04 November 2012

Larsson mania

We love Lisa Larsson's ceramics - have managed to restrain ourselves to just a couple of little pieces at home, but get a bit antsy whenever we see others for sale ... so hard to justify buying little pottery knick-knacks, but they're so sweet!

Lisa is a Swedish ceramic designer who started at Gustavsberg Porcelain Factory in 1953. Since 1980 she has worked as a freelance designer and sculptural artist.  A distinctive style with a unique charm, her abstracted animal forms are the Scandinavian equivalent of our local maestros Ellis and Gus McLaren. 

Our new shipment from Sweden has put us in an awkward position, can we justify expanding our own collection, or should we share?

As well as the great little dogs and her cuter than cute people, we're lucky enough to have a couple of big pots and lamps she designed for Gustavsberg in the early 70's ... keep an eye out - they'll be popping up on the website this week (just waiting for the photos to come back from the chemist).

30 August 2012

pebble patch ...

So Cath found a guy on ebay selling river pebbles in bulk, and our shop-front garden was looking a little thin, so she bought a vast number of bags after negotiating a very reasonable delivery fee.
After watching the huge pile disappear very quickly as it was spread over our modest little rockery area, we realized we needed more.  A quick burst of re-ordering (this time it was 'as many as you can fit in your trailer, please') sorted the issue out.  And the spares are now serving as a compact micro-climate at the farm ... not the huge 'cactus-zone' we were envisaging, but a good start ...

Will keep you posted as landscaping season progresses - we have a big rock-strewn paddock, a wheelbarrow and a plan ... just gotta get a little motivated.

the eagle (or boat) has landed ...


Our new container has hit the docks - time for some seriously serious organizing around the place.
Good old modern technology - we were able to watch it on it's long cruise around the globe ... not allowed to look at or touch the contents until the good folk of Australian Customs have inspected and cleared them though.

Expect new arrivals in the shop and on the website from next week ... and pained expressions on our faces as we part with pieces we have already been in (long-distance) love with for months!

Can't wait!

12 August 2012

woodworkin' pt.3

Well, the time has come.  Day 3 of the course was glue-up day.  A pretty exciting prospect seeing the components all coming together.  First step was to check that the legs all fit and the angles were all OK.
Then flip her over ...
Wow.  Seeing the stool at this stage was a real motivator - it's actually going to come together.
From here we had to take a breath and get precise again - measure and mark the placement of the stretchers (that's them sitting by the stool on the bench - crucial elements).  Once their positions were marked, some very cautious drilling was called for - I was so paranoid about the possibility of wrecking it now I was almost happy to stop here and call it an ornament.
Anyway, it all went fine.
Once the stretchers were glued in, we put kerfs into the tops of the legs, glued and hammered (!) them into the top and then whacked in walnut wedges to tighten everything up.  A quick saw, a slow and gentle trim with a chisel and ta-da ...

After a little more refinement of the seat surface with a scraper it was home time.  We decided to use a Danish oil to finish the stool for a bit of surface protection and durability - last coat is drying now, so will take a snap once that's done. 
Suffice to say it is a VERY comfortable piece, supportive and stable, and you can feel your posture improving the longer you sit (or perch, as it were).
Amazing ... I made a piece of furniture!  Stay tuned for the next one ...

So there you go - if you have an interest in fine woodworking (or need a perching stool), get in touch with the guys at Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking - you'll be glad you did.  Thanks Alastair for the tutelage, and Peter Galbert for a really nice design.

05 August 2012

hoover dam

Saw a bit of a doco on Hoover Dam on TV (nice to watch something that doesn't end in a medal ceremony ...) and it reminded me a song by Sugar from a few years back. 
They were Bob Mould's band after Hüsker Dü wrapped up in the late 80's.

I dig the keyboard hook- a hint of Euro Glam Metal stirred into the indie sound.
The video's by Zissy (thank you) - some roadside handheld, but a good look at a terrifyingly big imposition on a valley. 

Can't help but admire the architecture and engineering, but it's another fine example of how we humans treat the host planet ...

woodworkin' part 2

Day two rolled around pretty quickly - grey and rainy morning ... time to head for a warm, dry workshop to face the lathe.

I was pretty apprehensive, as I have never been anywhere near one of these machines before, and had promised to return home with all fingers intact (both hands).  The lesson involved a pretty quick demo of how to put a bit of wood onto the spindles, an explanation of the gouging and turning tools and their use, and an efficient display by Alastair of the steps involved ... and in seemingly no time he was holding up a stool leg and telling us that we were ready to go ahead.
And whadda you know - it just kind of magically happened!  Without claiming to be 100% in control of the process, I had a pretty OK looking leg within half an hour (and had apparently started to reveal my 'individual style' via a bit of semi-intentional shaping which didn't exactly match the demo version). 
Of course, the challenge was to get all 3 legs to match ... lucky my individual style wasn't too complicated.  By this stage I had fallen in love with the lathe and decided I was born to turn wood, so would have been happy to do 10 legs and pick the best 3 ... limited timber availability saved us from that fate.
Anyway - got there - then a bit of smoothing with sandpaper while the legs are still spinning, followed by burnishing.  This was done by grabbing a handfull of the shavings off the floor (and there were plenty - near ankle-deep) and cupping your hand under the turned leg with light pressure and letting the shavings rub the leg, leaving a really nice sheen.
Next, we turned our stretchers and that was that.  Back to the bench to pop the legs in and get that first tantalizing preview of the stool ...

Wow - 2 days work done and it's really looking like something's going to be there at the end!
For a FAR better summary of the process, here's Peter Galbert's youtube demo of the process - the man is a maestro, no question.

04 August 2012


In between all of the other fun over the last few weeks, we have been chipping away at the mayhem of the garage behind the shop - years of weak-willed "see it - love it - buy it - stash it" has pretty much filled it up with a 3D to-do list.  AND what the heck are we thinking - it's a big floor-space that should be displaying more stock ... and being a restoration workroom ... and not being a cluttered stack of would-be gold.

Well - now we have to get serious ...

That's right, after nearly 12 months of sourcing and hunting, our amazing friend in Sweden (thanks, as always Craig) has shut the doors on OUR NEXT SHIPMENT!  Uh-oh.  It's on the water, and due to arrive here in 2 or 3 weeks!  We need to make space (ie - sell some stock and clear some floor - come to the website or our ebay store - make us an offer ... buy in bulk if you like!) so we have a spot for a fresh batch of amazing rarities from the chilly north.

A little taster of the next shipment?  Oh, alright then ...

Some very special chairs, amazing lounges, vintage hi-fi and some really, really lovely ceramics and glass coming soon ...

woodwork goodness

As a long-time designer who now collects and restores mid-century furniture, I have had a jones to design (and make) chairs for a while now ... but no experience in the process of turning a tree into something you could use at home.  Looking at a craftsman-made piece, it all looks just way too complex.
BUT, that was then.  Last week I was lucky enough to participate in a 3 day intensive workshop at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Wooodworking, where the amazing Alastair Boell took a group of us through the process of making our own 'perching stool' (designed by Boston-based chairmaking wonder Peter Galbert).  And it was the most inspirational and empowering fun!
This is what we were working towards ...
 The whole 'fine chairmaking' process is about the use of traditional tools and hand-work for the shaping and forming - drawknives and travishers rather than sanders and routers.  At the start I was a little doubtful about the possibility of me making something even half as nifty ... especially seeing the big square chunks of wood that we were expected to transform ...

Sure - a fat rectangle and five long, skinny bits of mahogany - that looks like potential (?!?).  I'm confident with a pencil and paper, at ease with a mouse and some software, even happy enough with fabric and scissors.  But a block and a super-sharp curved blade on a handle?
So, day one of the course was all about the seat ... here's a few step-by-step pics ...

And what do you know?  After 8 or 9 hours of scorping and scraping a curvy shape had emerged, and the rest of that fat chunk was on the floor in teensy shards.
Day 2 is legs - wood-turning on a lathe ... again - how the heck am I going to do that?

21 June 2012

In recovery ...

What with most of our time spent restoring and reviving mid-century furniture, we are on good terms with our local upholsterer, and have a fair understanding of what goes into the re-upholstery of a piece.
It was interesting to see an article on the topic on apartmenttherapy this week - well worth a read.
Visitors to our store sometimes ask about 'just getting that chair in a different colour' or 'fixing up the cushions' on a piece, and are taken aback by the cost estimates we offer.
With that in mind, It's worth bearing in mind two factors -
  • the COSTS involved - labour (time involved in stripping, fixing, re-webbing, cutting materials, sewing ... then upholstering) is pretty major, then you need to factor in the cost of your fabric, springs and/or elastics, and the (surprisingly high) cost of foam/filling for the job.  A decent and long-lasting foam is pretty much as expensive as good fabric.
  • second thing to think about is ... what's it worth to you?
If you have found a vintage armchair on the side of the road, then spending $300 on re-upholstery is high compared to the price you paid for the piece ... but you're getting a new chair!  If your grandparents' have bequeathed you their vintage Fler sofa but it's saggy and uncomfortable you can either pay to have it revived ... or bin it and go to Ikea - the cost will be similar, it's just a question of what you want to end up with.
Heck, if you need to save on labour costs, buy a book or get onto the net for some DIY advice ...

Our upholsterer loves to tell of potential clients who get a quote from him, then haggle doggedly to get the job done as cheaply as possible.  You just have to wonder - do you really want the cheapest job you can get on the couch you plan to relax on every night for the next 5 or 10 years?  We have seen some budget upholstery jobs (even in vintage stores) ... it shows.

If your budget doesn't stretch to getting it done well, throw a blanket over it and pad it up with a few cushions while you save-up for the big reno!

If you want a high-quality vintage piece of furniture for the same price as a lower-grade brand-new item, then be prepared to have work done on it ... the end result will be lovely to live with and more durable, have a personality and life you have given it, and be far better for your soul.

10 May 2012

for the birds

One of the reliable themes at the farm is the pre-dusk chaos of the local flock of cockatoos going through their (extremely loud) bedtime ritual of arguing over who gets which branch of the rivergum for the evening.  They like to spend about 15 minutes sorting out who will sleep where, and nobody gets to relax until the issue is settled.
This week, they have had to deal with a confronting development ...
A pair of goofy ibis-type waterbirds have decided to hang with the flock ... and since they speak a different dialect, the cockies feel the need to argue a little louder to get things sorted ... reminded us of that great little Pixar short 'For the Birds' - the big guys just want to get along, but nobody seems too happy about it.
They seem pretty harmless, but nobody want to share that branch!

07 May 2012

oh, and ...

We also got very lucky on a set of Fler SC55 dining chairs ... had never seen them in the flesh before so we had to get them ... what a shape!
Good motivation, as we have a 1955 Fler maple dining table that has been sitting in the shed waiting for restoration for years - will post pics once everyone's had the treatment!

We also need to get on to fixing up our old LC chair - same timber, slightly earlier - lordy but there is a lot of re-finishing to do when we look at the collection.  Here's a pic of Mr Fred Lowen himself discussing the finer points with one of the original Fler team ...

Another score ...

In our continuing challenge to see if there is actually such a thing as 'too many chairs' we scored another Bruno Mathsson chair on ebay a few weeks back ...

She had fallen victim to a pretty rough re-stretching of her canvas, so was kind of wonky and skewed, but still all original.  We dismantled and re-aligned everything, and she's now ready to join her cousins the sofa and beautiful webbed chair in the bedroom at the farm.
Sure there are worse habits to have ... and while the good people of Melbourne are still not 'getting' the brilliance of Bruno's designs, we have to make hay!

06 May 2012


So sad to hear that Adam Yauch (a.k.a MCA, a.k.a Nathaniel Hornblower) - Beastie Boys rapper and bass player - passed away Friday ... at only 47 years old.

I have been a fan since Licence To Ill came out in '86 - they were definitely a revelation - white boys making hiphop ... and FUN too.  MCA always came across as the thoughtful/serious member of the trio, and his later work for the Free Tibet movement and foundation of the Milarepa Foundation backed that up.
Here's one of his finer moments of video directing ... and (of course) starring.

And a blast from the distant and hilarious past ...

Anyway - sad that we've lost him ... thanks MCA.

29 March 2012


How much fun was last night's Simpsons (ep #501 !!?!?) ... not that we would ever condone illegal street-art, but we definitely enjoyed El Barto's handiwork ...

Art imitating life imitating art imitating life ....