Art

Low end art supplies for low brow art.

6 April, 2013

I’ve been drawing more and more with markers lately, and not even the fancy alcohol based ones. I only have a few of those (some Copics but mostly Shin Han Touch pens) and the few I have are running out of ink fast. A couple of weeks ago I saw Office Works had a tub of 50 Faber Castell Connector Pens on sale so I scooped them up and have been merrily doodling away the last few weeks. The difference between alcohol and water based pens is huge, you can blend and layer ink with the alcohol markers but if you put too many layers of ink down with a water based marker you’ll pull up a bunch of paper fibres. So they aren’t a proper substitute but they’re the substitute I can afford. For the price of 50 connector pens I would only be able to buy two or three alcohol based markers! These drawings use both types of markers; and the ability to layer and blend alcohol markers is evident in the first drawing.

Marker drawing of two self portraits, both looking confused and in mid conversation.

Marker drawing of two self portraits, both looking confused and in mid conversation.

Marker drawing of two fat people with gem adornments.

Marker drawing of two fat people with gem adornments.

Marker drawing of a fat person with a large shining red gem for a heart.

Marker drawing of a fat person with a large shining red gem for a heart.


My mother-in-law once said my drawings were rude and ever since then I’ve been self conscious about it. Considering a nude body as vulgar speaks of prudery and shame. I draw a collection of lines organised in a way that makes the brain conclude that it’s meant to represent a body, but there are other lines and shapes on these bodies that signify other things too. Art shouldn’t be read like a mirror, it’s more like a map. I really object to my drawings being read as titillating or erotic, as I’ve seen them put into that context on some tumblr blogs. It says a lot about the lack of respect for women’s bodies and the absolute disregard for consent, that an image of bare breasts is considered pornographic. I’m also reminded of all the boobs in ads targeted at men that are uncensored while images of breast feeding are considered offensive. I’m rolling my eyes directly at you, straight guys.

Mental illness

Hyperglycaemic whimsy: put a flower on your bike.

3 April, 2013

Since I was blessed with my bipolar 2 diagnosis a lot of things have started to make sense. I don’t want to make light of mood swings and behaviour changes, but I can identify with oscillating between saccharine whimsy and eye-rolling cynicism and it’s pretty evident in the sort of things I make. I also tend be more prolific when experiencing hypomania; I used to think my periods of frenzied output were just me returning to a normal functioning life (though these periods never lasted longer than a week or so), and so when I crashed into depression afterwards it was compounded with feelings of frustration and shame that I could never sustain this “normal” functioning mode.

When I am hypomanic I tend to speak more. Witty repartee rolls out of my face with ease and I feel like I sparkle with charisma – whether or not this is true is immaterial because I am right, and you are wrong. The ideas I have must be caught and put down on paper before they fall out of the air and plop into the bog of eternal stench (and depression). I notice the things I create are generally more light-hearted and amusing, but even if I’m dealing with difficult issues I will approach them with extreme whimsy. Hypomania as described by me sounds delightful, doesn’t it? I still have difficulty regarding it as not-normal because I have fetishised the normal functioning life other people seem to take for granted and enjoy so casually.

I have been medicated for about two years, and have experienced minimal mood swings for a lot of that time. I sometimes miss the flurry of ideas and activity of higher moods but I definitely do not miss the depression that I have experienced for the majority of my life. Coupled with mental illness, there’s a lot of bad stuff that’s happened to me so feeling higher than usual is a welcome change. People with bipolar 2 largely experience a majority of low moods and are a higher suicide risk amongst the spectrum of bipolar patients. The new normal for me is unravelling and I’m getting used to it, but I still experience swings however they aren’t as extreme.

So that’s the preamble. It might go a way towards explaining why I get caught up in whimsy, and in superficially delightful things even if they aren’t Adult and Serious. I think I’m nearly done with cynicism. There’s been enough crap I have to continually deal with, so any way I can make shit more wonderful I will do it.

My name is Natalie, I’m 32, and I have flowers all over my bike. Also I bought a ukulele (and I will never apologise, Helen Razer!)

My ice blue bike with a wicker basket adorned with crocheted flowers.

My ice blue bike with a wicker basket adorned with crocheted flowers.


My bike frame has flower stickers on it for good measure.

My bike frame has flower stickers on it for good measure.


A closer look at the nondescript flowers, a few of them vaguely resemble pansies.

A closer look at the nondescript flowers, a few of them vaguely resemble pansies.


Crochet patterns for these flowers are below if you want to choke people with joy as you cycle past:
Nondescript flower
Puffy nondescript flower
Rose
Pansy

Here are a couple photos of Miffy for those who want to know how she’s healing after her enucleation. Her eyelid has healed beautifully and the hair is starting to grow back. It’s still a little weird when I look into her eyes and realise there’s only one there. I keep anxiously testing that eye and worrying about glaucoma claiming it as well, but for now she’s back to tearing around the house after her ball and playing tug of war with rag scraps.

Miffy sitting and gazing off at Nick as he left.

Miffy sitting and gazing off at Nick as he leaves.


Miffy's tiny little stumpy legs kill me with cuteness.

Her tiny little stumpy legs kill me with cuteness.

sewing

Sweetheart floral dress.

1 April, 2013

I pose fresh as a country daisy in my hand made dress with a pointy pitchfork in one hand and an evil/ sassy glint in my eye.

I pose fresh as a country daisy in my hand made dress with a pointy pitchfork in one hand and an evil/ sassy glint in my eye.


Welcome to my sheet dress! Mum gave me this old floral sheet the other week and I was surprised at how heavy it was; I’ve never had the pleasure of sleeping on sheets of such quality! I pretty much never wear light coloured clothing so I’m baffled as to why I was so enthusiastic about using this sheet for the second of my self drafted day dresses, but I’m actually quite pleased with it.

Modeling my cream floral dress with sweetheart neckline, scalloped sleeves, french curved darts, scalloped pockets and a-line skirt.

Modeling my cream floral dress with sweetheart neckline, scalloped sleeves, french curved darts, scalloped pockets and a-line skirt.


Cute scallop sleeve!

Cute scallop sleeve!


I'm professionally modeling this pocket with a scalloped detail.

I’m professionally modeling this pocket with a scalloped detail.

I used the same skirt pattern as the spotty dress and added a few cute scalloped details on the sleeve and pocket. Pop over here to this tutorial on scalloped hems and you’ll get the gist of it. Once you can do scallops you can do a few different shapes and you’ll never have a boring hem again.

The back neckline closure features a heart button and loop.

The back neckline closure features a heart button and loop.

I had been wearing this dress all day when these photos were taken, so do excuse the creases. Next time I need to be sure to reduce the neckline gaping because I always forget about it until it’s too late. Nonetheless, it’s a very comfortable dress to wear around the house and I’m pretty chuffed.

Fashion, sewing

Self-drafted spotty-dotty-stripy-pocket dress.

27 March, 2013

The rough sketch for the dress featuring wide gathered straps and wrap around pockets; and the front and back bodice as well as sleeve slopers on my patterned rug.

The rough sketch for the dress featuring wide gathered straps and wrap around pockets; and the front and back bodice as well as sleeve slopers on my patterned rug.


I’ve wanted to draft my own properly fitting sloper for a long time, and over the last five years I had a couple of good attempts but was always foiled by formulas that completely collapsed when you used larger measurements. Lots of people seem to use this bodice block method by gedwoods on BurdaStyle but I’ve tried it and a number of others like it and it always ended with a mighty weird looking block. My fat body seemed to explode every damn sloper method it came across.

Upon tracking down this front and back sloper method on madalynne.com I knew within ten minutes that I was on a winner! It took me a couple of hours to plot out all my measurements, then a further few days sewing up about five different muslins in order to tweak the fit (using Fit For Real People); but when I tried on that last muslin I broke out into fits of Elaine Benes-grade joyful dancing!

Inspired by this Modcloth dress, I came up with a design to suit me. The neckline and the wide straps could stay, but the gathered waist was banished in favour of an a-line skirt. I wanted to include pockets but felt like I could do better than simple patch pockets for this dress. One morning a copy of Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear mysteriously turned up at my place (thank YOU Poliana!) and after ecstatically thumbing the pages I came across some rad side pockets that wrapped around to the back skirt. Yep! Let’s do that!

Modelling my new handmade dress in navy polka dots with striped pocket lining at the hips.

Modelling my new handmade dress in navy polka dots with striped pocket lining at the hips.

The back of my polka dot dress.

The back of my polka dot dress.


For those who’ve experienced the joys and frustrations of the design process, we know that design outcomes very rarely turn out just exactly as they are conceived. It’s not actually a terrible thing, and often you can trip across beautiful solutions to the little problems that are posed across the process. It turned out that I didn’t have enough polka dot fabric to execute the pockets as planned, but I did find a navy striped material that would provide a smashing contrast at the hips.

I will be tweaking this pattern slightly – I will narrow the width of the neckline because the straps are set just a little too wide. I also need to remove a little fabric from the back bodice height because of my sway back. I could stand to bring in the waist a little but I’d rather be comfortable – this is a day dress just for wearing at home and doing little errands. It’s fully cotton and the bodice is lined (with the striped fabric!) so after a few washes I expect it to be soft and very easy to wear.

Hands on hips, looking very pleased with myself!

Hands on hips, looking very pleased with myself!


Pattern drafting is a skill I’ve long been mystified and entranced by. Taking the human body, a very complex set of bumps and curves, and mapping it in two dimensions is very cool to me. I love drawing, bringing lines and shapes together to make meaning, and pattern drafting is an extension of that. That I can take lines and shapes, transfer them to flat bits of fabric, then transform that flat fabric to garments that envelop my body and accompany me through periods of my life… it’s just a very profound thing to me.

And that’s the story of my spotty-dotty-stripy-pocket dress.
The End.

Life

The one-eyed dog.

11 March, 2013

Last week Miffy suddenly developed painful glaucoma in her right eye, leading to the necessary removal of the eye. I was absolutely shocked at this rapid unravelling of events as she simply woke up in pain and with a depressed demeanour where the night before she was full of play and fun. When the vet called to say Miffy’s eye would have to be removed (enucleation) I was absolutely horrified and blubbering on the phone to my dad who’d called just minutes after the vet enquiring as to how Miffy was.

“SHE HAS TO HAVE HER EYEBALL TAKEN OUT AND SHE HAS SUCH PRETTY EYES OH GOD”

Of course, pretty eyes don’t override the simple fact that one of them was causing her a great deal of pain due to the pressure that had built up behind it. We had a two options for surgery: removal of eye, insertion of an “orbital prosthesis” and the lid sutured clothed; and evisceration and intraocular prosthesis, where the inside of the eye is removed and replaced with a prosthetic ball so it moves like a regular eye but with no vision or pain. The second option was obviously more expensive but promised a less distressing result for humans to look at, and we initially thought we would go with this option but then came to the realisation that Miffy wouldn’t be able to see either way. Post operative care would also be far less expensive if the eye was sutured shut, not to be crass about money but it’s a very real factor; also the eye might be more prone to infection, another unpleasant complication for poor Miffy.

Glaucoma in shih-tzus is pretty common, and because she’s a cross breed (with bichon frise) it’s very likely Miffy’s other eye will succumb to glaucoma too. It’s really difficult for us humans to think about this and not project our trauma and pity on to our pets, but blind dogs can cope very well I’m told. With two eyes removed she won’t be winning any dog shows but if she requires a second enucleation she will still be able to live a great life.

I’m going to include photos just for other dog owners, because I did a lot of googling to find out about the enucleation and intraocular prosthesis and how it might look after the operation!

Miffy just before the operation. Her right eye is very swollen (and completely blind).

Miffy just before the operation. Her right eye is very swollen (and completely blind).


Miffy after her enucleation. Her "non eye" (as we've been calling it!) stained magenta due to whatever the vet put on it. Her E-collar gets in the way of cuddles. I just want to smoosh her!

Miffy after her enucleation. Her “non eye” (as we’ve been calling it!) stained magenta due to whatever the vet put on it. Her E-collar gets in the way of cuddles. I just want to smoosh her!

Five different designs of hand embroidered Girth Guide badges are now available: GG emblem, donut, pig, merbabe and burger.

Five different designs of hand embroidered Girth Guide badges are now available: GG emblem, donut, pig, merbabe and burger.

Obviously veterinary testing, consultations and procedures are ridiculously expensive and I need to thank my Mum for generously loaning us money to pay for the operation. If you’d like to buy something from my shop to support Miffy and help us pay Mum back, we’d be so appreciative. I’ve released my hand embroidered prototypes for Girth Guide badges to raise money for Miffy and there aren’t many of each so be quick!

Art

One big room full of fat stitches.

12 January, 2013

Four of my Buoyant embroideries and two saying “fat”.

Hello! Welcome to the new year blog, I’m sorry I haven’t been around much to usher you in.

I just thought I’d actually get around to updating about the embroideries I’ve been doing! Over Christmas and New Year I was house sitting at my parents and doing a lot of needlework like a proper lady from a century ago. I’ve listed some of them for sale in my shop and you can go take a look if you want to, and maybe even buy one!

Garden, House

Twig by twig nesting.

6 December, 2012

My living room with a new coat of duck egg blue paint, two big beige chairs and the tv stand.


All the years I rented, not having much control over my space or the power to improve it even when it verged on unlivable, I thought buying my own home would be amazing. I was going to paint every wall a different colour and put up pictures! I’d knock out walls, re-tile the bathroom, install ridiculous tap-ware, and make the entire floor of the bedroom a mattress with draped fabric dripping from every corner. After the contract on the house settled and I saw how much money was left at the end of every fortnight I realised my absurd and fanciful home improvement dreams were going to have to wait. Now I’m trying to insert my whimsies in whatever budgetary cracks I can find, and while my beautiful swan-like domicile will unfurl its many coloured wings much slower than I’d have liked, I think it’s actually going to prolong the fun.

In the last week we’ve made significant headway in the living room thanks to Nick playing furniture tetris and finding a much more pleasant way of configuring the bulky lounge suite we bought so cheaply before we moved in. The living and kitchen areas are my problem zones due to the overuse of grey. 50 Shades of Kill-Me-I’m-Living-In-A-Rental-Again Grey. Grey carpet, grey curtains, grey tiles, grey cabinetry, grey counter tops. The sand beige lounge suite pushed me over the edge into blandtopia so I was pretty excited about the offer of leftover paint from my Mum, who tastefully chose a duck egg blue for her sewing room. I know it’s a bit out of “fashion” in blog land, everyone was all about duck egg blue in 2008 and I have no idea what they’re all about now but I still love it.

My colour block cushions in pink, yellow, aqua and red.

Last night I got out all my fabric including a bunch of scraps from my Granma’s stash and set to work salvaging all the best bits of the brightest colours and sewed it into four new cushions. I wasn’t intending on doing a colour block/ triangle thing but that’s what happened.

Our tiny giftmas tree with papercraft gems and rock salt lamp.

Earlier this week I permitted a small tree during this time of Giftmas, a time of the year so unbearable in temperature and jolliness that I reject reality for several months. This year I thought I’d ease up on the Scrooginess for Nick’s sake because he loves Christmas and he ought to be rewarded for tolerating my cantankerous nature for seven years. The paper craft gems are from Mini Eco; I will interrupt my crotchety lady times for a bit of gratuitous paper craft any time of the year. I’m still waiting on Kanye West to respond to my crafternoon invitations, I suspect he’d enjoy paper craft.

Our courtyard garden with flamingo populated turf.


I can’t help but shelve my angry pants when I go out to our courtyard. The lawn flamingos are a recent addition and are actually guarding the most burnt patches of grass, thanks to the potency of Miffy’s pee. (I know there are things you can add to dog water to alleviate the burnt grass issue but I haven’t bought any, and to be frank it’s not that distressing.) The cuttings I took from Mum’s place are mostly doing well – the daisies and geraniums are loving it, and the polka dot plant will probably flourish anywhere because all it wants to do is propagate all over earth.

Purple daisies blooming.


Super close up on the pink geranium.

Things that don’t grow so well in my garden: chives, pansies, pink begonias and poppies. So far we’ve enjoyed eating home grown beetroot, basil, shallots and marjoram. I’m currently growing rocket and mignonette lettuce, purple beans, tomatoes and kale. I don’t hold high hopes for the tomato and kale because spring melted into a heat wave and many of my seedlings have carked it. Growing plants is very experimental at the moment but it’s rewarding and offers me a space for meditation.

The proposed grey chevron along the long wall of our living room vs the current bare wall.


Come back inside and sit down while you listen to my grand plans for the rest of the living room! One thing I definitely know is blog-cool is chevrons and I don’t want to be that person, but I didn’t know it was cool until I started googling chevron textiles for the bedroom. I want to paint a pretty thick grey chevron pattern down the long wall of the living room that extends into the hall way, and on that wall I will hang an assortment of pictures. The blue wall is currently empty because it’s waiting for me to save up for some white floating shelves!

So that’s what we’re up to at the Perkhaus as 2012 winds down. It’s been a year of unexpected things, some good, some challenging and some pretty shit. I am very fortunate to have our little unit though, and look forward to putting it together piece by piece.

Feelings

Shining Angry People

29 November, 2012

I’m going to illustrate a situation you may or may not have been in, but it’s a situation I’m currently in after publishing a piece on xoJane about fatshion blogging, activism and brand influence. Ok. So. There might be a time (or many times) when you’ve expressed how you feel on a topic and then someone strongly disagrees with you; suddenly everything escalates into a keyboard mashing frisson. You’re frantically trying to remember and defend your key argument while responding to lightening fast rebuttal, fingers are tumbling over the keys and you’re stumbling over your phrasing, your cheeks are over heating and your hands are curiously very far away from your body, almost like they don’t even belong to you. It seems your arms are as long as giraffe necks and what’s happening down there on your input device is kilometres away from the goings on in your brain.

Is this a common thing? I’ve seen people talk about Alice in Wonderland syndrome, and while I can definitely identify with experiences people have had and the types of bodily distortions that are described in the book, I have a feeling it’s more common than a syndrome. Maybe it’s passion? Maybe it’s identification? Maybe it’s oppression?

I’ve been taught my whole life that emotional people aren’t taken seriously; being the type who cries readily, laughs loudly and forcefully projects her voice, I’ve always felt disadvantaged when it comes to confrontation. Even if my argument was solid, I’d burst into tears or raise my voice, and suddenly the argument was lost. I’m pretty sure a lot of this conditioning happened as I was growing up, because I was an anxious and emotional child and my father used to tell me I shouldn’t cry or shout during discussions or confrontations. I learnt about the tone argument so young but never knew there was a name for it until I grew up!

Of course, it’s easier for a man to say that. They’re so much more ~logical~ (I don’t believe this is true, masculinity is constructed to have logical traits) that they don’t get emotionally involved in debates. In recent years I’ve started to think that if you’re not emotionally involved in an argument, your participation is merely academic. Or to put it less kindly, get the hell out because you’re not necessary in this discussion. People who are intimate and entwined with an issue, an experience or an identity (like oh, if you’re fat!) are more than bloody entitled to cry and scream in arguments, particularly when it’s against someone who isn’t fat.

And so I think it’s understandable to be emotional in a debate. It’s unreasonable for people to dismiss emotion and say someone’s argument is unreliable because they are so deeply affected that they sob or sweat or scream. Only a person with a buttload of privilege could say that. When two people who are affected by the same thing disagree, there are bound to be strong reactions and none of it takes away from the simple fact that obviously these two people care so very much to be putting themselves on the line. Big conversations need to have that emotional investment or else they are worth nothing.

(That said, please take care everyone. Arguing can be exhausting.)

Blog Stuff

Check out my press kit!

27 November, 2012

definatalie.com press kit 2012 (click to embiggen)

About a year ago I was designing a serious press kit. I was going to get advertising and sponsorship and I would have pretty things and shoes and it would have been SO GRAND. I never finished it because it didn’t feel right and I’m glad I didn’t go through with it. I know I would have lost the trust of plenty of you, and without you I’m just writing to myself.

It’s worth mentioning that I do not have anything against bloggers with press kits who are in brand relationships and earn stuff off their blogs. It’s just not something I feel good in my soul about.

My favourite part is the bio written by Lillian who is the most hilarious person ever.

Mr. and Mrs. Natalie’s parents were walking down a path on a warm summer day in Brisbane when they saw a fat fruit swinging from a mysterious tree. They approached it and it burst open revealing a fancy baby. They clutched the baby in their arms and named her Natalie.

Some years later, Natalie had made a name for herself in the worlds of art, blogging and radical fat positivity. She has a cute dog named Miffy and lots of fancy experience doing fancy things and also of sitting at home belching glitter bubbles in her garden.

Have you entered the Fancy Lady Industries giveaway? There’s still two days left! Get entering!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Body Image

An Unedited Rant About Looking Into Fatshion’s Navel.

11 November, 2012

Remember when I used to blog regularly? I had a lot to tell the world, a desire to be heard and seen. Writing to an audience was a novelty, a gentle fluffing of my ego after writing to no one in particular for most of my life. Hardly anyone was blogging in Australia, people wanted to talk to me, and I got opportunities to do exciting things even though I’m not the most fashionable or the most tactful or well spoken.

After being ignored by fashion all of my life, it felt empowering to be able to source and critique what little fashion was available to me. I spent what money I could on clothes and accessories, never wanting to fall behind other bloggers. As well as being fat, there were other things for me to deal with like mental illness and resultant joblessness. Maybe buying clothes wasn’t the best priority, but it made me feel good. I finally felt like I was part of a clique that lead, instead of followed (or got lost).

I never considered myself a 100% fatshion blogger, because I used too many words and got angry frequently, never fully being palatable enough for brands to consider sponsoring me. I was snubbed on many occasions, and this became more and more apparent as the number of Australian fatshion bloggers swelled. Newer, more congenial personalities were favoured, and I wasn’t surprised. I was categorised as too political, and fell back, feeling miffed but knowing that ultimately it was great that more fat people were speaking up.

Other things worked against me – ongoing mental health issues and hospitalisation kept me from blogging success. Blogging became about networking, personality and (frustratingly) looks. All the things I was terrible at. All the reasons why I felt so at home on the internet right from the beginning in the 90s. Due to my inability to form “relationships” with brands, I had to buy all the new clothes instead of being sent them. I couldn’t financially keep up with that, I didn’t make money out of my blog so it wasn’t worth that kind of investment. Even the advertising network I was part of stopped sending me opportunities and sponsorship offers, and the ones I did take up actually didn’t benefit me financially at all!

Clearly, many things about blogging were turning out to be much like the regular world I struggled to fit in with. Popular bloggers were white, less fat than me, certainly more conventionally attractive, and bought/ were gifted clothes frequently. Events in Australia for plus size fashion started occurring and were in “major” fashion hubs like Sydney or Melbourne, far away from Brisbane and the original Axis of Fat (a group of my friends and I based in Brisbane, among the first fat activist bloggers in Australia). Even when there were events closer to home, I could rarely bring myself to go due to now crippling social phobia.

The focus of fatshion blogs was fashion and consumption thereof, with rarely a critical lens applied. I began thinking more and more about capitalism and how it had tried to reject fat & fashionable people, but now shaped how people were seeing this emerging group of fatshion bloggers. The media requests that came into my email inbox were largely about fashion, and not about medical malpractice and neglect of fat people (which, I propose, is the actual killer in the so called “obesity epidemic”). The mainstream media had cottoned on to the fat activist movement in the blogosphere but only wanted to see us talk about fluffy topics, rather than bullying, harassment, abuse of human rights and denial of health care.

I don’t know why I seem to be talking in the past tense, because this is now. This is why I struggle to chit chat about whichever plus size brand is releasing poorly made, questionably fashionable, dubiously manufactured garments this season. I am angry at capitalist systems that not only abuse fat people for not looking good in clothes, or not providing fashionable clothes, but also make us feel some kind of imperative to spend above and beyond what we have to make up for our fat bodies. I’m angry that blogging is now just a new funnel for PR and marketing people, and most bloggers rarely get paid what mainstream media workers do for providing the same service. Being paid in clothing is NOT being paid in cash money.

I’m disillusioned with this whole fat blogging game. If I blog about clothes, readers will come. If I blog about politics, I am rarely engaged. Mostly, I struggle to put words together these days. I am on a lot of medication to function as neurotypically as possible (for me), and my ability to write and read has deteriorated. Remember when I was a blogger? Am I still a blogger if no one reads this stuff? If I don’t get free clothes? If I challenge dominant ideas? If I can’t afford to keep up? If I am sick, fat, and unattractive?