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. 

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.

******************

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.

the Golden Beach with Pinky & Maurice ~ a weekend in South Golden Beach, Byron Bay surrounds



Today I'm bringing you a lovely little look around the studio where we will be holding our upcoming Gather :: Create, with some info about the sweet township we'll be in. We are so lucky to be presenting the workshop in the studio space of ceramic artist Claire Atkins, who works under the name Pinky & Maurice (that's the name of her two cute cute little dogs!). Here's some stunning images of Claire's studio (borrowed from Megan's blog Seeker of the Lost Arts), but today Claire is sharing her love of South Golden Beach with us. So come along for a weekend of creative play and beach dreaming........

South Golden Beach is a sleepy little town that time forgot, with a wild, stretching blue break where you can surf, swim, fish and watch the whales breach and play. 

During the weekends and holiday time, the beach shacks are full with holiday makers and the quiet streets come alive with the colourful buzz of families, kids, dogs and bikes and the dress code is bare-feet, towels and cozzies. 

The South Golden Beach corner store sells all the daily essentials, board wax, the freshest free range pasture raised eggs and the best pizza on the coast. Next door in New Brighton, dine alfresco from breakfast till afternoon tea by the River at The Yum Yum Tree Cafe, Manfred and his superb staff make the best coffee and create a menu from the freshest locally sourced ingredients. Stay till Tuesday and shop for farm fresh produce and groove to live music at the funky New Brighton Farmers market from 8am - 11am.


You can find holiday houses for rent in South Golden Beach and our cute neighbour New Brighton. Elders Real Estate in New Brighton manage all the holiday and weekend rental properties in South Golden and Newy. 
South Golden Beach is situated 20 minutes north of Byron Bay and 30 minutes south of Coolangatta airport. 10 minutes from Ocean Shores and Brunswick Heads.





 All images used with the kindest of thanks to Megan Kinninment, from her blog Seeker of the Lost Arts. Megan is a local photographer and journalist, who specialises in highlighting local craftspeople, musicians, authors, artists and creatives. Megan takes beautiful, intimate photographs that tell a story and entice you to look deeper into her subject. Megan is available for creative portfolio photography work and story sharing. 
These photos were taken in the studio of ceramic artist Claire Atkins. A beautiful space, designed by her architect husband, and planned to be an area for creative thinking and work, as well as gathering and sharing. Her large open studio looks out onto a lush back garden - a place to contemplate and inspire.


I'll be back tomorrow with some more info on other accommodation options around the region.


Creative Business Talks - in conversation Teegs from Ink and Spindle


This image used with kind thanks to Artisan Magazine

Tegan Rose is one-beautiful half of the dynamic duo that is Ink & Spindle*; one of this country’s top bespoke screen printing businesses, and a true success story for any small business creative aiming to follow a sustainable and ethical path.

Tegan, call her Teegs, started her career as an art teacher, and discovered she liked the art making and teaching more than the department and rules. A chance meeting led her to her now business partner, Lara Cameron, and the start of a beautiful business that has grown and flourished since it's beginning five years ago.

Ink & Spindle hand screen print organic sustainable fabric, using designs that are organic and nature-based, with modern interpretations and stunning colourways. But this is not all that the pair do! Teegs and Lara are eager to share their passion for sustainable and ethical business with others by sharing their story and experiences with interns as well as their 'competitors'; other creatives and makers.

Being naturally generous, Teegs is back in her heart-home town of Byron Bay for a short while (after sailing a pirate ship from Melbourne. Yep. It's true. She's the daughter of pirates!), and can’t wait to share with you her insights into small business, staying sustainable and ethical, collaborations and partnerships, a view into the fabric and fashion industry, as well as how to stay connected to your true journey and build a work/life balance that makes you contented and fulfilled.

This talk will be an informal night, with questions being answered along the way. Teegs has a broad knowledge on pricing, wholesaling, markets and trade shows, as well as collaborating with others (collaborations include NancyBird Accessories and Matt bags), open studio days, running a Pozible campaign, applying for grants and much more. Ask the question and she’s sure to know the answer!

There’ll be cake (did I mention Teegs’ brother is a chef….), conversation, new friendships and beautiful connections made on the night. Please bring along some business cards to share with others. 

*please please go and visit the Ink & Spindle website, it's such an amazing site with fabulous features, including colour matching their designs and base cloth. I find I&S to be a youthful, vibrant partnership with forward thinking in their business aspect, combined with a heart-felt and honest approach, honouring traditional skills and environmental concerns. 

Conversation with Teegs from Ink & Spindle - Wednesday 9th October, 6.30-8.30pm. Held at Byron Lifestyle store and coffee shop, 109 Johnson St, Byron Bay. $45. Bookings essential - book online here.  

** all images used with kind thanks from Ink & Spindle website, except image of Lara and Teegs used with thanks to Artisan Magazine.

It's all Pozible {Belinda Kemp :: Gretchenmist}



If you've been reading here for a while then you'll know about the amazing site called Pozible. Last year we launched our own Pozible campaign with the Hey Maker Pop-Up project. Many of you were along for the ride, and helped us out. And how cool was that!
We reached our goal, and successfully ran out project thanks to the support of many people helping out with lots of little bits. 

I'm really pleased to share with you another creative who is following her dreams, and raising funds through Pozible to make her project a reality. 

Belinda Kemp is a Melbourne artist who works in the most beautiful and emotional colour palette. Her paintings are evocative and thoughtful in a soft and subtle way - they don't force you, but softly guide you along a journey. 

Last year Belinda had some intense and big things happen in her life. One would say life-changing events. You can hear about it on her Pozible campaign. Needless to say, this alone is an inspiring and courageous story. To move through this by using her art work and painting is a special thing. 

Belinda's hope is to travel to Gotenburg, Sweden, this year, to attend a camp run by Camilla Engman, who is an artistic inspiration to many many creatives around this world.

My thoughts on sites like Pozible are, that we can all spare $10-$25 (or more) on little things that make a big difference to someone else. Give up take away coffee for a week, and donate to Belinda (or maybe one of the other interesting, thoughtful, creative, unique, strange, crazy dreams that people share on Pozible). For Belinda to access any of the funds already donated, she needs to reach her whole goal. Pozible is an all-or-nothing site. 

So, jump on over and have a look. There are some delicious rewards on offer, but come on - the best reward is the warm feeling you get by helping someone else achieve their dream. Sending someone off to explore somewhere on your behalf. Knowing you had a part to play in someone else's life is a bigger stronger and happier feeling that you might image.......

And Pozible campaign here - where you can pledge your donation.

*all images from Belinda Kemp's blog and Pozible site. I've only included a few, as I want you to go off an have an explore for yourself of Belinda's works.