Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Arteries and Oceans - An artist interview with Lilly Blue

After the excitement of announcing the Junior editorial team, I am thrilled to follow on with a profile of the incredible work/life of my BIG creative partner Lilly Blue.  Lilly and I have been working together everyday for more than six months on the development of BIG Kids Magazine but there has been little time for talk or questions beyond the immediate BIG realm.  I have not seen Lilly for 12 years, and recently an interview began with a will and curiosity of its own.

Lilly lives in Sydney with her two-year-old girl child Twyla. She is a prolific artist who sells and exhibits her work in Sydney, New York and Paris. Lilly is represented by Art2muse in Australia and Galerie LWS in Paris. She has just been featured on Artbuds and is soon to appear in Spoonful.  She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a post graduate diploma in Education. She has a heart bigger than possible.

Lilly 5 yrs old, Birmingham Alabama
On B.I.G:
Bravery is embarking on a journey into the unknown, shadows and all
Imagination is the million things that can't be known
Generosity is a treasure map

On Paris
It was an incredibly formative time about five years ago, and was the location of my first intentional art sale. For a month I worked everyday in a little artists studio a walk from St Germain des Pres (when I wasn't buying cheese and loaves of crusty bread at the market). I met with the gallery curator for three hours in a hazy smoke filled cafe two days before I left Paris. At the end of the meeting he told me he would like to buy 10 of my inks on paper and invited me to come to the gallery the next day. After a night of butterflies I arrived, and he told me Galerie LWS wanted to represent my work. I was stunned. 

The studio in Paris
On New York: 
Prior to the Paris landing I traveled to New York to attend a six week workshop with Anne Bogart and the SITI Company and ended up being seduced by the city and staying for almost seven years! While there I pursued my interests in large scale community arts projects with youth at risk and disability services, working variously as the Creative Director of an organisation called Catskills IDEA (Institute for development of entertainment arts), the Artistic Director of a Youth Circus Program, and as writer of creative programming for a beautiful yoga studio. 

On creative Process (and the work of Lilly Blue):
Some bodies of work - like the boats - began when I was a child and I can't imagine finishing in my lifetime. I have been doodling and painting sea faring vessels forever. I collate some of my imaginings in a place called Little Boat Tree. I remember in primary school we had to create symbolic self portraits, and I drew myself as a boat on a vast sea. I love journeys and the idea of exploring uncharted territories, inside and out, arteries and oceans. I love being in the studio when I am exhausted, or careless and playful, so that I can make discoveries that were completely unintended. Spilt ink at 2am led to a body of black hulled boats on graphite silver seas.  There is no greater joy to me than looking down at the page and being surprised by what is revealed; unexpected, raw, inexplicable. I am more inclined towards experiencing not knowing than in tying up loose ends. I am interested in ambiguity, incongruity, subtlety, ambivalence, inconclusiveness, intuition and poetry. In some ways I still live in the worlds I loved as a child. Enchanted. 

From the 'spilt ink' series
On arriving at BIG:
All of my creative work- performance, installation, writing, visual art - has run somehow parallel to social and community work. Exploring and envisioning alternatives to traditional education models is a huge passion - lifelong learning, reflective practice, multi-generational crossovers - my book shelves are bursting with it. At many points in my career I have felt like I was all over the place, then inevitably I would end up running a program, or directing a show, or writing a curriculum and all my eclectic skills would come perfectly into play.  I feel we know so little about our future. We are educating our children for a world we know almost nothing about, except that creativity, compassion, generosity, vision, adaptability, emotional intelligence - these things we KNOW will be essential. So it is not surprising that I have arrived here in this BIG world, with a brilliant creative partner and a scope bold and encompassing enough to address all the things I am most passionate about. BIG is an invitation to see the world with new eyes, respond to it, participate, witness, contribute and celebrate a child's view exploring the world from their perspective. 

On Kids and Art :
I feel that in many cases we have stolen the experience of generating ideas and philosophical thinking from children by demanding they fit squarely and quietly into standardized tests and rows of desks. Kids are primed to believe they have to figure out the answers that the big people already know.  It is a theft of the most profound implications. I will never tire of witnessing that moment when a child's eyes awaken to the possibility that their view is truly valued, when finally, after asking questions for weeks and weeks, "What do you think/ Why?" they find their own unique voice. I work for that moment, to bring an exploratory, unfettered process back into a child's world. Immediate, messy, and completely open-ended.

Lilly and Twyla
 On Motherhood:
I LOVED being pregnant.   More than ever I was content to simply be a part of life, I didn't need to add to it. I looked at the world with eyes that found beauty and majesty everywhere, I don't mean that to sound obtuse, but it was truly a profound experience for me. That unsettled sense of 'searching' for something, of making marks in the hope of finding meaning, literally fell away the moment I conceived.

With Twyla I have so little time to create and yet I am driven and inspired more than ever in my life. In watching her direct experience and absolute presence I am able to connect to the value of process  in a real, absolute and true way. To really dabble and delve and watch things unfold naturally without contrived pushing. To be inside the textures, shapes and sounds of the experience. To share it with her. I love when she scribbles on the work we do side by side and I am taken somewhere new and unexpected. Somewhere I could not have reached without her wildly flung, crayon clutching, paint brush wielding fingers. 

On people who inspire:

I love Georgia O'Keefe for the shapes she carried in her mind, the solitude she reveled in and the moon lit early mornings she inhabited, paint brush in hand, eyes open, receptive and alive. Georgia Rises is a poetic children's picture book about a day in her life. 

I love Hundertwasser for his home made shoes, his philosophies and attention to natural detail, and his colour drenched dreamscapes. Harvesting Dreams is a fantastic book for exploring and sharing Hundertwasser with children. 

I love Frida Kahlo for her introspection and the beautifully complex and layered worlds she created out of her pain. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera is a great book about their lives, full of activities and ideas to explore with kids. 

On co-authorship and collaboration: 
I have been interested for a long time in the mysterious creative space that reveals itself when two artists begin a shared process of creation. It is a rare and valuable meeting as revered fragments of self necessarily fall away to allow unexpected hybrids and composites to appear.  Ideas volleyed back and forth pick up speed and direct ownership is lost in the furious exchange. I have worked with a number of artists and visionaries over the years but have not enjoyed the sustained intensity, uncompromising support and shared rigor that I experience in working with Jo on BIG. It is the ultimate research project into the  process of co-authorship and I am grateful beyond words that she came so unexpectedly back into my life. The great thing about this kind of shared process is that there really is no telling exactly where it will take us, but I am definitely up for the adventure!

Thank you Lilly, you are a giant.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

And here they are! The BIG Junior Editors.

A very BIG welcome to Pippa, Jonah and Molly who join Luca, BG and Barney as our official Junior BIG editors. Hurrah!
Molly, age 11, Perth, Western Australia
Bravery is...facing fears
Imagination is...creativity
Generosity is...giving to others

Jonah, age 10,  Halls Gap, Victoria
  Bravery is... standing up for yourself and for what you believe  in.
Imagination is... letting your mind go wild.
Generosity is... helping and being nice.

Jonah, rock climbing
Pippa, age 9, Perth, Western Australia
Bravery is... when you do something you never thought you could do before.
Imagination is... what you think. If you think of something crazy or weird or funny or... pretty much anything then that's imagination!
Generosity is... when you do something to help someone else. If you give your money to the poor, it helps them so that's generosity. Putting dirty clothes in the wash is also generosity because it helps your parents and it also helps you!

 Introductions of our Junior correspondents are still to come. Creative kids are everywhere and we are gathering quite a media circus of responses to help us on this BIG journey. Places are still open for BIG correspondents - so if you know a child who would like to respond to BIG things from time to time email us at bigkidsmagazine@gmail.com.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Snails for breakfast, tigers with tea

This morning I had my breakfast next to snails. Live ones. Quietly doing their snail thing and leaving trails on the table as my boys shrieked and gathered more leaves to keep them from gate-crashing my tea.

 Luca, age 6

Watching the snail duet made me laugh and stop for a minute in the silver.

Lilly and I are continuously speed-trailing each other across the two-hour Perth/Sydney time difference, flying and responding to multiple and often overlapping messages via email, live chat, Australia Post packages, text and telepathy. Working within the driven space between us, there is little opportunity to look back as we meet self-imposed dead (life) lines, draw simultaneous breath at each artistic, technical and administrative hurdle/win, and balance the unpredictable front-line cycle of sickness, tantrum, wonder and exuberance of our own littleBIG kids.

Tonight we (ridiculously) worked on another art project via the slipstream of BIG, and laughed at the madness of the extra undertaking. We also recognize that the creative exchange between us is the reason this BIG thing flies at all. And so we give breath to it and honour the persistence of silver in the overwhelm.

My Dad used to quote Mencius to me at various teenage turning points, and I remember it now:

If you know the point of balance
You can settle the details.
If you can settle the details
You can stop running around.
If you can stop running around
Your mind will become calm.
If your mind becomes calm
You can think in front of a tiger.
If you can think in front of a tiger
You will surely succeed

Mencius also said:
The great man is he who does not lose his childlike heart. 

Indeed, say the BIG kids. Play on. xx

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Introducing the BIG Junior Editors

Barney, age 8, (Sydney, NSW)

by Barney
by Barney
Bravery is closing my eyes in the dark

Imagination is my art

Generosity is putting my brothers smelly socks away
 Luca, age 8, Perth, Western Australia
Bravery is if you jump off a plank and save them
Imagination is when you think up something and just do it
Generosity is how you be to people

by Luca

BG, age 10, NSW
Bravery is doing what is right even though others think it is wrong.
Imagination is the space called creativity and also helps us to learn and solve problems phyisically mentally and emotnaliy in a postive and creative way(sic).
Genrosotiy is giving with out payment but with love no matter how great(sic).
by BG
These three spirited, brave, imaginative and generous kids have set the benchmark for BIG things. They were original contributors to Bird Call and now will directly participate in choosing content for BIG Kids Magazine. If you know a child who might like to come on board the BIG ship as an integral part of the crew,  we would love to hear from you. We have 2 final spots for the junior editorial team and some further 'positions' for kids who want to be on a list of 'BIG supporters' who just want to 'respond' to ideas, have their say or be a 'tester' of BIG things, when and if they feel like it. 
We are so excited to welcome Luca, BG and Barney and to hearing more from them in the lead up to launch day!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Child + Artist +Design= Logo

We introduce our logo to you as the first of many BIG child/artist collaborations.
Luca + Lilly = Logo

We wanted a ship, a journey, the sense of adventure and the swell of forward motion. 
First the 7yr old drew his version of the BIG ship. Then the artist responded with a 'boat-parts' series of the imagined whole. Finally, graphic designer, Maree Oaten re-rendered the parts, boats and imaginings into a sea worthy craft and we arrived at the BIG logo.



Saturday, May 7, 2011

The BIG something

Alejandro Saunderson, Melbourne
The current mix of conversation between Lilly and I looks something like this arrangement of paper cranes flown in from Melbourne by photographer Alejandro Saunderson. Each thought specific and detailed but of all of them together a furious runway.We take it step by step, looking to Dora, age 5 from Sydney for the clarity and focus of her gorgeous bird in making each BIG decision.

Meanwhile, it seems everyone is teething. The baby with swollen gums. The grinning boy showing off his fallen tooth and wanting to put a hidden camera to document any tooth fairy activity. The ache of editing the BIG media kit as we respond to generous and exacting feedback, re-working our way through both the specificity of red lines and more ongoing conceptual decisions.

A great friend asked me the other day if BIG was 'something' yet, or if it was still 'just a blog'. Well. We think the blog is something. That blogging is something. And it got us thinking about the male point of view on all this. The majority of blogs I follow or visit have women at the helm, and reluctantly it moves me toward the question of value. Maybe blogging is a bit like mothering. Overworked, undervalued and oh SO fulfilling. I say this with tongue firmly in cheek and mean to stereotype no one.

For his benefit however, I will say that BIG has been is major discussion about becoming a fully fledged company. We are getting great advice and have an awesome team of supporters pointing and prodding at our future. We are also, maybe to his despair, thinking of carrying on as we are. Of devoting the time we have to the continued creative firing and invigorating process which is driving this BIG thing. Sooner or later we will have no choice but to become a company and we look forward to it greatly and then he will be the first we contact (for me thinks he does not follow the blog).
The BIG something, however is right here. Alive, transparent, discovering and sharing. When we hold the magazine in our hands it will be something else indeed but we think of this journey as being as much about what BIG is, as what the magazine or the books or the Ipad apps ( oh yes... in the pipeline folks!) will look like.

We have BIG announcements to follow in the next few days. But right now I go to catch some sleep  between nursing the little long tooth in the quiet of night. My boys went back to school this week and I realise (again) how precious this (night) time is with the babygirl before she very quickly, like her brothers, gets so big. Now that is Something I want my bones to absorb; the closeness and proximity of the darkness and otherworld of irrational hours spent between me and my littleBIGgirl.

Stay tuned for the next episode of the BIG process. x
Dora, 5 yrs
'A Happy Pile of Rubbish' Alejandro

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tiny and Little Magazine Features BIG

BIG has just been featured in the very gorgeous Issue 2 of  tiny and little. We took a moment to quieten the pace and relish in tiny and little's timely theme of a slow childhood in a special edition devoted to boys.  Editor Natalie Barnes has done a great job with beautiful photographs, quotes and a gentle reminder about the need to allow time for kids to follow their own interest. We are excited to be featured in the company of so many fabulous creative folk including The Brothers TrimmKickcan and Conkers and Childhood 101.

In responding to Natalie's inspired provocation for a 'boy' character of our BIG imagining, we honed in on what was right in front of us and flew. The resulting story 'Sound Flight' can be seen on pages 22-27 and includes one of our BIG sky birds by Barney. Lilly's work 'toy' (page 6-7) is the magazine's featured giveaway so quickly flick to page 8 to be in the running to WIN!  Below is an extract from the tiny and little BIG story, docu-dreaming a day in the life of my inspired and inspiring first born son.


Boy dived under BIG cover, gathering flight and feather around him. His cape billowed around his determination and he climbed the rocks without looking back, posting his secret letters in the crevices of sea snails on the way. His dad called him to come and swim; “Not now Dad, I’m busy”. He wondered who would find his message and if they would meet him at the top of the rock pile. 

'Hi’ said the bird balancing on top rock with paper scrawl in claw. “You found my note” smiled the boy. The bird settled in against the wind and stood at the boy’s feet. “I knew you would be here” the bird flew off and took the note to a place further than Boy could imagine. Clutching his cape, he sucked in a life-times breath and leapt off the side of the rock mound to land easily on the sand.  His cape as parachute now covered him in a quiet tent world close to the sea. He could hear the waves and the voices of his family playing in the surf. He wrote his name in the sand and drew an outline of the bird underneath it; it's wings were big enough for both of them.

Reaching the shells out of his pocket he placed them on the sandy wings and took an imaginary photo with his mind camera. This would be the BEST movie he thought and drew a square next to the bird to watch the adventure unravel on the deep sea screen.
Back at home Boy makes it to five countries before dark.  With his band of collectibles (tree nuts meet Mario figurines meet marbles meet plastic white pencil sharpener meet rock rubble meet monkey rubbers meet bird feather) Boy is on a mission to save the world. Each bit of paper and fluff vital in the fuel for fire, play and future. The commercial, the home-made, and the collected scraps of the world ricochet together in an ‘aeroplane’ drawer (and off walls), to unknown frontiers. Between Brazil and the South Pole they take a much needed shower in the kitchen sink. Phew.
Coming back to centre, Boy pauses for food and sinks into the nearest open page, pen in hand to  draw a new ‘hero’, ( then tricks his mama into playing DS via ‘story spelling practice’)
Dusk sees a new galaxy ground with gathered petals, flour, a kaffir lime leaf, twigs and the magical juice of an olive. The elixir leads ‘nature-man’ with his bee staff into circles of purpose around garden and evening gateway. Boy delays the days end, he practices walking with his eyes closed where his world opens in a thousand ways, words and pictures. Captivated by imagining all that he can’t see as well as all that he can. He is reprimanded in class for singing at inappropriate times.

He sings his way through the world.
Writes it as he goes.
One sound flight after another.
Immediate, loud and inspired.

(Jo Pollitt)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A BIG Interview with Paper Runway

We are so excited to share with you the absolutely enchanting and covetable world of gorgeous finds and divine paper design: Paper Runway. We have been emersed in reading the passion and paper featured in the inspiring  launch edition.  Paper Runway is the brainchild of Nikki Buckland and 'our' own amazing Maree Oaten. Maree has designed the BIG logo to be revealed in the next few days and we are in great admiration of the awesome magazine she has made! You can subscribe to the print magazine here and enjoy the FREE online version here. We were so happy to catch the girls on the eve of their launch and began with their response to the B.I.G question: 
Bravery is? 
Stepping outside the feigned square when everyone is watching and saying it’s okay.
Imagination is? 
Remembering to be 5 again
Generosity is? 
Doing something for others without the expectation of anything in return.
How are you feeling the day before the launch of your first issue?
Emotional, so excited, wishing and hoping that it is received with the love and passion that it was created, nervous, relieved, anxious but so proud of what we have created.

Tell us a little bit about your background and what it was that led you to Paper Runway? We first came together when Maree contacted Nikki seeking to stock Little Branch in Nikki’s online store Paper Scissors Rock Stationery. We chatted daily about little ventures that we were both involved in shared ideas and thoughts and supported each other’s momentary meltdowns. We shared virtual cups of coffee, glasses of wine and long nights as Maree was based in Sydney at the beginning and Nikki near Byron Bay and so began the idea of Paper Runway.  
There are many beautiful inspirational magazines on the market at the moment but none (that we could find) that embraced the humble medium of Paper.  There was a gap in the market that we saw and we believe Paper Runway has filled that gap.

Nikki has worked in family law for over 15 years, while always having an artistic and entrepreneurial desire.  She started a company, I Dream of Cupcakes in 2008 creating cupcakes after seeing a gap in the Bryon Bay market.  Whilst the company still creates delicious cupcakes Nikki takes a backseat role these days. Nikki’s balances life with husband Todd, 3 kids Maison (featured on the cover of Paper Runway), Riley and Isla, between working in family law, running online paper and stationery store Paper Scissors Rock Stationery and Paper Runway.  

Maree has worked as a graphic designer for over 12 years and whose career has allowed her to travel and work in London for 6 year of those, before returning to sydney with her husband and their 3 souvenirs (children). After returning to Australia Maree started little branch, an Australian made artisan stationery line with writer and illustrator, Anna Johnson. Maree tries to balance running after 3 kids, little branch, paper runway and a little freelance design.

Claire Brewster
How would you describe the distance between the first gem of the 'Paper Runway' idea and the day you were ready to publish the first issue? The journey between the “light bulb” idea to publishing Paper Runway has been far and long.  From creating the paper dress for the cover shoot to chatting to many many paper artists and talented people, feature interviews, searching for hot products, bringing it altogether and first realising we could actually print our magazine has been nothing short of a roll-a-coaster ride.  After all the paper products had been gathered, features confirmed and interviews returned, Maree’s email to Nikki with a first proof which was entitled “I think you are going to wet your pants”!   

What has been the most energising part of the PaperRunway journey so far? And the most exhausting?!  The most energising part of Paper Runway is discovering the amazing and abundant talent who work with paper in one way or another. We have loved working alongside each other.  Quite often we would email each other almost simultaneously with the same idea or possible feature artists.  We are certainly on the same page which is a really nice way to share in something we are both passionate about and turn it into a business.  Dream job really.

It has (certainly) been exhausting.  As we both run other businesses, time has been our enemy.  We have worked on the magazine mostly at night which has been tough, sleep deprivation is not our friend.

Cybele Young
Do you have a specific daily work structure or does it depend on the will of the wind?! Oh most definitely the “will of the wind” or “the will of small children” perhaps is more suited.  Daily work structure has been literally grabbing whatever time we can between our other businesses, husbands, children and life in general and then working at night.  Luckily we are both night owls –if we weren’t before we are now!

What was your favourite childhood activity?
Nikki recalls her favourite activity being at her grandmother’s home in Newcastle where they would play with wooden stamps and create cards and notes for the family.  Nikki’s grandmother is an avid creator to this day at 81.  She makes her own cards and dabbles in all sorts of paper creations, it too is her passion.  Nikki still have the original stamps that were her great grandparents that her father and his siblings played with.  The children, mainly Isla at aged 5, still play with them some 65 years later.

Maree's favourite childhood activity was to draw and paint. Her mum used to make paint with starch and she can still remember the smell of it. Using pieces of lovely paper in collage and clag paste... A bit of a collector Maree has many boxes of paper samples from over the years dating back to birthday cards from when she was 2. A little bit bower bird perhaps, yet feathered creatures make her squeal and shudder!
We wish Paper Runway a most brilliant first flight!

Jo and Lilly xxx

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