Happy Lunar New Year! I thought I’d post some photos from the last Pig cycle (12 years!) These were taken in Liverpool, U.K. and shown as part of a Lunar New Year exhibition at the Chinese Museum of Melbourne Australia, now residing in their permanent collection.
As Liverpool has one of Europe’s oldest Chinese populations, the lunar new year celebration each year is always a colourful, noisy and fun affair. It is also really crowded, but as a photographer you have to try and find your angle somehow, which is an interesting challenge. The event is held underneath the gorgeous arch made to mark the millennium by expert artisans from Shanghai, Liverpool’s twin city in China.
Exhibition photos courtesy of curator Lorinda Cramer.
‘T’was the week before Christmas (ish.) What could you make with cardboard, no storage, borrowed paint and a handful of volunteers? Turns out, you can pull off a stage set for an Early Years Winter concert!
After my initial idea was ruled out as the Production Manager was super busy (concerts upon concerts!) and couldn’t let us use the wooden stage flats, I had to come up with another plan. I decided on rooftops made of cardboard to host the reindeer and the sugar plum fairies. This was a modular solution that we could make in a small area and store until the show, and didn’t require volunteers to have specific skills to be able to help out. I asked parents to cut up rectangles of card at home of specific dimensions, and these were turned into roof shingles. The school facilities chaps were so helpful when I kept stealing the recycling, and I visited Michaels on delivery day to snag some of their large scale packing card.
In between running around Christmas shopping some of the parents popped in to help as I set up in a corner of the school and constructed and painted the rooftops, using kitchen sponges to print brick texture. Karen, another Mum introduced me to Tuck Tape which was amazingly reliable for construction – (I won’t use anything else now!) apparently its used for actual home construction. Karen also made cute curtains which we hung inside cardboard dormer windows and lit from within.
The final set looked lovely with the addition of some fir trees (just like West Vancouver!) but the real show stoppers were undoubtedly the children, we were all so proud of their performance!
I devised this event as a fun way to bring our new Kindergarten parents together at school, but it would work equally well as a team-building exercise or corporate event.
When we decided to host a wine tasting as part of our school community building, I knew involving an element of art would be fun. I decided to incorporate something of a leveller for the playing field so that people’s inner critics would not discourage them from joining in. Leading a session of ‘blind contour’ portrait drawing surreptitiously encouraged the participants to engage with one of art’s best exercises, that of careful observation.
The exercise involved creating portraits in pairs, with the artist not allowed to look at their drawing whilst in process, and with the rule that the pen has to stay on the board at all times. Drawing each other in turn was fun and engaging, and there were a lot of laughs as our participants posed, drew, sipped and swapped notes. I also demonstrated the use of the colour wheel and provided paint so the participants could take their piece even further.
The event was a great success, with wonderfully positive feedback. Anna and David, my hosting partners, provided a lovely selection of wines from France and California and wrote helpful tasting notes, as well as allowing us to use their beautiful home for the event.
I branded the invite and handouts (tasting notes, and art history cues) with a custom logo and consistent look and feel. I’m looking forward to hosting another session!
This year, the Scholastic Autumn Book Fair theme was ‘Enchanted Forest’. I volunteered to decorate a section of the school library as part of its magical transformation.
Considering the space, I was inspired to create some enchanted ‘flying’ books to hang above the readers. I hollowed out discounted children’s hardbacks and using Mod Podge to glue the pages open at different states, and hung them with nylon wire.
The signage was really fun to make, I painted wooden boards with freehand calligraphy and added autumnal detail and glass eyes for a touch of fantasy. I made headdresses for the librarians and signage for the cashiers to match.
I prepared faux foliage garlands and festooned the trees and windows, which looked beautiful with the light shining through the Fall colours. I added details to the trees such as battery-operated candles in lanterns, LED lights, sparkling rhinestones and strings of pretty ribbon with tags for the students to write on their book fair ‘wishes’.
I love an opportunity to decorate for a party, and even more so if I get the chance to make the decorations myself! The last few years we have hosted a Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) party, inspired by the Mexican holiday and the annual festival in Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.
For this year’s party I used some foam core on which I hand-painted bright calavera (skull) motifs. I created a skull and lace backdrop with twinkly lights and garlands with faux marigolds and lace ribbon, with plenty of hot glue. I painted and collaged a large polystyrene skull and a vintage sombrero that Chris bought from a work auction, which were fun decorative items and photo props. Papel picado was the inspiration for some cut paper-style foam core signs.
We also set aside a maker space and I led a craft session for my friends teaching them how to make calavera headdresses to wear, which was so fun even for the craft-reluctant!
This season I have been busy making scores of headdresses for Dia de los Muertos, and led a craft session to teach my friends how to make them too – such fun!
I used sturdy headbands, (either wide plastic or thin metal work well) and with hot glue, added a felt strip as a base to add the decoration. I provided a lovely selection of faux flowers and foliage, plastic and polystyrene skulls and rhinestones, and we dived in, cutting up some dollar store lace tablecloths as mantillas.
I returned to one of my favorite events here in LA, the Day of the Dead festival held in the impressive surroundings of Hollywood Forever Cemetery. This year I was more focused on photography (if you excuse the pun), shooting the spectacle on behalf of the organisers, rather than getting dressed up myself, which was great fun last year.
As the event was held early this year , (I suspect to avoid coinciding with Halloween parties) it was incredibly busy, a sensory experience – so many people with their own twist on the calaca costume, fun sparkly confections to buy, tasty morsels to sample, parades, and entertainers on a flamboyantly dressed stage. As the only cemetery in the US to hold a Day of the Dead festival, art exhibits inside the cathedral, rituals and dance performances on the lake,and altars nestled amongst the tombs and gravestones celebrate the unique location with both reverence and the spirit of fun. The community altars ranged from really moving dedications to ancestors or the military to cleverly humorous subjects including the dear departed dinosaurs, and demoted planet Pluto…
A selection of images are up over on my photography site
So much fun being back amongst the glitter and feathers, preparing for a samba parade! This time I was on the other side of the camera, instead of playing percussion with the bateria as I used to back in the UK, as I was the official photographer covering Brazilian Day LA for organizers Samba Lá and the Brazilian Consulate in LA. The event in Hancock Park was bigger than ever with two parades, a raft of performances and busy stalls selling authentic regional street food, and everything from Havaianas to Contemporanea drums and ‘fio dental’ bikinis.
Renni Flores and Katia Moraes were such fun hosts with boundless energy and humour, singing numbers in Portuguese including the specially-created enredo (parade song) and presenting a really impressive array of performers. On stage were Capoeira masters to samba kids, cheeky Carmen Miranda dancers, and more with the bateria of Samba Lá sounding really tight, and samba and forró bands leading the partying all day with impromptu dance instruction.
Photography-wise there was so much to capture my eye – everyone’s costumes were exquisite for the big parade, with popular sartorial choices for the crowd being confections in the patriotic yellow, green and blue flag.
The beautiful musa, madrinha, reinha, princesas and their consorts were such fun with the crowd and the elegant porta bandeira, the mestre-sala with the million dollar smile, and sunny tia baianas and passistas made the parade such a joy to photograph. The atmosphere took me right back to Rio’s Sambodromo during carnaval!