Another weekend craft project completed

Blue and white tote bag, for carrying library books. Slogan says "I have always imagined that Paradise would be a kind of library." Jorge Luis Borges. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Image: Su Leslie, 2018

In the spirit of trying to eliminate single use plastic bags from my life (and use up my fabric stash), I’m making totes instead. This one is particularly sturdy and wide-based, designed to carry library books.

Next up; perhaps a tote to carry my totes in!

Photo Rehab Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Makeover #6

the house we grew up in cover makeover

Image and design: Su Leslie, 2015

This week’s #PhotoRehabCoverMakeover challenge from Lucile (bridging lacunas) and Desley (Musings of a Frequent Flying Scientist) is the novel,  The House We Grew Up In, by Lisa Jewell.

I haven’t read the book, and I deliberately didn’t find out too much about it. I love the title and wanted to create a cover that worked for the story that I imagined.



Photo Rehab Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Makeover #4

I loved this shot of my son anyway. While his dad and I were enjoying the sunset, he was happily engrossed in the music coming from his iPod. It's certainly the most cheerful of my interpretations of the challenge. Image: Su Leslie, 2012.

I love this shot of my son. While his dad and I were enjoying the sunset, he was happily engrossed in the music coming from his iPod. It’s certainly the most cheerful of my interpretations of the challenge. Image: Su Leslie, 2012.

I’ve been enjoying Lucile (bridging lacunas) and Desley’s (Musings of a Frequent Flying Scientist) weekly Cover Makeover challenge, but hadn’t really thought about joining until last week.

I had a long (and quite frustrating) conversation with a colleague who wanted me to do quite a bit of (pro bono) work on a brochure re-design — on the basis that it was “only changing the cover shot and updating the text a bit.” In trying to explain that design is a lot more than slapping a photo on the page and adding a few words (assuming we could even source an image of the subject she was suggesting), I realised I needed to adopt the writer’s maxim;  “show, don’t tell”.

So I created a few alternative cover designs for The Invention of Solitude and talked through “my working out” with my colleague. I’m not going to bore you with all the iterations, but will share my “final” designs.

The least successful cover -- but the most successful teaching moment with my colleague. Image: Tom Gray, 2011.

The least successful cover — but the most successful teaching moment with my colleague. Image: Tom Gray, 2011.

The above is, I think, the least successful cover (and so the most useful for my teaching purpose). I like the image, which my son took of me a few years ago, but struggled to make the required text fit the space — while being visible on a background of both dark and light.

... and at the last minute! I shot this image at the weekend. It captured a different interpretation, and I couldn't resist using it. Image: Su Leslie, 2015.

Boats moored off Birkenhead, Auckland, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2015.

This was my “late entry”– the image shot at the weekend. It is the closest to the mental image that the book’s title conjured for me.

What do you think?

This post was written for the Photo Rehab Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Makeover #4.


Art for art’s sake; money for Women’s Refuge (with apologies to 10cc)

Sally Tagg, Pollen Hybrid, 2008. Exhibited at NZ Sculpture OnShore in 2008. Photographed in its new home in a private collection. Photo: Tom Gray: 2013.

Sally Tagg, Pollen Hybrid, 2008. Exhibited at NZ Sculpture OnShore in 2008. Photographed in its new home in a private collection. Photo: Tom Gray: 2013.

The Oxford Dictionary online defines art as:

The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

While it’s true that we can experience art anywhere, in anything we find beautiful or moving, I have a particular love of the fine arts. I am most passionate about sculpture and film, and am incredibly lucky to work with an arts organisation. I help organise NZ Sculpture OnShore, a biennial sculpture exhibition which raises funds for New Zealand Women’s Refuge. This stroke of luck means I am able to experience wonderful  “expressions and applications of human creative skill” on an almost daily basis.

Ocean Swell by Rod Davies, photographed at Kaipara Coast Sculpture Gardens. Exhibited at NZ Sculpture OnShore, 2012.Photo: Su Leslie 2013

Rod Davies, Ocean Swell, 2012. Exhibited at NZ Sculpture OnShore, 2012.Photographed at Kaipara Coast Sculpture Gardens, 2013. Photo: Su Leslie 2013

My role within the organization is to market the event; to bring as many people as possible through the gates to view and enjoy some of the best contemporary New Zealand sculpture. The equation is simple: more visitors = more money. More money means more that Women’s Refuge can do to help women and their children  escape from abusive relationships and build new, better lives.

So far, we have donated $1.34 million dollars to the cause. We have funded a respite house, educational materials, special packs for children entering refuges – sometimes in the middle of the night with only the clothes on their backs – Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: curving towards reality

“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.” ― John Lennon

“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”
― John Lennon

The delicate curves of this sculpture remind me of ballet; of a dancer rehearsing – probably something like The Maple Leaf Rag.

I can imagine the  upright piano in the corner, with a long-haired, wild eyed young man playing for a solitary dancer who moves about the floor.

sculpture2Of course, my image is not real. But neither is the sculpture. It is virtual; a clever piece of engineering design, mathematically modelled, rendered in 3-D and located in a photographic space.

The designer is my partner. He’s an engineer by profession, and an artist in his soul. His mastery of the technology allows him to imagine works of art, and create them in a virtual world – but one that can intersect with reality.

Daily Prompt: Million Dollar Question


Why do I blog?

1. I’ve got a fidgety brain.  I need to write because it seems to be the only way to channel the fidgeting; to get the ideas that won’t shape themselves in my head somewhere I can see them and construct some sort of sense. It’s cerebral knitting. And yes, I do the actual kind too to stop myself grinching fabric and picking at my fingernails.

2. I’m basically sociable. I like talking to new people; having them become part of the narrative I’m constructing. And more importantly, I love sharing in other people’s stories. My mum can go for a bus ride into town and come home with eight strangers’ life stories. I used to both marvel at that and be slightly freaked out by it. But you know what? I’m becoming my mother – only I’m riding the cyber-bus.

3. I like technology. I used to keep a journal which got filled with photos and newspaper clippings, but with a blog I can have video and links to other writers’ and ideas and all sorts of cool stuff. It’s way more exciting to produce, and a much more interesting reader experience. I’ve worked as a writer/document designer and I feel really strongly that (kind of like how we eat with our eyes first) we read pages as a whole visual thing. Text is increasingly image and the more I can make those images appealing, the better.

Nuff said!

Learning to live with a little less

In Thinking it Through, Tony Watkins asks

What do you give to the person who has everything? Probably the greatest gift would be the ability to live with a little less. Far more than any consumer addition, they will treasure the ability to be free.

A single plum ripening on my plum tree.

A single plum ripening on my tree.

The quote is from a piece called “Living with a little less”, and it’s stuck in my head for the last week or so; becoming  a lens through which I see more clearly the things that are going on in my life at the moment; from de-cluttering my house, to planning meals around what’s ripe in my garden, to the way I am looking at tv advertising, politics, the environment … even trying to improve my health can be understood as living with a little less … of me.

Much of Watkins’ piece is about the process of design, suggesting that good design can be either additive—beginning with the core of form or function and adding what is needed to achieve that; or subtractive—starting with the outer limits and taking away everything that isn’t needed to achieve the design goal. (Thinking it through, p. 16)

One of the things I relish about Tony Watkins’ writing is the way ideas move so fluidly—from comment on architecture to the observation that:

The powerful philosophy of the consumer society moves us into an additive mode of thinking, but even the wealthy reach a point where they feel the need to have a garage sale.

In global terms, I am one of the wealthy—and now it’s time for my garage sale.

“if a window does not enhance the experience of seeing, it should never be built”

“Any architect worthy of the name always designs a window so the reality will be more clearly seen. If a window does not enhance the experience of seeing, it should never be built. The skill of the architect is the ability to make people see more clearly. The skill of the poet or artist is also the ability to make people see more clearly. Art makes truth both visible and accessible. Art lifts us up so we may touch reality.

Tony Watkin’s Thinking it through (2012)


Thinking it Through is a collection of columns architect and designer Tony Watkins wrote in the 1980’s and 1990’s. So far, I’ve only read a few of them and I think it will be slow going. Not in a bad way – it’s just that every few lines I come across an idea that makes me go “yeah, I have to write that down.”

If I was the kind of person who writes in their books, this one would be covered in scrawled margin notes already.

What I liked about this line wasn’t just the very simple, no-nonsense point about form and function, but that it brought to mind an extraordinarily strong memory visual memory. A memory quite literally of a window that should never have been built – or at least built in a different position.

In the late 1970’s,  I lived next door to a family who had an “architect-designed home.” Actually, since I’d grown up living in State houses, it could be said that I had also lived in “architect-designed homes.” But since mine were rented from the Government and the design was pretty standard across thousands of houses, the people next door were a bit special since they were amongst the relatively few families in New Zealand who had commissioned an architect to design a house specifically for them.

The reason Tony Watkins’ article made me think about the house next door was that its kitchen faced ours. The houses, although quite close together, were separated by a rather lovely garden of native trees and shrubs. Because of the proximity, I spent a lot of time seeing the “lady of the house” doing the dishes. Actually, what I saw were her torso and hands. That’s because the kitchen window in her “architect-designed house” was set so low that only quite small children could have seen out of it while they were standing at the sink.

So for several years I watched headless bodies doing dishes, getting glasses of water, filling the kettle, etc and all the time those headless bodies were looking at the wall above the window instead of their beautiful garden.

I’ve often wondered why the house was built with such a window. Was it a mis-calculation by the builder, or was it actually a design feature – deliberately put there by the architect. Surely if the builder had made a mistake, it would have been rectified. I guess I’ll never know, since lacking the facility to make eye-contact with the neigbours, I didn’t really get to know them.

I’m slowly working my way through Thinking it Through. I’m enjoying the intelligent, insightful text and Haruhiko Sameshima‘s gorgeous photographs; frequently reaching for my notebook to jot things down, and slowly developing my architectural world-view.

Beyond the kitchen wallI believe that in essence, design is being human made manifest in hard materials. Design should exhibit the same characteristics we want in humans; compassion, fairness, love, beauty, humour. Buildings should be friends – or at least fond acquaintances.

I’ve used to wonder what was on the wall above my neighbour’s kitchen window. A picture of a garden perhaps?