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A Lesson in Embracing Colour with Interior Designer Charlotte Coote

Charlotte Coote is a leader in classic contemporary interior design. With many years’ industry experience working in Australia, Europe and the United States, she is a sought-after designer of interiors, furniture and lighting. Charlotte is the founder of and head designer at Coote & Co., her design business based in Melbourne, Australia. She is also the creator of The Mountain Academyan online interior design course.

We recently spoke with her about the inspiration behind her new book, Colour is Home, her creative process and how readers can begin introducing colour into their own homes.

Image: Lisa Cohen

Colour is Home is such a feast for the eyes, congratulations! I’m wondering what inspired you to write the book?

I wanted to document everything I have learned so far in my 20-year career in interior design and to share my knowledge with a wider audience in the hope of providing some guidance and confidence to those looking to embark on a design journey themselves. I have certainly included some hard-earned lessons! I hope it’s a timeless book – something readers will continue to reference over many decades with any project they may have.

Tell us about how you became interested in interior design. How did you know it was the right career for you?

I grew up with interior design. My father was the renowned interior designer, John Coote, whose career took him all over the world. I worked for his business in Europe in my early 20s then started my own business in 2008. Nobody told me I had what it took – I was just passionate and figured it out as I went. It wasn’t easy. I did have a pretty incredible teacher though – even if he was tough!

Image: Lisa Cohen

Tell us a bit about your creative process – how do you approach each project?

Every single project is different. If I think about the projects my team and I are currently working on, the diversity in clients and projects blows my mind! I really love this as it makes for interesting work and forces us to keep pushing the boundaries of our designs. At Coote & Co. we have set up very solid business systems and processes – and then the creative process sits very organically within that structure. It’s so important we let each project be authentic through collaboration with our clients. This becomes evident in the final interior. It’s a partnership, with access and reference to my experience, skills and direction.

You’ve worked all over Australia, Europe, and the United States. Is there a space that you’re most proud of designing?

I have worked on some amazing projects around the world, but the projects for myself are probably the most rewarding: Marnanie, my home in Mt. Macedon, Victoria and now our new beach house on the East Coast of Tasmania, which we are currently designing. There is something so complex but exhilarating about being the designer and the client at the same time. I also feel like these are the projects the market really takes note of and judges you on so to speak. My father knew this all too well – at his house Bellamont Forest (an 18th century Georgian villa in Ireland which he owned for 30 years) I remember him having samples draped over guest bedroom chairs, as if to indicate “I am not done here, so you can’t judge me yet”!

Image: Georgia Blackie

Do you have a favourite room to relax in?

Autumn at Marnanie is beautiful. I especially love having a casual kitchen dinner in my new double height kitchen, in front of the fire, with good friends, delicious food and wine!

After spending so much time at home during the pandemic, I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling like my living space could do with some refreshing! What’s your number one piece of advice to people wanting to add a splash of colour to their home?

Don’t be afraid! Colour adds such a wonderful feeling to a home. Make sure to bring samples into your space and look at them in different light at different times of day. Take a picture – the photo never lies.

Image: Lisa Cohen. Book Photography: Georgia Blackie.

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

Feeling Good by Nina Simone, because it is a privilege to be here – I see the beauty in all aspects of life.

What’s next for you?

2022 is exciting indeed. We have a wonderful diversity of design projects and clients working with us at Coote & Co.! I am also filming my online interior design masterclass for The Mountain Academy and am excited to launch this in the next couple of months. Viewers will be able to purchase, download and watch the series online. I also just signed another book deal with Thames & Hudson, so watch this space! Finally, I’m designing and building a house on the East coast of Tasmania with my husband Geordie and Coote & Co. I’m pretty passionate about this project – it’s always a lot of fun being the ‘client’.


Colour is Home by Charlotte Coote is available now.

AU $59.99


Posted on April 29, 2022
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Cosmic Wisdom with author Jenn King

This April, we’re mighty excited to be releasing a very special new book that will teach you how to harness your full potential using the power of numbers and planets.

You’ve probably heard of astrology, might read your star sign on a regular basis, and (if you’re anything like some of the staff in the THA office) may even feel that a Mercury retrograde perfectly explains the chaotic world around you.

But did you know that numbers are believed to have their own energies at play? This is known as numerology, and it has continually fascinated people since ancient times.

Cosmic Numerology is tool that pairs the power of numbers with ancient planetary knowledge, to help you better understand your personality, enhance your talents and deepen your relationships.

It’s also the title of a new book by yoga teacher, herbalist, aromatherapist, and numerologist, Jenn King. We recently spoke with Jenn to find out more about the book. Read on for the full interview.

Image: Georgia Blackie

In your book, you speak of studying numerology, astrology, tarot, meditation, and yoga, starting when you were a teenager. What do you think it is that draws you towards all things mystical?

I would of course say it’s because I have a 7 (Neptune) hanging out in my numerology birth chart, which creates a desire to understand the unseen or energetic world. Aside from that, I have always had a sense of wonder around the mystical and spiritual realms. To me it makes sense that by understanding other aspects of our universe and human experience we are able to feel connected to what is beyond ourselves and grow as a person. 

I am fascinated by the things we know but can’t explain and I find it so beautiful that people throughout the ages have created spiritual ways to celebrate and make meaning out of life. My mother and aunties always called me ‘fae’ (meaning otherworldly, or connected to the other world) as a child and said it runs in the family too, so there is probably an inherited trait there.

You’ve described cosmic numerology as being like the love child of numerology and astrology. Can you tell us more about what this means?

Numbers have always felt magical to me, and when I discovered numerology in my early teens I fell in deep love. Astrology and the mythology around planets were something I have also been very into since that time. Finding out that each single number has its own ruling planet, just like each sign does in astrology, lit me up. 

‘All of these spiritual tools … have been around for a very long time. They are really about connection. These things offer a way to connect more deeply with yourself, with whatever is out there that is greater than us, and with the mysteries of life’

jENN kING

I love being able to use the language of planet-based mysticism to talk about numbers, and feel that this really resonates with people who already know something about astrology. 

Image: Georgia Blackie.

Why do you think the practice of numerology hasn’t become as mainstream as astrology has?

I do wonder about that and really feel it is time for numerology to shine. Although we are pretty much beyond that era, I believe the star sign columns in magazines and newspapers put astrology in front of people a lot more frequently, and the popularity has built from there. 

Both are systems of understanding the energy of the day, month, or year. Both are systems that utilise a person’s date of birth and assist us with self-enquiry and self-knowledge. Numerology has had less press over the years, I’m hoping to help with changing that. 

As well as writing Cosmic Numerology, you also have a beautiful Instagram account where you share the daily cosmic numerology forecasts. When did you start doing this, and how has it shaped how you live your day-to-day life?

I started doing the forecasts in 2016, originally on my personal account then graduating to a standalone account with @thecosmicnumerologist. I was working out the number and planet energies of the day, month, and year for myself for a long time before that and felt others could benefit from this too, so I started to share it with the world for fun. I’ve always loved to write, and the daily forecast is a great excuse to practice something I enjoy, while connecting myself and others with the current mood. 

Image: Georgia Blackie.

Can you tell us a bit about your creative process: how did you approach writing the book?

For me it was like a ritual most days. I’d organise my writing desk into a tidy and sacred feeling space, light a candle, meditate a little and then just let it pour out. I’d often have playlists going with dreamy and cosmic sounding songs to get me in the zone. The phone was always on silent in the other room. I’m very much a writer of the do not disturb kind. That and bursts of writing coupled with frequent short breaks works for me.

‘In my mind [spiritual tools] are meant to be a fun, inspiring and interesting way to enjoy self-enquiry, learn more about the people who matter to you and feel a greater level of awareness at play in your life. I always say to people that when it comes to these things take on what rings true for you, discard the rest. Let your intuition be your guide.’

Jenn King

Do you have a message for people who are a little sceptical about the wisdom of cosmic numerology?

All of these spiritual tools like numerology, astrology, oracle decks and other mystical things like meditation, ritual work etc have been around for a very long time. They are really about connection. These things offer a way to connect more deeply with yourself, with whatever is out there that is greater than us, and with the mysteries of life. This is their power, and this is why people love them still.

In my mind they are meant to be a fun, inspiring and interesting way to enjoy self-enquiry, learn more about the people who matter to you and feel a greater level of awareness at play in your life. I always say to people that when it comes to these things take on what rings true for you, discard the rest. Let your intuition be your guide.

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

The three core aspects that are most important to a person (in my opinion) are covered in the book, but of course we are multi-dimensional people with a lot going on. When it comes to the chart readings, we are really looking at every influence from that person’s day and date of birth, so there are 8 different aspects that I cover.

I always ask the person for their date of birth, and to let me know the three specific areas or questions they would like to delve into in the reading. Firstly, all of the number and planet aspects as they present with the individual are covered. I then work with the persons chart, their enquiry, and my intuition to assist with guidance based on their cosmic numerology. 

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

Ah that is a tricky one, I love so many songs. Cloud Busting by Kate Bush, Myth by Beach house, and Rain by Tones on Tail always put me in an inspired mood to write.

Image: Georgia Blackie

What’s next for you?

I’m getting married in May so that is a big treat coming up! Plus, more writing, workshop planning, and another creative Cosmic Numerology project is currently in the works. Stay tuned.


Cosmic Numerologist by Jenn King is available now.

AU$39.99


Posted on April 28, 2022
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A Lesson in Tuscan Cooking and Hosting with Amber Guinness

There are many farmhouses in Tuscany, but few are quite so magical as Arniano. It is here in this 18th-century podere that the author of A House Party in Tuscany, Amber Guinness, grew up and learned to cook. And it is here that she established The Arniano Painting School, a residential painting course and immersive art and food experience.

We recently spoke with Amber about why she loves Tuscan cooking, the creative process behind the book, and how readers can capture the essence of Arniano themselves.

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

Congratulations on the book – it’s such a wonderful celebration of what your mother and late father created at Arniano! Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to write it?

The idea for this book started five years ago when I noticed that people on our painting courses at Arniano would often finish lunch by asking me for the recipe. What started as the odd request became a surprisingly constant refrain, which is when my wonderful tiger husband, Matthew Bell, started his own refrain: ‘Amber, you must write a book!’

Luckily, I had started to compile a scrapbook of tried and tested recipes, and this dog-eared soup stained folder was the early iteration for A House Party In Tuscany. So, a book about me and my sister’s upbringing, our parents, what they created at Arniano, and the recipes that we had always cooked there had been percolating for years.

But it wasn’t until I met Robyn Lea, a talented photographer and author, that the dream became a reality. Robyn came to Arniano to do a shoot, not about food, but about interiors and my mum Camilla’s work, and I told her about this idea. It was Robyn who picked up the ball and ran with it, taking it back to Kirsten Abbot at Thames & Hudson in Melbourne. Kirsten and I were all set to have our first meeting about the project in London in March 2020, and of course, the world came to a grinding halt.

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

What seems incredible to me is that Kirsten and Robyn didn’t lose interest in the project due to the pandemic – quite the opposite. They took it up with enthusiasm, over many Zoom calls at hugely inconvenient hours to them in Australia, and took a gamble on me and my idea, despite the fact that to this day, I have never met Kirsten in person!

There’s a wealth of knowledge inside the pages of this gorgeous book! How did you approach the creative process of writing it?

There were various stages creatively for the book. Research and thinking about what I find most useful in a cookbook was the first stage. I really wanted this book to be useful in the kitchen, as well as to look good. What I thought about the most was how to layout the recipes in the book – would it be straightforward: aperitivo, antipasti, primi, secondi etc. or, would it be by chapter, or seasonal?

I also thought long and hard about how to pitch the recipes – would they be for the experienced cook, or people who had never cooked in their lives? Making the layout of the book user-friendly as well as making sure that the recipes were as achievable, clear and as practical as possible was really important to me. As a self-taught cook, I have often been frustrated with cookbooks that tell you to do or not to do something without explaining why that step is crucial. Often when the reasoning is not explicitly explained, I’ve skipped a step which has in fact then resulted in the dish being ruined! So, I really wanted to include the right level of ‘hand holding’ and pre-empting mistakes for the reader so as to avoid some of the kitchen disasters I’d made in the past while still learning. 

Once I had made the decision that it would be laid out seasonally, it was just a question of getting on with it! I had an advantage in that I wrote the book between March 2020 and March 2021, so was locked down with no distractions for most of it. I have no idea how people write books without lockdowns!

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

I would write early in the mornings and then recipe test in the afternoons in time for a late lunch, and later, dinner. My approach to recipe writing was, ‘we have to eat, so let’s combine the two things’. I would write the recipe, cook it, and then make notes on the draft as to what had and hadn’t worked before making it again with whatever changes needed to be made the next day. I also conducted several interviews, which involved hopping in the car and going to speak with local cheesemakers, the family who owns the olive press and Gianfranco, the local truffle-hunter. These were the elements that I would write in the morning before recipe testing. 

You describe learning to cook by watching your mother prepare meals for family and friends at Arniano, which is such a lovely image. Is there a meal that most reminds you of cooking with her in the kitchen?

Probably malfatti di ricotta e spinaci, which is in the Spring section of the book. They are one of the first things I can remember my mother making for us. They were always considered a huge treat, as they require some time and meditative patience. Also known as gnudi, meaning ‘naked’ in Italian, the ricotta and spinach ‘gnocchi’ are basically the same as a filling for ravioli and are naked by dint of not being encased in pasta. 

I love how in the book you show that Italian food is so much more than just pizza and pasta! Not that I don’t love both of those things very much, but there’s such a world of culinary delights beyond them. What would you say makes Tuscan cuisine unique?

Tuscan cuisine comes from a place of poverty and so is very enterprising. There are lots of beans and vegetables and very little waste, while at the same time making mouth-watering meals out of things that would normally be thrown away. There are a plethora of ways in Tuscany of turning stale bread into something rich and delicious, such as ribollita or pappa al pomodoro. That’s what I love about Tuscan cooking, that it isn’t about fancy sauces or complicated cooking methods, but about bringing the best out of whatever ingredient you have to hand, sometimes using as little as some olive oil and salt. 

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

Is there a recipe you love that didn’t make it into the book?

I wanted to include the recipe for one of my favourite soups, Straciatella alla Romana, but then we decided against it. It’s a real winter warmer, eggs beaten with grated parmesan and pepper and then cooked in a pot of clear chicken broth. It sounds weird, but it’s wonderful. In the end, though, we felt that it’s a cosy, comforting dish, which I make for me and my close friends and family on a winter’s night, so it didn’t really fit in with the theme of entertaining and feast curating. 

The way that your tables are laid and your meals are presented seems to be just as much a part of the artistic heart of Arniano as the oil painting lessons! How can readers capture the essence of hosting Arniano-style at home?

By making Pink winks. By buying the best veg, olive oil, tomatoes and salt they can find. By recreating any of the menus at the end of each chapter of the book and by bringing some colour to their table with single stem flowers and Lisa Corti tablecloths. 

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

You also offer ‘Arniano-on-sea’ – the Arniano Painting School experience at Pylewell Park in Hampshire. Can you tell us a bit about that? Does the menu differ from the Tuscan version of the school?

The style of food is substantially the same, very simple and Tuscan, but I do bring in a lot more fish as there is so much locally available. The reason we don’t cook a lot of fish at Arniano is that we’re 90km from the coast, which in Tuscan terms is like Timbuktu. So, we keep the menus more mountain and inland focused as I prefer to use only the freshest ingredients. But it’s a treat to serve locally caught fish and crab with foraged samphire when we’re on the Hampshire coast at Pylewell. I still cook it in the Tuscan way, with olive oil and maybe some tomatoes, capers and lemons, and never with any fancy sauces that I feel mask the freshness of the fish.

The gamekeeper on the estate also always gives us a haunch of venison sourced from the wild deer that roam the park at Pylewell. I always love experimenting with new recipes for cooking venison. It’s such a delicious, gamey meat which is also very sustainable. Wherever the painting courses are, I think I’ll always aim to cook with the best locally sourced ingredients. 

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

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

I’m not sure it encapsulates my approach, but I like bouncing along to Ya-Ya by Lee Dorsey when I’m working. And any Sam Cooke. 

What’s next for you?

Lots of painting courses – I think we’re doing seven this year! So, lots more cooking. More writing and more exploring of Italian food. A visit to my best friend, Beata Heuman, in Sweden. After the whirlwind of writing the book, bringing everything together and now press and promotion, I’m looking forward to spending three weeks on one of my favourite islands in Italy, with very little internet, hiding from the world.


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

AU $65


Posted on April 7, 2022
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Discover the Hidden Kingdom of Fungi

The Future is Fungi is a complete introduction to the hidden kingdom of fungi. Exploring their past, present and potential future impact in four key areas (food, medicine, environmental remediation, and psychedelics and mental health) the book not only reveals how fungi have formed the foundations of modern life, but also how they might help shape our future.

We recently spoke with the authors Michael Lim and Yun Shu about their favourite fungi facts and the process of writing the book.

Image: Joana Huguenin 

You both started out in very different fields before ending up in the world of fungi research. Can you tell us a bit more about what led you down this path?

Michael: An early psychedelic experience with a fungus showed me that there was much more to this beautiful existence than I had initially contemplated. A state of ontological shock embedded new questions about my very being into my psyche. Over the course of the next few years, my worldviews completely shifted. I had a burning question about how compounds in nature could give rise to altered states of consciousness. My research into the fungi kingdom also had tangents in anthropology, ecology, and philosophy. The chance to share and express this particular journey in a book has been energising and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

Yun: The pivot from financial services to fungi can seem like a 180-degree turn! I had some life-changing experiences brought about by psychedelic compounds found in the fungi kingdom. My key learnings centre on not taking life too seriously and to have fun on this journey. I was fortunate enough to love many of my roles previously, but the path to create and write is nourishing. To make sense of the infinite inputs and thoughts in my inner world and put them into cohesive writing – that can then touch another person’s inner world is special to me. I’m just following the doors that open and the synchronicities that come my way.

How did you both meet and begin working together?

Michael: We met through mutual friends a few years ago and ended up becoming housemates when we were living in London. During the months-long pandemic lockdown, we had extra time to document everything we were doing – researching, cultivating, foraging, cooking, sketching – and sharing it with friends.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

What was the impetus for writing this book?

Michael: We saw how our friends were engaging with the content and it made us realise that there was not one book that was comprehensive yet beginner-friendly. We felt that the learning curve was unnecessarily steep. You either had to take your time digesting academic journal articles, learn mycology as a science or choose a particular specialty and go deep. We knew we wanted to write a beginner yet comprehensive book regardless if we had a publisher. We’re thankful that our friend Evi connected us with Paulina from Thames & Hudson Australia. There was a lot of chemistry within the team from the first meeting. We really feel like we pushed the boundaries in terms of design, illustration and writing style to bring a contemporary take on an ancient kingdom.

How did you approach co-authoring the book? What was the writing process like?

Yun: The co-authoring process was grounded in collaboration, respect and honesty. We planned the book structure together and then tackled one chapter at a time. We divided the workload by picking the sections that we were innately more interested in, and it worked really well. We wrote in the early morning, usually starting by 5am, before the noise of everyday life filtered in.

Beyond the benefits of having a second pair of eyes, having a second author really helps with the critical voices that can take over when working on such a big project (‘is this good enough?’, ‘does this even make sense?’, ‘is it always going to be this hard?’). The writing process can get tough, but I was comforted by books such as Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and The Artist’s Journey by Kent Nerburn.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

As well as the two of you, there are also contributions from other experts in the field. What was it like having them collaborate on this project?

Michael: We have learned so much from the people that we interviewed. They were a diverse group of people across disciplines such as mycology, forestry, biomaterials, psychedelic medicine and business. What they had in common was fungi, their genuine care for the world and the desire to share their knowledge. We feel really thankful for their time and hope to pay it forward.

The contributors specifically all had decades and decades of experience in their chosen field. What’s special is that their essays were all written in an accessible way – we hope that the readers enjoy those especially! There is a lot of wisdom in those pages.

Do you have a favourite fungi fact from the book?

Michael: Fungi allow us to form new connections in our brain and dissolve the rigid boundaries of our minds. A study using the fungal compound psilocybin found that 67 per cent of the participants ranked their experience as one of the top five most meaningful things they have ever done, on par with the birth of a child, death of a loved one, or marriage.

Yun: My favourite fact changed the way I saw mushrooms at supermarkets. Did you know that the white button, chestnut, portobello, Swiss brown, cremini and champignon mushrooms are all the same species? They are all species of Agaricus bisporus – the most widely cultivated mushroom in the world – simply cultivated at different stages of maturity.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

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

Yun: There really is! It’s great to see the increase in interest in natural and holistic methods of healing, be it physical, emotional or spiritual. But for many, the prices are prohibitive. Fungi are a unique tool in our quest for wellness because they are a democratisation of health. They are relatively cheap and accessible. You can forage for them for free, cultivate them for a small set up cost or learn to create your own mushroom extracts and tinctures for free on the Internet.

What sets fungi apart is that they have been used for thousands of years by traditional cultures and they are non-toxic and have no lethal dose. There are direct to consumer companies online selling a range of mushroom products, but you must do your own research to understand their ingredients and manufacturing processes. We go into that in detail in the book.

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

Yun: Free by SAULT. The ethereal chorus gives me a feeling of inner liberation: ‘free, don’t give up for no one, cos God’s love is free… what will be will be.’

Mike: I have an album! The Universe Smiles Upon You by Khruangbin. Their album is filled with soul, funk, and groovy sounds that fits any mood and reminds you that life is simply bliss.

Photography: Paul Vallier

What’s next for both of you?

Yun: We’re passionate about using different vehicles to explore our relationship with nature, each other and ourselves. The Future is Fungi was an exciting vehicle and we’re proud of the final product. Looking forward, we’ve always been strong advocates for the safe use of psychedelic plants and fungi. We truly believe these compounds are the most practical tools for us to examine the heights and depths of our psyche. As research advances and so do decriminalisation and legalisation efforts, there is still an education gap left by the decades of prohibition.

Michael: We want to continue to be a part of that conversation, helping shape culture and education as psychedelics are folded back into society. We’re very excited about the future and are collaborating with experts within the field to bring more soon. Follow us at @enterthepsy for updates!


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

AU $49.99


Posted on March 7, 2022
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Body Gratitude with Jess Sanders

Jessica Sanders is an author and social worker with a passion for creating resources that nurture positive mental health and promote gender equality. Jess spends her days writing, facilitating school-based workshops and running social justice campaigns for young people.

Recently, she teamed up with illustrator Constanza Goeppinger to create The Body Gratitude Deck of Cards. With beautiful illustrations, inspiring quotes and transformative affirmations, Body Gratitude is designed to help people heal and nurture their relationships to their bodies.

We recently chatted with her about how her new card deck came to be, and what drives her passion for promoting mental health, gender equality and body gratitude.

Image: Jess Sanders

Your CV is so impressive! As well as being an author, you’re also a social worker, podcast host and you facilitate school-based workshops for young people.  How did you first become interested in promoting positive mental health, gender equality and body gratitude?

When I was growing up, I struggled with negative body image, disordered eating and anxiety. I also had a tough transition to high school and was bullied in those early years. Towards the end of high school, I remember waking up to the fact that my experiences weren’t unique, that so many of my peers were navigating their own mental health issues. This realisation combined with my mum’s work in the gender equality and preventative education space inspired me to study social work and to publish my first book, Love Your Body.

How does being a social worker influence what you write about?

My training as a social worker has made me acutely aware of the ways that our social and economic systems perpetuate inequality. When I write I’m speaking to an individual but I’m also thinking about the systems that impact those individuals. 

You’ve also got a podcast called The Unlearning Project. Can you tell us a bit about that?

The Unlearning Project is a podcast hosted by yours truly that aims to debunk the untrue stories we’ve all internalised about bodies, gender, mental health, and work, so the next generation won’t have to. So much of the suffering we experience is rooted in stories that are just not true. Unlearning them can relieve a lot of pain and create space for new and true stories to be written. In my first season I talk to a diverse range of inspiring individuals who are creating change and challenging harmful social narratives. 

Image: Smith Street Books

The Body Gratitude Deck of Cards features beautiful illustrations by Constanza Goeppinger, as well as inspiring quotes and transformative affirmations. How did this concept come to be?

I wrote Body Gratitude for the adults who resonated with my children’s book Love Your Body and wanted something of their own. I’d long been admiring Constanza’s work and when I pitched the concept to Smith Street Books, I included her artwork and they fell in love as well! 

It seems like so much of the current discourse around self-love and self-care seems to have been co-opted by the wellness industry and focused on getting people to buy products we’re told will fix our imperfections. How does the concept of body gratitude differ from this? Do you have any advice for people trying to navigate this confusing space?

Body gratitude encourages you to look inward and appreciate what you do have, rather than the wellness industry, which is encouraging you to buy something you don’t. My advice would be to not listen to people or products that tell you not to trust yourself. You already have everything you need to create a strong relationship with your body.

Do you have a favourite way to practice body gratitude?

Swimming in the ocean is my favourite way to feel connected to my body and the joy it can bring me! 

Image: Jess Sanders

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

Pre-pandemic it would have been Non-Stop from Hamilton, however this global crisis has forced me to slow down and now it would probably be F E M A L E by Sampa the Great.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a series for under 10’s called Life Lessons for Little Ones, the first title of the series You Are Enough comes out in August this year. I also have another card deck coming out later in the year that I’m very excited about!


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

AU $29.99


Posted on February 15, 2022
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A Q&A with Zeno Sworder

This Small Blue Dot is an award-winning children’s book with a powerful message of hope and interconnectedness.

We recently chatted with author, Zeno Sworder, about his daughter’s response to the book, how it felt to win a CBCA award, and plans for his next book.

Image: Zeno Sworder.

Congratulations on winning the CBCA New Illustrator Award last year! tell us about that: how did it feel to win?

It was a surprise and also a joy to share that recognition with my daughters who were such a big part of the book. This Small Blue Dot was originally made just for them – an audience of two. It has been wonderful to hear from teachers and parents who are passionate about the book and see the book reaching an audience around the world.

You’ve previously talked about loosely basing the main character in your first book on your oldest daughter. How did she respond when she saw your illustrations?

She loves the book and has started making her own picture books in folded and stapled paper. I think she just finished her eighth book (about a talking booger). So she has me well and truly beat. Her younger sister who is four is much more enthusiastic about This Small Blue Dot and used to proudly march around the house with the book, telling visitors her sister was inside. 

Illustration: Zeno Sworder.

You’ve got a new book coming out later in the year. What can you tell us about it?

I am excited for the new book, My Strange Shrinking Parents, to be out in the world. It was written in a flash but has taken more than two years to illustrate. At its core it is about migrant parents who sacrifice their height, bit by bit, for their son’s wellbeing. As a result, they become smaller as their son grows taller. It is a strange and surreal story that describes the journey from child to parent and the shape that a life takes when viewed from a certain distance. While it is deeply personal it also reflects the story of many young people who grow up feeling different and out of place. 

Can we expect a character based on one of your daughters in this one?

Unfortunately, they don’t show up in this one but there are projects in the future that I would love to include them in.

How would you describe your creative process? Do you find that the story or the imagery come to you first?

The process is always changing for me. If there is a recipe for making picture books, I haven’t found it yet. Generally, ideas and characters will linger with me until I draw them or write them down. My Strange Shrinking Parents was written at 2am in the morning while carrying my youngest daughter up and down the length of the house trying to get her back to sleep. I set up a notepad in the kitchen at the far end of the house and wrote a sentence each time I passed it. In my mind I had a very strong image of the parents standing in a garden at sunset, which I drew and painted over the next couple of days. That first image of the parents eventually became the final page of the picture book.

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

I am regrettably very slow when it comes to illustrating my stories. Part of that is my preference for drawing on paper with traditional tools rather than working digitally. I have tried to speed up this process but find that I work better at a slower pace where I can lose myself in the imaginary world on the page.

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

What a great question. I am tempted to say chopsticks on the piano, which incidentally is the only piece of music I can play (much to my mother’s shame – she is a gifted pianist). A poem that I hold close to my heart is Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken and that is probably a better answer. I tend to instinctively take the more difficult path through things as I feel it will be the better teacher. 


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

Richard Unsworth is a leading garden designer and writer based in Sydney, and the owner of renowned outdoor design store Garden Life, which specialises in inner-city garden design.

We recently chatted with Richard about all manner of things – from the ultimate Australian wildlife combination, to Bob Marley song lyrics and wearing life like a loose garment in 2022.

Photography: Nicholas Watt

In your book, The City Gardener, you speak about growing up in the north of England, and the dreariness of Winter in Yorkshire. Is there anything you miss about the British climate or landscape?

In terms of climate – I don’t miss much! I do miss the long midsummer summer evenings, where magical twilight seems to last all evening, spring blossoms, and autumn colour of course. In so far as landscape is concerned, I miss walking in the vastness of the lake district, the Yorkshire dales and the wilderness of Scotland.

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

Arriving here was most exciting, so refreshing and reinvigorating – the subtle smells of the bush, the harshness of the landscape, the light – all so foreign at first.

My favourite plant species would definitely be the Banksia, hands down. I’m obsessed with them, particularly the old man Banksia (Banksia serrata) – the stems are so gnarled and full of personality.  If I saw a kookaburra in a banksia tree, that’s my idea of the ultimate wildlife combo – kooks are the most wonderful birds, so full of personality and incredible hunters.

Photography: Nicholas Watt

You’ve been creating and producing gardens in Sydney for over 20 years. Can you tell us what influenced you to start your design practice, Garden Life?

Once I knew that I wanted to put down roots here and make this my home, I thought about returning to a career in horticulture and gardening and wanted to start something that felt right. I had no idea where it would go, I guess I just wanted to make my mark on things.  Garden Life evolved after a few years of me just gardening with a van and some tools… and grew from there.

How did you choose the 20 gardens featured in The City Gardener?

All had to be within 10km of Sydney’s CBD, and we chose the strongest ones that best represented who we are and the very varied design work that we do.  Being client focused, our work responds to their brief and the surrounding environment.

Photography: Nicholas Watt

Gardening can be daunting! What are your top tips for beginner gardeners who don’t know where to start?

Just focus on putting the right plants in the right place – and they will thrive for you. So, pay careful attention to the sunlight and how it moves in your space – and select plants for those conditions (not just because it has a pretty flower and its flowering right now in the nursery!).

Do you have any advice for renters who want to make the most of their outdoor space in the short-term? 

Absolutely plant herbs and veggies in your garden – these are inexpensive to buy and provide much joy and wellbeing.  Talk to your landlord about getting involved in the garden – and plant things that you know you can easily transplant when you leave – succulents are perfect for this.  

Keep your plants in their plastic pots but repot them into larger ones when required – and then if you want to invest in good looking containers, just place the plastic pots into the smart containers – so they are relatively easy to move with you.

Photography: Nicholas Watt

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

Right now, in these strange times,  it’s Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds (“don’t worry about a thing, cos every little thing gonna be alright”).

I feel to be ok right now, is about being ok with so much uncertainty.  In 2022 I want to wear life like a loose garment.

What’s next for you?

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

My current passion is the restoration of the garden at Trincomalee, our home at Pittwater, just 45 minutes north of the CBD.  Its only accessible by boat and it’s a magic spot where people melt and exhale, and I feel pretty blessed to be able to be part of life up there.

And hopefully another writing project this year, which hugely excites me, hopefully more will be revealed, as life unfolds …

Photography: Nicholas Watt

Richard’s book The City Gardener was published by Thames and Hudson Australia in 2021. You can follow his latest garden restoration progress over on Instagram @trinco_pittwater.  

The City Gardener is available now. Text by Richard Unsworth and photography by Nicholas Watt.

AU$ 49.99


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

Megan McKean is an Australian Australian designer, illustrator and author living in Sweden. Her love for travel and colour are reflected in her signature candy-coloured design aesthetic.

We recently spoke with her about her creative routine, her SNAP! card game series, and what it was like to move to Sweden in the middle of a global pandemic.

Photography: Megan McKean

Your work has such a distinctive look and spans print, digital and 3D mediums. How did you first become interested in design and illustration and when did you develop your signature colourful style?

I’ve always had a love for the creative arts, all the way back to being a stationery obsessed 10-year-old colour-arranging my gel pen collection. After studying a Bachelor of Design in Visual Communication, I started my own label crafting contemporary souvenirs and travel keepsakes and found myself working on more and more illustration projects. Mixing in some travel and being inspired by the different locations turned into developing distinct colour palettes for each city and eventually it all lead to more and more colourful work!

Talk us through your creative process: what does an average day in the life of Megan McKean look like?

There really isn’t an average day for me, it’s really lead by what project I’m working on at the time and where in the process that project is up to! I love the variety of the days, as it means I never get a chance to get bored. Regardless of what I’m working on I always try to start the day with a walk and some podcasts (usually just the news cycle and occasionally something a little more pop-culture based) and a phone call to a friend in Australia. If I’m deep in an illustration project, the day will often be spent at the desk, with something trashy playing on Netflix while I’m colouring artwork. These days are good ‘mindless’ days where I can just get in the zone with colouring in; it’s quite therapeutic when I find the groove.

Since moving to Sweden I’ve gained a brand-new appreciation for the seasons and tailoring my day around the weather – since the winter months are so long and the days so short, I try to do all my errands in the middle of the day while there’s the most amount of daylight. I love popping into my local op-shops for a quick look and stopping by the flower sellers for a bunch of bright blooms for the work desk.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

So much of your work showcases your passion for travelling. When did you discover your love of visiting new places?

My husband and I did a ‘round-the-world’ airfare for our honeymoon all the way back in 2012; we were both still students and still eligible for discount airfares! It was the first time I’d travelled anywhere and I was just completely smitten with travel from the moment I got on the airplane. Coming home from that trip kick-started all of my work, with almost all of my side projects relating back to what I’d seen or experienced while abroad. My feet have been itching ever since, I just love drawing things that make each city so unique! Capturing that atmosphere into an illustration is a real joy for me – anything to extend the feelings that travel brings!

Do you have a favourite travel destination?

I have so many favourites, for all different reasons – but if I had to choose just one destination, it would probably be Palm Springs, California. Two hours east of Los Angeles, it’s a mid-century goldmine in the middle of the desert. We’ve been visiting Palm Springs every chance we can for almost 10 years now and we just never tire of it. The dry heat of the desert, incredible architecture and tall palm trees against a snow-capped mountain backdrop… it’s truly like nowhere else in the whole world.

Photography: Megan McKean

A year ago, you moved from Sydney, Australia to Malmo, Sweden. What was it like moving overseas during a global pandemic?

It was bananas. I kept telling people it was like everything in life had been set to ‘hard mode’; everything that is already a challenge about moving to a new country was really ratcheted up due to the pandemic. Trying to find housing, taking language classes, starting a new work role… all things that are tricky to start with, but were just even harder through the pandemic as none of the normal systems were in place. It was a real challenge to do it without any support network too – other expats can probably relate to the teething problems of being new somewhere without any friends or family, but it was an exceptionally isolating experience through the pandemic, because, well, no-one can relate because it hasn’t happened before!

It also made it harder to get to know my new city but thankfully Malmö is very petite, so I’ve spent a lot of time in this last year walking and cycling over the city and feel like I’ve got a good handle on my local favourites now.

How has this move influenced your work? 

The move has influenced my work in some ways I didn’t really think about beforehand, largely with the way I think about colour and building my colour palettes. Getting to tackle so much interior design in our apartment has been a total creative gift, finding ways of working with colour and texture that I hadn’t had the opportunity to explore very much before.

Practically, the move has made some components of my work more difficult, the time zones in particular can be a real challenge, but I think if the last couple of years have to have a silver lining, it’s the newfound flexibility and adaptability to work projects, being able to connect with clients via Zoom and getting better at working remotely.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

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

I love our Aussie animals, especially the feathered ones! I love drawing Major Mitchell’s cockatoos (because they’re pink, naturally!) but also because of the beautiful sunset hues in their crest. The snap games were so fun to stretch outside of my usual Aussie animals and add in some of the more weird and wonderful – I loved adding the details to the spotted wobbegong, the freckled duck and the blue-ringed octopus!

What’s next for you?

I’d really like to work on some more interiors projects … I’m dreaming of renovating a summer cottage so when travel is more accessible again, my friends and family can come and visit me in Sweden! I loved working on our apartment this last year and am itching to give it another go now that I’ve run out of walls to paint. We’ve also just added a furry friend to our family, puppy-raising a sweet black Lab named Saga until she’s grown up enough to start training to become an assistance dog. It’s so much fun but I’m still finding the sweet spot of getting any work done with a cute puppy in the house!

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

AU$ 17.99

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

AU$ 17.99

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

AU$ 17.99

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

AU$ 17.99


Posted on December 22, 2021
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In the Studio with Kim Siew

Sydney-based mural artist and illustrator Kim Siew’s work combines colour and pattern to create a unique feeling of playfulness.

Her work recently featured at the 2021 All About Women Festival at the Sydney Opera House. You can find her illustrations in children’s picture books, original prints and zines, as well as on the streets of Sydney in the form of hand-painted murals.

We spoke with her about her career so far and the artistic process behind the memory card game At the Gallery.

Image: Kim Siew in her Studio

Where did your love for illustration begin?

I’ve always loved drawing since I was little. I was the kid at school who was always at the library or up in a tree reading and creating my own stories in both text and images.

You have created some incredible hand painted murals over your career so far, is there a particular mural you are most proud of?

I think I will always have a soft spot for the very first mural I painted, which I painted with my partner in the back laneways of the Inner West in Sydney. We used a mix of spray paint and house paint, just stuff we had lying around, and based it off a poem I had written about all these birds falling from the sky in Arkansas. It was loose and free and lots of fun and I had never created something on that scale before without anything being planned.

How would you describe your illustration style?

Bright and playful with lots of people and pattern.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

Can you tell us about some of the workshops you run in Sydney? Where can readers sign up?

I run workshops in zine making and book binding through local art galleries, artist run galleries, libraries and schools. I usually list upcoming workshops on my website or socials but due to COVID-19 these have been put on pause for a while.

Have you faced many challenges working as an illustrator in Sydney over this year’s COVID-19 outbreak?

As an illustrator not as much, I guess just that meetings have been moved online. But workshops were either straight out cancelled or moved to an online setting, which I found a lot harder than I thought I would. I think I really rely on being able to come up to people quietly in a workshop if they are struggling, and the communal chat that happens naturally amongst everyone while you create together. But you adapt and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

What was the process behind bringing the artists featured in At the Gallery to life?

Some of the artists I already knew, but there were also ones that I hadn’t heard of or didn’t know that much about. So it first started out as a bit of research into each artist, figuring out some personality traits they were known for, as well as the work they made.

It also helped working alongside Bianca (THA’s gift developer), who printed out the initial sketches to size to see how much detail we could put in without things getting lost. Once I had done a few I got into more of a flow of the style and direction I was going to go with for them.

Photography: Georgia Blackie

Do you have a personal favourite artist from the game?

It would be a tie between Kara Walker and Margaret Kilgallen. Both amazing super women whose work is so different from one another but speaks to me for different reasons.

What’s next for you?

I’m squirreling away at a little book project at the moment which I can’t wait to share soon. And there’s a few new murals that will be popping up over the next couple of months too!

At the Gallery is available now. Illustrations by Kim Siew and design by Casey Schuurman.

AU$24.99


Posted on November 22, 2021
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Furry felines and deluxe digs with Where They Purr author Paul Barbera

Photographer Paul Barbera’s showcase of enviable interiors and the enigmatic cats who call these places home is one of a kind. From a heritage-listed Victorian terrace to an art-filled inner-city warehouse, Where They Purr uncovers a range of cheeky cat’s domains and their predilection for sunlit nooks, mid-century furniture or rooms with a view.

We spoke to Paul about how his talents for photography were first recognised, what sparked the Where They Purr project and a few challenges he encountered along the way.

What led you to the world of interiors and lifestyle photography?

I would say it chose me more than I chose it, at least with interiors photography. In my early twenties, I did a small furniture shoot that got shown to Karen McCartney. At the time, Karen was head of Marie Clare Lifestyle and booked me for my first editorial job almost straight away. It sort of went on from there and wasn’t something that I had necessarily set out to do. At the time, I was too young to appreciate beautiful interiors and spaces and could barely afford them. A well designed space is a natural extension of yourself and what you see, and goes back and forwards between the way you like to live and what you like to photograph.

Your work has been featured publications like Elle Decor Italy, Vogue Living Australia and Grazia France and you have worked with incredible advertising clients like Marriot Hotel & Resorts, Samsung, Amazon and Starbucks. Can you tell us a bit about your commissioned work?

I am lucky that many of my clients book me for what I do rather than just providing a specific brief that requires me to morph what I do. I often collaborate with brands on the creative or art direction. I get to do a range of jobs including high production shoots all the way down to instances where it is just me and a camera doing a portrait for a magazine.

Photography: Paul Barbera

How does Where They Purr continue on from your first two books Where They Create and Where They Create: Japan?

Where They Create and Where They Create: Japan evolved from my already existing website, blog, Instagram and Facebook page capturing me shooting studios. Where They Create was a topical and unqiue collaboration with Frame and was a zeitgeist of the moment. I’m not the first or last photographer to shoot creative spaces but I put my own spin on it. With all three of my books, I have discovered a casualness which I don’t have when I’m on a commissioned shoot. The connection I would draw between Where They Create and Where They Purr is a very relaxed approach to shooting formal spaces.

Photography: Paul Barbera

What have you learnt about the relationship between furry felines and beautiful homes over the process of bringing this project to life?

I learnt that shooting interiors has nothing to do with cats and shooting cats has nothing to do with interiors. It took a very delicate balancing act between trying to capture detail in a space with limited light and a cat jumping and moving quickly through the space in an unpredictable and almost Olympian fashion.

I also realised the accuracy of Jean Cocteau quote that says ‘a cat becomes a home’s visible soul.’ You rarely find a cat that doesn’t match the interior, and I don’t think that is because they’re chosen that way but because they become a reflection of the space. I’ve never met a cat that didn’t feel natural in the space [I am shooting] – besides one, but I’m going to leave that one alone because the cat wasn’t necessarily a full-time occupant of the house. I’ll leave people to guess which cat that might have been.

Photography: Paul Barbera

Did you encounter many challenges during shooting?

I had three cameras running to enable me to pop in out depending on what the cat was doing. I discovered that treats don’t really work, but equally a full cat is a chill cat. I also found that you really need owners to help wrangle their cats while you try to balance semi-styling and curating the space and positioning the cat in the spot that you have set up. Challenging to say the least!

Do you have a favourite cat from the book?

There’s something special about all of the cats. Pud, who is Broderick of B.E Architecture’s cat, was as velvety and rich as the interior I was shooting. As I reflected I realised that Pud was a reflection of Broderick and this made him a favourite for me. Esmerelda was eccentric as was the Sue Carr house I shot her in. Raphael and Fellini were so in sync with each other which made them a pleasure to photograph and their space by Tamsin Johnson Interior Design was beautiful. Winston Fluffybum was another favourite – just a beautiful silhouette in her Robson Rak Architects home. I also enjoyed photographing Gus and Freddie in their incredible Arent&Pyke space. Molly was a little bit absent, but her lack of care made her fun to photograph. Carol, Luther and Harvey Crafty were wonderful too.

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

AU$ 65.00


Posted on October 14, 2021
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A slice of Southwestern France with Sara Silm

Australian stylist, cook and journalist Sara Silm spent much of her life travelling the world before buying the dream-like Chateau Montfort in 2015. Through a lens of colour, texture and flavour, she brings us a taste of life in the French countryside in her bright new book How to French Country.

We spoke to Sara about her life of wanderlust, what readers can expect from the book and some tips on living your dream.

You grew up in Sydney, worked in the Middle East and South Africa, lived in Russia and Kazakhstan before eventually purchasing Chateau Montfort in Southwestern France. What inspired you to travel and experience the world the way you have? 

I think it was my first trip overseas. My father was a great hiker and managed to organise a six-week expedition to base camp of Mount Everest (by fax) when I was just 11 years old. This was well before the internet and organised group trekking, so we did it as a family with yaks at altitude, and lower down, with porters. We eventually walked out into India and celebrated in a beautiful old British Raj hotel set amidst the tea plantations of Darjeeling. That trek opened my eyes to a world that was ripe for adventure; a fascinating temptation that demanded to be explored. There was no going back at that point, I was hooked.

I think what really intrigues me about living in other cultures, though, is the thrill of being outside of your comfort zone: of being confronted with new smells, tastes, cultures, languages, sounds and sensations, so strange and wondrous that you’re forced to engage all your senses and truly live in the moment. I think I learnt from a very early age that I wasn’t very good at existing in a predictable environment. It felt like living life in a constant circle. I’m more a linear kind of person. I’m captured by the thrill of what lies beyond the ridge or around the bend.

What do you find most rewarding: writing, cooking or styling?

It’s probably photography actually, closely followed by writing. There’s not a single day I don’t have a camera in my hand. Nothing gives me more pleasure than capturing light, colour and the beauty of everyday life in a lens, whether it’s on my big professional camera or simply an iPhone. It’s a kind of obsession if I’m honest; a bit like a mad stamp collector or an entomologist collecting insects in a net. The thrill of fishing through images at the end of the day is honestly one of my favourite things in life. You just never know what might be waiting for you. It’s those unexpected split seconds that managed to find their way into the frame: the purity of emotion captured in the that precious moment when laughter or doubt or wonder registered in the subject’s face. When light weaves itself through the grass like ribbons on a maypole or when you capture the whimsy of an everyday object that would otherwise remain unseen and unappreciated.

As for writing, it’s something I don’t ever choose to do. It just happens, daily. I can remember writing and illustrating my own little books when I was very small, and it’s continued in one form or another throughout my life. The actual typing of it at the computer is such a small part of the process. The bulk of my writing happens in my head when I’m walking the dogs, or in the garden, or in the car… which might explain why my children often complain that they need to ask me the same thing two or three times. I’m constantly in my own little world!

Photography: Sara Silm
Photography: Sara Silm

Tell us about a day in your life at Chateau Montfort.

I can’t pretend that life here at Chateau Montfort isn’t filled with the same all-consuming logistics that determine the routine in most family homes; there’s no escaping that. But a typical day here is very much dictated by the season; more so than in other places I’ve lived. I love to watch the sunrise which is the best way of knowing what month you’re in — it can be early or it can require a rather long wait in the dark. Most days start with a walk along the old Roman road that hugs the ridge behind Montfort. It’s a kind of mental meandering through the tasks for the day as well as through the landscape which, like us, changes in subtle ways from day to day. Some days the Pyrenees poke their snow-capped peaks through a blanket of soft cloud. Other days they stand proud in a clear blue sky. In autumn there are chestnuts to be gathered from the forest floor and roasted on the fire at night; ceps to be foraged and sauteed in butter and garlic. In summer there are fields of wild mint for making refreshing iced tea and wild blackberries — something my dogs delight in snacking on as we meander along the track. They’re truly French dogs!

Most days I’m in the garden tending to the potager, the perennial beds, the chickens and the goats (they’re always escaping) and collecting flowers, herbs & foliage for the house — there are always fresh flowers in the house, even in the depths of winter. I adore the farmer’s markets, so depending on the day (each day the market is in a different village) I’ll be sipping coffee at a little bar somewhere with the other early risers out to bag the freshest produce before the lazy ones make their way at a more respectable hour.

The AGA is generally laden with pots bubbling away with jam and chutney and inevitably a daube or casserole in the simmering oven. I’m almost always restoring a piece of furniture, and nearly six years on, the house renovations continue. I’m currently decorating both my son’s rooms. One is at university, and the other has just started at boarding school in Dublin so I’m finally reclaiming these teen-dens and making them my own, or at least more hospitable for any future girlfriends!

Photography: Sara Silm
Photography: Sara Silm

Your new book, How to French Country, is the ultimate guide to surrounding yourself with French country style no matter where you are in the world – a welcome delight for Australians itching to travel! What can readers expect from the book?

It’s a book that’s intended to be very much a handbook. It’s both a lifestyle and regional guide that might inspire a future trip to this beautiful but largely lesser-known part of France. If travel isn’t an option, it’s also a way of bringing home a little bit of France, be it via a recipe, colour palette or décor option, no matter where you live. I know how hard it can be to make a home feel authentic, especially if you don’t know where to start or where to find materials that express the way you want to feel, so I included a chapter that charts the course of our little stone barn. It’s essentially a mini house, so it formed a perfect vignette that allows readers to see how each room developed in real-time (it was renovated and shot by me over the course of nearly two years). Essentially, it’s a book that provides the perfect escape from the four walls that have defined our lives for these past months, and years in some cases. A way of reassessing what’s important to us and the way we want to live going forward.

Photography: Sara Silm

It seems to us that you are living the dream – do you have any tips for readers looking to do the same?

I think the pandemic has been an incredible opportunity to refocus on dreams — both personal and those in the interest of our planet. Life is so fragile and so short, there’s no time to waste. Dreams remain just that if action isn’t taken, so my advice has always been to move ahead and make them a reality, no matter how big or small. There are always obstacles, especially when you throw in foreign countries and ancient buildings, but if you break a dream down, be realistic about your expectations and take one day at a time, you will get there. Dreams take grit and determination and sometimes many years in the making, but the reality is thrilling. Far more thrilling than the alternative of doing nothing and allowing them to simply exist in your mind.

What’s next for you?

I’m very excited about my upcoming collection of wallpapers with Sandberg, one of my favourite Swedish wallpaper companies. There’s a wonderful historical link between Sweden and the Béarn, so we’re developing some beautiful designs with this in mind. As the world gradually re-opens, I’m also starting to develop some new travel guides for my website and a wonderful series of inspiring interviews with creatives who are living their bliss. Esther, my Nubian goat doesn’t like the rain and has asked for an indoor hay manger in her maison so there’s that…and perhaps a new rose bed. You can never have enough roses!

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

AU$ 59.99


Posted on September 28, 2021
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In conversation with trailblazing Victorian chef Annie Smithers

Annie Smithers is often described as a bit of a local legend in the Australian food scene. If you’ve ever wanted to experience the true meaning of farm-to-table dining, or drool at the thought of classic French farmhouse dishes, Annie’s Trentham restaurant du Fermier should be high on your bucket list.

Annie’s new book Recipe for a Kinder Life is more than just the story of du Fermier, though. Part-meditation, part-memoir, it is a generous account of life on the land and in the kitchen. At its heart, Recipe for a Kinder Life is Annie’s guide to living more gently and sustainably.

We were lucky enough to chat to Annie about her journey to owning one of the country’s most celebrated restaurants, her favourite spots to eat when she’s not at du Fermier and what she hopes readers will take away from the book.

Photography: Sandy Scheltema

Tell us a bit about your path to becoming one of Australia’s most highly regarded chefs. At what stage in your career did you know you wanted to be running your own restaurant?

I decided late into my secondary education that I wanted to be a cook. After finishing my HSC, off I went to look for a job. After nearly forty years of cooking, I still think that I love it more each day than I did the day before, so some may say that I found my vocation. As to when I discovered I wanted to have my own restaurant, that was more a quirk of circumstance than an actual decision. But I have certainly enjoyed the last 16 years of having my own places, as it enables me to dance to the beat of my own drum.

Du Fermier is widely considered a pioneer for the Australian paddock to plate ethos. What inspired you to pursue this idea for the restaurant?

At the turn of the last century there was increasing discussion about food miles and food sovereignty. I was living on an acre of land at the time and decided that I needed to put it to constructive use and to grow fruit and vegetables for the restaurant. I have always been a believer in the concept that if each of us does what we can, no matter how small, together we can all make a difference to the future of the planet.

Photography: Susan Thompson

For those who havent had the privilege of visiting your restaurant du Fermier, what can they expect from the experience?

Eating at du Fermier is as close as I can get to entertaining people in my house. Our sole aim is to make each and every one of our customers feel loved and nurtured during their time with us. I cook classic French inspired country food, sometimes plated, sometimes shared, free from the embellishments of more technical and high-class restaurants.

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

Our favourite place to eat at the moment is at home. Getting vegan take away from the food van, Twinkletown, next to the restaurant on a Wednesday night when I go into town ‘to put the bins out’ is a delicious treat.

And when youre in Melbourne?

The last 18 months have been very challenging for us getting to Melbourne to eat. My wife Susan and I went for our anniversary in January and had the fabulous vegan banquet at Maha, and were thoroughly spoilt by the lovely Shane Delia.

One of the major themes of Recipe for a Kinder Life is living a more sustainable existence. What does sustainability mean for you?

I believe it is essential to find the point at which you are self-sustaining in your own life before you tackle the broader questions. If you are too tired, too pushed within yourself, it is an uphill battle to make changes to your life that bode well on a broader scale.

If readers take one thing away from Recipe for a Kinder Life, what should it be?

Be kind to yourself. Believe in your dreams, work hard for them, but don’t sacrifice too much for them. Find your own limits and live with them and love them.

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

AU$32.99


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

It would be an understatement to say that the travel focus for most Australians has shifted to local and interstate wonders. You might even say we’re approaching a day trip renaissance, which is why Evi O and Andrew Grune’s new project Day Trip couldn’t have come at a better time.

In case you aren’t already acquainted with this seriously innovative duo, Evi O is an award-winning book designer and self-taught artist while Andrew has worked across the globe in the fashion industry and is best known for his talents in photography and videography. They have come together through a mutual love for nature and creativity with Day Trip, a new series that is unlike any Australian travel guide you have seen before.

We wanted to celebrate the launch of the first book in the series, Day Trip Sydney: 52 Nature Adventures, by chatting to Evi and Andrew about the foundations of this project, how they selected the nature trips featured in the book, their travel tips and more.

Image © Day Trip Publishing

You’re quite the superstar team, having achieved countless creative endeavours independently. Do you each have a career highlight so far?

Evi: Personally, this is rather a highlight. Never in my mind did I think I would write a guide book. It is a dream doing it with Andrew, too. It’s a continuation of the cliché ‘if work is play, you never have to work in your whole life.’ Apart from this, I feel like I’m currently living a career highlight with my Evi O Studio team daily and a busy art practice. Sorry, there are a few highlights.

Andrew: I would have to agree with Evi. This is such a different project to what I normally work on and I can really see all the skills that I have developed being utilised in the project. I think that’s what makes it so interesting for myself and as a product. I think Evi and my skill set combined have hopefully created a new and exciting brand. 

What brought you together as collaborators?

Evi: My cheesy answer is love, and wanting to know the other person inside, I think? But it is kind of true (for me), as we started going out during COVID. I wanted to know Andrew’s creative brain and muscle, and we did this day trip to (the then-empty) Bathurst racecourse and I felt I discovered a bit more about him, and the potential of collaborating is an organic continuation.

Andrew: Definitely love and also our spirit of adventure and spontaneity. A lot of times our day trips don’t go to plan and we end up finding something even more exciting than we intended. Not everybody can work like that! 

Image © Day Trip Publishing

What led you both to the Day Trip project? How is it distinguished from other travel guides?

We were kind of limited to restrictions, funnily. We wanted to pitch an Australia-wide travel book, but then our publisher Paulina de Laveaux said ‘That’s impossible, why don’t you do a day trip book, you’re already doing it.’ Thanks, COVID. As to how it is different, I guess it’s a fresh rendition, and designed for today’s modern life. A snapshot of a trip and its map is compacted in one page ready to be photographed and used in your mobile pre-trip. We are also just your regular people: we don’t have 1% body fat, nor do we own hiking poles, so the level of difficulty and access within these trips is very friendly. We do love rewards, so each trip also comes with either a destination or a memorable experience. 

What was the process behind selecting the nature trips featured in Day Trip Sydney? Were there any that didn’t quite make the cut but deserve an honourable mention?

We rate the rewards of each experience and basically go with our instincts, but part of this succinct curation also involves asking for tips from friends, family and strangers, just to make sure the selection is diverse. And oh yes, there are some that didn’t make the book – we will share in the next one 😉

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

Do you have a top tip for new day trippers?

Get a good pair of shoes! 

Has COVID changed your perspective on travel?

Absolutely. The adage of ‘the journey, not the destination’ is so true. And both of us have a new appreciation of this beautiful city is there. We both have lived half our lives here, and we are gladly reminded of what Sydney has to offer.

What’s next for Day Trip? Can you give us some insight into the future of the brand and series?

There will be more books. And some fun merch. We are heading to Melbourne next, and as soon as book one is launched and standing on shelves, we are going to start pursuing more creative collaborations as Day Trip. We want to express our creative drive and travel curiously through Day Trip.

Day Trip Sydney is available now. Text, images and design by Evi O and Andrew Grune (Day Trip Publishing).

AU$34.99

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


Posted on June 30, 2021
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A Q&A with nature expert Jonathon Drori

Jonathon Drori’s first book Around the World in 80 Trees resonated with readers far and wide looking to find inspiration through nature. Now, Jonathon is back with Around the World in 80 Plants, bringing to life the science of plants by revealing their links with our own history, culture and folklore. We spoke to Jonathon about his passion for science, strategy and botany and some of the most fascinating plants featured in the book.

Having worked as an author, public speaker, an adviser and board member for a variety of organisations, an honorary professor, the founding Director of Culture Online at the UK Government’s Department for Culture Media and Sport, an Executive Producer for the BBC and so much more, do you have a career highlight that you are most proud of?

Gosh, that’s the kind of list that even my parents would have thought was just a bit too much! I spent some time as Editorial Director for BBC Online, when the medium was just being invented. That was pretty exciting. And my nine years on the Board at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew were special for the combination of science, beauty, strategy and some amazing botanical expeditions.

How did you become so passionate about nature?

My parents definitely inspired me. They told stories about plants and animals to my brother and me and although we both lost interest in those tricky teenage years, something obviously sank in!

What inspired you to write Around the World in 80 Plants? Had you always planned a sequel to Around the World in 80 Trees?

The success of 80 Trees was a wonderful surprise to me. I wrote the kind of book that I wanted to read – a book with plenty of science, but not a science book. A book with plenty of history, but not a history book. Same for culture, folklore, etymology and so on. I couldn’t find anything out there that entwined them all, with proper storytelling. So, I had a go, and it seems that people like that kind of thing. Of course, Lucille Clerc’s gorgeous, whimsical illustrations really brought it to life. I realised we were onto something, which made me want to do another book. Being able to research and write about things that completely fascinate me is the most wonderful luxury. I am humbly grateful!

Illustration: Lucille Clerc

What was the process behind selecting the plants featured in the book?

I looked for plants with a good geographical spread around the world, and where I felt there was something new to say. I set myself the challenge that any reader, coming from any area of interest, should find something new and special in each of the 80 biographies of plant species in the book.

What is the most unusual plant we can find in the book?

The Welwitschia, of the desert straddling Namibia and Angola, is a very strange plant indeed. Depending how you look at it, it can be one of the ugliest or one of the most beautiful plants on earth, and that’s the only place it grows. It can live 500 years and yet it only ever has the same two leaves, that just keep growing from the base and withering at the ends. Another unusual plant is the Iboga from Gabon and Cameroon, for the mind-altering effects it has on people who use it in Bwiti initiation rites.

Why are plants so inspiring to us?

Perhaps because in the end, human life, in fact all life on earth depends on plants. I love them because they are so varied, get up to such strange behaviours and have such odd, poignant, bizarre and even funny relationships with humans.

What’s next for you?

My philosophy has always been to make connections with interesting people and good things happen. I don’t know what’s next. Something will turn up!

Around the World in 80 Plants is available now. Text by Jonathon Drori and illustrations by Lucille Clerc.

AU $39.99


Posted on April 22, 2021
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Bringing Bad Apple to life: a chat with illustrator Ben Sanders

Bad Apple is the first in a new series of picture books starring a truly terrible piece of fruit that shows readers what he’s really made of. We were lucky enough to chat with the book’s Australian-based illustrator, Ben Sanders, about his rewarding career, illustrative style, working with author Huw Lewis Jones and more.

Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an award-winning illustrator. Were you always interested in art and illustration?

I was actually interested very early on. I got a proper architect’s drawing board for my 14th birthday. Sometimes, when my parents went to bed, I’d get up and secretly draw on my board well into the night. I was already a freelance illustrator by that stage, as I had a paying client by the time I was 11 years old. I was drawing little watercolour characters that were made into stickers, notepads and what-not. I enjoyed it enough to pursue a creative career after I left school. 

How would you describe your illustrative style?

Mid-century modern with a zesty twist of lemon. I say that because I used to use a muted colour scheme. Now I’m embracing a zingy-er colour palette mixed with a 1950s and 60s aesthetic. 

Illustration: Ben Sanders, Bad Apple.

You have worked on a plethora of children’s books and commercial projects throughout your career, from releasing I’ve an Uncle Ivan with us to creating the instantly recognisable illustrations on The Natural Confectionary Co. packs. Do you have a favourite project that you have worked on so far?

Both projects you mentioned are special to me – my first children’s book and my most recognised work. They are the two that are most talked about. But a project that is closest to my heart was the work I did for INTI Magazine while I lived in Bolivia. The revenue generated from the sale of the magazine helped street kids return to school from working in the street. It was run by BiblioWorks, an NGO that also establishes libraries in remote communities and promotes literacy around the city of Sucre where I lived. 

Can you tell us about the process behind bringing characters to life for children’s books?

I guess so… most of the process is a mystery to me. I much prefer creating non-human characters, I find them more interesting. Some stories I’ve written the characters start out as human… but I end up changing them to animals somewhere along the process. I was lucky when Huw Lewis-Jones sent me a story about an Apple… jackpot… not a human!

I think that when you read a good manuscript it doesn’t take long to start picturing what the characters could look like. I sketch a page full of rough character designs and see what visual cues will help bring out the right personality. For me, this is by far the most satisfying and enjoyable aspect of making children’s books.

Illustration: Ben Sanders, Bad Apple.

What was your vision for the Bad Apple characters and how closely did you work with author Huw Lewis-Jones on developing their look? 

Huw sent me the manuscript and after a few reads I sent him a little drawing of a mean looking green apple. An almost perfectly round green circle with the least amount of detailing to create a face and limbs. We both wanted him to be simple yet full of expression. So, the eyebrows became the most important feature. He would be scowling a lot in the book so he needed a unique brow… a monobrow…. with his stem and leaf growing right out of it! Huw and I had a few chats about it but I remember Bad Apple developing very quickly and naturally, with both of us having input.

What’s next for you?

There will be at least two more Bad Apple Books coming in 2022. Apple is even naughtier in the sequel… it’s a lot of fun. I have two new picture book series in the pipeline in collaboration with Huw. There is one about a Croc with a big appetite and another about a Badger who is going through an existential crisis … so yeah, more animal characters to come!

Bad Apple is available now. Text by Huw Lewis Jones and illustrations by Ben Sanders. Originally published by Thames & Hudson UK.

AU $24.99


Posted on March 30, 2021
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In conversation with the inspiring Kerstin Thompson

For over twenty-five years, award-winning practice Kerstin Thompson Architects (KTA) has proven that local architecture can and should shape a community. Leon van Schaik’s Kerstin Thompson Architects: Encompassing People & Place looks at KTA’s extraordinary body of work, its values and processes, and its place in the wider Australian architectural landscape. We spoke to KTA’s Principal, Kerstin Thompson, about her impressive career, the civic endeavour that is architecture and how she hopes to inspire others with the release of this new monograph.

Photography: Ying Ang

You are the Principal of Kerstin Thompson Architects, an Adjunct Professor at RMIT and Monash Universities and you were named Life Fellow by the Australian Institute of Architects in 2017. What led to your incredibly rich career in architecture?

Time on site, as a kid and later as a site architect, a wide variety of experiences in architectural offices from local ones to international multi-design studios, which in combination exposed me to the many valid ways of thinking about architecture. And since 1990 at RMIT, being a ‘pracademic’ – combining teaching with practice where each sphere enriches the other: the idealism, clarity of intent of the design studio, the pragmatism, ability to effectively negotiate the messiness and contingency of building and day to day practice. Good architecture demands both.

Your practice focuses on ‘architecture as a civic endeavour,’ can you explain what this entails? What values does KTA champion?

Buildings, no matter how small or for what purpose, can improve a situation. For the intended users, the client, of course, but also for the street, the neighbourhood, even the environment in projects where ecological repair becomes part of our remit. KTA champions the value of mutual benefit – that in meeting the aspirations of the client the design also contributes something positive for the neighbourhood too. In this sense they are of civic endeavor, in the interests of community, the city, broader environment.

Photography: Derek Swalwell

Is there a project you have worked on that you are most proud of?

I’m no good at favourites, there are many projects we are proud of. In fact, our hope is that KTA’s body of work, the cumulative impact of many sometimes modest buildings rather than one or two stand out icons, will leave a lasting and positive impact. Each project in its own way raised the quality of someone’s everyday life, brought benefit and joy to someone whether in their work, home or recreational life.

Photography: Dan Preston

In Kerstin Thompson Architects: Encompassing People & Place, Leon van Schaik focuses on KTA’s groundbreaking body of work. How do you think the book contributes to a wider conversation about architecture in Australia?

First we hope it provides insights into the motivations and process of architecture, the ideas, the sketches, behind the completed project. Second that it showcases a variety of ways in which architecture can meaningfully engage with, forge a unique sense of place, whether in bush, city or suburban context. And also, how opposites can happily/productively co-exist: subtly with clarity, sensitivity with strength, and last but not least new with existing built form. The inclusion of several adaptive re-use projects demonstrates how the re-use of our built heritage is not only more environmentally resourceful but also a way to hold onto precious cultural memories. May our new buildings also endure to support changed use in the future.

Interior Photography: Trevor Mein | Product Photography: Georgia Blackie

Our favourite inclusion in the book is your ’10 Lessons,’ many of which address what it is like to be a woman in architecture. How do you hope to inspire other women in the industry?

By conducting practice through a studio and business culture that is stimulating and supportive for our colleagues; by mentoring within and beyond the practice; by leaving a lasting legacy of decent buildings that have somehow improved the everyday; inspiring through advocacy, speaking out, being heard, being visible.

What’s next for you? Is there an exciting project that KTA is working on that you can share with us?

KTA has always been diverse in its project selection. Big, small, public, private. So, it’s not surprising that two of our most exciting, current projects are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Queen & Collins project for GPT, almost complete, is a total rethink of half a city block. We’ve transformed it from corporate lobby to network of vibrant, open air laneways and small campiellos (venetian squares) in celebration of the site’s significant neo-gothic heritage. In contrast to this scale and urban location we are excited to see the house for photographer Sharyn Cairns come to life. In a beautiful coastal bush setting, it will be sheer, concentrated concrete delight.

Kerstin Thompson Architects: Encompassing People and Place is available now. Text by Leon Leon van Schaik and design by Stuart Geddes. Series editor Fleur Watson.

AU$59.99


Posted on March 24, 2021
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From kelp to kids books: A Q&A with Mathew Bate

It is more important now than ever to inspire and educate children to think about the environment. Mathew Bate’s first picture book With a Little Kelp from Our Friends is certainly a step in the right direction, delving into the significance of seaweed and it’s potential to help tackle climate change. We asked Mathew to tell us a bit about how he became so acquainted with seaweed, its prominence in Australia and what led him to writing this vibrant book.

Photography: Charlie Perry

You are clearly a person of many talents, having worked as a former co-editor of Matters Journal, being a published poet and non-fiction writer and someone who knows their way around a camera. Do you have a favourite creative project that you have worked on?

That’s a tough question for me, I feel like all of my creative projects are part of one big lumpy collage — one thing always informs the next and so on. My creative process is largely me just bumping into things. I remember being in an introductory poetry subject at uni. We all had to put together a portfolio of poems. I went down to a velodrome near where I was living to write my first poem for this portfolio. A peculiar choice. I must have thought that watching bikes go round and round might spin some words out. I arrive and the velodrome was empty. Not a bike in sight. I sat in the middle on a grassy bit and squinted at the sun. Eventually a man and his daughter arrived, and I thought here comes my bike poem. But they didn’t have bikes. They unfurled a kite that was shaped like a boat. They took turns sailing it in the wind. I remember being so taken by the beauty of it all. I wrote my first poem that day and it had nothing to do with kites, or bikes. I’ve been jotting down things I see ever since.

You are currently studying regenerative agriculture — the first degree of its kind! Can you tell us a bit about what this means?

I’ve been studying the regenerative agriculture course at Southern Cross University for a year now. It’s becoming a bit of a buzz word but regenerative agriculture is essentially an umbrella term for a whole array of agricultural techniques and philosophies that aim to heal landscapes. We’ve gone off on a bit of a dangerous tangent with industrial agriculture and our planet is suffering because of it. Regenerative agriculture represents a break to that destructive and extractive approach to farming. Now, we’re seeing lots of inspiring farmers out there that are revitalising landscapes with a more holistic approach. Hopefully one day soon I’ll be one of them! 

Photography: Charlie Perry

What led you to becoming a self-proclaimed kelp enthusiast?

I honestly feel like seaweed grabbed me by the ankle and pulled me underwater. I was first awoken to seaweed’s regenerative potential by Tim Flannery’s book Sunlight and Seaweed and Paul Hawken’s book Drawdown. I then ended up spending some time with Tim Flannery and a group of people on Heron Island, on the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, and from there my curiosity for seaweed kind of spiralled into an obsession. A healthy obsession.

For those of us who have grown up in Australia, what type of kelp would we be familiar with? What would we be surprised to find out about it and its potential uses?

We’re spoilt in Australia when it comes to seaweed diversity. South Australia is actually a seaweed haven; 60% of the seaweed’s found on the South Australian coastline are found nowhere else in the world. There are thousands of different types of seaweeds you can find washed up on the beaches in Australia. Everyone seems to love the kelps, a family of about 120 large brown seaweeds. Giant kelp can grow one metre in two days and can reach full maturity, up to 50m in length, in a matter of months. Recently there’s been some promising research into seaweed biofuels that can power vehicles, which is pretty neat. Many people are also not aware that there’s a long history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples using seaweed to make shoes, water carriers and shelters.

Photography: Charlie Perry

Where did the concept behind With a Little Kelp from Our Friends come from?

I suppose I really wanted to pull together all of these wonderful things I’d learnt to love about seaweed and present them in a book that everyone could read. There was a strong impulse to weave a narrative together that inspired love and wonder for the natural world, something that I think should be established as common ground. I was also thinking a lot about how to talk to children about climate change in a way that invites curiosity.

What was the research process behind the book like?

I was lucky that by the time I started planning the book I’d already done a fair amount of research. But there was a lot of research over several years. There were definitely times when the amount of research really tested my commitment to seaweed. Fortunately, I had a lot of people who were willing to share their knowledge and help me wade through the sea of information.

Illustration: Liz Rowland

If children and adults alike should take one thing away from With a Little Kelp from Our Friends, what should it be?

Seaweed’s power doesn’t come from its ability to extract, prey or trick but its ability to create community and provide shelter and food. In that sense, we should take a leaf from seaweed’s book.

What’s next for you?

Oh gosh, who knows. Let’s see what I bump into next. Perhaps seaweed farming! 

With a Little Kelp from Our Friends is available now. Text by Mathew Bate, illustrations by Liz Rowland and design by Hope Lumsden-Barry. Article photography by Charlie Perry.

AU$29.99


Posted on February 18, 2021
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A chat with our brand new children’s author, Kat Macleod

Kat Macleod really can do it all: having worked as a Melbourne-based illustrator, designer and exhibiting artist over the past twenty years, her journey has now taken her to the world of children’s publishing. Her first series with us is a staple set of four first concept books, covering the ABCs, 123s, colours and shapes. We spoke to Kat about her diverse career and how she was able to combine her love for art, illustration and children’s books.

Photography: Jimmy Teys

What sparked your passion for illustration, art and design?

I have loved drawing for as long as I can remember. As a child, my happy place was sitting and drawing at the kitchen table with textas and pencils. My high school art teacher encouraged me to study graphic design at uni, so that’s where I was introduced to the world of design. While I loved design and the structure and processes I learnt working in the industry for the past twenty years, at the heart of my practise is a deep passion and appreciation for art and illustration.

You have worked with lots of exciting clients, has there been a favourite project over the years that you can recall?

One of my favourite past projects is the first book I illustrated back in 2002, Bird. I had free reign to create a collection of drawings that were published as a limited edition art book with embroidered pages and a hand made cover. It’s very special to me as it marked the beginning of my career as an illustrator, and the realisation that I could combine my two greatest passions as a career path — design and illustration.

Illustration: Kat Macleod

How would you describe your signature illustration style?

Textural, bright and layered.

Your work is endlessly creative — what inspires you?

Thank you! I am inspired by art, design, creative individuals, fashion, films, music … but my biggest inspiration is nature. Whether it’s beautiful old trees along the Australian coastline, or found leaves at our local park, I am always inspired by the shapes and colours of the natural world.

Illustration: Kat Macleod

The Early Learners series is your first official foray into children’s publishing, what led you to the project?

I’ve been keen to work on children’s books for a long time and have made lots of little handmade books with my boys over the years. For my first step into the real world of children’s publishing it felt right to start at the beginning. Early learner board books are wonderful chunky little objects, full of illustrations and minimal text, and were very appealing to me as an illustrator and designer! It’s been a really exciting process to transition my illustrations from the art and design world into children’s books. Every page is an opportunity to create a composition of colour and form and lead the reader through simple narratives and playful themes.

What sets the series apart from other books for babies and toddlers?

These are colourful art-based books that are bright and engaging for babies and toddlers, and also hopefully are a pleasure for parents and carers to look at and read aloud.

Photography: Louisa Macleod

What challenges did you face in 2020?

I found 2020 challenging with the Melbourne lockdowns. Like most people, we really missed seeing our family and friends although I had plenty of company with my three active little boys home from school for so many months! The trickiest part was when schools closed, twice. I know I was not alone in finding it tremendously challenging to manage working from home whilst assisting my boys with tackling remote learning (big shout out to all the amazing teachers!) It was difficult to juggle everything but I know how lucky I was to be able to keep working, even if it meant after the boys were in bed. My husband is an essential services worker so I worried a lot about him at work too. It was a strange year but we have been lucky in Melbourne — the lockdowns and restrictions were inconvenient but they kept our city safe and all my loved ones stayed healthy, so I am extremely grateful for that.

What is next for you?

I am working on an exciting new picture book with you guys! It’s a really special little tale I’ve been dreaming up for a long time, I’m deep in the drawing stage. It’s such an exciting project and I can’t wait to share it.

Kat Macleod’s Early Learner series is available now. Text, illustration and design by Kat Macleod. Series includes:


Posted on January 28, 2021
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In praise of nature: a Q&A with Lewis Blackwell

Award-winning author Lewis Blackwell is known for publishing books that inspire ideas, evoke passion and embrace nature. His latest book, The Life & Love of the Forest, takes you on a visual tour of some of the world’s most majestic woodlands. We spoke to Lewis about his dynamic career, his love for nature and what he hopes readers will take away from the book.

Lewis Blackwell from The Life & Love of the Forest, image copyright © Tim Flach.

You have worked as a leading author, the creative head of Getty Images, the editor in chief and publisher of Creative Review magazine, and much more. What has been your career highlight so far?

What a tricky question. Perhaps I should give that honour to getting the first job, fresh out of university, when I really wanted to be writer but didn’t have much of a clue. I wanted to be a writer of… whatever, as long as it meant interesting people in interesting places. I sent off a lot of letters — this was pre-internet! — and almost all of the targets politely replied. And said they had no jobs. But then I struck lucky, and an excellent editor on a local evening paper in Devon saw something in me. In no time at all, I was writing masses of stuff that was getting published. Almost all of it instantly forgettable. But I learned a lot. And even then, I was sometimes engaging with environmental stories, and good photography (not mine, my friend Martin, the trainee photographer).

You are currently director of the Cresta Awards. Can you tell us a bit about your role and how it intersects with environmental issues?

The awards are about creative standards and we have work entered from more than 70 countries — all kinds of creativity in communication. It’s interesting how strongly environmental issues are a key and growing part of how brands express themselves around the world. I guess it is reflection of a rising consciousness that the environment needs protecting. One thing I want to do with Cresta is to find a way of channeling some of the great support we get from entrants into more long-term communication that can support environmental conservation.

From The Life & Love of the Forest by Lewis Blackwell, image copyright © Björn Forenius.

Where does your passion for nature stem from?

I roamed around the English countryside a lot as a child, with friends. It was either idyllic or neglect, perhaps a mix of both. We were scarcely environmentalists, but I did ‘take in’ nature. And I grew up on a fairly remote small farm for a while, where the natural world was much of what I spent time encountering. ‘Nature’ was entertainment. I’d take a day or two of school to read a book, go for a walk, take the horse for a ride. Trees and unkempt near wilderness, and so on, were everyday matters. I went back to the area recently and discovered quite a lot of the low-yielding land was now covered in small glittery rows of solar panels, farming the sun. Nothing had changed to improve the environment, although I guess the feed-in power helped the rural poverty. So, my passion now perhaps comes out of a sense of loss, of not taking opportunities earlier to fully appreciate and act in a stronger conservationist way. That’s a personal loss, and also a sense of a much wider communal failure.

The Life & Love of the Forest is a follow-up to your best-selling books The Life & Love of the Sea, The Life & Love of the Trees, The Life & Love of Cats and The Life & Love of Dogs. Why did you feel compelled to capture forests next?

Forests are inspiring beautiful subjects to show… and also a way into an important story. We all need to have a much stronger sense of the connectedness of our natural world. We need to better understanding how soil, light, water, bacteria, fungi, plants and animals, etc., all work together to make a healthy forest, and that the complexity of the forest is a key part of what makes our world liveable. It’s increasingly not a ‘nice to know’ but a fundamental, something that should be part of how we all sense our part in the world.

From The Life & Love of the Forest by Lewis Blackwell, image copyright © wootthisak nirongboot.

There are plenty of important messages evoked throughout the book – if readers can take one thing away from The Life and Love of Forests, what would you like it to be?

If there is one thing I would like people to do as a result of reading The Life and Love of Forests, it would be to share some of the knowledge with others. Particularly young people. You can inspire a young person with interest about plants, animals, fungi — just find the bits that excite them. There are endless options. So if there’s one thing I want you, dear reader and (I hope) forest lover, to do it is to sign up some more forest lovers who have a long life ahead of them to love, protect and grow healthier forests.

Do you see a future in which we can co-exist with nature long term? How has the pandemic changed your outlook on this?

I think we have to believe in a future where we can co-exist with nature. The alternative is that we don’t exist. Nature will come back in some form, but we might not. If we have wiped most of it out, then the resulting hellish world will wipe us out. And nature will start to recover. If we work together to protect and support species diversity, which is a big ask but is entirely do-able, then we can feed ourselves better and yet not eat up the planet. We can create massive natural reserves in the ocean and on land and yet have more produce. It is all possible, but it takes joined-up thinking and a different kind of politics than we are seeing today. But it could change quite quickly. The pandemic has taught us that much: things can change very quickly and we can respond quickly.

From The Life & Love of the Forest by Lewis Blackwell, image copyright © nazar_ab.

What’s next for you?

I’m looking to create more books — one or two ideas are in development — and do more with Cresta. I want to keep learning, keep discovering and do this while meeting interesting people in interesting places. Right now, I’m trying to write something for an environmental film. I’ve a lot to learn and hopefully some skills to flex while doing the learning. It is fascinating.  And answering these questions have reminded me that, up next, or very soon, must be a return walk in one of my favourite forests, a royal one indeed, here in Scotland where I am currently spending time.

The Life & Love of the Forest is out now. Text by Lewis Blackwell, cover image copyright © TonyFeder and design by Blackwell & Ruth.

AU$80.00


Posted on November 5, 2020
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Delve into the colourful world of design with David Harrison

A Century of Colour in Design is design journalist David Harrison’s dazzling anthology of 250 furniture, fabric, lights and decorative objects, illustrating how colour has defined key designs over the last century. This vibrant history will be a discovery for both design newbies and aficionados, broad in scope and filled with everything from classics to eye-catching new pieces.

We spoke to David about his long relationship with Australian and international design, the idea behind A Century of Colour in Design and his thoughts on the future of colour in design.

You have been writing and styling for some of Australia’s best interiors magazines since 1999, how did you go about developing such an extensive knowledge of design and furniture?

In the 1990s I lived in Islington, London. A shop called twentytwentyone opened on the high street selling vintage furniture and lighting along with really interesting contemporary design. It was there that I discovered the brilliance of Charles and Ray Eames and saw the work of British designers Barber Osgerby for the first time. I was hooked and spent many a late night perusing Bonham’s and Christies twentieth century auction catalogues. My knowledge has stemmed from this period of intense discovery and then later from running a design gallery which sold Noguchi lights from Japan and Danish and American furniture from the 1950s and 60s. I also discovered a lot from doing research for my regular Cult Classic page for Inside Out magazine which ran for nearly 20 years.

Your blog, Design Daily, has been praised by designers and creatives from across the globe. Tell us what drew you to this work, and what you like to report on.

The blog was a way of writing about interesting design topics that were outside of commissions that I received from magazines. It allows me to see something exciting or particularly beautiful and write about it. It is a personal exploration of what has come across my desk or what I have seen at design fairs overseas or through meeting and interviewing designers. What I feature can be a new design or a designer retrospective, a building or exhibition – there are no rules as it is just whatever takes my fancy. That’s the beauty of writing your own blog.



A Century of Colour in Design is your first solo book project. What led you to its concept and how did the book come to life?

The general premise came about through visiting the Milan Furniture Fair (Salone del Mobile) year after year and noticing how the design world was embracing colour more and more. There has literally been an explosion of colour since 2000 and it is growing exponentially. The colour component in a design is critical now where it often wasn’t given much consideration in years gone by – it was usually an afterthought at the end of the design and manufacturing process. Certain designers ALWAYS considered colour as an essential component. This is why there are eight sections in the book that highlight particular designers or design studios that have a major fascination with colour. Four of them are from the past and four are contemporary. 



In the introduction to the book, you say that ‘making selections that cover a century of furniture, lighting and other interior design objects is an enormous and somewhat daunting task.’ Aside from of course ‘applying the filter of colour’, what was the process behind the selection of objects? 

Of the tens of thousands of objects that fit within the loose area of interior products – lighting, furniture decorative objects and textiles – I selected designs from the past that used colour as an essential part of their overall expression. These have stood the test of time, in that they have often been reissued and are still considered exciting 20, 30 or even 80 years after their original release. I also chose pieces that had used or were currently using colour in innovative or surprising ways. The book is full of these examples. 

Was there an object you loved that didn’t make it into the book?

There were many, many objects that I would have liked to include but which there simply wasn’t room for. In addition, there were times where I couldn’t obtain suitable images. After much agonising I am happy with all the products that are included. Some are famous while others are hardly known at all. I tried to get a balance so that it wasn’t all about design classics and I could showcase the huge number of contemporary designs that used colour in highly effective ways.

What role do you think colour will play in the next ten years of furniture and interior design?

Colour will be massively important. It is such an emotive thing – without it life is instantly less exciting. Designers already consider colour much earlier on in the design process and this will only become more accentuated as time goes on. Colour choices will become an essential part of the design process with plenty of discussions on exact shades with designers creating their own colours, beyond the industrially available palette, to help express their concept more fully or to deliver a particular emotion.



Have you faced many challenges in your line of work since the pandemic begun?

Actually, after being isolated day after day working on the book for a solid six months at the end of 2019 and early 2020, my life is much the same but without a deadline so somewhat more relaxed! For the design world everything has had to go virtual – new product launches, design fairs, talks, everything. It is a shame as these events were often incredibly stimulating and fun but I am sure things will eventually get back to being more immediate and real. It’s hard to capture the true spirit of furniture and interior objects unless its shown in a real space as the environment has such a massive effect on how these objects feel and the type of reactions they create.

A Century of Colour in Design is available now. Text by David Harrison and design by Evi-O.Studio.

AU$39.99


Posted on October 15, 2020
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The story behind This Small Blue Dot with Zeno Sworder

This Small Blue Dot is one of a kind when it comes to picture books. With a strong message of interconnectedness, hope, inclusivity and empowerment, the book follows a little girl exploring the big and small things in life. We chatted to first-time author, illustrator and all-round talent Zeno Sworder about his fascinating career and the inspiration behind this powerful story.

You have certainly had a multifaceted career, working in immigration law, journalism, teaching, advocacy for refugees and immigrants, and even a jewellery designer. Can you tell us about one of your career highlights?

One of the absolute highlights was working on the Australia China adoption program for the Australian Consulate General in Shanghai. Although reading the babies’ abandonment reports could be heartbreaking, meeting with the Australian parents and the adopted Chinese babies was wonderful.

There were a few occasions when I had to sit down and explain to the adopting parents that the baby’s medical results showed a developmental delay. You can imagine how difficult this news was. At this point they had already spent a day or two with the baby. Because of the baby’s young age, it wasn’t clear whether the delay was due to a lack of interaction in the orphanage or a congenital disorder. But on each occasion, the parents expressed that they wanted to go ahead with the adoption and that the baby was now their responsibility to care for. One adopting father simply said that they were a family as soon as the baby was in their arms. I found that courage to be deeply moving.

How did you learn to do pencil and crayon drawing, and how long have you been an illustrator for?

I think pencil and crayon are the tools that most of us use for our first scribble. Foolishly, I kept going with them rather than move on to more technical mediums like pastels and conte sticks. I didn’t grow up with a TV, so drawing was the main source of entertainment in my house. I remember always wanting more and more pencils. For years I longed for a Derwent pack of 72 pencils, but it never happened until I was an adult (and it turns out 72 pencils still isn’t enough). I have been working as an illustrator for roughly ten years and dabble with a lot of different traditional and digital mediums, however I loved returning to pencil and crayon for this book. The pencils allowed me to make realistic graphite renderings of the young protagonist, Ms Crayon, while the loud, vibrant colour of the crayons was perfect for the world of her wild imagination.

Illustration by Zeno Sworder

Just to add to your many talents, what led you to authoring a children’s book?

It was a number of things that happened in succession. Within the space of a few years my Chinese grandmother and my English father passed away and then our second daughter was born. My grandmother and father were both wise, kind souls and I was left remembering what they had taught me and wondering what lessons they would have wanted to pass forward to our young girls. I decided to put some of these down in writing and then thought it would be a good idea to illustrate them. Every night, when everyone else was asleep, I would spend an hour or two at my desk doing this. It was time that I could spend with the memories of my grandmother and father while also making a gift for my daughters. I thought of this work as a kind of bridge to help connect these different souls that shared so much but were separated by time.

Your young narrator is loosely based on your eldest daughter. How did she inspire you to tell this story?

When I first started drawing these pages there wasn’t really a protagonist, just a colourful illustration with text and then a character kind of crept into the book to help tie things together. The first iteration of this character, Ms Crayon, was older and had a different appearance than my daughter. At that time my daughter would have been 6 and one day she came into the studio to tell me very matter-of-factly that she couldn’t be a princess. I asked why, and she explained that none of the princesses wore glasses. I was certain that with the power of the internet I could find a picture of a princess with glasses and I did manage to find a photo of a European princess but my daughter wasn’t very convinced – she was after a Disney princes. So after that I redrew the book with a protagonist who looked more like her with glasses.

Illustration by Zeno Sworder

Both my daughters and I come from multicultural backgrounds. They attend public schools full of kids from different backgrounds. For purely selfish reasons, I love the idea that some of that diversity is reflected on bookshelves and that my children will be able to see faces in books that represent the multicultural world they inhabit.

What message do you want to get across to young readers?

The main message of the book is summed up in the title of This Small Blue Dot. I wanted to get across the idea that we are all inhabitants of a bright dot spinning in space, which is home to all of us. It is up to us to take care of our home and each other. I also wanted to pass on the important lessons that I remembered from my grandmother and father: lessons about interconnectedness, beauty, the human continuum and how to use an imagination. In short, lessons about how to be in this world. These lessons were passed onto me with a spirit of fun and generosity and I have done my best to capture that tone in the book.

Do you have any advice for first time children’s authors?

My advice is to dream up a big idea that will sustain you creatively for a year or so and then start to chip away at it, one page at a time. A routine is key to this. For many years I thought that great work required an alignment of the planets and an angel to whisper an idea into an ear. It turns out the reality is a lot more mundane. For me, it is about placing my bottom in a chair every day at a specific time to do specific creative work. You won’t always make gold with the first attempt, but you will be able to put something onto paper. That in itself is precious because once it exists in the world it can be worked into something better.

What’s next for you?

I am currently working on my next book, which will also be published by the wonderful people at Thames & Hudson Australia. In my spare time I am slowly but surely learning how to use Instagram.

This Small Blue Dot is available now. Text and illustrations by Zeno Sworder.

AU$24.99


Posted on September 11, 2020
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Pups, photography and property: a Q&A with Nicole England

When we first released Nicole England’s Resident Dog in 2018, we were amazed at the response we received. Who knew that the crossover between architecturally superb houses and the adorable dogs that roamed them would resonate with so many people?

With the recent re-release of the book in a compact edition, we chatted to Nicole about all things architecture and interiors, and why the book continues to be a fan favourite both locally and internationally.

Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an architecture and interiors photographer.

After completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Auckland University, I went off to pursue a career in photography, working in fashion, advertising and music. After a couple of years, I gave it up, feeling disillusioned and disheartened by working within the commercial arena. My mother had a strong interest in interior design and my brother was an architect, so I settled on a job working in sales and marketing for an interior design company. Six years later, I picked up the camera again and decided to photograph within the design industry that I had grown to love. That was the ah-ha moment… this was where I was meant to be all along, photographing architecture and interiors. This was my style and my passion, and I haven’t looked back since.

What are some of your key tips for setting up the perfect photoshoot?

Be organised, be flexible, arrive early, be aware of the light and how it moves around the space, stay focused, have an assistant to help, a stylist to set things up, and of course, a dog to remind us to relax and have fun.

What challenges have you faced in your line of work since the pandemic begun?

Unfortunately, most of my shoots have been put on hold. It’s not too bad though, as I’ve had time to work on my business, learn some new skills, and start a couple of personal projects. The shoots will re-book again, I’m certain of that, so I’m just trying to enjoy the downtime before things go crazy again.

Skipper. Photography by Nicole England

Where did the concept of Resident Dog come from?

One day a friend and mentor asked me what my favourite shoot day would look like. I told her I would be photographing the most incredible architecturally designed home you’ve ever seen, surrounded by forest and ocean. There would be a great crew of people to work with, the architect, the homeowner, a stylist and an assistant, a dog would be running around, the weather would be perfect, we would eat great food and drink wine at the end of the day… an opportunity to combine all of my favourite things. From that story, the one fly away comment about the dog was honed in on, and Resident Dog was born. We see a lot of dogs in architecture photography, more and more these days, but nobody had dedicated an entire project or book to our furry friends, the most important member of our home.

Scout, Diesel and Boston. Photography by Nicole England

Do you have a favourite project from Resident Dog?

To be honest, I don’t. I love them all for different reasons. If I had to choose, it would probably be the residence of Canela (the cover star of the compact edition). She lives in an incredible concrete box, designed by Mexican architect Andres Castilles. The house has a hard brutalist exterior but is filled with love and warmth.

Canela. Photography by Nicole England

And a favourite pup?

I couldn’t possibly say, imagine if one of them read this! Charlie definitely has the best hair do, Ginger and Harry made me laugh the most, Enzo and Carlo were the most stylish, little Gaston the loudest, April and Muffy the cheekiest, and Skipper the softest…

Why do you think that the book continues to resonate with people two years on from publication?

We all love dogs and, especially at the moment, I think we find comfort in their silliness, how they live in the moment, and the way they love us unconditionally. And combined with incredible, architectural homes, that inspire us to live a little differently… I think it’s a combination that we will never get tired of, for years to come.

Enzo and Carlo. Photography by Nicole England

Resident Dog is available now in a compact edition. Text and images by Nicole England and design by JAC&.

AU$39.99


Posted on September 1, 2020
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Illustrator Spotlight: Wonder Woman Laura Bernard

Laura Bernard works from her cosy studio in Wellington, New Zealand. She is a self-confessed nerd, homebody and introvert. Laura has inspired young creatives across the world to ignore the negativity that surrounds a career in illustration and to pursue their passion.

To celebrate the release of Wonder Women Bingo, we caught up with Laura to chat about the game, the female creatives she looks up to and how to stay sane when your home sanctuary becomes your workplace.

Laura Bernard

The illustrations for Wonder Women Bingo are phenomenal. What was your favourite part of working on this project?
Thank you! My favourite part was adding the finer detail to the garments and accessories that the women were wearing: the jewellery, the beaded and embroidered elements and the various patterns. That was so much fun. I feel like that’s one of the main elements that brings these ladies to life and makes them each unique.

Wonder Women Bingo, published by Laurence King Publishing, $29.99

Why do you think it’s important to have a children’s game dedicated to inspirational women?
Too often we are taught the names of famous, genius, amazing men that have achieved great things (Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, Nikola Tesla to name a few). I think we often forget that there were incredible women who did equally amazing things, but we are rarely taught about them in the same way due to our unbalanced gendered history. Plus, a lot of women had to keep their intelligence a secret or pretend to be a man to be recognised. I think we need a game like this to help balance things out. Hopefully, it can inspire young women and teach them that they can be anything they want to be.

Laurence King Publishing is fortunate to work with a number of fantastic female illustrators like yourself, including Laura Callaghan, Marion Deuchars and Harriet Lee-Merrion. Can you tell us about the female illustrators and creatives that inspire you?
Creatively, I look up to Rebecca Sugar a lot. She created the Steven Universe series and creatively directed a lot of the character design, screenplay and music. She also worked on Adventure Time for a long while. I also admire Jennifer Lee, who is a screenwriter and a head creative at Disney studios. She worked on Frozen and Frozen 2, which are masterpieces for character, background, outfit and song design (all things she helped with).

As a freelancer, do you have any tips for staying sane when working from home? I think we need all the tips we can get right about now!
To be honest, being an introvert really helps. I can’t speak for more extroverted people but I love hibernating and working on my illustration. Working and living in the same space can be a huge challenge, so I do have one very helpful tip. I have a studio for my work, and when I am in there I am in ‘work mode’, when I am anywhere else in the house I’m in ‘home mode’. I’ve always used this mentality even before I had a studio and I worked at the dining room table. I would always sit on one chair and work so then that particular space is associated with working. I think that’s a super important thing to define when working from home as too often we work from bed or the couch, which I try to avoid.

Any tips for overcoming creative block?
Oh jeez, this is a hard one. Over the past five or so years that I’ve been freelancing, and where my creativity is my job, there’s that extra pressure to be creative ALL THE TIME. When I’m at a total creative loss and I’ve gone into a creative depression, I generally have a lot of negativity about my own work. I’ve realised that my creative block generally looks and feels the same: a lot of self doubt and self creative pessimism. If I’m telling myself all of these terrible things about my own work, putting it down and comparing it to others, how can I feel proud and happy with the work I’m making? To help break the cycle, I’ll go back to my old sketchbooks from yonks ago and see how far I’ve come. I’ll also look at all of my old random ideas and concepts to give myself a much needed pep talk: Look! These are your ideas and you are creative and awesome! I will then try and learn from my past works and ideas. I think it’s very important to be critical of your own work otherwise you will struggle to grow, but balancing that with self support, encouragement and feeling proud of yourself too.

We can see that you paint in both a traditional medium and digital. Do you prefer one over the other?
I fell in love with watercolour quite quickly after buying my first set when I was about nineteen. I think it will always be very special to me. I then transitioned into digital to broaden my skillset and I thought it would help me find more illustrating opportunities too, as we live in such a digital age. I think watercolour will always be my favourite medium, however I find digital has helped me grow and learn more as a creative — it’s a very forgiving medium and you are able to undo, flip canvases to check proportions, and change colours so easily: all things that you can’t really do with a traditional medium.

We are obsessed with all the work in your portfolio. Can you tell us about your favourite one?
Thank you so much! From my personal works, there’s an illustration of an A-frame house among some trees at night. I am super proud of this and the simplicity of it, but the fact that it still tells a story — a difficult balance. Professionally, I absolutely loved working on the Wonder Women Happy Families card game, and the Wonder Women Bingo. Learning about amazing women in history and having the opportunity to paint their portraits was so inspiring.

Wonder Women Bingo is out now. Text by Isabel Thomas and illustrations by Laura Bernard.

AU$29.99


Posted on August 7, 2020
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Paulina Larocca talks 2020, The Holey Bible and creative enlightenment

About to publish her third book, creative catalyst Paulina Larocca is one of the most driven, passionate and motivated authors you’ll ever meet. Her previous books on creativity can be found in homes, offices and classrooms across the globe, and we think her new book The Holey Bible is the best one yet. We caught up with Paulina to talk about creative enlightenment, the new book and the all-important year that has been 2020.

What exactly do you mean when you use the term ‘creative enlightenment’?
Creative enlightenment is a term I created based on my personal experiences and struggles with the creative process. Let’s face it, creative thinking is messy work and you must have an enormous amount of courage, belief and persistence for real breakthroughs to occur. The creative process can seem punishing, especially when you are in the weeds looking for a way out, but when you get to a resolution you experience a flood of relief and euphoria; you experience what I call creative enlightenment. For each person, the experience will be different but the result will be the same. You have a new direction and a new purpose that creates a deeper meaning in your life and your work. You are permanently transformed. It may feel like hell going through it, but it’s heavenly when it’s done.

What benefits will living a more creatively enlightened life have for those who don’t consider themselves creative or who don’t have a creative job?
That is the sad irony about creativity – it’s sold to us as something we either have or don’t have. We are all creative. Our brain is active during both wakefulness and sleep and is constantly imagining. Our minds are phenomenal storytellers, constantly constructing meaning from our environment. I think of creativity as a divine force that is present in each of us and plays a much bigger role in all our lives than we tend to realise. It is the engine of our mind, the author of our story and is responsible for how we identify ourselves – it is creativity that determines how you define ‘me’. You may not nurture it, you may not notice it, but creativity is the driving force of your life, so it pays to consider what kind of fuel you are putting in your tank. My mission is to help everyone cultivate an awareness of their creativity and learn to use it. That way, it can serve a higher purpose for each and every one of you.

The Holey Bible – what’s the message behind the title?
The title came about because we wanted to help people easily spot the holes in their thinking. We wanted to use the term bible, not in the religious sense but in the colloquial sense of a guide. The title tends to stop people in their tracks, so it’s a way of shaking things up – it’s almost as if you get an experience of the book from the title.

The cover is so striking. Can you tell us about those design choices – the bold font, the bright yellow and the upside-down type?
Well, with a name like The Holey Bible you cannot afford to be shy. We want to celebrate the creative spirit and yellow and black are great colours for that. Throughout the book we use bright colours. For those who know about printing, we use CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) for four colour processing printing. They’re colours that ignite creativity and get the brain buzzing. The rest of the design and images were a very deliberate choice to keep the reader emotionally engaged and surprise them every time they turn the page.

This is your third book in three years. What drives you to write books rather than use another medium of storytelling?
Books are incredibly hard work and I sometimes wonder why I keep going back. They are wonderful vehicles for distilling your ideas into cohesive thoughts and the format forces you to do the work – it’s not just a few paragraphs dashed off for an Instagram post. Plus, having a publishing deadline ensures that even if you want to slack off, you can’t. A well-written book makes everything you do – speaking, blogs, social media – so much easier. But there’s no doubt about it, writing a book feels like climbing Mount Everest without oxygen – scary and exhausting.

Some might argue that this is a tough time to publish a book. Why do you think that 2020 is the year for The Holey Bible? Why do we need this book now?
I think this pandemic has forced all of us to rethink what’s important, what are we doing with our lives and what we need to change. It hasn’t been pleasant, but it has forced us to re-evaluate things we took for granted as being ‘just the way things are around here’ and deeply question them. There is no better time for a book that makes you question your assumptions and help you create new patterns of thought that may serve you better. If you are questioning anything or any aspect of your life, then don’t hesitate to pick up The Holey Bible. It will help you live your best life, which, let’s face it, is a creative life on your terms. Who could ask for more? 

The Holey Bible is available now. Text by Paulina Larocca and published by BIS Publishers. AU$35


Posted on July 7, 2020
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Flours, Feeding and Failures: Sourdough Troubleshooting with Roly Allen

By now, many of us have completed a back-breaking 1000-piece puzzle, tried our hand at something creative and baked our first (or tenth) loaf of bread.

We put a call-out on social media asking what sourdough issues you were facing and collated our top FAQs. Now, we sit down with sourdough expert and author of How to Raise a Loaf, Roly Allen, to have your questions answered.

Roly Allen, photography by Ida Riveros

What is the difference between bread flour and plain flour?
Bread flour has a higher protein content – around 13% is typical. These proteins (specifically, glutiens) are collectively known as gluten and, because they are looooooong molecules, they hold the dough together, making it stretchier, tighter and able to hold bubbles. That’s why you need bread flour for bread. Plain flour has less gluten. Otherwise they are the same.

I feel like my bread is really dense. What do I need to do to my starter for it to be light and fluffy?
It might not just be the starter, but assuming it is, I find that starters get better the more often that you use them and refresh them. If I bake three or four days running, the starter seems to get bubblier and bubblier. If my starter has just been refreshed once, after spending a period of downtime in the fridge, then things can be flat.

What is the maximum amount of time you can keep your starter in the fridge without feeding it?
Tricky one. I’ve heard tell of a starter that was successfully refreshed after several years dormancy in the back of the fridge, but I’d personally not leave it longer than a couple of weeks. If I knew that my starter would be going a long time unfed, I would make a flourier mixture (less water), which will slow everything down. I would definitely give a dormant starter a couple of refresh-discard cycles for it to get its strength back up before baking.

I learned that the word ‘crumb’ describes the inside of the bread from your book, which is interesting. Despite using a white flour but still can’t achieve the open crumb that I want. Any tips?
Try a mix with slightly more water and an overnight (or ‘retarded’) prove in the fridge. You mix and work the dough in the evening, and let it prove slowly at low temperature before baking in the morning. That might do it!

An open crumb, photography by Ida Riveros

I normally don’t eat white bread. I’ll always choose a wholemeal or multigrain. Do you recommend always starting with a white loaf first because it’s the easiest, or do you think jumping straight into wholemeal is achievable?
It is definitely easier to get a white loaf to rise and have an open crumb. That said, I really like denser brown breads myself and, if that’s what you like, I would just go ahead and start with them. Practice makes perfect, no matter what colour your loaf is.

Cooking time — dutch oven lid on for 45 mins and lid off for the final 15. Do you approve?
If it works for you, then yes!

What does adding a source of steam mean? I just have a regular fan-forced oven and no fancy equipment. What are some ways that I can easily add steam?
It is essential, but easy – just put a cup of hot water into an oven dish in the hot oven before you put the loaf in. The steam stops the crust from setting hard before the middle of the loaf has baked.

I just learned that you can overproof dough. Anything else we might not know about sourdough?
Salt is absolutely essential, and not just for taste. The salt works on a chemical level with the gluten to help the crumb form. If you forget to add salt, or don’t add enough, you get something that doesn’t taste, or look, that good. I’ve learned this the hard way.

Photography by Ida Riveros

What do you think is the biggest mistake people make when they try to make their first loaf?
I can’t speak for everyone, but the mistake I made was leaving the dough to prove for too long. This means that the dough pancakes out and you get a discus-shaped loaf that’s really dense. You need to get that dough into the oven while it’s still nice and springy to the touch.

What are your favourite toppings for freshly baked sourdough?
For breakfast: butter and apricot jam; for lunch, cheese and pickle; with dinner, butter or olive oil. If it’s toasted then it’s Marmite every time (Marmite is similar to Vegemite, but delicious).

Photography by Michelle Brasington

There are so many types of bread. Why do you think sourdough is such a craze?
Two reasons. Firstly, it’s a reaction against industrially-produced food. Sourdough bread is traditional, it doesn’t have additives, and you can tell that from how it tastes. Secondly, we are only now starting to understand how important our gut biomes are to our overall health – not just to our digestion. The lacto-bacteria that make sourdough taste slightly sour seem (don’t ask me for the detail!) to have a really positive effect in that department.

How to Raise A Loaf and Fall in Love with Sourdough is available now. Text by Roly Allen and published by Laurence King Publishing.

AU$25


Posted on June 16, 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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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