Wednesday, 21 September 2016

DAILY PRACTICE | SHONA WILSON







Shona Wilson has been working as an artist for more than 20 years. Based in Sydney, she creates works utilising found objects in nature. Her latest exhibition is currently showing at Arthouse Gallery, until 1 October.

Read Shona’s original interview on Daily Imprint. Today she shares some insights into her daily art practice. 

Describe a typical working day
It has changed quite a lot over the years, and it varies throughout the year as I now have quite a diverse art practice. I need this diversity to have a sustainable art practice. I could be either creating/marketing and facilitating a workshop or doing ephemeral art outdoors or meeting with collaborators or working in the studio or out collecting, or a bit of everything in one day.

Once upon a time 12-15 hour studio days were not unusual, now I work 6–8 hours, depending on how close the deadline is for any particular project. I have consistently worked from home and I need a lot of sleep - I reckon I must be working while I sleep. A studio workday gets going by 9am 5-6 days a week. After a few exercises, a quick meditation and breakfast I check emails and social media. If it’s a nice day or it’s been too long - like a week - I will go for a quick dip in the ocean. By 10am I am downstairs in the studio making work through till 1 or 2pm. Lunch and then back in the studio until 5, 6, 7. Dinner then relax or do admin or research in the office. By 10pm I am back in bed and reading. Generally collecting found materials is part of everyday life, like going to the shop, a stroll, a dip at the beach or in my garden. It does not have to be an exotic location to find materials – they are everywhere. After 25 years I have amassed enough to use for quite a while so am deliberately not collecting unless I need something specific. I have relied mostly upon serendipity.

What are your preferred tools, materials and equipment?
For studio work: found natural materials, hand tools, tweezers and some ex-surgical and dentistry tools, dremmel, Blu-tac, and glues, as non-toxic as possible. A big bench indoors, lots of shelving, an outdoor covered area for sanding and drilling and a freezer.

For ephemeral work: outdoors anywhere in nature, the elements, time, movement, shadows, and the camera in my phone. 

For workshops: people, a park or garden and whatever we find. 

Collaborative projects and conversations are also great tools and materials to work with.

How do you dress for your job?
In the studio I wear the same thing every day pretty much. The most comfortable, old and “dirty” work clothes, a face mask and glasses. Sensibly for workshops, and any public engagements are a chance to dress up. 

What is the current state of your desk or creative space?
My studio is full of packaging material and boxes ready for transporting the works for my current solo show in Sydney. I am freezing materials in a large domestic freezer and generally tidying and packing up. The studio is about to become a storage room for when my partner and I go away for a few months. It has to be a flexible space. There are also hundreds of recycled containers of one kind or another storing all the different processed materials and outside some larger bones and twigs ready to be cleaned. 

When I do ephemeral artworks my creative space extends to anywhere I find myself, that could be a car park or a national park. 

When I facilitate workshops the creative space is someone’s garden, a park or a school. If I really think about it my creative space has to be everywhere/anywhere I am. My office is very much a workspace too. It is separate from the studio - it’s too dusty and dirty for electronic equipment - and it’s good to change it up. The office has the usual electronic stuff with a lot of notes, lists and paperwork strewn and pinned across every surface. I have quite a lot of my favourite little images and objects in this space because they cannot fit in the studio and they make me happy or encouraged.

What's your approach to managing technology - from emails to social media?
Huge question - as it seems it has taken over my life at times. Management is the right word. I try to limit email correspondence to twice daily - if it runs off the page I tend to forget about it. Social media is on and off during the entire day. The past three years I have been quite engaged with social media, due to the One A Day ephemeral art project I devised. I find social media both tiring and rewarding at different times. I am not a super social or techy person so it is not a “natural” behaviour for me.

Admin and technology has more than filled valuable “empty spaces” in my day. I need to regulate and deliberately disengage at times. It can just become a habit rather than productive. Since I live rurally I find the connectivity an antidote to isolation fatigue. Instagram can be a magic portal into the kaleidoscope (collide-o-scope) of humanity – pretty wonderful really. But because social media is a disembodied form of communication, for me it errs on the unreal and is more like fantasy. 

When and what do you have for lunch?
At home: 1-2pm. Rice cakes with miso, avocado, salad and some protein, a healthy sweet treat and cup of tea or two. 
Out and about: 1-3pm. Nori rolls or salad. Thermos of tea. Apple

What's your preferred pick-me-up? 
Tea, and lots of it. If I can get out of the house, a swim or a walk. I am lucky to live in a small village by lakes and ocean and forest so that’s not too difficult.

How do you combat physical or creative lulls?
Being in nature, visiting friends and exhibitions are all rejuvenating.

Adapting and evolving my practice to find a way of working that is sustainable is very much part of managing those lulls. A lot of art-making for me has entailed repetitive process. It is very time-consuming and results in being locked into very few movements for many hours. This is my greatest struggle – the physical. I now try to pick or create projects that offer some variety, physical and mental and spiritual. It’s all about balance – just like everyone else.

I started facilitating workshops to combat the physical impact of the studio-based work. This is also a wonderful way to connect with the general public. The ephemeral One A Day project I did daily for approximately 500 days from 2013-15 was a huge creative boost. With this project I rediscovered how to play and have inspired quite a few others to do so too, which is very rewarding.

I am experiencing a bit of burn out at the moment but I am about to take a much-needed and long-desired break to rejuvenate in the Himalayas.

What role does silence or sound play in your day?
Great question! Interestingly, sound has come into focus for me lately as another material in itself. I would like to start working with and incorporating sound into my work somehow. Even in my current show Offering - some of the works are representations of sound patterns. I hope to use sounds in another upcoming show, a collaborative Art + Science Project called Ku-ring-gai pH, which opens this December at MAGM. I have also been experimenting with sound and children with Quirindi Preschool where I have an ongoing creative relationship.

Sound is everywhere all the time and I have tinnitus so it’s never completely silent. When I am surrounded by nature I prefer its sound to anything else. But variety and diversity is good too. Sound is different to music and both can become noise. In the studio, which is currently in a suburb, I use the radio to mask cars and lawn mowers and chainsaws, etc. The music I listen to is usually ambient and calming. Sometimes I play nature sounds and any “world music” is usually energising in a peaceful way. Loudness of any kind is disturbing to work with, but sometimes when I am really in the zone or flow anything could be happening noise-wise and I wouldn’t notice it. Smell is a different matter! Sound is extremely important especially because is can be so subconscious and can affect emotions so profoundly. I suppose I use sound to alter or maximise mood or harmony in my environment if I can.

What's the last thing you do before finishing work for the day?
Get out of the work clothes and have a shower. 


images courtesy of shona wilson and arthouse gallery


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Monday, 19 September 2016

INTERVIEW | REBECCA AND DAMIEN LEIJER







Husband and wife team Rebecca and Damien Leijer decided to fast forward their lives and recently launched their eponymous furniture business, Leyer. The couple often spoke of the distant future and dreams to live by the beach in a home that they’d built with a shed out the back where Damien could make furniture. “It’s all he has ever wanted to do, and following our recent relocation to Torquay from Melbourne, to where we now live 20m from the incredible Fishermans Beach it all happened quite organically, and a few years earlier than planned,” Rebecca says.

Damien is a carpenter with more than 13 years’ experience in commercial and residential design while Rebecca’s background is marketing and events. In May they launched Leyer with a view to focus on simply designed, Australian made and well-priced furniture. 

Which five words best describe you? 
Rebecca: Creative, loyal, open, determined, problem solver.
Damien: Honest, loyal, pedantic, thorough and thinking.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since?
Rebecca: I have a Bachelor Degree in Sociology and a Postgraduate Diploma in Public Relations. After university I took a gap year and then started a short career in recruitment before moving into marketing. I worked in marketing for over 13 years mainly in event activation and sponsorship and while on maternity leave following the birth of our second child we decided to start our business Leÿer with the bit of spare time I had. 

Damien: I studied very hard in Year 12, got a very good ENTER score, went to uni for three weeks, quit, started a Carpentry Apprenticeship and now work as a foreman for a large carpentry contractor on large scale commercial projects. 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way?
Rebecca: Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Damien: Read the instructions, and don’t worry about things outside your control.

What’s your proudest career achievement?
Rebecca: Building our own brand from nothing.
Damien: So far, completing a carpentry contract to a high standard for a significant Victorian cancer hospital project.

What’s been your best decision?
Rebecca: Going to a random house party in London in October 2008 where I met a blonde Aussie surfer.
Damien: Marrying my wife.

Who inspires you?
Rebecca: Female entrepreneurs, in particular Lisa Messenger who founded Collective Hub.
Damien: Great leaders and ethical businessmen big or small.

What are you passionate about?
Rebecca: Developing our business while keeping our little family healthy and happy.
Damien: Doing a good job and building a legacy for my family, something that is very important to myself and my wife. We want our little girls to understand that you need to work very hard to achieve what you most want out of life, and we want them to be immersed in everything we do with this business, so they can see something evolve from nothing into, hopefully, a successful career for us both.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
Rebecca: Ricky Gervais
Damien: Bill Hicks

What dream do you still want to fulfil?
Rebecca: We plan on designing and building our family home next year, which is a huge dream for us both. It will be filled with Leÿer furniture pieces.
Damien: To build our family home

What are you reading?
Rebecca: I am more of a podcast and magazine person. I listen to Girlboss Radio with Sophia Amoruso and read every interiors magazine on the market.
Damien: The Organised Mind by Daniel Levitin.

images courtesy of leyer; photography hails and shine





Monday, 12 September 2016

INTERVIEW | PHOTOGRAPHER JACQUI DEAN







Sydney photographer Jacqui Dean has made history during her years of working as a photographer, although her beginnings started off quietly. She grew up in the East End of London and an interest in image-making began after discovering the “magic” of photography from an uncle and one of her cousins. After emigrating to Australia with her husband and three young children, Jacqui was given a chance opportunity to photograph an event which lead to more work and bigger clients. 

Over the course of her career she has had her work featured in a range of publications, including The Good Weekend, Australian Geographic, Architectural Review and Gourmet Traveller. She was also the first woman to be appointed National President of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography. In 2008 she won Australian Editorial Photographer of the Year, AIPP, and in 1996 won the Australian Commercial Photographer of the Year. 

Recently she held the exhibition Translucence of her fine art photography at Black Eye Gallery

Which five words best describe you? Passionate, empathetic, creative.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? My husband Tim was a photographer and trained in London. We emigrated to Sydney with our three young children in 1982 but things didn’t go to plan. Things were tough and there was no other option but to find a job. I hadn’t worked for 13 years. I went to TAFE and did a computer course and was able to find work straight away. The small family business where I was working had a list of clients including Jaguar Rover Australia. There was a Dealer of the Year function at the Hilton Hotel and a photographer was needed to cover the event. I put my hand up to cover the assignment. I was quite shy and photographed the event in a candid photojournalistic way. I must have impressed someone as I was then commissioned to do more work photographing car launches, events and the Bathurst 1000 with Tom Walkinshaw winning for Jaguar.

I realised at this stage that I was lacking in technical knowledge and took myself off to Sydney TAFE to study photography in depth. After three years study - part time, working and looking after Tim and our three wonderful children, I graduated with an Associate Diploma in Fine Arts (Photography).

I was fortunate to meet Chris Ashton, a journalist who specialises in polo. He asked to see my portfolio after meeting at a party. I had photographed, as part of my major assignment in my third year at college, "A Day at the Races" the perceived glamour to the impact of gambling. Chris and I worked together for the next 10 years travelling to Argentina, China, Inner Mongolia, London, Scotland, Ireland, and NZ photographing polo tournaments and covering travel destination stories for SMH Good Weekend, Winestate Magazine, Gourmet Traveller, etc.

I joined the Australian Institute of Professional Photography in 1993 and became involved with the local AIPP Council. In 2000 I was invited to join the National Board of Directors, an honorary position as National Treasurer. In 2004 - 2006 I was appointed National President, the first female. In 2006 - 2008 I served as Chairman. I continued helping the Australian Professional Photography Awards team that was sponsored by Canon.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Look and listen and think.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Being asked to shoot an ad for Mazda. 
Winning the AIPP Commercial Photographer of Australia in 1996 and 2016.

What’s been your best decision? Photograph a Darter Bird when on assignment photographing a property at Dora Creek, NSW. Tim was getting impatient while I was mesmerised by the Darter bird and her five chicks. After waiting patiently I got the shot and later entered it into the International Loupe Awards and won first prize. Sadly Tim had passed away. You have to go with your passion.

Who inspires you? There are many people who inspire me but Judith Wright the poet and her poems inspire me.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? John Lennon.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I would love to go to Japan and photograph the cranes dancing in the snow.

What are you reading? Alan Bennett - Writing Home and AC Grayling The Good Book.


images courtesy of jacqui dean


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Friday, 9 September 2016

TRAVEL NOTES | PORT FAIRY DRIFT HOUSE • COLLEEN GUINEY







Colleen Guiney and John Watkinson of Drift House Port Fairy had a slow-burning dream. It started when they were 21 and wanting to earn money to travel the world. At the time John’s parents ran a B&B in the Yorkshire Dales in England and the couple took over the job as a way to fund some new adventures. “We just thought it was a lovely life and we could do something like this,” Colleen says. “It took us 20 more years to realise this dream and it just got bigger and bigger over time, but it was always in the back of our minds.”

Eight years ago the couple bought a run-down historic house in Port Fairy, a coastal town about three and a half hours west of Melbourne off the Great Ocean Road. John left his job in marketing and management roles and Colleen gave up her work as a visual merchandiser. (She continues to work as an artist.) “We think we make the perfect yin and yang team, combining John’s left-brained business acumen with my right-brained creativity,” she says. 

Port Fairy was also a good fit for them. “Beautiful beaches, good cafes and restaurants, historic town centre and a strong community feel,” Colleen says. They wanted to create distinctive luxury accommodation that was informed by the site but was an experience in contemporary living. To finance the Drift House Port Fairy project, they sold their award-winning warehouse in Richmond that design studio Multiplicity had designed. “Having worked with them we knew they would bring something really special to our accommodation and steer clear of the hotel cookie-cutter approach,” Colleen says. After opening in 2014 the architects won a Commendation in the Australian Institute of Architects Awards, and the accommodation has won Best Luxury Accommodation in the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards for two years in a row (2014 and 2015).  

Colleen and John live on the property with their two boys in what was the 1950s double garage. “We have extended it slightly,” Colleen says. “it is only 75m2 but it is very cosy and as I tell my friends ‘it is an architecturally designed garage now’.”

Below, Colleen shares some tips on the Port Fairy area.

EAT
Breakfast Our guests eat in and make the most of the Drift House Signature breaky hamper. Filled with local ingredients – Gloria’s chook eggs, avo and dukka, Irrewarra sourdough, house poached pears, muesli and Grampians yogurt and all the little bits that go with it.
Lunch Farmers Wife Harvest Café - bags a spot in the sun. Daily specials, yummy salads and best coffee in town.
Dinner Fen - recently awarded 1 Chefs Hat in The Age Good Food Awards. Chef Ryan Sessions is a quiet achiever with a big reputation. We highly recommend the tasting menu of locally sourced and foraged ingredients and local wines. Very special.

SHOP
Him Hmmmm, wine from Basalt Vineyard Cellar Door
Kids The Lolly Shop
Food Saturday morning farmers market

VISIT
May to September - whales can sometimes be spotted at East Beach and the light house. 

Winter Weekend Festival runs for seven consecutive weekends from the Queen’s Birthday and there are always some fun events on – the Dachshund Dash, movies at The Reardon Theatre where you may be treated to a free cuppa and bickies and performance by George on the grand piano before the movie begins, twilight lantern walk with a DJ and paella, free mulled wine and hot choc, local designer talks, dawn solstice dip and light festival.

INSIDER TIPS 
East Beach at 7am for a body surf with Jim and 94-year-old Wally. It’s a treat. I cannot recommend this enough.

Griffiths Island loop walk, home to wallabies and echidnas and some beautiful beaches.  

Fish and chips on the beach cooked by Con the Frymaster from East Beach Takeaway. Ask for them extra crispy.

Foraging early winter for mushrooms in Orford;  samphire, sea lettuce, neptune's necklace, pigface etc along the local shores. 

Belfast Reserve Killarney - this easy walk allows you to explore one of the lesser-known and most beautiful sections of our coastline. The track runs through the dunes to the oval at Killarney Beach. It’s hard to believe but this track was once the main road to Port Fairy and passes the site of the old Farmers Arms Hotel. You can return via the beach.


images courtesy of drift house port fairy; photography martina gemmola




Monday, 5 September 2016

INTERVIEW | MEG COWELL








“My relationship with photography surfaced within the sloshing chemical trays of the Hobart College darkrooms,” says Meg Cowell. “In the gloom amongst the dripping taps, I relished, what felt to me like, the almost supernatural processes of chemical dips and rinses that created and sealed my camera’s vision. I was enthralled by the control that was possible at the various stages of decision‐making that managed exposure, cropping and tone. I loved how these choices – what to reveal and what to conceal – could be used to veil reality and create meaning.”

After graduating from the University of Tasmania with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and the gaining a Postgraduate Diploma of Visual Art and Design at the University of South Australia, Meg gained representation in a relatively short period of time. In 2013 she was given a contract with Flinders Lane Gallery after entering one of its emerging art prizes. And the same year Meg was shortlisted for the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Award in Queensland, which lead to representation with Dickerson Gallery

Deeper Water is showing at Flinders Lane Gallery from 20 September to 8 October.  

Which five words best describe you? Loyal, funny, sensitive, courageous, open.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? In 2012 I was I was fortunate enough to be paired with photo-artist Deborah Paauwe in a mentorship program through the University of South Australia. Deborah’s work has been a huge influence for me, and much of my subject matter and compositional phrasing is borrowed from her - Deborah captures girls and young women in a very constructed way, at play within their own private worlds of fantasy. Deborah had total confidence in my work. It was just a very clear, calm understanding - I was going to make it. She even got me my first commercial exhibition with A.P Bond Gallery in Adelaide in 2012. My career has been on the rise since then. 
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Look for people who are where you want to be career-wise and go about logically unpacking how they got where they are and why. 
What’s your proudest career achievement? Being invited to join Flinders Lane Gallery in 2013. 
What’s been your best decision? Entering lots of art prizes when I was starting out. 
Who inspires you? Tasmanian photographer Anne MacDonald. Anne uses photography to create metaphors for life and death; funeral flowers and wedding cakes in various stages of decay. Anne belongs to a sub-category of Australian contemporary art termed Tasmanian Gothic. The concept being that something to do with Tasmania’s climate, isolation and convict history produces artists with an inclination to the sinister. I completed my undergrad studies with Anne and I feel very much connected to the genre. 
What are you passionate about? I’m passionate about my artwork and sourcing garments for new works. When finding garments for my work I look for pieces that communicate the kind of mood, feeling or emotion that I want to express. I have found that wedding dresses are particularly potent garments to work with. They speak of hope, expectation, and of course a symbolic transformation. 
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Tim Walker
What dream do you still want to fulfil? Everest Base Camp. 
What are you reading? The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton. Just Kids by Patti Smith. The Dreamcatcher by Stephen King. 


images courtesy of meg cowell and flinders lane gallery




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