Friday, December 24, 2010

How about yes?

We often say no. No to work requests. No to the check out lady when she asks whether you brought your coupon card. No to nice ladies who wish you to donate to charity. No to animals that want food right now. No to kind invitations. No to confirming someone we don't know on Facebook. No to different ideas. No to things we don't agree with.

We could decide to say yes for a change. Have you noticed how we have taught ourselves to usually pop up some automated barriers, when interacting with other people? They ask something and we immediately spell out no or go erm.... and why is that? To protect ourselves? From what exactly? From having more fun?

Recently I said yes to these things:

  • I said yes to spending a special day at a friends place in the city even though I absolutely prefer and love spending that particular time on our farm. It made my friend happy that we're coming and me too.
  • I said yes to giving money to a busker. He looked happy. I was too.
  • I said yes to admitting design work to a local art competition and included a friend of mine. My friend was happy to go along with this crazy plan as the deadline is a week away.
  • I said yes to working Christmas eve. My boss was happy and she said I could leave earlier when I felt like it. We were both happy.
  • I said yes to many wonderful things next year that I will know will acquire me to be focused and dedicated. I know it will be fun. This made me very happy and my design friend too.
  • I said yes to my husband changing his job (Actually I have been saying yes to that for about 12 months now). This made him happy and me too.
  • I said yes to another kune kune pig arriving on our farm. After the initial debate pig Spunky had with new pig Piggie we are all very happy. I asked Spunky to learn to say yes.
  • I said yes to designing a new book cover for my mum's new poetry book. She was thrilled and I was happy too.
  • I said yes to a bbq Christmas dinner and staying at home. I did make a superb desert and it's called Ambrosia. My husband and I are both happy with that.
  • I said yes to learning a new skill and accepted it takes time to do it well. It makes me very happy.
  • I said yes to new changes and I said yes to new possibilities and new ventures for 2011.
  • I said yes to my life changing all across the board. For the better. It's exciting! It makes me happy.
  • I said yes to the decision to say more and more yes.
How about you?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry and Happy

The best wishes are yet again zooming around the planet. Christmas is close at hand. And summer holidays too for all here down under!

The best story I have heard in the last few days was from a dear friend. I won't repeat it here but it was incredibly hilarious. Smiling at things is a blessing. It takes the seriousness out of a situation and makes us relax and have fun. I mean, it's Christmas after all. What can you do for others to cheer them up?

Here's a toast to a kiwi (New Zealand) summer! Wishing you a most wonderful time too, wherever you are.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Why is it that the Art world and the people who work in it professionally have such a need to explain all its aspects or make clever possible and assumed explanations of why a particular Art work is created? What is Art about? To me all sorts of talks about Art are fascinating only because we hear the story the speech giver is relating to us, which says more about them personally then the actual Art work. It gives us insight into the person, but does it give information about the Art work? 

A fascinating example of that is this story here about the work "woman with sticks' by Ron Mueck, see the video by clicking on this. (Amazing works by the way.)

I don't know why but these sorts of speeches have always bothered me. Not me personally, but in the sense that apparently there is a need to lift Art, for it to be taken seriously, to a level of explain-away-literacy. To me many Art folk have the habit to say "let's create this complicated story so dumb people "get" what this Art work is about". I find this behavior quite baffling. In Art-school, myself and my fellow students could quite happily create Art at a fast pace or having to take much time, usually via association and through ideas that popped in our heads. Yes we did many drawings and sketches and so on and sometimes we were simply on a roll. Only later would we come up with a clever story to explain why we used old pots and pans to create a sculpture for example. This was a necessary requirement to be able to concoct the most fabulous of theories that our professors would understand. Never mind we were on student pennies and the local second hand shop carried the funny pots which fit the bill too. I think Art critics should carefully consider an artist's life and his or her surroundings instead of filling in the blanks with their own witty interpretations, but that is just me.

To me Art works simply tell the story of a creator and what the creator thinks about, what they value and what they love. It is all inevitably inter connected. Art is visual story telling pure and simple. Of course it can be most fascinating to understand intricate aspects we otherwise would miss, but that can be fine if we so choose. Art for me will always be interpreted through our feelings, not our analytical mind to "understand". Then some say, but it is good to "educate". Is it? Perhaps it is to learn to make up your own mind eventually.

If we want to know more about any Art we can go talk to the artist. They made it and only they can tell you their story and answer the questions. Sure some stories will be complicated, and some will be simple. But isn't that just the beauty and the richness of life itself? Is Art not as diverse as we people are?

So why make it so fluffing difficult to explain Art? I still don't get it. That's alright, it doesn't worry me but I do find it amusing.

Friday, December 17, 2010


This last week I have noticed numerous instances where people online have entered comments to defend their hurt feelings regarding online topic debates or to simply observe participants at play. Fascinating. As many of us spend so much time online, including grandmothers and grandfathers who are a growing demographic on Facebook, we are taking the daily conversation to the inter-sphere. Nothing new there, but how we incorporate these platforms IS. It is likely we will see increases of different and more seamlessly joined forms of communication, both technically based, and not. It's an exciting time to live in.

So why is the way of communication changing? Not just because we have access to all the techy gizmos. We basically upgraded to other forms of connection then we did previously. Mind you we still stand around the bbq in summer and catch up on all the highs and lows too, as we have physical bodies to sustain. Online at times we seem to be more honest then we would be in real life, giving our opinion more readily. On the other hand there are plenty of people who enjoy the game of make pretend. Calling people names or sharing our inner most secrets is really an individual choice. The whole behavioral dynamic is what I personally find most wonderful to watch.

And then there is the choice you have to make in all aspects: how much do you want to share? Once it's out there it's hard if not impossible to erase. The written or video-made testimony is out there for as long as there is internet. I have discussed this with various people. The credo is: if you don't have anything to hide, you shouldn't have anything to worry about. On the same token: common sense rules. Always remember, as you do offline and online, the rules of the game are the same: if you behave like a jerk people will stop wanting to play with you and no longer choose to respect or like your word. Social online communication does require some skill and practice. Being a douche doesn't. Something to ponder.

A good friend of mine says: "don't take it personally". There is truly a lot of wisdom in that.

Monday, December 13, 2010

the hard yards

Often we may feel we are always doing the "hard yards". Working when others have stopped doing so, working the weekends, looking after children when we may not feel like it, visiting people when we'd rather collapse on the couch at home, listen to a client who's getting on our nerves, having to phone someone when we don't feel like it, take the trash out and do the dishes, and on and on.

So are those hard yards really worth it or are we really fooling ourselves thinking that making our own lives difficult will somehow help us towards becoming more joyous in our work and daily life? Since when has punishing ourselves with dedication to other causes then what we really want to do, aided us in feeling better about ourselves?

Yep. I don't know the magic number either. Having a farm-let did teach me this: whether you are happy or sad, tired like hell or happy: the animals always need tending to and always come first (if you have kids enter "kids" where I had put "animals" -same rule applies.) So yes by all means finish projects you know need doing, but allow "me time" to balance yourself out. You are as important as the people you promised you would do things for.

Instead of getting so worn out that you feel like being in a continual state of full blown PMS, consider the opposite:
fighting or battling against something will cost you more energy then if you accept that at the moment it is all simply as it is. (I have done this regarding my daily work and my that has made a huge amount of difference, I'm even quite restful about it. I can be Zen when others get in a tizzy.)
Then take your foot of the friggin' accelerator and park next to the road. Notice the wild flowers. See the hare dashing across the road in the distance. Sniff some hay-fever elements! In any event; stop pushing yourself like you have a work addiction. Seriously! Would it be the end of the world if a project would finish later? Would it matter that the house is still not painted before Christmas? Would it matter you will not have a flash dinner this Christmas day but instead settle for a "salad in 5 min option"? Does it really concern you that you are a bit late with some things you wanted to do this year? 

Once you step outside of that zone of "have to have to have to panic panic tired tired PMS feelings" you will notice something quite wondrous!
The sun comes up every morning. You actually see it this time. Everything simply pans out as it pans out. You will however have reclaimed your sanity. That my friends, is already a miracle this time of year. Now go find a friend or a lovely tree, and hug it. Voila! Instant happiness. Just... Chill... Out!! You have worked hard! Now have some fun too or simply allow some extra hours snoozing in bed.

Told you it could be done. You just have to allow yourself to try. And stop pushing.
"Battle less, love more" - Gabriel

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


The arrest of Wikileaks founder mr Assange has sparked much debate about freedom of speech and the way governments run their business. Now the fact that mr Assange has been arrested (and is likely to be extradited to Sweden on an alleged rape charge) we can see that rumors do not just spark, opinions are very much divided and many people have stong feelings about this case. Is the rape charge not just simply a cover up to stop Wikileaks and make readers believe they are baddies? Is Wikileaks not just another form of terrorism? What is it really that needs protecting? 

Only the ignorant believe that military and political groups are there to protect our safety. Think about this carefully. Does anything really need protecting at all? If there's nothing to hide then there should be no problems in the information coming to the surface, so why have this existing system anyway. Who does it really benefit?  
(Note: I'm not advocating going on a rampage of deliberately releasing information without thinking through what the impact will be. The debate here is not so much politics or individuals/idealistic groups but very much Ethics.)

It looks that the way Politics have been run is changing: with online media available to practically everyone on the planet, news spreads like wild fire. Trying to control this would be a mistake and only leads to one action: either severe conflict to try and gain control again (a very old school approach) or perhaps it would be novelty to start afresh by being transparent. This openness could mean that we all could accept that we are indeed all earthlings instead of sticking to our little individual agendas. Short term thinking and ego driven actions are simply on the way out. The new flavor of the day is a strong desire for genuine behavior build on mutual respect and trust.

The danger today is that all of us are still looked upon as potential terrorists. At airports we are screened, soon iris photos will be taken to identify everyone and unless we say no you can bet on it they will come up with a way to convince us all that having a chip injected under your skin would be so beneficial to your health and protection. (Flu injections anyone?) More and more people wake up and clue in on the fact what is really happening around us. We have started to realize how things work: what we are told daily (what we are fed) and we get an idea on the vast enormity on what we are not. 

We are choosing a new way to look at things, a new way to run our own lives and do this respectfully and transparently. Wikileaks may have done this in a very controversial manner. The fact it touches so many nerves should tell us something. Perhaps one day in the future we can say that the reason this happened because it sparked the debate that was needed to move forward and clean up our act. Governments will find they will have to change tack, as their people simply do not wish to participate in the old ways anymore. The world has become too small for that.

From today's 'the New York Times':
"Mr. Assange depicted WikiLeaks as a proponent of what he termed scientific journalism, which “allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on.”
“That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?” he wrote. “Democratic societies need a strong media, and WikiLeaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest.” (...)
As of Monday night, the group had released fewer than 1,000 of the quarter-million State Department cables it had obtained, reportedly from a low-ranking Army intelligence analyst.
So far, the group has moved cautiously. The whole archive was made available to five news organizations, including The New York Times. (...)
Justice Department prosecutors have been struggling to find a way to indict Mr. Assange since July, when WikiLeaks made public documents on the war in Afghanistan. But while it is clearly illegal for a government official with a security clearance to give a classified document to WikiLeaks, it is far from clear that it is illegal for the organization to make it public. (...)
In recent months, WikiLeaks gave the entire collection of cables to four European publications — Der Spiegel in Germany, El PaĆ­s in Spain, Le Monde in France and The Guardian. The Guardian shared the cable collection with The New York Times. (...) The five publications have announced no plans to make public all the documents. WikiLeaks’ intentions remain unclear."
From excellent
"Over the long haul, we will need new checks and balances for newly increased transparency — Wikileaks shouldn’t be able to operate as a law unto itself anymore than the US should be able to. In the short haul, though, Wikileaks is our Amsterdam. Whatever restrictions we eventually end up enacting, we need to keep Wikileaks alive today, while we work through the process democracies always go through to react to change. If it’s OK for a democracy to just decide to run someone off the internet for doing something they wouldn’t prosecute a newspaper for doing, the idea of an internet that further democratizes the public sphere will have taken a mortal blow."

Further news on this story: 10th Dec:
Great read on
  • About EasyDNS, a company accused and backlashed for supporting Wikileaks and then pulling the plug; alas they were confused with a similarly named company. Now they do support Wikileaks. The story: click here
  • Dutch teen of 16 arrested for aiding Wikileaks. About how Wikileaks is organized and who works for them: groupforming. Read more here.
Further news: Reuters: 15th December:
  • Assange back in jail as Sweden appeals bail> read here
  • U.S. Air Force blocks NY Times and Guardian over WikiLeaks > read here

Monday, December 6, 2010

back to school

Whether you actually will go back to school to study or not: keeping an open mind always has benefits. Some scientists will explain in great detail how certain synapses in the brain are activated and new pathways are built and so on. As I'm not a scientist but a communication designer I will just stick with this:
the willingness to learn is as important as actually learning something itself.

Before we decide to walk mount Ruapehu, mount Cook, mount Kilimanjaro or climb a horse, we have to decide to simply wanting to put one foot forward. We then actively start to carry out our made decision to "move". With the moving the action starts and things are getting into motion. This is the start of the Process. Then there is the "doing", the walking the riding the sweating the absorbing of that which we are interested to do, to acquire experience which provides us insight, which inspires us, which provides knowledge, and ultimately joy and wisdom.

Do we have to go to school to do all these things? Sometimes yes sometimes no.
The good news is that now free education is available. Yes, the time of online schooling is well and truly here and the best news is that you can attend, when you like and it doesn't cost you anything except your time.

From fastcompany: Udemy; a free online university for all.
"GAGAN BIYANI Cofounder and presidentUdemy Palo Alto, 23, is connecting the eager-to-teach with the eager-to-learn through Udemy, the Academy of You.

"There are millions of experts everywhere, and we provide them with the tools to share their knowledge online. Udemy gives instructors the ability to use video, PowerPoint, articles, and blog posts to build rich courses. They can even host virtual conferences with students. People spend $9 billion on casual learning each year, and another $20 billion on continuing and professional education. We can catalyze that market to move online, and provide forums that create in-depth learning experiences about everything from Thai cooking to calculus to Esperanto. We launched in May 2010 and more than 2,000 courses have been created. We're introducing a pay platform so our instructors can decide if they want to charge for their courses, but we expect 80% will remain free. The education industry is very top-down, but this has the power to change that."
So there you go, if you are keen to learn more and were unsure how to go about it: Udemy might be just right for you. If you always wondered how to go to a club and dance cool: here's the tutorial :) > click here

Friday, December 3, 2010

art that speaks..

There is something about these photographs that is both beautiful and unnerving. These works are by Charlie McLenahan - her website is hereI guess everyone who sees them may have a different feeling about them naturally.

Somehow it seems to show both how we care about living beings and how we have distanced ourselves as well (slaughterhouses etc, the reality of SPCA)

Sometimes too we may find we cling on to something that is no longer there... I find this photo of the chookie very impressive.

And this one touching. It may happen too, that our connection with a being has become something that we distinctly remember, and it has become a part of who we are as it lives along in our memories. We treasure this time, as we have treasured them.
Charlie says about her work:
"I am a London born artist now living in Moray,Scotland, where I completed my BA (Hons) for fine art. My art uses the medium of photography to show the things that we all see but never look at. Within this work I have photographed road kill and any other newley found dead to create an immortality for the animal." 
"this work consists of an expose of the soulless exploitation of the natural world it manipulates the interface between the digital and the dead to effect the transition between life, death and eternity"
All I can add is: thank you life, that is both breathing and dead. Special and cumber-sum, heavy and light. Thank you animals for adding richness to our lives and putting up with our ignorant antics. We appreciate you being here with us.

For more about Charlie's work, there is wonderful interview by artist Leisa Rich (one of my online friends) here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

yellow brick road

Yesterday a fur seal had an adventure on tar-seal in Dunedin. Fred was on exploration. The humans had a bit of a kafuffle guiding him back to the water whereas Fred was just happy lying on the nice warm grass between the 4 lanes having a snooze. (He loves to eat fresh fish and the occasional muffin. He enjoys playing with humans. Just don't prod him, he has sensitive skin.)

Sometimes other people think we are lost, have no idea what we are doing or doubt our abilities, mostly they just want to do "the right thing" and try and drag us back to that thing they call "reality". Naturally this can be sensible, as let's face it all of us have the occasional blond moment or fly into fairyland. But what if we just want to play? What if we did think about it?

We simply may enjoy having a little adventure, like Fred. Maybe it would be nice if people let us do silly things and pretend we are in charge of our own lives. If we inadvertently hold up traffic, like Fred, then the cops can be called upon. Just don't panic too early when you see someone venturing off into the unknown. It could very well be just the thing for them. Some people call it "going bush", "gone fishing", "painting in nature", "meditating" or "going to a retreat" or even "tree hugging". 

"When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.
-- Pooh's Little Instruction Book, inspired by A. A. Milne"

Seeing people do certain things maybe don't make sense, but it can be useful. If you feel the urge yourself, simply do it by yourself and try not to bother anyone else once you're doing it. And when someone does track you down just be nice to them and thank them for caring.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Today we are going to chat a bit about change. Not that I haven't done so before ;)

I'm going through quite a transformation at the moment and seeing the light or not, one also needs to do the dishes every night and walk the dog. So it is getting into the exhilaration of "knowing" and the act and purposefulness of "doing". I am happy and excited to continue to bring you funny and informative reads. Feedback is always welcome, questions too.

Now then. What are most of us experiencing and wanting at the moment?

You are wanting an expansion of your knowing. Many are troubled. The world as we have known it is changing. Tell your story. Tell of how you wish it to be in your life. Know that you are strong and that your vision (ambition/goals) can be realized. You may be required to leave that which you know to be familiar behind you.

What is holding you back? What is your biggest wish? What do you dream of? What are you afraid of?

Not many want to have their questions answered in fear of what it will tell them. The alternative is to lead your life without knowing. How much fun can there be in that? I have made a start and done things to contribute to that which is good for many. See what you can do. Start a group, build a movement... or simply share what's on your mind and what is waiting in your heart. It's not that hard. You made it so if it is.

Make friends, be open, be courageous, dare to live, cease to be afraid. The time is now and embracing the change that is, is found on your doorstep. Will you take a chance? Open the door and finally immerse in that which is bigger then you. It's exciting and it is fun. Join the Change that we all are becoming.

Monday, November 22, 2010

all in a name?

What's in a name we often ask? Or... a title?

I was reading Nicole's blog post today: about her discovery that she is in fact not a hand-bag designer. To her this was a very important discovery. To others it is probably not that important. Then I remembered reading this leaflet in the car long before I got to work and came across Nicole's blog post. The said leaflet informed me on the different design streams within the local Polytech. I was reading about product design... yes familiar.... fashion design.... not my field... interior design.... yes work in that one.... communication design.... huh? This lovely umbrella of Communication Design covered the whole spectrum of what I have been doing for many years, excluding the activity of goat herding - somehow that is not part of their curriculum. Interesting to read though. I thought: ah! now I can do away with all the summing up of what it is I do, this umbrella would suit me fine.

Sometimes I observe that we have the tendency to either make things unnecessarily complicated, too interesting then it really is or simply too darn wordy. Being concise has benefits. People get a quicker grasp on what it is we do. Of course the questions is: do we wish to be labelled? Does it matter? And: we are often labelled whether we agree with it or not! Do we make enough time to explore more about a person we meet? Look past the label or title enough?

Just recently I met this lovely couple through my work. They live only 10 minutes away from where our farm is and they needed a solution for their interior. A few years ago they helped us with our highland cattle as we had been shifting them from our farm to the neighbors. Then last Saturday I finally discovered what it actually was what the husband does for a profession. He hunts Moose. In New Zealand. With a bunch of cameras. In a very dense large stretched out area called Southland. Apparently he is quite well known throughout New Zealand and I hadn't had a clue, because I hadn't heard about any of it before. His work is controversial and many New Zealanders think that his work and theories are a bunch of crock (as they say here) because no one has seen a live Moose since the 50s. The fact that Ken is relatively famous is not interesting, but the funny fact that it took me a few conversations to finally clue in on the fact that of course there was a lot more to these lovely people then met the eye, as my main priority had been to help them with their interior.

A title or name can be useful, but being labelled can have negative connotations as Ken has found from time to time. Either we choose or accept the label we like/are given or we decide to just play the part we want to ourselves regardless of it. It's not so much what we're called, it's what we do that makes a difference. It's what stories we share ourselves.

More about the topic of labeling here (excellent post)

Friday, November 19, 2010


I like writing about people, not about individuals in a gossipy manner, but how all of us are exploring this vast universe, our world, our private thoughts, our interactions with others. One of my goals is to offer information about these explorations to many people who are looking for it, to meet others and to share knowledge. I would be the first to say: hello you! I'm learning too!

If you would live by yourself all the time, like a hermit, what would you learn really? Don't we learn most when we are interacting with others? At times, the more friction, or upset, the more we can learn, although I wouldn't advocate starting arguments or wars in order to achieve that progress. I read somewhere that the people who challenge us the most, who touch us deeply or simply piss us off beyond belief, are our best teachers. I think this is very accurate.

Instead of perceiving other people as the ones who I'd never like to see again and stay far away from, I have found that it actually doesn't bother me anymore, quite literally too, if I do run into them on occasion it's all fine with me. This is a funny thing and surprisingly: offers great freedom. I can actually wish them well, even if I choose not to be friends with them anymore. I guess we can only be "free" from those, if we have learned to let go of the notion  that we somehow have to "be right" at the end of the conversation, or the silly idea that we always know best. I prefer to think of it as a wise and mature approach, and whenever I catch myself being stuck in an "ego" debate I try to look past whatever it is and "get over it" by realizing I'm being petty or that I don't know all the details.

Being right has never brought anyone anything, except ignorance and arrogance. Haven't we got better things to do? Aren't all of us here to do the same thing? To experience, to grow, and to have fun in a loving and preferably more or less safe environment? I like the idea of treating everyone I meet as if they were related to me in some fashion. This automatically meant I would treat them well, support them in whatever they do and help them if asked for. I will not ask them for anything, as I have all I need inside of me and everyone has got enough to do already. Still, many manage to surprise me with their love, friendship and honesty. To me, that is the most valuable thing of all.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

you giving today?

I found this inspirational video and I very much liked the idea, and how it was so simple and effective.
How to cheer people up quickly and why it is so much fun to be the "do-er" and the "receiver" of that gift.

Found via via Marc from

Monday, November 15, 2010

asking hard questions

Whether you're in business or not: do you ask the hard questions? I find I'm doing this more and more across the board on all sorts of topics. I was having a chat with my dad the other day on the phone about this. What matters really? And what doesn't? This past year I've changed quite a bit. Asking the hard questions is part of my (learning) process. Having fun is one thing, doing something great with a more long term scenario in mind is better. I'm reading an excellent book at the moment by Tony Hsieh: delivering happiness.

So starting something is one thing, carrying it out and finishing things is important to actually get somewhere. This I'm finding more and more and it's exciting to see my focus come into action and create tangible results as well.
Tony's advice to building anything sensibly is this:

  1. Decide. What do you want to do?
  2. Culture & Values. What is it about?
  3. Commit to transparency. Build your Story, be genuine.
  4. Chase vision not $. Big bikkies are nice, but that's not why the game is played.
  5. Build relationships. Meet and treat :)
  6. Build your Team. (Find co-conspirators.)
  7. Think long term!
One of the hard questions I'm wanting to answer today is: why would my designs and creations matter to others? What benefits do they really bring? And do I really want to become a goat-cheese maker in the future?

When we have focus, and are driven, and learn to not spend fluff time on all sorts of projects that get out of hand, we have fun and grow. Ask the hard questions, you will be surprised by the answers.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Most of us carry images in our mind of how the world should be. When reality and those inner images don't overlap or struggle to come to a meet, we generally experience strong emotions as  a result. In the past I observed the bumps and bruises expectations can create when they are not met in my own family. It's not so much painful to me to see this when I am involved, but more so when I'm not as it makes me sad.

What I find funny is my occasional 'bumps' and 'hiccups'. Just when I think I'm on a road of being at peace with things and feeling energetic something might throw me off balance unexpectedly. Then I'm thinking ok what have I done NOW? Sometimes I can laugh about it, other times I call myself an idiot. Usually it's about something I failed to recognize, like say discovering an old habit that I have been ignoring or seeing that my attitude needs re-aligning in an area.

Making small steps and changing the images of our desired life in our minds to a fairly upbeat realistic scenario is more preferable. Self acceptance can be trying if we keep battling parts of who we are: demanding of ourselves to be this or that no matter what. The thing is too that it's not other people's job to live up to your expectations to ease your life, it's your job to live up to yours. And preferably: you will be nice to yourself in the process.

Try and appreciate others even if they don't conform to your expressed or unexpressed wishes. Wouldn't it be a lot nicer if we set each other free? It would surely take the pressure off. And we would be far more fun to be around each other.

So really: trying to accommodate other people's expectations is very hard work, but your own can be such a struggle too. And it doesn't need to be. It takes a lot of willpower to stay true to ourselves and to let others do things their way. Trust that other people are experts at running their own lives, making their own choices, even if you don't see the wisdom of it. You may not be holding all the cards. Let them go.

And have a laugh. I know I am for being such a muppet! (That post was almost too serious for my own good. Time to move on. Have a fab weekend!)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Yay!! Today I can finally share with you the uplifting groovy news that I have been working with design star Joi Murugavell, of Joidesign in Melbourne, to create a very snazzy and most intriguing batty collection of work. Our collaboration name is MOOODLIES. Joi is a Pop-art artist, illustrator and web designer. Like me she has an art degree and many entrepreneurial years behind her. Her website is:

We have developed our first range of art designs. They are a Social Object, a story. They are cushions. The theme of our first collection is "Tea party": the getting-to-know-each-other phase, that works like an initiation ritual. The designs are brimming with whimsy as it is play, a poke for reminding us all not to take life too seriously. (Top picture shows a montage of small parts of our designs - we will show the full designs at a later stage...)

The cushions will have a hook on the back to actually physically hang them on walls. Therein lies the difference, the common place home decor accessory becomes the art work, the art work can also become integrated into daily lives instead of a more "revered" (and usually also hugely expensive) piece. Our designs are printed in a limited edition. We are currently in communications to organize an ideal Art Gallery in Dunedin to hold our first MOOODLIES exhibition. These are exciting times!

Mooodlies is about exchange, about ideas, innovation and... a lot of attitude.
(More on why our collaboration worked so well: read this fascinating theory here, a snippet below:)

"But now, thanks to the Internet, ideas can meet and mate globally and instantaneously like never before. What else is crowdsourcing but working with one another? The cross-fertilization of ideas between, say, Asia and Europe that once took years, decades, or centuries can now happen in minutes while Australia, the Americas, and Africa eavesdrop. The cloud is for everybody, whereas in the old days the sharing of ideas was reserved for the privileged elite. There is, as Stanford economist Paul Romer has argued, not even a theoretical limit to the number of combinations of atoms and electrons we can devise, and the rate at which we devise them is bound to accelerate.
Fasten your seatbelts."

And here is an Oodlie by Joi:
A moo design by me:

Friday, November 5, 2010

young ones

I was at a birthday bash a week or so ago. There was talk about "those young ones these days"... "the cane should be brought back at school".... "no manners nowadays".... "too many teenage mothers".... "we need to give them discipline". As is my nature I couldn't help but interject that ACTUALLY there are a lot of young people out there who make big life changes, who do not follow their parents, who choose a different life for themselves and who do incredible and very many positive things, for others as well as for themselves. I was greeted back with dumbfound expressions. What was I talking about?

It's so easy to generalize, to blame, to pinpoint failure. Too easy in my opinion.

When was the last time you did something wondrous? Something entirely not profitable for someone else? Something selfless just to help out? Have you or haven't you? Did you never make a mistake in your life? Do you know everything? Of course not. 

I came across a young lady's story today and was reminded of the birthday party's mutterings regarding the inadequacies of young folk's behaviour. Isn't it up to adults to set better examples perhaps? To guide in a non preachy way? To be encouraging? Or can we really just have more confidence in younger generations? Why would that be so hard?

From Fastcompany: "Maggie Doyne left on a post-high school trip to Nepal and never came back. After seeing the way kids--many orphans--were living, she called her parents and asked them to send over her life savings, with that money she founded The Kopila Valley Children's Home in 2006. Four years later, she is the legal guardian for 30 orphans and just completed building a school for them. Doyne talked to Fast Company about her remarkable journey, starting as a girl in Mendham New Jersey and ending up a leader for social change in rural Surkhet, Nepal."

Read the whole blogpost here. I'd say that most definitely generalizations aren't very helpful, positive individuals are.
Maggie's website:

Monday, November 1, 2010

social object

Currently my screen printer is working her way through printing a collaboration project. It's an exciting time for me and my fellow designer (who for now shall remain Miss x). I was thinking about the product that we are creating and how it will most certainly become a Social Object in the hands of buyers. (Trust me it looks nothing like the bovines above)

The difference in our approach is that we do not look at our created product as a commercial number, but see it as being both a story as well as an art piece. So even when saying that; why would what we make be ANY different from the gazillion other creations "out there"? Well we'd like our oddball pieces to go viral, to multiply like the Gremlins. As Henrik Werdelin puts it: 

"Virality is all about making your users look awesome in front of their friends". 

So in a nutshell: we make you look good by making you look "different and interesting".

How right Henrik is. We do not see our "work" as just another Art gig, nor as a practical item, it's is actually meant to be a funny focal point in the home, a Social Object. This is where it gets more fascinating.

Hugh Macleod, winemaker and pofessional cartoonist and artist:
"The Social Object, in a nutshell . . . . Human beings are social animals. We like to socialize. But if [we] think about it, there needs to be a reason for it to happen in the first place. That reason, that "node" in the social network, is what we call the Social Object." (via

In essence we have decided to turn what normally would be considered an Art work on its head an integrate it quite literally in the space where the buyer lives. So even-though we didn't create our work to be just practical pieces, not specifically to generate conversation, they most certainly will create a lot of talk, without a doubt.

What we are currently working on is this: (Henrik again:) 
"A good exercise is to spend some proper time making a good story about your business/endeavor and try it on a few people. Then wait a few days and ask them to explain to you what your business is doing--and see if you like what you hear. If the story is good, it should become a social object. From there it can be shared easily with everyone from new customers and investors to your mum. Happy storytelling."

And by golly it's a lot of fun!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

beauty of disconnection

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
Sometimes we take a while to figure things out, it might even be a few years or a decade. It's always interesting to me to see common denominators in various media, and in chats with friends. A while ago I wrote about our increasing difficulty to focus on anything for a longer period of time as we are distracted pretty much every minute. Today I read a post on Ivan Campuzano's blog who did an interview with Leo Babauta, creator of zen habits and mnmlist about a book about the VERY thing. It was written publicly, online, in small bursts, with feedback from readers throughout the writing process. I will share it on the right on my blog for you to read by downloading it for free (also you can find the link by clicking on the picture above).

I recognize myself in Leo's words here: "By focusing on one thing at a time, small changes, little baby steps, I’ve been able to change a bunch of habits: I quit smoking, started running, began eating healthier, started waking earlier, and became more organized. And I’ve accomplished a lot more, taking on one project at a time and using the power of focus and the power of play to accomplish things" How right you are Leo!

One of the things Leo mentions early on too is how beautiful it is to disconnect from the hubbub. I have found since we moved onto the farm out into the Wop Wops (a.k.a. middle of nowhere) that it's been easy and addictive to disconnect from the City, work and any general conundrum. It creates peace and the ability to find balance. My husband has found the same. We could not picture ourselves living in a city or town again, nor would we want to. We certainly feel blessed with where we are living.
Solitude can be a rare thing nowadays as it's harder to do and worse! anti-social. However, by choosing to pull the plug on social get togethers and remembering who you are and what you set out to do, it can be a very healthy thing instead. It is positive to meet and see uplifting people from time to time, just allow for time for yourself too. Claim your space to breathe and think, because trust me, others will always find something to distract you, whether they do it lovingly or not.

"This stuff works. And it’s tremendously liberating to discover that you can find focus, you can simplify, and you can change your life. - Leo"

Friday, October 22, 2010

it's a kind of


The word is out: there is not just a few kinds of lovin' heck no there's HEAPS! Check it out here Extremely funny.

What happened to old fashioned "I just love ya babe" and that'd be that? No that is OLD school now. Yep. Get used to it. And there's so many varieties now to "name" the type of relationship. Just recently Lady Gaga has entered into a Spiritual Ceremony. The plot thickens.

source of link: fastcompany with thanks.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

fun works

We usually expect Design to be practical, functional. What about another aspect that is important? The fun to use it, the sheer beauty of the design. It turns out that our brain is wired in such a fashion that we can be more creative, and better problem solvers, if we are happy. So it also pays to use design that makes us happy.

I'm a big fan of having fun. What makes you happy? As Don Norman puts it: "so that's the new me, I only say positive things."

Monday, October 18, 2010


It's always good to gain a fresh perspective. In this case quite literally: coffee shop D'Espresso in Manhattan.
Source: here

Tuesday, October 12, 2010



Shauntelle Hamlett of the wonderful interior blog A Beautiful Abode, has done an interview with me a while ago that has been published last Friday: oh my goodness! I'm sharing it with you here (slight delay on account of visual layout hiccups):

Mirjam and Nico

Mirjam and Nico of Bonvivant Design

I have a treat for you today– a new interview!
I actually virtually met interior stylist and designerMirjam Spronk of Bonvivant Desig
almost exactly a year ago via Twitter. Immediately I was drawn to Mirjam’s unique 
style and, most specifically, to the way she draws inspiration from her New Zealand 
surroundings and incorporates it into her design products.
Originally I intended to publish this interview earlier in this year but ya’ll know how life
has a way of derailing your best intentions, right?  I’m glad that I am finally able to 
publish Mirjam’s interview now and I know that you guys will find it just as interesting
as I did!
Although I’m familiar with your background from reading your blog, Mindpopsicles, 
would you share a little bit about yourself with my readers?  Are you originally from 
New Zealand?  How did you go from earning a degree in Mixed Media to becoming an
interior stylist and product designer?
I was born in the Netherlands and lived there most of my life. My husband and I emi-
grated to New Zealand in 2002. We fell completely in love with the vast spaces, 
abundant nature and the great variety in scenery. The people are friendly and helpful, 
still having that trusting trait that the Dutch society seems to have lost due to its 
‘hardening up’ as people live so close together.
After 5 years of study with a BA of mixed media, I had set up my own design studio; 
work consisted mostly of graphic design work with incorporated illustration: I designed
logos, brochures, stationary, leaflets and book covers. I also had a stint at a publisher
firm and a Real Estate agency before heading out to Down Under.
My first job in New Zealand was apple picking. This is a great idea for meeting the 
most interesting (local) people, building stamina and losing weight. I have fond memo-
ries of that time, even though it was very hard work! But being outdoors, in the most 
beautiful scenery that the Otago region has to offer, all that sweating and cursing made
it absolute gold.  It was a very de-urbanizing experience and an eye opener too.
Beautiful New Zealand
Beautiful New Zealand
copyright photo: Nico Vos
After that we traveled New Zealand extensively and decided to head up to the biggest 
city on the north island, Auckland. I found work as a sales person working for a furniture
 and interior accessory store and after 3 weeks I was asked to become the branch
 manager. I worked my hardest and learned a lot. Not only was the styling in the store
 and advising customers on their interior a learning curve, so was dealing with 3 staff. 
Acquiring managing skills through experience taught me many things about New 
Zealand culture and people in general. It also gave me experience by trial and error on
what works in interiors, and what doesn’t.
When we moved South, I found work as a branch manager for a furniture and interior
design store.  Styling interiors comes naturally to me and I really enjoy it.  My boss used
to say that good interior design comes from breeding it in to you, not from going to 
school.  I certainly think an education helps, but you do learn most from experience, 
training your eyes on shape, form and designing in 3d.
Hemptech "Cows and Couches" Fabric

Hemptech "Cows and Couches" Fabric

When I visited your website, Bonvivant Design, I was immediately drawn to the fun
“cows and couches” pillows and was excited to discover that the fabric was your original
design.  I’m always talking to my readers about learning to draw inspiration from any and
everywhere.  You definitely epitomize that idea in the way you use your natural environ-
ment to inspire designs for both your interior products and your jewelry line… Can you 
share with us your process of moving from inspiration to an actual design?  Does this 
process change for you depending on the project (i.e. is it different for creating jewelry 
versus styling rooms versus fabric)? If so, how do you approach these different types of
The reason I started (graphic/product) designing again was because it is my passion 
and I was missing it in my daily work. I am a creator, so whether this is 3d (interiors) or
 2d (graphic/product design), they both have their place in my world.  My predicament is 
that I have too many ideas!
From inspiration to actual design– there are two ways of going about this.  If I receive a 
brief then I stick to that. If it’s free range , I can bounce ideas around and try different 
Designing for has been fun as Lynne lets me run riot with New 
Zealand based themes. We simply started talking about it one day and the fact they are
an eco/sustainable New Zealand fabric manufacturer gave me the angle for ‘celebrating
 kiwi identity’. It’s a niche and it’s brilliant.
Drawing Inspiration from Nature
Drawing Inspiration from Nature
I have an affinity with New Zealand nature so that’s what I started off with.  I basically 
sketch on the computer using Adobe Illustrator. I also utilize what I may have brain-
stormed around with before.  For the Hemptech project, I started by drawing a con-
ventional sofa. I was thinking of an ad I’d seen that had a sofa sitting in a field of grass.  
New Zealanders have a great passion for living on their deck in summer.  Looking at 
the sofa on the screen it reminded me of a cow illustration I had done some months 
before. I opened the file, copied the cow into the sofa file and worked from there.
The zebra was a trial and error as I wanted to introduce an exotic element.  Most Kiwis
in their early 20s depart for what they call their big O.E. (Overseas Experience) or they 
will go in their 50s.  Many of my customers tell stories about Italy and France, but also 
about Africa.  Hence the zebra pattern implemented in the ‘Cows and Couches’ design.
My design work has foundation and it has reason, but a lot of it is playing around. One 
idea leads to something else, and I like a dose of humour in my work. Life doesn’t have
to be so serious. Why do we let it become like that? So my design process is a big jump
and skip in my brain. First I have the parameters, then the fluffing and playing, and then
the reality check to see if what I set out to do has been achieved.
Bird of Paradise Pendant - Bonvivant Designs

Bird of Paradise Pendant - Bonvivant Designs

My jewellery work is again celebrating that New Zealand flavour. I also design 
fun things that I like for myself, for example an eccentric peacock based on a real life
one that friends in the Netherlands still have. The design process usually has me 
looking up wildlife pictures and information online, checking the anatomy, what 
characteristics it has. I aim to hone in on the specific elements that underline New 
Zealand based design. As my life is here, I don’t see the point of incorporating Dutch
elements, although I’m a huge fan of Droog design and Marcel Wanders.  They too 
possess whimsical and surprising elements. I love that. Bold and strong: great 
impact and massive wow factor. I guess I never was one for subtleties.
People are often hesitant to start creating living environments that they really love 
because they’re afraid they will make a mistake.  Have you ever started a project and 
felt it was headed in the wrong way?  How did you handle that challenge?  What 
advice would you give people to overcome this fear?
Yes I have started out on projects in my early days where due to lack of experience I 
had to muddle my way through. Of course I wasn’t very proud of that, but one has to 
work with what one can. Usually I would see later where I could have done better, but 
we always work with what we have available to us. So don’t beat yourself up! I think the 
interesting thing is that whatever you feel comfortable with, or what you like is a great 
starting point. Hold on to what you love. Don’t throw out important story pieces just 
because they clash with the latest trendy sofa. Something may not appeal to for 
example a friend of yours, but it’s confidence that makes it all work.
Seating Area designed by Mirjam Spronk
Seating Area designed by Mirjam Spronk
I suggest what really helps is taking magazines and simply cut out what you like: work
per room, so have a binder that contains tabs and sleeves in which you can insert pictures 
of what you like. From say 6-10 pages you can then deduce what jumps out and what 
describes your taste. You can make a list of what needs to be done in the room: do you 
really need to paint? Is it worth wallpapering? If you got very snazzy furniture or Art it may pay
 to forgo elaborate wallpaper altogether! Generally I would say: the walls are the least of 
your worries unless the existing walls can’t be cleaned or have ugly wallpaper: the key is 
to be aware of what draws the eye and work on that. Do you have a very busy carpet? 
Take it out, there might be a great floor underneath. Otherwise cover it with a plain coloured
 carpet, which is easier on the eyes.
Here in the States, we’ve really been suffering from the recession.  I imagine that this has 
probably touched you and your clients down in New Zealand as well… Would you share 
with us your top three tips for cutting costs while meeting your design goals?
1) Re-upholster. One of the biggest things I have discovered this year has been that 
re-upholstery jobs have shot through the roof!  If you are considering doing a recover, check
 whether your chair or sofa is worth salvaging.  It may be worth buying a quality piece that 
is newly made if it costs only a fraction more than a re-upholstery job.
2) Auctions!  I’m not sure if you have quirky auction places in the US but you sure have a 
few here in Dunedin.  At these auctions you can get lucky and pick up a few pieces (that you
decided on beforehand so you don’t get carried away!) If no auction rooms are available, try 
E-Bay. I would use auctions or E-Bay to find second hand drapes for bedrooms or studies 
for example. That will save you quite a bit. Also lamps are great to find on these sites, or 
even wallpaper for a great hallway.
3) Save before you buy! It makes sense to get a few quality pieces and work with what you
have already. Quality lasts and you will see the difference!  Make a plan to get a piece in say
6-12 months and put away a certain amount a week in a separate bank account that will go 
towards your interior. You’ll be surprised how small amounts per week add up over 6 
Living Room designed by Mirjam Spronk

Living Room designed by Mirjam Spronk

Final question… and it really relates back to the idea of people being afraid of making
mistakes in their homes.  I think a lot of people settle for “safe” looks in their homes 
because they don’t have confidence or trust in their own design eye.  People will buy 
matched sets from some retail store and live in homes that don’t exactly reflect their 
spirits because they don’t believe they can buy individual pieces that speak to them and 
actually pull a cohesive look together.  What advice would you give a person in regards to 
learning how to develop and trust their own sense of style and design?
I still remember seeing this old lady getting on the bus on my way to high school. She 
was wearing this shiny leather coat that was very trendy, a bright pink scarf and a cooky 
hat. Now, everyone in the bus was staring at her and there were some snorts from the 
young crowd, but everyone followed her later getting off the bus. Why? Because she had 
the guts to go bold.  It’s all about attitude. If you genuinely want to create a wonderful 
unique interior that is yours, then go with your instinct.
I will tell you an interior design secret that I discovered many years ago through hard work:
  • if in doubt, whatever you do in a room, if you stick to a 3 colour rule you will 

have to  try very hard to go wrong.
For some reason the magical 3 brings harmony and it’s a great rule of thumb. If the sofa is
brown leather, the drapes are blue and the rug is plum, you can bring in orange vases for 
example. But not green as well.  That makes seating one colour (1), drape or rug as another
since blue and plum are in the same family (2), and accessories another colour (3). I’m 
counting table lamps etc as being part of the accessories. Now, if you have paintings or art 
work it would help that the 3 colours are in there or the largest part in there. Naturally this is 
an over simplified solution, but it is definitely harder to pull of a dazzling interior with more
colours then 4. It takes quite a bit of experience to get it right.
Bedroom styled by Mirjam Spronk
Bedroom styled by Mirjam Spronk
My other rule of thumb is group the ornaments and declutter.
I have seen numerous fireplaces with dotted bits n bobs on the mantel piece. There is 
a place for knick knacks, but I would not suggest having them scattered through out the 
house. Try to group them, either on one shelf or on a hall table in, for example, one 
dominant colour way. This creates peace and stability. Too many distractions on the eye 
creates un-ease. For the same reason de-cluttering is vital. A more zen like approach 
creates peace. Clarity in the home brings clearness in the mind they say and I have to 
agree. You can still have fun in a room and add zing, panache and vavoom, just try and 
keep it organised in some fashion so you can take in the room in one swoop and not 
hurt your eyeballs with too many distractions.
Dutch Design Inspired Animal Lamps
Dutch Design Inspired Animal Lamps
Dutch design: by Moooi design
Finally, have fun! Decorating or styling your home can provide tons of energy and 
satisfaction! Try not to do it all in one week or a month–good things take time and it’s quite
alright spreading your renovation out over a period of time.
You can learn more about Mirjam by visiting her design site, Bonvivant Designs or by 
reading her blogMindpopsicles (which is a great place to find inspiration and positive mojo 
when you’re having a bad day!).  You can also follow Mirjam on Twitter.  I hope you’ll leave a
comment here to help me show our appreciation for Mirjam taking the time to share with us– 
and there’s an extra big THANK YOU to her from me for being so kind and understanding 
when this interview wasn’t published any where near the time I told her it would be!
’til next time, happy budget decorating!
xoxo – Shauntelle
Thanks everyone for making the time to visit Shauntelle's beautiful blog and Shauntelle for her time!