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Since March this year I have been contributing to ArchitectureAU. Its an online portal for Architects and Designers to connect with people, the latest projects and critical discourse. To date I have contributed five stories with photographs and illustrations.

APT7 at GOMA – View to Damien Gulkledep’s Pomio People 2011. Photography Christina Waterson.

1. My first was a postcard about APT7 at GOMA.

This story also included a series of collages and illustrations I completed while Studying Architecture at The University of Queensland.

Design Process – This story also included a series of collages and illustrations I completed while Studying Architecture at The University of Queensland. Collage by Christina Waterson.

2. The next was an interview with Queensland Interior Designer Marisha McAuliffe about her groundbreaking research into the Design Process.

The Opposite House Foyer – a luxury hotel in Sanlitan Village, Beijing, designed by Kengo Kuma’s. Photography by Christina Waterson.

3. Then I contributed a Postcard about a great hotel I stayed in while visiting Beijing, called The Opposite House.

Jeweller Phobe Porter at the Opening of her Exhibition entitled Unfold. Photography by James Braund.

Jeweller Phoebe Porter at the opening of her exhibition entitled Unfold. Photography by James Braund.

4. I loved writing the catalogue essay for Jeweller Phoebe Porter on the occasion of her exhibition Unfold held at Craft Victoria. It was great to share this essay called Making Refining Sharing on the Architecture AU website accompanied with beautiful imagery by photographer James Braund.

WOOD: art design architecture - view to Sherrie  Knipe's work

WOOD: art design architecture – view to Sherrie Knipe’s work Boot Lace. Photography by Christina Waterson.

5. And my latest contribution – a review of the exhibition WOOD: art design architecture at JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design, Adelaide.

I have come to really love being creative through writing and photography, as well as meeting the talented practitioners behind the amazing work. It is a pleasure to present their stories through the professional forum of ArchitectureAU.

Follow the links above to my articles posted on the ArchitectureAU website, have a read and let me know what you think!

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Kwoma (PNG) performing the Aptaumb Hoka.

Kwoma (PNG) performing the Aptaumb Hoka.

At Kurilpa Point a sandy beach marks the river crossing where Aboriginal people entered their ceremonial hunting and gathering ground for hundreds if not thousands of years. Today just a small distance from this beach the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (QGOMA) resides. Here artworks and artists from our greater region are gathered for the 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT7).

Waterson_APT_0417

Edwin Rosena’s Green Hypermarket Series 2011 – 12.

Yullu Burri Bah - the Indigenous Australian group performing in front of Big Yellow.

Yullu Burri Bah – the Indigenous Australian group performing in front of Richard Maloy’s Big Yellow.

APT7 marks the 20th anniversary of the series. From the outset APT was groundbreaking – a place to witness the unique strengths, traditions and perspectives as well as the region’s struggles, through sometimes controversial and political art. APT7 features the work of 75 artists originating from over 27 Countries within our Asia Pacific Region.

Artist Huang Yong Ping's 54-metre long snake skeleton suspended over the water.

Artist Huang Yong Ping’s 54-metre long snake skeleton suspended over the water.

It is always inspiring to witness the ambitious scope and diversity that each unique APT embraces. APT7 is no exception. It expands its geographical scope through 0 – Now: Traversing West Asia by bringing together seven artists and collectives from the Middle East and Central Asia. Claiming new territory this APT acknowledges the ever-shifting extents and impacts of cultural interaction.

View to

View to Damien Gulkledep’s Pomio People 2011.

APT7 also feels different. It’s less like a fantabulous sideshow blockbuster – with bells, whistles and flashing lights – witnessed in some past APTs. Rather APT7 imbues a quiet confidence with a focus on the art. This is underpinned by elegantly simple exhibition design, in depth research, and the intention, materiality and detail of the artworks. This difference may, in part, be a result of the times – economic, political and social as well as the fresh and welcomed direction of QAGOMA’s first female Director (Acting) – Suhanya Raffel. 

Timber Temple

Takahiro Iwasaki’s Reflection Model (Perfect Bliss) 2010 – 2012, scale model of Byodo-in a Buddhist temple near Kyoto, Japan.

Lorraine Connelly-Northey's Narbong (String Bags) made from recycled materials.

Lorraine Connelly-Northey’s Narbong (String Bags) made from recycled materials.

Narbong (String Bags) detail.

Narbong (String Bags) – detail.

Tiwi performers (in front of Timothy Cook’s work).

Tiwi performers (in front of Timothy Cook’s work).

In terms of the artworks themselves I could outline in detail the themes relating to geography, history and culture, nature-culture-city re-imaginings as well as the adaptability of local traditions to globalization – all relevant, enduring and timely.

400 Glass Animals

Tiffany Chung’s Roaming with the Dawn… with 4000 hand made glass animals.

Giraffes glitter in the herd

Detail – giraffes glitter in the herd.

Impossible Intricate weavings. Respect.

Impossible Intricate weavings.

I could also describe the diverse materials and techniques used by the artists ranging from interlocked rusted bed springs, knotted string, cardboard boxes held with masking tape, hand formed glass miniature wildlife, woven twine, carved wood etc.

Kwoma (PNG)  performing the Aptaumb Hoka.

Kwoma (PNG) performing the Aptaumb Hoka.

Instead I want to share a personal moment from the Opening Weekend that for me captures the essence of APT- in place and time.

Caption

Kwomo Arts large-scale structure based on the customary kowomb or Spirit House.

Caption

Detail of the carvings specially commissioned by QAGGOMA for APT7.

As drums from the Pacific beat, guests are drawn out from the interior Gallery spaces to stand between carved and painted structures from Papua New Guinea.

Michael Young

Friends meet in front of Michael Cook’s Civilisation 2012.

Michael Young

Sharing special moments.

Just in front of Michael Cook’s beautiful series of photographs (Civilization 2012) – I see old acquaintances, artists, and friends chance across each other in the crowd. They smile, welcome each other and embrace and speak of the time that has passed and all of the moments in between.

Throughout the Opening Weekend there was an amazing feeling of gathering through a reconnection to people, place and the greater region that we live in. For me this is at the heart of what the exhibition, the artworks, the APT series and especially Kurilpa Point mean. Together they form a gathering place where people come together to share ideas, celebrate differences and crossovers, and impart stories and personal histories – all in a myriad of forms, mediums and voices.

APT7 is a ‘must experience’ exhibition. The APT 20-year archive on display and the two-film program at the Gallery’s Australian Cinémathèque alone will keep people inspired and connected throughout the long hot summer.

APT7 continues until 14 April 2013. Admission is free. Visit QAGOMA’s Official Website for all of the details, activities and screenings.

 All Photography # Christina Waterson.

Making Plexa#1 at SLQ. Photo by David Sandison

Design’s true contribution to the wider community is something money just can’t buy.

Beyond fashion, sales, price point and the hottest-newest item for sale, there is the intrinsic worth of design that transcends market forces.

Can you buy the true belief and passion, ingenuity, and provenance built into projects over time? Can you measure the value of direct relationships and knowledge grown through design process and investigation? What’s the current asking price for meaningful places of experience that grow within the memories of future generations? What is the creative capital that creative thinkers bring to the wider community?

We may be able to buy the products and projects of design thinking, but that doesn’t ensure the acquirer values their meaning and concept. Many Australian Retailers, Designers and Architects have conveyed their clients’ focus on price rather than an understanding of the background story to products and projects. Especially since the GFC, clients and buyers are caring more about price.

At some point in the recent past sell overtook soul.

How much do you sell those for? Where can I buy one? How much did that cost to make? When one answers the barrage of questions with ‘Actually you can’t buy these anywhere”, “That’s the only one in the world”, or ‘Our business plan for this product is not to sell it’.

There is an understandable silence. And then there is a smile and often a nod, and a ‘Wow’ exclamation. I have witnessed this response through the Tracelet Project.

Personal experience and connection. Photography by George Dedic.

Tracelet is a symbol, a talisman. It took about ten years for it to evolve into its present form. You can’t buy it anywhere. These are personal gifts that are not sold. You can only receive Tracelet once the story of its origin has been shared. Yes it’s a bracelet that’s meant to be worn.

But above all, Tracelet is to be treasured and to remind the wearer of the gift of knowledge, of process and a connection with the designer/maker.

So far I have personally given 400 Tracelet sets to people. In doing this I get something far more important than a few dollars in the bank.

Giving Tracelet at Brisbane Indesign 2012. Photography by George Dedic.

I get to share Tracelet’s story directly, witness peoples’ responses, hear what they see and connect in a way that is not possible within the normal retail model.

It is my personal belief that a designer’s true gift rests not just in the physical objects and places that they have made through out their career. These are merely the perspiration from an endeavour to make everyday experiences better.

INSPIRATIONAL MOMENTS! Array Installation for the 2007 Qld Architecture Awards Event: a collaboration between Christina Waterson and Cox Rayner Architects. Photography by CFC Photography.

Our biggest contribution is the opportunity to inspire and move others (professionals, students and people from not only the design sector but all areas of the community) to think differently.

Our philosophies, sharing our process and knowledge and (yes) how these ideas are embedded in the environments and things that we design in the world, are integral to creating a spark; a spark that challenges people to think differently about what and why they do what they do in life, work and business.

Passionate chats at Why We Create’s Queensland Launch. Photography Joshua Thies.

Making connections at Why We Create’s Queensland Launch. Photography Joshua Thies.

Our true value is not the price that we get for our designs or the number we sell over time, but rather the relationships between people and personal connections made within all of our thinking.

Written for DESIGN ONLINE, The State Library of Queensland’s new online resource.

Design Online is delivered and curated by the State Library of Queensland’s Asia Pacific Design Library. The Asia Pacific Design Library is a shared space (physically and digitally) for industry, academia and the public to come together in the generation of new knowledge around design in the Asia Pacific.

Check out Design Online and the also fantastic Design Minds!

As a treat I spent my last Beijing weekend at The Opposite House.

With its blocky exterior and colorful façade it sits comfortably within the new development of Sanlitan Village. At Sanlitan Lu lies a symbiotic dichotomy; a divide and link between this new retail hub (with its bars, clubs and luxury brand delights) and the Embassy compounds with barbed wire, breeze block fortifications, uniformed guards and 60’s architecture. The Opposite House has been embraced by young and old with much of the patronage coming from across the divide. It is the place to be any night of the week. Its bars and restaurants are exceptional in feel and fair.

The Opposite House was one of Japanese Architect, Kengo Kuma’s maiden projects. It is worth noting that the office also completed the master plan for Sanlitan Village. From outside-in The Opposite House is not screaming ‘look at me’. It is reposed. The pleasure and joy are in essential qualities and design principles that form a coherent ‘parti’; the intersection of volumes, the natural materials expressed; visible circulation (the ‘hotel corridor’ turned inside-out with room access lining a central courtyard-like volume); the feeling of outside-in; the filtering of light, view and privacy through a considered syntax of surfaces, screens, constructions and patterns.

Reception

Reception Cabinet

Sanlitan Village Beyond

Central Atrium with exhibition of Chen Wenling’s ‘Time Without Changes’ work, presented by Red Gate Gallery

It felt surprisingly very Chinese but through the frame of discrete Japanese hands and sensibilities. The name of the hotel itself and spatial quality reference the traditional courtyard house where guests are received. The finer details, such as the external facade pattern or the medicine cabinet drawers within the reception reference traditional Chinese motifs, lattice screens and furniture.

Interior

Having stayed in my fair share of ‘design hotels’ throughout the trip it was a relief to be here. The spaces were uncluttered and considered; there weren’t an array of designer chairs, lights or accessories littering the reception or the guest rooms. This ‘space’ meant that often one’s mind was free to wander and reflect on the experiences from the day while also be tuned to the moment unfolding in the present. This calm was something that I really enjoyed.

Karacho’s Saruyama Salon with Hyotan (gourd pattern) on the entry Fusami

On arriving at Karacho’s Saruyama Salon I was greeted by my special interpreter for the day (Karacho staff member) Mayo Ishii. Ishii modestly introduced Toto and Aiko, the twelfth generation of Karacho Karakami artists.

Toto first presented the Karacho Fusami screen samples. The patterns were very spatial and present in time; especially the white on white Kado Tsunagi (connecting angles). It was like a spider’s web at night catching the smallest amount of light with its silvery thread; a shimmering transient moment.

The hangi (wood blocks) are a particular size to match the largest size of washi produced in the early times. On the Fusami screens the patterns are set out to form a continuous pattern. Many of the patterns that looked contemporary were in fact the very oldest.

There is a special ritual that Toto performs to prepare for Karakami. This is personal and spiritual. Toto selected a wood block with the pattern of a wispy cloud (or for me like the moment when the sun glows on the lining of a cloud). It was very soothing to watch Toto work. In Karakami the colour is applied with a furui. This application is gentler on the woodblock than a brush and ensures the hangi’s longevity.

Preparation: combining the pigments to the desired colour mixed with mica; then applied to furui (fine circular sieve) with the natural brush; a selection of prepared hangi

Toto gently transfers the colour to the prepared hangi

Gentle touch as washi meets hangi through pattern

Checking, then adding colour

Gently the washi is lifted from the hangi and karakami placed face up

Toto informed me that it was now my turn! I was a little reserved as it was such an honour to experience the making of Karakami. Toto guided me through the process and told me that watching someone make Karakami gave an insight into a person’s nature…

The hangi Toto selected for me was asanoha (hemp leaves). This was a block that had been carved anew as the original was very often used.

…Come close and let me whisper something. There is a moment when the furui meets the hangi for the first time, that is like breathing.  Delicate and fleeting and very personal.

The feeling took my breath away.

In special company; Toto (far left), I, Aiko, and Interpreter: Karacho staff member Mayo Ishii (far right) in front of a contemporary and very personal work by Toto. The work is at home within Goo Shrine, Kyoto.

It has taken me some time to reflect on and prepare this post (and the series of posts) about meeting Karacho and spending time with Toto and Aiko. This is because I had an experience that is hard to put into words. Here is Part 1 of my attempt…

Karacho is Japan’s last maker of Karakami. Karakami is wood-block printed paper. The Senda family have been printing karakami since establishing their workshop in Kyoto in 1624. The tradition, along with 650 hand-carved wooden blocks, have been passed down in an unbroken line within the family for twelve generations. Karakami traditionally graced  Fusami screens (traditional sliding doors to open and divide space)  but now is made more available through textiles, furniture and tableware at Shijo Karasuma, Cocon Karasuma building in Kyoto.

The karakami Karacho make today continues to preserve and echo the traditional process that is 400 years old. It is within the materials, care/intention, mood and a delicate quiet beauty that the union of motif and washi lives.

The materials all originate from nature.

The washi (wa Japanese shi paper) is made from living trees and bushes.  Kyoto washi is known to be of the best quality; it is smooth with natural fibres subtly scattered throughout.

The circular frame Furui after pigment and pattern transferred, mortar and pestle with colour mixed, the natural brush below and Mica to the right side.

The colour is mixed from natural pigments. Only three pure colours are combined; red, blue and yellow. There is no recipe. These are mixed at the moment of printing. They are mixed with Mica; a shimmering mineral that is ground into a powder for this purpose. The final colour is inspired by a personal moment from the day; like the colour of flowering blossoms seen that morning or the colour of the sky from that afternoon. No two prints will be the same.

The woodblocks or Hangi are mostly carved from Magnolia or Honoki wood (Magnolia Hypoleucaea or Magnolia Obovata). Honoki is a non-resinous wood that has a subtle grain and is not subject to warping and cracking.

The Crane with The Nine Stars original wood block underneath

The patterns or motifs carved into the Hangi come from many different sources. They are all however carefully considered, and continue to live through Karacho. One of Karacho’s patterns originates from the Alhambra, in Spain ( a place I had hoped to visit on my travels but was too pressed for time). The pattern records the concealment of the mark of Christianity; the cross. The cross was simplified to a circle and square to escape persecution from other religions at the time. The pattern made its way to Japan, on the Maritime Silk Road through traders, as an exported silk yoke previously worn by Christian priests. While that is the origin, in Japan, the circle in this arrangement is an important pattern as it embodies ever-growing, ever-expanding happiness.

A contemporary installation of ancient Karacho karakami patterns at Karacho’s Shijo Karasuma

Many of the patterns are inspired by and celebrate the beauty of Japanese nature and season. The breath and character of the Dragon in the form of the cloud, the fertile Hyotan (Gord), the hope for longevity of Kikko (the tortoise carapace pattern), the growth and importance of Asanoha (hemp in Japanese every day life through weaving), and Edasakura the cherry blossom in full bloom on branches…

Some of these patterns re-occur in other cultures including China, Turkey and Northern Europe (the Celtic people). In this way they are universal patterns that have transcended time and culture. Each culture has subtle differences in the meaning assigned to the patterns, their application and use,; but all are linked to the exchange of knowledge through trade along the Silk Road.

Just as the materials used in Karakami all originate from nature, they are all linked through the life given by water. And like water Toto and Aiko breathe life and bring together these elements with the contact and touch of their hands. They see their role as breathing life into these elements; the washi, the hangi, the motif, the nature, the colour; through the moment of Karakami.

Toto’s delicate touch

Karacho Karakami