Saturday, 24 November 2012

Bubbling away gloom

The video above was shown via a pedal powered cinema at the launch of The Little Book of Little Gardens by the pothole gardener in London. We are proud to have had two gardens featured in the video.

Ours is the first garden featured and later the one we blogged about here is featured prefaced by this charming verse by Litterapture, a collective who place poetry in unexpected places:

"If life gives you lemons you know what to do
When the road is long and pot holes loom
From cracks flowering cocktails grew
Serving up green fizz, bubbling away gloom."

I love how they picked up on elements like the little cocktail umbrella in our garden and our blog name Lemonade Learning.

It's so much fun to be part of a collaborative project like this. We also really like the collaborative projects over at leafcutter designs. Thank you to Julianne from Sister Outlaws who drew our attention to this.

We are looking forward to our signed copy of the book to thank us for our participation. Thank you pothole gardener!

Friday, 7 September 2012

What does a children's book specialist do?

We interviewed Amelia Vahtrick who is the children's book specialist at our local bookshop Better Read Than Dead. Amelia has helped us select many books and she also hosts a great party at the bookshop on National Bookshop Day (she even dresses up!).

This is a photo of Amelia at work, dressed up for the release of a book called The Night Circus.

What does a children's book specialist actually do?

Well my main job, the one that makes sure I can continue to keep myself in books, is that I am the children's manager of the bookshop Better Read Than Dead. At the shop I am responsible for choosing which books we stock, meeting with publishers to hear about new releases, organising author visits to schools, talking to librarians and of course, being on hand for customers who need any advice about children's books. A huge part of the job is reading the latest children's books - we will hopefully get copies about three months in advance of publication so that by the time the books are published I know which ones I like and want to recommend.

I have other side-things going on which are outside the shop such as freelance reviewing of children's books, working on a board of children's booksellers who write a 'Kids Reading Guide' every year and working with the Children's Book Council of Australia. The Kids Reading Guide comes out in November each year and has reviews of recently and soon to be published books which as a group we have decided are our picks for the end of the year.

I used to work with the Northern Sydney branch of the CBCA when I lived in that area and we organised author talks at schools, afternoon tea with an author events and a big 'Lunch with the Stars' during Children's Book Week - the third week in August each year. Basically all these different jobs involve reading a lot of children's books and really getting to know what is being published.

How did you become a children's book specialist?

In the suburb where my parents live was a bookshop and a children's bookshop owned by the same man. My sister had worked in the general bookshop for a few years so I knew the owners and when they needed someone for the children's shop they thought of me. I was just happy for a job in any bookshop so I didn't mind that it was the children's bookshop or anything like that. Once I started working there I completely fell in love with children's books as a whole. What started as a weekend job while I was going through uni transformed into a real passion for me. 

What are your favourite books and tell us a bit about why they are your favourites (we know this is a hard question! It's so hard to decide favourites, we find).

Well one of my absolute favourite authors is Tamora Pierce. She writes fantasy novels set in a Medieval-ish setting where some people have magic. Her protagonists are always girls who defy the norm. Her very first series is about a girl called Alannah who, when told she has to go learn to be a proper lady so she can bag a husband, cuts off her hair, poses as a (scrawny) boy called Alan and trains to become a knight. All Tamora Pierce's series have really amazing heroines in them and I pretty much read her over and over from the age of twelve to about fifteen. I still get excited about new Tamora Pierce books coming out in fact!

In the world of picture books, I love everything by Oliver Jeffers, particularly Lost & Found, everything by Colin Thompson - a great author who demonstrates that picture books are not just for little kids, and Tohby Riddle. [Lemonade Learners: we like all of those authors, too!]

One other teen novel I just adore is called The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E.Lockhart. Frankie is a fifteen year old budding feminist who, when told that the secret society at her school has always been boys-only and will continue to be boys-only, decides to take it over from within. Frankie has such an authentic voice for a fifteen-year-old girl who wants to be taken seriously but also has a boyfriend for the first time.

Oh and one more! I just listened to the audio book of Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and it was just brilliant. It is written in letters from a Scottish girl who has been taken prisoner by the Nazis in occupied France. She has decided she can't take the torture any more, is giving in and letting them know what they want. A really amazing story of two girls in WWII. I listened to the audio as I was given it for review and let me tell you, you get some strange looks when you just start crying on the bus with earphones in and no book in sight. Got a few strange looks that day.

You can probably see a bit of a trend here - I just love love love anything with fantastic females in it. [Lemonade Learners: So do we!!]
What is your favourite city in the world and why?
So much easier than the favourite book question to answer! Paris Paris Paris! [Lemonade Learners: Did you see Madeline there, or her dog Genevieve?] My dad lived in Paris for a couple of years and as a family we would visit about four times a year and ever since then I have been obsessed. I try to save enough to go over every couple of years now. If you look at the fact that my two majors at university were French and Art History you can see that Paris is a pretty perfect meeting of those two things! It is such a great city to walk in, it has my second favourite bookshop in the world (after mine of course!) Shakespeare & Co, and it has such a fascinating history. And amazing food! You can never underestimate the importance of good pastries. [Lemonade Learners: we are agreeing again!]

Thank you, Amelia.
Have a look at Amelia's blog Heroines I Met and Loved where she has written about some heroines we love too, like The Paper Bag Princess and Princess Smartypants.


Sunday, 12 August 2012

Pothole Gardening

We recently discovered the pothole gardener, a London-based mini guerilla gardener. He turns holes in the pavement into delightful mini gardens; tiny gems of greenery and fanciful flower arrangements, often incorporating props like miniature garden furniture or road signs.

We were inspired to create our own. We spent quite some time searching for the perfect pothole. We finally decided on this one, in Australia Street Newtown.

This afternoon, armed with potting mix, some specimens from our own garden, some especially purchased blooms and a few props from the doll house, we created this.

If you are inspired to create a pothole garden too, let us know - we would love to see it.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

City tucker

On the way to school the other day we found some 'city tucker' - lilly pilly berries and nasturtium flowers growing in a local garden.

You can make lilly pillies into jam, jelly or cordial. There is a lilly pilly jam recipe at Julie's Towards Sustainability blog. We don't have enough berries to make jam. Lilly pillies are a native Australian plant. You can find out more about them here.

Nasturtiums are not native plants, but you can eat the petals in sandwiches or salads and you can also eat the buds or young seed pods, pickled. There is a recipe here which tells you to "Look for a crinkled, brain-like nodule at the base of a bloomed-out nasturtium flower". We think that is a good description.

You can also eat dandelion leaves. Here are some we found growing at the edge of the park near our house.

A few steps further down the path from this dandelion plant, we found this!

Whoever dropped it was long gone so we picked it up and took it home where we washed it and put it in the crisper.

Looking for food like this is called 'foraging'. Diego Bonetto is a local artist and forager who has made a website called The Weedy Connection where he tells you about which weeds you can eat and where you can find them.

We found this picture of amaranth on his website and realised that we had the same plant growing in a pot outside our window. It just popped up by itself. Do you think it's the same plant?

We made a petal salad with nasturtiums we foraged and with borage flowers, tiny pansies and marigold petals from our garden. Everything else in the salad we bought from the shop.

Do you think we ate it?

Monday, 27 February 2012

How does an artist work?

We asked artist and designer Judith Martinez some questions about her work.
Here are her answers. Do you have a question for her? Post it in the comments section and she'll answer it for you.

What inspires you?

I get inspiration from many places, most of them not related to other artists, this way I can try to come up with fresh ideas and not versions of what other people have done.

I love old things – photographs and letters in particular. I am like a bowerbird and collect lots of objects that might be useful in an artwork. I recently bought a selection of antique Russian clock faces and parts that are making their way into my collages. They vary from tiny little cogs and wheels to large alarm and mantle clock faces. I am using them in a series of collages where I combine printing, antique letters and the clock parts to compose images.

I have a box full of photographs that are over one hundred years old. I love to use them in collages and often wonder about the people in them.

It is very important to store these objects well as they are like special treasures. I believe in nurturing my collections as they are always very kind to me in return and offer lots of inspiration and ideas.

Colour is necessary to me. I love seeing how nature creates her own colour palettes – have you ever noticed a sandstone cliff against a bright blue sky? The colours work perfectly, highlighting and complementing each other to perfection. When I see things like this, I think, if it works in a real setting and creates a lovely harmony then it will most likely work in my own art. Flowers are another example of successful colour combinations as are birds and butterflies.
a variety of collage/mixed media work made form old book covers, vintage bird postcards, a little found seahorse and butterfly (I never kill anything!), keys… and other things from my collections

My garden is the perfect place for this research, and a bushwalk can be a great place to discover new colour combinations. Don't dismiss muted and lighter colours as they can be beautiful as well – there are many shades of white, for example, something as simple as an eggshell or a sheet of paper can vary from cool to warm white and carry within it blues and yellows.

Reading is another great source of inspiration. I see beautiful images in poetry, prose and song lyrics. So words are very important for my visual artwork.

Beautiful things inspire me simply because they are beautiful, animals in particular, but sometimes accidental beauty like a wall that has been painted many times and you can see the layers of colour, wallpaper or lettering coming through.
I believe in taking time to observe these things – have you ever noticed a little plant coming through the cracks in the pavement? The rainbows formed on the road after a storm? A cat’s furry paws? Small insects changing colour to match the plant they are hiding in?

If you stop and look at all the things around you, beautiful or not, I can guarantee you will find inspiration – for your art or your story writing, or simply to have better conversations with other people.

Where do you work?

I work at home. We have turned the spare room into my studio, but I also spill out onto the kitchen table and living room occasionally.

I have completed courses at the National Art School in Sydney to use the printmaking equipment for screen printing and etching. I don’t have access to etching presses and screen printing facilities often so I have to have a very good idea of what I am doing to get the most out of my time there.

I think the best way to describe my workspace is to show you.

I am looking forward to having a studio built in the garden later in the year. I will send you photos when this is done! Designing the studio has been lots of fun, I am currently talking to the builder who is going to make it. I think the best part of having a studio will be being able to leave things on a table as works in progress and not having to pack them up because it is dinnertime.

What types of materials do you use?

Paper, paper and more paper! For drawing, printing, cutting up, origami (Japanese paper folding art) and collages.

a paper swift (swifts, swallows, willy-wag tails and house-martins are my favourite birds) made by cutting out a bird shape on black card and painting the detail with white and grey paint. I am hoping to give him a big family and do an installation.

I use traditional art materials such as paintbrushes, pencils, gouache and watercolour (types of paint), special Japanese starch glue which is very good for collage (even if it takes a little bit longer to dry), thread for stitching (I use red thread in most of my work) and shellac (a special varnish that is very good for making things look old).

Vintage materials such as photographs, musical scores, lace and other fabric, book covers and pages (sometimes a book is old and the pages are a little torn, I believe in giving these old books a new life and using them for collages and origami).

a portrait of one of my favourite girls on the planet! I used 1960s paper and fabric flowers and pinned them on a water colour portrait 

Who are your favourite artists and why?

Spanish children’s book illustrators from the 1970s and 80s, Maria Pascual and Juan Ferrandiz. They are part of my childhood and their drawings have amazing detail and skill. I always wanted to look like one of their characters.

French cartoonist Sempe for creating warm and whimsical illustrations – their simplicity is disarming.

19th Century Botanical artists Harriet and Helena Scott. Sometimes it is hard for women to succeed in certain fields dominated by men, but the Scott sisters didn’t let that stop them. Sadly, they experienced financial hardship during their lifetimes – but that is just another reason why I admire them. Some people believe so much in what they do and what they love doing that they don’t do it to be rich. They experience a different sort of wealth, a richness that comes from knowing that you are creating something beautiful.

Joseph Cornell for his shadow box art. Now, he was a real bower bird!

I love Japanese wood carvings for their saturated colour, but mostly for the patience that goes into creating such beautiful work. A skill I need to learn and nurture.

Russian collage artist Kurt Schwitters. He used anything he could get his hands on to make collages – bus tickets, coasters, magazines, newspapers, wrapping paper.

But most importantly, Mr R Waller, my high school art teacher, because he showed me how to create collages and mixed media and encouraged me to think outside the square. The skills he taught me are the ones I have used the most in my life.

When you have an idea, how do you begin working on it? 
I do most of my creative thinking while I am out walking or having a coffee (always carry a notebook with you!).

I wish I could see all my ideas through to completion. But sadly this doesn’t happen. I have lots and lots of notebooks with ideas that hopefully will come in handy one day. A good example of this is my etching ‘the sardine purse’. I did a portrait of myself crossed with my cat, Possum, over five years ago and left it in a sketchbook. I found it one day when I was preparing for etching class and thought it would make a nice intaglio print and developed it into an edition.
'The washing never dries in here' and 'The Sardine Purse'

I also discuss creative ideas with my husband, Craig. He is a writer and has very good ideas.

"Bunny Boy' A portrait of my husband Craig as a bunny.

We try to help each other out with our work and hope to work together on some projects in the future. He and I developed the Not So Scary Monsters characters together over cups of tea and biscuits – we’d love to hear which ones are your favourites and why, so we can develop them further.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Outdoor Art Gallery

There is an outdoor art gallery near our house. It's a laneway where street artists have painted their designs straight on the wall. Some people call it graffiti rather than street art.  Some people get permission to paint their designs on people's houses or public walls. If you don't get permission, it's illegal - which means if you do it you can get in trouble from the police. 

We like this outdoor art gallery. If you want to visit it, take the first left off  Hoffman Lane (Willy Winky will greet you), which comes off Australia Street Newtown, NSW. Australia. The World.

Friday, 30 December 2011

What do you believe?

Around Christmas time we have been learning about what different people believe.

This is a mural in the park near our house. It's a church but there are lots of different kinds of churches in the world, lots of different religions and lots of different things that people believe in.

The book 'What Do You Believe' is helping us understand all the different things that people believe.

photo from Booktopia

Recently we stayed at Nan Tien Temple. It is the largest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere. We learnt a bit about Buddha and rubbed his tummy and made a wish. Next we are going to visit Lakemba Mosque. It is is one of the largest Mosques in Australia. This is where people who are Muslim go. Our friend R is Muslim (we are only using initials for our friends' names). Then we are going to visit The Great Synagogue where Jewish people go. Our friend G is Jewish.
We have already been to a Catholic Church. Our Grandma is Catholic. We are also going to visit the Metropolitan Community Church where our friend M goes. This church calls itself an inclusive Christian church, which means they welcome all kinds of different people who are Christian.

We might come back and tell you what it has been like learning about what different people believe.