Melbourne Design Week: Part 2

Time flies so quickly! It’s been a month since, the Melbourne Design Week and this is the part two! In the last week of May, leading to the first week of June, Through The Roof visited different spots for the Melbourne Design Week. It was amazing getting to meet new people, and to also to receive hospitality in such a great way.

Part 1 can be read here, and if you’ve already read that, here’s part two:

We visited Run Artist Run @run.artistrun – an exhibition space showcasing “and the word was God”. It showcased artwork from Ming Liew, Ben Yi-Yu Qin, and Caesar Li, first generation Chinese Australians. It was a very personal showcase of the lives as Chinese locals, and the difference in culture experienced throughout their lives.

Most notably, we enjoyed Ming Liew’s “Questions About a Word”. It was a very personal search about the use of the word “pigtails” and how Ming himself used it casually in a phrase. The artwork was a video capturing a study on historical Chinese-English translation books, which led to his questioning of the word, and ended with his memory of youth, and how his friend and him had used a range of Chinese words to explain English swear words as teenagers.

Being Singaporean Chinese, this was quite amusing, and a good reflection on some of the processes one might face coming from Chinese speaking household. It also brought up memories of old movies like Talking Cock the Movie.

The next day, we headed to Geelong. This sleepy town is a two hour train ride away from Melbourne City itself. Melbourne Design Festival had a number of satellite events, and the one in Geelong seemed the most convenient for us to go to without a car.

Our most hospitable experience was in Geelong itself, where the artists there were kind, and graceful. If we had learnt anything, it was that you could be a very nice person and still do art!

Vicki Clissold of Pipsqueak Art

We had wanted to register beforehand for a wax making workshop with Vicki Clissold of Pipsqueak Art, but the sign ups were full. But we went early and she very readily gave us a crash course on her whole entire process. After that, she told us to hang around, and she would call us in if participants had dropped out or not turned up. Sure enough, there were some no-shows, and she immediately got us started onto making our own waxed paper artworks.

It was really her openness and willingness to share, with us and the other participants, and it warmed our hearts. Other than personal friends and their art, I haven’t had an experience where the artist was so heartwarmingly nice, and generous with materials and knowledge. She was truly a gem of an artist!

We visited other booths and stores around, and the other artists were equally friendly, and willing to explain at length what they were doing. Creative Geelong was working with National Gallery Victoria for the Melbourne Design Week, and both representatives were extremely friendly as they explained how they came to the current running of the space. It was truly such a lovely time.

The next day, we came back to the space to check out a letterpress workshop, and pressed out some cards. Commoners Press @commoners_press got participants to form three words on a block to be fed through a letterpress, getting a postcard out of it! The theme was about energy, ethics and ecology. They were excellent hosts, teaching and speaking with us as we printed these cards.

After which, we popped over to Geelong Library, where we saw the launch of G-Zine’s Zine Vending machine! It was quite a launch, and we also had a chance to share with the G-Zines owners Amanda and Nick, about our Through The Roof Liminal Zines. In that process, we also got to meet Jay Eff, who made his own trading cards, with collaged characters. Super crazy collage work, reminding me of Faile – a New York based street art group.

We also peeped into the Geelong Gallery to take a look at their exhibition “Cutting Through Time – Cressida Campbell, Margaret Preston, and the Japanese Print”. Having just played around with lino print in the past few months, wood block prints were the next level, and these wood block cuts were really out of this world.

Woodblock Prints by Cressida Campbell

There was really so much detail and attention to it, producing such beautiful prints. It was a very intertwined twist between the art styles of Japanese woodcut and European/Western approaches.

After heading back to Melbourne, the very last part of our journey fell a little out of the Melbourne Design Week schedule. But Tree Paper Gallery @treepapergallery, owned by Sam Temery, was still running RISO printing workshops at his studio. We had a chance to experience and to work with a whole range of RISO inks, and really see the experimentation behind a RISO print. It was super fun, and we learnt so much from Sam’s stories.

What a great end to a week of running around and visiting the creatives and artists in Melbourne!

Some concluding thoughts:

When we think of art, sometimes the characters and image coming to mind most immediately might be snooty people, with their noses in the air, and their abstract talk with overly idealistic world views and condescending sense of culture. But what we experienced in Melbourne was so far from that.

We saw the importance of storytelling, and the openness in welcoming all stories, even if it was hard to understand. To be honest, it was a challenge to be that welcoming. Having grown up in Singapore’s meritocratic educational system, it’s always about doing the projects that get the best grade, or working a way that plays to your strengths. But it was authenticity that won, over and over again. It was the ability “move fast, break things” as shared with us by a family member. If someone wants to share a story, sure! Let’s hear it. If someone wants to make trading cards, do it! (Thanks Jay Eff! :D)

The screenprinted motif on the left is on a sketchbook. Even I complicate my own printing process by trying to find the right paper stock, but it could really be so simple!

There were many moments where Clarice and I were just stunned at the possibilities, and we kept thinking how to bring a culture like that back to Singapore. Our result: Through The Roof can be that culture, or if not, we should be doing it.

This raises our goals in some sense. We wanted to be a platform to help the younger creatives in their creative careers. I think this can still be done, but we need to more: we need to care.

Vicki working with Clarice on her wax paper work.

If you’ve already joined our collab groups, you know how we like to talk, and share ideas, and to enjoy each other’s company. This needs to grow, and in short, it should affect other local creatives to just be nicer as a whole. Not that we’re not nice, we might be quite firm on our points. But the way that we were cared for in Melbourne, it was really over the top. The only thing we can do now is to continue to pay it forward.

Thank you Melbourne, for the care and love that your creatives bring to the table. It was amazing and incredibly heart warming.

Can’t wait to see you again!


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