Category Archives: Art & Design

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.

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.

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.