Magic is Free

We made our own magic wands using materials from around the house and it was very satisfying.

Magic Wand Toys Children Craft Natural Sticks Paint

I drew star outlines, using cookie cutters as the template, on plain cardboard (it was the backing from a notebook).

Magic Homemade Toys Child Art Create Confetti Watercolor Paint

The kids painted the card with watercolour, then when it was dry they added some oil pastel scribbles.

Magic Toy Make Star Wand Natural Free Craft Children

Sprinkling confetti is like hitting a saucepan with a spoon: parents loathe it and kids adore it.

Magic Wand Toy Star Cardboard Craft Kids Art

The stars are a bit wonky, but if we wanted perfect we might have chosen plastic ones from the shop.

Magic Wand Toy Kids Create Art Natural Washi Tape Spots

Finally: some spotty washi tape, reinforced by a spot of glue, to hold the star to the sticks that we had we collected at the park.

Sim Sala Bim!

Magic Craft Wand Make Free Play Art Craft


Kyoto Art and Design Scene: A Glimpse

Kyoto Art Design Scene Dragon Sculpture Clay Shrine

One of the joys of Kyoto — and indeed Japan — is that the locals apparently approach all aspects of life artfully.

So even though my experience of Kyoto art and design was largely restricted to toddler-accessible locations, it was still possible to enjoy many examples of visual creativity around the city. (In addition, I escaped on a bicycle during nap time one sunny afternoon, armed with a Kyoto Art Map, which can be found at galleries and cafes around town).

Here are a few glimpses of art that I saw, with a slight emphasis on contemporary work. Having visited many temples and traditional gardens on my last visit to Kyoto, ten years ago, I decided to focus my attention this time upon a more modern version of Japan.

Having said that, it’s not really possible to untangle the old from the new!

Following the images are a few of my suggestions for an art and design experience in the inspiring city of Kyoto.

Kyoto Art Design Scene Cafe Drawing Painting Aframe Sign Sidewalk

At top: a chunky dragon figure dominates a footpath display or shrine. Above: a simple line drawing on an A-frame advertises hot drinks.

Kyoto Art Design Scene Akase Mifusa Gallery Exhibition

Bold animal paintings by Akase Mifusa are displayed in windows above a row of retail stores, creating an outdoor gallery of sorts.

Kyoto Art Design Scene Street Art Sticker Paste Up Graffiti

I love the sticker on the electrical pole: conceptual art on the street, perhaps?

Kyoto Art Design Scene Kokeshi Shop Window Traditional Junk Secondhand

A sweet, kokeshi-style painted doll in a junk shop window.

Kyoto Art Design Scene Dohjidai Gallery 1928 Building Exhibition

An exhibition at the Dohjidai Gallery of Art, which is at the centre of a creative hub in Kyoto.

Kyoto Art Design Scene Japan Obi Tie Kimono Colourful Rainbow

A display of obi/kimono ties, yet another visual treat.

Kyoto Art Design Scene Cat Sculpture Clay Beckoning Maneki Neko Modern

A contemporary take on the beckoning cat called maneki neko. (Unfortunately I don’t have a record of who created these beauties, I admired them through the window of the gallery).

Kyoto Art Design Scene Department Store Sfera Italy Milan European Style Homewares

Marvellous use of natural materials and pared-down style at Sfera, a rarefied design department store in which I was the only browser. Weird! But wonderful.

Kyoto Art Design Nijiyura Chu Sen Dye Traditional Technique Dyeing Japan Osaka Textiles

An old fashioned dying technique called chu-sen is used to create modern textiles in the shop, Nijiyura, pictured above.

Kyoto Art Design Scene Dog Sculpture Clay Florist Shop Flowers Plants

Colours and textures from nature are regularly a feature of artful displays around the city.

Listed below are some names and locations that I discovered while exploring Kyoto, and this is without even venturing towards some of the bigger arts institutions:

  • Gallery Morning Kyoto is a small gallery space featuring solo exhibitions that seem to be by emerging artists. I was happily surprised, when I visited, to be introduced to the artist whose work I was admiring.
  • Gallery Kei masters a sublime combination of traditional Japanese materials and modern display sensibility. Mindblowingly beautiful (for more images, see images by Rios).
  • Tomohito Matsubara is a jewellery artist who can capture the essence of a cherry-blossom in a precious metal.
  • Hori Nobuko creates whimsical worlds in pastel colours, and Ayaka Ogawa is also an artist specialising in cute characters. They were both showing work in the building that houses Cafe Independants.
  • An exhibition by Komorik of air plants and other dried flora was very lovely.
  • If you’re looking to buy art and design books and products, the super-cool store called Angers is the place to go.
  • Cafe Independants is an underground cafe/bar for-and-by creative types. It’s in a building with galleries and artists (some mentioned above), and well worth a visit, even if you can’t get down the stairs because you are pushing a double-stroller. But the entrance to the cafe is artistic, too; see below.

Kyoto has long been a hub for artisans, so it’s no surprise that it has a thriving art scene today. To connect with it, I highly recommend you get hold of a Kyoto Art Map… or simply roam the streets and keep your eyes open!

Kyoto Art Design Cafe Independants Indepenents Japan Underground Stairs Gallery Artist Hub

Poignant and Powerful: Lullaby Blankets

Lullaby Blankets Projeck Jackie McDonald Bhutan Nepalese

Who would have thought that a mother’s lullaby might contain heartbreaking stories of famine, trauma… and also hope. When illustrated in the form of  blankets, such tender lullabies create a moving display of human resiliance.

Lullaby Blanket Project Refugee Asylum Seeker Women Sinhalese Sri Lanka

Then again, it’s not surprising that mums around the world are soothing their children with words that mean something to them. (If I were to write a sleepy-time song for my children, it would surely contain a few hints about what it important to me, such as not waking up before 7am).

It’s just that my concerns seem so petty when compared to some of the lyrics displayed as part of the Lullaby Blanket project, undertaken here in Hobart.

Led by community artist, Jackie McDonald, asylum seeker women used a variety of new and traditional textile skills to create these beautiful blankets. They were on display at the Moonah Taste of the World Festival recently; there’s an audio documentary about the project here.

Examples of the lyrics, translated into English, include:

Baby Boy, Baby Boy

Hello Baby, Please Be Quiet

When Your Hunger is Very Painful

Just Lie Down and Sleep

Better Just Lie Down and Sleep

(From South Sudan, see image below. Blanket made by Mary Poni and Celina Khamis)

Lullaby Blanket South Sudan Refugee Camp Asylum Seeker Hobart

In light of this week’s anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, it is particularly heartbreaking to consider these words to a child:

Who Makes My Child Cry

You Like to Be Treated Well

You Will Be Treated Well

I will Always Treat You Well

(From Rwanda, see image below, blanket made by Epiphanie Uwamariya and Sylvia Muhayimana)

Lullaby Blanket Jackie McDonald Arts Project Rwanda Child Baby

And in Iraq, mothers are crooning to their babies that “you are safe to sleep.” (See below, blanket created by Amal Abovelkashi).

Lullaby Blanket Hobart Arts Project Refugee Iraq Iraqui Women Lullabies

The handiwork on the blankets is lovely, and the objects themselves are worthy of heirloom status. But it’s the sentiments contained within that are so powerful and affecting. They highlight the obvious truth that mothers around the globe, including those fleeing violence or hardship, all want the same things for their babies.

(At top: Nepalese blanket from Bhutan by Indira Sharma. Second from top: Sinhalese blanket from Sri Lanka by Mirmelee Manamperumudalige)

Lullaby Blankets Project Tasmanian Regional Arts Tasmania Hobart Jackie McDonald Refugee Women

Great Walls

During a quick visit to Melbourne recently, I noticed some great walls. Worn, postered, stencilled, stickered, painted, decorated.

Melbourne Great Walls Portraits Street Art Northcote

Above and below: street art around Northcote; all sorts.

Melbourne Great Walls Street Art Stencil Painting High St Northcote

Below: remnants of the recent Día de Muertos festival — complete with gorgeous Frida doll — at Gleaners Inc in Brunswick, a charming shop run by a charming woman named Liz. It’s full of retro and arty clutter, my favourite!

Melbourne Great Walls Gleaners Inc Brunswick Shop

Below: layers and layers of posters outside the wonderful Obus, looking as though it is part of the shop design.

Melbourne Great Walls Obus Shop Head Office High Street Northcote

Melbourne Great Walls Street Art High Street Northcote

More fabulous sticky art around Northcote, above and below. It encourages you to keep your eyes open as you wander the streets.

Melbourne Great Walls Sticker Street Art Northcote

Below: a stripey display of MT tape and a pretty collection on a shelf at Save Yourself in Sparta Place, Brunswick. This place offered sweet service as well as cool products. (EG non-toxic nail polish brand, Kester Black; check out their inspiration page)

Melbourne Great Walls Save Yourself Sparta Place Brunswick Shop

And a shabby, peeling, beautiful wall in Joe’s Shoe Store (which is now a bar, but methinks the wall decor is courtesy of the original shoe-making Joe).

Melbourne Great Walls Joes Shoe Store Bar Peeling Paper High Street Northcote

Walls might not seem like a notable thing but let’s face it: if we have to look at them every day, they might as well be arresting, thought provoking and attractive.

Coffin Chasers

Coffon Chasers Found Old Photos History Antique Photograph

Stunning weather to go and see some art at MONA today. But the art is all underground. And a lot of it is confronting, mind-bending and preoccupied with death. (Fantastic activity to do with the kids and a visiting aunt. Really!)

Then it’s a case of chase or be chased… by the chickens on the lawns outside  that is.

Is it just the same with the human preoccupation with death? Is that why we make endless TV shows about it, read true crime trash, slow down to perve at the car wreck? Trying to catch death, somehow, so it can’t catch us…

Coffin Chasers Chasing Chicken MONA lawn Hobart

This is the week of the year when fascination with death and dead people is socially sanctioned and indeed, celebrated in many parts. I’ve never done Halloween but I can understand the appeal. I’m interested in the leftovers of people who have gone before… the remains that can be seen in old photographs. Ghostly faces, frozen moments and smiles from long ago.

On the one hand I’m fascinated by the time distance between us and I wonder about the lives of the people who stare at me from old photos. On the other hand I marvel at our similarities across time. People don’t change so very much (check this out for a lovely example, and the smart alec in the centre photo, below).

If I were really interested in death and the chasing of it, I would travel to Manitou Springs, in Colorado USA, where yesterday the Emma Crawford Festival culminated in the 18th Annual Coffin Race and Parade. It’s part of a “spooktacular” calendar of events based around the creepy story of poor Emma’s remains being washed down the hill by stormy weather, 30 odd years after her death. The festival website features some suitably spooky photos of Emma Crawford herself.

Even if it’s true that each photograph captures a tiny piece of your soul forever, as some cultures supposedly believe, we should pose for as many as we can to leave a trace of ourselves behind. Because as sure as that cheeky chicken is going to steal some of your picnic lunch, death is going to catch up with us all sooner or later.

Coffon Chasers Found Old Photos Ghost Antique Photograph

Hands On Art

Artful Parenting Drawing Festival Toddler Marker

Child art is often as good as any abstract art in a gallery, I reckon (no offence to any abstract artists who may be reading) and I’ve been looking forward to framing work created by my own kids. But anticipating the outcome sort of misses the point of children doing artistic activities, doesn’t it?

For kids, the value of making art is in creative play, exploration and discovery. It’s about the process.

Artful Play Al Fresco Art Nature Painting Children

We’ve been trying out some new art-based activities lately. Collecting natural materials to use as brushes….

Artful Outdoor Painting Garden Nature Paint Children Kids

…and painting al fresco…

Artful Painting Nature Paint Creative Kids Children

…which resulted in more paint on our clothes than on the paper!

Artful Play Dough Child Home

There’s been lots of play dough (or “fray dough” as it is known here).

Artful Play Dough Garlic Press Worms Kids Creative

And yesterday we attended thINK, a drawing festival arranged by Bradfield Dumpleton, who is an arts educator and illustrator.

Artful Parent Bradfield Dumpleton Draw Connect Learn Festival Hobart

We chatted to Jane Brown, who worked with Bradfield to make it all happen, while the kids scrawled all over the paper table cloth and got a grip on the different kinds of drawing implements. Jane explained that the festival was as much about creating connections as creating art.

Artful Bradfield Dumpleton Drawing Thinkubator Festival Hobart

The idea was to get imagination juices flowing by exploring lines, links and the workings of the human brain.

The gallery of drawings completed by (mostly school-aged) participants was cool and inspiring. Better still was the opportunity for our little guys to get their hands dirty and have a go themselves.

Artful Parent Crayon Texta Festival Art Drawing Kingston

The Art of the Travel Journal

How do you record your journey?

I have only ever been a sporadic diarist during day-to-day life, but I’m fairly strict while travelling. Each of my travel journals has a different personality, influenced by the choice of notebook, the type of trip and naturally, the destination.

These are a few of them:

Art Travel Journal Collection Diary Notebooks

I’ve tended to fill them with scrawled text rather than images. A few sketches can be found here and there (see below), and I’ve become more organised within my notebooks, but overall my priority has been in recording impressions of new places using words.

Art Travel Journal Sketch Diary Drawing

However, there are some very talented travelling artists who demonstrate how it’s possible to create memory-evoking images on the pages of a travel (or daily) journal.

Stephanie Ledoux‘s pages depicting people and small details from her time in Vanuatu are an inspiration (website in French). In the absence of such lovely painting skills as Stephanie’s, I can still aspire to the layering and layout effects that she has created in her journal.

That’s one of the people from my journals, below, a woman from a foreign magazine.

Art Travel Journal Diary Drawing Woman Face

Robin Poteet is a watercolour artist whose “sketchbook” from her journey in Umbria and Tuscany, Italy, is sumptuous. Indeed, you don’t need many words if you can so effectively capture your experiences using brush and paint.

My own sketches are quite a bit simpler, see below.

Art Travel Journal Diary Sketch Drawing Zen Garden

The method of construction and the inclusion of found and collected articles from the journey also plays a part in the creation of a journal. Nicola Tingey‘s example of a travel art journal shows how interesting tickets and maps can be when making a record of your trip. For those who prefer some structure to begin with, there are excellent resources available such as “Useful Books” on etsy. These attractive travel journals feature plenty of spaces to tuck tiny keepsakes and paper mementoes.

(I think that’s meant to be a travelling self-portrait, below).

Art Travel Journal Diary Diary Drawing Many Cha Cha

There are many inspiring examples of travel art journals out there on the internet. And there’s a book called “An Illustrated Journey”, by Danny Gregory, which features lovely work by Lisa Cheney Jorgensen and 40 other artists on the road.

I’m keen to spend more time on my journal for the next trip, but I suspect I’ll get the best results if I try to encourage the involvement of the small artists in the family, too.

Now that’s an artistic and physical challenge.

Art Travel Journal Diary Inspirations Many Cha Cha