Meet the Maker

by Taryn Miller

Tahlie Lindon

Toymaker at Lindon Heirloom Toys

From her home workshop in the beautiful Hunter Valley, Tahlie Lindon handcrafts magical wooden heirloom toys that are both enchanting and practical with a strong Waldorf aesthetic born out of a love of woodwork that began while attending Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School.

Find out why she become a toymaker and how she brings reclaimed timber to life to create her unique range of toys children can't wait to play with...

  

Can you introduce yourself and tell us about what you do? My name is Tahlie Lindon, and I am the designer and toymaker at Lindon Heirloom Toys. We are an eco-concious family run business, handcrafting small batch, traditional Waldorf style toys. Designed following Waldorf principles, our toys are natural, beautiful and practical, made to inspire creativity, imagination and play.

Can you tell us a little about your connection with Steiner education and Glenaeon Rudolph Steiner School? I am a very proud Steiner graduate. I attended Kamaroi Steiner School for primary and Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School for high school. My mum was a Steiner educator and ran a Steiner playgroup from our home. I am so blessed to have grown up immersed in Waldorf beauty, and am grateful to now be passing the experience to my own children who are in kindergarten at Newcastle Waldorf school.

Have you always been creative and how did you learn to be a toymaker? I have always been creative. I love art, writing and sewing, and studied design at university. My focus turned to toy making after having children. I wanted to give them toys like the beautiful wooden heirlooms that I grew up with. When I couldn't find what I was looking for locally, I began to make them myself. I did woodwork at school, which gave me confidence to start, and I grew my knowledge with hands on experience, research and advice from other woodworkers and toymakers.

What do you like most about the materials you work with? I love the variety of natural materials that I work with, timber, organic cotton, sheep wool and home harvested beeswax. I enjoy knowing that our materials are safe and environmentally friendly.

Reclaimed timber is such a joy to work with. It feels like performing magic. It is rough and strong, but has soft, warm beauty hiding inside waiting to be released.

How do you start a piece and how long does it take you to make them? A new toy starts in the imagination. I sketch out the idea and consider how the piece needs to be shaped and put together, and what safety elements need to be considered. I then make, test and adjust it until Im happy with the result. The final and most important step is giving it to my children for the play test! The whole process varies, sometimes taking a week, or even a couple of months.

Tell us about where you make your things? I work from home, in the beautiful rural hunter valley. I have a small workshop under our house, with a view across our back pasture to the dam at the bottom of the hill. We are surrounded by trees and birdsong, and the most wonderful array of animal life.

What are your favourite items to make? My favourite items to make are our boats. They are one of the first wooden toys I designed and made. No matter how many I make, I am always enchanted by them.

Whats the most complicated items to make? More complex items like our angel candle holders are the most complicated to make. They look very simple, but require accuracy and quite a few processes to bring all the pieces together.

Where do you look for inspiration? I look for inspiration in my children's play. What they are doing, imagining, and what adventures they are on.

I also find inspiration in the stories we read, in nature, and in memories of play from my own childhood.

What is the most enjoyable part of your creative process? The most enjoyable part of the creative process for me, is seeing the spark of an idea and a lump of wood, turn into a beautiful finished piece that makes a child smile. Seeing children experience, engage and connect with the toys I make is incredibly satisfying.

What are some of your passions outside of being a toy maker? I am passionate about being outdoors, working in the veggie garden, caring for our bees and animals, and going on picnics and nature walks with our children.

What items have you thought about making but haven't yet made? Where do I start!? I have so many ideas, sometimes its hard to know where to start. I am currently working on block crayon holders and beautiful organic canvas hobby horses, and I hope to finish designing our farm animals and wooden family soon.

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Kelley Whitaker

Commercial Beekeeper from Castlecrag Honey

"My husband and I are completely addicted to this honey and nothing else comes close to the taste!" These are just some of the comments I get from loyal customers about the locally produced honey we have at Grassroots Eco Store. I interviewed local Commercial Beekeeper, Kelley Whitaker for our latest Meet the Maker series and was fascinated by her insights into life as a beekeeper, how much works goes into producing a single jar of honey and just what makes her honey so addictively delicious!

Local Commercial Beekeeper  Local Beehives

Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do? My name is Kelley Whitaker and I’m the owner of Castlecrag Honey Pty Ltd and Synbiota. Our bees organically produce single origin, raw table honeys from Sydney’s bushlands and gardens, and Manuka honeys from the Blue Mountains and Mid-North Coast. Our bees also supply us with other health-giving products such as propolis and bee venom which are used in our Apitherapy products under the label Synbiota. 

What made you take up beekeeping and become a bee person? I’ve always been fascinated with bees and briefly kept a hive as a student. More recently, a friend who was living a few doors away at the time called me in distress as she had a swarm of bees in her hedge and she couldn’t leave her property. Armed with a cardboard box, and some borrowed overalls and scarves I collected that swarm and started keeping bees once again. It became addictive and very rapidly 1 hive became 2, and two became 3, then 5 and now are over 100! I still have my first hive which produces beautiful honey from Castlecrag.

What type of bees do you keep? My honey-producing bees are European honey bees, most of them are rescued bees and swarms that I’ve caught over the years.

What is a typical day like as a Commercial Beekeeper and does it change seasonally? Every day is different. In spring and early summer, I check my bees often to ensure there is enough space for the queen to lay. Late spring, summer and autumn there is honey harvesting and extracting and making sure the bees are healthy and have enough food to support their large numbers – around 80 000 bees per hive. In winter, the bees are packed down to just a couple of boxes as their numbers diminish when it’s cold and in Sydney, the queen still lays eggs so the bees have to keep the inside of the hive a warm 34 degrees Celsius. The heater bees ensure the baby bees are warm but to do that they need honey so it’s important to always leave a box of honey on the hive for the bees so they don’t starve. In winter there is always lots of preparation work to be done before the following spring: boxes need to be made or repaired or painted, honey frames need to be made or cleaned and fixed. A constant throughout the year is the bottling and selling of the honey.

How important is the surrounding environment and weather to the kind of honey that is produced? The honey in the hive is a snapshot floral reflection of the landscape. Bees travel on average around 2km from their hive to forage although they can travel 5km if necessary.

That means the honey from each hive has its own flavour because the flowering plants change both across the landscape and from season to season. The honey from Castlecrag is completely different to that from Willoughby for example as the trees are different.

What are all the Bee related products that you produce? Table honey (plain, creamed, comb, chilli-infused), Manuka honey (NPA 5+ and 10+), beeswax foundations sheets that can be used for candle making, cosmetic grade beeswax hexagon blocks, propolis tinctures, as well as bee venom and beehive air, which are not yet commercially available. (Beehive air is air from inside the hive which has therapeutic benefits for upper respiratory infections, bronchitis and hayfever).

Can you explain how organic honey is made and what the difference is between your honey and the kind you would find on the shelves at the supermarket? My bees’ organically produced honey is produced without chemicals being used in the hive and I don’t feed my bees sugar, always leaving enough honey on the hive so the bees don’t need to be fed. This is possible in Sydney as there is a fairly consistent supply of flowers most of the year. My bees’ honey is cold extracted and lightly filtered through stainless steel sieves to remove the wax.

Cold extraction is a slow process and you can only process a limited amount of honey at a time because the honey flows relatively slowly. Much of the honey in the larger supermarkets are not cold extracted. The honey is heated so that it can be pumped and processed much more quickly. When honey is heated the volatiles get lost and some of the nutritional benefits are lost also.

How long does it take to make a jar of honey? That depends on how many flowers are around. A strong hive on a big nectar flow can store more than 20kgs in a week! Most of the time it's not like that, however.

Each bee makes in its 6 week lifetime about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey. It takes an enormous collective effort on the part of tens of thousands of bees to make enough honey to put in a jar.

What is your favourite Bee product to eat or use? I eat a lot of honey and honey comb but when I get the chance I love eating bee bread. Sometimes the bees will store pollen in the honey frames. They ferment the pollen with bacteria much like we ferment milk to make yoghurt. I love eating the bee bread – it’s almost like a rich fruit leather but with a delicious tang. It’s also highly nutritious and good for you.

What is the most fulfilling part of a Commercial Beekeepers job? 

I love making available to everyone, beautiful health-giving honey that is as good as it can be fresh out of the hive without changing what the bees make. I love tasting different landscapes through the lens of myriad flowers and the efforts of the bees.

I love being a part of the incredible surges of the energies of spring and summer that pour forth through the simple act of photosynthesis. It never ceases to make me feel in awe and humbled by the vast sugar canopies that we walk under, often oblivious. I love the window of awareness I glimpse through into another beings life, trying to figure out what is going on and why.

And finally, what products have you thought about making but havent yet had the opportunity to make/produce? I am very interested in bee products as medicine. A colleague and I have recently founded the Australian Apitherapy Association to start the process of opening the door to getting bee products available as medicines. I am in the process of producing propolis tinctures as well as bee venom but still have a way to go before it is commercially available. 

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Yukiko Tomishima

If you have been inside Grassroots Eco Store then you have probably stopped to admire one of Yuki's incredible handmade creations. People are always struck by the imagination, beautiful natural colours and perfect hand-stitching that every one of her pieces displays.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do? I was born in Japan and we immigrated to Australia twenty years ago for my husband’s work.

I enjoy raising children while crafting and gardening.

Can you tell us a little about your family and your connection with Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School? I have five children, who attend Glenaeon. I became a Glenaeon parent when my first son was in kindy fourteen years ago, he graduated from Glenaeon last year.

And the question everyone wants to know - how do you manage to be such a profile crafter with a big family to look after? I don’t specifically set myself time for crafting. Instead, I usually do most of my crafting in my car or at a park, while waiting to pick up my children. Currently, I have been enjoying crafting while sitting beside my younger children while they do their online lessons.

Have you always been creative and how did you learn to sew /craft? I always enjoyed crafting as a child, including, sewing, crocheting, knitting and origami. My mom taught me to sew, knit and crochet, she also loves crafting. She was always making something for my family and during childhood, my house was full of her creations.

What do you like most about the materials you work with? My favourite material is wool. I enjoy working with it because it can be used for many different types of crafting, including felting, sewing, knitting and crocheting. 

You dye a lot of your wool felt with natural plant dyes. Could you tell us a bit about the process that you use and how you learnt to use natural dyes? Firstly, I simmer vegetable skins, seeds or leaves in a pot for 20-30 minutes to make the colour come out and then I remove the scraps (skins, seeds etc). I then put the wool felt and mordant (such as alum, iron, vinegar or baking soda) into the same pot and simmer for 20-30 minutes. It gets left overnight and then you wash and dry it! It's an easy process, which I always do while cooking in my kitchen.

The most exciting part of the process is washing the felt the next morning and seeing what colour has appeared, which is always a surprise! 

My mom taught me how to dye using onion skins when I was a child. Since then I have refined the process by reading books and searching techniques on the internet and dyeing many, many times!

"Natural dyeing doesn't have “mistakes”. The results are always a wonderful surprise. I think everyone should give it a try!"

How do you start one of your creations and how long does it take you to make them? Once I have an idea to work from, I begin by making a pattern. Then I use my self-dyed fabric to create the project.

What are your favourite items to make? It is very difficult to decide because I like making all of the items, but if I was to choose my favourite it would be felting pictures.

What are the most complicated items to make? The most difficult item to make are the felting pictures because I need to designate a time specifically for it, and it also requires me to be at home to work on it.

Where do you look for inspiration? I have been inspired by nature, my children’s artworks, their main lesson books from school and picture books.

What is the most enjoyable part of your creative process? The most enjoyable part of my project is at the end because it gives me a sense of satisfaction.

What are some of your other passions besides crafting? I love gardening, especially succulents and indoor plants. I also like woodworking, however, I have injured my shoulder, so I’ve been having trouble using heavy tools at the moment.

What items have you thought about making but haven’t yet made? I have a few projects I’m interested in, but right now I’m looking forward to making my children an advent calendar, which they have enjoyed in previous years.