Sometimes I’m a designer

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Sometimes blogs provide an creative outlet for those who need them, when their creative needs aren’t being fulfilled in other areas. Sometimes blogs are adjuncts to creative outlets or the cherry on top of everything you do. Sometimes blogs are your only form of creative outlet.

My blog has always been an additional outlet, something that gives me the option to expand on other areas of social media and sometimes my actual work work.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything about my work on my blog (it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything on my blog) but if you’ve been watching you may have noticed I updated my portfolio section with a few projects I did last year.

I don’t know how long I can continue to profess how exceptional lucky I feel working in the Australian publishing industry until it sounds insincere and contrived. But if I won the lottery tomorrow I would show up on Monday morning ready for work because the people and the projects make this a career I’ve worked very hard to realise and I wouldn’t give it up for nuts.

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It’s a job, there are highs and lows just as any other work but over years I have built some wonderful relationships with publishers and editors that have given me an outlet to play and push myself further in my design practice, question my abilities, reach further into my conceptional mind, doubt myself terribly one day only to perform crazy dances for my dogs when I am finally successful the next day. I am not a robot at a computer pushing pixels for someone else’s idea but a collaborator – my ideas are respected and my voice heard.

And the end product is extremely satisfying. Who doesn’t love browsing through a book shop? Or flipping through the pages of a lifestyle book on a friend’s coffee table? People remember their favourite book as a child, and most people relish the gateway that a good story provides.

Being able to clothe a manuscript – give it a form that presents itself to the reader, introduces and entices, strikes a chord, generates goodwill – is a lot of responsibility.

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One of the questions I am frequently asked is do I read the manuscript before designing and my answer is: I try to read as much and as many as I can. I have worked out a few tricks for reading the MS (that’s manuscript in publishing abbreviation) like reading them on my iPad in the evenings; using the Text-to-Speech function on my computer so my Mac reads to me as I work; having a text reader app on my iPhone which is like having vaguely personable robot read an audio book (but is great for the gym or when I commute). But I don’t have the luxury of sitting around for days reading books, I have work to do and as a freelancer deadlines wait for no one.

Some books I get very excited about reading and fan out about them – last year I designed the cover for the Australian release of ZEROES . I devoured the MS and loved the story – I am a sucker for super hero storylines and particularly like the UK TV series Misfits – and I have recently been started designing the second book in Zeroes series and am so excited to get to read the MS (for designing purposes only – er-hem!).

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Some books I get stumped by and I have to call my braintrust and talk at them for a while until I can unknot the concept from my tangled thoughts.

I would say 60% of my job is thinking. Just thinking not actually doing or producing but considering the message and audience and thinking of how to create a window into the story. Some concepts can take days, if not weeks of labouring to get a design that feels right, others can be knocked out in a morning (but only after quite a bit of thinking). It’s not an exact science and I don’t have a formula, but I do use the principles of design as a base.

Sometimes I have to design 35 cover concepts until the cover is approved, sometimes the final cover is chosen from the first round of concepts. Sometimes I think I’ve nailed it and the publisher goes in a different direction.

Sometimes I use stock images, other times I shoot my own photographs and on very special occasions I get to commission a photographer. I illustrate stuff, work with commissioned illustrators. I hand draw type and nerd out over fonts.

I’ve given talks and run workshops about book design with publishers and editors, aspirating writers, primary school kids and tertiary design students. I can talk your ear off about colour meaning and type placement.

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My work is shown across social media via publishers, authors, book reviewers and readers. Most people wouldn’t have a clue who I was, or even think about the actual designer behind the book and that’s completely fine. Sometimes I get tagged in an appreciative post twitter or instagram by people who know me or my work, which I am always grateful for. I love finding discussions about book covers I’ve created, it gives me enormous insight to be a fly on the social media wall.

As a freelancer I find it hard to say no to work, it’s the nature of the job sometimes. But most of the time I can’t say no because the project I am being offered is just so damned good I’d be a fool to pass it up. I have come to the point in my career that I am able to say no but (due to the aforementioned smug love of my job) I just won’t.

Mini Adventurer party

I like a party. I am not sure if I like too party but I like parties. Or the idea of them actually, or maybe I just like planning them. If I am completely honest, I like to design, scheme and prep for parties and that’s about it. But now I am old and don’t have the luxury of throwing parties for myself I live vicariously through my kid.

Last month said kid turned 4 and I don’t know if you know this but it’s kind of a big deal around here (or so we were told). I started planning and scheming in June by hoarding props (toilet rolls) and designing graphics. We settled on the theme of ‘mini adventurers’ based on the kiddo’s unwavering fascination with the natural world, dinosaurs and all that outdoor junk.

Little A’s birthday fell smack bang in the middle of school holidays and it’s hard to gently remind other busy parents of a party if you don’t see them for a week before. So I decided to employ a marketing technique (don’t hate on me I am sorry I am a design nerd and can’t turn it off) and create a memorable invite: Mini Adventurer passbook and binoculars in a little paper bag. Using the months worth of toilet rolls, Little A and I painted and glued them together to create crafty binoculars for each child – who were encouraged to bring them to the party to help explore!

I designed the party logo and supporting elements based on old school Scout badges and continued that idea through the party where kids ‘earned’ a badge after completing every game.

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There is always the possibility that someone or something will rain on your parade. Nervous that I would make some sort of rookie school-mum party faux pas I consulted seasoned professionals, i.e. other school mums, to ensure that noses stayed firming in joint. With the stress of invitations done I focused on crafting large amounts of decorations never really thinking the thing that would ruin my parade was actually going to be rain. But there you have it, the week before the party it rained non-stop and I wanted to cry. Getting a metaphorical rigorous shoulder shake from SAH to pull myself together and get on with it – our chosen park had a band stand to give us cover (which my amazing mum turned up at 7.30am to morning of to secure) I did just that. I got on with it.

And although it did not rain once during the party, in fact it was glorious blue skies, it was winding as a – erm, a windy thing so I decided to forego putting up 90% of the decorations, which was a shame but I now have a large supply of decorations for next year.

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Effort was also exerted in the cake-making area. Baking the 5-layered cake over the space of a week, I watched a lot of you tube videos on crumb coating and smoothing butter cream frosting to get the look just right. Although I wasn’t entirely happy with the cake batter colour or the cream cheese frosting colour (neither was fluorescent enough for me) the over all affect was exactly what I had wanted. A mixture of adventure animals and tasty snacks adorned the towering beast of a cake. Although in my haste to clean the kitchen the night before the party I accidently threw out the fancy sparkly number 4 candle and I had to quickly retrieve four mis-matched candles from the junk draw in our kitchen.

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Party food was kept very simple with no lollies or soft drink, but loads of fruit, sandwiches, pretzels and popcorn – plus cold cuts and cheese for the adults.

We decided on three party games and encouraged the kids to play in the playground together when they weren’t participating in games or eating. We had an Expedition to find creatures (treasure hunt), a Dinosaur egg transport (egg and spoon race, well rubber ball and spoon), and a Mini adventure (obstacle course). We also had a table of craft for the kids to make animal puppets and masks.

Party bags contained a little custom pack of Crayola crayons and were big enough so craft projects and found animals/insect toys could be stashed inside as well.

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And the outcome? A complete and utter success. The birthday boy had the best day ever running around with his buddies – a close-knit group of kids at his Montessori school – playing games, earning badges and eating cake. In fact I’ve been asked by the kiddo about his next birthday party pretty much every week since!

I enjoyed the day too, remarkably as I was running around madly setting up, repairing binoculars, corralling kids to and from one game to the next… I even got to chat to other parents and some of the kids and it made my heart sing at how lucky we are to have such a gorgeous little community through our school.

Well hello there.

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I believe it’s convention to apologise for blog silence explaining the life has just been over the top busy and the blog fell by the way side. And while, yes that did happen there have been occasions when I did have time to blog I found I had nothing to say. That’s not entirely true, I have a lot to say but I’ve started to feel I need to be even more selective of what I put on my blog, as Little A grows I am mindful of his public digital-footprint. Even though it was never my intention to make him the focus of my blog – no this is still all about me me me.

Life has been going on and at times I have wanted to come here and rant and rave about perceived slights, boo hoo work and general crud but it would have been self indulgent crap that would have done more harm than good.

Exciting things have happened and are going to happen.

I continue to put my heart and soul into my work. Running the up hill battle that is freelance design.

Little A is well and truly a preschooler and we are only now emerging from the fog that was the threenager stage where everything said or done or not done prompted earth shaking tantrums. As 4 rounds the corner in September our articulate, interested, interesting young man reemerges and it is sublime. Stories are told, questions are asked, hands are held, games are played, cuddles are had.

We got our first glimpse of spring on the weekend and were determined to revel in it. So we bundled into the car and headed to the National Park and hired a boat to row around Audley Weir. I took one for the team as I am definitely not a boat person and felt queasy within minutes of boarding the vessel – it didn’t help that I was told it was all in my head but my well-meaning fisherman SAH. Walking in his father’s footsteps Little A had taken a shine to a fancy fishing rod earlier in the morning so to placate him SAH crafted a homemade fishing rod for Little A to play with – with he did with gusto.

We rowed for an hour at vast expense while the boat house owners dreamt of returning home to their gold-plated beds. It was beautiful and a perfect way to spend a warm Spring-preview day.

Not willing to leave the area Little A insisted that we go for a bush walk and we wandered the park lands area while the kiddo ran around with sticks.

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I recently purchased a new camera for work and have been experimenting while trying to master it. So far so good. It’s an Olympus EM-5 Mark II – which is the model up from the camera Olympus sponsored me to use last year. Sadly no sponsorship for the new camera as I forked out my own hard won cash – but it was worth it.

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Letterpress at Tiliqua Studios

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I like to think of myself as a bower bird. I am attracted to certain aesthetics with which I feather my nest. Always on the look out I can never stop.

As a designer I have a similar habit. Continually exploring new avenues of creation, enjoying the process of mastering a technique then moving on to something else leaving a trail of colourful mess in my wake (which interestingly is exactly what my kid now does).

My latest adventure into a new area has been with something that I have had an interested in for many, many years: letterpress.

Now a very fashionable thing, back in my early design days it was a highly specialised area reserved for super nerdy typo-philes with only a few printing presses running commercially. It was expensive to print because it was so incredibly time consuming – as I have since found out first-hand – but the results were always impressive.

For the non-design nerds: letterpress is a form of printing that involves creating a composition using type or a engraving, rolling ink over it then pressing paper on top to create the print. It’s a bit more technical but essentially that’s what it is.

A few years ago my friend and co-author, Felix acquired a FAG (Fournitures pour les Arts Graphiques) proofing press along with many draws of type – including type used for printing Queensland Rail’s timetables in the 1960s! After he settled into his co-op studio Tiliqua I finally got around to hassling him to let me use it.

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I had a couple of projects to play with but the main one was new business cards for me.

One thing you need to know about me, is that I like to make my life difficult. Learning new processes and creative outlets? I like to make them as fiddly and tricky as possible, for some unknown reason that’s just my modus operandi. So why make a simple letterpress business card that would involve several hours of painstakingly hand-setting 10pt type, letter by letter, using tweezers in the first place. When I could also hand letter the back of each card with brush script, print the cards with a blind impress AND have colour edges.

Talk about tall order but I did it! And love the outcome and enjoyed the process immensely.

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Felix and I played with the press, experimenting with card stock, ink and pagination after I hand set the type. I came up with a super technical way to accomplish blind impressing one line of type: masking tape. And it worked an absolute treat.

We trimmed the cards down with an old guillotine, then I clamped a small stack at a time and once again used a very low-tech method of painting the edges with a Posca paint pen.

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All this work was done over a number of days and the was serious effort in all aspects but the outcome was very worth it. With every roll of the press produced slightly different results with ink impress, this along with the cut up script on the back makes each card textural, graphic and unique.

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IMG_2180Since I producing these cards I’ve had a number of people express interest in commissioning something of their own – so who knows? Maybe I will return to Tiliqua again and again to collaborate with Felix on many more letterpress projects to come!

 

Never enough

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I sulked last weekend. The sun was shining, the birds were singing (our resident butcher bird family warbled happily in the tree out back), the weekend was three days long, and I was sulking.

In an effort to throw of the sulk I enlisted SAH to help me cross off a few things on my to do list. And while I was oiling the wood that would eventually be attached to a large vintage school map and allowing it to be re-hung in our dining room, I started to think – stay with me here it’s all relevant, if a little circular.

The smell of Linseed oil makes me sentimental and when I mixed up a jar of furniture restorer (from my mum’s fantastic recipe) I was reminded of my childhood.

I grew up tagging behind my mum as she searched markets, antique stores and op shops adding to her already impressive collection of stuff. My mum grew up tagging behind her father as he picked his way through markets, junk piles and collectable fairs adding to his impressive collection of.. erm junk. Hoarding is in our blood.

It’s also a time honoured family tradition – past from my grandfather to his children and now their children – to slow down as you drive past council collection junk piles, looking for any gold – I’ve heard it referred to as ‘Roadsidia’. Garage sale signs are equally thrilling to spot and follow to as X marks the spot to another’s trash and our potential treasure.

In the days preceding my sulk SAH, Little A and I decided to take a mini road trip down the coast. Obviously this meant honouring the family tradition by stopping whenever I wanted to pick my way through stores or sales – bless SAH and his patience.

At our last stop, Little A could take being in such close proximity to the beach no longer and SAH took him across the road for a splash in the waves, while I looked through a large garage sale.

I stopped in my tracks as I spotted one of my ‘white whales’.

Most collectors I know have a small list of items that they are always on the look out for, sometimes searching for years being driven mad by their elusiveness. My white whales are chairs. I have a thing for them (as well as a surplus of them at home) but I don’t want just any old chairs. I want Eames and Featherston chairs – not too much for ask for right? Well considering I’ve been search for over a decade, apparently yes. The thing that makes these items (that are actually readily available in a few large collectable stores) ‘white whales’ is the price. I don’t want to pay thousands of dollars for them. In fact I don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars for them. I want them for a bargain.

So on this day my palms went sweaty as I saw two green fibreglass Eames chairs. Approaching the seller anticipating finding they were out of my price range I was CRUSHED to find they were already sold and had been $80.

Walking away with the bowling ball of disappointment in my stomach I messaged the only person who would know my pain. My mum. She shared my disappointment and cheekily suggested I stop going to garage sales to avoid such future disappointment. I replied that when I stopped riffling through junk for too long it started impacting my sleep as I would start going to markets in my dreams and find excellent things only to wake up the next morning annoyed at my cruel subconscious.

There was nothing for it, so I sulked. For two days.

Until kind, patient SAH pointed out that it should in fact give me hope that the white whales where still out there, not yet relegated to myth I actually stood a chance of finding them again. At some point. I hope.

I sighed and agreed with him, as I slumped in my chair and SAH laughed at me, gently pointing out the chair I was currently drooped in was a ‘white whale’ – a stamped Eames fibre glass bucket chair bought for a steal a garage sale a few years ago – and I really wasn’t that hard done by.

He was right (don’t tell him that). The thrill of the chase makes collecting addictive and the wanting and needing and (not so attractive) jealously clouds the view to the amazing possessions I have already found.

New mantra? Buck up and enjoy what you have.

Oh and keep your eyes peeled! I’m sorry! I can’t help it!!

Captains-Flat-Tip-webCarrying on family tradition: my Mum, her brothers and sisters-in-law trawling the tip at Captains Flat

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The family’s youngest market hunter with his finds: a 70s matchbox truck and ‘Kam Kit Cuba’ camera bag turned man-bag.

 

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Before departing for Tokyo my major worry was the plane ride. SAH had headed over a week before us to attend his work conference while Little A and I would follow on a Friday night flight.

I prepared myself mentally for the nine-hour flight; I armed myself with favourite snacks, ‘gifts’ (small packets of Lego to delight and distract), new pajamas and an iPad filled with videos and apps. I needn’t have worried about the flight.

Little A was a consummate flyer, taking it all in his stride as if he’d been doing it for years. And as soon as we’d got past customs we headed straight for the nearest convenience store to try weird new snacks and try our luck with the vending machines.

But the best-laid plans of mice and men … we had a rocky few days of adjusting to international travel with a preschooler. Reminding each other to have empathy for our small person whose world has just been turned upside SAH and I tried to solider on regardless. We finally worked out a rhythm that suited everyone: slow mornings followed by a bit of exploring, afternoons back at the apartment and evenings out in the neighbourhood for dinner.

Our neighbourhood was Shimokitazawa, a quick 5 minute train ride from Shibuya station. The area is a tangle of streets, where brave drivers maneuver their tiny delivery vehicles down the shared roads while pedestrians stroll about browsing the numerous vintage stores, boutiques, ramen houses, curry shops and yakitori joints. The people were incredibly welcoming and while weekends saw an increase of local visitors and the odd tourist, the overall feel was laid back and authentic. It was definitely the highlight of our trip staying here and being able to return everyday to wonder the streets, go to our local grocery store and have a regular café (whose barista trained in Melbourne).

Our two favourite meals were had in Shimokita. Sitting at the bar in a tiny Yakitori joint I was in awe as SAH deftly ordered stick after stick of delicious chicken and vegetables cooked over charcoal. Not to mention Nama Biru!

While I, not being as adept in ordering food in Japanese as SAH, relied on the ol’ point and sign method when ordering at bakery and café cona sora – a hidden gem we stumbled upon one morning . Ordering us a traditional Japanese breakfast and an enormous sandwich using bread baked on the premises. It was an amazing feast which Little A happily tucked in too as well.

Our accommodation was a 2-bedroom apartment (found on AirBNB) on the fringes of the busy area, close enough to feel involved but not too close for it to be noisy. By Japanese standards the flat was huge and certainly large enough for us to move around in a not feel as though we were living in each other’s pockets. However I will say this for apartment living, SAH and I were on constant tender hooks in an attempt to keep the noise levels to a minimum. Not an easy feat with a tantruming preschooler.

Navigating the train system, strangely, was a lot of fun (once we’d gotten over the hurdle of commuting with our luggage) and after becoming familiar with the lines, changes and PASMO ticket system we ran the gamut of sightseeing in Tokyo. From visiting Harajuku on a Sunday (severely disappointing and nothing like the place that changed my life as a 16-year-old); braving the tail end of the typhoon to go Miraikan The National Museum of Emerging Scienve and Innovation – which has one of the best interactive play area for kids I have ever seen; to wandering the streets of Shinjuku and Shibuya stopping in department stores, Tokyu Hands (!! Oh my lord I was in love); and then there was Tokyo Disney.

Tokyo Disney was so vast that we barely made it half way around before the sunset and Little A threw an enormous tantrum and fell asleep in SAH’s arms just as they were getting on the carousel. The only ride I wanted to go on was closed for maintenance and I was crushed – It’s a small world featured the imagery by one of my favourite illustrators, Mary Blair. I also sewed a pair of capri’s especially to wear on the Small World ride (but more about that another day), I still got to wear them and look pretty awesome anyway.

We leisurely pushed Little A in the stroller until he woke up and was able to squeeze a little more in to the visit before we had to leave.

But the highlight of Tokyo was visiting the Studio Ghibli museum. Entering the ticket lottery we managed to snag entry on the second last day of our trip. Giddily we wandered the halls of the specially created building, spending time leafing through reference books in the recreated artists studio, staring fascinated at the interactive room filled with stop motion creations and optical wonderment. SAH and I shared a look of glee as Little A giggled independently throughout the featurette movie (exclusive to the museum). Although Little A flat out refused to play on the enormous Cat Bus. I gasped when I walked into the library and saw framed prints of Mary Blair’s ‘I can fly’ illustrations, then greedily stacked my shopping basket full of Ghibli toys – for me, not the kid.

My kid is not a fan of shopping. Well, he thoroughly enjoys the supermarket (mainly dumping things in the trolley) but any kind of shopping that requires browsing, consideration or enjoyment is utterly painful for him. So why I thought he would suddenly enjoy it in a foreign country is somewhat perplexing to me.

But that did not stop us as we persevered. Refining our shopping techniques with a combination of tag-team minding/shopping, distraction method and seeing the store at a run.

Sounds exhausting? It was. We did manage to pick up a few lovely items but I am sorry I missed out on taking my time browsing through craft and bookshops.

The whole trip was an amazing experience and I was happy to share it with my lovely little family but I did come away slightly shell-shocked and weary, learning some important lessons in travel with a small kid and swearing that we will wait a few years before we go overseas again as a family.

We also celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary whilst in Tokyo with Yakitori, Beers,  taiyaki and adorable selfies (this kid is definitely related to me).

Konnichiwa!

One afternoon in September SAH called and asked ‘So, um do you want to go to Japan next month?’.

Wait, what?

Turns out SAH was being sent to Tokyo for a fancy packaging conference in October and the opportunity was too good for Little A and I to pass up. So we quickly booked plane tickets as I started scouring AirBNB for the perfect pad to make our home away from home for 10 days. I made contact with a few Tokyo-based designers organising visits to studios, making this work opportunity for me too.

Emails flew fast between my lovely freelance buddy and Japanophile, Shell (Kitty and Buck), while SAH and I excitedly listed the restaurants we’d go to and the shops we’d visit. Oh the time I would spend browsing craft stores and book shops, leaving no stone unturned… I can hear the parents who’ve travelled with their kids laughing from here.

As you can probably guess our romantic visions of cruising around Tokyo with our kid, being hip global travellers was completely deluded and reality was less than perfect. It took us a few days and some monumental melt downs (from all three of us) to find our rhythm and settle in to some understanding of international travel with a three-year-old.

Staying in the bohemian and oh-so-hip neighbourhood of Shimokitazawa – home of Hello Sandwich, dozens and dozens of very well stocked vintage stores, cafes, tiny trendy bars, and cool young persons night life – we faced a daily conflict: do we stay in Shimokita and explore every lane, alley, backstairs and nook; or do we go off and see the rest of Tokyo.

In the end we ventured outside of our neighbourhood most days, only to return in the afternoon and relax in the surrounds, wander, shop, eat and on one excellent afternoon indulge in delicious street food festival.

We learnt the hard way early on that life would be easier for all of us if we included kids activities in the day so one sunny afternoon we made the trek to the ‘local’ park. ‘Local’ because it was a 3.5km walk away with no direct public transport. Still when we arrived at Setagaya park we were rewarded with facilities that made our jaws drop. Free for small children to use and policed only by their very polite parents were peddle cars and an intricate track complete with working traffic lights. Along side this craziness was a small but packed skate park, decommissioned steam train kids were climbing all over and a sign that pointed us in the direction of a miniature steam train one could ride (but as the walk had taken so long we had missed its hours of operation).

I spent a large portion of our time in Tokyo dawdling, staring up at signs, stores, buildings anything that caught my eye, while following SAH as he pushed Little A in our stroller. Such was SAH’s dedication to pushing the stroller, that I jokingly said I was going to make a film entitled: ‘Man pushes stroller’. Turns out I wasn’t joking and in the end I created three videos that document our time in Tokyo and my view for a lot of the trip.

Here is one of them

I’ve come away inspired in more ways than I thought possible.

Travelling with a small child and the restrictions that come with it (no wild nights, solid hours on end of shopping, over crowded tourist spots) we needed to explore the city in different ways and all of it via public transport and on foot.

Slowly walking through the suburbs and we found life away from bright lights and obnoxious trucks playing the latest pop sensation on loud speaker (a way of advertising).Textures and patterns emerged and the realisation that everything has some form of illustration on it. Grimey concrete, sharp lines of repetitive box housing, clever street signs painted on the ground in narrow streets, pops of bright colour cutting through utilitarian hues, traditional sandwiched between the urban. This is the Tokyo we saw and loved.

Next post I will go into more detail on wheres and hows and even add our hard found tips on travelling with kids in Tokyo.

Favourite – Book Week

Oh please don’t go, we’ll eat you up we love you so…

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As you would probably guess as a book designer national book week is a pretty big deal in our house. It’s a celebration of (you guessed it!) books, designed to engage young people with the world of printed word. The Children’s Book Council of Australia describe it like this:

Each year, schools and public libraries across Australia spend a week celebrating books and Australian authors and illustrators. Classroom teachers, teacher librarians and public librarians develop activities, offer competitions and tell stories relating to a theme to highlight the importance of reading.

As Little A is still only in daycare I didn’t hold out much hope that his Montessori centre would do anything this year, that is until I found a note in his school bag on Sunday morning informing me that children were being encouraged to dress as their favourite book character that coming week.

SAH and I debated the possibilities and asked Little A what he would like to go as, we finally decided on Max from Where the Wild Things Are. A favourite book in this house – both SAH and I loved it in our childhood – I have found Little A reading it too himself often (‘Where the wild things are, Oh! there they are!’). So the only issue was making said Max costume. I can sew but don’t have the patience for it so am not a particularly good. None the less I toddled off to Spotlight on Sunday afternoon and found the stars were aligned and found everything I needed. I am not sure about you, but I never find everything I need at Spotlight. I often walk out with only a few pieces required and have to scrape about to finish a project. But not this time, everything from a children’s onesie pattern, to the flannel, ribbing and fake fur. I even stumbled on the perfect material for whiskers.

And so it was that I returned home to sew my first ever dress pattern. No mean feat. Little A eagerly assisted and enquired every so often “Where is my costume?” In pieces “Where is my costume?” I am sewing the pieces together “Where is my costume?” Here is the main part of the body, I just have to do the arms. And on it went, until Little A climbed into bed and I stay up well past midnight to finish the darned thing.

To make Max’s wolf costume I used white flannel material and a Kwik Sew toddler onesie pajama pattern which I customised slightly by leaving off the neckline and zipper tab, instead I traced one of Little A’s hoodie’s to make a hood pattern and attached that to the neck. I hand made ears and sewed them on the hood and cut lengths of thin round leather and hot glued them on for whiskers. I made a tail from black fake fur and attached it to the back of the onesie. I decided to forego the claws depicted in the book but SAH made a simple crown out of gold foil cardboard, then found Little A’s sailing boat as a stand in for Max’s boat he uses to sail to the where the wild things are.

I was so pleased with the final result, having never made clothes from a pattern before (toys yes, clothes no) so the next morning I was SO excited as I zipped Little A in and found it all fit perfectly, only to be heart broken when the wild ways of an almost 3 year old saw him decide he didn’t want to wear it. At. All.

Biding my time until later in the week and a break in the rainy weather I suggested to Little A we should go for a walk around the neighbourhood and be wild things together. Agreeing this was a good idea, Little A donned his costume finally and we stomped around the streets, finding sticks, leaves and interesting things to play with. Success!

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I followed after my wild thing with my loaned Olympus OM-D E-M10 loving the fact it was so small and easy to use, so I could snap away getting great shots while keeping an eye on our surroundings. The morning light peaked through the trees and added a storybook feel to the shots.

When we returned home I removed the costume and soaked the knees in stain remover to get the grass stains out! Whoops! And while Little A happily played I used the wifi feature on the Olympus to transfer a few photos to my iPad and post them on my Design Cherry Facebook page – being very proud of my handy work, my cute kid and to celebrate book week as a book designer.

The following day Little A happily wore his Max costume to daycare and came home still wearing it! A real hit! Now I just have to follow this up next year… oh my god.

This was my final post as a part of the Olympus My Family Lens challenge, in conjunction with Kidspot Voices of Australia awards, which I have been participating in for 2 months. All opinions are my own. You can follow my Olympus OM-D E-M10 adventures through my instagramtwitter or Facebook page – or simply searching #myfamilylens

Delight – Treasure hunting

We were itching to leave the house on Sunday.

I had been checking weather forecasts all week in hopes that the cold snap causing snow to fall across parts of the state would spread to the Blue Mountains and we would be able to give Little A his first snow experience.

It wasn’t to be as the snow stopped short but temperatures remained quite cold so instead of feeling thwarted we made a split decision late in the morning to go anyway – why not? Let’s rug up warm, go for a lovely drive and do a bit of treasure hunting in the antique shops up the mountains.

As luck would have it we stumbled on some markets half way up the mountain and enjoyed rummaging through an eclectic mix of 2nd hand (modern) toys, hand knits, vintage clothes, collectables, industrial bits and pieces and lots of great food. Little A enjoyed the fact it was held in a primary school, preferring to run around like a nutter instead of eating a freshly made waffle with spice poached fruit, SAH and I had no choice but to scarf it down ourselves.

I picked up a gorgeous little mid-century modern planter, 3 old greyhound racing muzzles (I am thinking of hanging them on the well) and 4 x 2 metre pieces of atomic print 50s fabric. Score!

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Finally coaxing Little A back in the car we bypassed most of the collectible shops, heading instead to large Blackheath antique centre with a plan to hit the rest on our way back down the mountain.

I still have memories of combing antique stores with my mum as a kid, even now the smell of linseed oil is a powerful reminder of those times. Little A often accompanies me on my treasure hunts, whether it’s a string of thrift shops, markets or the odd collectible shop. The results are varied, as they usually are with a small person.

Thrift shops are the most enjoyed as there is often other children to play with or toys to (lightly) interact with –  although there was that one time last year when a small Little A emptied an entire box of a 1000 piece jigsaw on the ground, danced on it then ran off, leaving me literally left to pick up all the pieces.

Markets are a lot of fun too, it’s easier to run around and there are usually some pretty good boxes to rummage through but collectible shops are very tricky and often require more restraint and they are not a lot of fun for small people so we generally keep those outings to a minimum and add points of interest for A to break the monotony of piles of junk that I am inexplicably drawn to.

And that’s why after a whip around the Blackheath antique centre, we refueled with some rather dull chicken schnitzels then spent some time exploring a large park, running out the pent-up-car sillies and while that was happening I got to experiment with the video feature on my (loaned) Olympus OM-D E-M10.

This is my first ever blog video! I am quite proud of it.

Little A was beside himself, running in between trees, making ‘camp fires’ with collected twigs. At one point he tripped and rolled down a  hill. Laughing he picked himself up, climbed back up the (small) hill and rolled down again and again.

Calling it time when the sun started to set and the temperature dropped we stopped to watch some local kids cutting shapes on their BMX’s (or whatever the kids of today do now) on our way back to the car.

By this time it was late in the day and we decided to forgo stopping at any more places bar one – The Pink Flamingo. Where  I got chatting to the proprietors about Australian Modernist Design after discovering we were both involved in this book – they wrote an article and I was interviewed for one. They have a local MAD weekend coming up  touring some fine modernist architecture in the mountains, so I signed myself up for it… and I possibly signed myself up to talk about modernist stuff at the event too. Eep!

I love treasure hunting and it was such an awesome day to have both my fella’s cruise and mosey with me. And the more I play with the Olympus OM-D E-M10 the more I am enjoying it. I am slowly working out how to take better photos and get the depth of field and aperture to my liking. But it’s the whistles and bells that is pushing me over – the video and tilting screen was fantastic fun but the best thing I played with this weekend was the remote control feature. Running the Olympus app through my iPhone via the camera’s in-built wifi I used it as a remote control to document my treasures. My awesome selfies where created thanks to ‘live view’ on the iPhone screen meaning you see exactly what the camera is seeing so you can position yourself better and get rid of those double chins or stupid expressions. Very, very impressed.

In fact I foresee this feature being the answer to many harried partner’s prayers. Gone will be the days when they are instructed to take OOTD’s or document new hair only to be scolded for taking out of focus images or not directing the model enough: lift your chin, suck in your tummy, you have crazy eyes…

This post was part of the Olympus My Family Lens challenge, in conjunction with Kidspot Voices of Australia awards, which I am participating in for 2 months. All opinions are my own. You can follow my Olympus OM-D E-M10 adventures through my instagramtwitter or Facebook page – or simply searching #myfamilylens

Celebrate – Happy snappy Coney Island

My blog is a funny thing.
It wasn’t started for any purpose other than to be some sort of documentation of my life and design work – ‘i woz ‘ere’ – and if you’re savvy enough you’d be able to track my web presence from my 1995 gothic website to this much less angsty and dark manifestation.
One thing that has always remained throughout my various web incarnations is the documentation of my friends. From dark figures draped over gravestones, to rockabilly gigs and dancing I have always been behind the camera snapping away.

Back in the day when SAH and I started dating I toted an Olympus SLR around, shooting film and pretending I was a photo journalist. To be honest I just knew the basics of how to make the thing work but nothing about lenses or framing. When SAH and I upgraded to digital point and shoot cameras I thought nothing of it and continued on my merry way taking slightly arty happy snaps. It wasn’t until we took the plunge and bought a Canon DSLR that I started to appreciate the idea of taking better photographs – lighting, lenses, framing, small amounts of digital enhancing – and my work started to improve. I even took a photography workshop last year that I feel has pushed me further and further.

As a finalist in the Kidspot Voices of Australia awards I am privy to a few sponsorship challenges, things like testing products and stuff. I’ve never really thought about sponsorship on my blog, as I said it was really just started to be a place to ramble and post my creative work. When I was offered an Olympus sponsorship challenge I thought long and hard about it. Did I want to open myself up to this kind of content? Realising the parallels between what the Olympus My Family Lens challenge and my blog ethos (i woz ‘ere) made me agree – yes thank you, I would like to play with a camera and continue documenting my life on my blog.

So I was sent an Olympus OM-D E-M10 camera for a couple of months. From the outset I was kind of excited, those babies are designed to look like vintage SLR’s (like the one I used to shoot on) so is the perfect accessory for me. And in fact when I ventured out with it on Saturday I felt really free – unlike our cumbersome Canon – I was able click away and enjoy the festivities.

The festivities being our beautiful friend Caroline’s 40th birthday. She had chosen to not act her age and celebrate in style at Coney Island, Luna Park.

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As soon as we fronted up to looming decorative building, childhood memories overwhelmed me and I was giddy. The smell of the hessian sacks used on the rippling slippery dips, the creak of the wooden floorboards and the timeless hand-painted signs, nothing had changed except we had gotten older and my poor old body and its weird cervical ribs now prevented me from jumping in with my friends on any rides. So I was content to experiment with my new charge and snap away doing what I do best – documenting my awesome friends and family.

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I did however spend and awful lot of time in front of the funhouse mirrors – what can I say I’m part Budgerigar?

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Happiest of birthdays fabulous Caroline you are an incredible, talented, clever lady.

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While I am still getting the hang of my loaner camera I am having a lot of fun in the process. In fact one of the things I’ve truly enjoyed (and used a few times) is the wifi connection from the camera to my iPhone/iPad. So I can shoot fancy stuff on my camera and wirelessly connect to my phone and then post to Instagram, easy peasy. It’s a bit addictive.

It’s also come in handy when I’ve wanted to review my images at the end of the day – quickly connecting to my iPad I’ve been able to view everything in the Olympus App. Geez technology! I am looking forward to using the iPhone remote control function too.

This post was part of the Olympus My Family Lens challenge, in conjunction with Kidspot Voices of Australia awards, which I am participating in for 2 months. All opinions are my own.

You can follow my Olympus OM-D E-M10 adventures through my instagram, twitter or Facebook page – or simply searching #myfamilylens

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