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Green Collective Rediscovered 

January 14, 2017

As we explored Yarraville today I was pleased to discover that a long-gone old favourite store of mine from Brunswick is alive and thriving in the West.

 Green Collective sell a lovely and eclectic range of fair trade, eco conscious, secondhand and recycled things including keep-cups, locally designed cards and wrap on recycled paper, fairly traded wooden toys, baby blankets made of repurposed old saris, and an extensive range of secondhand clothes and shoes. One of the best places in Melbourne for fair and eco shopping in my opinion.

We walked away with some handmade finger puppets for the toddler, several greeting cards, one keep cup and a pair of preloved leather loafers for me. And that was being restrained! Love this shop!

PS. In looking up their website to link to this post I’ve discovered they have another store in Braybrook. More ethical shopping fun for another day.

The Two Must-Haves for Every Stylish Woman in 2017

January 8, 2017

I’m sick of reading about fashion “must-haves”. There are all sorts of items that get listed: black leggings, red lipstick, white shirts, blue jeans, nude heels… Buy this, and this, and this, and these!

Enough! Must-Haves are a myth dreamt up by marketers.

We’re all different in our tastes, shapes, sizes and lifestyles. One size, or item, does not fit all. The “must-have” may be an appealing idea, a kind of magic pill for the dowdy, but the idea is misguided nonetheless. 

If you want to dress with style there is no magic formula. Looking to others for ideas and inspiration can be useful, but in the end we each have to work out our own individual way of dressing that fits our way of life, body shape and preferences. 

The only real “must-haves” for the stylish woman are her own sense of style and the confidence to follow it. 

What they didn’t teach you in art school

January 5, 2017

A lovely thing about working in a library is stumbling across interesting, inspiring and intriguing books on a regular basis. 

I devoured this book of advice for artists today, dipping back into it at every opportunity. 

It is a simple concept- a small book of practical career advice for would-be artists put together by working artists- and it is done really well. A concise, well-designed, informative, realistic yet kind-spirited book to guide and inspire, I’d highly recommend this to anyone considering or already grappling with an artistic career. 

I particularly loved the insights of the artist, Harry Pye, whose day job is working in the bookshop of Tate Britain. “I like working with the public and I find working at the Tate more educational than being at art school. Most of the people I work with are either well-educated and know a lot about books, or they are an artist, or they are just nice. So I am happy.”

Right now I’m not working actively as an artist or illustrator. But I’m lucky to work in a place where interesting books and ideas are regularly crossing my path and I’m surrounded by great people. This is great fuel that helps artistic ideas to keep simmering away, plus a nice way to work anyway.

So my advice for would-be artists would be this:

  1. Read What they didn’t teach you in art school by Rosalind Davis and Annabel Tilley.
  2. If being an artist still appeals, go to art school.
  3. Stay true to yourself and your art. Allow yourself time to develop slowly. Your art career is not a race.
  4. Find a complementary job if you want or need one, (libraries, bookshops and museums are recommended).
  5. And finally remember that your success and happiness as a human-being is always more important than your success as an artist.

Good luck to all the artists out there. I wish you the inspiration, luck, time, talent, patience, networking skills and self promotion prowess to find success. But most of all I hope you enjoy creating and find joy in life.

On fairness, faults and allegations of fraud…

January 1, 2017

Over the last few weeks Centrelink, the organization tasked with issuing benefits to Australia’s most vulnerable, has been issuing debt notices incorrectly to innocent Australians because of problems with an automated system they’ve brought in to spot fraud. The Guardian has reported numerous cases of people issues with debts, often just before Christmas, and some of which Centrelink have admitted were mistakes on their part. But still our Government backs the automated system that is victimizing vulnerable and innocent people.

Why do I care? Obviously it isn’t fair to treat people like this, and fairness is something I care deeply about. But also, I myself once incurred a large Centrelink debt. I know how traumatic it is to receive that letter in the post. I know the humiliation of being treated like a fraud. I know the frustration of trying to communicate with an organization that seems to be set up expressly to treat the people they should be serving with the bare minimum of respect. I spent hours on the phone. I provided documents. I answered every question honestly, as I always had. Some Centrelink staff treated me kindly. Others not. Either way it seemed that the organization simply didn’t have the capacity to deal with my case quickly or kindly. The process was slow and gruelling. It was unfortunate that I was coming off anti-depressants at the time. Not their fault, but perhaps something they could have taken into account. But no. Stressed, anxious and depressed I quit Uni to save my self and sanity. It was the lowest low of my life. Centrelink admitted, after many months and an interview which I found more like an interrogation, that my original overpayment had been their fault. They even accepted that there was no way I could even have detected that I was being overpaid. They still insisted on repayment.

I paid as fast as I could and tried to move on. I hoped I could put it behind me quickly, and in many ways I think I did pretty well. But over a decade later I’m surprised at how much I still feel affected by this incident.

I was a young adult then, just trying to find my feet in the world. I wasn’t naturally confident, and I struggled with depression and anxiety, but I’d begun to establish myself as an artist and illustrator, and was trying to build my own business. I was trying to get a good education at uni too, and was doing very well there. I was working incredibly hard at uni, in my freelancing, in an entrepreneurial venture, and in casual work too. Yes, multiple jobs, but they were all declared. I’m one of nature’s goody two-shoes, too sensitive to try to get away with anything nefarious. But as fragile as I was, and I certainly was, I seemed to be doing really well. Great marks at Uni. Regular work as an illustrator. No problem finding other work to fill the gaps.

And then that letter arrived.

Over ten years later I’m still angry at Centrelink’s lack of care. As it happens, I’m fine. I looked after myself, (with help from good friends and family), and apart from a near phobia of dealing with bureaucracy and forms that surfaces every now and then, I think it is behind me. But it shook me hard. Confidence that I was finally beginning to build was blasted away. I went into survival mode, letting go of my uni ambitions and letting the business I’d worked hard to build slide away as I focused on just keeping myself together. At a time when I might sink or I might swim it was as though Centrelink was actively trying to push me under.

I like things to be fair, so if an automated system helps catch fraudsters I have no problem with that whatsoever. I want Centrelink to help those in need. But all too often it seems that Centrelink’s systems work against helping vulnerable people, or even actively cause harm.

We are a wealthy nation, and one with a history of priding ourselves on our sense of the “fair go”. But these days we’re lost and confused – taking care to look after the interests of the wealthy, scrambling to get what we can for ourselves, and more interested in cost effectiveness than treating welfare recipients with respect. Enough already. Centrelink’s job is to look after the vulnerable. This should extend to ensuring that welfare recipients are not harmed by false accusations of fraud or incorrect debt charges that could easily be avoided by procedures that double-check the findings of the automated systems, and which treat human beings as the fragile and precious beings that they are.

The place to be

October 30, 2016

Since having a baby I’ve discovered a whole new set of uses for public libraries. Of course there is borrowing books for bub and attending rhyme times. But less obviously, and sometimes more importantly for my parental sanity, I’ve discovered that out and about with a baby or toddler a library is the perfect place to stop for a rest, a toilet/nappy break, a feed, or to allow bub to stretch his legs for a bit after a long stint in the stroller. Now our local library is one of my son’s favourite places. He toddles around selecting board books, making friends with other children, attempting to climb the furniture (as I attempt to stop him), and tempting staff into games of peek-a-boo as they work amongst the shelves.

My feelings about returning to work next week are mixed. I’m nervous about leaving my son in the care of others, and I’m not looking forward to having less time as a family. But I love my job and I’m glad to be returning to work that supports an important community asset. Where else can you sit in the warm/dry/shade and breastfeed, change a nappy, have a chat, let your toddler take a toddle, browse some books and choose some to take home and not have to spend a thing? How many other free, indoor spaces are there where you can just be?

That is one of the best things the public library offers, and something often forgotten or undervalued. Yes, you can visit the library for books or information, to use a computer or attend an event. But you can also just visit and be. Public libraries: the place to be!

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It’s time…

October 8, 2016

Time has galloped! Suddenly my son is 15 months old. This time next month I’ll be back at work. My partner and I have been together now for 19 years, married for five. And tonight I’m heading out for my 20 year school reunion! Surely I’m not old enough for all this?!? How can this be?!?

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Taking a break from drawing at the window, aged about seven.

And yet in other areas it seems that time has stood still. Or gone backwards. As an optimistic child environmentalist, back in the 1980s and 90s, I would never have imagined that 25 years would pass and still we’d be driving petrol cars, burning coal to make electricity and that over-consumption would have increased not improved. How depressing.

This is not the future I imagined as a little girl watching Beyond 2000. This is not the future I want for my son!

Time flies and before you know it you’re middle-aged with a child and a mortgage. But idealism doesn’t have to die. This is a timely reminder that life is short. So, this is the time to pursue the things that really matter to me. Time to chase my childhood dreams – at least the ones I still care about. And time to fight for things that matter.

Artwork reading "I still believe my childhood dreams"

Artwork copyright Julia Marshall

Better late than never.

Note to self: how to recharge

September 9, 2016

Stop. If you possibly can, stop everything and just be for a bit. The to-do list can wait a little longer.

Rest. Relax. Bumble about. Follow your nose. Unwind.

Do the things you are drawn to do just because. Gently pay attention to what these things are. This can be interesting. Try not to over-analyze though, just let yourself do and be unfocused for a little while.

Being unfocused can be healing.

And then, when perhaps you’re beginning to feel refreshed, but perhaps a little too unraveled, gently refocus. Realign your spirit, or soul, or whatever it is, back within yourself. Refocus on the world without. And start again.