new memories and old flashbacks

Last week I was reminded about the emotional pull that a picture can have. 

On a trip to London’s National Gallery, my dashing date and tour guide reacquainted me with Piero della Francesca’s Baptism of Christ. As we entered the room with the painting front and centre, a wave of … well, I don’t know what it was, nostalgia I guess … whomped me. 

I hadn’t thought about this particular painting in 15 years but it abruptly deposited me back to a stuffy prefab building, tucked in behind the school gym, with the stifling smell of hot concrete and cut grass wafting in the open windows. The room darkened so that the photocopied transparencies could be shown on the overhead projector as we dutifully copied down names and dates and foreign words like sfumato and chiaroscuro. Emma and I racing to see who could write faster and produce the longer essays in the set time. Miss Sharp, speaking in hushed tones about the Byzantine influence and the importance of the patron. The feeling of being 17 and in my final year of high school, doing a specialist subject like Renaissance art history, and being both old and young at the same time. 

While a picture can paint a thousand words, it can also transport you back into another time and another version of yourself. 

Which leads me on, ever so tangentially, to Sri Lanka. I went there in March, on a trip with two friends. I loved everything about it. It was hot, chaotic, loud, calm, sweaty, spicy, fresh, magnetic, wild, frantic, sweet, cramped, exotic, surprising, satisfying, vibrant, rich, dense. A thousand descriptive words layered onto 17 days of travel.

Here are a few of my photos. They don’t properly convey what it was like to be there, but each one takes me back to that place and that time and that feeling. For now I’ll carefully file away these memories and they’ll simplify to anecdotes and stories for the pub, but hopefully these photos will have the same power of the Baptism of Christ to transport a future me back.

 

it's blindingly simple

A few years ago, I found this quote in a magazine somewhere, and took a photo to keep it with me. In just a few lines it reflects the tug that we feel, us wandering children, who choose to live so from home.

It's blindingly simple. 
You never fully understand or appreciate where you're from until you leave it.
Until you have to explain and defend it to others, to whom it is foreign.
Only then can you see why it is the way it is and why you love it. Nay, how intensely you love it. 

If travel does one thing, it shows your roots in a way that nothing else can. 

- Margaret Mead

There is no place like home, and when you do go back to visit, everything seems so much shinier and rose-tinted. 

On my last trip I was lucky to have a something close to a perfect day.
It was a Monday afternoon, and a post-wedding birthday celebration on Waiheke. Filled with some of my favourite people from all corners of the globe, it stretched on and on, as wine-soaked afternoons should. I took a lot of photos (that got progressively blurrier as the wine went on) but the day will always leave a little glow in my memories. 

home sweet home

Going home is always special, but now that my friends have started introducing cute little podgy people into the world, it's even better. This time I got to meet little baby Hunter, owner of the biggest eyes in history, and take some snaps. Meanwhile, I continue to be the proudest godmother ever of Ruby, who is a heart-breaker in the making. 

sweet april showers do spring may flowers

It's been a busy couple of months. I've had a bucket load of freelance work which has consumed my every waking moment, as well as a trip back home to New Zealand. I've had weddings, birthdays, family occasions, and I kind of, sort of, bought a house(!). I've not had any days where time could wander and I could do as I choose.

Which is why today was everything. It was the first day that I've had off in months and the sort of Spring Sunday that stretched on and on. I slept in, went for a ride along the river path, baked a pineapple cake, and had a tinker round with some watercolours outside in the sunshine.

Picking up from the constellation piece I made for baby Hunter, I wanted to do something with watercolours again, so paired a soft blush with a cameo-style silhouette. The photos were taken on my phone so they're a bit rubbish, but the idea is there.

Up next on the To Do list of life - actually update this website so it reflects recent work. To be continued...

seduced by a Q - a meander through Brussels

Through a comedy of errors involving an absent passport and a surprise birthday trip, I found myself on a weekend jaunt to Brussels a couple of weeks ago. My only previous visit to the city was a sad, grey tale of a group of rugby fanatics having their hopes dashed as the Les Bleus demolished Les All Blacks in 2007. I was looking forward to updating my Belgium anecdotes with something a little more positive.

I was already overly excited by the prospect of a weekend dedicated to moules frites, waffles and beer, but was not expecting Brussels to be a typographic haven. 

It was a chocolate box of design. A thousand references for inspiration. Like running around in a Wes Anderson film, only I wasn't dressed in pastels and I got conned into exorbitant paella at a tourist restaurant. On second thought, maybe it was like a Wes Anderson film. 

But from the elegant twisting of the fluorescent signage, to the elaborate box shadows on a shop facade, in every corner there were examples of beautiful typography. Both old and new. Proof that good design is infectious. 

While some parts were a bit tourist-twee, the intention to beautify was everywhere. 

All photos taken on my iPhone as, like the fool I am, I took my SLR but forgot the memory card.

It's the little details that grab you.

We stopped in at the Delirium Cafe, and it was like the mothership of vintage beer signage.

This Q for example, I was transfixed by this Q.

I tend to work in more muted shades, so the bold colours and sharp shadows seduced me from across the bar (definitely nothing to do with the four pints of 8% Red Cherry beer). 

I recreated it with a few favourite words* below, and the style seems delightfully adaptable to font and palette. I'll be nabbing that for a future project. 

*I like the way you kind of roll the word amalgamate around your mouth to say it...
ah-MAAAAL-gAH-mayte

My experimental versions of the Q's drop shadow

My experimental versions of the Q's drop shadow

But back to Brussels...
I geeked out and took photos of everything and anything in the Delirium Cafe.
A selection of the non-blurry ones below.

'the hunter'

On the very last day of 2014, baby Hunter arrived in a spectacular fashion - two weeks ahead of schedule in the early hours of the morning on Waiheke Island. The ferries weren't running, so no trip to the hospital as planned, instead he made his entrance after a mere four and a half hours in the spare room at his grandparents house.

For his cousin Ruby, I had made a series of pictures based on songs with her name, but the name Hunter was a little more unusual. Googling the name brought me across the Orion constellation, known as 'The Hunter'. As Orion's Belt is so visible in the skies over New Zealand, I thought that something around that could be nice.

I'm not a painter, but I wanted to do something with a bit of texture, so after a bit of research I stumbled across this artist from the States who is doing some nice watercolour astrological prints. My version is a shameless rip off, but now that I'm getting a bit more of a handle on working with watercolours, I plan to develop it further. 

For now though, welcome to the world Hunter x

Excuse the rubbish pictures - I took them on my phone under the tungsten lights in my lounge. This long, dark winter means that I only get to see natural light at the weekends and I was just too excited to send this off to wait that long.


Excuse the rubbish pictures - I took them on my phone under the tungsten lights in my lounge. This long, dark winter means that I only get to see natural light at the weekends and I was just too excited to send this off to wait that long.

from deepest darkest peru

In early 2014 I flew home for a couple of weddings and to visit my family, but also to meet my goddaughter Ruby for the very first time. Wandering around Hamley's one afternoon in search of a present, I saw Paddington Bear. With his little suitcase, his red boots, anorak and hat, he was perfect.

Shortly before I flew, it became apparent that Paddington was going to have to travel with me on the flight, as he wouldn't fit into my main suitcase. A friend suggested that he might quite enjoy the journey as it would be more comfortable than his trip from deepest darkest Peru. With this idea, Paddington was off on another adventure. 

I decided to document Paddington's journey to meet Ruby. Much to the delight of my fellow travellers, I photographed him along the way - on buses, in train stations, in the airport, on the plane - all the way to New Zealand. 

I then wrote a little story about Paddington's new adventure and his quest to travel to the other side of the world and hopefully find a new friend along the way. I layered the story with the photos and with maps of each location. It was printed and bound into a one-off book for Ruby and sent to her for a 2nd birthday present.

I hope that she likes Paddington's adventure when she's a bit older. For now, I'm informed that she's mostly interested in trying to take his boots off and wear them herself. The girl's got style already. 

Here's a few of the pages from the final book and it's added to the work section of my site here.

 

shadowbox

We've started using our lightbox as a lamp, which adds a warm little glow to the room. This evening I noticed the nice silhouette the lamp was casting from the glass of irises in front of it. The light was heavy, and the flowers colours subtle. I snapped a few experimental shots with some handy props.

oh baby

One of my oldest friends is having her first baby. 

While she's a million miles away in New Zealand, I got to be there for the baby shower in a small way by making some baby prediction and wishes cards for the parents-to-be. They were printed onto Laid textured paper, so they had that nice tactile feel, and filled out at the shower by friends and family.

The baby is due on my birthday so I'm gunning for us to be birthday twins (therefore best friends).

The responses varied from the lovely, to the funny, to the practical "I hope you learn to drive a manual". 

Image stolen from Alley McOnie

Image stolen from Alley McOnie

for bella

My mum just turned 65. You wouldn't know it though, she rushes around like a mad woman and has a better social life than I do. She's still going to keep working for now, but she'll cut down on her days a bit, and play a bit more golf. And despite never needing to take it, she's quite excited about the prospect of free public transport.

For her birthday, I wanted to make her a present. 
I liked the idea of telling a bit of a story about her life. There's a lot of personalised gift ideas out there at the moment, like this one which list notable places and dates. These are all nice (when done well), but I wanted a bit more detail. I thought about a timeline, a meandering line which touched on places and points of her life. I emailed aunts, uncles and family friends, asking for details of where she had lived, what she had done, who she had known.

They came back enthusiastically. My godparents actually drove around Auckland taking photos of places she'd worked, flats she'd lived in. But then in other places there were large gaps. I had content, but not consistent content. And nothing to tie it all together. I toyed with the idea of maps... a global map? Her journey? But while I had touch points in her story, without going directly to her and asking for dates, places, names, it was just incomplete. 

Then, one morning, while hurrying through Waterloo Station, bound for the 6.32 train from Platform 11, the solution meandered into my head. Tree rings. Each ring a different ring of her life. I could show her whole life that way. A cross section of her story. Gaps wouldn't matter so much, but the whole story as I knew it could be there.

 

There was a strange mix of happiness and sadness as I complied the tree rings. As I get older and as my parents get older, I become increasingly aware of the distance between London and New Zealand. I feel like I'm missing out on the golden years.

When I wrote in the text about my mum's own adventures in London, the contrast between doing it 30 years ago and doing it now are marked. Mum took a ship to get to London, which took a month or so, and was the cheapest way of getting here at the time. She lived above and worked in a pub in Soho, back before all the creative agencies moved in, and her regular ladies used to leave their pints and cigarettes at the bar while they went off to entertain 'clients' of their own, then return to finish them. She used to write her letters home while sat in the warm soapy smell of the laundromat. 

I hope to piece together more stories, and maybe update it further in the future.
For now, I hope she likes it.

Mum's life so far. A colour band represents a decade of her life.

up, up and away

Göreme at 6am is still.

There's a slight chill, but no wind. The light filters through the sky, inky black softening around us as we stand on the roof of our hotel.

At first you can just make out a few of the little clusters, black rounded shadows, dotted around the the outskirts of the town. But then as your eyes adjust to the light, you see more groups surrounding the town and out into the distance. Now and then, you see a burst of colour, a glow in the darkness as one of them is filled with burning gas.

And then they start to rise.
One by one, they silently climb, until the skies are filled with hot air balloons, silhouetted against the dawn.

 

A few days later, and we're in the basket of the balloon. Our ride starts a bit later, as the pilots were concerned about the foggy weather that postponed the balloons the day before. But we're okay today, the skies are clear, and there are balloons in the sky all around us. We take off smoothly, with the rush of the fire above our heads creating butterflies in our bellies. The earth falls away, as we rise and rise.

150 balloons carry nearly 3,000 people every day in Cappadocia. It was one of the most magical things I've ever done. We went to 828 metres and the trip took just over an hour.

The balloon company we went with was Voyager Balloons. They were epic; from swing dancing with my sister and throwing her into the deflated balloon bag on her birthday, group macarena lessons in the transfer van, to a pilot who really experienced, but also took us up and down valleys, alarmingly close to rocks, and gave the whole thing an adrenaline injection.

light and dark

I saw an image on Pinterest a few weeks back, and liked the shadows as type effect so today I had a bash at making a few of my own. It was a bit of a brain exercise to get the text orientation right, more than I can really be dealing with while slightly hungover. Cutting in a straight line was difficult enough.

This was the first attempt and I got the text orientation wrong. Flipped around though, the contrast and strength of letters is nice. Quote is Charles Bukowski, but I ran out of steam before finishing the whole thing (I want the whole world or nothing)

This was the first attempt and I got the text orientation wrong. Flipped around though, the contrast and strength of letters is nice. Quote is Charles Bukowski, but I ran out of steam before finishing the whole thing (I want the whole world or nothing)

The multiple shadow effect comes from the lamp in the lounge which has five bulbs in a row. The words are the title of a Tennis  song

The multiple shadow effect comes from the lamp in the lounge which has five bulbs in a row. The words are the title of a Tennis song

Stuck it to the wall to try a different angle. It loses the shadow text, but it still has a nice effect.

Stuck it to the wall to try a different angle. It loses the shadow text, but it still has a nice effect.

breakfast

I've recently moved out of cacophony that is Brixton, and to the leafy suburbs of Surrey. I've swapped the 24 access to dubious fried chicken and easy of the Victoria line commute for a quiet flat nestled on a lake that is home to some friendly and inquisitive ducks.

There is something about the light out here. Maybe it's because, away from the lined Victorian terraced housing, we have more of it. Maybe it's because there's a bit more space so I notice it more. Maybe it's that I feel that now when I get home, life slows down a bit, and there is actually the time to notice it. 

This morning, my visiting sister and I made buttermilk pancakes, with berries and maple syrup, and while they were cooking, I played around with taking a few still life shots of the berries in some little bowls I bought in Morocco a few years back.