Welcome to Wonderplace :: The Arty Party Lismore

Before moving to Lismore in 2009, I read in the paper that Lismore had the highest number of professional artists per capita in Australia.

If you were at the first Arty Party, held at Spinks Park behind the Lismore Regional Gallery yesterday, you’d believe it.

At about 10.45, the Arty Party was declared open, and hoards of children and their families milled through the arched gateway, into the Arty Party wonderland. And what a wonderland it was.

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We wandered along the pathway, which was lined with creative activity fodder. Piles of bamboo and fluoro lycra for tee-pee building…


little book nooks for reading and dreaming…

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a giant loom and hoola hoops set up for weaving…

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colour piles on a stage for performance…

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a paper caper tent for creating…

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and an area for making music and dancing…



Clever percussionist Greg Sheehan {who I have seen on Playschool} lead the children in body percussion. Gorgeous Marissa from The Cassettes showed the children some funky dance moves to 80s dance classics. I was so impressed how quickly the children picked up the choreography!

Just about every child I know from the area was there. The sun smiled down on the festivity. Maybe the sun thinks celebrating creativity is a particularly good thing to do.

I am so proud Lismore pulled this off. I hope – I know – it will be the first of many Arty Parties to come.

What fun school holiday activities have you had in your area?

A natural dye garden gathering

It all started with Gardening Australia.

One night, at Mum’s, my kids and I were watching Gardening Australia. On the show, a lady demonstrated how to dye fabrics with plants from your garden.

First thing the next morning, Elki wanted to make her own naturally dyed quilt. I am excited to share the whole process with you when the quilt is finished – I think it’s such a lovely project. And it’s turning out so well!

Meanwhile, a few friends started chatting about natural dye, and next thing, there was a spontaneous gathering in my garden. It was the only sunshine-y day of the week, so we were very lucky.

We ate necessary pre-dyeing croissants and home-made chocolate brownie. We drank coffee out of pretty cups. The children jumped on the trampoline.

Lovely Nell spread out her blue blanket in the garden. She laid out the bits and pieces she’s been working on over the years. She had prepared little paper bags of fabrics for each of us to experiment with. She brought her mordants for us to use, and jars of dye she’d make the day before.

We went around the garden gathering leafy and petally specimens. We put colours in jars, and added our fabrics. The more organised amongst us {clearly not me} wrote down the names of the specimen and the fabric type.

After boiling the colours, Nell showed us how to play with mordants. We experimented; changing botanical shades dramatically by adding iron or alum.

Things I learnt about naturally dyeing fabrics with plants

1. dye animal fibres, like silk or wool
2. if dyeing plant fibres like linen or cotton, pre-soak overnight in 1 litre of soy milk
3. you can put fabric and plants in jar at the same time
4. add lemon and salt to strengthen colour
5. put jar or fabric + plants into cold water, and bring to boil {do not put cold jar into hot water or jar will break}
6. boil covered for at least fifteen minutes – longer is better
7. separate colours after straining out plants, and test with 1 teaspoon of iron, chalk or alum
8. always dye in a well-ventilated space
9. use old jars and vessels not intended for cooking food
10. you can wash and dry fabrics as normal if fabrics are pre-soaked, or contain animal protein

Our natural, colourful beauties dried in the sun, and our little hearts were filled with warmth, and rainbow goodness. What wonderful, creative friends I have!


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how to naturally dye with plants

Linking with Essentially Jess

Mama Creative :: Warmth, Goodness + Connection

There was a knot in my tummy the night before holding the first Mama Creative retreat in Brooklet last Saturday. The table was laid with custom-made books, flower pots, seeds, art supplies and pencils…The fridge was stocked with food, and the necessary beautiful teacups were stacked on the bench. Physically, everything was ready.

But how would it all go? I was bringing a group of women together who didn’t yet know each other, to talk intimately about their creativity, and motherhood. What stories would emerge? How would the guests approach creative exploration? Would there be any connection between guests?

9am. The first knock. I answered, and met my first guest. The knot in my tummy loosened. As each beautiful woman walked through the door, I relaxed more and more.

It will be fine. More than fine.

We drank tea, as we got to know each other. We started to unpick our creative histories and stories. A bond was forming as women stepped into each other’s creative and maternal worlds.

‘I love learning about how other women do things,’ said one lady, during the retreat. I think we all shared that sentiment. We each gained a privileged insight into each other’s worlds, and in doing so,  many of our own choices were validated. We were inspired.

We ate delicious baked goods. Drank more tea. Real coffee. The sun shone on our outdoor table. Guests enjoyed the quiet and peaceful rural scene we looked out on.

During the retreat, we created an artwork. I wanted to do something tactile – as working with our hands stimulates a creative side of ourselves talking cannot. I loved how each woman’s story was so personal – so them.

The ladies went home with a flower pot, in which they planted their creative seed. The idea is for them to nurture and nourish their seed; a reminder to nurture and nourish their creativity. They left with some clear ideas about moving forward. They took home new friendships.

I suspected, but now I know how powerful an intimate, and safe space for exploration can be. And it was a pure joy to nourish these women with food and drink, and share in their positive conversation and connection. I would do this day again in a heartbeat.

This was the first – and I hope to run many more days like this.

I am so grateful to Amber Melody from The Beautiful Lens for these absolutely gorgeous photos she took on the day. Thank you for sharing them with me. And thank you to my lovely mum for providing the location, Jemima’s, for the retreat, and helping me with all the preparation. Couldn’t have done it without you. x
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Into darkness :: How the darkness has become my creative mentor

into darkness

The night is quiet. Well, almost.

A little chatter comes from one side of me. A sound – like a twitch, if you can imagine that, comes from the other.

There is tossing. Turning. My arm is in the wrong place, apparently. So is the blanket. More tossing. More turning. This can last for over an hour.

Not long ago, putting two squiggly children to sleep drove me somewhere in the direction of insane. I breathed deeply, trying to keep my cool. But if one squiggly child seemed to be sleeping, then the other slightly more squiggly child squiggled in the wrong direction, and woke the sleeping child up only to begin the hours more of squiggly activity – my temper would crack open.

‘Enough!’ I would yell into the not so quiet night. ‘Enough! You children need to sleep!’  The children would cry. My arms would tense around them. More tears.

I would, of course, feel awful.

From the minute my first child was born {five and a half years ago}, my up and down relationship with the night began. I have been blessed with beautiful, beautiful children who are blessed with squiggly genes.

And because we are the parents we are, and we believe the stuff we do, we’ve decided to lie next to them to guide them into sleep.

One squiggly child is enough. But two is more than twice the work. They keep each other awake. And fuss is contagious, apparently.

Earlier this year, my sanity was in shaky ruins. It was give up altogether, or rope my husband into lying-down duties. My youngest wouldn’t like it, but she would have to learn to, otherwise mummy would flip altogether.

So we started taking turns. After a couple of days of resistance, my youngest accepted that one night was mummy’s turn and one night was daddy’s turn.

My sanity returned. My guilty-mum levels plummeted. And I suddenly had an extra two to three hours a week of time to spend writing.

Now that my lying down responsibilities have halved, I have come to enjoy them. And my creativity needs them. That hour-and-a-half of darkness is essential to opening channels in my mind. I process stuff, and then ideas start to drift across. Stories and characters form.

As a new mum, getting my baby to sleep was probably the challenge I found hardest. Singing Hallelujah on loop as I rocked her incessantly felt like a strange kind of torture.

But what has been most challenging has also been about the best thing for me as a person generally and as a creative person. I have learned patience, yes. And in a busy life, I am forced, in a way, into a kind of creative meditation.

It’s almost magic, what the dark can do to a mind.

Do you have any creative pockets in your day? Are your children good at going to sleep?

Creative Mama :: Lauren Anderson from Milamie & Co.

Lauren is the designer and editor at Milamie & Co. She’s a mother, a creative and an impossible dreamer. Drawing upon her background in Communications and Journalism, and her love for drawing, she works with mixed media to create a range of event stationery, art prints and custom creations for small business/wedding branding that is unique, imaginative and a touch spunky.

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I like to think of myself as a creative mama. I’ve been creative my whole life. I would spend my childhood days lost in a world of stories and always had a very vivid imagination. Today, I have to do be doing, making, creating something. It’s a compulsion I can’t switch off. I am the designer for Milamie & Co. A boutique design studio specialising in watercolour and illustration.

I express my creativity through writing, drawing and painting. As a mum, I find my creativity also expresses itself through play with my daughter.

My creative journey began when I designed the stationery for our wedding. I had studied Communications and Media at Uni and had a few skills in graphic design. From that, I began designing invitations for friends’ weddings and then friends of friends’.

My little business grew slowly and then I fell pregnant with our daughter. I have taken some time off and am now designing children’s art prints and children’s party invitations. I still do weddings but my focus is primarily in children’s events.

I have always loved the look of watercolour. My husband gave me the amazing gift of classes for my 30th birthday and I haven’t looked back!

Being someone’s mama has definitely impacted my ability to be creative in a traditional sense. I have less time to paint. Less time to draw and less time to write. However, I have found new ways to express creativity through imaginative play with my daughter (role play, play dough, craft, getting outside). This in turn has helped my creativity grow and develop in ways it may never have before.

I’m a full time mama so I work around my daughter’s naps and at night time. If I’m lucky that means I get around two to three hours during the day and then a few hours each night. Every Tuesday night I have time out to go to a watercolour painting class. I always come home so refreshed and energised. It’s amazing.

My advice to others aspiring to live a creative life? Schedule time for yourself – having a good routine that schedules nonnegotiable time for yourself is the key. It’s amazing how much more proactive you can be when you take time for yourself.

Lauren’s website is currently under construction as she gets her online store up and running. The web address is www.milamieco.com . Her instagram handle is @milamie_co which at present, is her main source of social media.

This is the last in the Mama Creative series. I hope you’ve enjoyed these interviews, and hopefully been inspired! Share with us your thoughts and ideas for integrating creativity into your life!

If you are looking for ways to connect with your creative self after babies, or want to explore some options for finding balance in your life, I am holding a retreat on the North Coast NSW at Jemima’sa quiet hinterland guest house. Visit zannilouise.com to book.