Wednesday, 13 August 2014

spring blooming


From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward   
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into   
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
                          - "From Blossoms" by Li-Young Lee


The peach blossoms seem to be bigger and more showy this year. I wonder if it's true, or if my mind is just so wonderfully excited to be seeing them again. These are the prettiest thing in our garden. The trees make me happy all year around, but when the bare Winter branches break into bud and then bloom. Oh oh. So beautiful. 
These have been flowering bit by bit slowly over the whole of Winter, due to our funny weather at the moment. One tree in the garden - in a different section - hasn't yet bloomed and is still a week or two away. Which is lovely, having the blooms staggered. Oh yes. Loving this more than I can say. 
And the white plum blossoms will bloom soon - on they are magical indeed. 

I'm loving Winter, but Spring really is on the way... or some days it feels like it's already here.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

my dad's chickpea dahl {a recipe}



Today I made my dad's chickpea dahl. My dad is one of the best cook's I know. ......maybe the best..?? Anyway, he's a pretty excellent cook. We grew up eating his good healthy real made-with intention, thought, care, love meals. My mum was a great cook too. 
I think childhood memories of food and cooking and being in the kitchen with your parents are some of the strongest memories I have. I think maybe my siblings have similar strong food memories.

A couple of days ago Ari told me he wanted to make hummus for his school class party. He makes a pretty delicious hummus. As I won't buy tinned beans, it meant I had to soak raw chickpeas for his hummus making - so I decided to soak and cook a big batch at once. Which led to deciding what to make with the other chickpeas. And of course it being cosy fire-weather and warm nourishing dinners, I decided to make dahl. Luckily I got to ask my dad how he makes his. 

So - here's the recipe. In case you want to make:

Eric's Chickpea Dahl / Channa Masala -
(as with all my recipes, quantities are fairly inaccurate as I'm not so good at measuring...sorry. I think that's the best way to cook - but instinct and to your own taste). 


Ingredients:
1 cup dried chickpeas
3 cloves local or Australian garlic* diced
a knob of fresh ginger grated
1 onion diced (I use the purple ones because I like the caramel sweetness better than brown onions)
2t cumin powder
2t coriander powder
2t paprika or chillis
2t sea or rock salt (the one in the photo is pink Himalayan rock salt)
5-7 tomatoes diced
Olive oil or cooking oil
Fresh coriander.

The day before you want to eat your dahl you'll need to soak 1 cup dried chickpeas. Just regular water will do (of course we have beautiful rain water, so you should use filtered water if you have town water). Leave them in the saucepan to soak overnight. And then the next morning top up with water and put on to cook. The longer you soak them, the less cooking time they take. Bring up to the boil and then leave to simmer for some time - may take 1-3hours. Skim any scum that comes to the surface. You want to turn the heat off before they are fully cooked - a little bit of bite left, don't let them cook until falling apart. 

Heat a heavy based fry pan (I have a beautiful cast iron one that my parents gave me when I first left home all that time ago and I use it every single day) and add olive oil. I let the oil heat a teeny bit, then add the onion, garlic, ginger and salt and fry until all nice (don't burn it!), add the tomatoes and spices and fry until the tomatoes start to break down. A good five minutes at least. 

Drain the cooked chickpeas, but keep the cooking water. Add the drained chickpeas to the fry pan spicy sauce and fry for a further 10 or 15 minutes. Return it all to the saucepan and add a little of the retained cooking water if need. Put the lid on the saucepan and allow to slowly simmer for at least 3 or so hours. Stir occasionally and if needed add more of the cooking water, though the tomatoes make it nice and saucy on their own. Taste the chickpeas and see if they're well cooked and have soaked up the flavours. It can slowly simmer for more than 3 hours if you have the time. 

Add freshly torn coriander right at the end, just before serving. 
Serve with basmatic rice.

You can also add potatoes and kale during the cooking process if you want to make it a more vegetable meal. Though we like it plain like this and serve it with pan-crispy spiced potatoes which are super yum!

Enjoy. And think of the memories you can start making for your own children to have.

ALSO - in other wonderful and exciting news - our new benchtop was half installed today. Will be finished very very soon. Can't wait. It's so beautiful. We're all  dreaming of standing in our new kitchen and cooking and sharing and being in the space. Can't wait to show it to you. And maybe have some of you over for sharing a meal together!

Beautiful spotty bowl by Elke Lucas.


*do not ever, please please, use imported from China garlic. Local garlic grown in your country is much tastier and better for you. Garlic that has been imported from China has been irradiated.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

do what you love / love what you do - but what about when..... {creative business conversations}


We've all seen those lovely posters and heard the sayings:

Do what you Love
Love what you Do

about being a small business owner, a creative maker, a someone who has fled the rat-race for living the 'good life' making do and doing what they love everyday, for making their talent and skills and passions their business and livelihood. 

You know those sayings?

but what about when..............

A few weeks ago both Sam and I were in a little slump about our making and the whole self-business and keeping on going and doing and 'loving what we do'. We were both sick, the kids were sick, the weather was horrible, the house-building was dragging (which means still no set dedicated studio for working in, still very make-shift). A whole lot of stuff was happening all at once, we had lots of deadlines and external things as well, and upcoming events, and self-imposed deadlines and that sort of thing. 

Basically one of those months of full on crazy time. When you start to wonder why you work for yourself, why you can't call in sick and have someone cover your shift, why you've set yourself up to always always be having to work long days and often weekends and wondering if it's really all worth it and is it really what you want. 
When the love goes a little cold. Or something like that.

Of course, we both love what we do and feel more than grateful every single day that we are actually able to step away from a regular job with a boss and all that. That we can do what we want, how we want. That we can be here when the kids get home from school. That we can make and chase and redefine our own dreams. We love all that. But sometimes all that doesn't make it easier. 

So - I got thinking a little. About what to do when the love goes a little cold. Do we give up? Do we keep on plodding through it, hating it, or resenting it? We talked about it a little.. and I thought a little. And here's a few tips and ideas I came up with, or realised that we were already doing, to get us through the 'wish I could call in sick' feeling. 

1. Remind yourself really what you love and why you're doing this. Write it down, talk it out, say it loud. 
2. Look at all the cool stuff you can feel grateful for - the setting your own hours, the skipping afternoon shift to head to the beach or skatepark, the being home for your kids, the working together. 
3. Think about what you'd actually be doing instead, in a 'real' job. The fact that you probably wouldn't be able to call in sick due a number of other things....and how horrible that would be. 
4. Step away from it all - for an afternoon, a day, a couple of days. If possible I think taking time off is really important. What's the use of all the hard work if you don't reward yourself when you most need it?
5. Push through. Get over it. Toughen up. Grow up. 
6. Sing and laugh and talk with someone fun - have someone beside you in the studio to lighten the load, even if just for the shortest of whiles. We always find our family particularly are good at helping out when we really really need it. 
7. Or - sometimes...after a whole lot of thinking and talking and writing and more thinking....ask yourself, are you really still doing what you love. Do you really still love what you're doing? Sometimes we stay on a track because it's working, or there's no other options, because stepping off is harder or you need that next order before you can stop. Sometimes maybe you really do need to change or alter what or how you're doing things. This is ok - it's good to take time in your business and redefine if you still love you do. 'Cause if you don't love it, then what's the use?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and tips on what you do when you're in a rut - either in your own creative business or a self-set project. 
How do you get through the slump? 
Do you push on or give up?
Do you look deeper for the love, or notice that the love isn't actually there anymore?

Monday, 4 August 2014

Creative Makers - Ceramics I love #letsallsupportcreatives

These pieces by Kim Wallace Ceramics.
These pieces by: from top left - Megan Puls, large blue bowl Kim Wallace, smaller green bowl Pebuku Pottery, beaker cup Pebuku Pottery, pourer jug Megan Puls, spotty dish Elke Lucas, small blue dish Kim Wallace.
These two pieces by unknown local artists.

Beaker cups - from left to right: Elke Lucas, Megan Puls, Susan Simonini, Harvest Clay, Pebuku Potteryay gold coast






Small scoop spoon by Pinky & Maurice Ceramics, painted spoon by Tamsin Ainslie

Last week I decided to start sharing some makers and creatives who I love and appreciate and respect. To share the maker love, and to start a conversation about supporting our creatives. A conversation about the realities of the income of artists, crafters, creatives in our country (in many countries really!). 

I'm not going to go into too much detail today, perhaps another day. Today - an image heavy post with just a small selection of some of our favourite ceramic pieces. Lots more in our home. We love using pieces that someone has made with their own hands, that someone has spent hours, sometimes days making and watching dry and firing and having the devastation of it cracking or not firing properly. And the sheer joy of it coming out of the kiln perfectly perfect. 

I love the little indentations of the artists hand upon the pieces - that imperfection of knowing someone made the piece. 

I made a lovely little magazine layout story of this on a fabulous fun app called Steller. Oh that's going to be a great place for me to play and share. You can view the story online here, or download the app and follow along with my other stories (search Ellie Beck or Petalplum). 

I'd love you to share your own Creative Maker loves. To spread the word about why we should support and value the artists in our community. I'm using #letsallsupportcreatives to connect us all on Instagram, if you'd like to join in there. Or leave a comment with your favourite makers for me to look at.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Natural Dye ~ the magic of creating colour from botanical materials {a workshop}


Lately I've gotten right back into my natural dye making, and it's making me happy and excited and eager to be at the dye pot as many days as I can. I'm stretching myself, and learning new things and discovering new colours. I'm also learning to take note and write it all down - not like my usual 'oh, I'll remember that..'. A dye journal - that's what I need to make happen.... perhaps tomorrow. 

All this new colour magic making has me wanting to share what I know and have learnt. Hence some upcoming Natural Dye workshops. Oh golly - I'm really excited about these. About gathering with people and seeing the look in their eyes when they make colour on fabric and yarn from simple plant materials. Oh yes, oh yes! It really is that much fun. It makes me sort of giggly sometimes... And I want to show everyone who comes nearby - though my family sort of doesn't have quite the same enthusiasm as other natural dyers would.. though they do try hard to be happy for me too.


So, I have an upcoming Natural Dye and Wearable Weaving workshop as part of the gather :: create events I'm co-hosting with Leah. It's about spending time discovering the beauty of creativity within the little nuances of exploration.
Taking garden, kitchen and road-side findings we will create some magic in the dye pots and discover the joy of dyeing fabrics and threads with the natural alchemy of botanical colours. I enjoy using hot and cold dye methods to create colour, and delight in the finished cloth. My easy to learn ways of working with natural plant dyes is something you can take home and continue experimenting with to create your own colours and variations of patterns.


After a full morning (well, half a day) of working with the colour pots and turning white fabric and yarn into a rainbow of hues, we will take those threads and weave ourselves a pretty wearable neckpiece. I am a self-taught weaving, drawing upon my childhood memories of weaving as my source of inspiration, and can't wait to share these easy workable ways of taking scraps and threads of fabric and making an art work for your wall or to adorn your body. I prefer to work with a flexible approach to my making, to discovering what can be done and not having to follow rules - to make up my own way of working. To share this way of making with you will be an honour - to help you tap into your own innate sense of creating is what our gather :: create events are about.


Natural plant dye is about more than just making colour on cloth, it's about the environmental aspect of our clothing and our textiles. It's about thinking about how our fabrics are made, and where our colours come from. It's about learning to appreciate the beauty in the softer colour palette, or how to up the colour hue with some simple modifyers. Natural plant dyes seem to always fit together as a range - with a beautiful way of melding and colours flowing into each other. The process develops patterns on the fabric that are often not easily replicated, and to be enjoyed for their one-off amazingness.

Our day will also involve delicious and beautiful food, as well as new friend making, and interesting conversations. To connect with other makers is such an important part of being a creative, and to be able to share a journey of learning and making alongside others brings a sense of togetherness in a unique way. 
 
We have one workshop in Melbourne and one in Brisbane. (click those links for details and booking info). 

Monday, 23 June 2014

creativity, play, appreciation, curiosity..... with Alex Falkiner {Unfurl for Gather :: Create}



I don't even know when or how I first stumbled upon the work of artist Alex Falkiner. I just know that the very moment I saw her pieces, her sense of colour-play and creative movement caught my heart and my eyes, and I haven't stopped looking and enjoying and being inspired since that day some years ago. 
I currently only 'know' Alex through online interaction; Instagram, emails, etc. We haven't yet met in real life, but I know already that Alex and I have a lot in common, and a lot to talk about. A lot to share and a lot to give. For alongside her work of textile manipulation, of taking pieces of forgotten thread and combining them with found fragments of wire or lost assorted pieces, Alex feels and talks and connects with the act of making, the process of making and creating. She is open with her journey of being an artist, an emerging artist as she calls herself. Perhaps an unfurling artist might be more apt - as Alex talks a lot about Unfurling and discovering and growing and learning through the exploration of creative art-making. You can join in her conversations, or be inspired by her words, through her Instagram feed, her website or her regular newsletters sharing her current thoughts and ways of being. 

At this moment, Alex has left a home and is journeying where the artist winds take her. Meeting and connecting with people, and sharing her joyful sense of finding moments in your life away from the busy of everyday. Of soaking up the moments of a crease upon a table cloth, or the shadow made by her morning coffee cup. Her workshops aren't so much a follow the rules, do what I say, they are more a 'here's what I know, here's my technique and my own way of doing this, but let's discover a new way together'. She brings the supplies - the fabric and threads and colour bursting to make your heart sing, and the little collections of pieces that you may walk straight past. Under Alex's eye these pieces will be turned into a treasure, a something to enjoy, to inspire, to amuse. And under Alex's guidance you will see how to take these patches of colour and texture and make something that will lift your heart and inspire your eyes.

What does being a creative mean to you?
Being creative doesn't just mean being an artist, it’s not a thing that some special people are born or blessed with. I believe creativity is in each of us and nurturing it is actually essential if you want to enjoy life and contribute to others. Creativity is a practice, it's about doing things with attention, bringing beauty and appreciation into your life. I’ve also found that it is impossible to separate creativity from play, appreciation and curiosity, they’re all bundled up. I'm interested in expanding our idea of what creativity is and taking the time to see where we’re being creative already in our lives, the creativity that goes unnoticed, part of that is finding words that resonate with you, being able to articulate it. Like the word ‘unfurl’ for me at the moment, I love that word.

How do you find inspiration for new work?
I always begin with material play and some kind of 'problem' in mind. I find if I set myself some quite specific limitations I can really play freely inside of them. Actually, we’ll be experimenting with this in the workshop, finding and creating the ideal conditions you need to play. Asking: what does that space look like for you?


How do you push yourself through a creative slump (e.g. - if the inspiration isn't coming and you have a deadline...)?
The main thing is to get to know your creative slumps, feel them, notice them and then make stuff anyway. I find my slumps are usually money triggered and come in the form of resignation and judgement and crying and wanting to hide or give up. I can be quite dramatic about it all!
To get out of it I ask myself how I would like to feel in this moment and what steps I could take to make that happen. It’s about getting connected with what is important, remembering what I was up to before the slump, refocusing on what lights me up. If it’s a really set-in slump this usually involves a lot of writing and listening to favourite talks, reading tender words. Then I take action! I find a series of tiny actions to get the fruitful stuff happening again.
I often begin something mindless, automated, something that I’ve done a bazillion times, something with no purpose – just making for the sake of making! Once my hands are moving, it gets me out of my head. This is one of the reasons I love making, I focus on working the materials, exploring pleasing colour combinations, mastering or innovating a technique, experimenting – I get lost here! Making always reminds me what I’m good at and what is possible. I feel very different here – cocooned, nourished, enlivened, curious. It’s a good place to be.

Do you prefer to work to your own ideas, or do you like the challenge of a brief from someone else? 
I definitely prefer working on my own projects and setting my own (open) briefs. I have this very strong sense that it is important to follow my own trajectory, exploring and uncovering what it is I need to make, seeing what will happen next. 


What's your ideal creative day?
Hmm... I’d begin the day in silence. A few pages of writing to clear some space. Laying on the floor daydreaming, a bit of a stretch, then I’d write lots of words on paper, culling them down to words I really enjoy the sound of, ones that feel like home… I’d ponder these words over pancakes and black coffee, keeping warm in the sun and enjoying the sunlight across the breakfast crockery casting shadows on the table. After breakfast I’d lay out some old works, half made pieces, materials and tools out on the table and spend the whole morning arranging, adapting and reworking them, listening to music. On this ideal day I’d have a small nap, followed by a leafy walk and lunch with a good friend and perhaps even an afternoon sea swim! We’d return to my studio for crumbly apple cake and a pot of tea and spend the afternoon chatting and making together. I’d spend an unreasonable amount of time just arranging the fragments and odds and ends on various surfaces…haha!

What's your favourite material to work with?
I mainly work with textiles, I am drawn to them because they are part of life, so accessible and very adaptable. They also bring this sort of comforting, nurturing element to the table, which I love. I think it’s important to choose materials according to your state. If you’re feeling tentative choose materials that are appealing or curious to you… perhaps like a colourful bait to lure your creative self out of hiding. If you feel like a challenge take something you consider to be ‘bad taste’ and see what you can do with it, find it’s potential, find something about it that delights you, transform it into something of value.

Collaboration - do you like working with someone else, or are you best on your own? How do you bring your own voice to collaboration?
I am actually on the look out for a kind of collaboration that would work for me, but exactly what this would look like is still forming. I’ve collaborated with different organisations in the past to create installations, community engaged projects and create workshops. I tend to try and do everything on my own! But I love the support and the momentum of collaboration and know that things can be richer and more far-reaching when the right people get behind it. In a way my workshops are a kind of collaboration, we support each other and learn and build something together…

Are there lots of pieces or work that never makes it to the light of day - or is everything you make a final "good copy"?
I make use of everything! I actually get a real kick out of putting not-quite things or still-being-made pieces in exhibitions! It’s a fine line, it has to be just balancing on the edge… I can’t tell you how liberating it is to exhibit a piece of Easter egg foil! Or a single thread! Haha! And it’s not just liberating for me, I believe the job of artists is to make room, to hold spaces. I get such joy turning up to a gallery with a small Tupperware container full of ‘stuff’ and seeing doubt and concern wash over the face of the person in charge… Then seeing their surprise and delight as careful pinning and thoughtful arranging of that overlooked stuff becomes a beautiful dance of colour and shadow across the wall. It has to be close to failing so the surprise is real! I’m looking to shift our belief of what is possible.

Why is play-based creative making so important to you? And also, why share it with others? Why not keep it to yourself..?
Play-based making always leads me where I want to go, it opens me up, opens up ideas and leads to genuine ‘me’ work. Not the work I think I should make, but the work that I need to make. Play allows me to safely detour from what I know, offers an alternative to the certainty of the predetermined outcome… Play is expansive, but not in a scary way! It is the opposite of forcing and pushing. Play-based making gives me room to unfurl, it takes the pressure off.
It is imperative that I share this way of doing things because I know it works, and I know it can often appear that there is no time or room for play in this world. This world where perfection and efficiency rule, where play is only for kids, where we adults are too busy and important for that frivolous stuff! But we need it! And I have found (through play!) that I am really great at creating and holding the space to play. It gives me real joy to hold that space for others and see them flourish there.


Alex is our guest facilitator at the upcoming Gather :: Create workshop. She will be sharing her way of working in a 3hour session "Unfurl ~ small scale conversations with textiles". Bookings for this workshop are essential, and we only have a few spots left - you can find more information, or book here. This is a full day workshop event, with our other guest facilitator Karina Sharpe
You can see more of Alex's work on her website here, or her Instagram here. Of go and connect via her Facebook page here

** all images used with kind thanks from Alex Falkiner, via her website. 

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

mind-smiling and creative play with Karina Jean Sharpe {Poetic Collage for gather :: create}


I first 'met' Karina through the wonderful visual world of Instagram. I was immediately taken by her clear images that sang with a story, and made me smile a quirky smile, and touched my heart all at the same time.  The very first time we met in real life was sorta-kinda special. In so much that I felt I already knew her (through Instagram and email conversations) and we could just jump right into the part of being friends and connecting, and could skip right over the silly of having to impress each other. She liked me for just me, and ain't that something grand! Since then every time I've seen her, she's brought her humour, humility and wisdom along, and shared her insights into creativity and sharing and being true to yourself. 

Karina Jean Sharpe is has a background in industrial design and mechanical engineering, yet a whimsical sense of play in her work. She ties these two aspects of her personality together beautifully in her styled images and words. Karina is interested in seeing aspects that other's don't always notice, and she loves to share this sometimes minute worlds that she imagines. Take for example her Thumb Tree Hill video. 


At our upcoming gather :: create workshop, Karina will be sharing her self-learned technical skills in the art of paper collage with a difference, combined with taking a journey along Karina's magical word play and picture connections. Poetic Collage will be a whole new way of looking at magazine tear sheets and interesting images, and help you create a story book of your own visual voice - words and images combined to help you unlock your own inner story.

I asked Karina to share a little of herself with us today. And if this magical story below isn't enough to convince you that a day spent in her presence will shine some lights and make some sparkle, then hang out at her Instagram a little longer.....

What does being a creative mean to you?
Everything. The freedom to be creative means everything to me. The times in my life that I have been unhappy, where the times that I was in a situation where there was no room for creativity. Being creative, in general, is being able to look at a situation, choose how to move forward, follow that decision and end up at a result that would have been totally different had you chosen any other choices. Creativity can exist in all forms of being: making, writing, creating, cooking, parenting, gardening, tidying, cleaning, conversing … as long as you are not a robot I think you can be creative.
The act of being creative, for me, means the opportunity to express my thoughts and ideas and to share them with other people. It is a realm in which I can be my whole self and create things of beauty. 

How do you find inspiration for new work?
Mostly I feel like it finds me. Usually when I am not looking, or when I am playing around with other concepts. I have learnt to listen to all the small inklings of ideas. Some of my favourite work has come from crazy little thoughts, like: that shell could have a trail like it was walking; or what if those flowers came out of a faucet; or how about I cut a horse shoe out of grass – I don’t ignore the crazy stuff anymore. I think the other way I continually find inspiration is that I trust that it will continually show up –if I get uptight and fearful that I have run out of ideas, I begin pushing too hard and trying too hard and I lose the flow. It is completely counterproductive -I’m better off having a sleep. 

How do you push yourself through a creative slump (eg - if the inspiration isn't coming and you have a deadline...)?
If it is just a general slump and I am working on my own stuff - which naturally happens because things are actually cyclic - I either talk myself out it, or ride it though, or stop pushing. In this case my aim may not be to beat the slump, but to get though it without causing damage to my self-worth - as I have learnt that these kind of slumps are temporary if you don’t give them any power. A slump when I am working for someone else is a different matter, in this case, I have found that I work best if I talk to myself out loud. I go back to the brief, back to the aim and back to the purpose. I talk it all though out loud. Then I remind myself that this thing I am doing is something I love, and I see if all that makes a difference. If not, hmm, I either phone a friend or ask for an extension.

Do you prefer to work to your own ideas, or do you like the challenge of a brief from someone else? With both these different aspects, do you approach them differently, or find you come at your work in a similar way?
I enjoy them both. I love the freedom of working on my own ideas, but I also love that a brief can send you in directions that you wouldn’t naturally choose, and as long as there is room in the brief to stay true to your own creative language, there is big opportunity for growth. With my own ideas, my work usually stems from either a phrase or story that I want to depict as an image. I find a brief can often take on a similar state as there is usually an underlying message that needs to be conveyed. I think I like the balance of having both within my creative practise. 

What's your ideal creative day?
Ahhh. Well if we are speaking ideal ideal, then: I would wake up of my own accord around 6:30 am. Kiss and hug and smile at my loved ones, have a delicious breakfast outside in the sun. See people off to school or wherever, enter my big bright airy studio (the made up one will do for now), do some creating, walk or cycle down to my favourite café for a coffee and maybe lunch with my man or another creative being, go home and make some stuff that is glorious, at some stage I would discuss some cool projects with clever lovely people, before welcoming home the young ones and being a mum for the evening. 

What's your favourite material to work with?
I actually don’t really have a favourite material. I use whatever I deem necessary to achieve the thing I am trying to achieve. Sometimes its paper, sometimes its grass, sometimes it’s some other bizarre thing I have thought up. I am a swapper and changer. 

Collaboration - do you like working with someone else, or are you best on your own? How do you bring your own voice to a collaboration?
I love the idea of collaboration, but have actually not had a lot of opportunities to partake. I love collaborations when each person brings their own special quality, material or skillset. I also like when product owners and artists team up to make an artist’s version of that product, or when a piece of work is the result of cumulative contributions from different artists. 

Are there lots of images, pieces, work that never makes it to the light of day - or is everything you make a final "good copy"?
No, there are both. There is a lot that makes it to the light of day. There is also a lot that I sit on until they are my version of good, or that I sit on until I can rework it. There are some that are totally dumb and they are in the archives. And then there is actually a lot in the pipelines - A lot of things in waiting, either for something else to come about, or waiting because I don’t want to move that piece yet – hah like chess ( I don’t play chess). 

In your IG profile you say you want to make our mind smile - tell us about that... what does it mean to you? What makes you smile?
Mind smiles. I love the thought of it. There is a book about graphic design called A Smile in the Mind, by Beryl McAlhone. I haven’t actually read it, but have heard of it from a few places. When I first heard that phrase I couldn’t let it go. I asked myself “Does the mind smile? Can it smile? Do I do that? Does what I do do that to people?” I decided that maybe my best work did, and that it sounded like a pretty good thing to aspire to. I am only really interested in contributing things with an air of positivity anyway, things that leave people feeling better than the state in which they were found. But my aim is not to make people necessarily laugh out loud or snort or giggle – although it is exceptional when that happens – mostly what I do is more subtle. It’s about uplifting the mindset, elevating the mood, creating work that people can feel good from –you know, so their mind wears a cheerful little grin.
What makes me smile? Hmm, that’s such a hard thing to pin down when you try to think about it too hard. The perfect sentence makes me smile. And the prefect title to match an image, with the equal amounts of cleverness and wit. My sons make me smile and scowl in almost equal parts, but they are 2 and 5 so I think that is normal. Finding the perfect final object for one of my neat arrangements – that makes me grin, or air punch, depending on how long I’ve been searching. Oh, and ideas – ideas make me smile more than anything else. And beauty - and whales and cleverness and love and my man and friends and things done with imagination. 

Why is play-based creative making so important to you? And also, why share it with others? Why not keep it to yourself..?
For a long time I lost the ability to play. When I was working in consultancies my role was all computer based, building new products in 3-dimensions using a CAD program. Sometimes even the form of the product had been decided by the time it arrived on my desk. My job was to make it real, and that called for a sophisticated version of ‘staying within the lines’. For instance, a product may have had to look a certain way, be a certain size, with a particular wall thickness, 15 of them might have to fit inside a certain box and the CAD program itself had constraints with which I had to work. I made that product so it ticked all the boxes, and I did it very well, but I was left feeling pretty stale.

‘Play’ just didn’t have an opportunity or reason to show up. And like most things, when you don’t actively do it, you forget how it’s done and then after a while you don’t even realise its missing. I had forgotten how to play, and then, when I began to start to try, I remembered that there was a chance I could get it wrong, and then I was scared to make attempts. I had to step past that, and over time I have practised. I have been my own observer and watched how freeing creative play can be: how it allows you to tap into your own imagination and stumble on things that are more brilliant that you could have imagined. I don’t want other people to get stuck in that sucky place, where you are either operating like a mechanism or too frightened to explore. And that is why I am sharing - It’s not really mine to keep anyway. Creative play brings out individuality, so I actually believe that the more people play and explore creatively - then follow the things that come to their individual mind as a result - the less similarities there will be, collectively. So, I suppose, sharing the concept is actually in my best interest.

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Karina's workshops are a thing of sharing and connecting and beauty. I went away from her workshop last year with my mind buzzing with ideas and images, and my fingers eager to be creating. Her workshop at our gather :: create ~ Poetic Collage is the first time she's released this, and it's a not to be missed event. Bookings are essential to secure your spot at the table with Karina (and some delicious cake and other amazing creatives), click here to book or for more info.

If you'd like to see some of more Karina's mind-smile work check out :: 
her website
these beautiful pieces of jewellery she makes. 


** all images used with kind thanks for Karina Jean Sharpe - from her website and Instagram. She also often credits the magazines she uses in her IG feed if you want to check that out.
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