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.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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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!
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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?
At first I wanted to draw empowering pictures but then I realised they were empty, almost lies. I’ve been avoiding my real self my whole life because I thought I wasn’t suitable. Confession is familiar, it keeps me in the dark; now I feel like it’s time to live transparently so I am drawing my secrets as if they were common knowledge.
Sometimes I’m astounded and depressed that we still have to talk about the male gaze.
I slightly resent having to find words to accompany things I’ve drawn. I guess I draw things so I don’t have to find words. I’m trying to find a new way to express the monstrous ugliness inside me, how it is a normal/ neutral thing in my mind but a feared, castigated and hidden set of traits on a cultural level. How there are ugly things I can get away with because I am white (having straight hair that I don’t brush, being typically white and pale), and other things I can’t get away with because I am fat (dressing sloppily, not visibly reducing my fatness, taking up space). How I perform femininity in acceptable ways (I like crafts and flowers) and obscene ways (too much make up). In private spaces I am very comfortable doing my own thing in my own body, slouching, picking zits, pulling faces, sitting with my legs open, burping; yet in public spaces I am extra vigilant in policing my posture, demeanor, behaviour, and dress. I hate being uncomfortable, and I resent having to hem myself in to make other people comfortable. Surely our culture would be better off doing away with the discomfort, the niceties, the shaming, and focusing more on not being dicks to one another.
It would be remiss of me not to include a lyric from Ben Fold’s “Adelaide” about the city we just got back from visiting for our niece’s wedding. We didn’t actually pass the silver balls in Rundle Mall on this trip (and it’s been over a decade since I’ve done it!) because we were in the Barossa region north east-ish of Adelaide. Sadly, this post is silver ball free but it is enriched with the soothing power of grapes.
We went to six wineries on our day trip, but the most memorable and photographic was Seppeltsfield. Featuring an amazing range of ports that Nick partook in tasting (I stole sips) the winery also boasts 100 year old ports! We got the opportunity to smell 1910′s vintage and I swear it smelt like a sexy lady. I honestly can’t think of any other way to describe the rich perfumey scent! After elbowing in on the port tasting I’m beginning to think I may just be a port drinker after all.
We ventured back to the Barossa for the main attraction, our niece’s wedding, held in the garden of Lyndoch Hill which contains a ridiculous amount of rose plants (reportedly over 30,000!) Many of the roses were in bloom, but the bulk of the garden wasn’t and while disappointing, I’m sure it’ll look absolutely incredible whenever the roses do decide to pop out.
After the garden wedding was crowned by late afternoon sun peeking through the branches and the clouds, we headed up to the hall for delicious food and wine, meeting new people and singing raucously to The Righteous Brothers as we waited for our dinner! It was a lovely day to celebrate Jacqui and Kris and I feel so blessed to have been there to witness it.
I haven’t posted much about our new place mostly because I’m still working on it. The garden has come a pretty long way since we moved in and I may as well show you the progress!
We don’t have a large yard, and we weren’t fond of having the small space made even smaller by claustrophobic hedging. Miffy needed a place to go to the toilet and sun herself too! The whole yard was ripped out (mostly by Nick!) but we did keep the lovely pink camellia tree on the left hand side. The garden beds were pushed back a little on each side to allow for more grassed area.
The backyard blitz was done on the cheap: we pulled out plants on the weekends (a good thing to do because some were damaging our front fence!), recycled the tiles and sleepers into garden edging, and housewarming gifts bought our turf. We had (and still have) a heap of dirt which has been great for potting up cuttings from my mum and Nick’s mum. Sharing cuttings is FANTASTIC for getting a garden started! I never knew you didn’t really need to buy plants! (It sounds so basic, right? But I never knew!)
I have plans to put lattice up on the big fence (on the right side) and train vines up it, and to hang small pots of colour and herbs on it as well. The right side fence extends down the length of our property and could do with some softening! I hope to scour junk yards for cheap lattice – I checked on pricing at Bunnings the other weekend and discovered it’d cost $25 a piece of lattice and we can’t afford that!
I took a video this morning as I did my regular garden check up and prepared to plant seedlings given to me by my gorgeous friend Erin. I thought I’d share it here so you can see what I’ve been working on. Gardening is something I’ve wanted to do, but never had the chance; any pot plants I’d ever had died rapidly in my care so I was really nervous in the beginning. It’s nice to have things to take care of, that you can watch growing. It all seems very magical to me!
* For non-Australians, my punny title refers to Burke’s Backyard – a long running gardening show on the teev that starred Don Burke.
I’m really fed up with the tortured artist trope. People have said it about me since I was a teenager, and while it’s true that I am kind of a bit artistic and also depressed as fuck, the latter does not positively affect the former. If this were the case I’d be a lot further along in my artistic practice and career.
My craziness has affected me to the point where I can’t leave the house most of the time, let alone go to ~cultural events~ and network with local art people. Making connections is incredibly difficult for me. It’s not that I’m shy, I actually really resent being called shy, it’s that I am overcome with panic whenever I try to do certain social/ professional things. When I say panic, I don’t mean butterflies in my stomach. I sweat. I don’t perspire. Sweat rolls down my face, I get flustered, I forget how to form words and I get disoriented and dizzy. People don’t tend to react favourably towards a leaking, bumbling mess, and so I end up compounding panic with the fear of looking ridiculous. And so on and so forth. I only found out there was a name for this a few years ago, and it’s called Social Anxiety Disorder.
So I don’t go to art events, I don’t hang around with arty types, and I rarely get to immerse myself in discussion and critique. It’s frustrating. Every few months I descend into despair over my worth as a person who creates things, in addition to my worth as a human; but it’s balanced out by hypermanic episodes of frenzied sketching and creating. So it’s ok I guess. My psychiatrist says I might have Bipolar 2. I was put on Lamictal (lamotrigine) and for the first time I felt almost balanced, but now I am experiencing very familiar depths and all creating has halted.
This is my life since 15 and from now on, and that’s very difficult to come to terms with. I don’t wish to receive advice when I talk about my health (I want to emphasise that mental health IS health), I just think it’s important to talk about it instead of feeling ashamed. I try to talk about it, but it’s a struggle, because people’s responses pretty much always fall into one of the following:
* unsolicited advice (try this diet! meds don’t work!)
* redundant platitudes (chin up! be positive! it could be worse!)
* conversation terminated awkwardly (and usually the relationship)
So don’t do that. Thanks.
What I am trying to do is be gentle with myself. I have started to learn ACT techniques, and it’s challenging remembering them but I’ve made a start. I wrote a list of steps I want to take towards sorting some of my drawing feelings out, and that made me feel less hopeless about my creative situation. My plan is to focus on research as well as technique, and to draw every day. Even if it’s simple.
So that’s what I’ve done for the last few days. I hope I can keep it up. These vector illustrations aren’t super slick or fully rendered but they’re something.
People seem to like this one. You can download it to use as a desktop picture if you like!