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    Author Archives: Diane Leyman

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    Bricks & Mortar: North St Flowers

    By Diane Leyman

    North St Flowers is the business of florist Emily Bradbury and her partner Craig. Emily has been a florist for eight and half years, and after spending around two and half years freelancing from home under the North St label, she recently took the plunge and moved into premises on Thornbury’s High Street.

    Emily has always had a passion for flowers, but it wasn’t until she’d been working in hospitality for a while that she decided it was time to do something new. Craig came home one day with a bunch of course brochures and floristry seemed the obvious choice, and the rest is pretty much history.

    Emily’s enthusiasm, passion and talent for what she does is so evident when you meet her, and it’s also something that has also been recognised – North St was awarded gold at the 2012 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show. They were called in last minute and had only five weeks to prepare (most entrants have a year), so it was an intense few weeks that involved building an apothecary garden and living wall, but Emily says it was totally worth the hard work and effort.

    According to Emily there’s no ‘normal’ day for a florist – any one day can involve getting up at 4.30am to hit the markets, to creating arrangements for weddings, events and cafes, to dealing with the business and admin side of things, and she’s now also thrown a shop into the mix. I visited on the fifth day since the temporary shop opened, and although it was quickly pulled together it was already a fantastic space full of beautiful and seasonal blooms and terrariums. There are plans to renovate over the holidays and reopen officially at the end of January with an additional gift and nursery section out the back, and I have no doubt it will be amazing, so watch this space! For more information, visit the North St Flowers website and Facebook page, or pop by in person at 776 High Street, Thornbury.

    Diane Leyman is a freelance editor, proofreader and project manager with more than six years of experience working in non-fiction illustrated trade book publishing. She has a passion for all things design, and writes a design blog called Notes to a Further Excuse. She also likes taking photographs, crafting, drinking coffee and obsessing over mid-century homewares.


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    Bricks & Mortar: Colour Box Studio

    By Diane Leyman

    Colour Box Studio is a new multifunctional art space located in Footscray. Studio director Amie Batalibasi launched the space earlier this month with the aim of showcasing Melbourne’s creative community and to represent a diverse range of artforms.

    Amie’s background is in documentary filmmaking and, since graduating in 2007, she has worked hard to establish her practice. She now considers herself to be privileged enough to initiate and choose film projects to work on, and an important part of her practice involves sharing her filmmaking skills via workshops with community groups, largely in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

    Amie was working in a studio that wasn’t entirely meeting her needs, so decided to find a studio space that would allow her to not only be based, but where she could also collaborate and tap into other people’s creativity. Her dream was to open up a space run by and for artists in Melbourne; a supportive space where makers could pursue, perform, hone, sell and display their craft, and a relaxed space where artists could meet to collaborate and co-create. As a resident of Footscray, Amie wanted to be based in the western suburbs, and so set about finding the perfect location.

    As soon as Amie walked into an old tattoo parlour on Nicholson Street, Footscray, she knew she’d found ‘the one’. She spent some time researching how to lease a commercial space and checking out other artist spaces to see how they were run, and took out a twelve-month lease on the building, giving it one last hurrah before it will be turned into a multi-story apartment block. Amie received the keys in early October and she and a team of volunteers set about transforming the old parlour into a vibrant and diverse space, with freshly painted walls and a lovely concrete floor.

    One of Amie’s goals with Colour Box was to incorporate the community into the space as much as possible, so it was important that those volunteering their time felt that the space was as much theirs as anybody else’s. In the six weeks running up to the launch Amie also managed to find time to develop an online presence and teach herself how to build a website.

    You could say that the past couple of months have been pretty hectic for Amie, but she says it’s been an epic adventure so far, and the level of support Colour Box has already received from the community has made it all worth it. One of the first projects for Colour Box Studio is the fantastic pop-up shop that you can see here. The shop features a range of wares from Melbourne makers (including Aacute, Able & Game, AK Adornments, Hannakin, Milk & Cookies, North St. Flowers, Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle, plus many more), and also incorporates an artist residency.

    There are also a range of different workshops happening, and there will be a new program running each month that focuses on a different artistic discipline. The pop-up shop will be running until Christmas, so head on down to 236 Nicholson Street, Footscray to check it out for yourself,  visit the Colour Box Studio website for workshop details and stay up-to-date via the Colour Box Studio Twitter and Facebook feeds.

    Diane Leyman is a freelance editor, proofreader and project manager with more than six years of experience working in non-fiction illustrated trade book publishing. She has a passion for all things design, and writes a design blog called Notes to a Further Excuse. She also likes taking photographs, crafting, drinking coffee and obsessing over mid-century homewares.


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    Bricks & Mortar: Merry Cupcakes

    By Diane Leyman

    Merry Cupcakes is a brand new (and very cute) addition to Fitzroy’s busy Brunswick Street. It was launched by owner and baker-extraordinaire Mary Lin at the start of October, and is quickly becoming a popular spot to pick up a sweet treat (or two).


    Mary studied nutrition and dietetics at university, and after graduating and not being able to find employment in the field, decided to start up her own business. With the help of her parents, who have strong business backgrounds, she found an empty Brunswick Street shopfront and brought friend Tim Cruickshank on board to design the branding and cafe fit-out (Mary’s only specifications were to incorporate her favourite colours, red and blue, and to make it cute). After working on her menu and launching with a successful preview night, where all of the cupcakes were sold within an hour and a half, Mary was ready to open up her doors.


    Cupcakes and good nutrition might not initially go hand in hand, but through her studies Mary started learning how to modify recipes to make them healthier, and began to dabble and experiment in baking. Offering up a healthier alternative for those in search of a sweet treat is essentially what’s at the heart of Merry Cupcakes, and so Mary uses a fraction of wholemeal flour, incorporates fruit and vegetables and uses less sugar, which means that her cakes are healthier and contain less saturated fat than regular cupcakes. All of Mary’s cupcakes are also vegan-friendly, and she has gluten-free recipes in the works too.


    If you’re wondering whether this all means Mary’s cupcakes are less flavourful than their full-fat compatriots, you’d be very wrong. In the name of good, honest reporting my boyfriend and I sampled a couple of Mary’s cupcakes and I can assure you they were delicious (we tried ‘Beet It’, a red velvet cupcake made with beetroot and cream cheese icing, and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, a strawberry cupcake with strawberry buttercream). They were moist and rich, with very tasty icing. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.


    Mary has plenty of flavours to choose from, but will also be changing up her menus every season and creating ‘event’ cupcakes every so often too (such as a pumpkin cupcake for Halloween). Event catering will also be available, so check Mary’s Facebook page for details (a website is also on its way soon) or pop by in person at 261 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.

    Diane Leyman is a freelance editor, proofreader and project manager with more than six years of experience working in non-fiction illustrated trade book publishing. She has a passion for all things design, and writes a design blog called Notes to a Further Excuse. She also likes taking photographs, crafting, drinking coffee and obsessing over mid-century homewares.


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    Bricks & Mortar: Old School – The New School for Graphic Design & Typography

    By Diane Leyman

    Old School – The New School for Graphic Design and Typography is exactly what its name suggests: a back-to-basics, community-centered school for graphic designers and other creative types who want to learn outside of the traditional university or college setting. Old School is the creative vision of its founder, Veronica Grow. Veronica graduated from Swinburne in 1998 and has spent her years since teaching as a design lecturer and tutor at RMIT and Box Hill Institute, where she created and delivered design courses in Australia and overseas alongside working on her own design projects. Veronica’s love of teaching led her to set up Old School, and after months of planning and collaborating with another designer to develop the school’s identity and website (Veronica says the most difficult thing was deciding on the name), she opened up her doors in January this year.

    Old School is currently run out of Veronica’s lovely home Coburg, and it’s a friendly, welcoming and non-intimidating creative space. I felt immediately at home when I walked in, and Veronica’s welcoming personality (and her adorable dog Gertie) certainly help to make her students feel comfortable and at ease.

    So far this year Veronica has run short courses on publication design, hand made type and observational drawing (which I gatecrashed on my visit and was damn impressed by what the girls were working on), and in the next few months will be offering a class called Voice, which is designed to help illustrators find their unique style, and the Lost Art of Walking, which is all about exploring the outdoors as a source of inspiration. In July Veronica also launched her first two-year communication design program. The course walks students through core design skills and also has a social and community emphasis, and this is really what’s at the heart of Veronica’s philosophy at Old School – that design has the ability to influence positive social change and help make this crazy world of ours a better place.

    Veronica has, in a short time, managed to achieve what she set out to do – create a down to earth school driven by a love of learning – and I’m sure this is just the beginning. To find out more and to see what classes Veronica has coming up, visit the Old School website.

    Diane Leyman is a freelance editor, proofreader and project manager with more than six years of experience working in non-fiction illustrated trade book publishing. She has a passion for all things design, and writes a design blog called Notes to a Further Excuse. She also likes taking photographs, crafting, drinking coffee and obsessing over mid-century homewares.

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