Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Lilly Blue and Jo Pollitt are the makers of BIG Kids Magazine.  Lilly is a visual artist and Jo is a dancer and writer. Together they work in a collaborative way where lines get blurred in a continuous feedback loop of creative exchange. When they make something together from shared ideas, they are never quite sure exactly where it came from and ownership is swiftly displaced by unexpected discoveries in form and practice. They become co-authors. [Coauthored work here.]

 On the 2nd of September 2010 Jo sent Lilly a message sharing an idea she had for a creative children’s magazine with an adult and child editorial staff, featuring contributions of poems, stories and artwork from kids, and offering an alternative to the current high fashion focus dominating the market. In this innocuous little note Jo invited Lilly to contribute an illustration or two for a mock up of the magazine. The rapturous, poetic and unbridled correspondence that ensued over the next days and weeks, often after midnight while their babies slept, gave birth to a bigger vision, and in the space between the two artists BIG (Bravery, Imagination, Generosity) Kids Magazine was born.

“I do believe we are starting a collaboration without uttering a spoken word”.

After a full year of working, the first actual sighting of each other was by Skype the day Lilly showed Jo the First Flight edition of BIG Kids Magazine just back from the printer. The acceleration from initial sketching of ideas to holding the first ever magazine in our hands was fast and full. It was certainly a surreal moment to turn the first BIG page.

Of course there were moments of difficulty in sorting roles and differences, at times like a storm in Narnia, all drama, dark wardrobes and late nights! But I think it is a mutual respect and trust of the other as well as a shared understanding of creative practice as rigorous, personal and poetic that makes it possible to navigate the challenges. We always come back to trusting the other will spy rock and steer us well.

Now that we have clearly established BIG as a co-authored page we continue to invest and create worlds in the spaces between us, and tend not to work with the traditional collaborative approach of writer and illustrator. It is a responsive dialogue that finds a different form depending on the demands of each new world we collide in; Jo writing worlds and words for stories Lilly has dreamt forever. Lilly responding to a choreography of lines on an unexpected page.

Our words begin to overlap. Even the paint starts to run between us.

We both hold on, and we both let go.

It all happens, all at once, all of the time.

The co-authorship of this BIG magazine provokes, prescribes, demands, dares, expects and cajoles a days work from each of us and also makes room for tiny glimpses of the hilarity, niggling, messing, playing and firing of our everyday lives. We work in the between hours: between children, between sleep, between work, between cities. BIG exists in all the available spaces but it is the collaborative space between us that ultimately supports and propels the magazine making, side by side.

The BIG info: Treasure Maps edition 2 is currently available. BIG is currently accepting submissions for their 3rd edition Game On! Keep up to date with BIG news on our BIG Facebook page.

Image credits: The top hoto is of Jo and Lilly working on the 2nd edition of BIG – Treasure Maps. The second image is the cover of the current issue.

Downloadable print: The owl pic is a co-authored print: Cross My Heart and Hope to Fly by Lilly Blue and Jo Pollitt) featured in the Treasure Maps edition of BIG Kids Magazine. You can download a free hi-res printable version of the print here. For a short time only (offer now closed) – after that please support this great mag by grabbing a copy from newstands or via their website.  BIG Kids Magazine


{ 1 comment }

Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Sayraphim Lothian is a craft and visual artist interested in exploring playful and participatory experiences. She co-runs Pop Up Playground, a Melbourne pervasive and social games collective; recently participated in a playful residency at the National Gallery of Victoria and some of her work can be found in the archives of the NGV, the collection at MOMA and on streets around the world.

Yesterday morning I was feeling pretty excited. I’ve been making artificial cupcakes on and off for the past couple of days and yesterday they were ready to be distributed in the CBD. They’re all in colourful patty pans, with purple ‘icing’, sprinkled with different coloured glitter and a cheery red bead on top. Threaded through each bead is a glittery paper tag, printed with a hand carved stamp that reads “For you, stranger <3 sayraphim”.

I went into the city and left them all out in various places for people to find and take – I’m exploring random acts of guerrilla kindness – and I was really excited to see how it went. My ultimate goal was to make someone’s day a little brighter by gifting them with a fun fake cupcake. By the time I was back on the train heading home I’d already gotten my first response, someone on twitter telling me that finding a cupcake had made them smile and that they were so inspired by the project they were planning to do something similar.

My current body of work investigates kindness and loveliness as art. I create fun, magical moments for people to experience and enjoy. Sometimes these take the form of games to play, in the street, in theatres, in parlours or out in the open, and sometimes they are joyous craft pieces, installed in the street. Along with the For you, Stranger project I’m also working on Gilding the City, which installs reworked pieces of found and broken jewellery in cities around the world, and Street Pests, which places pigeon and rat softies sewn from material found in the streets back in the suburbs they came from. I see all these pieces as little bubbles of joy or surreal moments for passersby to notice.

There are two main influences on my current practise. The first was my grandmother, Marge. She tirelessly created toys for charity throughout her life. She had a wardrobe filled with material people had donated to her, a garage full of yarn and she knitted, sewed and created hundreds of dolls and toys for charity and gifts. She would also teach anyone who asked and freely gave of her time and expertise whenever she saw a need. At the end of her life, while in a high care dementia home, she was still knitting scarves for the hospital and teaching the nurses to knit. She shared her skills and knowledge freely to anyone and she made the world a better place for hundreds of people.

The second person is a British gent named Tassos Stevens. He co-runs the playful society Agency of Coney and just over a year ago he visited Melbourne to invite people to rediscover their playful side. He inducted us into Coney’s world of play and its principle of loveliness via games and challenges. In one challenge he asked us to gather into pairs and suggest someone we thought might like a lovely, possibly anonymous, surprise and what that surprise might be. Another challenge was to get together in groups and chat about a group of people who are normally ignored, or who do crappy jobs for little pay, and what we might create as a nice experience for them. Nurses, public transport drivers, cleaners and people living in old folks homes were some of the people nominated for loveliness and some of the experiences brain stormed were quite touching.

I fell in love with this idea – niceness’s organised for people who might need them – a little bit of kindness to improve someone’s life. During the week, through these challenges and some physical games out on the street, Tassos taught us that making lovely experiences for people is actually a Thing. Which sounds silly when you say it out loud, but sometimes you need stuff pointed out by other people to fully understand it.

The whole experience made me want to do that too, so I started a new direction in my work, making niceness’s for other people in all manner of ways.

My first project was called A Moment In Yarn. It took the craft skills and generosity of my grandmother and mixed them with the personalised kindness experiences that Tassos teaches. It’s a one on one experience in which the participant tells me a cherished memory and, as we chat, I translate the memory into a granny square for them using different coloured and textured yarn. It’s a really beautiful experience and I always feel really honoured that people trust me with a memory that’s so precious to them. I love hearing their stories and I love the challenge of re-creating them in yarn. It’s a big responsibility – you’re being lent a treasured moment of their lives and you don’t want to do anything to sully it – but it’s always so heart-warming at the end to see their faces when they receive their Moment In Yarn; their memory made solid, something warm and soft they can hold. What I knew would happen at the end of each Moment is that the participant would get a craft object based on their memory (which they all seem to love) what I didn’t expect was the awesome feeling I’d get that I’d made something that meant so much to someone.

The next project was called Gilding the City. You can read the post I wrote about it for Whipup here. It’s a street art project reworking found bits of broken jewellery into little art pieces for cities to wear. It started out in Melbourne and quickly spread around the world. They’re usually pretty small, often they don’t stand out from where they are installed, instead they are little rewards for people who take the time to look around and really see the city rather than just going about their daily business. I love the city, I love peering around corners and scanning the ground to see what I find and, with Gilding the City, I wanted to encourage other people to see the city the way I do. I’ve sent Gilds to people all around the world to install in their own cities and they tell me they love the thrill of the hunt (to find the right place) and the excitement of installing the piece. One lady, who installed a little figure with her son, wrote to me to tell me that he waves to it every day and has named it ‘Lollipoloser’.

Some of these projects take a little bit of time to create but I love doing it. I love the idea that someone stumbles across one of the street projects and it brightens their day. I’m always thrilled to see interesting art out in the streets and I want to share that experience for other people. I create tiny moments of joy for people in the city; out-of-the-ordinary moments that transport them, if only for a second, to a world filled with magic and wonder. I get such joy out of making each item and I’m always chuffed when people contact me to let me know they found one.

My advice is keep an eye on the streets around you, you never know what you might see…


Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Environmental fiber artist and writer, Abigail Doan, divides her time between NYC, Eastern Europe, and rural Italy. Her work as a fiber artist offers a unique view into the materials, methods, and the life cycle of contemporary textiles, slow fashion garments, and related environmental issues. Abigail started her blog,Ecco*Eco as a forum for sharing ideas and projects related to ‘fashioning self and the environment’. She also keeps a visual journal at Lost in Fiber and recommends reading: BROODWORK Creative Practice and Family Life.

Fiber Flotsam 01 made out of recycled fiber and hand-dyed wool by Abigail Doan (2012)

As a mother of four year old twin boys and the next year mapped out for living in Eastern Europe, my studio practice is all about twining together materials and methods that make the most sense for my nomadic lifestyle and the complex textures of life on the road. As artists and makers we are often nostalgic for chapters in our lives when we might have had more time to create in silence and with total cohesiveness. Having children, particularly preschoolers, is both humbling and uplifting as one attempts to find a new path into studio practice and the focus required for crafting something meaningful and of genuine value.

I grew up on a small family farm in New York State’s Hudson River Valley, and I did not travel to Europe for the first time until after graduation from high school. I never would have guessed that I would marry a European, or rather an American with roots in a far off land like Bulgaria, but true love coupled with true adventure, was ultimately the destiny that was charted out for me. As an environmental fiber artist, all of these things make perfect sense to me now – particularly since my day-to-day life in Eastern Europe feels a lot more like my rural upbringing than life in bustling NYC does. I love that my children are currently immersed in a culture that celebrates local handcraft, village communities, as well as the foods and customs of a vibrant place. Even though we live in Bulgaria’s capital city of Sofia, it is very easy for us to be up on the mountain hiking within thirty minutes or driving to neighboring countries like Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, etc. within the span of just a few hours.

Photo of a color study drawn by my twin boys – based on regional textiles in my home studio

Several years ago I decided that I might be more effective (at peace) as an artist if I let go of the idea of working in a designated studio day in and day out, and instead set up an annual calendar of site-specific projects and outreach initiatives that allowed me to work organically with my surroundings. As part of this new strategy, I began working more with fiber, as it is a material that allows considerable flexibility in terms of transport and rather packable options for site-specific installations. Fiber, as a medium, also provides low-impact design solutions, particularly when paired with recycled materials and local landscape elements. I also love that my work, as someone who also writes about eco-textiles, artisan-based initiatives, and the slow fashion movement, allows me to create a home environment that is constantly evolving with the displayed objects that I am currently researching or interpreting.

‘Femme Maison’ collage with knotted wool, paper cut-out and pins by Abigail Doan (after Louise Bourgeois)

My home in Sofia, Bulgaria, is pretty much arranged in an open plan where constant interaction with my family and friends is encouraged. It is a common phenomenon for homes in Eastern Europe to have rooms that are multi-purpose, that is, a dining room, living room, or personal study easily and efficiently transforms into a bedroom for several people come nightfall.

My view in Sofia with fiber forms for Vogue Knitting Live in progress (January, 2012)

I also try to make good use of terrace space for growing small plants, herbs, and outdoor projects that overlap with evolving fiber projects that I need to “aerate” a bit before finalizing. Every day includes time spent gazing at Sofia’s Mount Vitosha while I hang clothes out to dry adjacent to neighboring porches draped with woven kilims basking in the sun and vines creeping over garden trellises.

Collaborative work space at the end of the day includes fiber forms in progress and drawings by the twins

My sculptural fiber forms and still life arrangements often migrate from room to room in a dialogue with my children’s play activities as they, too, draw and create objects with materials that we collectively recycle in the home or find on the streets. I generally make a point of documenting my work process and their creative expressions on a regular basis, as I feel that this informs my own work in dynamic and unexpected ways. Early mornings or late evenings are reserved for writing and more delicate assemblage projects – at least until my boys begin kindergarten full-time.

The beauty of all of this integrated home/art/parenting is the fact that my process has become so much more resourceful in the process. Life with children has taught me a lot about what it truly means to be fresh and creative with both materials and time management. Editing is now a big part of my day, my night, and my hands-on work. There is a certain clarity that comes from making things work in the time and space that one has available. Every parent feels as if they are perhaps re-inventing the wheel, but this a good thing when it comes to crafting a purposeful and believable genius of place.


After a five year wait, Megan Reilly returns with her new album The Well, out April 24 (Carrot Top Records). Megan is a mother, artist and musician, her new record is inspired by these three facets of her life. Website :: Tumblr :: Sew the Threads into Your Heart – from her latest album.

When I was younger I was a visual artist. It wasn’t until about the age of fifteen I began playing guitar, writing songs and taking singing seriously. Music always inspired art for me. Many drawing and sculpture assignments were finished late in the night listening to the music that inspired me, eventually convincing me to drop out and pursue it. I was a Photography major in college. I loved sculpture and painting. I learned how to weld, gesso a canvas and think conceptually about what I was making. I studied Art History and I took every art elective possible until I had nothing left but Geology and Speech left to complete my degree.

When music took the place of art, I always felt something was missing. It felt difficult to balance them. Now that I’m a mother I’ve not only figured out how to juggle all I want to do (caffeine) but most importantly art has come back into my life. I made my kid a dollhouse and a puppet theater out of cardboard boxes, painted chalkboard paint on the walls of our apartment, learned to sew and I see how all of these things inspire me in a new way. And there’s no pressure. I feel productive and satiated. I thought it was just a distraction for a while. But the older I get the more I realize that who I am is someone that needs art to function. And having other creative outlets aside from music takes the pressure off songwriting.

I am not disciplined and that’s fine. Or maybe I’m disciplined to work like someone with attention deficit. I realized when making my most recent record with a 3yr old in the house, I worked whenever I could. I wrote a line of lyrics when she watched tv or was in preschool. Sitting down to make a quilt or puppet theater kept my mind busy and thinking creatively. I let go and the whole enchilada worked out and I made the best music of my life so far.

Years ago a teacher showed me Grandma’s Bottle Village-The Art of Tressa Prisbey. A lady in a moomoo digging through the junkyard to make art. She’s my inspiration.


Niamh O’Connor is a stitch artist and designer working at Urban Threads, where they are revolutionizing machine embroidery one edgy, elegant, innovative, and/or offbeat design at a time.

When I first started designing for embroidery as a freshly graduated illustrator, I was often frustrated by what did and did not translate into thread. Stuff that would look fantastic on paper would just not work out the same in embroidery. Small details, print effects like halftone and offset printing, large designs… it was all limited by thread detail, trims, and hoop size. I would sometimes find myself wishing that embroidery could do more.

Over time, I’ve learned that you can pull out some truly gorgeous stuff if you just learn to design to its strengths, instead of fighting against its weaknesses. With this series, Baroque Punk, I wanted to focus on the one thing embroidery does better than anything: stitch dimension.

Beautiful, textural satin stitches can catch the light and make embroidery look like a sculptural relief when done right. It’s a technique that was common in the regal days of old, but oft forgotten in today’s modern machine designs. When researching embroidery through the ages, I was taken by the ornate qualities of the Baroque period. I thought it the perfect example of a “tapestry” of stitches and depth, and I wanted to bring that back.

This Baroque Punk series juxtaposes those ornate sculptural qualities of Baroque art with tattoo design. While still honoring embroidery’s roots, I wanted to make it fresh and modern by changing up the subject matter. Besides, we can’t seem to miss the chance to throw a skull into things now and then.

To leave the usual “kitsch” association with machine embroidery behind as far as possible, we at Urban threads decided to pair these designs with something you don’t often see machine embroidery on: modern couture fashion — proving that these kinds of designs would hold up to that kind of application, and to show that machine embroidery can be a lot more elegant than its often thought to be. To bring the project to life, we collaborated with celebrated fashion designer Laura Fulk, whose modern and edgy line has appeared on countless catwalks in the Midwest and to rave reviews at local fashion shows. Her classic yet slightly offbeat aesthetic was the perfect style to match the paradoxical Baroque Punk designs.

Together we hit upon the idea of a sharply tailored and asymmetrical jacket mixed with raw edges and patchwork. We wanted to offset the classic look and give it a grunge feel. The layers of fabric would also help to emphasize the overall deep texture we were going for, in both the jacket and the designs.

The blazer came to life in pieces. Laura hand-dyed and marked out her patterns on large swatches of fabric, and then mailed it to me for the embroidery. Using mostly templates, I experimented with placement, size and mirroring effects to get the overall tapestry look I was going for, and embroidered everything over the course of two late nights. Once back in Laura’s hands, it was crafted into the finished jacket and then given a second dye bath, to give the colors a richer, grungier hue.

The whole project took about three weeks from the first sketch to the final shot. This collaboration, along with a few others we have done over the past year, are all part of a larger project we call The Lab, an initiative to experiment, collaborate, and innovate to see just what can be done with the art of embroidery. We’ve had great fun working with other talented people and love finding out just what this medium can do. We plan for many other projects in the future!

If you want to grab the designs yourself, you can get them all right here. See more about this project over on our blog Stitchpunk, or take a peek at a behind the scenes look of the making of the jacket and the embroidery.

Credits: Model: Lucie Mulligan || Photography: Burt Edwards || Hair/Makeup: Sara Capers