Wednesday, November 30

interview: new zealand colour society

Photos by Lucy Orbell

Lucy Orbell recently announced a project that invites everyone to consider and show thanks for colour. The New Zealand Colour Society's website has pre-made "thank you" cards for anyone to download and pop into the mailbox of a property they admire. I sent Lucy a few questions to understand her thinking behind such a social and gently encouraging project.

What is the New Zealand Colour Society?

The New Zealand Colour Society is a project trying to invigorate our world with colour - basically, it's a colour appreciation society. The idea centres around a belief that colour makes the world a more stimulating place to be, and that particularly in NZ, we're not the creators of the most colourful environments. The project offers people the chance to say "thank you" to those who've taken a risk with a bold move - such as painting their home bright, unconventional or multiple colours.

What led you to bridging that gap between admiring colourful buildings and creating a social project centred on that admiration?

Frustration really. I'd been living in Berlin for a year and a half and was thinking about my return home. I actually felt upset at returning to all the grey villas of NZ. Somehow, inherently, that represented a certain kind of homogeneity, a conservatism, and it made me feel resistant to coming home. What I love about Europe, and living in Germany in particular, is that even if buildings aren't vibrant in their colour use, they'll all be painted warm shades of terracotta, or a soft fawn that's a warm light yellow or pale pink. I loved that there was warmth to the environment and it accentuated for me the coldness of the colour palette that's common in NZ.

So, I came home. One day I was walking up Wallace St in Wellington and noticed a house that was painted three colours. It was simple but they'd used colour to highlight aspects of the house's detail - an old railway cottage - and I hadn't seen this house before - that is - it wasn't painted like this before I left for NZ. I felt gratitude, and thought: I wish I could thank them. The idea expanded itself then and there. And so I decided dropping off thank you notes in people's letterboxes was the best way to encourage vivid colour use.

What are three of your favourite buildings in your city?

I live in Wellington, and I just love the Michael Fowler Centre. It's my favourite. Sometimes I get anxious about earthquakes and walk past it and think: what would happen if you didn't exist (I'm quite attached to architecture)? It's also a phenomenal place to listen to music, but its curving steel aesthetic gets me every time.

I love the Aston Towers apartment building on Abel Smith St. It has a lovely late modernist look, and when I first moved here I was so keen to live there. Now whenever apartments come up for sale in the building I think, "will I buy it?". So one day I may end up there.

I live in an elegant villa that's been well-taken care of and is a place to feel comfortable. I love that when people walk in they want to sit down and they want to stay. There's something very special about that. So maybe it has to be my favourite.

Can you describe an interesting interaction that has come from giving thanks? 

Just on the weekend I ended up at a party with a former teacher of mine - I hadn't seen her for 17 years. I always admired her, and felt that she'd offered me important guidance towards the end of my schooling. She was cool. Anyway, we were having a big catch up, and I said: You were such a wonderful teacher. And not too much more, but she really responded with thanks, and emotion, it meant something to her. And I thought: how these simple words, which surely didn't convey the extent of my appreciation for her, not at all, had impact. How we all need to hear that we're OK, that we have done a good job, that we have been loved.

What kind of thoughtfulness do you hope this project will create/emphasise?

I hope people will be excited, or enthusiastic when they see a fabulous exterior - because they'll be able to act, and communicate via the thank you notes. So often we want to say something small, but don't have the chance. And I do believe in connecting people, and connecting ideas, so this is a random opportunity to create a little surprise and to say, "I noticed". But of course, I want people to think about why they make the colour choices they do - colour isn't scary - so just try something beyond grey, or beige. Please.

Friday, November 25

a song for a friday night

Adrian Ng is back! This is a song from a new wonderful project he has recently finished. Although he somewhat ironically sings "nothing to rearrange here," Adrian has recently rearranged his entire life and is now in Melbourne about to begin life as an art student. I am so happy for him and, as always with Adrian, I can't wait for what's to come. 


Sunday, November 13

fleshbag: an exhibition at the skinroom

Hello! My friend Kari just told me about a show called Fleshbag that she and a friend are running at the Skinroom in Hamilton from this Friday onwards. 

The description for Fleshbag reads: "A group show about the body - as a centre of being, a site of trauma, gendered, a vessel for ornamentation, vulnerable, worked upon, improved, nurtured, loved, caressed, picked up, dressed, as a means of transgression, as an object - a fleshbag." 

I have been following several artists who are showing in Fleshbag and I am so excited by the interesting conversations that will emerge from them all showing their work together. I can't wait to read about it. I have also never been to show in Hamilton and really wish this could have been my first one (but I'll be down in the South Island for the weekend). So, can you please go along for me?


Thursday, October 13

kane strang are on their way!

Kane Strang band minus Rass and Ben
Just wanna S/O to my gorgeous bf Kane and his band Peter, Rass and Ben who found their way onto NZ on Air Critics' Choice Award Shortlist for the NZ Music Awards. They have worked so much this year and they have even more planned for next year. Although I feel icky about award ceremonies, let's just take a moment to be blown away by these guys!


Wednesday, September 21

all the government's dirty secrets

New Zealand Young Writers Festival was held in Dunedin at the beginning of the month. For a writing and reading enthusiast (who isn't, really?), I was terribly excited by the handful of great writers, poets, editors and creatives from around New Zealand who came to Dunedin to run workshops and panel discussions. Talking to so many people engaged and interested in writing was super heartening.

I was particularly excited/nervy to be participating in the festival by chairing my first panel discussion. The panelists were all people I deeply admire: Marcelo Rodriguez-Ferrere who is a public law lecturer from the University of Otago; Sasha Borissenko who is a freelance writer and Simpson Grierson's communications adviser; and Jessica McAllen who is a young, award-winning freelance writer. The discussion opened with an explanation of the Official Information Act and quickly delved into personal experiences with requests for information, as well as the deeper issues underlying the Act. For anyone interested, a podcast of the panel discussion has been posted here.


Tuesday, August 23


All photos by Alex Lovell-Smith.
After 5 1/2 years at university (including an exchange in Beijing), I finally have graduated with three qualifications. Although I was anxious during the week leading up to graduation, once my family arrived in Dunedin the tight knot in my stomach untangled and I started to see the joyous (and totally cheesy) side to it all. The ceremony itself was slightly tired and lack-lustre, but my friends near and far, family, boyfriend and his family reminded me of the great support and love they have provided me. It's heartwarming and, if I dwell on it too much, overwhelming.

I only have two months left in Dunedin before I move up north for a new job. I'm not sure how all that is going to turn out but right now I'm filled with a deep affection for Dunedin -- one that will no doubt probably bring me back here for another stint.


Thursday, August 18

on film: a mother & daughter in mexico

Mexico City > San Cristobal de las Casas > Oaxaca. A mother-daughter journey told by a disposable film camera.