First spring, second spring

September 1st is a stupid day to officially start spring. Around here, that’s not when the season turns. Around here, it happens now — late July, early August.

The original people who lived round here, members of the Kulin nation, recognise different seasons from the Europeans who invaded their land. This time of year has several names that I’ve found: Wattle Season, Guling (Orchid Season), or the westernised “First Spring”.

Seasons of the Kulin Nation (Victoria, Australia).
Seasons of the Kulin Nation (Victoria, Australia). Image from Moreland Primary School.

This time, First Spring, is when the buds of the wattles begin to burst into yellow fluff, the jonquils in my front yard bloom, and the birds start carrying on like teenagers. Around Ballarat it’s also when the strong westerly winds start, and will ramp up into into the dangerously gusty “Second Spring,” when the soil also warms and veggie gardening season kicks off in my backyard.

Jonquils in flower in springtime.
Jonquil time.

First Spring, for me, marks the turn of the year. It’s the season of renewal and fresh beginnings. It’s when I start perusing seed catalogues and thinking about the year ahead.

This time last year, I’d just started to extract myself from my tech career, which was terrible for my mental health, especially in lockdown. Between Melbourne’s first and second lockdowns, a friend and I wandered around Ballarat, having lunch in a cafe (what a novelty!) and then on to the arts precinct where we popped in to a local gallery that usually had something interesting to see.

Turns out that the gallery had been converted into the Lost Ones Makers Studio, where I met jeweller Rachel Grose and leather worker Benny of Heaps Good Leatherwork. They had a space available, and on the spot I decided to rent it. It became my studio space and from there Bayleaf Handmade Goods emerged, chrysalis-like, as the spring wore on.

2021 was meant to be a fresh start, an exciting new beginning, but as we all know it’s just turned into more of 2020. What a long slog it’s been. And for me, it also came with massive disruption in my life as my landlords stuffed me around, had to be taken to tenancy tribunal, then tried to kick me out of my house.

You might’ve heard about the shortage of housing in regional Australia as everyone tries to move out of the city to work remotely and move more freely during lockdowns. Well, that means there’s no rentals available. At least not at a price that an artist just starting a new business can afford!

The first half of this year was a low point even by 2020-2021 standards, as I dealt with housing stress, illness, the emotionally-complicated death of a family member, and more. I more or less put Bayleaf Handmade Goods on hiatus, while I dealt with all of that.

Textile studio setup showing sewing table, pegboard and drawers.
I even got a new sewing table at the studio.

But now it’s First Spring again, for the second time this pandemic, and hope is starting to emerge from the cold and the grey. The jonquils are up again, the sun is out, I stopped to talk to a magpie on the way to the studio, and I’m preparing to move on to a friend’s permaculture farm, where I’ll be working to grow food and dye plants and fibre, and seeking inspiration from the land and flora and fauna to be found on the property and in the adjacent bushland.

I’m back in the studio again, and sewing up a storm. I’ve also been dyeing all sorts of things, weaving baskets, and starting to put together a bit of a collection of natural-material and eco-conscious haberdashery.

What I’m saying is, expect to see more of me over the coming months 😁 And stay tuned as I release a whole swathe of stuff in the shop next Wednesday: scarves, perhaps a few garments (depending how time goes), plant-dyed yarn and embroidery thread, and the haberdashery mentioned above. (Don’t forget, mailing list members get a 10% discount.)

Thanks for sticking around through bad times and good. Here’s to a fresh new year!

Header image: spring wildflowers in native grassland at Victoria Park, Ballarat. Photo via Victorian Volcanic Plains Conservation Management.

Alex

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