Giveaway : *bespoke* magazine!!

bespoke giveaway - 3 x copies of issue #12 up for grabs!

*bespoke* magazine – issue #12 ready for devouring


Have you read bespoke magazine yet?

The latest issue arrived in my letterbox this week and I must say I’m seriously impressed. It’s very, VERY cute. The cover features the illustration talents of  Hanna Mancini, and you can see some more very sweet work from her and read an interview with her inside. Better than that though, it is filled with fab interviews from artists and makers all over Australia – including printmakers, furniture makers, illustrators, soapmakers and ceramicists. It also includes printmaking tutorials, some very sweet DIY decorations, awesome autumn recipes, and CHOCOLATE. {Are you convinced yet?} There is also a great reader competition, and an insightful guide to choosing the right filling for your stuffed toys!

It’s excellent, with or without chocolate cake.





I have three copies of this mighty little mag to give away (valued at AUD15 each).

All you have to do is leave a comment below this post, and you go in the draw! (If you’d like to follow *bespoke* on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, that would be awesome too).

You have until midnight Saturday, 1st March to enter (the first official day of Autumn!), and the comp is only open to Australian residents (sorry beautiful overseas folk)!)


Ready, GO.

Julie 🙂 x


3rd March, 2014 update: The great has spoken, and the winners have been chosen!!

Congrats to Kerry Santillo, Sue and Rose – YAY! I will be contacting you shortly 😀


*Disclaimer – the lovely folk at *bespoke* sent me a copy for review and extras for the giveaway. As always, I only EVER support businesses and products I believe in, and think would be beautiful and useful to my readers.


Small biz + Books : The Compendium of Collective Nouns {Jen Skelly}

jen skelly - compendium of collective nouns

The Compendium of Collective Nouns :


How is THIS for a book?

I am so excited my good friend Jen Skelly is launching her very first book! I feel very fortunate to have been given a copy of it to review.

Working as a self-employed illustrator out of her home in Tasmania, she has drawn on her long-term fascination with animals and their collective nouns to put together this very charming book, the publishing of which has been crowd-funded through a Pozible campaign.

jen skelly - bouquet of hummingbirds

Jen’s wonderful illustrations are quiet, bright, curious and sweet. And the colours are glorious! Bouquet of Hummingbirds has to be one of my very favourites, for the jewel-like hues of the birds which she has captured beautifully.  I love the little added details of decorative pattern on many of the animals too – it adds another whole level to the drawings making these engaging creatures even lovelier to contemplate (haha, I’m such a sucker for pattern!).

jen skelly - hover of trout

Perfect for grownups as well as kids, Jen deserves serious congratulations for this effort. My kids love it! I love it. You can get copies of the book in her Etsy shop here.



(And you can find out more about Jen on her own website, Her story to becoming an illustrator is a long, meandering and occasionally rough one, with many sidetracks, setbacks and false starts, including a one-time ambition to be an olympic swimmer! I encourage you to read more about her journey here).


this. magazine ~ celebrating two years of tractorgirl


this. magazine

this. magazine

this. magazine



Next month marks the two year anniversary for this blog. It has been SUCH wonderful fun to scour the interwebs for the visually stunning AND be rewarded with such great stories from the artists as well.

That’s why I’ve decided to collect up the very best of the stories from, and put them together into a sweet magazine-style book, to present to you. These stories are so worth telling again, and here’s why.

Artists are people first and foremost, they have lived lives, and their own world of experience from childhood on feeds into what they do and how they do it. Sometimes their path is obvious, but most end up following a meandering route that often doesn’t make sense until it is illuminated with hindsight.

I love asking people about their paths; what were their early experiences of art and making, and how did they end up an artist as an adult? Especially in light of the fact that our society has tended to devalue art in favour of more “practical” work (oh, don’t get me started!).

I’ve selected these 12 artists for their intriguing stories, the quality of work, for their innovation and their promise – surface designers, contemporary crafters and photographers, from all over the globe. Each of their stories and their images has stayed with me, through the hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of artists that I’ve featured on the blog so far. I’m sure you’ll find them wonderful too.

Why call it this.? It’s because I’m always saying, “Look at this. And this. And this!”

I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.


this. magazine

this. magazine

You can buy this. here!


Books : Her Fearful Symmetry ~ Audrey Niffenegger


audrey niffenegger - her fearful symmetry

audrey niffenegger – her fearful symmetry


Despite the appalling title (really? her what? -), I picked this book up to read as I loved The Time Traveller’s Wife so much, for its imagination and oh so skilfully crafted plotline.

This is a ghost story about estranged identical twin sisters, one with identical twin daughters. When Elspeth, one of the elder twins dies, she wills her large apartment overlooking the historic Highgate Cemetery in London to the younger twins, who she hasn’t seen since they were tiny babies. But it seems that even in death, Elspeth can not quite leave her flat, and becomes a force within it.

There has been a great rift many years ago between Elspeth and her twin Edie, the younger twins’ mother. Edie, who lives in America, has never spoken of Elspeth to Julia and Valentina because of some mysterious and dark secret.

Arriving in a strange country to live in the apartment of an aunt they never knew they had, Valentina and Julia spend their days exploring London. Valentina feels stifled by her elder twin Julia, who in turn feels utterly sure that her purpose in life is to keep her asthmatic sister safe from harm.  There is Elspeth’s grieving lover who lives in the apartment downstairs, and there’s an obsessive compulsive crossword setter who lives upstairs. It’s a complex story of relationships both real and imagined, of human frailty and what prompts us to behave the way we do.

There are some aspects of the book that I found a bit far-fetched (although perhaps surprisingly, the ghost of Elspeth was definitely not one of them). However, Niffenegger’s writing is vivid, the plot is wonderfully imaginative, well-woven and gripping.

Despite its faults, there are great characters, and some great scenes in this book, and it has to be said, some sections that were totally gobsmacking.

Niffenegger is a wonderful storyteller, and Her Fearful Symmetry is well worth a read.

Books : An Extraordinary Theory of Objects ~ Stephanie LaCava


an extraordinary theory of objects - stephanie lacava

an extraordinary theory of objects – stephanie lacava


An Extraordinary Theory of Objects ~ a memoir of an outsider in Paris is a curious book, although perhaps not quite as curious as Stephanie would have us believe.

The book itself is intriguing. The edges of the pages are left rough, mimicking antique books with their uncut edges, and there are some nice illustrations, the best of which glow with ink like a good etching. There are also some nice words – rich stories of searching out beautiful and interesting things, of finding pleasure in small details, and of LaCava’s seemingly inscrutable father, with his moustache and his mysterious job.

Stephanie describes herself as strange. Of feeling displaced, an outsider, awkward in the company of others, and finding comfort in collecting things of historical or natural wonder – toy frogs, a piece of ivory, a skeleton key. And when she was 12, her family moved from America to a quaint suburb on the outskirts of Paris called Le Vesinet. For someone who was already a loner and coped by burying herself in collections of curious things, the move was a further push down the road of withdrawal. Her collections became her solace, a kind of unchangeable certainty.

Perhaps it’s her knack for describing logically the reasons for her behaviours, and perhaps it’s the fact that she is not alone in feeling awkwardness as a teenager, but for me her stories don’t convey that strangeness that she is at pains to point out. Not to discount LaCava’s struggle with depression, but it would seem that much of what she describes would be true of many teenagers’ experiences, and would be especially true of a teenager swept to a foreign country with a foreign language.

Despite the usual disclaimer about changing some names in the story to preserve anonymity, there are some strange, unanswered questions. Like why she chose to change the names of her brother and her husband when they are clearly named in the acknowledgements at the back. Perhaps that’s just a bit more of her strangeness.

The stories are nonetheless engaging, and at times beautifully evocative of the places experienced – the Palais Rose, the antique market. What I find particularly lovely is that each special object is accompanied by substantial footnotes, explaining that object’s origins and connections.

Despite its shortcomings, it’s a read I’d definitely recommend.

{Stephanie LaCava also has a website, where she posts photographs and words regularly –}

an extraordinary theory - skeleton key

Books : The Lost Recipe for Happiness – Barbara O’Neal



Okay okay okay, it’s real fantasy stuff – girl has great job, gets fired, gets offered another way more spectacular job within minutes, moves to spectacular location, falls in love, lives happily ever after.

But wait, there are attempts to give it more grit – a mother who dumped her as a child, a horrible car accident, face-offs with alcoholic but brilliant chefs, ghosts, and jilted ex-lovers. And a cute dog. Not forgetting that the whole is interspersed with recipes, in a similar fashion to stories that are way better {have you read Like Water for Chocolate ?}.  Hmmmm.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t put it down. For me, this story is about food, rich and seductive, flavours and smells, chocolate and chilli and cinnamon. Especially chilli. The words are heady and delicious and it was so easy to get lost in their sensuousness. O’Neal has a fabulous way of expressing situations and emotions, and especially all that is great about beautiful food. The writing is sumptuous like a ripe, juicy tomato, and has just as much verve. Too bad there is not some good hearty sourdough to serve it on.

I would recommend it if you’re after pure escapism.