Director, Coach, Author – Gwen Gordon

Many of the women I share with you are people who inspire me. I stumbled across this week’s creative women when I was doing some research on the value of play for adults.

Californian based Gwen Gordon lives a life of creativity, transformation and play. From designing Muppets earlier in her life to currently writing her first children’s book for grownups, Gwen has made it her mission to spread the word about how vital this is to our wellbeing. This speaks deeply to my passion and belief of the intrinsic need for transformation, play and creativity in all our lives.

And so I felt a need to have her as one of my Creative Women. Take it away Gwen!

 Tell me a bit about yourself and your creative practice.

 I’ve spent the past 15 years spreading the gospel of play through talks, articles, and videos. I emphasized all the benefits that play provides as a fundamental human need and a driver for evolution. Mostly I’ve been interested in what it takes to shift our state from what I call the Proving Ground mindset to the Playground mindset.

As I’ve dug deeper and deeper, I find that there are two core obstacles to living life as play.

1. The fundamental identity as a separate, skin-encapsulated ego that leads to enormous insecurity; and
2. The developmental traumas most modern human beings experience.

Realizing this, I have shifted the emphasis of my work from play for play’s sake to transformation and healing, engaged playfully. Now, instead of writing about play, I write about transformation, playfully. The passion I have, to liberate people from the bondage of the Proving Ground to the Playground, has also channelled my creative energy into more individual and group work.

While I started my life designing Muppets and working in world-class innovation think tanks, I now bring all my playful spirit to the most important task of all. The one in which our collective future depends – the transformation that enables us to see all of life as a playmate and wherever we are as a playground.

The Wonderful W is my first children’s book for grownups, which you can find, along with an activity guide, journal and W charm necklace at www.gwengordonplay.com/the-wonderful-w-3/

 

What is your greatest creative achievement?

Like most mothers, I try not to rank my children and I don’t think much about my past creations. That’s why the latest is usually the greatest. That would make The Wonderful W book trailer the greatest so far. https://youtu.be/dJ8ee0ycAw8

And still greater ones are yet to come. Stay tuned for Mia’s Magic Window, my next book!

What is your first memory of being creative?

When I was five years old, I made a giant stuffed crab out of grey satin that I stuffed with anything I could find in the kitchen: wooden spoons, potholders, napkins, plastic containers and stitched up myself. It took mom a while to figure out that my lovely crabbish-shaped pillow was actually a repository of kitchen items. Fourteen years later I built a crab Muppet for Sesame Street and used kitchen tongs for the mechanism that opens the claws. Full circle!

Who or what inspires you?

#1.NATURE! I just got back from Hawaii and the creativity that gave rise to sea turtles, monk seals, eels, urchins, coral, birds of paradise, you name it…astonishes me.

Is there anything special you do to get into the right mindset and get the creative juices flowing?

First and foremost, I meditate to get very quiet. As soon as I’m quiet, creative ideas generally start gushing in. If I’m not quiet inside, I generally recycle old thoughts.

I keep a good stash of inspiration from other artists around me as well. Then I find the seed of inspiration, the thing I really care about creating and I let it simmer for as long as possible.

I like to wait until there’s a restless impulse in my system to start working before I actually go to the “canvas.”

I don’t put any pressure on myself to work when that creative tension isn’t there. So, if it’s not there, I do other things. Unless I’m working on a project with a deadline! Then I get informed, taking notes as ideas spark. I scan for inspiration from a wide range of sources not necessarily directly related to the project.

Then I do my own brain dump and start making connections and experimenting. I keep the experimentation process open for as long as possible!

How do you deal with creative blocks?

I take all pressure off myself to break through any blocks. I do other things, enjoy my life, see friends, play, cook, garden. When I’m not so attached to breaking through, I come back to the project and look at other people’s work for inspiration. By then the block has usually dissipated.

What is one tip you would give other creatives?

Don’t let your creative projects define you or you will burden them with your identity and crush your creativity. Keep returning to the creative process as play and keep the play of it going for as long as possible. It’s not worthy of your time or gifts if it doesn’t come from love and joy.

What is your favourite, colour, book, song, food and place?

Colour is like vitamins. – the needs change over time. Right now, I’m in love with rusty orange. My favourite book is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and as for music anything by MaMuse. Favourite place is Mt Tam in California and the best food ripe olives!

If you want to read more about Gwen, head to her Website https://gwengordonplay.com/ , follow her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/gwengordonplay/ or Instagram gwengordonplay.

And don’t forget her amazing new book The Wonderful W. I’ve read it and it is a Wonderful magical journey, into self-discovery and wholeness, all wrapped up in a beautifully illustrated easily readable book.

It’s a book that we not only should be reading ourselves, however also sharing with our children.

Artistic Specialist Paint Finisher & Carer – Rebecca Neill

This week’s creative woman is one that I have ever met. In fact, I think the first real conversation we have had has been around this interview. I don’t even remember how Sydney based artist Rebecca and I connected, on Facebook I think,  it may have been through our common connections. I enjoyed her posts and seeing the amazing work that she has created. However, what has drawn me to Bec is her journey with her Mum and dementia, and being given the opportunity to see it through a creative lens.

Back in September, I attended a SAMAG session on creative ageing. This panel reinforced the importance that creativity has on our quality of life, especially as we grow older. Bec and her Mum are an example of this in action.

When I read Bec’s posts, I see two creative women, and her Mum is defined by her creativity not her illness. My hope is that there is an increase in these opportunities and a raised awareness of their value.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your creative practice.

I graduated in Visual Arts Hon. majoring in painting, drawing and minor in photography. In 1996, after practising for a few years, I set up my business in freelance scenic art for theatre and film. Then I progressed into painted finishes in commercial and private properties, furniture and restoration. Seven years ago, I kickstarted my personal art practice again, with life drawing and photography, and now painting. Also, in these last seven years, I became my mother’s primary carer. For three of those years, my mother has been living with vascular dementia.

Together, we have used art as a well being and quality of life booster. This encourages and enables Mum to have independent discussions and contributions, and make art/craft.

The programs we attend include:

Through these programs Mum has experienced an increase in creative confidence, this has, in turn, assisted her communication, increased her inclusion in the community, and engagement with all people in our lives. It has given her a sense of achievement and had a profound impact on our relationship with each other.

 What is your greatest creative achievement?

There is more than one:

  • Co-running three artist run galleries in Sydney London And Berlin between 1998-2001
  • Exhibiting in a group shows in Sydney London and Hamburg
  • Making art with my mother during dementia
  • Working on theatre and film sets in London and Sydney

What is your first memory of being creative?

My first memory is as a child, around age 4-5 years old, painting with my big brother and twin sister a giant canvas on the entry floor to our home. I still have it. The paint went through the canvas and stained the lino floor!

Who or what inspires you?

Looking at art, nature, music, yoga meditation and surfing! Australian artists particularly inspire me, and currently that is Julian Meagher. I also find artists who make challenges and inquiries with their work, inspirational.

Is there anything special you do to get into the right mindset and get the creative juices flowing?

I journal, think and sketch, and write my intention that I wish to portray.

Plan the surface/materials I wish to use.

I look, at images that inspire me, photos of people or places, the real environment or people that I can draw/sketch.

Read and research if needed, play music, and meditate.

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

Try to clear my mind, and find quiet or peace to let solutions in. 

What is one tip you would give other creatives?

Believe in yourself and others creativity, and share your knowledge to aid their creativity.

Follow your gut!

Keep creating, even if it’s writing / sketching ideas, for future projects.

Keep the wonder.

Keep learning.

What is your favourite, colour, book, song, food and place?

My favourite colour is deep teal. Favourite book is Women Artists & the Surrealist Movement – Whitney Chadic. I love listening to Song of the Siren by Mortal Coil, eating anything fresh and organic. And my favourite place in the world Australian bushland!

If you want to see the sort of art Bec does, follow her at  https://www.facebook.com/SetForArt/

Weaver & Healer – Jackie Harvey

One of the great things about networking, and being in spaces with other creatives, is the incredible women you meet. Even though you may not see each other very often, it is almost like your souls are now connected by a creative thread. A thread that crosses cultural and geographical boundaries. Jackie Harvey is one of those individuals, and I met her when I attended the Weave Group at Parramatta.

For many years I felt a disconnect to my culture, I had almost convinced myself that I didn’t even have one. If anything, I was envious of others, I was just an Anglo Australian. What made it worse was that I was not a person who connected with the many qualities of Australian culture, I felt like a fish out of water.

It was this strong Maori woman, who is firmly rooted in her past and deeply connected to family, that provided a light for my path. She has shown me what it means to stand strong in the face of adversity, how vital it is to embrace your culture, dig deep and look for it, and the how imperative it is that we pass culture down to future generations.

A weaver and healer Jackie is based in Western Sydney.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your creative practice.

Hikurangi is the Mountain

on the East Coast of the North Island,

Waiapu is the river,

Ngāti Porou is the tribe,

Te Aowera is the sub-tribe, the Ancestor and the Meeting House,

Pahau is the family,

Wiremu Pahau is my grandfather,

Amiria Hurae McLean is my Grandmother,

Josephine Pahau is my Mum.

Ian Harvey is my Dad,

He is Scottish and English Heritage,

Fifth generation from New Plymouth.

Born in Gisborne NZ, I was first raised in the East Coast as a toddler, before my grandfather’s older brother took our family to New Plymouth. I grew up in New Plymouth, spending my holidays on the East Coast at Ruatoria with my Grandparents on the farm and family homestead.

Because of that time spent there, at the foot of those mountains on both the East and the West Coast, I now have a natural affinity for the land. So, the land informs my practice. It opens my heart in many ways and brings an expansion that connects me with the heavens and the cosmos.

That’s what I’m used to, mountains, stars, rivers – the expansiveness. Through weaving and healing I can reconnect with home, with the land that’s in my heart and in my soul. I can send my wairua spirit to soar there whenever my soul needs refreshing.

Weaving Kaakahu Traditional Maori Cloaks gives me space for my heart to grow, heal, expand, breathe, and cry. It
is my ancient Mirimiri (massage) that is my wave, helping me to come home and go with the flow…it massages my heart and my soul.

What is your greatest creative achievement?

There are a few.

My children…my heart and soul are woven into my children.

My first crochet blanket woven over the years with my Mum and my Grandmother around me.

And sitting with Aunty Kerrie Kenton collaborating on the “Invisible” Public Art Installation along Parramatta River. The experience gave me a glimpse of the immense responsibility she carries for her people.

What is your first memory of being creative?

Running out of the house as a toddler and taking off to the beach. Making outfits for my dolls like my Mum used to make for my sister and I. My dolls would have new outfits and new haircuts, and I’d give my sisters dolls new haircuts too!

Who or what inspires you?

My Mum is my biggest inspiration, and my Grandmother and Grandfather, her parents. My Grandparents looked after the homestead and family farm for our family and many shareholders. They maintained the mana and mauri, the life essence of the land, and my Mum did the same. That is quite a gift to maintain and sustain the life force and dignity of one’s family over generations. It’s why I’m grateful to have spent time with Elders like Aunty Kerrie Kenton here in Sydney. Because of her heart for maintaining and sustaining the ancient cultural Lore’s and ways of her people, they will continue to thrive and flourish in years to come.

Is there anything special you do to get into the right mindset and get the creative juices flowing?

It used to be hanging out with my Mum in her home because of the warmth of her Mauri there. She was always so encouraging, I knew she’d be watching my progress. Mum had metal valves put in her heart at 28 years old so, we could always hear her heartbeat in her home.

Now it’s when I’m hanging out with my children. I learnt some time ago by living in Australia without my family around me, and those tightly interwoven relationships that come with extended whanau family, that I’d come to find my heartbeat. It would be when I’d weave in the centre of my home for my children to see and feel my Mauri life essence, like my Mum and my Grandmother were the blessing of presence for me.

So, I clear and clean my home, I get the heart of my home warm with home cooked meals, I go to the sea to heal and feel refreshed. If I’m inspired in the morning when I wake up though, I’d rather get stuck into creating as soon as possible – messy hair and all.

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

By being gentle with myself. The Artists Way by Julia Cameron and the War of Art by Steven Pressfield are good books that are also helpful. 

What is one tip you would give other creatives?

You know it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to get done!

What is your favourite, colour, book, song, food and place?

Favourite colour blue and white in the stars. Nga Mooteatea Ngata and Japanese Persian Rumi Love Poems, are books that speak to me. Listening to RnB and eating Prawn Pad Thai with nuts would be heaven. And my favourite place Ruatoria, on the North Island of New Zealand.

 

Make sure you head to Parramatta and check out the ‘Invisible’ public artwork.

If you are interested in Romiromi mirimiri bodywork you can connect with Jackie at:

www.facebook.com/sydneyromiromi

Mixed Media & Textile Artist – Wilma Simmons

Wilma Simmons, aka Empress Wu, is a Newcastle (AU) mixed media and textile artist. Her work is diverse, informed by her life experience and heritage. As a fellow textile artist who is also interested in the intersection of art and social justice, and the potential to create change, her work speaks to my heart.

Wilma is also a beautiful example that it is never “too late”, and that you can pursue an artistic career at any time in your life.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your creative practice.

I am a mixed media and textile artist because what I do makes me happy, and ‘reminds me that I have a soul.’ It took me a long time to take up an art practice. I worked in a diverse range of jobs, before settling to school teaching and administration as a career. I think we are all born artists, but it takes some of us longer to develop and in my case, not until my “retirement” in 2005.

Some of the artistic highlights of the last few years have been:

  • teaching creative workshops at various levels and in diverse places;
  • exhibiting, solo and collaboratively;
  • an artist residency at Studio Artes (supporting artists with disability), and
  • co-ordinating community art programs including a village women’s project in Papua New Guinea and an anti-domestic violence project with Timeless Textiles Gallery.

My art works are “handmade treasures”, inspired by special people, interesting places, my Asian heritage and multicultural literature. I like working with a mix of materials, especially naturally found and recycled objects. New works evolving from my message stick art dolls have monopolized my time recently, as I completed a very large installation related to local Newcastle history. I hope that my art celebrates diversity, with a harmonious mixture of techniques, materials and ideas and will encourage others to create.

What is your greatest creative achievement

Co-curation of and participation in The Stitched Up Project 2017, 2018. This is an exhibition of twenty-four artists worldwide, and a community art project of seven large volumes of stitched /embroidered books. It gives a voice to the 193 girls who were ‘inmates” at the Newcastle Industrial School 1867-1871 – fibre art bringing to life the work of a local historian, Jane Ison.

What is your first memory of being creative?

Sewing sequins onto my sister’s dance costumes, and making paper dolls with a school friend – too long ago …

Who or what inspires you?

Amazing everyday people and their stories, literature and social history, and my cultural background.

Is there anything special you do to get into the right mindset and get the creative juices flowing?

Daily art practice of some sort – just 15-30 minutes each day. I try to set an exercise for a month.  It can be just taking a photograph every day for a month, making a small paper collage, a daily sketch of something in the house, in the garden, a stitch a day. There are endless possibilities but they all work to improve one’s creative mindset and artistic skills and confidence.

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

I look at my old journals and sketchbooks or art magazines, visit a gallery, talk with other artist friends. Recently, I wrote a “spine” (intentions and motivation) for a series of works. I printed this out in large print and had it in front of me. As I struggled a bit with the work, I kept seeing it and reading it over and over – this got my focus back

What is one tip you would give other creatives?

Enjoy what you do and “play” – have fun.

What is your favourite, colour, book, song, food and place?

My favourite colour is red. I love to psychological thrillers – any of the Minette Walters early titles, and strangely enough, Shakespearian comedies. Favourite music classical – Mozart and Vivaldi, contemporary Graceland Album by Paul Simon. Favourite food is Asian and anything my husband cooks. And the best place in the world, Home!

Wilma’s work can be seen in the upcoming group exhibition at Timeless Textiles “Crossing Borders” from 3 to 28 October. You can keep up to date with what she is up to by following her on Facebook and reading her blog.

https://www.facebook.com/Empress.Wu.Designs

https://empresswu.blogspot.com.au/

wilmasimmons@hotmail.com

Creative Instigator – Natalie Wadwell

This weeks Creative Woman is west/south west Sydney based creative Natalie Wadwell. I recently attended TEDx Parramatta, an event that Natalie co-organised. It was an inspirational experience! One that made you come home wanting to create a better space in this world whether it be in your backyard, suburb, nation or globally.

What I love about Natalie’s story is that she has already crammed so much into her life. She is a testimony to the fact that if young people are given the right creative environment to flourish in, they will pour their creativity back into our community, weaving it through their work and social life.

I can’t wait to see what she does next, so make sure to “watch this space”!

Tell me a bit about yourself and your creative practice

I am a creative instigator and writer. It is my belief that communities are not disengaged, they are looking for meaningful opportunities to participate – be that in civic life, the arts or otherwise. I like to work in the in-between spaces. Creating opportunities at the intersections of community, social change and post-suburbanisation.

My business sort of named itself – people always told me that I was a go-getter and took initiative, thus Wadwell Initiatives. I have worked with for-purpose, commercial and government entities to design solutions to engagement challenges. I love that it draws on my creative skill set as well as entrepreneurial and critical thinking. Starting out when I was 19 years old, I independently organising a HSC art exhibition, Stepping Up Macarthur with a range of strategic partners. We put the creativity of young people in the middle of Macarthur Square (a large South Western Sydney shopping centre) and attracted over 100,000 attendees each year. This quickly evolved into a travelling exhibition with an expanded music and visual arts program.

The need for sustainable independent arts spaces in South West Sydney drove my honours research ‘Cultural activation in West and South West Sydney.’ When I struggled to get investment for an independent art space (the forecasts were way beyond my means, even if I leveraged other funding sources), I teamed up with a friend to present a digital solution. State of the Arts Media was the only arts and culture guide dedicated to Western Sydney and Regional New South Wales. Since stepping away from the business, you can find my #wadwellwanders published on my blog. I have been fortunate enough to get several speaking and writing gigs for topics about the arts across Western Sydney and youth entrepreneurship

In 2017, I wrote an article for Artist Profile and more recently wrote the catalogue essay for the Adorned Collective for New Sacred at Mosman Art Gallery. Most recently, I co-organised TEDxParramatta to start providing individuals who live, work or Parramatta with the opportunity to share their great ideas that can help ‘shape tomorrow, together.’ I used to do a lot more drawing with fine tip pens and making polymer clay necklaces. Now that’s mostly for my branding aesthetic.

 

What is your greatest creative achievement?

My greatest creative achievement has been learning to adapt and transfer skill sets. From experiential learning and bringing partnerships together, to transferring entrepreneurial skills into roles with larger organisations. It’s not been without its challenges but, it is incredibly rewarding to see what experiments we can put in motion.

What is your first memory of being creative?

I have always been the creative one in the sporting family. My mother’s classroom is covered with drawings from primary school. I think I remember those by the product rather than the process though. I remember the experience of being a part of the school choir, dance groups and participating in two Wakakakirris. We’d have practice at lunch time in smaller ensembles before coming together as a large group in the hall. The parents got involved with costume and prop design and before we knew it we were performing on a large stage. The whole process was about community coming together and being creative storytellers – through movement, song and costumes – I loved it.

Who or what inspires you?

People. Without them our society is just bricks and mortar. No colour or creativity, no life injecting activity to make our spaces become playgrounds. They say that empowered women, empower women. It is of no surprise that my constant source of inspiration is the strong women in my life. From my mother and sisters, to my peers and colleagues, they all have wonderful stories and are generous humans. Ultimately, I am inspired by the communities that I aim to service. It is their stories, determination and creativity that are a constant source of inspiration.

Is there anything special you do to get into the right mindset and get the creative juices flowing?

The compositions of Ludovico Einaudi form the soundtrack of my creative time. He is an Italian pianist and composer. Depending on what I need to do, if it is a writing piece or something more hands on, his compositions remove the blank canvas effect. It is something to connect my energy into and build off.

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

I turn to movement mediation. I will go for a walk, pull out my hula hoops and crank up the tunes. Finding a song that really helps me sit into my mood and body is important to break through the barriers. I am an over-thinker, so it is especially important to surrender to just feeling and moving. If necessary, I will take a pen to my journal and unpack what’s blocking me. However, I try to get it all out with movement mediation.

What is one tip you would give other creatives?

Stop surviving and start thriving. I wrote about this on my blog after cycles of exhaustion that no amount of yoga, mindfulness or productivity tools could get me through. It is important to play the long game, rather than spending too much energy on short term fixes, which is why I stopped focusing on self-care and instead turned to self-preservation. This was particularly important when I was freelancing and cash flow was scary.

What is your favourite, colour, book, song, food and place?

My favourite colour is yellow, favourite book Oranges and Sunshine by Margaret Humphries, music changes with my mood, but a constant is Imagine Dragons and I love risotto! Favourite place in the world, Lauterbrunnen… or Chicago… ah this is hard. I feel like once I tick the Daintree Rainforest off my list it will jump towards the top.

If you want to keep up with what Natalie is up to visit the links below, and you might also want to take a look at her  TEDxYouth Sydney talk ‘Engaging Communities throughArt’.

https://wadwellinitiatives.com/

https://tedxparramatta.com/

Weaver – Claudia Chase

Black and white image of Claudia Chase

Claudia Chase is an amazing creative from Francestown, New Hampshire in the USA. I am often reminding people that creativity isn’t just about Arts and craft, it is threaded through all aspects of our lives. What I love about Claudia, is that she is a fantastic example of this. Her creativity is not only expressed in her weaving, it also extends to her business.

Back in 1996, as a young mum, Claudia saw a need and came up with a creative solution, a portable loom that could go with you wherever you went. From humble beginnings she has grown a successful business Mirrix Looms. It’s a business that also has a social conscience, the looms are manufactured at Sunshine House, a place that provides employment for people with disability.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your creative practice.

I am a tapestry weaver, among other things, who jointly owns Mirrix Tapestry & Bead Looms with my daughter, Elena. Mirrix was born 22 years ago. Tapestry is my go-to favorite medium, although I have indulged in everything from spinning to dyeing (which I still do a lot of), embroidery, crochet, knitting, and beading.

What is your genre/medium?

Tapestry is my main genre/medium although I am addicted to anything that uses fibre.

What is your first memory of being creative?

My first memory of being creative in the fibre world, (because until this moment I did not know about my love of fibre), happened when my parents brought my sister and me, little needlepoint kits from France. I think there were three little pictures to needlepoint. I dutifully made one and then turned the other canvas’s upside down and did my own thing. That eventually lead to weaving and all my other fibre addictions.

Who or what inspires you?

I am mostly inspired by nature. I know that sounds trite, but she informs all my colour decisions, and colour is the basis of my creativity. If it doesn’t work in nature, it just doesn’t work. When I paint silk, which I do frequently, I stare out at my lovely mountain view and take my cue from that vision. I am also constantly inspired by the many brilliant tapestry weavers out there.

Is there anything special you do to get into the right mindset and get the creative juices flowing?

Not really since being creative is my primary outlet and I practice it on a daily basis. Even when I am not feeling creative, I will practice my art daily. Just the act of working on something every day opens one up to new discoveries. Most of what I do is really repetitive and often the creative bursts are fairly rare. However, it’s the constant doing that leads to the eventual creative breakthroughs. And if that doesn’t work, I ride my horse or my bike!

How do you deal with creativity blocks?Phoo of a Mirrix Little Guy loom

I just plow through them. I know that maybe ten percent of what I do is really creative. The rest is just repeating an old chorus. But you can, for example, weave a tapestry even when you aren’t feeling that creative tug, since it’s usually been planned and allows for you to just go under and over, under and over. And then you can always rip it out!

What is one tip you would give other creatives?

Just do it. Don’t talk about it too much. Don’t just collect supplies. Use them. Don’t hoard special materials for the future. Use them. That gorgeous gold thread you bought ten years ago. Find it and use it now!

In other words, don’t compromise, don’t hesitate, don’t hold back. Just do it.

What is your favourite, colour, book, song, food and place?

Favourite colour is not one but a combination, salmon, sage green, magenta and a bit of yellow. My favourite book, that’s a hard one!  I have read a lot of books, so I will pick the first book that ever rocked my world: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Amelia by Joni Mitchell is my favourite song and I love spicy food, complicated, fresh ingredients with Corsica being my favourite place in the world.

I have to confess I am smitten with these looms and own one myself, so I am a little biased. However, I want to encourage you to take a look at the Mirrix website, even if you aren’t a weaver! You can also find Mirrix on Ravelry and read more at their blog.

www.mirrixlooms.com

https://www.mirrixlooms.com/blogs/mirrix-blog

https://www.facebook.com/mirrixlooms/

Artist – Freya Jobbins

Assemblage Artist Freya Jobbins

When my children were much younger, I met artist Freya Jobbins. It was through a community-based arts group that she was part of establishing. It’s amazing how once you meet another creative they often keep popping up your life, Freya and I have crossed paths many times over the years. Her work is multifaceted and continues to evolve, however Freya is well known for her assemblage work, created from deconstructed dolls and plastic children’s toys.

To some these creations are a disturbing, carefully and thoughtfully placed, assemblage of deconstructed plastic body parts and toys. For me there is so much to absorb. At first glance I see what it represents, whether it be Darth Vader, Batman or even Freya. However on looking closer it brings a smile to my face. There is a ‘Where’s Wally’ moment as all the components come into focus, pieces reminiscent of my childhood and that of my children. And then for me, there is the thought provoking. Freya has taken the ubiquitous, and turned it into the extraordinary. But what happens to all the other pieces that are discarded destined for the scrap heap, the pieces that don’t make it into an artists studio.  I am reminded that our consumerism and waste now begins in childhood.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your creative practice.

I am multidisciplinary contemporary artist based in South West Sydney. My practice includes assemblage, installation, collage, printmaking and now video work and is based on current social commentary.

Both my prints and sculptures have been exhibited and held in collections Australia wide. Also, in NYC, Detroit and San Francisco in USA. Hamburg Germany, Oslo Norway, Klagenfurt Austria, Yorkshire England, Dubai UAE and in Tel-Aviv Israel.

Currently, I am part of the group exhibition at Campbelltown Arts Centre (CAC) We are all connected to Campbelltown (one way or another)”, this is on until October 14th. I was commissioned by CAC to create a new video work especially for this exhibition. Other artists are Suzanne Archer, Candy Bowers, Joan Brassil, what, Joel Beers, Blak Douglas, Heath Franco, Anna McMahon, Danie Mellor, Claudia Nicholson, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran and Shireen Taweel.

At the moment I am also in a group show at Town Hall Gallery Hawthorn Arts Centre called THIS WILD SONG” which addresses gender equality with an empowering tone. Artist Illona Nelson styles and photographs significant Australian female artists, to create portraits where the artist becomes a part of their artwork. Open until Oct 22nd.

I will be having a solo show at Lamington Drive Gallery, in Collingwood Melbourne, from October 24 to November 10 called SURFACE2

What Freya doesn’t tell you is that Art is her second career choice! To some it may seem like an irrelevant fact, however for me it reinforces that we can pursue a creative life at any time in our lives, fulfilling our innate need to express ourselves.

What is your first memory of being creative?

I have always been drawing. Even before starting to school I was drawing. Building, making and experimenting started very young.

Who or what inspires you?

So many people, living and dead, inspire me. Places, people and moments in time, are stored and revisited through my work. People with persistence inspire me tremendously. I am never lost for inspiration in my creative processes as there is always something that I would like to say!

Artists like Kathe Kollwitz, Louise Nevelson, Cindy Sherman, kaarina Kaikkonen, Catherine O’Donnell, Suzanne Archer and Camden’s, Patricia Johnson, are all artists who have had a strong influence on my practice.

Is there anything special you do to get into the right mindset and get the creative juices flowing?

I am always ready with ideas, they are constant! My journals are always being added to, sometimes at 3am in the morning. I am always seeing so many possible conversations that could be addressed, made into a series of works.

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

I don’t have that problem, the creativity just keeps flowing.

What is one tip you would give other creatives?

Artists: find out what you want to say.

Creatives: Be original, and if you don’t enjoy it, I mean really love what you do, don’t waste your time and money.

What is your favourite, colour, book, song, food and place?

My favourite colour is not a colour, I like black and white and grey, I have two books on the go at the moment ‘Seeing ourselves Women’s Self-Portraits‘ by Frances Borzello and ‘The Subtle Art of not giving a F–k’ by Mark Manson. Currently my favourite music is “HappenGoStay” by Norwegian muso Thea Hjelmeland from her latest album KULLA, I love potatoes and my favourite place is Berlin.

Make sure you head to Freya’s website to check out her work, not only her plastics but also her prints.

Or follow her on Facebook or Instagram

www.freyajobbins.com

https://www.instagram.com/freyajobbins/

https://www.facebook.com/freyajobbins/

Author – Ellen Morris Prewitt

I often spruik the benefits of the internet and particularly Facebook. While others are bemoaning this social media platform, I have seen it as a conduit to building relationships. If it weren’t for this app, I may never have gotten to know today’s creative woman. And if that were the case, you probably wouldn’t be hearing about her!

Ellen Morris Prewitt is a writer from Memphis, Tennessee. I first became aware of her work when I read her book on Cross Making. This book was my first glimpse into of the importance of trusting your hands and heart to give you access to the knowledge that your head knows, however that you are not aware of. It was the catalyst that led to me researching  LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® MATERIALS AND METHODOLOGY, and eventually becoming a trained facilitator. So where does Facebook come in? Well that is how, quite a few years ago, I connected with Ellen. A connection that would never have occurred were it not for social media. Enough of my ramblings, I am sure you would love to hear from Ellen.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your creative practice.

I’m a writer of the most eclectic sort. I cram as much writing into my life as possible while still staying in community with those I love, and causes I admire. Because of this, I follow a “whenever I can” writing practice. What this means is that I’m editing on my computer at 10:00 at night, jotting notes on my iPhone at the dentist or approving audio files while my husband fixes supper. We divide our time between Memphis, Tennessee/New Orleans, Louisiana/ and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Whatever city we are in, when luxurious hours stretch before me, I’m on my bed writing with my dog keeping me company (“Evangeline, you ready to go work?”)

What is your genre/medium?

I write, my first book was about making crosses from broken and found objects, aptly named Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God. Other than poetry, I work in almost every form: personal essay, memoir, short stories, radio commentaries, magazine articles, and novels. From my radio commentaries to my short story collection (Cain’t Do Nothing with Love), to the podcast and audiobook of my novel, I have a particular focus on narrating my work. I also edited Writing Our Way Home: A Group Journey Out of Homelessness, the memoir of a weekly writing group of men and women experiencing homelessness which I led for 8 years.

What is your first memory of being creative?

When I was a child, several times a year, my family drove long hours between North Carolina and Mississippi. I passed the time by telling stories about whatever I saw outside the car window (“Let me tell you about the people who live in that house.”) Then one summer when I was in middle school and walking the beach with my mother and aunt. My mother told my aunt I could make up a story about anything. She pointed to a dead fish washed up on the shoreline and said, “Tell us a story about that dead fish.” So I did! It was the first time I was consciously aware that I was creative, this story-telling thing I did was unusual, and my mother was proud of it.

Who or what inspires you?

An image, a snatched line of conversation, a “What if?”(“What if Jean Laffite the pirate king came back to save New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina the way he saved the city during the War of 1812?”), an ironic twist in the Universe, a desire to right a moral wrong, a comic situation that just tickles me, a dream by my husband (“I dreamed you wrote a fashion model detective novel”), an odd word, my conflicted family history, a narrative challenge (write a short story set at a silent retreat), an unsolved mystery, a story hidden in time, research, a new geography of place, a period of grief, a moment of happiness, the wonderful, terrible journey that we call Life.

Is there anything special you do to get into the right mindset and get the creative juices flowing?

My creative juices gush like a Mississippi culvert in a summer thunderstorm. So my challenge is more about accepting how much time writing eats (getting it down on paper, revising and editing, soliciting feedback, and releasing it into the world.) I do know when Evangeline joins me on the bed that we’re getting down to business, and no nonsense will be tolerated.

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

Sometimes when I’m revising a work, I realize a major alteration is in order, but I’m not sure what it is. When that happens, I go for a walk. Or I ride my bike. Or I carry heavy weights around. But whatever it is, I get away from the work and get physical. When I return, the answer is clear and organized in my mind.

What is one tip you would give other creatives?

Follow the truth of your talent. Trust that the world needs it.

What is your favourite, colour, book, song, food and place?

Favourite colour is orange, The Golden Apples by Eudora Welty is my favourite book and “When Love Comes to Town” By BB King and U2 favourite, favourite music. My most favourite food, fried okra, baklava, and dark chocolate (though not all at once!). Favourite place, Heaven on Earth!

To quote Ellen “You can peruse my wildly different offerings, listen to me narrating my stories, and follow my blogposts at ellenmorrisprewitt.com Keep up with my antics at https://www.facebook.com/MyVerySouthernVoice/

The Audio of Tracking Happiness: A Southern Chicken Adventure will release in fall of 2018.

Artist – Alicia Douglas

Alicia Douglas

This week we peep through the keyhole at the practice of Alicia Douglas, an artist from Sydney. Alicia’s current works particularly resonate with me as they are of Scotland and speak to my heritage. My grandfather came to Australia from Scotland, my father played the bagpipes and as child I learnt highland dancing. While I never had the chance to know my grandfather (he died before I was born) my grandmother had all these wonderful images of Scotland, Highland Cattle and purple heather. 

 Tell me a bit about yourself and your creative practice. 

Growing up on the Central Coast of NSW, I have always been inspired by the beautiful coastal landscapes. I began oil painting at around 10 years of age, and I haven’t stopped since. In 1999 I completed an Advanced Diploma of Fine Art, and then a Bachelor of Fine Art (Honours) in 2002 with a focus on painting.  

Over the past sixteen or so years I have been involved in a variety of exhibitions, both group and solo. Currently, I work from a studio in Sydney and I am still greatly inspired by the beautiful landscapes close to home as well as enjoying inspiration from faraway lands. 

 I hear you have an upcoming exhibition? 

Space & Silence opens on the 30 August at Gaffa Gallery in Sydney. It is a series of oil paintings I painted in response to a trip to the UK, in particular, my travels in the Scottish Highlands. An inspiring region that is vast, yet tranquil. The works are all the same height around the gallery walls and give the viewer an opportunity to be immersed in the Highlands of Scotland.  

What is your genre/medium? 

I am mostly a landscape painter, working in gouache, oil and watercolour. 

What is your first memory of being creative? 

When I was young I remember always loving illustrating school assignments. I cared a lot more about making things look nice rather than the written content! 

Who or what inspires you? 

The landscape is my greatest inspiration, but I am also inspired by the special people in my life, music and the experiences of life. I love the immediacy of painting outside where you can capture the real feeling of being in the landscape. 

Is there anything special you do to get into the right mindset and get the creative juices flowing? 

I can’t really think of anything; however, I find sometimes music is a great motivational tool! 

How do you deal with creativity blocks? 

I just know that they won’t last forever, and go and put my energies into some other activity. I find it always comes back! 

What is one tip you would give other creatives? 

If you have that creative seed inside you, never ignore it.  

What is your favourite, colour, book, song, food and place? 

Only one favourite colour! I have two – turquoise and emerald. My favourite book is A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle and as for music, dreamy alternative folk rock – I don’t think that is a genre, but it sums up my musical taste. Favourite food pizza, of course, and I love and am inspired by the United Kingdom. 

I appreciate Alicia taking time out to talk to me, especially as when she is in the middle of preparing for her exhibition at Gaffa. 

 If you would like to get up close and personal with her work, the  exhibition is on from the 30th August to the 10th September 2018 aGaffa Gallery, 281 Clarence Street, Sydney, check the website for times. 

https://www.facebook.com/aliciadouglasartist/ 

https://www.instagram.com/the_theory_of_two/ 

https://bluethumb.com.au/aliciadouglas 

Yarnbomber – Jane Balke Anderson

Photographer Martin Anderson

This week I am interviewing Redfern based fibre artist and designer, Jane Balke Andersen, AKA Queen Babs (named after her bunny)! I stumbled onto Jane’s work on the internet a few years ago. Being a textile artist, and someone who has worked in public art, I loved her colourful installations. They not only brighten the landscape, but also gather the community together.

 

Tell me a bit about yourself and your creative practice

All my life I’ve been crafty, read books, told stories and been fascinated by people and tried to be kind. I’ve been a high school teacher (humanities), taught art and craft, been a caterer, a house and pet sitter, and sold my creative works.

Since childhood my health had always been poor, however after drinking poisoned well water, over a three-month period in a remote community more than 25 years ago, I suffered a massive decline in my health.  The resulting outcome continues to resonate with me to date, though I never give up, and I continually fight to improve my health.

I am now disabled, housebound and bed ridden most of the time, but that doesn’t stop me me making the most I can from my life and it certainly doesn’t stop me being creative!  It’s who I am, not what I do.

 

What is your genre/medium?

I’m a fibre artist – I design patterns in crochet, and I yarnbomb and install large scale installations all using acrylic and cotton yarns, crocheting by hand and knitting by machine. I taught myself to crochet via YouTube in 2013, and began yarnbombing the same year.

For those who don’t know what yarnbombing is, it is a form of street art where knitting and/or crochet is attached to an object in a public place.

Previously I have worked in paper arts, collage, photography, scrapbooking, stamping, card making and entertained myself with sewing, quilting, decoupage, embroidery, appliqué, beading, jewellery making, painting decoratively and more.

Jane is being quite humble today,  and what she hasn’t told you is that she has created installations for QANTAS, OPTUS, the Garden Expo, Central Park Mall, the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence, Burning Man USA, peace conferences, and a variety of music and community festivals. The list is endless, and her work includes national and international collaborations.

 

What is your favourite installation?

Each installation has a story or purpose. It may be to raise awareness (eg Fibromyalgia/CFS/ME, Depression, marriage equality), celebrate and build a sense of community (Redfern or others) or culture (eg Indigenous culture), and to spread kindness and love.

One of my earliest public pieces, The Garden of Imagination, for the Sydney Garden Show, is a large (2.5m x 1m) crocheted representation of my childhood drawings of gardens. As my first paid commission, it was a huge leap of faith in myself, as it challenged me as an artist and a crocheter. It also reinforced my creative partnership with my husband Martin, who supports my dreams and helps them become real. He helps create, install and photograph my work. We are a great team!

I created many pieces for The Plot music festival, inviting people all around the world to contribute to the Hippy Peace Love theme. The Rainbow Bicycle includes little motifs from many people and friends, and again stretched my skills as I worked out how to take the picture in my head and turn it into reality.

It’s the fact that I was so ill, and I did most of while bedridden, that makes it more important to me. Martin cleaned, restored and painted the dilapidated bike. He placed a sheet of Masonite over the bed, and shifted the bicycle into position as I stitched, sewed and glued the pieces. Friends visited and helped me while I was stuck in bed. Not only is it a rainbow of colours promoting peace and love, it is a concrete reminder that I can still express my creativity while housebound and bedridden.

These days as my health has deteriorated from vestibular and hemiplegic migraines, I have turned to designing crochet patterns, most with a heart at the centre to keep spreading the love. So far, the Lovebomb Mandala has been my favourite design, every stitch is love and kindness expressed in yarn.

 

What is your first memory of being creative?

I come from a creative family. Everyone makes, bakes, creates, photographs, gardens or they play music, sing, dance and act. When I was young I learnt to cook at my grandmothers’ knees, pulling up a chair to reach the kitchen bench. My sister and I were always encouraged to be crafty and creative. One of my earliest memories is of our mother who would draw the most beautiful pictures of historical women’s dresses for us to colour in.

I loved stories and was a voracious reader, and I also remember being encouraged to write stories, make up games, act and sing. We didn’t watch a lot of tv growing up, we filled our days with creative play and reading.

 

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by people who are kind, share their skills generously, and are passionate about what they do whatever their field of interest.

Colour, shape and texture have fascinated me all my life. I used to joke that a perfect job would be designing Christmas ornaments for all the shape, colour and glitter! Nature, particularly flowers, inspire my colour choices in my work.

There are many yarnbombers, fibre artists and designers who also inspire me, and I enjoy their journey and work via Instagram.

 

Is there anything special you do to get into the right mindset and get the creative juices flowing?

I don’t have to do anything special to get into the right mindset to get the creative juices flowing because, unless I am really ill, my mind never stops coming up with new ideas. It’s always been this way and I call it my “monkey mind”. I’ve learnt to write the ideas down because I get so many I cannot keep up with them. Alas, there’s is only one of me! I wish I was a clone or two, I might get more done.

Currently, I have at least two dozen design ideas for crochet patterns waiting for me to flesh them out. I’m just waiting on some time with good health.

 

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

I don’t get creativity blocks, I get blocked by my health and disability. Often, I am too sick to crochet, design my patterns or Yarnbomb.

So I do what I can, when I can. I tend to have intense periods of creativity when pieces fly off the hook and words fall over each other, describing my stitches and method.

These days, I have learnt to ask for help installing Yarnbombs, and friends and my wonderful husband install pieces for me.

 

 What is one tip you would give other creatives?

Your creativity is not an option, it’s not a hobby, it is a living, breathing part of you. Give yourself time to play, permission to make many, many mistakes so you learn new things and discover your joys. Be brave and plan time for yourself to be creative just for the sheer joy of it. You will become happier.

What is your favourite, colour, book, song, food and place?

My favourite colour, red and pink, I cannot just pick one! Book, what an awful thing to ask! Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is a fave fun one. The 80s music of my teenage years, plus big band swing, The Beatles and Aretha Franklin. I love good cups of tea, cake and Chinese food. My favourite place, places of natural beauty and peace, or my big old brass bed with a good book and a cup of tea.

 

Like many of the creatives I talk to, Jane inspires me. It’s not only her creations and passion for colour, but also her ability to see the glass half full, not half empty. I really appreciate her giving us an insight into her creativity and her life. Also a big thanks to Martin Anderson for the photographs.

If you want to see more of her work, or connect with Queen Babs, the links are below.

https://www.facebook.com/queenbabscards

https://instagram.com/queen_babs/

http://yarnbombersunited.weebly.com/

http://www.ravelry.com/people/QueenBabsSydney

https://twitter.com/queen_babs