Sunday, February 24, 2013


So, I've had a pretty fun and productive couple of weeks since my post about a new perspective. First things first, I found this shipping crate posing as a raised garden bed on eBay:

Raised garden bed from eBay, here.

It was only $40 plus delivery which I thought was pretty good for 1 square metre's worth of garden-bed goodness! Whilst I was waiting for it to arrive I gathered some inspirational reading material:

Inspirational reading - The Little Veggie Patch Co & Animal, Vegetable Miracle

Since I am a complete noob when it comes to veggie gardening I've done a LOT of reading. The Little Veggie Patch Co book has been great, but I did a whole lot of googling as well. How to make a no dig garden, what I should plant, when I should plant it, what I shouldn't plant it next to and what I should. Etc etc etc. It was all a little overwhelming so I made myself a little chart and plotted out planting/harvest times and compatibilities for all the things I was interested in growing. Yes that's a bit nerdy but that's the way I roll. I found the Gardenate website (despite being rather hokey in design) quite useful in summarising all that info in an easy to digest format.

Once the garden bed arrived it was time for a visit to Ceres to get all the necessary ingredients for a no-dig garden.  It was rather epic trying to get all this stuff into the car. Due to poor planning I ended up with the cow manure sitting on the front passenger seat and a boot strewn with debris from my desperate attempts to wedge a straw bale into the back of a '91 Corolla.

No-dig garden ingredients - pea straw, lucerne hay, cow manure and compost

Making a no-dig garden is kind of like making a giant lasagne. There seem to be a bunch of different ways to do it but the basic principle involves layering up different kinds of organic material to whatever height you desire, and over time the layers decompose to form a nutrient rich soil.

My 1 square metre of no-dig garden goodness, ready to go!

This is the finished result; not particularly exciting yet! I let it settle for about a week and planted some seeds this evening. Fingers crossed something will pop up in the coming weeks! Proof will be in the pudding. Or lasagne, I guess.

In the meantime I've been satisfying my desire for home grown produce by 'borrowing' figs from a tree growing over the fence in our back laneway:

Neighbourhood figs in endless supply right now!

xx Lara.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Forte Living Festival this Fri & Sat!

It's not every day that an opportunity like this comes along. Ink & Spindle has been asked to fit out an eco friendly apartment from top to bottom! How awesome is that? Of course we've rallied together a bunch of our favourite local & sustainable businesses to pull this off, and we feel so chuffed about everyone's enthusiasm and willingness to help.

There's more info over on our blog, but if you can make it down to Victoria Harbour the apartment will be open for viewing this Friday & Saturday as part of the Forte Living Festival (which is part of the Sustainable Living Festival!) and also by appointment for the next month.

Hope to see you there :)


Monday, February 11, 2013

Open Studio - this Saturday!

Would you believe it, it's time for Ink & Spindle's first Open Studio for the year already! Where did January go??

This Open Studio is going to be a little more exciting than usual in that our lovely studio buddy Abby Seymour is going to have her wares for sale also. Not only will her gorgeous current range be available but she will also be selling some of her beautiful ex-season stock at pretty generous discounts.

Hope you can make it down to the studio next Saturday 16th Feb - 11am to 1pm, with a printing demo at about 11:30!


Saturday, February 09, 2013

2013 - a new perspective

A new perspective for 2013 (literally, too)

I have to say, 2013 is off to a strange (but good) start. Where do I begin?

First and foremost, being in Nepal - completely separated from home and work and routine - was a bit like pressing one big reset button. It was the first time in 5 years (or more) that I felt like I completely detached myself from my work. Usually a part of me is always conscious of what's going on back in the studio. This time? Nup. It was a strange feeling, and when I got back to Australia I found that I didn't want to put my head right back into work mode again. I wanted to keep myself slightly separate, because I felt like only from that detached vantage point could I look at my life and see it slightly more objectively.

The other big thing that has happened is that I've moved house - again! I know it's pretty customary to live with your partner before getting engaged but due to share-house commitments (and a bit of impatience!) it just didn't work out that way. Within less than a week of me returning to Melbourne, Dave and I had signed the lease on a little place of our own. I LOVE it here. It feels really good to know that every night I'm coming back to the same place, the same face, surrounded by things that inspire me. This has also helped give me the sense of a 'clean slate', and a bit of a clearer head.

Our new home. Love all the natural light and the ivy filled, north facing windows!

So what has this clearer head space and new perspective brought to light? Here's a summary:

It's time for a break from design blogs

Being constantly in touch with everything that's going on in our creative community via the interwebs can sometimes be inspiring, but it can also stifling, draining and subconsciously limiting. This article summarises things quite well. I love this quote:

"Have we turned our time online away from digging, exploring and unearthing secrets, to passively letting ourselves be entertained by thoughts we already agreed to and build on ideas we already had?"

It's for this reason that I've finally decided to unsubscribe from a whole lot of my (much-neglected-anyway) blog feeds. What a weight off my shoulders! The most popular blogs at the moment seem to be more about curating than creating, the byproduct being the constant celebration of mostly just fads and trends. I find those sorts of things distracting and not really in line with my business ethic anyway, so why torture myself by being exposed to them every day?

It's time to dedicate some of my energy to new passions

So what do I actually want to be doing/learning/achieving? I still love textiles & interiors and will continue to put energy into my work, but there are a host of other things that I'd like to explore. For one: I'm stupidly excited to learn a bit more about growing my own food. The courtyard garden here is tiny, but there's a perfect spot for a raised veggie garden. It's a very small start, but a start all the same.

Duck eggs for lunch from one of Dave's colleagues - I can't wait to one day have chooks/ducks of our own

It's time to encourage change

My dislike of trends, my passion for sustainable textiles, my desire to learn more about growing my own food - it all stems from one very obvious place! Living a more ethical and sustainable lifestyle is the only way forward, for all of us. Instead of being creatively stifled by design blogs I'm actually learning a lot about useful things. I'm thinking that this blog could be a great place to share some of those discoveries. Such as:

No basket-case: Tasmania on the bumpy road to economic sustainability - (LOVE this article, really interesting stuff!)

Taranaki Farm (these guys are doing great things. We're booked in to go on a farm tour next month, can't wait!)

Food Inc – why it’s so relevant for Australian audiences (and if you haven't yet watched Food Inc, the movie, you should!)



Thursday, February 07, 2013

On internships & industry...

One of our past interns Lauren, printing a two colour repeat design

I'm taking a little break from my usual programming to talk about something a little controversial at the moment - internships. Sparking into a bit of a hot topic in the media and twittersphere in the last few days, Fair Work Australia are cracking down on internships that might be deemed illegal if they're not conducted as part of an 'authorised educational training course'.

Of course the topic is pretty close to my heart because at Ink & Spindle we engage interns on a fairly regular basis. Some of our interns are requesting a position as a compulsory part of their degree, others are coming to us entirely of their own volition. They might be a full-time parent looking to return to work, or a student who has studied something entirely different and now are curious about changing career paths... to us it doesn't matter what their background is so long as they're keen.

A very blurry Robyn, printing a single colour repeat design of dutch houses!

I think that yes there are instances in certain industries where internships are exploitative - big companies offering long term positions when they could afford to pay someone but choose to substitute a paid position with a free intern. These situations are unethical and set a bad precedent in their industry. But there are other situations such as ours where we simply can't afford to pay an extra person. We aren't dependent on interns - our business functions fine without them - but if there are individuals keen for the experience we'll gladly take them on board. We might not have a lot of spare cash but we do have a wealth of knowledge to impart. There are a lot of menial tasks to be done around the studio but we try hard to ensure that the positions are mutually beneficial.

I can't help but feel that the issue of unpaid internships is largely a 'first world problem' and seems to occur largely in 'desirable' industries, e.g. textiles, music, fashion, design. There seems to be an abundance of willing workers and not enough jobs for all of them. To me that's not just an issue of exploitation but equally an issue with our education system. Here we are providing an gamut of exciting higher educational opportunities, giving people the illusion that they can work in whatever field they desire, but without any accountability from our educators with regards to finding work in the chosen field after study.

Intern work - stencils on the lightbox

Textiles is a classic example. Perhaps it's my ignorance but sadly I just don't see where all the jobs are for the students who are studying textile design. Yet our universities keep producing new graduates; students who are passionate about design and are lead to believe there'll be work at the other end. And when there's not, it's no surprise they're willing to do unpaid work to give themselves an edge.

In my opinion the best way to find work in our field is to make your own job. That's what we did. So when our interns come through we focus less on 'textile design' and more on 'small business' - how our business runs, how we make it work, the ups and downs and challenges. These are valuable insights for anyone, not just a student of textile design. Interestingly most of the successful creative individuals I've met are those who first studied something else entirely different. I think that's awesome.