You can never have too much paint…

November 13, 2014

…and other things we learned from staging the first Better Build workshop.

We did it, we got the ‘show on the road’ as part of Nillumbik Shire Council’s Practically Green Festival. Here’s what we learned, how we plan on improving, and some of my favourite shots from the day.

So what happened?

Our minimum viable product (a.k.a. the green light) was securing a non-profit space at the Festival. We got this in place about a month out from the event, which meant organising…fast! We settled on running two short workshops making simple decorative items from the wood stock we’d already collected. Craig fashioned Better Build signage and an information stand from reclaimed materials. All in one afternoon too (the man is indeed a ‘mover and maker’).

Our meet and greet volunteer from Streetbank, Chamali, behind the hand made workshop info desk.

Our meet and greet volunteer from Streetbank, Chamali, behind the handmade workshop info desk.

The night before the Festival my inner ‘anxious octopus’ was on a rampage. Tentacles of worry flailed every which way in my brain: had we salvaged enough materials? Would anyone want to take part? Was the space going to be safe enough? (I mean…sweet jeebus – we’re talking kids on POWER TOOLS!) 

Better Build workshop Practically Green Festival

As it turned out my worries were unfounded. We had no problems with people wanting to take part in the workshops – in fact we were a little swamped with interest! We’d planned to work with around ten people (five per workshop). At the end of the day we estimated around thirty people had (safely) tried their hand at making something.

Better Build Workshop 1 projects

Here’s some of the things that seemed to work:

  • Getting people straight onto the job of making things. Don’t sit around talking about it, do it!
  • Having a painting area was gold. This is where projects were personalised and I loved how the kids were so free with their creative expression.
  • Giving people a chance to try a new skill and take home a finished project – it feels good saying ‘I made this’.
  • Being relaxed and inclusive about people joining in throughout the workshops. A group of people on power tools is like honey to the bees in an interactive Festival like Practically Green.


Here’s what we’d do differently:

  • Make sure we have enough facilitators to comfortably host the workshop spaces. With only two of us managing the power drills and painting areas, we were busy all day and didn’t really have time for a break (the rest of Festival passed me by in a blur).
  • Have back up drills to cover a full day of workshops! A few of our patient novice makers had to wait around for the drills to charge before they could finish their masterpieces. Equipment fail = frustration.

Overall, such a great way to kickstart this project and test our ideas for Better Build. A day just full of small, satisfying moments.

hand made wooden flower pot

About the Better Build Project

October 10, 2014

Better Build is a series of free or low cost workshops for people interested in:
• learning and sharing domestic carpentry skills
• collaboratively creating furniture, storage or gardening items
• applying good design principles, such as using salvaged materials to produce a new useful product
• connecting with other like-minded souls while developing DIY building and sustainable living skills

When and Where?
We’re kicking off the workshops from October 2014 at venues around Nillumbik Shire. Stay tuned to this page for details and announcements!

Who is Team Better Build?
The volunteer crew behind Better Build is currently Craig Byatt (holistic architect), Paul Pitrone (sustainable designer & builder) and Liz Franzmann (digital engagement & group facilitator). Craig and Paul were interested in sharing their combined knowledge & experience through community workshops and Liz was keen to help make this happen. And they all love building stuff!

Better Build Principles
We believe learning is good. We believe learning by doing is better. We believe learning by doing, while socialising over a shared, tasty meal is best!

Getting to know people in your local ‘hood while making something satisfying, with your own hands, is one way to ‘better build’ a strong, connected community.

We believe in good design. It’s about using resources well. This includes working with materials that are safe, salvaged and thoughtfully re-purposed. (We also think multi-function storage items are very sexy…)

Sharing means caring…for ourselves and the planet. Why buy it if you can borrow it? We’re testing this idea by joining the Brunswick Tool Library to borrow extra workshop tools & materials, if we can’t find them shared on Streetbank.

We’d like to thank Nillumbik Shire Council for awarding Better Build with a 2014 Community Grant to kickstart the project. We’d also like to thank the Sharehood Collective (now Streetbank Australia) for auspicing the project and providing a sounding board for all our project ideas.

Want to join Team Better Build?
While the Better Build idea was originally the brainchild of Craig, Paul & Liz, the Team is always on the lookout for Nillumbik locals interested in helping organise, promote & run the workshops. You don’t need any particular expertise other than a desire to help out. Hit us up on this page or send us an email at if you’re keen to get involved.

SLF Program Highlights – week 2

February 17, 2014
MobileMuster Phone Recycling Transition Film Festival 2014

Finally got around to recycling my old 'no numbers' Nokia with MobileMuster at the Transition Film Festival.

The Big Weekend is over and we’re into the final Festival straight. But don’t despair, there’s still a whole lotta Festival love happening around Victoria and, dare I say it, events of a high calibre indeed:

Mon 17 Feb:

The Transition Film Festival guys have cultivated another tantalising crop of visual delights for this coming week. And I continue to enjoy their programming experiments such as crowd-funded film screenings and the mobile phone recycling discount.

Musicwood is my top pick of today’s Festival offerings. Given that it’s 6.30pm and I’m mid-post writing it’s unlikely I’m actually going to make it to the Bella Union film tonight. But you might!

Tues 18 Feb:

Project Wild Thing just totally tickles my fancy – one of the best trailers of the Transition Film Festival lineup.

Wed 19 Feb:

Thoroughly enjoyed bashing a few shipping pallets into a functional planter box with the Urban Bush Carpenters crew last year. So I’m keen to see what real artisans have done with this abundant, modern material at the Create from a Crate exhibition in Ivanhoe.

Thurs 20 Feb:

Northcity4′s Renew, Restore, Respect urban revitalisation seminar looks visit-worthy, as does ‘the establishment’ version Open Space at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre.

Regretfully, City of Melbourne’s first Look.Stop.Swap program totally passed me by at last year’s Festival. The irony of working on the Sustainable Living Festival production team is you don’t actually see much of this large multi-platform event.

But thought-provoking sustainability collaborations between CBD retailers and local change makers really shouldn’t be missed. Head to the Look.Stop.Shop Facebook page event listings for the full program of events and timings.

Or better yet, check out this little online map I made of the LSS retailers and pace out your own day tour of all the sites! Just to soothe my dark-corner-rocking inner geek I colour coded the map as follows: green = installations, blue = workshops/interactives, red = food/drink.  Click on the pins for more details. Most activities are on till the 23 Feb.

P.S. My top pick of the LSS program for this week is the Indigenous Garden Talk at Melbournalia, 6pm Thursday.

Fri 21 Feb:

A quick stop in at the Grow Show for a small container garden workshop and then on to the screening of the renewables love story – The Future of Energy. Oh, and maybe some ‘money work’ to pay the bills in between…

Sat 22 Feb

With almost two weeks of Festival action I’ve got to admit am fearing by Saturday…I’ll be a bit knackered! So I was more than a little relieved when I saw the Geelong North Better Block has been postponed to March 15. Highly sensible idea. So instead, I’m kicking back for Bringing It Home: a crowd-funded screening of a documentary on the history and future of hemp.

Sun 23 Feb

Finishing with a creative flourish, I’ll be heading to Sustainable Table’s Treasure from Trash workshop to make crafty good things out of plastic waste.

So there you have it.

Tally-ho chaps!