Photography + Craft : Clemens Wirth

Clemens Wirth swears he’s not a wizard despite his red hair. But I have my doubts when I look at his miniature moving dioramas and  think about what has actually gone into making them. I think they’re incredible.

 

clemens wirth - gravity

clemens wirth – gravity

 

An Austrian filmmaker and artist living in Innsbruck, he first got himself a DSLR camera during his multimedia studies at university, and started to experiment in macro photography through investigating both nature and everyday objects. The details of the world have fascinated him ever since.

Despite graduating only three years ago, he’s already worked with an impressive list of clients including BBC1, Working Title Films UK, and Red Bull Media House, and was nominated for the 2012 SXSW Excellence in Title Design Award. In fact, it was his final year project, the title sequence for a film about World War I called Herbst, that got him the SXSW nomination.

 

clemens wirth - figures for herbst

figures for herbst

 

Working with a variety of model railway figures, he created images of the loss surrounding war, detached from reality but perhaps even more poignant for their likening war to a game played with toys.

 

 

His most recent work is a series of still photographs called New Adventures, and he describes it as “the end result of my previously learned experiences in miniature and diorama. I love to work on a small scale, to handcraft, to tinker, to make, to tell little stories and finally pack it all together in a picture where there is room for your own interpretation.”

 

clemens wirth - above the clouds

clemens wirth – above the clouds

 

clemens wirth - fly me to the moon

clemens wirth – fly me to the moon

 

clemens wirth - heavy rain

clemens wirth – heavy rain

 

clemens wirth - fireflies

clemens wirth – fireflies

 

 

clemens wirth - herbst

clemens wirth – herbst

 

You can find out more about him on his own site, www.clemenswirth.com, and purchase prints from his Etsy shop, ClemensWirth.

 

clemens in the studio

in the studio

 

Photography : Matthew Ling

Matthew Ling loves a good illusion. When he was 8, he was given a disposable camera by his dad to take on a school trip to France. “I saw a postcard of the city I was in but shot from the air. I thought if I took a photograph of the postcard I could trick my folks into believing I’d been in a helicopter. I think this trickery aspect has stayed with me; I like people to be confused by my work. I like confusion, it sparks conversation and thought.”

 

matthew ling - reflection no6 - london

matthew ling – reflection no6 – london

 

Based in Derby in the UK, Matthew’s fabulously layered and abstract reflections have been exhibited in numerous exhibitions around the UK, as well as in New York. I love his saturated colour, and his mirage-like glassy surfaces – historic architecture is collaged onto commercial office blocks and the grids of urban everyday-ness melt into park trees.

 

matthew ling - reflection no4 - manchester

matthew ling – reflection no4 – manchester

Matthew received his degree in photography from the University of Derby in 2005. He worked for a while as a photography lecturer, but is now self-employed full-time as a photographer.

“I got into photography in my late teens, in the mid 90s. I’m not entirely sure why; just to document things I suppose. I played in a few bands and of course the idea of album covers would come up. I approached it like that, as a support and complement to making music, which I’ve always done.

“I was working in a drab job in ’95 and my boss died. I looked at my life and decided I wanted to get a degree and work for myself and photography seemed a natural choice – that or music – but the way I make music I didn’t want to be forced to do it the ‘right’ way as I prefer the avant-garde. I chose photography partly because, living in Derby, it had a quite famous and successful photography department with lots of darkroom space and equipment.”

 

matthew ling - reflection no10 - berlin

matthew ling – reflection no10 – berlin

 

He loves the cityscape, referring to it as “the ultimate hall of mirrors”, and is endlessly fascinated by the abstractions of composition and colour that are available. “I am inspired greatly by Rodchenko, Moholy-Nagy, Cubism and Fauvism.”

“My cityscape stuff is me wandering around, sometimes 15 miles in a day, in relatively big cities with lots of reflective materials. I often work with my iPod on for inspiration; things like Autechre, Ornette Coleman, boards of canada: mostly instrumental stuff. I find the cityscape a really interesting place, and the idea that people congregate there but understand very little about what is going on fascinates me. I try and include that feeling of confusion in the works; people trapped inside this beguiling and confusing space.

“I find the landscape much less confusing, but in the field of photography, it is also less interesting. I’d rather be in the landscape, experiencing it rather than photographing it, which I think is very hard to do well – hence I don’t take so many landscape shots.”

 

matthew ling - reflection no11 - berlin

matthew ling – reflection no11 – berlin

 

matthew ling - reflection no18 - manchester

matthew ling – reflection no18 – manchester

 

matthew ling - reflection no26 - manchester

matthew ling – reflection no26 – manchester

 

His best piece of advice? “To try things out instead of talking about them too much which can lead to talking yourself out of good ideas. To listen to all criticism fairly. To heavily edit your work. To remember that shadows are as interesting as light.”

You can find more of Matthew’s work on his own site, MatthewLingPhotography.co.uk/prints, and also purchase them through his Etsy shop, MatthewLingPhoto.

 

Photography : Beata Czyzowska Young

Beata Czyzowska Young has a message for young photographers.

“Expensive camera and expensive equipment is not gonna make you an artist… some of my most popular and most rewarded photos have been taken with a simple point and shoot camera. 
 
“The thing is, when you’re out shooting, don’t look for the obvious; look  for something different and don’t be afraid to break some photography rules… you can be surprised what effects it can achieve.”

Beata should know. Her images are gobsmackingly beautiful.

 

Beata Czyzowska Young - under the sea

Beata Czyzowska Young – under the sea

 

Beata’s eyes are always open to the world and its endless array of moods in light and weather. Early mornings, evenings, after rain… those fleeting in-between moments of fragility and magic. She looks for beauty in the details; her compositions are simple, focusing on texture and colour.

 

Beata Czyzowska Young - summer thoughts

Beata Czyzowska Young – summer thoughts

 

Beata Czyzowska Young - song of the rain

Beata Czyzowska Young – song of the rain

 

She was born in Poland, but moved to Australia several years ago, and now makes her permanent home on the Central Coast. She says she’s not sure if being Polish has any influence on her work; although “maybe a little bit. Poland is  a very picturesque country and I can say that nature is one of my biggest inspirations.”

 

Beata Czyzowska Young - my summer garden

Beata Czyzowska Young – my summer garden

 

Beata Czyzowska Young - make it possible

Beata Czyzowska Young – make it possible

 

She originally trained in Early Childhood Education, but came to photography in 2005, and is principally self-taught. “I’ve been always interested in arts and after I purchased my first digital camera I discovered that photography is not only about portraits , wedding shoots and sunsets … it’s so much more.”

 

“It’s about telling a story and creating something extraordinary with an ordinary tool. To me, photography is like painting with light.”

 

 

Beata Czyzowska Young - little secrets

Beata Czyzowska Young – little secrets

 

Beata Czyzowska Young - beautiful wishes

Beata Czyzowska Young – beautiful wishes

 

beata cz - evening tunes

Beata Czyzowska Young – evening tunes

 

She counts many highlights in her career as a photographer, but it’s the simple things that speak to her most profoundly. “There are things that I’m proud of like having my work published and featured on CDs and books, and winning photography contests, but what I enjoy the most is emails from people from around the world complimenting and admiring  my work and  telling me how it has touched their hearts.”

 

Beata Czyzkowska Young - a touch of red

Beata Czyzowska Young – a touch of red

 

Beata Czyzowska Young - colourful morning

Beata Czyzowska Young – colourful morning

 

The best piece of advice she’s ever had? “I’m not very good at taking advice.”

 

You can find more of Beata’s work on her DeviantArt site, Incredi.

The crafted object : Sandra Bowkett {ceramic}

Sandra Bowkett is one of those artists that the more you find out about them, the more in awe you are of them.

 

sandra bowkett - bharni and copper spot dishes

sandra bowkett – bharni and copper spot dishes

 

Sandra is a ceramicist living in pristine woodland near Tallarook in central Victoria with her partner, producing cups and bowls in porcelain and decorated with oxides. Her work is simple and elegant, comfortable in its handmade origins.

She counts as one of her biggest achievements to date the successful building and firing of her own wood firing kiln, and “arriving at the point after many ‘phases’ where I feel I am working in a way that is an authentic expression of myself through my craft.”

 

sandra bowkett - copper spot cups

sandra bowkett – copper spot cups

 

sandra bowkett - pourer bowl and spoons

sandra bowkett – pourer bowl and spoons

 

Sandra grew up in country NSW, and was introduced to ceramics by her art teacher at school, which she continued to study at Caulfield Tech. Working briefly for a large production pottery firm in Healesville, she decided that was not for her and left to pursue her own ideas on making.

After travelling overseas, a Diploma of Education, and more travelling, she returned to Australia and set up her own studio in Melbourne, with visions of  the Turkish kilims that she’d seen driving her imagination.

Then, a trip to India in 1988 became a turning point in her life – while wandering around Rajasthan, she came across a potter’s yard, and in the corner of the yard was a massive pile of spherical water jars. For someone whose Western training valued the pursuit of individuality even more than skill, the sight was astonishing and the effect was profound. From that point on, her whole outlook on repetition changed, as did her own ceramic practice.

 

sandra bowkett - stitched - cup plate spoon

sandra bowkett – stitched – cup plate spoon

 

sandra bowkett - cobalt stripe vessels

sandra bowkett – cobalt stripe vessels

 

She felt the need to create stronger connections with the potters of India. Her first attempts didn’t go smoothly. When trying to facilitate a women’s ceramic workshop outside Delhi, the women were unenthusiastic and the product development didn’t happen how she intended. The experience made Sandra realise then that they didn’t need her – they had all the skills they needed from traditional practice producing functional items and were happy in that pursuit.

It is that tradition and its concentration on one thing to the point of great artistry in that thing that gives it immense appeal to Sandra. She also believes that part of the inherent beauty of functional items is their honesty, and these ideas have been a big driver of Sandra’s own work.

It was for these reasons that she knew there would be other potters in Australia who would benefit from what these traditional artisans had to offer.

So she persisted.

Slowly, over a period of ten years and a huge amount of travelling, Sandra has built a strong cross-cultural community. With the help of young Indian craft advocate and entrepreneur Minhazz Majumbar, they have forged Crosshatched, an overall concept and flexible structure for continuing craft exchanges between the two countries.

 

sandra bowkett - potter

sandra bowkett – potter

 

Sandra’s images of India are wonderful, evoking all the rich colour and often thought-provoking sights of the place (you can check more of them here). I asked her how serious she was about photography, and how it fitted in with her ceramics practice. She told me, “In the past I had briefly considered photography as a career but I do not think I am predatory enough, and the desire to make objects is strong.”

 

sandra bowkett - Kumartuli Kol figures

sandra bowkett – Kumartuli Kol figures

 

“However I live in a visual world; in India at every turn there is the picturesque, the unusual or exotic, and after many trips there I need to be in a certain mindset to take a picture. Sometimes I do not take my camera out with me so as not to be distracted by the possibility of a great shot, but just enjoy the moment.”

 

sandra bowkett - india

sandra bowkett – india

 

sandra bowkett - sketchbook - india Feb2014

sandra bowkett – sketchbook – india Feb 2014

 

Sandra has achieved a massive amount over the last decade; I for one am looking forward to hearing more of her stories soon and seeing how these cross-cultural traditions impact on contemporary craft.

 

sandra bowkett - studio view

sandra bowkett – studio view

 

sandra bowkett - view from my bed

 

You can check out more of the many artists and projects involved in Crosshatched at www.crosshatched123.com.au, and see more of Sandra’s own work at www.sandrabowkett.com.

Photography : Blackcurrant Photography {Kell Rowe}

“I can spend an hour in a square metre of garden bed. I feel so driven to capture the tiny things that others ignore, it’s almost a fear… what if nobody else ever photographs that plant? I have to make its life have been appreciated, if only for a moment.”

 

Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography - Australian wildflower

Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography – Australian wildflower

 

Kell Rowe had a camera in her hand from the time she was 8; photography has always seemed a natural and integral part of who she is.

 “Photography is a way of life for me. It’s not something that I can just give up…” 

She studied photography during and after high school, and has since completed a Diploma in Photography. Early on in her career, she won a few agricultural show awards, and the Darlington Arts Festival prize for junior photography. “It was a $70 prize, and a certificate was presented to me by aerial photographer, Richard Woldendorp. I was only 17 at the time, so it was a pretty big deal.”

 

Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography - Australian wildflower

Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography – Australian wildflower

 

Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography - Australian wildflower

Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography – Australian wildflower

 

Kell is a photographer of many things, based in Perth, Western Australia. She is the face and force behind Blackcurrant Photography, which specialises in glorious images of Australian wildflowers – native orchids, banksias, acacia, ti-tree, kangaroo paw and more. Her images are rich, sensual and delicate; getting up close and capturing that fragile point in time is at the core of what she does.

It’s also that sense of briefness that she admires in two of photography’s greats – Annie Leibovitz and Alfred Eisenstaedt. “They immersed themselves in the scene, getting right up close to the action, so that anyone looking at the photograph got an immediate sense of being in the moment. ”

 

Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography - Australian wildflower

Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography – Australian wildflower

 

Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography - Australian wildflower

Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography – Australian wildflower

 

And it’s that sense of the moment that she has carried through to another project she has undertaken. Kell’s series “My place in time” is an exploration of Perth and its surrounds – the architecture, the people, and the changing landscape. “I started the project just under a year ago as Perth was in the grips of sharing old photos and celebrating our history. I was concerned that a whole generation of photos may be lost because these days many people don’t print their photographs, and don’t take many pictures of their local area. I have discovered so much about my city since I started, and whilst I sometimes regret rushing on writing the prompts, I appreciate that it encourages me to take photos I normally wouldn’t have.”

“Whenever I view street scenes from the past, I love searching for signs and old cars, little details. These sorts of photographs were always taken with a hugh depth of field (f16 or f22) and I have started to apply that to my own street photography. I love scenes that go on forever, for the eye to explore.”

 

kell rowe - my place in time #17 - somewhere I visited as a kid

kell rowe – my place in time #17 – somewhere I visited as a kid

 

Kell stumbled across Etsy in 2007, and started selling her work online shortly after. And even though she spends time communicating with friends via social media, and frequently makes sales to overseas customers, she says the distance that that entails has never quite sunk in; how it means her work is being worn and is on people’s walls 20,000 kms away. “I still mentally group friends in NZ with friends in the Eastern States. It was nice to have someone recently remind me that it is a big deal. I do always get a thrill when I get notification that someone liked my work enough to buy it.”

 

kell rowe - my place in time #43 - something old

kell rowe – my place in time #43 – something old

 

“I don’t really have a best piece of advice, but I have lots of little mantras that run through my head, usually relics from photography lecturers over the years. Things such as “never trust the strap” (always hold the camera too), “check your backgrounds”, and “always leave the house with your camera”. I’m getting better with that last one.

“One that’s changed my photography the most is to ‘zoom with your legs’. I used to take my kit lens, an 18-70mm zoom lens everywhere but I was finding it very heavy and tiring; now I love the 35mm. Because my camera is called an APS-C and isn’t full frame, my 35mm lens behaves like a 50mm. It gives me a similar field of view to the press photographers of old, and the closest to what I actually see with my own eyes. If I want to photograph something I have to physically get up close to it. This has helped me a lot with getting used to being in crowds and getting out of my comfort zone. Because it is so light and small, I feel that I don’t look as threatening as I did with a zoom lens… because sometimes strangers still get weirded out if you’re taking photos of them in public. Even if it is perfectly legal to do so.”

 

kell rowe - my place in time #53 - if i had kids i'd take them here

kell rowe – my place in time #53 – if i had kids i’d take them here

 

Kell sells her photographs as prints, greeting cards, and features many of her flower images on earrings and pendants. You can find more of her work in her Etsy shop, BlackcurrantShop, and on her own website, www.blackcurrantphotography.com.au

 

Small Biz how-to : Monday Mini Makeovers!

closed for renovations - michael sweeney

closed for renovations – michael sweeney {click image for source}

 

WELCOME to my brand new segment, Monday Mini Makeovers. Here every fortnight, I will be showcasing a bunch of online creative micro-bizzes just like yours – and giving them a visual makeover!

The idea is that not only do these good folk benefit from having a fresh set of eyes over their online presence, but that YOU my fab reader, also get tips on how you can charge up your own online presence.

I reckon that’s a WIN-WIN.

 

Just a quick disclaimer – these are simply my initial impressions when I land on people’s sites. It’s not an in-depth analysis, and it’s not intended to be taken as any kind of definitive professional advice.

I’m concentrating on my initial impressions because it’s what your potential customers do. If your site doesn’t look interesting enough, if it’s hard to navigate, or it doesn’t clearly convey who you are and what you offer, another store is  just a click away.

Of course you’d like them to stick around and have a bit of an explore – so, these are my suggestions on how these sites could be improved for easier customer access, for visual cohesion and branding.

I play things as I see them, so you can expect honesty, but I PROMISE I will be kind 🙂  So here goes!

 

Bec Gullo and Bluebird Candles

Bluebird Candles

Bluebird Candles

Bec sells lush-sounding fragrant soy candles in recycled and recyclable glass, and she asked for some suggestions on her Facebook page.

From having a quick look through her FB photos, I can see she enjoys a bit of retro styling in her images – kind of 60s, but warm and homey, with some tropical lushness thrown in (she’s based in Innisfail, Queensland). This is a lovely aesthetic to work with, and I think she could concentrate on it to help her with her whole branding efforts.

With images and branding, the idea is to pick out what suits your product and the mood you’re trying to convey and then reinterpret that with your own styling. It’s often helpful to stick to a limited palette (say of 5-10 colours) and 2-3 fonts that you use for everything.

With regard to Bec’s FB page, it’s important to note that you are a bit limited on what you can do on Facebook – a lot of the screen is taken up with Facebook’s own colours and layout. Image-wise, you can really only change your ‘Cover Picture’ (i.e. the big one) and your ‘Profile Picture’ (the little square).

Bec’s cover photo does nothing much to convey anything about her business – it just looks like a blue jar in the garden.  I think both cover and profile pics could benefit from some lush styling, something fragrant and pretty (perhaps tropical – e.g Pina Colada? Tangerine anyone?) from one of her best sellers. Or for instance, lit candles in a lush garden would be much more inviting and descriptive as a cover photo. Concentrate on how those scents make you FEEL – conjure up a relaxing scene!

Just underneath the cover photo, there are four frames. You can’t change the ‘Photos’ and the ‘Likes’, but you can add in more frames and use them for apps – that way you can link to your shop, special events, notes, and a whole lot more – just click on the little drop-down arrow on the right.

When you use them to add in specific events, make sure they’re kept up to date. Nobody likes clicking on a link only to find something that finished 2 months ago – yuk! Bec has used them well, adding in a link to a giveaway she is running at the moment, and to a market that she will be doing soon.

Generally, she has very good engagement on Facebook, with frequent posting about new products, events, and other special things that have happened (like the glorious sunset she saw). Engaging with your customers on facebook is also an excellent way to do a bit of customer research if you keep your eyes and ears open – what sorts of things do they respond to the most? The more you engage with them the easier it is to build up a picture of your customer.

 

Deborah Davey and Domum Vindemia

Domum Vindemia

Domum Vindemia

Deb sells upcycled vintage crockery (turning them into sweet cake stands) and linen, as well as bunting and other decorative items in her Etsy shop, DomumVindemia, and I would describe her style as a sweet and ditsy style of shabby chic, with lots of florals in pale and pretty colours.

Firstly, Deb’s shop header needs a bit of a tweak. The images chosen are fine, but the text looks chunky and pixelated. I probably would chose a softer colour too – the black looks a bit harsh.

Looking through her first page of products, my initial suggestion is that she should try and keep the viewpoints in each of her photos at a more consistent angle (at the moment when I browse her shop, the multiple angles remind me of a ship rocking in the ocean). Composition wise, the cake stands are too large in the picture frame – give them more space to breathe. In Etsy, for each product you have 5 images to use, so use some of them for macro details of the patterns. Take a straight, level, side-on view to show off their stands.

Style your bookmarks with books so that it is obvious what they are and how they look in use. Some of the plainer items look good against the sheet music, but if your items have lots of pattern then beware of making your photos too busy – it can detract from the item. A plain background is easy to make with a large piece of white cardboard – I use a bulldog clip to hold it onto the back of a kitchen chair, or onto a large hardcover book that I have standing up and propped open (Yes, I’ve got a tutorial with some photography tips in the works and it will be published soon, I promise!). Cardboard doesn’t crease like paper or fabric, and it’s easy enough to remove spots in Photoshop or Picmonkey by using the rubber stamp tool.

Lighter items like the bunting can be styled against a darker background. However, keep the backgrounds more consistent – using various spots around the garden would be fine, but perhaps not against the brick wall as it doesn’t fit with the rest of the vintage shabby feel of the product in Domum Vindemia.

Overall, I think it comes down to consistency. In Deb’s shop, there are lots of competing angles, widely varying backgrounds; and some but not all of the photo frames have a soft fadeout edge. At the moment it all looks a bit busy and I feel like I need to walk into the shop and tidy the shelves.

If you have all of your similar items styled in a similar manner, at the same size and orientation, your shop will look and feel neat.

 

Louise Radge and Radge Design

Radge Design

Radge Design

Louise is a graphic designer and makes wire-wrapped jewellery in her Hand-Made shop, RadgeDesign.

Like many other platforms that allow you to set up your own shop, the vast majority of the screen space is given over their house-styling, leaving you with only your shop banner to grab potential customer’s attention. Louise has got a distinctive logo of a purple flower, which she has developed out of one of her artworks. The logo is interesting, but there is nothing much else so it all looks a bit too white and empty. The grey stripe along the bottom looks a bit flat and thick, because it’s very different to the hand drawn elements. The “R” and the purple flower obviously come from hand drawn elements, so perhaps instead she could try using a hand drawn line like on the flower to do a simple frame (or even a fancy one, if it suits) to define the whole banner and give it more personality.

Arial is a very common font, and I’m sure it doesn’t do justice to Louise’s talents as a graphic designer. To advertise her talents, I think she would be much better off choosing something more stylish. I also would not mix up capitals halfway through the tagline. Easiest way around that is to use all caps or all lower case.

The word “funky” could be used with a shop that specialises in bright, colourful, 60s/70s-inspired kitsch, but really I think it’s a word best left to describing James Brown (WOO!).  Spend some time with a thesaurus, write down a list of words that you might like to use in your tagline and then choose the best, or just leave it out entirely and concentrate on the practical words that describe what you do.

Now to the product lisitngs. The size of the products in each photo is good, however all the photos are a bit dark, and this is especially noticeable against the graphic design items which are very white. Brightening your images is quite easy with Photoshop, Picmonkey or any other photo-editing program. If your images look a bit washed out when you up the brightness, then all you need to do is up the contrast as well, and this should fix it.

 

 Phew! Got all that? 

 

Now it’s over to you! Can you think how the suggestions I’ve made today could be applied to your biz? What would you change? What would you keep the same?

Have I still not solved your problem for your biz? If you’ve got a specific question let me know in the comments below!

AND, if you would like a Mini Monday Makeover on your biz, you can join in too – all you have to do is subscribe here, and follow the instructions.

See you then!
Julie X