Author Archives: Elisha

Invisible Histories: a story about some fantastic aspiring Indigenous artists

Good morning! As part of my work with FORM I’ve been privileged to write about many clever artists and jaw-droppingly beautiful artworks, including those by West Australian Indigenous artists. FORM has collaborated extensively with many established and emerging WA Indigenous art centres and artists and one of the ‘littlest’ art centres (in terms of newness) is Spinifex Hill Artists based in Port Hedland in the Pilbara. The group formed several years ago in an arts development project run by FORM and since then they have launched a handful of exhibitions and sell their work through regional markets such as the Port Hedland West End Markets.

I wrote a piece about one of Spinifex Hill Artists’ exhibitions back in 2010 and recently rediscovered it among my files, so I thought it was worth sharing – you can flick through the entire exhibition catalogue (including my story – Invisible Histories) HERE.

Spinifex Hill Artists also have their own blog – HERE.

Happy reading!

*Catalogue images Copyright and courtesy of FORM; artworks Copyright the individual artists. Book design by Amy Moffatt.

Home is…

Studland Beach , Parachutists - - 1710928

Adrift in an endless sky

I’ve been thinking about home a bit since I had my daughter. I remember when I was younger my father told me with certainty that when I had children I would feel the pull back to my homeground – the place where I was born, where I grew taller, longer, more inquisitive. I grew up on a farm in western Victoria, an area in which my father’s family had tended the land for generations. The idea of home to my father was (still is) unequivocally geographic. His home is on those plains, in country the colours of milled corn and eucalyptus blue. As a farmer his relationship to this particular fragment of country is layered and unconditional. He depends on the land for his livelihood, yes, but also for his liveliness. It was his own father’s side of the family whose history lay like topsoil here though; his mother’s side of the family settled in Melbourne and Geelong. For my own mother, the notion of home is more complex – and distant – as she immigrated to Australia from The Netherlands as a child.

Like many country school-leavers, I myself departed for Melbourne when I was 18. I remember rare trips to Melbourne as a child and the sight of the city as I crossed the West Gate Bridge, rising like a great ship, fully lit, in the ink of night. But somewhere in my mind I was also conscious that my grandmother lived in the city, before she fell in love with a young farmer called Jack. My father’s family were proud farming people and while they often spoke about my grandmother’s elegant wedding in a chapel in Hawthorn in the 1930′s, genteel family houses with rosebud gardens, and later, as a farmer’s wife, her infrequent and much-anticipated journeys back to Melbourne to buy china and linen at Myer, this nostalgia did not generally alter their idea of home and heritage which remained nested in the plains.

As an innocent country girl, my first year in Melbourne was tough but I was determined to love it and eventually I found – or actively created – the city I had dreamed about as a little one. I lived there for just over eight years then love drew me to Perth, where I have been for less than eight years but long enough for it to be more than an extended sojourn. It is here that I first lived as a married woman, bought my first home, conceived and gave birth to my first child. In Perth I have more than satisfied the prerequisites  for what ‘home’ encompasses – a loving family, nice house, interesting job, good friends, lifestyle. I take my baby for walks in a beautiful park only a block away where we circle two lakes with intriguingly overgrown islands and I point out black swans, pelicans, turtles, fuzzy ducklings. I am spoiled for local gourmand choices. The beach is one short drive away, the hills another. It really is an idyllic life. And yet when the baby was born I experienced precisely that which my father said I would – a strong pull home, tugging at me across the expanses of the Nullarbor. I do also blame post-birth disorientation as when baby was born, all of a sudden, I was a ship at  sea. I was neither here nor there. Regardless, this pull towards family was strong – I was frightened by the thought that my parents would never get to know their littlest grandchild. However the pull was not towards the paddocked farm where I spent my own babyhood. It was to Melbourne. My second home; not my first, not my third.

I discussed this with a friend a while ago, also a former country-girl, and she suggested that unlike some, as children we only knew one house, one community, therefore even as independent, travelled adults we were attracted to the idea of one, grounding home. We loved many cities but for both of us Melbourne was ‘home’ even though neither of us lived there at the time. And we could not explain why it was this particular city. Although on reflection this is perhaps because this city is where we had our first unsheltered experiences: university life and a set of firsts that included jobs, relationships, heartbreaks. This does not mean that we are unhappy or even lonely in our other habitations, or that we won’t choose to live in different places again. Perhaps it only means we have come to romanticise the city. And there is nothing wrong with that; we  silly, imaginative humans are always threading stories upon wondrous stories. But there is something endlessly fascinating about what defines home. The question of home is not a unique or even particularly bright one, yet we continue to ponder it nonetheless. And I suspect that when the time comes to depart this Indian Ocean city I will feel a genuine sense of loss.

*Image by Lewis Clarke via Wikimedia Commons.

An essay (and pictures!) on the beautiful work of Larry Mitchell

Hello! It’s a breezy, humid Sunday here; the perfect kind of day to pop up a piece I wrote at the start of the year about one of my favourite West Australian painters, Larry Mitchell. His work is so meticulous and evocative and it perfectly captures the character of a place. I wrote this essay and produced the publication it lives in as part of my work at FORM - in fact this project was the last I worked on before having my baby – I worked on it from home in the latter stages of my pregnancy. The talented Sandra Elms designed the book and it was part of a stunning exhibition at FORM, Larry Mitchell: The Pilbara Project, and fantastic bigger project about Western Australian desert and outback life called The Pilbara Project. I’ve also included a few layouts from the book as a teaser (available from FORM).

Read the essay: ‘Mapping, Unwrapping’ by Elisha Buttler.

For more information on FORM and The Pilbara Project have a look HERE.

*Catalogue images Copyright and courtesy of FORM; artwork Copyright Larry Mitchell. Book design by Sandra Elms Design.

miscellaneous thoughts on motherhood & birth

Mother and Child by Xi Pan (2008)

Dear readers, as I was falling asleep has a big sister – for three years I’ve tended another blog, called The Beauty Philosopher.  My other blog is a fun affair – a little bit of this, a little bit of that and it is basically about nice things. I have however written a series of more personal pieces for The Beauty Philosopher, most recently about my interpretations of pregnancy, birth and motherhood. I thought they might feel at home here too, so here are the links to a handful of them. I might pop a couple of them on here directly too over the next few weeks.

baby chatter: beyond six months

motherhood: a social leveler

dreaming about a friendship

thoughts on beauty, with baby

She’s here

thoughts inspired by an apple green top

Notes on pregnancy and work

Take me to the water

*Artwork by Xi Pan. 

a little something I wrote

I reviewed the design fit-out of the latest incarnation of famous restaurant Nobu (in Perth) for Artichoke magazine earlier this year but a copy of the article did not come into my hands until much later – chiefly because with the fog of late pregnancy and childbirth I had forgotten I had even written it!

The article can be found online here – happy reading!

painting by Elisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun

I have always loved this painting by French artist Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, titled Madame Vigée-Lebrun et sa fille. It was painted in 1789 but it looks so modern and fresh to me; I think because of the genuine tenderness and liveliness of mother and baby. Since having my own child I’ve become unsurprisingly fascinated by mother and child paintings and while they are beautiful, accomplished paintings I have found some of them to be somehow lacking in genuine ‘motherlove’ – the faces are too formal or too perfectly serene, for example. But this one, to me at least, describes just perfectly that unassuming sense love a mother shows for her child.

imagining the covers of your favourite novels

From my other blog…

I came across this gorgeous project via Wit + Delight:  From Cover to Cover is a pet project by designer Jenny Volvovski in which she envisions and designs a cover for every book she reads. She has read and imagined a few of my own favourite novels (her covers for these are featured below – yes, I confess to a love of Agatha Christie) and I love her aesthetic, which flits between a sort of simplified, stylised pop and beautifully fluid and romantic.

As a writer and reader I’ve always placed great stock in the cover of a novel. I despise novels adapted to film that feature a film still on their cover – I think because the novel existed before the movie and continues to exist in its own right, as its own entity, therefore should have an independent cover. But of course I understand the leverage this affiliation would create for the writer so really who am I to lament? But I digress … for me a novel is like a satisfyingly neat rectangular box that, when opened, allows me to access entirely new worlds. A novel is an adventure and the physical book is the touchstone. So a compelling cover not only sells a novel to me, but it exists as an object of beauty, wonder and intrigue that reminds me of the adventures to be had, the adventures already had. There is something so winsome about that, don’t you think?

See the rest of Jenny’s covers, here.

what (exactly) makes you happy?

I originally wrote this in my other blog but it is still playing on my mind…

Over at Heart and Design, author Amanda Talbot has an inkling to write another book. This one is about being happy and she wonders, ‘how can the definition be translated into our homes so we can create personal and public environments that can positively shift our moods and wellbeing?’

The story between happiness and our created environment has always been one I’ve loved to explore. Of course, I’m always the first to say that a natural environment like the beach makes me instantly happy. For me it is a failsafe route to tranquility and refreshment, thus happiness. But we don’t always think specifically about creating a physical space for happiness or of how objects can help create an experience that then opens the door to happiness. It’s a fine line because on the one hand, humans often learn the hard way that objects or anything material such as wealth and acquisitions do not equate to happiness. Yet I think there is a place for objects or things to provoke that elusive feeling of joy or contentment. It could be something that delights us when we look at it – human or inanimate! Something that encompasses us with a feeling of warmth or restfulness. Something we like to play in/with. Something that enables us to connect with other people. Something that makes us feel good because we feel inspired, or like we have learned something, experienced something, gained something.

A little girl or a teenager might do this very thing with her bedroom, shaping and editing a space that speaks directly to her own needs, comforts and interests through things like colour, objects, sound, light, the combining of different elements. She is in fact using design to create happiness even if she does not think this consciously. And even earlier in life this happens – I was watching my six month old daughter in her cot today as she prepared to go to sleep. She mostly hates her daytime naps and will not fall asleep without a big cry and fight. But I noticed she likes to rub certain soft toys against her face when she is very sleepy and will often fall asleep with a toy or blanket pressed against her neck and cheek. Even at this tiny age she is learning what she needs in her environment to make her feel comfortable, content, safe, happy. Something soft, something close.

Maybe it is all about creating an experience; maybe happiness is all in the experience rather than something singular, static or clearly defined. A feeling of a journey? A feeling of a destination? Travelling, rambling, arriving? I do know that for me happiness equates in some way to beauty. Feeling beautiful (emotionally rather than purely physically), observing the beauty of a person, place or moment. And designing or creating wonderful environments can also link directly into beauty. Make it beautiful, make it well. Not necessarily a conventional or classic idea of beauty, but something that fascinates, delights, compels or sometimes shocks. What do you think?

*Image via ffffound on flickr.