Friday, April 24, 2015

"Dior and I" film review

As a teenager the photo below was on my bedroom wall. Oh that jacket! That form! That full skirt! That silhouette! I thought the look was the epitome of style. It’s Christian Dior’s now classic ”New Look” from 1947. And yes, it’s iconic.

1947 New Look by Dior
Now imagine being Raf Simons. In 2012, as the new creative director at the House of Dior, he has the weight of the brand, the man and history on his shoulders - and he knows it. In eight weeks he must design and present the haute couture range that will silence critics and cement his place within the world of Christian Dior. Raf is shy, but knows his own mind. He is inspired. But there are ghosts and whispers from the past haunting him – will he get lost in the fog of expectation?
Raf Simons looking at an original Dior gown

The documentary “Dior and I”, written, directed and produced by Federic Tcheng, cleverly juxtaposes extracts of Christian Dior’s memoirs (in the form of voice over) and old footage of the designer himself, with Raf Simons, the new artistic director struggling to come to terms with the future of the House of Dior and to create a show in half the usual time frame. The effect is mesmerising. At times, the film is a feel good story and at other times it is almost a thriller. And yes, it’s about frocks but the stakes are high.
Christian Dior 1957 cover of Time Magazine

The doubts that plague Simons seem to make him at times closer to Dior than he realises. Simon’s general reserve make any emotional reaction climactic and moving. As an audience we are with him for the ride and the film maker very much helps us understand the ambition inherent in this designer, the huge machine that is the House of Dior, the challenges of putting on a fashion show and the weight of history and importance of Christian Dior to the world of fashion.

But it’s more than that. Like Dorothy in the wizard in Oz, we get to pull back the curtain and see some of the levers and pulleys that create the magic of fashion – and these are the ateliers, the men and women who construct the garments. We see them as ordinary people, workers, craftspeople of admirable skill and work ethic, who bring the dream to reality. We see the relationship they have to their work place, to the brand, to each other, to the hierarchy and to Christian Dior himself, with some of the ateliers having worked there for decades.

As someone interested in garment construction and craft it was enthralling to see this process. It’s also interesting to see the reality behind this fashion icon. To see the work room, the dress dummies, the sewing machines. It’s the House of Dior but I noticed an ugly plastic tablecloth in the tea room. It made them all seem so much more likeable somehow and more within the realms of the world I inhabit!

Fashion is pretty facile I know. Fashion is about marketing. Fashion can be about exploitation. And I don’t shy away from this.  But fashion can also be art. This film shows the creative process and teamwork in haute couture and as such, it is very inspirational. It is an intimate film about great ambition and as such, was riveting to watch. What Raf Simons and his team set out to achieve is huge.

Christian Dior measuring a hem line - creepy!

These days I have a problem with Dior’s New look. The look was a reaction to the freedom women had experienced in the war, where, due to fabric rations and practicality, the dresses were shorter and where women worked and drove war trucks and made ammunition. This look was positively retrospective and drove women back to the 19th century – corsets and crinolines for goodness sake! Long dresses are not practical for factory work and driving trucks. As a feminist, I bristle.

The documentary “Dior and I” was fascinating and gorgeous and is as well pieced together and constructed as one of Dior’s evening frocks. It’s really about the people behind the frocks. About emotion. About relationships. About striving for excellence. Go and see the film if you have any interest in fashion and sewing. but more, go and see it  if you have an interest in people. Oh. And go and see it for the flowers. Oh my gosh! The flowers!



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My idea

My idea is to get out of the house. My idea is to go somewhere else. My idea is to be free of housework. My idea is to be free of the obligation of housework, the looming mountain of housework. My idea is to be free of the very idea of housework’s existence. My idea is to be free. My idea is to be free to write.

So. First. I get rid of the kids, dropping them at school. Then I make the fatal mistake in my bid for freedom.  You see, I go home. I put key in the lock, I turn the key, I open the front door and I’m instantly pulled into the vortex of housework doom, a maelstrom of debris from children and ubiquitous family gunginess that  swirls around me and I know I have to do something about it or we will all be consumed into an eternal black hole inhabited with stray loom bands and abandoned orange peel.

I sweep, wipe, stack dishes, unstack dishes. I empty the dustpan into the bin and can't help but notice it is undeniably overflowing with slimy paper and meat packaging and I know what I have to do. I have to empty the bin. With a longing glance at the clock, I lift the bag from the bin. As I walk out the door the bag splits and the putrid insides spill on the door step like Satan’s spew. I sweep it up. I have to. I then know what I have to do.

I have to mop the floors. Then, because if I’m going to wash the floors I may as well wipe over the bathroom sink and mirror, I do that. Again I glance at the clock. Now I’m hungry. The morning is starting to feel like a bad acid trip and I somehow know the next time I look up at the clock it will be time to pick up the kids and my day will be over and I will emerge tense and ruffled with a nervous tick and having achieved nothing I set out to do.

Which is when I snap.  I flee. I grab the laptop which was given to me in order to get out of the house and write but which has in fact has sat on the kitchen bench like a glorified appliance and been used by all and sundry to play games, check emails, look up recipes, put on footy tips and to do the guardian online cross word. I push that lid down and get out of there before the grime from the kitchen cupboards begins screaming at me to put them out of their misery with a warm cloth, before the dirt on the rug begins to take shape and crawl before my eyes. Before the washing machine finishes and I would have to hang out another load of smalls.

My journey into town is long and convoluted. It takes a strange turn when I hitch a lift with a friend before being dropped at a tram stop, waiting then catching a tram, and finally I seem to be heading in the direction I desire. The surrounding mass of people make me feel part of something and strangely inconspicuous as only a city can do. There is an onslaught of smells and faces unfamiliar which instantly get my brain whirring.
Then I panic and get off at the wrong stop. I wander around streets overhanging with machines full of cranes and steel but seemingly  absent of humans. Wind whips through streets that are overshadowed with high rises and again I wonder if I have made a mistake. Then I see the sign  “Library ahead”. A sense of comfort suffuses me.

On entering it is at once familiar but strange. Intimidating in the newness and innovation but comforting in that it is full of books. I’ve come here to write but the place is full of books. Books about history, craft, art, hairstyles and tattoos. But I’ve come here to write. But there’s books about everything you can in fact imagine. I start to wonder if the world needs any more books ever and why it would need one by me.

I’ve made a mistake. Wrong shoes. They are too loud on the highly polished wooden floor. I clomp around and each step reverberates that I am an outsider. That I don’t belong here. I am an interloper escaping another world. I find an empty place at a bench and extract my laptop from my huge bag like a magician taking a rabbit from a hat. I place it on the pristine pale wooden bench that looks like it’s straight from a Danish design catalogue. Or perhaps. less romantically, from Ikea. I open my lap top and almost guffaw as stray grains of rice and general household fluff springs from it, highly visible in the sun filled space. The keyboard is covered in grease, hair from every inhabitant in my house and mysterious grit - as through the housework has snuck into my bag and followed me here, niggling at me even now.
But I’ve had an idea. My idea is to leave the house. My idea is to leave the house and be free. My idea is to leave the house and be free to write. And write, I have.
This is a photo of the view from sitting at the bench at the Library at the Dock.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Book Review: Drawing Projects For Children by Paula Briggs

“Drawing Projects For Kids” by Paula Briggs.
Black Dog Publishing.
How would you like a drawing book that encourages risk taking in art? A book that emphasises process over product? A book that encourages experimentation within guidance? A book that is full of messy-get-your-hands-dirty drawing projects? In short, a book with smudgy fingerprints all over it? Well if these things tick your boxes like they tick mine, “Drawing Projects for Kids” is the art book for you.
Paula Briggs has  not only created a beautiful object with this book. She has created a welcome antidote to a world (wide web) full of outcome based children’s activities that seem to be all about the photo opportunity to display on whatever platform - blog/insta/facebook/twitter – a parent chooses. She says in the section aimed at the facilitator:
“For children to get the most out of drawing, they need to be encouraged to push beyond what they consider ‘safe’ (‘safe’ drawings are those in which we know what the outcome is going to be before we have even started making them) and to take risks. By doing so they will widen their concept of what drawing is and
what they are capable of achieving.”
This is very much a gorgeous(smudgy) hands on book, divided into two sections - warm up drawing exercises and more in depth projects. So the only real way to review this book was to try it out. First up – to rustle some children (fortunately not a challenge for me). Here are two I prepared earlier. Pepper and Wanda are active creative 7-almost-8-year-olds.
The book is firmly aimed at children but without any dumbing down of language or “fun speak” or the sort of cutesy Dr Suess sort of language you often find with this target audience. For example:
“All of the projects in this book also use a huge range of drawing materials from inks and watercolours to graphite and pastels. Remember, great drawing experiences are not always about the outcome, but often about the things you learn when you experiment. So get ready to try out some new techniques, and make some wonderful creations!”
This tone generates respect for the child artist, for the materials being used and for the activity being undertaken. I read sections aloud to the kids first and we discussed some of the concepts – risk taking, process, not worrying about “mistakes”, no rubbing out etc. These are hugely neglected concepts in the world of a 7-almost-8-year old art practice. They are at an age where they lose the earlier wildness of creativity and have been firmly indoctrinated into school ideas of right and wrong and drawing like the person next to you, with a seemingly strong preoccupation on getting eyes and noses especially “right”!

While Paula Briggs suggests this book is aimed to be used independently by children, I found it does benefit from focused facilitating. And for kids this age?  Fairly strong facilitation is required. Fortunately I had a background in art and understood the materials and requirements of the tasks, but it is written with point by point instructions, a colour coded idea of levels of intensity and a material list like a recipe and is therefore very accessible. For preparation we made a trip to the local art shop with a list in hand – lots of newsprint paper, various pencils, charcoals and pastels and some ink – and we were ready.We began with some warm ups which were wonderfully fun and challenging. Just look at the concentration on these faces.

This “continuous line drawing” warm up was a terrific way to display process over outcome. Pens, paper, still life and go. The kids had look at the object and draw it while not lifting their pen from the page. They were happy to keep trying this for ages!
Our second warm up was “backwards-forwards sketching”. This was a good way to focus on looking and observing while slowing down the hand and creating texture.
My kids are very physical and these drawing ideas are also very physical – hand-eye coordination, large gestural mark making and sustained concentration. We interspersed the activities with kicking the footy in the back yard to freshen up.
We enjoyed perusing all the projects in the book and the kids have ear marked many they want to try asap. But the obvious “project” to undertake right away was the “Autumn Floor Drawing”. We ran around the house and street collecting leaves, seed husks, plants and all things Autumnal.
I found myself joining in and rediscovering the joys of charcoal and of delicate lines and shading in a way I hadn’t indulged in years. It was so relaxing, for me and for the kids, to play with the materials without any pressure on the result.
“Drawing Projects For Kids”, while not completely independently accessible to younger children, actually benefits from involving a facilitator as well as the child. I found that Paula Briggs language and ideas generate an inspirational and stimulating practical art experience. Through warm ups and projects she extends children’s idea of mark making and drawing into a new realm. It challenges children (and teachers and parents) to explore, take artistic risks and to discover the fun inherent in drawing when there is no pressure for the outcome. It is a book we will return to and from just one day of experimenting it has already inspired these two kids to observe things a little differently and to think more about how to represent their world through art.
“Drawing Projects for Kids” is highly recommended for those who love messy art. For those who want to encourage careful observation, thoughtful mark making and inspire artistic processes. For those who understand that experimentation and sustained exploration of a medium is more important than a quick simple art activity that results in a picture perfect photo opportunity. Go get the book, some supplies, some kids and get your fingers dirty.
This review was first posted on whipup

Friday, April 17, 2015

Op shop Finds....

With the kids back at school this week the op shops have been singing their siren call. "Come to me Julianne! Come to me!" And I have.

In one shop I found: The Woman's Day Complete Book of Handicrafts. And goodness it is complete. Will share some of it in the coming weeks. The book is from 1974.
An Australiana tray which I just adore. I love kangaroos....
And some super thick wool which I've started knitting....
And there's even more but I won't want to make you explode with thrift envy so I will show you more....another day.

Monday, April 6, 2015

School Holiday Busy-ness: Drawing!

Recipe for school holiday fun.


a group of gorgeous friends and their mums
a roll of brown paper
water colour pencils
paper of various sorts

Roll out paper onto table or floor
Place art supplies near by within arms reach.
Mention a theme - ours was "under the sea"
and  join in!

 Deep sea divers...
 We all live in a blue submarine.....

 tracing paper bubbles and zig zag water....
 Submarine and fish...
 Under the sea is sometimes a bit like space.
I think us two mums had as much fun as the kids. It amazed me how little assistance any of the kids required and the various directions their drawings went. Masterpiece!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ministry of Tarnation and Titbits: Office of t-shirt transformation

More craft archiving from the school environment stall adventures in recycling.
Today's department is all about T-SHIRTS!
Cotton, stretchy, colourful t-shirts.

Rules and regulations:
1. You can cut a t-shirt into yarn or "TARN" because it doesn't fray but rather stretches into a lovely curled tubular yarn. And then well, you have yarn and can do all the usual amazing things with yarn!

2. Ribbed necks make excellent bag handles.

3. hems are little casings waiting to be transformed into many things. Don't throw out the scraps!

First off. Making continuous tarn-yarn from a t-shirt is a great trick. Here are some how to links:from Instructables and Mollie Makes

Once you have the yarn-tarn-tarn-yarn then you're off and running!
You can crochet bowls....

or bags......

or make pom poms....

or vague useless tassels that just hang around.....

As for the leftovers:

Short yarn can be looped over a chain to create a tassel necklace

leftover bits of hems and necks can be made into little flowers for hair ties and clips....

And I very much enjoyed sewing little rectangles of hems together, in contrasting colours fringing them and using the existent casing for necklace making.

But wait! There are scraps! Sew little scrappy bits along a thread with a needle.

Use a wooden bead at each end to hold into place and left over tarn for the necklace and voila. I think I used every last skerrick!

And for the best and easiest no-sew-no-fuss bag check out this tutorial

These sell like hotcakes at the fete!

Here is a linky dink for more jewellery ideas here

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Office of Tyre Tube Rubber Recycling *

I was listening to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin on the radio the other day - he's just released a book called "the Organised Mind" - and one thing he touched on was how we are wired to put things into categories - no matter how weird and wonderful those categories are. Our minds are by their nature bureaucratic.

I'm in  recovery mode after the frenzy of crafting for the school fete environment stall almost left me limp with RSI,  but I also wanted to share some of the good and not so good things we made and was wondering where to start.  Categories seem as good a place to start as any.

So today, as CEO of the Craft Commission, head of the Department of Environment Stall, I'm letting you into the Office of Tyre Tube Rubber Recycling.

The truth about tyre tubes or
Rules and Regulations of Rubber:

1. You can get them for free from CERES or ask your local bike shop.

2. They need lots of cleaning. Lots and lots of cleaning and wiping.

3. They can be sewn on the sewing machine with the help of some silicon wiped on the rubber and the needle.

4. Do not attempt to knit the tubes. Really. Just don't bother.

The assistant director of the Office of Tyre Tube Rubber Recycling, lovely Chris Black, had the mindbogglingly genius idea of doing macramé with the tubes. It was such a perfect collision of material and form - and worked a treat. We simply used cable ties for the macramé "knots". Unfortunately we didn't get a good photo of them and they sold so quickly it was as if we had dreamt them.

I had a few craftastrophes with the tubes. I extended the idea of the macramé to a bag.......which looked good but the cut off cable ties are sharp and scrape your hand whenever you get anything from the bag. Sigh.
So I might remake this bag and tie knots of rubber instead. Because it looks good!

My other craftastrophe was the knitting episode. Really. The less said, the better. Shhh!

Here are some things that did work with the rubber - necklaces using the curve of the tyre and the printed text on the tube.

Tassels and

loop earring.


Next year I want to make wallets and more bags.

The Department of the Environment Stall have a pinterest board (which kind of gets us back to the bureaurocracy of the brain, doesn't it? All those boards? Named and categorised?) for our recycling ideas if you are interested!

*title of this post inspired by a book I just finished called "A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists" by Jane Rawson. Excellent book!