Botanical Riches – Gouache

lorainecallowdesignsGouache paintings on my desk – Loraine Callow March 2017

Explorer Frank Kingdon Ward on his first sighting of the blue poppy in Tibet, 1924:
‘Suddenly I looked and there, like a blue panel dropped from heaven – a stream of blue poppies dazzling as sapphires in the pale light.’

Botanical riches on my desk this morning from the previous evening. The book “Botanical Riches – Stories of Botanical Exploration” by Richard Aitken is really an exceptional work. I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting Richard on a couple of occasions and his work influences my day job. Thank heavens for The Miegunyah Press and their superb book production that captures some of Richard’s encyclopaedic knowledge. I’ve had this for book for 10 years and constantly find something fascinating and inspiring in it. This time it was a poppy and Strelitizia reginae. I painted them in gouache in my sketchbook.

More on Richard and how this lovely book came to be.

Strelitzia Lorainecallowdesigns

Strelitzia in gouache – Loraine Callow March 2017.

Making the Australian Quilt: 1800 -1950

If you’re in Melbourne and looking for a richly satisfying experience do visit the National Gallery of Victoria’s Making the Australian Quilt: 1800–1950 exhibition on until 6 November 2016. There are plenty of great stories, beautiful, intriguing, often very moving works and many, many, many stitches. There are witty tales told in embroidery and applique and much love and care embodied in each of the works. If you’re a lover of fabric you will be delighted, every conceivable kind is there in squares, hexagons, stripes, free form flowers, stars and crazy quilting too. Velvet, taffeta, cotton, crepe de chine, suiting, wool, petticoat flannel, often reused, reworked, salvaged and saved, made useful, made beautiful, made to last.

“Many of the pieces were created within an intimate, private setting, yet have the ability to convey much more of their broader social and historical significance. The exhibition encompasses quilts made by men and women, those made within the context of leisure and accomplishment, created as expressions of love and family connection and those stitched out of necessity in an environment of constraint and hardship.”– About the exhibition.

“A highlight of the exhibition is the renowned The Rajah Quilt, 1841, on loan from the National Gallery of Australia and considered one of Australia’s most important textiles. The work is the only surviving example of a quilt made by convicts on the long and treacherous three-month sea voyage from London to Van Diemen’s Land. Thought to have been hand stitched by more than 29 female convicts aboard the ship, The Rajah Quilt is decorated with bird and floral designs, and very rarely displayed due to its fragility and light-sensitivity. A second convict quilt, created in 1811 and only recently discovered, is also exhibited for the first time.” — More reading – NGV Press Release


The Rajah Quilt is worth the price of admission alone but there is plenty to delight, inspire and be awed by. The more you look, the more you’ll see details to be fascinated by, a jewel, a cheeky character, tininess, grandness, pathos, love – it’s all there in the fabric.  I came away with my eyes full. Allow yourself a couple of hours, there are more than eighty works, and you’ll want to stare at each!


Making the Australian Quilt: 1800–1950 is on display at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia Fed Square, from 22 July – 6 November 2016. Open daily, 10am–5pm.

Tickets on sale from Adult $15 | NGV Member $11 | Concession $12 | Child $7 | Family $41

New and Different – On New Routines and Shaking Up The Old

A Catalogue of New and Different

In March 2016 I committed to keeping a journal. I’ve kept art journals in the past and have loved having a place to jot ideas and tuck a few memories. I wanted this journal to be a little different and I wanted to see if keeping it could shape parts of my life or influence my days. I ambitiously titled the front page “A Catalogue of New and Different with a Little Bit Gratitude & General Journaling plus Teeny Bits of Art & Wonderment.” My aim was and still is to try new things, do familiar things differently, seek out opportunity and see what happens when I pay attention more. The book is a very simple A5 sized Canson 110GSM visual diary and even that was different because usually I’d use a an A4 sized book. I found this a perfect size and the paper quality is good.

“Why not” Questions

In the first few weeks I routinely wrote, sketched, jotted down observations, pasted in ticket stubs, restaurant cards, the odd photo or two and marked anything that was new to me or anything I had done differently. The journal became an encouragement.  Whenever I thought of the journal I found myself actively seeking out the different and new to me. In those last weeks of summer I was racking up 17 or 18 things I could call new or different in my weekly tally. Keeping the journal also helped me ask more questions, especially “why not” questions  – “Why not go swimming after work every day that the weather is warm?” – that resulted in an amazing week of swimming!

Loraine Callow NNA3

New and Different

Over the first few weeks I tried new to me technology, drank beer, used brush pens on stamps I’d carved, went to the movies on a Monday night, visited 10 new cafes, wore earrings I hadn’t worn in years, went to free art exhibitions and curator talks with beloved friends, went to hear two bands, called people on their landlines, sat in different seats at meetings and at the dinner table, used art materials I had stashed away, went to an ice cream tasting, listened to podcasts, walked less familiar streets in my town, did things at different times than I would usually, (shook up some routines), asked for help, signed up to an art course, talked to strangers, listened to British dance bands of the 1930’s, painted outside in my garden, planted purple freesias, watched Wheeler Centre broadcasts, read new authors, immersed myself in history and drew a raccoon for the first time.

The Tally

By week four I had tallied 65 new and different things – old things done differently, new approaches, new techniques, new places and new skills. I’ve kept the journal going since March, I don’t write in it every day but most days I do and each time I do it gives me a chance to relive the nice things that have happened, the sweetness and goodness in my life and at the end of the week I reflect a little and think about the weekend and the week to come and the new and different I can seek out. The writing has become a routine I love and it feels like a very much more generous and expansive way to live.

I’ve had lovely experiences, spent time with people I love, seen wonderful things, learned new skills, heard great music, eaten lunch with my kids, had more dinners with my husband, I’m looking forward to the next six months. Routines are fine, routines are nice, they stop you having to think too hard. That’s not either good or bad but neither is it new and different. 🙂 If the southern hemisphere winter is wearing you down I highly recommend trying a focus on the “new and different” even for a week. “New and different” might become your new routine! I’d love to hear about it.

Loraine Callow NNA 1

Forging a Love of Buttons

Loraine Callow Designs Vintage Buttons Red 2Loraine Callow Designs Vintage Buttons Blue 2Loraine Callow Designs Vintage Buttons Red 1Loraine Callow Designs Vintage Buttons Blue 1

Many years ago when the iconic Footscray Forges store was in the throes of divesting itself of entire departments as a precursor to shutting down, these button sample cards were going out for $1.79 a page. They seemed so beautiful to me then, I couldn’t bear the idea that they may be thrown out. Each card has 54 buttons. Some are plain, some are fancy – all are gorgeous. I imagine the store buyer would have used the sample sheets to order in buttons. Now they live in my linen cupboard. Occasionally I bring them out and savour each of these little design miracles. Here’s a few from the blue and red sheets to stay with the theme this week.

You can read more about Forges here. I still miss that store. At least I have the buttons.

Free Colouring Sheets to Print and Colour

IMG_0002 Last week I had a chance to draw up some quick colouring sheets for my little botanic garden. Loraine Callow Colouring Sheets The sheets were a great hit with kids visiting our Paint the Gardens event – they swooped on the colouring table with such energy – I was totally delighted! Some folks look down their artistic noses at the idea of colouring – as if it’s “busy work” but the sheer enjoyment of choosing and applying colours to a design holds plenty of appeal – I saw it in action. The only busyness was the sheer number of children who spent time at the table on the day!Loraine Callow Colouring 2 In some of the designs I deliberately left spaces and it was very sweet to see butterflies and beetles and birds being added – all with no direction from any grown up. It’s a lovely, easy to do, social activity, with kids chatting away while they worked at their chosen sheet. The pure happiness in all this has helped carry me through a heavy duty week of work. I’m hoping to do some colouring of my own over Easter! Best to you all.

I’ve made two of the sheets into PDFs, link below – please feel free to download and colour! The top one is is made up flowers and the second is inspired by Kniphofia (red hot pokers) growing in the gardens. Colouring 1 Loraine CallowColouring 3 Loraine Callow Download PDFs to print – Colouring 1 Loraine Callow Colouring 2 Loraine Callow

My Window Garden – Autumn in Melbourne

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Autumn has arrived here in my little corner of Australia and with it comes the morning sun at a slightly different angle – an angle that brings the distinct feeling of seasonal change and registers both the ending of something and the starting of something. It’s a bittersweet combination of melancholy and anticipation for the season ahead. In the meantime I’m full of gladness and deep appreciation that I’m blessed with flowers and a garden. I hope you are enjoying the season wherever you are!

More Stamp Garden – The Miracle of Home Printing

Stamp Garden - Loraine CallowI always have this feeling that I use about 5% of the capacity any technology I own and it’s only when I really want to do something that I’ll push a little. I’ve been printing documents and photos an on my Canon MG6250 for years – yesterday was the first time I slipped some card in the rear tray and printed something I’d designed. Small miracles hey? It’s not perfect and I’m still wrangling with image and paper size matching up, but I did it and I’m ridiculously chuffed at how this work is coming together.

Starry Starry and Stamp Garden

Processed with Moldiv I’ve had a lot of fun these past few weeks taking Rachael Taylor’s excellent The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design course and feel like I’m starting to find my way. I’m concentrating on a few design ideas and now need to concentrate on learning how to use the technology! I can feel my brain stretching! One of the course tasks was to take a design you’d made, print it off and use as wrapping paper – I think these from my Stamp Gardens and Starry Starry collections have potential. Onward!