Thursday, December 30, 2010

A mother (artist) of an identity crisis!

As we begin to put links out to the world and connect with various forums and platforms for sharing BIG, Lilly and I freeze in unison. We both lose our breath. And then we find it again, laugh, let it go, and get back to work.

We are both working artists primarily in and for an adult world. As our child-focused 'likes' fill up on facebook 'outing' us as 'mumpreners' to our friends, the wearing of the BIG new identity shakes us both. We are not used to being this visible. And for many of our friends, so out of context.  I had coffee the other day with a visiting french choreographer who thought I was a children's writer because of the link to BIG on my email signature. As it turns out, he was as interested in my work with BIG as he was with my choreographic practice and we laughed a lot about identity, dance, kids, and Perth. It was an unexpected trip up into thinking about visibility, perception and image. About how much we take for granted about who we are and the worlds we slip between.

It brought to my attention too, that in my work, my children are pretty much invisible. Yes, the odd reference to the balancing act is recounted but, really, they are unseen and unspoken of. And that is the way it works best. After all, as mothers we are not defined only by our children. And at the same time, of course, we are. The literature on this is extensive and I don't plan to write a thesis on it here, but I have written several papers on the career(ing) dance of the artist-mother, and will link to them here when I work out how!

I wonder sometimes, how it is possible to completely give my all to several children, people and projects at the same time. It seems one idea drives the next and the momentum builds in the transition times allowing for otherwise impossible responses to provoke me to places unplanned. I dream about the beginning of a new project, wake up and write notes on another, while simultaneously landing on a line for a new script I am co-writing. Lilly quietly puts her PhD proposal in her pocket for now, as she flies to Tasmania for work with babe and BIG in arms. We think to put links up here to our other work - to offer windows into the worlds we occupy, to our experience as educators, our history and mutual ongoing passion for 'response' based work, to the worlds that fuel this BIG one. We talk about how BIG can hold us both and all that we imagine for BIG as we draft the bones and body of the first issue of the magazine.

We formulate houses and footings for BIG with the main house a website where kids are immediately welcomed and offered a view to the BIG sky, as well as rooms and gardens containing words, characters and ideas and cool things to respond to and direct. Sitting in the window will be This BIG blog continuing the journey of the mother artist, the day to day 'making of a magazine', and the evolving story of BIG.

Future Bird with Maraca and plasma sword.
Jack, 10, Perth
So. We accept our expanding cloaks, make friends with other fabulous publications and start sorting the flatplan. All the while, there are myriad birds flying in response to Bird Call. Birds imagined and realised in so many ways.

A very good friend of mine, Jack, (10) draws me a continuous series of birds. Like his future bird, I send my identity out in all forms, holding a sword in one hand and maracas in the other.

Play on.

Birdie Bird. Jack, 10, Perth

Eletro Bird. Jack, 10, Perth

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Mama Birds

Birds walking towards the end of a year gather coloured ribbons of days unwrapped, and remember.

Lilly, Sydney

Ava, 5, Sydney

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Travelling work stations #2: Fledgling artists

In transit work station/Tuesday
 I come from a sparkling Sydney foreshore, high on blood orange gelato and the memory of my little girls radiant dance in a botanical gardens pavement puddle. Thankful that moments into the Annie Liebovitz exhibition she fell asleep and I was able to immerse myself fully in the ambient light and potent intimacy of the still impressions, and vignettes. Yet of all the bold, powerful and celebrated portraits I come home moved by a tiny image nestled near the bottom of the pin up boards replicating the artists studio. Compelling in it’s simplicity. A black and white kitchen, with a framed drawing by Leibovitz’s young daughter hanging on a background wall. I listened for a long time. Heard scraps of domestic conversations and the imagined stories that inevitably fill spaces inhabited by children. Pondered our many hidden makeshift galleries and the bedroom archives of our offsprings renderings. The voices of our children. 
Tonight I am struck by the significance of the fledgling artist living in our suburban homes. Small hands unhindered by knowing.  The fridge is gallery enough. Archetypal stories told with new characters in drips and shapes. Birds with triangular bellies and fears unveiled in superheroes and fallen thrones. Mysteries celebrated and revered. Life inside the secrets. Drawn in.  
Among us are the voices we long to hear, unbridled in child rapture. We are listening. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Travelling work stations

I have cut my hair and moved my desk. All in all, it is the end of a year. As it should be.

In transit work station/Monday
Work spaces here at BIG are everywhere. I take notes on the back of my shopping list, ask my son to remember a story, steal snatches from the studio to follow a new flock of birds for a secret second. All in quiet flight. Lilly learns to turn off her iphone in the Sydney night, to ignore the words I send her at my midnight and her 3am. She sends me fragments of days I never see and I write to drawings of hers that are still in the dreaming stage. We share ideas like water. We still have not met. It has been twelve years since we sat on the doorstep of Tasmania. Our sudden shared workspace takes us both by surprise. It is driven. She completes a commission on the weekend, and so we swap stories of deadlines and showings and exhibition openings. Fleetingly. There is not time to answer the questions asked of each other. Not even regarding BIG. We are so much in the work of it, of this BIG thing. That is all our time allows. And so we work.

Tonight, cities are moved around me and new countries are created in rooms of the same house. A series of ancient wooden ducks emerge in a box inherited from my Great Aunt Jacque, a researcher and keeper of histories. I sit in transit and virtual travel, riding on the back of birds and waiting for pigeons to return with news of the world while I ribbon presents away behind whispers of christmas and change.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Two artists think on a ship

Chloe's clay bird
Two artists sit on a pirate ship while Kindergarten kids dance around inside.

The artist, 40, asks the artist, 7, why do you so like making art?

The artist, 7, replies "Well it's just like my thing, well it seems so simple when you get really good at it, and I am really good at it."

"I just get my ideas by imagining them in my brain, when I think of something cool I just make a picture of it. I think other artists might make little stuff then they make it then it all really comes out of your brain".

"Imagination is when you think of cool stuff and you want to try and make it real, or sometimes it might be real and you want to draw a picture of it and that is like a memory."

"I was about four when I first wanted to be an artist, and that's when I did my first really great painting and there were no really white spaces on it, it didn't look like anything real, I did lots of colours, I did lots of grey and then I put lots of colours over it, then my mum put it in a frame and now we have it in our living room, so like I would never forget that time"

The older artist remembers the younger artist as a student when she was 4 saying "I am going to be Picasso when I grow up". When pressed about how she knew about Picasso, the younger artist said "I already knew about him when I was born." 

"Well one day I was making an angel when I was at pottery and I made this angel I glazed it and my mum saw it and she really liked it and I felt proud of myself"

"You don't have to learn to be an artist you just have to be a really good thinker" says the artist, 7, to the artist, 40.


Thank you Chloe.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sitting on the NEST

Rhiannon Newton, 24, Perth/NSW
It is an interesting time here at BIG, today we are featured in the UK at
We have birds flying in from all directions and a few hours ago I felt a little bit torn, both with the blog and within the world as a mother artist. Three invitations were extended to me to see two new dance works in development and celebrate a theatre opening, and to each offering I had to decline with grace and more than a little longing. It is hard sometimes to stay put on the nest! Aside from leaving them in the aviary, my only option was to surrender, as Lilly put it, and accept my place in this day. It is the final day of school here, and the start of the long hot Australian summer holidays. After a bit of a teary trawl down the supermarket aisle (the muzak does it every time), I rolled up my pants and gave in to a water bombing by my boys that saturated me and brought me back to my life in the minute of living it. Wet!

The blog is building a life of its own. We begin to get a new group of curious readers - KIDS! 
Hence we are in a bit of a flap! (Hi Kids! - The nest will be up soon where you can keep an eye on the birds and SOON there will be a BIG website devoted solely to you!).  As the BIG birds by kids come in, I see the way they hold themselves in the moment, so composed, so impossible, so bright and I breathe again, and know I am in the right place at the right time.
Lilly sends me these words with the first birds:
Emma, 5, Sydney

"Draw the most beautiful bird in the world." I said "If a bird was going to carry your dreams to the far away place where those dreams can come true- well what would that bird look like?" "You mean we can make it up, like the kind of bird that comes from our imaginations that no one else even knows about?" - "yes, exactly." Some faces bright with the joy of rainbow crested bellies and wings outstretched wide, some serious with the job of rendering something so magical. One little girl worked for over an hour, shaking her hand at times and taking long moments to look and decide what would come next. A nest, a grassy hill, a tree, the sky, all essential for the well-being of a little yellow bird in a spotty floral dress."

Tending the nest is difficult at times, and the occassional spinning in the cage is both locating and central in working out how to fly in new ways. Onward!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


An invitation to contribute in a BIG way!

Artists, children, parents, carers, visionaries and friends around the world, see your work featured here at BIG Kids Magazine! Respond to the BIRD CALL, and contribute to this BIG event by choosing one or both of the following:

1. CREATE an image of a bird in any medium you choose (drawn, photographed, built, folded, soldered or danced). Your bird can be exactingly real or wildly imagined.

 2. WRITE no more than 100 words describing your first flight.
 Real or invented. Boarding pass details or poetry.

SEND your birds and words via good quality Jpeg images or Word documents only to:

All contributions received by Feb 14th 2011 will be featured on the blog.

Add your wings to this first BIG flight where work by artists and kids will sit side by side!

 Luca (6, Perth)                                                                                                                                                           Lilly (40, Sydney)   

The BIG small print:
Contributors give the publishers full rights to use/edit any images or words in any way for the magazine and blog.
Contributors will not receive any renumeration for their artwork.
Contributors will be fully acknowledged for any work that is published.
BIG retains the right not to publish inappropriate or unsuitable material.
All approved contributions will be featured here on the blog in a stand alone page called the NEST.
Selected contributions may be published in the first print issue of BIG Kids Magazine.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A BIG Manifesto

  • BIG provides a platform for artists across disciplines to collaborate with children and young people from all over the world. Side by side.

  • BIG invites, provokes and publishes real responses from kids and artists, parents and carers, educators, visionaries and practitioners.

  • BIG recognizes that creative practice inspires change, response, inquiry, reflection, awareness and action on a personal and global scale.
  • BIG is a place where all children, regardless of race, religion or social demographic are welcome. Always. 
  • BIG challenges hierarchy's of who is listening and who is speaking, amplifies small voices in BIG ways, and encourages the participation of a junior editorial staff.
  • BIG partners with organizations that enhance, protect, inspire, care for, support and enrich the lives of children.  
  • BIG is a poetic and tangible place of ongoing discovery.
                                                                                                              Jo Pollitt and Lilly Blue, c.2010

    Thursday, December 9, 2010

    A BIG Explanation


    We hear you.  What exactly is this BIG thing?

    Right now BIG is a blog that shares and reveals the behind the scenes processes and communication of two mother artists at work creating a new magazine for kids and big kids everywhere. We do the BIG work in the slipstream of our lives amid continuing exhibitions, performances, teaching and daily creative practices. The blog is a real time map of the making of the magazine and the evolving BIG world as we image and write our way into it. Posts are variously art gallery, journal entry, book chapter, academic, responsive, curious and clear, featuring;
    Pockets of what the printed magazine will look like.
    Episodic stories and characters of the BIG world.
    Business basics and renderings involved in the making of a magazine.
    Insights into the lives of mother artists.
    A rare and open view of creative process and collaboration.
    Opportunities to contribute artwork and stories online and in print.
    Information about creativity and kids.
    An inside view of collaborations between artists and kids.
    Platforms for creative choice and philanthropic potential.

    Immediately BIG becomes bigger than we imagined and we run to catch up with it, writing manifestos at midnight to harbour an evolving BIG vision and lighthouse our future and fire.  

    The Flagship gatherer sorts provisions and scrubs the deck. Cleaning and clearing the way for more.

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Polaroid; portraits in process

    The body of work Lilly and I each bring to the BIG table arrives full and open, and the resulting frisson between our worlds, connections and ideas is spinning this BIG thing into overdrive. It is fast. The process quite like an animated flicker book with the occasional still of a Polaroid. In this last week our baby girls each celebrated a birthday and we paused in the frame.
    Birthday girls. Small bluebirds of happiness. Now one, and two.

    We begin to glimpse how the other half lives through the detail in the descriptions of each BIG thought process and provocation. It becomes personal as we both lay it on the line, anxieties and all; big breaths, big moments, big risks, big sharing. Our differences and similarities feed one into the other in a series of continuous landings and arrivals marked by interruption, exhaustion, pressure, anticipation, serendipity, work, laughter and time difference. We watch potential turn into action and stick stamps on the back of our hot-off-the-press postcards so people can hold the BIG world in hand. The tide is high. If you feel like partaking in a bit of BIG action, become a BIG follower and click on the 'follow' button to the right of the blog. Be one of the first to board.

    Lilly scans work before the ink is dry / holds a circus in each palm / scours unusual stores for clues / ties treat bags with chalk and pencils that hold everything you can imagine / catches rain with her birthday girl / sketches boat fleets and birds / buys paper dolls and tiny illustrations in match boxes and tucks them into the pram with little boxes of sultanas and star pretzels...

    Jo writes cities in miniature suitcases / makes notes and lists and leaves them in her car, bedside, pocket, kitchen top, drawer, laptop, garden / rests in the wings / careers to school pick up / times everything to within an inch of its window / lands easily in the dance work and whir of the studio / checks postcard proofs with a wriggling girl in arm and leaves with a printed baby / sends it all in the mail and hangs out the washing (again)...

    Twyla spent her entire 2nd birthday party dancing in warm summer rain

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