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Category Archives: Blog

FIBRE LOVER : Miriam Ragen

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I can remember as early as 5 years old sitting at our big kitchen table at home cutting crepe paper to make flowers and other general crafts with my mum.

This was a regular occurrence in our household as we grew up in almost country (blue mountains) where we weren’t close to the beach or shops for entertainment. My mum was a really talented quilter and completed her sewing studies at Tafe in the 80’s when the course was still on offer. I was use to seeing her knit and sew and crochet and she often gave me little projects to do with scraps of wool or material so I could learn what she was doing.

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When I was a teenager and then a young adult I lost sight of these hands on crafts and focused on my career in visual merchandising and styling until one day I came across the weaving work of Australian fibre artist Natalie Miller. She was running workshops at Alexandria’s famous design hub Koskela. With my passion for fibre arts re-ignited I ended up doing a couple of Natalie’s classes…even an intermediate weaving class at her studio in picturesque Robertson south of Sydney. I loved weaving for its chance to handle rich hand dyed wools and experience the texture of raffia and cotton. This led to another class at Koskela in Macrame. A lot of people cringe at the idea of Macrame but the style I’ve adopted is so modern I hope it changes peoples perspectives a little when they see my work. At first I wasn’t that into it…maybe its because my hands were use to the repetitive back and forth method of weaving but once I realized the potential that rope has to make so many designs with only a few knots i have persisted and developed my own style. I am a modern macramé artist. As much as I appreciate traditional macramé and without it I wouldn’t have found this art, I am definitely not satisfied by knotting traditional style macrame myself.

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I am always looking for inspiration and new ideas to make designs that are original. I love working with chunky soft cotton ropes that are so tactile and textural in my hands. I find so much enjoyment in working on big pieces that make me feel small standing next to them. To be able to physically create something that is bigger than me is so exciting! I draw some inspiration from international modern Fibre artists like Belensenra and Tanya Aguiniga but really I try to make things that I would like to see in my own home. Like most stylists I have my favorites…i’m in awe of the work of Australian stylists Glen Proebstel, Karen McCartney and Kara Rosenlund who take advantage of the natural environment and its imperfections to put together beautiful textural images.

GET CREATIVE with Miriam at her upcoming macramé workshop on Saturday 28th May : Learn 5 knots to make and take home a large macrame plant hanger using soft cotton ropes. Click here to find out more and spot.

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SiIGNWRITING : Newcastle’s Lost Pieces of Art

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Tradition signwriting is like a lost art that changed as technology advances. Where signwriters used methods that were closely related to those of the fore-bearers of this craft and did not depend on technology – they are able to set out a sign with chalk and write it by eye in freehand. They didn’t rely on fonts and normally have their own individual lettering styles yet with the ability to render fonts closely to brand and for example architectural design briefs.

We love how these traditional signs grow more beautiful with age eventually becomes what’s known as a ‘ghost sign’ as it fades revealing grounds, surfaces, brushstrokes and undercoats; generally becoming a beautiful piece of artwork.

To learn some of the basics of signwriting, join us at our upcoming signwriting workshop

Check out some of Newcastle’s lost and ghost signage provided by local members of The Lost Newcastle.


Slicks Burgers Cakes & Coffee – Image by Doug Saxon courtesy of Hidden Hamilton



Image provided by Ron Woods

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Image provided by Carol Duncan



David Cohen & Co – Image provided by David Carroll



The Roxy – Image by Greg & Syliva Ray courtesy of Hidden Hamilton




Hexham Public School – Image provided by Darren Furner



Klosters Darby St – Image by Justin & Alison Worboys



The Billy Tea – Image provided by Darren Furner 



The Astoria – Image by Christopher Carlson





A DREAMER : Naiomi Goodwin

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Heads In The Clouds Designs is a business that produces unique and original paper products including greeting cards, wall hangings, prints, custom artworks and invitations. It was born out of Naiomi’s lifelong addiction to paper products, her love of the written word and her passion for arts in all different forms.

The name was a light hearted response to all the sensible left-brained believers that see creatives are somewhat “airy-fairy”, “purple-woo-woo”, “dreamers” who have their heads in the clouds instead of their feet on the ground.

As all things in life, Heads In The Clouds Designs was an idea/opportunity born from a major upheaval in my life. Naiomi had spent her entire career in the one job as a manufacturer for an international mining company and when it closed it’s doors in 2013 a path was lit straight to the big yellow door in Parry Street.



What’s your signature style?

My favourite thing to do is turn my artworks and sketches into paper products. Instinctively what I love to do is marry positive quotes, words and affirmations with relevant and sometimes abstract drawings, transforming them into visual inspirations. I truly believe in the power of pictures and words. In a world where anxiety and negativity has a powerful hold I hope to shine a light on the positive awakening that is happening in our overall consciousness.


What inspires you?

People stepping into their potential inspires me the most. Those people fearlessly stepping into their own greatness. This can take shape in many ways, whether it’s someone starting their own business, or leaving an unhappy relationship, travelling overseas despite a fear of flying, starting a new career, going back to study, smiling in the face of serious illness; all these things trigger my shine. I love watching courage evolve in my fellow spirits.

I’m also incredibly inspired when I’m connected and that can mean a million things; family, a great book, a walk on the beach, a conversation, a good meal.

I encourage people to be present, taste the food they eat, listen to the morning sounds, feel the sand, notice the birds – When you do these things you will feel connected and inspiration will spill over into everything you do.

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Where can we find your work?

I have created an Etsy Store and I frequent the Market Scenes around the Upper Hunter, Port Stephens and Newcastle.

My work can take me in many directions from logos to invitations. The majority of my work is doing customs for clients who are looking for something unique and personal as a gift for someone they love.

My favourite custom that I’ve made was a drawing for a friends daughter of her and her horse, Annie, and at the moment I’m working on a custom water colour logo for a client who is a tarot reader.


What’s the future look like for Head’s in the Clouds Designs?

I’m currently mind-mapping for my website and online store. Getting that up and running is my next step. Design and creation is such an organic process and I am really eager to continue creating, continue designing and see where it takes me.


How did your studies help you hone your skill?

What I have learnt through studying with HDS has been invaluable – Having a keen eye for composition or an instinctive understanding of colour isn’t enough to create purposeful design, it’s a start but it’s not enough. Having studied at HDS, under the nurturing guidance of the teachers there, I was able to really understand what makes good design. I was presented with real life briefs that have helped me to set up a business that can cater to the needs and desires of my client.


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What was the learning process like at HDS?

HDS places you in the thick of things from the start. I felt like this was going to be a huge adventure and I wasn’t disappointed. Immediately you are given a sense of comfort that you’re surrounded by like-minded individuals, other students who you can relate to on a creative level. You are instructed by highly skilled and passionate educators who offer serious industry experience and during the course you are presented with real life scenarios that will help you on a professional level.


Any advice for aspiring students?

My advice for students would be to trust yourself, let go and be a vessel for your creativity. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself. Sometimes you go in with a specific goal or an idea in mind but don’t let that get in the way. Go with the flow you never know where it may lead you. HDS provides you with a stage, the props and even the audience, just remember that you and you alone can choose how the script is written.


Follow Naiomi’s journey on facebook or instagram @headsinthecloud or purchase some of Naiomi’s products find her on etsy


MAY GIBBS: More Than Just a Fairy Tale

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Following the adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie is a rite of passage for Aussie kids (hello nostalgia, old friend). But what about the creator of these iconic – and let’s be honest; seriously cute – gumnut babies?

You can call May Gibbs many things: author, illustrator, responsible for your irrational fear of banksias.  However, in their book “May Gibbs: More Than Just a Fairy Tale,” Robert Holden and Jane Brummitt show us that Gibbs had a life as rich as her artistry.

Gibbs is one of those rarities who managed to appeal to both children and adults. “More Than Just a Fairy Tale” gives incredible insight into her motivations, her personal history, and the social and cultural influences that trickled into her illustrations. Not to mention, it has pages and pages of her beautiful work.

If you need a little inspiration or you see book illustration in your future (or, quite frankly, you just want more cuteness in your life), this is definitely one for your bookshelf.

Purchase from MacLean’s Booksellers here. And mind the banksias!

Text and photo by Jane Hollier Brown

EVENT : Satisfaction

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Satisfaction is a photographic exhibition & auction featuring images from East Africa.

On returning from an assignment with Baptist World Aid in Kenya & Uganda, Shane couldn’t help but feel incredibly challenged by what he experienced. The best word he could find was “satisfaction”, and how despite the situations and experiences of the East African people, they are able to find joy and freedom in their daily life.

Shane will be auctioning these beautiful, large format, limited edition photographs as a part of his charity challenge to raise funds for Baptist World Aid

When’s the Exhibition  |  Who’s the Artist  |  See the Gallery

Evolve Yourself

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Who would’ve thought that the humble Sharpie could be such an extraordinary design tool?

In his book, “Sharpie Art Workshop,” Timothy Goodman encourages us to put down the paint brush and pick up a Sharpie.

This bright and bold book is full of how-to’s, techniques, creative exercises and a whole lot of inspiration. If a wall/cup/sneaker/your annoying younger sibling is merely a blank canvas to you, then Tim Goodman’s book will point you in the right creative direction.

Now pass me my high-tops; I’ve got some shoes to Sharpie.

Find it NOW at Maclean’s Bookseller ” Sharpie Art Workshop” by Timothy Goodman

Text and Photo by Jane Hollier Brown

A Mover and Maker: Jess Brown

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Meet Jess Brown, a 2014 Certificate IV in Design graduate. 

Why did you study design at HDS?

I’ve always loved to create because it makes me happy and I thought how can I make this a career instead of a dream.
Having found HDS through social media, I discovered that this course would be an awesome way of backing up my creativity with some knowledge and challenge me to think beyond my initial ideas.

At first I was nervous, thinking ‘how am I going to do this being a new mum?’ but HDS supported me, pushed me and encouraged me to understand the knowledge that I gained and how to apply it.

Having done the course, I now see design in the bigger picture, where as before the course I just thought “that looks so good together” where as I now think “that looks good together but it because of ….”

I have a deeper knowledge of colours, which has helped me in creating the styles of each range of shoes I design and ensuring that they look good together.

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After graduating what are you doing now?

I’ve now started my own label Little Brownies, which is currently just children’s shoe designs BUT like every creative person my mind is always abuzz of new & expanding areas I’d like to work on.

Little Brownies started because I always loved styling, interiors & fashion, children’s especially.

I absolutely loved styling for children that love grew after my son Flynn was born now 2.5yrs & even more so with our new addition Lola 1 month old, hence the name Little Brownies, as my little ones are my inspiration for starting LB.

I became slightly obsessed with baby shoes & always found myself combining styles of shoes together hoping that I would find something that no one else had that was on trend, affordable & also appropriate. I found myself looking at shoe styles for adults thinking why don’t they make something like this for kids.

Travelling over seas earlier this year, after having finished my course at HDS. I went to a leather smith & looking around the store thought finally I’d put into reality some of my design ideas & produce these designs…. Little Brownies was born.

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What inspires you?

Wow, Everything haha, my children, my husband, family, friends other design Mummas especially them. My mum raised me to be a strong woman & to always stay positive as like attracts like. So I aspire to be positive & have fun. Which is defiantly what I do when working on Little Brownies I have so much fun creating our designs.

I also am a bit of a naturalist I love drawing in inspiration from the natural environment as it is endless.


The future for Little Brownies?

I’d like to expand on my designs in different areas such as interior pieces, Linen, clothing & accessories. They are all in the pipeline but as a new business we are slowly getting there.

I’m hoping to start our market stall soon attending in the Newcastle areas as well as up & down the coast.

We are a little label but we have big dreams.

Currently we just have our online store www.littlebrownies.bigcartel.com or you can find us on instagram @littlebrownies_


Industry News :: Porter’s Chalk Emulsion Workshop

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This hands on course helps you to gain an understanding on the different techniques and uses of Chalk Emulsion.

Only $80 per person. Includes all paint, waxes and supplies plus Champagne, Orange Juice & Nibbles.

Wednesday 19th August 10am – 12:30pm
Wednesday 23rd September 10am – 12:30pm

To book please contact
Bristol Paints Kotara on 4956 1099