• Ruth Woods

Some craft inspiration from the makers we love!

Updated: Sep 17

This is a new segment where we share the beautiful connective stories across our Craft School Oz community. Seeing what inspires others, what gets them making, is what inspires me - so I hope you enjoy reading about these creative folk as much as I did. This week we speak to the wonderful Bronwen Moncrieff and Rebecca Daly Mair.


Meet Bronwen Moncrieff


Where are you from?  I’m from Tallangatta, a small country town in North East Victoria. My parents and grandparents also lived in the town I grew up in. I’ve definitely inherited the desire to make things and the enjoyment that goes along with it from them. After stints in Sydney, Seattle, and Mt Hotham, I now live in Melbourne.


When did you discover your love of making?

I’ve always enjoyed crafting - knitting, crocheting, sewing. I’ve always loved baskets and the idea of making them but I didn’t know where to start. I found Ruth’s Craft Shool Oz Instagram a few years ago and signed myself up for a workshop; in it, we learned to use natural materials from the garden, plants and such, to make baskets. I loved it. I then also did one of her classes that used fabric scraps. It got me totally hooked!


Over the last year or so I’ve also started making raffia baskets. I’m gaining more confidence with natural plant materials, but to date, I have done more work with fabric and raffia.

I liked the idea of using denim, so started making all denim baskets. My friends and family saw them, and really liked them, so I’ve made quite a few and have given them away as gifts. I think there are quite a few remote controls, and nick-nacks out there being held in my denim baskets!  


Over the last year or so I’ve also started making raffia baskets. I’m gaining more confidence with natural plant materials, but to date, I have done more work with fabric and raffia. 

Me, my work and Jordie!

What do you love most about it? 

I find it incredibly relaxing, I think it is the repetitive nature of it. Over the last few years, the stresses of work and family life have really increased, and I guess I’ve got to know myself better, I know what helps me manage my day-to-day.


I find doing something physical with my hands (which is very different from my weekday job) really helpful when I'm stressed. Also doing repetitive, process focussed tasks. Just making things, having an end product that has a practical purpose - it's calming.


These days people talk about being mindful and mindful meditation a lot - well basket making is that kind of thing for me!

I typically include an egg in the photo to give perspective because my Dad always asks how big it is!

What's your experience of craft in ISO? And what's the first thing you'll do when it's all over?

That’s a good one! As part of my job I participate and listen in to quite a few conference calls. When I’m at home doing that, I can sit at my home office desk, with my headphones on, watch a presentation - and do some basket making at the same time! It helps me stay focused on the presentation or conference call, rather than be distracted by my phone or emails.  Not sure I’m going to be able to continue to do that around the boardroom table though, I’m going to miss that!


The first thing I will do is catch up with my parents and friends.


Doing repetitive, process focussed tasks, and making things that have a practical purpose, calms me after a stressful day.
Basktes! the top left one is the first basket I made with Ruth at the Alwoyn Gardens (Yarra Valley) basket class.

Outside of making baskets and delicious jam, what's something else you can tell us about yourself?

We do volunteer work with Guide Dogs Victoria. We temporarily care for them, which means we often have a guest Labrador in the house. We have our own black lab, Jordie, who we raised to be a guide dog, but she didn’t make it, and she is now our pet.  


I have to keep the baskets away from our guest labradors as they tend to want to play with them! Jordie is always interested in sniffing the raffia and watching what I do. She isn’t a destructive chewer, but that’s kind of unusual for her breed. I’ve had to redo one basket basically from scratch after it got chewed. I learned the hard way!


Meet Rebecca Daly Mair


What motivated you to first try basket making?

I attended a Crumbz Craft event at Yarra Valley Chocolaterie a few years ago. You could try knitting, crocheting, and basket making amongst other things – and although I was there to hone my crochet skills, I kept looking longingly at the table of people basket making. So when I saw a workshop at Alowyn Gardens it was a perfect opportunity to take my time to learn and create something new.


It also emphasised what I love about craft – a bunch of people coming together over a shared interest and making something that wasn’t there before.

At my first basket making workshop, I loved that I could take my time, ask silly questions, and learn how to start a coil basket from a bundle of raffia. And then see it develop into something new. It also emphasised what I love about craft – a bunch of people coming together over a shared interest and making something that wasn’t there before.


My most recent work

What materials did you choose now when making?

I have stuck with raffia as the core of my baskets, but I also use jute for its furriness, coloured macramé cord, string; just about anything else that can introduce colour and variety. I like to raid my stash of yarn bits, so some baskets are a real mish-mash of stuff! To finish off some baskets or to add a contrast of texture and shaping I sometimes use crochet (paper raffia, string, etc) My plan is to use some of my children’s baby clothes in a giant, flat coiled project…. that’s the plan anyway!

I love experimenting with materials and colour

You won a prize for your basket making at the Melbourne show, tell us about it.

I decided to enter the Show competition because I was so proud of my work. I was proud of how far I had come since doing the workshop at Alowyn Gardens. Don’t get me wrong, I was really nervous and shy about it so I contacted Ramona Barry the Art, Craft and Cookery Coordinator at the Show to get a photo of last year’s winners. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t insulting anyone’s craft by sending in my little baskets! When she emailed me back with an image of like-minded, like-crafted baskets I thought it would be an honor to be displayed among these treasures. I honestly didn’t think I would win anything.


Mum taught us that when all else fails, keep your hands busy and your mind will follow.

I had also wanted to show my Mum how she had inspired me. My Mum was a founding member of a craft drop-in center in her neighborhood back in the 1970s. It was a local church-based group of women of different ages who got together and taught each other how to craft. The group has been going for 40 years now.


My sister and I grew up surrounded by whatever craft was popular at the time – macramé, copper beating, Hobbytex (a type of fabric paint), and there was always a sewing machine on the kitchen table. Mum taught us that when all else fails, keep your hands busy and your mind will follow. For many years she used to drag us to the pavilion at the Show with all the decorated cakes and crafts on display. My sister and I would just groan! This year I was extremely proud to tell Mum that I had entered the competition, however, she sadly passed away before I found out that I had won placings.

I also wanted to show my children (two boys) that it doesn’t matter how old you are, what you like to do, what skill level you think you have; you can still be a part of something - and if you are lucky your talents might get recognised.


My winning basket

How did you feel when you won first prize!?

I cried! I have never won anything before! I was so proud that I made something that others celebrated. Mostly my craft items get made and then put in a box in the cupboard never to be seen again; they're certainly not entered into competitions and definitely don't win competitions. So this was an amazing confidence boost and validation that I can make something I love that people enjoy also.


I think that's what making is all about.


Visit Craft School Oz.

489 views1 comment
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest