HOT: The Finders Keepers, Royal Exhibition Building, 9 Nicholson St, Carlton

The fabulous twice-yearly market The Finders Keepers is back in Melbourne today!

Inside the vaulted halls of the beautiful Royal Exhibition Building you will find a delightful array of independent and local artists and artisans – cute, handmade, whimsical, colourful is the name of the game.  There’s so much to see that it’s actually a bit daunting so here are my picks.

My favourite clothing stall was by North Fitzroy local Mariska Thynne under the label The Professor’s Daughter. She makes brightly hued tailored garments with a retro, glamorous feel. A very Mad Men / vintage airline hostess look which can still be styled in a modern way.

I loved her clothes so much that I bought a winter wool coat from her – I don’t care that summer’s coming, I didn’t want to miss out!

Marina from Marcue handmakes every shoe in her collection according to your size and in any colour combination you desire. Actually, I loved the shoes that Marina was wearing most of all!

Everyone on my Christmas list is getting a personalised Christmas ornament from Kylie Johnson of Paper Boat Press from me this year – imagine them as reuseable gift tags for boxes of home made baked goodies. This is Brisbane-based Kylie’s first Melbourne market, so show her a grand Southern state by visiting her stall.

This custom-made kid’s deckchair from Brunswick’s fable baby & nursery wins the cutest item award.

I really liked these berry baskets and paint-your-own Matryoshka dolls from Blank Goods. In fact, I liked a lot of their other crafty items too such as twine, miniature wooden pegs and washi tape.

The sculptural accessories by Renee Saliba of Maple and Gray were a departure from the general cuteness and whimsy on show.

My favourite stall set up was by Angus and Celeste. Their elegant hangings along the Swiss chalet border perfectly showcased their delicate handpainted work.

The Finders Keepers Melbourne Spring/Summer 2012 market, The Royal Exhibition Building, 9 Nicholson Street, Carlton
Friday 19 October 6pm – 10pm
Saturday 20 October 10am – 5pm

HOT: The SuperCool, Great Dane Loading Dock, Corner of Napier St & Johnston Sts, Fitzroy

How is it possible for The SuperCool to be so…well, cool?

The mobile emporium has just landed in the loading dock of the fantastic Great Dane furniture store (a great use of unused space if I’ve ever heard one). The curated collection of homewares, stationery, furnishings, accessories and general design-goodness has basically brought to life all of my favourite things in one spot. More vintage objects than I have room for in my house!

Vintage suitcases! Tick.

I have an addiction to vintage typewriters.

Lots of different sized and shaped wooden crates, containers, shelves and racks, including my favourite one for stationery/milk bottles.

Cute kids toys, including a cardboard kitchen and cards and puzzles.

I want to add to my collection of blackboard signs.

And finally, a wooden 70s something-or-rather for $40. Maybe a small umbrella stand? Magazine rack? Fancy stubby holder? It’s unclear what it actually is but I’m using it as a wine rack for now. What do you think?

Get in quick as every item is limited edition or one-offs and The SuperCool will only be at the Great Dane Loading Dock until Sunday 20 May.

The SuperCool, Great Dane Loading Dock, Corner of Napier St & Johnston Sts, Fitzroy

Thu,Fri, Sat 10am-4pm

Sun 11am-4pm

Closed Easter and 19-22 April

View MEL: HOT OR NOT in a larger map

HOT: Mottainai Cycles, 41 Kerr St, Fitzroy

Does Fitzroy/Collingwood has the greatest density of bike shops per square kilometre in Melbourne?

Being a cycling fan and a local I had thought I was familiar with all the bike shops in the area – but just recently I stumbled across Mottainai Cycles. As in literally stumbled – I tripped over their board sign on Brunswick Street while checking out a cool bike zooming past.

Cameron Trethowan has been operating Mottainai Cycles for around 6 months now and he doesn’t even know how many bikes he’s got in stock these days.

On weekdays you enter the garage area via a graffitied laneway off Kerr St, while on Sundays he opens the back of his open-air workshop for the Rose Street Artists Markets (Saturday is his day off). Not only does he sell restored bikes, he sells parts, does repairs and hires out bikes as well.

Bikes range from $350 upwards, with this pastel Pashley beauty catching my eye for $800. I’m not supposed to be buying any more bikes but…

Mottainai Cycles, 41 Kerr St, Fitzroy +61 448884051

HOT: Fitzroy Market, Fitzroy Primary School, cnr Napier & Chapel Sts, Fitzroy

As if Fitzroy didn’t have enough markets already, on the first Saturday of every month the carpark of Fitzroy Primary School sprouts the Fitzroy Market.

What makes this market special? Well, it is small enough to enable dedicated browsing at every store and it has a lovely chirpy community feel to it. The market also raises money (through its gold coin donation entry fee) for various charities in the neighbourhood – Cultivating Community, the Fitzroy Learning Network and Live Wires programs.

It’s pretty much a car boot sale and I found the vintage/secondhand clothing and accessories on offer to be interesting and of good quality. I’m not much of an expert op shopper but in the space of my half hour visit I found a couple of gems, which pretty much never happens.

Pretty vintage girls dresses in excellent condition from the 80s (which makes me vintage too!).

A lightweight coat with a broderie anglaise like hem. There are stains on the front of it but for $15 I thought it was worth the gamble to take it to the dry cleaners.

Some homemade jam from the St Marks Church stall. I went for a large jar of plum jam $6.

Spotted – sequinned hotpants, leather handbags and a barrow full of terracotta tiles, all in one stall!

For market-going sustenance, a vegan, gluten-free black forest cupcake made by Carla, blogger at Easy As Vegan Pie, as part of the Vegan Bake Sale to raise funds for RSPCA Queensland. Vegan never tasted so good! (PS Carla just got accepted by CAE to teach vegan cooking classes so maybe she can teach you how to make these amazing cupcakes.)

Happiness by the Melbourne Ukelele Collective!

HOT: Grandfathers Axe, 171 High St, Northcote

Regular readers will know that I have a penchant for 20th century vintage furniture. What used to be a mild browsing interest has turned into a mission with a purpose as I’ve just recently moved into an Art Deco apartment which deserves to be filled with furniture that, for once, doesn’t come in a flat pack.

My latest project has been finding a two-seater couch for our lounge room. For some unfathomable reason RM insisted that he didn’t want open armrests on the couch so for the past few months I’ve been stalking couches on eBay and my local vintage furniture stores on a weekly basis.

My eBay trawlings led me to the recently-opened showroom of Grandfathers Axe (they also sell a selection of their wares on eBay). It’s a place that you have to go looking for, as there’s no fancy shopfront at all and the windows to the warehouse are a dirty frosted glass, so it looks like an unused storage space. From the street the only clue to the wonders inside is the butter yellow ute painted with Grandfathers Axe parked out the front.

The showroom is very large and filled to the brim with mid-century gorgeousness, mostly from Denmark. There is so much furniture here that it literally fills the walls from floor to ceiling and you have to wind your way through narrow walkways to inspect the items. They have an amazing array of iconic chairs, some interesting bric-a-brac like these ballot boxes and gasp! more vintage tallboys than you could ever want.  The prices are fairly reasonable too.

As luck would have it on my first visit to Grandfathers Axe I spotted the perfect couch – brown leather, two seater, low back, closed armrests. It also had beautifully curved back cushions and narrow short legs to reduce the visual weight of the couch. One of the owners, Ed, kindly offered to hold it for me for a couple of days and when I asked about delivery he offered to deliver it for free instead of charging $50. Excellent service.

So our vintage furniture buying is now complete (for the moment). To read about other places where I’ve bought vintage furniture in Melbourne, check out reviews of 84 Smith Street, The Bitch is Back and Smith Street Bazaar.

Grandfathers Axe, 171 High St, Northcote +61 (0) 404451663

HOT: Smith Street Bazaar, 305-307 Smith St, Fitzroy

Smith Street, along with the perpendicular Gertrude Street, is fast becoming Melbourne’s main destination for good quality vintage clothing and furniture. Starting from Victoria Parade, your first stop is Lost and Found Market, then keep heading north to check out 84 Smith Street, Angelucci, with your final destination being Smith Street Bazaar. Not to mention all the op shops on the way as well.

Like Lost and Found Market, Smith Street Bazaar is actually a collection of individual stallholders who sell different sorts of items – some show in mid-century wooden Danish furniture, some stock in clothing, some specialise in lamps and knick-knacks. The items are aimed at the high end of the market, hence there are no bargains and some of it is gasp-inducing expensive, but all of it is good quality, hopefully durable and classic, and most importantly, beau-ti-ful.

For a while I had been looking for a chest of drawers/tall-boy for our front entrance. After stalking eBay for a couple of weeks, I finally came across the perfect one at Smith Street Bazaar, on sale at 20% off. Each item is unique so without too much thought we snapped it up. For an extra $50 they can organise delivery.

I make a point of dropping in every couple of weeks or so, mainly to seek furnishings inspiration, but I’m now also  haunting the store for a matching hatstand for our winter coats, hats and helmets. If you spot one, let me know!

  • Smith Street Bazaar, 305-307 Smith St, Fitzroy +61 3 9419 4889

HOT: Thread Den, 422 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Ages ago I enrolled into two beginners sewing classes at Thread Den (you can read about my experiences here and here). With each sewing class comes 2 free hours of machine use in the sewing lounge, but until now I’ve not had a reason to use them.

Now that Thread Den have decamped from North Melbourne to Fitzroy, the sewing lounge is really convenient for my house. As I’ve been collecting (and spending money on) baby things, I thought an economical way to use some old sheets was to cut them up and use them as cot linens. Sheeting cotton is expensive and a few hours spent against the backdrop of whirring sewing machines seemed like a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.

The new Thread Den store is bigger and lighter than the previous incarnation and I particularly liked the turquoise/gold Art Deco wallpaper behind the counter. Downstairs they stock clothing and accessories from independent designers, including previous HOT Chat-er, The Rabbit and the Duck and my favourite Thread Den stocked label, Side Show Designs.

Upstairs the airy sewing lounge houses eight machines and two big cutting tables and is supervised on Tuesday and Fridays 1-5pm by Juliet, a bespoke clothing designer for her label Dress That Rustle whose studio is right next door. Juliet was very friendly and helpful as I’d pretty much forgotten everything I’d learnt in my sewing classes. She gave me advice as to how to hem the sheets and set up my machine for me, so all I really had to do was put my foot on the pedal and try to guide fabric in a straight line.

An hour later and to the tones of Regina Spektor and the 112 tram, I had two sheets hemmed and finished. For seasoned sewers, no big feat, but for me a real sense of achievement and a sense of housewife-thrifty satisfaction. Sadly they don’t run any mums-and-bubs sessions, but their range of classes has expanded since my first visit to include all sorts of interesting projects, so no doubt I’ll be back.

  • Thread Den, 422 Brunswick St, Fitzroy +61 3 9486 9821

HOT: The Bitch is Back, 100A Barkly St, St Kilda

Now that RM and I finally have a place to call home (and from which we don’t have to move from a very long time) we’re starting to get mightily excited about furnishings.

Our new unit is a curious mix of Art Deco/21st century modern and so I’ve started haunting eBay for vintage items like old wooden desks, as well as shiny metal modern pieces like an Arco floor lamp. We’ve also morphed into middle-aged retired couple persons and taken to browsing vintage furniture shops on our weekend.

The strangely named The Bitch is Back is well-known in interior design circles as a shop stocking vintage mid-century furniture in excellent condition with some new, retro-inspired pieces dotted amongst the display. The front corner room was particularly exciting for me – lots of gasp-inducing statement lamps and chandeliers  (I have a real thing for lamps at the moment). As you pick your way through the first room the shop extends back to about three rooms, piled high with cupboards, wooden tables, smooth Danish designed chairs and bric-a-brac such as old scales, radios and vases.

While there was lots to love in the shop (and the friendly owner told us that their online catalogue changes with new stock all the time) in the end, RM and I agreed on only a single item that suited our needs and budget – a bird lamp for the nursery for $99.

For more retro furniture goodness, check out Lost and Found Market, Chapel Street Bazaar, 84 Smith Street and Angelucci. I’d love to know about your recommendations too!

  • The Bitch is Back, 100A Barkly St, St Kilda +61 3 9534 8025

HOT Chat: Shannon Heitmann of The Rabbit and the Duck

I first met Shannon Heitmann when I came across her cushions, wallets and notebook covers, sold under the label The Rabbit & the Duck, at the Magnolia Square Market back in August. If you were at Finders Keepers market last weekend you may have seen Shannon’s stall as well.

Today’s HOT Chat is about Shannon and her lovely business. I’m inspired to hear that she trained to do a ‘proper’ job but then found a much more satisfying creative outlet through her business. Thanks Shannon!

Shannon, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start your craft business The Rabbit & the Duck?

I’ve always been a crafty girl; from as early as I can remember there were either knitting needles in my hand (thanks Mum!) or some other project on the go. My first experience with sewing was with my Grandma, we made a pencil case that I still use today!

Despite this crafty upbringing I ended up in a town planning course at university and after graduating worked in various offices for a few years. It was not a good fit at all and I soon felt the urge to do something more creative. I then moved to retail and sold kitchens, homewares, and then stationery – the list goes on! But still something was missing…

One day I decided to take up sewing again and bought myself a second-hand machine. Soon there was fabric taking over the house and a big pile of finished projects that I didn’t know what to do with. I had heard about Etsy being a great place to sell handmade things so I opened a store and haven’t looked back!

From these small beginnings I now have over 20 stockists across Australia and run my business pretty much full-time – I sometimes have to pinch my arm to remind myself that this is my job!

The first thing I noticed about your products were the beautiful printed fabrics you used. Where do you source your materials?

I love hunting out unusual fabrics. Most of the fabric I use comes from Japan, but I also use a lot of local hand printed fabrics, such as those from Ink and Spindle. I’ve also started a collection of vintage fabrics for an upcoming project!

What’s your favourite The Rabbit & the Duck product?

Definitely the snap to it! wallet. I love the simplicity of its design – it can be used as a coin purse, passport holder, business card pouch, or for many other things. I have about 3 of them in my handbag right now!

Where do you turn for art and craft inspiration?

Inspiration is everywhere! I love getting out to the countryside around Melbourne – the open space clears my mind and I am always in awe of the beauty of nature. I also find inspiration in my favourite magazines (such as Frankie and Peppermint) and love seeing what other designers are up to. And sometimes just a pretty piece of fabric will inspire me!

What has been the most challenging thing you’ve faced in starting up your own business? What advice would you give to a small business owner?

It can be quite daunting when you realise that as a small business owner you are now fully responsible for generating your income! The highs and lows from month to month can be tricky and can also be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.

My advice is to surround yourself with a network of like-minded people – I have found the craft / handmade community in Melbourne to be a wonderful support, both in terms of offering advice and providing a social outlet (I work from home so it can be isolating at times!).

And don’t give up! Building a business takes time. Set your goals but be flexible – things can change (and they will!) but the beauty of running your own business is that you can change with them.

What are your next plans for The Rabbit & the Duck?

I would love to see The Rabbit & the Duck stocked overseas, perhaps in each of my favourite cities so I can plan ‘business’ trips to them! I also have other plans for a new venture, but that is all I can say at the moment, as it’s still top secret….

Finally, where are your HOT places to visit or things to do in Melbourne?

CERES Environmental Park (Cnr Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East +61 3 9387 2609) Just like visiting a farm but in the middle of Melbourne! They have a great café and a twice-weekly organic farmers market.

The Vintage Shed (93 Mornington Tyabb Rd, Tyabb +61 3 5977 4795) If you love all things vintage then it’s worth a trip down the Mornington Peninsula to visit The Vintage Shed. They have the most amazing collection of vintage clothes – I never leave empty handed!

Gertrude Street, Fitzroy – My favourite shopping street with a great collection of small boutiques, cafes and galleries – the perfect way to spend an afternoon! (Joyce – the Gertrude Street Shopping Guide from The Design Files may help you).

HOT Chat: Jacqui Vidal of Signed and Numbered

Earlier this year I blogged about a piece of Melbourne artwork by Delicate Mayhem that RM and I commissioned for our wall and our wedding invitations.

I’m still on Delicate Mayhem‘s mailing list, so I was quite excited to discover that some works from this London artist are now stocked exclusively in Australia, right here in Melbourne. While you can’t buy our wonderful Melbourne picture, you can buy other works from Delicate Mayhem and other artists in a gallery space/shop in Prahran called Signed and Numbered.

This week’s HOT Chat is with Jacqui Vidal, the 28 year old owner of Signed and Numbered. Thanks Jacqui!

Jacqui, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start your business Signed and Numbered?

Everyone thinks I must have studied art history or be an artist myself but nothing could be further from the truth. Before I started Signed and Numbered I was an event manager and avid traveller. It was whilst I was in Paris that I stumbled across a little gallery that displayed photos in hard-backed sleeves that allowed customers to flick through the offerings. I fell in love with this hands on approach to art and when I settled down in my home town of Melbourne, I decided to open up a gallery that looked and felt a bit like a record store.

How you select the artworks you sell and where do you source them from?

We ask for exclusivity within Australia, so it was a matter of getting out there to art fairs, gallery openings, hopping online and picking up great publications like Wooden Toy and Semi-Permanent to source new artist to contact. We’re really happy with the line up, which includes the likes of Vexta, Twoone, Kareena Zerofos and Kelly Smith.

Where do you turn for art inspiration?

The laneways of Melbourne. The amount of great art that’s out there 24/7 for anyone and everyone to admire for free is a testament to Melbourne’s street art scene and the City of Melbourne for knowing enough about art to classify it as a public service rather than vandalism.

What has been the most challenging thing you’ve faced in starting up your own business? What advice would you give to a small business owner?

I think the saying ‘you’re your own worst enemy’ rings true for most of us. I’ve had many panic attacks and periods of self-doubt along the way but I’m glad I forged ahead and believed in myself. Confidence in self is the key to making thing happen!

What are your next plans for Signed and Numbered?

I’m currently developing a leasing proposition for local cafes and businesses. I’d love it if my local café had different artworks for me to look at every week.

Finally, where are your HOT places to visit or things to do in Melbourne?

The Astor Cinema (1 Chapel St, St Kilda +61 3 9510 1414) – the best choc tops in the world – especially the arctic banana one.

Fawkner Park (65 Toorak Rd, South Yarra) – the best off lead dog park in Melbourne.

A Shop Called Milton (153 Greville St, Prahran 3 9529 5649) and Urban Jungle (155 Greville Street, Prahran +61 3 9533 8844) – unique home wares and accessories.

Sunday Morning Rotary Market in Camberwell (Station Street, Camberwell) – the best bargain finds as long as you don’t mind an early wake up call.