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At Home in a Strange Land

Landscapes of our Hearts is an epic exploration of our relationship with this country. From distinguished research scientist and award-winning writer Matthew Colloff, the book asks the question: ‘If we look afresh at our history through the land we live on, might Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians find a path to a shared future?’

In this extract, Colloff discusses the importance of responsibility in the pursuit of belonging for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Photography: Jackie Money

Most Australians have connections with more than one place, whether they are Indigenous people or descended from 19th-century European settler-colonists or more recent migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. We value and maintain our cultural identity. For many Australians, the expression of culture singles them out as ‘different’ from other Australians and creates the tension between integration into ‘the Australian way of life’ and the multicultural plurality of modern Australian society. For example, the children of Greek migrants who refused to go with their parents and older relatives to large group barbecues and picnics in parks because they regarded such an event as ‘woggy’; in other words, it represented their involvement in a cultural activity that would identify them as migrants to other Australians.1

But there is no contradiction between citizenship and cultural diversity. Attempts by politicians and populists to construct and promulgate ‘a national identity’ have tended to be unsuccessful. Sociologist Robert Van Krieken writes, ‘Political and cultural citizenship do not necessarily coincide – it is possible to be defined legally as a citizen, but still remain an outsider, with the rules governing the transition from one category to the other remaining obscure and elusive.’2 I would argue that the process of transition from one to the other often begins with developing a connection with this land and the process of place-making.

Are we all strangers in our own land, trying to make a home wherever we find ourselves? For Australians of Anglo-Celtic descent whose families have been here for several generations, they may have been born in one place, grown up in another and live as adults somewhere else again. For many Indigenous Australians, their ancestors may have been forcibly removed from their lands, their grandparents or great-grandparents raised on a mission or an Aboriginal reserve many hundreds of kilometres away, and their parents may have moved from place to place to find work, as Stan Grant’s parents did, all the while trying to stay in contact with the diaspora of their kin.

For many of us migrants, the idea of referring to Australia as my country carries with it a deeply felt sense of ambivalence. This tension emerges not only from the cultural connections with the countries of our birth but also an unease about whether we have such a right, considering this land was taken by invasion and dispossession of its Indigenous peoples during the one hundred and forty years of the Frontier Wars. As Henry Reynolds wrote: ‘It was only by forgetting that white Australia was able to overlook the violent foundation of the nation.’3

Historian Peter Read sums up the tension as follows: ‘how can we non-Indigenous Australians justify our continuous presence and our love for this country while the Indigenous people remain dispossessed and their history unacknowledged?’4 Some of us make our place and feel a strong sense of belonging accordingly. We feel we have a right to belong. Others of us feel no such right. Australia always was and always will be Aboriginal land. Belonging is a deeply personal journey, travelled by multiple routes. There was nothing in the citizenship interview and examination that I took in 1996 on how to go about the process of belonging. The only mention in official documentation on citizenship is the statement that volunteering can be a great way of increasing one’s sense of belonging to the Australian community and that, ‘You can walk the desert or the shore, the mountains or the rainforests. Every step you take is a step closer to belonging to this vast and vibrant land.’5 Indeed. A route to belonging through volunteerism and tourism. Were it that easy.

For some, claiming continuity with Indigenous people and the environment as part of our non-Indigenous heritage is a means of achieving a sense of belonging. In an interview with Peter Read, environmental historian Tom Griffiths stated: ‘Aborigines and environment: these are the two great historical revolutions of our generation. Writing both into Australian history allows you to reach back beyond the moment of invasion and draw you into deep time as part of our own inheritance. We should discover the continuities.’6

Griffiths’ perspective echoes the need to reconcile a sense of attachment to place with the history of environmental and cultural change. With this need comes a set of responsibilities to ‘a vision of a morally and environmentally integrated Australia’, in which the relationship between humans and the environment is one in which people ‘share its past and provide for its future’. Yet can non-Indigenous Australians legitimately claim to belong to deep time while Indigenous Australians remain dispossessed and governments continually seek to obstruct practical processes of reconciliation?7

Perhaps one way for non-Indigenous Australians to think construc­tively about these vexed issues is not just to focus on assumptions about rights of belonging, but on their responsibilities. Simply put, if our sense of belonging is to be gained through a continuity with deep time history, then we have an equal responsibility to Indigenous Australians, ourselves and our shared environment to do what we can to achieve reconciliation. We might start by considering and adopting elements of the ancient environmental knowledge, values and rules of Indigenous Australians that they observe and we do not. Perhaps this might form a basis to begin to shape our common future in more sustainable ways.8

If there can be no lasting or legitimate sense of belonging without a sense of responsibility to the land and each other, then here’s the challenge, as articulated by Tom Griffiths: ‘If all Australians are to rejoice in the deep past, then we must ask the non-Aboriginals to share responsibility for its mistakes. If all Australians are to rejoice in the deep future, then we must ask the Aboriginals to share in its responsibility.’ Idealistic and difficult this may seem in practice, but the alternative is worse; a business-as-usual continuation of what we have already done: ‘the mere expropriation of past and future’.9 If we can acknowledge the past, reconcile the present and nurture the future, then perhaps all Australians, one day, may truly find a place we can call home.

NOTES

1     Denis Byrne, Heather Goodall & Allison Cadzow, Place-Making in National Parks: Ways That Australians of Arabic and Vietnamese Background Perceive and Use the Parklands along the Georges River, NSW, University of Technology Sydney and Office of Environment and Heritage, Sydney, 2013, p. 17.

2     Robert Van Krieken, ‘Between Assimilation and Multiculturalism: Models of Integration in Australia’, Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 46, no. 5, 2012, pp. 500–17.

3     Henry Reynolds, Forgotten War, UNSW Press, Sydney, 2013.

4     Peter Read, Belonging: Australians, Place and Aboriginal Ownership, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000, p. 1.

5     Department of Home Affairs, Australian Citizenship: Our Common Bond, Communication and Engagement Branch, Department of Home Affairs, Canberra, 2018, pp. 17, 41.

6     Read, p. 178.

7     Read, p. 181.

8     Tyson Yunkaporta, Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Change the World, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2019; ‘Can Indigenous Thinking Save the World?’ Late Night Live, Radio National, 16 September 2019.

9     Read, p. 183.

Landscapes of our Hearts is available now. Text by Matthew Colloff, cover photography by Louise Denton Photography, and cover design by Alissa Dinallo.

AU$34.99


Posted on July 1, 2020
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Making Colour Visceral: How Paint is Made

From one of the world’s most respected paint-makers, David Coles, Chromatopia reveals the stories behind fifty striking pigments. In this extract, Coles discusses the extraordinary process through which paint is made.

Photography by Adrian Lander

This book has looked at the origins of historical and contemporary pigments, but pigments are hardly ever used in their raw form. To be usefully employed as a colour, billions of individual grains of pigment must be glued together with a binder. This is, in essence, how you make paint.

Throughout history, people have found ways to permanently ‘fix’ colour to create lasting images of the most exquisite beauty. For instance, the binding of pigments in Neolithic cave paintings was probably serendipitous; cave walls containing silicas or limestone trapped the pigment and locked it to the surface over time. Since then, we have discovered a host of sticky, adhesive materials in nature that could hold pigments in place. Some of these earliest binders are still used by artists. Gum arabic, the water-soluble sap of the North African acacia tree, makes watercolours; and beeswax, collected and refined from hives, makes encaustic (molten wax) paint.

Mixing pigments with different binders successfully converts them into a material for uses as diverse as house paints, plastics, writing inks, automotive coatings, paper and – of most interest to me – artists’ paint.

In my role as a master paint-maker, I make oil paint, which are by dispersing pigments in a ‘drying oil’ such as linseed, walnut, poppy or safflower oils. Linseed oil is by far the most important and widely used drying oil. When drying oils absorb oxygen they convert from a liquid into a hard, permanent coating. Pigments can be bound with very small amounts of oil. This means that oil paints contain much higher amounts of the pigment than watercolour or acrylic paints. For artists, this gives the paint a physical feeling. The paintbrush is literally pushing around dense, coloured pastes.

Photography by Adrian Lander

So how do we make our paint? Our first task was to source a high-quality linseed oil. We selected ours after sampling dozens of products from suppliers all over the world. We were looking for a clean, straw-coloured oil that was free of natural impurities. It had to have a good drying rate and minimal yellowing as it aged. Eventually we chose exceptional bright, clear oils made in Holland and Germany.

Next comes the selection of the pigments. There are so many manufacturers of pigments that the choice seems overwhelming. We hunt out pigments that have qualities equal to their noble intended use: they must be as lightfast as possible, chemically stable and exhibit colour qualities of benefit to the artist. The vast majority of pigments do not meet our needs. They are built for larger, more commercially important industries and have been tailored for industrial applications.

To select our pigments, we go through a long period of investigation. We select colours of interest, research the chemical construction of the pigment, and assess its suitability for artists’ paint before requesting samples for laboratory trials. The anticipation of opening a sample box and seeing a new pigment for the first time, in its raw unadulterated form, is exhilarating. There is always the nervous hope that the promise held out by this new pigment will be borne out, that its potency will not dull, and that its colour will not be lost when it is mixed with the binder. Backwards and forwards go the experiments – working out the right amount of pigment to add to the oil and correcting for undesirable qualities. Like a chef honing a new dish, small, delicate changes in the recipe can lead to dramatic differences in the finished product.

Photography by Adrian Lander

When we are ready to make the paint, the linseed oil is weighed out into 60-litre heavy-duty stainless-steel bowls. All of our manufacturing equipment and surfaces are stainless steel. The equipment is kept meticulously clean to prevent any chance of other colours contaminating the purity of each new batch.

Stearate, a wax-like material that is essential to the wetting and stability of the paint, is weighed and added to the oil. The bowl is secured in a planetary mixer and large, powerful motors slowly rotate the blade through the wax and oil mixture.

Next, another steel bowl is placed on the electronic scales, ready for the pigment. Even after all these years, opening the bins of pure pigment is a ridiculously breathtaking assault on the eyes. The pigment is scooped out, weighed and added slowly to the oil. There are no short cuts. Adding all the pigment at once would make incorporation impossible. The liquid oil allows the individual grains of colour to slide over each other. The physical shape of pigments means that, without this lubrication, they would drag over each other, causing extraordinary resistance, reducing the mixing action and – as happened once very early on – breaking the very expensive blade of the mixer.

The slow churning of the paste begins. Over the rumbling of the mixer’s motor, you can hear delicious slurping noises as the blade methodically drives through the mixture. As the dry pigment is gradually incorporated with the wet oil, it changes from an incredibly thick batter into what looks like an enormous vat of vividly coloured butter.

This process can take as long as four hours, but it is not the finished paint. Under close inspection, vast quantities of the pigments still cling together rather than being individually coated. This is where the triple-roll mill comes in.

Photography by Adrian Lander

A triple-roll mill is at the heart of paint-making. At its most basic, it is three horizontal granite rollers that each run at different speeds and spin in alternating directions. The paste is scraped out of the mixer’s bowl with a baker’s blade and dropped into the hopper. Each giant dollop makes a delicious slap as it plops onto the rollers below. The paste is drawn down into the tiny space between the rollers, again and again. With each pass, the space is narrowed to more aggressively separate the pigment particles. If you have ever used a pasta-making machine with its two rollers forcing the dough through the small space between them you can understand the paint-making process. Just as the roughly made dough cannot pass through the narrowest setting first, so the pigment-paste must be passed through the mill rollers multiple times. It’s just that our mill is like a pasta-machine on steroids, with three rollers rather than two and a massive motor to drive the material through. For soft pigments such as zinc white only three passes are needed, but the synthetics can take up to nine passes. Synthetic pigments are very difficult to prize apart: their incredibly small size and specific shape mean they have to be painstakingly teased into dispersion.

The paint-maker must be constantly attentive to the vagaries of milling. Rollers heat up under the friction of pigment particles, which alters the size of the roller gap, and the fluidity of the oil is affected by changes in ambient temperature. Also, pigments behave differently from one batch to another. This is especially true of the natural earths, which vary in their mineral make-up depending on the part of the seam the earth was dug from.

Photography by Adrian Lander

Towards the end of the paint-making process, we take samples of the paint and test it for quality. Historically, paint-makers would rub the paint between their thumbnails – a simple but surprisingly delicate solution to feel for the grittiness of unmixed pigment. Nowadays we use a precisely honed stainless-steel gauge to check the quality of dispersion.

But we are still not ready to sign off on the product. Two extremely thin films of the freshly made paint are applied to paint-maker’s cards. One daub is the pure paint. The other is the paint mixed with a specified amount of titanium white.  By placing the card next to one from a previous batch of the same colour, we can ensure that every time we make the paint it has identical colour, tinting strength, tint colour and undertone to all previous versions.

Only after the paint has passed these tests is it approved for packing. It is hand-filled into collapsible aluminium paint tubes, labelled with hand-painted swatches of the individual colour, boxed and shipped to studios around the world.

Chromatopia is available now. Text by David Coles, photography by Adrian Lander, and cover design by Evi. O Studio.

AU$34.99


Posted on June 17, 2020
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Vogue & The Met: A Glance at Fashion History

Over the past twenty years, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute has produced, time and time again, fascinating and provocative exhibitions. Their annual exhibition is the most spectacular of its kind, providing a window into significant moments in fashion history. Even more, they reflect and create the contemporary zeitgeist. The show’s opening night fundraiser, commonly known as The Met Gala, is attended by notable stars, young creatives, and industry paragons alike.

Vogue & The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute: Parties, Exhibitions, People unveils the seamless collaboration between The Met and Vogue in bringing both the exhibition and gala to life each year. This updated and expanded version of the book, originally published in 2014, includes the dramatic and daring exhibitions of the past five years. Think 2015’s ‘China Through the Looking Glass’ through to 2019’s unforgettable ‘Camp Notes on Fashion’. In the absence of a 2020 gala, wanted to celebrate this ode to the museum and it’s history with a few of our favourite photographs from the book.

Photography by Eric Boman © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Photography by Eric Boman

Vogue & The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute: Parties, Exhibitions, People is available now. Text by Hamish Bowles, foreword by Max Hollein, and introduction by Anna Wintour. Edited by Chloe Malle and originally published by Abrams Books.

AU$90.00


Posted on June 9, 2020
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Colours in the Time of the Ancients

From one of the world’s most respected paint-makers, David Coles, Chromatopia reveals the stories behind fifty striking pigments. The book spans several time periods; here, we look at some of the colours featured from the ancient world.

Egyptian Blue

Photography by Adrian Lander

This was the first synthetically produced colour.

Invented at around the same time as the Great Pyramids were being built, Egyptian blue’s creation dates back about 5000 years. The Ancient Egyptians believed blue was the colour of the heavens and because of the rarity of naturally occurring blue minerals like azurite and lapis lazuli, they devised a way to manufacture the colour themselves.

Egyptian blue was not produced by blind chance: it was created with precision. Made by heating lime, copper, silica and natron, the pigment’s invention was a development of the ceramic glaze processes. The Egyptians controlled the firing of the raw materials with amazing accuracy, holding their kilns at a crucial temperature close to 830°C.

The famous crown of Queen Nefertiti owes its colour to Egyptian blue and the pigment was used extensively for painting murals, sculptures and sarcophagi. It spread from Egypt to Mesopotamia, Greece and the outer reaches of the Roman Empire and was used at the palace at Knossos, in Pompeii and on Roman wall paintings. Known to the Romans as caeruleum (from which the colour cerulean derives its name), it was widely used throughout the Classical Age, but the knowledge of how to make it was lost with the fall of the Roman Empire.

Discoveries made by Napoleon’s 1798 Egyptian expedition led to further investigation of Egyptian blue; and eventually, in the 1880s, the chemical composition of the pigment was identified and the manufacturing process was recreated.

Orpiment

Photography by Adrian Lander

Orpiment was the closest imitation to gold.

Its Latin name is auripigmentum (gold paint) and in the classical world, it was believed that this resemblance had deeper alchemical roots. It was even said that the Roman emperor Caligula could extract gold from the mineral.

In fact, orpiment carries a much more dangerous substance. It is a highly toxic sulphide of arsenic. The Persian word zarnikh (gold-coloured) became arsenikon in Greek and then arrhenicum in Latin, from which the English word ‘arsenic’ is derived. The Romans were well aware of orpiment’s poisonous nature and used slave labour to mine it. For the unlucky slaves this was, in essence, a death sentence.

Orpiment was used in Ancient Egypt as a cosmetic, taking its place in history alongside other deadly pigments used in makeup. It was used in painting for centuries throughout Persia and Asia, but in Europe, because of the dominance of lead-based yellows, it was most often employed in manuscripts.

A manufactured version, known as king’s yellow, was available from the 17th century. The name is believed to come from Arabic alchemy, which described orpiment and realgar as the ‘two kings’.

Both the naturally occurring and synthetic versions of orpiment were incompatible with other commonly used pigments, particularly lead-based pigments like flake white, and copper-based pigments like verdigris and malachite.  It was infamous for turning them black. With the introduction in the 19th century of the more chemically inert and less toxic cadmium yellow, orpiment fell out of usage.

Woad

Photography by Adrian Lander

Woad was widely used as a dye in Europe as early as the Stone Age.

Ancient Britons covered their bodies with woad to face the Roman legions and it is said that they struck fear into Julius Caesar himself.

The first part of the woad-making process involved taking fresh leaves of the woad plant, Isatis tinctoria, grinding them to a pulp, rolling them into balls the size of large apples and leaving them to dry in the sun. They could then be stored and used at a later date. Like indigo, the dye is extracted by fermentation. Traditional recipes specify that the plant be soaked in urine under the heat of the sun and trampled for three days. After that, the remaining liquid is a yellowish colour.

The indigo molecule is the blue colourant in woad. The magical quality of indigo is that the distinctive blue colour only develops after the textiles are removed from the dye bath and exposed to air. During the dyeing process, a scum called florey, known as the flower of woad, also develops on the surface. This was skimmed off and dried so it could be used separately as a paint colour.

The fermentation process releases large quantities of ammonia. Far worse, however, is that the plant depletes the soil that it grows in, leaving an infertile wasteland in its wake. Laws were passed in medieval Europe to curb this devastation.

Although indigo was known since Imperial Rome, the more colour-intense Indian indigo was not readily available in the west until commercial quantities were imported at the beginning of the 17th century. It supplanted woad, and production rapidly declined as a result.

Chromatopia is available now. Text by David Coles, photography by Adrian Lander, and cover design by Evi. O Studio.

AU$34.99


Posted on May 20, 2020
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At home with cake queen Alice Oehr

Alice Oehr is passionate about her career in illustration and design, but her heart truly belongs to cake. In her first book, The Art of Cake, Alice explores the wonderful culture of cake, profiling fifty of the world’s favourite in her signature illustrative style. We visited Alice at her colourful home to chat about her road to becoming one of Melbourne’s most popular artists and all things dessert.

Can you share a bit about your background and what led you to becoming one of Melbourne’s favourite illustrators/designers?

I have always made things and enjoyed art, but it took me a while to come around to committing my life to it as I had other interests. I did an arts degree, travelled, and had some fun before knuckling down and studying graphic design. This gave me a set of skills that I could immediately use to realise my ideas, and to work for people who needed things done. I gradually leaned more into illustration as this is where my passion lay: colour, pattern, and so forth.

What was your approach to decorating your home, and what makes it quintessentially ‘you’?

I think a lot of artists are collectors (or hoarders, for a better word) as they are romantically drawn to objects and the life that thing has had. This is the case for me. I had no planned approach to decoration but over time, my home has become filled with things that all have sentimental value; objects passed down from grandparents, artworks from friends and souvenirs collected from round the world. Thus, the house is rather colourful, eclectic and chaotic, and that is me.

What is your favourite item in your house, and what does it mean to you?

I don’t really have a favourite, though some things do bring back very good memories. The corn jug is something that really makes me laugh, as it is so kitsch. I bought it at a flea market in France on holiday with my family. It appalled my mother, walking, as it does, the line of good taste. I enjoy this object because I can actually use it, and regularly put flowers in it.

How do you split your time between your home and your studio?

The only approach that works for me is to treat my freelance work as a full-time job. I work 9am to 6pm at my studio, and almost never at night or on weekends. I don’t  go out for lunch or go shopping during work time as I find this will come back to bite me later, when I find myself staying up until 2am finishing it.

You say that cakes are embedded in our memory, ‘laced with a heavy dose of nostalgia from the sweet moments of our past.’ Where does your love for cakes and pastries come from?

At first, I didn’t really know; but through the process of making this book, I have realised it is from the great sense of occasion my parents attributed to a visit to the cake shop when I was a kid. It served as a bribe, and it worked. In childhood too, the grand event of a birthday cake was long drawn out: choosing the flavours and the decoration, anticipating it, then being presented with it in front of a crowd in a great show of sparklers and singing. All that emotion is deeply embedded in the way I think about desserts – they are always special, and something to get excited about.

When did you start illustrating cakes, and at what stage did The Art of Cake come into conception? Can you talk a little about the creative process behind the cakes in the book?

My habit of drawing everything I see when I go travelling is what sparked the idea for the book. When I’m away I notice everythingand draw all the things I see and do. Each country I’ve visited has their own unique answer to a ‘sweet treat’, especially in places like France and Italy – their cakes are like works of art. Coming from Australia where we have more of a ’Women’s Weekly’ approach to cakes; the ostentatious decoration of France’s petits fours, for example, really appealed. The book seemed like a good idea as the universal appeal of a cake was clear. Every culture, from pretty much time immemorial, has had its own form of sweet dish – often associated with reverence or celebration – and I felt that this could be explored. I researched what are considered the most beloved cakes around the world and compiled a list. I investigated each cake to write my description of it’s flavour and presentation, as well as its history and most interesting tidbits. Then I drew them all!

What’s the best place in Melbourne for cake or a sweet treat?

For cake, absolutely without question, Beatrix in North Melbourne. If you’re after a more ‘bread–like’ snack, for instant a croissant or brioche pastry, Baker D. Chirico in Carlton is the best in that department.

What other projects have you been working on that we can expect to see this year?

My favourite on-going project is the weekly still life drawing class that I teach at Lamington Drive gallery in Collingwood. I choose a theme, set up a scene on a table, and 20-30 people come in to explore drawing the still life on an iPad Pro. Exploring digital drawing is a new and exciting activity and always promotes interesting conversation.

Alice’s still life drawing classes have taken a pause during isolation but are set to resume later this year.

The Art of Cake is available now. Text by Alice Oehr.

AU$24.99


Posted on May 11, 2020
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Shortlist: Illustrated Book of the Year at the 2019 ABIAs

Australia Modern has been shortlisted for the Illustrated Book of the Year award at the 2019 Australian Book Industry Awards. We’d like to extend a warm congratulations to the authors, Hannah Lewi and Philip Goad, the designer, Stuart Geddes, and all of the contributors and editors involved with the creation of the book.

Get to know Australia Modern

Australia Modern is the most complete survey of modernist Australian architecture, interiors and landscape design spanning 1925 to 1975. With a focus on buildings and places that still exist, the book features 100 significant site examples by Australia’s most revered architects, rich archival imagery and expert essays exploring how modernism has shaped Australian society.

The book pays tribute to all types of examples of Australian modernism, whether big or small, famous or everyday. From the Sydney Opera House and the National Gallery of Victoria, to a Pop-Brutalist courthouse in regional Victoria or a modest lawn bowls club, Australia Modern recognises both the iconic and the now-obsolete. As the authors note, these examples are ‘part of our history, tangible physical reminders of the twentieth-century hopes, aspirations and growth of our local communities, cities, towns and landscapes’.

Where to catch the award ceremony – that’s right, you’re invited!

This year, the ABIAs will be held virtually via the official YouTube channel. The perk of going virtual? Anyone can tune in to watch the announcement of the winners on Wednesday 13th May from 4pm AEST.


Australia Modern is available now. Text by Hannah Lewi and Philip Goad and design by Stuart Geddes.

AU$80.00


Posted on May 4, 2020
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A Q&A with design expert Penny Craswell

Photography by Fiona Susanto

Sydney-based editor, writer and curator Penny Craswell has built a career doing what she loves: showcasing exceptional Australian architecture and interiors and writing about why they really matter. Now, Penny has released her first book, Design Lives Here, a compelling look at the connection between spaces and objects that puts the spotlight on local makers. We spoke to Penny about the inspiration behind the book, her favourite project featured, and her predictions for the future of Australian contemporary design.

Where did your love for design, architecture and interiors stem from?

It all started in Amsterdam, where I had originally planned to do an internship for a photography magazine (my first degree was Art History and Curatorship).The photography magazine didn’t have enough desks, so I went to Frame magazine, which happens to be the world’s biggest (and best) design magazine. I fell in love with design there, and when I moved back to Australia, I decided to pursue a career in design magazines and writing.

How does this translate into your blog, The Design Writer?

My blog features amazing design happening in Australia – from architectural and interiors projects like houses, restaurants and retail, to the best design objects, furniture and lighting. I also promote ethical design – design that is doing good for the environment and society.

Design Lives Here goes a step further by paying homage to local designers and makers who have crafted bespoke pieces of furniture and lighting for stunning Australian residential architecture and interiors. What led you to this project and how did it take shape?

I have a real love of interiors stemming from my time as Deputy Editor of Indesign magazine and Editor of Artichoke magazine. Far more than just colours and patterns, it is an incredible skill of understanding how spaces are used and how they should be proportioned – a too-large room is just as badly designed as a too-small room. But I also love design objects – my masters thesis was about objects and products, and how people attach stories to them – how they are made, how they are used. This book combines the two – it’s about the stories attached to both interior and object.

The idea for the book was to show the beauty of Australian design – I wanted to pair each house or apartment with one piece of Australian furniture or lighting design. In some cases, I found the pairing through the architect or interior designer and in some cases I found it through the furniture or lighting designer.

Photography by Michelle Brasington

For those who haven’t read Design Lives Here, can you tell us a bit more about the importance of spaces and objects being connected by the design process?

Every designer, whether they’re an architect, interior designer, object designer or fashion designer, starts with an idea and then works this through various iterations – sketching by hand or on a computer or both – and then works with materials to make that idea come to life. Through exploring how something was made, we can peel back the layers and truly understand its meaning and value.

Is there a takeaway for our readers on how they can bring this ethos into their own homes?

I would say that the first solution is not necessarily the best solution – sometimes you need to go through a process to find the right answer. Obviously, professional designers are the experts, so hire them if you can to help you, especially on larger projects. I would recommend that everyone consider buying Australian design – the quality and originality of the design is there, often without the huge price tag.

Do you have a favourite project from Design Lives Here?

I tried to choose a range of projects – large and small, urban to remote, for small families and large. But for me, my favourite has to be Indigo Slam by Smart Design Studio – it is a truly monumental house that is also intimate in places, and the furniture, designed and made by Khai Liew in Adelaide, is exquisite.

What would you say is the most unique object featured, and is there more to its story than revealed in the book?

I really love the Black Sambuca Chandelier by Ruth Allen – she is a glass artist and she recycles used Black Sambuca bottles – those long elegant glass shapes – into pendant lights. I didn’t mention it in the book, but Ruth told me that black glass is quite rare so working this way offers the designer/maker the chance to recycle something that would otherwise be post-consumer waste, while also working with a rare material.

Sunflower chair (Khai Liew) at Indigo Slam (Smart Design Studio), photography by David Roche
Black Sambuca chandelier (Ruth Allen) at Kiah House (Austin Maynard Architects), photography by Tess Kelly

In the book, you say that ‘the Australian dream of owning a quarter-acre block with a picket fence and a garage is no longer relevant – or at least no longer so simple.’ Can you explain why this is?

It is partly because property prices are so high these days that many young people can’t afford a mortgage on one salary the way our parents could – and sometimes they can’t afford it with two salaries. These days, we may not need a garage as many people prefer bicycles and/or public transport. Also, for financial reasons, apartments are becoming more popular in Australia, as is inter-generational living.

Where do you think Australian contemporary design is headed?

All signs show that Australian design is continuing to grow. I think we need to work on educating the general public about the value of design – there is a burgeoning design industry in Australia and people need to know they can choose to buy Australian design. As long as this continues to happen, the future looks bright for designers, makers, manufacturers and brands looking to grow their business.

What other projects are you working on, and what’s next for you?

I’m working on my blog right now and doing some preliminary research for my next book!

Design Lives Here is available now. Text by Penny Craswell and cover design by Claire Orrell.

AU$59.99


Posted on April 21, 2020
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Alice Oehr’s wonderful world of cake: a gallery

The Art of Cake is illustrator, designer and artist Alice Oehr’s playful ode to cake for its devotees everywhere. Through her distinctive, quirky style, she captures cake as an art form that satisfies not only our taste buds but also our eyes and imagination.

Learning about the history of fifty cakes adored across the globe is like the sweet escape you didn’t know you needed. We’ll take a bet here and guess that you don’t know the story of the Cannoli, the origin of the Éclair, or the scandal behind the Sachertorte. Alice covers them all with a sense of nostalgia and whimsy. The Art of Cake also features six of Alice’s own homespun recipes to keep you busy and baking.

Take a look through our gallery of six of our favourite cakes from the book: the humble carrot cake, the controversial pavlova, the dainty strawberry shortcake, the strikingly layered red velvet cake, the elegant éclair and finally the alluring black forest gâteau.

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The Art of Cake is available now. Text and illustrations by Alice Oehr and design by Ashlea O’Neill

AU$24.99 / NZ$29.99


Posted on April 8, 2020
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#SupportingLocal: bookstores offering delivery and more

Now is a more important time than ever to support your local bookstores. Stock up for your personal library and check out our live list of bookstores offering free delivery services, pick-up options and over-the-phone book recommendations to get you through.

This is a live list, get in touch if you would like to add a service being offered by a local bookstore.

VICTORIA

Aesop’s Attic (Kyneton): Accepting phone orders and offering a drive through pick-up service.

Antipodes Gallery & Bookshop (Sorrento): Accepting phone and email orders and offering free home delivery to local suburbs.

Avenue Bookstore (Richmond, Albert Park and Elsternwick): Accepting phone and email orders and offering free same day delivery to local suburbs for orders over $30 placed before 3pm.

Avoca Hill Bookstore (South Yarra): Free delivery to local suburbs for orders over $20 and next day delivery for in stock items.

Beaumaris Books (Beaumaris): Over-the-phone book recommendations, free gift wrapping and offering free delivery to local suburbs.

Benn’s Books (Bentleigh): Accepting phone, Instagram and email orders and offering free delivery to Bentleigh, East Bentleigh, McKinnon, Moorabbin and Murrumbeena.

Blarney Books (Port Fairy): Accepting phone and Facebook orders and offering free delivery to local suburbs.

Book and Paper (Williamstown): Accepting Instagram, Facebook and text orders and offering home delivery to local suburbs.

Brunswick Bound (Brunswick): Accepting phone and online orders and offering free delivery to Brunswick, Brunswick East, Brunswick West, North Carlton, North Fitzroy, Coburg, Moonee Ponds and Essendon.

Brunswick Street Bookstore (Fitzroy): Accepting phone, email and online orders and offering free delivery to local suburbs.

Collins Moonee Ponds: Accepting online orders and offering click and collect services.

Collins Ballarat: Accepting online orders and offering free home delivery within Ballarat.

Coventry Bookstore (South Melbourne): Accepting online orders and offering free delivery for orders over $20 with next day delivery for items that are in stock.

Diabolik Books (Mount Hawthorn): Accepting phone orders for delivery and offering home delivery within a 3km radius of the store.

Dymocks CBD: Accepting phone and email orders and offering free delivery for orders over $50.

Dymocks Camberwell: Accepting phone and email orders and offering free delivery to local suburbs.

Dymocks Tooronga: Accepting phone and email orders and offering free delivery to local suburbs.

Eltham Bookshop (Eltham): Accepting phone and email orders and offering delivery to local suburbs.

Escape Hatch Books (Kew East): Free delivery to local suburbs.

Fairfield Books (Fairfield): Accepting phone orders and offering both a pick-up from your car service and free delivery to local suburbs.

Farrell’s Bookshop (Mornington): Accepting phone and email orders and offering free delivery to local suburbs.

Happy Valley (Collingwood): Accepting phone and email orders and offering free delivery to Collingwood, Fitzroy, Clifton Hill and Carlton North.

Hares & Hyenas (Fitzroy): Delivery via Books-on-Bikes for those staying in their homes or who cannot afford postage. 

Hill of Content (CBD): Accepting online, phone and email orders and offering free delivery for orders over $50.

Ink Bookshop (Winchcombe): Free delivery in Mansfield and surrounding areas.

Jeffreys Books (Malvern): Accepting phone, email and online orders.

Just Books (Bairnsdale): Free home delivery to customers in Bairnsdale, Lakes Entrance and surrounding areas.

Metropolis Bookshop (CBD): Accepting online orders and offering free postage delivery for orders over $50.

My Bookshop by Corrie Perkins (Toorak): Accepting phone orders and offering home delivery within a 20km radius of the store as well as a same-day delivery service if order is placed before 3pm.

Neighbourhood Books (Northcote): Accepting online orders and offering free delivery to Northcote, Thornbury, Preston, Reservoir, Fairfield, Carlton North, Carlton, Fitzroy North, Fitzroy, Collingwood, Princes Hill, Clifton Hill and Brunswick.

New Leaves (Macedon Ranges): Accepting phone orders and offering free delivery to the Macedon Ranges area.

Paperback Bookshop (CBD): Accepting phone and email orders.

Readings (Carlton, Doncaster, Hawthorn, St Kilda and Malvern): Accepting online orders and offering free delivery for orders over $60.

Squishy Minnie (Kyneton): Accepting online orders and offering free delivery within the Macedon Ranges.

The Book Bird (Geelong West): Accepting phone, Instagram and email orders and offering free delivery to Geelong, Geelong West, North Geelong, Newtown, Manifold Heights, Rippleside, Hamlin Heights, Herne Hill, Bell Post Hill, and Bell Park.

The Bookshop at Queenscliff: Accepting phone and email orders and offering free delivery to the local area.

The Grumpy Swimmer (Elwood): Accepting phone and email orders and offering free delivery to Elwood and local suburbs for orders over $25.

The Leaf Bookshop (Ashburton): Over-the-phone book recommendations, accepting phone orders and offering free delivery within a 5km radius of the store.

The Little Bookroom (Carlton North): Accepting online orders and offering free delivery to Carlton North, Carlton, Fitzroy North, Fitzroy, Princes Hill, Clifton Hill, Brunswick, Northcote and Coburg.

The Sun Bookshop and The Younger Sun (Yarraville): Accepting phone orders and offering free same day delivery to Yarraville, Seddon and Kingsville, and next-day deliveries by car to Spotswood and Newport.

Thesaurus Books (Brighton): Accepting phone and email orders and offering free delivery to Brighton, Brighton East, Hampton and Bentleigh. 

Top Titles Bookstore (Brighton): Accepting phone orders and offering free delivery to local suburbs.

Torquay Books (Torquay): Accepting online orders and offering delivery to local suburbs.

T.S. Bookshop (CBD): Accepting phone and online orders between 10am and 5pm, Monday through Friday, and offering free delivery across Australia for orders over $50.

Turn the Page (Cowes): Accepting phone orders and offering local delivery.

Verso Books (Healesville): Free delivery to local suburbs.

NSW

Beachside Bookshop (Avalon): Accepting phone, email and online orders and offering both a carpark pick-up service and free delivery to local suburbs.

Berkelouw Books (Cronulla): Accepting phone and email orders and offering free home delivery to Cronulla, Kurnell, Woolooware, Caringbah, Miranda, Gymea, Kirrawee and Sutherland on the 26th March.

Berkelouw Books (Hornsby): Personalised, curated book lists as well as pick up and home delivery with free shipping for orders over $99.

Berkelouw Books (Leichhardt): Curated book lists here, accepting phone orders and offering $5 delivery for orders over $49 or free delivery for orders over $99 to local suburbs.

Berkelouw Books (Rose Bay): Free home delivery to Rose Bay, Vaucluse, Watsons Bay, Dover Heights, Point Piper and Bellevue Hill.

Better Read than Dead (Newtown): Delivering curated staff picks right to your desktop or phone screen via their Virtual Bookseller which you can access here, and offering free delivery across Australia.

Book Bazaar (Umina Beach): Offering free delivery to local suburbs.

Bookoccino (Avalon): Accepting phone and email orders and offering free delivery within a 10km radius of the store.

BooksPlus (Bathurst): Free delivery within Bathurst.

Collins Booksellers (Orange): Offering free delivery across Orange.

Dymocks (Chatswood): Accepting phone and email orders for delivery.

Gertrude and Alice (Bondi Beach): Accepting phone orders and home delivery around the Bondi and Tamarama area.

Gleebooks (Glebe): Offering free postage delivery to Inner Western suburbs or Australia-wide for orders over $50.

Harry Hartog (all stores): Offering curated book lists here.

Harbour Bookshop (Ulladulla): Accepting phone, email and social media orders and offering $6 delivery across Ulladulla.

Kinokuniya (Sydney CBD): Accepting phone and online orders and offering over-the-phone book recommendations.

Lost in Books (Fairfield): Offering delivery across Australia and digital creative programs.

Megalong Books (Leura): Recommendations over the phone and free home delivery to local residents in the Upper Mountains

Oscar and Friends (Double Bay): Free home delivery in Surry Hills, Redfern, Double Bay and Bellevue Hill.

Potts Point Bookshop (Potts Point): Accepting phone and online orders and offering free delivery to local suburbs.

Reader’s Companion (Armidale): Free delivery to customers in Armidale, Uralla and Guyra district.

The Book Room at Byron (Byron Bay): Free same day book delivery in the Byron shire and Lennox Head.

The Bookshop (Bowral and Kiama): Personally curated bookstacks, accepting phone and email orders, and offering delivery to local suburbs.

The Little Lost Bookshop (Katoomba): Accepting phone, web and email orders and offering free delivery across Katoomba.

The Wandering Bookseller (Katoomba): Accepting email orders and offering free delivery Australia-wide.

Wise Words Bookshop (Moree): Accepting phone or DM orders and both mail order and home delivery.

TAS

Fullers Bookshop (Hobart): $5 delivery across Tasmania.

Petrarch’s Bookshop (Launceston): Delivery to Launceston.

The Devonport Bookshop (Devonport): Accepting phone orders and offering free delivery across the Devonport area.

The Hobart Bookshop (Hobart): Free delivery within the Hobart metropolitan area as well as a pick-up service.

ACT

Dymocks Canberra: Free delivery in the ACT.

Dymocks Belconnen: Free delivery in the ACT and Murrumbateman.

QLD

Avid Reader (West End): Free delivery to local suburbs and free postage delivery across Australia for orders over $50.

Books@Stones (Stones Corner): Free delivery across Australia until April 8th.

Dymocks (Brisbane): Free delivery for orders over $75.

Dymocks (Toowoomba): Free delivery to people over 70 and $2 shipping to local suburbs.

Folio Books (Brisbane CBD): Accepting phone and email orders and offering free postage to Brisbane customers for orders of two books or more.

Mad Hatters Bookshop (Manly): Free delivery to Wynnum, Manly and suburbs within 5km of the store for orders over $30.

Mary Who? (Townsville): Accepting phone orders and offering free delivery to the inner Townsville area for orders over $50.

Riverbend Books (Bulimba): Accepting phone and online orders and offering both a pick-up option and home delivery to postcodes 4170 and 4171.

Sequel Books (Moorooka): Accepting phone and email orders and offering free home delivery to local suburbs.

The Book Tree (Toowoomba): $2 home delivery to customers in the 4350 postcode.

Where the Wild Things Are (West End): Accepting phone orders and offering offering free home delivery to postcodes 4170 and 4171 and free delivery to other areas for orders over $50.

WA

Beaufort Street Books (Mount Lawley): Free delivery within a 5km radius of the store.

Collins (Cottesloe): Accepting online and phone orders and offering free delivery in Western Australia.

Collins (Bunbury): Free home delivery on purchases over $30 to Bunbury, Eaton, Australind and Dalyellup areas and postage to other areas for $6.95.

Crow Books (East Victoria Park): Accepting phone and email orders and offering home delivery to local suburbs.

Dymocks (Busselton): Free home delivery within the South-West, including same-day delivery if in-stock books are ordered before 2:30pm.

Dymocks (Morley): Accepting phone and email orders and home delivery at a reduced price of $2 for Booklover members or $5 for non-members in the suburbs of Bassendean, Bayswater, Inglewood, Kiara, Mirrabooka, Morley, Nollamara, Noranda, Tuart Hill and Yokine.

Dymocks (Karrinyup): Accepting phone and email orders and home delivery at a reduced price of $2 for Booklover members or $5 for non-members in the suburbs of Karrinyup, Trigg, Innaloo, Gwelup, Scarborough, North Beach and Karine.

Dymocks (Joondalup): Accepting phone orders and offering free local delivery.

My Little Bookshop (Halls Head): Free delivery from Perth metro area to Bunbury.

Paperbird Books (Fremantle): Free delivery to Fremantle and surrounding suburbs.

Planet Books (Mount Lawley and Northside): Accepting online, phone and email orders and offering free delivery to local suburbs.

SA

Imprints Booksellers (Adelaide): Accepting phone and email orders and offering free postage across SA and free home delivery around Adelaide.

Matilda Bookshop (Adelaide): Accepting phone orders and offering free postage across SA and free home delivery to local suburbs.

Mostly Books (Torrens Park): Free delivery south of Adelaide, to the suburbs of Mitcham and surrounding suburbs.

The Raven’s Parlour (Tanunda): Delivery to local residents in quarantine or self-isolation.

NT

Red Kangaroo Books (Alice Springs): Accepting phone and email orders and delivering across Alice Springs.

Books are everywhere.

Plenty of bookstores that support us not listed here will be delivering online, and you can also purchase books from Booktopia and other online retailers.

The Australian Booksellers Association’s Love Your Bookshop Day is also sharing a range of ways in which you can continue to support your local bookstore, including purchasing vouchers, signing up to their e-newsletter list and pre-ordering titles. #loveyourbookshopeveryday


Posted on March 25, 2020
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The beginner’s guide to brewing medicinal plants

‘Often the easiest approach is the most potent.’

Learn the difference between teas, infusions, decoctions and sun brews with master herbalist Erin Lovell Verinder’s guide to brewing medicinal plants. Find this extract in her new book, Plants for the People, alongside her accompanying recipes for brews to aid immunity, digestion, vitality, and sleep.

Photography by Georgia Blackie

Teas, infusions, decoctions and sun brews have been in use for as long as plants and people have been kin, and are four of the most accessible ways to work with plants, dried or fresh.

Essentially, infusions, decoctions and sun brews follow the principles of tea, but they are amplified in the medicinal sense. Medicinal teas are made by steeping the plant material in boiling water for a quick 10–20 minutes. Follow with a simple strain and sip mindfully.

An infusion involves longer steeping in boiling water, for a gentle extraction and activation of the plant material. It is best used for the softer aerial parts of a plant – think flowers, leaves, buds and berries. Bear in mind that there are some plants that prefer a cold-water infusion as their delicate properties are sensitive to heat. Infusions extract the volatile oils, vitamins and precious enzymes of medicinal plants, so be sure to cover the infusing concoction to trap all of these beneficial elements. Infusions can be 20–30 minute brews or left for 4–12 hours to deepen the medicinal impact.

A decoction is used more for the woody parts of plants – think roots, rhizomes, seeds, twigs, bark – which require more time and amplified heat to liberate the medicinal constituents. A decoction calls for a slow, covered boil, around 20–40 minutes.

A sun brew is simply an infusion made by combining dried or fresh herbs with filtered water, sealing and popping out in the sun to brew for a day.

A golden principle of medicinal teas, infusions, decoctions and sun brews is that they are best used straight away. As water is their base, there is no preservative present and we want to avoid any mould formation. However, infusions can be kept for up to 24 hours; sun brews and decoctions can be refrigerated and will stay active for around 48 hours.

A Guide to Brewing Medicinal Plants

Herbal Teas

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

Infusions

Add the plant material to a heatproof mason jar, fill with boiling water and infuse for 3-4 hours minimum, or leave overnight to deepen the strength. Simply strain out the herbs with a fine-mesh sleeve and sip throughout the day. Infusions make a perfect iced tea; however, if you desire a little warmth, you can gently heat on the stove.

Decoctions

Simply add your hardy herbs to a saucepan with water, and bring to a boil. Allow the concoction to simmer for at least 20-30 minutes, then strain and enjoy!

Sun Brews

Spoon the herbal blend of your choice into a glass jar, generally filling around half the jar with fresh plant material or a quarter of the jar with dried plants. Fill to the brim with cool water, pop on a muslin top or lid to keep the bugs away, and leave out in a sunny spot to imbue the brew with warmth.

Plants for the People is available now. Text by Erin Lovell Verinder, photography by Georgia Blackie and cover design by Alissa Dinallo.

AU$39.99 / NZ$45.00


Posted on March 17, 2020
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A Q&A with plant whisperer Erin Lovell Verinder

Photography by Georgia Blackie

‘Plant medicine is your birth right.’ This is the mantra of Erin Lovell Verinder, a fully qualified and much-loved Western herbalist, nutritionist, energetic healer, mentor and educator. Her first book, Plants for the People, draws on ancient wisdom with a modern approach to medicine. Inviting you to return to the roots, this is the ultimate beginner’s guide to using plants to restore wellbeing. We chatted to Erin about her journey to discovering the healing realms of the plant world and inspiring others to do the same.

Where did your passion for naturopathy, healing and the plant world begin? 

I have felt a deep sense of belonging amongst nature for as long as I can recall. When I think of my childhood, I think of the height of the Eucalyptus trees in the park nearby and the fragrant smells of summer. The plants made an early impression on me.

I was enamoured with all things esoteric and mystical and began studying energetic healing (crystals, reiki, kinesiology, colour therapy, sound healing, breath work) at 16 years old I was not your typical teenager, that’s for sure! Training in the healing realms for many years taught me so much about the spiritual, mental and emotional bodies, and I really yearned to know more about the physical body. This is when I began training in Naturopathic medicine – forking off into deeper studies in Western Herbal Medicine and Nutritional Medicine, graduating with my bachelor’s degree as a Herbalist and Nutritionist. I loved learning about how plants hold an embodied power with a deep affinity for our bodies, and how ultimately nature’s way is the greatest healer.

Tell us a bit about your naturopathic philosophy. For you, what does it mean to be a true naturalist?

To me, being a true naturalist means walking the plant path – there are many ways to do this! I walk this path dedicating my life to working with plant medicine, by choosing to live amongst wild nature and by doing my very best to be a woman in tune with nature in all of her glorious facets.

I guide people to shift their health stories and thrive with the assistance of plant medicine as a gateway to radically awesome health. I have been working within the field of healing for 21 years now, with a strong focus on my clinical practice with clients, bridging the gaps between naturopathic and nutritional medicine, grass roots herbalism, and intuition. Much of my mission is to assist and educate people on the generous healing nature can offer us all, in combination with honouring and listening in to our bodies and beings. This is my holistic approach to health and healing and my naturopathic philosophy.

Photography by Georgia Blackie
Photography by Georgia Blackie

What does a typical day for you look like at home in the Byron hinterland?

I rise with the sun, mornings are slow and soft, and include breakfast at home with my husband around the kitchen table. There is always a meditation, pottering in my herb garden, a beach swim or a bush walk (communion with nature). We work from home, which affords us a lot of freedom and comfort. My days are full of mentoring, clinic, writing, or creating in some way. I make a commitment to take breaks, with a pot of herbal tea under my big pecan tree often. All work is switched off by 5pm, and as the sun sets and the yin of the night ushers in, there is always a nourishing home cooked meal, a sleepy time tea, conversation, candlelight, books, calm music and then in bed by 9pm.

What about a day in the clinic?

The days in my clinic are full and seem to zoom by. I follow my daily rhythms and set my hours with clients and mentoring around this. For me, being in practice for many years has given me a lot of opportunity to refine what works best for me as a clinician and space holder. As much as it is key to activate your intuition when working with people’s health, it is a very heady job that demands a lot of mental focus! I need it to feel paced, with little breaks, nourishing snacks and meals in between, and plenty of time with each client or student to fully be present for them. I keep my mornings chill, and although I sometimes work until late in the evening with clients, I am sure to switch off and give myself space to decompress. For this reason, I keep a lot of supportive foundations in place for myself to be able to do my work with clarity and confidence. It is an incredibly rewarding job to witness people get better and improve their health outcomes with natural interventions and plant medicine support. Truly it never ceases to amaze me that this is the work I get to do and offer.

Plants for the People is the perfect guide for plant medicine aficionados and those who have just started out on their plant path. What would your main piece of advice be for the beginners about to delve into your book?

To start with what resonates, which plant/s jump out to you in the Materia Medica section? Which recipes sound good to you? Start with what you are drawn to the most; the plants and recipes that stand out to you are usually what you may be needing the most.

Photography by Georgia Blackie

Do you have a favourite recipe from the book?

It is very hard to choose one. I do really love the Elderberry elixir recipe, which is super delicious and a great staple to keep in the fridge to support immunity.

What’s next for you?

This year is big, bold and bountiful for me! I will be promoting the book in three counties, travelling, continuing to work with clients and mentoring in my clinic, building my digital offerings and writing more.

Plants for the People is available now. Text by Erin Lovell Verinder, photography by Georgia Blackie and cover design by Alissa Dinallo.

AU$39.99 / NZ$45.00


Posted on March 11, 2020
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The other side of the world: An extract from Mirka Mora

A glimpse into Mirka’s first strides in Melbourne after emigrating from Paris, taken from the chapter ‘Movers of the new force’.

Upon arriving in Australia, the Moras found themselves in a house at number 6 Ellindale Avenue, in the suburb of McKinnon, 12 kilometres to the south-east of Melbourne’s CBD. Feeling dislocated and isolated, Georges and Mirka did not like it at all: ‘I couldn’t stand it, it was so dead.’

Mirka had always sewn her own dresses, and made frequent Saturday trips to the city to buy fabric from the fashionable Melbourne department store Georges. On one of these visits the man behind the fabric counter asked her if she was a seamstress. Although this wasn’t really the case, she nevertheless answered ‘Yes’. Impressed by this French ‘dressmaker’, he began to send her clients. Some of the commissions were challenging – a man’s suit, for example. But Mirka had always been resourceful; she waited until her husband was in bed and unpicked his jacket to see how it was made, sewing it back up again afterwards, all done while he was still sleeping. She soon had many customers, making ‘ladies clothes, suits and all. I never said no to anything. I had to work so hard, and I had the two girls to help me’. One of her assistants was Helen Ball, who would later marry the painter Leonard French (1928–2017). Mirka was already taking liberties with convention: she recalls a ‘very beautiful and elderly lady’ for whom she made a raincoat with slit pockets. At the fitting, Mirka realised that she had put one pocket up and one pocket down. But the lady ‘must have seen my shock when I saw that and she said, “Oh, this is so modern and I love it, I love it!”’ and kept it as it was.

Through a woman they met on the plane to Melbourne, the Moras were introduced to Colin Wainwright, a lively character who had many connections in the city. Colin became a friend – and even came to live with them in McKinnon. One day Mirka, tired of the suburban house after a few months living there, told him that she could not stay any longer – she wanted to find a proper studio to live in. Colin found the studio/apartment for her – in the centre of Melbourne, at Grosvenor Chambers, 9 Collins Street. It had a rich history, having been the studio of artists Sir John Campbell Longstaff (1861–1941) – who had once demolished a wall to let in the horse he was painting; Frederick McCubbin (1855–1917); and Arthur Streeton (1867–1943). The situation wasn’t straightforward: the landlord was a tad grumpy, and other people, including the painter Lina Bryans (1909–2000), were also interested in the studio. It took a lot of persuasion (which included suggesting that Mirka was opening a French-style haute couture studio) and Georges’ patience and diligence to convince the old man to rent it to them. In mid-1952 the family moved into 9 Collins Street, where they lived for the next 15 years.

Mirka was visited at the studio by many customers. The most important encounter – for her, for Georges and for Melbourne’s art world – happened via an introduction from the Herald newspaper’s music critic John Sinclair, whom she had met at a party at a customer’s house. (He was notorious for his sharp tongue: ‘Beware of snakes, spiders and Sinclair’ was a common warning given to musicians coming to play in Melbourne.

Sinclair was a friend of John and Sunday Reed. John (1901–81) and his wife Sunday (1905–81) were patrons of modern Australian art and literature, and their house, ‘Heide’, in Bulleen, Victoria, was a hub for avant-garde artists. Sidney Nolan (1917–92), Albert Tucker (1914–99) and Joy Hester (1920–60) lived and worked at Heide for lengthy periods. In 1977, Sunday donated 25 of the 27 paintings in Sidney Nolan’s Kelly series – painted by Nolan at Heide – to the National Gallery of Australia. The Reeds’ house and collection ultimately became the public art museum Heide Museum of Modern Art.

Sinclair recommended the young French seamstress to Sunday Reed, who rang the next day to order a dress. Sunday apparently never wore the dress (an elegantly simple white linen garment), and instead hung it on the wall because it was so beautiful.

The meeting with Sunday Reed was to have a great influence on Mirka’s career and on Melbourne’s art scene for the following decades. It triggered a long-lasting friendship between the Reeds and the Moras, who became instrumental in the revival of the Contemporary Art Society (CAS) and in the creation of the first Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne, in a local environment that was at the time quite bleak for the arts.

Mirka with her ‘Bip’ doll. Photograph by Sabine Cotte.
Mirka with her ‘Bip’ doll. Photograph by Sabine Cotte.

Mirka Mora: A Life Making Art is available to purchase here.


Sabine Cotte is a French-Australian paintings conservator. Trained in Paris and Rome, she worked for French national museums for ten years before moving to Melbourne in 2001. She has led several workshops in the Himalayan region for UNESCO, ICCROM and private NGOs, training local people in conservation and in disaster recovery, and has published articles in professional journals and given talks at conferences. She is an Honorary Fellow of the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, University of Melbourne, where she is also a casual teacher. Her PhD focused on the materials and techniques of Mirka Mora and led to the writing of this book.


Posted on August 8, 2019
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Meet Natalie King, series editor of the new Mini Monographs

Image (left): Sean Fennessy

Natalie King has a gift when it comes to visual culture, creative collaboration and bringing attention to both new and established artists. We spoke to Natalie – curator, professor and now series editor – about her career path, the inspiration behind our new series Mini Monographs, her goals for the year to come, and more.

Natalie, how did you start out in the art world, and what brought you to curatorship?

My paternal grandmother was a ballerina and we were very close. As a child, I adored going to matinee ballets with her at the Forum Theatre and remember the enchantment when the lights were dimmed and the ceiling glimmered with a trompe l’oeil sky. I was also an avid reader during a tumultuous adolescence and fiction allowed me to go into imaginary realms. I convinced a friend at school to illicitly procure his sister’s copies of books by D.H. Lawrence which I found scintillating.

On reflection, these childhood experiences shaped my pathway into curatorship though there was a temporary detour studying law. After a couple of years at law school, I travelled solo to Florence to study Italian and found myself taking respite in churches with frescoes and wandering through museums. It was like falling in love. Soon after, I changed my course to art history and museum studies at Monash University.

Where did the idea for Mini Monographs come from, and how did the project take shape?

The initial concept for Mini Monographs was formulated by publisher Kirsten Abbott with whom I have a prior relationship having worked with her on Tracey Moffatt: My Horizon for the 57th Venice Biennale 2017. We shaped the concept of Mini Monographs comprising a special selection of images accompanied by an essay from an author from a parallel field, adding an extra frisson.

Conventional monographs often accompany a retrospective exhibition and take a long time to compile, whereas our Mini Monographs celebrate a unique selection of images alongside a captivating essay, paired and in dialogue, compact and accessible. We especially want to celebrate the exceptional practices of women artists and hope that the series will be timeless.

Image from Polixeni Papapetrou: The Visitor, 2012. Images courtesy of the artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney, and Jarvis Dooney Galerie, Berlin. Digitised by Dr Les Walkling.

How did you select Polixeni Papapetrou and Del Kathryn Barton as the first artists for the series?

We believed that both Poli and Del are immensely worthy of being represented in the first tranche of Mini Monographs, inaugurating this new series. It’s an original and unique concept that celebrates Poli’s distinctive photographic ensembles and Del’s sensual portrait paintings.

What do you think defines Polixeni Papapetrou’s work?

Poli was a close comrade and colleague, who sadly passed away one year ago. We worked closely on the sequencing of her images and it is a tribute to her that this was our final project together. She was both feminist and feminine in her approach to all aspects of her life. Previously, I have curated Poli’s photographs into the Dong Gang International Photo Festival in Korea and the TarraWarra Biennial: Whisper in My Mask in 2014, plus I have published various interviews and essays on her work, so we had a strong affinity.

Poli’s work is defined by a highly staged and taut mise-en-scène, choreographed with costumes, sets and props and featuring her children, especially her daughter, Olympia. On the cover, we have selected Heart from the series Eden 2016. Here, Olympia holds a wreath or garland of flowers against a floral backdrop and dress, the patterns merging foreground and background. I think Poli might have been thinking about the Garden of Eden and the afterlife as well as celebrating the cusp of feminine adolescence and adulthood. The maternal gaze is powerful in Poli’s photographs, and her work is about relationships and love, staging and theatricality, landscapes and loneliness.

Images from Del Kathryn Barton: (left) what am I also, 2013. Courtesy of Del Kathryn Barton and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; (right) i am true about this, 2007. Courtesy of Del Kathryn Barton and Karen Woodbury Gallery. Photos: Jenni Carter. 

And Del Kathryn Barton?

Del works adeptly across painting, drawing, film, textile and sculpture in highly ornate renditions of friends, family and characters often merging with creatures. Having won the coveted Archibald Prize twice, Del has a feminine sensibility, yet there is an uncanny or foreboding quality to her sinewy figures.

We love Joanna Murray-Smith and Sarah Darmody’s personal essays accompanying Polixeni Papapetrou and Del Kathryn Barton respectively. What do you feel each essayist brings to the monograph?

Thank you. I also love the unexpected qualities to Joanna Murray-Smith’s and Sarah Darmody’s writings, which are both deeply personal, reflective and original essays. Joanna’s relationship with Poli invoked a certain intimacy, whereas Sarah’s experience of motherhood and viewing Del’s retrospective at the NGV lends a giddy vividness and velocity to her writing, almost like the frenzy in Del’s paintings.

What was the selection process behind all the breathtaking images in both books?

We worked closely with the artists and, at times, with their gallerists on the sequencing of images so that rhythms unfold. In particular, I worked one year with Poli on the arrangement of visuals: arranging, rearranging and deleting images, almost like a form of choreography. Lesser known images are placed in tandem with more familiar works to take the reader on a visual journey.

Image from Polixeni Papapetrou: Study for Hattah Man and Hattah Woman, 2013. Images courtesy of the artist and Michael Reid Gallery. Sydney, and Jarvis Dooney Galerie, Berlin. Digitised by Dr Les Walkling.

What have you enjoyed most about the process of bringing the series to life?

I am really proud of the series and have relished the process of working with Thames & Hudson, especially the visionary Kirsten Abbott and the artists whom I admire immensely.

In 2018, you were a finalist in the AFR 100 Women of Influence. How do you hope to use this influence in 2019?

It was an honour to be a finalist in the AFR 100 Women of Influence. I try to advocate and support other women to ascend and flourish. I am part of Mentor Walks whereby senior female professionals meet monthly for a walk and talk at dawn with emerging leaders to discuss their burning issues and concerns.

I hope I can show other women that together we can build inspired, collaborative working environments that can lead to transformation in our fields and beyond. We must remember that we aren’t aspiring to the existing paradigm of leadership but are making a new one. And, we have an obligation to steward our creative resources for the betterment of a faltering society. 

Image: Alli Oughtred

Natalie King is a curator and writer working in Melbourne. She is currently Enterprise Professor at the Victorian College of the Arts, and was named in The Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence awards for Arts, Culture and Sport in October 2018. Natalie was also Chief Curator at Melbourne Biennial Lab, Creative Associate of MPavilion and Curator of Tracey Moffatt: My Horizon at the 57th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale 2017, as well as the editor for Tracey Moffatt: My Horizon.


Posted on June 6, 2019
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Unlock the potential of shared spaces with Shared Living.

A very special Q&A with the author as well as your chance to win.

Shared Living: Interior Design for Rented and Shared Spaces features 21 shared homes around the world that are getting it right. Inspirational rather than aspirational, these homes are the work of creative thinkers who focus on savvy ways of decorating eclectically rather than with big ticket items. A weatherboard cottage in Sydney boasts a ready-made gallery with an enviable swapped-art collection; an apartment in Berlin exudes bohemian luxury through a combination of vintage finds and exotic curios; a Tokyo share house reveals a bedroom art installation; and a small London apartment merges bold colours with clusters of collectables to achieve domestic harmony.

With the reality of share houses becoming a long term option for the new generation of adults, Emily is working to reverse the bad rap that share houses have traditionally received. We spoke to Emily about her passion for designing spaces and her inspiration for Shared Living.

Read on for our very special interview with Emily, and scroll down for your chance to win a stack of books for your share house!

Q: Emily, what made you decide to create a book about interior design for shared spaces?

I had been writing about multi-million-dollar homes (as a writer for realestate.com.au) where boujee couples were able to spend thousands of dollars on their décor and I just couldn’t relate to what I was writing about. I thought to myself ‘hey, I love design and I have friends who love design, why should we be discounted in the design world just because we share a house and have a limited budget?’

Emily Hutchinson (left) with her housemates Maddy Dixon and Felicity Burke.

Q: Where did your passion for designing spaces come from?

I grew up with a mum who had a passion for interior design, but preferred to keep her colour palette beige. I think from growing up in this more pared back environment, I rebelled and opted for a style that showed off colours, collectables and creativity.

As soon as I was in my first share house at 21, I started to gain more confidence in my style. I would get a rush from finding something unique at a garage sale, or bringing home a new plant baby for my window sill. Looking around after a long day and enjoying the objects I had carefully selected for my space sparked joy and it still does to this day.

Q: How did this project take shape, and how long did it take you to compile all of these contributions?

The book took about a year to get all the photo shoots and words completed. I wasn’t just getting interviews back from one person, most of the time it was waiting for all of the housemates to come back to me with their responses to my questions because it was so important to have each of their voices in the story.

I hope they can all look back on it one day and fondly say ‘I remember that share house! What a time!’

Q: Did you come out the other side with any new revelations about shared living?

Yes, absolutely. I really appreciate my own housemates’ design choices much more than I did before. I often look at the things they bring home now, which might not be something I would have chosen, but it just works in our space and reinforces the fact that shared living is about being open with your housemates’ styles and willing to try something new. I think my own style has evolved because of this.

Q: Do you have a favourite household in the book?

They are all very special, but there is a historical apartment in the heart of Berlin which I wanted to move straight into. It’s lived in by a furniture designer, so the home is filled with unique creations and the other housemate buys and sells vintage clothes.

Hello dream living situation!


GIVEAWAY: WIN A STACK OF COFFEE TABLE BOOKS FOR YOUR SHARE HOUSE

To celebrate the release of the book, we are giving away $300 worth of coffee table books (of your choice) for your own share house. All you have to do is fill out the form below and tell us, in 25 words or less, what is your favourite share house story?

Competition ends 8pm Thursday 4th April. Winners announced and notified Friday 5th April.



Posted on March 27, 2019
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A Q&A with Kim Walvisch, author of The Burbs

We spoke to Kim Walvisch about her new book, The Burbs: A Visual Journey Through the Australian Suburbs 

How did you start as a photographer, and what was your inspiration to create the @sublurb Instagram account?

My daughter was an atrocious sleeper and the best way to get her to nap was to go on long walks around the local streets. Sometimes I’d walk for hours and, to keep myself occupied, I started taking photos of things that caught my eye – weird gardens, unusual chimneys, unique fences, peculiar letterboxes and other odd suburban details. I decided to start sharing those photos on Instagram to my account @sublurb and, after a number of years, I built up quite a loyal following of people also interested in suburban curiosities. Whenever I left the house to push Peggy in her pram, I’d also take my camera. I started travelling to suburbs all over Melbourne and photography became a serious passion. I decided to create an archive of what the Australian suburbs looked like before there was so much architectural development. I was keen to capture old-school suburbia before it vanished.

Who are your favourite photographers?

I’m a huge fan of American photographer William Eggleston and his use of colour. I’m crazy about Stephen Shore and his shots of banal scenes across the States: lots of old cars, parking lots, storefronts and that kind of thing. Joel Sternfeld takes photos in a similar vein, same with Fred Herzog. I’m basically a huge fan of colour photography of mundane or ordinary subject matter and the places we live.

What draws you to photographing homes?

A few things. I definitely appreciate certain styles of architecture, such as art deco and mid-century modernism, so I’m attracted to houses that reflect those eras. I also like unusual architectural detail that might appear on simpler postwar houses – ornate chimneys, stair railings, fancy brickwork – special touches that would have been made by brickies and other thoughtful tradesmen. I feel like a lot of housing today just doesn’t reflect the same level of technical skill, so I’m always on the lookout for those stand-out details. I’ve seen a house where the chimney is shaped like a large jug. Apparently, the owner was a wine connoisseur and had this detail built in especially. I love that kind of thing. Sometimes the ‘plain Jane’ houses have very special touches.

What is it that draws you to the buildings you photograph?

I’m looking for buildings with personality. I like imperfection, dilapidation, obvious signs of ageing. I like to capture buildings that might imminently disappear. I’m also a huge fan of symmetry, so I love houses that have symmetrical gardens or old matching chairs on the porch. Peculiar buildings intrigue me too. I’m looking for homes, buildings or gardens that convey the occupant’s eccentricities.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in creating The ’Burbs?

Deciding what pictures to include! I literally had thousands of shots, so it was really hard narrowing it down to a number that could be featured in the book.

How long did the project take?

I’ve been accumulating photos for about seven years now and was always hopeful a book project would arise. Thankfully, Thames & Hudson gave me the opportunity to share my shots with a larger audience.

This is your first book. What have you most enjoyed about the process of creating it?

I’ve found the whole process pretty fascinating. My first ever job was in a bookshop and I’ve always had a bit of a dream of creating my own book. I had no idea the publishing world moved so slowly, so it’s definitely been an exercise in patience! I enjoyed working alongside the designer and seeing the pages come to life. The most exciting moment was going into the Thames & Hudson offices and flicking through the advance copy. It was like holding a baby for the first time!

Kim Walvisch has been steadfastly documenting Melbourne suburbia for the past five years. Her Instagram account @sublurb now has more than 13k followers. She has taken photos in more than 100 suburbs and created a nostalgic archive of how things looked before the takeover of development. 


Posted on December 12, 2018
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Bohemian Living: An interview with the author

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‘Everyone lives in a bubble, so why not make it a beautiful bubble.’ – Gavin Brown
An interview with the creator of Bohemian Living

 

 

Bohemian Living by acclaimed Australian photographer and writer Robyn Lea features the homes of 20 accomplished creatives from Australia, Europe and the USA and celebrates what it’s like to live a uniquely creative life. In each artist’s profile, Robyn explores their often unusual childhoods and often unorthodox adult worlds, asking what does it mean to be bohemian in the modern world.  

We spoke to author Robyn Lea and her editor Kirsten Abbott about this visually stunning and thought-provoking new book.





Robyn, firstly, congratulations on this, your new book. It is stunning to behold and the stories behind your pictures are a delight. They are insightful, curious and sometimes sad – providing such texture to the artists’ homes and deep insights into their styles. This is a book that feels very personal to read. How did the project take shape for you?

When Kirsten Abbott from Thames & Hudson Australia called me to discuss this concept, I was immediately attracted to the idea. I’ve always loved writing about art. When I studied at RMIT, I did some journalism subjects and I’ve always had a deep interest in understanding why people are who they are. This book really allowed me to explore that question and feed my curiosity. More than any other book I’ve done, I think this book has a broad appeal. The diversity of the artists, their interests and their backgrounds will speak to many different people.

I know you as an acclaimed photographer; I think everyone who reads this book will agree that you are a beautiful writer too. You clearly love words as much as you do pictures. How did you start writing and what do you enjoying reading?

I started writing regularly when my husband and I moved to the US with our children in 2011. The country was just beginning to regain a little confidence after the global financial crisis, but local agents weren’t putting on new photographers, and photographers were not getting as much work. So it was quite a hard time to be there. In an effort to stay sane and feed myself creatively, I called interesting people in New York and asked them if I could interview and photograph them. Surprisingly, given I did not have a writing CV, most of them said yes. I then found a magazine that printed my stories. Each time I created a new feature, the process got a little easier and over time my confidence in interviewing and writing began to grow.

In regard to books I enjoy, well, I certainly love art and design books. Two of my favourite books, which I purchased in the 90s,are The English Archive of Design and Decoration and The French Archive of Design and Decoration, both published by Thames & Hudson. I also love biographies and autobiographies and prefer those written about women. Favourites include Personal History by Katharine Graham and Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi by Katherine Frank.



What prompted the idea of the book initially?

Kirsten: I am quite a maximalist and I wanted to see a book that celebrated maximalist, eccentric interiors with real people and the way they create a space with meaning.

How did you select your list of people to interview and photograph?

Robyn: It started out as a very long list of artists whose work I felt drawn to. I took the list to Kirsten and we narrowed it down together. Then I would dive into some more research on each person – looking deeper into their work, their lives and how they viewed the world. Logistics, of course, also played a par tin the final selection – how many weeks I would be in a country, for example,and who was available at that time. As I got into it, I also found that one interview led to another, that the artists would recommend others in their networks, or people they admired.

Your eyes light up when you talk about research, Robyn!

Yes, I do love research, it stimulates the grey matter and forces you to consider things from other perspectives. Trying to understand someone’s point of view when it’s different to your own experience can be fascinating and it can even be transformative. This project did that for me and I hope it will for others too. .

Were there any themes that emerged during this project?

Robyn:  Ah, yes, as I wrote in my introduction, I’ve always thought of my camera as a magic key, a key to adventure and key to connecting with people. What was interesting was that the motif of the key also came up in the work of a few artists I interviewed and that they also felt drawn to a symbol of a key, a key that connected them to different worlds.

What was the was the most challenging part of this project?

Robyn:What was surprising, and what emerged as a major theme, was how much significance there was behind the interiors: that these homes really weren’t designed for the approval of others, or to be sold, but as a personal extension of self and artistry – like living visual diaries. As I started to understand this, I realised that the artists’ homes told me so much about their dreams, their troubles, their hopes, their heritage and their families.

Artist Gavin Brown said to me: ‘Everyone lives in a bubble, so why not make it a beautiful bubble.’ This really resonated with my experience on this project, as one of the most attractive themes I experienced was a shared sense of joy. Modern life is busy and domestic life can really weigh you down; it can be very monotonous and mundane. I found a lot of the artists worked to maintain the joy in their homes and their lives.

What was the most challenging part of this project?

Robyn: Well, for me it was writing the first paragraph of the introduction! I drafted it a number of times, but it just never seemed right. It was only after I saw the final book cover design by Daniel New, with the concept of the key, that everything clicked, or should I say unlocked. I’ve always thought of my camera as a magic key – a key to adventure and key to connecting with people. It made perfect sense to open the introduction with that concept. What was interesting was that the key motif also appeared in the work of several of the artists, including Annabelle Adie and Barnaba Fornasetti.

Page Stevenson

After interviewing so many fascinating people, what tips, or insights do you have for others who would like to emulate bohemian style?

Robyn: That is good question, as all of the artists were truly unique, but if I had to outline some commonalities I would say:

  • Follow your heart, not trends
  • Celebrate colour
  • Collect on your travels
  • Showcase your obsessions
  • Decorate with passion and personal meaning

Bohemian Living is available now and features the lives and times of artists including Barnaba Fornasetti, Joshua Yeldham, Simone Bendix, Helene Schjerbeck, Greg Irvine, Gavin Brown, Peter Curnow, Claire Guiral and many more.

More about Robyn Lea

Robyn Lea is an acclaimed photographer, writer and director whose work has been published in Elle Décor UK, The New York Times, Vogue, Architectural Digest, Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker Magazine amongst many others. She is the bestselling author of Dinner with Jackson Pollock: Recipes, Art and Nature and Dinner with Georgia O’Keefe: Recipes, Art and Landscapewww.robynleaphotography.com

Robyn Lea and Kirsten Abbott

Posted on November 21, 2018
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For the love of gardening: a Q&A with Simon Griffiths

To celebrate the publication this week of the stunning Garden Love, we caught up with photographer, gardener, dog lover and bestselling author Simon Griffiths, to discover a little more about his fabulous new book, his approach to photography, how he got started and, of course, dogs, plants and country gardens.

How did you first start as a photographer, and what was your earliest inspiration?

I got my first camera when I was about 5 years old – a funny plastic ‘Diana’ camera, but it used real film, and I was hooked. At school I was good at art and science, and I suppose that’s why I was drawn to photography, as it’s that creative mix of both. After high school, I went to study photography at RMIT, which is still probably considered one of the best photography courses in the world.

Who are your favourite photographers?

I love Eugène Atget, a French 19th-century photographer, who was one of the first people to photograph gardens. His work documented French streetscapes and gardens around Paris, and also the French people. His body of work is still amazing all these years later. He had special times of the year when he would shoot gardens, such as when the buds were just about to burst in spring, which he said made the trees glow. He created stunning images, all on an early plate camera.

Jardin [du] Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens); Eugène Atget, French, 1857 – 1927; Paris, France, Europe; 1902 – 1903; Albumen silver print; Image: 17.5 x 22.1 cm (6 7/8 x 8 11/16 in.); 90.XM.64.54
Eugène Atget [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

John Dugdale is another photographer whose work inspires me. His beautiful still lifes and portraits are shot on a plate camera and printed using early photographic techniques. They have a quiet, fragile beauty to them, which is different to the clinical properties of digital photography.

How many books have you been involved in, and do you feel that the process has changed at all?

I have worked on over 70 books now. They really are a passion of mine and I have been lucky enough to travel all over the world shooting for different authors and publishers. Garden Love is the fourth book I have both written and photographed.

The process has changed a lot over the years. I used to shoot on film and it was always stressful to be travelling with 400 or 500 rolls of film and going through x-ray machines, worrying the film would be damaged. Digital is fantastic and has helped free up the creative process for me: I can shoot as many images as I want as there is no film budget now for books. When I started, the books I worked on had a limited number of colour photographs, with many still printed in black and white, as printing in colour was much more expensive. Now there seems to be no limitation to the number of photographs a book can contain.

What draws you to photographing plants and gardens?

I’m a gardener at heart, so I approach shooting gardens from that perspective. I’m interested in plants, in how they grow and in documenting that. You can learn something from every garden you visit. It might be a colour combination or a plant you have never seen before, or it might be the way a gardener has grown a plant, pruned or shaped it. If you lived for 1,000 years, you would still not learn everything about gardening and that’s what fascinates me. And when I’m not photographing gardens, I’m gardening at home.

What is your favourite part of your own garden?

I love the topiary in our garden – the Buxus (English box) shapes I have been clipping for 10 years now, which act like punctuation marks in the garden in the same way that full stops or exclamation marks complete a sentence. The topiary gets clipped twice a year and helps give the garden structure. I actually think I might add some more as it’s very effective.

Was there anything uniquely Australian that connected all of the gardens in the book?

Yes – all the incredible stories the garden owners had about snakes and other garden critters. One gardener, who thought she had picked up the garden hose, had actually picked up a snake. And nearly all the garden owners had stories like it. Gardening in Australia is a difficult process – we have a climate of extremes, and lengthy periods of drought – and you could only be in Australia with all those snake stories.

What inspired you to feature the dogs (and other animals in your new book)?

The dogs and cats or other animals we choose to surround ourselves with become part of our gardens, bringing them to life – they are as much a part of the garden as the plants themselves. I have two whippets and our garden wouldn’t be the same without them. Animals bring life and warmth to a garden.

If there was one garden from Garden Love that you would like as your own, which one would it be?

I have to say probably ‘Foss’. It’s a really magical place, and you always feel great whenever you wander around the garden there. It’s six parts magic, four parts garden. Last time I was there, the Manchurian pear trees were in flower, and it was incredible. The blossom was so thick on the trees, it was like walking through a large white fluffy cloud.

Plants, Dogs and Country Gardens … what else do you need to add to the list, for complete happiness?

A cottage and books, then life would be perfect.

Garden Love, priced $59.99, is available now in all your favourite book shops across Australia.


Posted on September 27, 2018
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John Russell and Vincent Van Gogh

John Russell was a close friend of Vincent van Gogh and Auguste Rodin, taught impressionist colour theory to Henri Matisse and dined with Claude Monet.  Watch this fascinating short video to learn a little more about the particular bond he shared with Van Gogh.

John Russell: Australia’s French Impressionist has been published by the Art Gallery of NSW to accompany the exhibition of the same name which runs until November. 

Bringing together 120 paintings, drawings and watercolours – including a number of works by his contemporaries – this major retrospective is the first survey of Russell’s work in 40 years. It offers fresh perspectives on French impressionism, reintroducing Russell’s extraordinary painting to today’s audiences.

John Russell: Australia’s French Impressionist by Wayne Tunnicliffe

Posted on September 21, 2018
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The beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales

Author Jaqui Cameron on the unique appeal of the Southern Highlands of NSW, and its community.

I am not a horticulturist. At this point in my life I am barely even a gardener, but I grew up with a large country garden and understand the dedication such a space demands. Having lived on a farm in the Southern Highlands with my young family for nearly a decade, growing and selling trees, I have come to know the dedication and passion of garden owners in this area. I also know that every garden comes with a tale as unique as its design and I’m incredibly inquisitive – some would say nosy! I love writing, I love a good story and I have always loved a great romance.

Over the years I have learnt that the Southern Highlands is an area with a gardening history as rich and deep as the local soil. Well known for its beauty, it has long attracted garden enthusiasts because the climate provides the opportunity to celebrate the beauty of a garden across the four distinct seasons. What is not so well known is the extraordinary variety of gardens that exist across the region, nor that it can deliver four seasons in a single day, with a clear summer morning quickly transformed by a thick wintry mist rolling in.

I have spent countless happy days driving along the quiet village streets and country laneways of the Southern Highlands, looking over gates and hedges, desperately trying to get a glimpse of whatever hidden gem might lie beyond.

I have met a wonderfully eclectic community of gardener owners, garden specialists and artists, and I have been lucky enough to visit some of the most breathtaking landscapes. I have found the beauty and the very personal love affairs people have with their gardens inspiring and delightful, and with each new discovery the idea to create a book telling the stories behind Southern Highlands properties began to grow. I wanted to uncover hidden, previously unseen gardens and explore the passions of the owners who had dreamt and worked hard to create their own private oases. My challenge was to find these private gardens and convince their owners to allow me to share their stories.

That’s where the strength and generosity of the local community came to the fore. It quickly became evident to me that there is no ego in a garden. At each site I visited, the owner would recommend another garden they considered to be an equal, if not grander, triumph with its own amazing story.

This serendipity led me to the wonderful characters, beautiful gardens and amazing stories that fill this book. I was overwhelmed with suggestions and never disappointed.

Beyond the Garden Gate, by Jaqui Cameron 

You never can tell what lies beyond the garden gate.

Text © Jaqui Cameron, Photography © Sue Stubbs


Posted on September 7, 2018
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The First Colour – an extract from Chromatopia by David Coles

In this extract from his new bestselling book Chromatopia, author and master paint maker David Coles looks at the origin of ochre – believed to be the first pigment used to create human artworks.

The oldest human artworks still in existence are vivid depictions of animals, humans and spirits that were created using ochres. There is evidence of their use as far back as 250,000 years ago. Ancient ochre artworks are found all over the world, from the earliest cultures of India and Australia to the famous cave paintings of Lascaux in France.

Naturally occurring iron-containing ochres of the earth provide a wide range of yellow, red and brown colours.

The natural mineral could be collected or dug-up and then simply ground against a harder rock and water added to make fluid. Later civilisations refined this process to include washing the ochre of impurities, drying and then grinding to a fine powder. 

Yellow ochres are an impure form of iron oxide called limonite. They can also be roasted to produce other hues

by placing on a fire or in an oven. A moderate heat turns the yellow to orange; stronger heat makes the colour turn red. These roasted red ochres are often called ‘burnt’ (for example, burnt sienna). Naturally occurring red ochres are richer in anhydrous iron oxide called haematite. They also vary widely in shade, hue and transparency.

There are many earth pigments whose specific colour comes from natural mineral admixtures. The pigments known as ‘umber’ contain iron plus manganese oxide that lends a greenish hue. Iron-oxide-free earths are not strictly ochres, but it is important to include them here as their use alongside the true ochres is significant throughout history; white earths from pipe-clay, black earths of manganese and the light green pigment terre-verte (green earth) from mineral celadonite.

Text © David Coles from CHROMATOPIA, published by Thames & Hudson.

Photographs © Adrian Lander

Chromatopia by David Coles is out now.  AU$49.99

Posted on September 7, 2018
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Pitch Perfect

Man about town and author of Saturday Night Fever Pitch Simon Doonan introduces five charismatic geniuses who changed footballer fashion forever.

Footballers exist for our vicarious pleasure. We ordinary mortals might not be winning trophies, growling through the streets in a Lamborghini Aventador, or executing bicycle kicks, or wearing $800 Saint Laurent jeans, or zipping about on private planes snuggling under Hermès blankets with top-shelf tottie, or pouring artisanal tequila down our throats, but somebody sure as hell better be doing it. In their strange meteoric footballing lives we need to see all our hopes and fantasies distilled and writ large, exploding and imploding.

George Best


The wage cap was officially lifted in 1962, and suddenly British footie players began coining it. They became part of the Swinging Sixties and began to live like rock stars, or at least to aspire to. Chief among them was raven haired stallion and Manchester United winger, Mr. George Best, the guy the press dubbed The Fifth Beatle, the guy who famously declared, “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.”

Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne 


In the 90s men’s designer fashion went global, and footballers were first in line: ‘I went out and bought ten Versace suits – but in all the brightest colours…and I got my hair bleached. I can’t remember why. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time.’ Thus spake footballing folk hero Paul Gascoigne, “the most naturally gifted footballer of his generation” and the poster child for footballer excess, and post-retirement struggles.

David Beckham 


In 2001, David Beckham, complete with Mohawk, appeared on the cover of The Face, the now-extinct bible of fashion esoterica, thereby achieving something unprecedented for a footballer: complete fashion legitimacy. No longer just a consumer of clothing and a popularizer of blokey trends, Becks becomes a bona de inspirational icon of cool. In the subsequent decade Beckham took his cool and his fashion legitimacy and made it into a brand that could sell anything from Brylcream to undies. Especially undies.

Mario Bolatelli


It’s just ‘andbags. In the 21st Century metrosexual footballers like Italian national Mario Bolatelli take their accessories very seriously. Carrying the latest Gucci or Louis Vuitton washbag into the changing room becomes an important moment of bravado and status. In addition to his appreciation for a good handbag – and his athletic skills – Bolatelli is also known for his camouflage-painted Bentley which racked up thirteen thousand dollars in parking tickets during his time at Manchester City.

Lionel Messi 


At the 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or awards Lionel Messi – many would argue that the Barcelona forward is one of the greatest players of all time – makes fashion history. Signor Messi wears an extraordinary suit made from shiny red shantung silk, a raging, blazing disco-inferno of red bespoke Dolce & Gabbana. The social media reaction is brutal, many accusing Messi of nicking his gran’s curtains. I, for one, think he looks damn good.

Photo by Joe Gaffney

 

Simon Doonan is the Creative Ambassador for Barneys New York. He has worked in fashion for over 35 years, and is the author of six books, including the tongue-in-cheek style guides Eccentric Glamour and Gay Men Don’t Get Fat.


Posted on July 9, 2018
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An Interview With Author Yuval Zommer

The internationally renowned children’s author discusses exploring the ocean in his latest work ‘The Big Book of the Blue’.

“I try to connect with my inner child: that eager curiosity about the world around us,” explains author Yuval Zommer. Having applied that winning process to bugs and beasts, his latest creation is The Big Book of the Blue – supplying readers with illustrated fun facts about everything from whales and dolphins to jellyfish and sea turtles.

The non-fiction book process is a lengthy one, notes Zommer. “It’s double or more the pages of a normal picture book, and you’re packing in lots of information. Details are very important to me, like the patterns, textures, structures and just sheer beauty. Nature is an unparalleled artist. Even the tiniest creature is amazing when you look at it closely – which is what children do.” There’s a lovely literal example of that in the book, as Zommer gets up close with krill through a magnifying glass.

“Children appreciate anatomically correct depictions,” notes Zommer. “When I draw, I try to understand the creature’s shape, movement and colour palette, then add in the detail. I always think: ‘What is its essence?’” He worked with sea life expert Barbara Taylor to ensure that “everything is factually robust, as well as asking what would be fun to discover – those quirks and surprises.”

From interacting with fans of his books on social media and at events, Zommer knows they’re adopted by a wide age range, so he takes care to include elements for everyone: from striking visuals for non-readers through to fascinating facts for those who are knowledgeable about the topic. Appropriate analogies help readers connect (such as comparing sea turtles’ sight to swimming goggles), and there’s plenty of wit to make parents smile.

One striking aspect of his work is the way that he overlays text and pictures. “My pet hate is books with one page that’s just an image and another that’s a big chunk of text. That’s a disconnect. Reading is about travelling through the story. It also works well for repeated reading, as you come back and discover something new, or can easily find your favourite page.”

Zommer’s personal favourites include the jellyfish page, which is backed by black so we can see the jellyfish glow and get a sense of their transparency, as well as the evocative night-time krill page and that depicting the duality of penguins: gangly on land and “almost balletic” in their grace underwater. But he’s delighted with the book’s overall variety, reflected too in its form: “It’s good to have a mix of portrait and landscape pages in a large format like this, so readers can twist the book or read it upside down. It adds another dimension to the experience.”

On a more serious note, there’s a section on threats to marine life – from oil spills and overfishing to global warming and plastic. “It’s something I thought about from the start. Even as a child, I was interested in ecology and wanting to protect the planet,” recalls Zommer. “It’s something kids really connect with, and they want to know how they can help.” An illustration of a whale whose belly is packed with plastic waste is a potent image for readers of any age.

Zommer is thrilled that his books have been translated into different languages and travelled everywhere from Europe to China, America and Russia. “The books travel more than I do! Once a book exists, it has its own life – you never know where it will go or who will read it. I love seeing kids getting into reading, and it really shows that children worldwide are fascinated by nature; its appeal is universal. That gives me great joy.”

Interview conducted by Marianka Swain @ The Arts Desk.


Posted on June 14, 2018
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The Allure of Retro Cameras

To celebrate the release of Retro Cameras, photographer Bill Knight delights in the inestimable charms of Leicas, Rolleiflexes, and the Nikon F1.

Will anyone ever care about outdated digital cameras the way they do about film cameras? Maybe, but it is difficult to believe that they will. The D1 was Nikon’s first digital single lens reflex camera, introduced in 1999. It may find its way into a museum but who is going to love it? It would be like loving an IBM PC. My D5 – its modern successor – is a wonderful thing, built like a brick, fast as lightning, sees in the dark, intuitive autofocus, you can work it with gloved hands in a freezing rainstorm. It is one of the finest picture-taking machines ever made.  But when the D6 comes along I will trade up without a second thought. It’s just a toothbrush really. Keep it while it does the job and chuck it out when something better comes along.

But film cameras have magic, and provided you want to work with film they don’t really go out of date. Look at the pictures of the Exaktas Contaxes, and Rolleiflexes in this book and the years roll away. I used to look at pictures like these when I was supposed to be doing my homework. By the time I could afford any of these cameras their time was passing, but they are still beautiful, in the way an old Rolex watch is beautiful. I did come to own one of the cameras illustrated – a Pentax ME Super – and jolly good it was too.

And then there’s the Leica – a piece of history in a class of its own. Henri Cartier Bresson had one; any serious photographer had one or wanted one. Small, beautifully made, with incomparable lenses, they have always been ludicrously expensive and I put off buying one for years. Then I read an article by a hospice nurse who recorded her patients’ dying regrets. You know the sort of thing – ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.’ ‘I wish I had lived the life I wanted instead of the one expected of me.’ I wasn’t worried about  any of those things but it did occur to me that I wouldn’t want to be lying there saying, ‘I wish I had owned a Leica.’ The man in the shop said that was quite a common reason for buying one.

So what is that about? Does my Leica M10 really take better pictures. Is that why I love it, even though it’s digital? Weirdly, the answer seems to be yes. I have taken my favourite pictures with a Leica, but it is hard to say why. When I get it out sitters sometimes think they are not getting their due. ‘Oh, you are using the little camera.’ Such ignorant fools.

Looking at these cameras you have to think that there is a lot of history there, some of it quite dark. The best models are German and Japanese, countries with whom we had a certain amount of political difficulty in the 20th century. What have those cameras seen? Some of the German brands were manufactured in the east and one imagines the Stasi were pretty good customers.

But so what. The camera is innocent. Even if you are not a collector you have to be impressed by the sheer range and number of the precision instruments so beguilingly laid out across the pages of this book. But it’s not just the mechanical beauty of these machines that gives them their charm. The Leica, the Nikon F1 and all the rest gave us our memories of the 20th century. Of course they have picked up a patina along the way. They were there. They saw.

Bill Knight @ theartsdesk.com


Posted on June 7, 2018