Friday, October 9, 2015

recycling manifesto

Some time ago I was invited to be a judge at the "Trash to Fashion" show on Waikeke Island.
At the symposium before the show I gave a talk entitled:
Read the text at

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

culture jamming & zines

After the local Sunday flea-market unsold goods are often left behind by the sellers. I usually go for a stroll through the parking-lot when they have all gone to see if there is anything of interest amongst the discards.
Last Sunday I found several children’s books.
I use these to make zines on my favourite subject - culture-jamming

After painting the pages with cream paint:
I affix photoshop collages I have made from images gleaned from newspapers and magazines (also found as discards).
Here are three such images from my “bar-code” series:

  These zines also form video slide-shows which I post to my youtube channel. Look under the playlist: 

I am currently working on a series of  interventions/reinterpretations of Pacific & NZ history for the “Ten Thousand Things” exhibition.
Below is my take on James Cook as relating to Alan Moorhead’s book “Fatal Impact”:

 The address of my blog on my activities in this field is:

Sunday, October 4, 2015

interactive art

My ideas for the Ten Thousand Things exhibition include including some pieces with which the public could interact and make their own contribution to the show online.

Part of my intention in participating in the “Ten Thousand Things” exhibition is to encourage and inspire others to make craft and art works of their own, as well as demonstrating to all that even the “lowliest” and “simplest” and most domestic of crafts can make powerful political statements - welcome to the world of culture-jamming.

See Wikipedia for more details:

The world-wide group of “Graffiti Knitters” serves as a tremendous inspiration to us all when they take their work onto the streets:
anti-war protest
Interestingly, in this age of Political Correctness gone mad, the much-maligned gollywog has come to serve as a symbol of anti-PC bull****.

Sanity strikes back!

On my walk around Browns Bay flea market yesterday I found a knitting pattern for a gollywog; and I thought that perhaps a possible interactive assemblage for the exhibition could comprise of: some gollywogs from my collection:
some copies of the knitting pattern:

and perhaps some knitting needles from my collection:

My thoughts are that people could take a copy of the pattern and a pair of needles home with them, knit a gollywog, and post the image to this blog. In this manner the exhibition would open up to the public and empower visitors by allowing them to participate also.

In making your own gollywog, the colours of the wools don’t have to match the pattern, and there is room for originality and further creativity in adding embellishments (such as buttons) and accessories to give this creature a voice.

Friday, October 2, 2015

dumpster protocols

Do’s and Don’ts for Dumpster Divers

Here are my tips for prospective dumpster-divers:

As you walk past that dumpster in the parking lot, you wonder what could be inside. Curiosity gets the better of you, so you wander over and take a look.
Depending on who’s throwing stuff away you may find anything from building materials to clothing, books, household goods, clothing, antiques, or perfectly edible food.
But before you dive in, here are a few guidelines from a professional to help ensure the experience is a pleasant and safe one:

* Do ask permission first - if appropriate/possible. Otherwise, if an irate dumper collars you in the act say that you:  (a) work with kids and are looking for materials for a school project, (b) are a Uni student doing research on consumption issues, (c) are unemployed with a large family and are in need of stuff/food.

* Beware of hazardous materials such as toxins, broken glass, sharp metal, mould, contaminants.

* Ideally wear thick leather boots and gloves.

* Move slowly as you sort through the stuff so that you can spot broken or sharp edges.

* Have a good-sized swag bag to take your haul away with.

* Carry wire-cutters a small wrench and a screw-driver - for taking things apart.

* Dig right to the bottom if you can - this is where the coins and small valuable objects fall to.

* If you have time, work the dumpster methodically. Start in one corner, shifting the stuff out of the way as you dig down to the bottom. Then pile the next section into the hole you have created, work your way around in this manner and you will have searched through the entire contents.

* Be aware that you are saving materials (the earth’s resources) from going into landfill. 

* Scrap metals (especially brass, copper and aluminum) fetch good prices at the metal-merchants.

* Be very wary of spoiled food, especially meats - listeria, salmonella and other deadly pathogens lurk in food that has gone off.

 * At night carry a flashlight. Wearing a headlamp will leave both hands free.

* Carry a stick, cane or one of those “grabbers” trash-collectors use. These can be very useful, especially when stuff is just out of your reach.

* Choose your time. In winter it gets dark earlier, making you less visible. In bad weather, night-time and early morning there are less people around.

* As soon as you can after your dive, wash your hands, clean up, change your clothes if necessary.

* Wear dark inconspicuous clothing.

* Don’t make a mess, spill stuff, or throw goods out of the dumpster - this gives dumpster-divers a bad name, and annoys people.

* Don’t take more than you need - leave something for others.

* Don’t break into the dumpster - people who cut padlocks off, wrench locking bars off using their four-wheel drives, or cut into dumpsters with gas torches make life difficult for other dumpster-divers.

* Don’t set fire to the dumpster when you are done - this is not cool, and besides it will attract the attention of the police.

* Take photos of your finds and/or video your dives and post them to youtube/your blog. Show the rest of the world what a wasteful society we live in.

* Be prepared to share the dumpster with other divers.

* Be careful as you jump in/out, especially with the higher dumpsters. It is easy to slip (especially in the wet).

* Don’t fall asleep in there. People have been killed when the collection truck empties the dumpster into its hopper and crushes the contents.

* Don’t be surprised what you find. People throw things way for many reasons. Just because something is in the trash doesn’t mean that it is no good or doesn’t work.

* Much archaeology in the field involves digging up ancient garbage tips or middens. What goes into the trash in the 21st Century is social and economic history.

* Recycle and upcycle the objects you find into functional objects as well as arts and crafts - make trashion (fashion from trash), clocks, wall pieces, sculptures, toys, lamps. The dumpsters are full of resources. Your creativity is only limited by your own boubdaries. Remember - there is no app. for imagination!

* Make money from what you find. Repair, recycle, upcycle. Sell your pieces at garage sales, markets, and online.

* Don’t just think of yourself. Give your useful finds to needy friends and/or donate them to worthy causes. Small community organizations can use basic stuff such as envelopes or stationary, pens and pencils. Pet charities can use old bedding. Knitters can use wool, patchworkers can use fabric. School art classes can use all manner of materials.

* Use magazines and books to make collages and zines. Use what you find to make political and social statements.

* Have fun!

exhibition statement

Here is my artist's statement for the 10 Thousand Things exhibition:

“Creating assemblages using recycled materials enables me to explore a range of issues relating to consumerism, commodification, over-consumption, the invasion of technology into our lives, and the artificial construction of our social mindsets and cultural conditionings.

Through my work I consider questions such as:
How much is enough?
Who determines value, and how?
Who really pulls the strings, and why?
What are the social and planetary costs of a throw-away society?
Where are we going with all of this? 

As an ad-buster and culture-jammer I attempt to point out some of the lies and deceptions behind the glass facades of the multinationals and corporates who dictate our desires and manipulate our fears. Quirkyness and humour help get the message across.

My inspiration comes from the people in countries such as Mexico and Cambodia who, as a matter of necessity, make brilliantly innovative functional and decorative items from the detritus of the global scrap-heap.

Lao Tsu explains:
“Thirty spokes converge at one hub; what is not there makes the wheel useful.
Clay is shaped to form a vessel; what is not there makes the vessel useful.
Doors and windows are cut to form a room; what is not there makes the room useful.
Therefore, take advantage of what is there, by making use of what is not.’”

If only Barbie could find the Buddha within herself!!

march exhibition

I have been invited to exhibit in a group assemblage show at the Depot Community Artspace in Devonport, Auckland, in March 2016.

The show is entitled "10,000 Things" from the works of Lao Tsu:

'The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and Earth. The named is the mother of the ten thousand things'. Read more at: 

In this blog I will share my creative process and procedures while I prepare my exhibits.

As I work mainly with recycled materials, readers can expect to accompany me on many visits to dumpsters, trawls through trash, beachcombing trips, and general fossiking in markets, sheds, and thrift shops.
I will document my finds, ideas and construction methods in text, photographs and videos.

Some videos are already on my youtube channel: 

Look under the playlist:

Read about the Depot at:

Show curator Jason Burgess is most supportive of fellow creatives. Read Jason's blog:


Tuesday, June 22, 2010


After seeing an art exhibition of Mecanno set constructions, I have devised a 21st Century version : FREECANNO an open-sourced educational toy made with found stuff.

The kit includes a variety of plastic, wood, & metal construction components with holes drilled in them, as well as some hardware for joining pieces together - nuts & bolts, screws, & nails.
Further holes can be drilled & pieces can otherwise be adapted to suit - tools will have to be obtained separately.

As Picasso said: “Computers are stupid- they only give you answers”.
The Freecanno concept is designed to both stimulate the imagination & to instigate processes of enquiry:
“What can I make?.. how can I make it?.. how can I join these together?.. how can I cut/drill/whatever this?.. what do I need to make......?”
As the Freecanno system is open-sourced, there are not more bigger, more expensive, sets to buy. Instead, users are encouraged to expand their kit by finding & making further pieces for themselves. A wide variety of everyday materials can be adapted for use - simply by cutting stuff into pieces & drilling holes. Existing toys can be used for parts, & modular sets [such as Leggo] fit into the Frecanno system perfectly.
Further useful pieces can be obtained by taking things apart - one problem with electrical gadgets is that they are not easily nor mechanically repairable...which means that when a fuse or something goes, they end up in the trash. The skills of do-it-yourself repairs are almost history.
In my teaching of craft skills to people of all ages I have found that they often cannot use even basic tools – this system will encourage the use of tools including: screwdrivers, wrenches, drills, saws, hammers, wire-cutters, pliers, files, & scissors.
A main aspect of the use of Freecanno is to foster the interaction of children with adults - caregivers may be able to assist with the use of tools & with basic design & construction principles; otherwise the assistance of other more mechanically-minded folks may be needed. Either way family- & social-interaction are facilitated.