Making a Pinecone and Gum Nut Mirror

From the start I’ve wanted the old schoolmasters house to be simply furnished with something handmade in every room. Sometime ago I’d found an old mirror at a second hand shop and had an idea to cover it in pinecones, the country version of the shell encrusted mirror.

I find pinecones so beautiful, like little sculptures lying scattered around on the ground. It’s amazing that they are just there, for free. Such a varied spectrum of shapes; from the contained cone through to the almost petrified wood flower, the chips splayed open like petals.

Like so many craft projects without a deadline, the mirror had been lying around the house for a few months, quite near to the collection of pinecones, gathered one early morning from their comfortable nesting spots in amongst the pine needles.

But an element seemed to be missing- it was hard to know how to start it somehow. One day I was looking at some fresh branches cut from a gum tree and realized that it could be a pinecone & gum nut mirror. Mix it up- add some of the moss covered twigs as well. Materials gathered from the area. The organic bought inside. More textures to play with, now it was like exciting but nutritious muesli rather than a plain bowl of oats.

First to paint the mirror, take the dull and not exciting gold to a pale green so that the pods and cones would stand out. To attach them – just nails and hot glue in whatever combination worked.

The thing is after putting craft projects off for some time, once you just get in there and do them -it’s a great feeling. Not even caring if the resulting piece works, just getting into the process. Lately I’ve been listening to the music of Seaman Dan, an old pearl diver from the Torres Strait Islands. His songs are so simple and calming, with his ukulele he takes you to his warm tropical isle. You can just drift, immersed in the flow.

Finally the mirror takes shape. When it’s finished I like it. The edges might need to be painted another colour- perhaps back to a gold, one with more depth. When I hang it one the wall, the reflection of the room is mirrored back to me, contained and framed – by gum nuts, mossy twigs and pinecones.

Spring Inspiration

Kitchen inspiration- warm & simple with beautiful colour, Kinfolk magazine. Plus I always love old typography-

The scent of jasmine catches you unexpectedly; spring is coming. I’ve pulled out my box of inspirational images, gearing up for new design activity in the coming months. The bones of the house, the structure, are now in place. It’s time for wall colours, fabrics, curtains. Softness, texture and flow from room to room.

One of the bedrooms- want to paint a mural on this wall

Some peaceful looking cows on the drive up to the house

Putting together a new pin board. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of ideas off blogs and Instagram but nothing is quite the same as a magazines- they’re tactile. There’s something in flipping though the pages, looking at them with other people, letting your mind roam to alight on an idea. I’m going through old and new issues of World of Interiors, and current ones of Australian Vogue Living, Country Style and Kinfolk. There’s a tension between the images on the board; some are simple and spare, others exotic and ornate.

Artist Anne Roberts and her team of willow gatherers from The Outdoor Living Room, by Martha Baker

The image above has nothing to do with interiors- but I like their style! It’s up on the board.

concrete kangaroo at koskela

concrete cockatoo from koskela

Looking around the shops in Sydney- liking koskela, & their mix of industrial, Australiana, Aboriginal basketry & wide fibered New Zealand knits. I want to buy some of their concrete animals- but they are not for sale. Who would have thought that battered old garden ornaments would be so highly sought after!

softness, texture, organic shapes

I don’t want just blank white walls. Not for the old schoolmasters house. I‘ve ordered a lovely wallpaper from one room, all Australian parrots hanging on a trellis, almost 1940s, yet very fresh.

Need to paint this four poster and hang fabric from it.

Spare minimalism vs exotic wall painting.

The thing I most want to do is to paint a mural in one of the bedrooms. A reinterpretation of old pictorial wall paper, adapted with Australian flowers and landscapes. Hard to pull off, difficult to start -the inspiration all in place- now to dive in & do it. After all, you can always paint it out.

Ducks out for a walk in the village

Quote from A Youth Not Wasted by Ian Parkes

Looking in country opportunity shops

I think if you lower your expectations life, can become a series of small, pleasant surprises. And this especially applies when looking for rustic yet cheap treasures in country town op shops.

one of my favourite thrift store finds- a little embroidered bird

It’s such a lovely – if clichéd idea: pottering around in country antique shops. Unfornately prices from the city seem to have travelled up the Great Western highway. All the gorgeous rustic furniture seems to have travelled the other way: ending up in smart city shops, where it sits alongside nearly accurate Chinese reproductions. But little things still remain waiting to be found. Crocheted throw rugs, embroidered doilies, old books with illustrated covers and unusual crockery.

Bathurst op shop…

… which has a generous open hearth fire going inside

Driving up to the old schoolmasters house, the antique market in the old theatre in Blackheath can be fun with a lunch stop. The trio of op shops in Blaxland are like a lucky dip. But to feel like you are truly fossicking in a country town- you have to head beyond the Blue Mountains and out to Bathurst.

The Salvation Army on Keppel St is my favourite. I once saw a bag of wool there: obviously dropped off fresh from the farm, you could still smell the lanolin. Then there’s the ‘dog box’- 50 cent to $1 specials on scraps of fabric. Next to it a seemingly inexhaustible supply of 80s European jigsaws. I’ve started building up a collection for the house. It’s taken on a life of its own now- recently a friend told me he has bought me a 16th century masterpiece, one that has been broken into exactly 1000 pieces.

the old schoolmaster- found in the Lucknow antique shop

I wish I had taken the animal book!

The Bathurst Mart is just out of town- promisingly cluttered like something out of the American Pickers show. I once asked the price of a NASA missile head that had fallen off a plane somewhere over the Pacific, but it turns out that a man had already bought it to make a sidecar for his motorbike. I hope to see him on the road one day…

Bathurst Mart- for the dedicated thrifter…

So these little bits and pieces start to accumulate & themes start to emerge; dog portraits, deer pictures, anything with birds on it. Things that are simple and sweet no matter how small. Just nice little surprises when I least expect them.

Bush Poetry & Sunlit Plains

A winter’s afternoon, curling up with the latest kinfolk magazine, a poetry book and some homemade Bus Drivers Biscuits. Recently I’ve felt an interest in the Australian bush poets: wanted to know more about them- how they saw the country, how they lived. Nothing much seemed to penetrate from Australian history at school; I didn’t even know that Banjo Paterson wrote Waltzing Matilda.

On the drive to the old schoolmasters house, coming through the Blue Mountains and looking down over the valley- some lines of Banjo Paterson’s “Clancy of the Overflow” come to mind-
“And he sees a vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended”

Banjo Paterson, when he was a Boer war correspondent

road heading to the old schoolmasters house

I rediscoverd Banjo Paterson on a five day group horse trek in Kosciusko National park a couple of years ago. The first day, tired & low in spirit I started to feel dizzy and faint as we ascended through stony paths and grim eucalypts. All I wanted was an energy drink – it felt like a basic right. In the city you are never more than a few moments away from one, but on this ride there wasn’t even water. A nurse in the group gave me a lollypop and the sugar in that was enough to get me to the camp. I woke up late that night in my little tent, listening to strange thumping sounds & wished desperately that I was back at home. But I stuck it out & things got better.

A few days later we were riding on high alpine plain when suddenly some wild horses, brumbies, appeared. It was thrilling to see them. Later that night round the campfire, an old stockman, a member of our random group, sang “The Red Back on the Toilet Seat”. And then the gruff mountain woman leading the group surprised us all by reciting Banjo Paterson’s “The Man from Snowy River”. It had been written about the same area we were camping in – we’d been riding through the poem. “Through the stringybarks and saplings on the rough and broken ground”. We were listening to her round a campfire
“where the air is clear as crystal and the white stars fairly blaze
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky”

You can tell Banjo Peterson was a man who had galloped on a horse – his words hit hard and rhythmically like hooves striking the ground.
“There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away”

So now I’ve gone back to “Clancy of the Overflow” – using Banjo Paterson’s eyes to see the landscape on my drive through the country to the old schoolmaster’s house. Here are just the first couple of verses…

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago;
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just “on spec”, addressed as follows:”Clancy, of the Overflow”.

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written with a thumbnail dipped in tar);
‘Twas his shearing mate who wrote it and verbatim I will quote it:
“Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are.”