills as seen from Tamsin’s house.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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    Jess Wong · I Believe In Space

    by Lucy Feagins, Editor

    Jess Wong is an advertising industry designer by day, but a talented and compulsive letterer by night!  An exhibition of her beautiful hand drawn typography is opening at The Hungry Workshop in Melbourne tonight.

    Sydney based designer and typographer Jess Wong in her home studio.  Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

    Experiments in type and doodles by Jess Wong in her home studio.  Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

    ‘This is not a Sign’ by Jess Wong.  Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

    Jess at work.  Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

    Letterpress collaboration between Jess Wong and Georgia Dixon. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

    Jess Wong has a Bachelor of Design from Queensland College of Art, but her interest in lettering and typography has been a personal passion for a long time.  She has been fascinated with handwriting since she was a little girl, which she can trace back to one particular moment!  ‘In primary school, I had the biggest crush on my Grade 5 teacher, because he had this beautiful, loopy handwriting that I absolutely adored!’ she says.

    After moving to Sydney, Jess developed her meticulous lettering skills because she says she was a little lonely at first, so spent many evenings at home practicing lettering to pass the time. She started uploading her work to social media, and has slowly grown a following since then.

    Jess’s work is a mix of hand-rendered and digital vector lettering, with a little bit of illustration thrown in.  She says she tries to push herself to work with as many different styles and techniques as she can, however she tends to gravitate towards drawing oversized, curvy scripts.

    I aim to create lettering that is expressive of the words it is communicating, and always maintains a certain imperfection or human character in the way it is drawn’

    ‘I Believe in Space’ is Jess’s first solo exhibition, which has already had one recent showing in Sydney, and opens in Melbourne tonight! The show includes a collection of Jess’s incredible hand-lettered works on paper, alongside letterpressed pieces printed by The Hungry Workshop. Half the show is a collaborative effort, based on people’s answers to the question – ‘What would you say to your loved ones if you or they were about to depart on a super long mission to outer space?!’

    Beyond this exhibition, Jess is keen to continue extending her skills to encompass more traditional styles of lettering – specifically, calligraphy and sign painting. ‘I’m also hoping to paint some larger wall pieces – I completed my first one a few weeks ago and really enjoyed that process.’ she says.  ‘If anyone’s got an empty wall that needs some love, give me a shout!’

    I Believe In Space’ by Jess Wong
    October 16th  until November 28th (Opening tonight from 6.30pm!)
    The Hungry Workshop
    461 High Street
    Northcote, VIC

    Jess at work in her tiny garden! Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

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  • 10/16/14--12:00: Sandra Eterovic
  • Interview

    Sandra Eterovic

    by Lucy Feagins, Editor

    With qualifications in art history, art and design, Melbourne artist and illustrator Sandra Eterovic‘s incredible talent has led her from drawing cartoon characters for boxer shorts (!), to working as a freelance illustrator and artist, making custom illustrations for a host of editorial clients, and staging exhibitions of original artworks under her own name. Sandra’s quirky sense of humour is evident in most of her prolific creative output, and she likes to think of her artwork as ‘occasionally wry’, because she loves the word ‘wry’!

    Melbourne artist and illustrator Sandra Eterovic in her Collingwood studio.  Photo - Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    Handpainted artworks and sculptures by Melbourne artist Sandra Eterovic.  Photo - Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    The Collingwood studio of Sandra Eterovic.  Photo - Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    Handpainted table tennis racquets for Sandra’s upcoming show at Hut 13.  Photo - Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    Details from the Collingwood studio of Sandra Eterovic.  Photo - Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    Details from the Collingwood studio of Sandra Eterovic.  Photo - Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    hand painted soft sculpture by Sandra Eterovic. Photo - Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    I honestly can’t remember how I stumbled across the work of Melbourne illustrator / artist Sandra Eterovic.  It was many years ago now… I think it was actually her quirky hand painted mirrors which first caught my eye in around 2010, and I’ve been a huge fan of her cheerful, slightly mad hand painted pieces ever since.  We invited Sandra to participate in the very first TDF Open House in 2011 (which seems like eons ago now!), and have kept a close eye on her work all this time. There’s just something quite special about her.

    Sandra is a prodigiously talented illustrator and painter.  I think she can basically paint anything.  She worked for many years in the fashion industry, designing prints and textiles and developing products for children, but she now work as a freelance illustrator and artist, making custom illustrations for a host of editorial clients, and staging exhibitions of various works under her own name.  She also sells some of her creations online in her Etsy store.

    I LOVE Sandra’s work.  Whilst accomplished, there is a childlike naiveté about her painting style, and above all else, each piece seems to perfectly reflect Sandra’s unique sense of humour!  In Sandra’s imagined world, a host of quirky protagonists play leading roles – a girl with a hamburger or sausage for a body, a hybrid creature sitting somewhere between a dinosaur and a pineapple (!), a mouldy piece of bread or a freestanding volcano, mid-eruption.  Its all quite MAD, in the best possible way.

    This weekend, Sandra’s solo show entitled ‘Still Waiting to be Blown Away’ opens at Hut 13 in Richmond.  The show will incorporate a great variety of original paintings and hand painted sculptures at refreshingly affordable prices. Well worth checking out if you’re in the area!  You’ll also spot Sandra’s work at TDF Open House once again this year!

    Still Waiting To Be Blown Away by Sandra Eterovic
    Open from this Saturday 18th October until 12th November 2014
    Hut 13
    79 Swan St
    Richmond, VIC

    Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to becoming an artist, and to creating the style of work you are currently making?

    Although I was consistently occupied by drawing and craft as a child, I was wildly indecisive about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I went from wanting to be a doctor in my first years at school, to a fashion designer in the last, and I think I was ashamed of that. In year 12 I visited RMIT and found every creative department exciting. I found it impossible to choose just one course, so I opted out and majored in Fine Arts (Art History) at The University of Melbourne instead. By fourth year I was mostly writing essays that were thinly veiled criticisms of the discipline, so art historian withered as a career option as well.

    After that, a two-year multidisciplinary art and design course at TAFE felt like heaven. A major in illustration led to a full-time job in the fashion industry (yes, after all!), drawing cartoon characters for boxer shorts. A decade later I was designing prints and textiles for children’s brand Seed. It was while doing trend research on the internet that I discovered the burgeoning online world of artists, illustrators and crafters, particularly blogging pioneers like Camilla Engman who proved that it was actually possible to be successful in many creative disciplines. That, and a small course with the wonderful Jane Cocks at Latrobe College, helped me to pluck up the courage to start making and showing my own work in galleries and online. Family and friends, particularly Anna Parry (nee Nilsson) were hugely supportive as well.

    How would you describe your work?

    I believe that the style of my work has been unconsciously influenced by the books I read as a child, and a couple of long stays in Europe visiting extended family. My grandmother’s kitchen, our cousins’ unfamiliar books, and strange packaging in the supermarket have all made their way into my aesthetic. My work is colourful, relatively accessible, a little retro, sometimes pretty, but hopefully also funny and a bit dark.

    I would like to think that my work is occasionally wry, as I love the word ‘wry’. But never fabulous! I hate the word ‘fabulous’, probably because it makes me think of the fashion industry.

    What can we expect to see in your new exhibition ‘Still Waiting To Be Blown Away’ at Hut 13 later this month? What has inspired this body of work?

    I have made a variety of work for this show, from a series of relatively small paintings on table tennis bats, to a very large sort-of-portrait of my lounge room. There will also be a few medium sized works and a large and rather experimental piece which is somewhere between a painting and a sculpture. The thing that all of the works have in common is that they are painted by me on wood using acrylic.

    My ongoing interest is in what we choose to reveal about ourselves as opposed to what we hide, and the way that we present ourselves both in terms of our appearance and our possessions. When I was about seven my Mum explained to me the concept of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and I have been deeply fascinated by it ever since.

    I am also interested in gender roles and relationships as a subject, from the most intimate to the basic ways in which anyone who happens to be alive right now relates to anyone else who happens to be alive right now. Human beings are a bottomless pit of fascination.

    Can you give us a little insight into your process?  Is each work pre-planned or created very intuitively? Do you work on multiple pieces at one time?

    I have been avidly keeping notebooks since a friend’s husband thoughtfully gave me one 18 years ago. I am now up to my 29th! In them I paste magazine and newspaper clippings, print outs of internet finds, drawn or written observations, doodles and ideas for various things that I might make (from a large wooden contraption to a knitted scarf). Sometimes ideas pop up fully formed, other times they are half-baked and need to percolate (maybe for a week, maybe for a few years).

    Most of the time if I find that it’s better to let an idea sit for a while before making it real. In that regard, most of my work is pre-planned. The spontaneity will be in the colours I choose, or the amount of detail I add or subtract. I do work on multiple pieces at once, mostly due to having to wait for sections to dry. I can work relatively quickly once I get going.

    What does a typical day at work involve for you?

    There is no such thing as a typical day (which is probably a typical answer to that question!). If I am to work in the studio, I will answer emails from home first, make my lunch, do any research required for reference and then print that out to take with me (other times I just do a Google Image Search at the studio and peer into my iPhone).

    On a good day, there will be a retail or Etsy order to wrap and take to the post office on the way. When I get to the studio I try to work as diligently as possible. Other days I work from home. This is where most of the production work happens: sewing and stuffing dolls and cushions, or packaging A4 and A3 prints. Occasionally I do sketches for illustration jobs in the kitchen, usually when the weather is too cold to face the studio.

    Can you list for us 5 resources across any media that you turn to regularly for creative inspiration?

    My regularly visited favourites include: Flickr, which has fallen out of favour lately, but I’m still in love with my Flickr Favourites and Pinterest. I like to catch up on and It’s Nice That, a British art and design magazine-style site which always has something fun, clever and unexpected to explore. A perennial favourite is The World of Interiors magazine and Frieze magazine which I generally borrow from the CAE library.

    Which other local artists, designers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?

    Noel McKenna - Noel’s work is incredibly charming, poignant and funny. I don’t think that anyone captures the absurdity of everyday life in this country as well as he does.

    Jon Campbell - From a tram to tea towels to billowing flags to enamel paintings to neons, Jon Campbell is a legend. YEAH! And I reckon he might be a really lovely person too, though I haven’t met him.

    Rob McHaffie - I am a fan of SO MANY local artists of McHaffie’s generation, but I have been consistently drawn to his beautiful, precise and slightly nutty work, and have been a longtime fan of his generous and funny blog.

    Kirsten Perry – Kirsten’s work is funny, clever and rather brave. I always look forward to seeing what she has up her sleeve.

    Alice Oehr -I love the charming aesthetic of Alice’s work, which is absolutely a reflection of her personality.

    I have spring gardening fever at the moment, and have become a devotee of The Planthunter thanks to The Design Files. My idol garden is Ian McMaugh’s little Sydney jungle. I have a long way to go!

    What is your proudest career achievement to date?

    The slow but steady build up of interest in my work has been incredibly buoying. Sometimes I feel a little like I am growing up in public, which isn’t easy for a shy person. The ongoing support from Craft (formerly known as Craft Victoria), a body for which I have always had a huge amount of respect, means so much to me.

    What would be your dream project?

    I have many dream projects. One is to illustrate a great book cover that I will spot on the shelf at Readings and feel really proud of. Another is to exhibit my work more regularly and make a living from it. Yet another is to license some of my illustration work so that it could be manufactured ethically into really appealing products. Partly so that I don’t have to do my own production work anymore!

    What are you looking forward to?

    I am having an exhibition of work at Boom Gallery in November 2015. I am really looking forward to planning what I will make for that. However that seems forever away as I have a lot of work to get through right now and can feel Christmas 2014 breathing down my neck already.


    Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?

    I am a very proud Melbournian and love all of its inner city neighbourhoods, especially walking around residential streets and peering into people’s front gardens and windows. However, weirdly, when I am visiting family in Europe I miss Lygon Street. More specifically, I miss evenings spent shopping for books at Readings, crossing the road to see a film at The Nova, and then strolling around the corner for a pizza at D.O.C.

    Where and what was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

    Last night I had dinner at my parents’ house. Dad cooked a great barbecue, which we ate while drinking his homemade wine. Mum took care of the veggies (including greens from the garden) and we had crepes with her homemade raspberry jam afterwards.

    Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

    On Saturdays I get up early and go for a swim at the Richmond pool. Then I shop for fruit and veg at the Gleadell Street Market, and ride my bike up to Three Bags Full to meet friends for breakfast. Actually, that’s a complete lie! I do get up early, but I sip my coffee with one eye (and ear) on Rage and another looking into the back garden, then go outside in my pyjamas to potter about if the weather is decent. If it’s cold or raining, I might do some sewing or turn the evil computer on and idly add to my Pinterest pins or hunt for vintage clothes on Etsy. Before I know it, it’s lunch time. An awful habit that I need to break!

    Melbourne’s best kept secret?

    It’s probably not a secret to readers of The Design Files, but I am consistently surprised by the number of people I meet who do not know of the existence of the wonderful Waverley Antiques. Hidden in an industrial zone, it’s an enormous treasure trove that requires at least an entire day to explore properly, a pocketful of cash, and a large van. I haven’t been there in ages, and am really looking forward to my next visit.

    Handpainted table tennis racquets for Sandra’s upcoming show at Hut 13.  Photo - Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

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  • 10/19/14--12:00: DesignByThem
  • Shopping


    by Amber Creswell Bell

    Today our awesome Sydney contributor Amber Creswell Bell introduces us to well loved Chippendale based design studio DesignByThem, co-founded by UTS graduates Nicholas Karlovasitis and Sarah Gibson in 2006!

    Locally manufactured chairs and stools by Sydney based design studio DesignByThem. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    Sarah Gibson and Nicholas Karlovasitis of DesignByThem in their Chippendale studio.  Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    DesignByThem ‘Butter’ chairs, created from 100% recycled content, derived almost entirely from post consumer recycled milk containers. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    DesignByThem ‘Fractal’ modular table system. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    DesignByThem had me at hello. Or, more specifically – at their Dial Hose Hanger. It seemed such simple genius to make a ubiquitous backyard eye-saw aesthetically pleasing, finally! Why had no one thought of this sooner?!

    So, who is the ‘them’ to which they mysteriously refer? DesignByThem (DBT) is a furniture and object design house co-founded by Sydney designers Nicholas Karlovasitis and Sarah Gibson in 2006, after identifying a need for an Australian design brand that brought local together designers under the one umbrella. They’ve since worked with a wealth of local talent including Tommy Cehak, Stefan Lie, Gary Galego, Stewart Hollestein and Seaton McKeon to the DBT family.

    Both Industrial Design graduates of the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Sarah and Nick actually conceived the idea for their business in their second year of study. After graduation Nick went on to work at a design consultancy, and Sarah worked at a commercial furniture company, however both eventually left these jobs to take up part-time teaching gigs at UTS, while simultaneously taking the plunge and launching their own business. ‘It took us a few years to develop a range of products before we could approach other designers to be part of the brand,’ Sarah explains.

    The DBT collaboration model works in a few different ways. As Nick explains, ‘Sometimes designers come to us with a basic concept, and we work with them to refine their idea into a developed concept. Other times we are given a production-ready design and we work with the designer to make minor adjustments before releasing the product to market.’

    DesignByThem are quite flexible with their product ranges, choosing not to specialise in any one niche area. Their collection consists of furniture, lighting and homewares, and even some garden-ware products.  ‘Our focus is on the key values of our products – durability, a sense of fun, timelessness and sustainability,’ says Sarah.

    DBT’s latest product offering is the ‘Them Chair’, which was developed out of a desire to create a high-end timber chair that could balance advanced manufacturing techniques with a high level of craftsmanship, attention to detail and simplicity. Easier said than done – as Sarah describes ‘designing a unique timber chair was a difficult balancing act, but we are so happy with the outcome!’

    Nick and Sarah aim to design pieces that will stand the test of time, and to achieve this, they look to the past when designing for the future.  ‘We want to create designs that have aesthetic longevity – and one way we test this is to imagine our products in the past. Hopefully if they look good in the past then they will continue looking good in the future!’ says Nick.

    ‘Them Chair’ – the latest addition to the  DesignByThem range.

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  • 10/20/14--12:00: Resident GP
  • Shopping

    Resident GP

    by Lucy Feagins, Editor

    Gabi Sidhu and Pawel Gaca are partners in business and life, with very different career backgrounds which have proved invaluable in the planning and launch of their impressive online store, Resident GP earlier this year.

    Gabi Sidhu and Pawel Gaca  from new Melbourne based online store Resident GP.  Photo – Ben Clement.

    Homewares from new Melbourne based online store Resident GP.  Styling – Marsha Golemac, Photo – Brooke Holm.

    Homewares from new Melbourne based online store Resident GP.  Styling – Marsha Golemac, Photo – Brooke Holm.

    Homewares from new Melbourne based online store Resident GP.  Styling – Marsha Golemac, Photo – Brooke Holm.

    Gabi Sidhu and Pawel Gaca are partners in business and life, with very different career backgrounds which have proved invaluable in the planning and launch of their impressive online store, Resident GP earlier this year.

    Pawel is an engineer by trade, and is responsible for all the practical and technical aspects of the business, whilst Gabi has  a background in architecture and design, and focuses on sourcing products, customer service and generally drives the creative side of the business.  ‘Our personalities and skill sets really work perfectly together and starting our own business just seemed like a natural next step – so far so good!’ says Gabi!

    Gabi and Pawel spent a year planning, researching and sourcing product before launching Resident GP in March this year – and it shows!  Their extensive product range covers homewares, lighting, accessories and jewellery, and includes number of unique collaborations and Australian exclusives.  ‘We really didn’t want to be just another online homewares store, so we invested a lot of time in uncovering new items that people haven’t seen before’ says Gabi.  The pair relish the opportunity to collaborate with local makers on limited edition products, such as their series of prints with Brisbane based typographer Jasmine Dowling.

    Gabi and Pawel source their products from all over the globe.  ‘We spend a huge amount of time searching for the next undiscovered gem because we, like our customers, love knowing we’ve found something before everyone else has’ says Gabi.

    Though they share a heartfelt passion for great design, both Gabi and Pawel believe that design is about much more than aesthetics. ’Behind every design there is a story to tell, and it is in uncovering these stories that the true value of each product is realised’ explains Gabi.

    Having recently relaunched their website and branding with the help of local design team A Friend of Mine, stylist Marsha Golemac and photographer Brooke Holm, Gabi and Pawel are excited about what’s ahead. ‘ Running your own business is hard work, and we are learning as we go…it’s only been six months… but it is so rewarding’ Gabi says. ‘We feel really lucky to be able to combine our passions and skills in this way, and look forward to sharing more gorgeous product with our lovely customers over the coming months’

    Dip dyed timber pendant light from Resident GP.  Styling – Marsha Golemac, Photo – Brooke Holm.

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  • 10/20/14--20:00: Ochazuke with marinated tuna
  • Tasty Tuesday

    Ochazuke with marinated tuna

    Julia Busuttil Nishmura & Nori Nishimura

    Ochazuke is a delicate dish of rice with a simple green tea and dashi broth poured over.  Bright and clean in flavour, the version Julia and Nori share today is served with delicious sliced sashimi tuna, and a sprinkling of nori flakes and sesame seeds. Nourishing, simple and easy.

    Ochazuke with marinated tuna.  Bowl by Sarah Schembri. Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Various ingredients for ochazuke.  Speckled smal plate by Sarah Schembri. Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Ochazuke with marinated tuna.  Bowl by Sarah Schembri. Saucepan – Julia’s own.  Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Ochazuke is ultimately rice and green tea! It is a fantastic way to use up left over rice and is a really pretty and delicate dish where all the ingredients have their chance in the spotlight. Rice is such an important food source for Japanese people, and Nori’s family, who grow their own rice, take it pretty seriously. In fact, if a few grains are left in someone’s bowl, they call them ‘the tears of the farmer’ – no rice is wasted in our house! The left over rice is transformed into something special with a subtle broth of dashi, genmaicha and soy.

    Genmaicha translates to ‘brown rice tea’ and is a green tea combined with roasted rice. It has a lovely nuttiness and compliments the dish really well. You can find Genmaicha in Japanese supermarkets, like Hinoki Japanese Pantry, in Fitzroy, which is our go-to for all Japanese items. If you are unable to find any, just use normal green tea! For the dashi stock, you can buy it already prepared in granule form or make some with bonito flakes, like we do. Whichever you choose, simply follow the directions on the packet.

    Ochazuke is quite a traditional dish, quickly prepared in the home with left over rice and fish or just pickles or shiso flakes, and for this reason, it is not often seen on menus here in Australia. In Japan, however, restaurants and Izakayas do serve fancy versions with top quality produce and expensive fish. For me, this dish epitomizes Japanese cooking – good quality ingredients, simple preparation and clean flavours. We love to eat this dish during the week when we feel like something nourishing, but simple and easy.


    • 1.5 cups short-grain rice

    For the broth

    • 400ml dashi stock
    • 400ml genmaicha, brewed according to the directions on the packet
    • 1tbsp soy sauce

    For the tuna

    • 250g sashimi grade tuna, sliced
    • 2 tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp mirin
    • ½ tsp sesame oil

    To serve

    • Nori sheets, cut into strips
    • Sesame seeds
    • Spring onions, finely sliced
    • Shiso leaves


    Rinse the rice and transfer to a medium saucepan. Cover the rice with enough water to come up 2cm above the rice. Cook covered on a low heat until all the water has been absorbed (12-15 minutes). Leave covered for a further 5 minutes. Set aside.

    To marinate the tuna, place tuna in a small non-reactive container or dish and add remaining ingredients. Marinate for 10 minutes. Be sure to keep the marinade, as you will pour some over the tuna and rice later.

    To make the broth, in a large saucepan, combine dashi stock, genmaicha and soy sauce. Bring up to simmering point and take off heat.

    To assemble the dish, place some rice in individual serving bowls. Arrange slices of the marinated tuna on top of the rice and pour over a little of the remaining marinade in each bowl. Scatter over shredded nori, sesame seeds, spring onions and shiso leaves. Gently pour the hot broth around the rice and serve.

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    Australian Homes

    Amber and Ben Clohesy and Family

    by Lucy Feagins, Editor

    This unique home in Melbourne’s leafy suburb of Hawthorn belongs to designer and retailer Amber Clohesy (of The Woodsfolk and Down to the Woods), her partner Ben, and their young children Willow and Tilda. With its versatile layout and distinctive circular internal courtyard, this clever little house channels an almost mid-century aesthetic, though it was designed and built a little more recently, in 2000!

    The unique Hawthorn home of Amber and Ben Clohesy of The Woodsfolk .  The homes’ circular courtyard at the heart of the house is its most distinctive feature. ‘It makes for a lot of fun and games; the kids literally run in circles around the house and often draw with chalk pens all over the glass. In the courtyard is a swing attached to the big tree, we’re all prone to having a bit of a swing’ says Amber.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Kitchen.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Internal courtyard.   The ornamental mulberry tree is deciduous, so in winter the house is filled with morning light and in summer the courtyard is completely shaded by the trees giant leaves.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Another angle on that amazing circular courtyard.  ‘It makes for a lot of fun and games; the kids literally run in circles around the house and often draw with chalk pens all over the glass. In the courtyard is a swing attached to the big tree, we’re all prone to having a bit of a swing’ says Amber.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Dining room.  Dining table from Archier, a Melbourne based multi-disciplinary design and architecture studio.   Ercol candlestick dining chairs lovingly restored by Grandfather’s Axe.  The mountain scenery is a giant wall sticker Amber had made for one of her trade show stands years ago. ‘It’s a blown up old postcard picture’ explains Amber. The gold spot hanging pots are by Angus and Celeste.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Dining room details, including String System shelving from Great Dane Furniture. ‘Installing this in our super tiny house has made such a difference’ says Amber. ‘The kitchen is small and we are keen cooks, we just couldn’t fit our cookware and crockery in. Moving all our crockery and glassware out has helped us so much’ she explains. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Amber and Ben’s bedroom.  ‘I like to buy blankets on my travels, this one is from The Navajo Indian Reservation better known as Monument Valley’ says Amber.  Sheets and pillowcases by Hunting for George,  blanket in basket on the floor from Nepal, shell necklaces from a childhood trip to Fiji.  Alphabet signs and wire baskets from The Woodsfolk. The eye cushy on the bed by local maker Made By Mosey. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Master bedroom details.  Shelves with ruler edging made by Ben (timber ruler from  The Woodsfolk).  ‘This is a detail that we first incorporated into our shop fit-out and has since spread to all corners of our life!’ says Amber!   ‘Our sheets are from the recent Hunting for George range they are so super soft, and I love the calming palette. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    ‘The bathroom is the room that convinced us to buy the house’ says Amber. ‘There were no pictures of it online so we assumed it must need renovation, so when we opened the door to this bright, clean space with marble we were floored’.  Turkish towels, basin soap, candles and brushes are all from The Woodsfolk. ‘We make sure we road test as much as we can at home… that is really the best part of having the store!’ Amber admits! Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Bathroom.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Study nook details.  ‘The study is hidden away behind a wall, I love it’s practical built in pin-board, which I have my Afghan doily collection pinned to’ says Amber. Tin pieces are from the latest Down To The Woods Christmas collection. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    living room, another view!  Cinque Terra paintings by Laurie Mossuto. Cushions by Pony Rider and Cushionopoly,  rug is one of Amber’s felt ball creations. ‘We do a lot of custom work and I customed this one just for us. I wanted colours that tied the artwork to the rest of the room and didn’t clash with the cork flooring. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Dining room details.   ‘The house has either white or charcoal walls’ explains Amber. ‘If it’s charcoal, it means it opens!’.  Neat system!  Rugs from Down To The Woods.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Beautiful treasures in the living room / hall.  Second-hand copper topped table, timber doll is Amber’s mum’s beloved ‘Saint Residros’. The artwork is from Hut 13, and the cork shaded pitch fork lamp is from Camden markets in London. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Amber and Ben at home! Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    The Clohesy family have been here exactly five years, and are the third owners of this slightly unusual 2 bedroom home.  Orginally from Sydney, Amber and Ben found their home without exactly intending to.  ‘We’d recently moved from  Sydney and were renting in Hawthorn, but were house hunting in Richmond’ explains Amber. Whilst they really loved the Hawthorn area, the big houses and blocks had factored them out in terms of price, so neighbouring Richmond became their focus.  However, this place just turned up in a search one day and intrigued Amber.  ‘At first we thought the place looked crazy, the furniture was really at odds with the architecture – all heavy antiques and giant old persian rugs. We had a laugh at this funny little house, but on a second look at the pictures we stopped laughing and decided to go look’.

    From pictures, Amber and Ben had assumed the house was from the 70’s (and assumption I also made at first!) but once they got inside they realised it was ‘new-ish’ and didn’t need any renovation. ‘By the time we got to the bathroom and I spied the marble bath surround, and amazing opportunity to open the bathroom right up to the central courtyard, I fell in deep, deep love, and we decided to buy it there and then!’ says Amber.

    Though modest in size, the home is deceptively easy to live in, and endlessly versatile.  Each rooms flows effortlessly into the next, and what the space lacks in floor area it certainly makes up for in  ingenuity.  The home is full of unexpected details, such as the transitional ‘walls’ which are in fact oversized doors that open to reveal functional spaces (such as the study nook adjacent to the bedroom), and clever hidden storage.  Amber and Ben say they have had to do very little since purchasing the place.

    The house is so unusual, from its circular central courtyard filled, open and closing walls, it’s introspective outlook and the way the tree paints dappled light across the dining area of an afternoon.  Living in something unique is really fun’

    Amber describes her style as ‘Scand-American’. ‘I love to mix blonde timbers and I’m a bit obsessed with mountain and forests on everything’ she says.  A colour enthusiast, Amber has  filled her home with bold colour, treasured artwork and souvenirs from overseas trips, and of course a fair bit of stock from her own range of homewares, and her well loved Hawthorn store. ‘I would burst with boredom if I ever felt the house was ‘done’, and owning a homewares businesses means things can change pretty fast!’ she says.

    ‘There are a few pieces I absolutely cherish’ says Amber. These include the Ercol candlestick dining chairs, lovingly restored by Grandfather’s Axe, and a pair of paintings in the living room which depict the Cinque Terre, where Amber and Ben had celebrated an anniversary before they were married. ‘Coincidentally the artist Laurie Mossuto had visited Italy the same year we did, and then painted after his visit’ explains Amber, adding ‘more importantly, the artist Laurie is also my very ace step-father, but these works were done before he and my mother got together!’.

    If you love Amber’s fun, eclectic aesthetic, do check out her store The Woodsfolk , which has a brand new online store that just went live this week!   It’s a beauty, full of styled photography and Amber’s signature mix of bold, cheerful homewares –  well worth a little look!

    Front garden.  Corten wall panels designed by Amber in collaboration with Corten – ‘it was their prototype says Amber. ‘This spot is our sun trap and is where we read the weekend papers’. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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  • 10/22/14--12:00: Annie Abbott of Habbot
  • Small Business

    Annie Abbott of Habbot

    by Lucy Feagins, Editor

    Today we introduce the rather amazing Annie Abbott, whose Melbourne based shoe brand Habbot has grown in leaps and bounds since she first launched her business in 2011.  In just three years Annie’s brand has grown exponentially – she  now has three beautifully designed stores in high profile spots across Melbourne, as well as a busy online store, and a staff of thirteen people in total.  WOAH.  TOP effort!

    Annie Abbott, owner and designer of Habbot shoes, in her Melbourne office.  Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    Habbot shoes, designed in Melbourne and handcrafted in Italy. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    The office of Annie Abbot of Habbot shoes. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    Habbot shoes, designed in Melbourne and handcrafted in Italy. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    Annie Abbott, owner and designer of Habbot shoes, at home in Melbourne. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    Man, I am really loving writing this monthly Small Business column, each mini-interview we do really is full of such juicy nuggets of generous advice and wisdom from local entrepreneurs…. and gives me the best excuse to be even nosier than usual with my line of questioning!

    Today we introduce the rather amazing Annie Abbott, whose Melbourne based shoe brand Habbot has grown in leaps and bounds since she first launched her business.

    Habbot officially started back in 2011, when Annie quit her ‘real job’, and released her first shoe collection. That’s THREE YEARS people.  Already, Annie’s business has grown to three beautifully decorated high street stores in Melbourne, and a busy online store which perfectly showcases the tenets which underpin her brand.

    Though her business has only been operating for three years, the seed for Habbot was sewn way back in 2004, when Annie was inspired by a hugely successful young clothing company she was working for at the time in Sydney – Sass and Bide.

    I saw what could grow from big passion and hard work!’

    Since opening her third store last month at The Strand in Melbourne’s CBD, Annie’s staff has instantly doubled in size, to 13 employees, which she admits it something she’s still getting her head around!  ‘It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was working every day for three months at a time in my pop-up shops, with just my sisters and husband on hand for back up!’ Annie recalls.

    It’s been so inspiring to see Annie’s little local business grow into something with significant presence and a growing client base of loyal customers, in such a short time. Habbot’s commitment to contemporary design and Italian craftsmanship is a winning combination that has ensured the brand has always stood out in a crowded market.  I’ve also always been impressed by Annie’s commitment to working with really top quality local collaborators to ensure her brand is always beautifully presented – from her exquisite recent store fit out by Fiona Lynch, to her striking campaign imagery, most recently shot by Brooke Holm and styled by Marsha Golemac.

    We  asked Annie a few burning questions about building her brand and her business over the past 3 years,  here’s what she had to say! –

    Hi Annie!  You’re a very impressive local businessperson… Tell us a little bit about your pride and joy, Habbot.

    Habbot is a Melbourne based brand of women’s shoes, handbags and accessories that are designed locally and made by hand in Italy. We sell our collections through our three Melbourne stores, and our online store, and employ a total of thirteen people. Nine of my employees work across the three stores, and an additional four part-time team members help me in the office with marketing, sales, graphic design and administration. I also employ a book keeper and use an emergency IT specialist as required.

    Although our stores sit alongside some really great fashion names, I don’t really consider Habbot to be a ‘fashion brand’, in the sense that my design decisions are not really driven by seasonal trends where high rotation is encouraged. Instead, I choose to design shoes that celebrate my love of bold colour, appreciation of classic design and fine workmanship, and my sense of humour.

    Habbot’s specialty in the beginning was focused in mostly flat shoes of the lace-up or loafer variety. This was the Melbourne girl coming out in me! It was also a response to the years I spent working in London (at Net-a-porter) and then travelling as a shoe buyer in France and England, where quality flat shoes for women are really celebrated. I’ve branched out since then, and now bring that same vibrant Habbot aesthetic to other shoe categories, bags and accessories.

    To achieve the quality of materials and manufacturing I sought for Habbot I decided from the outset to partner with craftsmen in Italy to make my shoes. I have been working with a family operated factory in Italy and travel to see them usually three times each year. Much of my design work is done on these work trips, with the distance serving as a good separation between my ‘business’ head and my ‘creative’ one.

    What does a typical work day at Habbot involve?

    6am – Wake and check my first round of emails on my phone in bed (much to my husband’s frustration!).

    6.30am -  Breakfast of porridge where I re-read detailed emails that have come in from Italy overnight, speed-read my favourite blogs and check out what other retail brands are doing via their newsletters and emails.

    7.30am – City store visits. I often drive into the city to deliver special customer orders to the stores or install new window displays (it’s not uncommon to find me up a ladder in the royal arcade store window at 7.30am!)

    9.00am – Arrive at the office, behind our Armadale store, and scribble an unrealistically long to-do list for the day over a cup of tea.

    9.30am – Consult task management software trello to see where everyone is at on the tasks we’re working on this week.

    10.00am – A quick chat working in the Armadale store that day as they open up.

    1030am – On most days I am joined in the office with either my marketing guru or retail sales manager so we spend the next few hours going over plans or current activities relating to those areas.

    2.00pm – Late lunch at my desk. I’ve never been good at taking a proper break.

    2.15pm – A random assortment of tasks usually relating to product adjustments on the website or point of sale system, responding to emails, paying bills, following up customer inquiries and information requests, and putting out the regular little fires that occur in small business.

    6.00pm – A great quiet time to review financial reports, see how we’re tracking against goals, and highlight areas that need attention or opportunities that have come up.

    7.00pm – Leave for home with my production folder in hand for some after dinner design spec adjustments and Skype calls to Italy.

    What are the daily office rituals or systems you use to enhance your team’s productivity?

    The staff in each store keep a daily log to measure foot traffic into the stores, happenings in the local area and customer feedback. This is summarised in an ‘end of day’ email to me each day which helps me keep in touch with the single most important thing we do, serving our customers.

    Our point of sale system is called Retail Express, and is cloud based so I can access live sales results from my phone and iPad at any time. This is fantastic and allows me to keep up with sales progress, but sometimes I have to ban myself from logging in whilst I’m designing as the left and right sides of my brain start to fight with each other!

    My retail sales manager works most of the week in the stores, so in addition to our constant phone conversations we spend one day a week going over what’s selling and any stock management requirements that come from that. She then updates a live notice board within our point of sale system with a summary of these results to celebrate special achievements and keep everyone in the loop.

    I have recently introduced collaborative task management software Trello, which helps keep me and staff members up to date with both our long and short term tasks and deadlines. We use this in conjunction with a detailed six month company planner set up in excel. At our monthly sales and marketing meeting we measure the business against our goals and modify the planner for any unexpected results.

    We use Google Drive to keep combined lists of special customer requests between the stores, and use Dropbox between the office team in place of a server.

    With the benefit of hindsight, what do you know now about running a small business that you wish you had known when you started?

    Some industry rules just don’t apply to Habbot. For example, black is not always the best-selling shoe colour! (I had to clear a lot of black shoes in the first two seasons because I carried this industry standard from my old job into my new business).

    Don’t be afraid to tell your own story. To begin with I thought I needed to appear bigger and more established than I was for people to accept my premium brand, with its premium price point. Later on I realised that people were actually interested in the genuine story behind Habbot, and so I refreshed my logo, website and image completely which was a very liberating experience, but one that came at significant cost.

    Set up some ‘brand guidelines’ early on so that everything you communicate is consistent and gives a strong message about your brand. As a solo operator I found that my mood and energy levels often affected the look and tone of my marketing and communication. Sometimes my message was super casual and friendly, and other times I was quite formal and direct. I’m sure this sometimes confused people. It’s only now that I’m able to keep things consistent by sticking to set of rules that clearly convey what Habbot is about.

    What top three tips would you share with other small business owners?

    1. Do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t. I followed this advice that was given to me when I decided to move away from wholesale sales and focus on the success I was having with my retail pop-up stores, and now apply it to almost all situations. It really helps me use my time and resources efficiently.

    2. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small, and don’t dwell on your mistakes. One will spur you on and remind you of the passion that started you off, and the other will just hold you back.

    3. Set your expectations high with suppliers and employees from the beginning (even if you’re only tiny) so that everyone is on the same page and you don’t have to re-set them at a later date.

    Bonus tip: Only spend money where you have to. For the first two years I ran Habbot out of a shed in my backyard, and stored my shoes in a secure storage facility. This allowed me to conserve funds on the ‘back end’ and buy stock and rent pop-up shops to grow my business at the front.

    Who is a local small business owner you admire and why?

    Any small business owner who is combining business with parenting! I’m yet to attempt this, but the idea of it makes my mind boggle! The list of parenting business owners I know is long and distinguished, but a particularly special one would be Interior Designer, Fiona Lynch who designed my new Strand Melbourne store. I admire Fiona’s commitment to the colour mauve (she worked hard and won me over!), and also her ability to get the exact result she wants from tradesmen without ever having to raise her voice!

    Habbot’s newly opened store is at Shop 10 in The Strand, 250 Bourke st, Melbourne.  It is SO beautiful – well worth a look!  Annie’s other two stores are in The Royal Arcade and High Street Armadale.

    Habbot’s brand new SUPER beautiful store at The Strand arcade in Melbourne’s CBD, with interior designed by Fiona Lynch.  Photo – Brooke Holm.

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    Tony Parker of Parker Furniture

    by Lucy Feagins, Editor

    Tony Parker is an Australian design icon. Now 84, Tony recalls with great pride and enthusiasm the key role he had to play in the growth and success of Australia’s best known furniture brand, JW Parker, later known as Parker Furniture, the company his father, Jack Parker started in 1935.  For over 40 years Parker Furniture was produced in Sydney (sometimes in units of a thousand!), finding its way into countless Australian homes. Today, this well loved Australian brand has been revived by a unique collaboration with  Sydney based retailer Workshopped and the craftspeople at Covemore Designs. The Parker story continues!

    Tony Parker reminisces about the hey day of Parker Furniture.  Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    Tony Parker sits in his ‘Showood Armchair’ at Covemore Designs, who now produce his original designs under license, through Workshopped in Sydney.  Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    Parker dining chairs being restored at Covemore Designs. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    Tony shows us a new Parker dining chair being assembled at Covemore Designs. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    Tony Parker with the team at Covemore Designs. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    Restoration at Covemore Designs. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    Parker relics at Covemore Designs!  Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    Tony Parker reminisces about the hey day of Parker Furniture.  Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    Tony Parker at home in Sydney.  Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

    Parker Furniture began as ‘Dagger and Parker’, a partnership formed between craftsman Alf Dagger, and Salesman Jack Parker, after the depression era.  From humble beginnings, selling chairs Dagger had crafted from packing palettes, the company quickly grew to six employees, making government tender furniture and ammunition boxes during the war.

    Originally, the company made mainly traditional style furniture – reproductions of antique or art deco styles.  In the mid 1940’s, Tony Parker was plucked out of school by his Father, and after some time spent studying industrial design and accountancy courses, and honing his skills working  at department store John Lewis in London, Tony was put to work in the family business, where he was forever destined to shake things up!

    When Tony returned from London, he had big ideas.  He had been involved in setting up a contemporary furniture department at John Lewis, and was full of ideas for more streamlined, modern furniture – with revolutionary ideas to display, sell and market it.  His father was a traditionalist, and saw little value in Tony’s ideas at first, but was persuaded to produce a few pieces.  Blessed with both a strong design sensibility, an innate understanding of marketing, and an insatiable entrepreneurial spirit, Tony was convinced his designs would sell. When Grace Brothers showed an interest, followed by other high end home furnishings stores in Melbourne and Sydney, Parker Furniture really took off.

    With Tony Parker at the helm, the company grew to 380 employees by the end, working out of a purpose built factory in Seven Hills, on 20 acres.  Tony recalls these days fondly and with great pride – ‘We were the biggest in Australia, and we sort of set the pace.  We used to make dining chairs in the thousands’.  Tony’s passion for quality craftsmanship and design integrity led Parker to become an iconic Australian brand, which really has stood the test of time.  We still see well loved Parker chairs and tables and sideboards in so many Australian homes!

    In recent years, the great history of Parker Furniture has been revived by a unique collaboration.  Sydney based retailer and design incubator Workshopped has joined forces with Tony Parker, exclusively producing select pieces from his mid century furniture range exactly as it was made back in the day.  The range is handcrafted in Sydney by Covemore Designs, a company founded by ex-employees of Parker in the 1990’s.  The partnership is still in quite early stages, but Tony, along with Workshopped director, Raymond Scott, are incredibly excited to bring Parker’s iconic furniture to Australian homes ones more.

    And, as usual, Tony’s sights are set on the bigger picture!  Aside from his well loved mid century range, he’s keen to develop new pieces under the Parker name, working with his old research and development team, now at Covemore Designs, to determine a new look for Parker.

    It was an honour and so enlightening to speak to Tony about the rise of Parker in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, and his optimistic outlook for the future of the brand.  He is passionate not just about great design and craftsmanship, but also about excellence in retail – and though discouraged by the ‘discounting’ model which now drives big retailers, he’s confident the tide is turning, with discerning consumers now coming back to high quality products, designed with integrity and built to last, rather than ‘race to the bottom’ pricing.  Call me old fashioned, but I’m inclined to agree!

    Hi  Tony! Tell us a little about your background, and what originally led you to furniture design and to working with your father at Parker Furniture?

    Well, life was very different when I was a child, you did what your parents said without question. I always wanted to do architecture, I’d always be drawing plans of homes and interiors and all that sort of thing, that was my interest in those days.  But my father, as he had left school in intermediate, he pulled me out in intermediate and he just said ‘you’re finishing school’ and so I finished school, and I went and got myself a job.

    My first job was at Dickson Primer, who distributed building materials and machinery.  But my interest was still in design, so I took courses at night, whilst working during the daytimes.  There was no such thing as ‘design’ as we know it, so I did industrial design, and I also did accountancy and salesmanship courses.   I was doing something at Tech every night almost.  One day, when I was about to be made timber manager, the boss called me in and just said ‘you’re starting with your father on Monday’.  That was when I started working in the family business.

    My Father had lost his job during the depression in 1930, so he started buying fish at the markets and selling them in the suburbs.  After about 18 months he met another chap called Alf Dagger, who was picking up odd bits of timber from palettes and so on and making kitchen chairs and selling them for sixpence, and this chap thought, well if Dad’s going to the suburbs selling fish, he can take his chairs and sell them there too.  So they formed a partnership and they did reasonably well.  Then they got started making kitchen cabinets, all from markets, no fixed shop.

    I might add I was only young at the time, and Dad was also building a house, so you can imagine, having a young child, having lost your job in hard times and building a new home, it must have been quite strenuous for him.

    So when I was pulled out of Dickson Primer, and had to start with Dad’s business, which was then called ‘Dagger and Parker’, they used to make government tender furniture. During the war they made desks and ammunition boxes, and parts for the mosquito bomber, so they were quite busy, but they only had six staff.

    When I joined I was put to work in the factory, and at night I was still doing my courses. In about 1950, he got the services of a designer by the name of Harold McGee. and I worked with Harold, on design.  I was much younger than he, and wanted more changes… but of course at that time it was all reproduction traditional furniture. Art deco had also made its mark in the early 30’s, and there was a bit of, I suppose, ‘cheaper’ reproduction of art deco style furniture, and that’s what we did.

    Then I realised I had to get away, so I went to London in 1952 and got a job with John Lewis, the big department store.  They were in in Oxford street, as they still are today, but now it’s much bigger of course.

    I was a salesman in the furniture department.  They quickly realised I had done design, so they wanted me to start a contemporary furniture department.  It was going to be on the bridge, going between two buildings, roughly 2500 feet.

    In those days they displayed all sofas all in a row, dining tables all in a row, it looked pretty uninteresting. I realised if I was going to create a different style of living, that I had to show the furniture as it would be used in rooms, in the company of lighting and artwork and ceramics and all the rest.’

    Also, at the same time, I found out that they had no measure of success of one design over another.  So I learnt a lot about that, about selling and training staff and managing  a team. You had to identify your salesman’s weaknesses and strengths and train them accordingly. Return per square foot, gross profit per square foot, salesman’s return, the whole story.   I quickly realised the more information the salesman had, the more helpful they were to a customer, and how to close the sale.

    SO you learnt the business sales side as much as you did the design side whilst you were there?

    Yes.  But no one taught you, you had to find out for yourself. And I guess being away from home, I had no comfort zone.  I used to walk from John Lewis to my little flat in Maida Vale, to save the bus fare.  I’d save tuppence on the way there, and another tuppence on the way home, so that was fourpence, and by the end of the week that would buy you a meal!  So, I had plenty of thinking time.

    How did your time in London influence your work for Parker back at home?

    Well, when I was over there I wrote a lot of letters, and I sent back some designs to my father.  He was a ‘tradition’ lover, so he didn’t really understand these contemporary designs, but nevertheless he had them made.  They made it in Queensland maple and coachwood, and stuck it in the corner of a factory, and put a tarpaulin over it.  When I got home Dad said ‘well, it’s over there, but it will never sell!’

    Fortunately, a director at Grace Brothers by the name of Reg Paul, who ran the homemaker division, showed an interest in my designs.

    Grace Brothers at that time were by far the top homemaker store in Australia.  They had interior designers on site, beautiful presentation of displays, and all this sort of thing.  Reg was very keen to see my furniture.  I set it out in the factory, just on the concrete floor, and he liked it.  He said there was  an exhibition coming up, the first of its kind in Australia, at the Sydney show grounds.  ‘Why don’t you take some space and show this furniture?’ he said.  My father wasn’t keen on the idea, but Reg convinced him.

    So of course we had to build our own stand, and I put down a flooring and a ceiling, and painted the walls (I got permission to paint the walls but we had to paint them back again to the original colour afterwards!), and I had to get lamps and rugs and paintings and all that sort of thing.  I met all these budding artists, you know like Roy Fluke and John Coburn. I mean of course they were not known then, so they were very happy to get their paintings on the walls!

    We set up ‘dream rooms’ in roughly 27 foot by 12, so in a scale the customer could understand, complete with paintings and lighting and so on.  In 4 days, we sold 12 months production.   People saw how they could live.’

    It went off like wildfire.  But then the job really was to get retailers who would give me a space of at least 2000 square feet. Because some people had only bought a buffet or a dining setting, and I realised at the end of exhibition that that wasn’t going to be good enough.  Because unless the retail store looked like our exhibition, it wasn’t going to work.  I didn’t want any failures, I only wanted success.

    So I didn’t tell my father, but I cancelled the orders, and wrote a letter to the six stores that I thought would attract our style of customer.

    It didn’t happen all at once, but after a while Grace Brothers came around, and they became our best customer.  They gave me the square footage I wanted, in the middle of their furniture floor, and it was a raving success.  We needed a homemaker like  Grace Brothers, to give credibility to the style.  Sometimes, Beard Watsons would give us their shop window for a week, and that was like gold in those days.  It was the top home furnishing store outside of Grace Bothers, it was in George street in Sydney, and very famous.

    It was 1953, and I was 23 at that time.  That was a problem, so I used to go under the guise of operating on behalf of my father, because that gave me more credibility.  Because at 23, telling middle aged men how to run their business was not exactly their cup of tea. But they got to trust us, in the end I used to give them what their suggested floor stock would be, when it needed refurbishing, and we would service it on the floor.

    When did the company switch from being a partnership between Alf Dagger and your father, to ‘JW Parker’ – an exclusively family owned business?

    Alf Dagger left the business when I started  doing designs, because he was also a traditionalist, and my designs were too contemporary for him.  So when he left it was just my father, and the business was named JW Parker Furniture.

    Mind you, my father didn’t agree with anything I did, so I quickly realised I had to get my brother in, Ross, who was 5 years younger than me, and still at school.  He was allowed to complete his schools certificate and go to university, where he did economics.  He did it at night and worked with us in the day.  He used to do time sheets and things like that, to pay his way through uni.

    When he got through uni, Ross went to London and got a job with FIRA (Furniture Industrial Research Association) and this was when he learned about manufacturing and starting getting interested.  In the meantime, we were growing really fast, and I really needed my brother to get my father off my back, but also so I could concentrate on design and marketing, while he looked after the finances.  Because when a company grows so fast that’s often when they’re most vulnerable. You need a finger on the pulse in all quarters.

    Fortunately, Ross did join the company, and we grew at a terrific pace.  We had probably about 80 staff at that time, all in production. We outgrew Erskinville, where we were in an old vinegar factory,  and in 1957 we bought 4 and half acres at Regents Park, and built a factory there.

    We were growing so fast, so in 1961 we extended our factory and put on a big showroom, the furniture manufacturing showroom in Australia, and that attracted a lot of attention.  We let the public come in, we’d offer sales and interior design service, and that’s when we really expanded.

    Well, we outgrew that, and we bought 20 acres at Seven hills in 1973, moved into a brand new factory there in 1975, and had a magnificent showroom.  We were quite large by then, we were employing about 380 staff in the end.  We were the biggest in Australia, and we sort of set the pace.  We used to make dining chairs in the thousands.

    The market must look so different today to how it was back then. 

    It’s all different now. Discounting started in 1964, and a retailer in those days was putting 50% on, but if he got a third mark up, he was doing very well.  Well, today they put 100% on, because they can, because it’s coming from somewhere else. It’s so cheap, that they put 100% on so they can say 30% off, or whatever.  In our day, if you said ’10% off’, that had to be 10% off the average price for that item for the last 3 months.  That’s a very different story.

    We’re really falsely advertising to the market.  And really, the value of that chair, and the construction of it and the quality of the fabric and the way they upholster it, no one cares!  ‘I got that for 50 bucks!’, ‘I saved $25’… it’s the market’s fault.  It doesn’t matter whether your flying in and aircraft or shopping in a retail store, all value and service has gone, we’re down to the bottom dollar.  You pay more if you want an air ticket printed, you pay more if you’re carrying luggage, so it’s at rock bottom.  And you know, now we have to climb back and get people to understand value again.

    Do you think we can turn that sentiment round?  Do you think there is a bit of a shift coming where people are slowly starting to understand value again, and crave a higher level of craftsmanship and integrity in what they buy?

    Yes, but only if you’ve got the dialogue, and credibility, and that doesn’t happen over night.  I believe Woolworths, who are coming into David Jones, I think they will lead the market back to selling brands that have value and integrity.  I hope so.  You have to realise, the retail managers today have only grown up in a discount market, they have not experienced what good retailing is about, and how exciting it can be.

    So, what happened in the end with JW Parker Furniture?

    Well, I’m now 84.  In the 80’s my brother said ‘we’re getting on, we can’t go on forever, and the longer we go on the more at risk we are, we have to teach others to move in and take on the company and let them run it their way’. I didn’t agree with that, but still.

    So we got a chap to buy the business, Reg Humphries. Unfortunately, he died within 12 months of a massive heart attack, aged 46.  So his widow had it, and his financial director just took it over.  So I said ‘look I’ll do design for you, I’m good at marketing’.  But he wasn’t interested.  He thought he could do it himself.  He sent the place broke in 3 years.  In the meantime though, we got key people out, and that’s how Covemore started. Covemore Designs out in up 1997 by a small group of old Parker Furniture employees.  It originally started a Parker Furniture refurbishment service after we had shut down.  They are the ones who make our licensed furniture now, and they have my old R&D team from Parker Furniture in there.

    How did it come about that Covemore Designs started making your furniture under license?

    Mike Lewy at Covemore Designs came from Parker.  He used to be a manager in our machine shop.  Through their restoration work, Micheal Lewy saw an opportunity to introduce some 60’s lines back into the market, and whilst taking to Raymond Scott of Workshopped, who he was working with on other projects, the idea came up to get me involved.

    So, it’s a three way thing between Covemore Designs, Parker and Workshopped.  It’s the first time Parker furniture has been produced again, since our factory closed down.

    I go out to Covemore every Wednesday morning, and I’m available to them at any time.  Now, because I have got to get them from their own comfort zone into my comfort zone, that’s a journey, and it might take a little while, but we’re making progress.

    We want to grow Parker, now.  I’m getting some of the old team back in to do some R&D on some new designs.  We want to make not just our retro designs, but new designs too.

    The Parker furniture pieces that Covemore are making now, are they being made now exactly as they were back in the day?

    Yes, exactly.

    Parker Furniture has such a strong history of manufacturing within Australia.  Do you find that a challenge, to be competitive whilst maintaining your manufacturing here?

    Well frankly, this time I’m not interested in price point, otherwise you wouldn’t be making it.  But, in principle I’m not against manufacturing overseas.  But, first of all, let’s make the product. Then, see where we make it.  It doesn’t have to be a Parker Factory necessarily, but the R&D has to be Parker. But you do have to do it where you can be sure you have safety and security over your designs, and they’re not going to be copied.

    We photograph Australian homes every week, and I constantly see Parker furniture, and young people referring to it by name. Did you ever think, way back when you were 25 or 30, that you work might be considered ‘iconic’ when you were  building the business back then?

    No! But there was an American interior designer by the name of Jim Schwartzman, who was out here, and he said ‘Tony, you know your stuff’s going to be the antiques of the future’.  I laughed at time, thinking ‘typical American baloney!’.  But he’s probably been pretty right. He could see it, but at the time you don’t.

    Do you have many of your original designs at home?

    I don’t have any!  My family does.  My kids have taken it all.  But I’m going to re-do my apartment in the new Parker designs!

    Can you give us a little insight into what a normal week looks like for you these days?

    Well, I play golf Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.  When you get to my age you, too, can play golf three days a week.  Wednesday I’m out at Covemore.  I also run a few Golf tournaments, so that takes a bit of work too. And on the other days I do my thinking on design.  It doesn’t sound much, but I’m flat out!

    I also have two daughters and a son.  Georgie Parker is my youngest daughter, the actress one.  So I see her.  I’m ordered for coffee on either Monday morning or Friday morning, whenever she’s not shooting.  I’ve also got a son, Michael, in Newcastle, he’s 6 foot 5 and has two kids.  And I’ve also got another daughter Vicky in the country, down at Harden, she’s got 3 children.  They’re all bigger than I am.

    Are there other designers either of your era, or more contemporary ones, who you really admire?

    Well, of course, in my time, those were the days of Grant Featherston and Clement Meadmore and some of those people.

    So, did you admire their work too?

    Well… ah.. don’t print that!   Grant Featherston’s work is more popular now that it was then.  Because it was shell construction.  I wouldn’t have bought them, if I was a customer, because they weren’t that comfortable, but they were very unique at the time.  And now they are very popular, because it makes a statement.  It is something that fills a void, it has a lot of personality, that shell chair.

    What media do you tune into on a regular basis – newspapers, radio, TV or others?

    Well, I listen to ABC radio, that doesn’t necessarily make me boring.  I find the morning shows are quite educational.  I don’t watch that much TV, but my wife likes watching murder mysteries. I like Insight. I watch Grand Designs, I learn a lot from that.

    The press is a bit boring, you could throw away the first few pages of the paper.  No longer is writing an art, they just want to sell headlines.  When you sell headlines, you miss the point.  It’s a bit like saying ’50% off’!

    What are you looking forward to?

    The reawakening of Parker.

    Sydney Questions

    Your favourite Sydney neighbourhood and why?

    Well, I lived in st Ives all my life until I was 65, so the North Shore, with the trees and all that, is still where I really feel at home.  I mean I spent 60 of my 84 years there, so, well, it’s obvious where your roots are.

    Where was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?

    I’ve had some good meals in my time.  Rockpool some years ago was a bloody good meal.  But what makes a good meal is the flavours, the company, the ambience of the place.. there’ a lot of things that make a good meal.

    Where would we find you on a Saturday morning?

    Elanora Golf course.

    Sydney’s best kept secret

    Six of us started Bilgola surf club back in 1949. I’ve always liked that, it was an intimate beach, between Whale Beach and Avalon beach, up on that Palm beach peninsula.  That to me has always been a wonderful spot.  Looking at water always relaxed me.

    Tony Parker of Parker Furniture at home in Sydney.  Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

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    Plant / Life

    Matt and Lentil of Grown & Gathered

    by Georgina Reid

    Today our garden columnist Georgia Reid of The Planthunter introduces us to Matt and Lentil Purbrick of Grown & Gathered, who have crafted an idyllic life in Tabilk, an hour and a half north of Melbourne.  TODAY we admire their bountiful gardens… and later this week we’ll check out their house!

    The Grown & Gathered gang, eating lunch on the verandah.  Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

    Matt and Lentil Purbrick of Grown & Gathered, with their dog Pepper, at their farm in Tabilk, an hour and a half north of Melbourne.  Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

    Violets – perfect for posies, as well as a beautiful garnish for desserts. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

    Lentil picking ranunculus flowers. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

    Larkspur flowers.  Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

    An avenue of Eucalyptus trees provide a beautiful backdrop to the neatly ordered plantings on the farm. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

    Striking silver cardoon foliage (a close relative of artichoke). Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

    Matt and Lentil’s greenhouse, built from old doors!  Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

    Pepper the dog, amongst the mulch.  Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

    The track leading down to the waterhole just below Matt and Lentil’s house. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

    Matt and Lentil Purbrick of Grown & Gathered are the cutest pair of farmers around. They grow vegetables and flowers on their farm in Tabilk, an hour and a half north of Melbourne, and every Saturday they drive down to the big smoke to distribute their bounty of vegetables, flowers, bread, milk and cheese (thanks to Peaches the cow), selling out every week!

    I first met Matt and Lentil in July this year. My friend Jardine Hansen and I were heading south from Sydney to Melbourne on a botanical roadtrip. Yeah, that’s just what Planthunters do, you know.  We had planned on dropping in on their farm for a quick hello, and ended up staying the night. We had never even met them before! Not only did they put us up for the night, we had a wonderful time, eating, drinking and chatting about plants, life, and stuff. I am telling this entirely unrelated story because it’s a great illustration of the kind of people Matt and Lentil are. They are warm, genuine, generous humans. They are so wholesome it should be kinda sickening! Except somehow it’s not. Thank heavens.

    Anyway, back to the farm… Matt and Lentil have lived there for around a year now. They renovated the house in winter last year (more on that later this week!), installed a couple of pigs in the paddock to prepare the soil, and started planting the beds last October.

    Since then Grown & Gathered has gone from strength to strength, which is a testament to the incredible work ethic of this industrious pair, and their open minded approach to farming. Matt and Lentil have spent the last year fine-tuning their experimental growing techniques to get the best out of their little patch of earth. They’re obviously doing something right!

    ‘I’ve been growing stuff for four or five years now and have never had a garden that’s so bountiful’ says Matt. ‘ What comes out of this block of land just blows our minds.’

    Matt and Lentil are conceptual farmers. They explore new ways of doing things, and their passion for genuine sustainability is clear, in the produce they grow, they way they live, and the way they run their business.

    For example, they grow lots of flowers – but they don’t sell them. Instead, they trade. Why?  As Lentil explains – ‘For a while Matt and I were selling vegetables and flowers side-by-side. With vegetables, people were aware that vegetables have seasons, that organic is better, and that it’s best to try to source locally and directly from the farmer.  But with flowers, few people had ever challenged where they might be from, or how they might be grown’.

    Flowers are about beauty and joy and colour and emotion. Money can’t buy that. We want to create community, share abundance and make conversation instead. So, we only exchange our flowers for something other than money’

    They are also passionate about waste. Every Saturday they drive down to Melbourne with a van full of produce, returning with a van full of food scraps for composting. They pickup green waste from the restaurants they work with – Pope Joan and Auction Rooms, and customers are encouraged to bring their compostable stuff to the van when they pick up their vegetables.

    ‘This is our version of closed loop farming’ says Lentil. ‘We take the goods down, bring the scraps back, compost them, and put them into the soil to grow more vegetables. It’s an entire system. We don’t bring any new inputs into the farm.’

    With Grown & Gathered, Matt and Lentil have built way more than a bountiful vegetable and flower farm. They have built an example of living authentically and passionately in a genuinely sustainable way. There’s plenty of buzz around words like local/organic/sustainable/foraged these days, and often without much consideration or knowledge of the entire picture. These two are the real deal. There is no bandwagon in sight; they’re just doing it.

    Lentil picking pretty blooms for her flower swap.  Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

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  • 10/27/14--12:00: Beci Orpin · Make and Do
  • Shopping

    Beci Orpin · Make and Do

    by Lucy Feagins, Editor

    We do love a multi-talented, multi-tasking talented local creative, and designer / illustrator / author Beci Orpin is one of the most productive we know.  In fact, we’re beginning to wonder if she is living in some kind of alternate reality where time can be paused for productivity, because her creative output really defies belief! Beci’s latest book is her third in two years (!!), it’s called Make and Do, and it officially launches this week!

    Make and Do‘, the brand new book by Melbourne designer Beci Orpin, published by Hardie Grant.  Photos in the book by Chris Middleton. (Our pic of the book by Eve Wilson).

    Make and Do‘ by Beci Orpin, with photos in the book by Chris Middleton. (Our pic of the book by Eve Wilson).

    Make and Do‘ by Beci Orpin, with photos in the book by Chris Middleton. (Our pic of the book by Eve Wilson).

    ‘Giant Wall Sprinkles’ in Make and Do by Beci Orpin, with photos in the book by Chris Middleton. (Our pic of the book by Eve Wilson).

    ‘Giant Wall Sprinkles’ in Make and Do by Beci Orpin, with photos in the book by Chris Middleton. (Our pic of the book by Eve Wilson).

    ‘Found Projects’ in Make and Do by Beci Orpin, with photos in the book by Chris Middleton. (Our pic of the book by Eve Wilson).

    ‘Found Projects’ in Make and Do by Beci Orpin, with photos in the book by Chris Middleton. (Our pic of the book by Eve Wilson).

    Paper love in Make and Do by Beci Orpin, with photos in the book by Chris Middleton. (Our pic of the book by Eve Wilson).

    Paper love in Make and Do by Beci Orpin, with photos in the book by Chris Middleton. (Our pic of the book by Eve Wilson).

    Make and Do by Beci Orpin, with photos in the book by Chris Middleton. (Our pic of the book by Eve Wilson).

    Make and Do by Beci Orpin, with photos in the book by Chris Middleton. (Our pic of the book by Eve Wilson).

    Make and Do is a book about creative projects and creative spaces.  Beci has based each chapter around the different materials she uses in her studio – paper, wood, textiles and found objects.  Our favourite project hands down are the GIANT WALL SPRINKLES (genius!).  Interspersed  between these fun ‘how to’ projects are studio visits with some of Beci’s favourite creative people including Miso, Tin & Ed and Lucas Grogan, which is such a lovely and inspiring addition to the book.

    For this book, Beci worked with her  ‘book dream team’ – book designer Michelle Mackintosh, and photographer Chris Middleton, plus the folk at Hardie Grant, as well as an external editor.  ‘Most of the work takes place over a 3 month period – it is a pretty intense process’ explains Beci.  The first 6-8 weeks are spent in the studio gathering materials and testing and making all the projects, taking comprehensive notes along the way.  Once all the projects are finalised, a big photo shoot  happens – where Beci and her team work solidly for around 10 days creating all the photographs for the book.  After the shots are in, Beci finalises the text, and Michelle starts putting all the layout together, and then, Beci says, ‘I just click my fingers and a book is made – if only it was that easy!’.

    When she’s not writing books, Beci is also responsible for designing all the homewares at Arro Home, as well as juggling various other freelance projects, and being a hands on Mum.  At the moment she’s pumped about releasing the new Arro Home collection – ‘it’s bigger and better than the first one!’ she says.  She’s also currently working on a children’s picture book with Penguin which will be out in 2015, and has a number of other collabs in the works – and a new website too!  We will be sure to keep you posted on all of the above, but in the meantime, for goodness SAKE Beci, please chill out for like, 20 minutes once you’ve finished promoting  this book, your work ethic is beyond compare!

    Make and Do by Beci Orpin, with photos in the book by Chris Middleton. (Our pic of the book by Eve Wilson).

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  • 10/27/14--20:00: Pork and Cabbage Gyoza
  • Tasty Tuesday

    Pork and Cabbage Gyoza

    Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Nori Nishimura

    Basically, we just wish Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Nori Nishimura could be our Tasty Tuesday contributors EVERY month.  They have been so delightful to work with.  Sadly, though, today we have to say goodbye to these two culinary superstars, and thank them for a brilliant month of inspired Japanese recipe ideas.  They’re ending the month with a much loved favourite – Gyoza!

    Pork and cabbage gyoza.  Arita Japan Palace Plate from Minami.  Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Pork and cabbage gyoza ingredients. Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Nori demonstrates gyoza wrapping!  Arita Japan Palace Plate from Minami.  Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Nearly every country has their own version of a dumpling – whether it’s ravioli, pierogi or wonton, let’s face it, they’re all extremely delicious. Japanese dumplings, AKA Gyoza, are packed full of our favourite Japanese flavours, like ginger, garlic and soy. We love to make these when we have friends over for dinner as it is a nice social meal to cook together and is perfect with a cold beer when the weather warms up too!

    Influenced by the Chinese dumplings, Giaozi, Gyoza are a popular dish in Japan, where you will often find them on the menus at Izakayas and Ramen restaurants. They are great to make ahead of time and freeze to pull out for a quick meal or a late-night snack! Getting the filling right is really important, and you need to make sure the balance of flavours is spot on before you start making the actual gyoza, which I assure you gets easier with practice. My first attempts were pretty dodgy but I can now make one respectable gyoza in the same time Nori can make three (quite a good effort if you ask me)!

    Pork these days is often sold with a big ‘Lean’ sticker on it, but when it comes down to it, the fat is going to give your gyoza more flavour and moisture. If it’s too lean the gyoza will be dry, so make sure your mince has a good amount of fat running through it. The gyoza skins are also really important – you want the thin round white type. We buy the ‘Tak On Food Productions PTY LTD’ brand, which are labeled as ‘Gyoza Dumplings’ on the packet. These are sold at most Asian grocers, as are shiso leaves, which are not imperative, but we love to include them in our version of Gyoza, as they add a really interesting depth of flavour to this dish.


    For the gyoza (makes approximately 20)

    • 120g Chinese cabbage, finely sliced
    • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
    • 2 cloves of garlic, finely grated or chopped
    • 1 tbsp ginger finely grated or chopped
    • 250g pork mince
    • 1 tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp miso
    • 1 tbsp sesame oil
    • 2 tbsp shiso leaves, finely chopped (find shiso at most asian grocers)
    • Gyoza skins at room temperature
    • 1 tbsp vegetable oil, for frying

    For the dipping sauce (or use equal quantities of each for one serve)

    • 1 tsp soy sauce
    • 1 tsp rice vinegar
    • Pinch of Shimichi Togarashi or chilli flakes

    For the dipping sauce, pour the soy and vinegar into a small bowl and mix to combine. Add a pinch of the chilli powder and set aside. Note: The amounts given are for one serve, so if serving two or three people, just double or triple the recipe.

    For the gyoza, toss the cabbage in a colander with 2 teaspoons of salt and leave to drain for 15 minutes. Squeeze the salted cabbage to drain excess liquid. Combine cabbage and all other gyoza ingredients, except for the skins and vegetable oil, in a large bowl and mix well with your hands or a spoon. You really want to mix this well to make sure the ingredients are well incorporated into the mince.

    To assemble the gyoza, have everything ready to go! The room temperature gyoza skins, the filling, a plate or board lined with glad wrap so they don’t stick, and also a small bowl of water to help seal the gyoza.

    Hold the gyoza skin in one hand and place a tablespoon of the mixture in the centre of the gyoza skin. Paint the entire edge of the gyoza skin with water and slightly envelope the mixture, as if you were holding a taco. Using both hands, pinch the gyoza edges together and make a small crimp. Continue all the way along until the gyoza is completely sealed. Repeat with remaining gyoza skins and mixture.

    In a large, heavy based fry pan, heat the oil over a med-high heat and add the gyoza in a single layer, fairly tightly packed and flat side down. Cook until crispy and golden on the base of the gyoza (approx. 3 minutes). Add 200ml of water to the base of the pan and cover to steam the gyoza. Cook until the liquid has completely evaporated and the gyoza are cooked through. (approximately 7 minutes). Be careful when adding the water as it will bubble and spit as soon as it hits the hot oil.

    Serve gyoza hot with the dipping sauce.

    Shiso leaves –  a delicate flavoured herb which gives Julia and Nori’s gyoza a unique depth of flavour.  Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

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  • 10/28/14--12:00: Matt and Lentil Purbrick
  • Australian Homes

    Matt and Lentil Purbrick

    by Lucy Feagins, Editor

    On Monday, Georgina introduced us to Matt and Lentil Purbrick of Grown and Gathered, and we shared pics of their bountiful farm and gardens in Tabilk, central Victoria. TODAY, as promised, we’re back with a tour of their beautiful country home.  Matt and Lentil live simply, surrounded by treasured pieces they’ve salvaged or traded.  Their home, and their lifestyle, is a study in simplicity and restraint. And it’s perfect.

    The country home of Matt and Lentil Purbrick of Grown and Gathered.  Above – lounge room. Photo by Eve Wilson, styling by Stefanie Stamatis for The Design Files.

    Lounge room and front door, with apple blossom. Nudes above couch by Matt’s mum. Photo by Eve Wilson, styling by Stefanie Stamatis for The Design Files.

    Dining table. Lamp by Matt and Lentil’s friend Lucile Sciallano. Photo by Eve Wilson, styling by Stefanie Stamatis for The Design Files.

    Loungeroom detail, handmade little bookshelf, flower grown on the farm. Photo by Eve Wilson, styling by Stefanie Stamatis for The Design Files.

    Dining table (made from old floorboards), terracotta pieces made by Matt and Lentil, wall hanging – and old colour palette by Matt’s mum. Photo by Eve Wilson, styling by Stefanie Stamatis for The Design Files.

    Matt and Lentil’s kitchen.  Recycled timber kitchen cabinets designed by Matt, built by Jack Robinson, stool bases built by friend Hugh Williams. Photo by Eve Wilson, styling by Stefanie Stamatis for The Design Files.

    Kitchen sink. Traded soap, broken terracotta vessel by Matt and Lentil. Photo by Eve Wilson, styling by Stefanie Stamatis for The Design Files.

    Loungeroom / main entrance with notice board / teaching aide on back of the door! (Showing bread recipes for Matt and Lentil’s sourdough bread and coffee making tips!). Photo by Eve Wilson, styling by Stefanie Stamatis for The Design Files.

    Kitchen sink/shelves. Preserves by Matt and Lentil. Photo by Eve Wilson, styling by Stefanie Stamatis for The Design Files.

    The studio.  Photo by Eve Wilson, styling by Stefanie Stamatis for The Design Files.

    Lentil’s favourite room – the pantry! Homemade preserves stacked on the shelves. Photo by Eve Wilson, styling by Stefanie Stamatis for The Design Files.

    View from Matt and Lentil’s bedroom to the deck and garden beyond. Deck made from old roof rafters, salvaged doors.  Photo by Eve Wilson, styling by Stefanie Stamatis for The Design Files.

    Spare room. Print by Carla Fletcher (traded from The Flower Exchange!). Photo by Eve Wilson, styling by Stefanie Stamatis for The Design Files.

    Bathroom. Window made from an old door.  Photo by Eve Wilson, styling by Stefanie Stamatis for The Design Files.

    Bath with a view of the waterhole.  (Yes, they do use this bath!).  Photo by Eve Wilson, styling by Stefanie Stamatis for The Design Files.

    Eucalyptus trees on Matt and Lentil’s property. Photo by Eve Wilson, styling by Stefanie Stamatis for The Design Files.

    AND another portrait of Matt, Lentil and Pepper the dog, because we couldn’t resist!  Photo by Eve Wilson, styling by Stefanie Stamatis for The Design Files.

    It’s a supremely tranquil space, but don’t be fooled, this home is a hive of activity.  If you read Monday’s post, you’ll know Matt and Lentil are the industrious couple behind Grown and Gathered, a project which sees them farm their own organic fruit, vegetables and flowers for a growing community of loyal customers in Melbourne.  Matt and Lentil spend all week farming, foraging and tending to their animals, and then on Saturdays they make the drive into town to sell their popular vegetable boxes, or to trade flowers in Lentil’s ‘Flower Exchange’.  It’s idyllic – but it’s also very busy!

    Matt and Lentil live in their sweet little farmhouse cottage on a property which is partitioned off from the Tahbilk Winery estate – owned by Matt’s family.  But, their home wasn’t always this beautiful.  ‘To put it simply, when we first saw the house it was almost falling down’ says Lentil. ‘The winery wanted to bulldoze it, but we loved the location and so decided we could make it work’.  She and Matt renovated their little house together with the help of friends, at the same time as setting up their farm.

    ‘There were walls falling in, the powerpoints were coming out of the walls, it was super dark, the floors were carpet and lino, and the walls were a turquoise blue and cream’ recalls Lentil. Never afraid of a little elbow grease, the pair set about gutting the house, ripping down crumbling walls and pulling away layers of junk to reveal the bare bones of the home.

    ‘Matt and I did most of the work ourselves, calling on friends with skills to help. So lucky for friends’ says Lentil. ‘Matt was once a designer, so he drew things up to see if they would work – he designed beautiful spaces like our kitchen. We put in lots of windows, re-did the floors, knocked down a few walls, painted, put in a new kitchen, and built the deck’.  Everything used to build or put in the house was salvaged, re-used, made by hand or traded. There is nothing new here!

    It was a totally exhausting, yet amazing experience.  We learnt so much about building, what we liked, what we didn’t, how to make things sustainably. It was an amazing challenge. We are always up for a challenge’

    Since moving in a year ago, the pair have continued to chip away at unfinished tasks, also adding a few ‘fun’ things like the outdoor bath, and a greenhouse built from salvaged old doors. As time has passed they’ve also accumulated a few more personal details – treasured gifts, and artworks made by friends, or traded in Lentil’s Flower Exchange.

    Though not generally enamoured with material things, Lentil does have a few favourite pieces at home.  ‘We are a bit in love with Carla Fletcher’s prints in our spare room – the kangaroo and koala. These guys were traded for a few buckets of flowers, and she is just so lovely!’.  Lentil is also very fond of the vessels she and Matt have recently made from the clay on their property – ‘we are super happy with how these have worked out!’ she says.

    Having each experienced life in the city, (working both in office jobs, believe it or not!) for Matt and Lentil, this home is about much more than just having a beautiful place to live.  The farm really has given them a new lease on life.  They’ve jumped at the chance to craft a unique lifestyle here,  to make their own rules, to invent new ways to earn a living and trade their goods, and to champion a more mindful way of living. In Lentil’s own words, life in Tabilk is ‘Simple. Not shiny’. And that’s just the way they like it.

    Peaches the friendly cow.  Photo by Eve Wilson, styling by Stefanie Stamatis for The Design Files.

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