Monthly Archives: November 2015

Local Fashion at Parliament House!

By Wendy Johnson

It all began when fashion designer Yumi Morrissey decided to make her own fabric prints for the collection she would launch at Fashfest 2015. That took her to the location of Australia’s most famous landmark and the meeting place of a nation—Parliament House—armed with her camera.

Scarf Parliament House

Scarf Parliament House


Yumi, who owns and operates the independent, local fashion label Zilpah Tart, captured ‘the shot’ she wanted while on Capital Hill and then headed to her computer to see what would happen if she manipulated it through Photoshop. After trying this and trying that she ended up with an intriguing kaleidoscope pattern and had it made into fabric for her new collection.

The exclusive Parliament Kaleidoscope print was a big hit on the catwalk at Fashfest, attracting several high-profile politicians and overseas customers to order garments created with it. Then it caught the attention of the Parliament Shop, inspiring Yumi to use the fabric to create a range of new products with the new print, including scarves, bags and cushions.





“You can’t really recognise Parliament House on the fabric from a distance but it all becomes clear when you get up close and study the pattern,” says Yumi. “That’s when it clicks that you’re looking at the building itself.” The print is a perfect fit for the shop at Parliament House and the items are great gifts for locals and the national and international tourists who make Canberra a destination. It’s unique. It’s designed here and made here, and the bags come in a range of styles ($65 to $120), some with accents of black, red and blue vinyl.

Papillon_parliament kaleidoscope red vinyl

Papillon_parliament kaleidoscope red vinyl

The Papillon design, for example, features blue vinyl corners, to protect the bag when it’s resting on a surface. The lining is a fun black and white polka dot cotton and the bag has an internal pocket and closes with a tab and magnetic fastener. The envelope clutch is simple and elegant, with a hand strap for easy carrying, and the large tote is a popular design.

Yumi is also producing scarves, made out of a super soft, 100 per cent cotton. They’re 190 cm long and so can be worn in several ways. They make a fabulous Christmas gift (super easy to pack up and mail also). Cushions come with the Parliament Kaleidoscope print on the front (canvas) and a solid black at the back.Zilpah Tart studio

Yumi is thrilled to be selling through Parliament Shop. “Parliament is such a significant institution and visitors to the shop include tourists from interstate and all over the worlds, so it’s giving my label exposure to new markets,” says the designer. Garments made out of the print are available through or you can visit Yumi at some of Canberra’s best markets, including those coming up in time for the ho-ho-ho season.

Lily_parliament kaleidoscope

Lily_parliament kaleidoscope

Painting with Parkinsons

By Wendy Johnson

Cards say so much. They can be funny. Consoling. Just plain lovely. A beautiful handmade card—with or without words—is all the more special when painted by someone using art as therapy. So when I was told by Halie Rubenis, Business Development and Retail Manager at Agency in Braddon, that the beautiful cards I was buying for Christmas were the result of an innovative art program called Painting with Parkinsons, I felt quite emotional.

You see, everyone wants to make a mark in life. Indeed, in so many ways it’s all about the mark. And making a mark is precisely what a group of 12 Canberrans with Parkinson’s do when they gather to paint.Parkinsons 3

Painting with Parkinsons Canberra was founded at the end of 1994 in the Botanic Gardens by artist Nancy Tingey, an Accredited Professional Member of Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre (since 1996). Nancy wanted to combine her role as a community artist and art curator with caring for her husband Bob who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when he was 46.

Bob has been part of the group since the beginning and was the youngest member when he joined. He draws on past experiences to paint and so it’s no surprise his art often makes reference to geological formations. Bob had led a busy life as a geologist, working in many countries and making seven journeys to Antarctica.

Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition that affects people from all walks of life. It’s sometimes called a ‘movement disorder’. So why encourage painting? Painting is successful because it’s a magical unravelling of a series of steps.

“You create a mark on the paper. Then you create another mark. And another,” says Nancy. “It’s almost a linear process and people with Parkinson’s can cope with that quite easily. What they can’t cope with is a whole lot of stimuli presented at once.”Parkinsons 2

Today, Painting with Parkinsons is recognised as one of the most effective art therapy programs in the world. Many who paint discover inner talents and abilities. Bob’s hand moves involuntarily, for example, but this goes away when he paints. “Although he had never painted before, he took to it like he did any other activity in his life—with great enthusiasm and energy,” says Nancy.

The group produces work that is shown in exhibitions, which Nancy says is extraordinary and wonderful. Bob’s painting Light was featured in the United States Parkinson’s Disease Foundation calendar for 2013. Katrina Muir, diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 55, first attended the Canberra group to observe, but soon found her work being used as a logo to promote the GOLD dance group at the Canberra Dance Theatre. “Painting with Parkinsons is a place where I can just be myself,” says Katrina. “I don’t have to explain my symptoms to anyone and am treated with much respect. I feel treasured for the person I am.”

Art helps group members lose themselves in their work, which takes their minds off the illness. Ann Nugent—who worked as a teacher, writer, editor and theatre critic—was diagnosed with Parkinson’s some years ago. She says painting alleviates her symptoms and encourages her to experiment with her art.

Halie says Agency has just received a whole new range of cards by Painting with Parkinsons. The cards are also available at the Handmade Shop. And Painting with Parkinsons will be the first exhibition group to showcase at the new National Disability Insurance Scheme building. Seven works will be exhibited for about three months.Parkinsons 1

For more information on Parkinson’s Disease visit

Construct—with Phoebe Porter

By Wendy Johnson

Phoebe Porter doesn’t have much time to sit still these days. This contemporary designer, who works out of her studio at ANCA, has recently just finished a major exhibition at e.g.etal contemporary jewellery and objects in Melbourne. She’s made a selection of new pieces for Bilk Gallery’s annual Christmas showcase (on until 24 December). She is getting ready to be involved in a project for the National Gallery of Australia to celebrate the work of renowned Australian sculptor Inge King. And she will be hosting an open studio as part of DESIGN Canberra, under the festival’s Living Artists program.

Phoebe Porter_Phoebe Porter_Line earrings

Phoebe Porter_Phoebe Porter_Line earrings

During DESIGN Canberra (21 to 29 November), head to Dickson and meet Phoebe in her studio where you’ll get to connect with the artist and see her work, including pieces from Construct, the name of the exhibition she held in Melbourne.

You’ll marvel at how Phoebe, beginning with her training at art school here in Canberra, has developed a unique working process combining traditional gold and silversmithing techniques with Computer Aided Design and industrial processes. So it’s no surprise her latest collection is called Construct. “I use a combination of traditional techniques such as sawing, hammering, filing and soldiering as well as more industrial techniques such as machining, pressing and anodising,” says Phoebe.

Phoebe Porter_Folded earrings

Phoebe Porter_Folded earrings

The jewellery in Construct plays with contrasts—of colour, material and scale. Bright colours contrast with soft grey tones of stainless steel. Natural materials contrast with machined, manmade alloys. Large elements contrast with small.

“The DESIGN Canberra open studio is an opportunity for me to connect directly with my audience who are often a step away from me when I sell through a gallery or a shop,” says Phoebe. “My studio is not usually open to the public, so this is a rare chance for people to see how I develop my work from start to finish—from design development, through sketches, models and templates, and through  to fabrication of the final pieces.

“Many people have a deep fascination with the tools and processes I use in my studio, perhaps partly due to nostalgia for a time where we made more things by hand. I have a vast collection of tools, including jewellery making tools, vintage workshop equipment and some custom tools I’ve developed specifically for particular designs.”

Phoebe Porter_Cantilever and Cubist rings

Phoebe Porter_Cantilever and Cubist rings

Phoebe believes contemporary jewellery inherently embodies all of the themes of DESIGN Canberra—Connect, Create, Collaborate. “Jewellery is about connections … whether it’s connections between people or connections between different ideas embodied in the work,” says the artist. “Jewellery has another life after it leaves the studio or the gallery when it becomes part of the wearer’s life and narrative. In that way there is a special sort of collaboration between the maker and wearer of a piece of jewellery.”

If jewellery is your passion, you’ll be delighted that Phoebe will be holding a sample sale on the day of her open studio, giving visitors a rare opportunity to buy unusual pieces from her archive—pieces not available elsewhere.

Phoebe Porter_5 Grams and 7 Grams necklaces

Phoebe Porter_5 Grams and 7 Grams necklaces

Besides Phoebe, ANCA (Australian National Capital Artists) will feature several other Living Artists’ open studios in both its locations (Mitchell and Dickson), covering various genres. Oliver Ayrton, Peter Giles, Sui Jackson, Dan Lorrimer, Keith Marshall, Ruth Oliphant and Alice Sutton will host open studios. They’re all free and drop-ins are welcome.

Bettina Hill, ANCA Arts administrator, says the Australian National Capital Artists was built in the 1990s mainly because Canberra didn’t have too many spaces for artists to have their studios. “ANCA was built as affordable, professional spaces where artists can be in a community, so they can work together and get support from each other. That’s what we strive for still today,” says Bettina.

Today, ANCA is home to around 40 artists and it also operates a gallery. DESIGN Canberra’s Living Artists program is about getting you involved and providing you with an opportunity to watch artists create work, discuss pieces and more.

ANCA Living Artists open studios is on Sunday 22 November from 2 – 6pm at 1 Rosevear Place, Dickson (where Phoebe is), and 96 Hoskins Street, Mitchell. For more info and to view the Festival program visit


What’s Buzzing in Canberra?

So what’s all the buzz about during DESIGN Canberra? By Wendy Johnson

Big picture, it’s about getting you connecting, creating and collaborating with the capital’s hugely talented artists, architects, craftspeople and designers around ‘all things design’. And that includes the festival’s unique DESIGN Buzz series.

Not quite a lecture and not quite a debate, DESIGN Buzz is an exciting opportunity to discuss big questions facing the world of design. Held over two nights (Monday 23 November and Tuesday 24 November), this is your chance to hear from some of the best in the design industry … experts with a deep understanding of what design means to our everyday lives. What it means for our sense of place. For our future. For our sense of well-being.SONY DSC

So here’s how it works.

DESIGN Buzz features two topics per night and two or three speakers per topic (some local, some from across Australia and some from overseas). Each has a short time to present thought-provoking ideas. Then the moderator throws the discussion open to the audience for a vibrant Q and A session. Craft ACT, which is bringing DESIGN Canberra to the capital, says this year’s DESIGN Buzz is, well, buzzier than ever. It’s designed to be energetic. It’s designed to get you involved.

And the topics you ask?

DESIGN Buzz_ Jeremy Lepisto

DESIGN Buzz_ Jeremy Lepisto

Me → We (Session 1, Monday)

How important is collaboration when creating works for the public realm? How does it work?

Join glass artist Jeremy Lepisto (Canberra) and collaborative partners Lynda Roberts and Paul Gazzola (Victoria) who will explain their approaches to collaboration in the highly diverse and challenging creative sector. Lynda manages the Public Art Program at the City of Melbourne and Paul is an artist and curator.



DESIGN Buzz - LeahHeiss

DESIGN Buzz – LeahHeiss

Living Design (Session 2, Monday)

How can design support a healthy lifestyle? What design tools can we use to improve our quality of life?

Leah Heiss (Victoria), a trans-disciplinary designer whose practice is at the nexus of art, design and science, takes the podium with Dr Liz Format (ACT), Professor of Palliative Care for Calvary Health Care and the Australian Catholic University. Liz’s research focuses on how people with life-threatening or life-limiting conditions and their relatives can find ways to cope.



Placemaking and Culture (Session 1, Tuesday)

Is there an Australian design culture? If so what’s it all about?

Join Lucy Simpson, an Aboriginal artist/designer (NSW) who focuses on storytelling and the narrative in her work, and Professor Jessica Hemmings (Ireland), Professor of Visual Culture and Head of the School of Visual Culture and the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. Jessica writes, curates and lectures about textiles and their role within culture and society.

DESIGN Buzz_Ingrid van der Wacht

DESIGN Buzz_Ingrid van der Wacht


Sustainable Futures (Session 2, Tuesday)

What are the future ways of designing for sustainability—the quality of life for future generations? How can you get involved?

Connector, communicator and collaborator, Ingrid van der Wacht (Netherlands), will be in Australia to talk about design as a driver for innovation, economic growth and sustainable thinking. She’ll join Peter Cumming (NSW), founder of Sustainable Futures Australia, who works with local communities on creating sustainable housing.


DESIGN Buzz is far from a passive event. Design is all around us. Learn more. Have your say.

The Buzz: Monday 23 November and Tuesday 24 November 2015 at Ainslie Arts Centre from 7pm. More info at

Tom Skeehan’s Stellar Exhibition!

TomWendy Johnson chats with Canberra furniture maker and designer Tom Skeehan about his craft and upcoming first solo exhibition Thought – Process at the DESIGN Canberra Festival.

You may not realise it, but chances are you’re already familiar with the work of industrial designer Tom Skeehan. Been to the new XO restaurant in Narrabundah? The chopsticks were designed and produced by Tom’s studio called Skeehan. Been to 86 in Braddon to dine? The stools are by Skeehan. Same with some of the café stools at Barrio. Skeehan also worked on the fitout for Remedy Espresso Bars.

Stools by Skeehan

Stools by Tom Skeehan

Beyond the world of wining and dining, Canberra toasts Skeehan for being the first from the ACT to be signed by prestigious Stylecraft, which gives the studio instant access to local, national and international buyers of meticulously designed and produced furniture, lighting and other interior products. Skeehan’s new collection, Hoshi, a Japanese word meaning (loosely) ‘star’, is also available for viewing at his first solo exhibition at Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre. Tom is an Accredited Professional Member and Thought – Process, which officially opened last week, is a sneak peek to the quality of design you can expect throughout the upcoming DESIGN Canberra festival (21 to 29 November).

Thought - Process Exhibition by Tom Skeehan

Thought – Process Exhibition by Tom Skeehan; image by Charlie White

Skeehan studio specialises in commercial furniture, lighting and product design. The Hoshi collection includes a single seated chair, three-seater lounge, coat stand and side table. Working with his hands is in Tom’s blood. His dad is a furniture maker and carpenter who has lived in Canberra for 40 years. “I grew up drawing and tinkering on the job site,” says Tom, who has a drawing by Alex Lundy of his dad’s wooden mallet on his Facebook page.

Skeehan in workshopWhen it came time to study, Tom landed at the Canberra Institute of Technology in the art design program. He then worked with mentor Craig Harris making fine furniture for two years in a workshop in Fyshwick. “I realised I was a maker at that stage, and not a designer, so I went to the University of Canberra to study industrial design,” says Tom. “After a short stint in Sydney I set up Skeehan.”

Thought – Process is all the more fascinating because it includes a ‘process wall’ showcasing the design journey from initial sketches to polished products. Material samples, tools and prototypes all inform the experience.

“The process our studio goes through to create a product involves a series of formal stages,” says Tom. “I think the most important stage, and the one I enjoy the most, is prototyping. This is when an idea is at its biggest and when you’re constantly refining it and pushing the limits.” Tom is currently in Denver, USA, to teach a furniture design class at Metropolitan State University, but he’ll be back in time for DESIGN Canberra.

Process Wall

Process Wall

For the festival, Tom will host a special workshop for children aged 8 to 12 years to open up exciting visual journeys into the world of design drawing. During Drawing our City Tom will get kids exploring, through drawing, some of Canberra’s most exciting architectural elements and next up, the kids can extend their sketches by building simple objects with paper.

Avi Amesbury, Craft ACT CEO/Artistic Director, says DESIGN Canberra increases awareness of our vibrant and diverse craft and design community. “Thought – Process and the children’s workshop offer opportunities for audiences to engage direct with the creative process,” says Avi. “The festival is all about connecting, creating and collaborating.”

Thought Process Exhibition, photo by Charlie White

Thought Process Exhibition by Tom Skeehan; photo by Charlie White

Thought – Process is on throughout DESIGN Canberra (free to the public and drop-ins welcome). Drawing our City is on Saturday 28 November at Craft ACT from 1 to 3pm. It’s also free but bookings are essential (online at Check out the full program at

See Canberra’s Living Artist Exhibition … by bus!

In less than two weeks, Canberra’s biggest ever design festival gets underway. If you haven’t yet trawled through the 70 events on offer during DESIGN Canberra, now’s the time. Planning is the name of the game here, so you don’t miss out on something you really, really want to see. By Wendy Johnson

One of the five segments of DESIGN Canberra is the Living Artists program. This gives you exclusive insights into the innovative work of some of our best artists and design firms. How? These creatives are throwing their doors open to the public and letting you into their world. This segment is so popular that DESIGN Canberra has put on two guided bus tours—of interest if you can’t be fussed driving all over the place. They’re a bargain at $25 (but book early as places are limited). On Saturday 21 November you tour from 11am to 3 pm and on Sunday 22 November 10 am to 1pm.

Jenni Martiniello's glasswork studio

Jenni Martiniello’s glasswork studio

Lisa Cahill, Cascade #2, 2013. Image: Greg Piper. View at The Hayshed

Lisa Cahill, Cascade #2, 2013. Image: Greg Piper. View at The Hayshed

Saturday’s tour includes Canberra Glassworks, housed in the historic Kingston Powerhouse and Australia’s only cultural centre wholly dedicated to contemporary glass. This studio is currently home to glass artists such as Jenni Martiniello, Brian Corr, Emilie Patteson, Melinda Willis, John White and Nikki Main. The Hayshed in leafy Pialligo is where three professional artists work. Lisa Cahill and Kirstie Rea use glass as their primary medium. Julie Ryder has been working in textiles for 25 years and exhibits nationally and internationally. The next stop on Saturday is M16 Artspace, a studio and gallery complex in Griffith. M16 features the work of 15 artists who create across jewellery, textile design and mixed media visual arts. 



Sunday’s bus tour takes you to Workshop Level, a studio built by Mel George and Jeremy Lepisto to make custom glass projects for themselves and others. Mel is also the curator at Craft ACT. Then it’s over to Curtisglassart where Matthew Curtis and Harriet Schwarzrock work in a studio at the back of their home—predominantly with molten glass making sculptural work for exhibition. Next up is Six Wiluna, a shared workshop established by director Elliot Bastianon and housing artists Luke Batten, Andrew Carvolth, Nicholas Harper and Sam Ryrie. Here you’ll see furniture, gold and silversmithing, and sculpture.

Workshop Level Open Studio: Jeremy Lepisto, Further from Here, 2015. Image: Paul Foster

Workshop Level Open Studio: Jeremy Lepisto, Further from Here, 2015. Image: Paul Foster

And last, but not least, it’s off to Queanbeyan to visit Pocket Studio, run by gold and silversmith Alison Jackson. Alison has just finished her first solo exhibition, Table Tools, at Craft ACT, and has also completed a CO-LAB project with renowned designer maker Jon Goulder. The pair made Cheese Companions for Agency in Braddon. At Pocket Studio you’ll see Alison’s jewellery and tableware.

Copper Vessel by Alison Jackson; photo by Angela Bakker

Copper Vessel by Alison Jackson; photo by Angela Bakker

DESIGN Canberra is an initiative of Craft Act: Craft and Design Centre.

Visit the website and stay with Lost Four Words for more coverage of what you can expect during this massive festival.

Capital Culture—Exclusive Tours!

With more than 70 activities rolling out over nine days, it’s a tad tricky deciding what to do during the upcoming DESIGN Canberra festival (21 to 29 November). My advice is to study the program and map out a plan so you don’t miss anything that tickles your fancy. When I say map out a plan I mean it, remembering that most tours take place on specified days. Some are free and require no bookings, others are free but bookings are essential, and others are ticketed tours. So take an exclusive tour on the Tours of our Beautiful Cultural Capital! By Wendy Johnson.

The festival is divided into five segments, one of which is ‘Capital of Culture Tours’. See Canberra in a new light through eight exclusive guided tours of architectural and cultural landscape around the city, led by designers, architects and artists.

GMB05—GMB Architecture Canberra Airport Tour: View of Central Atrium. Image: Rodrigo Vargas

GMB05—GMB Architecture Canberra Airport Tour: View of Central Atrium. Image: Rodrigo Vargas

My bet is that one of the most popular will be the exclusive walking tour of the award-winning Canberra Airport. This free tour includes ‘airside’ facilities and operations not usually available to the general public. Wander through the magnificent central atrium, iconic entrance, landscaped courtyards and hear about the marvellous artwork. The tour is on 21 November and bookings are a must since it’s restricted to 20 people.

The pop-up Public Theatre, inspired by the design of the classic Greek Theatre, will bring life to Civic Square for two weeks as part of DESIGN Canberra. Lots will happen in this unique space, including The Public Talk: Conversations about our city by Cox Architecture (22 November). The future evolution of our city’s spaces and buildings—a topic close to the heart of many Canberrans—will be explored at this free gathering. This is your chance to discuss what will happen as your city grows, reaches towards the lake and undergo significant urban development. Bookings essential by 6 November.

Westside01—Cox Architecture Westside Acton Park Tour: Daytime Opening. Image: Rodrigo Vargas

Westside01—Cox Architecture Westside Acton Park Tour: Daytime Opening. Image: Rodrigo Vargas

Westside Acton Park—Australia’s first pop-up shipping container village—has drawn its share of praise and controversy. Get behind the scenes with Cox Architecture on this free walking tour (28 November) and learn about the development of Westside. After the tour, linger and enjoy market stalls and street food.

Civic from helicopter—Image by Cox Architecture

Civic from helicopter—Image by Cox Architecture

We all know that Canberra is one of the few cities in the world to be designed and built specifically for use as a national political capital. But how much to you know about the key architectural landmarks in the designed landscape, and the work of John Smith Murdoch and his contribution to the early vision? The free Designed Capital tour starts at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House and concludes at the historic Hyatt Hotel Canberra (21 November and 22 November). And the National Portrait Gallery will host free 45-minute architectural walking tours throughout its public spaces (various times) during DESIGN Canberra.

Embassy of Sweden—Image courtesy of the Embassy of Sweden

Embassy of Sweden—Image courtesy of the Embassy of Sweden

A free guided tour and architectural lecture will be held at the Embassy of Sweden, which recently re-opened after extensive renovations by Guida Moseley Brown Architects. The restored Embassy (originally completed in 1951) shows the value and importance of heritage buildings. The tour is free and bookings essential.

If you’re fascinated by the world of horticulture you’ll appreciate the free Inside the Archives tour (21 November). Held at the National Archives of Australia, this is a rare change to explore the horticultural aspects of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin’s vision for Canberra. See the original plans drawn up by the Griffins, which show how sensitive they were to the physical features of the national capital site.

Archit-Schools06—Archi-SCHOOLS: Tuggeranong Introductory English Centre at the Wanniassa Hills Primary School by May & Russell Architects. Image: Kiernan May

Archit-Schools06—Archi-SCHOOLS: Tuggeranong Introductory English Centre at the Wanniassa Hills Primary School by May & Russell Architects. Image: Kiernan May

The ArchiSCHOOL tour, run by the Australian Institute of Architects on 28 November, is a rare opportunity to tour some of Canberra’s specialist education facilities. Learn about the design behind each facility and how they support educational outcomes. There’s a full-day bus tour ($45, including lunch) if you’d like to explore all four sites. Tours will be held by May and Russell Architects, Daryl Jackson Alastair Swayn and Guida Moseley Brown Architects. You need to book in advance since numbers are limited.

For more information on Capital Culture Tours, including locations and times, explore the full festival program at