Playing Shop

I used to own a little plastic cash register that had real dockets, and I loved playing shop. Dolly and Teddy were total shopaholics, I can tell you! Well, for the next month (until Friday the 5th of June) I do have a little shop that I'm sharing with my friend Mark, and this is our window! We're not finished setting up yet, so the shop's looking a little bare, but as soon as it's done I'll share some more pics! This is part of a new complex at the back of the Norwood Town Hall, called Brick+Mortar Creative Hub that houses a cafe and little pop-up shops downstairs, and larger capsule stores upstairs (where we are), plus a space to hold workshops, and wall space for exhibiting artwork. If you happen to be in South Australia, please drop by!

My friend Mark makes beautiful natural soaps, perfumes, etc as Shanghai Lil and the Scarlet Fez (don't you just love that name?) and all his products also happen to be entirely vegan! I've designed all of his branding and packaging, in close collaboration with Mark himself, who has a very strong creative vision and aesthetic drawing inspiration from influences ranging from the familiar and nostalgic, through to the richly exotic and romantic. Like me, Mark loves the early to mid-20th century, so if you're also a lover of the culture of that time, you'll appreciate the diverse influences drawn together into his range of deeply romantic and evocative products, and of course, it's the extracts and oils from fruits, woods and flowers that are the stars of the show!

I know I'm biased here, since we've been friends for over thirty years, but knowing him so well, I can tell you that Mark has approached his business with so much thought and integrity, and has committed to only using natural ingredients in his formulations, that are not only free from artificial fragrances, etc, but also free from palm oil and other unsustainable ingredients, such as oils from threatened plant species. You can follow Shanghai Lil and the Scarlet Fez on Facebook, where very shortly Mark will be announcing the launch of his brand new website (designed by Yours Truly), and (so exciting!) a range of natural lip balms! It is so difficult to get hold of really nice natural lip balm that is also vegan (ie. free from lanolin and beeswax), so I am totally thrilled by his new lip balms and have been a willing and happy guinea pig as he's developed the range. I hope he doesn't mind if I reveal these ahead of time, but a couple of examples of the delicious and unusual lip balm varieties are Caramelised Fig, and Rose Creme (which is rose and white chocolate). YUM!

I thought I'd show you one of the shop displays for the beautiful Shanghai Lil face mists. I use this every day as a toner; it's so gentle and refreshing. The varieties are Rose and Cucumber, and the other is Rose and Watermelon; they smell gorgeous and are perfect for sensitive skin (like mine).

As for me... I have branched out into textiles and am starting with a series of pennant-style wall hangings which will be in the B+M shop some time next week, and in my online shop when I open in June. Next to come are cushions! I thought I'd also show you the finished drawing I posted a progress shot of a little while ago. It's framed in a collaged frame that I still need to take a decent pic of (duh!). Her name is Peggy, and I think I must have been sub-consciously influenced by Mad Men lately, because I named one of my other recent portraits Sally! I've added Peggy to my gallery and will be posting some more new pieces as I complete them.

Done vs. Perfect

You've heard that quote, "Done is better than perfect"... Is it really? Must they be mutually exclusive? Must they compete with one another? If "Done" was in a wrestling match with "Perfect", who would win?

I am a perfectionist from way back, & I don't mean in a good way, I mean in an annoying, procrastinaty, counter-productive way. I've needed to redefine "perfection" in order to spare my sanity & get things done, but even so, here I am, labouring for days (weeks...months!) over painstaking detail... But God is in the detail, right? Or is it the Devil? Perhaps they're both in there, fighting the same fight as Done & Perfect.

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Making for Money

Last night, I watched with great interest, the documentary Making it Handmade, by Australian indie film maker Anna Brownfield that screened on ABC2 (if you're in Aus, it's available to watch on iView for the next couple of weeks). It was great to see such inspiring crafty ladies, such as the super-talented artist Gemma Jones, as well as uber-crafty Pip Lincolne of Meet Me at Mikes. Overall I thought it was an interesting little documentary which offered lots of food for thought. Which is just what I found myself doing whilst munching my morning toast...

Images in this post adapted from various editions of Woman and Home magazine, 1940s (my personal collection).

There was one aspect to the film that bugged me - a discussion about the commercialisation of craft. In fairness, there was a distinction made between independent crafters (good) & the big corporations who adopt the indie aesthetic, sneakily pretend to be the little guys, or outright steal designs from indie makers (bad), but there was still some discussion that making stuff for money is somehow not in the true spirit of craft - that making a living by making doesn't have the integrity of making things solely for fun.

I'm an artist rather than a crafter (although the lines can be quite blurry, which I think is great!), but I have been an independent maker for quite a long time now, & have made a living doing just that since 2006, so I think this entitles me to an opinion (despite not knowing one end of a knitting needle from the other). I don't think motivations of love or money are mutually exclusive, or that making a profession from creativity cheapens it.

I come from a working class background. My first home was a modest little pastel green fibro house in the 'burbs, & the schools I went to didn't have a great deal of resources or instill a sense of ambition in their pupils. The most anyone hoped for us was that we would at least get some kind of a job & not end up on the dole. Since there was not a lot of dialogue about tertiary education or career options (let alone career satisfaction), the fact that I have ended up self-employed, independent, & doing something I absolutely love is quite an achievement. It's hard work, & I'm not quite a millionaire just yet, but I still feel so lucky! So any suggestion that I am mercenary or somehow not as genuine as a hobbyist really bothers me, because I feel there's a great deal of meaning & integrity to what I do, & I am proud of that. Plus, I don't have the luxury of making purely for enjoyment, because I have to pay the bills!

Being independent, eking out a small, satisfying career competing against the big corporations, is incredibly empowering & also beneficial to society because it helps keep diversity in the marketplace alive, & in a modest way keeps the multinationals at bay from having a total monopoly. Independent artists & artisans are incredibly important to the economy - they're small enough to fit in those tiny niches that the big corps can't squeeze into, & nimble enough to adapt quickly to change, not only keeping up with market trends, but setting them. How great is that?!

I found it disappointing that the documentary celebrated craft on one hand, but lamented the commercialisation of it on the other. There were comments discouraging people from buying handmade (?!) or giving a career as an independent creative a shot. Faythe Levine's comments about production work & getting burned out were perfectly valid - I've suffered burn out myself meeting demand for my work, & this time around plan to approach things differently - & I'm not suggesting anyone take a rose-coloured view & fail to prepare or research their options. But overall, I am fully supportive of people adopting an enterprising spirit & giving independence a go.

No matter whether you're a professional, a hobbyist, sell your work or give it away, have an alternate income or not - all creativity is empowering (& fun!). And if you're an appreciator & shopper rather than a maker, thank you for supporting people like me. Handmade might cost a little more, but you're getting something truly unique & made with love. Let's fill the world with arty & crafty expressions of who we are & what we believe in!

*Steps down from soapbox & puts the kettle on*

Imitation isn't So Flattering

I really don't want to take up blog space dwelling on negatives, but I think it's worthwhile to open up a discussion about copyright infringement. Being on the receiving end can cause a lot of grief, exasperation & heartache. For instance, the image above... To the left we have an original illustration that I made way back in 2005. To the right, we have an extremely bizarre & badly put together poster design, featuring my illustration, advertising a 2007 exhibition at the Shanghai Art Museum. I was not asked for permission or offered a fee - in fact, I would not have licensed this particular image because it's my logo, but I was denied the right to refuse. What makes it even more difficult to accept is that the person who stole my artwork is presumably an artist or designer themselves, & should know better; if not from a legal standpoint, from an ethical one. And this is just one example of the many, many times that my work has been used without my permission.

Left: My original illustration, 2005. Right: My illustration stolen by the Shanghai Art Museum, 2007.

Grrr... Anyway, deep breaths...

What confounds me is when I've talked to other independent creative-type people about copyright infringement, quite a lot of them seem to have either a blasé or fatalistic attitude about it. What are your thoughts on copyright & protecting your work? Have you had any of your work stolen before? I'm really interested to hear about other people's experiences.

Not many of us have the means to resort to legal action, & copyright legislation is only intended for matters of financial loss/compensation. But what about when someone incorrectly credits your work so no one knows you made it? Or butchers your images with their dodgy Photoshop skills? It hurts. Although it may not cause a financial loss, if you're featured somewhere but not credited & linked to, you miss out on an opportunity for people to find you, & when someone modifies your lovingly made images, they're degrading the integrity of your artwork.

I've covered all of this & more in my copyright policy based on my experiences. My advice to anyone who wants to share their work online, is to choose a Creative Commons license & link people to it. It's really nice to share, but as I say on my copyright policy page, my artwork is my livelihood, & my pride & joy - & that is worth protecting isn't it?