Sunday, 4 December 2011

a market worth its salt (& pepper)

The Harvest Xmas Market was so wonderful last year that you'd be completely mad (IMHO) to miss it this year. But get there early; it's going to be packed & crazy & super fun! And just look at the line up of talent.

18th December.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

the new artisans

from 'the new artisans'
from 'the new artisans'
from 'the new artisans'
from 'the new artisans'

Inside The New Artisans by Olivier Dupon.

A really beautiful book showcasing the work of 75 artisans from across a number of different countries. I really like the way the author thinks it's time to reclaim the word 'artisan' and put it up in lights. Too true. There are very good reasons for having birthdays and this book is one of them (even though it's a tad early). Even better when one gets to specifically point out the gift.

I can't imagine this as an e-book, by the way. It just wouldn't do it justice. I think Louise Adler (from University of Melbourne Press) is right when she says that some books will always remain available in hard copy. I think this is one.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

creative mojo[ness]

egg + twig

I found this great TED talk today with painter Kimberly Brooks talking about an experiment she did to uncover her creative process. She talks about it boiling down to 8 stages:

1. vision
2. hope
3. diving in
4. excitement | 5. doubt | 6. clarity
7. obsession
8. resolution

later she added 9. exhibitionism
and a pre-stage: silence.

For her daydreaming is a critical part of how she gets to the 'vision' and 'hope' stages. Many artists talk about this dreamy first step in their creative process where to an outsider, it looks like nothing is going on. The trick is to know how to work through the daydreaming so that something eventually emerges and you start to 'dive in'.

Kimberly also talks about the 'bricklayer' approach to creativity - that is you need to make a start and just keep working, "discipline and faith" being key to this. Kind of similar to Elizabeth Gilbert's idea of being the mule for creativity where you "show up" and "do your job". Or the idea of persistence as I've mentioned before.

You can read a little more about Kimberly's ideas on her stages of the creative process here. Or watch the talk on TED.

Is this how your creative process works for you? Are these your steps? Or are there other aspects that help you kick your creative mojo along?

Monday, 31 October 2011

the small things

pajama pants
it's the small things

I'm not going to pretend that any of this sewing effort is fancy. It's not. I don't do fancy when it comes to sewing. But I can make a pair of pajama pants. Thanks to the Japanese pattern book, Sewing Talk, that is. Yes, I know, I've made these several times already so I really should break out, experiment a little and sew something different. I'm not likely too though as even remembering how to sew button holes nearly did my head in with this pair.

But hey, look at that pin cushion. It's the small things in life that can give you so much pleasure. Instead of dropping pins all over the floor each time I move this little number keeps them all in one spot. And I didn't even use a pattern. I know, genius! Just don't look too carefully at the button holes on those PJ pants, ok?

Sunday, 23 October 2011


hand work
hand work
peace lily

Soothing tired nerves with hand work is a good thing. I'm working beautiful balls of angora and alpaca wool into a something useful. Hopefully....

My quirky 2012 calendars are now available at Mr Kitly. So if you're local (to Melbourne) and would like one pop on by. There is so much beauty in that sweet shop.

Some of my giclee prints are now listed with Fair Artisan. Much goodness abounds there too.

Edible Austin have illustrated a lovely article about zen and food and cooking with a woodblock print of mine called tea in black + white. It brings me a lot of happiness knowing my print is sitting there alongside such wise words.

What are you reading? I'm enjoying 'You'll be Sorry When I'm Dead'. Watching? Bright Star about the poet John Keats and his lover Fanny. Quite a moving tale.

Friday, 21 October 2011

generating the spark [thoughts on creativity]

tools of the trade

I read a lot about creativity. As someone immersed in making|designing|creating I find it an endlessly fascinating topic. And as a researcher, I do too.

There's quite a bit of information out there from psychologists that attempt to explain what creativity is, where it comes from, and how it works.

There are also a range of people immersed in teaching art or design who think about creativity from a making perspective. If you ever feel inspired to read more on this I recommend reading a book called Studio Thinking. These folk know about creativity from an insider-maker's world and that's what they focus on in their book.

The Studio Thinking people write about the 'habits of mind' that need to be developed for creativity to flourish in a studio environment:

develop craft|engage & persist| envision| express| observe| reflect| stretch & explore| understand art world

What I find interesting to think about are the kind of environments or atmospheres that encourage the possibility of creativity (and ones that don't). Creativity is about expansiveness. You can see that when you look at the habits of mind the Studio Thinking people have highlighted. So environments that encourage that expansiveness, ones that allow mental and physical space and movement, freedom, a sense of adventure, exploration and risk taking are really important when initiating and developing creative projects.

My question then, is do we have or allow enough opportunities for this? Do we have the kind of environments where this kind of creativity can spark and come to life?

These are important questions for individual artists|designers|makers, small and medium sized organisations, and also especially, I think, for large organisations and corporations to think about. And I mean organisations of any kind, not just the explicitly creative kind. Because creativity is important in all kinds of work and all kinds of projects.

I read and hear so much about large organisations being fearful of creativity and employees with a creative streak. These kinds of people scare inherently conservative folk because of their expansive natures and ways of working. There is a lot of emphasis on control in many organisations (small, medium or big ones) and, sadly, the loss is creativity. Creative folk and their thinking often freak out those who like to keep hold of the reigns. Imagine how much this impacts on creativity and innovation all over the world! And imagine how much untapped potential lies dormant because of this fear.

But things might be starting to change. 'Blue sky days' are now starting to creep into the way some innovative organisations structure their working week to enable the space for creative thinking (and doing). Google calls this their 20% time where they allow staff to spend one day a week on the dreamy, expansive thinking and doing needed for creativity to spark. There are many websites and books out there encouraging self-employed people to do the same whether they are artists|designers| makers or work in areas not traditionally connected with creativity.

Even those of us who are makers can get stuck in a rut and need to carve time out for some expansive thinking and doing. Do you have a structured way for doing this? If so, what is it and does it work for you?

Saturday, 8 October 2011

inside a Kyoto print studio

inside a Japanese print studio
inside a Japanese print studio
inside a Japanese print studio
inside a Japanese print studio

Here's a bit of nostalgia I've been meaning to share.

I took these photos in about 2003 when I was living in Kyoto, Japan. This is the inside of a traditional Japanese woodblock printing studio in the centre of Kyoto. I was very priviledged to go with my woodblock printing sensei (teacher) to meet Sato-san whose studio this is. I spent the morning there watching everyone work. Incredibly, there were 5 people working together in this intimate little studio. It was amazing to watch. Every square inch was crammed with materials and yet people seemed to be very happy and calm as they worked together printing woodblocks. The skill level was phenomenally high, leaving me feeling like a lazy printmaker when I left.

The quality of these photos isn't great - I had to scan them as this was pre-digital camera for me.

You can see more recent photos of Sato-san printing here on Annie's blog.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

creativity & abundance

screen prints drying

I’ve been thinking a lot about consumption of late. More precisely, the fact that I don’t participate in much of it anymore. Not that I ever was a big shopper but lately I’ve noticed I don’t buy anything at all except for food. And books. And art supplies. That’s about it really.

Then these thoughts started connecting to stuff I've been thinking about in terms of abundance. This bubbled up especially while I was reading Daniel Pink’s book ‘A whole new mind: why right-brainers will rule the future’. Quite a good read for lots of reasons (more on that in another post). Dan emphasizes how we live in a time of abundance and how this allows people to have the time to, amongst other things, question the meaning of life and to focus on quality and beauty in our lives. It must be said that Dan is talking about abundance in relation to the wealthy West and not the whole globe. Abundance is clearly not something enjoyed by all.

Then yesterday I saw Kate Holden’s article where she tells a funny tale of realising she’s doesn’t have much stuff when it came time to fill out a home contents insurance form. As I read it I thought, yes! I know that feeling well. I too was overwhelmed when I had to fill out a similar form. Abundance gone mad. Every time I walk into a large department store these days I feel overwhelmed with all the stuff in the world. I wonder who buys it and why we need it all.

This theme is now being picked up in recent newspaper articles claiming that small houses are beautiful. Most of us don't need big houses. They're vast spaces to clean and heat and cool. And they're expensive to build and maintain. At last some common sense!

It's somewhat challenging and tricky then, as someone who prints, designs and illustrates to think about how I fit in with the consumption/abundance thing. I think anyone who makes anything and sells it (including skill) thinks about this at some time or another. The good news, if we're to follow Daniel Pink's argument, is that people with design and conceptual capabilities are going to be very much in demand in the future. This is starting to be the case already. Anyone with skills that can't be replicated by a computer will be needed as we move into an era dominated by abundance and automation. Pink explains that this means there will be a demand for clever design and beauty as abundance moves us away from a focusing merely on function.

Kind of heartening, don't you think?

Saturday, 10 September 2011


broccoli patch
gorgeous broccoli
parsely & lettuce
oregano, i think
grevillea flower

Veggie garden greens and a some grevillea flowers. That broccoli is a bit special, no? The cabbage moths normally eat our broccoli plants before they get this big so we're a bit psyched about this year's crop.

And that grevillea is a young plant but she's popped out lots of flowers for the first time ever.

What's happening in your garden?

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

art worth seeing

Chute, 2011 by Sarah Amos
collograph and gouache

Fink Truss, 2011 by Sarah Amos
collograph and gouache

New works by Sarah Amos are showing now at Flinders Lane Gallery in Melbourne. These two images are just a delicious taster. And if you're lucky enough to be in town this Saturday 3rd September go along to the floor talk at the gallery, 2pm sharp. I've been a huge fan of Sarah's work since I saw her massive prints at an exhibition 2 years ago in gallery 101. Gorgeous stuff. Lots of fine line detail and imagery. Images above courtesy of Flinders Lane Gallery.

Belinda Fox
August bloom II (blue), 2010
etching, aquatint and screenprint on hand stained paper

Seems Melbourne folk are very lucky at the moment. Belinda Fox is also exhibiting in our neck of the woods. Belinda is a mind-blowingly talented printmaker. No exaggeration - her work makes me weep with joy. This time she's showing at Niagara Galleries and is exhibiting mixed media pieces and ceramics. I first saw Belinda's work several years ago in Sydney and could not believe how beautiful it was. I think what I'm especially drawn to is the reference to Asia through her use of lotus flowers and jagged mountain ranges. Image above from Niagara Galleries.

Go see and enjoy!

Monday, 22 August 2011

lines + shapes

The Yarra Valley can be incredibly beautiful at this time of year. I was a bit absorbed with lines and shapes while I was there on the weekend. Oddly enough (given the location) not the wine. I don't know what that's about but am hoping my taste buds are just having some brief time out. Most of the time I do love a good glass of red. There were lots and lots of spring baby lambs out frolicking with their mothers. Too cute for words.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

what colour is your confetti?

2012 calendar
2012 calendar
2012 calendar
2012 calendar in progress
2012 calendar

I know, freaky, isn't it, pics of my 2012 calendar now, at this time of the year? Yes indeed, the calendar making world thinks well in advance of real time and as painful as that might be for most of us 2012 isn't that far away. Really. When you think about it.

Ok, so maybe this is a tad early. But I got all carried away with sumi ink and water colour and a confetti of reds & pinks that appear in graceful little pools on the pages of this design. And before I knew it the whole thing was done. Or almost. I have yet to complete the cover.

And if I don't stop gawking at these pics of Kathryn Tyler's house (from last week's episode of Grand Designs) I think I might just die with envy. The woman has taste by the bucket load.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

travels in the red

red dirt
red dust about 3 hours north-east of Katherine (in the Northern Territory). we camped here overnight.

orange gum flower
the most exquisite orange gum flower

dawn light
dawn at our camp around the half-way point

dawn light, escarpment
morning vista over the escarpment (half-way point)

hot & dirty camping feet
dusty, hot camping feet

the journey... follow the red dotted line

and a bigger map of Australia (in case you're not from here & don't know where the Northern Territory is)

So, a little more about the weaving trip. For those who like a map to get some idea of the journey I've tracked a red dotted line indicating our drive - 2 days by 4WD from Darwin to Mapuru (NE Arnhem Land) - see first map. Keep in mind that the bitumen road runs out after Katherine. And that the last half day drive is not for the faint-hearted - very rough 4 wheel driving indeed! In fact on the way in on that part of the 'road' we managed to get bogged in sand and break the tow-bar off the back of one our troopies (we had 2 x 9 seater 4WD troop carriers each towing a trailer full of food and gear) leaving our trailer stranded. Luckily for us, gorgeous folk from Mapuru rallied to the drama and came to pick up our stranded trailer in the middle of the night. Yay Mapuru locals - you guys are awesome!

All the pics above are from the drive in and most are of the half-way point camping spot overlooking a majestic escarpment.
If you'd like more of an idea of what Mapuru looks like and the weaving set up check out the Mapuru weavers site.

The journey in is incredible but also pretty full-on. Two days each way in a troopie sitting sideways looking at your fellow passengers is a close and bonding experience. Still, it sets up a very good base for working together at Mapuru itself.

The weaving experience was wonderful. Sitting on the ground with the women in the bark weaving shelter each day was very calming. Watching their hands and learning from them about pandanus (we went collecting pandanus leaves one day), about colour (natural dye), and about the various weave techniques was pretty magical. The whole time kids and dogs play in and around the women as they work. Babies sleep in between piles of dyed pandanus leaves waiting to be woven. Weaving is all very much part of the daily lives of the people in the community.

It's only possible to go on one of the weaving trips during the dry season (May - October). And for good reason too! I can't even begin to think of negotiating those roads during the great NT 'wet'. It's warm enough during the dry though - a hot but pleasant 30-32 degrees celcius each day. Excellent weaving and camping weather!

Oh and the Mapuru weavers now have a new online shop.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

weaving the land

weaving [my little effort]
one of my pieces. i loved learning this weaving style.

dilly bag by Gitipulu
dilly bag by Gitjpulu

open weave bag by Gitipulu
open weave bag by Gitjpulu

basket by Margaret Bambalarra
basket by Margaret Bambalarra

dilly bag by Gitipulu
dilly bag by Gitjpulu

dilly bag by Gitipulu
dilly bag by Gitjpulu

Arnhem Land Weavers

Oh my goodness. I cannot begin to put into words how I feel after the 10 day weaving trip I've just finished to a very remote community in north-east Arnhem Land (in the Northern Territory, Australia). So much learning on a cultural and making level! These images of my precious purchases will have to suffice for now. Please note the first image is one of my humble weaving pieces (I'm a beginner). All bags are hand made from pandanus leaves stripped and dyed with natural dyes. If you'd like any more information about the community or the weaving program please click here.