Living in Miniature, in a GAP…

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Last week saw me lend a hand in a Gap Filler workshop for children to design a ‘tiny house’ as part of a wider initiative to encourage Christchurch to reconsider the quarter acre section idea and look to a more sustainable future for the city – perhaps…

With childlike imagination, and the common sense of a young inquisitive mind, the next generation set about learning how to design the interior of a 10m squared living box.  Yes… a box.  Scaling up objects we see as vital to our homely existence would struggled to fit comfortably in this space, and so creative problem solving became the tool for rethinking what you need, what that need looks like, and how to live well with it in miniature.

Joined by innovative architect Andrew Just from FIELD, I offered the link to the fluffy, textured well-being and design, whilst he offered a magical insight into his interests in compact and compartmentalised living spaces.  Inspired by iconic European greats, he added a sense of structure and logic to the mix.  All in all, everyone got to work at creating a space that would work as a functional oasis of well-being, for that user.  Privacy and commune work alongside each other, which are values I have come to revisit also whilst being in a city centre lacking in population.  Each day in the city provides an awkward sense of ghostly abandonment at times, but then where you turn the next corner and a community of like-minded ethics have colonised, and regenerated.  Pockets of energy and ‘buzz’ are aplenty, which is why I guess it is a great time to encourage the future creative minds to now take part…

We explored the tiny buildings at the Commons and the differences in use and meaning – but the togetherness of the layout was important as a tool for encouraging collective thought as well as personal need.  A grassed area, in a circle, was a simple format to then place small dwellings around, facing in, looking at each other, but remaining cosy places for each of the community to flourish – here is a community folks!  Here is your commune and private space!

IMG_1845This week revisited, for me, the reoccurring theme of ‘home’.  I am always questioning what ‘home’ looks, feels, tastes, smells and sounds like as for me, memories are my home, for now.  The idea of working out what I don’t need, means what I do need is most vital, which is the approach we took.  Looking at how a space makes you feel, and how you can change that with design started to link not only with my interior design studies but with the concept of ‘mind-set’.

A change of mind-set, of habit, can change the way a place makes you feel.  I honestly feel that those pioneering people at the heart of this emotional ‘rebuild’ journey, here in ChCh, like the Gap Filler’s of the city, have changed their mind-set since the quake to create a new way forward.  I hope the city follows suit.  I am trying to.  I am learning to try this each day, and with that has come new skills, variety in observation and a new desire to build ‘small’ in all aspects of my life when ‘home’.


PS… You don’t need planning permission for these!

UK are you ready for this?!?

Repurposing and Upcycling ChCh

It seems both poignant and relevant for Dave and I to support a mass-response, from the ChCh creative community, towards the horrendous waste culture surrounding the demolition of homes within the city presently.

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Our ‘home’ was one of the demolished and wasted historical artefacts of the city’s story so far.  Our insurance company required us to vacate overnight, and the demolition process was carried out in an entirely non-empathetic or sympathetic way towards the memories, human stories and environmental consequences linked to this dwelling.  Ease of throw away culture won vs the resourcefulness of the thought of the buzzword ‘recycle’, or even ‘repurpose’ or ’ upcycle’.  We saved a small amount of native remu but the rest was swept up and disposed of, along with the heritage and values of this iconic kiwi wood material.

IMG_6585Next stage: the ‘Rebuild’ planning stages.

A rebuild for resale can only mean one thing – a ‘new’ build.  A brand spanking, shiny, plastic new –build, where surfaces glisten with acrylic characteristics, man-made fibres herald ‘warmth’ and a humble lack of personality graces the new owners to reflect ‘lifestyle’ rather than ‘home’.  What a stark contrast, we feared, to the previous ‘home’.  The narrative adjoining the development of a westernised population on the Canterbury plains, along with references to British design, have been disposed of in the same skip as the house materials.

The resourceful problem solving undertaken by the first settlers, and developed by rather enthusiastic ‘self- DIYer’s’ over the years will be replaced by linear boxes.  No.  We decided to respond to this waste in the only we way we could, by paying homage to the exterior that once stood there, and attempting to fuse tradition with new materials.  If we had rebuilt for us, we would be ‘upcycling’ and incorporating old/new materials with much more reference to environmental consequence, but sadly, like many others, we are not able to ‘repurpose’ the old with new.  It must all be new.


With this in mind, when stumbling across this initiative, at last minute, we knew we wanted to support this idea.  A picket fence married well with my Microhouse residency, and was a small playful practice at fusing the creative idea of an artist with the practical thought process of a joiner.  Teamwork = success.  Yes!  We are going to be OK at working together in business to be functional and creative!  And we have supported this project, in the last day of submission.  Useful and fun for us, and the whole city!

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Check out the results of over 250 artists coming together, across the country, to ‘repurpose’ the entire contents of a carefully demolished house into new objects of delight and use.  Just fantastic!  For me, this embodies all that is most wonderful about the kiwi – the resourcefulness, creativity of thought and inherent need to recycled and ‘repurpose’ for the greater good and more rustic existence.  I hope this can be a new value for the city’s rebuild and that the heritage is as much reintroduced, but in a ‘repurposed’ manner, as the new developments of tomorrow.

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The Good Life!

Having more time in each day away from UK commuting, has given me the opportunity to explore the culture of food a little more. 

NZ and natural goodness walk hand in hand, and it seems that kiwis thrive to enjoy the fruits of hard work from other green fingered kiwis making use of organic business opportunities from lifestyle blocks and the land.  

Farmers markets form part of the weekly routine over here, with locally grown produce affordable to everyone to enjoy.  

I just love my weekly trips to the market where I collect ingredients to inspire a creative menu, eat local produce and mingle with city goers over a latte and sweet treat.  I fill my Joules shopper with delights that I them marry with my own harvested produce.  That’s thanks to my new green-fingered kiwi family who helped me plant my veggie patch!



We eat well, and have even tried quinoa!  The local wholefoods organic shop is reasonably priced and the food mags inspire a real sense of the Good Life.  On the more negative side, Americanisation has hit ChCh hard and fast food culture is all too abundant.  Restaurants are either too pricey or just not that great, seeming as if kiwis just serve up food stuff as they see fit, and not how the rest of the world has come to enjoy. The service leaves a sour taste sometimes, and the experience of eating out is rushed lacking in substance and social etiquette – voices are loud and the ambience just isn’t right.  BUT what the kiwis do do well is coffee culture, deli lunches and offering people the chance to cook with the freshest ingredients.  I ask myself why, then, are the fast food chains buzzing?  I would go for pumpkin risotto anyday!


A lovely fellow artist took me foraging in The riverscape ‘Red Zone’, where I collected plentiful fruits for baking, and learnt a few tips about orchard development along the way.  I also now pick lemons from the garden and handfuls of fresh herbs in abundance on my door step!


I choose to have brunch out and dinner in.  I mix it up with good coffee and Pinot Gris.  I have learnt to adapt to a different food culture and have developed my green fingered skills a long the way.  I now harvest, collect, forage and create with food.  I feel healthy and wholesome in my approach to life.  Maybe that kind of food ‘culture’ is more important than eating out anyway – it’s sure as hell cheaper! 


The Nomad Creative & Co-Working Blast for Charity!

This week the collaborative spaces I have come to feel inspired by, have donated their income from hot-desking to Nepal.

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Appropriate and meaningful…

Collaboration and co-working has responded, here in Christchurch, to the loss of the physicality of the city CBD as well as the dispersal, and subsequent fractured feel, of the community in the aftermath of the quakes.  The sensitive link between the blossoming of creative collaboration since the ChCh quake and the want to support the people of Nepal to find their direction, meant there was no better time for me to re-work my daily routine, and engage with this fab fundraising campaign whilst checking out this co-working ideal.

I felt anxious and worried that it would not be for me.  I guess I was judging from my inherent fear of office environments in general.  Or ‘9-5’ in general.  But creative ideas development is trendy, and actually relevant to me.  But in an office…?

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I casually packed my lap-top and lunch, and strolled into the space.  I was taken aback by the faces looking in my direction wondering what I did, what I could contribute and how I would engage.  This scared the hell out of this nomadic professional, which for months has hidden behind social media to gain any sense of engagement with my professional developments of late.  I managed 2 hours at a desk before realising that a creative mind cannot be forced into the structure of producing at a desk, all day.  BUT, it was a great chance to feel energised from the focus and attentive developments taking place around me, and I did get some important work done!

I have been without a studio, an office, a home and a reality for 6 months and jumping feet-first into a co-working space was actually not the right thing for me, it seemed.  I left thinking I miss my studio and cannot get the creative juices flowing in an office set-up.  However, reflecting upon this I realised that I do need an office environment, sometimes, for some things connected to my creative journey.  I seem to be able to write freely, for my imagination, outside in the landscape, or thoughtfully in a café.  I love making around the energy of others.  I can’t work in noisy places or with too many eyes on me.  I can settle in isolation, but not always.  I can work in a social place, but not every day.  I do need a focused space to engage me with certain admin tasks as a modern creative.

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Hot-desking seems to be a great option for me, at times.  I needed to return to try again.

This time I spent a full day there, and realised that this was not the best option, and that half a day is enough for me.  I enjoyed feeling at liberty to make that choice and open to accept the need to make that choice.  I felt productive, but frazzled.  Freelancing enables me to work to my strengths, and co-working promotes that.

What’s important here?

Not the space. It is not a desk, wifi or coffee.  It is people.  It is the smiles greeting you.  The inquisitive moments.  Learning something new.

Co-working is indeed involving a space, but really it is the cohesion of a like-minded community who work to support, challenge and further the ideas of the community.

In the permanent co-working space ideas were buzzing around freely with a relaxed rhythm to the day.  People came and went, and projects were furthered.  I enjoyed listening.


Maybe I do need a space like this for aspects of my work.


Creatively, I must adapt the space for me, and be open to the experience.

An artist needs a play and work space.

Thus, I will be back, for a morning here and there – thanks to Ministry of Awesome for the opportunity!

Rebuilding a home and mapping out our life

 I thought I would include, briefly, why we are really here.  We are rebuilding a house.  We are rebuilding our lives.  We are creating a new home for a family, and learning new skills along the way.  We are supporting the rebuild and restoration of ChCh.  We are working hard for ChCh and our future.  Here’s the story so far…




Designing my interior!

Today someone reminded me of an important scientific, and cultural, link effecting the way we live each and everyday of our lives – gratitude and mindfullness.  This concept can change mind-set, chemical balance within and enliven our senses to enable us to live fully.  Gratitude is hard to come by, and being grateful for things in each day, each week and overall is a skill rather than trait, for me anyway.  Once trained, gratitude has opened my eyes to a new world, more layered aesthetics and greater substance to each small detail I now notice.

Ingredients like mindful moments, yoga and simple walks combined with challenges of career building have dispersed habits and enlivened my sense to, surprisingly, just look around me, all the time…


I have learnt today that by rooting ourselves with strength,resilience and grace (watch where you put your feet and breathe…) we are enabling ourselves to feel the close proximity of gratitude, and can thus reach out to further ourselves.  By taking time to place myself, to arrive, I am allowing myself to be culturally aware at a  new heightened level of ‘awareness’, which feels so good!

Mindfully, I have been trying to ensure I balance my experience of New Zealand fairly between artistic intention and remaining present in each moment to observe without judgement  this new world around me.  Feeling starved of obvious cultural menus, I have learnt to delve into the every-day and nature for inspiration, which with gratitude, has enabled me to revisit the value in this form of inspiration.

Mostly, that has been HARD work, but lately, not so…

I have learnt to be flexible with my task list, intentions and proposed outcomes, to ensure I am taking moments daily to walk, drink a leisurely coffee, watch and listen to the world around me.

I have learnt an awful lot about myself through this process, and it is resonating now into observing effective time management and a loosening up of a tightly coiled academic tie.  Culturally, this is a shocking ‘culture’ change for me!

I am actually now studying interior design, after years of following an academic path.  I am opening myself up to the importance of aesthetics again, after shunning this for so long, for theory and concept.  I now understand the value of the environment around me, and the link between aesthetic design and well-being.  Scientifically, my mind-set is changing as I, now, start off each day with an inherent daily sense of gratitude.  Mindfully, I am loving, again, the world of design.

Nature and nurture (NZ) has inspired me to reflect on the need for considered life-style shaping design, be it mindfully or tangibly, in my every-day life and have started to consider how I can respond to this for others around me, through interior design.  Wow – I feel inspired!

Turning over a new leaf…

Culture and Creativity – a la NZ!

I found life in New Zealand flat and not in the slightest bit fulfilling for the first few months, unable to rely on the outdoors and imagination to fill my days and satisfy my want for learning and experience.  Short histories, simple narrative and a depleted cultural hub were making me miss ‘detail’, ‘wisdom’ and home, every day.  Unable to pop to a national gallery, drink wine at midnight, chat to curious cafe-goers or even purchase an affordable book left me high and dry.  Nothing was alike to Europe, and everything seemed to lack the ‘finesse’ I had come to expect from EVERYTHING, EVERY DAY.

That was until I joined the library, found NZ Pinot Gris, enjoyed home-cooked meals at home with crisp wine and learnt to find informative ‘stuff’ from other sources that were alien to me previously.  I developed a taster of he resourceful characteristic that defines the most cultured here.  Alternative ways of seeing the world meant I still ‘experienced’ but in a different form and more gradually.  in time I have found to be far less ignorant with expectations and learnt to ‘make my own fun’, as my beloved kiwi always tells me.  I have saved money, developed new skills and started to learn from different sources, thus feeling like I am broadening horizons – who would have thought it!  Not me, 4 months ago!

I was used to, and complacent of, to having stimulation overload back in the UK and plentiful opportunities to pack my hours full of being not cultured, BUT ‘busy’.

‘BUSY’ has come to mean something of far less value since having the time to change being ‘busy’ into being ‘mindful’ and making my time precious to me again.  ‘Time’ has both tormented me and re-energised me, forcing me to choose, now, to use my time wisely and place my well-being at the forefront of each decision I make in my day.

Freedom from the gruelling daily commute and tiresome duties for public benefit through the day job has enlivened my creativity once again.  I am now in fact busier than ever but with interests and passions, all balanced with mindful relaxation to create space in my life.  My diary has never been so clear, yet I have never felt so focused on the task in hand.  I am productive, most days, and allow myself creative treats.  ‘Culture’ for me, now encompasses the culture of enjoying a ‘happy’ life.  That balanced with intellectual stuff, career stuff and boring stuff is, for me, a cultural experience.

Now I delight in the wind, kicking around the autumnal leaves and cycling into a blizzard of leaves falling from the trees with excitement.  I have found interest in the every-day again, and have become able to realise inspiration as a normality in each day.  I can be moderately busy AND feel accomplished, but thoughtful too.  I can relax and enjoy a leisurely coffee as I now understand the richness of information being relayed from the simple experience, by being in the moment and not too ‘busy’ or ‘cultured’ to notice.  I ride my bike and feel alive.  I sketch the rich colours of nature that seem to change each morning.  I am studying again, and can read at length with an attentive mind.  I can take a break and achieve, and smile.  I eat slowly.  I bake.  I grow veg.  I paint.  I write business plans and manage a house-build.  I design new-build interiors.  I research.  I walk.  I think.  I analyse.  So, I guess, with a sense of harmony I am in-fact busy but without feeling over-whelmed, pulled apart or buzzing frantically around the Hive.

This bee is excited about returning to her creative ‘HIVE’ in a few weeks to see what lies ahead for this culture vulture, or normal ‘every-day’ Amy!