Book Review: His Own Steam: The Work of Barry Brickell, by David Craig and Gregory O’Brien

I was thrilled to be given this book to review. cv_his_own_steam I have been a visitor to Barry Brickell’s property at Driving Creek in the Coromandel over many years.  I have always been in awe of Barry’s property, with its railway and many hectares of native planting.  I knew little of the creative side of Barry’s character.  Of recent times the millionth visitor has passed through Driving Creek.  Over many years, the railway has expanded with Barry doing most of the work, with others helping at different times, building the tracks and the steam trains to pull the passenger carriages.  Barry has also built all his own pottery kilns, and traveled all over New Zealand building kilns for other potters.

This book is very well laid out with a foreword by long-time friend Hamish Keith.  His Own Steam follows Barry through his life with beautiful photographs of various works over many years.  I love the earthiness of his work, not bowing to fashion and staying true to himself.   I had a real laugh at his father Maurice wanting Barry to have a “real job” with an office and carpet on the floor.  I don’t think his father was really disappointed with his son, as he helped him build his first kiln at their family property in Devonport, and in his parents later years, they moved up to the Coromandel to live closer to him.  Barry is an individual who would be deemed eccentric by some, but genius by others, myself included.  I especially loved his salt glazed pots and the beautiful murals that he has done for various organisations including the Devonport Library, and the lovely twisted forms of his larger pots. The fact that he made coffee mugs and jugs for his own use shows how functional his homewares are.

I am not a potter, but like many others in the 1970’s, my own home had many pottery pieces displayed with my own parents despairing at my choices.  I now only have one very precious piece made by a visiting Japanese potter bought in the late 1970’s.  I still love the earthiness of what I call “good pottery”.  Barry’s bowls and sculptural pieces are absolutely beautiful.

While this book would appeal to people of the pottery and ceramic world, who have more than a fleeting knowledge of Barry and his work, it also has a wide appeal to others.  I especially liked the footnotes to explain various comments throughout the book and also the chronology compiled and written by Emma Bugden and Toni Taylor.

In New Zealand we are very lucky to be able to express ourselves freely without harassment and to celebrate others greatness.  Barry and his gifts are to be celebrated.
Highly Recommended.

Review by Christine Frayling

His Own Steam: The Work of Barry Brickell
By David Craig & Gregory O’Brien, with new photographs by Haruhiko Sameshima
Published by Auckland University Press
ISBN 9781869407636

Book review: Sweet & Simple by Melissa Wastney

cv_sweet_and_simpleAsk your bookshop to order this in for you.

Chances are if you’re a fan of New Zealand handmade then you’ll know the blog Tiny Happy. For the last six years Melissa Wastney has written and photographed her world – from daily inspirations to her handmade projects – and now she has a book.

Like many bloggers who get a book deal she’s world famous on the internet getting thousands of page views a day and cultivating a loyal following of (mostly) women all keen to drink at the Tiny Happy well.

Melissa sells her handmade textile work online and in galleries and design stores internationally. She’s contributed (illustration, photography and text) to Extra Curricular magazine, Spoonful, Fantale music and Action Pack and has feature in Australasian media NZ House and Garden, North and South, Your Home and Garden, Frankie and Homestyle magazine, in the book Crafty Girls Talk by Jennifer Forest and on Radio NZ National.

Her first book Sweet and Simple Handmade takes all this and wraps it up in a practical guide of 25 projects to sew, stitch, knit and upcycle for children. The book is resplendent in Wastney’s trademark Scandinavian/Japanese styles – all the more so because as well as writing and photographing the book she styled it.

Surely one of the more popular projects will be Wastney’s reversible cloth baby shoes – she first designed and made them in 2005 and they’ve been regularly copied ever since. Adding the pattern and method to her book ensures this well-received baby gift will be top of many people’s must-make lists.

Other projects range from simple sewing projects (adding embroidered fruit and flowers to jerseys you already own) or sewing drawstring bags to the more complex – but thoroughly satisfying (and money saving) – child’s winter jacket.

Parents will find this book highly practical – I imagine that by resizing patterns through the years you can probably fit out the whole family for most of their lives; a Sunday Best Dress, Everyday Skirt, Mix and Match Pants and Easy Wrap Dress are all included.

Items that would make great gifts are covered too and if you start early you can probably get all the Christmas presents done from this book: velveteen rabbits, bonnets, baby quilts, velvet capes, art smocks and more.

Sewers will need at least an intermediate level of sewing skill and a good understanding of patterns and their instructions to make the most of Sweet & Simple – this is definitely not a book for beginners although new sewers might like it as it will contain a number of aspiration goals.

Melissa also covers good background information like shopping second-hand, working with children and how to wrap gifts creatively but inexpensively.

A great must-have book for home sewers and parents looking to fit out their kids in creative, inexpensive homemade clothing. A note as always that commercial sewers should check the usage of patterns before selling the work they make from Melissa’s book.

Reviewed by Emma McCleary, web editor at Booksellers NZ and owner of Emma Makes

Sweet and Simple Handmade: 25 Projects to Sew, Stitch, Knit & Upcycle for Children
by Melissa Wastney
Published by Stash Books
ISBN 9781607056652