Mother Nature: Giving us everything we need to create beautiful, natural, art

The chill of frosty mornings. Puddles to splash in. Trees a-flame with orange, red, and yellow leaves… and the crunch of those leaves underfoot. There’s no doubt about it. Autumn is here, and she’s arrived in all her glory. Sure, she’s on her way out, and the early-morning frosts are starting to creep in, but let’s enjoy this season while we can.

This time of the year marks the start of the Māori New Year, and the celebration of Matariki. It’s a time of preparing for the coming year, and celebrating with our friends and whānau. This year, Christchurch City Libraries is celebrating the ‘earth stars’ (Tupu-ā-nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi), and the ‘wind star’ (Ururangi), with a focus on sustainable natural resources, and the ways we can protect the environment around us.

Relax Stone Balance Zen Stacking Stones Rock

During the colder months, it can be tempting to just stay indoors, but since we know that being outdoors in nature is good for our mental and emotional well-being, why not find a way to bring nature inside? Sure, we could go out, buy paint, and create a mural on a wall …  but leftover paint may get poured down a drain, end up in our seas and rivers, and kill our fish. We could go to a gift shop and buy a cool plastic bird to put in our bedroom, or go and buy an African wall-hanging … but the plastic bird will be wrapped in plastic that will end up in the landfill, and the plane trip the wall-hanging took to get here to Aotearoa New Zealand has a huge carbon footprint.

So let’s see if we can support the kaupapa of this year’s Matariki theme, look for ways to decrease our  more environmental footprint, and use sustainable natural resources to decorate instead.

I’m not overly artistic, but even I know that there’s something relaxing about collecting objects from the outdoors, then creating something from them. Leaf people, pinecone animals, bookmarks made of leaves and flowers covered in contact paper – I spent hours creating these when I was little, and I’m not ready to stop making natural art just yet. There are multiple ways of artfully stacking stones, creating leaf art, and using attractive twigs in ways that are as fun for adults as they are for kids, and as the days start to get shorter we can use those longer evenings to let our creative juices flow.

So why not make the most of the natural resources around us, and create some art using just what Mother Nature has given us? If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out some of these Christchurch City Libraries’ books for ideas.

The Wild Dyer
by Abigail Booth

Cover of The wild dyer

I have always loved the idea of staining paper with coffee or tea to make the paper look tattered, old, and parchment-like. In this book, you can do the grown-up version of this! Learn how to use plants, seeds and foods from your kitchen, garden, and surrounds to dye fabric and create lovely soft furnishings to keep your home cosy and welcoming. This is a great way to use up the ends of veges when you are cooking, and minimises green waste.

Hand Printing from Nature by Laura Bethmann
Cover of Hand printing from nature

Wandering around outdoors, you find so many interesting shapes in the leaves and nature around you. What better way to celebrate this variety than by creating your own unique prints on stationery, clothing, and furniture? With ideas for projects ranging from simple to complex, you’re bound to find something that suits your tastes, and your talent levels.

The Organic Artist by Nick Neddo

Cover of The organic artist

If you would prefer your arts to your craft, this could be the book for you. Pencils, inks, bowls for the ink, paintbrushes, books – this book teaches you how to make all this (and more!) using just the resources around you. Even if you are like me, and don’t have the time to create all your gear from scratch, this is a fascinating read, and the photos throughout the book really demonstrate how versatile the world around us can be. If you are up for the challenge, though, instead of buying plastic paintbrushes or commercially-produced books which have travelled from overseas, give this try.

Green Crafts for Children by Emma Hardy

Cover of Green crafts for kids

Children are made to be outdoors, moving, exploring, and discovering the world around them, and they naturally scavenge to find little treasures in their environment. This book has a whole section on crafts using natural resources, from natural inks, to pinecone animals, to games of driftwood noughts and crosses. Creating and playing with natural toys and games is much more environmentally-friendly than using disposable plastic toys, so next time your little explorers need to stay inside, why not use some of these ideas for a fun afternoon of creativity.

Christchurch City Libraries will be celebrating Matariki throughout the month of Pipiri/June, so keep an eye out for an event near you!

  • Bring your tamariki along for some Matariki-themed Wā Kōrero Storytimes.
  • Got little crafters in the whānau? Check out our Matariki Toi (community art projects) at your local community library.
  • Bring the whole whānau along to the Matariki Whānau Fun Days at Aranui and Ōrauwhata: Bishopdale for a morning of storytelling, crafting, and discovery.

Podcast – COP and Climate change

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from New Zealand’s only specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

This episode discusses issues around the UN climate change conference, the “Conference of Parties” or COP 22 which is underway in Marrakech and questions whether it’s an effective way of combatting climate change. Also discussed are –

  • scientific and political understandings of the realities of climate change
  • carbon budget
  • History of COP especially COP-3 (Kyoto), COP-15 (Copenhagen) and COP-21 (Paris)
  • The Paris Agreement – What? Why? How has it been received?; the Agreement as enabler for grassroots environmental advocacy
  • New Zealand’s climate record

The panel for this show includes host Sally Carlton, Hamish Laing, Jeff Willis and Pubudu Senanayake.

Transcript of the audio file

Mentioned in this podcast

Find out more from our collection

Cover of Atmosphere of hope Cover of The Climate Fix Cover of The carbon crunch Cover of This changes everything Cover of Towards a warmer world Cover of Energy and climate vision for the future Cover of Climate change and the coast Cover of The politics of Climate change

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Podcast – Resources in the city with FESTA

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from New Zealand’s only specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

This episode discusses issues around the use of resources in the Christchurch urban environment including –

  • resourcefulness
  • reuse / recycling / upcycling
  • people power
  • architecture and people
  • using waste materials in architecture

The panel for this show includes host Sally Carlton, Jessica Halliday, Founder of FESTA, Juliet Arnott of Rekindle, and Jos de Krieger of Superuse Studios in Rotterdam.

Transcript of the audio file

Websites mentioned in the show

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Cover of Building with secondhand stuff Cover of Junkyard science Cover of Outsmart waste Cover of Guerilla furniture design Cover of Economies of recycling Cover of Recycled home Cover of Tiny houses built with recycled materials

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Podcast – Food in the city with FESTA

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from New Zealand’s only specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

This episode discusses urban food initiatives in Christchurch and issues such as –

  • Environmental and social sustainability of urban food projects
  • What defines ‘foraging’
  • Connections between ecological and political systems and health
  • The growth in urban food practices
  • Food justice
  • Urban food activities during FESTA

The panel for this show includes host Sally Carlton, Peter Langlands from Wild Capture – wild foods and foraging – NZ, Bailey Peryman from Cultivate Christchurch, and Chloe Waretini from Ōtākaro Orchard and Food Resilience Network discussing urban food activities and the overarching concept of food justice.

Transcript of the audio file

Find out more with our resources

Cover of A forager's treasury Cover of Find it, eat it Cover of A field guide to the native edible plants of New Zealand Cover of The permaculture city Cover of Rurbanite Cover of Julia's guide to edible weeds and wild green smoothiesCover of Dandelion hunter Cover of Radical gardening: Politics, idealism & rebellion in the garden

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Imagining a different Christchurch – Jessica Halliday and FESTA 2016

FESTA is a “biennial weekend celebration of urban creativity” and one of the coolest events on Ōtautahi’s calendar. It is on this Labour weekend, kicking off with the SuperWOW disco at the Dance-o-mat on Friday 21 October, and ending with PechaKucha on Monday 24 October at 7.30pm. The unmissable big event is Lean Means on Saturday 22 October.

I had a chat to FESTA’s director Jessica Halliday to get a flavour of FESTA 2016.

What is FESTA?

Jessica Halliday

It is about creating a collective positive experience for the people of Christchurch and visitors.

FESTA helps people reconnect to the central city, to rebuild that severed relationship. A big street party is a positive experience, and connects them with places that are regenerating. It catalyses changes in architecture and design. The collective making of a big project like this is a microcosm of the cooperative way we can work together.

What’s on at FESTA 2016

Lean Means is on Saturday 22 October, and is the biggest event of FESTA with 10,000 to 15,000 people expected. There will be 18 projects to experience. The tallest is around 6 metres and most are about 4 metres. Some will be integrated into existing structures.

There is a full programme of events with a lot of workshops, speakers, and a symposium on the resuse of materials (organised by Rekindle working with Objectspace), and a session with artist Hannah Beehre on drawing Christchurch architecture. Events for kids include creative junk and mutant monster workshops.

If you want to experience a Human Library, Talking Books and Freerange Press bring together a collection of passionate experts on a range of topics including the state of the city,music, and brewing beer. You can book a twenty-minute, one-on-one conversation with a human talking book.

Utilising waste streams – Sustainability, Re-use

Jos de Krieger of Superuse Studios in Rotterdam is a specialist in urban installations and interventions and the creative director of FESTA 2016. He developed the concept, visited, and gave lectures and design workshops, and also met with New Zealand and Australian studios. The idea is to get a brief and a budget, then look for waste materials in the vicinity to be reused. Using such materials requires a lot of research.

The materials for Lean Means are lightweight – plastics, cardboard, bottles, post-consumer plastic bags and are local to the studios. The pavilion for the Ōtākaro Orchard is made of hundreds of metres of frost cloth from the Big Barn in Sydney – it can come over easily on the plane with the students as it’s so light.

Re-use is part of what FESTA is now. Students were re-using stuff anyway, with one of 2014’s projects using plastic bottle rejects on their way to China for recycling. They went on to be recycled after appearing at FESTA CityUps.

FESTA closes the loop with connections back to sustainability all the way through. Cassels will be there, and they are working on cleaning up the Heathcote, and Punky Brewster have a focus on reducing water in beer sales. There will be a second hand market with upcycled things for sale.

We are trying as best as we can to make it consistent.

CityUps - FESTA Festival of Transitional Architecture
CityUps, FESTA 2014, Flickr 2014-10-25-IMG_3049

Art and architecture

CreativeNZ funding has enabled three artists from three different disciplines to be involved: Juliet Arnott of Rekindle, artist Julia Morison and movement artist Julia Harvie.

Julia Morison has been integrated into a team from Massey University, School of Design at the College of Creative Arts. Her philosophy is that art shouldn’t be a “brooch pinned on at the end”, and that artists should be involved in informing the development of projects.

Moving artist Julia Harvie will suspending herself of the COCA gallery gantry and weave herself a nest from coppiced hazel shoots. The performance teases out ideas of making a city that nurtures children, and what parents can do to influence the creation of that environment.

Juliet Arnott is a strategic advisor to FESTA and is involved in the The Zero Waste Village of Resourcefulness:

Skilled craftspeople undertake high quality crafts that are zero waste in nature in a village of temporary shelters. These structures are designed and fabricated from waste materials by Ara students …

These three artists will appear at CoCAcabana on Friday night.

CityUps - FESTA Festival of Transitional Architecture
CityUps, FESTA 2014, Flickr 2014-10-25-IMG_3154

Why FESTA?

Experience a re-imagined Christchurch. Imagine a different Christchurch and present it as an experience, instead of a city made of renders.

What it could be, as well as what it is.

FESTA information

How you can help Lean Means

Help FESTA transform Christchurch by supporting Lean Means, and share in a positive reimagining of the city – full of lights, colours and people. This Labour Weekend, we will transform central Christchurch with a large-scale reimagined city called Lean Means, live for one night only, free and open to all, on Saturday 22 October.

FESTA 2014 – CityUps

CityUps - FESTA Festival of Transitional Architecture

FESTA 2013 – Canterbury Tales

Canterbury Tales - FESTA

FESTA 2012 – LuxCity

Luxcity

Libraries and reading

As a kid, Jessica went every week to Hornby Library. Her main preoccupations were:

Reading, running around the farm, reading.

CoverShe enjoys Charles Todd’s Ian Rutledge stories and is a keen fan of British comedy, especially panel shows like “Have I got news for you” and “Would I lie to you”.

The Christchurch City Draft Annual Plan – The library can help you make a submission

The Christchurch City Draft Annual Plan is now open for submissions and you have until Tuesday 10 May to participate.  It can all feel a bit daunting, so the Christchurch City Council has provided options geared for the quick and easy submitter (like myself) and those who wish to make a more indepth submission.  You can view the documents at a library or service centre and fill out a submission form. In a new initiative, you can also submit feedback via Twitter and Facebook by using the hashtag #cccplan. Explore your options: How to have your say.

The library has this list which should help get the creative juices flowing.  Cities around the world are dealing with many of the issues that we face, and these titles are a good spread of ideas and experiences that could just be the idea that the Christchurch City Council wants to hear about.

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Cockroach cuisine

Cover of Eat Grub:the ultimate insect cookbookThe truth: By the year 2066 we will be eating insects as a significant part of our diet. Current population growth will mean that we cannot sustain our existing farming methods, be they of the animal or plant variety.

Let’s be very clear on this – we will have to supplement our diets with insects, or we will die.

Bugs have been much in the news lately – you can barely open a magazine or a newspaper these days without being hit in the face by headings such as :

It really is only the Western world that has this revulsion for roaches, crickets, silkworms, spiders and maggots as food. The rest of the world has already realised the nutritional value of these critters. And the library is right on target with this trend as well. Here’s the pick of my crop of helpful reads for future Entomophagists (that’s us in 2066):

Cover of Cockroach

Cockroach by Marion Copeland is a fascinating account of this much despised critter. Copeland’s book includes recipes for cockroach dishes and a surprisingly attractive section on the cockroach in art.

In my opinion, there are only three types of people in this world: People who hate cockroaches but can kill them (that’s me). People who hate cockroaches but who can’t kill them (they are admittedly messy when crushed. That would be my daughter). And finally, people who are quite indifferent to roaches and probably would be able to eat them. That would be my husband, who has already eaten silkworms, tarantulas and mopani worms, so he is well on his way.

Cover of The insect cookbook: Food for a sustainable planet

But if you are only going to brave reading one book on insect eating, make it The Insect Cookbook. Be warned though, bugs are surprisingly hard to conceal in food and the photo of the maggoty cheese and a child eating a mealworm ice cream cone made me feel decidedly queasy. I made the mistake of reading this book on my daily café treat, maybe don’t do that if this is all new to you. But what really sets this book apart is that it is accompanied by excellent research articles on insect eating like Chef Pierre Wind’s essay: “You Have to Eat Away the Fear.”

Finally, if you are sensitive about what you eat, What’s Eating You is a brilliantly researched, hilarious, horrifying book about all the parasites that you host. As a result of this book, I have removed Equatorial Guinea from my “places to visit” bucket list. There it is possible for a person to be infected with a Guinea Worm which, when fully grown to three feet, bursts from your skin and has to be wound out daily using a stick. The book explains how to do this – with beautiful little diagrams.

You are what you eat” is about to take on a whole new meaning. Get ahead of the pack. Read these books.

Year-long pursuits: Not for the faint-hearted

Search catalogueChanging your life for one year may sound like the ultimate boredom-buster, but the proliferation of books in this area has made me wonder if we all have rather low attention spans? What happens after the year, are changes maintained – or once the book deal is signed do these authors go back to all of their bad habits?

The self-help area is ripe for authors wishing to improve  themselves. Robyn Okrant had a year of Living Oprah : my one-year experiment to walk the walk of the queen of talk, where she devoted a year of her life to following all of Oprah’s suggestions from her talk show, webpage and magazine.  I gather the results were varied!

Kjerstin Gruys, who is apparently “a scholar, fashionista, and bride-to-be spends a year without mirrors and other reflective surfaces to get a better view of herself, her life, and what’s really important” in Mirror, mirror off the wall : how I learned to love my body by not looking at it for a year, and Lauren Kessley has been trying every concoction to stop the clock in Counterclockwise : My Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate, and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-Aging.

A.J Jacobs in his latest book Drop dead healthy : one man’s humble quest for bodily perfection is perhaps the most extreme.  He had to consult a team of medical advisers, and subject himself to a gruelling regimen of exercises, a range of diets, and an array of practices to improve everything from his hearing, to his sleep, to his sex life; all the while testing the patience of his long-suffering wife.

Search catalogueJohn Kralik documented 365 thank yous. Over one year he wrote thank you notes for the small acts of kindness that came his way and Judith O’Reilly, in A year of doing good : one woman, one New Year’s resolution, 365 good deeds attempted to do one good deed each day. According to the publishers both authors experienced profound changes in their lives – but being of a rather cynical disposition I am curious to know if these changes remained permanent?

The area of sustainability is rife with year-long experiences, with the best known being Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, vegetable, miracle : our year of seasonal eating. John Lewis-Stempel detailed in his book The wild life : a year of living on wild food how nothing came from a shop or agriculture, and had to be either foraged or shot. When do these people have time to go to the movies of have a holiday I wonder?

Search catalogueOn the rather extreme area of the spectrum is The perfect punter : a year of losing everything and trying to win it all back by Dave Farrar who does his best to become the worlds best gambler, a dubious honour I suspect.

And then there is The trout diaries : a year of fly-fishing in New Zealand by Derek Grzelewski,  which I will not be showing to my husband in case he gets any ideas!

My personal favourite is a novel by Sue Townsend  The woman who went to bed for a year. I might give that idea a go.

It’s (pretty) easy being green

Back to the land at CCLWhy is a Writer’s Festival like a box of chocolates? Because there’s something inside for everyone.

Today I saw Tony Murrell, from Radio Live’s garden programme, host a lively session with The Gardener magazine editor Lynda Hallinan and sustainable gardening writer Janet Luke. All three are highly regarded gardening experts. They’re passionate about plants and their enthusiasm was infectious. I’ve never seen the microphone passed to so many people so quickly. It seemed everyone in the audience had a question to ask or a comment to add.

Tony Murrell has noticed a huge resurgence in interest in growing food at home in recent years. He laments the fact that many of today’s gardeners have lost the skills needed to grow veges successfully and have to spend money on re-education, tools, catalogues, fertilisers, etc. This results in expensive crop of perpetual spinach, lettuce and tomatoes which people get bored with and ‘turn back into camellia hedging’.

His panelists disagree. “It’s not all about money, Tony,” said Janet. “You are such an Aucklander!”

Linda said, “Don’t spend anything! Don’t build raised beds, don’t hire a garden designer, don’t buy a tonne of compost. Just buy a spade, dig a hole and plant things.” She believes gardening journalism has made it sound difficult and it’s not. “It’s natural. Plants grow and produce fruit because they are fulfilling their biological function. People think it’s harder than it is.”

Some sustainable gardening tips:

  • Lasagne your compost heap
  • Pile fallen leaves into a black polythene bag, tie it off, punch a few holes in it and store behind your garden shed for a year. It makes great compost.
  • If your plants look great above the soil but have nothing beneath, your garden has too much nitrogen and not enough potassium.
  • Janet Luke and Lynda Hallinan at AWRF 2013Blue flowers attract bees. Plant rosemary and borage to help pollination.
  • Chop out the middle of your lemon tree and prune to a vase shape.
  • Avoid systemetic sprays – they hurt bees.

If you’d like to know more, visit your library and check out Linda Hallinan’s Back to the land and Janet Luke’s Green Urban Living. They’ll give you plenty of helpful advice on how to get your garden doing what comes naturally.

Humble bookmark saves money, planet

Handy little things, bookmarks. Always popular.  You may think that all they do is save your place in a book – but the NZ Ecoexpo bookmark can help you do your bit to save the planet with two-for-one adult entry into this weekend’s event.

So get to a library before the weekend to get your bookmark – supplies will be limited. You can visit our sustainable living pages to help find some great reading too.

Along with all the stands and exhibitors at the Christchurch Convention Centre, there’s also a selection of films – including the visually stunning, totally non-verbal  Baraka.