Friday, 23 August 2013


Palletable by the Urban Bush Carpenters opens Thursday 29 August at The Substation, Newport, with an opening reception from 6-8pm.

"The Community Access Gallery will be transformed into an exhibition hub for sharing DIY ideas on how to re-use pallets. They're the grease of the global trade. Around the world there are billions. Find them outside a store near you, truck terminals, ports, construction sites, retail outlets, manufacturing plants, and abandoned plots or along train lines. In pallets, as in life: you never know what you're going to get. Some will come apart like lego, others will crack and split or refuse to budge. People have used them to make planter boxes, raised gardens, compost bins, benches, beds, tables, shelves, paths, eskys, ladders, sheds, houses, saunas, boats and arks."

Workshops open to the public will be held on Sunday 1 September and Sunday 6 October. For bookings contact

The exhibition runs until 6 October. 

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Building Jewellery Benches with the Urban Bush Carpenters

This weekend's Urban Bush Carpenters workshop Building Jewellery Benches was a lovely day of community woodworking. On a beautiful sunny Saturday, we got together to build two work benches that were taken home by two participants: one a traditional jeweller's bench with a sturdy top, a cutout and a sweeps tray, and the other a work bench with an unusually shaped bench top, perfect to fit into a corner, which will be used for jewellery tools including a bench-top rolling mill. 

 Attaching legs to a corner-shaped bench top.

In the Urban Bush Carpenters tradition, the benches were made entirely from found, recycled wood, including a found keyboard tray from an old office desk used as a sweeps tray for the jeweller's bench. We even pulled apart a pallet to use pallet boards as cross beams to support the bench legs. 

 Countersinking screws to attach supports to a bench top. The legs will be bolted to these supports. 

Everyone got to have a go at using a hand saw to cut boards to length, an electric drill and screwdriver to pre-drill screw holes and screw pieces together, and a crowbar and mallet to pull apart pallet boards. 

The group building the traditional jeweller's bench drilled holes to bolt the legs on, but left the legs separate to be attached later, after working out that with the legs attached, the bench wouldn't fit into the car! 

Drilling bolt holes for the legs of the jeweller's bench. In the background: cutting pallet boards for support pieces. 

The bench tops and wood for the legs was all found as rubbish around town before the workshop. The two bench tops are quite sturdy, but the corner-shaped top introduced new challenges since the legs had to be attached in a different configuration. The team worked together to figure out the best way to attach the legs and the supports. In the end they decided to cut a slot into each of two pallet boards for the supports, and fit them together in an X. This cross piece was slotted in between the legs (below).

The jewellers building this bench were experts at making this solution work, having just done a similar assignment fitting together two 1mm thick copper sheets in an X for a project at NMIT!

The finished work bench

If you missed the workshop but are interested in building a bench, help yourself to the basic instructions below. Of course you'll have to do a bit of problem solving and changing of measurements to suit your found materials, so I've given relative, rather than absolute, measurements. ("Cut the support piece to the length of the bench top..." instead of an exact measurement.) There's a suggestion here for attaching a keyboard tray to use as a sliding sweeps tray, too. 

Happy building! If you build a bench of your own (or have already built one), send me a photo! I'd love to share your ideas here. 

The next Urban Bush Carpenters workshop at CERES is Saturday 21 September. But before that, we have an exhibition coming up at The Substation in Newport. Opening night will be Thursday 29 August, and there will be a public workshop on Sunday 1 September. More details about that coming soon! 

Thursday, 15 August 2013

RMIT Ceramics Auction 2013

The RMIT Ceramics Auction is tonight! Come along to pick up some lovely work by students, staff and alumni, with proceeds going toward the ceramics graduate exhibition.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Brunswick Patchwork Bed Bed Project Part III: The Bed Map

As I was building my Brunswick Patchwork Bed Bed, I became very interested in the origin of the wood I was collecting - or at least its previous life. During hard rubbish collection week (and afterward), I was constantly on the lookout for certain lengths, thicknesses and types of wood. Sometimes I would see a pile of wood that wasn't quite right, or a part of a discarded bed that looked too good for me to cut up and rearrange, if someone else might use it as is. Sometimes I saw pieces I wanted, but wasn't able to take home on my bicycle. (Although I sure tried! I managed to take home more than I would have expected on my bike, including the boards for the long sides of the bed frame.)

I ended up with a mental map of my neighbourhood, marked out by landmark piles of broken furniture - first made up of locations I intended to return to, and eventually including all the locations I had taken wood from. In recreating a bed out of discarded beds and other discarded wood, I was reassembling the rubbish of Brunswick into one cohesive piece of furniture, folding that mental map of the locations of other people's rubbish into a new object in a single location. (Incidentally, all of those broken and discarded objects would have ended up in one location if I hadn't picked them up, and I felt there was a kind of symmetry in bringing them together in my house instead of in landfill.)

It became very important to me along the way that the materials had been harvested directly from my neighbourhood, and I wanted to preserve that mental map in some way. I also wanted to learn a little about using Google Sketchup, the free, open source 3D modelling program which Ana White uses to write up her free furniture plans. As a result I penciled in a location on the end of each piece of wood, and kept a series of constantly changing sketches of where each piece would fit. When I finished each section, and after watching some online tutorials, I drew up a model in Google Sketchup.

And here is the bed map, a three-dimensional model of the bed, showing where each piece of reclaimed wood was found. The only pieces that are not labelled are those that I had to buy for the trim of the bed frame and the vertical boards of the headboard, the offcuts of which are used in the headboard's patchwork panel.

Friday, 2 August 2013

From the collection of Mel: Bridget Bodenham

A gorgeous earthy pot by Victorian ceramicist Bridget Bodenham

Home to the Drunkard's Beard, my souvenir from the Melbourne Flower and Garden Show