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On Creating Authentic Spaces Full of Verve and Vitality with Juliette Arent and Sarah-Jane Pyke

Image: Juliette Arent and Sarah-Jane Pyke. Photography by Hugh Stewart.

This is an extract from the introduction of Arent & Pyke: Interiors Beyond the Primary Palette by Juliette Arent and Sarah-Jane Pyke.


We can still remember the feelings one particular suburban Sydney backyard stirred in us. Standing amid its myriad greens, we were transported to another place, even time. This garden could have been a fictional wonderland or the grounds of an Italian villa, such was its enchanting quality. Part of this magic stemmed from the owners’ deep connection to what they had created, and part came from the house’s connection to its surrounds. The building and landscape seemed beautifully entwined.

Our response as designers was to enrich those connections, and in a decorative sense the incorporation of green was a natural choice. But the significance of that colour extended beyond the decorative – it became woven through the built-in elements in an evocative layering of hues. The variegated greens of a checkerboard terrazzo floor brought a sense of nostalgia and an other-worldly mood to echo that of the garden. Deep green joinery ensured the very fabric of the house resonated with this tranquil yet vibrant tone. We painted the walls a misty green that blurred the division between interior and exterior, and the treatment of colour in this house became an immersive experience, as alive with feeling as the shifting canvas outside.

For us, to talk about colour is to talk about memory, but also meaning, energy and emotion. To write a book that references colour in its title is to discuss so much more than a choice of floor tile or paint finish for a wall, although these have their place here too. It is part of a larger and deeply nuanced conversation that we have been engaged in for years. And it begins with the concept of joy.

Everything we do is to create visceral joy – that inner thrum of delight where instinct speaks over intellect, heart over head. A beautifully designed space has the power to generate a sense of belonging, comfort and freedom that uplifts your spirit. We believe that power extends even further – a space that fills you with joy can transform how you live.

While it may sound very ‘big picture’, for us this belief is grounded in rigorous attention to the smallest details. The objects that tell our stories, the colours that call to our senses, the materials that evoke certain moods – all these play a vital part. But even more than that, our focus is on the day-to-day experience of people’s lives. We are constantly thinking about the reassuring rituals and intricacies of domestic life – where people make their tea and coffee, where they prepare school lunches, where they place their bags when they get home. We are also deeply interested in the places of connection – where people sit to unwind, to gather, to entertain – and the way people engage with one another in their own space.

Fifteen years ago, when we formed Arent & Pyke, no one was really talking about how design made you feel. The focus was on aesthetics and the debates were around trends – old school versus new school, minimalist versus decorative – yet there didn’t seem to be enough interest in how a design could impact your life. Or how a house could be lovingly crafted for the unique lifestyle of a family.

From the start, our approach has not been concerned with trends or generic solutions but rather the dynamic, spirited, colourful and very personal appeal of real-life spaces – the sort of spaces we would like to live in. When we met, we recognised that we shared the same energy and entrepreneurial drive, and the same passion for life – not only the life we wanted to create for ourselves, but the life we wanted to create for our clients. Our intention was to create authentic, meaningful spaces full of verve and vitality that lift the spirit and nurture the soul. It still is, and today we share that vision with our team and our extended network of collaborators.

While ‘emotional connection’ and ‘wellbeing’ have become industry buzzwords, we are proud to be leaders in the conversation that now revolves around them. For us, wellbeing and joy are intrinsically linked, and we believe there is much to be learned in terms of the impact great design can have on our lives. We’re keenly aware of how much our environment affects our sense of wellbeing, and we want to offer people the best way of living, creating healthy, low-impact homes that help them thrive.

Now, more than ever, that seems essential. Since we started our business, we have witnessed a shift in values to a more inward-looking focus that is literally closer to home – to our local community, our friends and family. Never has the safety and comfort of home been more important, or the need to create joy at home more necessary to strengthen, nurture and
replenish us before we look outwards again.

Writing this book has been a chance to reflect on the path of Arent & Pyke – not only how far we have come but also what we want to bring to the future. We are delighted to share our philosophy, our approach and our designs in these pages. For us, the building blocks of a project are not the bricks and mortar but the intangibles that make up our ethos as a business: the transportive and immersive roles of colour, the creation of joy and forging of an emotional connection, the character and spirit of a house – its heart and soul – and that special alchemy that occurs when it all comes together in a unique, magical blend. These ideas are the touchstones of our studio, and the projects we have selected here illustrate how we express those ideas and bring them to life.

We hope that viewing our projects through this lens gives them an extra dimension and prompts a different way of thinking about the spaces we live in. We have never been interested in decoration for decoration’s sake – for us, a design should go beyond beauty and function to achieve a timeless, uncontrived quality that ensures a house belongs to those who live in it.

This book explores the rich physical aspects that we know colour can bring to interiors. It ventures into a surprisingly evocative spectrum of soft and subtle shifts in tone but, further than that, it taps into the emotion of
design. When a home is brought to life through the colour, character and spirit of its different elements, everything is enriched and all the senses are engaged for a full, joyous living experience.

The experience of joy can be both immediate and far-reaching. It can be as simple as feeling inspired by the colour on a wall and as wonderfully complex as the way a well-designed space can enrich your life.

JOY

THE CONSIDERED CRAFTING OF SPACES THAT LIFT THE SPIRIT AND NOURISH THE SOUL

It sounds simple – we want people to feel happy in their home. But behind this is a deep understanding of the complex psychology of space and the lifestyle and personal journey of each client. We harness all the elements we work with – colour and pattern, material and textile, light and art, line and form – to individually shape each special space.

Home should be a place of nurturing and nourishment. It should be a sanctuary of peace, comfort and security where you feel grounded and free to be yourself. Crafting that place is about fostering an emotional connection and a sense of belonging. Your heart space. Creating visceral joy is at the heart of all our work. Our focus on how a space feels begins with an appreciation of how people experience living there. Home is the place for recharging and relaxing, and with this in mind we consider both the spaces for interaction and those for reflection. We focus on where people come together, such as the kitchen, living and dining areas. This is where all the action happens and where some of the most joyous moments occur. For us, the kitchen is far more than a functional zone and we strive to make it a warm, vibrant place to congregate, rich with colour, character and tactile pleasure. In the same way, the bedroom is more than somewhere to sleep. It is also a place for repair and recharging, so we design it as a true retreat
zone and emotional balm.

Joy and wellbeing are intertwined, and for us a happy home is a healthy home. We want to craft living spaces that soar with feeling and feed the soul. Creating a room that sings with colour sounds simple, yet the emotions it sparks are far from it.

COLOUR

THE INFINITE POSSIBILITIES FOR THE EMOTIVE AND THE IMMERSIVE

The meaningful role colour can play in bringing a space to life is a continual source of inspiration for us. We weave colour through the entire fabric of a house at every stage of the design process. Even then, the placement of one last richly hued accessory or artwork can be the element that draws the whole design together. The influence of colour is ongoing and we never stop thinking about it.

We use colour as a device to evoke particular moods and shape the experience of a space, playing with its look in different light to soothe or energise, nurture or revive. We use it to unify spaces, linking new parts of a house to old ones, or crafting a connection between interior and garden. Our approach is not to add a ‘pop’ of this or ‘block’ of that – for us, the greatest power of colour lies in its immersive effect, a painterly quality that envelops you so its presence is felt as much as seen. Adding a soft pink tint to the walls of a room can give it a rosy glow that transforms the room – and the feelings it provokes.

Our focus isn’t necessarily on the bright and bold colours, although these have their own significant impact. The softer, nuanced tones of the tertiary palette, whose language lies in delicious words like nougat, butter and olive, can unlock the door to a world of emotions. We work a lot with colour combinations, exploring the way different hues interact – room to room, piece to piece – to conjure up an entirely new sensibility. At the heart of it all is our desire to elicit a response, and whether we use colour to create harmony or contrast, it is always with the intention to lift the spirit.

CHARACTER

THE MEANINGFUL OBJECTS, ARRANGEMENTS AND ELEMENTS THAT TELL THE STORY OF A SPACE

The character of a home comes from the elements that reveal its personality and tell its story, from architectural lines and forms to cherished family pieces. Sometimes our design is responding to a story that is already there, such as with heritage buildings. Here, we try to distil the essence of the house’s character and meet that in the contemporary language of detail and joinery, subtly referencing the mood of the past while reflecting the client’s lifestyle for the future.

At other times we are helping clients to create a new story. Incorporating their own belongings – a favourite artwork, a souvenir from their travels – helps us do this. Not everyone has these to begin with, so during the design process we encourage clients to think about objects in a new way, beyond their decorative or functional role and in a more emotive realm. The story of an interior grows richer, more authentic and more interesting when personal, meaningful elements are woven into it. In this way, the design choices made today can become potent new memories in the future.

One of the most natural and pleasing ways to bring character to a space is through the process of ageing. It might be an old timber table that shows the knocks and cuts acquired over the years, or the faded upholstery of a favourite chair, or a brass doorknob that reveals the frequent attention of human hands. The nicks and patinas are tangible marks of the passage of time and the rituals of life and as such are imbued with meaning. It is one of the reasons we love working with materials like timber, terrazzo and marble – the connection they offer us to nature and its inevitable cycle
brings a strong sense of comfort. To us, a home that reflects the beauty of time passing and the ephemeral nature of things is a celebration of life well lived.

SPIRIT

THE HEARTBEAT OF A HOME, THE ESSENCE AND DYNAMIC LIFE FORCE OF A SPACE

We want to create homes that are full of spirit and hum with life to reflect the lives of their owners. Much of our work involves imbuing spaces with energy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be lively and vigorous. Different spaces call for different moods, and crafting those moods involves using a range of elements from artworks to the modulation of light. Scale can be a persuasive tool here – we might introduce smaller pieces and more of them, or opt for fewer pieces in a larger scale to make a room feel calmer.

Along with colour, we use pattern to enrich the spirit of a space. We are particularly fond of asymmetric, organic lines that take their cue from the natural world, breathing life into a design, relaxing formal layouts and promoting a sense of ease. And for us, pattern is as much about the inherent details of materials as it is about fabric. An abstract print on a bedhead can lend a playful quality, but the swirls of figured marble, the mix of colours in terrazzo and the pleasing grain of timber also bring their own dynamic and offer the comfort of their tactility. The sensory experience of a home is part of its appeal and we are constantly considering these elements for our clients – how a cushion feels to hold, how a floor feels to walk on. We literally feel our way around each project.

A spirited home is a joyful home, and we believe that central to this is a lighthearted sense of design that exists beyond the practical and purposeful. Home is not the place for the symmetrical and stitched up or the overly formal and tightly wound. We like to incorporate touches of whimsy and optimism purely for their beauty and the happiness they generate. A dreamy wallpaper print, the cheeky form of a chair, an unexpected artwork – these are the moments in a house’s life that surprise and delight.

ALCHEMY

THE ENCHANTING BLEND OF ELEMENTS AND THE IMPACT OF THE INTANGIBLE

Where you drop your bag when you get home, where you make your coffee, sit to read, hang your bathrobe – we delve into and delight in these intricate, important domestic details. We take a deeply empathetic approach in working with our clients, listening to and learning from them, and putting ourselves in their shoes so we can deliver a personal understanding of their lifestyle. The resulting design should feel familiar and intuitive, uniquely crafted to suit the people who live there. Rather like a magician’s sleight of hand, it should feel effortless in its experience without revealing all the planning and work behind it.

There is another layer to this magic. We believe there is an alchemy at play in the best of spaces, where all the elements – volume and texture, light and colour, architecture and object – combine to create something truly special that is greater than the sum of its parts. It is a holistic synergy we strive for, considering all these elements together throughout the design process. Added to this are the intangibles – the eliciting of emotions, the building of character, the injection of spirit. The evocative blend of things you can see and things you can feel – this, for us, is the alchemy of joyful design.

Arent & Pyke: Interiors Beyond the Primary Palette by Juliette Arent and Sarah-Jane Pyke is available now.

AU $80


Posted on December 15, 2022
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Read an Extract from The Conversation’s Latest Book of Essays: Long COVID should make us rethink disability and the way we offer support to those with ‘invisible illness’

Marie-Claire Seeley
University of Adelaide

This is an extract from 2022: Reckoning with Power and Privilege, a collection of essays brought from The Conversation.


Australia has only a handful of specialists familiar with managing what happens when the nervous system can’t properly regulate the body, as sometimes occurs with long COVID. While long-COVID clinics are being set up, there are no government-funded clinics for this type of nervous system dysfunction, and private waiting lists are now long.

From the outset, long-COVID sufferers faced the same prejudice experienced by patients before them who sought assistance through Centrelink and the National Disability Insurance Scheme for the effects of post-infection conditions. Disability insurance schemes worldwide are driven by definitions and checklists that allow non-medical workforce to assess and approve candidates for support services, but those with ‘invisible illness’ rarely meet these criteria.

If we are to manage the tidal wave of impairment and disability bearing down on us, policymakers must heed the warnings that have been sounding for the past two years. We’ll need to rethink disability and support.

First warnings

In November 2020, data later published in The Lancet were presented to the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. The researchers warned of persistent symptoms after COVID, including fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, palpitations, chest pain, depression, insomnia and headache. The colloquial term ‘long COVID’ was soon coined. Varying iterations of the name followed (including ‘COVID long haulers’ in the United States). Many clinicians use the more scientific descriptor ‘post-acute sequelae of COVID-19’.

Long COVID is not a new phenomenon. Various post-infection illnesses have been documented in the medical literature for decades. And such conditions bear a striking resemblance to each other. First, an individual is knowingly (or unknowingly) exposed to a pathogen (a virus, bacterium or other microorganism). An acute illness of varying degrees of severity ensues before a partial or complete recovery. But following ‘recovery’, a broad range of symptoms emerge. And these lead to functional decline – in other words, they stop the sufferer from doing the daily activities they would normally be able to do.

Two of these conditions, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome, appear closely related. And their symptoms look a lot like long COVID, too. Both seem to affect more women than men, and additional immune problems are often present.

These similarities support the theory these illnesses result from a hypervigilant immune system. This creates an immune response that inadvertently causes damage to the fragile autonomic nervous system (which regulates the body’s normal functions, like heart rate and blood pressure) while attempting to rid the body of the invading pathogen. However, there are a plethora of other theories and more investigation is needed.

An old stigma

Lack of understanding about these syndromes is reflective of the broad stigmas attached to them – the idea they are psychosomatic and involve the mind and body. The origin of these stigmas can be traced to a series of publications in the latter half of the twentieth century that addressed outbreaks of illnesses after exposure to unknown pathogens.

In 1970, the British Medical Journal published an article by two psychiatrists who had reviewed the case notes of 198 patients from the Royal Free Hospital in North London, where an outbreak of an unknown pathogen had occurred fifteen years prior. The authors determined the disease had no identifiable organic origin and was therefore likely to be caused by ‘epidemic hysteria’. This conclusion was partly justified by the high proportion of women among those infected with the illness.

Publication of this theory in a pre-eminent scientific medical journal gave credence to what became an enduring narrative. The result has been a chronic lack of interest and investment in these debilitating invisible illnesses, which can render people unable to work or participate in society.

A question of definition

The burden of these systemic failings now weighs heavily on a society faced with a worldwide tsunami of post-COVID conditions. And it goes some way to explaining the collective shrugging of shoulders by health authorities when it comes to providing answers for sufferers.

Estimates of how many people infected with COVID go on to develop long COVID vary from 5 per cent to 40 per cent. The large variance is a result of the initial absence of a consistent or unifying set of diagnostic criteria.

Recently the World Health Organization provided a definition of post-COVID conditions. It includes those with a history of likely or confirmed infection with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID) who experience lingering symptoms for longer than two months, which are unexplained by an alternative diagnosis. Defining the illness allows clearer characterisation of who is affected. Long COVID is now known to affect any age group and may be unrelated to initial infection severity. This evidence prompted the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to detail an ominous warning about post-COVID health problems that ‘can last weeks, months, or years’.

Multiple case series and observational studies have now identified a high burden of nervous system dysfunction in long-COVID patients. Several studies, including one published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, demonstrated that up to 95 per cent of long-COVID patients also meet the international criteria for postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. This syndrome can cause lightheadedness, brain fog, fatigue, headache, blurred vision, palpitations, tremor and nausea. These symptoms are often incompatible with carrying out normal daily tasks, which explains why unemployment and disability are high among postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome patients, despite their young age.

The next wave

Back in March 2021, the American Autonomic Society released a statement warning of the rising presentations of patients to autonomic specialist referral centres with symptoms of post-COVID postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. Of particular concern was the insufficient number of physicians familiar with this type of dysfunction to treat the condition. This situation is mirrored in Australia, where only a handful of specialists are familiar with managing such complex cases.

Contrary to popular medical opinion and widely held beliefs, effective therapies exist for underlying conditions like postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, which is prevalent in long COVID. Early intervention is key. Treatment needs to be fully explored and implemented before disability support services can be sought.

Time to listen

Our health systems need to absolve themselves of past sins and pay attention to the overwhelming voice of the current sufferers of long COVID and those with other post-infection syndromes or invisible illnesses who have endured decades of medical neglect. Treatment options need to be made available and multidisciplinary teams need to upskill to manage these conditions.

A redefining of what it is to be disabled needs to be explored. Most importantly, these definitions should not be tied to a single cause but to the manifestation of symptoms that culminate in the disability.

2022: Reckoning with Power and Privilege is available now.

AU $32.99


Posted on December 14, 2022
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The Contemporary, Textural and Colour Oriented Work of Yvette Coppersmith

Image: Artist Yvette Coppersmith. Photography supplied by artist.

This is an edited extract from Artists at Home by Karina Dias Peres.

It has been said that to capture the essence of someone else, you first need to capture the essence of yourself. With a career spanning over twenty years, Melbourne-based artist Yvette Coppersmith has experimented widely with various subject matter, including still life, figurative and abstract paintings, yet she still feels a strong pull towards exploring self-portrait. During her early childhood, Yvette watched opera and ballet DVDs. She also studied and drew faces from magazines. Later on, she began depicting friends, family and herself. The direction of her early process led her towards photorealism and portraiture, and after finishing high school, Yvette started at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) in Melbourne. She highlights that photorealism wasn’t particularly on-trend at the time but, despite going against the grain, she was recognised for her unique style and received a commendation award for her graduate exhibition. Her paintings for that exhibition were all portraits of women and included a self-portrait, a portrait of her grandmother Ida and another of her great-aunt Basia; three full-length portraits to scale, which were hung level with the floor so the viewer could meet the subject at their actual height.

During the first decade of her practice, Yvette mainly relied on photographs, life models and herself as source material to create oil paintings; these foundational years brought discipline and focus, a period in her career she ironically calls ‘slave to the image’. Sitters often included public figures who have made contributions to our society, such as Rupert Myer, the Chair of the Australia Council for the Arts, and Gillian Triggs, former president of the Australian Human Rights Commission. It wasn’t until 2009 that her taste in painting started shifting to process-driven work and abstraction, welcoming more tactile and textural qualities. Yvette works predominantly in oil on linen, and occasionally on primed jute. The layers of paint are mixed with linseed oil (and sometimes sand) to create her signature bold texture.

Image: Self-portrait with Dove, 2017 Oil on linen, 50.5 x 40.5 cm.
Image: Self-portrait with Gladioli, 2018, Oil on linen, 102 x 87 cm.

‘When I began painting my self-portraits, we didn’t have smartphones and social media was not part of our experience. There was a perception that you must be a narcissist to be making images of yourself, and self-promotion wasn’t as widely accepted as it is now. For centuries, artists have understood the image of the self is a construct, and a useful one to position oneself in society. Self-portraiture is a space where you can be your own imagined self,’ she says.

Yvette recalls studying make-up books by Kevyn Aucoin when she was around eighteen, and experimenting with contouring and creating images of herself. She took photos with an old film camera in 2000, and the first digital camera she purchased in 2004 had a flip-around screen to better frame compositions as references for her paintings. Ironically, she thought, ‘wow, if everyone knew about this, they’d take better photos of themselves’, never expecting the global explosion of selfies. In the past few
years, she has worked from a mirror, which is a different method from taking a snapshot. She explains that the light and detail working from life is an advantage, but poses are more limited.

In 2018, Yvette won the Archibald Prize awarded by the Art Gallery of NSW for her painting Self-Portrait, After George Lambert. After being a finalist four times, she is one of ten female artists to have won the prestigious prize in 100 years. The winning self-portrait was initially supposed to be a portrait of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. When Ardern wasn’t available, she thought she could still draw inspiration from her, as a call to action to inspire women and the next generation of progressive leaders.

Image: Self-portrait after George Lambert, 2017Oil and acrylic on linen, 122 x 101.5 cm.

‘Women artists are part of the rebalancing of the masculine/feminine energies at play in the world. The abuse of women and of the planet are connected. Australia has a leadership crisis in the face of a climate crisis – this isn’t a time to lose hope but to spring into action. The calling out of these injustices must continue, and the momentum and desire to ignite change as a collective is gathering,’ she says. Yvette sees a space for activism in some of her portrait works, not with protest but utilising the ability of art to connect to the human, to beauty and joy. She believes the role of a contemporary portrait painter is to take this tangible quality and position each person far beyond their media or social media platform.

You were one of only ten women to win the Archibald Prize in 100 years. What does it mean to be a woman in a predominantly male-dominated industry?

It is important to acknowledge how far we have come in the perception of women artists. The first woman to win the Archibald Prize was Nora Heysen back in 1938 and she dealt with a vastly different industry. At the time her counterpart male artists commented: ‘A great artist needs
all the manly qualities of courage, strength and endurance. I believe that such a life is unnatural and impossible for a woman.’ The media headlines about her were: ‘Girl painter is also a good cook!’ Thankfully my experience has been full of opportunities, and it is heartbreaking thinking how women artists throughout history made it against all odds. So yes, we are a very lucky generation in some ways but the fight for gender equality is still ongoing because patriarchy is structural.

Image: Displayed on the shelves in Yvette’s lounge room are two of her works: Self-portrait and Wave Abstraction in Blue and Green. Photography by Yvette Coppersmith.

Did you have any female role models growing up that influenced your career?

Anne of Green Gables and Pippi Longstocking for their strong female characters were good role models as a kid. Julia Ciccarone, a Melbourne artist who became my mentor the year I graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA). We met up and visited each other’s studios a couple of times, and that was a nice way to ease the transition from university to solitary art practice. My mum, Renee Coppersmith, who worked from home on her own business as I grew up. She has been a role model for working her own hours, being her own boss, and the hustle. I know how hard she found it juggling motherhood and work, and I am so grateful for having such a generous parent. I don’t think I could divide my time like she did without feeling resentful at the sacrifice.

As an artist, what is the best lesson you have learnt along the way?

I used to overwork to meet all my commitments, and in the past couple of years it became apparent, perhaps due to some burnout, I had been putting my relationship with painting ahead of my relationship with myself. We hear a lot about self-care, but it wasn’t in my consciousness until recently that to establish a viable career as an artist, you also need to prioritise rest and sleep.

The solitary nature of working as an artist has taught me self-reliance. I value quality time connecting with people, but I have also come to realise that the only relationship that lasts a lifetime is with yourself. As women we
have been raised to feel like we are not enough without the romantic relationship, the right body, and all the right stuff – it’s taken the past couple of years to recognise how embedded those concepts were, and into a sense of wholeness in myself.

Image: Detail of Yvette’s studio, which is adjacent to her home. Leaning against the wall is Afterimage No 1. Photography by Yvette Coppersmith.

Can you name some of your favourite Australian artists?

Grace Crowley, Grace Cossington Smith, Nora Heysen, Ralph Balson, Margaret Preston, Rah Fizelle, Hera Roberts, George Lambert, Hugh Ramsay, Max Meldrum. Also Teelah George, Oscar Perry, James Drinkwater, Jake Walker, Lottie Consalvo, Sam Martin, Sanné Mestrom, Michael Georgetti, Eleanor Louise Butt, Tsering Hannaford, Diena Georgetti.

Is your home aesthetic a reflection of you as an artist – contemporary, textural and colour oriented?

My furniture is all neutral: grey marble table, timber sideboard, linen bench seat. I can change the colour scheme by rehanging pictures. At th moment there is an emerald green theme. If I could change my house I would add more wall space and have more art on display, including more of my childhood paintings.

Image: Yvette’s kitchen. Photography by Yvette Coppersmith.

Artists at Home by Karina Dias Pires is available now.

AU $ $59.99


Posted on December 7, 2022
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Christmas Gift Guide 2022

Photography by Joshua Ranftl

Explore beautiful gift ideas for your loved ones this Christmas.

Discover books of garden inspiration, interiors advice, captivating non-fiction, magical children’s books, puzzles, games and so much more.

Plus, we have a very special Christmas giveaway for one lucky winner. Head here for competition details.

DREAMING THE LAND

Marie Geissler

A vividly illustrated survey of the Australian Aboriginal art movement across 29 art centres from remote Australia.

EXPLORE ➔

RAMESH

Jaklyn Babington

The first major monograph on the boundary-pushing work of painter and sculptor, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran.

DISCOVER ➔

ARTISTS AT HOME

Karina Dias Pires

An intimate look behind the creative curtain at the lives and creative processes of 32 female artists in Australia.

READ MORE ➔

A HOUSE PARTY IN TUSCANY

Amber Guinness

A sublime celebration of thirty years of cooking and hosting at The Arniano Painting School in Tuscany.

BUY NOW ➔

PLANTS

Zena Cumpston, Michael-Shawn Fletcher & Lesley Head

Discover the power of plants and the land management practices of Australian Indigenous peoples.

EXPLORE ➔

ASTRONOMY

Karlie Noon &
Krystal De Napoli

Explore the connections between First Nations’environmental and cultural practices and the stars.

DISCOVER ➔

EVERGREEN

Tim Entwisle

Discover the amalgam of nature, science and culture that has shaped both Tim Entwisle and every great botanic garden.

READ MORE ➔

THE AGE OF SEEDS

Fiona McMillan-Webster

The astonishing story of seed longevity, and what this means for biodiversity and
the future of our food.

BUY NOW ➔

THE CONVERSATION 2022

Michael Hopkin

The Conversation’s experts bring their incisive analysis to the powerful issues that dominated 2022.

EXPLORE ➔

WORDS FOR LUCY

Marion Halligan AM

A moving memoir that tells one mother’s story of surviving the aftershocks of death and finding the space to live again.

DISCOVER ➔

OCEAN POOLS

Chris Chen & Marie-Louise McDermott

Travel along the coast with this beautiful guide to ocean pools.

READ MORE ➔

SURF LIFE

Gill Hutchison & Willem-Dirk du Toit

Real stories about real women who live to surf and create.

BUY NOW ➔

MY STRANGE
SHRINKING PARENTS

Zeno Sworder

A heartwarming story about the sacrifices migrant parents make for their children.

EXPLORE ➔

WONDERS UNDER
THE SUN

Tai Snaith

An illustrated and fun reference book featuring 280 animals that eat and play during the day.

DISCOVER ➔

EAT WEEDS

Diego Bonetto

Learn how to forage for and eat the wild food sources that surround us.

READ MORE ➔

THE FUTURE IS FUNGI

Michael Lim & Yun Shu

A complete introduction to the hidden kingdom of fungi.

BUY NOW ➔

COSMIC NUMEROLOGY

Jenn King

Find out how to harness your full potential using the power of numbers and planets.

EXPLORE ➔

READING THE STARS

Book Riot

Discover specialised reading recommendations based on your zodiac sign.

DISCOVER ➔

GUNYAH GOONDIE + WURLEY

Professor Paul Memmott AO

An updated edition of the definitive guide to Australian Indigenous architecture.

READ MORE ➔

TREASURES OF UKRAINE

Andrey Kurkov

A celebration of Ukraine through important works of art and architectural monuments.

BUY NOW ➔

CHINA ADORNED

Professor Deng Qiyao

A rich visual guide to the fashion, adornment and rituals of Chinese ethnic minority groups.

EXPLORE ➔

SPECTRUM

Ros Byam Shaw

A visual analysis of the colours used in fabrics and wallpapers from the 15th century to now.

DISCOVER ➔

SUPER BLOOM

Jac Semmler

Discover 75 plant profiles of the most beautiful flowers and foliage to bring shape, colour and beauty to any garden.

READ MORE ➔

THE PLANT PORTAL

Erin Lovell Verinder

50 illustrated cards featuring simple herbal tea recipes and herbal wisdom cards with affirmations from nature.

BUY NOW ➔

RECLAIMED


Penny Craswell

Discover inspiring homes made with salvaged and repurposed materials from across the globe.

EXPLORE ➔

TASMANIA LIVING

Joan-Maree Hargreaves &
Marita Bullock

Explore the architectural flair and sustainable ethos that defines living in Tasmania

DISCOVER ➔

KHA ARCHITECTS


Geoffrey London

Discover the architecture of the internationally renowned practice founded by the late Kerry Hill in Singapore in 1979.

 READ MORE ➔

THE NEW QUEENSLAND HOUSE

Cameron Bruhn &
Katelin Butler

A showcase of 28 innovative examples of Queensland’s subtropical architecture from the past decade.

BUY NOW ➔

CHLOÉ CATWALK

Suzy Menkes

The first comprehensive overview of Chloé’s collections.

EXPLORE ➔

KARL LAGERFELD UNSEEN

Robert Fairer

A glamorous tribute to Karl Lagerfeld’s creations for Chanel.

DISCOVER ➔

DINNER WITH FRIDA

Iratxe López de Munáin

Piece together the artists, artworks and surroundings of Frida Kahlo’s world.

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MULGANAI

Emma Hollingsworth

Go on a journey through Country in this First Nations Colouring book.

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ARENT & PYKE

Juliette Arent &
Sarah-Jane Pyke

Discover Arent & Pyke’s distinctive use of unique colour and material pairings.

EXPLORE ➔

COLOUR IS HOME


Charlotte Coote

A bold guide to creating classic interiors using colour, fabrics and originality.

DISCOVER ➔

DAY TRIP SYDNEY

Andrew Grune & Evi O

Take a mini break every week of the year with 52 nature adventures, all within 120 kilometres of Sydney’s city centre.

READ MORE ➔

DOG TRIP SYDNEY

Andrew Grune & Evi O

Escape the urban chaos with a year’s worth of dog-approved mini breaks in nature for you and your four-legged friend.

BUY NOW ➔



Posted on December 7, 2022
Posted on

A Short History of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy: Read an Extract From The Conversation’s Latest Book of Essays

Bronwyn Carlson
Macquarie University

Lynda-June Coe
Macquarie University

This is an extract from 2022: Reckoning with Power and Privilege, a collection of essays brought to you by The Conversation. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised this article contains the names of deceased people.


Often, people think about the Aboriginal Tent Embassy as something historical, dating back to the 1970s. But it should also be thought of as the site of the longest protest for Indigenous land rights, sovereignty and self-determination in the world.

In fact, this year, the Tent Embassy celebrates its fiftieth continuous year of occupation. Demonstrating its significance to Australian history, it was included on the Commonwealth Heritage List in 2015 as part of the Old Parliament House precinct.

In this momentous year, it’s worth remembering how the Tent Embassy came to be, and acknowledging what it has stood for since its erection in 1972 – and the significance it still has today.

Aliens in our own land

The Tent Embassy began its public life on 26 January 1972. On that day, Michael Anderson, Billy Craigie, Bertie Williams and Tony Coorey left Redfern and drove to Ngunnawal Country (Canberra), where they planted a beach umbrella opposite Parliament House (now known as Old Parliament House). They erected a sign that said ‘Aboriginal Embassy’. With them on that day was their driver, Tribune photographer Noel Hazard, who captured the event in a series of photos.

The term ‘embassy’ was used to bring attention to the fact Aboriginal people had never ceded sovereignty nor engaged in any treaty process with the Crown. As a collective, Aboriginal people were the only cultural group not represented with an embassy. According to Aboriginal activist and scholar Gary Foley, the absence of an Aboriginal embassy in Canberra was a blatant indication Aboriginal people were treated like aliens in their own land.

Initially, the protesters were making a stand about land rights following then prime minister William McMahon’s speech dismissing any hope for Aboriginal land rights and reasserting the government’s position on the policy of assimilation. The Tent Embassy was therefore a public display of our disapproval of, and objection to, the policies and practices of the government.

It has since become an acclaimed site of our continued resistance to the continuity of colonial rule.

Demands of protesters

Police who were patrolling the area at the time of the Tent Embassy’s erection asked the protesters what they were doing outside Parliament House. They said they were protesting and would do so until the government granted land rights to Aboriginal people. The police were said to have responded, ‘That could be forever.’

As it turned out, it was not illegal to camp on the lawns of Parliament House, so the police could not remove the protesters.

Later, on 6 February 1972, the members of the Tent Embassy issued their list of demands to the government. The demands were clearly about our rights as Aboriginal people to our homelands, regardless of the fact cities were now built on the land or mining companies were interested in the bounties within. Compensation was called for in the instances where the land was not able to be returned. There were also demands for the protection of our sacred sites.

While the McMahon government cared little about negotiating with the protesters, the leader of the Opposition, Gough Whitlam, visited the Tent Embassy and publicly proclaimed a promise of Aboriginal land rights under a future Labor government. There was widespread support for the Tent Embassy from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and allies across the continent, and indeed the world.

Media attention also grew as it became obvious the Tent Embassy and protesters were not going to move on. Other Aboriginal activists joined the embassy, including Foley, Isabel Coe, John Newfong, Chicka Dixon, Gordon Briscoe and many others.

Forced removal and revival

The government was not too keen on being reminded Aboriginal people were demanding rights, so it amended the Trespass on Commonwealth Lands Ordinance to make it illegal to camp on the lawn of Parliament House. This gave the police the authority to remove the protesters.

The ordinance was but a few hours old when police attempted to forcibly remove the embassy. They did so to the roar of the crowd chanting ‘Land rights now’. A violent confrontation with police ensued.

On 12 September 1972, the ACT Supreme Court ruled against the use of the trespass laws, and the Tent Embassy was temporarily re-erected before being removed again the following morning. Then, at the end of 1972, the Coalition government led by McMahon lost the federal election to Labor Whitlam was able to keep his promise in part – he did give the land title deeds to the Gurindji people. This was captured in the historical photo by Merv Bishop of Whitlam pouring a fistful of dirt into Vincent Lingiari’s hand.

While this iconic image has become a demonstration of what might be possible, the work of the embassy is not yet done. Land rights across the continent have yet to be fully achieved.

The Tent Embassy was re-established in 1973 and remained until activist Charles Perkins negotiated its removal pending the enactment of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act in 1976. In the ensuing years, it occupied several other sites around Canberra, including the site of the current Parliament House. In 1992, it returned to its original site on the lawn of Old Parliament House to mark the twentieth anniversary of the original protest.

Eleven years later, much of the Tent Embassy was destroyed by fire in a suspected case of arson. The police once again attempted to remove protesters from the site under orders from the federal government’s National Capital Authority.

An enduring symbol of protest

Today, the Tent Embassy remains on the lawns of Old Parliament House as a reminder of the successive failures of subsequent governments to address the demands for justice represented by the embassy and its people. As Foley reflects in his history of the embassy:

That it has endured for [five] decades as a potent symbol rejecting the hypocrisy, deceit and duplicity by successive Australian government is a testament to the refusal of large numbers of Aboriginal people to concede defeat in a 200-year struggle for justice.

Nowhere else in the world have we seen such longevity around a site of protest. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is an impressive achievement that demonstrates the tenacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and our continued fight for the reclamation of our lands and sovereign rights as First Nations peoples.

2022: Reckoning with Power and Privilege is available now.

AU $32.99


Posted on December 6, 2022
Posted on

Three Day Trip ideas from ‘Dog Trip Sydney’

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

The idea that the dog is humankind’s most loyal companion is, perhaps, one of the greatest universal truths, shared among many nations and cultures.

Read on to discover three dog-friendly day trips from Dog Trip Sydney that are sure to inspire you to create unforgettable memories with your canine companion.

1. Centennial Park

Image by Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

Traditional custodians
Eora
Distance from CBD
3 km
Car parking
Grand Dr, Centennial Parklands
Walk
Leash On/Off
Distance
3.5–9 km loop
Time
2 hrs

Difficulty
Easy
Climb
129 m
Facilities
BBQ
Cafe
Picnic area
Playground
Toilet
Suitable for
Children
Wheels

Often overlooked by Sydneysiders who don’t live in the Eastern Suburbs, Centennial Park is a living, breathing treasure situated within close range of the CBD. Acting as the city’s ‘green lungs’, the 189-hectare park is home to an impressive variety of native birdlife (such as black swans, superb fairy-wrens and corellas) and flora (including figs, eucalypts, paperbarks and banksias) – as well as exotic plant species like evergreen oak trees from the Southern USA and Bismarck palms from Madagascar. Typical of the grand parks established in the Victorian era, the public garden’s large expanses of lawn and grassed fields are surrounded by umbrageous Moreton Bay figs and punctuated by ponds, creating idyllic settings for daydreamers. In the dog-friendly areas of the park, joyous fur-balls are free to bound after one another off-leash.

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

Centennial Park was officially opened in 1888 by Sir Henry Parkes – an English immigrant of humble origins turned powerful political figure and NSW premier – fulfilling his dream of creating a ‘people’s park’. Sir Henry had recruited unemployed workers to help in the construction of the park, selling land along the edge of the proposed site in order to pay their wages. Not everyone shared Parkes’s idyllic vision, however. In the 1960s, a statue of Charles Dickens was stolen from the park – it was recovered forty years later, without its head (‘Please, sir, I want my head …’).

For growing bodies and minds, a romp through the elaborately named Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden is a must-visit destination. The site is designed to encourage children to connect with nature by mixing action and education, and two-legged whelps can cavort in treehouses and frolic through water jets.

Witnessing all the people and pups enjoying this vast green space, the ghost of Sir Henry Parkes must be smiling (and, maybe, enjoying the irony of a man with his surname establishing a public park).


2. Glebe Foreshore Walk

Image by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

Traditional custodians
Eora
Distance from CBD
3 km
Car parking
Chapman Rd, Annandale
Walk
Leash On/Off
Distance
4.5 km return
Time
1.5 hrs

Difficulty
Easy
Climb
45 m
Facilities
BBQ
Cafe
Picnic area
Playground
Toilet
Suitable for
Children
Wheels

The Glebe Foreshore Walk links more than 27 hectares of open public space, the legacy of a four-decades-long campaign for public access that was fought and won by local residents and the Glebe Society, which was established in 1969 to support the cause. Here the urban waterfront tangles with its industrial heritage, rusty cranes and defunct power plants mingling with prime harbour views and magnificent trees.

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

The suburb of Glebe is located on the land of the Gadigal and Wangal peoples of the Eora nation. In 1789, the colonial government granted the land to the Anglican church. Up until the 1970s the area was an industrial zone, dominated by timber yards, and modest workers’ cottages can be seen nestled between the suburb’s grand old Victorian terraces and Federation houses. The foreshore has long been used for recreation, with century-old sporting facilities for cricket, football and rowing still in use today.

The walk starts as you enter Jubilee Park, with an opportunity for off-leash activities at Federal Park, located just to the south across Johnstons Creek. Next to Federal Park lies Bicentennial Park – still featuring its original plantings of Canary Island date palms and Moreton Bay fig trees, which tower over a historic cricket pavilion and oval. There is a playground for the kids, too.

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

Continuing north, you end up in the eastern part of Bicentennial Park before ambling east along the Rozelle Bay foreshore. Further east along the shore is Pope Paul VI Reserve, with a divine view of Sydney’s trinity of bridges: Anzac, Glebe Island and Harbour. This reserve commemorates the first-ever papal visit to Australia in 1970. These days dogs bound about off-leash, sniffing each other with no signs of Catholic guilt whatsoever.

The next leg is Blackwattle Bay Park, which completed its transition from industrial to recreational use in 1983. Boasting picnic and barbecue facilities, it is the perfect place to spend some time. Dogs are also allowed to roam freely here. A notable relic from the past is the heritage-listed Bellevue Cottage – built in1896 and designed by the renowned architect Ambrose Thornley Jnr, who also designed the grandiose, Italianate Glebe Town Hall. Thankfully, it is now a cafe filled with sinful culinary temptations.

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

As you approach Wentworth Park, Sydney Fish Market comes into view (or smell). Stick around fora seafood feast – or take the road less travelled to Glebe Point Road for a taste of some bohemian culture


3. Cooper Park

Image by Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

Traditional custodians
Eora
Distance from CBD
4 km
Car parking
26 Bellevue Rd, Bellevue Hill
Walk
Leash On/Off
Distance
2.5 km loop
Time
1 hr

Difficulty
Medium
Climb
43 m
Facilities
Cafe
Picnic area
Playground
Toilet
Suitable for
Children
Wheels

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

Lying within the verdant valleys and flourishing fractures of Cooper Park you will find a mix of natural wonders and layers of Indigenous and European history. As you descend vegetation-laden staircases into the steep gully that was formed by volcanic activity dating back to the Jurassic era, it’s hard to imagine that moments ago you were in the urban jungle.

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

At the time of European colonisation, and for millennia before, at least two clans of the Eora nation – the Gadigal and the Birrabirragal – lived off this land, and their engravings and sacred sites are scattered around the park (the exact locations are held in confidence by the Aboriginal community). In the early 1800s, industrial baron and former convict Daniel Cooper began acquiring land in the area. In 1913, his relative, Sir William Cooper, agreed to a long standing government request to give a part of this land to the public, and it was declared a public park in 1917.

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

The park’s stone steps, bridges and amphitheatre were constructed in the 1930s as part of a Depression-relief work scheme. Unique stone-like grottoes pepper the park, while a kiosk, playground and tennis courts provide food and entertainment for visitors.

Walking through this 18-hectare urban greenspace, you will be bombarded with exquisite sensory experiences. The creek runs through the centre of the park, following the vein-like volcanic dyke that cuts through the ancient rock. More than 220 native plant species compete with 160 exotic ‘weed’ species. Grey gums, smooth-barked apple gums and red bloodwoods are plentiful on the ridges. In the gullies, Australian rosewoods, native figs and lilly pillies grow abundantly. Currawongs, wonga pigeons, tawny frogmouths, possums and the very local Cooper Park skink also thrive in this urban oasis. Protect them by keeping your dog on-leash in the park’s natural areas – your hound can go wild in the sportsground adjacen to Suttie Road between 4.30 pm and 8.30 am.

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

A relic of Aboriginal habitation can be found just north of Bellevue Road, in the form of an engraving of a fish in a rocky overhang. Images of a ship and male figures are engraved on a large flat rock in the north-eastern section of the park, and two charcoal figures are located on the wall of a small rock shelter between the tennis courts and residential area within the park.

The park features short trails that link to one another, so embrace being lost in this magical, timeless landscape before resurfacing.

Photography by Andrew Grune ©Day Trip Publishing Pty Ltd

Dog Trip Sydney by Andrew Grune & Evi O is available now.

AU $34.99


Posted on November 23, 2022
Posted on

Defend Your Immune System with These Plant Medicine Recipes by Erin Lovell Verinder

Image: Erin Lovell Verinder. Photography by Georgia Blackie.

You may have heard whispers of the healing abilities of plants. Perhaps your grandma used to prepare sage-leaf gargles for a sore throat, fresh aloe vera was applied to a knee scrape, or when a tummy ache set in, ginger tea was made and served. These traditions, likely passed down through many generations, always seem to hold a magical quality, a soothing, familiar essence. This is the spirit of traditional plant medicine.


Defender

HERBAL INGREDIENTS

2 teaspoons elderberries
2 teaspoons echinacea root/flowers/leaf
1 teaspoon rosehips1/2teaspoon ginger pieces
1/2teaspoon cinnamon chipsmanuka honey (optional)

METHOD

Pour boiling water over the dried or fresh herbs and steep for 10–20 minutes. Strain out the plant material with a fine-mesh sieve, and enjoy


The Guardian

An antiviral powerhouse, blended to create a strong defence in the face of viral presentations, whether that be a cold sore or a viral cold. Licorice, lemon balm, echinacea and St John’s wort combine to soothe tension and calm the heightened stress response that often underlies a weakened immune system.

HERBAL INGREDIENTS

1 teaspoon dried St John’s wort flowers/leaf
1 teaspoon dried echinacea leaf/root
1/2 teaspoon dried licorice root
2 teaspoons dried lemon balm leaf

METHOD

Pour boiling water over the dried or fresh herbs and steep for 10–20 minutes. Strain out the plant material with a fine-mesh sieve, and enjoy.

Image: The Plant Portal by Erin Lovell Verinder. Photography by Georgia Blackie.

The Plant Portal by Erin Lovell Verinder is available now.

AU $24.99


Posted on November 22, 2022
Posted on

Behind the Scenes of ‘Super Bloom’ with Author and Plant Specialist Jac Semmler

Photography by Sarah Pannell.

How did you discover your love of plants? 
I grew up in a family of plantswomen. I still feel them in my hands as I garden today. It was an ideal childhood on a farm and I spent a lot of time in the resilient and abundant gardens of my aunts and grandmas. I always had an affinity with plants and it is so special that they now fill my life.  

What was the inspiration behind Super Bloom?
Flowers! Flowers are so heroic, and I think their beauty calls to something heroic within ourselves. That beauty and plants can provide sustenance for our souls and nurture strength and wonder within us. 

Tell us about your creative process – how did you approach writing the book? Do you have any writing rituals?
I was fortunate – though it was a short deadline, these flower dreams and ideas had been brewing for so long and it was easy to get them on the page. I had been wanting to share so many things about the wonder and practice of gardening and was a joy to suddenly be able to get it all down.

Gardening is my most favourite thing to do and is a daily practice – it nurtures me in everything, especially the writing process.

You also run gardening workshops. How do these differ from the information in your book?
There is a real joy in meeting other gardeners and sharing the delight and wonder. It is my pleasure to run technical professional development on plants – masterclasses for professionals (landscape architects) through to flower-filled workshops for home gardeners. Plant love is a true thing that connects us all.

Photography by Sarah Pannell.

What advice would you give to people wanting to try their hand at planting flowers for the first time? Is there a particular flower you would recommend people start with?|
I am an advocate for growing what we love, as this way we will be more likely to tend and care for it. The most important thing is to start but also preserve. I still kill plants – we all kill plants, no matter how hard we try sometimes! Accept that gardening and plants will not always be perfect but it will be filled with beauty and wonder. 

Is there anything else you want people to know about the book?
I am very excited about the plant profiles, the glorious illustrations, the care notes and especially the ideas for planting partners. Think of Super Bloom as The Cook’s Companion but for gardeners. 

Is there a song or musician that encapsulates your approach to life and work? 
I draw a lot of strength from gardening, and Solange is often on the speakers as I tend to plants and germinate seeds in my potting shed. 

What’s next for you? 
We are thrilled to launch the Super Bloom plant practice this year, working collaboratively on projects that are abundant with flowers and biodiversity in the public realm alongside architects. We are also excited to explore gardening as an art form in a series of art projects.

Plant literacy and beauty will always be close to our hearts so do keep an eye out for events and masterclasses coming up if you share our great passion for plants. 


Super Bloom by Jac Semmler is available now.

AU $90


Posted on November 9, 2022
Posted on

Take a Look Inside ‘Tamara Dean: A Monograph’

In Our Nature is a site-responsive body of work that Tamara Dean staged in the Adelaide and Mount Lofty botanic gardens for the 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art. It was the first time she overtly used her photography to vocalise her despair over the impact of climate change.

This series was her way of drawing attention to the fact that humans are a part of an interconnected ecosystem, and that, if we continue to destroy it, we will ultimately meet the same fate.

Read on to view some of the images from In Our Nature, as featured in Tamara Dean: A Monograph.


Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) in Spring, 2017, Tamara Dean.
Elephant Ear (Alocasia odora) in Autumn, 2017, Tamara Dean.
Passage, Willow Forest (Salix) in Autumn, 2017, Tamara Dean.
Colony, Willow (Salix) in Autumn, 2017, Tamara Dean.
Dusty Miller (Senecio viravira), Western Wild Garden in Winter, 2018, Tamara Dean.
Sacred Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) in Summer, 2018, Tamara Dean.
Sacred Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) in Autumn, 2017, Tamara Dean.
Fallen Willow (Salix) in Autumn, 2017, Tamara Dean.
Hollywood (Auranticarpa rhombifolia) in Winter, 2017, Tamara Dean.
Messmate Stringybark (Eucalyptus obliqua) in Summer, 2018, Tamara Dean.

Tamara Dean: A Monograph is available now.

AU $100


Posted on November 8, 2022
Posted on

[CLOSED] TERMS AND CONDITIONS: WIN a Christmas Book Pack

Please note that this competition is now closed.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS: WIN a Christmas book pack! (the Competition)

These are the Terms and Conditions (Terms) of entry for the Competition, conducted by Thames & Hudson Australia Pty Ltd (Thames & Hudson Australia), whose registered office is at 11 Central Boulevard, Port Melbourne, Victoria 3027.

Please read these Terms carefully because you will be deemed to accept them if you enter the Competition.

For all questions relating to this competition, please contact Thames & Hudson Australia at: enquiries@thameshudson.com.au

  1. Competition Period
    • 1.1 This Competition opens on Monday 7 November 2022 at 9am (AEST) and closes on Monday 28 November at 5pm AEST (the Competition Period).
  2. The Prize
    • 2.1 The prize for the Competition is:
      • Book pack: Super Bloom, Chloe Catwalk, First Knowledges: Plants, My Strange Shrinking Parents, Arent & Pyke and Mulganai (Valued at $365)
        (the Prize).
  • 2.2 Prizes are not transferable or exchangeable (including for cash), and a winner may not request that all or any part of a Prize will not be substituted for other benefits or items at the request of winners.
  • 2.3 If any element of the Prize becomes unavailable for any reason beyond the control of Thames & Hudson Australia, a similar prize of equal value will be awarded in place of the Prize.
  • 2.4 A winner is responsible for any taxes for which they may be liable as a result of winning a Prize, as well as for any expenses (other than postage or other usual delivery charges) not specifically mentioned as being included in the Prize.
  • 2.5 The stated value of the Prize is based on estimated or recommended retail prices (including GST) at the date of publication. Thames & Hudson Australia accepts no responsibility for any change in the value of the Prize between that date and the date on which the Prize is delivered to a winner.
  1. How to Enter
    • 3.1 Entrants must undergo the following steps to enter the Competition:
      • a) Go to Typeform and fill in the form;
      • b) Provide your full name and email address;
      • c) agree to sign up to the Thames and Hudson Australia email newsletter and select your preferences;
      • d) Accept the competition terms and conditions, confirming that you have read and understood these, that you are an Australian resident and that you are over 18 years of age.
    • 3.2 Entrants may not enter more than once and each entrant is only eligible to win one Prize and the following will be invalid:
      • a) entries received outside the Competition Period;
      • b) entries that do not comply with these terms and conditions;
      • c) entries that Thames & Hudson Australia, in its sole discretion, determines are fraudulent (including entries that misrepresent the eligibility of the entrant); and
      • d) (where a competition is conducted on a social media platform) multiple entries from a single individual using multiple accounts on the one social media platform.
    • 3.3 Thames & Hudson Australia may, in its sole discretion, disqualify any entry that in its view is (or is potentially) objectionable, including (without limitation) any entry that is not reasonably comprehensible or infringes a third-party’s rights, or is defamatory, obscene, insulting, inflammatory or discriminatory; or is likely to damage its reputation or the reputation of any Affiliate or donor or sponsor of a Prize.
    • 3.4 Entry is free (subject to any obligation stated as part of how to enter in relation to purchasing a Thames & Hudson Australia product) but entrants are responsible for any costs or charges they may incur in entering.
    • 3.5 Notwithstanding anything else in these terms and conditions, the Competition is not open to:
      • any employee of Thames & Hudson Australia or of any parent company, subsidiary, agent or affiliate of Thames & Hudson Australia, including a company or organisation that has provided a Prize for a competition (together, Affiliates); or
      • members of the immediate families of employees of Thames & Hudson Australia and Affiliates.
    • 3.6 Notwithstanding anything in clauses 3.2 or 3.3, the Competition is not open to anyone under 18 if the Prize is or includes any alcoholic beverage or product or any service or product that by law is unavailable or not open to people who are under that age.
  2. Winner/s
    • 4.1 Winner[s] will be selected randomly from entrants.
    • 4.2 All decisions concerning the winning entry will be final and binding on entrants in all respects, and no correspondence will be entered into.
    • 4.3 Winners will be contacted within 7 days of judging the Competition. All reasonable endeavours will be made to contact the winners during this time.
    • 4.4 A Prize may be forfeited (with no substitute offered) and an alternative winner or winners selected in accordance with the winner selection procedure set out above if a winner:
      • a) cannot be located;
      • b) does not adequately respond to notification that they have won a Prize before 5pm Thursday 1 December 2022;
      • c) does not accept an element of the Prize as arranged with Thames & Hudson Australia;
      • d) does not or cannot provide Thames & Hudson Australia with proof of identity and/or residence if requested by Thames & Hudson Australia to do so; or
      • e) does not comply with any other term or condition of the Competition.
    • 4.5 Thames & Hudson Australia reserves the right, in its absolute discretion but subject to relevant State and/or Territory law, to cancel the Competition and not award a Prize if Thames & Hudson Australia is unable to proceed with the Competition (including any judging and/or draw) as a result of circumstances beyond its control including, without limitation, pandemic, vandalism, hacking, computer virus or bugs, server breakdown, acts of terrorism, acts of God, civil unrest, strikes and power failures.
  3. Warranties, limitations, releases and consents
    • 5.1 Entrants grant Thames & Hudson Australia and Affiliates an irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide and transferable licence to publish their entry and name, including the right to sub-license these in association with the Competition.
    • 5.2 Entrants promise that entries will be original and will not infringe any third-party rights (including copyright and trade marks) and will not breach any law or any obligation of confidentiality.
    • 5.3 Winners may be photographed and/or filmed at any event associated with the delivery or handing over of a Prize, and entrants grant Thames & Hudson Australia and Affiliates the right to take and to publish such photographs and/or footage and to use an entrant’s name for promotional purposes without additional consent or any additional payment from Thames & Hudson Australia or any third party.
    • 5.4 To the maximum extent permitted by law:
      • Thames & Hudson Australia takes no responsibility and makes no warranties or representations, express or implied, in relation to any Prize, including but not limited to warranties of reliability, merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose;
      • entrants waive any right to claim from Thames & Hudson Australia for any disappointment, costs, expenses, loss or damage suffered that arises out of or in connection with owning or using a Prize; and
      • all liability for any defects whatsoever in or relating to the Prize remains with the relevant supplier or manufacturer.
    • 5.5 Thames & Hudson Australia and any Affiliate is not and will not be responsible for any late, illegible, lost, incomplete, postage due, misdirected or mutilated mail, or any electronic miscommunication or failure, of any kind, (or any other event outside the reasonable control of Thames & Hudson Australia or any Affiliate) which may limit or prevent an entrant from participating in the Competition and/or collecting, receiving or being notified of any Prize and/or which results in any damage to, delay of or loss of a Prize during or after delivery once it has left the possession of Thames & Hudson and/or an Affiliate.
  4. Personal information
    • 6.1 As part of running the Competition and awarding and delivering a Prize, Thames & Hudson Australia may collect personal information of entrants, including name, email address, residential address, contact phone number/s, date of birth and gender (“Personal Information”).
    • 6.2 Except as otherwise provided under clause 6, any Personal Information of entrants will be used by Thames & Hudson Australia:
      • a) for the purpose of conducting and promoting the Competition (including verifying eligibility, delivering a Prize and complying with any applicable Commonwealth, State or Territory law); but otherwise
      • b) only in accordance with its Privacy Policy: https://thamesandhudson.com.au/useful-links/privacy-policy/
    • 6.3 Any request to access, update and/or correct Personal Information should be directed to Thames & Hudson Australia by email to enquiries@thameshudson.com.au
  5. General
    • 7.1 Entrants agree:
      • a) to comply with all reasonable conditions of use of a Prize and any reasonable requirements of any person or organisation that supplies a Prize;
      • b) to conform to all applicable Australian laws and regulations; and
      • c) to conform to any relevant website terms and conditions (including any terms and conditions relating to the use of social media where a competition is run via a social media platform).
    • 7.2 These Terms constitute the entire agreement between an entrant and Thames & Hudson Australia and supersedes and extinguishes any previous agreement, arrangement or understanding between them (whether written or oral) relating to the Competition or any other subject matter set out in these Terms.
    • 7.3 These Terms are governed by the laws of Victoria and are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of that State.

Posted on October 28, 2022
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Beauty Manifesto: an Extract from ‘Super Bloom’

The following is an extract from the introduction of Super Bloom by Jac Semmler.

Photography by Sarah Pannell.

My Heart Lives in My Garden

My heart lives in my garden. In the garden I know who I am – my family, my history, my loves and losses, and my dreams for the future. The practice of gardening and tending plants has nurtured my relationship with the landscape and helped me form a sense of place and identity. There is a wholeness I feel being with plants in the everyday. It is a source of sustenance, strength, freedom, care and calm, and boundless creative expression. Learning about plants and how to nurture them together as a meaningful community within the garden is ever fascinating

It has always been plants for me. I grew up on a farm in a rural region of south-eastern Australia. I have rich memories of being a country kid immersed in the beauty of bushland and family gardens. These tough gardens, created by my grandmothers and aunts, were wonderlands of rural beauty.

In time I pursued a career that was filled with the outdoors, panoramic landscapes and big skies, but the practice of tending plants was missing. I made a career change to train and work with plants. My passions pulled me towards it and I found a new way of working that feeds a deep hunger for beauty and belonging.

Plants have become an all-encompassing part of my intellect, life and work. Gardening is my art practice as well as my life teacher. Through plants I have found a rich community to be part of. When I garden, I can feel in my hands the generations of plantswomen that came before me.

There is an everyday, heroic quality to flowers and foliage and the immersive experience of growing something with care. The relationships we forge with plants connect us to something deeper. The act of tending flowers and absorbing their beauty provides immense satisfaction and a wonder in the ‘super bloom’.

A super bloom is a natural phenomenon in which plants flower in such profusion that they transform the landscape, bathing it in colour. When a super bloom arises, it is a miraculous sight. Plants bloom with a maximum abundance of flowers and colour, applied in giant brushstrokes across hills and plains.

Every individual flower has a ‘super’ quality. Flowers are heroic in their fine details as well as big blooming events – flowers hold layer upon layer of beauty within them. There is the wonder of the bloom but also beauty in the bud, the foliage, the fading flower and in the structural seed head, down to the unique detail of the seed.

There is wonder in the lifecycle that plants transition through, the seedlings grow to maturity, the flowers bloom and fade. Like us, plants are growing despite the prevailing conditions.

Flowers are evocative, drawing up fond memories or creating experiences as you see and share these plants. Flowers call for our attention and presence to enjoy beauty in a hectic world.

The practice of caring and tending plants also calls to something heroic within each of us. As we find ourselves within the garden, be it a single planter or a large garden bed, we experience nature and the microcosm surrounding plants. We are part of something bigger. The metaphors and human lessons that gardens and plants have for us are rich.

Time with plants can feed us. It is an honour to witness the seasons and to be part of the process of nature in a garden. When I feel overwhelmed or angered by the modern world and a society seemingly full of injustice, coming home to the garden makes me whole. It is a source of energy to meet the elements. This deep joy is available to us all.

Image: All flowers have a ‘super’ quality. Photography by Sarah Pannell.

Heartlands

This book is a guide to beauty in the garden. In this modern world, we hunger for beauty. We are beauty seekers on an endless quest to find and surround ourselves with it. We have an innate appetite for the wonder in nature, for holding flowers in our hands and tending plants. Natural beauty nourishes something deep within us. It is in our hands to tend and cultivate.

Image: beauty is in our hands to cultivate. Photography by Sarah Pannell.

Let’s think about plants and gardening from the perspective of beauty rather than pure practicality alone. This book offers tools and techniques for cultivating a heart-felt space of your own. You do not need permission or expertise to begin – we all start somewhere. Gardening is about being part of the process and, most importantly, the pleasure you feel. This book is a call to garden in any way you can – through curious and inquisitive gardening, growth happens.

Every plant has its own beauty. Pause and let your eyes drink up the colour, texture and structure of any plant. Reach out and touch the texture of a leaf. Feel the softness of a petal against your palm. See the kinetic movement of foliage in the breeze. Listen to the sound it makes. In these moments, the world slows down around you and you feel whole. Natural beauty provides a deep source of sustenance.

To cultivate resilient beauty you just need to be open to change and the parameters of the natural world: consider what you love and think about how you can bring that to your space. It will not always be ‘perfect’, you will not always get it ‘right’, you will kill plants – I do –but it will all be alright.


There is no right way to garden. It is a personal pursuit of pleasure. All gardens are worthy and wondrous. As we garden through small heartbreaks and great wonder, watching plants thrive and decline through the seasons, we are in partnership with ourselves and nature.

Gardens are personal places. They are cultivated from something within you. Nurture your own personal heartland, a space in which to create your own expression of beauty. Your heartland allows you to bravely become the maker of the beauty, announcing what you love and what you want to see more of.

There is so much more. Do you want a garden that blooms throughout the year in your favourite colour? Do it. Do you want to grow a collection of Pelargoniums to enjoy their diversity of flower and foliage? Do it. Do you want to grow flowers whose scent reminds you of past pleasures? Do it. Growing gardens which connect you to different places and past homes? Do it. Any starting point is a creative gateway. Find your way in. Seek out the plants that will meet your desires.

The women in my family – my beautiful grandmothers and their mothers before them – grew gardens of resilient flowers in harsh climates. They grew what they loved and what flourished. Their gardens were their heartlands. It wasn’t an exercise in fashion – it was unique and heartfelt.

Image: the boundless pleasure of cutting handfuls of Delphiniums. Photography by
Sarah Pannell.

Maximum Plants

I am a maximalist: maximum plants and maximum beauty. I do love them so and I am always discovering more. Plants are so darn fascinating and meet the needs of my hands, heart and intellect. Happiness for me is when every corner of the garden is packed with plants and I am surrounded by foliage and flowers.

My gardening practice is plant-driven, and I gain so much joy by sharing plants with friends, family and community. With a bit of consideration and experimentation you can find brilliant plants for all parts of the garden in all climates. It is a process of bringing plants together to provide all-season delight.

I like to jam plants together in every corner of my garden. The more I add, the more opportunity there is to observe how they grow and relate to one another in an endless learning process of consideration, practice, trial and error. It is a home laboratory, a plant lab filled to the brim with flowers and foliage.

Nature has taken the reins in parts of the garden as plants happily self-seed. Sometimes it feels like I am more of a curator than a gardener, pulling and transplanting seedlings and choosing what will be allowed to rampage and what will be moved elsewhere.

What Will it Mean for You?
It could be filling pots with velvety Flannel Flowers (Actinotushelianthin) and delighting in their soft petals, before carefully collecting their seeds to share with friends.

Or you might replace your unusedlawn with a glorious explosion of Sunflowers, taking armfuls of thesehappy blooms to your loved onesand always having an abundantdisplay on the table.

It might mean growing the grasses and wildflowers of the bushland from your childhood in an abundance, or establishing a community of roses that echoes your grandma’s garden, or allowing Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) to run rampant through the garden, trailing up walls and into every corner to form a verdant and lush jungle.

Wild gardens sparkle with a chaotic and loose energy that allows me to feel I am at play and that there is unlimited room for wonder and the unexpected. I find the space to be free. The generosity of gardens and gardeners knows no bounds.

Some creative ideas in the garden may not always bloom. It is no secret that, like all gardeners, I have killed many plants on my gardening journey. However, with so many plants in play there are more moments of glory than failure. Growing maximum plants creates bold beauty, and this book is a guide to big-hearted gardening.

Image: maximum plants climbing walls and extending across surfaces.
Photography by Sarah Pannell.

Pleasure and Practicality

The act of gardening is the fruition of design, ideas and curiosity. It is both practical and a creative expression: planning and implementing until your space comes to life with the dynamic of the plants you have worked with. Gardening is growing and tending now what will bloom in the seasons to come. It is simply and intentionally tending a plant. Don’t let ideas on whether you are a ‘gardener’ hold you back. You can do it. Just start.

Image: The joy of nurturing flowers. Photography by Sarah Pannell.

I often find myself staring at flowers in my garden. I meditate on their blooms and settle into their beauty. Pleasure abounds and time passes in these simple and precious moments in the garden.

Too often gardens are defined as a list of chores. We talk of ‘maintenance’ and ‘management’ of the garden, that gardens take a lot of work, with seasonal jobs to do. We describe them as a ‘labour of love’. But the practice of cultivating beauty goes beyond duty. In finding your heart in your garden, it may no longer be work. If it is ‘too much work’ and not enjoyable or satisfying, perhaps change how you are gardening. How can you enjoy the pleasure of gardening first and foremost? There is a deep-seated joy to be found as you tend your pleasure garden. Trends will come and go but pleasure is endless.

Image: the wonder of being immersed in a garden of your own making. Photography by Sarah Pannell.

Super Bloom by Jac Semmler is available now.

AU $90


Posted on October 26, 2022
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10 Glorious Photos from ‘Ocean Pools’ by Chris Chen and Marie-Louise McDermott

Fly along Australia’s rocky surf coast and you’ll occasionally see brilliant beads of blue cut into the rock platforms. These humble yet treasured saltwater sanctuaries are what we call ocean pools.

Read on to view 10 magnificent photos from Ocean Pools.

Mettams Pool

Photography by Daniel De Giosa.

Avoca Beach Rock Pool

Photography by Chris Chen

Black Head Ocean Baths

Photography by Chris Chen

Forster Ocean Baths

Macmasters Beach Rock Pool

Newcastle Ocean Baths

Photography by Chris Chen

Palm Beach Rock Pool

Canoe Pool

Photography by Chris Chen

The Bogey Hole

Photography by Chris Chen

Bronte Baths

Photography by Chris Chen

Ocean Pools by Chris Chen and Marie-Louise McDermott is available now.

AU $59.99


Posted on October 26, 2022
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The Story of Bolin Bolin: Read an Edited Extract from ‘Plants: Past Present and Future’

Photography by Joshua Ranftl.

Landscapes are, in large part, defined by their plants. At the global scale, plants define Earth’s biomes (environments characterised by particular climates, plants and wildlife, such as grasslands, forests, deserts, etc.). At the continental scale, they define ecoregions and ecosystems. Plants are at the core of life as we know it. They fix the almost inexhaustible energy that thunders down to Earth’s surface from the Sun into a form that makes it accessible to all life on Earth. They are truly remarkable. Without plants, we would have no food or oxygen. In many ways, the success of our species depends on a successful relationship with plants. It is through plants that we humans manipulate and shape the world around us. It is through plants that our people care for Country. It is through plants that we made this continent. And it is through plants that we will rescue Country from its mishandling since the British invasion.

THE BOLIN BOLIN STORY

To begin to get a picture of the past, we need look no further than the city where I have lived most of my life: Narrm (now known as Melbourne). The Narrm of today is a radically different landscape from what it was under the custodianship and management of the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung/Bunurong. Where today there is a concrete jungle surrounded by what feels like an interminable urban sprawl, there was once a landscape of vast wetlands and grassy plains focused around where Birrarung (now the Yarra River) met the sea. This whole region was a high-production environment where fresh water, salt water and land met. A system in which the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung/Bunurong managed more than 150 species of grass, twenty-four species of rush and sedge wetland plants, more than 180 species of birds (including culturally important species such as magpie geese, brolgas, swans, ducks, emus and bustards), more than twenty species of fish and eels, and two species of freshwater crayfish. It is no surprise, then, that within five years of first ‘discovering’ Narrm, more than 20,000 British and other settlers had flooded to the area, along with more than 700,000 sheep.1 Like much of this continent, the British capitalised on what was a deliberately curated and managed landscape, while giving absolutely no credit to the people who created it.

figure 3.1: Map of Bolin Bolin Billabong and surrounds, drawn in 1837 by the surveyor Robert Hoddle.

Further up Birrarung lies a series of billabongs (also known as oxbow lakes) of significant importance to Wurundjeri people to this very day. Billabongs form when sinuous rivers on broad, flat floodplains suddenly change course and leave behind an often horseshoe-shaped lake that was once part of the river. These wetlands continuously form and slowly fill up, eventually becoming part of the floodplain. One of these sites, Bolin Bolin Billabong (Figure 3.1), was the meeting place for hundreds of Wurundjeri for months at a time, where they would feast on eels, fish and other products of their careful curation of their Country. So important is Bolin Bolin Billabong that it was the site chosen by the Wurundjeri as their preferred place to settle while attempting to negotiate an agreement with the British authorities after invasion. This request was rejected, as the British desired the productive land for themselves.

Today, Bolin Bolin feels like a forgotten ruin in the inner suburb of Bulleen, a suburb which derives its name from the billabong itself. A busy thoroughfare of trucks and traffic bustles past the site continuously. The water has a bright orange tinge and the mud a deep black colour that reflects a wetland heavily polluted and starved of care. Giant branching beal, or river red gums, dot the shore, relics of a former time, when Country was more open. Now, these giant bicentenarians are crowded underneath by shrubs and young trees jostling for space and light. This new generation will grow tall and straight, not having the luxury to spread wide in open Country, free from competition. Further towards Birrarung, the sound of the passing trucks fades and kookaburra laughs can be heard, kangaroos glimpsed among the dense weed-infested shrubbery. Happy strollers frequent the paths, walking their dogs in what they no doubt think is the bush, much as it was before the city grew too big.

While Bolin Bolin is forgotten to most, it is not forgotten to the traditional custodians. To them, it is as important as ever. It is through this place that I first collaborated with the Wurundjeri. I had previously learnt how important this and other remnant wetland sites were. I had also heard of how they were working towards rewatering the billabong to improve its health, as it is currently starved of connection to Birrarung by the heavy regulation of water in the Birrarung catchment – ‘Starved from its mother’, as Wurundjeri elder Uncle Dave Wandin eloquently and accurately puts it.2 I offered my tools to the Wurundjeri to see what secrets of the past were stored in the sediments of Bolin Bolin. After all, this place was a veritable supermarket. A jewel in the landscape. After talking with Wurundjeri on Country at great length, it struck me how important this place is and how the overgrown and polluted state of the site was like a wound for them.

READING HISTORY

My work lets me step back through time in any given place. Wetlands are a portal to the past. Think about all the stuff you breathe in: smoke, dust, pollen, chemicals, bugs, bacteria, and so on. They are all released into the atmosphere and mixed around until they eventually settle on the ground, on your skin, on top of your fridge, under the couch … you name it, if an object sits around long enough, it will start collecting atmospheric information. Ever been out to the garage, poked around and blown the dust off that old wooden chest, a collection of National Geographic magazines or a vinyl record? You, in effect, are removing information that has collected day after day, year after year, waiting to be read. Given the right tools, you can read that book. That natural archive.

Natural archives abound out in the world. They include the sea floor, stalactites and stalagmites, tree rings, bogs and, last but certainly not least, lakes. Lakes are ideal sources of environmental data, gathering information from the atmosphere, depositing it deep underwater and preserving it for thousands or even millions of years. This is a story waiting to be told. A story that gives us a glimpse into the past. A window through time.

So, on a boiling hot day in January 2019, and with a crowd of keenly interested Wurundjeri, I set to work extracting a sediment core from Bolin Bolin Billabong. This involved constructing a pontoon, which was then floated to the centre of the billabong. From this platform, I could carefully drill down into the bed of the billabong, taking a sample of the layers of sediment from beneath the water. I am always somewhat nervous when coring. Not only because everything I do in the laboratory after this point is dependent on getting it right at this stage, but because I know I am unearthing someone else’s story. I know, when working on this continent, that Country was cared for and that I will be, in some way, glimpsing into that care and into the lives of the people who cared for that Country. This time, it felt like I had the weight of the past and the present Wurundjeri with me.

Around six hours – and some six meters of sediment and river gravel – later and the job was done. I had in my care the entire history of Bolin Bolin Billabong, from when the river changed course to make the billabong through to that hot January day. After two years of pandemic interruptions and tedious, time consuming lab work, Bolin Bolin’s secrets were revealed. And never could I have imagined the story it would tell. The power it would provide the Wurundjeri and all Aboriginal people. The power to be believed. The data produced by the very Western scientific system that has disempowered our people for centuries. Data to back up the knowledge of our people. That this is, and always will be, Aboriginal land. True to form, Bolin Bolin is indeed a special place.

A YOUNG BILLABONG

Bolin Bolin Billabong is quite young, having formed in the mid to late 1700s. This could come as somewhat of a surprise until you realise that rivers are always evolving. The present-day Bolin Bolin Billabong is one of more than fifty billabong features still visible along this section of Birrarung and lies adjacent to a larger and more ancient billabong under what is now the playing fields of an exclusive private school. Immediately after forming, the vegetation around Bolin Bolin Billabong was a fern-rich rainforest dominated by myrtle beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii). That’s right. Rainforest. Right within the lands of the Wurundjeri, there was rainforest. The closest rainforest to Bolin Bolin today is 30 kilometres away in the mountains to the east of Narrm, whose surrounding environment is considered unsuitable for this rainforest type today. In the past, there was enough rainforest growing along Birrarung that when this billabong formed, the rainforest was able to move in and capture the site almost immediately. Another interesting feature of this period is the absence of any flooding for more than twenty years while the rainforest surrounded the site.

Rainforest in Victoria is now almost exclusively restricted to the high country, in areas protected from fire. It seems that, unlike the past 180 years under British control, the Wurundjeri were able to manage fire on Country in a way that allowed rainforest to persist near sea level in Narrm. This should not be a surprise, given the ample evidence from across the continent of Aboriginal people actively protecting fire-sensitive plants via our detailed and sophisticated manipulation of fire and its influence on the structure and connectivity of fuel. It is this fine-scale management that makes Aboriginal-managed landscapes more diverse than unmanaged landscapes. It is the detailed knowledge of plants, landscapes and fire that this continent was built with.

figure 3.2: A summary diagram of the palaeoecological data from Bolin Bolin Billabong. The data include charcoal fragments as an indicator of fire, pollen types as indicators of plant types and material deposited by Birrarung flood events. These data are shown as a percentage of a base sum of terrestrial plant pollen types. Key points through time are shown on the right.

What happened next in the story of Bolin Bolin Billabong is, in my humble opinion, the most noteworthy and important offering from the sediments I gathered. Within twenty years the Wurundjeri had removed the rainforest surrounding the site with fire. It is clear that there was still rainforest nearby, but it was deliberately and systematically removed from around Bolin Bolin Billabong. Immediately following the removal of the rainforest, Bolin Bolin Billabong experienced regular flooding from Birrarung. The opening up of the vegetation at the site, the manipulation of what plants were growing there, allowed floodwaters into the site more readily (see Figure 3.2).

This act is a powerful one – and a powerful statement. Aboriginal people deliberately altered the landscape to suit them. Cool temperate rainforests, while containing some useful resources, are generally poor in commodities. Billabongs connected to rivers via regular flooding, however, are incredibly rich in resources. Eels and other fish need connection to rivers and waterways to complete their life cycles, while regular flooding brings nutrients and sediments that are critical for the health of the entire landscape. The speed at which the Wurundjeri acted to convert the new billabong to their preferred state indicates a system of management that was reflexive and reactive to the constant addition and removal of billabongs within the floodplains of Birrarung; a system in which people were continually working to maintain productive and predictable Country.

We have little understanding of how the arrival of our people influenced the landscape of this continent. This is in part because it was so long ago that there is very little oral or physical evidence to draw on. We don’t even know when our ancestors arrived here, only that we have been here long enough for more than 3000 generations of people to have lived and worked on Country. Long enough for ‘forever’. We do, however, know that we have worked with fire through much of our traceable history, and that humans have used fire for more than 1.5 million years. A large part of this time has been devoted to using fire deliberately to modify landscapes by inserting more grass. Today, many Indigenous and local people continue to use fire for this exact purpose.

GRASSLANDS

Grass is at the heart of the story of the country now called Australia. If one thing can be said to bind all human endeavours prior to the industrial revolution (and likely since), it is that humans depend on grass. Increasing the grassiness of landscapes is at the core of most of our landscape management. Grasses produce the grains on which the world is almost entirely reliant, and they form the food of almost all the animals we consume. And as evidenced at Bolin Bolin Billabong, a shift to a more grassy landscape can also activate and help bring renewed life to local waterways. This deliberate manipulation of Country using grass has occurred throughout human history, and for tens of thousands of years on this continent.

Thus the first impressions white people had of this land were entirely based on plants, and on grass particularly. The south-east parts of our country were so reminiscent of the manicured English countryside that almost every written account was full of superlatives describing the scene as a ‘gentleman’s park’ containing some of the ‘finest meadows in the world’.3 Boon Wurrung/Bunurong Country, surrounding what is now known as Port Phillip Bay, where I have lived most of my life, was described as ‘enchantingly beautiful’ with ‘extensive rich plains … having the appearance of an immense park’.4 Yet, unlike the ‘gentleman’s parks’ in England, which were intensely curated estates, our Country was deemed to be ‘natural’. In that same passage, the author concludes that Boon Wurrung/Bunurong Country was ‘a lovely picture of what is evidently intended by Nature to be one of the richest pastoral communities in the world’5 (emphasis added). Of course, this was no happy accident of nature. The Indigenous peoples of this continent were working the land, but in a very different way to what the British could understand.

In the (apparent) absence of evidence, humans fill in the gaps using their understanding. This understanding is wrought from our ontology or ‘worldview’. The British saw our lands, but they did not see us. Having long since lost their connection to fire on the journey towards their idiosyncratic type of agrarian system, developed on incredibly fertile soils in a remarkably stable climate, they did not have the skills required to read our Country managed in this way. They could not see past the missing fences and farmhouses, or the absence of familiar farming equipment. Worse, however, is the fact that these biases were compounded with other even more harmful and pernicious misconceptions: primarily, deep-seated and deeply flawed beliefs in European racial superiority.


References

1. In conversation with Uncle Dave Waldin.

2. Jack Banister, ‘Beneath Modern Melbourne, A Window Opens into Its Ancient History’, The Guardian, 26 December 2019, <theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/dec/26/beneath-modern-melbourne-a-window-opens-into-its-ancient-history>.

3. James Boyce, 1835: The Founding of Melbourne & the Conquest of Australia, Black Inc., Melbourne, 2011.

4. Boyce.

5. Boyce.


This is an extract from the latest title in the First Knowledges series, Plants: Past, Present and Future. The chapter this excerpt is taken from was written by Michal-Shawn Fletcher.

Plants: Past, Present and Future by Zena Cumpston, Michael-Shawn Fletcher & Lesley Head is available now.

AU $24.


Posted on October 12, 2022
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Discover Koonya Glass House

Image: the standalone pavillion was designed by Thomas Bailey from Room 11 as a space to inspire contemplation, rejuvenation and the seeding of new creative endeavors. Photography by Adam Gibson.

Koonya on tukana/Tasman Peninsula

Koonya Glass House is a stand-alone space – in the sense both that there are few places like it, and that it is a space designed for no other purpose than the pursuit of creative endeavour. The building is an enormous glass and steel box, entirely transparent and exposed to the scenery of Koonya. Here, Jonathan Kneebone, founder and creative director of international and independent collective The Glue Society, escapes his office life in Sydney and Wellington to replenish, and develop creative art and directing projects.

Jonathan’s introduction to Tasmania was less than positive. He remembers arriving in Australia from his home in England – an industrial town, fifty kilometres north of London – and the state being presented to him as the butt of a joke, rather than a destination worthy of attention. However, as someone always attracted by the underdog, he was intrigued by this.

Image: the modern glass cuboid breaks down the distinction between indoors and out. Photography by Jonathan Kneebone.

On that first trip, Jonathan spent Christmas in Tasmania. He visited all the usual tourist destinations, including Port Arthur, and decided to drive back to Hobart the long way, around the Tasman Peninsula. It was a dreary, rainy afternoon, but he felt an immediate affinity with the landscape. ‘I wouldn’t say I had the sense that I had been here before in a previous life – it wasn’t that strong a feeling –but I did feel a fairly intense connection.’ Many years later, when Jonathan was scrolling real estate websites and looking for somewhere to potentially spend weekends and holidays away from his Sydney office, he came across an advertisement for land at Koonya. When he visited the site, he realised it was the place he had fallen in love with on that first trip – on the road to Port Arthur, just beyond Eaglehawk Neck. He took it as a sign and made an offer immediately. When the adjacent site came up for sale, he felt it might be wise to be his own neighbour and bought both lots, amounting to 100 acres.

Koonya itself is a tiny spot on the map – a place you might pass through on the road to somewhere else, rather than a destination. And yet the locals have given it its own culture, with an annual garlic festival at the local village hall that is growing in popularity with visitors from interstate. When Jonathan first arrived at the site, he felt it was a place of which he would never tire. The landscape humbled him, which was part of its appeal: ‘I think it had a magic which is hard to express, but something that I felt I would love to share with friends and colleagues – with first-time visitors – to open their eyes to something that might bring out a quiet awe. I can honestly say, that feeling never diminishes.’

Image: expansive glazing provides the living space with uninterrupted views over timtumili minanya/Derwent River. Photography by Adam Gibson.

Jonathan wanted a Tasmanian architect to build a pavilion devoted to creative rejuvenation, in addition to a separate dwelling. He discovered Room 11 at the local state architecture awards. The firm had a presence at the awards, but Jonathan felt they weren’t getting the recognition their work deserved, and he approached director Thomas Bailey. In another coincidence, it emerged Bailey had had his eye on the very same plot at Koonya. It was a happy collision of creative minds and the team worked together to create three separate buildings: a house, a pavilion and a folly. The results are spectacular in every way.

All three buildings are remarkable all-encompassing sensory experiences, but the stand-alone pavilion is the centrepiece. Arresting in its minimalism, it comprises four glass walls and two parallel planes of equal area overhead and underfoot. This modern glass cuboid sits in stark juxtaposition to the undulating environment of the Tasman Peninsula. For Jonathan, the structure provides a reminder of everything that should be important: connection to nature; connection to self; and the chance to refocus, recharge and rearrange perspectives. ‘As an entity, it celebrates everything that is essential and nothing that is not.

Image: the comforts and amenities of day-to-day home life are eschewed in favour of open spaces that facilitate connection with nature. The pavilion has the ‘elemental’ feeling of a shack. Photography by Adam Gibson.

Local merges with international in Koonya Glass House, recalling Jonathan’s own movement between global cities and regional locations. On one hand, the building references the grand visions of American modernism, recalling architectural masterpieces such as Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and Philip Johnson’s Glass House, and the minimalist art of Donald Judd. At the same time, Thomas Bailey was influenced by the humble Tasmanian holiday shack and his personal connection to the area, where he spent time in his youth.

Tasmania’s traditional shacks were typically lightweight, with little distinction between inside and outside. Bailey’s decision to create a single glazed box, set beneath a larger roof form, was one way to recreate the open ‘elemental’ feeling of the shack and the indoor–outdoor space of the verandah. Extensive glazing with minimal detailing was used to break down the barrier between inside and out, preserving the perception of unbounded openness. The glazed walls are also openings, capable of sliding back to create a single vast verandah. This openness to the environment, and the sense of envelopment in the surrounding landscape, was purposeful: the design brief was to provide a place for channelling artistic inspiration and creative impulse. Bailey consciously avoided replicating the comforts and amenities of day-to-day home life, connecting instead with the vitality of the natural world. The building is not intended to entirely protect from exposure to the elements. It is this openness – owed to both regional and international inspiration – that Jonathan channels to open up new perceptions and possibilities.

Image: The Glass House pavilion functions as a creative workspace, separate from the main house, but with its own sleeping quarters partitioned off from the living area. Photography by Adam Gibson.

For a creative like Jonathan, the spaces provide an extraordinary sense of calm in which to dream, invent, think and simply be. The Glue Society works with a team of collaborators across the UK, Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand to produce diverse creative projects, from online entertainment and commercials, to creating art exhibitions and installations, site-specific sculpture, experiential projects, writing, film directing, and publishing Creativity magazine. Jonathan divides his time between Koonya, Wellington and Sydney, where he has another, much smaller, residence. Living between places gives him a sense of balance, with each providing a different function and role. He finds that even when he is in Sydney, he benefits from having the Tasmanian dwelling: ‘I can occupy it in my mind – and visit it. And I would say I miss it when I’m not there.’

Jonathan believes the Tasmanian environment has an immediate impact. ‘There are some places you travel to that feel incredibly different the instant you set foot in them. Tasmania is one of those places. It forces you to behave and act differently. You react to the weather, the space, the air, the smells, the sounds – and it immediately impacts your priorities and rearranges them.’ He believes the landscape determines the people, the culture, what matters, and what doesn’t. It provides something that everyone needs: the permission and space to be more ourselves.

Image: The glazed walls are also openings that slide back to create a single vast verandah. Photography by Adam Gibson.

Jonathan finds Tasmania encourages creative people to express themselves, whether through food, culture, art, music, photography, or ways of living, bringing creativity and expression to the fore and opening people up to ideas, experiences and attitudes. ‘And, perhaps, this is a fairly recent thing for Tasmania to have recognised about itself,’ he says.

‘I love that sense of independence – people are able to do things for, and be, entirely themselves. Not for attention or praise or wealth – but for personal satisfaction, the ability to share and be generous, and to do justice to the opportunities they create.’


This is an extract from Tasmania Living: Quiet, conscious living in Australia’s south.


Tasmania Living by Joan-Maree Hargreaves and Marita Bullock is available now.

AU $70


Posted on October 7, 2022
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Meet Jessi – an Extract from ‘Surf Life: Women Who Live to Surf and Create’

Photography by Willem-Dirk du Toit

LIVES: OCEAN GROVE/WADAWURRUNG COUNTRY
AGE STARTED SURFING: 5
DREAM SURFBREAK: CRESCENT HEAD
HEADBOARD: 9’4” PALE HORSE SINGLE FIN
WAVE SIZE: HEAD HIGH

Over the past ten years Jessi has been exploring her family’s history. After discovering her Wiradjuri ancestry she was overcome with a grounded feeling. ‘There was a generation of my family that were able to pass as white so they were able to leave the mission and move to Sydney to find work. So basically if they could deny being Aboriginal, they could get a job. My family didn’t identify as being Aboriginal, but my nan knew so she passed it on to my aunty and my mum. My Aunty Lisa has picked it back up, and is trying to put all the pieces back together from what was lost through that period of time. It’s been a slow journey, but one thing that I’ve learned is that it is already part of who I am, it’s part of my spirit.

Photography by Willem-Dirk du Toit

Part of Jessi’s journey as a Wiradjuri woman will be returning to Country at some stage, when the timing feels right. She has travelled across her ancestral land while heading north on many surf road trips but has yet to stop and connect. She’s slowly preparing to take a trip out to Country and spend time there. Probably even take canvases and paint. Jessi’s Aunty Lisa is an artist and when she was young Jessi would ask her to paint something for her. Aunty Lisa’s response was to push Jessi gently to take up painting herself. It took a few years but Jessi eventually started to paint. The motivation to pick up the paint brushes came when she was working in residential care with high risk youth. When Jessi started working there, she was exposed to a lot of violence and trauma. So art became an outlet for her. She tries to paint based on what she’s feeling in her life at the time and to use Wiradjuri language to speak about it. Jessi has been learning to speak Wiradjuri and the immersion in her painting style and connection to Country has led her to title her paintings in that language. She paints most days, creating commissions or works for herself. ‘I think there was a part of me that was scared to do it, because I think I knew that it would almost unravel parts of me I wasn’t ready to unravel.’

Photography by Willem-Dirk du Toit

Since birth Jessi has always been deeply connected to the Birpai Country where she grew up on a farm in Bonny Hills on the mid-North Coast, New South Wales. Her father was a keen surfer so she and her sister were either in the ocean or at home making jumps to fly their bikes into the dam. Her love of where she grew up prompted her to find out more about the Indigenous history of the area. ‘There’s a headland you can walk up that looks over one of the beaches called Sharky’s Beach. From there you can see Dooragan Mountain, which is also called Big Brother Mountain, which is part of the Dreaming of Birpai. I love walking out there. But when it was colonised, they massacred all the Birpai people from that area, off the cliff there. It’s called Grants Headland and the beach below is called Grants Beach, but we call it Sharky’s because at the bottom there’s grey nurse shark breeding grounds. When they massacred the Aboriginal people off the headland, there was a food source for the sharks. But no one knows the story. We don’t get taught that stuff growing up because no one wants to talk about it. Whenever I walk up there, I can feel the spirits in those black cockatoos that live up there; I got this tattoo because it reminds me of the area I feel connected to.’

Jessi’s warm nature and her love of connection and community feeds into her observations of surfing. She believes there needs to be a lot more compassion for people who are learning because everyone was learning at one point. ‘We’ve all had really kooky moments where we’ve done something stupid. I surf with a bunch of women of all levels and when we’re out in the line-up, it’s fun. There’s a heap of fun energy, even if it’s the shittiest waves, everyone’s having a good time.’ Jessi feels sorry for a lot of the guys who are learning to surf because she doesn’t think they have the same opportunity to just enjoy themselves. How refreshing would it be to see a group of male beginners in the line-up laughing and goofing around? Jessi’s advice to any beginner surfer is not to challenge yourself too early and to stay in your comfort zone. ‘You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. Don’t feel you have to go big, or go home. I think the two most important things about surfing are having fun and being safe. Enjoy being in nature. You’re connected to something way bigger than yourself that you will never probably fully understand. But that’s the beauty of it.’

Photography by Willem-Dirk du Toit

This is an extract from Surf Life: Women who Live to Surf and Create.

Surf Life by Gill Hutchison and Willem-Dirk du Toit is available now.

AU $49.99


Posted on October 6, 2022
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Discover 8-Yard House: Read an Extract from ‘Reclaimed: New homes from old materials’

Image: Front facade in white reclaimed brick with grey-painted timber. Photography by Rory Gardiner.

LOCATION: Melbourne

ARCHITECT: Studio Bright

REUSED MATERIAL: Bricks

Image: Reclaimed white bricks from the facade form a balustrade. Photography by Rory Gardiner.

Architecture office Studio Bright used reclaimed bricks, lightly bagged and painted cream, to create a sense of history at 8-Yard House, a new build in suburban Melbourne. ‘I like it that non-architects are not sure if it’s a new or an old house,’ says architect Melissa Bright. ‘Maybe that’s connected to the material choices we made.’

Situated on a street full of single-fronted Victorian houses, the house previously on this site was poorly built, with a number of badly handled additions, and could not be adapted. The challenge for the architects was to create a new house in an old street that still felt like it was part of the neighbourhood.

Image: The front living room has rich, dark interiors with an old wood-burning stove. Photography by Rory Gardiner.

The first step was to organise the volume on the large site. One priority was to catch northern sunlight, another was to not overshadow the neighbours. Rather than separating the site into only two zones – a house at the front and garden at the back– the outdoor spaces were divided into a series of courtyards and gardens that were distributed along the length of the site.

In all, there are eight outdoor spaces, or yards, of different sizes, which gives rise to the name of the house. The owners wanted a pool, but if it had been put in the backyard it would become the focal point, and more space would be taken up with pool fencing. Instead, the pool was brought forward, and it stretches along the northern side of the house.

Image: view from the garden to the sunken living room, with reclaimed brick inside and out. Photography by Rory Gardiner.

At the front of the house, a perforated brick wall screens a small outdoor courtyard created outside the main bedroom on the northern side. Another small courtyard was created further back, towards the middle of the house, on the southern border. At the back, a partially paved garden is bookended with another structure – a two-storey studio and garage – that faces the back alley.

Reclaimed brick is an important part of the design. The front facade has a skin of solid brick on the first storey above the ground floor, which is clad in grey timber. At the top of the facade, a circular form in brick protrudes above the roofline, echoing the semicircular shape of the ornate Victorian plaster facade of the house next door. On the northern side of the facade, the brick forms a perforated screen that conceals the small front courtyard off the main bedroom.

Image: One of the smaller ‘yards’ is a courtyard off the dining room. Photography by Rory Gardiner.

Inside the house, reclaimed bricks are used as interior finishes alongside timber in the living room and kitchen. The kitchen island is made with brick, with curved brickwork forming recesses for knees under the stone bench. Outside, the brickwork is omnipresent. The pool and the green courtyard gardens are all set against a backdrop of cream brick. In the outdoor spaces leading from the pool to the back garden, a series of outdoor courtyards is separated by brick beams that create a material connection above head height between the exterior brick walls and the house itself.

At the front of the house is an intimate living area lined in dark timbers and brick. It looks almost like a library or an old-fashioned sitting room. ‘In some ways this is our new “old” house part,’ says Bright. The front bedroom is the same, and floor-to-ceiling curtains create a sense of cosiness and dark cocooning.

Image: The sunken living room is surrounded by greenery, with gardens on the side and to the back. Photography by Rory Gardiner.

After this section, the house really opens out. A sense of connection is achieved by the distribution of space and connection to the outdoors. The kitchen space is separated from the side garden by glass, then a couple of steps lead down into a sunken living space with views to the garden on two sides.

Upstairs, the kids’ bedrooms are set out in a row. Desks are built into the corridor to draw the kids out of their bedrooms so that, while they are doing homework or on their computers, they are sitting side by side in a more social space. A large rumpus room with a TV on this floor opens to the rooftop garden, again encouraging socialising and providing a connection to the outdoors.

Image: The house reveals itself in layers of reclaimed brick. Photography by Rory Gardiner.

8-Yard House shows that, even with a new build, a sense of history can be created through the intelligent use of materials. This house could easily have been built with new brick, but it would have had a totally different feel – one that was more monolithic and less rich. The selection of reclaimed brick has given this house a coherence that meshes perfectly with the focus on nature of the eight outdoor yards, and the cream paint contrasts wonderfully with the green planting throughout.

Image: The pool has been placed at the side so it doesn’t dominate the rear garden. Photography by Rory Gardiner.

Reclaimed: New homes from old materials is available now.

AU $65


Posted on September 26, 2022
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5 Fun Facts About ‘My Strange Shrinking Parents’ with Zeno Sworder

Photography by Zeno Sworder.

1. Strange Inspirations

My Strange Shrinking Parents is a fairytale woven together with some of my experiences growing up. It recounts some of the ways in which my Chinese mother narrowed and burdened her own life to raise a young family in a small Australian country town. In a way, the book is the map that I desperately needed as a child who felt out of place. I hope that it provides readers with a different example of family and love that is a bit more than just hugs and sunshine.

2. A Drawn out Process

The initial plan was to complete the book in a period of roughly ten months. In the end it took more than two years to finish. My early version of the book was more cartoony in style with very generalised characters. The publisher wisely nudged the book in a more specific direction so that it could be grounded with more realistic characters based on my own experience. This helped draw out the universal themes of sacrifice and belonging that are at the heart of the book. 

Illustration by Zeno Sworder.

3. Echo of Childhood Friends

This story is also an echo of the stories of many friends who came from single parent and migrant households. Growing up and spending time in their homes, I recognised my own parents’ sacrifices and I learned something about the strange nature of love – the many different ways it can be shown – and how when given it doesn’t only enlarge the person receiving the love, it enlarges the person giving it as well.

4. The Most Difficult Page

The most difficult page of the book was the very last image. Central to the book and its structure is the idea of love being cyclical. The book opens with the parents caring for their young child and closes with the child caring for his elderly parents. While the text did not change, the image that would work best was a question the publisher and I kept on returning to. After drafting a number of different images we finally settled on the very first picture I ever made of the parents: two tiny figures standing in a garden watching the sun set.

Illustration by Zeno Sworder.

5. Artistic Sensibility

The art in the book is heavily inspired by the ukiyo-e artists Hokusai and Hiroshige. I grew up surrounded by Asian art and my Chinese grandmother was a traditional brush and ink painter. There is a page in the book that pays homage to her work where the boy imagines his parents walking through a Chinese landscape painted on a teapot. While I am not a formally trained artist, I pray that the book has been made in an artful way and that it provides an engaging story and captures some of the emotion that was poured into the making of it. 


My Strange Shrinking Parents by Zeno Sworder is available now.

AU $25.99


Posted on September 7, 2022
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What Makes a Botanic Garden? Read an Edited Extract From ‘Evergreen’ by Tim Entwisle

Image: Tim Entwisle and proclamation. Oil on canvas. Portrait by Hadyn Wilson.

Gardens botanic(al)

My visit to Padua was at the start of a seven-week holiday in Europe with my wife, Lynda, part of a three-month break from my job as director of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden. It was time to recharge and refresh, but also to do a little writing if I could find the inspiration. In the prospicient timescale of botanic gardens, I was, after four years, still a newbie in my job. My best known accomplishment so far was a ‘chainsaw massacre’ of fig trees in Sydney’s Domain. I was doing regular radio interviews and publishing occasional pieces of writing about plants and gardens, but this was at the start of my career as a botanic garden director. Early enough to not be obsessed with legacy, but late enough to be a little cocky about the importance and value of botanic gardens. By 2008, I’d been working in botanic gardens continuously for eighteen years, plus another nine months during a gap year in my university studies.

In Padua, I was being tested not by an oracle but by a novel [Robert Dessaix’s Night Gardens]. And I was up for the challenge. I had plenty of time on my hands, both on the slow train to Milan as well as over the weeks ahead. It was a chance to take stock and to return to Sydney better equipped to spruik the wonders and wherefores of a botanic garden. First, of course, I questioned the facts and the logic [of Dessaix’s arguments against botanic gardens] that’s what scientists do. We’ve all picnicked in one of our gorgeous Australian botanic gardens, so while it may not happen in Europe, where even walking on the grass is discouraged, it does happen. As for views and vistas, let me just list one: the unforgettable spectacle of the morning sun on Table Mountain, seen from Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden in Cape Town.

A museum? Well, my friends in the museum world are jealous of me because a botanic garden display changes each day as flowers open and leaves turn, and because every sense is engaged when you walk through our gate. Museum-like at times, but far more than that. I will grant the author his point about botanic gardens generally not being ‘produce gardens’, although later that same year I did eat a botanic garden. It was near Seoul, in the Republic of Korea, and the director of the private Hantaek Botanical Garden treated us to a meal of leaves and flowers picked fresh from his property.

As for god’s creation, I’m not qualified to talk to that, but I can say every botanic garden I’ve visited so far has a rather different objective, mostly allied to intrinsic beauty, science or conservation. Earlier in Night Letters, Dessaix writes about how we now seek paradise in untouched wilderness rather than in ‘the miniature mirroring of God’s perfection’. In Australia, he notes, ‘the Garden of Eden is sought in the rainforests of Far North Queensland and the deserts of Central Australia, not in the Royal Botanic Gardens of Melbourne, however idyllic they may be’.

Having moved from Melbourne to Sydney six years earlier, I was disappointed with this adverse comparison to my old workplace. In any case, again I would admit Dessaix has a point, of sorts. It’s true that nature devoid of overt western influence (to try to be precise with my words) is considered more Edenic or ‘natural’ these days than a western construct such as a botanic garden. In this sense, a botanic garden is more like an art gallery, or museum, or library. Yet it is, or at least can be, much more than all of them.

The problem, as I saw it on my way to Milan, was our inability in the botanic garden world to express why we existed, particularly in the 21st century, other than as a historical curiosity. That was my takeaway from reading that chapter of Night Letters. None of us running botanic gardens thought we were re-creating Gardens of Eden. Beautiful places for sure, but not some kind of utopian garden free of weeds and sin. The plants in a botanic garden do more than provide a bountiful or beatific backdrop. I wanted to unravel this further and find ways to express it through my own botanic garden in Sydney. To capture the essence of a botanic garden if I could, then preach that message from my pulpits – on radio, in magazines and through the design and planning of botanic gardens. And the influence of these public institutions should extend well beyond their fences, into the planning of urban green spaces and through to the care and protection of nature across the precious planet. There was work to do!

But first a confession. I too had low expectations of the botanic garden in Padua. Not due to concerns about paradises lost, or the intrinsic value of a landscape constructed by humans, but because I had only a week before in Florence seen a botanic garden in decline, achieving little more than being there. It was not enough, to me, for a botanic garden to be old and worthy. Not enough to have a few old trees and some Latin names affixed to plaques. Not enough to simply open the gates.

Even keeping those gates open was a struggle for some of the botanic gardens I visited, or tried to visit, in Italy that year. In the country where the modern botanic garden began over 450 years ago, most gardens seemed surprised to have a visitor in the 21st century. In Milan I went to the Orto Botanico twice but although advertised to be open it was shut both times. In Pisa, the garden was only open in the mornings, and I arrived after lunch. The botanic garden in Florence was open but difficult to find, hidden behind a forbidding high wall with an unlikely doorway. Rome was a little different, and more welcoming, but hardly drawing crowds away from the nearby ancient ruins and oddly positioned street fountains.

I couldn’t yet articulate my agenda for botanic gardens, but I knew what I didn’t like: ugly, dull and poorly curated gardens relying on their longevity for credibility. Visiting Padua restored my faith in the history and heritage of botanic gardens as something that could be nurtured and combined with other ingredients to create a good botanic garden. But what would make a great botanic garden, and the ‘World’s Best Botanic Garden’? That was the slightly tongue-in- cheek but deliberately provocative title of a talk I prepared on my return to Sydney. I wanted to explore what makes one botanic garden better than another. Indeed, what makes a garden a botanic garden? And most importantly why does it matter? Today.

Clearly the whole concept, or project, has been a successful one. While the modern botanic garden began in Europe, it soon spread with Europeans into the invaded and colonised world. The earliest outside Europe was most likely a 16th-century medicinal garden in the Portuguese colony of Goa, in what is now India. The Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, famous for its avenue of towering royal palms, was established in 1808 and is the oldest in the Americas.

Elsewhere in the southern hemisphere there was Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden in Mauritius, established in 1736, or more formally as a botanic garden thirty-one years later. The East India Company’s Garden in Cape Town began as a vegetable patch in 1652, but by 1680 had risen to become that city’s botanic garden – a role superseded for the last century by the spectacular Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, at the foot of Table Mountain. Australia’s first botanic garden was established in Sydney in 1816. A year later, Bogor became the site of Indonesia’s first botanic garden.

Botanic(al) gardens were slower to take root in North America. The first (in Washington and St Louis) were opened in the 1850s, unless you accept the claim of Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia to have been a botanic garden since 1728. And while there is a long tradition of ornamental gardening in China, the first gardens that could be described as botanic were not seen until 1860 in Hong Kong, and then 1929 in Nanjing.

Evidently, it can be difficult to determine what makes a botanic garden and when a garden becomes botanic. Most will be a little less ‘botanic’ in their early years even if established as such right from the start. The simplest definition of a botanic garden is perhaps that offered up by the International Association of Botanic Gardens in 1963 as a garden ‘open to the public and in which the plants are labelled’. That just won’t do today, compounded by the first element being only partly true in places like Italy. There have been attempts to expand that definition to include all the functions of a modern botanic garden, but these end up as a long list of attributes such as scientific research, plant collections, sharing of information with other gardens, exchange of seeds, education programs and, yes, public accessibility and plant labels.

My own preferred and self-crafted definition, at least before I headed to Italy in 2008, was ‘an inspiring landscape of documented plant collections, where every plant and setting has a purpose’. Typically, that purpose is for science, conservation or learning, but it may be equally for health or, let’s say, philosophy and culture. Anything really. This places the distinction between a botanic garden and a garden on its plants and the way they are arranged to fulfil a clear intention, and usually more than sheer beauty (although that helps).

I realise this definition is a little hazy around the edges. Surely, you argue, a local park has an oak tree to give shade and a rose to provide pretty flowers for a few months (and, less purposefully, an ugly, thorny stump for the rest of year). It’s a matter of degree. In a botanic garden the plant species, its source, its biology and ecology, and the story we tell about it are of utmost importance. In a good botanic garden, we tell many stories, and I want to share the best of these with you in this book.

Oh, and I’m your perfect guide by the way. Not just because I’ve headed up two of Australia’s major botanic gardens and held a senior role in the famous Kew Gardens of London, but because I’m an algal expert and wannabe journalist who started university to major in maths and physics. After more than three decades working in and exploring botanic gardens, I still feel like an outsider looking in. That means that I, like you, still have a sense of innocent wonder and anticipation.

Let me explain.


This is an edited extract from ‘Evergreen’ by Tim Entwisle.

Evergreen by Tim Entwisle is available now.

AU $39.99


Posted on August 15, 2022
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Discover Planchonella: Read an Extract from ‘The New Queensland House’

Planchonella House is a climate-responsive villa immersed in a luscious rainforest.

Planchonella House

Edge Hill, Cairns
Jesse Bennett Studio

Completed – 2014
Project type – New build
Total site area – 4818 m2
Internal area – 245 m2
External area – 35 m2
Number of residents – 2
Number of bedrooms – 3
Number of bathrooms – 2

Planchonella House is built on the land of the Yirrganydji people

Location plan

Two curving concrete slabs create the form of the house, with full-height glazing in between.

The architectural setting

The Australian Institute of Architects launched the National Architecture Awards in 1981 and the program’s highest award for residential architecture is named in memory of the mid-century Melbourne architect and critic Robin Boyd.

In the first two decades of the awards program eight Queensland architects received this prestigious gong. More than half of these houses are located on the sunshine Coast and this exemplary cluster are predominately homes designed by the architects for themselves, including the ground-breaking Tent House by Gabriel Poole (see page 294) and the Pie residence by Geoffrey Pie (see page 294). The urbane D House by Donovan Hill (see page 292) was the first Robin Boyd winner from Queensland in the new century and in 2015 Jesse Bennett Studio’s Planchonella House in the tropical north of the state was recognised.

Bennett is the youngest architect, to date, to be awarded this honour. This enigmatic, climate-responsive villa is deeply immersed in the lush landscape hinterland of Edge Hill, a suburb of Cairns and the location of the city’s botanic Gardens. This is a distinguished work of residential architecture and an enthralling statement about the future direction of its author’s collaborative practice.

A low timber bench against the servery offers the perfect place to perch and relax.
A high level of craft is evident, with most joinery elements handmade by the architect/owner.
Rather than the usual flyscreens, curtains can be drawn across windows to protect against insects.
The bathtub is at the edge of the structure, creating the feeling of bathing high up in the trees.

The lived experience

Architect Jesse Bennett moved from Brisbane to Cairns in Queensland’s tropical north with his wife Anne-Marie Campagnolo in 2010. While the couple were in the region visiting Anne-Marie’s family, the allure of the majestic tropical rainforest intrigued Jesse. Having grown up on a farm three hours’ drive from Cairns, Anne-Marie was more familiar with the extremity of the climate and landscape in this part of the world – but was similarly inspired by the prospect of building a home that genuinely embraces its unique tropical setting.

During Jesse and Anne-Marie’s family visits to Tropical North Queensland, Jesse was struck by the way many of the farmers would gather in the timber sheds for a beer or a cup of tea. shaded and breezy, these structures are akin to cool undercroft spaces. Jesse designed the couple’s new home, Planchonella House, taking cues from these simple sheds. Double the area of the floor plate it hovers above, the roof amply protects the internal and external spaces from the harshness of the sun. Breezes pass down the mountain through the wet foliage and are cooled, even in the thick humidity of the summer months, before passing through the home, from back to front.

The harshness of the wet tropical weather dictates the climatic response, but it’s the embrace of the forest’s immensity that creates the home’s calming ambience. ‘You open the kitchen window and the energy of the forest is in your house,’ says Anne-Marie. Floor-to-ceiling glazed walls give way to unobstructed views to the surrounding landscape from every room, allowing the proven benefits of biophilia to permeate the home. It’s a miniature world of delight and escapism.

Every room features floor-to-ceiling glazing, allowing for unobstructed views to the rainforest.

Architect — Jesse Bennett Studio
Project team — Jesse Bennett and Anne-Marie Campagnolo
Engineer — Kel Bruce Engineers
Interiors — Anne-Marie Campagnolo
Photographer — Sean Fennessy

Longitudinal Section
Ground Floor
Floor Plan

The New Queensland House by Cameron Bruhn and Katelin Butler is available now.

AU $70


Posted on August 4, 2022
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Father’s Day: 2022 Gift Guide

This Father’s Day, we invite you to explore our charming collection of gift ideas for your loved one.

Discover inspiring Australian art and architecture titles, explore the wisdom of nature, or settle down with a game or puzzle.

Whatever their interest, we have something for everyone this Father’s Day.


ART

Dreaming the Land

Marie Geissler

A vividly illustrated history of the Australian Aboriginal art movement from remote Australia.

EXPLORE ➔

RAMESH

Jaklyn Babington

The first major monograph of the boundary-pushing work of Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran.

DISCOVER ➔


NARRATIVE NON-FICTION

Astronomy: Sky Country

Karlie Noon &
Krystal De Napoli

Explore the sophisticated astronomical expertise embedded within the Dreaming.

READ MORE ➔

The Age of Seeds

Fiona McMillan-Webster 

Discover the astonishing story of seed longevity, and what this means for biodiversity and our future foods.

BUY NOW ➔


GROWING AND FORAGING

The Kitchen Garden

Lucy Mora

An artfully illustrated guide to growing, sowing and cooking edible plants.

EXPLORE ➔

The Future is Fungi

Michael Lim &
Yun Shu

A complete introduction to the hidden kingdom of fungi and how they may shape our future

DISCOVER ➔


ARCHITECTURE

Neeson Murcutt Neille

Anna Johnson &
Richard Black

Celebrate Neeson Murcutt Neille’s deeply empathetic approach to making architecture in this monograph of their practice.

READ MORE ➔

The New Queensland House

Cameron Bruhn &
Katelin Butler

Discover 28 examples of Queensland’s most adventurous, innovative and globally acclaimed residential architecture.

BUY NOW ➔


GIFT

Dinner with Matisse

Iratxe López de Munáin

Piece together the artists, artworks and surroundings that bring Henri Matisse’s world to life in this colourful 1000-piece puzzle.

EXPLORE ➔

At the Bookshop

Kim Siew

Test your book knowledge (and your memory skills!) by matching 25 of the world’s most iconic books with one of their famed characters.

DISCOVER ➔



Posted on July 29, 2022
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Extract: Towards Zero Hunger; Seed Production and the Future of Food Security

One day in 1803, although no one knows exactly which day, the human population reached one billion. It had taken our species a few hundred thousand years to arrive at that number. From there, it took just 115 years or so to double it. By 1960 we had reached three billion. Then, in just over fifty years, we hit four billion, then five billion, six billion, seven billion. That last milestone was reached on31 October 2011.

The number of people on the planet is now fast approaching eight billion, and a recent study in the British medical journal Lancet projects we’ll peak at just shy of ten billion in the year 2064. Of course, some economists wonder if the global dip in births caused by the COVID-19 pandemic might mean that the worldwide population will max out at a slightly lower figure, bringing a population inflection forward by several years. In any case, a lot more people are coming to the global dinner table, so we’re going to need a lot more food.

According to a 2018 report by the World Resources Institute, there’s a substantial shortfall between the amount of food currently produced and the amount of food we’ll need to feed all the newcomers: 7400 trillion calories to be exact. Put another way, we’re going to need to produce around 50–60 per cent more food. And the thing is, we’re not even feeding everyone adequately now. Make no mistake, we’re doing far better than we were a few decades ago. Between 1970 and 2015, undernourishment in developing countries declined from nearly 35 per cent of the population to 12.9 per cent, according to Our World in Data. And the global prevalence of hunger fell from 13.3 per cent in the year 2000 to 8.8 per cent in 2017. These are good trends, obviously. But that still leaves a lot of people who are hungry and undernourished.

It is for this reason that, in 2015, the United Nations set among its Global Goals for Sustainable Development an ambitious target of ‘Zero Hunger by 2030’. Unfortunately, a recent analysis by the UN’s own Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggests this target is unlikely to be met, either by 2030 or anytime soon after. The problem, the report explains, is that although hunger incrementally decreased over decades, around 2014 this steady progress ground to a halt and since then hunger has been gradually increasing. By 2019, almost 9 per cent of the global population was undernourished, equating to around 690 million people. That was before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has only served to exacerbate food insecurity. Further analysis by the FAO has revealed that the prevalence of undernourishment reached 9.9 per cent during the first year of the pandemic, meaning that roughly one in ten people in the world were not getting adequate nutrition. The FAO projects that instead of reaching zero hunger by 2030, if current trends continue, by that time there will most likely be 840 million undernourished people in the world.

For a person facing food insecurity, it’s not just a matter of acquiring sufficient daily calories but also of getting access to adequate nutrients. Food insecurity, whether caused by crop failures or wars, has an enormous impact on diet quality. Where diets narrow to the point of undernourishment and malnourishment, health problems arise – often cruelly so. It has been estimated that over 340 million children across the world are currently deficient in micronutrients. In addition, around 22 per cent of all children under the age of five suffer stunted growth. They are not just a bit shorter than the average height for their age. Rather, stunted children are more than two standard deviations below where they should be on the World Health Organization Child Growth Standards chart. Many of these same children – around forty-five million of them – are also wasted, meaning they are profoundly underweight. The impacts on health and development are devastating. The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that nearly half of all deaths of children under age five are due to undernourishment. Although crop failures play a role in famine, malnutrition and undernourishment, there’s certainly far more to it than that. Plenty of food is produced for human consumption every year, more than enough to feed everyone in the world. Yet one-quarter to nearly one-third of that food is wasted. This happens not only in many households but at multiple points along the global food supply chain.

To be honest, the term ‘chain’ really doesn’t provide the right visual analogy here. The global food supply is a dizzyingly complex system which is impacted at local, national and international levels by myriad  trade and distribution networks, government policies, the behaviour of corporations and regulatory bodies, the mercurial prices of imports and exports, and political unrest and military conflict, as well as epidemics and, indeed, pandemics. Among these factors, conflict stands out as a particularly egregious cause of food insecurity. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), which was founded in 1985 by the United States Agency for International Development, keeps a close eye on acute food insecurity throughout the world. Currently, there are four countries on FEWS NET’s ‘highest concern’ list  – Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Ethiopia  – comprising millions of people requiring humanitarian food assistance. Each of these crises largely has been either caused or exacerbated by protracted conflicts, where fighting – sometimes inadvertently, sometimes deliberately  – has disrupted food distribution or made it difficult to plant and harvest crops in the first place. Extreme weather events and other climate-related factors often serve to make matters worse, with drought in some areas or too much rain in others causing delays in planting or crop losses. When this happens, it becomes difficult for farmers to provide even small amounts of hunger relief within the greater context of war.

This brings us to the figurative and literal root of the global food supply: plants. Their diversity and availability has enormous knock-on effects that are felt throughout the world. They provide most of the food that the world consumes, trades and fights over. Moreover, plants come with some very specific conditions for growth and survival. To get an idea of the future of food security, it’s essential to understand just how much the global food supply depends on a precariously narrow range of plants.

There are around 435,000 land plant species in the world, but humans can’t eat most of them. A few years ago, scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew embarked on a study to better understand the scope and scale of edible plants and found that there are just 7039 plant species that are fit for human consumption. There are a few mosses and lichen on the list, but the overwhelming majority are vascular plants, most of which are seed-bearing. Altogether, these edible plants come from 272 plant families, but the spread isn’t even, with many edible plants concentrated in a small number of plant families, such as palms and grasses. Cereals, after all, are grasses. We get cocoa, okra and many other foods from the mallow family. There’s also the mustard family, which includes broccoli, cauliflower and, of course, mustard. The daisy family gives us 251 edible plants including lettuces, sunflower seeds and artichokes. Top prize goes to the pea family, which presents us with around 625 edible species.

Of course, what humans can eat and what we actually do eat are two  very different things. According to the aforementioned researchers at Kew, of those 7039 edible plants, only 417 are food crops – that’s just 5.9 per cent. Furthermore, only around 250 plant species have been fully domesticated since agriculture became all the rage back in the Neolithic. Today, 90 per cent of humanity’s caloric intake comes from only fifteen crop plants, with just three – wheat, rice and maize – accounting for around half of our calories globally. As far as bottlenecks go, that’s a doozy.

We can see this reflected in seed production. Some projections suggest the global crop seed market could reach more than US$80 billion by 2025 and will continue to grow with demand. In line with our global caloric dependency, wheat, rice and maize account for around half of global seed production. Seed production plays a critical role in the global food supply. After all, most crops rely on seeds for propagation. Seed supply is itself complex and extensive, full of trade networks and a bewildering level of international distribution. In a recent statement from the International Seed Federation, an industry organisation of seed producers, its secretary-general, Michael Keller, explained, ‘Today there is no country that could fully supply farmers with seeds of their choice solely from their own production.’ In other words, every crop-growing country depends to some extent on seeds from somewhere else. And so, at any point in time, including as you’re reading this right now, shipments of seeds are crossing borders, oceans and continents. It is, effectively, human-mediated seed dispersal on a global scale. Producing such large amounts of seeds across many different parts of the world mitigates the risk of crop failures in any one location, but it still entails a reliance on a mere handful of plant species, and this makes us extremely vulnerable to food insecurity, especially in the face of a changing climate.

So, how did we get here?

Beginning around 12,000 years ago, humans narrowed their dietary diversity, gradually shifting from numerous wild, edible plants to a dependence on a much smaller number of domesticated species, and much of this took place during the relatively stable climate of the Neolithic. Nevertheless, even among that narrow cache of domesticated plants, there was still a reasonable amount of genetic diversity thanks to the many and varied locally adapted species.

For farmers, this came with benefits, explains Charlotte Lusty, who is the head of programs and genebank platform coordinator at Crop Trust, an international organisation that aims to preserve crop biodiversity. ‘If it was too hot, some varieties would die. If there was a fungus, only some of the individuals would be affected,’ she tells me. So, too, with drought, frost or flooding, says Lusty. ‘There would always be an individual there who would be resistant.’ Farmers recognised that diversity brought resilience, she adds. ‘They didn’t want uniformity because it was risky.’

Of course, the plants didn’t all flower and fruit at the same time, which is a problem if you want to harvest everything all at once. If that was the aim, then planting a field with a monoculture of a more bountiful variety of wheat, for example, provided some advantages, enabling both high yield and mass production – undeniably useful for feeding a lot of people at once as populations began to rise. There appeared to be a trade-off: you could mitigate the risk of crop failure with higher plant diversity and make do with lower yields, or you could reduce plant diversity for a shot at bigger harvests and wear the higher risk that came with that. Neither was ideal for a burgeoning global population, and by the middle of the 20th century it seemed agriculture would soon reach a breaking point.

Back in the 1950s, when the global population was fast approaching three billion, there were many grim projections about the capacity of agriculture to keep up with the demand for food. Those concerns were well founded. Even before the start of World War II, the global population was veering ever upwards, but it was after the war that birth rates really took off. By 1950, in addition to the famed post war ‘baby boom’ in places like the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, the world’s most populous countries  – China and India – began experiencing an exponential population boom that would ultimately see the addition of billions more humans before the turn of the millennium. But the food supply wasn’t keeping pace. By the early 1960s, global cereal crop production was around 750 million tonnes per annum, which was not enough to feed the coming influx. At the time, it seemed there was no way to avert a global famine. Bleak predictions warned that ‘hundreds of millions’ would starve within the space of a generation. Yet, this never happened. What changed? Well, weirdly enough, our crops got shorter.

Recall that plants spend a lot of time divvying up and redirecting resources – nutrients, carbohydrates, water. Reproduction, especially seed growth, is resource-intensive, so when the time comes, the plant directs much of its resources that way. But it can only sacrifice so much because the rest of the plant still needs energy to grow and live. Plants, of course, have many different traits, and the maintenance of those traits require energy input: maybe it’s a thorny defence mechanism or a particularly showy flower, or it might be the upkeep of a hard, woody trunk or the endless molecular negotiations between root cells and soil microbes. For plants that grow tall, there’s a lot of quiet work involved in stem growth, including all the plumbing and structural support that ensures the plant doesn’t topple under its own weight. For long-stemmed cereal grasses, like wheat, rice and maize, it’s not good to be both tall and top-heavy. Yet, the top is where the grains grow, all those endosperm-filled seeds that sustain us. And so it was that humans had cultivated cereal plants that grew tall but which, in being tall, had limits on the quantity of grains they could produce without the plant buckling under its own weight. This problem, which plant breeders and farmers call ‘lodging’, makes harvesting very difficult and leads to substantial crop waste. So, even though the first half of the 20th century had seen the development of industrial processes that enabled large-scale fertiliser production, just throwing a whole bunch of fertiliser on the world’s cereal crops wasn’t helping as much as hoped. It turned out that high-fertiliser regimes cause cereals to grow too quickly, leading to weak stems, which made the lodging problem worse. In a sense, the real problem, and the source of all those fears of global famine, was gravity.

The solution began to reveal itself in Japan in 1935 when a plant breeder by the name of Gonjiro Inazuka took a short-strawed native Japanese wheat called Daruma and crossbred it with high-yielding varieties of American wheat. The result was a new wheat variety called Norin-10. Not long after World War II, Orville Vogel, a plant breeder at Washington State University, acquired samples ofNorin-10 and used them to develop a high-yielding dwarf variety of winter wheat. This was good progress, but it wasn’t of much use to farmers in warmer climates. Then, in the early 1950s, some of Vogel’s new lines were sent to Norman Borlaug, who was breeding rust-resistant wheat at what would later become the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico. Intrigued by Vogel’s new wheat variety, Borlaug began crossing it with Mexican varieties that grew well in the local climate. His work led to the first high-yielding semi-dwarf wheat that grew well in tropical and subtropical climates. It had short, strong stems and produced large numbers of tillers, which are the protrusions on which the wheat heads grow. It not only produced more wheat heads, but each head also produced more individual grains than before.

Though neither Inazuka, Vogel or Borlaug knew it at the time, the  success of this venture hinged on the presence of Rht genes which had been passed down from the Japanese Daruma wheat. It’s now known these genes reduce a growing plant’s response to gibberellins, those very same hormones involved in seed development and germination. The presence of Rht genes resulted in wheat with shorter, stronger stalks yet far more grains. Importantly, this wheat didn’t ‘lodge’. Moreover, while Borlaug’s new wheat variety also grew in warm climates, because it did not require exposure to cold temperatures in order to flower and produce grains, farmers could produce two crops each year instead of one. Borlaug shared his wheat with countries in Central America, South America and South-East Asia and, as a result, crop yields went through the proverbial roof. In Mexico alone, grain production doubled within seven years.

Meanwhile, a similar story was unfolding in rice breeding. In the1960s, production of domesticated O. sativa was averaging around 4 tonnes per hectare, but this was not keeping pace with demand. Again, the key to success lay in interfering with gibberellins. In rice, it all started with a Chinese variety of dwarf indica rice, Dee-geo-woo-gen. It turns out that Dee-geo-woo-gen possessed a mutation in a gene called sd1. Normally, sd1 plays an important role in the production of gibberellins in plant cells. Mutations in sd1 can throw a spanner in the works and the plants don’t produce enough gibberellins  to grow tall. Dee-geo-woo-gen was used by plant breeders to create shorter, stronger, yet high-yielding varieties of rice, and these went on to be the basis of numerous commercial varieties grown in the tropics and subtropics, as well as in temperate areas.

Another advancement came not long after the first semi-dwarf rice varieties were bred. Chinese agricultural scientist Yuan Longping discovered that heterosis, or hybrid vigour, was possible in rice. It’s a phenomenon in which the offspring of two very different plant parents are much more robust and productive than either parent. This had been researched and exploited in other crops, such as corn, but it was not thought possible in rice until Longping’s discovery. Achieving heterosis was tricky at a large scale because, unlike those other crops, rice is self-pollinating. The tiny flowers have the male and female parts so close together that it’s essentially impossible to pollinate an entire field of rice plants with pollen from another variety. But Longping was determined  – he had seen first-hand people dying of starvation during the Great Chinese Famine in the early 1960s, and he wanted to make sure nothing like that ever happened again. He searched for years for a rare mutant that would make cross-pollination possible, and in 1970 he finally found one on an island off China’s southern coast, in a strain of wild rice. A mutation had rendered it unable to make its own pollen, but the female reproductive structures were working just fine. Without that rice’s own pollen to get in the way, large-scale hybridisation suddenly became a lot more feasible. Longping and his colleagues used this as the basis of a breeding system that led to the extensive production of new, high-yield, hybrid rice varieties that displayed hybrid vigour. The result was a 20 per cent increase in annual rice production, which has had an enormous impact on global food security.

The arrival of high-yielding dwarf cereals in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s ushered in a world of cereal crops that not only produced more grains but were also structurally more amenable to mechanised harvesting, making large-scale cultivation easier. This era in agriculture has been called the Green Revolution because it resulted in global food production that kept up with, and even exceeded, the demands of a swelling population of humans, as well as a growing population of livestock used for dairy and meat production. It irrevocably changed farming, and the surface of the planet along with it.

This is an extract from The Age of Seeds by Fiona McMillan-Webster


The Age of Seeds by Fiona McMillan-Webster is available now.

AU $34.99


Posted on July 24, 2022
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Learn How to Pickle Rainbow Chard With Lucy Mora

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.

Read on for a recipe for pickled rainbow chard from The Kitchen Garden by Lucy Mora.

Image: rainbow chard (also known as silverbeet). Illustration by Lucy Mora.

Pickled Rainbow Chard

Makes 2-3 medium preserving jars

Method

Pack washed chard into sterilised glass jars along with dill and garlic.

Put 250 ml (1 cup) of water in a medium saucepan and add vinegar, peppercorns, mustard seeds, chilli flakes, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer until sugar and salt has dissolved.

Carefully pour the hot brine over the chard. Let jars cool to room temperature.

Seal jars and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. Use within 3 months.

Ingredients

3 cups rainbow chard stalks, chopped

2 large sprigs of dill

1 small garlic clove, thinly sliced

250 ml (1 cup) water

250 ml (1 cup) white vinegar

1 tsp black peppercorns

1tbsp yellow mustard seeds

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 tsp kosher salt or any salt without iodine

1 tsp granulated sugar


The Kitchen Garden by Lucy Mora is available now.

AU $45


Posted on July 6, 2022
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Three of our Favourite Projects from Neeson Murcutt Neille

Neeson Murcutt Neille: Setting Architecture is the second in a series of monographs that recognises the work of Australia’s most exciting architectural practices, urban designers and landscape architects.

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.

Castlecrag House

Photography: Brett Boardman

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.

Photography: Brett Boardman

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

Photography: Brett Boardman

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

Photography: Brett Boardman

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.


Neeson Murcutt Neille by Anna Johnson & Richard Black is available now.

AU $59.99


Posted on July 6, 2022
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How to Grow Blueberries + Recipe for a Blueberry and Almond Cake

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).


Blueberries

Sow winter, spring

Harvest summer, autumn

Growing time 8-10 weeks

Space between plants 75 cm

Pots yes

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.

For 8

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)

Dry ingredients

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.

The Kitchen Garden by Lucy Mora is available now.

AU $45


Posted on June 29, 2022
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On Falling in Love with the Loom with Maryanne Moodie

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.

Photography: Maryanne Moodie.

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 Weaver?

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 inspiration from?

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 privilege. 

Is there a song that encapsulates your approach to life and work?

Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac.


Modern Weaver by Maryanne Moodie is available now.

AU $45.00


Posted on June 20, 2022
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Weedy Wisdom with Diego Bonetto

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 Bonetto is 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.

Image: Diego assessing a native Port Jackson Fig (Ficus rubiginosa) for fruits. Photography by Hellene Algie.

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 Australia?

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 long time.

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. 

Image: edible weeds used as food and medicine: shepard’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris), dock (Rumex crispus) and cleavers (Galium aparine). Photography by Hellene Algie.

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.

Image: Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). Photography by Hellene Algie.

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. 

Image: Diego foraging for wild mushrooms. Photography by Hellene Algie.

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 the book?

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!


Eat Weeds by Diego Bonetto is available now.

AU $49.99


Posted on June 8, 2022
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Our 2022 Limited Editions

This year we’re publishing two Limited Edition monographs from brilliant Australian artists: Ramesh on 26 July and Tamara Dean on 30 August.

Each title has a limited run with an expectation that they will sell out fast. Our Limited Editions are sold on a first come, first served basis, so be sure to make a note of the dates.

RAMESH (LIMITED EDITION OF 100)

Bursting with energy and life force, this visual cornucopia celebrates the work of Sri Lankan Australian sculptor and painter, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran.

LIMITED EDITION INCLUDES:
A signed copy of Ramesh with purple sprayed edges + an editioned bronze statue by the artist presented in a signed clamshell box (pictured below).

RRP: $1,320.00

Available here on 26 July.

Pictured: RAMESH Limited Edition placed on the lid of the open clamshell box
beside the editioned bronze statue.
Pictured: Ramesh photographed by Mark Pokorny.

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.

Pictured: RAMESH Limited Edition featuring purple sprayed edges.
Pictured left to right: clamshell box, RAMESH Limited Edition + editioned bronze statue.
Pictured below: RAMESH editioned bronze statue photographed on both sides.


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.

Available here on 30 August.

RRP $695

Pictured: Tamara Dean Limited Edition Print Follow Me, 2018.
Video: Tamara Dean behind the scenes.
Pictured: Tamara Dean. Photography by Sally Flegg.



Posted on June 7, 2022
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The Perfect Winter Dessert: Cardamom Poached Pears

Image: Robyn Lea.

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.


Serves 6

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.


This recipe is an extract from A House Party in Tuscany by Amber Guinness.

A House Party in Tuscany by Amber Guinness is available now.

AU $65


Posted on May 26, 2022
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A Field Guide to Foraging for Wild Fennel + a Delicious Wild Fennel Seed and Pumpkin Soup Recipe

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.

Photography: Hellene Algie.

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.

EDIBLE PARTS

leaf, stalk, flower, pollen seed, shoot

SNAPSHOT

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.


IDENTIFICATION

Fig. 1 Foeniculum vulgare. Illustration: Mirra Whale.

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.

Fig.2 Wild Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) seeds. Photography: Hellene Algie.

AS FOOD

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.


AS MEDICINE

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.


Photography: Hellene Algie.

Wild fennel seed and pumpkin soup

Recipe by Marnee Fox.

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

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

METHOD

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.

Eat Weeds by Diego Bonetto is available now.

AU $49.99


Posted on May 26, 2022
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Discover Deeper Levels of Self-Knowledge with Cosmic Numerology

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.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

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. 

Photography: Georgia Blackie

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

Image: Evie O.

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.


THE DAYS OF THE WEEK AND THEIR RULING PLANETS

DAY OF THE WEEK

Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

PLANETARY RULER

Sun

Moon

Mars

Mercury

Jupiter

Venus

Saturn


THE NUMBERS AND THEIR RULING PLANETS

NUMBER

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

PLANETARY RULER

Sun

Moon

Jupiter

Uranus

Mercury

Venus

Neptune

Saturn

Mars


EXAMPLES

8 May 1979 = TUESDAY
TUESDAY = MARS
MARS = 9

27 October 1999 = WEDNESDAY
WEDNESDAY = MERCURY
MERCURY = 5

Photography: Georgia Blackie

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.


Cosmic Numerology by Jenn King is available now.

AU $39.99


Posted on May 11, 2022
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Interconnectedness and the Celestial Emu: an Extract from ‘Astronomy: Sky Country’

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.

figure 2.1 and 2.2: The Dark Emu (or Celestial Emu), a dark sky constellation visible in the Milky Way, as seen over Australia during the winter months.

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.


Astronomy: Sky Country by Karlie Noon and Krystal De Napoli is available now.

AU $24.99


Posted on May 3, 2022
Posted on

A Lesson in Embracing Colour with Interior Designer Charlotte Coote

Charlotte Coote is 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 of The Mountain Academyan 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.

Image: Lisa Cohen

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!

Image: Lisa Cohen

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 of designing?

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”!

Image: Georgia Blackie

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.

Image: Lisa Cohen. Book Photography: Georgia Blackie.

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’.


Colour is Home by Charlotte Coote is available now.

AU $59.99


Posted on April 29, 2022
Posted on

Cosmic Wisdom with author Jenn King

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 Numerology is 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.

Image: Georgia Blackie

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.

You’ve described 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. 

‘All of these spiritual tools … 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’

jENN kING

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. 

Image: Georgia Blackie.

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. 

Image: Georgia Blackie.

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.

‘In my mind [spiritual tools] 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.’

Jenn King

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.

You also offer personalised cosmic numerology readings! What can people expect from them that they won’t get from your book? How can people prepare for a reading?

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.

Image: Georgia Blackie

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.


Cosmic Numerologist by Jenn King is available now.

AU$39.99


Posted on April 28, 2022
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A Mother’s Story of Love, Loss and the Celebration of Life: read an extract from Marion Halligan’s new Memoir

Image: Marion and Lucy in 1966. Photography Photography © Marion Halligan 2022, taken by Graham Halligan

Words for Lucy

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.

Beginnings

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.


This is an extract from Words for Lucy by Marion Halligan.

Words for Lucy by Marion Halligan is available now.

AU $32.99


Posted on April 13, 2022
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(CLOSED) Terms and Conditions: WIN a copy of ‘A House Party in Tuscany’ Italian food hamper worth $300

TERMS AND CONDITIONS: WIN a copy of A House Party in Tuscany and an Italian food hamper worth $300

These are the Terms and Conditions (Terms) of entry for the Competition, conducted by Thames & Hudson Australia Pty Ltd (Thames & Hudson Australia), whose registered office is at 11 Central Boulevard, Port Melbourne, Victoria 3027.

Please read these Terms carefully because you will be deemed to accept them if you enter the Competition.

For all questions relating to this competition, please contact Thames & Hudson Australia at: enquiries@thameshudson.com.au

    Competition Period

        1.1 This Competition opens on Wednesday 20 April 2022 at 9am (AEST) and closes on Wednesday 4 May 2022 at 5pm AEST (the Competition Period).

    The Prize

        2.1 The prize for the Competition includes:

a) A copy of A House Party in Tuscany by Amber Guinness.

b) An Italian food hamper from Basil Imports valued at $300.

        2.2 Prizes are not transferable or exchangeable (including for cash), and a winner may not request that all or any part of a Prize will not be substituted for other benefits or items at the request of winners.

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            any employee of Thames & Hudson Australia or of any parent company, subsidiary, agent or affiliate of Thames & Hudson Australia, including a company or organisation that has provided a Prize for a competition (together, Affiliates); or

            members of the immediate families of employees of Thames & Hudson Australia and Affiliates.

        3.6 Notwithstanding anything in clauses 3.2 or 3.3, the Competition is not open to anyone under 18 if the Prize is or includes any alcoholic beverage or product or any service or product that by law is unavailable or not open to people who are under that age.

    Winner/s

        4.1 Winner[s] will be selected by lottery from all correct, valid and eligible entries received.

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        7.2 These Terms constitute the entire agreement between an entrant and Thames & Hudson Australia and supersedes and extinguishes any previous agreement, arrangement or understanding between them (whether written or oral) relating to the Competition or any other subject matter set out in these Terms.

        7.3 These Terms are governed by the laws of Victoria and are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of that State.


Posted on April 12, 2022
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A Lesson in Tuscan Cooking and Hosting with Amber Guinness

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.

Image: Amber reaching for a ‘Pink Wink’ cocktail. Photography by Saghar Setareh.

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.

Image: the east-facing door that leads from the sitting room to the terrace at Arniano. Photgraphy by Robyn Lea.

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!

There’s 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!

Image: a typical table spread for guests of the Arniano Painting School. Photography by Saghar Setareh.

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. 

You describe 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. 

Image: Amber Guinness making malfatti. Photography by Saghar Setareh.

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. 

Image: the refreshing ‘Pink Wink’ cocktail. Photography by Saghar Setareh.

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. 

Image: a Spring feast at Arniano. Photography by Saghar Setareh.

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-Ya by Lee Dorsey when I’m working. And any Sam Cooke. 

What’s next for you?

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.


A House Party in Tuscany by Amber Guinness is available now.

AU $65


Posted on April 7, 2022
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Mother’s Day: 2022 Gift Guide

Add some beauty to Mum’s bookshelf this Mother’s Day with these stunning titles, carefully hand-selected by our staff for their own Mums, Grandmothers, and all loved ones as a perfect gift.

Whatever their interest, we have something for everyone this Mother’s Day.

HOME DESIGN

Colour is Home
Charlotte Coote

For the interior designer: an essential style guide to creating a home that will stand the test of time.

EXPLORE ➔

The Kitchen Dresser
Simon Griffiths 

For the nostalgic: revel in the beauty and charm of an iconic piece of furniture that is functional and deeply heartwarming.

DISCOVER ➔

The Monocle Book of Homes
Nolan Giles and Tyler Brûlé

For the design enthusiast: explore the perfect balance between inspirational and practical in this global survey of good homes.

READ MORE ➔

The New Naturalists
Claire Bingham

For the collectors: glimpse inside the homes of twenty creative collectors as they reveal the weird and wonderful world of natural objects.

BUY NOW ➔

Plantopedia
Lauren Camilleri and
Sophia Kaplan

For the plant-lovers: the definitive guide to keeping happy, healthy houseplants in any space.

EXPLORE ➔

BuildHer
Kribashini Hannon
and Rebeka Morgan 

For those who love to DIY: be empowered to build & renovate your own Australian dream home.

DISCOVER ➔

FOOD AND ENTERTAINING

A House Party in Tuscany
Amber Guinness

For the entertainer: be transported to the Tuscan countryside in this sublime celebration of cooking and hosting

READ MORE ➔

Matty Matheson: A Cookbook
Matty Matheson

For the gourmet: a new collection of recipes from one of today’s most beloved chefs.


BUY NOW ➔

Tokyo Up Late
Brendan Liew

For the traveller: a delicious guide to Tokyo through the night, from noisy izakayas to ramen joints, tempura bars and the iconic convenience stores.

EXPLORE ➔

The Vegan Cake Bible
Sara Kidd

For the sweet tooth: learn how to bake, build and decorate spectacular vegan desserts in this practical guide to making incredible plant-based cakes.

DISCOVER ➔

The Cocktail Deck of Cards
Elouise Anders

For the mixologist: a deck of cards to help you choose your next cocktail. Featuring fizzy classics and new twists, with easy-to-follow recipes and illustrations.

READ MORE ➔

kate spade celebrate that!: occcasions
kate spade new york

For the event planner: an essential guide to special occasions that will inspire you to celebrate life’s memorable moments. 


BUY NOW ➔

PLEASANT PASTIMES

Ruby Taylor on Gender Equality
Ruby Taylor

For the puzzle aficionado: a 1000-piece gender equality puzzle featuring artwork by Ruby Taylor.

EXPLORE ➔

At the Bookshop
Kim Siew

For the bookworm: a memory card game matching 25 iconic characters with their book.

DISCOVER ➔

The Feminist Film Guide
Mallory Andrews

For the cinephile: a fun guide to 100 great films that also pass the Bechdel test.  

READ MORE ➔

The Body Gratitude Deck of Cards
Jess Sanders

For the body-positive: an illustrated deck of cards to help you celebrate all the ways your body is amazing.

BUY NOW ➔

Austentatious
Avery Hayes

For the Janeite: an illustrated deck of cards featuring quotes and advice from Jane Austen’s beloved characters.

EXPLORE ➔

Fancy Plants
Amberly Kramhoft 

For the competitive: playing cards featuring the lush illustrations of 52 indoor plants.


DISCOVER ➔

ART AND FASHION

Still Life
Amber Creswell Bell

For the contemplative: A rich survey of the work of more than forty still-life artists, which presents the genre in a uniquely Australian light.

READ MORE ➔

David Hockney: Moving Focus
Helen Little

For the Hockney fans: a panoramic new perspective on the life and work from one of Britain’s most beloved artists.

BUY NOW ➔

At the Gallery
Kim Siew

For the aesthete: a memory card game for art lovers. Match 25 of the world’s most iconic artists with one of their famous works.

EXPLORE ➔

The World According to Christian Dior
Helen Little

For the elegant: a collection of Christian Dior’s maxims on style, women and inspiration.

DISCOVER ➔

Vivienne Westwood Catwalk
Alexander Fury

For the conformity-defying: the first comprehensive overview of Vivienne Westwood’s womenswear collections, presented through original catwalk photography.

READ MORE ➔

Vogue Paris 100 Years
Sylvie Lécallier

For the chic: the first illustrated history of Vogue Paris from its debut edition in 1920 to its centenary in 2020.


BUY NOW ➔


Posted on March 31, 2022
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Autumn Awards + Book News

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.

Included in this this exhibition of publishing gems was This Small Blue Dot by Zeno Sworder, along with A History of Music for Children and The People’s Painter.

ABIA Longlist

Last week, this year’s Australian Book Industry Award longlist was announced. Among the nominations in the Illustrated Book of the Year category were our own Still Life by Amber Creswell Bell and A Life In Pattern by Anna Spiro. The Tiny Explorers by Kat Macleod was also nominated in the Children’s Book of the Year category.

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.

ABDA Longlist

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!

Thames & Hudson Australia

Smith Street Books

NGV

Gallery of NSW

  • Archie 100 by Natalie Wilson – Best Designed Fully-Illustrated Book Under $50

The Shortlist will be announced in early April 2022 and the winners will be announced on Friday June 3 at The Craft & Co in Melbourne.



Posted on March 30, 2022
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The Arniano Painting School

Image: ‘View of Hamlet from Arniano’ by William Roper-Curzon. Oil on gesso board.

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.’

Image: William looking out towards Montalcino at twilight. Photography by Saghar Setareh.

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

The Landscape

Image: The valley between Arniano and Montalcino, with Monte Amiata looming above, at sunset. Photography by Saghar Setareh.

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

Image: Three palettes with oil paint mixed on them. Photography by Robyn Lea.

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

Image: an easel with an oil painting in the garden at Arniano. Photography by Robyn Lea.

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
  • linseed oil
  • 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.


A House Party in Tuscany by Amber Guinness is available from 29 March.

AU $65


Posted on March 23, 2022
Posted on

Three Ways That Fungi Can Save the World

MYCORESTORATION

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

Image: Joana Huguenin. 

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.

Image: an Oyster Mushroom is able to process and neutralise bacteria such as E. coli. Illustrated by Joana Huguenin. 

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.

Image: Jackie Money

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.

Image: Paul Vallier

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.


This is an edited extract from The Future is Fungi by Michael Lim and Yun Shu.


The Future is Fungi by Michael Lim and Yun Shu is available now.

AU $49.99


Posted on March 18, 2022
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Guess the Characters in ‘At the Bookshop’

Hello, book lover! You’ve come to the right place. This March, we are so thrilled to be releasing At the Bookshop, a book lover’s memory card game with illustrations by Kim Siew.

The perfect gift for the bookworm in your life – match twenty five of the most iconic books with one of their famed characters.

To celebrate its upcoming release, we’ve created this short quiz to test your bibliophile knowledge. How many of these five characters can you guess?

Image: Georgia Blackie

Create your own user feedback survey


At the Bookshop by Kim Siew is available from 29 March 2022.

AU $24.99


Posted on March 8, 2022
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Discover the Hidden Kingdom of 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.

Image: Joana Huguenin 

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?

Michael: An 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 opportunity.

Yun: 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 way.

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.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

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?

Yun: The 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.

Beyond the 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.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

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.

The contributors 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 pages.

Do you have a favourite fungi fact from the book?

Michael: Fungi 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.

Yun: My 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 maturity.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

There always seems to be a new fad in the wellness industry! What would you say sets fungi apart from other health and wellbeing trends?

Yun: There 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 the Internet.

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.

Photography: Paul Vallier

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!


The Future is Fungi by Michael Lim and Yun Shu is available now.

AU $49.99


Posted on March 7, 2022
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Terms & Conditions: WIN a copy of ‘Salad’ by Janneke Philippi (CLOSED)

THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED

Terms & Conditions: WIN a copy of Salad by Janneke Philippi. This competition is open to all active subscribers of the Thames & Hudson Australia eDM database until Thursday 3 March 2022. Sign up to our e-newsletter here.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS: WIN a copy of ‘Salad’ by Janneke Phillipi (the Competition)

These are the Terms and Conditions (Terms) of entry for the Competition, conducted by Thames & Hudson Australia Pty Ltd (Thames & Hudson Australia), whose registered office is at 11 Central Boulevard, Port Melbourne, Victoria 3027.

Please read these Terms carefully because you will be deemed to accept them if you enter the Competition.

For all questions relating to this competition, please contact Thames & Hudson Australia at: enquiries@thameshudson.com.au

  1. Competition Period
    1. 1.1 This Competition opens on Thursday 24 February 2022 at 12pm (AEST) and closes on Thursday 3 March 2022 at 12pm AEST (the Competition Period).
  2. The Prize
    1. 2.1 The prize for the Competition is a copy of Salad  by Janneke Philippe (the Prize).
    1. 2.2 Prizes are not transferable or exchangeable (including for cash), and a winner may not request that all or any part of a Prize will be substituted for other benefits or items at the request of winners.
    1. 2.3 If any element of the Prize becomes unavailable for any reason beyond the control of Thames & Hudson Australia, a similar prize of equal value will be awarded in place of the Prize.
    1. 2.4 A winner is responsible for any taxes for which they may be liable as a result of winning a Prize, as well as for any expenses (other than postage or other usual delivery charges) not specifically mentioned as being included in the Prize.
    1. 2.5 The stated value of the Prize is based on estimated or recommended retail prices (including GST) at the date of publication. Thames & Hudson Australia accepts no responsibility for any change in the value of the Prize between that date and the date on which the Prize is delivered to a winner.
  3. How to Enter
    1. 3.1 Entrants must undergo the following steps to enter the Competition:
      1. a) Go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/R3PW5YKand  fill in the form;
      1. b) Answer the following question in 50 words or fewer: “Tell us in 50 words or less why you’d like to win a copy of Salad by Janneke Philippi”
      1. c) Provide your full name and email address;
      1. d) Accept the competition terms and conditions, confirming that you have read and understood these, that you are Australian residents and that you are over 16 years of age.
    1. 3.2 Entrants may not enter more than once and each entrant is only eligible to win one Prize and the following will be invalid:
      1. a) entries received outside the Competition Period;
      1. b) entries that do not comply with these terms and conditions;
      1. c) entries that Thames & Hudson Australia, in its sole discretion, determines are fraudulent (including entries that misrepresent the eligibility of the entrant); and
      1. d) (where a competition is conducted on a social media platform) multiple entries from a single individual using multiple accounts on the one social media platform.
    1. 3.3 Thames & Hudson Australia may, in its sole discretion, disqualify any entry that in its view is (or is potentially) objectionable, including (without limitation) any entry that is not reasonably comprehensible or infringes a third-party’s rights, or is defamatory, obscene, insulting, inflammatory or discriminatory; or is likely to damage its reputation or the reputation of any Affiliate or donor or sponsor of a Prize.
    1. 3.4 Entry is free (subject to any obligation stated as part of how to enter in relation to purchasing a Thames & Hudson Australia product) but entrants are responsible for any costs or charges they may incur in entering.
    1. 3.5 Notwithstanding anything else in these terms and conditions, the Competition is not open to:
      1. any employee of Thames & Hudson Australia or of any parent company, subsidiary, agent or affiliate of Thames & Hudson Australia, including a company or organisation that has provided a Prize for a competition (together, Affiliates); or
      1. members of the immediate families of employees of Thames & Hudson Australia and Affiliates.
    1. 3.6 Notwithstanding anything in clauses 3.2 or 3.3, the Competition is not open to anyone under 18 if the Prize is or includes any alcoholic beverage or product or any service or product that by law is unavailable or not open to people who are under that age.
  4. Winner/s
    1. 4.1 Winner[s] will be selected on the basis of creativity in answering the question “Tell us in 50 words or less why you’d like to win a copy of Salad by Janneke Philippi” from all correct, valid and eligible entries received.
    1. 4.2 All decisions concerning the winning entry will be final and binding on entrants in all respects, and no correspondence will be entered into.
    1. 4.3 All reasonable efforts will be made to contact the winners by the email address within 7 days of the competition closing.
    1. 4.4 A Prize may be forfeited (with no substitute offered) and an alternative winner or winners selected in accordance with the winner selection procedure set out above if a winner:
      1. a) cannot be located;
      1. b) does not adequately respond to notification that they have won a Prize before 5pm Thursday 9 March 2022;
      1. c) does not accept an element of the Prize as arranged with Thames & Hudson Australia;
      1. d) does not or cannot provide Thames & Hudson Australia with proof of identity and/or residence if requested by Thames & Hudson Australia to do so; or
      1. e) does not comply with any other term or condition of the Competition.
    1. 4.5 Thames & Hudson Australia reserves the right, in its absolute discretion but subject to relevant State and/or Territory law, to cancel the Competition and not award a Prize if Thames & Hudson Australia is unable to proceed with the Competition (including any judging and/or draw) as a result of circumstances beyond its control including, without limitation, pandemic, vandalism, hacking, computer virus or bugs, server breakdown, acts of terrorism, acts of God, civil unrest, strikes and power failures.
  5. Warranties, limitations, releases and consents
    1. 5.1 Entrants grant Thames & Hudson Australia and Affiliates an irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide and transferable licence to publish their entry and name, including the right to sub-license these in association with the Competition.
    1. 5.2 Entrants promise that entries will be original and will not infringe any third-party rights (including copyright and trade marks) and will not breach any law or any obligation of confidentiality.
    1. 5.3 Winners may be photographed and/or filmed at any event associated with the delivery or handing over of a Prize, and entrants grant Thames & Hudson Australia and Affiliates the right to take and to publish such photographs and/or footage and to use an entrant’s name for promotional purposes without additional consent or any additional payment from Thames & Hudson Australia or any third party.
    1. 5.4 To the maximum extent permitted by law:
      1. Thames & Hudson Australia takes no responsibility and makes no warranties or representations, express or implied, in relation to any Prize, including but not limited to warranties of reliability, merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose;
      1. entrants waive any right to claim from Thames & Hudson Australia for any disappointment, costs, expenses, loss or damage suffered that arises out of or in connection with owning or using a Prize; and
      1. all liability for any defects whatsoever in or relating to the Prize remains with the relevant supplier or manufacturer.
    1. 5.5 Thames & Hudson Australia and any Affiliate is not and will not be responsible for any late, illegible, lost, incomplete, postage due, misdirected or mutilated mail, or any electronic miscommunication or failure, of any kind, (or any other event outside the reasonable control of Thames & Hudson Australia or any Affiliate) which may limit or prevent an entrant from participating in the Competition and/or collecting, receiving or being notified of any Prize and/or which results in any damage to, delay of or loss of a Prize during or after delivery once it has left the possession of Thames & Hudson and/or an Affiliate.
  6. Personal information
    1. 6.1 As part of running the Competition and awarding and delivering a Prize, Thames & Hudson Australia may collect personal information of entrants, including name, email address, residential address, contact phone number/s, date of birth and gender (“Personal Information”).
    1. 6.2 Except as otherwise provided under clause 6, any Personal Information of entrants will be used by Thames & Hudson Australia:
      1. a) for the purpose of conducting and promoting the Competition (including verifying eligibility, delivering a Prize and complying with any applicable Commonwealth, State or Territory law); but otherwise
      1. b) only in accordance with its Privacy Policy: https://thamesandhudson.com.au/useful-links/privacy-policy/
    1. 6.3 Any request to access, update and/or correct Personal Information should be directed to Thames & Hudson Australia by email to enquiries@thameshudson.com.au
  7. General
    1. 7.1 Entrants agree:
      1. a) to comply with all reasonable conditions of use of a Prize and any reasonable requirements of any person or organisation that supplies a Prize;
      1. b) to conform to all applicable Australian laws and regulations; and
      1. c) to conform to any relevant website terms and conditions (including any terms and conditions relating to the use of social media where a competition is run via a social media platform).
    1. 7.2 These Terms constitute the entire agreement between an entrant and Thames & Hudson Australia and supersedes and extinguishes any previous agreement, arrangement or understanding between them (whether written or oral) relating to the Competition or any other subject matter set out in these Terms.
    1. 7.3 These Terms are governed by the laws of Victoria and are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of that State.

Posted on February 24, 2022
Posted on

Welcome to Equiterra!

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.

Image: Ruby Taylor

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 Avenue

Image: Ruby Taylor

In Equiterra:

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.

In Australia:

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.

Violence-Free Alley

Image: Ruby Taylor

In Equiterra:

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.

In Australia:

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

Image: Ruby Taylor

In Equiterra:

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. 

In Australia:

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.

Unstereotype Avenue:

Image: Ruby Taylor

In Equiterra:

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.

In Australia:

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

Image: Ruby Taylor

In Equiterra:

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:

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 Plant

Image: Ruby Taylor

In Equiterra:

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.

In Australia:

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


This article was inspired by UN Women Australia’s Welcome to Equiterra.

Ruby Taylor on Gender Equality is available now.

AU$32.99


Posted on February 24, 2022
Posted on

Body Gratitude with Jess Sanders

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.

Image: Jess Sanders

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. 

Image: Smith Street Books

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! 

Image: Jess Sanders

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 Body Gratitude Deck of Cards by Jess Sanders is available now.

AU $29.99


Posted on February 15, 2022
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Recipe for a Persian Love Cake

Image: Sara Kidd

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.

Image: Sara Kidd

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 cup) rosewater

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1 teaspoon lemon extract or flavouring

zest of 1 unwaxed lemon plus 2 tablespoons of juice

80 ml (1/3 cup) plain soy milk

1 tablespoon white vinegar

200 g (11/3 cups) plain
(all-purpose) flour

11/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 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

Bake time: 35–37 mins

Decoration time: 10 mins

Skill: Easy

Method: Mixing

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 completely combined.

10 ⁄ Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and decorate with pistachios and dried rose petals, as desired.

Baker’s tip: You can add less cardamom if you’re not a fan of this spice.

The Vegan Cake Bible by Sara Kidd is out in April 2022.

AU$55


Posted on February 10, 2022
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Two Salads to Add to Your Recipe Repertoire

Image: Serge Philippi

Salads are so versatile: healthy and inexpensive meals that can be thrown together using endless combinations of ingredients and a little creativity.

Dressed up or pared back, a salad can be as simple as tossing a few green leaves in a bowl or served as a main meal packed with vegetables, grains or your choice of protein.

Read on for two quick and healthy ideas from Salad by Janneke Philippi.

Basil salad with polenta balls

Golden yellow fried polenta balls, stuffed with olives and rocket (arugula), are the stars of this salad. Feel free to make them a few days in advance and keep them covered in the fridge.

Image: Serge Philippi

Pre-prep: 40 minutes
Waiting: 3 hours
Prep: 15 minutes

SERVES 4

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.

Image: Serge Philippi

Prep: 30 minutes + cooling

SERVES 4

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.

AU$39.99


Posted on February 2, 2022
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The Japanese Art of Repair

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.

Image: © Kylie Johnson and Tiffany Johnson 2020

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.

Image: © Kylie Johnson and Tiffany Johnson 2020

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.

Image: © Kylie Johnson and Tiffany Johnson 2020

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.

Image: © Kylie Johnson and Tiffany Johnson 2020

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.

AU$59.99


Posted on February 1, 2022
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A Q&A with Zeno Sworder

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.

Image: Zeno Sworder.

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.

You’ve 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. 

Illustration: Zeno Sworder.

You’ve 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 of place. 

Can 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.

How 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.

Has this process changed at all since you wrote your first book?

I am 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 teacher. 


Posted on January 21, 2022
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In Conversation with The City Gardener, Richard Unsworth

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 2022.

Photography: Nicholas Watt

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.

What was it like moving to Australia? Do you have a favourite native Australian plant species?

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 hunters.

Photography: Nicholas Watt

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.

How 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.

Photography: Nicholas Watt

Gardening 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!).

Do 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.

Photography: Nicholas Watt

Is 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.

What’s next for you?

I feel like it will be another year of change, but can’t reveal much more than that….

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 …

Photography: Nicholas Watt

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.

AU$ 49.99


Posted on January 19, 2022
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Talking Travel, Colour and Australian Animals with Megan McKean

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.

Photography: Megan McKean

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 style?

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.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

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 travel brings!

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.

Photography: Megan McKean

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 before.

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.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

Your collections of Snap card games feature delightful illustrations of Australian animals. Do you have a favourite animal to draw?

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!

Quack, Flap, SNAP! An Australian Birds Snap Game by Megan McKean is available now.

AU$ 17.99

Splish, splash, SNAP! An Australian Aquatic Animals Snap Game by Megan McKean is available now.

AU$ 17.99

Hop, Skip, SNAP! An Australian Mammal Snap Game by Megan McKean is available now.

AU$ 17.99

Buzz, Hiss, SNAP! An Australian Insect & Reptile Snap Game by Megan McKean is available now.

AU$ 17.99


Posted on December 22, 2021
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Garden Inspiration from The Planthunter

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.

LOCATION: Bibbenluke, Australia
Photography by Daniel Shipp

LOCATION: Bibbenluke, Australia
Photography by Daniel Shipp

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Photography by Daniel Shipp

Location: Chippendale, Australia
Photography by Daniel Shipp

Location: Hepburn, Australia
Photography by Daniel Shipp

Location: Whitford, New Zealand
Photography by Daniel Shipp

Location: Artist Bill Henson’s backyard in Northcote, Australia
Photography by Daniel Shipp

Location: Woodend, Australia
Photography by Daniel Shipp

Location: San Jose, USA
Photography by Daniel Shipp

The Planthunter is available now.

AU$59.9


Posted on December 21, 2021
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Colour & Pattern Play with Anna Spiro

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.

AU$90


Posted on December 17, 2021
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Discover the Magnificent Kingdom of Birds

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.

From Birds by Tim Flach, copyright © Tim Flach

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

From Birds by Tim Flach, copyright © Tim Flach

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.


From Birds by Tim Flach, copyright © Tim Flach

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.


From Birds by Tim Flach, copyright © Tim Flach

Inca Tern.

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.

From Birds by Tim Flach, copyright © Tim Flach

American Flamingo.

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.

AU$90


Posted on December 14, 2021
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In the Studio with Kim Siew

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.

Image: Kim Siew in her Studio

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 style?

Bright and playful with lots of people and pattern.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

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 life?

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.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

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.

AU$24.99


Posted on November 22, 2021
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A recipe for Rose Petal and Rhubarb Jam to round out your spring cooking

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.

Photography: Sara Silm

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).

Makes 3kg

Ingredients

  • 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)

Photography: Sara Silm

Method

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.

How to French Country is available now. Text and photography by Sara Silm and design by Daniel New.

AU$ 59.99


Posted on November 2, 2021
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What Makes a Home One’s Own according to Anna Spiro?

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?

Photography: Tim Salisbury

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.

Photography: Tim Salisbury

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.

Photography: Tim Salisbury

Anna Spiro: A Life in Pattern is available now. Text by Anna Spiro, images by Tim Salisbury and design by Penny Sheehan.

AU$ 90.00


Posted on October 26, 2021
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Furry felines and deluxe digs with Where They Purr author Paul Barbera

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.

Photography: Paul Barbera

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.

Photography: Paul Barbera

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.

Photography: Paul Barbera

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 Purr is available now. Text by Paul Barbera and Queenie Chan and design by Evi O and Nicole Ho.

AU$ 65.00


Posted on October 14, 2021
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Our favourite works from Richard Travers’s Hilda

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 Nicholas champions 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.

Une Australienne, 1926. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

Picardy Girl, n.d. Private Collection.

Moroccan Loggia, 1912-1914. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

Two Women in the Market Place, Tangier, 1912-1914. Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.

The Monaro Pioneer, 1922. Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.

The Studio, Paris. n.d. Private Collection.

Howard Ashton, 1948. National Library of Australia, Canberra.

Hilda: The Life of Hilda Rix Nicholas is available now. Text by Richard Travers, artworks © The Estate of Hilda Rix Nicholas 2021 and design by Jenny Zimmer and Jenny Bolis.

AU$ 65.00


Posted on October 1, 2021
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Six myths about vaccination – and why they’re wrong: an extract from The Conversation’s new book

No, You’re Not Entitled to Your Opinion is the ten-year anniversary collection of essays that put The Conversation on the map. Together, these fascinating essays chart the course of the world over the past decade. 

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 vaccine debate’.

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 rhetoric.

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 rise.

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 et al.)

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 ‘franken-science’.

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 was safe.

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.

AU$ 29.99


Posted on September 30, 2021
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A slice of Southwestern France with Sara Silm

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!

Photography: Sara Silm
Photography: Sara Silm

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 dogs!

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!

Photography: Sara Silm
Photography: Sara Silm

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.

Photography: Sara Silm

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!

How to French Country is available now. Text and photography by Sara Silm and design by Daniel New.

AU$ 59.99


Posted on September 28, 2021
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Landscapes of our Hearts has won a prestigious prize at the NSW Premier’s History Awards

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.

Congratulations to all of the recipients of this year’s awards – check out the full list here.

Landscapes of our Hearts: Reconciling People and Environment is available now. Text by Matthew Colloff, cover image by Louise Denton and cover design by Allisa Dinallo.

AU$ 34.99


Posted on September 28, 2021
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Three nurturing recipes for your emotions, mind and spirit

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.


Calm Candies

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.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

Herbal Ingredients

  • 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)

Method

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!


Floral Bath

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.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

Herbal Ingredients

  • 1/2 – 1 cup fresh or dried medicinal flowers (e.g. lavender, calendula, chamomile, rose and rosemary)

Method

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.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

Herbal Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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.

AU$39.99


Posted on September 14, 2021
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Inside Christine Yahya’s Body Wonderland

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.

Pink Bits on Body Inclusivity is available now. Illustrations by Christine Yahya and design by Casey Schuurman.

AU $29.99


Posted on September 14, 2021
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Welcome to The Plant Clinic, a love letter to living vibrantly

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.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

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.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

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.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

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.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

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.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

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.

AU$39.99


Posted on August 29, 2021
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The dazzling world of Fiorina & Francesca Golotta

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.

Photography: Robyn Lea

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.

Photography: Robyn Lea

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 community.’

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.

Photography: Robyn Lea

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.’

Photography: Robyn Lea

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.

AU$65.00


Win a fabulous A Room of Her Own prize pack!

Images © Robyn Lea photography and Fiorina Jewellery

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.

Simply click here to enter the competition and agree to sign up to our e-newsletter for your chance to go into the draw to win this prize pack.

Competition closes Wednesday 15 September. Open to AU and NZ residents only.


Posted on August 27, 2021
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In conversation with trailblazing Victorian chef Annie Smithers

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.

Photography: Sandy Scheltema

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.

Photography: Susan Thompson

For those who havent 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 high-class restaurants.

When youre not at du Fermier, where do you like to eat in regional Victoria?

Our favourite 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 youre 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.

If readers 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.

Recipe for a Kinder Life is available now. Text by Annie Smithers and cover design by Daniel New.

AU$32.99


Posted on July 27, 2021
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A Meditation on Wellbeing, from Recipe for a Kinder Life

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.

AU$32.99


Posted on July 27, 2021
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Get ready for your next local adventure with Evi O and Andrew Grune

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 new project 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.

Image © Day Trip Publishing

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! 

Image © Day Trip Publishing

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 😉

Image: Concrete platforms at Clovelly Beach © Day Trip Publishing
Image: Podoga rock formations at Wollemi National Park © Day Trip Publishing

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).

AU$34.99

You can check out Day Trip’s website here and their Instagram here.


Posted on June 30, 2021
Posted on

Day Trip Sydney is finally 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).

AU$34.99

You can check out Day Trip’s website here and their Instagram here.


Posted on June 30, 2021
Posted on

Still Life as storytelling: a look at Amber Creswell Bell’s latest book

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.

JUDA RAE

SL359, 2016. Oil on linen, 122 x 153 cm. Collection of AGNSW, Bulgari Acquisition.

‘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.’

CRESSIDA CAMPBELL

After Lunch, 2002. Unique woodblock print (watercolour on Stonehenge cotton paper), 72 x 62 cm. Photo by Greg Weight.

‘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.’

ROBERT MALHERBE

Peonies in Sunlight, 2013 (detail), oil on linen, 91 x 71 cm. Artwork courtesy of Robert Malherbe and photo by Jenni Carter.

‘All paintings, including still lifes, should feel erotic.’

ZOE YOUNG

Still life under Leplastrier Nude, 2020 (detail). Acrylic on Belgian linen, 150 x 150 cm. Artwork and photo courtesy of Zoe Young.

‘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.’

LUCY ROLEFF

Autumn Pastoral, 2020. Oil on board, 50 x 60 cm. Artwork courtesy of Lucy Roleff and photo by Kim Landy.

‘I feel that the endurance of the still life genre has to do with its relative anonymity compared to more figurative work.’

JOHN BOKOR

Wine Bottle, 2017 (detail), oil on linen, 82 x 62 cm. Photo by Mim Stirling.

‘A collection of objects, no matter how mundane, tells a story. They are like a little world; you can get lost in them.’

TSERING HANNAFORD

Pink Magnolia, 2016, oil on board, 45 x 60 cm. Artwork and photo courtesy of Tsering Hannaford.

‘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.

AU$59.99


Posted on June 15, 2021