Posts tagged people
Prague's Creative Boom of the 90s

Photography was always a part of life and a family tradition for Alena Kotzmannova. Taking pictures was a hobby her parents and grandparents also enjoyed, transforming their apartment bathroom into a dark room of her childhood home in the 80s. But for Alena, traditional photography was just the start. She tells us, “I wanted to study photography, but I didn’t want to study at the film academy because it was limited to classical studies.” Alena was more interested in pushing the boundaries. She tells us she wanted to, “cross the boundaries between photography, video, and experimentation with new technologies.” Today, she explains that this is common but when she was in school programs that crossed disciplines didn’t exist—she had to carve her own path.

Education was not the only area in which Alena was at the cutting edge of the arts in Prague. As a young creative in the 80s and 90s, Alena was part of an important moment in the history of Czech arts scene. She tells us she felt fortunate to be, “part of a major boom of a creativity after the revolution.”

She tells us:

“After the revolution everything was new—nothing was established. We all worked together to build the atmosphere. There were lots and lots of art openings - every day. It was a very important time. You could suddenly see some work of artists who didn’t exhibit during communist time but now you were seeing these secrets and surprising works that until that time were hidden. It was a really special atmosphere and it’s hard to compare to today. Then, there was such a focus and a common expression.

There was this special mixture of “old Prague” which wasn’t renovated and it was kind of empty so I remember I was going across old town square at 5am and it was completely empty and I went from school to home because I developed photos throughout the night, and you could stay there all night and you just had a key (which is impossible now) and Prague was still the Prague you know from the old photos but the atmosphere was changed and enthusiastic.”

Alena’s 20+ year career has taken her all around the world exploring thematic questions such as place, identity, and memory. On her website, she explains one of her most recent collections The Wing Just Leaving The Desert, stating, “the most important quality of our memory is the subjective ability to forget, meaning to determine what is important and what is not. This regeneration of memory allows us to reorganize lived and stored experience and thus to see things anew and differently, from a different perspective.”

For Alena, the memory of Prague in the 90s is nostalgic, her memories full of passion and excitement for the creative energy of that moment in time. She describes the city today as having become “a very touristic place” but asserts that there are still some “hidden surprises that can appear in special situations.”

One of these places is in Prague 4, “down by the river.” This area has served as inspiration for one of her installations entitled, 193 Meters Above Sea Level. As a landlocked country, Czech Republic relies on the imagination of the sea, rather than the sea itself. She explains that, “I think that people who have the sea just as imagination, they have the ability to imagine more about it than people who live right on the edge of the land and sea.”

Purchase a beautiful book of Alena’s photographs here


Curation and Inspiration: Meet Museum Director, Alfred Weidinger

Neatly dressed, wearing his signature mustard yellow specs, Alfred sipped his cappuccino and quickly put us at ease with his disposition. He was both professorial and unassuming as he described his experience as Director of the MdbK Leipzig Museum of Fine Art. What quickly became evident was this: Leipzig is not only the location of this museum but also, its history and character are his inspiration.

When Dr. Alfred Weidinger became the Director in 2017, he was tasked with the challenge of infusing the museum with a dose of innovation to make the space a destination. What has emerged from this challenge is a story of experiential design punctuated by historical references, “pushing” tastes, and creating a space of art the represents Leipzig.

…and Leipzig has a fascinating story. Some of what Leipzig is best known for:

  • Trade Fairs: Leipzig known as the “gateway to the West” during GDR (East German) days

  • Johann Sebastian Bach’s home until his death in 1750

  • A major publishing city before WWII (often called “buch-stadt” i.e. book city)

  • An art genre: New Leipzig School in painting

  • Gose style beer

It’s no wonder the city’s history is Alfred’s main source of inspiration. He says, “every day I open a new page in a history book. Every day since I arrived is a new page.”His approach to the museum experience is both elevated and very human. His priorities also reflect this approach. He’s invited Tomas Saraceno to do an installation, visits local artist studios (often 3-4 in week), and is frequently the first person from a museum to knocked on their door. He aims to push the tastes of local Leipzig patrons while also creating a space where they feel free and comfortable.

Alfred Weidinger

Art: Andy Warhol
Leipzig Museum Atrium

What are your first impressions of Leipzig?

It’s a really young city and a lot of people have a sense of doing great things to move forward, not backwards. There’s huge power and huge potential.

This is a special city. Today, it's the fastest growing city in Germany. Leipzig was always a very independent city in terms of it’s thinking. It hosted a major a trade fair during the GDR, a place where people from both sides would gather. But even thousands of years before, in the middle ages, Leipzig was an important intersection point for trade. It's always been at the intersection.

Even today Leipzig conserves this feeling: Leipzig is always a little bit different.

How do you think about this mentality when you’re planning for the future of the museum?

The museum is a really great space and we need to give this space to the people. We are in a wonderful building, a great construction, and amazing architecture so I especially want to push the young artists and encourage them to think in large dimensions.

We have six terraces and halls that are 16 meters high! This space brings a lot of possibilities and potential. I know we’ll have the opportunity to show really influential artists—who are used to dealing with the scale. But I also want to give the young ones the chance to deal with the space. We're not New York and we're not London where you have to exhibit only the highest level. Here you can let the museum also be a laboratory.

I also want to share contemporary art. It's interesting, the artists in the GDR had knowledge of what's happening in the Western part of the world, but only from books. Everything was in black and white on a page.

Leipzig Museum

“The museum is a really great space and we need to give this space to the people.”

How do you balance being a museum of the city while also trying to push tastes as you mention with contemporary art?

I have to think about everything and everyone because we need to take care of the people who are living here—their needs, and what they want to see. But on the other hand, I have to teach them something, to attract them, and to push them a little bit (even if it doesn't always feels so nice). I have people who say "I don't like this. This is not art." It takes a while, but my aim is tolerance. It might seem like a low level, but if you get tolerance for contemporary art, you won.

I love that, taking pieces of inspiration from history and tying them into the museum. is there a particular place in Leipzig where you find inspiration?

I really do get inspiration from the history of the city. Just a few weeks ago someone told me in the GDR time there was a cinema in the train station—a 24 hour cinema. You just walked in and saw a movie for free. Isn't that great! This got me thinking about the space here [in the atrium]. I want to make 24 hour art spaces within this part of the museum.

And talking to people. I talk to and visit studios every week. Three to four artists every week. And this is very interesting because I get to see all mediums, genders, and ages. On Tuesday, I visited an artist in the countryside who is 88 years old. The stories he shared with me are so interesting and provide so much inspiration.

We have to take care of these people because in history, they were almost forgotten. In 1989 everyone felt this common sense: we are a new country this is great with lots of potential. Artists in this time worked for a few years really intensely. They made lots of works because they felt so powerful, but it took a turn and was a really sad time. Very few artists were able to swim on the top of the wave, most crashed down. When I visit with older artists, sometimes I am often first person from a museum in these 30 years who has knocked on the door.

How do you think about your role in this?

letter from artist in Leipzig

I try to do something for them. When you walk into the lobby by the front desk, there are four paintings on the wall. The painter is a 87 year old Jewish man, so he was completely forgotten. He lived here, and it was not an easy life here in Leipzig. He left the city after the fall of the wall because he felt there were more opportunities elsewhere. But no one was took care of them.

When I met him, we had a really nice talk. He was so grateful for the visit that he decided to give the museum one of his paintings as a gift. Later, he wrote me a letter that said, ‘I really like what you're doing and it's better to stand on two legs so I'll send you another one (painting).’ He sent me four and asked the people of Leipzig choose which to keep. For a while we had an iPad where visitors would vote to decide. There were thousands of participants!

For you personally, How did you find yourself at this museum in particular?

My career in art started in my childhood. I great up on Lake Attersee, a small lake near Salzburg where Gustav Klimt spent almost 16 years in the summer and then studied art history and archaeology in Salzburg. Later, I went to The Albertina in Vienna and focused on the work of Oskar Kokoschka and Gustav Klimt. I worked for more than 20 years in Vienna, but when this position opened here at MdbK I thought, let’s give it a try!

Leipzig and Vienna are linked. Here in Leipzig, we have an important painter: Max Klinger, but he is also a key figure for Austrian art. Klinger believed in the idea of a "Gesamtkunstwerk" (total work of art), adopted from Richard Wagner (also from Leipzig). He transformed the idea of the “total work of art” into art itself. This was new to the Viennese, and they appreciated this ideology: everything as art. As a result, Klinger was invited often to show his work and today, many important works from Klinger are owned by Austrian Institutions and only on loan here in Leipzig.


ART AT LEIPZIG MUSEUM

If you find yourself in Leipzig, walk into the atrium and up through the museum and think about more than the art you see: consider the history, the city, and the space as you explore. The space itself is quite magical and there is no ignoring the architecture. Designed by Hufnagel / Putz / Rafaelian, the museum boasts six massive atriums and unique interiors.

Stay in the know: Be sure take a look at Dr. Weidinger own body of work as photographer and art historian, found also on his personal website.

Dr. Alfred Weidinger on Instagram & Twitter

MdbK Museum on Instagram & Twitter

 

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Ivan & the Parazol on Communication, Hard Work and a Bit of Magic

"We aren’t trying to sound like anything else in particular. When people hear me they know I'm not British or American, but that's okay. I'm from here—from Budapest."

Budapest-based exciting and honest rock band, Ivan & the Parazol has a sound that energizes crowds throughout Europe When we ask them about what makes the band both fun and successful they describe a mix of open communication, hard-work, and little magic.

Communication: A close knit group, the four-part band says they are successful because they alway face issues face on…“we figured that you’re going to have problems (probably a lot of problems) either musically or personally. But if you are man enough to talk about something and put it on the table you’ll find a solution. That’s the secret. Just talk about the problems...talk a lot.” The past year has had a new set of challenges for Ivan & the Parazol with a band member having to step aside from the band. They describe the first shows without him as incredibly tough, even “traumatic.” But they have been able to use the emotion as fuel for their creative process - which in turn has meant sold out shows and an upcoming record. This new album was recorded East-West Studios and marks a milestone for their sound. “It should have been a really sad record because we just lost our bass player, but it’s a relief record. It’s ‘Exotic Post-Traumatic’.”

Hard Work: Ivan & The Parazol describes bands from Budapest as have a common work ethic. “The bands from here know how to work hard…know how to stuff you shit in a car to travel hours to a shitty festival. We learn how to work and to achieve great things. I’m not saying that other bands from more established countries aren’t working hard, but it’s different.”The Rock & Roll scene in Budapest is close-knit. “We all know each other, are friends, and a little competitive in a good way.” Can Budapest be the heart of the touring music in Europe? Ivan & The Parazol certainly hopes so. "Bands who play in Budapest, leave thinking this place is amazing (which it is). So, we hope Budapest will become an exciting add-on to all big tours!"

Magic: Even the first time they jammed together, they say, “it was magic. We were writing songs in 5 minutes. The last song of the first record was made after one or two months of us knowing each other - magic did happen. The sound chose us, not the other way around.” And it continues to work this way. In New York City? Go experience the magic ourself! Ivan & The Parazol will be in New York Wednesday October 3th - get your tickets here.



 
ivan & the parazol band
Behind Japan's hottest new fashion label: mister it.

“Do you know the Japanese concept, Iki? There’s no translation, and it’s very hard to explain. But it’s a part of our culture and style.”

Here’s what we learned. Iki is to be cool, but understated. A small detail. Human, subtle, but surprising. “It’s not a big oh wow, but it’s a small approving head nod.” When you realize it, it’s really special.

iki.JPG

"Women often hold a baby over the arm, so this detail is placed so that the baby’s eye will catch the mark. It's Iki."

Takuya Isagawa designs are really special. We met at his studio, in a building filled with creative-types, to learn about his journey to launch his fashion label mister it.

Takuya’s story as a designer began as a young boy in Osaka.

As is often the case for a younger sibling, admiration for his older brother and a subsequent introduction to the world of sneakers quickly grew into a deep passion for fashion. “When I was six years old, I tried to dress like my brother. At first I just wore cool sneakers and a cap. But it wasn’t long before I wanted to make something myself.” 

As soon as he made the decision to be a designer, he had a singular drive: to study in Paris and to work for his favorite designer, Maison Martin Margiela.

He did just that.

Takuya finished his fashion studies in Paris and won first prize for his final collection. Even so, he was worried because he did not think he was proficient enough at French to land the dream job.

But he didn’t let that stop him.

He enlisted a friend to help him prepare for the interview. “I memorized the presentation in perfect French” and he landed the job he’d always wanted at Maison Martin Margiela. And a dream it was! Takuya told us that the team at Maison Martin Margiela felt like family, and always welcomed him even though he admits, “I still couldn’t speak French well." 

When he eventually left the job to launch his label, he wanted to show his gratitude to his teammates. Collection 00 from mister it. was not for the public, but rather was designed for ten specific people - a gift to his former colleagues. Each piece was thoughtfully crafted specifically for each person. The four images below feature examples from this collection. Takuya describes these as (1) an outfit to highlight one of his friend's tattoos, (2) an integrated eyeglass chain for a forgetful friend, (3) an ironic McDonalds joke, and (4) pants that make walking impossible. He explains the pants saying, "when I was working at Maison Martin Margiela, I was running all the time. But for the launch of my brand, I designed pants for myself as a symbol. I wanted to stand still so I could simply watch and be grateful."

 
 
designer clothing

Takuya's inspiration always come from those right next to him, from the people he knows. He describes, “the importance of this work is for more than just beauty. My idea is to make things for real people. The brand’s concept is this simple.” The pieces combine of functionality with design and put the person wearing them at the center. He intends to make pieces that will be cherished. "My hope is that these clothes can last for a very long time. If people take care of them, they can last almost forever. These are things you keep wearing and even pass down through your family."

You can find mister it. products in multiple locations in Japan! His pieces are available at EDITION, n id a deux, VISIT FOR and ocaille

Please take a peek at their website, misterit.jp - we guarantee that Takuya Isagawa and his label, mister it., will soon be well known names in the fashion world.


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Salvation through Street Art: a conversation with Judith de Leeuw
Photo provided by Judith

Photo provided by Judith

Two years ago, Dutch artist Judith de Leeuw spotted a street corner in Amsterdam that captured her attention. The location was perfect. It was the wall of Boulangerie Le Mortier, at the corner of Vijzelgracht and Fokke Simonszstraat, right in Amsterdam’s Central district. She created a solemn portrait of a Amy Winehouse.

The wall was covered in ugly graffiti, and the owner of the building was more than happy for Judith to paint over it with a new creation. This wall was the perfect opportunity to express herself in a public space, right in the center of the city she loves.

This new creation changed her life.

Over beers at a little cafe in central Amsterdam, we spoke with Judith about the inspiration for this mural, how it transformed her career, and why she thinks art saved her life.

Photo provided by Judith

Photo provided by Judith

When did start making art?

I’ve been drawing portraits since I was four years old. I still have a portrait I drew of my father when I was five years old. As I got older, I started doodling in class. I’d always get poor scores on my Biology tests because the teacher didn’t like my drawings. To be honest, no one really liked my drawings back then.

How did you start doing graffiti?

Around 13 years old I became a pretty big problem child. I was smoking too much weed and at one point I just stopped going to school. I became more and more rebellious until I found graffiti. I found a paint shop around the corner called HENXS, which I still visit every week. I was so nervous at first, because I thought graffiti was something associated with criminals and aggressive behavior. I was so nervous when I walked in that my hands were shaking. In the end I chose a color that doesn’t work well at all. I chose pink and painted arrows everywhere. That was terrible and pretty shameful but oh well, you’ve got to start somewhere!

street art - judith image high res

I then found a group of friends through graffiti. All we did together was drawing, painting, and graffiti. When I look back on it, I think it saved my life. If I didn’t find graffiti I think I would have done something else that would have taken me down a bad path.

How did you go from painting arrows to creating amazing pieces all over the world?

I started studying art education and began to combine my love of portraits and graffiti. For the first time I tried making portraits with spray cans. At first it was really bad. When people see my work now they say, “how do you do that?” but they don’t know that it’s taken years of practice to get here. The past few years, I’ve been using spray cans pretty much every day and every night.

Then I did the Amy Winehouse painting. At that point in my life, I was just doing it for myself. At that time, I was just a very shy start-up. Then that portrait changed everything. It was the biggest moment of my life to have people appreciate my art for the first time.

What was the inspiration for it?

I watched the documentary on Amy Winehouse, and was listening to her music a lot. Even though she had died a few years prior, she kept coming up again and again in conversations I had. I realized that most pictures of her were when she was smiling, before she got addicted to drugs. I wanted to leave a portrait of Amy as she really was. But it was also to express my own state of mind. It was a number of things that all came together at this one focal point. It’s the first true creation from my heart and soul.

It’s crazy because I didn’t expect anyone to like it. When I finished it I thought I had messed it up, so didn’t even take a picture of it! The piece becoming famous is really weird, because I was just making something for myself.

Photo provided by Judith

Photo provided by Judith

What’s the latest project your excited about?

Last week I had the opportunity to do a mural at Rotterdam’s Central Station. It’s really insane! I had been dreaming about doing a huge building in such a prized location. It’s weird when you dream of something for years and years and then are standing there and doing it in reality!

What’s the street art scene like in Amsterdam?

It’s pretty complicated. It’s difficult to get a wall in Amsterdam for a piece, because all of the houses are protected monuments. Mostly you have to do stuff semi-illegally, or wait years until you can get a wall in Amsterdam. As for now, Rotterdam is a much easier place to create a public art piece. When I think of street art and innovation I think of Amsterdam as the rich whining person and Rotterdam as the young playful one, throwing candy everywhere. But my best friends are here in Amsterdam, my colleagues, my best friends. A lot of my colleagues are older but I can instantly talk to them and there has never been a problem of them accepting me. I get along with them really well. That’s how you know when you belong somewhere I guess. If it wasn’t for people helping me along the way, I’m not sure it would have happened.

What are your dreams for the future?

I accomplished one of my dream one week ago at the Rotterdam Central Station!. It would be amazing to paint something in the center of Amsterdam. I mean a really big mural. I want it to be in the center. I really want that. Maybe I should do it, just like I did with the Amy Winehouse portrait.

Keep an eye out for Judith and her stunning portraits. She has a number of international plans on the agenda, so who knows - she just may be in your city! You can find her work on her site here: www.jdlstreetart.com and on Instagram.


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Meet Hungary's Pop Idols: Margaret Island
 

Four years ago when Kristóf (bass) and Bálint (guitar) heard Viki sing for the first time, they fell in love with her voice. Soon after, the three founded Margret Island.  Today the band of six is one of Hungary's most famous pop-acts, selling out Budapest's largest venues. We met Kristóf and Bálint at Csendes Bar in Budapest to learn more about the Hungarian language, the music scene in Budapest, and their creative process.

 
Photo by Peter Hencz

Photo by Peter Hencz

We've noticed that some bands in Budapest choose to sing in English. How did you decide to use the Hungarian language?

"It's interesting because our first two songs were in English but we felt the need to relate to Hungarian people more. In Hungary, people don't speak English as well and even if they understand the words, it doesn't affect you as emotionally as it could. Our first Hungarian lyrics were written by Janos Brody, a legend in Hungary in the 60s and 70s. He is a real songwriting master. He created the pop and beat music in Hungarian language and we had the pleasure to work with him.

Margaret Island Water

We Jumped In!

"There's a festival called Fishing on Orfű festival, and there was a stage in the lake! The festival is in the middle of June, so we were sweating and at the end of the gig we jumped in...it was so refreshing! We didn't have any other clothes, so we walked around wet for the rest of the day."

The Hungarian language is very difficult to sing. The way you pronounce the words is hard and it's tricky to find the fit. There are some bands that use Hungarian language in a really intense and nice way. I wouldn't even be able to translate those lyrics, because it's so complex and beautiful."

Can you tell us about the music scene in Budapest?

"Budapest is really lucky with so many concerts and clubs, the musical life here is really rich. You have concerts every day and with all these festivals, there are a lot of opportunities. We also have a big open-air venue called Budapest Park, the capacity is 10,000 and it's in the city. The space is special for all bands because they can hold their own headliner concert and it's totally different than playing at the festival because here it's just for your own. It's like a club concert at a festival stage. We've played there three times and it’s been amazing!"

“We had a pop-up show last summer on Liberty Bridge. People were picnicking and having fun on the bridge and we just started playing. Its was a really great moment!"

Do you get nervous before a show with that large of an audience?

"Absolutely! We have these little methods to transform ourselves into the stage shape. Here's what we do. First, we have to bounce up and down ten times and then we jump and we raise our hands and we just count to three and shout 'ENERGY' into the air. That's when we know it's time to begin!"

What is your process for coming up with a new song?

"Four years ago when Kristóf (bass) and Bálint (guitar) heard Viki sing for the first time, they fell in love with her voice. Soon after, the three founded Margaret Island.  Today the band of six are one of Hungary's most famous pop-acts, selling out Budapest's largest venues. We met Kristóf and Bálint at Csendes Bar in Budapest to hear their story!"

What's up next for Margaret Island?

Their next album will release this fall, and we expect a new sound for the band and a theme to believe in yourself.  Listen to their latest single, Hóvirág (i.e. snowdrop) - music video below and available where ever you listen to music!


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One Man's Quest to Bring Craft Beer to Budapest

On a crisp evening in March, we stumbled upon Hopaholic, a craft beer bar in District 7. While sitting down at the bar, we ordered two IPAs by Brew Your Mind. As we took our first sips, the man next to us leaned over asked what we thought.

We told him the truth. They were incredible.

Without so much as cracking a smile he replied saying, "That's good." Turns out this was his bar, and the beer was a collaboration he did with the guys of Brew Your Mind. He turned back around and resumed chatting with his friends, and we finished enjoying our drinks. Before we left he introduced himself as Gergely Kővári, and we set up a time to meet at his bottle shop down the road to hear the full story.

Gergely Kővári, owner of Hopaholic + Csak a Jo Sor

Gergely Kővári, owner of Hopaholic + Csak a Jo Sor

At 9:30 p.m. the following evening we headed to Csak a Jo Sor to chat with Gergely as he closed for the evening. When Csak a Jo Sor opened seven years ago, it was the first craft beer shop in Hungary. Today, it continues to be the focal point of the beer community, and is a meeting point for brewers looking to create and collaborate. Just like Gergely’s other establishment, Hopaholic, beer bottles lined the walls of the shop. We soon learned they were only a fraction of his collection of 2,000+ unique bottles—each drank by him, each attached to a different memory. Over the next hour, we heard about some of these memories, the story behind his two establishments, and about beer culture in Hungary.

On the beer scene in Hungary

While Germans and Czechs have storied beer traditions, Gergeley tells us that Hungarian beer making originated more out of necessity than craftsmanship. He says, “There is no specific Hungarian type of beer. In the ancient past Hungarian people were nomads so it was simply much easier than to make beer than wine.”

Hungary is now much more known for wine than beer, and before Gergeley came on the scene there weren’t many choices for a brew. He asserts, ”Five years ago there was nothing. You could drink a lager, or maybe a hefeweizen.” Gergeley saw the lack of consumer choice, and turned his passion for beer into a business that is liberating taste buds and inspiring brewers across the country.

How It All Started

When asked about how Csak a Jo Sor started, Gergeley says, “I started small to see what would happen. The customers just started to come in and it grew naturally. It was the right place at the right time. I just saw that there was no business like this and that we needed it. If not me, someone else would have done it.”

Budapest Beer Bar

After seeing the success of the bottle shop, Gergeley opened the craft beer bar Hopaholic. “It was the first craft beer bar in Hungary”, he proudly says. Hopaholic has grown since those early days, and now you can choose from a rotating list of carefully selected 10 Hungarian draughts and over 200 varieties of bottles. Just a quick Google search for “craft beer in Budapest” quickly demonstrates how much this place means to beer lovers in the city.

To Gergeley, these places aren’t just business ventures. They are his life’s passion. He says, “I don't go out a lot outside of these shops. But, I am inspired at my places. I get a lot of ideas here because people come in and ask me about beers and brewing. I live my whole life here.”

The Future

Even though Gergeley has made a significant impact on the Budapest beer scene, the overall Hungarian beer market is dominated by the major brands. He says, “Craft beer only accounts for 2-3% of beer in Hungary, and most of it is here in Budapest.”

Despite these challenges, he’s determined to keep providing consumer choice and variety. He says, “The craft beer scene will keep growing but we need to find more customers. We have to grow its popularity.” Judging by his passion and two fine establishments, we certainly wouldn’t bet against him. On your next trip to Budapest, try some of his beers and we know you’ll feel the same.

When in Budapest, check out his two establishments, Hopaholic and Csak a Jo Sor. We especially recommend anything by Brew Your Mind, but try a few and decide for yourself!

Welcome to Daijiro's Monochromatic World
Daijiro Smiling

My university professor once described creative power as the ability to comfortably hold two opposing ideas at the same time. By this definition, contemporary artist, Daijiro Hama, has supernatural creative power. Throughout our conversation, every point he made had a counterpoint. He explains, “there's always something good and there's always something bad. That is actually the reason why I started painting monochrome."

Painting in only two colors is liberating for Daijiro. Before he began painting in just black and white he tells us, “color started to feel like too much information. With color I started to think instead of paint. I wanted to be more pure or natural.” Self-reflection and conveying his most true self is an important part of Daijiro’s work. As he describes, his art helps him, “see the truth.”

Daijiro begins every day at his study by painting one small sketch and taping it to the wall

Daijiro begins every day at his study by painting one small sketch and taping it to the wall

Daijiro was born in Japan, but he never felt like he fit in. ”I always felt really uncomfortable in Japan, always kind of doubting the Japanese system or some general Japanese mindset,” he explains. So, when he turned 20, he left for Canada to try the vintage fashion business - a line of work he thought would be inspiring, creative and really fun.

IMG-2234.jpg

He quickly found that discovering vintage goods did not fulfill his creative drive, and spent his afternoons drawing and painting in cafes - so much so that other regulars started to notice his work. Daijiro credits the people he met during this time for his artistic career. A group of friends in Toronto opened him up to the world of art. He says, “they started to take me to openings and galleries. I'm from the countryside so I didn't know about galleries or even that there are people out there who buy painting.”

outside Daijiro's Studio

Today, Daijiro lives in Kyoto. He returned to Japan six years ago, and feels comfortable here now. He is inspired by the quiet rhythm of the city (though he worries there might not be enough tension to push his work forward...remember: there is a good and a bad side of everything). He explains, “in Kyoto it’s easy to get bored in a good way. The best spot for this is Kamo River, you just go there by yourself and just don't think about anything. Just keep walking and you get an answer.” He starts every morning with a run along the river, seeking inspiration and peace in this daily routine.

To see more of Daijiro Hama’s work, visit his website: http://www.daijirohama.com and find him on Instagram


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Chicko takes on Graffiti, Interior Design and The Saigon Projects

When we asked interior designer, graffiti artist, and photographer, Nguyen Tho (artist name, Chicko), to suggest a place to meet for an interview - he proposed The Factory. We sat outside the colorful containers of this beautiful Arts Centre, drank some coffee, and continued our conversation as we walked through the exhibit inside.  

The Factory was a perfect place to meet as it represents both innovative design, in architecture and interior, as well as contemporary arts. Chicko lives in these two worlds, specifically - interior design and art.

Chicko Nguyen Portrait
 
“The Factory aims to be a dynamic destination for art, designing innovative programs illustrating the criticality of Vietnam today.”  www.factoryartscentre.com

“The Factory aims to be a dynamic destination for art, designing innovative programs illustrating the criticality of Vietnam today.” www.factoryartscentre.com

The Factory, Ho Chi Minh City

The Factory, Ho Chi Minh City

 

Chicko is part of an emerging group of young people driving the art scene forward in Saigon. His foray into the arts began in 2010, when he and his friends created a group called The Saigon Projects.

The group travels across Vietnam, painting and exploring new areas of the countryside. One of the most inspiring things about the group is how they share graffiti with local communities. He describes this process saying, “When we go to a new town, we start by explaining with what graffiti is and bring spray cans along to show them how it works. We’ll demonstrate how to sketch, and they can even try it out themselves. People love it!”

 
Photo taken by Chicko

Photo taken by Chicko

Despite travelling all over Vietnam to paint, Chicko tell us that he still finds most the most inspiration from his hometown of Saigon. This wasn’t always the case. He says, “When I was young, I didn’t really understand the culture of Saigon. But now, sometimes I wake up early, find a small local shop, and watch people as they go to work. I also love driving around at midnight, taking photos, and finding inspiration all around for my graffiti and interior design.”

This inspiration is evident in his work both with The Saigon Projects, and his daytime gig is as an interior designer. Chicko is passionate and skillful at crafting experiences for people who enter a space, whether it’s a coffee shop, restaurant, house or hotel.

Be sure to keep an eye on this emerging artist and designer, as he’s beginning to make waves the city.


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This Art Collective Makes Murals with Tape
 

We meet with Robert König, co-founder of TAPE OVER, at his Berlin-based studio and talked about the organization’s electro club origins, tape as an artistic medium, and the process of growing an international tape art crew.

 

The Origins

It’s not every day that you hear of an international business getting its start at electro-clubs. But in a city where the nightlife and creative pulse are intertwined, it isn’t crazy to think your next venture might be the result of a late-night conversation.

What started as  Lamia Michna’s idea for a class project quickly evolved into a new medium for artistic expression at clubs and festivals. In these early days at the clubs, co-founders Lamia and Rob were easy to spot in a crowd. Not only were they taping on the club walls, but also on people’s faces and bodies. Rob describes this use of tape as a type of makeup and says the duo always arrived...taped.

He paints a picture of the electro-clubs scene in Berlin, saying:

Robert König, co-founder TAPE OVER Berlin

Robert König, co-founder TAPE OVER Berlin

Partying here [in Berlin] is a creative thing. It's not just about going [to a club] to have fun, but also about the people you meet. It's about the musicians, artists, and others who use the space to express themselves and do something creative. It’s a place where you have a lot of freedom.

For us it was normal, but I notice it’s not the same feeling, atmosphere, or group of people in other cities. For example, in New York, you go out to party and then you go home. In Berlin, the club opens on Friday and closes on Monday so people have time (and yes, they're probably also on drugs). They are more open to meeting new people. It's the mindset that connects the people and the possibility.

As they become more known, the business-side of the project grew and they decided to establish TAPE OVER Berlin officially in 2011. Soon after, brands began approaching them to work on commissioned projects. Today, they work with major brands and organizations across the world (including Adidas, NIKE, Converse, Vodafone, Telekom, Hermes Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Porsche and Red Bull) taping objects, people, and spaces with their captivating geometric creations. Today, TAPE OVER consists of 10 tape artists, making them the biggest tape art crew worldwide.

Growing a business and a team

Rob attributes the growth of TAPE OVER to finding the right people to work with.

The first person to join the crew was a determined teenager, Enni, who called and asked if she could do an internship.  Rob says, “we laughed at the time because we were just some people doing art and of course we didn’t offer internships.” But when they met Enni a year later, “we thought, why not, she's half our age but let's give her a chance. We're so glad we did - she is really inspiring.”  Even though she's still the youngest in the crew, she is often the lead on projects. Rob says, “To see an 18 year old girl manage the group and do all the business communications is incredible.”

As for the others who have joined the crew, Rob explains, “it just happens on the way. It's why we like collaborating. You can see if the energy and the chemistry is right. If it is, we invite them to join. Collaborating with other people always makes work more interesting so we love to do it."  

It’s evident that Rob doesn’t take his job for granted. He says, “I love my job. On my ideal day, I would work on this. I hardly consider it work. Like everyone tells you, it’s about the team, about passion, and putting the time in. This has everything."

Tape Art: the medium & the process

The TAPE OVER Berlin team are pioneers in using tape for art, and they're constantly experimenting. Beyond taping walls and bodies, they are always looking for new ways to connect with other art forms. One of their favorites methods is what they call "Tape Mapping," where video mapping and tape art work together to create enchanting visuals.

Title: champagne shower type // tape art installation size: 4x2m // material: duct tape & adhesive foil // artist: LaMia & ROB // place: épernay france (www.tapeover.berlin.com)

Title: champagne shower type // tape art installation size: 4x2m // material: duct tape & adhesive foil // artist: LaMia & ROB // place: épernay france (www.tapeover.berlin.com)

Tape has unique benefits. Rob explains, “if you don't like a line, you can just take it away and try again. It's not like other methods. If you have a pencil, you have to use the rubber. If you have spray paint, it's just there. Tape makes it really easy to experiment. But it can be hard to know when to stop. Sometimes you just have to say, it's done.”

Check out their work:

To work with Tape Over Berlin, reach out via their website. And keep your eyes peeled, their work is all over the world!


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Inside Kyoto's Mysterious Modern Culture

Most Kyoto guidebooks suggest visiting the city’s stunning shrines, ancient temples, and traditional teahouses, but the advice seems to stop there. As a visitor, it is tricky to tap into modern Kyoto—a place with a rich sense of tradition, a culture of patronage, and hidden pockets of arts and music.

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Enter Sara Aiko, founder of Curated Kyoto, a travel company dedicated to providing visitors with a deeply personal experience of the city.

Sara Aiko, founder of Curated Kyoto

Sara Aiko, founder of Curated Kyoto

We chatted with Sara at Walden Woods Cafe, a coffee shop designed to emulate the feelings evoked from Thoreau's writing. Yes, it’s places like this - thoughtfully designed spaces and experiences - that make Kyoto, Kyoto. Sara explains, “I don’t like using the word unique to describe a city, because every city is unique. But it's the only word I can use. Kyoto is very unique, even in Japan.”

Throughout history, Kyoto has been the cultural hub (in addition to being the actual capital for over 1,000 years) of Japan. Walking through Gion, viewing manicured gardens, and visiting the beautiful shrines is truly awe inspiring. As Sara says, so much of “the charm of the city” lies in the commitment to preserve culture, heritage, and tradition.

However, it is the delicate combination of both past and present elements that Sara finds so inspiring about the city. She tells us, “Kyoto really knows how to mix modern elements and traditional elements together. That's why I love the city. They still have the old, but know how to make it relatable to people. That's really hard to do. It can easily become tacky, too modern, or too cool and lose that charm. But in Kyoto, they know how to do it in a subtle way.”

Subtle is a word often used to describe the city. Sara says, “Japanese culture is subtle, but Kyoto is particularly subtle. This includes communication here. We're not very loud. Even our design and creativity is subtle.” But she is quick to add, “but there's an edginess to Kyoto as well that's being created by the younger generation. It’s just starting to pop up.” Sara explains that due to a relatively low cost of living, “people feel like they can focus more on freedom of expression rather than what will sell commercially.”

Gion, Kyoto

Gion, Kyoto

Sara describes these new modes of expression as, “Freedom. A way of expressing without conforming to the Kyoto way or Japanese culture. Japanese culture is very rule based. These artists have given themselves permission to be more themselves.” Y Gion is an example of a new space that aims to support this emerging scene. The multipurpose venue was started by Takuma Inoue to bring the creative community together. Despite the prominence of galleries and cafes, there previously weren’t places for artists to go and feel free. Thanks to people like Takuma, that’s starting to change.

There is so much to discover in Kyoto, but much of the scene remains under wraps. As an outsider, Kyoto remains mysterious, sublime, and fascinatingly unique. If you want a chance to peek into the creative side of Kyoto—a place that is growing a creative culture in a respectful, but modern way, we recommend reaching out to Sara and to book a personalized experience at Curated Kyoto. She gives a view into the side of Kyoto that just can’t be found in a guidebook.

 


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From tagging in Paris to festivals in Saigon – the journey of Suby One.

A Different Kind of Art School

On a warm March morning in Saigon, we met with Trang Suby (artist name Suby One) over a cup of Vietnamese coffee. Even before the caffeine kicked in, Trang’s presence exuded an infectious energy. It was immediately clear how important building an art scene in Saigon is to him. Before we get into that, we first must go back to where it all started on the street of Paris.

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It’s hard to think of a cooler artistic education than tagging subways with a crew in the Paris underground. For Suby, the streets and trains of Paris were simply the most accessible places to learn, practice, and make new friends.

“I started tagging in 1991, because the older guys in my neighborhood were tagging. I also had a mentor who lived next door to me. He was three years older, which at the time was a big age difference. He seemed so cool, so I started painting with him. I then started a graffiti crew and every Wednesday at 2pm we’d go watch the older guys do big graffiti pieces and learn. I wanted to be part of something, and had no idea I’d still be doing it today. Some people give up, but I just kept at it. I liked the fact that we were leaving something behind, even if it was just a tag.”

We found out there are a few rules in the graffiti world that are part of the learning process. Suby explains, “There are rules. You learn tags first, then do some bubbles, and then you can do a piece. There’s an evolution to it.”

After learning from others for more than a year, Suby tagged his first subway in Paris. He explains, “I was the one young guy the older ones would bring in to tag the trains. I did this for about five years, but had to stop because I was tired of being chased by the authorities.”

From Graffiti to Galleries

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Suby continued to tag other parts of Paris, but as he got older Suby started thinking more about his legacy as an artist and building something more permanent.

“You can spend two or three hours going to tag a train and it sometimes only lasts ten minutes. Something you make one day can be gone the next. You get older and you think, maybe other mediums can last longer than graffiti. For me, it was a natural transition.”

While artistically it was a natural transition, mentally it was a big change to go from showcasing work on the streets to being presented in art galleries. It was an internal struggle. He says, “When you grow up and see fine art exhibitions you think, eh, that’s not for me. At the time I thought, if I ever get shown in a gallery, I’m going to do something really different and unique.”

He followed through with this promise. In 2010, Suby was invited to create a few pieces for an art exhibition in Paris to mark the anniversary of his graffiti crew. His work definitely stood out. “Everyone was doing graffiti for the exhibition, and I wanted to do something more abstract on canvas. People didn’t really like it and thought it was pretty weird.” Despite the feedback from his peers, the exhibition was very encouraging for Suby. “On the last day of the exhibition, the gallery curator called me over, and someone bought my painting. It was a great feeling.”

Building a Scene in Saigon

Suby has worked relentlessly to create unique, visual masterpieces on walls and canvases throughout the world. He’s also moved to Saigon. “It’s a call of the roots. My grandparents and parents were both born and raised in Vietnam. When I moved here, it helped me understand so much more about my family and about myself.” The lifestyle of Saigon also is much more suited to Suby.  “I like the way of life here. Europe was great but Ho Chi Minh City is more relaxed. You actually have time to see friends.”

The move hasn’t been without its challenges. “There aren’t many big murals here. It’s hard to get access to that kind of space and to get the proper scaffolding.

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The street art scene in Saigon is still in its infancy, but Suby is working hard to make it bigger and encourage the younger generation. “If one guy succeeds, others will follow. If there are no mentors or examples, nobody will pursue this as a career. It’s exciting to show kids that it’s possible to have a career as an artist.”

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He’s backed up these words with action. Suby organized a two-day festival with a few others at The Factory, an arts center in Saigon. The festival showcased over 25 artists, DJs, break-dancers, and rappers. With a determined look on his face, he says that “a group is starting to form” in Saigon, and we believe him.

Please check at Suby One’s work on Facebook and on Instagram


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A look inside Ho Chi Minh City's emerging creative scene

Linh Nguyen’s influence on the creative community in Ho Chi Minh City is palpable. The first venture he opened, Saigon Outcast, filled a gap the city didn’t know it had: a space for people to congregate, to create, to feel inspired, and to feel at home. He has since opened two additional unique venues in restored, creative spaces: Rogue Saigon, and SOMA Art Café.

Linh Art Vietnam

A few days after we first met and interviewed Linh, we spent an evening at Saigon Outcast. Kids scrambled up the climbing wall, a group of artists focused intently on their live model session, a graffiti artist painted the entrance wall, and friends sipped on beers at picnic tables…this was all happening at the same time. Everyone relaxed, treating the space as his or her own. A fellow patron explained, “Linh’s places are such amazing hubs. I felt like even though I didn’t know anyone, I could go there and something would happen or a nice conversation would spark.”

Finding space to share art, music, and creative thought can be hard to come by in a city infamous for having exhibits, shows, and entire venues shut down by the government. Opening places like this is financially risky, pouring effort into hosting a concert that might be shut down at the last minute is not for everyone. But Linh’s passion for creating platforms where people don’t have to feel intimidated to share their work and opportunities for expression inspires him to continue to pursue these venues. The young creative community is "really hungry and restless but shy. They seem like they've been suppressed and they have so much to prove and achieve and get their name out there. They have so much energy. Really, they are very passionate. But they need encouragement and places to work.”


Saigon outcast

Beer garden meets alternative events space, graffiti, climbing wall, craft beer, live music, flea markets... 

Opening Saigon Outcast with a small budget in 2012, Linh and his friend Ha, found an inexpensive piece of land and pulled together containers and an old VW camper van in an artful way. “When I opened Saigon Outcast, it was for myself really. I didn’t know there was a demand for this type of space…but clearly there was." Immediately, the space filled with artists, skaters, and friends. Saigon Outcast became known as a destination for graffiti art, music, and collaboration: “The first couple years we had so many graffiti artists on the walls so that when it peels, you can see the layers of all the previous art works.” Today, Saigon Outcast hosts events most nights of the week, from drawing classes, movie screenings, farmers markets but many also stop by for a beer with friends.

Rogue Saigon

Rooftop specialty beer and music venue. 

Looking for a new place to host concerts (after receiving noise complaints from Saigon Outcast) Linh opened second venture. “The craft beer scene boomed a few years ago, but there weren’t any craft beer spots. At the same time, we didn’t know how long we would have Outcast because of noise complaints with our music. I needed to move the bands somewhere else, so I opened up a place that could have music and great beer!" Located on the top three floors of an old building, Rogue Saigon is a perfect spot to sip on one of the local craft beers on tap and overlook the city below.

Soma Art Cafe

Organic (and local) coffee and art gallery featuring up and coming artists.

“Saigon is really small. We know each other. There are only five galleries in Ho Chi Minh right now and they are all booked out with really famous artists selling their work at high prices. Soma is different, we feature up and coming artists who might not otherwise have a place the show their work." Situated in a beautiful building in District 2, Soma is a fantastic place during the day to have a delicious cup of brewed coffee with a friend. Stop by at night for art openings and a cocktail!


What’s Next for linh?

Linh hopes that he inspires other "business to do the same and to open spaces here for sharing creativity." Promoting music and arts in Ho Chi Minh drives Linh to keep working. He has observed that young artists lack confidence, and hops to set up more opportunities for mentorship with foreign artists. In the music scene, he wishes there were venues that could host international musicians. There used to be two: Cargo and Outcast, but with Cargo closing and Outcast's neighborhood growing, they've recently they have had to turn away amazing acts (such as Damien Rice!). "Right now we’re depleted of our capital since we work alone. But until I get it out of my system, that’s what I want to focus on."

Stop by one of Linh's three hangouts and stay tuned, we're certain Linh will have more up his sleeve! 

 

 

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Kiwi Hops: a Conversation with Brewer, Jess Wolfgang

After a beautiful hike on the Rocky Mountain track near Wanaka, we had one thing on our mind: a refreshing beer.

On our way back to town, we stumbled upon Rhyme and Reason Brewery. Started by Jessica Wolfgang and Simon Ross just seven months ago in a warehouse space on 17 Gordon Road, they are already producing some of the country’s best beer. We couldn’t believe both the quality and quantity of beer they’ve been produced in such a short time. We were delighted to come back later in the week to share a beer and chat with Jess, Head Brewer and Co-Founder.

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What got you into the brewing industry?

I love beer! I’ve always loved beer. Unfortunately my dad never had any good beer in the fridge, so I didn’t find any good beer until I went traveling. I never thought about brewing as being a job, didn’t even think of it as an industry I could be a part of. But I’ve been in hospitality for over 15 years. When I came back from traveling overseas I thought I’d go and learn how to make wine because there was a pretty famous local wine region near where I was living in Newcastle. I drove around and went to a lot of amazing wineries and also drove past a little wee brewery and that got me thinking “a brewery, of course someone’s gotta make beer! Why do I want to make wine? I don’t really drink wine! I’m going to have a look at this wee brewery.”

It was just serendipity. They had an assistant brewery leaving...and I said “hey, I love working in hospitality and in bars, and would be quite keen to see how beer is made.” I ended up just starting there, power hosing the floors and [helping] with lots of breweries and tastings. I eventually got invited to do some brew days and just got hooked!

What made you start the brewery seven months ago in Wanaka?

Wanaka is an expensive place and you can’t just work in hospitality and pay off a mortgage, or even pay for petrol here. We needed to become business owners to be able to afford to stay here.

We’ve always wanted to do our own brewery...he (co-founder Simon) has lots of friends here, and we’ve been visiting Wanaka snowboarding off and on for the last 14 years.

We finally saw summer here, and we found it was insanely busier than the winter and just as much fun. There was almost more activity in the summer...we thought, “this place is brilliant! We can ski in the winter, mountain bike in the summer, float, camp hike—it just ticked so many boxes.

New Zealand has such an epic beer scene as well, so it didn’t take too much arm twisting to get us to stay in Wanaka. It was just about finding a premise once we decided to stay here and start a brewery.

How did you find the space you’re at now (17 Gordon Road, Wanaka)?

A carpet cleaning company was moving out of the premise, so we just swooped on in...got on the phone with the landlord and said “we want to start a brewery, lease us your place!”...they thought, “well if you’re starting a brewery, you’ll probably keep it really clean. You guys can have it!” They were actually excited that we were starting a brewery and a bar.

Can you tell us a little bit about the rise of craft beer in New Zealand?

Even when I first started brewing eight years ago, you were constantly talking people into trying new (craft) beer and explaining why it’s a bit more expensive than the off the shelf commercial beer. That wasn’t that long ago.

I think New Zealand is a little bit ahead of Australia, the scene is a bit bigger over here even though it’s a smaller country. In the last four years it’s really taken off (in New Zealand). The number of breweries that are growing is on the increase. Commercial beer has hit a plateau but craft beer is rising.

Why do you think that is?

I think people are more careful about what they are eating and drinking these days. There’s so much knowledge and information that people can make the choices as to what they want to drink. That’s good for us.

What’s the brewing scene in Wanaka like?

It’s good! Wanaka has six breweries. Everyone is quite small, we’re a 1,200 liter brewery, I think Wanaka Beerworks are about 1,000 liters, Ground Up just bought a 1,200 liter brewery. There’s a couple of garage operations as well. Ground Up is just across the road from us which is pretty cool. We’re constantly borrowing bits of equipment and ingredients from each other.

We’ve brewed a couple of beers together. One of our most common guest taps is from Ground Up. I keep saying that we need to apply to get the street name changed here to Brewery Lane! Brewery Lane has a real ring to it.

How does collaboration in brewing work?

Brewers love to collaborate! Brewers have so much fun together and it’s always good fun brewing with other people. There’s always new things you pick up, whether it’s mixing those hops with these hops, or even new techniques in processing. It’s always a fun brew day if there’s a couple of extra brewers around. It’s always a bit wacky!

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I’ll let the dog run around and go crazy and then just come up with the recipe there, just sitting in the back of the car. The dog is happy, and the ideas start flowing!

How do you come up with ideas for your beers?

It comes from everywhere! It comes from reading cook books to reading funny names on things. Things will pop up when you want to brew a beer. You could try a cake or even a dinner and think “okay, we can turn that into a beer!”

We’ve got the Christmas pudding beer on tap right now (December 2017), and that came from wanting to brew something for Christmas and then having a look at what’s on the Christmas lunch or dinner table. I love ham, but don’t really feel like making a ham flavored beer. And then there are all sorts of things, like Christmas pudding. I looked at my mom’s and grandmother’s Christmas pudding recipes and thought, “Yep, honey can go in there. Yep, I can get some chocolate in there, yes figs, plums, raisins, all of this stuff can go in there.” It’s just about figuring out what part of the process it’s going to be best to add it to. Normally with fruits and spices I like to add it to the end of the boil. That way it actually gets cooked up, the flavors get released, and it gets sterilized so you don’t end up with any bugs getting into the beer with the brewers yeast. The Christmas pudding beer is on tap now and it’s literally like a liquified pudding, which is cool.

I want to do a beer version of Jamaican spiced rum. I want all of those beautiful spices that are in there. We want to serve it in a daiquiri glass with a pineapple wedge on it. I want to do it so I can call it Jamaican Me Thirsty. I’m pretty much making this beer for that name!

Where do you find your inspiration in Wanaka?

Everywhere! I used to come up with recipes while cleaning kegs. But I find it really hard to think while I’m cleaning kegs in the brewery because now I’m thinking mostly about business stuff. So now I need to leave the brewery to come up with new recipes. Normally I’ll grab some old books and recipes that have some information I need to create this new idea. I’ll grab my dog and choose a place either at the lake, or down at the forest, or at the river, or wherever I feel like at the time. I’ll let the dog run around and go crazy and then just come up with the recipe there, just sitting in the back of the car. The dog is happy, and the ideas start flowing!

What is the creative community of Wanaka like?

Lots of creative people here. Like I said before, it’s an expensive town to live in, but it’s because everything is on your doorstep…so people want to stay here and you have to get creative to figure out how you can afford to. That’s why there are a lot of people with their own little businesses. Lots of web designers, graphic designers, occupations where you can work from home or from a shared office space. Lots of creative and talented people around.

What beer are you most proud of making?

The Kiwi Kolsch. The Kiwi Kolsch is so delicate, and approachable and non-offensive. Every brewery should be making a Kolsch. It’s the go to beer. It’s a beer that you can have for breakfast, when you’re hungover, when you’re celebrating, when you want a session, everyone loves the Kolsch. Everybody thinks the Kiwi Kolsch has Kiwi in it though, so we might have to change the name to the New Zealand Kolsch. It’s just a beautiful style.

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It’s a really simple recipe. I’ve been brewing Kolsch for eight years...I’ve probably brewed more Kolsch than anyone outside of Cologne, Germany. You just need good ingredients. All German malts, it’s pretty traditional, except that I’m adding New Zealand grown hops. No one really notices, but I usually change the hops every time I brew this beer…this beer is an ale brewed as a lager. So it is an ale yeast, but we’re using a lager malt, which is lovely and clean and has a beautiful, sweet honey flavor to it. We use cooler lager fermentation temperatures and it just throws this beautiful, fruit-salad sweetness into it.

The Kiwi hops we use kind of have Sauvignon Blanc type gooseberry flavors to it, and that works out because I find the Kolsch to be the champagne of beers!

What would you want people to say about Rhyme and Reason?

I want them to say it’s fun! It’s all about the atmosphere here, we want to create a venue for conversation. Somewhere that’s a little bit different. Wanaka is a very busy town, so this is a place for someone to find a chilled out spot that’s a bit of a hideaway. You can come and escape here, hang out with the bartender. The bartender quickly learns your name and your drink. It’s about the experience here, and the beer is good. And it will keep getting better!


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The Visual Experiments of Dani Labrosse
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We met Dani on March 15th, a national holiday in Hungary. Because it was closed, we had to reschedule from his favorite cafe, Telep, to another spot open and protected from the rainy day. We talked about his work, his passion for film, and Budapest's fantastic cafes and cinemas.

Labrosse, born in 1997, began “obsessively trying to draw” and develop his personal style when his kindergarten teacher scolded him, telling him he didn’t know how to draw because he decided to put 10 fingers on each hand. Dani explained, “That had a big impact on me when I was that little. It really upset me.” But it certainly didn’t stop him. He was only 6 when he decided he could make a career of art. His step-dad gave him a Wallace and Gromit VHS that included an explanation of Nick Park’s process, and that was it. If Nick could do it, so could he.

At 18, Dani had his first solo exhibition as part of Budapest Design Week, and has already established himself as a fixture in the Budapest art world. His most recent group show was a Young Artists exhibition at Godot Pop-Up. “They had artists who were all only 16-21 years old. It was so eye opening to know that there is so much new brilliant art being created here. Even I wasn’t aware of it. It was really impressive. Obviously I don’t have money to buy art, but I was contemplating how I could call dibs on one of them because they were so impressive.”

Dani's pictures feel as though they are coming to life, and some actually do. His recent explorations with Augmented Reality combine illustration, animation, and his work in short film.

Dani's fear of producing less than his best keeps him experimenting with new methods, routines, and mediums while remaining true to his style and commentary on day-to-day life. His girlfriend is teaching him to paint, he has just completed an augmented reality mural for an ad agency, and he has spent the past two years working on a half live-action, half animated short film.

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To achieve the “scraggly sketchy style” he likes for the film, he is drawing over every frame. He admits that he “could finish the film quickly using After Effects or just overlaying myself” but instead, in this four minute film titled, Man Who Ate Himself, he is hand drawing the 24 frames per second (yes, nearly 6,000 frames).

He explains this tedious process, saying, “Being hunched over a computer and drawing frames by hand can get monotonous and mind numbing, so I have to focus on something else to avoid being bogged down. If I keep working on it for too long, it will end up not being as good because I will half-ass it or something. I like to do different things because it won't be as fun anymore which will make the end result not as good.” His days vary, with the exception of his dedication to morning coffee and doodling his first thoughts. Similarly, when he works on a new project he describes his process as “spontaneous,” starting with an idea “as a jumping board but then ending up in a different spot.”

When he’s not working, you’ll find Daniel either at the cinema or at his favorite cafes. “I love going to the movies. Just going into a theatre, sitting there and having the whole room go dark and focusing on the screen. It’s one of my favorite experiences in the city.” Lucky for Daniel, Budapest has amazing art-house independent theaters. Some palatial, some jazzy, some dilapidated-thrifty, these spaces are also worth visiting for their cafes and bars and lingering for a discussion on film. For Labrosse, Bem Cinema and Theater Toldi are the best in town, and are dreams places to have his short film screened when its finished.

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District 13, where he lives, is “a really inspiring neighborhood” known for a rich history of cafe culture “where people would meet up at cafes to talk about current political climate or philosophy and that kind of stuff.” Keep an eye out for a new series he’s starting soon in which he plans to “go to cafes or cake shops, interview the owners, and draw a portrait of them in their shop.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a peek at his website: www.labrossestuff.com and stay tuned for his short film, The Man Who Ate Himself.

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Kilomet109 seamlessly blends traditional techniques with contemporary fashion.

You likely own clothing that was made in Vietnam (brands like Target, H&M, Gap, and Zara all manufacture clothing here). But there’s more than fast fashion coming out of this country. Fashion label Kilomet109 is leading the charge with traditional artisan techniques adapted for contemporary design. Bigger than a trend, they are setting the stage for a new, sustainable fashion movement across Vietnam.


After winding through narrow streets in a quiet northern section of Hanoi, we knocked on an unmarked door and hoped for the best. Taking off our shoes as we entered, we were greeted by people sitting at sewing machines and arranging textiles. Relieved, we knew we were in the right place.

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We carried on upstairs to where designer, Vu Thao, and her family live. Sitting at the table with Thao and her husband, we drank a cup of tea, ate Mung Bean Cakes, and chatted for hours. Later on, we toured her museum-like racks of traditional clothing and her label, Kilomet109’s previous collections.

About six years ago, Thao decided to take the leap and started her own fashion label, Kilomet109. After two years of intense research Thao launched her first collection in 2012. Like every collection since, each piece preserved traditional artisan techniques while blending contemporary, functional, and attractive design. Her 2014 collection, SEEDS, marked her first hand woven “100% sustainable collection, [using] home grown fibers and natural dies. A – Z made by us from planning through the end.”

Early Days: There Was No Word For Design

“In Vietnam during the 80s and 90s we had few choices. We had to make our own clothes. Everybody developed self-made skills from parents and grandparents and others in the community. I grew up with that.” Despite “always having a really strong connection with textile,” the thought of becoming a designer never entered her mind. “Design wasn’t a viable career. You could make something, but you were a laborer or tailor. It was more about making, not about the idea generating of design. We actually didn’t have a word for that at all.”

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A major turning point for Thao came in 2000, who was working at a magazine at the time. When “open policies in Vietnam were passed, it changed the whole scope of how Vietnamese dressed. Society was changing a lot and people started to pay attention to appearance [as a way to] express yourself.”  It was then that she decided to return to school for fashion design. After graduating, she worked for other designers and also taught at a fashion school. Teaching her students about sustainable design inspired Thao to do it herself. “I knew Vietnam could be a leader of this movement [of sustainable design], and that I should be one of them.”

Named in homage to Thao’s hometown, situated 109 kilometers from Hanoi, Kilotmet109’s designs appear to be effortless, simple, and high quality. To be clear, simple does not imply boring or thoughtless—quite the contrary. Each button, color, and thread is a thoughtful decision; every decision is a negotiation between design, functionality, and traditional craft.

The art of Thao’s work is in naturally “weaving together the message of protecting local [craft] in a contemporary form.” She hopes her work will help Vietnamese people realize “we can use what we’ve got and transform it in a modern version. It’s not the fashion from the past, it’s the now fashion. It’s the future.”

Blending contemporary design with traditional artistry comes with its fair set of challenges. But, by forging strong relationships with the artisans themselves and working through issues of communication and process, Kilomet109 has not only gained global recognition, but has set the standard for integrity, quality, and collaboration between old and new.

The Design Process: Experiments, Shifting Mindsets, and Play

Thao is the sole designer at Kilomet109, but she works closely with artisans in nearby villages who have passed down their craft for generations. Collaboration, particularly with a language barrier (each of the villages near Hanoi has a different language), is a delicate art. “In the beginning [when I suggested new designs] they were quick to say no, it won’t work. They would do it, but without believing in it.”


The process of adapting the Batik technique to new designs     “Batik is a technique that I applied in our latest collection. I spent two weeks with the group of Blue Hmong observing six women sit around like we are, in the kitchen. They make designs of flowers and animals by looking at each other and doing the same thing. It takes so long to make one piece and they use five to ten tools for each one.    [At the end of our time there] I asked them to use only one tool, whichever one they liked. I gave them a simple sketch of geometry, lines and dots, and told them to play around with it. The young girls were okay trying that, and the older ladies just laughed. All of them thought this [exercise] was only for the moment, not to make to a design.    Later when I came back with the design for the collection, they couldn’t believe I used this work. They were shocked and thought ‘is this design from that day?’

The process of adapting the Batik technique to new designs

“Batik is a technique that I applied in our latest collection. I spent two weeks with the group of Blue Hmong observing six women sit around like we are, in the kitchen. They make designs of flowers and animals by looking at each other and doing the same thing. It takes so long to make one piece and they use five to ten tools for each one.

[At the end of our time there] I asked them to use only one tool, whichever one they liked. I gave them a simple sketch of geometry, lines and dots, and told them to play around with it. The young girls were okay trying that, and the older ladies just laughed. All of them thought this [exercise] was only for the moment, not to make to a design.

Later when I came back with the design for the collection, they couldn’t believe I used this work. They were shocked and thought ‘is this design from that day?’

To try and overcome this challenge, Thao spent more time in the village in order to better understand the subtleties of process and tradition. Quickly, collaboration improved. “When you are willing to spend time with people, the relationships are so much easier on both sides…they know I make an effort to work with their tradition…now, we really inspire each other. Sometimes I have ideas that are too ‘out there’. I can make experiments in the studio, but when it comes to cost and production, their input is really valuable.”

The biggest shift Thao observes is that “[the local artisans] are not saying no when I have designs. They ask for it! ‘What do you have next, what’s the next?’ Before it was [resistance] but now they talk about next idea, next collection, next project. It’s really nice to see.

Hanoi: A Village within a City


When a young woman noticed a glass button on Thao’s dress, she invited Thao back to her house in search of buttons handmade by her late father years ago. After hours of searching in a dark room, they found and admired the stunning collection. At the young woman’s request, Thao took home the buttons. “She said her father wanted the buttons to go to someone who loves them. Hanoi has these kind of surprises. Even for someone like me who’s lived here so long, you always find something that wows you.”

“There are so many hidden places where people are making things. It’s very helpful for my design. Whether it’s simple silk thread or hand make glass buttons, we can make them ourselves here. It’s a really wonderful thing that we still have here. It is like a village that exists within a city.

 I’m so fortunate to live here and work in the countryside. Hanoi provides a great balance for my personal life and design. I love the speed of Hanoi and how it’s always moving.

When you live in the city you have to consider so many things – traffic, air, movement. So my design considers that. When I make a jacket, I have to think about how to get on a motorbike without the material bunching up. The city is so many things at once. Even the colors of Hanoi are really inspiring. It’s endless visually.”

We’re excited to watch as Kilomet109 continues to pave the way for fashion design in Vietnam. Shop their past collections here: http://kilomet109.com/shop/


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The band that has captured Wellington's funky, beautiful soul: Orchestra of Spheres

One of the attributes of the Wellington music scene I find so refreshing is the emphasis on experimentation and improvisation. There isn’t a long-held, traditional “Wellington Sound”, or particular genre that artists need to confirm to in order to be popular.

If there is any tradition, it is that of creative people in Wellington getting together to collaborate and encourage each other to try something out of the ordinary. Perhaps it’s being set away from major commercial music hubs, combined with a laid-back, inclusive culture that gives artists a blank canvas to make strange, funky, unique, and danceable tunes.

One band came up in almost every conversation we had with Wellington music lovers. This band embodies the relentless work ethic and experimental spirit we found characteristic of music artists in the city. That band is Orchestra of Spheres. In a town where people often come and go, Orchestra of Spheres have remained a staple of the DIY music scene in Wellington over the past decade. With a new album coming out in the next year, they have no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

We sat down with three of the band members (Dan, Nell, Erika) at the Pyramid Club, an artist-run space where they practice, to ask questions about the band’s origins, the DIY scene in the city, and what makes Wellington such a unique culture.

How did Orchestra of Spheres begin?

Dan: We’ve had a great creative music community here in Wellington for a long time. Musicians have had studio space in Wellington since the late 70s.

For us it started a long time before this particular band came together. We were all involved in different projects together over the years, and Orchestra of Spheres came out of the people we were playing with. Originally, it was a drummer, Isaac, bass player Jeremy, me, and Nell, who happened to be around at the time.

We had a different space called Fred’s. It’s an old church about 500 meters down the road. It was a little venue for practice and recording. Heaps of musicians were always down there playing. It’s where we started playing, and it just happened to be the place where the music developed.

Today, Wellington is a city where lots people come to study music. It’s a good place to find a community of generative musicians, but people also leave. Isaac and Jeremy left quite a long time ago. Erika took over Isaac’s bass part 7 years ago and various drummers have played with us.

When you all first started playing together, was there something specific you wanted to get across in your music? Or a particular sound you wanted to bring to the forefront?

Dan: I come from an improvised music and experimental background. Wellington is such a small music scene—it’s not like London or New York where you can specialize in a particular type of music. Here you tend to find the musicians that do lots of different things and play in lots of bands and styles rather than focusing on one thing.

When we started I was thinking about doing something psychedelic and sonic, but also based around grooves and rhythms. And that’s essentially what it still is…a core drum and bass part that’s the rhythmic engine.

We’re blessed by having had extraordinarily awesome drummers in very different ways. Jeremy had never played drums before and used to play with his arms held out like this (gesturing); his drum concept was a very physically demanding style and he didn’t alter it that much, especially at the beginning.

Nell:  He got really amazing though. When we’d tour around, people would be captivated watching him thinking, “is he going to pull this off with that technique”?

Dan: He’d also do things like have a banana in his mouth for the whole gig, or plastic flowers.

Nell: Things to make it even more difficult for himself. Actually, our drummer now does that too—like wearing things that make it impossible for him to see.

Erika: Quite often that’s what people would say after a show. He kept that banana in his mouth the whole time!

Why do you guys think Wellington’s creative scene has been strong since the 1970s? What’s drawn people here?  

Nell: I think it waxes and wanes. It’s not like there was a less interesting community of music 5 years ago versus 15 years ago. I think people are always falling in and out of the place. Part of the benefit of living here is that it’s really tiny. It’s easy to get together with people to rehearse and jam. In the past there have been some really good music venues in Wellington, but right now it’s pretty slim on the venues.

Erika: I guess it’s also the most liberal city in New Zealand. It’s the political center and has good universities so I there’s a lot of open mindedness. There are always a lot of young, creative, hungry, awesome people wanting to do stuff. 

The album, Brothers and Sisters of the Black Lagoon, came out in 2016. Tell us a little bit about the making of that album and how it came together.  

Erika: We recorded it here [at the Pyramid Club].

Nell: Often times it’s Dan who writes the material we get started with. He’ll often get started with a drumbeat and a base line and we’ll jam off that. Other times we’ll just jam and see what comes out of it. We might record part of the jam and develop that into something.

Dan: The best stuff is when we just play and listen back to hear what parts are cool. The best stuff usually comes the first time you try it and don’t overthink it. The trick is to keep it fresh and spontaneous.

In my own writing process, the instrument I write off is the drum. So I just sit at the kit and think up lines, melodies, and riffs and record it on my phone.

I love that you create some of your own instruments. Can you tell us about that process?

Dan: Yea, I guess it’s something I’ve been interested in for ages. I just make shit from bits and pieces. They’re not particularly well crafted. I’ve made one proper acoustic guitar, which takes ages of work. Usually the process is just “what is this and what does it sound like?”

Do you have a favorite homemade instrument?

Dan: Not really. I’m not super patient with making things perfect. We’ve been playing an instrument I made called the Ektar. It’s made from the slat of a futon bed with a string on it. With Orchestra of Spheres, the homemade instruments come and go. There is one main homemade instrument I play: the biscuit tin guitar. It’s literally just made from a futon bed, a biscuit tin and drum sticks whittled down. It’s cheap and cheerful.

The sound of the band essentially came from the limitations of these homemade instruments and the tuning at the time. We have this sort of “Orchestra of Spheres” tuning.

We don’t really measure the tuning. Some bands or composers who do microtonal stuff are systematic, but ours is more random out-of-tune-ness. It’s part of the charm. Although sometimes you listen to the recording and it’s less charming…when you listen back to a melody you’re looking forward to hearing and then think, “oh god.”

Nell: Sometimes, when you sing with homemade instruments it can be tricky. It’s hard to find the pitch between the different tunings, but it’s nice having a bit of chaos in there.

Dan: In fact, having constraints helps with making creative choices. I love working with tape machines because you’ve got four buttons: ‘on’ ‘off’ ‘fast’ ‘slow.’ There are only a few choices, versus a digital equivalent. When you narrow it down to work within confines, it actually frees you up.

What are some of your favorite moments as part of the band?

Dan: There was a nice point on our first trip overseas, in 2011, when we played a gig at a festival called, All Tomorrow’s Parties. We were playing between Pharoah Sanders and Sun Ra Arkestra. To me that was a super awesome gig because I’ve been listening to those artists for so long. To be sandwiched between those two was a pretty nice moment.

Erika: On our second tour we were playing off an island near Marseille. It was in the ruins of this old quarantine hospital and we were playing just as the sun was setting. We played a really great show and got called back for three encores or something … everything about that evening was kind of magical. It felt really special.

Nell: I always remember the last gig we played on our first big tour. The first tour was quite a full one. We just weren’t used to it. It was intense and exhausting and by the time we got to the last gig, we were all exhausted. But we played this amazing gig and it was the first time I felt like we were anticipating what each other was doing and working like one weird, morphing creature. It felt really amazing musically.

We were so tired. But it was like your critical mind goes to sleep and you access different parts of your creativity. It was cool because musically we just got better and better. It was a special family moment.

What’s next for Orchestra of Spheres?

Erika: We’re about to do a new album, in 2-3 weeks time.

Dan: We’re recording with an old friend who has a studio in Newtown. It’s an awesome place.

Erika: It’s another one of those amazing places that are hard to find, but when you find them it’s amazing. It’s a big old shed. He lives in it and he collects junk that he turns into instruments. He’s incredible. He’s made a little studio there with a vocal booth.

Dan: Earlier this year we did a gig with a whole bunch of musicians, 12 people maybe. The idea for this album is to get a few of those people in for different tunes and broaden the sound palate from what we’ve done in the past. Nell has been playing the harp lately, and maybe we’ll get in a few other instruments as well.

If eccentric costumes, infectious rhythms, and homemade instruments peak your interest, definitely check out Orchestra of Spheres. Their music is available here on Spotify, and be sure to take a look at some of their amazing music videos!

 

 

 

"All Bodies Welcome"

An introduction to Malia Johnson, of Movement of the Human, the choreographer defining the dance and choreography landscape across New Zealand. 

Malia Johnson

Malia Johnson

Despite clouds threatening rain, we sat outside at the waterfront cafe, Seashore Cabaret in Lower Hutt, a suburb 20-minutes outside of Wellington. We were here to meet Malia Johnson, a New Zealand native with an impressive repertoire over the past 20 years. She’s danced, choreographed, directed, and collaborated across sectors and disciplines in New Zealand and across the globe. (Seriously, read her bio).

Some people seek creative community, others create one. Malia is one of those who creates. When she first finished her training, there wasn't work—so she made opportunities for herself. In the past two decades the dance scene has grown significantly in New Zealand. Even so, when young dancers come to Malia for advice she tells them, “there isn’t a blueprint," encouraging them to push boundaries and find their own way.

After just a few minutes of conversation, it became apparent why Malia is so talented at bringing people of diverse creative backgrounds together. She possesses a strong vision with an open-minded spirit that looks for new, and even unusual creative combinations.

Challenging the stereotyped image of dancers in a theatre counting 1-2-3-4 and moving their bodies with ease, her pieces are rooted in deep and personal collaboration. Imagine unique bodies, cathartic storytelling, fashion, and the interplay of space, lighting, music, and bodies. Orchestrating these elements is at the crux of her work.

Malia finds she is most attracted to projects that are "more than just dance pieces, but a way to collaborate with multiple practices." While collaboration is a theme of her work, “it's tricky to collaborate well, but it creates the best outcome...when you have a trusting collaborative environment people are free to do their best work." To achieve this, "it's about understanding individually, how people function, and moving and shaping the work in response to their personal skills.”

Her years working with the World of Wearable Art (WOW) represent some of the most successful collaboration she has experienced. “WOW was an example of 200 people collaborating together really well, focusing on their individual crafts and really serving the overall experience."

It was her position at WOW that brought her back to New Zealand after a brief period abroad in Australia. The work was really inspiring and from the start, WOW was a “choreographic environment that didn't know it was. It was always about movement. It's the body and art colliding. The designers make garments for the body to move around as pieces of art. It's about movement architecture and I just loved that."

Today, she lives just outside the city center in Lower Hutt, a place she never thought she’d live. "There’s something good for creativity about living in unexpected places.” Wellington is such a small city, you can hardly walk down the street without stopping to say hi to four or five people, so she cherishes the chance to go for a quiet walk with her dog - often where she finds her inspiration. 

As with many creatives in this country, she’s lived in multiple places across New Zealand. As policy, prices and opportunities in Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch have shifted, the arts has moved as well. “Artists move quickly” and follow opportunity. “They go where they can be free.”

But Wellington is “really special. Business, arts, and the government are so close together. It's a unique city” because these sectors bump into each other creating different opportunities. “Wellington was the place where the arts were in New Zealand, until the last 10 years. New health and safety regulations came down hard on a lot of artistic, urban spaces, but there is also new city funding to help.”

If you’re lucky enough to be close by, make it a point to see her work. Malia's studio, Movement of the Human (MOTH), has a number of things in the works right now. A few upcoming opportunities to experience her magic:

*All photos courtesy of Malia Johnson

*All photos courtesy of Malia Johnson

Mahuki: where entrepreneurial spirit and culture collide.

Sulu Fiti, Outreach Manager for Mahuki, chats with us about creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) sector.

On a sunny morning in January, we had the opportunity to chat with Sulu in Muhuki’s beautiful office space, located within New Zealand’s national Te Papa Museum. The first of its kind, Mahuki is Te Papa’s innovation accelerator focusing on entrepreneurship in the global cultural and heritage sector. 

Sulu could not have been more welcoming. We chatted about Mahuki, growing up in Wellington, and his ideal day in the city.

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Tell us a little about yourself

I’m a born and bred Wellingtonian, and I’ve lived here for most of my life. I’ve also lived overseas during various semi-professional rugby playing stints - three seasons in Wales, two in Ireland, and one each in Ireland, and Australia. I’ve also lived in Samoa a couple of times. My parents are Samoan immigrants who came here in the 1960s. They met each other in New Zealand, and raised our family here in Wellington. They came from nothing, and were poor even by Samoan standards at the time. So my siblings and I are very fortunate that we were brought up wanting for nothing, in an incredibly supportive, and loving family. We had a fantastic upbringing in Wellington.  

After spending time abroad, what has brought you back to Wellington?

It’s home. My family and friends are here. And because of Wellington’s relatively small size, there's a real sense of community here. I love that. It's amazing how many people you become connected with in this city. In particular, within the start-up community everyone seems to know one another. There is a great creative vibe in the city, and you can really see that in the vibrant startup scene.

Also, being the seat of government, there are a lot of government agencies, and while in the past that has given Wellington a rather staid image. It’s certainly not how you would describe Wellington now. At Mahuki we work with a lot of government agencies and educational institutions, and they are starting to embrace a lot of startup methodologies in the way that they operate. Government can be a big clunky machine, but they are really trying to implement some of the startup philosophies such as iterating quickly, and running design sprints. It's really refreshing to see that kind of thinking in that sort of environment.

What brought you to Mahuki?

I came through a business accelerator in 2017 - the Kiwibank Fintech Accelerator - where I fast failed my company which was looking to make it easier and cheaper to send money to the Pacific Islands using the blockchain. After some market validation in Samoa I decided that it wasn’t worth pursuing the business further. We didn’t have a big enough point of difference in the market to make the type of penetration that would have made us stand out from others in the space. I've worked in many different jobs - but most recently in startups.

I work as the Outreach Manager at Mahuki, and my remit is to find exceptional talent for the full Mahuki programme. I also work closely with educational institutions, government agencies, and other interested parties. I’m also heavily involved in the local startup scene. We run a pre-accelerator programme which involves delivering workshops around the country to those interested in the sector, with a particular focus on Maori and Pasifika.  

That’s amazing! What makes Mahuki such a unique place?

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It is a space where entrepreneurialism and culture collide to create innovative solutions that enrich galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM). It's the world’s first accelerator in this sector, and that speaks volumes about Te Papa's constant effort to be ahead of the curve.

We produce a four month bespoke innovation / entrepreneurial programme designed to help teams of between 2 to 6 members develop their idea and business to produce a commercially viable solution.

How did the program originally get started?

A few years ago Te Papa examined ways in which it could adapt and innovate in an increasingly digital world. They looked at a few different models, and the accelerator model is what they decided to go with. From day one Te Papa has always stood out from the crowd. It has a pioneering vision within its DNA, and that ‘out of the box’ thinking courses through Mahuki.

What are some examples of teams that have gone through the program?

We’ve had a really broad range of teams come through Mahuki. Just a snapshot of some of the teams include Curio, which is an online publishing platform that lets museums, galleries and libraries make their own digital interactions. We’ve had a social enterprise team who created an app for matching volunteers with organizations; another team, Excio, has created an app for enjoying  works of art / photography on your mobile device. Breadcrumb deliver location-aware indoor positioning solutions, Vaka Interactiv, are a Pasifika team working on a portrait interactive - think Harry Potter - by using ethno-cultural empathy via two way communication. We’ve also had a team in the burgeoning V.R. space, a data analytics team, a bunch of gaming developers, and a team who are looking at using technology to learn, and preserve the languages of Oceania. I’m really looking forward to seeing who comes through the Mahuki programme this year. Bring it on!

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What have been some of the biggest challenges for the program?

The biggest difficulty is not only finding talent who want to explore opportunities in this sector, but also in communicating just the broad scope of opportunities that are available for people. Typically when you think of museums, your first thought is front of house exhibitions - but there are opportunities for enterprise in areas such as ticketing, catering, and retail, just to name a few. We are being proactive in building and growing our own pipeline by extending our reach into the Maori and Pasifika communities, who aren’t greatly represented in the sector. We know that there is a rich vein of talent out there, and we aim to plant the seeds for that next wave of talent with some of our targeted workshops. A lot of the challenge is in communicating the challenges that face the sector, and whether people can come in and have a business or initiative that solves those challenges. We have a set of twelve challenges that guide what Te Papa and the industry are looking at, and we are currently in the process of revisiting these.

What make most you most excited to come to work each day at Mahuki? 

What I'm big on - and this speaks to my cultural background - is promoting diversity. Last year we had three Pasifika teams come through the Mahuki programme, and also an all-female team of three young entrepreneurs. It’s a great start, but we need to be doing a lot more to tap into those communities. We’ve got a unique opportunity at Mahuki to take a lead, and make a significant difference in this area. Also, innovation is innovation - and being involved with startups in whatever industry, whether it be fintech, agritech, VR, or whatever - is just damned exciting.

Through Mahuki, we are pioneering and championing the concept of ‘culture tech’ – a fusion of emerging technology with a New Zealand worldview that embraces the deep storytelling, content and traditions of Maori and Pasifika culture in the Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museum (GLAM) sector. Telling deep and genuine stories resonates with these cultures and we are heralding a new frontier where those gifts for storytelling can be fully realized.

One last question for our readers exploring the city. What’s your ideal day here in Wellington?

That’s easy! I'm a beach person, so I love going to the beach and being in the water. My favorite beach is Princess Bay. It's my fave because it's not as busy as the others in the city, but also because it gets the last drop of summer sun. So you get some amazing, dramatic sunsets there. It's beautiful just to sit there at 9pm in the evening and watch the sun go down. But shhhh. Keep it on the d-low, us locals like to keep Princess Bay a secret.

Another good / bad thing about Wellington - depending on your point of view - is our weather. Our winters can be pretty horrific. We have a really bad wind...apparently. I just call it a breeze. It puts a lot of people off, but I think it just invigorates us locals to be creative.

 

Old Halls and New Sounds

Wellington, New Zealand

During our conversations in Wellington, we've quickly learned how supportive and collaborative the creative community is in this windy city. We’ve consistently heard of people bringing different mediums of art and expression together in unique spaces. A rotating event series that features local music, visual art, dance, and readings, Old Hall Gigs is a prime example of Wellington’s creative spirit.

Sarah Smythe, co-founder and producer of Old Hall Gigs

Sarah Smythe, co-founder and producer of Old Hall Gigs

We’ve all been there. You’re excited to go to a gig at your local music venue to hear, well, music. Instead you wind up being annoyed at the three way too drunk people that keep bumping into you and shouting over the performance you came and paid money to see.

Wellington local Sarah Smythe shares this common frustration, saying, “I love going to gigs, but often no one is listening and it’s less about the actual music.” Rather than just complain like most people, she did something about it and co-founded the DIY event series Old Hall Gigs.

It all started when Sarah and her all-girl, eight-piece band, St Rupertsburg, decided to put on their own show—in a community hall space.  “We served everyone dinner and sat them at a long table. It was heaps of fun, a really special community, and a nice place to have a gig. At the time I didn't think anything of it. But then later, I thought, maybe I want to make more stuff like that happen. That was the seed of Old Hall Gigs.”

Officially founded in 2013 by Sarah and her friend, Thomasin Sleigh, these underutilized old hall spaces (think Irish Cultural Center, Lions Club, Kiwanis Club type places) throughout Wellington were the perfect venues to provide artistic experiences for friends and fans. These halls are more than simply affordable and available. The spaces act as a the inspiration for each new gig. As Sarah describes, “we book the hall, and then we book the things to fill out the night based on the character of the space.”

A typical Old Hall Gig provides an intimate "community feel" with audience members ranging from young children to their grandparents (the mayor even attended the 16th Gig!). The events offer a “tasting” of different creative performances for the audience in bite sized portions. “Say you've never experienced a poetry reading before and it's not something you'd typically choose to go to. The performances at Old Hall Gigs are  short enough to try out.” Sarah is passionate about getting people “into new things” outside of their routine, and to challenge their preconceived notions of what type of art they like.

The changing venues speak to that mission as well. “There’s something quite awesome as an audience member of going to new places you haven't been before. Maybe it’s a place you've noticed driving around, but it's a chance to go inside and have an experience in there.”

Don’t miss out on the next Old Hall Gig! (email sign up here). You'll be sure to fall in love with the work of a new local band, artist, or writer you haven’t heard of before. As Sarah says, “It’s easy fall into a little bubble of people you surround yourself with…Old Hall Gigs provides a nice, new cross-section of the Wellington community.”

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“There’s something quite awesome as an audience member of going to new places you haven't been before. Maybe it’s a place you've noticed driving around, but it's a chance to go inside and have an experience in there.”