The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Review: What do you know? — September 2, 2012

Review: What do you know?

What: What do you know?
Where: The Exchange Hotel
When: 30 August
Recap by: Brisbane Ambassador, Lee Mathers

On the surface, Brisbane might seem like a sleepy little town. At The Fetch, we’re doing our best to disprove that mindset. It’s just that sometimes these great events take place in the strangest locations.

To wit: you would not expect a large group of technologists, internet enthusiasts, programmers and developers to gather together at The Exchange Hotel in the middle of the city on a Thursday night, but so it was for What Do You Know, Brisbane?, an offshoot of The Australian Web Industry Conference. It’s a chance for people who work on and with the web to get together to learn and connect.

The Brisbane edition (there are also similar events in Melbourne and Sydney) saw eight fast paced presentations in an hour. They included information on structuring content for the web from Sally Bagshaw and our over-reliance on maps in data presentation by Chris Horsley.

All of the presenters are industry professionals and their points of view (along with pizza and beer thanks to the sponsors) were lapped up by the crowd of about one hundred. Carolyn King from Credos Associates provided design tips for fitter websites to generate healthier conversion results and Damon Oehlman gave us a recipe for “baking” a web front end. These talks worked in nicely with Luke Brookers quick five minutes on “Designing Delightful Experiences, Responsively”.

The night finished off with Rob Bare from R&B Creative showing us how great working at a digital design agency can be and Mehdi Khalili talking about how to make websites work offline.

So, summing up, what did you miss? The chance to find out what Brisbane really knows – that is, quite a lot!

Interview: John de Graaf —

Interview: John de Graaf

Name: John de Graaf
Author: Affluenza
Interviewed by: Brisbane Ambassador, Lee Mathers

Affluenza (noun)(ˌæflʊˈɛnzə) “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more”.

It’s an invented word obviously, first appearing in 1954, but it was popularised by John de Graaf in his documentary in 1997 and then 2001 in a co-written book of the same name. Today the term has evolved into an entire body of academic research, asking the question why are we continually working ourselves harder and harder to make more and more money to buy and consume more “stuff”?

With more than 25 years of experience on this topic, John de Graaf has finally been scheduled for his first visit to Australia to take part in the Brisbane Writers Festival and I got to have a chat with him about the global economy, the upcoming presidential elections and the economics of happiness.

The first thing to note is that topics John speaks on are all inter-related.

“I got interested in issues of affluenza, that is, overconsumption issues, and that took me in to looking at what we sacrifice in our lives to pay for that overconsumption.

“In the first instance this sacrifice is time because particularly in the States, we’ve become very overworked.

“From that I got interested in the whole worldwide attempt to measure wellbeing or happiness, rather than simply GDP. But with all of these things I was always running up against that question: ‘What’s that going to do to the economy?’

“This lead me to say that we have to ask a different question: ‘what’s the purpose of the economy, anyway?”

These issues have garnered increasing attention over the last few years, with the massive consumption of the late 1990s through to the early 2000s when the good times appeared as if they would never end. But with the start of the Global Financial Crisis, de Graaf hopes that there has been a fundamental shift in the way people think and act.

“Right now the big issue in the States is how we get people to actually buy things. People are saving for the first time in ages, which is not unhealthy, but the problem is that the economy is structured in such a way that if they don’t shop and spend then there is the creation of vast unemployment and lack of investment.

“So we’re in a real bind. Now the issue is the structure of the economy and the need to redirect it to a new paradigm based on well-being and sustainability rather than growth.”

The economic-growth-mantra is one that we hear constantly from the lips of politicians, regardless of on which side of the political fence they may sit. This focus is even sharper in the United States, where the current Presidential campaigns – another topic on which de Graaf will be speaking at BWF – seem to speak of nothing else.

“Given the circumstances today, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be talking about the economy, but the problem is that there are no new ideas. We’re talking about the economy in the same way.”

It’s no secret that de Graaf is an Obama supporter, but he says the Romney campaign is proposing to fix the economy with “the sort thing that to some degree we’ve been doing since 1980. This has really caused many of the big problems that we have in the economy today.”

“What these folks are doing is saying that the way to solve these economic problems is to do more of the same, only faster, which is the working definition of insanity.”

Discussions about the economy and the upcoming US elections lead de Graaf back to a topic about which he is clearly passionate: how to improve the well-being and happiness of his fellow citizens. He believes that outside of the States, many countries are on the right track.

“There is a nuttiness in the United States. We don’t even really know what’s going on in Canada, much less the rest of the world.

“We tend to think of most other countries as poor and third world. We don’t understand that in most wealthy countries in the world, people are doing better in virtually every quality of life category.

“Here in Australia there is no question that you have your problems, but you’re not looking at armies of homeless people on the streets like we are in the US or that millions of people have no health coverage”.

While the health care debate rages in the US, it’s the slavish dedication or need to work that de Graaf would like to change. He cites a remarkable statistic that would cause riots in Australia.

“Thirty-nine per cent of the American workforce does not get paid vacation. Most people can’t believe it. They say that they know that American’s don’t get that much vacation, but they think that we get two weeks by law. But that’s not correct.”

De Graaf has helped to create an organisation in the US called “Take Back Your Time”, which attempts to challenge time poverty and overwork in the US and Canada.

“What we don’t understand is that while money has its purposes and you need a certain amount of it for economic security and to be able to do other kinds of things, money just isn’t the be all and end all.

“We seem to have forgotten that a worthwhile life contains all of these important non-material elements, which GDP does not effectively measure because you don’t spend money on them. GDP has its uses, but it needs to be combined with a much more complex sense of what’s valuable in life”.

What de Graaf is attempting to do with his discussions on over consumption, a relentless focus on the economy and what purpose it is really trying to service, and time poverty and overwork, is to shift the focus to a debate about the lives that we really want to be living, instead of those lives in which we sometimes seem to find ourselves trapped.

“Think about the fact that we really do need time. If we’re working ourselves to death, then we don’t have the time for family and friends and connections and our health and community building.

“As those things deteriorate, our quality of life goes down with it. Ironically, as those things deteriorate, as we have less real friendships and connections and so on, the marketers try to sell those things back to us in the form of products.

“As we lose our environment and the quality of the environment declines, we instead fly off to a pristine beach and spend money, but it doesn’t solve the real neglect for those aspects of life that require time in order to get benefit from them.”

The topics John De Graaf talks about are big topics; important topics. They are issues that go beyond simple thirty second sound bites we get every evening on the news. They require time and effort and a level of discourse that doesn’t descend into the vitriol to which we have become so accustomed.

De Graaf shows that we can have those conversations and we can challenge entrenched processes in order to help reshape and refocus our economy and way of life away from one of over consumption and a relentless focus on the collection of more “stuff”. Instead we should be focusing on the quality of the lives that we are living and the pursuit of happiness rather than the almighty dollar.

John de Graaf is appearing at several sessions throughout the Brisbane Writers Festival, including:

  • What’s the Economy for Anyway?
  • We Need to Talk About America
  • Beyond Greed
  • Our Future World

Visit the Brisbane Writers Festival website for further details and ticket information. The Fetch is attending sessions at BWF courtesy of the Festival organisers.

Video: RAW Brisbane: Radiate —

Video: RAW Brisbane: Radiate

Fetchers Andrew and Steph headed to Oh Hello for the second RAW Brisbane showcase, Radiate. Designed to throw a spotlight on independent creatives in visual art, film, fashion, music, hair and makeup artistry, photography, models and performing art, this action filled exhibition is a highlight of Brisbane’s creative calendar.

The next RAW Brisbane event is scheduled for 26 September. Full details online.

SIde Project Interview with Nadine Schmoll — August 29, 2012

SIde Project Interview with Nadine Schmoll

I really need to work on my public meeting skills. The plan was to meet under the Wheel of Brisbane. Little did I realise just how many people there are gathered there on any given lunch hour. Thankfully, Nadine has a stronger sensibility that I and picked me out in an instant and we sat down in the lovely South Bank parklands to chat about her work and upcoming exhibition with RAW Brisbane.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your art practice?
My name is Nadine and I run a label called Spiritfire Designs. I make wearable art, like jewellery, handbags and also homewares, all using salvaged and up-cycled materials. I’m really, really passionate about reusing materials, so I spend a lot of time going to opshops, garage sales and markets to find all of my materials and then I try and turn them into something new and different.

Is it a side project for you or is it a full time gig?
I’m the workshop coordinator at Reverse Garbage, so Spiritfire is a side project for me. I do that in my free time, when I’ve got a day off or on the weekend.

It is a great fit though, I buy a lot of materials from Reverse Garbage and get a lot of inspiration from being surrounded by other creative, likeminded people. I’m really lucky that I have that as my other job. I get to go out to schools and teach kids how to make robots and spaceships and wearable art out of reused salvaged materials.

So at what point does that side project turn into the main gig for you?
I think I’m really happy with the way things are at the moment. I want to keep doing what I’m doing, so long as I enjoy it and I still love it, I think that is the main thing for me. Because a lot of the work that I do is one of a kind, it takes a lot of time to make as well. I think if I was doing it full time I would be tearing my hair out!

What are your favourite haunts for finding pieces to put together your creations?
I love going to the Chandler Markets. Not many people have heard about it, but it runs every Sunday. I bought some really great antique pocket watches and vintage buttons. They have some great stuff . I also head to Reverse Garage and do the rounds of all the op shops in Brisbane.

How do you find inspiration for how to put it all together, do you have a story that runs through the pieces?
Sometime I have a story, but really I get inspiration from the materials themselves. For example, I made a necklace from Dungeons and Dragons coins that my boyfriend used to have when he was into that kind of stuff. It does have a story and a history and I think for me the real challenge is trying to transform perceptions of what people see as garbage waste. All these things are things that people would usually throw away, because they don’t want them anymore and it’s trying to show that these things can still be beautiful. They can still take on a new life.

With the whole creative process I like it to be really organic and spontaneous. I might have a bit of an idea about a colour scheme and I’ll take a few bits and pieces from here and there and assemble it, see what it looks like. Sometimes I have to sleep on it if I’m not sure, but largely it’s intuitive decision making.

How did you get involved in RAW Brisbane?
One of my friends was part of the first showcase in Brisbane June. I went along and thought ‘Wow, this is so awesome. I really, really want to be involved‘ and that’s basically how it started.

What can people expect when they go to RAW?
People can expect a whole array of different creative people all showcasing what they do. Not just fashion and jewellery, it’s short films, live music, photography and visual art. That’s what so amazing about RAW, you’ve got all these creative people coming together under the one roof sharing their ideas, sharing their knowledge.

Do you think that kind of collaboration is important for a creative city?
I think that a lot of people look at Sydney and Melbourne and think they are a lot further ahead than we are, that Brisbane is a bit of a cultural backwater. But I think the handmade community and creative community here in Brisbane is strong and there are more creative opportunities for artists. We are so much stronger when we can join together and share ideas and opportunities together.

What are your picks of the Brisbane calendar over the next couple of months?
One that I can think of is the next Reverse Garbage exhibition in mid September at Woolloongabba. Brisbane Festival has heaps of stuff on, including the theatre performance Soap with circus performance in bath tubs.

Where can people find you and your designs?
In terms of selling I go to the Young Designers Markets on the first Sunday of the month, through my website, the GoMA store and online at Etsy. You can also find me on Facebook or Twitter.

Side Project Interview: Daniele Constance — August 20, 2012

Side Project Interview: Daniele Constance

I’ve known Daniele for a over a year now. She’s an artsworker, theatre producer, entrepreneur and innovator and always knows the newest, most delicious places to eat around town. We sit three desks away from each other at our day jobs with The Edge and as a result, we often  talk about upcoming events around town and lament about our lack of free time to attend them.

When the Brisbane Fetch team chose side projects as the theme for our latest interview series, Daniele immediately popped to mind. We’ve already reviewed her innovative market, Suitcase Rummage, a few months back, so I thought it would be good chance to have a chat to Daniele about how this particular side project came to be.

Daniele Constance

Name: Daniele Constance
Website: Suitcase Rummage
Twitter: @SuitcaseRummage

What was your first job?
Ever? I can’t remember, but it would have been in retail. City Beach maybe?! Ha!

So what is Suitcase Rummage and how did it get started?
Suitcase Rummage is (as its names suggests) a market from suitcases. It’s a mini scaled market, aimed at supporting local and emerging artists, crafters, collectors and lovers of recycling. It aims to be accessible, inclusive, affordable and a community focused event.

I started Suitcase Rummage with partner in crime, Isabel Fitzgerald. We were brainstorming a bunch of project ideas that we wanted to get off the ground in Brisbane and Suitcase Rummage was one of them. We wanted to provide a platform for artists and community members to participate in a local, grass roots event that supported them. We took the idea to Brisbane City Council and …. here we are!

Was Suitcase Rummage a side project? Is it still?
Ahhh, yes and yes! It’s not a side project in the sense that it’s not important to us, more in the sense that Isabel and I still have full time jobs that pay the rent. We also never expected to have such a great response from our events, or that they would be ongoing.

Our first Rummage in Brisbane was to be a one off event, but it was so successful we kept it going. We’re working towards making it a sustainable event and bringing it to the forefront of what we do.

At what point does a project stop being a side project and start being your main focus?
That’s a good question… and I’m not sure I have the answer just yet. Maybe check back with us in six months?!

What are your goals for Suitcase Rummage’s future?
Keep it sustainable, keep it genuine and slowly build Rummages in communities around the country. It’s ambitious, but we’re working hard on it!

Do you have any opportunities for others to collaborate?
Sure! We’re always open for suggestions, collaborations … just contact us! We have partnered with other events and festivals and we do love working alongside others who share a similar ethos.

What are your top three tips to others that like to do twenty things at once?
Get rid of one! It’s okay to say no to things! But like me, you’ll probably say no to one thing until something else comes along! … I try and keep a steady balance across projects and I have to remember it’s not about quantity. If you’re doing too many projects and burn yourself out, then it makes it so much harder to do quality work.

What are three upcoming Brissy events that you are excited about?
1. Just found out that Grand Salvo (Melbourne based musician) is playing at Black Bear Lodge next month – pretty excited about that!
2. Home Festival (community arts festival at Kangaroo Point next weekend)
3. Innovate Symposium by Volunteering Queensland. Not sure if I can make it along to this one, but it looks like a great program!

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