Wednesday 3 September 2014

Tiny Travelling Gallery

If you follow me anywhere you'll know that it's been a very busy time for me. Around 6 weeks ago Spark (formally Telecom) contacted my partner Scott and I. They had heard through some dear friends of ours that we were planning a big trip at the end of the year to take part in two large art events in LA and London. We have both spent most of this year working our butts off to save the money to fund our travel.  
Scott and I trying to take press shots
There are lots of reasons why Scott and I are going on this trip but it's largely because Scott has had a long term dream of making his own designer or art toys*, However like most deep set creative passions a lack of time and fear of failure got in the way. Any one who's tried their hand at doing a creative project I'm sure will understand. At the start of this year we had a long chat about what would help to get Scott turning his dream into a reality and realised nothing gives you a kick up the butt like a deadline. It was at this point Scott applied and got excepted to take part in DesignerCon LA. That was the whole story really until we got asked what Spark could do to help us fulfil our potentials. That's when things went from quietly busy to full on 'who needs sleep' crazy. 

Some of Scott's large toy collection, image thanks to Insiders Dunedin
With Spark in the picture we know we wanted to make the project bigger than just us and to use the platform as a chance to showcase a number of other creatives. Knowing we were going to be exhibiting at a major lowbrow art event and that my work was a borderline fit with that genre at best I had already been in contact with a number of New Zealand lowbrow artists to talk about doing colabs. It was a pretty natural next step to develop this idea into a tiny travelling gallery, you can see the concept in detail here and read more about our line up here.

Catus in the making a join project from Scott and I
This little project has gotten so much bigger than we had planned. We are now taking three times the number of artists we had aimed (or budgeted) on having. Due to transport costs, display space at the events and just the logistics of managing so many people, we can not (at this stage) commit to more artists. However please, if new artists do want to get in touch to register interest, email Scott you'll find his contact details here. We are very much hoping to tour this show around New Zealand and it will be a lot easier to include more creatives at this stage. Just as a side note this is a Lowbrow exhibition so have a think if you work fits this category. 

Drawing from a second meeting with our industrial designer planning the gallery design
If you would like to help us with this project there are a number of ways, of course any little donation is fantastic and gratefully received. Just a handful of people giving $5 soon adds up. As I said we have totally shot our budget by including so many people and now don't really have enough for much in the way of promotion material. Even as little as a further $300 would mean we could get some nice handouts printed for the events. You can also help us by sharing the link to our Spark page with your network of friends and family. 

We would also really value help in other ways, we would love to exchange sponsorship for services. Something as simple as Air New Zealand transporting the gallery for free would mean we could afford leaflet printing. A printer giving us a discount would mean we could get twice as many printed. We are also looking for contacts at galleries interested in displaying the show. If by any long shot a business that could help us is reading this please do get in touch. Scott and I are trying our best to do an amazing job for all the New Zealand talent we are showcasing but there's only two of us and some many hours in the day. Helping us get our foot in the door would be an amazing gesture of support.

This is our amazing line up of 30 artists
Thanks for taking the time to read this. We have been so blown away by the amount of good will, care and love shown to us with this project. We deeply believe in the talent of the lowbrow art sense in this country and it's a huge honour to get the chance to work on this. We have a tumblr in place if you're keen to follow the progress of the gallery build and it's ongoing travels.

*If you don't know the term 'designer toys' these are objects that are more akin to tiny sculptures than children's play things. Although they often trigger nostalgic memories and have references to youth and/or childhood, they are really made for adults.  

Monday 1 September 2014

Make a Plant Pal

I made a couple of these last month, partly because I though a cactus I had bought looked a bit like a beehive and partly because I needed a pen pot for my desk. This DIY is really easy, all up no more than an hours work max. 

What you need:
• A Tin Can
• Modern Can Opener
• Power Drill or Hammer and Nail
• White or Light Coloured Paint (ideally enamel-based spray or house paint)
• Black Test Pot of Paint and Small Brush or Water-Proof Permanent Marker
• Small Plant
• Suitable Soil (potting mix)
• A handful of Small Stones
• Newspaper

Step 1: Remove the lid of the can so it doesn’t have a sharp top edge. Thoroughly wash and remove the paper label of the used can. Allow to dry completely.

Step 2: Drill four drainage holes in the bottom of the can using a 3mm drill bit. If you don't have a drill you can hammer through with a nail to punch a hole. If you're making this as a pen pot you can skip this step.

Step 3: Cover a table with newspaper in a well ventilated area. Paint the outside surface of the
can. I propped mine on a bottle to make spraying it a bit easier. Painting the bottom is not necessary. You might need to repeat this step once the paint is dry to get an even covering.

Step 4: Once the paint is dry, draw a face or anything else you like on the can using a pencil, once your happy with the design draw over with the permanent marker or paint it on.

Step 5: If you're potting a plant nows the time to place the stones in the can. Fill the can a third the way up with potting mix. Place the plant in the can on top of the soil. Fill around the plant to the edge of the pot with more potting mix. Press soil down gently around the plant until it can stand on its own.

Step 7: Place can in a little dish.

Step 8: Put her on your desk and enjoy your new friend.

Friday 18 July 2014

Word up

So here's something I've never spoken about publicly before. When I was 15 I had my IQ tested and was found to be in the upper 10% of the country for my age. That same year still aged 15 I dropped out of school with hardly any qualifications.

If life hands you melons!
If life hands you melons by snorg tees

From the moment I started school I know it wasn't the place for me, I was much slower at learning than everyone else, was constantly humiliated by teachers and teased for being stupid. This sadly isn't an uncommon story and I'm guessing it'll come as no shock when I say the reason behind it all is because i'm dyslexic (which by the way is a really hard word to spell). There is still debate over dyslexia being a real condition, I'm fully open to this discussion but for the moment no other term is available which better communicate my mental block when it comes to words.

Trying to explain what reading and writing is like for me is very hard. It is the only reality I have or will ever know. Put basically though I just have no understanding of the rules around letters. To me they are just abstract shapes with no sound attached, this means every time I think about a letter I have to step by step mentally recall what noise goes with it. I've gotten pretty fast at this over the years and if that was all there was to it i'd be ok, however as we know language is far more complicated than that. So over time i've taught my brain to remember words with no rules attached. This means I think of them as shapes that symbolise their meaning. I have hundreds, thousands of these committed to memory. This memory bank of words allows me to lead a pretty functional life. I'm not going to lie it is hard, people that really know me see how taxing it is on my energy and my time. My eyes now are practically burning through the computer screen because I'm so deeply focused. My work flow is always interrupted because I have to stop typing so frequently to google a word I'm stuck on. It's also hard because I'm a very rapid thinker and can't recall the memorised words fast enough to keep up with my brain. Often the speed at which I try and get the thoughts written before they are forgotten short cuts me recalling the spelling correctly. I more often than not have typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in whatever i've written and the more tired I am the worse it gets. The other kicker is, when you can't read very well spellcheck is of limited use, I often get tripped up by spellcheck giving me totally the wrong word and of course I'm none the wiser.

So why write this now? Well it's come up a number of times this week, people have corrected me or rather my spelling on social media. I'm not particularly upset by this, I take it all with a nod, a smile and a wink usually in emoticon form. I do however, want to publicly explain why my spelling is more often than not pretty shabby. The thing is I know how much spelling means to lots of people. It's great to take pride in it. I understand how it makes things clearer, harder to misunderstand, look more professional but personally I don't care, I can't care. The mere fact I've pulled together a half readable blog post is something that would have been unimaginable for the 15 year old me. This takes more energy, reading and re reading than I want to go into. The thing is, though, I want to write, I love language and word play and telling stories. I don't believe because I can't always get this complex system of communication correct that I shouldn't have the same right as everyone else to use it. In fact in this age of social media it would mean me turning my back on a huge part of modern life and interaction. I also wouldn't swap my disability for normality, I strongly believe that what I lack in reading and writing skills I have made up for in other more unusual ways. I'm happy to keep my achievements and my bad spelling.

Just as a side note to any kids or parents with young ones living with a learning disability, it you're smart and dedicated you'll be ok. School kind of sucks for people like us but it gets a lot easier once you leave that world behind.

Saturday 7 June 2014


I'm just back from a week in Wellington and what a whirl wind of a week it was. Once again I did a class and talk at Handmade both of which turned out to be pretty popular. By Sunday I had come down with a stinking head cold and wasn't feeling the sharpest so I truly apologise to anyone who came along for being a bit on the fuzzy side. As always it was a real pleasure and I got to meet so many lovely people. I miss teaching a lot and it's nice to have a taste of running workshops again.
In my drawing class with my 1 minute self portrait. It's hard to tell us apart I'm the one on the right.
I might have an opportunity or two to do some teaching in Auckland later this year, if you have any ideas of what you would be interested in me teaching I'd love to hear your thoughts. I feel like digital illustration would be a great option but I'm not sure I can get access to a computer lab.

I haven't been to Wellington for a year, in some ways it felt like nothing had changed and in other ways it felt totally different. I got to try out a couple of new restaurants, Thunderbird a tex-mex which does great breakfasts and even better dirty milkshakes (dirty with booze not actual mud). I also went to the charming Loretta's on cuba street. Its name has left me with Nick Cave's 'Curse of Millhaven' stuck in my head but the restaurant is a lot sweeter natured than the murderous little girl in that song.

Maybe my favourite foodie find was the Chai Tea cart outside of Floriditas. What with the head cold and all, the lemon and honey was a bit of a saving grace. Plus how lovely are the graphics, hand painted by the owners wife. nice job.

I also finally managed to get my hands on a cronut about two years after them being a 'thing' (thank you Moore Wilson's). Ok what ever, I live in Dunedin trends take a while to reach us. They got a bit squished on the flight home but both Scott and I enjoyed them all the same.

Goodness this post is turning out to be more about food than Wellington, I guess that tells you a lot about how my brain works. Anyway this is the last culinary related item. How lovely is my friends beautifully renovated kitchen. They started the job about three years ago just as I was moving down south. I can't get over how amazing it turned out. The photos don't do it justice, it honestly should be on the cover of a homes and gardens magazine.

Something else I always enjoy about Wellington is the street art. Quite a lot of new cool additions in the past year. 

Finally my sweet boy blow his Air Points (thank you Scott) to let me extend my trip for an extra three days so I could stay for the opening of Swonderful's first Pop-up shop. I've know Evie of 'Evie Kemp' and Amy of 'Mylarke' for a number of years now and it's really wonderful watching their businesses grow and evolve plus all the things they are achieving together. I'm pretty jealous of their union it can get lonely being self employed and I can see it benefits them both having a creative alliance. Their work looks fantastic in the pop-up shop and just Swonderful on it's own merits is well worth a visit. The Swonderful Pop-up shop is open through out June at Swonderful Boutique, 241 Cuba Street, Wellington.

Other Wellington highlights included shopping in Khandallah's new home ware shop Tea Pea. Dropping by Matchbox and reading zines. Seeing behind the scenes at iko Iko. Meeting a whole bunch of tweeter people in person (even if I could only recall twitter handles and not full name in most cases) and generally having epic catch ups with my Wellington friends.

I have a pretty busy few weeks ahead, I'm back in teaching at the polytech next week and have really got to get cracking on my Christmas range. Having some time in a different city and away from the computer has been so worth it though. I'm feeling full of ideas and energy. I guess this is where I say something totally cheesy like watch this space.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Playing Catch Up

So yet again two and a half months have flown by without me even noticing or blogging. I'm sorry sad neglected blog. Here's a brief list of what's going on in my world.

Nature: photo taken of the aftermath of a massive fish savaging a smaller fish.  Madame Cake
1. I've set up the 'art club' as spoken about in the last post. I'm running it through Tumblr. It's called The Anti-Social Club and everyone is welcome to join in. Three weeks in and the work being shared (as shown above and below) is so much more than I dreamed it would be. You can check out all the amazing work and briefs here.
Giselle Clarkson - Spoonbills and Patterns
Lucinda McConnon Self Portrait

2. I'm giving a talk and teaching an illustration for beginners class at Handmade Wellington next weekend. My talk is pretty much together and I'm spending this weekend lesson planning for what I'm hoping will be a really fun drawing class. 

My friend Tash will be running her amazing Holland Road Knit lounge as usual and another dear friend Kate is teaching a really cool 'make your own hanging terrarium' class. (I so wish I could go but sadly I'm giving a talk at the same time). It's been a year since I've been to Wellington and I'm very much looking forward to the trip.

3. Finally, my partner Scott and I have been working hard saving money so we can go away at the end of the year. Scott is planning and handmaking his first set of designer toys which will be showing at DesignerCon in LA at the start of November. From there we're traveling to Bristol (England) to stay with my family. We're planning a little dash up to Edinburgh and flying visit to Amsterdam before ending our holiday by hopefully (table applications don't open until September eek) taking part in Renegade Craft Fair in London. 

Thursday 20 February 2014

Art Club...

I really want to start a weekly 'art club'*, it would be somewhat like flight club without any fighting and you'd be encouraged to talk about it... alot, so basically nothing like fight club at all. 

I want to start it because I'm looking for a low pressure reason to draw, paint, make a sculptor, take a photo, write a poem or whatever creative itch I need to scratch every week. I could do this on my own but it's nice to share a creative journey with others and the internet makes that so easy. I also need to have some way to be held accountable, I don't really get anything done that doesn't have a deadline.

The problem with 'the art club' is having to come up with and write a weekly brief. I don't want this to be as simple as drawing an object (although sometimes it could be). I want the briefs to be thought provoking and answerable in any number of ways. The briefs also need to be short enough to be summed up in a tweet. I'm writing today to see firstly if people would be interested in me investing time into setting this up and secondly to get ideas for projects. My initial thought was to run with classic but very open themes like 'still life', 'figurative', 'light', 'landscape' but is this too old school/boring?

Lately I have been back working nearly full time as a graphic design freelancer. Unexpectedly I'm really enjoying it. If you don't know my history I worked in a couple of design agencies for a number of years and pretty much burnt myself out creatively (like so many people who work in the industry). Spending all day designing does mean however that my personal work is not getting done. It's really important to me to keep doing personal work on the side so I never kill that creative flame again. That's why I'm so keen to get this off the ground. Please have a think and let me know if you're interested in giving it a go. 

If it seems like there's enough interest I'll pull together the logistics and a number of project ideas next week and we can start getting creative.

*Better name and graphics still to come!

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Valentine's Cards for Non Romantic, Romantic Types

I think I've said this before but I'm not much for Valentine's Day. I've spent more single than coupled and when I am with a partner I usually agree it's silly to celebrate but then feel like I'm missing out. Talk about over thinking. To be honest I handled the whole thing with a lot more grace when I was on my own.

Anyway for some reason finding alternate ways of expressing feelings without being soppy or all that romantic is something that seems to resinate with me. So if you've left buying a card a bit late and can't be assed making your own here are 3 downloadable cards.

If like me you're currently hooked to 'The Bachelor' then maybe this is the card for you. Lets face it top 3's not bad there are some real hotties on that show. Download here...

This one is for horror movie fans, it's funny how quite a romantic statement can be turned into something totally creepy with the right font and the addition of the word soul. Download here...

I bloody (pun intended) love Sharknado, it's sharks and tornados and even a chain-sew. Really what more could you want . Anyway I figured this would make a good card for boys. You can say you care, drop a pop culture reference an give them a picture of a shark all in one hit. Not many valentines cards that do that. Download here...