Styling with ‘Fat Lava’

Fat lava vase60s West German vase

I did NOT like this vase at all when my partner bought it. But – as soon as she styled it with a vintage Travant car of the same age and those contemporary candles- I was converted.

It’s all in the colour tones. How good does the vase look with the two different greens next to it? My partner is a whiz with colour and mixing and matching forms -in ways that I am not.

‘Fat lava’ West German vases are often chunky, and garish of colour and form- but they look fantastic grouped together in a tonal or shape theme. Or as here- singly with contrasting forms and materials. I think the timber table also helps- the brown tones are picked up in the vase.


Kangaroos- c. 60s & 70sKangaroo & Joey ceramic wall plate, made in Australia c. 1960
Kangaroo figurine, made in Australia c. 1970

A study of two kangaroos- a decade apart- but what a contrast.

The 60s wall plate- made with perforations to the back so it can be hung- features a fairly accurately realised kangaroo and joey in an abstracted environment. So far, so 60s. The 70s figurine is highly stylised- with enlarged feet and tail having a functional purpose- keeping Skippy stable.

I am absolutely partial to the archetypal fauna of Australia- kangaroo, koala, kookaburra. I know many people who limit their collections to just the one theme, maker, material or decade- but I don’t have that discipline. Kangaroo collectors, lovers and aficionados, see countless examples in blog posts below.

Kangaroo collectors should love this little lot, which is for sale: $AUD40

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50s Australiana- flora & fauna

Upcycled cushions [retro Australian linens]Upcycled cushions
made from vintage Australian linen

My partner recently found a batch of vintage Australian tea towels, all linen and all unused. I love the graphic qualities of the images- and the strong colours – and decided to make square cushion covers from them.

This set is features Australian flora and fauna- circa 1950s. The first two cushions are feature Tasmania and its various flora, and the last two cushions are Australia-wide flora and fauna.

The backs of the cushions are either upcycled linen or new linen, in plain colours to suit the images. I salvaged the upcycled linen from 50s and 60s tablecloths- and finished the openings with vintage bindings. It’s nice to be able to use some of my vintage sewing stash…so it can be considered less a collection and more a necessity!

The cushions are sized to take a 400 x 400mm insert [15.7 x 15.7 inches.] They are fully washable and would make great gifts- especially if the State or images featured has a particular association for someone. I have thirty cushions made- and they can be grouped in 2s or 4s- email me if you’d like to peruse the ‘collection’.

The cushion covers are for sale: $AUD40 [less if you buy 2 or more.]

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70s functionalism

70s Guzzini mapkin ringsGuzzini napkin rings
made in Italy, 1973

The ultimate in tableware functionalism- napkin rings that also house condiments. That’s right; either side of these babies are salt and pepper shakers. A marvelous idea, beautifully designed with simple, crisp forms. Add perspex to the mix and this is 70s functionalism at its best!

These napkin rings have never been used and await testing to see how well the whole napkin/condiment holder thing works- and may well be for novelty value only. That’s certainly what attracted me!

The napkin rings are for sale: $AUD25

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60s homemaker

60s vinyl peg bagVinyl peg bag
made in Australian c.1960s

For your great delight, dear readers- a 60s vinyl handmade peg bag. Sporting the classic 60s colours of brown & orange and featuring daisies- the peg bag comes with an integrated vinyl covered clothes hanger. This was the height of fashion in the 60s- and it is in good condition and ready to do duty on the clothes line today.

Of course- the peg bag is so stylish that it would also feature hung on a wall- as in my image- to store or display all manner of things. Retro peg bags are making somewhat of a comeback at the moment- Etsy and Ebay are full of ‘em!

The peg bag is for sale: $AUD35

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Cocktails – retro style

Semak VitamizerSemak ‘Vitamizer’ electric blender
made in Melbourne, c.1953

This beautiful bakelite blender is fully functioning – it has starred at many cocktail parties at my house as it’s fantastic for crushing ice and blending drinks. [Haven’t tested its ‘Vitamizer’ qualities, being too far gone on cocktails….]

Later versions of the Vitamizer have a bakelite body and clear glass top, and Semak still makes Vitamizers today, having started the company in 1948. As far as I can ascertain, the fully-bakelite models like this one were only ever made in black and white. Even the electric plug is bakelite.

The Vitamizer works on 240 V /120 W, and has serial number SN 6-510 stamped on the metal base. Perfect for the retro kitchen! For sale: $AUD125

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Australian bakelite bits ‘n’ pieces

Australian bakelite: Nally, 40s Nally bakelite pieces c.1940s

These are the odds and ends of my Nally bakelite collection. Nally first started bakelite production in 1923 and was one of the first in Australia to do so. The factory was in Glebe, in inner-city Sydney – where I once lived as a student, when it was grittier with light industry, warehouses and terraced housing.

I became interested in bakelite when I started making my own resin jewellery. Bakelite was the first stable plastic compound ‘discovered’ by one Dr. Baekeland in the 1907. It was – like many discoveries – a complete accident- he was trying to find a synthetic alternative to shellac. A million and one things went on to be produced in bakelite…see quite a bit of evidence in previous posts on this blog… … …

Anyhoo- in researching resin I looked at early polymer precedents and then became fixated on bakelite. Australia was just coming of age in the 20s and bakelite was taken up with great fervor- it was the modern, new era- cheaply produced alternative to timber, iron, steel and ceramic- you name it.

This set comprises:    4 end-of-day egg cups
blue nested salt and pepper shaker, with cream screw ends
green lidded ‘cloves’ canister.

I’ve teamed the Nally bits ‘n’ pieces with an old battered red aluminium canister lid, much splattered with paint. It’s had a hard life and has lost its companion piece and now must do duty as a background element. Still- that’s upcycling at its best!

This set is for sale: $AUD45

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50s Berlin

Retro stereoscopic viewerStereoscopic viewer, made in Berlin c.1950s

I bought this stereoscopic viewer in Berlin at a fantastic vintage shop called VEB Orange. VEB Orange is dedicated to showcasing East Germany of the 50s, 60s and 70s. That is my kind of shop!

The viewer – with its images of Baden Baden- was made as souvenirware. If you couldn’t visit the place, at least you could go with the help of kitschy, hand-coloured photographic images. Perhaps there is a slight intimation of boredom- that Baden Baden isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and really East Berlin is much more scenic! Even the colour of the viewer is deliberately drab [although somewhat funky in shape.]

I like souvenirware- snowdomes, and those little TV sets that you peer into with a rotating wheel of images. No matter how many images you take whilst travelling- nothing can compare to the cliqued, static, dated and hilarious images of souvenirware.

M<agic Brain C<omputer

Magic Brain Computer and slide rulers- 50sMagic Brain Computer, pocket calculator made in Japan c. 1950s
Micador 10 and Sun Hemmi bamboo slide rulers, made in Japan 1954

Following on from my last – nostalgic- post discussing technical scales, here are some calculation tools from the 50s.

I love the Magic Brain Computer [MBC]- for its name alone. Anyone who combines ‘magic’ and ‘computer’ has got it right as far as I’m concerned. It’s totally nerdy, but vintage nerdy! This ‘computer’ is aluminium and you use a stylus to move the columns of figures up and down- sort of like an abacus but with numerals. It comes with full operating instructions…and a smart vinyl case!

The three 10” slide rules are beautiful…and about the same vintage as the MBC. The two Sun Hemmi slide rules are bamboo laminated plastic- and the Micador is solid plastic. The two Sun Hemmi slide rules come with their original [and by the looks of them- untouched] calculation and equations piece that slides up and down the scale. All three slide rules come in their original boxes.

Totally vintage nerdy! This set is for sale: $155

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Drafting nostalgia

Technical scales [1920-30s]Martin’s technical scales, made in Australia c.1930s Eyre & Spottiswoode Publishers Ltd draughtsman’s set of cardboard scales, made in London c.1920s Back in the early part of my career- when drawing was still done by hand – drawing instruments were beautifully designed and made. My scale ruler was plastic overlain bamboo, and it was forbidden to use it as a mere ruler- to draw straight lines- as the ink deteriorated the edge and the scales became illegible. One had to use a set square or a parallel rule to draw straight lines. I confess to loving scales- it’s something to do with the detail and their mechanical nature, and of course nostalgia…these days all my drawing is digital and one rarely uses physical scale rules. Both sets of cardboard scales are complete, having a series of scales from A – H, and come in their original boxes. Cardboard scales were used before plastic came into wider use, and it’s rare to find complete sets which aren’t too battered. The British set of scales was owned by one F. Gelburn, who attended the British Institute of Engineering Technology [beautiful cursive writing on the label of the box!] If you are a scale nut like me, I also have some fantastic old timber scales- where different timbers are used for the various scales- also from the 20s. I haven’t photographed these yet but they will appear in a subsequent post. I also have a couple of slide scales…they have been featured on the blog previously. These technical scales are for sale: $AUD75 Buy Now