Sunday, January 30, 2011

Running away with the circus...

While Lilly is literally away with the circus in Sydney and Tasmania, I feel like I have been swept under the big top again...all five years old and making mudpies at the skirt of the billowing tent. For several years the circus set up opposite my childhood home bringing with it the excitement and flurry of arrivals and the ache of caravan departures.  Now I sneak in under a new big top without a ticket and stare wide eyed at the enormity of the worlds and blogs of other magazines and organisations and mothers and artists and kids and  in-betweens.  And like I befriended the travelling kids of the circus for three weeks of wonder and play each year, I reach out to a veritable theatre of incredible people and places and projects, and shyly begin to invite them in. The research is Big to say the least and all the cyber travelling from one great link to the next, and the next, and the next, leaves me suddenly spinning in side show alley with too many bright lights and too little sleep...

So I retreat back to our own little BIG top and do things to forward the making of this magazine. A meeting is scheduled with AbaF to discuss partnerships and trading names and the development of business plans and structures. A grant application is prepared to DCA to help with the publishing costs of the launch issue. A conversation is had with a generous mutli-media artist who agrees to 'test his feathers' in response to our BIRD CALL. It is an overwhelming process, and I am held down only by the weight of my own children and the ongoing dance which helps to land the competing chaos in my body. This BIG thing is building, peg by peg. And as my arms get tired, I ride on the backs of the birds flying in and quietly mix up the mortar with the mud.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bird, set, match

Josh, 7, Canada

Peter Stafford, Perth
It is such fun teaming the birds together that fly in from our BIG Bird Call...these two were absolutely meant for each other. Bird, plant, and sun light. Quite beautiful both.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Little blue bird words

Splendid Fairy Wren (Hopetoun, WA)
Jane Barton, Amateur  Photographer/Birdwatcher, United Kingdom


Female Fairy Wren (Margaret River, WA)
Jane Barton, United Kingdom
Some People Love Weaver Birds,
With their cute little nests,
Some people love White Doves,
I love Blue Wren the best.

Though She has a modest air,
Though no grace she boast,
Unlike the peacock with his tail,
I love Blue Wren most.

The swan may have beautiful white feathers;
The Hummingbird may sing her song,
The Kookaburra may laugh all of the time,
But I’ve loved Blue Wren all along.

Molly Ashley, 11, Perth

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Boys in Flight - How to raise a child without crash landing! (Travelling work stations #3)

Sacha, 4 and Luca, 7, Perth:  Is it a it a plane...?
The summer holidays are in full swing here and the boys run by me in joyous voice. Everything not stuck down in the house becomes fodder for flight and I alternately celebrate the chaos and duck for cover. The only things that quiet them for a moment (apart from Mario, Luigi and food) are paint...and glue!   

Jack, 10, Perth
Ongoing series of birds on a mission.
I am all for well behaved kids (and the calm of boys concentrating at a less than whirlwind speed is indeed a sizeable joy!), but I don't subscribe to the parenting outlined in Amy Chua's article in The Wall Street Journal, that has been circulating facebook and several blogs including The Rachel Papers this week. The article  features a list of what her girls were 'not allowed to do', including shock, horror; ever be in a school play!   They also were not allowed any choice in their extra-curricular activities, which would certainly raise a mutiny in our house;  My husband is a soccer-mad Italian as is our youngest son (and we support his 'madness'!), our firstborn however, eventually said to his Dad on repeated requests to join them in the game "Dad, I'm just not a sporty kind of person, and on the weekends I just want to have a peaceful morning!" (age 7) Well, we laughed. And he has never joined up. There is a different path for him and we love being here for him, with him, watching with wonder while he figures out how, and where, to fly.
Ben, 5, Sydney
Bird at the tip of the tallest tree.
I feel it's our job as parents to provide creative and flexible 'workstations' in the world for kids to land and find their way. And, of course, this includes making choices for them as well. The ability however, to respond to the contemporary world from a point of personal interest and passion as a young person is most vital in raising a generation with the social skills and conscience, empathy and compassion to make affecting choices on both the small and world stage (long live the school play!). Here at BIG we're showcasing the work of all kids, flying their work into the world by the side of a practicing artist and landing it open on the playroom/studio floor amid the chaos, thinking, quiet, work and play of the everyday. BIG will be for the falcons, the gliders and the waterbirds.

Friday, January 14, 2011

For the love of a logo...

BIG is getting a new flagship. A banner. A logo. A symbol. An official, concrete beginning, complete with matching set of bird bearers. We have invited a third wheel to board the BIG ship to make this happen (according to my 7yrold son, three wheels on any kind of moving vehicle is actually totally awesome and more than capable of steering). The wheel that is turning things over here at BIG is on a pretty amazing ride herself with her own successful creative project (and small flock of children!). She will land here with her work as soon as Lilly and I get the 'design brief' together.

So: now for the ominous task of bringing together so many BIG things into said brief. I have sat on boards and companies on many a 'strategic planning' session (one memorable l-o-n-g weekend complete with Lego building), but to finalise the words for your OWN future visioning, that is a different story. For a start we think to send her the whole unedited blog story and see what sticks! We also play with the tag line:
BIG: An arts magazine for creative kids and artists
BIG: A creative arts magazine for kids and artists
BIG: Bravery, Imagination, Generosity - An arts mag for kids and artists
BIG Kids Magazine: For creative kids and artists
...I put it to the neighbourhood vote!

Meanwhile, back on the runway,  Bird Call is eliciting some poetic if you know a child who loves playing with words, encourage them to flight-write and send the words in to us at so their imaginings can be published next to the work of an experienced artist, side by side.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Boat Bird and the great sea swell of doubt.

The water continues to rise in Brisbane and, being married to a mediaman, I am flooded with the weight of it. I struggle with how removed I remain.With the paradox of natural disaster.

In my hot, dry home, I run the ebb and flow of days and nights with three sick children, nothing serious except for my nerves and lack of sleep. And the greyness of doubt. 
An afternoon working in the studio saves me from running so far inward I that can't see.
Instead I name what I can see in the swell of BIG doubt:
I am concerned with the lack of rigour in some of my posts,
the lack of distinction,
the occasional school project feel of it,
the small flock of birds flying,
the rejection in the form of quiet reply. (This is not a performance)
With the volume of silence,
the hesitation in posting hesitation,
the sharing of not knowing and uncertainty,
the confusion of double platform and duel audience,
the possibility that I am investing too much in a distraction (from my own future).
With the lack of time,
the fallout of expectation,
the conflicting reality of transparency and self censoring,
the pressure.
With the question of value, and reason,
the accumulation of relentless flying lessons,
the repeated crashing into runway,
the lack of auto pilot.

And then I fall into the relief of realising I have lost my way in the night, and that most days I have no map nor compass here.  I am forced to let go of the micro-detail of the researcher in me. The academic. I accept that there is too much information here. I accept I do not know most of it. I fly anyway.

So right now, I post what I am sure of; the collaboration between Lilly and I. The stories we are writing and imaging as we go, the creation of them as miniature limited edition books within the pages of the magazine. The collection. And this particular one, we introduce below: Boatbird,  originally an idea of a friendship between a boat and a bird dreamed by Lilly, to which I responded to by falling in love with this deeply felt bird over the original one. Between the idea and the response, a platform of collaboration and process was born. The words and imaging of Boatbird fly in response to what we hear, in response to children who are thrown against rocks, in response to things much bigger than doubt.

Boat Bird and the long sea home (Part 1)

One hundred thousand steps from home he had carried his boat. His head was flat and his heart full of too many days and too much water. He was tired. Finally, at the edge of the ocean he stood while all of the barnacles caught up in his wings slid off one by one in a little procession.

The barnacles had become dry and cracked on the long journey but as they hit the sea one by one, each of the tiny hidden bodies replenished; a fleet who had found their journeys end now quickly overtaken by a new starting line. Boatbird had arrived at the beginning again, he heaved with the weight of his brave boat and gathered his last strength. He was on the run, from faraway seas that were no longer safe. His only hope to freedom was on the other side of the enormous stretch of water before him... 

Boatbird images by Lilly, words by Jo. Ideas, content, and response for images and words and the space between them belong to both artists. All rights reserved.(For all children on a difficult journey)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Doodle birds

I have begun doodling birds. They are funny things, with many many wings and always with their feet on the ground. I don't know what it was that suddenly prompted me to respond to our call out after all this time. I am not at all an artist in that sense but my collection of pen birds grows and makes me laugh.  Have a go now...pick up the nearest pen or pencil and doodle a bird on whatever scrap of paper is nearby. They don't have to fly anywhere in particular...but I do think to make a post of doodle birds...

And with the doodle birds come lists and lists of birds...Character birds (Big bird, Wise Owl in Winnie the Pooh, Tweety bird, Road runner), Blog birds (millions!), Book birds (To kill a mockingbird, One Flew over the Cuckoos nest),  Song birds (Blackbird by the beatles, Rockin Robin), Dance birds (Swan lake, ADT's BIRDBRAIN,  Jennifer Monson's project of the same name following the migration of birds), Bird calls (listen here to a kookaburra and other bird calls on the Birds Australia site) and the Bird-watcher birds; 'twitchers'...

I find my way swooping in and out of endless other bird projects, flight risks, and the many artistic birds I know.

The lists bring a certain order and flight path for future: The year starts its negotiations in full this week, with two new theatre projects beginning in the studio as well as a design brief to be sorted for BIG. Meanwhile, Lilly is hanging upside down on the island somewhere in the midst of circus yoga workshops and a house full of boys making films for Kids Tropfest. We make plans to finally meet amid the madness. Face to face. Lilly will fly to me (she has less children!) and there will finally be magazine making in the same room.

The magazine will definately have a Mr Squiggle style doodle bird page for the kids and BIG kids...the bird in your hand is calling you...doodle it..and feel free to add to the bird lists!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

World birds

Lucas Manganelli, Paris


Pila,  Sydney
As one artist flies in real time, right now, from Perth to Paris, he leaves a bird trace of his time here to share the BIG sky with the creative colour of five year old Sydney artist, Pila.
Happy landing Lucas. Happy days Pila! And thank you both.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The BIG bird guide; What bird are you?

As we speak to kids and artists and listen to questions and excitement, it is incredible to see how the bird call task piques interest across ages. The little ones push up their sleeves and dive in. A group of nine year old girls laugh at the varying degrees of bird possibilites -discussing birds with buck teeth and beauty in all formats. A visiting french dancer drafts his winged contribution before flying back to Paris. A woman and her daughter collaborate in the UK. A 15 year old boy describes how he will craft a wire clay bird. A ten year old boy sketches a series of pencil birds one after the other, each with a character and purpose. A bird guilded to the corner of a napkin is collected in Hobart. A portrait of Cat with Bird pounces in from a fab Perth photographer, and the world of Jen Zed lands in our BIG inbox.

A brilliant question, thanks Jen Zed!
It's got us thinking at BIG about what bird we would be, and about what sort of birds our BIG readers would be! Hummingbirds, Bower birds, Eagles, Kookaburras, Willy Wagtails, Parrots, Pigeons, Doves,  Peacocks, Storks, Geese...? 
Ans as for those birds without precedent being imagined and built around the world, fly your way into the BIG sky here before Feburary 14th and we will publish you here!

'How to build a bird...', Luca, 7 and Sacha, 4, Perth.
If you are helping your child, or the one who lives next door to contribute a bird, invite them to imagine any bird of their choosing; beautiful, curious, silly, grand, serious, magical, and ask questions like 'what does it look like, what wings does it have, does it have a name, is it giant or tiny size, does it tell stories, is it an adventurer, is it sad or laughing, is it real or invented?' Word-birds are welcome too - it is your vision, your bird and a flight for all. Artists, follow your interest, your practice and your contribution will sit next to the bird of the child in equal flight.

The BIG migration is building. Click on the BIRD CALL page above for details and send us your Birds!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year Birds 1 / 1 / 11

Tom Greder

Once upon a time, exactly 40 years ago today, I flew from the snow and icicles to a far, far away land where people spoke in tongues and the air was like steam.

Once upon a time, exactly today, I am back in the snow and icicles speaking in tongues and wondering about a far, far away land….and about air that is like steam.

No matter where you go, there you are.
(Tom Greder)

Ben, 5, Sydney
Running from the blocks and sliding into a seat at the drawing table, he wields a texta and scribbles three letters onto the back of a blank page, B E N. Smiling to his friend, he says,
"Mine is going to be flying right off the very tippy top of the tallest tree in the whole completely wide world!" 
Happy New Year!

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