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Things that caught my: Art and DIY

Art and DIY Who'd Have Thought

It’s an unusual mix of things which caught my eye this week …

  • Russian-born, New York trained, Berlin resident Polna Soloveichik creates amazing murals like this one on the outside of a massive apartment block in Berlin. She also does beautiful murals for private residences. See her work here.
  • You’ve got to love Rowen Atkinson and his Mr Bean and Black Adder characters! And now you’ve got to love caricature artist Rodney Pike who’s taken these characters and put them into the faces of the subjects of some of the most famous Old Master paintings from the likes of Rembrandt van Rijn and Holbein the Younger. Hilarious! See more at Bored Panda.
  • Can you believe this is not a real rose? Can you also believe it’s made from disposable cone coffee filters? Learn how to make one via Martha Stewart and her homemaker doyennes.
  • How come I’ve never done this before? I love making chocolate brownies and dusting them with icing sugar but using leaves as sugar-stencils takes them to another level, wouldn’t you agree? Found on Pinterest.
  • A super ingenious idea to get the most out of your flower pot: the Voltasol is a handmade terracotta flowerpot that rolls to face the direction of the sun. Created by Barcelona-based industrial design company, Studio BAG Disseny, the pot design helps plants ‘follow the path of the sun, to sway in a breeze or grow at will’. First seen at Lost at E Minor.

Interview: Lucy and Jasmine | KUUB Design

KUUB - Arizona

‘Arizona’ from KUUB

It seems to be a common thread with many of the people I’ve interviewed here that the creative pursuits they are currently doing were not what they did when they first started out. Is it because the usual route for many is a so-called ‘safe’ job or is it because many don’t have the confidence in or the ability to realise their full creative potential? Either way, I think if you can tap into a creative outlet sometime in your life – whether it’s as a profession or an after-hours hobby – it’s only ever a good thing.

For two girl friends, Lucy, a teacher, and Jasmine, a print designer it was the combination of wanting to start one’s own business (Jasmine) and the desire to be more creative (Lucy) that sowed the seed for their sustainable, versatile shelving design business, KUUB based in Melbourne. Realising each other skills and seeing a gap in the market they decided to specialise in whitewash shelving cubes made from 100% sustainably sourced Mango Wood collected from the demolition of old houses, factories or sustainable plantations. Each piece is interchangeable in colour and form and can also have interchangeable backing pieces in bright prints or bold colours. All the paints are water-based so no nasty chemicals are released; the wallpapers are FSC certified and printed with water-based eco inks; and the packaging is made from 100% recycled quality materials.

It’s a great concept that is both practical and stylish and admirable work from two friends who’d never worked together before! Come and meet Lucy and Jasmine …

 Jasmine and Lucy of KUUB Australia

Jasmine and Lucy of KUUB Australia

Please introduce yourselves. What are your backgrounds and how have you ended up where you are today?

We’re good friends – Lucy and Jasmine. Meeting a long time ago in the tropics of Darwin we reconnected some years later and now barely leave each other’s sides. We’re both originally Victorian country girls and there’s certainly still a bit of the country left in us but having travelled the world and lived a city lifestyle the doors for inspiration are wide open.

We came together after the birth of Lucy’s little girl Aiva. Being a mum, Lucy left her teaching job and was looking for something where she could utilise her creativity, talk to people and have the flexibly needed to raise her family. At the same time Jasmine was working as a print designer for Myer and was looking to get out on her own two feet and start her own venture. We’re a great team – with Jasmine’s design experience and Lucy’s communication skills KUUB unfolded. Now each day is as exciting as the next as we continue to grow together as a whole.

KUUB - Urban Hype

‘Urban Hype’ from KUUB

How easy/difficult was it to go out on your own? What, if any, challenges did you face along the way – especially being two friends? 

We’d love to say that it has been really easy to go out on your own and start a new business as partners. But the reality is … it’s hard. Being good friends before KUUB, we knew each others strengths and weaknesses. It comes as no surprise when Lucy forgets to email something, or Jasmine is late to the studio, ha ha, but we understand that life can get in the way sometimes and we need to have a good work life balance to succeed.

On the flip side, it also comes as no surprise that Jasmine stays up for two nights working on a print design until it is perfect. Or that Lucy can waltz in and land us the deals we need in 20 minutes. We have learnt to take the good with the bad and learn from our mistakes and know that it not only makes KUUB a better business, but makes us a stronger partnership.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give others wanting to do the same?

I think the best advice we could offer is to believe in yourself, know your dream and follow it until the end. There’ll be a lot of highs and lows, scares and questioning whether you are doing the right thing. It will be a lot of hard work, but be strong and stick to your goal.

KUUB behind the scenes

Behind the scenes at KUUB

Tell us about the importance of upcycling and sustainability in your work, work practices and home life? Explain.

Sustainability is a key focus for KUUB. We are both very passionate about the environment and both practice these beliefs in our day-to-day lives. Being eco-conscious ourselves, it was only natural that our product would also follow in these beliefs; it was almost an un-discussed expectation. With consumerism being such a huge part of society now, taking a stand in providing both an alternative product and also an avenue to promote awareness of the impacts and alternatives was a great incentive in starting out.  We are working daily to continually improve our strategies, materials and processes to reach the highest level of sustainability. Our aim is to show that you can still achieve a modern, contemporary look while being environmentally conscious and supportive.

You seem to have covered off all the options for customised eco-friendly shelving in your KUUB ranges. Have you any other design ideas in the pipeline?

Ha ha, of course. We’re dreamers, our KUUB theme song is ‘Dreamer’ by Rodger Hodgson. For now we’re happy with perfecting our current ranges and working seasonally to create new colour palettes and exciting new print options. We’d love to expand our print ranges into eco-friendly soft homewares to complete the styling look, but this is in the future.

Lucy and Aiva at KUUB

Little Aiva helping Lucy at KUUB

Our guilty pleasures are … 

Lattes – we can’t go a day without one! In the colder months we’re definitely guilty of taking our work/meetings to Melbourne’s endless selection of cafes to warm up with a strong latte or soothing Chai.

What do you like to do in your spare time and are you able to switch out of business mode and hang out together on your days off?

We love catching up together in our spare time. It’s hard not to ‘talk shop’ but even if we are, we’re still having fun. We love having BBQs in the backyard or meeting up in the park with Lucy’s little two-year-old Aiva, who adores ‘Jazzy Pazzy’.

We’ve been friends for more than 10 years now. We’ve travelled the US together in a beat up Chevy Van, been through tough times and of course many great times and through it all have reminded ourselves that our friendship will always come first!

KUUB - Rustic Desert

‘Rustic Desert’ from KUUB

Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?

Everyday’s a ‘who’d have thought’ moment at the KUUB headquarters! We like to keep the buzz of things fresh, and everyday something new and exciting happens to keep us on our toes. Considering we started from absolutely nothing and had to learn along the way, I think the ‘who’d have thought’ will stick around for a while longer for KUUB.

All the best for the future of KUUB and thanks for your time Lucy and Jasmine!

To see more of their work, you can find them here.

KUUB Australia

Interview: Julie Alberti | Artist

Julie Alberti and her upcycled, hand-painted porcelain

Julie Alberti and her upcycled, hand-painted porcelain

Multi-media artist Julie Alberti is the ultimate upcycler: she has a 1970s mechanical Paragon kiln in which she fires her ceramics and painted china; and she is learning to sew on a 1960s Elna – both of which she fixed up as they were not working when she bought them. Plus all her china paint pigments and the porcelain surfaces she paints on are vintage.

I couldn’t help but do a double-take and have a chuckle when I saw her painted porcelain and ceramics as her favourite subject matter is famous faces of filmmakers and actors, such as Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Walken and Steve Buscemi. If you check out her Etsy store, you’ll find all sorts of hand-painted upcycled plates, teapots, mugs …

So what’s the appeal of the famous face and some charity shop china? I asked Julie …


Please introduce yourself. What’s your background and how have you ended up where you are today?

Hi, I’m Julie! I’ve always been drawing, painting, and sculpting. I went to college for a year and a half, majoring in oil painting for a semester but decided to transfer somewhere to learn sculpture. In short, none of the schools had what I was looking for and eventually I just started selling my art online.

When and why did you decide to paint famous faces on upcycled china?

I read about china painting somewhere and thought it would be fun to try, since it was similar to oil painting. I think I just started drawing people on plates to get my painting techniques down and to see if I could make something look accurate using these materials. It eventually evolved into other surfaces like mugs and teapots.

Quentin Tarantino teapot by Julie Alberti

Quentin Tarantino teapot by Julie Alberti

Can you share a bit about the creative process and materials you use?

China painting is also called overglaze. It’s different from other ceramic glazes in that it comes in small vials of pigment in powder form. To make a glaze, you take a little of the powder and mix it with mineral oil on a tile. You use mineral oil so it doesn’t dry out. This way if you didn’t use all of the paint, you can use it indefinitely. When you paint on the surface, it stays wet until you fire it in the kiln. Because of this, you paint one layer at a time, so each painting I do usually takes at least four firings.

Once fired, the previous layers are absorbed into the surface, so you can paint over it with a new layer of china paint and if you mess up, you can wipe off the new layer without disturbing the old one. Another thing that’s awesome about china paint is that the colours you paint on look the way they’re going to look when fired. Other ceramic glazes usually look nothing like the results before you put it in the kiln.

As for materials, I’m inspired by looking around re-sale shops and finding a cool surface to paint on. There are so many great vintage ceramic pieces out there! The glazes themselves I bought on eBay. They’re from companies that sadly no longer exist and they’re almost all from Texas from the 70s, if not earlier. It’s cool to think how they used to be these little shops that sold china paint pigments locally. You never see that today.

Christopher Walken mug by Julie Alberti

Christopher Walken mug by Julie Alberti

Tell me about the importance of upcycling and sustainability in your work, work practices and home life?

I probably couldn’t name five things I own that weren’t already owned by someone else! Upcycling can be applicable to all parts of your life. I buy used and vintage clothes because I don’t see the point in buying something more expensive that’s made with child slave labour somewhere, but I digress. I bought my used kiln used off eBay. The seller thought it was broken but I found out through talking to them that it just needed a part replaced, which I ordered and replaced myself. My work table is a lime green 50s formica kitchen table. There are a lot of little things you can do to have a sustainable lifestyle. I basically just try to buy everything used.

How easy/difficult was it to go out on your own as an artist? What, if any, challenges did you face along the way?

To be honest, I’m still working on it! But I think the challenges artists face are similar to other professions, if you think about it.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give others wanting to do the same?

I don’t know if I’m in the position to give advice but I guess if I’m going to comment on selling your art independently, I’d say you really don’t need to spend money going to college to get a degree. Consider taking some classes independently to get some skills developed and then use them to develop your ideas. There are so many resources online and ways to learn from others how to market your artwork.


What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve been doing a little more old-fashioned painting lately! Also, drawing and a little bit of sculpting. I usually work in a few different mediums at a time so I have multiple things to work on. It keeps me from getting bored.

Who or what are some of your influences? What other artists, designers and creatives do you admire?

Well, in terms of china painting, I don’t know any other artists (famous or not) who actually use overglaze as their main means of colouring a piece of ceramic. But most artists I love are painters: Caravaggio, Frida Kahlo, Ralph Steadman, Dorothea Tanning, Donald Roller Wilson.

You say you’re a film enthusiast. What’s your favourite film and actor of all time?

I could give you a gigantic list but if I’m going to pick just one person it has to be Buster Keaton. The film I’ll name is also a Buster Keaton film: The General, from 1926. I have to choose Buster because he had way too many talents for one person – actor, comedian, director, writer, stuntman, editor, and probably everything else you could possibly do involving making movies. And he was amazing at all of them.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’m a plant hoarder, mostly indoor stuff since I live in Illinois. When I live somewhere that isn’t cold I’m sure my house will be totally covered with plants, inside and out.

Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?

Yeah, who’d have thought people would buy dishes with Steve Buscemi on them! It’s always really cool to know that someone else liked my art enough to buy it.


Very inspiring, thanks Julie!

You can find her on Etsy here.

Interview: Jennifer Kelly | Artist and Graphic Designer

Hotel Key Rose rings by Jennifer Kelly

Hotel Key Rose rings by Jennifer Kelly

Graphic designer by day/ artist by night, Jennifer Kelly lives and breathes creativity and, it seems, finds it impossible to switch off from being in creative mode. So much so, that she was totally up for the challenge her father set her: to try and turn a bunch of hotel keys he had inadvertently collected from business trips into something else. After a bit of trial and error, a rose – or several – were born,  which then became pieces of jewellery.

Jennifer sent me one of her rings and I have to say you’d have no idea it was once a hotel key! You have to admire someone who’s determined to rid the world of unwanted hotel keys, so come and welcome Jennifer …

Artist Jennifer Kelly

Artist Jennifer Kelly

You say on your website that you’re a ‘creative explorer’. Tell us about this and your background and how have you ended up where you are today?

I’m pretty sure as a kid I must have given Crayloa’s factory workers a run for their money-  colouring books and drawing were a part of everyday life (besides watching Disney movies, of course). Growing up my family and I moved around almost every two years and it seemed the only thing constant in my life was my love for history and drawing. Art was my escape from the unfamiliar and, at times, the only friend I had (but I did end up making friends with plenty of kids from Washington State to North Carolina and South Florida some of whom I still keep in contact with). I carried this love of art and creating through childhood into high school where I was determined to make a career out of this love, besides the dreaded ‘starving artist’ idea.

Throughout high school I won numerous awards for art including a scholarship to North Carolina’s Governor’s School program in art. This nudged me toward my current ‘day job’ as a graphic and web designer. An education at the Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago (BFA in Visual Communications) prepared me to still think as a fine artist even before touching the computer. Graphic and web design was the perfect career for me to meld the two areas of expertise as one.

Over the years, I have discovered that being creative has no limitations and cannot be confined to one professional title. Thus, I coined the term ‘creative to the heart’. I consider myself a ‘creative explorer’, although my current job title is ‘graphic designer’. I explore all aspects of the creative field including illustration, photography, acrylic painting, mixed media artwork, party planning, handmade jewellery, and even costume design. Today I work at the United States Sports Academy as their web designer doing not only what my title entails but taking photography, writing, and working on marketing plans. In my spare time I work on my fine art and other jewellery.

Hotel Rose by Jennifer Kelly

Hotel Key Rose by Jennifer Kelly

When and why did you start creating things from hotel keys?

My dad travels about 48 weeks out of the year and about 4 years ago he came home with a stack of hotel keys and said: “Here, do something creative with these.” So after a weekend working in my studio experimenting with different melting processes, I came up with the prototype of my first hotel key rose.

How long did it take you to devise the best way to transform the keys? Explain the creative process.

First I started looking through books for inspiration on what I could create with these small pieces of plastic. I have a large collection of visual reference materials for ancient artwork, encyclopedias, stock art etc and finally came across a book on flowers. I thought why not cut the pieces of plastic and use a lighter to slowly melt the petals?

The first I tried was an orchid, which was a little too boring for my taste. Next I did a lily that I felt was slowly getting there. Finally, I found an image of a rose, and thought, wow, that would be incredible if I could do it. Slowly but surely, I shaped each and every petal and glued them together creating my first hotel key rose. These initial flowers were larger than the current hotel key rings, but I wanted to be able to wear the art. In the beginning I put pin backs on the roses then decided to miniaturize them for rings. These, by far, have gained the most attention. In the future, I would love to use them for a Halloween costume by transforming them into a suit of armour.

Hotel Key Rose Earrings by Jennifer Kelly

Hotel Key Rose Earrings by Jennifer Kelly

Caring for the environment and upcycling is clearly important to you. Tell us how you try to incorporate these things in other parts of your life/work?

I also enjoy creating mixed media works of art (what some called assemblage). Anything I find interesting on the road that some might see as trash, I will save and use in my pieces of art. I’ve even picked up petrified dragonfly wings from our window frames and included them in my work. Fun pieces of tissue paper from gifts I will take out and save, and even broken parts of an old computer may end up in some of my pieces. I have an old library cart catalogue chest with an entire section full of bits I’ve collected just for my art. Some may call this hoarding, but with a creative mind it’s hard not to look at every little item you find in a parking lot and not think ‘wow, this would look good in a piece of art’. I never throw away anything I think I can use.

I also try not to buy paint if I can help it. I will use what I have until it’s almost gone and buy from the ‘Oops’ paint at our home improvement store for both art and home projects.

One more thing I do is create my own all-purpose cleaner every month. I take the peels from one orange (any citrus works) and put them in a glass container with white vinegar and let it sit for about 1-2 weeks. Then I fill half a spray bottle with the orange infused vinegar, fill the rest with hot water and a pump or two of dish cleaning liquid and voilà, an all-purpose cleaner that smells divine and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. It has helped us around the house cut back on Clorox wipes which aren’t animal friendly (we have four dogs) and costs next to nothing (maybe US$2.00 every 3 months). You can pretty much use it on anything.

Hotel Key Rose Earring by Jennifer Kelly

Hotel Key Rose Earring by Jennifer Kelly

What do you like to do in your spare time?

It may sound cliché but I love doing my art – anything creative. Currently I’m working on my Halloween costume which is a huge passion of mine. This year it truly is a work of art. I will send photos soon!

My guilty pleasure is …
Disney movies! I’m honestly a kid at heart. I thought Peter Pan was real when I was six. Oh, and did I mention I love Halloween and Halloween planning?

The best thing about living in the South (of the United States) is …

The weather and fresh seafood. I moved to Daphne, Alabama from Chicago where it would have lows in the negative numbers. I don’t miss that at all. And I love fresh seafood which can be found in abundance along the Gulf Coast!

Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?

About two weeks ago, I found some amazing finger protectors at my local craft store for when I use hot glue. I am very clumsy so when I saw these hot glue finger protectors I couldn’t help but purchase them – who’d have thought?!

Thanks for your time, Jennifer!

You can also find her here.


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