Rainbow chard (also known as silverbeet) is frost tolerant and can be sown all year round, making it a perfect choice for those in the southern hemisphere unsure where to start with their own kitchen garden.
Neeson Murcutt Neille demonstrate a deeply empathetic approach to making architecture, one that is integrally connected to landscape, history, identity, culture and place.
Read on for an edited extract from the book showcasing three of our favourite Neeson Murcutt Neille projects.
Designed by Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin in the 1920s, Castlecrag is an idyllic residential suburb of native landscapes and views across Middle Harbour. The Griffins’ intention was for a model residential community that created a sympathetic relationship to the natural environment. The house is a response to this intention, to the natural beauty of the site and to the memories of the owners themselves.
The Griffins aimed for an immersive experience with nature and the project works to provide this sense of immersion. The site has three natural features of note – a sandstone outcrop that shields the house from the street, views down to Sugarloaf Bay and Castle Cove below, and an adjacent angophora-filled bush reserve. From within the house, with its raw concrete and stone materials, the surrounding landscape and views animate the interior realm.
Beyond the lovely sound of rain on a tin roof, the acoustic signature of a room is a keenly felt spatial quality that can be shaped through form, scale and material. Sound connects a family spread across multiple levels in a house, sensing each other’s presence through the peal of footsteps on a delicate steel staircase.
A sports hall is ‘tuned’, dampening the space acoustically to allow for one-to-one interactions, teaching and assembly, while maintaining the bright sound of spectators – essential to the atmosphere of competitive sport. A beachfront public room is shaped like a cone shell, which, untempered, amplifies ambient sound. The room’s inner surfaces are wrapped in a holey ply cushion to soften the acoustic for community gatherings.
The clients have had a long association with this site, as the house was built by one owner’s grandfather. As a result, particular components of that house were retained for their connection to the past, including a chimney and surrounding fireplace joinery – protected during construction – and the marrying of new and old brickwork was left exposed. The outermost side walls reflect the width of the old house and are controlled by designated setbacks, while the interior spaces follow the natural contours of the site and rotate outwards towards the rocky outcrop. The result is a pinwheel plan – room to the rock, room to the bush, room to the view – with these shifts occurring at each level.
Prince Alfred Park and Pool
Located at the edge of central Sydney, Prince Alfred Park has history as a public reserve dating back to 1865. Up until 1954 it was a venue for public events and so the intention for this project was to reinvigorate the under-utilised 7.5-hectare park and upgrade a tired public pool, as well as the park’s history as a site for recreation, social events and sporting activities. A belief in the sacred quality of green space in inner urban areas drove the design and, as a result, the experience of the landscape is rendered equally important to the built form.
The strategy was to give the park a new spatial and ecological sensibility without erasing its Victorian roots. Designed as a piece of folded terrain and through close collaboration with landscape architect Sue Barnsley, a new 1000-square-metre pool building has a green roof of native meadow grasses that connects to the parkland. The building, 6 metres deep and 120 metres long, is both intimate and monumental, scaled to the swimmer and to the city. A continuous cantilevered roof edge, ceiling and rear wall are lined with delicate white tiles reflecting the light and giving a liquid, shimmering quality. Two earthen mounds define the space of the outdoor pool enclosure and connect to the park, while blue-coloured stripes accentuate the project’s topographic quality, softening the distinction between building wall, pool concourse and bleacher. Seen as a collection, the variously transparent wire mesh fence, yellow umbrellas, toddler shade structure, oversized tree seat, coloured trigeneration chimneys, palm trees and mound slide bestow a playful character and become follies within the park.
Coastal Garden House
Bronte Beach has a palpable spatiality – a room in nature with walls of sandstone and then a leafy gully just behind. Resonating with these shapely cliffs and the greenness, this project – with its brief for a ‘large house’ – led instead to an alternative strategy for a ‘large garden’. In part determining the siting strategy, a sandstone rock ledge cuts diagonally across the sloping corner site. The main house sits in the corner of the upper portion like a cupped hand, with a cabana, terrace and pool held in the lower portion sustaining life in the garden. Archaic and cave-like, the house feels like a reoccupied ruin engulfed in a garden.
In this project, garden and house merge: one extends into the other in continual exchange.
Winter gardening is a good time to see the bare bones and rethink certain parts of your garden. There are always a few hours in the day that are enjoyable to be out in the garden in winter, but the nicest part is taking your boots off and coming in to sit in front of the fire.
Read on for an extract from The Kitchen Garden by Lucy Mora to find out how you can grow your own blueberries this winter (plus a delightful blueberry and almond cake recipe to make with them).
Sow winter, spring
Harvest summer, autumn
Growing time 8-10 weeks
Space between plants 75 cm
Aspect full sun
Soil pH 4.0-5.0
Frost tolerant yes
Companions basil, thyme, rhubarb
Dislikes Blueberries prefer an acidic soil, so any plants that like a pH above 6 won’t be a good companion.
Varieties Brightwell – sweet, high yield Sharpblue – high yield Bluecrop – deciduous, sweet
Sow Plant in the winter for a summer crop, spacing plants around 75 cm apart. While blueberries are self-fertile, co-planting more than one variety will help improve pollination and yield. You can buy blueberries in pots.
Test your soil to check the soil acidity. Blueberries need a pH reading between 4 and 5. If it is higher than that, add granular sulphur to the soil (this is best added a few months prior to planting). Till into the soil and water in. Used coffee grounds are a good addition. Add compost and manure and use mulch to cover.
Nurture Feed your blueberries in spring with an azalea fertiliser. Keep your patch well-watered. Remove any dead or diseased branches before the plant comes into leaf in spring. Reduce all the branches by a third to do two-thirds if it has reached its full height (usually after 4 years).
Harvest Leave fruit until fully ripe, as it won’t continue to ripen once picked.
Blueberry and Almond Cake
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 22 cm cake tin.
Mix dry ingredients in a mixing bowl with a whisk.
In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs with an electric beater on medium for five minutes until the mixture becomes pale and increases in volume. While the mixer is still running slowly, pour in the melted butter and oil. Add the almond extract. It should look thick and glossy.
Bake for 35-40 mins. Poke a skewer into the cake and if it comes out clean it’s ready.
Let the cake cool before turning it out into a cake plate. Dust with icing sugar and serve with thick cream.
4 eggs, lightly beaten
200 g sugar
50 g vegetable oil
70 g butter, melted
1 tsp almond extract
375 g blueberries (you can use frozen)
Icing sugar (for dusting)
Thick cream to serve (optional)
175 g almond flour
85 g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
This is an edited extract from The Kitchen Garden by Lucy Mora.
Maryanne Moodie is an internationally celebrated fiber artist and maker. Her latest book, Maryanne Moodie’s Modern Weaver is the perfect guide to weaving bold, colourful pieces. Moodie’s accessible style of teaching makes it the perfect book for beginner and advanced weavers alike.
We recently spoke with her about when she first discovered her love of weaving, how she gets into the creative zone and what advice she has for beginner weavers.
How did you first discover your love of weaving?
I found an old loom when
I was clearing out the art storeroom when we were moving schools. It was bound
for the skip and I rescued it. It wasn’t until I was on maternity leave with my
first child that I really began exploring weaving though. After a lot of trial
and error, I figured out the basics of weaving. It really was love at first
try. The first year or so felt like an intense love bubble. Like I was falling
in love with weaving and all I really wanted to do was weave. I would find any
moment to weave: when my baby was napping, in the evenings after dinner, pre
breakfast. Any moment was a good moment to weave! It felt like I had been
walking around in the dark for the first 30 years of my life and
suddenly someone turned the lights on, and EVERYTHING was weaving.
What was the
inspiration behind Modern
I have been squirreling
away ideas for projects for the last five years or so. I wanted to take weavers
on a journey from the basics and scaffold them through skills and
projects to more advanced projects. As someone who is known for their colour
selections and combinations in my artwork, I also wanted to show weavers how to
become more confident with making bold choices.
How does your new book differ from your first book, On the Loom?
On the Loom is a
book for entry level crafters. There are many projects that you can do with
supplies and materials around the home. Modern Weaver is the big sister
to On the Loom. It is more mature, more grown up. I now have over 10 years’
experience as a weaver and it shows!
Tell us about your
artistic process – how do you get in the zone to create? Where do you take your
I drop the kids off at school! 🙂
But seriously, I have a dedicated space for my weaving. I make a cup of tea, open the windows and take up my sketch book. I try to relax and allow any feelings to come to the surface. I draw what is in front of me. By using these sketches, I can distil them into a weaving design that holds these feelings within. When I get in the zone, I often find that at the end of the weave I have come to new knowledge and understanding of myself and the world.
You also run
workshops and online courses in weaving. How do these differ from the
information in your book?
My in-person workshops can be more flexible and move with the participants’ questions and desires. The book is very detailed, with a structure that explicitly takes the weaver from level to level, growing on prior knowledge. I was a teacher for 10 years and so I know how to create curriculum, teach and cater to different learning styles and student needs.
What advice would you
give to people wanting to try weaving for the first time? Is there a particular
pattern you’d recommend people start out with?
I would recommend buying
my books! They teach you how to make your tools, how to select fibres, warp up
your loom and all the steps needed to complete your projects. If you are
more of a visual learner, my online courses are excellent. I have had thousands
of happy students.
What’s next for you?
I am working on some big
corporate commissions as well as private pieces for collectors all over
the world. Creating art allows me to fully express who I am. It is a
Is there a song that
encapsulates your approach to life and work?
Did you know that there’s food within 3 metres of your front door? It used to be common practice all over the world to collect and eat this wild food. But with the advent of supermarket culture, so much of the knowledge associated with foraging has been lost to us.
Diego Bonettois passionate about restoring botanical literacy to communities. He runs foraging workshops that teach participants how to engage with delicious wild food while starting conversations around belonging, sustainability and agency, and has collaborated with chefs, herbalists, environmentalists and cultural workers. He has also just published his first book, Eat Weeds.
We recently spoke with Diego about why he thinks weeds have a bad reputation, what inspired him to write the book and what he considers to be his favourite weed.
You grew up on a dairy farm in northern Italy, where
it was still very common for people to forage for wild produce. What difference
did you notice about people’s attitudes towards weeds when you moved to
A weed is a different plant to different
people. What some might see as a problem, others might see as food or medicine.
There are lots of plants in Australia, native and non-native.
The ecology around us is now populated
by naturalised species from all over the world.
The issue about whether they belong or
not, which is still very raw in Australia, does not negate the fact that the
plants are here, all around us. And that they have been food and medicine for a
It seems to me that weeds have gained a terrible
reputation over the last few generations. Why do you think that is?
Weeds have been demonised since
antiquity. It has always been an abstract term to define the ‘unruliness of
nature’. That said, the knowledge related to wild harvesting plants for food
and home remedies has been practised all over the world, up to a fast
degradation in recent decades. Urbanisation, and aspirational lifestyle,
swayed us away from the source of those practices.
Can you tell us a little about your creative process?
How did you approach writing the book?
I wanted to share the amazing stories entrusted to me by people from all over the world: stories of connection, identity and empathic recognition of oneself in a plant.
I have been teaching wild harvesting workshops for 20+ years, connecting with so many incredible plant people. People with a real passion for looking after the land and what it offers. I wanted to share these stories in the landscape where they were placed and the images by Hellene have achieved that, with exquisite tones and temperatures, gloriously framed in Ashlea’s design.
The drawings from Mirra then allow you to study and clearly see the details of the plant needed for identification. Marnee’s recipes are just a natural flow on, perfectly placing the plant and the knowledge on a dish of delicious food. I wanted to write a book to celebrate the stories, collaborating with amazing storytellers so that the message can be experienced more clearly.
Do you have a favourite weed?
Yes, dandelions, as they are a reliable and consistent
source of medicine and food.
As we head into winter in Australia, what weeds should
people keep their eyes peeled for, and what recipes do you recommend people
make with them?
Winter months in Australia are filled
with bitter greens and fresh herbs. I suggest keeping an eye out for sow
thistle, flatweed, dandelion and chickweed. All of these plants are readily
available in anyone’s garden and great in salsa verde for marinating or thrown
in your warming soups. Also remember nettle, a plant that keeps coming up to
offer delicious and nutritional sprouts through the colder months.
You also offer foraging workshops – how do these
differ from the information in your book?
My workshops informed the book and are a
hands-on experience where you get to taste, smell, touch and experience the
plant in its ecology.
By talking to thousands of people
individually every year, common questions and common plants keep popping up,
and this is the information collected in the book: an easy, readable overview
about how, where, when and what to forage In Australia.
What’s next for you?
Writing Eat Weeds was a massive effort that took many years to present. There is a recipe book in the foreseeable future, but at the moment I just want to celebrate and distribute this book.
Is there anything else you want people to know about
This is not the only book you should have about foraging, but hopefully, a good one that you will refer back to time and time again as you go through your journey of relearning the old stories. Enjoy!
Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran is the youngest artist in the history of the National Gallery of Australia to hold a solo exhibition.
Aged 32, Ramesh has been on a rapid professional trajectory. He has made significant and impressive contributions to contemporary art, and has delivered major artworks in museums, biennales and multi-art centres, both nationally and internationally.
Ramesh is regularly featured as one of the leading artistic practitioners of his generation, being promoted to the public in a diverse range of print, online and television mediate related to art, culture and fashion.
TAMARA DEAN (50 AVAILABLE)
Tamara Dean’s photography deftly explores the undercurrents of the human condition. This monograph is both a retrospective of Dean’s work to date and a perfect introduction for those unfamiliar with her practice.
Limited Edition includes: A signed copy of Tamara Dean + a signed editioned archival pigment print of Follow Me, 2018 (pictured below) on cotton rag with signed and numbered cataloguing slip presented in a linen-bound slip case.
My mother always made these poached pears on cold winter nights. I love to serve them following a heavy meal – the fruit provides a sweet and mellow finale to a feast, while the red wine sauce makes this a robust and comforting winter dessert.
Juice of 2 lemons 6 pears, ripe but firm 1 bottle hearty red wine 300 g brown sugar Juice of 2 oranges Seeds from 20 g cardamom pods (crack the pods to remove the seeds) 2 bay leaves Crème fraîche, double cream or vanilla ice cream, to serve
Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking: 40 minutes
Add half the lemon juice to a bowl large enough to hold all the pears.
Put 200 ml water and all the ingredients except for the pears into a large pan. Gradually bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring to ensure that the sugar dissolves completely. Once the poaching liquid is boiling, reduce the heat and allow to gently bubble away for 5 minutes, so that the alcohol evaporates.
Peel the pears (leaving the stems on), and trim 5 mm from the bottom of each one so that it can stand up. Put each prepared pear in the bowl of lemon juice as you go, coating it in the juice to stop it turning brown.
Holding each one by its stem, gently lower the pears into the poaching liquid, then add the bowlful of lemon juice and bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover the pears with a sheet of baking parchment, pushing it down flat to the level of the liquid and pears. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and transfer the cooked pears to a plate, standing them upright on their trimmed base. Set to one side.
Continue to simmer the poaching liquid, uncovered, for another 15 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half. Strain the poaching liquid through a sieve, discarding the cardamon seeds and bay leaves, and then return it to the pan. Add the pears to the pan and coat them in the thickened sauce.
Serve the pears warm. Place a tablespoon of your cream of choice in the centre of each serving bowl, before standing the pear on the dollop and drizzling with some of the sauce.
Wild fennel is harvested extensively all around the world. It is highly regarded in various cultures for its flavour and beneficial qualities. This is the same species as the fennel you find in the supermarket; however, the latter variety with its swollen bulb has been bred for mass cultivation.
Wild fennel is a master of adaptability, growing proficiently on disturbed land; for example, on the side of the road, on demolition sites or along train lines. It is essential to check whether the area to be harvested has been affected by local pollutants and run-off.
It is quite common to see elderly southern European migrants harvesting this plant from unkempt areas of suburbia. Wild fennel is the classic plant that a Greek yaya will make her family stop the car for, before proceeding to harvest it straight from the roadside. In fact, several sources here in Sydney have told me the same story about a yaya scolding her fully grown son, employed by the local council, for his part in allowing the local wild fennel colony to be cleared. Is it really that problematic if a corner of the park grows wild fennel? Let the wild plants be part of our landscape, helping to create care and connection.
leaf, stalk, flower, pollen seed, shoot
Wild fennel is a green, leafy, perennial herb. It can grow up to 2.5 metres high and 1 metre across. Extensive plant colonies – ‘fennel forests’ – are often seen growing in the wild. The plant is very easy to identify, the key being the scent: unmistakeably aniseed.
Leaves and stalks (Fig. 1, ii) The leaves have a fine, feathery appearance, and when crushed they also smell like aniseed. They range in length from 5 centimetres up to 20–30 centimetres and always envelop the stalk with a white ‘sleeve’. Wild fennel has ribbed stalks that become broader towards the base. Unlike the cultivated variety, this plant does not produce a sizeable bulb.
Flowers and seeds (Fig. 1, i) Fennel will produce a vibrant display of yellow flower clusters (umbels) in summer, which turn green when transforming into seeds. The individual flowers are only a few millimetres wide, but the size of the umbels can range from a few centimetres to 20 centimetres across. It is quite common to spot dried-out, light-brown seeds on the plant, as they remain for months after forming. Wild fennel seeds can vary in flavour according to where the plant is growing. Some are sweet, while others can be bitter. Wild fennel is a great example of a plant that should be approached from a caretaker perspective. When you locate a cluster growing in good condition and yielding sweet greens and seeds, look after it, become its caretaker, and the colony will reward you with good-tasting produce forever more.
All parts of the wild fennel plant are completely edible, from the base to the seeds. Its leaves are best eaten when very young. I love to pull out the new shoots as they form at the nodes of the stalks, peel off the layers to get to the juicy core and enjoy a sweet, crunchy and so delicious wild treat. Older leaves can be used as a garnish or chopped up and cooked with other vegetables. The aromatic seeds are used as a flavouring in cakes, bread and stuffing mixes. They are commonly used in mukhwas, a colourful Indian snack served after a meal to freshen the mouth and aid digestion. They can also be sprouted and added to salads, brewed in refreshing and calming teas, or used as ingredients in cured meats such as Italian salami and sausages. Fennel pollen is prized by chefs as a garnish, fetching high prices in the hospitality industry. I mostly use the seeds, which I harvest in autumn/winter and preserve for use throughout the year. They make it into my pickles, soups (see a recipe below) and, occasionally, baked goods.
Fennel as medicine has a long history. Revered worldwide, it is most commonly used as a calming tea for complaints to do with the digestive system. Although the entire plant can be used in various remedies, the seeds are the most medicinally active part. Used as a tea, it is also a known remedy when infants are suffering with colic. I make a tea with the seeds when I, or my loved ones, suffer from indigestion. Lightly crush the seeds in a mortar to crack the casing, and then add a teaspoon of the crushed seeds to a teapot of boiling water. Let the tea rest for five minutes and serve tepid.
Wild fennel seed and pumpkin soup
Recipe by Marnee Fox.
1 whole butternut pumpkin, de-skinned and chopped into small chunks 1 brown onion, chopped 1 L chicken-style liquid stock (we use an organic, vegan, ‘chicken’ style stock as it gives the soup a very rich flavour) 2 tbsp wild fennel seeds 250 ml sour cream (leave out for vegan) Salt and pepper to taste Fresh fennel shoots or flowers for garnish, if available
1. Place the pumpkin, onion and stock in a large pot and cover with enough water to just submerge all the pumpkin chunks. 2. Bring to the boil, then add the fennel seeds. 3. Simmer on low heat until the pumpkin is very soft. 4. Add sour cream, season with salt and pepper, then blend with a stick mixer. 5. Garnish with fresh fennel shoots or flowers if available. Store for up to 3 days in the fridge or freeze for up to 3 months in a sealed container.
This is an extract from Eat Weeds by Diego Bonetto. Recipe by Marnee Fox.
People have long looked to the planets for guidance and wisdom. Likewise, numbers are a universal language that can help us make sense of a seemingly chaotic world.
Cosmic Numerology is a method that combines numerology and astronomy. It’s also the name of a new book by by yoga teacher, herbalist, aromatherapist, and numerologist, Jenn King.
You can use the book to help you discover your foundation, personality, destiny and relationships numbers with calculations using your date of birth. The idea is that because these numbers are based on your birth date, which never changes, they are positioned at the very core of who you are and act like a blueprint of your personality.
Once you have worked out your numbers and their ruling planets, you can use them to discover deeper levels of self-knowledge, access your talents, bring awareness to your strengths and balance out your weaknesses. You can even use them to better understand your relationships, enhance your connections and avoid conflict.
Each chapter of the book also includes information on what colours, days of the week, elements, astrological signs, tarot cards, body zones, herbs and essential oils relate to each particular planet, as well as specialised meditations and suggestions as to how you can balance the particular planets influence.
Figuring out your numbers is super simple – there are only nine numbers and planets to learn about and the calculation is simple. Below is an example of how you can calculate your foundation number and planet.
FOUNDATION NUMBER AND PLANET CALCULATION
Your foundation number and planet are based on the weekday on which you were born. Your particular weekday represents your foundation, which is what you greet the world with and what the world greeted you with when you were born. This placement is similar to your Sun sign in astrology: it is the main underlying structure that supports your other traits.
If you’re not sure what day of the week you were born, use an online calendar for your year of birth. Use the charts on the previous page or the list below to find out which planet was in power on this day, along with its corresponding number.
To find out more about what your foundation number and planet means, get your hands on a copy of the book. If you need further incentive, every person who buys the book until 4 July 2022 is eligible to enter our prize to win a personal reading with Jenn King AND an original artwork by Kat Macleod inspired by your reading, worth $1500. See details and enter competition here.
Look in the space between the stars, what do you see?1
Viewing the world as interconnected is core to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems and communities. As such, it is not only inappropriate but also impossible to truly learn about Indigenous astronomy without learning how the sky relates to the land, which all makes up what Indigenous peoples call Country – as captured by the Bawaka Country group in a 2020 paper:
Country includes lands, seas, waters, rocks, animals, winds and all the beings that exist in and make up a place, including people. It also embraces the stars, Moon, Milky Way, solar winds and storms, and intergalactic plasma. Land, Sea and Sky Country are all connected, so there is no such thing as ‘outer space’ or ‘outer Country’ – no outside. What we do in one part of Country affects all others.2
The story of the Celestial Emu exquisitely illustrates the holistic nature of Country and Indigenous knowledge systems.
On a moonless, cloudless night, away from the streetlights’ orange hum and the confines of tall buildings, the dazzling speckled infinite awaits. If you’re close to town, you might see vast darkness with the occasional twinkle. But if you’re far enough away from town, you will no longer see the dark but instead be overwhelmed by the light – point sources dancing and shimmering, performing an astonishing display in the vastness of the cosmos. It’s here we get to know the sky in all of its complexities and subtleties. No one knew this better than the First Astronomers.
During the late southern summer, the Milky Way’s dominating light takes prominence over the entire night sky. As each day passes and winter approaches, the daylight reduces, and as the length of night grows, so too does the Milky Way’s presence in our skies. Among the bold, bright discs of light dwell pools of darkness. These uniquely shaped dark gaps are framed by a dazzling stellar spectacle. The combination of light and dark creates an undeniable feature with which nothing else in the observable sky compares (Figure 2.1). Different peoples see various creatures or places emerge from these features, each with its own meaning. To some, it is a big rip across the sky. To astronomers, it’s an entire galaxy shrouded by space clouds, behind which hides a supermassive black hole. The Wardaman people of the Northern Territory see the Milky Way as the Rainbow Serpent, accompanied by the Sky Boss and Earth Lady.3 The Yolŋu people of north-east Arnhem Land see a crow.4 For many Aboriginal nations, from east coast to west and from the Top End to the south, it is the Dark Emu (Figure 2.2).
The Dark Emu has many names. It’s sometimes referred to as the Celestial Emu. In Gamilaraay it’s called Gawarrgay, and its Dreaming tells us of dhinawan, with ‘Gawarrgay’ referring to the featherless, ceremonial Celestial Emu and ‘dhinawan’ referring to the land-dwelling, flightless bird.
These Dreamings are of particular importance to the Gamilaraay/Kamilaroi as the dhinawan is the nation’s totem. The Dreaming connects the dhinawan’s breeding cycle and its movement across Country, mirroring the movements of Gawarrgay across the sky.
In the months of April and May, Gawarrgay sweeps across the entire celestial sphere, legs and neck stretched out as though running. Kamilaroi man Ben Flick describes its positioning:
Just under the Southern Cross, you’ll see a dark spot. That’s the head of the emu. In front of him is, of course, his beak, and as you follow it down, you can see his neck in the dark spots of the Milky Way. It comes right down to his body. You can see his legs and a couple of eggs underneath.5
At the same time, on the land, the female dhinawan are chasing the males for breeding. After May, the dhinawan’s gawu (eggs) appear. These are early days for the gawu, before the embryos have had time to develop. The male dhinawan sits on the gawu, protecting the young. The dhinawan is important for Gamilaraay males, as the Dreaming teaches young men about their role in looking after the children in community, as the dhinawan look after the gawu.6 This is the best time for gawu to be collected, but people should only take what they need and leave the rest. If they wait too long in the season, the burrgay (emu chicks) form in the gawu. People should not disturb these gawu as the new generation of dhinawan is taking shape. In the sky, Gawarrgay’s legs disappear as he dives toward the horizon, signalling that the male dhinawan is sitting on the gawu on the land. The Celestial Emu is signalling to the Gamilaraay people to stop hunting as the eggs are now in incubation. As Flick describes it, ‘At that certain time of year, it’s time for us to go out and collect emu eggs. We go out into the bush, always leaving some eggs for next year and for generations to keep going.’7 Burrgay is also the Gamilaraay word for this time of the year (July), further illuminating the animal’s importance to Gamilaraay people and the culture’s holistic nature.
As the year progresses, Gawarrgay changes form and appears as a featherless emu crossing Country. Finally, in November, only the body of Gawarrgay remains, signalling that the dhinawan are currently occupying waterholes. Gawarrgay’s shortened form signifies to the Gamilaraay people to move across Country to access the same reservoirs as the dhinawan, but also to protect them from being overused and destroyed by the thirsty, cheeky dhinawan. When Gawarrgay reappears in February, people start moving from their summer camps and the waterholes to their winter camps. Just a few months later, the annual cycle of Gawarrgay, the dhinawan and the Gamilaraay people repeats.
Analysis of sixty-eight ceremonial grounds by cultural astronomers Dr Robert Fuller and Dr Duane Hamacher and CSIRO astronomer Dr Ray Norris found that the alignment of the Celestial Emu in the night sky throughout the year relates to the positioning and directionality of emu engravings on the ground.8
The sky knowledge connects to the food knowledge, which connects to the seasonal knowledge. It is relational, practical and cyclic. Through an Indigenous lens, everything is connected. This mirroring is a core belief for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We see it in the Dreaming of Gawarrgay and the land dhinawan. Similarly, in Gamilaraay, Bulimah or Sky Camp is positioned behind the Milky Way, where camp sites, tribes and ancestral places reside.9 Same same but different. This mirroring is so essential to life on Country that it is immortalised in Country. The Big Warrambool is a flood plain located in southern Queensland that runs down to the Barwon River in New South Wales. The water plains of the Big Warrambool reflect the sky above and the land below, acting as a portal between land and sky. This place of Country holds further significance to the Gamilaraay people as it is seen as the start of their Country.10 In Victoria on and around Dja Dja Wurrung Country, a similar place is known in which a large pine tree acts as a portal intertwining people on Earth to the sky world, much like the Big Warrambool does for the Gamilaroi.11 The interconnected nature of Indigenous knowledge means Indigenous astronomy is never just about astronomy.
This is an extract from the latest in our First Knowledges series, Astronomy: Sky Country by Karlie Noon and Krystal De Napoli.
Notes 1 Participant 6, quoted in Robert S Fuller, Ray P Norris & Michelle Trudgett, ‘The Astronomy of the Kamilaroi People and Their Neighbours’, 2013, arXiv:1311.0076 [physics.hist-ph], p. 6. 2 Bawaka Country, ‘Dukarr lakarama: Listening to Guwak, Talking Back to Space Colonization’, Political Geography, 81, 2020, p. 2, <doi.org/10.1016/ j.polgeo.2020.102218>. 3 Hugh Cairns & Bill Yidumduma Harney, Dark Sparklers, H Cairns, Merimbula, 2004, p. 59. 4 For example, see Dawidi Birritjama, Cat and crow legend [bark painting], 1960, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, <artgallery.nsw.gov.au/ collection/works/IA42.1960/>. 5 Western Local Land Services, ‘Through Our Eyes: Dhinawan “Emu” in the Sky with Ben Flick’ , Western Local Land Services, YouTube, 25 March 2014, <youtube.com/watch?v=LzFYFutiwoA>. 6 Rosie Armstrong Lang, private communication shared with Karlie Noon, July 2021. 7 Western Local Land Services, ‘Through Our Eyes: Dhinawan “Emu” in the Sky with Ben Flick’ . 8 Robert S Fuller, Duane W Hamacher & Ray P Norris, ‘Astronomical Orientations of BORA Ceremonial Grounds in Southeast Australia’, Australian Archaeology, 77(1), 2016, pp. 30–7. 9 Fuller, Norris & Trudgett, p. 9. 10 Lang, 2021.
Charlotte Cooteis a leader in classic contemporary interior design. With many years’ industry experience working in Australia, Europe and the United States, she is a sought-after designer of interiors, furniture and lighting. Charlotte is the founder of and head designer at Coote & Co., her design business based in Melbourne, Australia. She is also the creator ofThe Mountain Academy, an online interior design course.
We recently spoke with her about the inspiration behind her new book, Colour is Home, her creative process and how readers can begin introducing colour into their own homes.
Colour is Home is such a feast for the eyes, congratulations! I’m wondering what inspired you to write the book?
I wanted to document everything I have learned so far in my 20-year career in interior design and to share my knowledge with a wider audience in the hope of providing some guidance and confidence to those looking to embark on a design journey themselves. I have certainly included some hard-earned lessons! I hope it’s a timeless book – something readers will continue to reference over many decades with any project they may have.
Tell us about how you became interested in interior design. How did you know it was the right career for you?
I grew up with interior design. My father was the renowned interior designer, John Coote, whose career took him all over the world. I worked for his business in Europe in my early 20s then started my own business in 2008. Nobody told me I had what it took – I was just passionate and figured it out as I went. It wasn’t easy. I did have a pretty incredible teacher though – even if he was tough!
Tell us a bit about your creative process – how do you approach each project?
Every single project is different. If I think about the projects my team and I are currently working on, the diversity in clients and projects blows my mind! I really love this as it makes for interesting work and forces us to keep pushing the boundaries of our designs. At Coote & Co. we have set up very solid business systems and processes – and then the creative process sits very organically within that structure. It’s so important we let each project be authentic through collaboration with our clients. This becomes evident in the final interior. It’s a partnership, with access and reference to my experience, skills and direction.
You’ve worked all over Australia, Europe, and the United States. Is there a space that you’re most proud ofdesigning?
I have worked on some amazing projects around the world, but the projects for myself are probably the most rewarding: Marnanie, my home in Mt. Macedon, Victoria and now our new beach house on the East Coast of Tasmania, which we are currently designing. There is something so complex but exhilarating about being the designer and the client at the same time. I also feel like these are the projects the market really takes note of and judges you on so to speak. My father knew this all too well – at his house Bellamont Forest (an 18th century Georgian villa in Ireland which he owned for 30 years) I remember him having samples draped over guest bedroom chairs, as if to indicate “I am not done here, so you can’t judge me yet”!
Do you have a favourite room to relax in?
Autumn at Marnanie is beautiful. I especially love having a casual kitchen dinner in my new double height kitchen, in front of the fire, with good friends, delicious food and wine!
After spending so much time at home during the pandemic, I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling like my living space could do with some refreshing! What’s your number one piece of advice to people wanting to add a splash of colour to their home?
Don’t be afraid! Colour adds such a wonderful feeling to a home. Make sure to bring samples into your space and look at them in different light at different times of day. Take a picture – the photo never lies.
Is there a song that encapsulates your approach to life and work?
Feeling Good by Nina Simone, because it is a privilege to be here – I see the beauty in all aspects of life.
What’s next for you?
2022 is exciting indeed. We have a wonderful diversity of design projects and clients working with us at Coote & Co.! I am also filming my online interior design masterclass for The Mountain Academy and am excited to launch this in the next couple of months. Viewers will be able to purchase, download and watch the series online. I also just signed another book deal with Thames & Hudson, so watch this space! Finally, I’m designing and building a house on the East coast of Tasmania with my husband Geordie and Coote & Co. I’m pretty passionate about this project – it’s always a lot of fun being the ‘client’.
This April, we’re mighty excited to be releasing a very special new book that will teach you how to harness your full potential using the power of numbers and planets.
You’ve probably heard of astrology, might read your star sign on a regular basis, and (if you’re anything like some of the staff in the THA office) may even feel that a Mercury retrograde perfectly explains the chaotic world around you.
But did you know that numbers are believed to have their own energies at play? This is known as numerology, and it has continually fascinated people since ancient times.
Cosmic Numerologyis tool that pairs the power of numbers with ancient planetary knowledge, to help you better understand your personality, enhance your talents and deepen your relationships.
It’s also the title of a new book by yoga teacher, herbalist, aromatherapist, and numerologist, Jenn King. We recently spoke with Jenn to find out more about the book. Read on for the full interview.
In your book, you speak of studying numerology, astrology, tarot, meditation, and yoga, starting when you were a teenager. What do you think it is that draws you towards all things mystical?
I would of course say it’s because I have a 7 (Neptune) hanging
out in my numerology birth chart, which creates a desire to understand the
unseen or energetic world. Aside from that, I have always had a sense of wonder
around the mystical and spiritual realms. To me it makes sense that by
understanding other aspects of our universe and human experience we are able to
feel connected to what is beyond ourselves and grow as a person.
I am fascinated by the things we know but can’t explain and I find it so beautiful that people throughout the ages have created spiritual ways to celebrate and make meaning out of life. My mother and aunties always called me ‘fae’ (meaning otherworldly, or connected to the other world) as a child and said it runs in the family too, so there is probably an inherited trait there.
cosmic numerology as being like the love child of numerology and astrology. Can
you tell us more about what this means?
Numbers have always felt magical to me, and when I discovered numerology
in my early teens I fell in deep love. Astrology and the mythology around
planets were something I have also been very into since that time. Finding out
that each single number has its own ruling planet, just like each sign does in
astrology, lit me up.
I love being able to use the language of planet-based mysticism
to talk about numbers, and feel that this really resonates with people who
already know something about astrology.
Why do you think the
practice of numerology hasn’t become as mainstream as astrology has?
I do wonder about that and really feel it is time for numerology
to shine. Although we are pretty much beyond that era, I believe the star sign
columns in magazines and newspapers put astrology in front of people a lot more
frequently, and the popularity has built from there.
Both are systems of understanding the energy of the day, month,
or year. Both are systems that utilise a person’s date of birth and assist us
with self-enquiry and self-knowledge. Numerology has had less press over the
years, I’m hoping to help with changing that.
As well as
writing Cosmic Numerology, you also have a beautiful Instagram
account where you share the daily cosmic numerology forecasts. When did you
start doing this, and how has it shaped how you live your day-to-day life?
I started doing the forecasts in 2016, originally on my personal account then graduating to a standalone account with @thecosmicnumerologist. I was working out the number and planet energies of the day, month, and year for myself for a long time before that and felt others could benefit from this too, so I started to share it with the world for fun. I’ve always loved to write, and the daily forecast is a great excuse to practice something I enjoy, while connecting myself and others with the current mood.
Can you tell us a bit
about your creative process: how did you approach writing the book?
For me it was like a ritual most days. I’d organise my writing
desk into a tidy and sacred feeling space, light a candle, meditate a little
and then just let it pour out. I’d often have playlists going with dreamy and
cosmic sounding songs to get me in the zone. The phone was always on silent in
the other room. I’m very much a writer of the do not disturb kind. That and
bursts of writing coupled with frequent short breaks works for me.
Do you have a message
for people who are a little sceptical about the wisdom of cosmic numerology?
All of these spiritual tools like numerology, astrology, oracle
decks and other mystical things like meditation, ritual work etc have been
around for a very long time. They are really about connection. These things
offer a way to connect more deeply with yourself, with whatever is out there
that is greater than us, and with the mysteries of life. This is their power,
and this is why people love them still.
In my mind they are meant to be a fun, inspiring and interesting
way to enjoy self-enquiry, learn more about the people who matter to you and
feel a greater level of awareness at play in your life. I always say to people
that when it comes to these things take on what rings true for you, discard the
rest. Let your intuition be your guide.
The three core aspects that are most important to a person (in
my opinion) are covered in the book, but of course we are multi-dimensional
people with a lot going on. When it comes to the chart readings, we are really
looking at every influence from that person’s day and date of birth, so there
are 8 different aspects that I cover.
I always ask the person for their date of birth, and to let me
know the three specific areas or questions they would like to delve into in the
reading. Firstly, all of the number and planet aspects as they present with the
individual are covered. I then work with the persons chart, their enquiry, and
my intuition to assist with guidance based on their cosmic numerology.
Is there a song that
encapsulates your approach to life and work?
Ah that is a tricky one, I love so many songs. Cloud Busting by Kate Bush, Myth by Beach house, and Rain by Tones on Tail always put me in an inspired mood to write.
What’s next for you?
I’m getting married in May so that is a big treat coming up! Plus, more writing, workshop planning, and another creative Cosmic Numerology project is currently in the works. Stay tuned.
My daughter Lucy died on 10 November 2004, in the morning, at the age of thirty-eight. She lay on her bed for a sleep, with her cat beside her, and her heart stopped. It was, I like to think, a death of her own manner and choosing, though I doubt she did this consciously. My business is words. I put these together, my words, hers, other people’s, in celebration of her life and of our grief for her loss of it, and ours of her. Not all the words are about her, but they are all for her.
Love is so important to us. We so much need it. We can’t do without it. What we don’t realise at the beginning is the price it comes at. When we kiss the lover, when we marry the beloved, when we nurse the child, there is such perfection, such joy, we do not know the cost that is beginning to be incurred, and the paradox that the greater the love the greater the price. Though, I do think a child often comes with fear; fear skulks through the wide open door of joy, it casts its shadow and a little shiver chills us, even if we don’t entirely recognise it. Until the day of reckoning comes.
The price is loss. I have lost my husband, and my daughter. As I write these words in 2004 – it’s not that date any longer, this book will have been eighteen years in the writing, such things don’t come easily, you have to wait for them – I have a son, I have a new husband. I am building up further dreadful debits and may one day be asked to pay them. I say to my son, Make sure you don’t die for a long time, and he promises. But he can’t be sure. John, the husband, is several years younger than me, and very fit. But one of us will lose the other, one day.
You could choose to live without love and then there never would be loss. But who would want to do that?
Love equals loss. But it takes a while to twig.
I see my son James becoming aware of such things. He pays attention to me, I am his only close relative left. When I die there will be nobody at all of the generation before him, he will occupy that rather chilly eminence of the oldest in the family. There is an uncle by marriage, no aunts, some younger cousins who are all quite attached to one another but not in close contact because of geography, and it is much the same for his partner, she has a lot of cousins but not nearby. He is hanging on to me, and I am supposed to hang on to myself. But I sniff the air of mortality.
At the end of 2016, as we were waiting for his son to be born at seven o’clock the next morning, James informed me that I had to live another twenty years to see my grandson into adulthood. Mm. I doubt that is going to happen.
Memoir | 2021
This memoir isn’t very chronological. It doesn’t start at a beginning and go through to an end. As you might imagine a photo album, beginning with birth, through babyhood, being a toddler, school, growing up, and so on and on. No, time and memory seldom travel together. When I wrote my family saga novel Lovers’ Knots I was interested in getting the content of a saga without the massive proportions, and I came up with the image of a box of photographs. You pick them out at random, and so the story is told. This memoir is another such box of snapshots. You find your own way through the story, from random details. That said, it does begin with Lucy’s birth.
Tasting the air | 1966
When Lucy was born she tasted the air. She had a round little golden head – later doctors said she was jaundiced but when she was born she was golden, and very pretty, with smooth cheeks and no wrinkles or jowls. She lay in her crib on her back, put out her tongue and tasted the air. Very thoughtfully, as though she was testing this new medium that she found herself in. Quite voluptuously; she was offering herself a sensuous experience.
She seemed quite healthy then, though tired after a long labour, from early one morning to about three o’clock the next. It was another day before they decided she had a problem, and took her to the premmie nursery and put her in a thing called a Crown Street 10 box, which was a five-sided cube of a kind of perspex, a bit bigger than her head, into which oxygen was fed. That was when the doctor, who was a practising Catholic, said, If you believe in having babies christened, then christen this one. We didn’t believe in it, but we did christen her. Maybe to keep terror at bay; we knew what his words meant. It seemed important that some small ceremony should mark her short life. The archdeacon who had married us came from the church of St John’s, a church much older than Canberra, belonging to the nineteenth-century homestead of Duntroon, and baptised her. Perhaps he thought we were afraid of her getting lost in limbo.
The premmie nurses decided she wasn’t any good at breastfeeding and got her on to bottles, with my milk expressed. When James was born he did exactly the same thing, he choked and gagged and couldn’t take the milk. I was heartbroken, and suddenly back in that terrible time when we thought Lucy was going to die. I panicked, and wept, it was all happening again. But then a wise nurse looked and said, The poor little mite is being drowned. She made me lie on my back so that the milk did not flood out and make the baby choke, and we did that for a good twelve months. I organised myself so I lay on the sofa or the bed, holding a book in one hand, the same arm cradling James, the other hand holding the nipple so he could suck comfortably. We spent vast amounts of our days, and at first nights, lying around like this, having a lovely time.
And I realised that if Lucy hadn’t been in the premmie nursery, or if there had been a nurse wise in the ways of feeding babies, we would have worked out that Lucy’s problem was not that she couldn’t suck, but that she was being drowned, and so choked. She could have been breastfed. It is one of the sorrows of my life that she wasn’t. I think she needed to be, I think she might have been less anxious in her childhood and adult life if she had had that long loving comfort. It might have given her a useful bulwark against the fearsomeness of 11 hospitals and medical procedures. A suckling baby lies, and dozes, and drinks a bit, taking just as long as anybody will let her. But a bottlefed baby, there it is, drink up, all gone, that’s it. And other people want to do it. They like to think they are helping you, but it would be better if they did the dishes, and left this important task to you.
I am not a person given to regrets. I know they are pointless, what has happened is, it cannot be undone. But I cannot stop myself regretting that Lucy was not breastfed. For my sake, of course, the convenience of it. But I would not still regret that, forty years later. It is the comfort and the cosseting, the long lazy times spent in this milky haze of mutual delight, that I am so sad she missed.
At three weeks old she was flown to Melbourne, to the children’s hospital. It was thought that I shouldn’t go, that it would be too much for me. The cardiac physician did not think the breastfeeding mattered, he said that she would be better off staying with bottles. Until then I had thought that as she got older and stronger perhaps she would be able to cope with it. No, he said, you are only distressing yourselves. He was wrong, I know now, we could easily have done it. My milk drying up was one of the most agonising things ever to happen to me. I was ill for some time. And it wasn’t just the physical response, it was sorrow for the loss of something that I believed was so essential for the both of us. Physically, Lucy thrived on bottles. But I think that, psychologically, she missed out.
The specialist in Melbourne (the Canberra GP had wanted Sydney, the pediatrician Melbourne; the senior man won, which was harder work for us over the years, since Sydney is much easier to get to) looked at her and said, Well, she has got a pretty funny heart, but she’s okay, she’s managing. We’ll keep an eye on her, that’s all. He did that, for nine years, and then she needed her first open-heart surgery. These days they would have done it much earlier and it might have all worked better, but that is not something one can dwell on. The very 12 best was done, it was all quite pioneering, she was one of the oldest patients with her condition, the others hadn’t survived.
Dr Venables, the cardiac pediatric physician, was able to make a more precise diagnosis than the funny heart. She was born without a pulmonary valve. This meant that when her heart pumped blood to her lungs there was no valve to close and keep it there. Her heart compensated, pumped extra hard to make up for what gushed back. But the result was an enlarged heart, and a very much enlarged pulmonary artery, so her lungs were compromised by this. The solution, to fix in place a tanned valve, in this case a pig’s, was considered better left until she was as big as possible, since it wouldn’t grow with her. It had to be replaced when she was twenty-one because it had calcified; apparently this is normal, teenagers produce a lot of calcium. The second time it was a tanned human valve. The valves worked well, it was the much enlarged pulmonary artery that was the problem.
When she was born, my husband had two nuns in his class. He was a lecturer at the Australian National University in Canberra at the time. Oh, Graham, one said, I see you have named your daughter for two child martyrs. Lucy Beatrice. Of course that wasn’t our intent, we liked the names for their beauty and meaning.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS: WIN a copy of A House Party in Tuscany and an Italian food hamper worth $300
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There are many farmhouses in Tuscany, but few are quite so magical as Arniano. It is here in this 18th-century podere that the author of A House Party in Tuscany, Amber Guinness, grew up and learned to cook. And it is here that she established The Arniano Painting School, a residential painting course and immersive art and food experience.
We recently spoke with Amber about why she loves Tuscan cooking, the creative process behind the book, and how readers can capture the essence of Arniano themselves.
Congratulations on the book – it’s such a wonderful celebration of what your mother
and late father created at Arniano! Can you tell us a bit about what inspired
you to write it?
The idea for this book started five years ago when I noticed that people on our painting courses at Arniano would often finish lunch by asking me for the recipe. What started as the odd request became a surprisingly constant refrain, which is when my wonderful tiger husband, Matthew Bell, started his own refrain: ‘Amber, you must write a book!’
Luckily, I had started to compile a scrapbook of tried and tested recipes, and this dog-eared soup stained folder was the early iteration for A House Party In Tuscany. So, a book about me and my sister’s upbringing, our parents, what they created at Arniano, and the recipes that we had always cooked there had been percolating for years.
But it wasn’t until I met Robyn Lea, a talented photographer and author, that the dream became a reality. Robyn came to Arniano to do a shoot, not about food, but about interiors and my mum Camilla’s work, and I told her about this idea. It was Robyn who picked up the ball and ran with it, taking it back to Kirsten Abbot at Thames & Hudson in Melbourne. Kirsten and I were all set to have our first meeting about the project in London in March 2020, and of course, the world came to a grinding halt.
What seems incredible to me is that Kirsten and Robyn didn’t lose interest in the project due to the pandemic – quite the opposite. They took it up with enthusiasm, over many Zoom calls at hugely inconvenient hours to them in Australia, and took a gamble on me and my idea, despite the fact that to this day, I have never met Kirsten in person!
a wealth of knowledge inside the pages of this gorgeous book! How did you
approach the creative process of writing it?
There were various stages creatively for the book. Research and thinking about what I find most useful in a cookbook was the first stage. I really wanted this book to be useful in the kitchen, as well as to look good. What I thought about the most was how to layout the recipes in the book – would it be straightforward: aperitivo, antipasti, primi, secondi etc. or, would it be by chapter, or seasonal?
I also thought long and hard about how to pitch the recipes – would they be for the experienced cook, or people who had never cooked in their lives? Making the layout of the book user-friendly as well as making sure that the recipes were as achievable, clear and as practical as possible was really important to me. As a self-taught cook, I have often been frustrated with cookbooks that tell you to do or not to do something without explaining why that step is crucial. Often when the reasoning is not explicitly explained, I’ve skipped a step which has in fact then resulted in the dish being ruined! So, I really wanted to include the right level of ‘hand holding’ and pre-empting mistakes for the reader so as to avoid some of the kitchen disasters I’d made in the past while still learning.
Once I had made the decision that it would be laid out seasonally, it was just a question of getting on with it! I had an advantage in that I wrote the book between March 2020 and March 2021, so was locked down with no distractions for most of it. I have no idea how people write books without lockdowns!
I would write early in the mornings and then recipe test in the afternoons in time for a late lunch, and later, dinner. My approach to recipe writing was, ‘we have to eat, so let’s combine the two things’. I would write the recipe, cook it, and then make notes on the draft as to what had and hadn’t worked before making it again with whatever changes needed to be made the next day. I also conducted several interviews, which involved hopping in the car and going to speak with local cheesemakers, the family who owns the olive press and Gianfranco, the local truffle-hunter. These were the elements that I would write in the morning before recipe testing.
learning to cook by watching your mother prepare meals for family and friends
at Arniano, which is such a lovely image. Is there a meal that most reminds you
of cooking with her in the kitchen?
Probably malfatti di ricotta e spinaci, which is in the Spring section of the book. They are one of the first things I can remember my mother making for us. They were always considered a huge treat, as they require some time and meditative patience. Also known as gnudi, meaning ‘naked’ in Italian, the ricotta and spinach ‘gnocchi’ are basically the same as a filling for ravioli and are naked by dint of not being encased in pasta.
I love how in the book you show that Italian food is so much more than just pizza and pasta! Not that I don’t love both of those things very much, but there’s such a world of culinary delights beyond them. What would you say makes Tuscan cuisine unique?
Tuscan cuisine comes from a place of poverty and so is very enterprising. There are lots of beans and vegetables and very little waste, while at the same time making mouth-watering meals out of things that would normally be thrown away. There are a plethora of ways in Tuscany of turning stale bread into something rich and delicious, such as ribollita or pappa al pomodoro. That’s what I love about Tuscan cooking, that it isn’t about fancy sauces or complicated cooking methods, but about bringing the best out of whatever ingredient you have to hand, sometimes using as little as some olive oil and salt.
Is there a recipe
you love that didn’t make it into the book?
I wanted to include the recipe for one of my favourite soups, Straciatella alla Romana, but then we decided against it. It’s a real winter warmer, eggs beaten with grated parmesan and pepper and then cooked in a pot of clear chicken broth. It sounds weird, but it’s wonderful. In the end, though, we felt that it’s a cosy, comforting dish, which I make for me and my close friends and family on a winter’s night, so it didn’t really fit in with the theme of entertaining and feast curating.
The way that your tables are laid and your meals are presented seems to be just as much a part of the artistic heart of Arniano as the oil painting lessons! How can readers capture the essence of hosting Arniano-style at home?
By making Pink winks. By buying the best veg, olive oil, tomatoes and salt they can find. By recreating any of the menus at the end of each chapter of the book and by bringing some colour to their table with single stem flowers and Lisa Corti tablecloths.
You also offer ‘Arniano-on-sea’ – the Arniano Painting School experience at Pylewell Park in Hampshire. Can you tell us a bit about that? Does the menu differ from the Tuscan version of the school?
The style of food is substantially the same, very simple and Tuscan, but I do bring in a lot more fish as there is so much locally available. The reason we don’t cook a lot of fish at Arniano is that we’re 90km from the coast, which in Tuscan terms is like Timbuktu. So, we keep the menus more mountain and inland focused as I prefer to use only the freshest ingredients. But it’s a treat to serve locally caught fish and crab with foraged samphire when we’re on the Hampshire coast at Pylewell. I still cook it in the Tuscan way, with olive oil and maybe some tomatoes, capers and lemons, and never with any fancy sauces that I feel mask the freshness of the fish.
The gamekeeper on the estate also always gives us a haunch of venison sourced from the wild deer that roam the park at Pylewell. I always love experimenting with new recipes for cooking venison. It’s such a delicious, gamey meat which is also very sustainable. Wherever the painting courses are, I think I’ll always aim to cook with the best locally sourced ingredients.
Is there a song
that encapsulates your approach to life and work?
I’m not sure it encapsulates my approach, but I like bouncing along to Ya-Yaby Lee Dorsey when I’m working. And any Sam Cooke.
What’s next for
Lots of painting courses – I think we’re doing seven this year! So, lots more cooking. More writing and more exploring of Italian food. A visit to my best friend, Beata Heuman, in Sweden. After the whirlwind of writing the book, bringing everything together and now press and promotion, I’m looking forward to spending three weeks on one of my favourite islands in Italy, with very little internet, hiding from the world.
March was a huge month for books, with the winners of the Indie Book Awards announced, the Bologna Children’s Fair returning to an in-person format, and longlist reveals from both the the ABIAs and ABDA. Read on for a round up of our top book news this Autumn.
Still Life wins the 2022 Indie Book Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction
On March 22nd, the winners of this year’s Indie Book Awards were announced. The Indie Book Awards are selected every year by Australian independent booksellers in six categories.
We are so thrilled to announce that our very own Still Life by Amber Creswell-Bell was name the winner of the Indie Book Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction. The full list of winners can be viewed here.
BRAW Amazing Bookshelf Exhibition at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair
This year the Bologna Children’s Book Fair returned to an in-person format for the first time since the pandemic began. Among other attractions at the fair was the BRAW Amazing Bookshelf, which showcased 100 books that were greatly admired by the judges and came very close to winning the 2022 Bologna Ragazzi Award.
The shortlist of the ABIAs will be announced on Monday 23rd May and the winners will be announced at the publishing industry’s Awards night on Thursday 9 June – a red carpet Ceremony held at the International Convention Centre (ICC) Sydney.
Last but not least, the Australian Book Designers Association recently announced the ABDA longlist. This year marks the 70th year of the awards, and we’re so pleased to see so many Thames and Hudson Australia titles on the list, as well as plenty from our distributed publishers. Congratulations to all authors longlisted!
It was over a drink at a pub in West London that William Roper-Curzon and I decided to try to host residential painting holidays at Arniano. William is a painter, who trained in London at the City & Guilds and, later, the Royal Drawing School. I first met him when he was preparing for a large solo show of his drawings to be held in central London, and it was (platonic) love on first speaks.
William is a hilariously funny raconteur and masterful story-teller. He has a seemingly endless arsenal of anecdotes, which have whoever is lucky enough to be with him doubled over with laughter within minutes. Aside from his company, it was easy to fall in love with his dynamic figurative and landscape paintings, all highly expressive, with strong rhythm of line and confident mark-making.
From 2010, William was often travelling on art residencies, searching for exciting places to paint. I sometimes followed to visit, which took me to Scotland, the southernmost tip of Ireland and northern Tuscany. But he also went much further afield, to Buenos Aires, California and New York. These trips, which often lasted months, were usually preceded by a greedy farewell dinner with friends and family, which I would gladly throw for him at my mother’s house in London.
It was over our drink in early 2014 that he described Arniano from his perspective as a landscape artist, and made me immediately believe that we should try to share the place I love most in the world with other people. He described what I had never been able to articulate myself – that what makes Arniano special for a landscape painter is the two types of view: ‘You have the huge vistas, the 360-degree panorama of the Tuscan hills, which are so rich in opportunity for the painter. But you also have these very intimate scenes, of beautiful plants in the garden, and the structures of the cypress trees planted by your father. It’s a mix of formality with raw nature. There is an underlying pink colour that comes through from the earth there, as well as seemingly endless sky. You are so high up that you are soaring above the valleys, and you can look down on everything before it spreads up again towards Montalcino and the mountain.’
William also had a great love for the house, feeling that ‘its ability to make anyone feel welcome’, as well as the total peacefulness, contributed to an atmosphere conducive to painting. ‘It’s incredibly quiet, there is no noise, no interruption, and a great sense that you can wander for miles to find any little area to paint. It does take you back in time there – you could be in medieval Tuscany, you would hardly know the difference.’
The concept behind the courses was that we would marry my ability to cook and host with William’s talent for imparting his knowledge of and passion for painting. Rather than creating a painting boot camp, the idea would be to ensure that students of all levels could confidently grow into their artistic ability through his charm, sense of humour, enthusiasm and encouragement. While a five-day painting course might not impart the technical ability of Rembrandt to a beginner, it would be enough time to teach our guests to use oil paints, to really look at a landscape in a manner that would make it possible to translate what they saw to canvas. In the case of experienced painters, the course would afford them the time and space to focus on an entirely new view. Either way, we wanted to curate a week in which people could be artistic, appreciate their surroundings and crack on with painting while not having to worry about feeding themselves – hopefully, making them feel well looked after and a bit spoiled along the way.
We decided to do a test run with some of William’s family – as he is number eight out of ten siblings, there were plenty to choose from. The week was fun, but chaotic and exhausting, as we had absolutely no help. I cooked, cleaned, made the beds and even modelled for paintings, but we loved it, and it was a fantastic learning curve. From an art perspective, it was a hit, and it was wonderful to see the garden dotted with people immortalising parts of my father’s garden and the view that I had always taken for granted.
While we learned so much from our guinea-pig gang, there was still a long way to go. That group had consisted entirely of friends or relations, who knew each other well and so fitted into our house-party format easily enough. We would now have to host up to twelve strangers, who would be eating together three times a day and painting alongside one another every day for a week. Kind and curious friends, relatives and godparents came to support us, and we learned with each course how to improve. But without an established reputation, it is difficult to persuade people to spend a week in an unknown house in the middle of Tuscany, with total strangers, being taught by an as-yet untested art instructor.
We advertised in The Spectator, we put flyers up in London art schools and galleries, and we asked the Royal Drawing School to send PDFs of our flyers out with their newsletter, which they kindly did – William being an alumnus and having taught in their foundation year. Finally, by 2016, following a surprise mention in the Financial Times and later features in various other publications (including The New York Times, Tatler, Vogue, The Daily Telegraph and House & Garden), we no longer had trouble filling the house, and have since welcomed guests from all over the world: the US, Mexico, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. Best of all, we have made an extraordinary number of truly great friends
A peculiar attribute of the landscape surrounding Arniano is the ever-changing light. Early in the morning, there is an extraordinary mist that sits in the valley and interweaves through the hills, allowing just the tops to show above the smoky clouds. These changes bring with them new moods and shadows, drawing our painters to different views and areas of the garden throughout the day. By the evening, everything has altered again, and there are often intense sunsets, bringing silhouettes from the trees and much darker, richer, olive colours.
William encourages our painters to work on two or three paintings at any given time – going back to each one at the same time of day, on each subsequent day, in order to capture the subject in the same light. When the wind picks up, which can happen at around midday and into the early afternoon, he encourages everyone to carry on, professing that ‘it is part of painting outside … you have to learn to be in nature, to absorb it – it will make a better picture.’ Being a committed outdoor painter, this is also William’s philosophy when it comes to painting in the rain – which, on the rare days when we have downpours, perhaps half our guests will heed, while the other half scuttle indoors to draw a still life. ‘Sometimes rain is great,’ he says. ‘Often, if it’s raining on you, you will get a fabulous light and these dramatic clouds, and somewhere else in the landscape, a whole drama unfolding in front of you. You learn to be instinctive, to get things down quicker, to try to capture the feeling of being in it and experiencing it.’
An obvious feature of the Tuscan landscape, which begs to be drawn or painted, is the olive trees, which unfortunately are also famously difficult to translate to canvas. ‘Olives are hard to paint because they are dense as well as airy,’ says William. ‘I always tell my students that it’s like trying to paint a shoal of fish. It’s incredibly difficult. It’s a commitment, but once you get into it, and realise that it isn’t one mass of leaves the same size, that perspective plays its part – the leaves which are closer to you are bigger, and the further away ones smaller – it’s very worthwhile. As with any challenge, it becomes satisfying once you’ve resolved it, but it’s definitely not easy.’ Having surmounted that first hurdle of painting at Arniano over the past six years (to the point where he could ‘paint olives in my sleep’),William finds that it is the horizon that draws him back again and again. ‘Somedays you see a ridge, and then others you think, “Oh my god! There’s a whole other town I never knew was there. It looks just like a medieval Italian painting.” There is a never-ending change of light and endless possibility.’
An important thing to remember when looking at a landscape and composing a view to paint is the foreground. ‘You may see a beautiful view and want to paint it, but the whole reason why it’s beautiful is what’s leading up towards it. People tend to forget about the thing that is right in front of you to help balance it out. Painting is all about balance. A ridge that is miles away, without the surrounding context, doesn’t have the same impact as what you are actually seeing.
Painting with Oils
Oil painting has such an illustrious history, and so many famous names are associated with it, that attempting to paint with oils as a beginner can be a much more daunting prospect than it need be. Doubtless, it is a faff. It’s messy, the paint takes a long time to dry and you need the right kit as well as space in which to set yourself up. But it also brings a huge amount of freedom and room to experiment. You can change things, work things out, and build up layers of colour and shapes. As William puts it: ‘Oils are great because you can fill a large area very quickly, but equally you can wipe or scrape them off if they’re not right. Each mark is less of a commitment than with, say, water colours. The different density of the colours with the mediums means you can make a colour almost transparent, or really thick, and certain colours are more transparent than others. Often the very dark colours, like ultramarine and some greens, are very rich colours, but also very transparent. If you add a warmer colour, they become more opaque and dense. Equally, because there is so much freedom provided by oil paints, there are a lot of things to think about. It can be daunting, but for the better, as you have more to play with and to experiment with, to find out what your style is like.’
As with cooking, painting with oils becomes less daunting every time you do it, as your confidence grows and you get used to the feel of the paints, the brushes and the medium. By the end of the week at Arniano, we always hope that everyone has done something they are proud of, at the same time as having figured out their own way of doing things. William tries to teach in such a way that everyone comes up with their individual style of painting. He disapproves of hard and fast rules, and dislikes the idea of anyone leaving Arniano and simply going on to paint like him. He wants each student to be able to do it on their own, to go home and enjoy it.
The start of the week is focused on finding something that each student is interested in painting. William will walk the students around the garden until they find a subject that captivates them. Quite often, if he sees that a student is good at doing close-ups of plants during the first morning of charcoal drawing, he’ll set them up in front of the fig tree with some nice, dark shadows behind, and ask them to paint the pleasing, interlacing fig leaves. Sometimes a student might not want to paint the landscape at all, but would rather stay indoors to paint one of my mother’s ceramics. These people are usually those whose knowledge or natural interest lies in design. Even so, this exercise often leads them back into the garden to have a go at landscape, because they feel more confident attempting to paint ‘shape’ and ‘form’ outside having had a practice run at capturing a Granada bowl in the kitchen.
Because the guests have just under a week – it is a rarity to have time and space where you can focus purely on oil painting – William’s philosophy is that everyone should just get on with it, and procrastinating is sharply discouraged. After an initial morning of charcoal drawing together, to get everyone’s eye in and to get them to think about composition, everybody is dropped in at the deep end and told to start painting. Although it’s only a week, it’s a lot to absorb in a short amount of time, and everyone is exhausted by the end, having done a lot of work.
Starting a Painting
Before you start painting, you will need the following:
a minimum of three round-headed and three flat-headed sable brushes for oils
non-toxic vegetable-based medium, or turpentine
a basic set of oil paints, which includes all the primary colours
a large tube of white, zinc and/or titanium (very useful)
any additional tubes of paint in colours that capture your imagination (we love French ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, Venetian red, cadmium red, crimson alizarin, burnt umber, raw umber)
primed boards to paint on – you can prime wood boards yourself by coating them with white emulsion, or buy ready-primed from any art store (we order ours from the wonderful art suppliers Zecchi, in central Florence).
The key to enjoying the process of painting is to set yourself up fully at the beginning, to make sure you are comfortable and to have everything you need. You should also have some cloths for wiping your brushes, and two pots of medium: one pot of pure medium, for cleaning the brushes, and another pot containing half linseed, half medium, to add a little gloss to the paint. Some people prefer a drier finish and omit the linseed – this can also be beautiful. It is entirely down to preference and personal style. Regularly cleaning your brushes is imperative, in order to keep your palette clean and the colours distinct. William is strict about everyone cleaning their brush in-between changing colours – the result of not doing this can be a dreadful grey mush.
The next thing is to make sure that everything is in its proper place. For instance, if you’re right-handed, arrange your easel to your left, so that you have your right hand at the view and your palette in front of you (and vice versa if you are left-handed). If everything is in its proper place, then you won’t have to keep moving around. Simple, good habits such as these make a huge difference.
Once you are set up, look at the view and decide on a colour palette (a set of dominant colours), before mixing these up using different colours to achieve the one colour you are after. At Arniano, the landscape has a lot of pinks, rich greens, blue skies and sulphur-coloured clouds, but it isn’t necessary for the colours to be realistic. It’s how colours work next to one another that is interesting, as they can have an amazing effect on each other. If you mix your colours thoughtfully before you start, you can create a tension between them. You can also dive straight in, without having to fastidiously mix as you go along. If William sees that someone is struggling with choosing colours to commit to canvas, he will open one of our artbooks and choose a painting by, for example, Gauguin and say: ‘I want you to make those colours and apply them to this view.’ This stops people fixating on capturing the exact colours as they see them, and helps them to learn to play around with colour and to gain confidence.
The best way to get started is by squinting your eyes. You will be able to see the rough shapes within the landscape, as well as the darkness and the light, and how they interact, without being distracted by the details. Once you have determined these elements, quickly block them in. By getting rid of as much of the white on the canvas as possible, you are setting the story. A ‘blank canvas’, so full of endless possibilities, can actually be upsetting. Once you get some paint on it, it won’t freak you out so much, and you can keep building up the detail and begin tweaking. William believes that the main thing for beginners to overcome is a tendency to get too precious about a painting, which can lead to procrastination. This can be fatal, as anxiety about what to do, or what not to do, will remove the pleasure from the process. Painting is purely for oneself – a way to feed your own soul, no one else’s. When a painter dithers, or hangs back, William will appear with barks of, ‘Just slap it on, it doesn’t matter.’ The beauty is that you can always start a new one if you hate the end result.
William’s advice to anyone who is starting out with oil painting is to be brave and to keep doing it, to try to get into the habit of painting as often as you can – every day if that’s possible, or even once a week. Be as consistent as you can, and keep looking at the works of other artists, at works that you like for their composition, colour palette or technique. It’s not cheating to do that. Quite the opposite. You are doing it for inspiration, to see what clever things people come up with that you really like, and that you would like to emulate.
This is an extract from A House Party in Tuscany by Amber Guinness.
Fungi have a range of natural abilities that we can use to heal damaged habitats. This is known as mycorestoration. Scientists can leverage fungi’s ability to decompose, and engineer it to break down pollutants in the environment, particularly xenobiotics. Xenobiotics are chemical substances that have been introduced by humans and do not exist in nature, such as pesticides, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and drugs.
Pioneering a new field of science is challenging and takes time, money and grit. But extraordinary circumstances need extraordinary solutions – and fungi can provide them
FUNGI AS A WATER FILTER (MYCOFILTRATION)
Earth is the only known planet within our solar system that has bodies of liquid water on its surface. This clear liquid is one of our most precious resources, but water supplies are limited. Less than 1 per cent of the water on Earth is accessible and fit for consumption, and this is currently shared between households, agriculture and industry. Over 97 per cent of Earth’s water is too salty and 2 per cent is fresh water locked away in groundwater, glaciers and ice caps.
In the last 100 years, the world’s population grew four fold as the world’s water consumption grew six fold. The industrial age and modern plumbing have made way for water consumption at rates that were never possible before. This efficiency, coupled with an increase in demand for water, has resulted in global scarcity.
Flushing the toilet or running the washing machine creates wastewater that is not reusable until it is treated. Roughly 80 per cent of the world’s wastewater is left untreated and allowed back into our waterways, putting the health of our water ecosystems at risk. Even in developed countries, wastewater is not properly decontaminated due to outdated treatment plants, sewage overflows and ineffective household sewage treatment systems. The source of untreated wastewater is difficult to pinpoint, as it originates from a range of sources, which often include agricultural and stormwater run-off.
A promising example of an affordable and feasible solution is mycofiltration. This process uses fungal mycelium as a biological filter to capture and remove contaminants from water and soil. Depending on the fungal species, mycelium can even eat through and digest pollutants such as pesticides, mercury and petroleum products. If you peer at fungi through a microscope, you’ll see that the cells of mycelium are about 0.5–2 microns wide (for comparison, a strand of human hair is 50 microns wide). Mycelium grows as interconnected cells that resemble a netted fabric.
Armed with this knowledge in the 1970s, Paul Stamets imagined that this fabric of interconnected cells could become a biological filter. He tested this hypothesis on his waterfront farm, installing large sacks filled with substrate inoculated with mycelium of the garden giant species (Stropharia rugosoannulata) around water basins. The sacks formed a netted barrier to catch contaminants as water passed through. This mycofilter cleansed the water, resulting in a 100-fold drop in coliform levels – the bacteria that is present in the digestive tracts of animals and found in their waste. The mycofilter successfully reduced fecal matter in the water, alleviating the downstream impacts of contaminated water. This finding was later investigated and confirmed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
A mycofilter can be as simple as a hessian burlap sack filled with wet straw and wood chips, and inoculated with mycelium. It is inexpensive and simple to set up. Also, the small size of the mycofilter means that it has minimal impact on ecology and can be installed around sites such as farms, urban areas, roads and factories. Having a mycofiltration system in these areas can help decontaminate wastewater before it makes its way back into our waterways.
Mycelium is known for its insatiable hunger for organic matter. Specifically, the oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) is able to process and neutralise bacteria such as Escherichia coli (commonly known as E. coli), working with its mycelial membrane to filter out microbial pathogens from contaminated water.
Tradd Cotter, mycologist and owner of the company Mushroom Mountain, runs workshops on setting up mycofiltration systems. ‘We’re using a cage that looks like a crab pot, that can be refilled with wood chips. It’ll last for a year or two. And if the cage stays put, it can be emptied out and refilled with new wood chips.’ Mycofiltration is a young science and commercial applications are scarce, but this has not stopped property owners from experimenting with this fungal capability.
FUNGI AS A FOREST AND SOIL BUILDER (MYCOFORESTRY)
Forests cover one-third of the land on Earth and their diverse habitats are home to 80 per cent of the world’s (known) plant and animal species. As for humans, billions of people in rural communities rely on forests for food, shelter, medicine and water. Forests are also a vital player in the effort against climate change as they act as a carbon sink– they absorb, or sequester, large amounts of carbon dioxide and store the carbon in their wood. Old-growth forests are particularly critical, because their roots have extended deep into the soil for centuries and sequester extra carbon out of the atmosphere, helping to manage today’s rising temperatures.
Yet deforestation – legal and illegal – continues. Aside from permanent losses of biodiversity, deforestation sets off a domino effect of land degradation impacts, including increased erosion, reduced soil fertility and piles of wood debris. Unfortunately, the standard treatment of this ‘waste’ is incineration. This releases additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and destroys the potential for the nutrients from the wood to be recycled back into the soil. This calls for sustainable forest management practices. One of these is mycoforestry – the use of fungi as a forest and soil builder.
Wood debris in forests can be chipped into smaller pieces, then inoculated with native saprophytic fungi species to speed up the decomposition process. This redirects vital elements and nutrients back into the soil for use by the rest of the forest. Fungi also produce glomalin at the hyphal tips, which is what fungi use to store carbon. It’s a sticky substance that binds together soil particles and builds soil architecture. This aerates the soil, helps water and nutrient retention, and regenerates impacted habitats.
Along with forests and oceans, soils also act as an invaluable carbon sink. Research found that mycorrhizal fungi in boreal forest islands in Sweden hold up to 70 per cent of the total carbon stored in soils. This means that trees connected to a mycelial network absorb carbon from the atmosphere and then transfer it into the mycelium for storage. Fungi play a critical role in regulating the global climate.
Mycoforestry was put into action in Colorado by Jeff Ravage, North Fork Watershed coordinator for the Coalition for the Upper South Platte and researcher at Denver Botanic Gardens. In 2016, he and his team of researchers set up two test sites in Denver Mountain Parks. These sites had been logged and abandoned, leaving 30 centimetres of waste wood spread across the entire forest floor. Ravage’s team recruited the help of wood-rotting species Pleurotus pulmonariuson one site and Morchella angusticepson on another.
Over five years, fungi in the first site consumed the wood chips and created 5 centimetres of topsoil – organic, mineral-rich soil from which seeds germinate – with a few centimetres of partially decomposed organic matter on top. Before this, the ground was just gravel with dust. The second site exhibited a slower rate of seeding, decaying 75 per cent over two years. The team will be treating this site with a second inoculation in 2021 to further investigate the results.
Want to get started on your own mycoforestry project? Watch out for a paper from Ravage, who wants ‘to create useful tools and distribute them freely, because we don’t have enough time left for somebody to figure out how to make a profit on saving the planet. We’re not out to create a patent,’ he says. ‘How can we patent nature?’
Mycoforestry remains an experimental forestry practice conducted by environmental groups and volunteers. Replenishing the soil in forests, improving soil fertility and increasing forest ecosystem resilience is of both ecological and economic interest. A greater uptake of mycoforestry by forestry management groups, logging companies and council decision-makers will move the science forward and protect the future of forests.
FUNGI AS A TOXIN NEUTRALISER (MYCOREMEDIATION)
We may not see it, taste it or feel it, but we are entangled in an array of environmental toxins. Microplastics in waterways, nanoparticles in the air and noxious chemicals in soils were all introduced by human activity and have become accepted as invisible causes of illness and death. Contaminants and pollutants are abundant in our air, water and soil, all around the world.
Traditional methods of remediation, such as disposal into hazardous waste facilities, incineration and chemical treatments, are expensive, energy-intensive and only move the contamination to someone else’s backyard. We urgently need to find more permanent solutions to clean up the mess we’ve made on Earth. Many scientists have turned to mycoremediation, the use of fungi to decontaminate the environment. After all, fungi are nature’s decomposers and this strategy has been effective for Earth for over a billion years.
In forests, a major source of nutrients is from fallen trees, released as the trees break down. Their sturdy trunks are reinforced by lignin, a complex material that binds together the building blocks of wood. Only fungi can excrete enzymes powerful enough to decompose lignin. Luckily for us, the bonds in lignin are similar to those in petroleum, pesticides, plastics, dyes and a range of other toxins, which means mycelium can disassemble the hydrocarbons present in a wide spectrum of toxins. In particular, saprophytic fungi varieties called white rotters, such as oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus) and turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) mushrooms, are relatively easy to grow and love molecular decomposition.
In 2016, Fungaia Farm, a mushroom farm in California, used oyster mushroom spawn to remediate gallons of diesel fuel that had spilled from a storage tank. They removed the contaminated soil and placed it between layers of fresh straw and burlap that were inoculated with oyster mushrooms. The mycelium got to work. As it fed on the petroleum, hyphae threaded throughout the crevices of the oil-laden soil. Later testing showed that all contamination was reduced to a non-toxic level and some soil was even oil-free, allowing the land to be reclaimed for landscaping.
Levon Durr, the owner of Fungaia Farm, has noted that the project wasn’t without its mistakes and he has since published a report to aid grassroots practitioners. Another diesel spill was discovered in 2020 and the Fungaia Farm team hopes to detoxify the soil using mushroom spawn once again. But convincing landowners to try mycoremediation is challenging. ‘It can cost US$15,000 for one remediation treatment on site and it quickly adds up because it’s a biological process and may need multiple treatments over the course of a year to get the soil to a non-toxic level,’ says Durr, ‘compared to paying US$45,000 once-off to dig up the contaminated soil and haul it away.’
Conditions are also difficult to control in these outdoor projects. It may be cold and rainy one month, but dry and hot the next. If temperatures are too high, the piles of soil and burlap can turn into a compost heap and kill the mycelium. Controlling for a myriad of variables on the field takes patience and resilience. Fungaia Farm continues to educate and produce mushroom spawn to cultivators for food production and mycoremediation projects.
Mycocycle, founded by Joanne Rodriguez with Peter McCoy as chief science officer, is pioneering a new industry: using fungi to divert waste from landfills. They are remediating waste from roofing, asphalt and chemical manufacturing industries. As the mycelium consumes waste and binds it together, Mycocycle creates new materials from the process. There is strong interest from manufacturers in these industries for a cost-effective and sustainable waste-treatment solution. The challenge Rodriguez faces to scale up mycoremediation ‘is the lack of interdisciplinary backgrounds to move these discoveries out of the lab and into real world treatments’. To combat this, Mycocycle launched an equity crowdfunding campaign in 2020 encouraging people to join the cause and accelerate change. McCoy is also the founder of MYCOLOGOS, an online education platform for all things fungi.
The Future is Fungi is a complete introduction to the hidden kingdom of fungi. Exploring their past, present and potential future impact in four key areas (food, medicine, environmental remediation, and psychedelics and mental health) the book not only reveals how fungi have formed the foundations of modern life, but also how they might help shape our future.
We recently spoke with the authors Michael Lim and Yun Shu about their favourite fungi facts and the process of writing the book.
You both started out in very different fields before ending
up in the world of fungi research. Can you tell us a bit more about what led
you down this path?
early psychedelic experience with a fungus showed me that there was much more
to this beautiful existence than I had initially contemplated. A state of
ontological shock embedded new questions about my very being into my psyche.
Over the course of the next few years, my worldviews completely shifted. I had
a burning question about how compounds in nature could give rise to altered
states of consciousness. My research into the fungi kingdom also had tangents
in anthropology, ecology, and philosophy. The chance to share and express this
particular journey in a book has been energising and I’m grateful for the
pivot from financial services to fungi can seem like a 180-degree turn! I had
some life-changing experiences brought about by psychedelic compounds found in
the fungi kingdom. My key learnings centre on not taking life too seriously and
to have fun on this journey. I was fortunate enough to love many of my roles
previously, but the path to create and write is nourishing. To make sense of
the infinite inputs and thoughts in my inner world and put them into cohesive
writing – that can then touch another person’s inner world is special to me.
I’m just following the doors that open and the synchronicities that come my
How did you both meet and begin working together?
Michael: We met
through mutual friends a few years ago and ended up becoming housemates when we
were living in London. During the months-long pandemic lockdown, we had extra
time to document everything we were doing – researching, cultivating, foraging,
cooking, sketching – and sharing it with friends.
What was the impetus for writing this book?
Michael: We saw how our friends were engaging with the content and it made us realise that there was not one book that was comprehensive yet beginner-friendly. We felt that the learning curve was unnecessarily steep. You either had to take your time digesting academic journal articles, learn mycology as a science or choose a particular specialty and go deep. We knew we wanted to write a beginner yet comprehensive book regardless if we had a publisher. We’re thankful that our friend Evi connected us with Paulina from Thames & Hudson Australia. There was a lot of chemistry within the team from the first meeting. We really feel like we pushed the boundaries in terms of design, illustration and writing style to bring a contemporary take on an ancient kingdom.
How did you approach co-authoring the book? What
was the writing process like?
co-authoring process was grounded in collaboration, respect and honesty. We
planned the book structure together and then tackled one chapter at a time. We
divided the workload by picking the sections that we were innately more
interested in, and it worked really well. We wrote in the early morning, usually
starting by 5am, before the noise of everyday life filtered in.
benefits of having a second pair of eyes, having a second author really helps
with the critical voices that can take over when working on such a big project
(‘is this good enough?’, ‘does this even make sense?’, ‘is it always going to
be this hard?’). The writing process can get tough, but I was comforted by
books such as Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Writing Down the Bones
by Natalie Goldberg and The Artist’s Journey by Kent Nerburn.
As well as the two of you, there are also
contributions from other experts in the field. What was it like having them
collaborate on this project?
Michael: We have
learned so much from the people that we interviewed. They were a diverse group
of people across disciplines such as mycology, forestry, biomaterials,
psychedelic medicine and business. What they had in common was fungi, their
genuine care for the world and the desire to share their knowledge. We feel
really thankful for their time and hope to pay it forward.
specifically all had decades and decades of experience in their chosen field.
What’s special is that their essays were all written in an accessible way – we
hope that the readers enjoy those especially! There is a lot of wisdom in those
Do you have a favourite fungi fact from the book?
allow us to form new connections in our brain and dissolve the rigid boundaries
of our minds. A study using the fungal compound psilocybin found that 67 per
cent of the participants ranked their experience as one of the top five most
meaningful things they have ever done, on par with the birth of a child, death
of a loved one, or marriage.
favourite fact changed the way I saw mushrooms at supermarkets. Did you know
that the white button, chestnut, portobello, Swiss brown, cremini and
champignon mushrooms are all the same species? They are all species of Agaricus bisporus – the most widely
cultivated mushroom in the world – simply cultivated at different stages of
There always seems to be a new fad in the
wellness industry! What would you say sets fungi apart from other health and
really is! It’s great to see the increase in interest in natural and holistic
methods of healing, be it physical, emotional or spiritual. But for many, the
prices are prohibitive. Fungi are a unique tool in our quest for wellness
because they are a democratisation of health. They are relatively cheap and
accessible. You can forage for them for free, cultivate them for a small set up
cost or learn to create your own mushroom extracts and tinctures for free on
What sets fungi
apart is that they have been used for thousands of years by traditional
cultures and they are non-toxic and have no lethal dose. There are direct to
consumer companies online selling a range of mushroom products, but you must do
your own research to understand their ingredients and manufacturing processes.
We go into that in detail in the book.
Is there a song that encapsulates your approach
to life and work?
Yun: Free by SAULT. The ethereal chorus gives me a feeling of inner liberation: ‘free, don’t give up for no one, cos God’s love is free… what will be will be.’
Mike: I have an album! The Universe Smiles Upon You by Khruangbin. Their album is filled with soul, funk, and groovy sounds that fits any mood and reminds you that life is simply bliss.
What’s next for both of you?
Yun: We’re passionate about using different vehicles to explore our relationship with nature, each other and ourselves. The Future is Fungi was an exciting vehicle and we’re proud of the final product. Looking forward, we’ve always been strong advocates for the safe use of psychedelic plants and fungi. We truly believe these compounds are the most practical tools for us to examine the heights and depths of our psyche. As research advances and so do decriminalisation and legalisation efforts, there is still an education gap left by the decades of prohibition.
Michael: We want to continue to be a part of that conversation, helping shape culture and education as psychedelics are folded back into society. We’re very excited about the future and are collaborating with experts within the field to bring more soon. Follow us at @enterthepsy for updates!
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In support of UN Women Australia, Ruby Taylor welcomes you to Equiterra: a society where all people have equal rights and opportunity, regardless of their gender. A community where the glass ceiling is smashed, the gender pay gap is a thing of the past and toxic masculinity goes straight into the recycling.
We’re thrilled to have paired up with Ruby Taylor and UN Women Australia to turn this uplifting artwork into a 1000-piece puzzle.
So, how far from reality is Equiterra from Australia in 2022? We looked at five of the places featured in Ruby Taylor’s utopia and compared them with the facts. Unfortunately, the figures show we have a long way to go before we reach gender equality.
Freedom is one of the guiding principles of life in Equiterra. This includes the freedom to choose your identity, the freedom to choose how many children you have, and the freedom to control what happens to your own body. Freedom Avenue in Equiterra is home to a Reproductive Health Centre that provides nonjudgmental care to all who need it. Here, residents of Equiterra can access safe, voluntary family planning information, as well as comprehensive information about sexuality, and sexual and reproductive health.
Across Australia, the freedom to access safe and affordable healthcare varies drastically from place to place. For example, abortion has been decriminalised in the state of Victoria, but accessing abortions is still difficult for many women, especially for migrant women and women living in regional areas. This shows that for many Australian women, freedom of choice largely depends on where you live. Many trans and gender diverse people also experience additonal barriers to accessing safe healthcare, including disrespectful attitudes and misgendering by medical professionals.
In Equiterra, women feel safe walking down the street, no matter what time of day or night it is. Women are free to walk home alone at night without clutching their keys between their fingers or texting their friends to confirm they’ve arrived home without incident.
Women, men and nonbinary people in Equiterra enjoy equal relationships, free from violence or coercion. On the home front, women and children feel safe in their homes and enjoy the same security as their male family members. Domestic violence is a rare occurrence here, because there are strong laws against it and services to support victims. Since gender equality is the norm in Equiterra, the power dynamics between intimate partners are not oppressive or toxic.
Violence against women is a serious and widespread problem in Australia. Recorded crimes data shows that women are five times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than men. Similarly data collected by Our Watch shows that one in three women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by a man they know, while one in four women has experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former intimate partner since age fifteen. On average, one woman a week is murdered in Australia by her current or former partner, and almost ten women a day are hospitalised for assault injuries perpetrated by a spouse or domestic partner.
Equal Representation Avenue
In Equiterra, men and women are equally represented in public life, including in the political sphere, corporate boardrooms and in the media. Women have equal say in decisions that affect their lives, their bodies, their policies, and their environment.
The reality looks starkly different in Australia. In the business world, data from the ABS indicates that managers are almost twice as likely to be men than women. Similarly, only seventeen per cent of CEO positions in the non-public sector were occupied by women in the period from 2018 to 2019.
On a more positive note, in the period from 2019 to 2022, for the first time, there was equal representation between men and women parliamentarians in the Senate. However, women still comprise only three in ten federal parliamentarians in the House of Representatives. And despite the improvements in the Senate, female politicians and political staffers have reported a toxic and sexist culture in Parliament House, leading many to leave their jobs.
Children in Equiterra grow up without the negative influence of restrictive and harmful stereotypes around gender roles. Men and women share chores and care duties at home equally, and domestic labour such as caregiving is valued as equally as participation in the paid workforce. In Equiterra, diversity is celebrated, not feared, and a culture of acceptance dominates peoples’ hearts and minds.
Archaic beliefs around gender roles mean that women in Australia do far more domestic labour and caring for children than men. For every hour an Australian man spends on unpaid care work, an Australian woman spends one hour and 48 minutes, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. Similarly, within opposite-sex couples, nearly half of all household tasks are always or usually done by the female in the relationship, compared to only ten per cent done by the male. This grows even more unequal after couples have children.
The heavy load women carry at home often causes them
to miss out on promotions at work, or to actively avoid seeking them for fear
they will not be able to juggle their responsibilities. This translates into
economic inequality between men and women, particularly in retirement.
Equal Pay Street
In this utopia, not only do all people receive equal work for equal pay, but the gender pay gap across industries no longer exists. With care work and household responsibilities shared equally, and paid parental leave equally accessible to all, women are not penalised for taking time out of the paid workforce to care for children. The minimum wage here provides a decent standard of living and there is quality and affordable healthcare for those who need it.
In Australia, it has been a legal requirement since 1969 that women and men be paid the same amount for performing the same role. Despite this, there’s still a persistent gender pay gap across industries, with women’s full time adult average weekly earnings being only eighty-six per cent of that of men. This represents a gender pay gap of fourteen per cent. As a result of lower wages and more unpaid caregiving responsibilities, women retire with a superannuation balance on average forty-seven per cent lower than men.
In 2021, the Global Gender Gap Index placed Australia at number 50 – this represented a decline of five places from the previous year, meaning we are actually going BACKWARDS on this issue. This is likely in part due to the unequal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen women leaving the workforce at a higher rate than men. Even among those who retained paid work, women took on more duties in childcare, housework and elder care, increasing the ‘double shift’ of paid and unpaid work.
Toxic Masculinity Recycling
Outdated and sexist values have been ditched. Archaic notions like ‘men don’t cry’ and ‘boys will be boys’ are recycled into inclusive language and respect. Boys are encouraged to express their emotions and are allowed to be vulnerable. Freed from oppressive gender roles, the residents of Equiterra are not held back by dominant forms of masculinity, and they are happier and mentally healthier than people in any other society.
Outdated stereotypes about masculinity are often rigid and harmful to men in Australia. Men are often encouraged by society to appear dominant, aggressive and to repress their emotions. These rigid stereotypes are often difficult for many men to live up to and can prevent them from living fulfilling lives. Men who subscribe to these dominant norms are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviours, such as dangerous driving and substance abuse, and are less likely to seek help or to talk about their feelings. They also experience greater health risks, including higher rates of depression and suicide
Jessica Sanders is an author and social worker with a passion for creating resources that nurture positive mental health and promote gender equality. Jess spends her days writing, facilitating school-based workshops and running social justice campaigns for young people.
Recently, she teamed up with illustrator Constanza Goeppinger to create The Body Gratitude Deck of Cards. With beautiful illustrations, inspiring quotes and transformative affirmations, Body Gratitude is designed to help people heal and nurture their relationships to their bodies.
We recently chatted with her about how her new card deck came to be, and what drives her passion for promoting mental health, gender equality and body gratitude.
Your CV is so impressive! As well as being an author, you’re also a social worker, podcast host and you facilitate school-based workshops for young people. How did you first become interested in promoting positive mental health, gender equality and body gratitude?
When I was growing up, I struggled with negative body image, disordered eating and anxiety. I also had a tough transition to high school and was bullied in those early years. Towards the end of high school, I remember waking up to the fact that my experiences weren’t unique, that so many of my peers were navigating their own mental health issues. This realisation combined with my mum’s work in the gender equality and preventative education space inspired me to study social work and to publish my first book, Love Your Body.
How does being a social worker influence what you write about?
My training as a social worker has made me acutely aware of the ways that our social and economic systems perpetuate inequality. When I write I’m speaking to an individual but I’m also thinking about the systems that impact those individuals.
You’ve also got a podcast called The Unlearning Project. Can you tell us a bit about that?
The Unlearning Project is a podcast hosted by yours truly that aims to debunk the untrue stories we’ve all internalised about bodies, gender, mental health, and work, so the next generation won’t have to. So much of the suffering we experience is rooted in stories that are just not true. Unlearning them can relieve a lot of pain and create space for new and true stories to be written. In my first season I talk to a diverse range of inspiring individuals who are creating change and challenging harmful social narratives.
The Body Gratitude Deck of Cards features beautiful illustrations by Constanza Goeppinger, as well as inspiring quotes and transformative affirmations. How did this concept come to be?
I wrote Body Gratitude for the adults who resonated with my children’s book Love Your Body and wanted something of their own. I’d long been admiring Constanza’s work and when I pitched the concept to Smith Street Books, I included her artwork and they fell in love as well!
It seems like so much of the current discourse around self-love and self-care seems to have been co-opted by the wellness industry and focused on getting people to buy products we’re told will fix our imperfections. How does the concept of body gratitude differ from this? Do you have any advice for people trying to navigate this confusing space?
Body gratitude encourages you to look inward and appreciate what you do have, rather than the wellness industry, which is encouraging you to buy something you don’t. My advice would be to not listen to people or products that tell you not to trust yourself. You already have everything you need to create a strong relationship with your body.
Do you have a favourite way to practice body gratitude?
Swimming in the ocean is my favourite way to feel connected to my body and the joy it can bring me!
Is there a song that encapsulates your approach to life and work?
Pre-pandemic it would have been Non-Stop from Hamilton, however this global crisis has forced me to slow down and now it would probably be F E M A L E by Sampa the Great.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a series for under 10’s called Life Lessons for Little Ones, the first title of the series You Are Enough comes out in August this year. I also have another card deck coming out later in the year that I’m very excited about!
The Vegan Cake Bible teaches you everything you need to know about making incredible plant-based cakes. In this easy-to-follow book, author, pastry chef and vegan cake queen, Sara Kidd, shares her vast knowledge of the science behind vegan baking and how to make foolproof creations every time.
Read on for Sara’s vegan recipe for a Persian Love Cake.
Legend has it that a Persian woman wanted to make a prince fall in love with her, so she created a cake laced with a love spell. I think it worked because every bite of this Persian love cake brings romance. Aromas of cardamom and rose are kissed with a tender almond cake crumb and the surprise of pistachios. It’s truly a cake for lovers. It will fill you with desire and maybe wanting a little more … cake.
PERSIAN LOVE CAKE
Makes 1 x 20 cm (8 in) single-layer cake Serves 12
170 g (3/4
cup) caster (superfine) sugar
60 ml (1/4
vanilla bean paste
lemon extract or flavouring
zest of 1
unwaxed lemon plus 2 tablespoons of juice
80 ml (1/3
cup) plain soy milk
tablespoon white vinegar
200 g (11/3
teaspoons baking powder
teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
teaspoon sea salt
teaspoon xanthan gum
tablespoon ground cardamom
55 g (1/2
cup) blanched almond flour
125 g (1
cup) icing (confectioners’) sugar
chopped pistachios and dried rose petals, to decorate
Prep time: 20 mins
time: 35–37 mins
time: 10 mins
Sweetness: Medium but with a hint of spice
Texture: Soft crumb
1 ⁄ Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F)
conventional. Grease and line a 20 cm (8 in) springform cake tin with baking
paper, then grease again and dust with flour, tipping out the excess.
2 ⁄ Melt the butter in a heatproof bowl
in the microwave on High in 10-second bursts.
3 ⁄ Transfer the melted butter to a
bowl, add the caster sugar and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Add 3
tablespoons of the rosewater, the vanilla bean paste, lemon extract and lemon
zest and stir until completely combined.
4 ⁄ In a separate small bowl, stir the
soy milk and vinegar together until the mixture thickens, then add to the
melted butter mixture, stirring to combine.
5 ⁄ Sift the flour, baking powder,
bicarb soda, salt, xanthan gum and ground cardamom into a large mixing bowl,
then stir in the almond flour.
6 ⁄ Make a well in the centre of the
dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture. Stir until just combined.
7 ⁄ Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, then transfer to the middle rack of your oven and bake for 35–37 minutes, until golden brown and the top springs back when gently pressed.
8 ⁄ Allow the cake to cool in the tin
for at least 15 minutes, then turn out onto a cake rack to cool completely.
9 ⁄ To make the glaze topping, place
the icing sugar, lemon juice and remaining rosewater in a bowl and stir until
10 ⁄ Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and decorate with pistachios and dried rose petals, as desired.
tip: You can
add less cardamom if you’re not a fan of this spice.
Ingredients 125 g (41/2 oz) polenta 3 tablespoons pitted black olives handful of rocket (arugula) handful of grated parmesan 90 ml (3 fl oz) extra-virgin olive oil 6 small tomatoes 1 large bunch of basil 1 spring onion (scallion) 1 lemon olive oil, for frying handful of young lettuce leaves 1 tablespoon capers
Method Cook the polenta in 1 litre (34 fl oz) of water according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Roughly chop the olives and rocket. Mix the olives, rocket, parmesan and 2 tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil through the polenta. Leave the polenta to cool for 30 minutes. With wet hands, roll the polenta into 24 balls. Place on a tray and refrigerate for at least 3 hours until extra firm.
Halve the tomatoes. Pick the basil leaves and tear or roughly chop. Thinly slice the spring onion and cut the lemon into wedges.
Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a frying pan. Fry the polenta balls for 8–10 minutes, until golden brown all over; be careful as the hot oil will spit!
Mix the lettuce leaves with the basil, spring onion and capers. Divide the salad among four plates. Place the tomato on top of the salads and drizzle with the remaining extra-virgin olive oil.
Arrange the polenta balls over the salads and serve with the lemon wedges for a fresh accent.
Spinach + Butter lettuce Salad with chicken poached in coconut milk
I like to make this salad in the spring and summer, when fresh young peas are sweet and crunchy. Poaching the chicken in coconut milk keeps the salad light and fragrant. You can serve the chicken warm over the salad or leave to cool in the poaching liquid so that the meat remains tender.
Prep: 30 minutes + cooling
Ingredients 400 ml (131/2 fl oz) tin coconut milk 1 chicken stock cube 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts 1 lemongrass stalk 200 g (7 oz) fresh shelled peas 2 shallots 1 bunch of coriander (cilantro) 100 g (31/2 oz) butter (Boston) lettuce 100 g (31/2 oz) baby spinach 2–3 tablespoons sesame oil 2 tablespoons shredded coconut 1–2 teaspoons chilli flakes
Method Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan along with 400 ml (131/2 fl oz) of water, the stock cube and the chicken. Bruise the lemongrass stalk and add to the pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and gently poach the chicken for 15 minutes. Let the chicken cool in the poaching liquid to lukewarm or room temperature.
Cook the peas for 8 minutes, then drain and set aside to cool. Slice the shallot. Coarsely chop the coriander.
Arrange the butter lettuce leaves, spinach, shallot and peas on four plates. Slice the chicken (reserving the poaching liquid) and place on the salads with the coriander.
Strain the reserved poaching liquid and spoon it generously over the salads as a dressing. Drizzle with the sesame oil and sprinkle with the coconut and chilli flakes to taste.
Salad by Janneke Phillipi is available now. Photography by Serge Phillipi.
Modern Japanese culture, though progressive technologically, still celebrates and supports the lives and work of craftspeople. The makers themselves are fiercely proud of the long traditions of their crafts – whether in woodwork, wire, ceramics, glass, paper or textiles – and see great importance in carrying these traditions into the future. They often feel called to their chosen medium and take satisfaction in knowing their work will live on past their own lifetime.
The makers often use modern equipment and materials, but many also follow traditional methods and work with simple tools that have been passed down through generations. Each artist has their own style, but all are passionate, dedicated and truly inspirational.
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repair, specifically the repair of ceramics. In its truest and traditional form, it is a profound and powerful art based on the philosophy that something is more beautiful because it has been broken and repaired. Mio Heki devotes her working life and her artistic heart to this skilled conservation technique, which uses urushi (a tree sap) dusted with gold.
Mio’s small but beautifully appointed atelier is located in a north-western suburb of Kyoto. It includes an area where she displays her work – which extends to lacquerware jewellery and lacquer objects – a drying cupboard and her work table. The table is short-legged, like traditional Japanese dining tables, so she can sit on the floor while she works. She says she feels most grounded working this way.
After majoring in the traditional craft of lacquering at Kyoto City University of Arts, Mio worked in a studio that restored temple ornamentation. In that role, she learnt more about kintsugi and was asked to repair a sacred temple bowl. Working on the bowl, she immediately felt that this type of work was her calling. It is a calling that has become a profession, one which now includes teaching kintsugi in Kyoto, as well as in cities including Paris and Amsterdam.
Mio finds it very special to be able to fix and restore a piece that has been loved and respected, saying she ‘hears the voice’ of the thing in her hands. ‘It is being present and conscious of the object, of how it was loved by the person, of the hands that made it. It is always being sure not to change the artwork’s shape from its original form, but to fix and add gold, thus showing great care to its ongoing life as an object.’
The practical work of kintsugi is long and repetitive, as well as requiring dexterity and patience. Mio feels that her art practice has benefits in her daily life; the process has become like a meditation to her. She shows great respect to her tools, believing that they are sacred and deserving of special care. She has made many of the implements herself, cutting and planing cypress spatulas to mix the urushi, for example, and built racks to hold the tools between uses. In her spare time, Mio is studying traditional tea ceremonies, and she reflects that her love and care of her tools is in keeping with the reverence shown for the equipment used in a tea ceremony. In both instances, tools are cleaned at every point, and kept organised and in good repair, honouring their important part in the ritual.
Mio shows equal respect to the materials she uses the urushi; the (real)
gold, in fine powder form; and the jinoko and tonoko, the clay-type powders
used for mixing. They are cared for in honour of nature and its limited
resources; no part is wasted or discarded.
With the drying process taken into account, repairs can take up to a year to complete, depending on the intricacy of the break or chip and the size of the object. With good humour, Mio says that most days consist of ‘painting, sanding, painting, sanding – but that is okay, it takes time to make something beautiful.’ A vessel repaired by Mio will not only hold, as she attests, ‘the soul of the maker and the owner’ but also the spirit of this talented and thoughtful woman who joins fracture lines and sprinkles them with gold.
Utsuwa is available now. Text and photography by Kylie Johnson and Tiffany Johnson.
This Small Blue Dot is an award-winning children’s book with a powerful message of hope and interconnectedness.
We recently chatted with author, Zeno Sworder, about his daughter’s response to the book, how it felt to win a CBCA award, and plans for his next book.
Congratulations on winning the CBCA New Illustrator Award last year! tell us about that: how did it feel to win?
It was a surprise and also a joy to share that
recognition with my daughters who were such a big part of the book. This Small Blue Dot was originally made
just for them – an audience of two. It has been wonderful to hear from teachers
and parents who are passionate about the book and see the book reaching an
audience around the world.
previously talked about loosely basing the main character in your first book on
your oldest daughter. How did she respond when she saw your illustrations?
She loves the book and has started making her own picture books in folded and stapled paper. I think she just finished her eighth book (about a talking booger). So she has me well and truly beat. Her younger sister who is four is much more enthusiastic about This Small Blue Dot and used to proudly march around the house with the book, telling visitors her sister was inside.
got a new book coming out later in the year. What can you tell us about it?
I am excited for the new book, My Strange Shrinking
Parents, to be out in the world. It was written in a flash but has taken
more than two years to illustrate. At its core it is about migrant parents who
sacrifice their height, bit by bit, for their son’s wellbeing. As a result,
they become smaller as their son grows taller. It is a strange and surreal
story that describes the journey from child to parent and the shape that a life
takes when viewed from a certain distance. While it is deeply personal it also
reflects the story of many young people who grow up feeling different and out
we expect a character based on one of your daughters in this one?
Unfortunately, they don’t show up in this one but
there are projects in the future that I would love to include them in.
would you describe your creative process? Do you find that the story or the
imagery come to you first?
The process is always changing for me. If there is a
recipe for making picture books, I haven’t found it yet. Generally, ideas and
characters will linger with me until I draw them or write them down. My
Strange Shrinking Parents was written at 2am in the morning while
carrying my youngest daughter up and down the length of the house trying to get
her back to sleep. I set up a notepad in the kitchen at the far end of the
house and wrote a sentence each time I passed it. In my mind I had a very
strong image of the parents standing in a garden at sunset, which I drew and
painted over the next couple of days. That first image of the parents
eventually became the final page of the picture book.
this process changed at all since you wrote your first book?
regrettably very slow when it comes to illustrating my stories. Part of that is
my preference for drawing on paper with traditional tools rather than working
digitally. I have tried to speed up this process but find that I work better at
a slower pace where I can lose myself in the imaginary world on the page.
Is there a song that
encapsulates your approach to life and work?
What a great
question. I am tempted to say chopsticks on the piano, which incidentally is
the only piece of music I can play (much to my mother’s shame – she is a gifted
pianist). A poem that I hold close to my heart is Robert Frost’s The Road
Not Taken and that is probably a better answer. I tend to instinctively
take the more difficult path through things as I feel it will be the better
Richard Unsworth is a leading garden designer and writer based in Sydney, and the owner of renowned outdoor design store Garden Life, which specialises in inner-city garden design.
We recently chatted
with Richard about all manner of things – from the ultimate Australian wildlife
combination, to Bob Marley song lyrics and wearing life like a loose garment in
your book, The City Gardener, you speak about growing up in the north of
England, and the dreariness of Winter in Yorkshire. Is there anything you miss
about the British climate or landscape?
In terms of climate – I don’t miss much! I do miss the long midsummer
summer evenings, where magical twilight seems to last all evening, spring
blossoms, and autumn colour of course. In so far as landscape is concerned, I
miss walking in the vastness of the lake district, the Yorkshire dales and the
wilderness of Scotland.
was it like moving to Australia? Do you have a favourite native Australian
Arriving here was most exciting, so refreshing and
reinvigorating – the subtle smells of the bush, the harshness of the landscape,
the light – all so foreign at first.
My favourite plant species would definitely be the Banksia,
hands down. I’m obsessed with them, particularly the old man Banksia (Banksia
serrata) – the stems are so gnarled and full of personality. If I saw a
kookaburra in a banksia tree, that’s my idea of the ultimate wildlife combo –
kooks are the most wonderful birds, so full of personality and incredible
You’ve been creating and producing gardens in Sydney for
over 20 years. Can you tell us what influenced you to start your design
practice, Garden Life?
Once I knew that I wanted to put down roots here and make
this my home, I thought about returning to a career in horticulture and
gardening and wanted to start something that felt right. I had no idea where it
would go, I guess I just wanted to make my mark on things. Garden Life
evolved after a few years of me just gardening with a van and some tools… and
grew from there.
did you choose the 20 gardens featured in The City Gardener?
All had to be within 10km of Sydney’s CBD, and we chose the
strongest ones that best represented who we are and the very varied design work
that we do. Being client focused, our work responds to their brief and
the surrounding environment.
can be daunting! What are your top tips for beginner gardeners who don’t know
where to start?
Just focus on putting the right plants in the right place –
and they will thrive for you. So, pay careful attention to the sunlight and how
it moves in your space – and select plants for those conditions (not just
because it has a pretty flower and its flowering right now in the nursery!).
you have any advice for renters who want to make the most of their outdoor
space in the short-term?
Absolutely plant herbs and veggies in your garden – these
are inexpensive to buy and provide much joy and wellbeing. Talk to your
landlord about getting involved in the garden – and plant things that you know
you can easily transplant when you leave – succulents are perfect for this.
Keep your plants in their plastic pots but repot them into
larger ones when required – and then if you want to invest in good looking
containers, just place the plastic pots into the smart containers – so they are
relatively easy to move with you.
there a song that encapsulates your approach to life and work?
Right now, in these strange times, it’s Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds (“don’t worry about a thing, cos every little thing gonna be alright”).
I feel to be ok right now, is about being ok with so much
uncertainty. In 2022 I want to wear life like a loose garment.
next for you?
feel like it will be another year of change, but can’t reveal much more than
My current passion is the restoration of the garden at
Trincomalee, our home at Pittwater, just 45 minutes north of the CBD. Its
only accessible by boat and it’s a magic spot where people melt and exhale, and
I feel pretty blessed to be able to be part of life up there.
And hopefully another writing project this year, which
hugely excites me, hopefully more will be revealed, as life unfolds …
Richard’s book The City Gardener was published by Thames and Hudson Australia in 2021. You can follow his latest garden restoration progress over on Instagram @trinco_pittwater.
The City Gardener is available now. Text by Richard Unsworth and photography by Nicholas Watt.
Megan McKean is an Australian Australian designer, illustrator and author living in Sweden. Her love for travel and colour are reflected in her signature candy-coloured design aesthetic.
We recently spoke with her about her creative routine, her SNAP! card game series, and what it was like to move to Sweden in the middle of a global pandemic.
Your work has such a distinctive look and
spans print, digital and 3D mediums. How did you first become interested in
design and illustration and when did you develop your signature colourful
I’ve always had a love for the creative arts,
all the way back to being a stationery obsessed 10-year-old colour-arranging my
gel pen collection. After studying a Bachelor of Design in Visual
Communication, I started my own label crafting contemporary souvenirs and
travel keepsakes and found myself working on more and more illustration projects.
Mixing in some travel and being inspired by the different locations turned into
developing distinct colour palettes for each city and eventually it all lead to
more and more colourful work!
Talk us through your creative process: what
does an average day in the life of Megan McKean look like?
There really isn’t an average day for me, it’s really lead by what
project I’m working on at the time and where in the process that project is up
to! I love the variety of the days, as it means I never get a chance to get
bored. Regardless of what I’m working on I always try to start the day with a
walk and some podcasts (usually just the news cycle and occasionally something
a little more pop-culture based) and a phone call to a friend in Australia. If
I’m deep in an illustration project, the day will often be spent at the desk,
with something trashy playing on Netflix while I’m colouring artwork. These
days are good ‘mindless’ days where I can just get in the zone with colouring
in; it’s quite therapeutic when I find the groove.
Since moving to Sweden I’ve gained a brand-new appreciation for the seasons and tailoring my day around the weather – since the winter months are so long and the days so short, I try to do all my errands in the middle of the day while there’s the most amount of daylight. I love popping into my local op-shops for a quick look and stopping by the flower sellers for a bunch of bright blooms for the work desk.
So much of your work showcases your passion for travelling. When did you discover your love of visiting new places?
My husband and I
did a ‘round-the-world’ airfare for our honeymoon all the way back in 2012; we
were both still students and still eligible for discount airfares! It was the
first time I’d travelled anywhere and I was just completely smitten with travel
from the moment I got on the airplane. Coming home from that trip kick-started
all of my work, with almost all of my side projects relating back to what I’d
seen or experienced while abroad. My feet have been itching ever since, I just
love drawing things that make each city so unique! Capturing that atmosphere
into an illustration is a real joy for me – anything to extend the feelings that
Do you have a favourite travel destination?
I have so many favourites, for all different
reasons – but if I had to choose just one
destination, it would probably be Palm Springs, California. Two hours east of
Los Angeles, it’s a mid-century goldmine in the middle of the desert. We’ve
been visiting Palm Springs every chance we can for almost 10 years now and we
just never tire of it. The dry heat of the desert, incredible architecture and
tall palm trees against a snow-capped mountain backdrop… it’s truly like
nowhere else in the whole world.
A year ago, you moved from Sydney, Australia to Malmo, Sweden.
What was it like moving overseas during a global pandemic?
It was bananas. I kept telling people it was
like everything in life had been set to ‘hard mode’; everything that is already
a challenge about moving to a new country was really ratcheted up due to the
pandemic. Trying to find housing, taking language classes, starting a new work
role… all things that are tricky to start with, but were just even harder
through the pandemic as none of the normal systems were in place. It was a real
challenge to do it without any support network too – other expats can probably relate to the
teething problems of being new somewhere without any friends or family, but it
was an exceptionally isolating experience through the pandemic, because, well,
no-one can relate because it hasn’t happened before!
It also made it harder to get to know my new
city but thankfully Malmö is very petite, so I’ve spent a lot of time in this
last year walking and cycling over the city and feel like I’ve got a good
handle on my local favourites now.
How has this move influenced your work?
The move has influenced my work in some ways I
didn’t really think about beforehand, largely with the way I think about colour
and building my colour palettes. Getting to tackle so much interior design in
our apartment has been a total creative gift, finding ways of working with
colour and texture that I hadn’t had the opportunity to explore very much
Practically, the move has made some components of my work more difficult, the
time zones in particular can be a real challenge, but I think if the last
couple of years have to have a silver lining, it’s the newfound flexibility and
adaptability to work projects, being able to connect with clients via Zoom and
getting better at working remotely.
Your collections of Snap card games feature
delightful illustrations of Australian animals. Do you have a favourite animal
I love our Aussie animals, especially the feathered ones! I love
drawing Major Mitchell’s cockatoos (because they’re pink, naturally!) but also
because of the beautiful sunset hues in their crest. The snap games were so fun
to stretch outside of my usual Aussie animals and add in some of the more weird
and wonderful – I loved adding the details to the spotted wobbegong, the freckled
duck and the blue-ringed octopus!
What’s next for you?
I’d really like to work on some more interiors
projects … I’m dreaming of renovating a summer cottage so when travel is more
accessible again, my friends and family can come and visit me in Sweden! I
loved working on our apartment this last year and am itching to give it another
go now that I’ve run out of walls to paint. We’ve also just added a furry
friend to our family, puppy-raising a sweet black Lab named Saga until she’s
grown up enough to start training to become an assistance dog. It’s so much fun
but I’m still finding the sweet spot of getting any work done with a cute puppy
in the house!
Georgina Reid is an intrepid hunter of stories, plants and ideas. In The Planthunter, she uncovers the exceptional and ordinary ways people around the world find truth, beauty, purpose and connection through the act of gardening.
The Planthunter is a visceral and seductive celebration of life in the garden. It’s for the plant curious, the plant killer, the plant lover, and everyone in between.
Whether you’ve got a large garden, a small courtyard or a merely a windowsill, this selection of photos from the book will have you inspired to get you hands dirty and connect with nature.
Anna Spiro has long been hailed as Australia’s most original and creative interior designer. Her globally adored aesthetic is unapologetically maximalist and a paean to comfort; her devotion to the craft of working with pattern on pattern on pattern – combined with her intuitive layering of colours, objects old and new, art, books and foraged treasures – creates spaces that sing with individuality.
I have always been drawn to colour and pattern, and believe injecting both into a room can spark an instant sense of joy. Used well, they give an air of individuality and help create rooms that are full of energy. Layering a bold, multicoloured throw on the end of your bed, or selecting an array of mismatched cushions for your lounge room sofa, can be simple but effective ways of uplifting a space and making both you and your home feel fabulous and refreshed.
As the title of this chapter suggests, at its heart, the use of colour and pattern should be all about play. I love to experiment with colour, to push the boundaries and put interesting combinations together into a unique palette. Bucking at anything normal and coming up with something extra-ordinary is what gets my heart racing every single time. Whether you’re mixing and matching period furniture with more modern elements, challenging expectations with daring colour and pattern combinations, or boldly covering a room head-to-toe in one pattern – walls, sofas, armchairs, cushions … everything – be confident and just do it!
Colour and pattern are everywhere in our daily lives. From an interesting colour palette in a streetscape, to a wonderful old wallpaper or luxuriously patterned vintage dress, inspiration is all around – you just need to open your eyes to it. Take photos of the combinations you see, make a note of those you are most drawn to, and use these as the starting point for putting together an interesting colour and pattern palette for your home.
One of the biggest secrets I can share for creating a home full of pattern and colour, is that colour can be the one ingredient, if used properly, that holds everything together. The way I unify seemingly mismatched furniture and patterns is by repeating or referencing colours from a similar palette within the space, even if those colours are unusual or otherwise unexpected.
Whether you love warmer or cooler tones, there must always be a balance when putting together colour and pattern. Choose an array of patterned and plain fabrics in your selected palette to use on various pieces in a room. Consider how much pattern you are happy to live with. If you prefer a more toned-down look, I suggest covering larger pieces of furniture in plain or ditsy fabrics (i.e. with small, irregular patterns), and covering accent pieces such as armchairs, ottomans and scatter cushions in bolder, more multicoloured patterns.
When I build schemes using colour and pattern, I often think of them as a big jigsaw puzzle. You have to make sure that each element works collectively in a cohesive yet interesting way, and fit the pieces together to create a wonderful overall result. Consider layering traditional florals with more modern geometric patterns, stripes or checks, and using a mix of large, medium and small pattern scales. Sometimes a clashing element, such as a bold multicoloured geometric pattern in a slightly ‘off’ colour, can be just what your room needs to conjure the unexpected. I like to look for patterns that I haven’t seen used very often. This is part of the reason that I love to use antique textiles to cover ottomans, bedheads and cushions, or even as tablecloths or hanging works of art on a wall. Often one of a kind, these textiles add a special, cosy feeling to any room and often end up being pieces that are cherished for the rest of our lives.
Don’t be afraid of colour and pattern. Embrace them and incorporate them into your home, even if you start with just one room. I guarantee you won’t be able to stop, as it is super addictive once you start. Combining colour and pattern is the foundation to creating a comfortable home that is full of interest, happiness and unique style.
A Life in Pattern is available now. Text by Anna Spiro and photography by Tim Salisbury.
Working for years in his studio and in the field, internationally acclaimed photographer Tim Flach has portrayed nature’s most alluring creatures alertly at rest and dramatically in flight, capturing intricate feather patterns and subtle colouration invisible to the naked eye.
The result of much patience, precision and persistence, Birds features more than 130 extraordinary photographs. Read on to discover five of our favourite images from this awe-inspiring book.
Kite Jacobin Pigeon.
Like all other crested pigeons, Jacobin pigeons carry a specific mutation in a gene called EphB2. This gene regulates the development of placodes, the little disks of tissue on the skin of an embryonic bird from which their feathers will emerge. In ordinary pigeons the gene is active at the bottom of the placode, which instructs the feathers to grow down the neck. The mutation, however, causes EphB2 to switch on at the top of the placode, instructing the feathers to grow up the neck instead, effectively turning them upside down to produce a crest
Victoria Crowned Pigeon.
These regal birds are the largest living pigeons in the world, tipping the scales at a whopping 5½ pounds (2.5 kg)—six and a half times heavier than a feral pigeon and nearly the weight of a chicken. The males become extremely territorial during courtship and vigorously display their exquisite crowns in the hopes of establishing dominance and winning a mate. The young pigeon pictured above is just twenty-one days old, and still molting into his juvenile plumage. Only after he has finished growing will he replace these feathers with his impressive adult plumage.
Miniature Crested Duck.
These birds have been bred for centuries to enhance their crested appearance, but the dominant allele that lends these birds their comical crowns can also be lethal, with embryos that receive two copies of the crested gene invariably dying while they are still developing in the egg. To avoid this, breeders usually cross crested ducks with another breed, which preserves the dominant crested trait in half of the resulting offspring, and completely prevents the excess mortality associated with pure-breeding.
For these comical-looking birds, an exquisite handlebar mustache is more than a fashion statement—it’s an advertisement of good health. Like all other birds, these terns can only grow out their plumes while molting, an extremely energy-intensive process during which they sequentially replace all of the feathers on their bodies. This allows them to use the unique facial feathers to assess the fitness of prospective mates: since growing a pair of long ornamental feathers requires a surplus of food, birds with longer mustaches are better at feeding themselves and are therefore likely to be better at raising young.
Unlike many other gregarious birds, flamingos, pictured here in a group, or “flamboyance,” are also unusually cooperative breeders: rather than defending just their own newly hatched offspring, the birds gather their ungainly, flightless young together in a creche, which is then defended by just a few designated guardians. This innovative day-care system frees the rest of the adults to spend their entire day foraging, allowing the birds to gather more food and feed more mouths without increasing the risk of predation.
Birds is available now. Photographs by Tim Flach and text by Richard O. Prum.
Sydney-based mural artist and illustrator Kim Siew’s work combines colour and pattern to create a unique feeling of playfulness.
Her work recently featured at the 2021 All About Women Festival at the Sydney Opera House. You can find her illustrations in children’s picture books, original prints and zines, as well as on the streets of Sydney in the form of hand-painted murals.
We spoke with her about her career so far and the artistic process behind the memory card game At the Gallery.
Where did your love for illustration begin?
I’ve always loved drawing since I was little. I was the kid at school who was always at the library or up in a tree reading and creating my own stories in both text and images.
You have created some incredible hand painted murals over your career so far, is there a particular mural you are most proud of?
I think I will always have a soft spot for the very first mural I painted, which I painted with my partner in the back laneways of the Inner West in Sydney. We used a mix of spray paint and house paint, just stuff we had lying around, and based it off a poem I had written about all these birds falling from the sky in Arkansas. It was loose and free and lots of fun and I had never created something on that scale before without anything being planned.
How would you describe your illustration
Bright and playful with lots of people and pattern.
Can you tell us about some of the workshops you run in Sydney? Where can readers sign up?
I run workshops in zine making and book binding through local art galleries, artist run galleries, libraries and schools. I usually list upcoming workshops on my website or socials but due to COVID-19 these have been put on pause for a while.
Have you faced many challenges working as an illustrator in Sydney over this year’s COVID-19 outbreak?
As an illustrator not as much, I guess just
that meetings have been moved online. But workshops were either straight out
cancelled or moved to an online setting, which I found a lot harder than I
thought I would. I think I really rely on being able to come up to people
quietly in a workshop if they are struggling, and the communal chat that
happens naturally amongst everyone while you create together. But you adapt and
figure out what works and what doesn’t.
What was the process behind bringing the
artists featured in At the Gallery to
Some of the artists I already knew, but there were also ones that I hadn’t heard of or didn’t know that much about. So it first started out as a bit of research into each artist, figuring out some personality traits they were known for, as well as the work they made.
It also helped working alongside Bianca (THA’s gift developer), who printed out the initial sketches to size to see how much detail we could put in without things getting lost. Once I had done a few I got into more of a flow of the style and direction I was going to go with for them.
Do you have a personal favourite artist from the game?
It would be a tie between Kara Walker and Margaret
Kilgallen. Both amazing super women whose work is so different from one another
but speaks to me for different reasons.
What’s next for you?
I’m squirreling away at a little book project at the moment which I can’t wait to share soon. And there’s a few new murals that will be popping up over the next couple of months too!
At the Gallery is available now. Illustrations by Kim Siew and design by Casey Schuurman.
Sara Silm’s How to French Country transports you to this unique corner of the world that is Southwest France through the lens of colour, texture and tantalising flavour. Her recipes are one of a kind and arranged by season, including this delightful recipe for Rose Petal and Rhubarb Jam.
This jam, inspired by the fabulous Diana Henry, is one I make in spring, when the first of my roses are in flower and the new season’s rhubarb is just emerging from its winter slumber. I always have loads of jam jars on hand, usually 324 milliliter Le Parfait pots à confiture. I use a large traditional copper jam pan; a gift from an old friend when I lived in Moscow. As with all jams, it’s important to let the fruit macerate with the sugar overnight, or for at least 12 hours in advance of cooking. If you’re using a copper jam pan, this maceration process is also essential in order to avoid the fruit acids coming into direct contact with the copper. This jam is beautiful with a slice of toasted brioche (or on scones with lashings of whipped cream).
2 kg rhubarb (roughly 2 bunches), cut into 1¼-cm pieces
5 cups (1.1 kg) jam sugar (or 5 cups caster sugar with 14 g pectin added)
2 Granny Smith apples, finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced
6 cardamom pods, bruised
2 cups rose petals, bases trimmed
1 teaspoon rose water (if you don’t have any rose petals, you can double the amount of rose water)
Place the chopped rhubarb, sugar and apples in a large bowl and mix well. Leave to macerate overnight or for at least 12 hours (cover with a clean tea towel).
Pour the fruit into a copper jam pan, or a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, and bring it slowly to the boil, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Add the lemon juice and cardamom and continue boiling until the mixture reaches 105 °C on a sugar thermometer, or until a small amount wrinkles when pushed on a cold plate (place the plate in the freezer in advance). This stage is usually reached after 15–20 minutes of boiling. Allow the jam to sit for 5–10 minutes, then stir in the rose petals and rose water. Ladle into sterilised jam jars.
No one does colour or pattern quite like interior decorator Anna Spiro. Globally loved for her unique ability to bring together interesting fabrics, antique furniture and art, she has built a tremendous career over the past twenty years. In her new book A Life in Pattern, Anna offers up a lifetime of hard-earned wisdom, showing how the very best interiors come from following your own path. In this extract, she answers the question: what makes a home one’s own?
This is one of those questions that I come back to time and again. Home should be a place of normality and familiarity, of comfort; a place that wraps you up and makes you feel safe, warm and happy. Home is where you can create your own world – and what makes my home mine is completely different to what makes your home yours.
So, how do we create a place that we truly adore and cherish? The things we love, collect and arrange within our home make it feel like ‘us’. Without them, a home can feel empty and soulless. I have been creating a home that I love ever since I left my family home in my early twenties. Yes, I have lived in a number of houses since then, but much of the furniture, art and other bits and pieces that I have collected have stayed with me. These elements have travelled with me on my journey and I have reworked them into my various houses. They are kind of like old friends; a new house feels more like a home the moment I put my old friends inside it.
I have worked with a number of clients who have entered the later stages of their lives – their children have left home and they are at the point of downsizing from a large family home to an apartment or townhouse. One of the most common things I notice when such clients come to me is that they are not ready to let go of their things – objects that they have loved, that have been familiar to them for their entire lives in some cases. Often, a couple’s children will push for them to move the old furniture on and start from scratch, but I almost always advise the opposite. For one, I understand that getting rid of those treasured pieces can be like losing an arm or a leg. Moreover, by incorporating some of those special old items into the new home, while mixing in some fresh new pieces, we can create a sense of familiarity that makes transitioning to a brand-new place that bit easier.
Photographer Paul Barbera’s showcase of enviable interiors and the enigmatic cats who call these places home is one of a kind. From a heritage-listed Victorian terrace to an art-filled inner-city warehouse, Where They Purr uncovers a range of cheeky cat’s domains and their predilection for sunlit nooks, mid-century furniture or rooms with a view.
We spoke to Paul about how his talents for photography were first recognised, what sparked the Where They Purr project and a few challenges he encountered along the way.
What led you to the world of interiors and lifestyle photography?
I would say it chose me more than I chose it, at least with interiors photography. In my early twenties, I did a small furniture shoot that got shown to Karen McCartney. At the time, Karen was head of Marie Clare Lifestyle and booked me for my first editorial job almost straight away. It sort of went on from there and wasn’t something that I had necessarily set out to do. At the time, I was too young to appreciate beautiful interiors and spaces and could barely afford them. A well designed space is a natural extension of yourself and what you see, and goes back and forwards between the way you like to live and what you like to photograph.
Your work has been featured publications like Elle Decor Italy, Vogue Living Australia and Grazia France and you have worked with incredible advertising clients like Marriot Hotel & Resorts, Samsung, Amazon and Starbucks. Can you tell us a bit about your commissioned work?
I am lucky that many of my clients book me for what I do rather than just providing a specific brief that requires me to morph what I do. I often collaborate with brands on the creative or art direction. I get to do a range of jobs including high production shoots all the way down to instances where it is just me and a camera doing a portrait for a magazine.
How does Where They Purr continue on from your first two books Where They Create and Where They Create: Japan?
Where They Create and Where They Create: Japan evolved from my already existing website, blog, Instagram and Facebook page capturing me shooting studios. Where They Create was a topical and unqiue collaboration with Frame and was a zeitgeist of the moment. I’m not the first or last photographer to shoot creative spaces but I put my own spin on it. With all three of my books, I have discovered a casualness which I don’t have when I’m on a commissioned shoot. The connection I would draw between Where They Create and Where They Purr is a very relaxed approach to shooting formal spaces.
What have you learnt about the relationship between furry felines and beautiful homes over the process of bringing this project to life?
I learnt that shooting interiors has nothing to do with cats
and shooting cats has nothing to do with interiors. It took a very delicate
balancing act between trying to capture detail in a space with limited light
and a cat jumping and moving quickly through the space in an unpredictable and
almost Olympian fashion.
I also realised the accuracy of Jean Cocteau quote that says ‘a cat becomes a home’s visible soul.’ You rarely find a cat that doesn’t match the interior, and I don’t think that is because they’re chosen that way but because they become a reflection of the space. I’ve never met a cat that didn’t feel natural in the space [I am shooting] – besides one, but I’m going to leave that one alone because the cat wasn’t necessarily a full-time occupant of the house. I’ll leave people to guess which cat that might have been.
Did you encounter many challenges during shooting?
I had three cameras running to enable me to pop in out depending on what the cat was doing. I discovered that treats don’t really work, but equally a full cat is a chill cat. I also found that you really need owners to help wrangle their cats while you try to balance semi-styling and curating the space and positioning the cat in the spot that you have set up. Challenging to say the least!
Do you have a favourite cat from the book?
There’s something special about all of the cats. Pud, who is Broderick of B.E Architecture’s cat, was as velvety and rich as the interior I was shooting. As I reflected I realised that Pud was a reflection of Broderick and this made him a favourite for me. Esmerelda was eccentric as was the Sue Carr house I shot her in. Raphael and Fellini were so in sync with each other which made them a pleasure to photograph and their space by Tamsin Johnson Interior Design was beautiful. Winston Fluffybum was another favourite – just a beautiful silhouette in her Robson Rak Architects home. I also enjoyed photographing Gus and Freddie in their incredible Arent&Pyke space. Molly was a little bit absent, but her lack of care made her fun to photograph. Carol, Luther and Harvey Crafty were wonderful too.
Where They Purris available now. Text by Paul Barbera and Queenie Chan and design by Evi O and Nicole Ho.
Born in Ballarat, Victoria, Hilda Rix Nicholas held her first solo exhibition in Paris in 1912. On sale were drawings made in Morocco earlier that year. The French state bought one of them, Grand Marché, Tanger, for display in the Musée National du Luxembourg. Hilda’s career was launched. She was twenty-eight years old.
Hilda: The Life of Hilda Rix Nicholaschampions the Australian artist’s life and work. Even more significantly, this fascinating book illustrates a wonderful truth: out of adversity can come great beauty.
Below we share some of our favourite artworks in a gallery exclusive to T&H subscribers.
In the extract below, Post-doctoral Fellow Rachael Dunlop discusses and dissects six common myths about vaccination.
Recently released government figures show levels of
childhood vaccination have fallen to dangerously low levels in some areas of
Australia, resulting in some corners of the media claiming reignition of ‘the
Well, scientifically, there’s no debate. In combination with
clean water and sanitation, vaccines are one of the most effective public
health measures ever introduced, saving millions of lives every year.
Those who claim there is a ‘debate’ will cite a series of
canards designed to scare people away from vaccinating, but if you’re not
familiar with their claims, you could easily be convinced by anti-vaccine
What is true and what is not? Let’s address just a few of
the common vaccine myths and explain why they’re wrong.
1. Vaccines cause autism
The myth that vaccines are somehow linked to autism is an
unsinkable rubber duck. Initiated in 1998 following the publication of the now
notorious Lancet paper, (not-a-Dr) Andrew Wakefield was the first to suggest
that the measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine might be linked to autism.
What he didn’t reveal was that he had multiple conflicts of
interest, including that he was being paid by lawyers assembling a class action
against the manufacturers of MMR, and that he himself had submitted an
application for a patent for a single measles vaccine.
It eventually unravelled for Wakefield when the paper was
retracted in 2010. He was struck from the medical register for behaviour
classified as ‘dishonest, unethical and callous’ and the British Medical
Journal accused him of deliberate fraud.
But once the idea was floated, scientists were compelled to
investigate, particularly when it stood to impact public health so
dramatically. One of the most powerful pieces of evidence to show there is no
link between vaccines and autism comes from Japan, where the MMR was replaced with
single vaccines mid-1993. (See ‘Japanese study is more evidence that MMR does
not cause autism’ by Andrew Cole.) Guess what happened? Autism continued to
After this door closed, anti-vaxxers shifted the blame to
thiomersal, a mercury-containing component (not be confused with the scary
type that accumulates in the body). Small amounts of thiomersal were used as a
preservative in some vaccines, but this never included MMR.
Thiomersal, or ethyl-mercury, was removed from all scheduled
childhood vaccines in 2000, so if it were contributing to rising cases of
autism, you would expect a dramatic drop following its removal. Instead, like
with the MMR in Japan, the opposite happened, and autism continues to rise.
Further evidence comes from a recently published exhaustive
review examining 12,000 research articles covering eight different vaccines,
which also concluded there was no link between vaccines and autism. (See
Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality, editors Kathleen Stratton
Yet, the myth persists and probably for several reasons, one
being that the time of diagnosis for autism coincides with kids receiving
several vaccinations and, also, we currently don’t know what causes autism. But
we do know what doesn’t, and that’s vaccines.
2. Smallpox and polio have disappeared so there’s no need to vaccinate anymore
It’s precisely because of vaccines that diseases such as
smallpox have disappeared.
India recently experienced two years without a single case
of polio because of a concerted vaccination campaign.
Australia was declared measles-free in 2005 by the World
Health Organization (WHO) – before we stopped being so vigilant about
vaccinating and outbreaks began to reappear.
The impact of vaccine complacency can be observed in the
current measles epidemic in Wales, where there are now over 800 cases and has
been one death, and many people presenting are of the age who missed out on MMR
vaccination following the Wakefield scare.
In many ways, vaccines are a victim of their own success,
leading us to forget just how debilitating preventable diseases can be – not
seeing kids in calipers or hospital wards full of iron lungs means we forget
just how serious these diseases can be.
3. More vaccinated people get the disease than the unvaccinated
Although this sounds counterintuitive, it’s actually true,
but it doesn’t mean that vaccines don’t work, as anti-vaxxers will conflate it.
Remember that no vaccine is 100 per cent effective and vaccines are not a forcefield.
So, while it’s still possible to get the disease you’ve been vaccinated
against, disease severity and duration will be reduced.
With pertussis (whooping cough), for example, severe
complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis (brain inflammation) occur
almost exclusively in the unvaccinated.
Therefore, since the majority of the population is
vaccinated, it follows that most people who get a particular disease will be
vaccinated, but, critically, they will suffer fewer complications and long-term
effects than those who are completely unprotected.
4. My unvaccinated child should be of no concern to your vaccinated one
Vaccination is not just a personal issue, it’s a community
responsibility, largely because of a concept known as ‘community immunity’.
This describes a level of vaccination that prevents epidemics or outbreaks from
taking hold and spreading.
Some people question the validity of this concept, sometimes
referred to as herd immunity, but the impact of it breaking down can be easily
observed in places where vaccination levels fall dangerously low – take the
current measles outbreak in Wales, for example.
The other important factor about community immunity is it
protects those who, for whatever reason, can’t be vaccinated or are not fully
vaccinated. This includes very young children, immunocompromised people (such
as cancer sufferers) and elderly people.
5. Vaccines contain toxins
A cursory search of Google for vaccine ingredients pulls up
a mishmash of scary-sounding ingredients that to the uninitiated can sound like
Some of these claims are patently untrue (there is no
anti-freeze in vaccines) or are simple scaremongering (regarding the rumour of
aborted foetuses, in the 1960s some cells were extracted from a foetus to
establish a cell line that is still used in labs today). Some of the claimed
chemicals (and, remember, everything is made of chemicals) are present, but are
at such low levels as to never reach toxicity. The simple thing to remember is
the poison is in the dose – in high enough doses, even water can kill you. And
there’s fifty times more formaldehyde in a pear than in a vaccine.
Also, if you ever read the claim that ‘vaccines are injected
directly into the blood stream’ (they’re not), be sceptical of any other claims
the writer is making.
6. Vaccines will overwhelm kids’ undeveloped immune systems
The concept of ‘too many too soon’ was recently examined in
a detailed analysis of the US childhood immunisation schedule by the Institute
of Medicine (see The Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety: Stakeholder
Concerns, Scientific Evidence, and Future Studies). Experts specifically looked
for evidence that vaccination was linked to ‘autoimmune diseases, asthma,
hypersensitivity, seizures, child developmental disorders, learning or
developmental disorders, or attention deficit or disruptive disorders’,
including autism. The researchers confirmed the childhood vaccination schedule
The number of immune challenges (between 2000 to 6000) that
children fight every day in the environment is significantly greater than the
number of antigens or reactive particles in all their vaccinations combined
(about 150 for the entire vaccination schedule).
The next time you hear these myths about vaccination, you’ll hopefully have some evidence up your sleeve to debunk them.
This is an extract from No, You’re Not Entitled to Your Opinion, edited by Alexandra Hansen and available now. Text by Rachael Dunlop, Post-doctoral Fellow at the University of Technology Sydney. Originally published on 26 April 2013.
Australian stylist, cook and journalist Sara Silm spent much of her life travelling the world before buying the dream-like Chateau Montfort in 2015. Through a lens of colour, texture and flavour, she brings us a taste of life in the French countryside in her bright new book How to French Country.
We spoke to Sara about her life of wanderlust, what readers can expect from the book and some tips on living your dream.
You grew up in Sydney, worked in the Middle East and South Africa, lived in Russia and Kazakhstan before eventually purchasing Chateau Montfort in Southwestern France. What inspired you to travel and experience the world the way you have?
I think it was my first trip overseas. My father was a
great hiker and managed to organise a six-week expedition to base camp of Mount
Everest (by fax) when I was just 11 years old. This was well before the
internet and organised group trekking, so we did it as a family with yaks at
altitude, and lower down, with porters. We eventually walked out into India and
celebrated in a beautiful old British Raj hotel set amidst the tea plantations
of Darjeeling. That trek opened my eyes to a world that was ripe for adventure;
a fascinating temptation that demanded to be explored. There was no going back
at that point, I was hooked.
I think what really intrigues me about living in other cultures, though, is the thrill of being outside of your comfort zone: of being confronted with new smells, tastes, cultures, languages, sounds and sensations, so strange and wondrous that you’re forced to engage all your senses and truly live in the moment. I think I learnt from a very early age that I wasn’t very good at existing in a predictable environment. It felt like living life in a constant circle. I’m more a linear kind of person. I’m captured by the thrill of what lies beyond the ridge or around the bend.
What do you find most rewarding: writing, cooking or styling?
It’s probably photography actually, closely followed by
writing. There’s not a single day I don’t have a camera in my hand. Nothing
gives me more pleasure than capturing light, colour and the beauty of everyday
life in a lens, whether it’s on my big professional camera or simply an iPhone.
It’s a kind of obsession if I’m honest; a bit like a mad stamp collector or an
entomologist collecting insects in a net. The thrill of fishing through images at the
end of the day is honestly one of my favourite things in life. You just never
know what might be waiting for you. It’s those unexpected split seconds that
managed to find their way into the frame: the purity of emotion captured in the
that precious moment when laughter or doubt or wonder registered in the
subject’s face. When light weaves itself through the grass like ribbons on a
maypole or when you capture the whimsy of an everyday object that would
otherwise remain unseen and unappreciated.
As for writing, it’s something I don’t ever choose to do. It just happens, daily. I can remember writing and illustrating my own little books when I was very small, and it’s continued in one form or another throughout my life. The actual typing of it at the computer is such a small part of the process. The bulk of my writing happens in my head when I’m walking the dogs, or in the garden, or in the car… which might explain why my children often complain that they need to ask me the same thing two or three times. I’m constantly in my own little world!
Tell us about a day in your life at Chateau Montfort.
I can’t pretend that life here at Chateau Montfort isn’t
filled with the same all-consuming logistics that determine the routine in most
family homes; there’s no escaping that. But a typical day here is very much
dictated by the season; more so than in other places I’ve lived. I love to
watch the sunrise which is the best way of knowing what month you’re in — it
can be early or it can require a rather long wait in the dark. Most days start
with a walk along the old Roman road that hugs the ridge behind Montfort. It’s
a kind of mental meandering through the tasks for the day as well as through
the landscape which, like us, changes in subtle ways from day to day. Some days
the Pyrenees poke their snow-capped peaks through a blanket of soft cloud. Other
days they stand proud in a clear blue sky. In autumn there are chestnuts to be
gathered from the forest floor and roasted on the fire at night; ceps to be
foraged and sauteed in butter and garlic. In summer there are fields of wild
mint for making refreshing iced tea and wild blackberries — something my dogs
delight in snacking on as we meander along the track. They’re truly French
Most days I’m in the garden tending to the potager, the
perennial beds, the chickens and the goats (they’re always escaping) and
collecting flowers, herbs & foliage for the house — there are always fresh
flowers in the house, even in the depths of winter. I adore the farmer’s
markets, so depending on the day (each day the market is in a different
village) I’ll be sipping coffee at a little bar somewhere with the other early
risers out to bag the freshest produce before the lazy ones make their way at a
more respectable hour.
The AGA is generally laden with pots bubbling away with jam and chutney and inevitably a daube or casserole in the simmering oven. I’m almost always restoring a piece of furniture, and nearly six years on, the house renovations continue. I’m currently decorating both my son’s rooms. One is at university, and the other has just started at boarding school in Dublin so I’m finally reclaiming these teen-dens and making them my own, or at least more hospitable for any future girlfriends!
Your new book, How to French Country, is the ultimate guide to surrounding yourself with French country style no matter where you are in the world – a welcome delight for Australians itching to travel! What can readers expect from the book?
It’s a book that’s intended to be very much a handbook. It’s both a lifestyle and regional guide that might inspire a future trip to this beautiful but largely lesser-known part of France. If travel isn’t an option, it’s also a way of bringing home a little bit of France, be it via a recipe, colour palette or décor option, no matter where you live. I know how hard it can be to make a home feel authentic, especially if you don’t know where to start or where to find materials that express the way you want to feel, so I included a chapter that charts the course of our little stone barn. It’s essentially a mini house, so it formed a perfect vignette that allows readers to see how each room developed in real-time (it was renovated and shot by me over the course of nearly two years). Essentially, it’s a book that provides the perfect escape from the four walls that have defined our lives for these past months, and years in some cases. A way of reassessing what’s important to us and the way we want to live going forward.
It seems to us that you are living the dream – do you have any tips for readers looking to do the same?
I think the pandemic has been an incredible opportunity to refocus on dreams — both personal and those in the interest of our planet. Life is so fragile and so short, there’s no time to waste. Dreams remain just that if action isn’t taken, so my advice has always been to move ahead and make them a reality, no matter how big or small. There are always obstacles, especially when you throw in foreign countries and ancient buildings, but if you break a dream down, be realistic about your expectations and take one day at a time, you will get there. Dreams take grit and determination and sometimes many years in the making, but the reality is thrilling. Far more thrilling than the alternative of doing nothing and allowing them to simply exist in your mind.
What’s next for you?
I’m very excited about my upcoming collection of wallpapers with Sandberg, one of my favourite Swedish wallpaper companies. There’s a wonderful historical link between Sweden and the Béarn, so we’re developing some beautiful designs with this in mind. As the world gradually re-opens, I’m also starting to develop some new travel guides for my website and a wonderful series of inspiring interviews with creatives who are living their bliss. Esther, my Nubian goat doesn’t like the rain and has asked for an indoor hay manger in her maison so there’s that…and perhaps a new rose bed. You can never have enough roses!
Landscapes of our Hearts was one of our most significant releases of 2020; it changed our perception of Australian history in a big way. From award-winning writer and ecologist Matthew Colloff, the book explores the history of our relationship to this ancient continent, offering the possibility that a renewed connection to the landscape and each other could pave the way towards reconciliation.
Earlier this month, Landscapes of our Hearts took home the NSW Community and Regional History Prize for the 2021 NSW Premier’s History Awards. The award recognises a significant contribution to understanding of any aspect of the history of New South Wales. We are so proud of Matthew and our team for this huge accomplishment.
Did you know that medicinal plants can work wonders for your emotional health? In her revolutionary new guide The Plant Clinic, Erin Lovell Verinder says that ‘plants have a phenomenal ability to adapt their medicinal offerings to the needs of the people. They hold space for our process, bringing ease and comfort, lifting the proverbial storm clouds within us, calming the nervous system and assuring us with a warm embrace.’
Read on for three of Erin’s incredible recipes to help support your journey to better mental health and wellbeing.
Who doesn’t love candy? These rose-dusted, ‘clean’ candies, infused with a synergistic quintet of calming plants, are sweetened only with honey. They are always a hit with the kids. Savour these nectarous, golden-hued jewels, to bring on an instant dose of peacefulness.
2 teaspoons dried passionflower leaf
2 teaspoons dried lemon balm leaf
2 teaspoons dried chamomile flowers
2 teaspoons dried skullcap leaf
rose petal powder (to dust)
First, make 1/4 cup of strong medicinal tea infusion with the herbal ingredients, brewing the tea for at least 20 minutes before straining through a fine-mesh sieve. Add the infused tea base and 1 cup of honey to a heavy-bottomed saucepan and simmer over medium to high heat. It’s best to use a candy thermometer here, as the mix needs to get to around 150°C (300°F). This will take around 25–30 minutes. If you do not have a thermometer, you can test if the candy is ready by dropping a little of the mixture into ice cold water. If the mixture is ready, it will harden instantly! Do be very careful, though, as hot sugar burns can be very serious and very sore.
Once ready, pour your candy mixture into small silicon moulds (any mould will do, but the candies are much easier to remove from silicon) and allow to cool completely. Remove from the moulds and dust with your herbal powder of choice (such as the rose petal powder in the Calm Candies remedy recipe, p. 278). You can roll each candy in baking paper for freshness and portability, or store sealed in an airtight container for 2–4 weeks. If you live in a warmer climate, keep these in the fridge!
Sometimes the simplest interventions feel entirely luxurious, and this herbal practice is one of them. Floating in a bath of warm water scattered with precious petals is a treat for the mind, body and spirit. This remedy is perfect for when you may be feeling weary, fatigued, compressed, low and a little lacklustre. When choosing the ﬂoral plant portion of the recipe, consider aromatic herbs such as lavender and rose to inspire relaxation and rejuvenation.
1/2 – 1 cup fresh or dried medicinal flowers (e.g. lavender, calendula, chamomile, rose and rosemary)
Mix the flowers and plant material directly into the running bath water – they will float and bob around merrily.
Soak up the serenity for 20 or so minutes.
Lion’s Mane Tonic
For those sluggish mornings or slumpy afternoons where you might find yourself in the thick of fogginess and in need of motivation. This warming blend lights up neurological powers and vitality – in part due to the awesomeness of the medicinal mushroom, lion’s mane, which is paired with chai spice tones and adaptogenic maca root. Implement this sustaining treat to renew your capacity for focused endurance.
1 teaspoon lion’s mane mushroom powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
1/2 teaspoon ginger rhizome powder
1/4 teaspoon maca root powder
1/2 teaspoon lucuma powder
a pinch of ground black pepper
a dash of raw honey or sweetener of choice
To make a warm mylk tonic, add the herbal ingredients and 1 cup plant mylk together in a milk frother and set to ‘warm’, or heat gently in a saucepan. If adding raw honey as a sweetener, ensure that your tonic is not boiling hot, as excess heat will degrade the honey’s beneficial enzymes. Once warm, pour into your favourite mug, dust with a little cinnamon, sip slowly and savour the warmth.
To make a cold mylk tonic, add the herbal ingredients and 1 cup plant mylk together in a milk frother set to ‘cool’, or blitz in a blender. Then simply pour into a tall glass over ice, sprinkle with edible petals and enjoy.
The Plant Clinic is available now. Text by Erin Lovell Verinder, photography by Georgia Blackie and design by Noah Harper Checkle.
Welcome to the greatest, most inclusive, 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle you ever did see.
Christine Yahya is the joyful Armenian-Australian graphic designer and illustrator behind Pink Bits, created in 2016 to provide representation for realistic and diverse bodies rarely shown in mainstream media.
Fittingly, Christine has channeled her work into one our most exciting projects yet, Pink Bits on Body Inclusivity. This puzzle invites you to look beyond clothes and embrace a world of stretch marks, scars, stoma bags, body hair, mastectomies, vitiligo and asymmetrical boobs, where people of all abilities and identities can find joy and feel safe. Follow the path that leads to Mount Everbreast, toss a coin into the Let it Flow fountain, borrow a book from the community library or simply sit and watch the ducklings.
Want to find out more? Watch as Christine chats through her favourite parts of this game changing puzzle in the video below.
Last year we were blown away by the love we received for herbalist and nutritionist Erin Lovell Verinder’s debut title, Plants for the People. So many readers had been seeking a modern approach to using complementary medicine and Erin expertly answered their calls with an evolution of herbal-medicine books of the past.
Erin’s new venture The Plant Clinic is a revolutionary guide that delves deeper into the restorative potential of plant medicine, helping to manage and diagnose over 100 health concerns. The book features 150 recipes for teas, tinctures, syrups, salves, vinegars that promote healing across vitality, immunity, detoxification, the gut, hormone health, mums and bubs, hair and skin, emotions, mind and spirit. Erin’s empowering words are underscored by herbal wisdom and amplified by Georgia Blackie’s ethereal photography.
Get a feel for this essential guide with the introduction to the book, extracted exclusively for our Thames & Hudson community.
Healing is no joke. It can be uncomfortable, messy and all-consuming, and it is certainly a nonlinear undertaking. The journey of healing is much like the metaphor of peeling an onion: healing lies within every layer, and as we peel each one back, we get closer to the heart. In uncovering the layers, we begin to change our perceptions and expressions of ill health. We awaken to see the patterns, the stories, the feelings held within ourselves.
As a clinical practitioner I witness all sorts of presentations, revelations, breakdowns and breakthroughs. Throughout any given week in clinic, there will always be a myriad of lovely clients sitting in front of me sharing their health stories, ranging from longstanding chronic conditions to acute complaints. I have learnt that my own health challenges and experiences have shaped me as a practitioner, and my ability to understand, guide and hold the space for others moving through their health challenges stems directly from my own experiences.
Years ago, I personally went through a terrifying chapter of burnout. I had been moving fast in many aspects of my life; emotionally I was frayed, physically I was weary. Changes needed to be made in my life. I felt the nudge of a physical symptom, yet I did not fully listen in. I have learnt the hard way that we often do this; as a coping mechanism, we ignore the messages of our bodies. Perhaps we cannot quite look at it or we aren’t quite ready to hear it. We look away, wipe our hands of it, dust ourselves off and keep going. For me, this was a grave misstep.
My physical symptoms hit me like a bus. Literal waves of panic shook my body, yet my mind was still. Waves of anxiety washed through me. I was feeling out of my body, sped up and shaky. Cortisol rushes consumed me, and I really could not do much to keep them at bay. I went down allopathic treatment paths, with no answers and no solutions. I had no choice but to listen to my body, to make changes and to allow myself the space to heal.
Although the six Pillars to Thrive (p. 16) are age-old essentials, this is when I truly grasped the importance of these practices. In my own darkest moments, I dived headﬁrst into these practices to heal my body. I drank the water it was thirsty for. I balanced my blood sugar with nourishing food, eating with determined consistency to anchor my body. I connected to nature and let her ﬁll me up everyday, swinging in my hammock under the trees and sitting in my garden. I moved my body ever so gently when I was able. I listened to my internal self-talk, adjusting each self-limiting thought with nothing but love and gentleness. And I rested. I rested so much; I cleared my calendar. It was not easy, but I knew I needed to. Healing demands a level of surrender, and surrender takes a whole new shape when you really face the true meaning of the word.
I leant heavily on plant medicine during this time, following my own plant protocols morning, day and night. Adaptogenic-rich herbals such as ashwagandha and rehmannia reshaped my internal stress response. Nervine-rich herbals such as passionﬂower, oat straw and skullcap helped to ground my nervous system. They were potent calmers of the cortisol rushes. They brought the light of hope with swift improvements and feelings of resilience returning. I got better very quickly. Within three months. This may seem like a long time, but when you are at rock bottom, a return to full vitality within three months is its own kind of radical.
While this experience truly brought me to my knees, it also offered me incredible insights and cracked open my life in a really wonderful way. I set a new pace, I now honour rest and know my limits lovingly, I lead with my heart and have learnt to not overextend myself. The whole breaking down to break through concept is quite literally the epitome of my (albeit messy) dance with burnout. Working with the plants allowed me to get to the very root of the issue. There was no shortcut or quick ﬁx. I was worn so thin that I had to build from the ground up. This was deep healing.
In the Clinic
Unsurprisingly, I work with many burnt-out people. It is a natural side effect of our times, a modern epidemic of sorts. We have strayed far from the rhythms of nature, from a time when the simple rising of the sun and the setting of the moon were our compass. Instead, we wake to alarms and live our lives with various forms of technology dictating our daily movements and schedules. How can we all keep up?!
It’s an incredible thing to watch clients return from the brink of brutal burnout with the assistance of restorative herbs and the Pillars to Thrive (p. 16). Often, one particular symptom, like poor energy, for example, improves with gentle interventions (such as herbs and rest), meaning fewer energy dips in the day; then sleep deepens, and gradually vitality is regained. This is the process of healing; one element affects another, and the pieces of your inner puzzle unite.
One client had been dealing with chronic bloating for a long time. She had tried every diet, had seen all sorts of medical specialists and undertaken invasive investigations with no results or improvements. After years, she turned to the plants. We discovered that her chronic digestive bloating was more a reﬂection of her internal emotional landscapes. Her response to stress was an inability to digest, a classic irritable bowel syndrome–like symptom. Once we had set up a herbal treatment plan – such as the Bloating Protocol on page 148 – to lean on, incorporating digestive herbs such as chamomile, lemon balm and fennel to calm her belly and her stress response, we had an incredible breakthrough. When her awareness shifted to working with plants to support her process, she transformed her bloating woes.
My own plant path has been an example of science and spirit ﬁnding their way back to each other. I am a Bachelor-level herbalist. My training was heavily clinical and science-based – involving the study of botany, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, symptomatology, pathology and biochemistry of the body – alongside the sweet song of herbalism. However, when I embarked on the path of natural medicine as an eager teenager, my ﬁrst learnt system of healing was energetic healing, with its esoteric view of health. Since then, I have also dedicated years to my nutritional medicine studies, learning about the therapeutic beneﬁts of food and the power in edible nourishment. I have merged my years of study and training with my years of clinical experiences, witnessing countless breakthroughs in my clients’ ill health, working with them in restoring true health. What I am most certain of, is that you deserve to hold all of the tools that are needed to decode the messages being sent by your body and being.
Choosing the plant path takes us deep into the riches of traditional folk medicine and ancestral herbal therapeutics. We return to the old ways, marrying time-honoured approaches with contemporary practices and forging new ways to work with plants to heal our bodies and beings. The roots of herbalism run deep, and it is about time we found our way back to working with the plants to heal.
This book is not intended to replace individualised professional advice on healthcare and wellbeing, nor is it is intended to treat, diagnose or cure. It is recommended that you consult your naturopathic practitioner, herbalist or GP when seeking healthcare support; health runs deep, and there is no such thing as a one-size-ﬁts-all approach. As such, when working with plant medicine, it is advisable to consult a herbal materia medica to become familiar with any cautions or contradictions which may be applicable to your situation. Please be aware that some pharmaceutical drugs and plant medicines can interact in unintended ways, so it is essential that you gain advice from your health care professional if you are already taking any prescribed medications.
This is an edited extract from The Plant Clinic, available now. Text by Erin Lovell Verinder, photography by Georgia Blackie and design by Noah Harper Checkle.
In her latest book A Room of Her Own, author and photographer Robyn Lea captures the hearts and homes of twenty extraordinary women around the globe. Whether they be artists, designers, makers or curators, these women have a common ground when it comes to new ways of thinking, and of course, daring to lead creative lives.
In this extract, we put the spotlight on two of our Melbourne-based favourites from the book: jewellery designer Fiorina Golotta and photographer Francesca Golotta. Read on for their chapter and find out how you can win a copy of the book and a pair of Fiorina Jewellery’s coveted logo earrings.
Ensconced in her bedroom in suburban Melbourne, threading
shark’s teeth and shells onto string to make herself a necklace, seven-year-old
Fiorina Golotta embarked on a small creative project that marked the beginning
of her life’s work. Two years later, while accompanying her father, Tony, on a
trip to his native Italy, the fate of her subsequent creative career was
effectively sealed. The European history, architecture, art and jewellery she
saw there made a profound impression, and the wildly contrasting aesthetic she
found at Bangkok airport en route – ‘Everything was shiny: mirrored beads, gold
flowers and jewellery … it was phenomenal’ – was equally intoxicating. By her tenth
birthday she was fully accessorised in her own jewellery designs.
Not long after, Fiorina’s younger sister Francesca had her own creative epiphany. On his forty-fifth birthday, Tony was given a coffee-table book, Italia Mia, featuring photographs by 1950s ﬁlm-star-turned-photographer Gina Lollobrigida. Francesca pored over its pages of Italian street scenes and interiors and, encouraged by Fiorina, was soon experimenting with photography.
As Fiorina grew older, her creative work became inextricably linked to her sense of self. The handcrafted jewellery and talismans she made were not just objects of beauty and self-expression, but also tools of resistance. Tony, raised in poverty in conservative postwar southern Italy, wanted his children to pursue academic paths and corporate careers. So he saw his elder daughter’s creative impulses as an expression of rebellion. Fiorina agreed. ‘To be creative was a point of rebellion, an escape, an expression and a statement,’ she explains. ‘Jewellery made me feel uplifted, and it gave me an identity and an immediate shield.’ It also exposed her to other ethnicities and cultures beyond the scope of her traditional upbringing, such as Native American groups, whose wisdom and protection she sought.
Fiorina left home at eighteen, a decision her parents did
not welcome. Armed with freedom and independence for the ﬁrst time, she
discovered a different side of Melbourne, though was soon ready to move further
aﬁeld. After throwing herself into a world of diverse ideologies and the
underground music scene in New York City for a year, she returned to Australia
and settled in the village of Kuranda in far-northern Queensland. There, she
lost herself in a cathartic period of experimentation and self-development. Her
new routine included working in an African bead shop, which offered her an
informal education in tribal jewellery. ‘African beads are not just decorative
– they have a deeper cultural value. They are also religious, and some of them
contain prayers,’ she explains.
With a new sense of conﬁdence in her creative needs and
direction, fostered by several years of travel and exploration, she returned to
Melbourne to study jewellery-making and started sharing a workshop in Little
Collins Street. It was around this time that the sisters’ parents divorced. ‘It
led us all to new paths,’ says Francesca, ‘and forged instant freedom. It meant
we were no longer as engaged in the deep-rooted traditions of the Italian
In 2003, when their father was terminally ill with cancer, Fiorina and her work were featured in a prominent magazine. A family friend visiting the bedridden Tony presented him with a laminated copy of the story. It was a deﬁning moment of public recognition of Fiorina’s work that made him incredibly proud. Similarly, the night before the hanging of Francesca and their brother Maurice’s joint exhibition in 2002, they felt their father’s enthusiasm. Francesca remembers: ‘We were decorating these little icon frames we had made and nailing coins onto them that Fiorina had given us. Dad was going through chemotherapy at the time and feeling very unwell, and suddenly he came alive and insisted on showing us how we should do it.’ As the exhibition opened, another chapter was coming to an end. There was not only new-found peace between Tony and his daughters but a celebration of all they had created.
In 2008, Fiorina and Francesca triumphantly opened Fiorina
Jewellery on High Street Armadale. Its ornate golden doors open to an interior
dotted with velvet chairs and antique mirrors, interspersed with polished
cabinets displaying a magical array of handmade pieces. The walls feature
Maurice’s artwork and Francesca’s photography.
The workshop upstairs is the heart of the atelier, where all the
jewellery is made. Tiny drawers are ﬁlled with a kaleidoscope of coloured gems
and stones, and the collage-style decor includes evidence of Fiorina’s travels,
inﬂuences and interests.
Francesca’s ability to be both the creative sounding board and the practical voice in the business continues to guide her sister, and Fiorina believes the differences between them are as important as their similarities. ‘We’re different people, and that’s probably why it works,’ she explains. ‘Franca is a true Renaissance woman, she’s romantic. I’m very ﬁery in comparison, and I learn from my mistakes afterwards. My aesthetic is more tribal and rustic, hers is more elegant and reﬁned.’
These days, working with speciﬁc stones and materials
continues to feed Fiorina’s sense of wellbeing. ‘The stones have power,’ she
says. ‘It’s about ﬁnding something that elevates you, something that helps you
get through the day, the month, the year, the decade.’ She ﬁnds the properties
of stones potent: ‘They give me the clarity needed to have the right thoughts,
which lead to the right actions.’
Colour is also a signiﬁcant driver in her life and work: ‘I
am attracted to certain colours for speciﬁc reasons. It’s something I
instinctively draw upon.’ Turquoise is one example. ‘Since my teens, I have
been drawn to the traditional culture of people from those Native American
nations that wear their hair long and employ turquoise jewellery, feathers and
breastplates in their traditional dress, which gives them power and
protection.’ Similarly, the jewellery of the ancient Etruscan, Greek, Byzantine
and Moghul cultures and traditional Art Deco aesthetics fascinate Fiorina. Her
spiritual life is fed by these ancient cultures as well as Buddhism, mysticism
and Rastafarianism. ‘An appreciation of alternative ideologies has allowed me
to embrace different ways of life, giving me creative freedom and providing a path forward.’
Looking back, Fiorina is philosophical about her upbringing:
‘I believe you come into your family for a reason. My reason was about
empowering and protecting people through what I do – through my jewellery.’
Along with her proliﬁc creative output, her rebellious tendencies also prepared
her well for tackling the sometimes ruthless world of business.
Together, the sisters have created much more than a jewellery store. It is a focal point for like-minded women, a place they can go to feel inspired, adorned and understood. It has also provided Fiorina with an anchor: ‘I think rebellion has been a curse and a blessing in the same breath. It steered the ship for a long time. The joy of creating and the response from my community, family and friends are now the primary driving forces in my life.’
This is an extract from A Room of Her Own, available now. Text and photography by Robyn Lea, design by Ashlea O’Neill.
Win a fabulous A Room of Her Own prize pack!
To get into the Spring spirit, we’re giving away a copy of Robyn Lea’s beautiful interiors book ‘A Room of Her Own’ as well as a pair of logo earrings from beloved Melbourne jewellery store (headed by two of the inspirational women featured in the book), Fiorina Jewellery.
Annie Smithers is often described as a bit of a local legend in the Australian food scene. If you’ve ever wanted to experience the true meaning of farm-to-table dining, or drool at the thought of classic French farmhouse dishes, Annie’s Trentham restaurant du Fermier should be high on your bucket list.
Annie’s new book Recipe for a Kinder Life is more than just the story of du Fermier, though. Part-meditation, part-memoir, it is a generous account of life on the land and in the kitchen. At its heart, Recipe for a Kinder Life is Annie’s guide to living more gently and sustainably.
We were lucky enough to chat to Annie about her journey to owning one of the country’s most celebrated restaurants, her favourite spots to eat when she’s not at du Fermier and what she hopes readers will take away from the book.
Tell us a bit about your path to becoming one of Australia’s most highly regarded chefs. At what stage in your career did you know you wanted to be running your own restaurant?
I decided late into my secondary education that I wanted to be a cook. After finishing my HSC, off I went to look for a job. After nearly forty years of cooking, I still think that I love it more each day than I did the day before, so some may say that I found my vocation. As to when I discovered I wanted to have my own restaurant, that was more a quirk of circumstance than an actual decision. But I have certainly enjoyed the last 16 years of having my own places, as it enables me to dance to the beat of my own drum.
Du Fermier is
widely considered a pioneer for the Australian paddock to plate ethos. What
inspired you to pursue this idea for the restaurant?
At the turn of the last century there was increasing discussion about food miles and food sovereignty. I was living on an acre of land at the time and decided that I needed to put it to constructive use and to grow fruit and vegetables for the restaurant. I have always been a believer in the concept that if each of us does what we can, no matter how small, together we can all make a difference to the future of the planet.
For those who
haven’t had the privilege of visiting your
restaurant du Fermier, what can they expect from the experience?
Eating at du
Fermier is as close as I can get to entertaining people in my house. Our sole aim
is to make each and every one of our customers feel loved and nurtured during
their time with us. I cook classic French inspired country food, sometimes
plated, sometimes shared, free from the embellishments of more technical and
When you’re not at du Fermier, where do you
like to eat in regional Victoria?
place to eat at the moment is at home. Getting vegan take away from the food
van, Twinkletown, next to the restaurant on a Wednesday night when I go into
town ‘to put the bins out’ is a delicious treat.
And when you’re in Melbourne?
The last 18 months have been very challenging for us getting to Melbourne to eat. My wife Susan and I went for our anniversary in January and had the fabulous vegan banquet at Maha, and were thoroughly spoilt by the lovely Shane Delia.
One of the
major themes of Recipe for a Kinder Life is living a more sustainable
existence. What does sustainability mean for you?
I believe it is
essential to find the point at which you are self-sustaining in your own life
before you tackle the broader questions. If you are too tired, too pushed
within yourself, it is an uphill battle to make changes to your life that bode
well on a broader scale.
take one thing away from Recipe for a Kinder Life, what should it be?
Be kind to yourself. Believe in your dreams, work hard for them, but don’t sacrifice too much for them. Find your own limits and live with them and love them.
In Recipe for a Kinder Life, the inspirational cook Annie Smithers shares her wisdom on living a gentler life, and forging deep connections with the natural environment, the community and the self. She discusses the significance of balance and rest for personal wellbeing in the extract below.
Another huge step I have taken in protecting my mental health is embracing the notion of choice, understanding that no one forces me to do all the things that I do. All the decisions that I make are mine to take responsibility for. In the past, I might have blamed outside influences if I felt that I was working too hard; now I have a strong sense of what is enough or too much, and if I choose to do too much, I must accept all that comes with that. As an employer, a partner, a step-parent, a member of a community, there is always the opportunity to show, not tell. Leading by example, and being a communicative person, allows others to observe my way of finding balance and assess whether there is anything in it that could make their own life more comfortable.
All this striving for, and reflection on, a better balance so I can sustain myself to achieve all I want to do in all the spheres of my life is one reason that I have come back to observing the eight-hour day. The hospitality industry is infamous for its mistreatment of workers and its long and unsociable hours. It has become very important to me not to expect any of my employees to work more than an eight-hour day. This should hardly need explaining but, in any case, it is clear that it allows people to make their own choices and arrange their lives to suit their needs and wants. It means that if they wish to take on a second job, they can; if they wish to go home and garden, they can; if they wish to go home and sit in front of the telly for the evening, they can. From experience, I know that it is often difficult to tell your boss that you are working above your capacity and/or outside your designated work hours, and I am equally aware of the effects of too much work on the body, the mind and those around you.
This also ties in with how we manage the restaurant-related devices. As we run a very small team at du Fermier, we tend not to answer the telephone during lunch service. This is so that we can completely devote ourselves to the customers in the room. It also means that we can return messages in an unhurried manner later in the day, making sure that the customer at the end of the phone is now the absolute focus. Answering emails is done in a similar manner. We have a manual system that we like to think offers a personal-service touch, but I am sure that some of our patrons would love us to answer messages and emails twenty-four hours a day. I can’t expect the people who work with me to take on this responsibility and deal with customers at all hours of the day and night, given that I won’t myself. The division between work, leisure and sleep has become very blurred. I, for one, do not think that this is a positive. In embracing a more sustainable approach to life, how we operate at a personal level, with our own resources, is at the core of our existence. Sustainability is not just about using the earth’s resources more responsibly; it is about better using your own.
Sleep is, without doubt, a very important part of my day. Making the decision a few years ago to stop operating the restaurant in the evening has been absolutely revelatory for my personal wellbeing. I have never been a night person; I am happiest tucked up in bed and ready to go to sleep when it’s dark. The hours that I sleep change seasonally: I often sleep more in winter and less in summer – a little like the animals in the yard. The geese, the goats and the chickens all run to a clock that is not based on hours but on daylight. It seems to be a pattern that I am following more and more as I spend a greater amount of time caring for them and working outside in the garden. It is as if their needs and mine are becoming very similar.
The surprising (or maybe not) result now if I don’t get enough sleep, or even rest, is not pretty. Tired, irascible, perfunctory Annie is no fun for anybody, especially me. This is screamingly obvious when the side effects of not enough rest and sleep include weight gain and systems failure in various bits of my body. As the pace of this modern world keeps getting busier, it is up to each and every one of us to decide how much to commit to the external forces at play, how much we engage with them, where our priorities are, and to try to find a place for ourselves that fits with our personal, financial and relationship values.
After thirty years of living in the country, I am trying not to become a stranger to the needs of city and suburban folk. I imagine that smaller-scale gardening, long walks and various forms of exercise replace the chores of farm life. And I imagine that reading, theatre and dining out are much higher on the agenda than they are for me, which exposes the nature of balance. For each of us, no matter where we live, our location enables us to find the day-to-day rhythm that suits us best in that environment.
This is an edited extract from Recipe for a Kinder Life, available now. Text by Annie Smithers and cover design by Daniel New.
It would be an understatement to say that the travel focus for most Australians has shifted to local and interstate wonders. You might even say we’re approaching a day trip renaissance, which is why Evi O and Andrew Grune’s newproject Day Trip couldn’t have come at a better time.
In case you aren’t already acquainted with this seriously innovative duo, Evi O is an award-winning book designer and self-taught artist while Andrew has worked across the globe in the fashion industry and is best known for his talents in photography and videography. They have come together through a mutual love for nature and creativity with Day Trip, a new series that is unlike any Australian travel guide you have seen before.
We wanted to celebrate the launch of the first book in the series, Day Trip Sydney: 52 Nature Adventures, by chatting to Evi and Andrew about the foundations of this project, how they selected the nature trips featured in the book, their travel tips and more.
You’re quite the superstar team, having achieved countless creative endeavours independently. Do you each have a career highlight so far?
Evi: Personally, this is rather a highlight. Never in my mind did I think I would write a guide book. It is a dream doing it with Andrew, too. It’s a continuation of the cliché ‘if work is play, you never have to work in your whole life.’ Apart from this, I feel like I’m currently living a career highlight with my Evi O Studio team daily and a busy art practice. Sorry, there are a few highlights.
Andrew: I would have to agree with Evi. This is such a different project to what I normally work on and I can really see all the skills that I have developed being utilised in the project. I think that’s what makes it so interesting for myself and as a product. I think Evi and my skill set combined have hopefully created a new and exciting brand.
What brought you together as collaborators?
Evi: My cheesy answer is love, and wanting to know the other person inside, I think? But it is kind of true (for me), as we started going out during COVID. I wanted to know Andrew’s creative brain and muscle, and we did this day trip to (the then-empty) Bathurst racecourse and I felt I discovered a bit more about him, and the potential of collaborating is an organic continuation.
Andrew: Definitely love and also our spirit of adventure and spontaneity. A lot of times our day trips don’t go to plan and we end up finding something even more exciting than we intended. Not everybody can work like that!
What led you both to the Day Trip project? How is it distinguished from other travel guides?
We were kind of limited to restrictions, funnily. We wanted to pitch an Australia-wide travel book, but then our publisher Paulina de Laveaux said ‘That’s impossible, why don’t you do a day trip book, you’re already doing it.’ Thanks, COVID. As to how it is different, I guess it’s a fresh rendition, and designed for today’s modern life. A snapshot of a trip and its map is compacted in one page ready to be photographed and used in your mobile pre-trip. We are also just your regular people: we don’t have 1% body fat, nor do we own hiking poles, so the level of difficulty and access within these trips is very friendly. We do love rewards, so each trip also comes with either a destination or a memorable experience.
What was the process behind selecting the nature trips featured in Day Trip Sydney? Were there any that didn’t quite make the cut but deserve an honourable mention?
We rate the rewards of each experience and basically go with our instincts, but part of this succinct curation also involves asking for tips from friends, family and strangers, just to make sure the selection is diverse. And oh yes, there are some that didn’t make the book – we will share in the next one 😉
Do you have a top tip for new day trippers?
Get a good pair of shoes!
Has COVID changed your perspective on travel?
Absolutely. The adage of ‘the journey, not the destination’ is so true. And both of us have a new appreciation of this beautiful city is there. We both have lived half our lives here, and we are gladly reminded of what Sydney has to offer.
What’s next for Day Trip? Can you give us some insight into the future of the brand and series?
There will be more books. And some fun merch. We are heading to Melbourne next, and as soon as book one is launched and standing on shelves, we are going to start pursuing more creative collaborations as Day Trip. We want to express our creative drive and travel curiously through Day Trip.
Day Trip Sydney is available now. Text, images and design by Evi O and Andrew Grune (Day Trip Publishing).
You can check out Day Trip’s website here and their Instagram here.
From Evi O and Andrew Grune, Day Trip is a new series of Australian travel guides that will ignite your nomadic spirit. The first in the series, Day Trip Sydney takes you to mountains, waterfalls, swimming holes, forests, urban parks, Aboriginal cultural sites, historic architecture and more – all within 120 kilometres of Sydney’s city centre. Whether you’re a Sydney local or a first-time visitor, Day Trip Sydney is the perfect guide for escaping the urban chaos.
Curious? Get a feel for this innovative guide with Day Trip’s launch video below.
Day Trip Sydney is available now. Text, images and design by Evi O and Andrew Grune (Day Trip Publishing).
You can check out Day Trip’s website here and their Instagram here.
Following Clay and A Painted Landscape, Still Life completes Amber Creswell Bell’s genre trifecta of artful gems that champion remarkable Australian artists. The book looks at the styles, subjects, visions and philosophies of more than forty contemporary Australian artists. To give you a feel for this incredible book, check out our gallery featuring the work of some of the artists featured as well as their perspectives on the genre.
‘Perhaps still life is more accessible with it’s traditionally domestic subjects and therefore considered a more ‘democratic’ genre, sitting more comfortably with ideas of the classless society we imagine that Australia is.’
‘I have always been interested in recording or interpreting my surroundings in a visual way. I almost feel I haven’t properly experienced looking at something if I haven’t observed it and tried to create either a picture from the subject or responded to it.’
‘All paintings, including still lifes, should feel erotic.’
‘There’s a certain tension in setting up, where I tend to get so frustrated with the tediousness of finding the composition and mixing the paints that by the time I put brush to linen, I’m about to burst.’
‘I feel that the endurance of the still life genre has to do with its relative anonymity compared to more figurative work.’
‘A collection of objects, no matter how mundane, tells a story. They are like a little world; you can get lost in them.’
‘What I love most about painting a still life is creating a sense of order in life, if only on the canvas. I strive to create a sense of tranquility and calm in my pieces in the midst of a busy and bustling life.’
Still Life is available now. Text by Amber Creswell Bell and design by Ngaio Parr.
Front cover: Tsering Hannaford, Yellow Magnolia, 2018. Oil on board, 60 x 45 cm. Courtesy of the artist.
Reading the Seasons is a book for our times, showing how literature connects us to ourselves and others. Get of taste of the genuine friendship between the authors, Germaine Leece and Sonya Tsakalakis in this extract from the book.
My life is like the autumn leaf
That trembles in the moon’s pale ray;
Its hold is frail – its date is brief,
Restless, – and soon to pass away!
From ‘My Life is like the Summer Rose’ by Richard Henry Wilde 
Hello, Germaine, on the first day of autumn – and it’s
Here are a few lines that I read today. I like to start the
day with glittering language and thoughts. And I read them aloud, much to my
children’s chagrin. One day they’ll look back fondly?!
Such beautiful lines, thank you. I must say, our friendship
has given me much more understanding about the power and importance of poetry
in daily life. It also reminds me of an eighty-something male bibliotherapy
client I saw last week. You would have loved him.
His father recited poetry to him throughout his childhood,
and in the past couple of years he decided he wasn’t reading enough poetry so
he started a group. Wine and cheese accompany the monthly poetic conversation
on the beach. He was such a character, saw the books on his bookshelves as his
lifelong friends and used words such as ‘charm-struck’. I didn’t want the
session to end, I was so charm-struck myself.
While talking about his ‘friends on the bookshelf ’, he
reflected that he hadn’t read enough female authors in his lifetime and wanted
to rectify that. (I imagine you are swooning now!) I decided to give him a
prescription filled with female authors that illuminated his different chapters
to help give a fuller shape to his own story. I couldn’t resist starting with
Jeanette Winterson’s memoir Why Be Happy when You Could Be Normal?, as
we have discussed before, required reading for any book lover! He told me that
as a teen he put his trust into books rather than people to make sense of the
world, and that brought to my mind Winterson writing about ‘[falling] into
books … I put myself inside them for safe keeping’. While my client and
Jeanette have nothing else in common about their families or their lives, I
hope the image of two teenagers on different sides of the world in different
decades finding comfort and anchoring inside the pages of books creates a
nostalgic reading experience for him.
I ended with a bit of fun. He is a fan of Wodehouse, so I
thought I would aim for a similar era and comedy-of-manners style … I chose EM
Delafield’s Diary of a Provincial Lady, as she always makes me laugh and I
love the sharp, observational gaze she puts on the upper class living in
Devonshire between the wars. I think I read somewhere that it was
semi-autobiographical and that she wrote the diaries as a ‘gentle joke’, but at
the same time she manages to shine a feminist light on the domestic sphere of
English country life. Her husband is always reading the Times newspaper and
going to sleep, and she spends much of her time ‘sacrificing truth to demands
of civilisation’! I’m not sure he will relate as well to Delafield’s character
who, when she feels ‘that life is wholly unendurable’ decides ‘madly to get a
new hat’, but I hope he will savour the wit and irony of the writing.
He reminded me how much I enjoy sessions with older clients
who choose to use the time to reflect on their reading lives and map how it has
changed over the decades. There’s something about witnessing someone’s
backstory that creates the same wonder within me as words between covers. I
remember another client who, in her seventies, told me our session had helped
her understand that by recollecting the different books she had read throughout
her life, she could trace her evolution of self. She added that having this
quiet time and being asked questions about the ways reading had affected her
life had allowed this realisation to occur. I found that particularly
powerful. The importance of time to reflect. How do you enjoy working with
I had better leave it here, as your autumn poem reminds me,
the day is soon to pass away and dinner needs preparing.
I have to tell you, I read that letter a few times. Not just
because I was thrilled by ‘charm-struck’, but also to bask in a cascade of my
reflections on working with older clients. In an oblique way. My bibliotherapy
career began in aged care, where I ran communal reading circles. Within these
milieus, poems and short stories were read aloud, creating a container for the
sharing of reflections, memories and personal stories evoked by the words on
the page. A fifteen-minute short story can be stretched out to an hour. On one
occasion, we were reading Gogol’s eccentric gem, ‘The Nose’.
Actually, it’s positively absurd! How else would you
describe a story where the protagonist finds his nose in a loaf of bread that
later parades haughtily on the streets of St Petersburg? And to make matters
more intriguing, it features a snuffbox. Suddenly, the normally reticent Edna
recalled her child-hood fascination for her grandmother’s rosewood snuffbox,
which sat on the mantelpiece. And from there she launched into vivid memories
of her grandmother, concluding at the end that she had completely forgotten
about that snuffbox, ‘hadn’t thought about it for decades’. That is what I love
about reading aloud, the vivifying of the text. The original story or poem
serves as a launching pad for other stories, contained within, awaiting to be
heard and enjoyed. Aspects of the self embedded deep within seem to be
awakened. Especially wonderful are older folks’ stories, an homage to Judith
Wright – again!
Seventy years of stories he clutches round his bones.
Seventy years are hived in him like old honey … 
Stories are as precious and coveted as old honey. During
that session there was a lot of animated banter about childhood fascinations …
places, things, that held a special allure which would probably be overlooked
by the eyes of a grown-up. Wishing to continue on that theme, I chose the
unique persiflage of Saki’s The Lumber Room for the following week. It’s a
hilarious story about a mischievous little boy who, with inventive flair, gets
into the room from which he is banned by his austere aunt, and finds it filled
with wondrous curiosities. You can’t help but come away thinking that whatever
punishment, which no doubt will be dished out to him afterwards, would be worth
it. Absolutely worth it! Suddenly there were recollections of places where kids
were forbidden because it was the ‘good room’.
And even more interestingly, the places where children were
allowed; spending hours outside till you were called in for dinner, being part
of the ‘street tribe’ or roaming to nearby paddocks and creeks. One reader who
grew up on a farm lovingly recalled waking up at six every morning to milk the
cows, and riding her pony to school with her siblings. And refashioning the
silk saved from the parachutes used in the war to make bloomers. I know –
there is upcycling for you! She believed she had a beautiful childhood, there
were always people around, places to discover.
So, when you talked of the importance of time to reflect
when older, it also gives those of subsequent generations a space to revel in
stories of times past. A type of validation for a life lived that may otherwise
be forgotten. S x
 Richard Henry Wilde extract from ‘My Life is like the Summer Rose’, in A Library of American Literature, Volume: Literature of the Republic, Part II, 1821–1834, eds Edmund Clarence Stedman and Ellen Mackay Hutchinson (New York: CL Webster, 1891)
 ‘Judith Wright extract from ‘South of My Days’, in Collected Poems (Sydney: HarperCollins, 1994)
We pride ourselves on being Australia’s home for illustrated
books. That’s why we’re so excited about the latest addition to our family of
distributed publishers: TASCHEN.
This German-born, globally-loved publishing house is destined for the reader who dreams of building their coffee table book collection. Their selection of art books span from informative introductions to special editions championing the likes of Ai Weiwei and Gustav Klimt, while their impressive selection of architecture and design books will take you on a tour of some of the world’s finest homes and remarkable landmarks. You will also find bestselling tomes and short-form histories on your favourite figures and moments in fashion, film, music and pop culture, as well as photography and travel titles to inspire.
Above all, TASCHEN’s publishing is synonymous with quality and individuality. Their books are timeless sources of pleasure and learning, and you’ll be carrying them around from home to home. We’ve rounded up a few of our favourite titles from TASCHEN to help you start building your collection.
In 2016, Nike and fashion designer Virgil Abloh joined forces to create a sneaker collection celebrating 10 of the company’s most iconic shoes. Go behind the scenes of the project in this powerful book.
The opulent dinner parties thrown by Salvador Dalí and his wife and muse, Gala, were the stuff of legend. This reprint of Dalí’s 1973 cookbook reveals some of the sensual, imaginative and exotic elements that made up their notorious gatherings.
Jonathon Drori’s first book Around the World in 80 Trees resonated with readers far and wide looking to find inspiration through nature. Now, Jonathon is back with Around the World in 80 Plants, bringing to life the science of plants by revealing their links with our own history, culture and folklore. We spoke to Jonathon about his passion for science, strategy and botany and some of the most fascinating plants featured in the book.
Having worked as an author, public speaker, an adviser and board member for a variety of organisations, an honorary professor, the founding Director of Culture Online at the UK Government’s Department for Culture Media and Sport, an Executive Producer for the BBC and so much more, do you have a career highlight that you are most proud of?
Gosh, that’s the kind of list that even my parents would have thought was just a bit too much! I spent some time as Editorial Director for BBC Online, when the medium was just being invented. That was pretty exciting. And my nine years on the Board at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew were special for the combination of science, beauty, strategy and some amazing botanical expeditions.
How did you
become so passionate about nature?
definitely inspired me. They told stories about plants and animals to my
brother and me and although we both lost interest in those tricky teenage
years, something obviously sank in!
inspired you to write Around the World in 80 Plants? Had you always
planned a sequel to Around the World in 80 Trees?
The success of 80 Trees was a wonderful surprise to me. I wrote the kind of book that I wanted to read – a book with plenty of science, but not a science book. A book with plenty of history, but not a history book. Same for culture, folklore, etymology and so on. I couldn’t find anything out there that entwined them all, with proper storytelling. So, I had a go, and it seems that people like that kind of thing. Of course, Lucille Clerc’s gorgeous, whimsical illustrations really brought it to life. I realised we were onto something, which made me want to do another book. Being able to research and write about things that completely fascinate me is the most wonderful luxury. I am humbly grateful!
What was the
process behind selecting the plants featured in the book?
I looked for
plants with a good geographical spread around the world, and where I felt there
was something new to say. I set myself the challenge that any reader, coming
from any area of interest, should find something new and special in each of the
80 biographies of plant species in the book.
What is the
most unusual plant we can find in the book?
The Welwitschia, of the desert straddling Namibia and Angola, is a very strange plant indeed. Depending how you look at it, it can be one of the ugliest or one of the most beautiful plants on earth, and that’s the only place it grows. It can live 500 years and yet it only ever has the same two leaves, that just keep growing from the base and withering at the ends. Another unusual plant is the Iboga from Gabon and Cameroon, for the mind-altering effects it has on people who use it in Bwiti initiation rites.
plants so inspiring to us?
in the end, human life, in fact all life on earth depends on plants. I love
them because they are so varied, get up to such strange behaviours and have
such odd, poignant, bizarre and even funny relationships with humans.
My philosophy has always been to make connections with interesting people and good things happen. I don’t know what’s next. Something will turn up!
Jungalow: Decorate Wild is artist, designer and author Justina Blakeney’s ultimate guide to designing wildly creative interiors. Filled with all of Justina’s tips and tricks, the book will show you how to make bold choices with color and pattern, how to take cues from nature, how to authentically glean inspiration from their heritage and travels, how to break rules, and all the other paths to truly begin to decorate wild. In this extract, go outside your comfort zone and learn how to mix patterns at home.
Patterns often present a complex mix of color, texture, scale, and motif that might seem difficult to harmonize with the rest of the décor elements in a space. Patterns compete for attention; will they drown out the more mild-mannered pieces in a room? You might love a wallpaper with a bold pattern, for example, but what if it doesn’t work with your furniture or drapes? Maybe just painting the walls is the safer choice. Don’t go out like that! Mixing patterns isn’t as hard as you think.
Three very different bold patterns work together in this reading nook because they share the same black and tan color palette. Meanwhile, blocks of solid yellow create contrast and provide breathing room.
In my vanity area at home, I mix very different patterns together. It works because the airy gold-andivory wallpaper provides breathing room while the bold blue stool acts as a wild card.
Different patterns don’t have to look alike to look good together, as long as they echo each other in some respect. Here, four contrasting patterns are harmonized by a shared color palette or graphic elements. The colors of the velvet chair’s zigzags reflect both the warm earth tones of the rug as well as the cool teal of the botanical wallpaper. The doors are harmonized with the chair not by color, but by their shared chevron pattern. When patterns are wildly different from each other, they don’t compete and you can use an overarching color story to make them work together.
Patterns with similar color palettes echo one another and can be combined easily, without fear of the results looking over the top. In this bedroom, a patterned dresser, rug, and planter are unified by an analogous color story.
Nearly every element in this bedroom has a pattern. The graphic rattan headboard and the colorful quilt are large patterns with contrasting colors that pop against the small patterns that read as solids, such as the subtle stripes in the wallpaper and bedding.
Jungalow: Decorate Wild is available now. Text by Justina Blakeney and principal photography by Dabito. Originally published by Abrams Books.
Bad Apple is the first in a new series of picture books starring a truly terrible piece of fruit that shows readers what he’s really made of. We were lucky enough to chat with the book’s Australian-based illustrator, Ben Sanders, about his rewarding career, illustrative style, working with author Huw Lewis Jones and more.
Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an award-winning illustrator. Were you always interested in art and illustration?
I was actually interested very early on. I got a
proper architect’s drawing board for my 14th birthday. Sometimes, when my
parents went to bed, I’d get up and secretly draw on my board well into the
night. I was already a freelance illustrator by that stage, as I had a paying
client by the time I was 11 years old. I was drawing little watercolour
characters that were made into stickers, notepads and what-not. I enjoyed it
enough to pursue a creative career after I left school.
How would you describe your illustrative style?
Mid-century modern with a zesty twist of lemon. I say that because I used to use a muted colour scheme. Now I’m embracing a zingy-er colour palette mixed with a 1950s and 60s aesthetic.
You have worked on a plethora of children’s books and commercial projects throughout your career, from releasing I’ve an Uncle Ivan with us to creating the instantly recognisable illustrations on The Natural Confectionary Co. packs. Do you have a favourite project that you have worked on so far?
Both projects you mentioned are special to me – my
first children’s book and my most recognised work. They are the two that are
most talked about. But a project that is closest to my heart was the work I did
for INTI Magazine while I lived in Bolivia. The revenue generated from the sale
of the magazine helped street kids return to school from working in the street.
It was run by BiblioWorks, an NGO that also establishes libraries in remote
communities and promotes literacy around the city of Sucre where I lived.
Can you tell us about the process behind bringing characters to life for children’s books?
I guess so… most of the process is a mystery to me.
I much prefer creating non-human characters, I find them more interesting. Some
stories I’ve written the characters start out as human… but I end up changing
them to animals somewhere along the process. I was lucky when Huw Lewis-Jones
sent me a story about an Apple… jackpot… not a human!
I think that when you read a good manuscript it doesn’t take long to start picturing what the characters could look like. I sketch a page full of rough character designs and see what visual cues will help bring out the right personality. For me, this is by far the most satisfying and enjoyable aspect of making children’s books.
What was your vision for the Bad Apple characters and how closely did you work with author Huw Lewis-Jones on developing their look?
Huw sent me the manuscript and after a few reads I sent him a little drawing of a mean looking green apple. An almost perfectly round green circle with the least amount of detailing to create a face and limbs. We both wanted him to be simple yet full of expression. So, the eyebrows became the most important feature. He would be scowling a lot in the book so he needed a unique brow… a monobrow…. with his stem and leaf growing right out of it! Huw and I had a few chats about it but I remember Bad Apple developing very quickly and naturally, with both of us having input.
What’s next for you?
There will be at least two more Bad Apple Books coming in 2022. Apple is even naughtier in the sequel… it’s a lot of fun. I have two new picture book series in the pipeline in collaboration with Huw. There is one about a Croc with a big appetite and another about a Badger who is going through an existential crisis … so yeah, more animal characters to come!
Bad Apple is available now. Text by Huw Lewis Jones and illustrations by Ben Sanders. Originally published by Thames & Hudson UK.
For over twenty-five years, award-winning practice Kerstin Thompson Architects (KTA) has proven that local architecture can and should shape a community. Leon van Schaik’s Kerstin Thompson Architects: Encompassing People & Place looks at KTA’s extraordinary body of work, its values and processes, and its place in the wider Australian architectural landscape. We spoke to KTA’s Principal, Kerstin Thompson, about her impressive career, the civic endeavour that is architecture and how she hopes to inspire others with the release of this new monograph.
You are the Principal of Kerstin Thompson Architects, an Adjunct Professor at RMIT and Monash Universities and you were named Life Fellow by the Australian Institute of Architects in 2017. What led to your incredibly rich career in architecture?
Time on site, as a kid and later as a site architect, a wide variety of experiences in architectural offices from local ones to international multi-design studios, which in combination exposed me to the many valid ways of thinking about architecture. And since 1990 at RMIT, being a ‘pracademic’ – combining teaching with practice where each sphere enriches the other: the idealism, clarity of intent of the design studio, the pragmatism, ability to effectively negotiate the messiness and contingency of building and day to day practice. Good architecture demands both.
Your practice focuses on ‘architecture as a civic endeavour,’ can you explain what this entails? What values does KTA champion?
Buildings, no matter how small or for what purpose, can improve a situation. For the intended users, the client, of course, but also for the street, the neighbourhood, even the environment in projects where ecological repair becomes part of our remit. KTA champions the value of mutual benefit – that in meeting the aspirations of the client the design also contributes something positive for the neighbourhood too. In this sense they are of civic endeavor, in the interests of community, the city, broader environment.
Is there a project you have worked on that you are most proud of?
I’m no good at favourites, there are many projects we are proud of. In fact, our hope is that KTA’s body of work, the cumulative impact of many sometimes modest buildings rather than one or two stand out icons, will leave a lasting and positive impact. Each project in its own way raised the quality of someone’s everyday life, brought benefit and joy to someone whether in their work, home or recreational life.
In Kerstin Thompson Architects: Encompassing People & Place, Leon van Schaik focuses on KTA’s groundbreaking body of work. How do you think the book contributes to a wider conversation about architecture in Australia?
First we hope it provides insights into the motivations and process of architecture, the ideas, the sketches, behind the completed project. Second that it showcases a variety of ways in which architecture can meaningfully engage with, forge a unique sense of place, whether in bush, city or suburban context. And also, how opposites can happily/productively co-exist: subtly with clarity, sensitivity with strength, and last but not least new with existing built form. The inclusion of several adaptive re-use projects demonstrates how the re-use of our built heritage is not only more environmentally resourceful but also a way to hold onto precious cultural memories. May our new buildings also endure to support changed use in the future.
Our favourite inclusion in the book is your ’10 Lessons,’ many of which address what it is like to be a woman in architecture. How do you hope to inspire other women in the industry?
By conducting practice through a studio and business culture that is stimulating and supportive for our colleagues; by mentoring within and beyond the practice; by leaving a lasting legacy of decent buildings that have somehow improved the everyday; inspiring through advocacy, speaking out, being heard, being visible.
What’s next for you? Is there an exciting project that KTA is working on that you can share with us?
KTA has always been diverse in its project selection. Big, small, public, private. So, it’s not surprising that two of our most exciting, current projects are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Queen & Collins project for GPT, almost complete, is a total rethink of half a city block. We’ve transformed it from corporate lobby to network of vibrant, open air laneways and small campiellos (venetian squares) in celebration of the site’s significant neo-gothic heritage. In contrast to this scale and urban location we are excited to see the house for photographer Sharyn Cairns come to life. In a beautiful coastal bush setting, it will be sheer, concentrated concrete delight.
Braid fresh flowers into a hanging wreath for a party — then let it dry and leave it up all year!
A hanging wreath adds a sense of
playfulness to a room and is, of course, perfect for a little party or special
occasion. This fresh-to-dry project can be made with just-picked flowers, but
it’s also a great way to use up ones that are on their way out — blooms that
are wilting but still have pliable stems can be braided and will dry nicely.
Bay leaves, gomphrena, and strawflowers are especially good choices for an arrangement like this one, as they’re all very long-lasting and dry well. The colours of strawflowers feel almost unreal (in the best way!) and bring a sense of whimsy to the project. This wreath is light enough that it can easily be suspended from a ceiling hook, in part because it’s made without wire. Stems of millet and statice give it stability, and the braided strawflower stems keep the blossoms in place. These braiding and weaving methods can be applied to wreaths of all sorts. A hanging flower wreath is a focal point, so you won’t need other large arrangements or elaborate styling. Here, I hung the wreath over a table covered in pink linen and added modern ceramics, tiny arrangements, and a few scattered flower petals.
You will need :
8 stems of small bay leaves
25 stems of strawflower
3 to 5 stems of common millet or pampas grass
5 stems of statice
5 stems of gomphrena
Florist’s twine or string, for hanging
Gather your ingredients at a wholesale flower or farmers’ market. Once home, set them out in bunches on your work surface, and remove the leaves from the strawflower stems. If the flowers have been in water, be sure to remove any debris or excess leaves from the stems and let them dry out before working with them.
Create a base with the millet and statice, working with a few stems at a time.
Curve them into a wreath shape, spacing the blooms at intervals and twisting the stems around each other to secure.
Braid bunches of strawflower together, just as you would hair, alternating between three and five stems per bunch. Once braided, weave the bunches of strawflower into the wreath base, adding more statice for security if needed.
Fill in the wreath with bay leaves between each bunch, then weave in gomphrena between the stems.
Create a hanger by tying lengths of string or twine to opposite sides of the wreath. Display away from direct sunlight, if possible, or it will fade quickly.
This is an edited extract from Field Flower Vase, available now. Text and photography by Chelsea Fuss. Originally published by Abrams Books.
The little evergreen coffee tree began life somewhere near the forested mountains of southwestern Ethiopia, and its broad, elliptical leaves with crinkled edges, shiny and dark above and pastel-pale underneath, still prefer the shade. In full flower, coffee is a spellbinding but ephemeral joy; for just a couple of days, thousands of delicate white blossoms with a light fragrance of honeysuckle and jasmine can festoon a single tree. The smoothly oval fruits ripen to pillar-box red; their thin layer of edible flesh tastes of watermelon and apricot and surrounds a pair of deeply grooved seeds that are the familiar coffee ‘beans’. Coffee’s bright, sweet fruit have evolved to attract monkeys and birds, which ingest them, remove the pulpy parts of the fruit and excrete the seeds intact. Mercifully rarely, such beans have been gathered and sold as a luxury; for example, Indonesian kopi luwak coffee – considered by aficionados to be especially ‘smooth and earthy’ – is the, ahem, ‘product’ of Asian palm civets, which are often caught and traded for this purpose. Otherwise, all cultivated coffee is harvested by human hand; the fruit don’t suit mechanical harvesting because they don’t all ripen at once.
More than 1,000 years ago, thanks to genius or good fortune, boringly unscented beans that had been separated from their fruit and husks were roasted, pounded and added to hot water. The resulting fine-flavoured, stimulating yet non-alcoholic brew spread via Yemen throughout the Islamic world and the Ottoman empire. The story goes that in about 1600 coffee’s association with Islam caused Vatican officials to dismiss it as ‘Satan’s latest trap to catch Christian souls’, but Pope Clement VIII supposedly tried some and gave coffee his blessing because it would have been ‘a shame to let infidels have sole use of it’. What a charmer!
By the mid-seventeenth century coffee houses were popping up around Europe, and in London especially they became places for men to discuss business and politics, in contrast to the chocolate houses (see page 71), which were more light-hearted and welcoming to women. Over the centuries, many cultures have developed coffee rituals, sustained by beguiling paraphernalia and nerdy choices of grind and provenance. Ethiopia has a particularly elaborate ceremony. Amid wafts of incense, beans are freshly roasted over glowing charcoal and pounded at the table with cardamom or other spices. The resulting intense, dark drink is served with … popcorn. It’s a delightful experience for those fortunate enough to live within reach of an Ethiopian café, but perhaps not just before bedtime.
The coffee tree didn’t develop caffeine for our benefit. When its leaves die and drop, their caffeine leaches into the soil, impeding the germination and growth of competing plants, and it is also a defence, sometimes a lethal one, against various insects and fungi. It is therefore surprising that coffee and even some unrelated citrus plants put caffeine in their nectar, which, after all, is meant to reward insects for ferrying pollen to other plants. It turns out that the merest dash of caffeine, below the threshold that bees can sense, helps them to remember the plant, making them more likely to return to it. The flowers shrewdly dispense just enough caffeine to be pharmacologically active but not enough to be bothersome.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Asian production of Arabica coffee was wiped out by a fungus: coffee leaf rust. Groves were replanted with ‘Robusta’ (Coffea canephora), which was immune, and although it has a harsher taste than Arabica, it is now widely cultivated. Existing coffee strains are at risk once more, from climate change and the new pests and diseases that come with it, but there is scope for breeding new varieties. There are more than 120 wild species of coffee, most of them in tropical Africa. They have fascinating flavours and contain differing amounts of caffeine, and some of them tolerate heat and drought, or cope with different soils or plant diseases, yet most are themselves threatened by climate change or forest loss. It feels unfair that much of the burden of protecting this vital source of genetic diversity for one of the world’s most valuable commodities should be borne mainly by African nations.
Over four decades, Ken Done’s exuberant artwork and design has become permanently embedded in Australian culture. His signature style has graced everything from ad campaigns to art cars, doona covers to swimwear, and his bright paintings of Sydney Harbour, the outback, the reef and so much more never fails to bring a smile to our faces. Amber Creswell Bell’s Ken Done: Art Design Life brings all of this together in the ultimate celebration of the man, his work and his legacy. Check out a few of our favourite works from the book in our gallery below.
It is more important now than ever to inspire and educate children to think about the environment. Mathew Bate’s first picture book With a Little Kelp from Our Friends is certainly a step in the right direction, delving into the significance of seaweed and it’s potential to help tackle climate change. We asked Mathew to tell us a bit about how he became so acquainted with seaweed, its prominence in Australia and what led him to writing this vibrant book.
You are clearly a person of many talents, having worked as a former co-editor of Matters Journal, being a published poet and non-fiction writer and someone who knows their way around a camera. Do you have a favourite creative project that you have worked on?
That’s a tough question for me, I feel like all of my creative projects are part of one big lumpy collage — one thing always informs the next and so on. My creative process is largely me just bumping into things. I remember being in an introductory poetry subject at uni. We all had to put together a portfolio of poems. I went down to a velodrome near where I was living to write my first poem for this portfolio. A peculiar choice. I must have thought that watching bikes go round and round might spin some words out. I arrive and the velodrome was empty. Not a bike in sight. I sat in the middle on a grassy bit and squinted at the sun. Eventually a man and his daughter arrived, and I thought here comes my bike poem. But they didn’t have bikes. They unfurled a kite that was shaped like a boat. They took turns sailing it in the wind. I remember being so taken by the beauty of it all. I wrote my first poem that day and it had nothing to do with kites, or bikes. I’ve been jotting down things I see ever since.
You are currently studying regenerative agriculture— the first degree of its kind! Can you tell us a bit about what this means?
I’ve been studying the regenerative agriculture course at Southern Cross University for a year now. It’s becoming a bit of a buzz word but regenerative agriculture is essentially an umbrella term for a whole array of agricultural techniques and philosophies that aim to heal landscapes. We’ve gone off on a bit of a dangerous tangent with industrial agriculture and our planet is suffering because of it. Regenerative agriculture represents a break to that destructive and extractive approach to farming. Now, we’re seeing lots of inspiring farmers out there that are revitalising landscapes with a more holistic approach. Hopefully one day soon I’ll be one of them!
What led you to becoming a self-proclaimed kelp enthusiast?
I honestly feel like seaweed grabbed me by the ankle and pulled me underwater. I was first awoken to seaweed’s regenerative potential by Tim Flannery’s book Sunlight and Seaweed and Paul Hawken’s book Drawdown. I then ended up spending some time with Tim Flannery and a group of people on Heron Island, on the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, and from there my curiosity for seaweed kind of spiralled into an obsession. A healthy obsession.
For those of us who have grown up in Australia, what type of kelp would we be familiar with? What would we be surprised to find out about it and its potential uses?
We’re spoilt in Australia when it comes to seaweed diversity. South Australia is actually a seaweed haven; 60% of the seaweed’s found on the South Australian coastline are found nowhere else in the world. There are thousands of different types of seaweeds you can find washed up on the beaches in Australia. Everyone seems to love the kelps, a family of about 120 large brown seaweeds. Giant kelp can grow one metre in two days and can reach full maturity, up to 50m in length, in a matter of months. Recently there’s been some promising research into seaweed biofuels that can power vehicles, which is pretty neat. Many people are also not aware that there’s a long history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples using seaweed to make shoes, water carriers and shelters.
Where did the concept behind With a Little Kelp from Our Friends come from?
I suppose I really wanted to pull together all of these wonderful things I’d learnt to love about seaweed and present them in a book that everyone could read. There was a strong impulse to weave a narrative together that inspired love and wonder for the natural world, something that I think should be established as common ground. I was also thinking a lot about how to talk to children about climate change in a way that invites curiosity.
What was the research process behind the book like?
I was lucky that by the time I started planning the book I’d already done a fair amount of research. But there was a lot of research over several years. There were definitely times when the amount of research really tested my commitment to seaweed. Fortunately, I had a lot of people who were willing to share their knowledge and help me wade through the sea of information.
If children and adults alike should take one thing away from With a Little Kelp from Our Friends, what should it be?
Seaweed’s power doesn’t come from its ability to extract, prey or trick but its ability to create community and provide shelter and food. In that sense, we should take a leaf from seaweed’s book.
What’s next for you?
Oh gosh, who knows. Let’s see what I bump into next. Perhaps seaweed farming!
Painting the Ancient Land of Australia is artist Philip Hughes’ love letter to our continent. Depicting deep varicoulored mines, broad rolling plains, vast imposing landforms and exquisite calm bays, his paintings are breathtaking portrayals of natural landscapes and human interventions. As reflected throughout the book, they are unique in that they are informed and inspired by maps and aerial photographs.
Enjoy a look at some of the works featured in the book below.
Kat Macleod really can do it all: having worked as a Melbourne-based illustrator, designer and exhibiting artist over the past twenty years, her journey has now taken her to the world of children’s publishing. Her first series with us is a staple set of four first concept books, covering the ABCs, 123s, colours and shapes. We spoke to Kat about her diverse career and how she was able to combine her love for art, illustration and children’s books.
What sparked your passion for illustration, art and design?
I have loved drawing for as long as I can remember. As a child, my happy place was sitting and drawing at the kitchen table with textas and pencils. My high school art teacher encouraged me to study graphic design at uni, so that’s where I was introduced to the world of design. While I loved design and the structure and processes I learnt working in the industry for the past twenty years, at the heart of my practise is a deep passion and appreciation for art and illustration.
You have worked with lots of exciting clients, has there been a favourite project over the years that you can recall?
One of my favourite past projects is the first book I illustrated back in 2002, Bird. I had free reign to create a collection of drawings that were published as a limited edition art book with embroidered pages and a hand made cover. It’s very special to me as it marked the beginning of my career as an illustrator, and the realisation that I could combine my two greatest passions as a career path — design and illustration.
How would you describe your signature illustration style?
Textural, bright and layered.
Your work is endlessly creative — what inspires you?
Thank you! I am inspired by art, design, creative individuals, fashion, films, music … but my biggest inspiration is nature. Whether it’s beautiful old trees along the Australian coastline, or found leaves at our local park, I am always inspired by the shapes and colours of the natural world.
The Early Learners series is your first official foray into children’s publishing, what led you to the project?
I’ve been keen to work on children’s books for a long time and have made lots of little handmade books with my boys over the years. For my first step into the real world of children’s publishing it felt right to start at the beginning. Early learner board books are wonderful chunky little objects, full of illustrations and minimal text, and were very appealing to me as an illustrator and designer! It’s been a really exciting process to transition my illustrations from the art and design world into children’s books. Every page is an opportunity to create a composition of colour and form and lead the reader through simple narratives and playful themes.
What sets the series apart from other books for babies and toddlers?
These are colourful art-based books that are bright and engaging for babies and toddlers, and also hopefully are a pleasure for parents and carers to look at and read aloud.
What challenges did you face in 2020?
I found 2020 challenging with the Melbourne lockdowns. Like most people, we really missed seeing our family and friends although I had plenty of company with my three active little boys home from school for so many months! The trickiest part was when schools closed, twice. I know I was not alone in finding it tremendously challenging to manage working from home whilst assisting my boys with tackling remote learning (big shout out to all the amazing teachers!) It was difficult to juggle everything but I know how lucky I was to be able to keep working, even if it meant after the boys were in bed. My husband is an essential services worker so I worried a lot about him at work too. It was a strange year but we have been lucky in Melbourne — the lockdowns and restrictions were inconvenient but they kept our city safe and all my loved ones stayed healthy, so I am extremely grateful for that.
What is next for you?
I am working on an exciting new picture book with you guys! It’s a really special little tale I’ve been dreaming up for a long time, I’m deep in the drawing stage. It’s such an exciting project and I can’t wait to share it.
Kat Macleod’s Early Learner series is available now. Text, illustration and design by Kat Macleod. Series includes:
In his second cookbook, one of our favourite chefs Matty Matheson opens up his home and shares his approachable style of cooking. Get a taste of the bold and beautiful dishes Matty serves up in Matty Matheson: Home Style Cookery with these recipes for his Chicago-Style Pork Chop Sandwich and Green Curry Beef Ribs.
Chicago-Style Pork Chop Sandwich
Prep time: 15 minutes
Half of these sandwiches are inspired by my trips to Chicago, it seems, and this pork chop is a perfect piece of history. A bone-in pork chop sandwich may seem weird or even troublesome, but I feel it’s a challenge and I’m always up for it. Whenever I go to get one of these, I can smell the onions from down the street—piles of caramelized onions covering seared pork chops, keeping them warm like the belly of a mama bear. I love the kind of spots that can hand you a sandwich in less than a minute flat, and the whole family instantly has food that’s eaten on the hood of the car, eating and chewing away at an American classic that now can be made at home. You could buy good pork, maybe, or buy those frozen bone-in quarter-inch-thick guys that we all remember growing up.
2 bone-in pork chops (the thinnest pork chops available, about 115 g per chop)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the onion
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 white onion, julienned
4 slices toast
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
2 pickled jalapeño chiles
Season the pork chops with the salt and pepper.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Once the oil is smoking hot, add the pork chops and sear hard on the first side, about 2 minutes. Flip and repeat on the other side. Take out of the skillet and rest on wire rack.
Heat the vegetable oil in the hot pan. Throw the onion into the pan, stir it up, and hard-sear for 2 to 3 minutes. Put a lid on the pan and let the onion steam for a minute. You want those onions a little caramelized and burnt. Season with salt. Remove from heat and let rest.
Spread 1 tablespoon of the mustard on one side of both the top and bottom pieces of toast. Place the pork chops on the bottom toast, cover with onions, and finish with the top toast, mustard side down. Serve with a pickled jalapeño.
Green Curry Beef Ribs
Serves 4 to 6
Prep time: 3 hours
Meat and rice is the new meat and potatoes. And braised beef ribs in spicy green curry is great for any meal— breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Real flavor-building, real spice, real tasty meals for the whole family. Building your skills and your palates are very important to keep things exciting in your home life. And guess what, the day after, shred this beef and make little rotis; add some cheese, even. Fuck this shit up.
For the beef short ribs:
2 kg beef short ribs, meat removed from the bone and cut into 4 cm cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup (200 g) diced onion
2⁄3 cup (100 g) diced celery
2 tablespoons sliced garlic
1⁄4 cup (75 g) seeded and diced jalapeño chile
1⁄2 cup (100 g) diced leek, white and green parts only
2 stalks lemongrass, cut in half and smashed with the side of a knife
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon green curry paste
1 tablespoon ground Thai spice (equal parts toasted ground cardamom and toasted ground cumin)
4 cups (880 ml) Beef and Bone Marrow Stock (page 55), or store-bought
1 cup (240 ml) canned unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons lime juice
For the pickled garlic:
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 bird’s eye chiles, sliced
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1⁄3 cup (30 g) sliced scallions
1½ cups (60 g) cilantro leaves,
Steamed jasmine rice, or
Grilled Naan (page 30)
Make the short beef ribs:
Season the short ribs with the salt and pepper. Heat the vegetable oil in a
medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, brown the short
ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer the short ribs to a
plate and pour out about 70 percent of the fat from the pot.
Add the onion, celery, garlic,
jalapeño, leek, and lemongrass to the pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until
the onion starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the ginger, curry paste, and
toasted spice mix and stir to coat the vegetables. Add the short ribs and any
juices from the resting plate. Add beef stock to barely cover the top of the
short ribs. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to low; simmer until the short
ribs are tender, 2 to 2½ hours. Remove the lemongrass and whisk in the coconut
milk. Taste the broth for seasoning. Add the lime juice and salt as needed.
While the beef is cooking, make
the pickled garlic: In a small nonreactive bowl, combine the garlic and chiles.
Heat the vinegar in a small skillet until bubbling. Pour the hot vinegar over
the garlic and chiles and let sit for 1 hour.
To serve: Generously divide the
curry into serving bowls. Garnish the bowls with little spoonfuls of pickled
garlic and lots of chopped scallion and cilantro leaves. Enjoy with jasmine
rice or a big piece of grilled naan.
This is an edited extract from Matty Matheson: Home Style Cookery, out now. Text by Matty Matheson with photography by Quentin Bacon. Originally published by Abrams Books.
Kate Burridge, Professor of Linguistics, Monash University
Howard Manns, Lecturer in Linguistics, Monash University
People love creating words – in times of crisis it’s a ‘sick’ (in the good sense) way of pulling through. From childhood, our ‘linguistic life has been one willingly given over to language play’ (in the words of British linguist David Crystal). In fact, scientists have recently found that learning new words can stimulate exactly those same pleasure circuits in our brain as sex, gambling, drugs and eating (the pleasure-associated region called the ventral striatum).
We’re leximaniacs at heart and, while the behaviour can occasionally seem dark, we can learn a thing or two by reflecting on those playful coinages that get us through ‘dicky’ times.
Tom, Dick and Miley: In the ‘grippe’ of language play
In the past, hard times birthed playful rhymes. The 1930s Depression gave us playful reduplications based on Australian landmarks and towns: ‘ain’t no work in Bourke’; ‘everything’s wrong at Wollongong’; ‘things are crook at Tallarook’.
Whenever we face the possibility of being ‘dicky’ or ‘Tom [and] Dick’ (rhyming slang for ‘sick’), we take comfort in language play. It’s one thing to feel ‘crook’, but it’s another thing to feel as ‘crook as Rookwood’ (a cemetery in Sydney) or to have a ‘wog’ (synonymous with ‘bug’, likely from ‘pollywog’, and unrelated to the ethnic slur ‘wog’).
Remedies may be found in language’s abilities to translate sores into plasters, to paraphrase William Gouge’s 1631 sermon on the plague. New slang enables us to face our fears head-on, just as when the Parisians began calling a bout of late-18th century influenza ‘la grippe’ to reflect the ‘seizing’ effect it had on people. The word was subsequently taken up in British and American English.
In these times of COVID-19, there are the usual suspects: shortenings like ‘sanny’ (hand sanitiser) and ‘iso’ (isolation), abbreviations like BCV (before coronavirus) and WFH (working from home), as well as the compounds ‘corona moaner’ (the whingers) and ‘zoombombing’ (intrusion into a videoconference).
Plenty of nouns have been ‘verbed’ too – the toilet paper/pasta/tinned tomatoes have been ‘magpied’. Even rhyming slang has made a bit of a comeback, with Miley Cyrus lending her name to the virus (already end-clipped to ‘the Miley’). Some combine more than one process – ‘the isodesk’ (Or is that ‘the isobar’?) is where many of us are currently spending our days.
Slanguage in the coronaverse: What’s new?
What is interesting about COVID-lingo is the large number of creations that are blended expressions formed by combining two existing words. The new portmanteau then incorporates meaningful characteristics from both.
Newly spawned ‘coronials’ (corona + millennials) has the predicted baby boom in late 2020 already covered. ‘Blursday’ has been around since at least 2007 but originally described the day spent hung over; it’s now been pressed into service because no one knows what day of the week it is anymore. The official disease name itself, ‘COVID’, is somewhere between a blend and an acronym because it takes in vowels to make the abbreviation pronounceable (CO from corona, VI from virus and D from disease).
True, we’ve been doing this sort of thing for centuries – ‘flush’ (flash + gush) dates from the 1500s. But it’s never been a terribly significant method of coinage. English professor John Algeo’s study of neologisms over a fifty-year period (1941–91) showed blends accounting for only 5 per cent of the new words. Linguist Tony Thorne’s impressive collection of over 100 COVID-related terms has around 34 per cent blends, and the figure increases to more than 40 per cent if we consider only slang.
Not only have blends become much more common, the nature of the mixing process has changed too. Rather than combining splinters of words, as in ‘coronials’, most of these corona-inspired mixes combine full words with parts of others. The ‘quarantini’ keeps the word ‘quarantine’ intact and follows it with just a hint of ‘martini’ (and for that extra boost to the immune system, you can rim the glass with vitamin C powder). Many of these bubbled up during specific times of the pandemic – ‘lexit’ or ‘covexit’ (the strategies around exiting lockdown and economic hardship), ‘coronacation’ (working from home) and so on.
Humour: From the gallows to quarantimes
Humour emerges as a prevailing feature of these blends, even more so when the overlap is total. In ‘covidiot’ (the one who ignores public health advice and probably hoards toilet paper), both ‘covid’ and ‘idiot’ remain intact. There’s been a flourishing of these types of blend, including ‘covideo party’, ‘coronapocalypse’ and ‘covidivorce’, to name just a few.
Clearly, there is a fair bit of dark comedy in the jokes and memes that abound on the internet, and in many of these coinages too – compounds like ‘coronacoma’ (for the period of shutdown, or that deliciously long quarantine sleep) and ‘boomer remover’ (used by younger generations for the devastation of the baby boomer demographic).
Callous, heartless, yes. But humour is often used as a means of coming to terms with the less happy aspects of our existence. People use levity as a way of disarming anxiety and discomfort by downgrading what it is they cannot cope with.
Certainly, gallows humour has always featured large in hospital slang, with diagnoses like GOK (‘God only knows’) and PFO (‘pissed and fell over’). For those who have to deal with dying and death every day, it is perhaps the only way to stay sane. COVID challenges us all to confront the biological limits of our own bodies, and these days humour provides the much-needed societal safety valve.
So what will come of these creations? The vast majority will fall victim to ‘verbicide’, as slang expressions always do.
Jacqui Lewis and Arran Russell are best known as the powerhouse team behind The Broad Place, a global school for creativity, clarity and consciousness. Now, they have released their first book High-Grade Living, a modern guide to wellbeing. Here we share an extract from the book focusing on one of the pillars of meditation: breath meditation.
We recommend learning meditation in person with a teacher, rather than from a book. However, you can get started on your own with a beginner’s style of meditation that is widely used, where the breath is the focal point.
Even though we’re breathing all the time, we often forget to breathe deeply and properly in the course of our day. Breath meditation helps us centre ourselves and become completely aware and present.
Putting into practice
First, get yourself into a comfortable seated position. Sitting still is very important for this technique, so finding a way to sit comfortably is key.
Ideally, you should start breath meditation by sitting cross-legged on the floor, with your back straight. Some find it helpful to sit on a cushion to raise the buttocks off the ground and allow the legs to fall gently forward.
However, you may find that while sitting on the floor without a back support, you slump your back and shoulders. It’s important to have a straight back, so we recommend sitting on a chair to begin with if you need that extra support. Experiment with both methods and find what works best for you.
Once seated, ensure that the spine is straight, the chin gently tucked in and the shoulders relaxed. Rest your hands comfortably and gently in your lap.
Close your eyes and become aware of your breathing. Your breaths should be light and easy, and gradually become longer in length.
Your breath is your guide during this meditation and it is what you come back to as an anchor for the busy mind.
Now move your focus to place your awareness on the lower belly. In Japanese practice this is known as the hara. Focus your mind intently there and breathe into this space. The belly should expand with each breath in and contract with each breath out. Each time you are distracted by thoughts (which will be constantly), this is the space you come back to.
As you concentrate on your breaths, the mind will dash about, the body will distract and surrounding noises will pester you. Don’t worry; this is normal. When you find yourself distracted, simply come back to the breath. How does it feel in the body? Are the breaths long and slow, or are they shortening naturally? Bring your awareness back to the hara and your attention back to the breath.
Repeat this practice once or twice a day for 15 minutes. Routine is very important and will ground your practice.
This is an extract fromHigh-Grade Living,out now. Text and images by Jacqui Lewis and Arran Russell with design by Arran Russell.
Songlines is the first in the First Knowledges series of six books that will give an in-depth understanding of Indigenous expertise in six areas. The second and third books on Design and Country will be published in 2021.
If Indigenous art forms such as song, story, dance and ceremony are so similar and so effective in cultures around the world, why aren’t we using them in contemporary Western education? Why can’t we all benefit from Indigenous techniques for learning and storing knowledge?
The answer is simple: we can. All Indigenous knowledge techniques reflect the way the human brain stores information – the way your brain stores information. So why not use these knowledge methods alongside the techniques you already have? You don’t have to give up writing or technology. You don’t have to give up anything to add to your toolbox of memory aids and learn from the knowledge technologies that Indigenous cultures have been perfecting for millennia.
It’s time to go beyond learning about Indigenous cultures and start learning from them. If you start incorporating some of the ideas in this book into your personal knowledge system, you will experience the power of Songlines.
WITHOUT MEMORY, THERE IS NO KNOWLEDGE
Almost all human knowledge is now available on the internet – you just have to search for it. So why bother memorising anything? This worrying question is asked far too often.
Firstly, you can’t look up something if you don’t know it exists.
Secondly, as you burrow down to specific information, you can’t connect it to the bigger picture. Creativity – the way to see things in new ways and construct new ideas – depends on being able to see and understand from different directions. If you don’t have various forms of knowledge in memory, how can you identify new patterns and ideas? All you are capable of doing is regurgitating the information that has already been neatly written and indexed for you.
Thirdly, how often do the knowledge keepers in every society have to make decisions based on what they know, without the time to go and look it up? How would you feel about a doctor who had to look up every symptom you mentioned? Or a policeman who had no idea what the law stated? Or a singer who knew none of the lyrics without an autocue?
Fourthly, if you want to go to the higher levels of thinking that we educators talk about endlessly in education – analyse and synthesise, hypothesise and theorise – then you have to analyse, synthesise, hypothesise or theorise about something. Otherwise, your new thinking is meaningless. By grounding your knowledge, literally, in Songlines, you have a firm knowledge base on which to build ever more complex layers of understanding.
And finally, your brain is a muscle. Like every other muscle in your body, it will slowly atrophy if you don’t use it. Looking up information and regurgitating it does not exercise your brain at all.
All knowledge is based on memory, and all memory is prompted by cues. One of the great gifts on offer to us from those who understand Songlines is how to set up those cues and push our memory just that much further to a capacity we have never experienced before.
Like the Songlines that never end, the promise of this book is to open you up to a new way of understanding and a new way of knowing and being Australian on this continent. As an Australian, you too share a kinship with the First Peoples. We are all beneficiaries of the deep history of this continent and its long human occupancy stretching back thousands of generations. Immerse yourself in this legacy. It is a shared history in a shared country.
Elders from the Songlines exhibition who are custodians of the Seven Sisters Songline are very clear about why all Australians need to know about the Songlines. As they say, if you want to share this country with us then you need to know your stories beyond the last couple of hundred years. If you want to truly belong to this country, as Australians, you have to know your story about this place, this continent and its creation: ‘We are here to teach you your stories, not just to share ours. Without the deep stories you can’t take root, you will only ever be a transplant.’
The elders are not talking about sharing their stories; they are talking about telling you your stories.
Understanding how the Songlines work as a framework for relating people to each other and to place will give you the key to belonging. Learning how to integrate the dual knowledge systems from the first and second Australians will give you access to a third archive and with it, power over knowledge.
Songlines divulge powerful lessons about what it means to be human and to live on this earth. They offer us the promise of connectivity to each other and our planet in a fragmenting world.
This is an edited extract fromSonglines: The Power and Promiseby Margo Neale & Lynne Kelly, available now. Series editor Margo Neale and cover design by Nada Backovic. Ebook also available.
Award-winning author Lewis Blackwell is known for publishing books that inspire ideas, evoke passion and embrace nature. His latest book, The Life & Love of the Forest, takes you on a visual tour of some of the world’s most majestic woodlands. We spoke to Lewis about his dynamic career, his love for nature and what he hopes readers will take away from the book.
You have worked as a leading author, the creative head of Getty Images, the editor in chief and publisher of Creative Review magazine, and much more. What has been your career highlight so far?
What a tricky question. Perhaps I should give that honour to getting the first job, fresh out of university, when I really wanted to be writer but didn’t have much of a clue. I wanted to be a writer of… whatever, as long as it meant interesting people in interesting places. I sent off a lot of letters — this was pre-internet! — and almost all of the targets politely replied. And said they had no jobs. But then I struck lucky, and an excellent editor on a local evening paper in Devon saw something in me. In no time at all, I was writing masses of stuff that was getting published. Almost all of it instantly forgettable. But I learned a lot. And even then, I was sometimes engaging with environmental stories, and good photography (not mine, my friend Martin, the trainee photographer).
You are currently director of the Cresta Awards. Can you tell us a bit about your role and how it intersects with environmental issues?
The awards are about creative standards and we have work entered from more than 70 countries — all kinds of creativity in communication. It’s interesting how strongly environmental issues are a key and growing part of how brands express themselves around the world. I guess it is reflection of a rising consciousness that the environment needs protecting. One thing I want to do with Cresta is to find a way of channeling some of the great support we get from entrants into more long-term communication that can support environmental conservation.
Where does your passion for nature stem from?
I roamed around the English countryside a lot as a child, with friends. It was either idyllic or neglect, perhaps a mix of both. We were scarcely environmentalists, but I did ‘take in’ nature. And I grew up on a fairly remote small farm for a while, where the natural world was much of what I spent time encountering. ‘Nature’ was entertainment. I’d take a day or two of school to read a book, go for a walk, take the horse for a ride. Trees and unkempt near wilderness, and so on, were everyday matters. I went back to the area recently and discovered quite a lot of the low-yielding land was now covered in small glittery rows of solar panels, farming the sun. Nothing had changed to improve the environment, although I guess the feed-in power helped the rural poverty. So, my passion now perhaps comes out of a sense of loss, of not taking opportunities earlier to fully appreciate and act in a stronger conservationist way. That’s a personal loss, and also a sense of a much wider communal failure.
The Life & Love of the Forest is a follow-up to your best-selling books The Life & Love of the Sea, The Life & Love of the Trees, The Life & Love of Cats and The Life & Love of Dogs. Why did you feel compelled to capture forests next?
Forests are inspiring beautiful subjects to show… and also a way into an important story. We all need to have a much stronger sense of the connectedness of our natural world. We need to better understanding how soil, light, water, bacteria, fungi, plants and animals, etc., all work together to make a healthy forest, and that the complexity of the forest is a key part of what makes our world liveable. It’s increasingly not a ‘nice to know’ but a fundamental, something that should be part of how we all sense our part in the world.
There are plenty of important messages evoked throughout the book – if readers can take one thing away from The Life and Love of Forests, what would you like it to be?
If there is one thing I would like people to do as a result of reading The Life and Love of Forests, it would be to share some of the knowledge with others. Particularly young people. You can inspire a young person with interest about plants, animals, fungi — just find the bits that excite them. There are endless options. So if there’s one thing I want you, dear reader and (I hope) forest lover, to do it is to sign up some more forest lovers who have a long life ahead of them to love, protect and grow healthier forests.
Do you see a future in which we can co-exist with nature long term? How has the pandemic changed your outlook on this?
I think we have to believe in a future where we can co-exist with nature. The alternative is that we don’t exist. Nature will come back in some form, but we might not. If we have wiped most of it out, then the resulting hellish world will wipe us out. And nature will start to recover. If we work together to protect and support species diversity, which is a big ask but is entirely do-able, then we can feed ourselves better and yet not eat up the planet. We can create massive natural reserves in the ocean and on land and yet have more produce. It is all possible, but it takes joined-up thinking and a different kind of politics than we are seeing today. But it could change quite quickly. The pandemic has taught us that much: things can change very quickly and we can respond quickly.
What’s next for you?
I’m looking to create more books — one or two ideas are in development — and do more with Cresta. I want to keep learning, keep discovering and do this while meeting interesting people in interesting places. Right now, I’m trying to write something for an environmental film. I’ve a lot to learn and hopefully some skills to flex while doing the learning. It is fascinating. And answering these questions have reminded me that, up next, or very soon, must be a return walk in one of my favourite forests, a royal one indeed, here in Scotland where I am currently spending time.
Ballet great David McAllister’s memoir Soar: A Life Freed by Dance is filled with enchanting stories from his life on and off the stage. In this edited extract from the book, he shares one of his most memorable experiences as a dancer for The Australian Ballet, performing for Princess Diana in 1992.
In early 1992, The Australian Ballet was preparing to head to London for its thirtieth anniversary celebrations. The company travelled first to Italy, where we performed outdoors at the Nervi Festival, before heading to London for a season of Coppélia at the Coliseum theatre in the West End. There was some anxiety that a strike in France would prevent the sets and costumes from arriving in time, but mercifully they got there and the show could go on. Miranda Coney – a fellow principal whom I had known back in my Perth City Ballet days when we were children – and I were to dance the leads in Coppélia for the Royal Gala in front of Princess Diana. It was incredibly stressful. The dress rehearsal had been a disaster, I think in part because I couldn’t stop thinking about performing for the princess, a known ballet lover and one of the most stylish and beautiful people in the world. I was terrified of putting in a bad performance.
The next morning, with the show that night, I woke up vowing I was not going to be nervous but excited. I came to the theatre determined to enjoy myself hugely – it was the most effective way of dealing with my own expectations as well as those of the other dancers and the company’s management. If I can get through winning Bronze at the International Ballet Competition in Moscow, I told myself, and not for the first time, I can get through this. A security sweep through the theatre before the performance made us even more aware of our royal guest.
From the minute the curtain went up, it was one of the few shows in which I can honestly say I don’t think I put a foot wrong. The entire company was on fire that night. Everything just seemed to happen effortlessly; I even started taking a few risks with steps – and they paid off. Miranda was so much fun to dance with and I felt like we had a real connection – the whole performance was a joy and one of the best nights of my life.
At the end of the show, after the curtain calls, Princess Diana came up on stage and we were presented to her. She was absolutely radiant – a vision in a long peach and cream gown to her ankles, and so much more beautiful than even the best photographs of her. I was completely overwhelmed, and when she came to talk to us I was a tongue-tied mess. I can’t even remember what I said, but I doubt any of it made sense. I went back to the dressing room thinking I had just blown my special moment with the most famous woman on the planet. I knew some of us were being invited to a function after the performance, so I made a pact with myself that if I saw her there I wouldn’t gibber like an idiot; I would talk to her like a normal human being.
After we changed back into our civilian clothes, we were taken to St James’s Palace, where a few of us had been chosen to mix with British high society – including royalty. Miranda, artistic director Maina Gielgud and I were there along with some other dancers from The Australian Ballet, including Colin Peasley (who had performed as Dr Coppelius that night), Jayne Beddoe, Vicki Attard and Lisa Bolte. We all thought we would be at a table with Princess Diana, but it turned out she was on another table, with a seat next to her that was occupied by a revolving circuit of people throughout the night. I was on a table with some charming people from Chanel and was having a great time. Just before dessert, Lady Potter, one of our generous patrons and the host for the evening, came and asked me if I would like to have five minutes with the guest of honour. I was sitting next to the princess before Lady Potter could finish her sentence. As luck would have it, this was precisely as dessert was being served, which, according to protocol, meant I couldn’t be moved along until the plates had been cleared.
We had about fifteen minutes together while she grappled with her peach sorbet (that was actually served in the shape of a peach) – it was so frozen she asked for a knife to cut into it, and we both spent the next few minutes trying to hack into it, in vain. The princess immediately made me feel at ease, like we were old friends. We talked about her dancing, her favourite ballet (Romeo and Juliet), Chanel shoes and our performance, which thankfully she liked. It was all a little surreal. Who would have thought that a daggy little kid showing off on a septic tank in suburban Perth would one day have dessert with a princess?
This is an edited extract from Soar: A Life Freed by Dance, out now. Text by David McAllister and Amanda Dunn, cover image by Greg Barrett and cover design by Daniel New.
We are so lucky to be able to share with you a Spring menu plan curated by the ever so talented recipe creator Héloïse Brion. This collection of recipes is taken from her new book, Miss Maggie’s Kitchen, named after her widely loved food and lifestyle brand. Together, they form a delicious four course French feast that is sure to impress your next dinner party guests.
Wash the rhubarb and cut 500 g into small pieces, and the remaining 100 g into 4 large pieces for garnish. Place the small rhubarb pieces in a large saucepan with the sugar, water, and 3 rosemary sprigs. Heat until the sugar dissolves, then boil for 5 minutes to make a syrup. Remove from the heat and let infuse for 15 minutes.
Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve and place 2 tablespoons of syrup in each of 4 glasses.
Top the syrup in each glass with the juice of ½ lemon and 3½ tbsp (50 ml) vodka.
Add 4–5 ice cubes and a splash of sparkling water per drink. Stir to combine.
Garnish with pieces of the remaining rosemary sprig and rhubarb before serving.
Makes about 30
Active Time 10 minutes
Chilling Time 1 hour
Cooking Time 15 minutes
1 stick plus 1tsp (120g) unsalted butter, well chilled and diced
1 3/4 cups (200g) shredded mature cheddar
1/2 cup (50g) grated Parmesan
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup (130g) all-purpose flour
12 pecan halves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
In a large bowl, combine the butter, cheeses, cayenne pepper, flour, and a pinch of kosher salt using your fingertips. When the dough comes together, shape it into a large ball.
Divide the dough in two and shape each half into a log with a diameter of 6–7 cm. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the chilled dough logs into 0.5 cm slices and place on the baking sheet.
Top each slice with either a pecan half or a small sprig of rosemary or thyme, lightly pressing them into the dough, and bake for 15 minutes. While the shortbreads are still warm, sprinkle them with kosher salt and pepper. Let cool and serve.
Green Bean Salad with Hazelnuts and Parmesan
Active Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
1 kg green beans
2 tsp whole grain mustard
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp hazelnut oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 tbsp crushed toasted hazelnuts
2 handfuls arugula
1 handful shaved Parmesan
1 handful dried cranberries or blueberries
A few arugula or amaranth sprouts (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Blanch the green beans in generously salted water for 5 minutes.
Plunge the beans into a large bowl filled with ice water. After 1 minute, drain and dry the beans.
In the base of a large salad bowl, prepare the vinaigrette: Combine the mustard, vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, and hazelnut oil, then season with salt and pepper.
Add the green beans, hazelnuts, shallot, and dried cranberries or blueberries to the salad bowl and toss with the vinaigrette.
Before serving, sprinkle the salad with the arugula, Parmesan, and amaranth sprouts if using.
Active Time: 20 minutes
Chilling Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
1 quantity savory pastry dough with thyme (see recipe p. 25)
7 onions (a mix of yellow and red), thinly sliced 1 tbsp butter, plus more for greasing the pan 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
¾ cup (200 ml) heavy cream
2 pinches ground cumin
1 handful grated Gruyère cheese
Freshly ground pepper
Prepare the savory pastry dough with thyme leaves as indicated on page 25. Cover in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the onions in a large saucepan or Dutch oven with the butter, a generous pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the onions are tender and translucent.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and grease a 28-cm tart pan or dish with butter. Roll the dough into an approximately 32-cm round. Ease the dough into the pan, gently pressing it into the sides. Trim any excess dough, prick the base with a fork, and pre-bake for 10 minutes.
Remove the crust from the oven and spread the mustard over the base in a thin layer. Distribute two-thirds of the onions evenly over the mustard.
In a bowl, beat the eggs, then whisk in the cream and cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the onions in the tart crust and sprinkle with the grated Gruyère. Scatter the remaining onions over the top and bake for 35–40 minutes, until the filling is set and the crust is golden.
Franou’s Lemon Pie
Active Time 20 minutes
Chilling Time 2 hours
Cooking Time 35 minutes
FOR THE PASTRY DOUGH
1 egg yolk
½ cup (100 g) granulated or superfine sugar
3½ tbsp (50 ml) water or milk
2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour 1 pinch salt
1 stick plus 2 tsp (125 g) unsalted butter, well chilled and diced, plus more for greasing the pan
Generous ½ cup (80 g) toasted pine nuts
FOR THE LEMON CURD FILLING
2 large lemons, preferably organic
1 stick plus 2 tbsp (5 oz./150 g) unsalted butter
⅔ cup (4½ oz./130 g) granulated or superfine sugar
3 small eggs
To prepare the pastry dough, whisk together the egg yolk and sugar in a bowl, then whisk in the milk. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until coarse crumbs form. Work in the egg-sugar mixture, followed by the pine nuts, until the dough just comes together in a ball. Shape into a round, flatten the top, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and grease a 28-cm tart pan or dish with butter. Roll the dough into an approximately 33-cm round. Ease the dough into the pan, gently pressing it into the sides. Trim any excess dough, prick the base with a fork, and bake for 25 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.
To prepare the lemon curd filling, remove the zest from 1 of the lemons in strips, using a vegetable peeler; juice both lemons and set the juice aside. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the zest, and blanch zest for 5 minutes. Drain the zest and return it to the saucepan. Add the butter and cook over low heat until the butter melts. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.
Meanwhile, in another bowl, whisk the sugar and eggs together. Whisk in the lemon juice, followed by the melted butter. Pour into the saucepan and set over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon and has slightly thickened; this could take up to 8–10 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil or it may split. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 1½ hours. Spoon the chilled filling into the baked crust, smooth over the top, and serve.
This is an edited extract from Miss Maggie’s Kitchen, out now. Text by Héloïse Brion with photography by Christophe Roué. Originally published by Flammarion.
A Century of Colour in Design is design journalist David Harrison’s dazzling anthology of 250 furniture, fabric, lights and decorative objects, illustrating how colour has defined key designs over the last century. This vibrant history will be a discovery for both design newbies and aficionados, broad in scope and filled with everything from classics to eye-catching new pieces.
We spoke to David about his long relationship with Australian and international design, the idea behind A Century of Colour in Design and his thoughts on the future of colour in design.
You have been writing and styling for some of Australia’s best interiors magazines since 1999, how did you go about developing such an extensive knowledge of design and furniture?
In the 1990s I lived in Islington, London. A shop called twentytwentyone opened on the high street selling vintage furniture and lighting along with really interesting contemporary design. It was there that I discovered the brilliance of Charles and Ray Eames and saw the work of British designers Barber Osgerby for the first time. I was hooked and spent many a late night perusing Bonham’s and Christies twentieth century auction catalogues. My knowledge has stemmed from this period of intense discovery and then later from running a design gallery which sold Noguchi lights from Japan and Danish and American furniture from the 1950s and 60s. I also discovered a lot from doing research for my regular Cult Classic page for Inside Out magazine which ran for nearly 20 years.
Your blog, Design Daily, has been praised by designers and creatives from across the globe. Tell us what drew you to this work, and what you like to report on.
The blog was a way of writing about interesting design topics that were outside of commissions that I received from magazines. It allows me to see something exciting or particularly beautiful and write about it. It is a personal exploration of what has come across my desk or what I have seen at design fairs overseas or through meeting and interviewing designers. What I feature can be a new design or a designer retrospective, a building or exhibition – there are no rules as it is just whatever takes my fancy. That’s the beauty of writing your own blog.
A Century of Colour in Design is your first solo book project. What led you to its concept and how did the book come to life?
The general premise came about through visiting the Milan Furniture Fair (Salone del Mobile) year after year and noticing how the design world was embracing colour more and more. There has literally been an explosion of colour since 2000 and it is growing exponentially. The colour component in a design is critical now where it often wasn’t given much consideration in years gone by – it was usually an afterthought at the end of the design and manufacturing process. Certain designers ALWAYS considered colour as an essential component. This is why there are eight sections in the book that highlight particular designers or design studios that have a major fascination with colour. Four of them are from the past and four are contemporary.
In the introduction to the book, you say that ‘making selections that cover a century of furniture, lighting and other interior design objects is an enormous and somewhat daunting task.’ Aside from of course ‘applying the filter of colour’, what was the process behind the selection of objects?
Of the tens of thousands of objects that fit within the loose area of interior products – lighting, furniture decorative objects and textiles – I selected designs from the past that used colour as an essential part of their overall expression. These have stood the test of time, in that they have often been reissued and are still considered exciting 20, 30 or even 80 years after their original release. I also chose pieces that had used or were currently using colour in innovative or surprising ways. The book is full of these examples.
Was there an object you loved that didn’t make it into the book?
There were many, many objects that I would have liked to include but which there simply wasn’t room for. In addition, there were times where I couldn’t obtain suitable images. After much agonising I am happy with all the products that are included. Some are famous while others are hardly known at all. I tried to get a balance so that it wasn’t all about design classics and I could showcase the huge number of contemporary designs that used colour in highly effective ways.
What role do you think colour will play in the next ten years of furniture and interior design?
Colour will be massively important. It is such an emotive thing – without it life is instantly less exciting. Designers already consider colour much earlier on in the design process and this will only become more accentuated as time goes on. Colour choices will become an essential part of the design process with plenty of discussions on exact shades with designers creating their own colours, beyond the industrially available palette, to help express their concept more fully or to deliver a particular emotion.
Have you faced many challenges in your line of work since the pandemic begun?
Actually, after being isolated day after day working on the book for a solid six months at the end of 2019 and early 2020, my life is much the same but without a deadline so somewhat more relaxed! For the design world everything has had to go virtual – new product launches, design fairs, talks, everything. It is a shame as these events were often incredibly stimulating and fun but I am sure things will eventually get back to being more immediate and real. It’s hard to capture the true spirit of furniture and interior objects unless its shown in a real space as the environment has such a massive effect on how these objects feel and the type of reactions they create.
The Secret Life of Stars is a fun and accessible introduction to the many remarkable personalities in our galactic family. From renowned astrophysicist and Australia’s first Women in STEM Ambassador Lisa Harvey-Smith, the book guides you through the most extreme and confounding members of the Galaxy’s vast, varied and really quite weird stellar brood.
In this extract from the book, Lisa delves into the strange and fascinating existence of dwarf stars.
Stars appear in a vast range of sizes, with most being smaller and cooler than the Sun. The smallest burn their hydrogen more slowly and therefore have much lower temperatures. You can tell a lot about a star from its colour. Hotter stars give off more blue light, and cooler stars tend to the red. It’s similar to how hot gas-cooking flames are blue, whereas cooler candle flames are red. Counterintuitive, huh?
By looking in great detail at the colours of stars, we can tell precisely how hot they are, what chemicals they contain, and how old they are. We can even predict their future as they go through the ageing process.
Before we go on, I should fess up that the names of star categories make no logical sense whatsoever. From the coolest to the hottest stars we call them M, K, G, F, A, B and O, with numbered subcategories from 0 to 9. Uh-huh …
There are also subcategories for luminosity (how much light a star puts out) from 0 through to VII, in Roman numerals, just to be fancy.
Adding to the confusion, all small and average-sized stars are called ‘dwarf stars’. Only the very rare and very large stars are called ‘giants’ or ‘supergiants’. There are no ‘regular’ stars.
At this point I’d like to apologise on behalf of astronomers everywhere for this ridiculous situation – astronomy is littered with strange historical naming schemes. But there we have it.
Our Sun is a G2V star, somewhere in the middle of the jumbled alphabet soup of stars. B and O stars, at the top end of the scale, are humongous, gluttonous giants that explode in a shower of sparks when they come to the end of their life. In contrast, M and K stars are cool and steady types who live long and interesting lives. From now on, we will call these M and K stars ‘red dwarfs’.
Red dwarfs have only about a tenth to one half the mass of the Sun, and are only half as hot. They are smaller in physical size, too, and decidedly dimmer (although not lacking in intelligence). These stars are capable of great feats of physics – they still burn hydrogen into helium to produce vast amounts of energy in their core – but because they are smaller, there are far fewer nuclear reactions and their output is decidedly more puny.
Red dwarfs are the most common type of star in the Milky Way, with the faintest M-dwarfs making up more than 70 per cent of stars in our universe. Despite that, we never see them. I mean that literally. We don’t see any of them. At all. Ever. We didn’t even know that red dwarfs existed before the invention of the telescope, because they are too faint to see with the naked eye. Imagine that! Every star you can see is part of the 30 per cent minority.
As slow burners, these stars live extremely long and varied lives. Not only does their reduced rate of nuclear fusion extend their life, but also their enhanced internal mixing causes fresh hydrogen fuel from the outskirts of the star to be transported to the engine in the middle. As such, we predict that red dwarfs can live in excess of a trillion years.
As adolescents they can be active and sparky. In this gregarious stage of their lives they are often characterised as ‘flare’ stars. Rather than being a regrettable 1970s fashion statement, this moniker actually describes a stage of intense variability in the life of lower-mass stars where they quickly erupt – explode, even – for a few minutes before relaxing back to their regular demeanour as if nothing had happened. Flares from young red dwarfs are 100 to 1000 times more energetic than when the stars are older. As red dwarfs age, they cease this nonsense and increasingly potter their way through life, with age slowly ripening and changing their character.
Stars of all sizes form when gravity pulls together materials in interstellar clouds of gas. Red dwarfs are the littlest stars, just slightly larger than Jupiter, and are the smallest member in the official category of stars. But there are also some almost-rans, plucky hopefuls who tried but just missed the cut-off for full stardom. These battlers, called brown dwarfs, live out quite different lives to other stars.
With core temperatures of below 3 million degrees Celsius, brown dwarfs are simply not big or hot enough to turn hydrogen into helium via nuclear fusion. They can, however, manage other nuclear fusion reactions involving chemicals called deuterium and lithium. These reactions don’t generate as much heat as hydrogen fusion, so the surface temperatures of brown dwarfs are generally below 800 degrees. They emit almost no visible light: if you looked at one close up, you might just see a dim purple-ish glow.
Brown dwarfs weren’t discovered until 1995, because the only way to find them is to use infra-red detectors. Once astronomers built a telescope powerful enough to see them, we could finally make out their slight warmth in the icy cold of space.
The Secret Life of Stars is out now. Text by Lisa-Harvey Smith, illustrations by Eirian Chapman and cover design by Philip Campbell Design.
If anyone knows a thing or two about jam, it’s Jessica Koslow. After the success of her first book Everything I Want to Eat, the owner of beloved LA restaurant Sqirl is back with The Sqirl Jam Book. This home cook-friendly book features a collection of Koslow’s signature recipes for jams, jellies and preserves. Think fig jam with red wine, roasted honey apple butter and yuzu marmalade with honey. Not sure where to start? Give this delightful blueberry-rhubarb jam a go.
Blueberry-rhubarb is the first berry jam that we made at Sqirl after marmalade season, a riff on a Southern classic. An iconic jam for me because it’s what Sqirl’s all about — taking a classic and turning it on its head.
1,000 g rhubarb
1,000 g blueberries
1,200 g (6 cups) sugar (60% of the weight of blueberries plus rhubarb)
40 g (2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp) lemon juice (2% of the weight of blueberries plus rhubarb)
Prepare your plate test by putting a few saucers in the freezer.
Cut the rhubarb into 6 mm slices; they should all be about the same size for even cooking. Set aside.
Put the blueberries in a blender and puree until smooth: Start with a little bit of the blueberries and blend on low speed as you add the rest of the berries and increase the speed.
If you have more or less than 2,000 g rhubarb and blueberries (we use 50% rhubarb and 50% blueberries), you can figure out how much sugar and lemon juice you will need by using the following formula:
Grams of rhubarb plus blueberries × 0.60 = grams of sugar
Grams of rhubarb plus blueberries × 0.02 = grams of lemon juice
Combine the blueberry puree, rhubarb, sugar, and lemon juice in a jamming pot. Cook the mixture over high heat, stirring frequently. When the rhubarb is softened, about 14 minutes, reduce the heat to low. Use a potato masher or wooden spoon to smash it; you’re going to be stirring a lot because the fruit needs to disintegrate, release liquid, and eventually melt into the blueberry puree. (It won’t fully break down — it’s okay to have some chunks.)
Turn the heat back up to high and cook for 4 minutes, stirring. Use a spider or fine-mesh skimmer to skim off any scum. Dip the spider into a bowl of water and shake off any excess to clean between skims.
Reduce the heat to low, then smash the rhubarb again with a potato masher for a minute. Turn the heat back up to high and continue to cook, stirring and skimming as necessary, for another couple of minutes, until the jam is thickened, the texture is homogenous, and the temperature reaches 101°C, about 25 minutes total. Perform a plate test.
Spoon a little of the jam onto a frozen saucer. Put the plate back in the freezer for 1 minute, then slide a finger through the jam. It’s done when it parts and you see a strip of clean saucer. If it isn’t set, return the pot to the heat, stir constantly, and test again after 1 to 2 minutes.
This is an edited extract from The Sqirl Jam Book, out now. Text by Jessica Koslow with photography and design by Scott Barry. Published by Abrams Books.
This Small Blue Dot is one of a kind when it comes to picture books. With a strong message of interconnectedness, hope, inclusivity and empowerment, the book follows a little girl exploring the big and small things in life. We chatted to first-time author, illustrator and all-round talent Zeno Sworder about his fascinating career and the inspiration behind this powerful story.
You have certainly had a multifaceted career, working in immigration law, journalism, teaching, advocacy for refugees and immigrants, and even a jewellery designer. Can you tell us about one of your career highlights?
One of the absolute highlights was working on the Australia China adoption program for the Australian Consulate General in Shanghai. Although reading the babies’ abandonment reports could be heartbreaking, meeting with the Australian parents and the adopted Chinese babies was wonderful.
There were a few occasions when I had to sit down and explain to the adopting parents that the baby’s medical results showed a developmental delay. You can imagine how difficult this news was. At this point they had already spent a day or two with the baby. Because of the baby’s young age it wasn’t clear whether the delay was due to a lack of interaction in the orphanage or a congenital disorder. But on each occasion the parents expressed that they wanted to go ahead with the adoption and that the baby was now their responsibility to care for. One adopting father simply said that they were a family as soon as the baby was in their arms. I found that courage to be deeply moving.
How did you learn to do pencil and crayon drawing, and how long have you been an illustrator for?
I think pencil and crayon are the tools that most of us use for our first scribble. Foolishly, I kept going with them rather than move on to more technical mediums like pastels and conte sticks. I didn’t grow up with a TV, so drawing was the main source of entertainment in my house. I remember always wanting more and more pencils. For years I longed for a Derwent pack of 72 pencils, but it never happened until I was an adult (and it turns out 72 pencils still isn’t enough). I have been working as an illustrator for roughly ten years and dabble with a lot of different traditional and digital mediums, however I loved returning to pencil and crayon for this book. The pencils allowed me to make realistic graphite renderings of the young protagonist, Ms Crayon, while the loud, vibrant colour of the crayons was perfect for the world of her wild imagination.
Just to add to your many talents, what led you to authoring a children’s book?
It was a number of things that happened in succession. Within the space of a few years my Chinese grandmother and my English father passed away and then our second daughter was born. My grandmother and father were both wise, kind souls and I was left remembering what they had taught me and wondering what lessons they would have wanted to pass forward to our young girls. I decided to put some of these down in writing and then thought it would be a good idea to illustrate them. Every night, when everyone else was asleep, I would spend an hour or two at my desk doing this. It was time that I could spend with the memories of my grandmother and father while also making a gift for my daughters. I thought of this work as a kind of bridge to help connect these different souls that shared so much but were separated by time.
Your young narrator is loosely based on your eldest daughter. How did she inspire you to tell this story?
When I first started drawing these pages there wasn’t really a protagonist, just a colourful illustration with text and then a character kind of crept into the book to help tie things together. The first iteration of this character, Ms Crayon, was older and had a different appearance than my daughter. At that time my daughter would have been 6 and one day she came into the studio to tell me very matter-of-factly that she couldn’t be a princess. I asked why, and she explained that none of the princesses wore glasses. I was certain that with the power of the internet I could find a picture of a princess with glasses and I did manage to find a photo of a European princess but my daughter wasn’t very convinced – she was after a Disney princes. So after that I redrew the book with a protagonist who looked more like her with glasses.
Both my daughters and I come from multicultural backgrounds. They attend public schools full of kids from different backgrounds. For purely selfish reasons, I love the idea that some of that diversity is reflected on bookshelves and that my children will be able to see faces in books that represent the multicultural world they inhabit.
What message do you want to get across to young readers?
The main message of the book is summed up in the title of This Small Blue Dot. I wanted to get across the idea that we are all inhabitants of a bright dot spinning in space, which is home to all of us. It is up to us to take care of our home and each other. I also wanted to pass on the important lessons that I remembered from my grandmother and father: lessons about interconnectedness, beauty, the human continuum and how to use an imagination. In short, lessons about how to be in this world. These lessons were passed onto me with a spirit of fun and generosity and I have done my best to capture that tone in the book.
Do you have any advice for first time children’s authors?
My advice is to dream up a big idea that will sustain you creatively for a year or so and then start to chip away at it, one page at a time. A routine is key to this. For many years I thought that great work required an alignment of the planets and an angel to whisper an idea into an ear. It turns out the reality is a lot more mundane. For me, it is about placing my bottom in a chair every day at a specific time to do specific creative work. You won’t always make gold with the first attempt, but you will be able to put something onto paper. That in itself is precious because once it exists in the world it can be worked into something better.
What’s next for you?
I am currently working on my next book, which will also be published by the wonderful people at Thames & Hudson Australia. In my spare time I am slowly but surely learning how to use Instagram.
When we first released Nicole England’s Resident Dog in 2018, we were amazed at the response we received. Who knew that the crossover between architecturally superb houses and the adorable dogs that roamed them would resonate with so many people?
With the recent re-release of the book in a compact edition, we chatted to Nicole about all things architecture and interiors, and why the book continues to be a fan favourite both locally and internationally.
Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an architecture and interiors photographer.
After completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Auckland University, I went off to pursue a career in photography, working in fashion, advertising and music. After a couple of years, I gave it up, feeling disillusioned and disheartened by working within the commercial arena. My mother had a strong interest in interior design and my brother was an architect, so I settled on a job working in sales and marketing for an interior design company. Six years later, I picked up the camera again and decided to photograph within the design industry that I had grown to love. That was the ah-ha moment… this was where I was meant to be all along, photographing architecture and interiors. This was my style and my passion, and I haven’t looked back since.
What are some of your key tips for setting up the perfect photoshoot?
Be organised, be flexible, arrive early, be aware of the light and how it moves around the space, stay focused, have an assistant to help, a stylist to set things up, and of course, a dog to remind us to relax and have fun.
What challenges have you faced in your line of work since the pandemic begun?
Unfortunately, most of my shoots have been put on hold. It’s not too bad though, as I’ve had time to work on my business, learn some new skills, and start a couple of personal projects. The shoots will re-book again, I’m certain of that, so I’m just trying to enjoy the downtime before things go crazy again.
Where did the concept of Resident Dog come from?
One day a friend and mentor asked me what my favourite shoot day would look like. I told her I would be photographing the most incredible architecturally designed home you’ve ever seen, surrounded by forest and ocean. There would be a great crew of people to work with, the architect, the homeowner, a stylist and an assistant, a dog would be running around, the weather would be perfect, we would eat great food and drink wine at the end of the day… an opportunity to combine all of my favourite things. From that story, the one fly away comment about the dog was honed in on, and Resident Dog was born. We see a lot of dogs in architecture photography, more and more these days, but nobody had dedicated an entire project or book to our furry friends, the most important member of our home.
Do you have a favourite project from Resident Dog?
To be honest, I don’t. I love them all for different reasons. If I had to choose, it would probably be the residence of Canela (the cover star of the compact edition). She lives in an incredible concrete box, designed by Mexican architect Andres Castilles. The house has a hard brutalist exterior but is filled with love and warmth.
And a favourite pup?
I couldn’t possibly say, imagine if one of them read this! Charlie definitely has the best hair do, Ginger and Harry made me laugh the most, Enzo and Carlo were the most stylish, little Gaston the loudest, April and Muffy the cheekiest, and Skipper the softest…
Why do you think that the book continues to resonate with people two years on from publication?
We all love dogs and, especially at the moment, I think we find comfort in their silliness, how they live in the moment, and the way they love us unconditionally. And combined with incredible, architectural homes, that inspire us to live a little differently… I think it’s a combination that we will never get tired of, for years to come.
Resident Dog is available now in a compact edition. Text and images by Nicole England and design by JAC&.
Humanity has reached a pivotal point in time. Human Nature brings together twelve of the world’s most influential photographers to show us why. With compassion and empathy, their extraordinary images and the stories behind them help us to understand what matters now for humanity and the planet.
Get to know the different photographers featured, some of their work from the book and their views on the Age of Anthropocene.
Brian Skerry is a photojournalist with a focus on underwater environments and marine wildlife and is a lecturer on exploration, photography and conservation. His work has been featured in many publications and he has produced over twenty-five stories for National Geographic magazine.
‘The decisions that we make today are going to determine the future of this planet, and the future of our species. It’s a time for truth; it’s a time for science and storytelling and journalism to work together collaboratively. The stakes have never been quite so high.’
Hailing from the Netherlands, Frans Lanting is a renowned photographer and naturalist whose work has frequently appeared in National Geographic, where he served as a photographer-in-residence.
‘Nature can help us overcome the effects of climate change in a much more effective way than anything else. If we invest in nature, in protecting nature as habitats, as forests, as lungs of the planet, then we can save species that are dependent on those habitats.’
J Henry Fair
Based in New York City and Berlin, J Henry Fair creates imagery and media to explain the science of complex environmental issues.
‘What we see in these pictures are the hidden costs of mining; the detritus from the production processes that make the things that we buy every day, whether it’s electricity, bread or the soda cans we throw away on the street. We are complicit, but it’s a complicity of ignorance.’
Paul Nicklen is a Canadian photographer and marine biologist specialising in the polar regions and their wildlife.
‘Change is happening. A little too late and too slowly, but it is happening and that’s what gives me hope. We know that there’s no other option but to fight for this and I think we are going to win. There is hope everywhere around us.’
Cristina Mittermeier is a marine biologist and activist who pioneered the concept and field of conservation photography, founding the International League of Conservation Photographers in 2005 to provide a platform for photographers working on environmental issues.
‘This lack of commitment to community, this lack of care for the other, is absolutely at the heart of the environmental issues we are confronted with. Inequality and climate change are the two biggest issues that we’re facing.’
Brent Stirton is a South African photographer and a senior staff photographer for Reportage by Getty Images, specialising in documentary work covering global topics including health, the environment and conflict.
‘It’s almost suicidal in terms of our civilisation’s thinking on these issues, but a lot of that’s because people are simply in the process of surviving, feeding their families. Conservation is almost considered a luxury, when it should be a necessity.’
Ami Vitale is a photographer, filmmaker, writer and explorer who tells stories about our fragile relationship with the natural world.
‘We all have the capacity to get engaged and use our voices to make a difference. The messenger matters just as much as the message itself. Each of us can be a powerful voice when speaking to the people in our lives.’
Steve Winter has been a photographer for National Geographic for over two decades. He specialises in wildlife and particularly big cats.
‘If we can save the ecosystems and these animals’ habitats, we can help save ourselves. That’s my mantra: if we can save big cats, we can help save ourselves. We don’t have a choice; we either save the planet or we perish.’
Tim Laman is a field biologist, wildlife photographer and filmmaker.
‘It’s hugely important for climate change that forest stays as forest – all that carbon that’s in there – and the birds of paradise are flagship species that can focus people’s attention on conserving New Guinea’s forests.’
A regular contributor to National Geographic magazine, George Steinmetz’s work has examined subjects ranging from global oil exploration and the latest advances in robotics, to the innermost stretches of the Sahara and the little-known tree house people of Papua, Indonesia.
‘Over the years, my work has turned me into an accidental environmentalist. I never set out to be an advocate for our planet, but I think that if people know more about an issue, they can make choices that will lead to solutions. Our individual choices add up.’
Richard John Seymour
British photographer, designer and filmmaker Richard John Seymour uses photography and film to explore the connections between cities, economies and landscapes in an effort to draw attention to the political, environmental and social issues that stem from human-made environments.
‘In the last fifteen years we’ve produced half of the plastic ever made and in the last twenty-five years we’ve emitted half of the CO2 ever emitted in the history of humanity. Since we’ve had the information that we’ve needed to change our habits, we’ve massively done the opposite.’
Joel Sartore is an award-winning photographer, speaker, author, conservationist and the 2018 National Geographic Explorer of the Year.
‘Human beings are the ones that hold earth’s fate in our hands. We really do need to pay attention and look these animals in the eye. Hopefully then people will decide whether or not the future of life on earth is worth it.’
Product Design and Decoration: Eloise Fotheringham
Photography: Shannon McGrath
Hare + Klein Interior is our second book to showcase the signature use of texture, colour and scale in Hare + Klein’s exceptional and responsive interior design practice.
With a 20-foot shipping container in the living room, the once Old Furniture Factory is one of the most unconventional homes in the book. The previous fit-out of this 1920s furniture factory and warehouse was mostly demolished, aside from the footprint of the mezzanine floor and the 20-foot shipping container. As author and Hare + Klein’s principal and artistic director Meryl Hare writes, “I could see no way of getting it out without removing the front of the building. The concept of working with this extraordinary item in the living room was challenging, but I decided that the ‘elephant in the room should be acknowledged – and repainted orange!”
The impressive result of Hare + Klein’s work here is a fully functioning home for a young family, complete with the shipping container turned children’s playroom, a communal dining area, a practical kitchen with an industrial feel, floods of light and staircases finished in steel to keep in theme with the original look of the building.
Hare + Klein Interior is out now. Text by Meryl Hare, design by Daniel New and cover photograph by Shannon McGrath.
Intoxicating is award-winning journalist Max Allen’s personal journey through Australia’s colourful and complex drinking history, glass in hand. In the book, Max uncovers ten of Australia’s most famous – and most surprising – drinks, sharing anecdotes about each.
In this edited extract, Max discusses his first forays into cider and home distillation, from the chapter ‘Peach Cyder’.
I was born and spent the first few years of my life in Bristol, in the heart of England’s West Country, epicentre of traditional cider production. As a teenager living in London, some of my first experiences of alcohol came in the form of big plastic bottles of cheap Woodpecker Medium Dry cider bought underage at the local off-licence. Then, travelling around the West Country in the late 1980s, I discovered the real thing: farmhouse scrumpy, stuff of legend.
The revelation came in a crumbling 16th-century pub called the Three Tuns in Hay-on-Wye, a little town famous for its bookshops and lite