MAKEit MADEit Conference 2017 – Saturday 12 August, Newcastle Museum
To be able to write what you want.
To say, wear, travel, learn and eat where and when you want. To possess a sense of security. To live without fear.
It is these freedoms that we’re so fortunate to retain in our own little urban-coastal city that allows us to persistently produce exceptional artists, pushing their respected mediums and creative fields to new and compelling heights. Local branding and design wunderkind and sign-painting wizard – replacing wand with brush and ruler and magic fairy dust with gilding gold leaf… which is essentially the same substance either way you look at it – Brett Piva understands Newcastle’s league of creatives better than anyone could hope for.
Having built an impressive reputation for bespoke branding and commercial design through his creative studio Pocket Design, Brett has been sharing and teaching his craft for hand sign painting – and making some friends along the way. Silversmiths, digital illustrators, abstract oil painters, leather craftsmen, textile designers – it is these connections made in his travels across and outside of Australia that has inspired the now three-year strong arts and design conference MAKEit MADEit. And how they grow up fast; with the conference’s first year defined by a circle of forty or so chairs set up in their previous industrial west-end studio space equipped with little more than, in his words, a “shitty” but working condition projector.
Brett Piva understands Newcastle’s league of creatives better than anyone could hope for.Fast forward to the Saturday just past where, utterly elated, I was fortunate to be tottering in through the side doors of the Newcastle Museum ready to embark on this year’s day-long program. To my dismay, there is just not enough column inches – even within the wonderful and weird world of the www. and independent publishing – to cover the event in the most cookie-cut basic of details. So within the space I have, I’m going to try to say a few things that I hope can give MAKEit MADEit 2017 a fraction of the justice it deserves.
First off the rank, the six speakers: a Venuzalean-born multi-disiplinary designer, a leatherworker and Iso-proud shop-owner, a Waratah-born graphic and street artist, a once ‘foreigner’ now iconic Newy illustrator and mural artist, a Canberran gold and silver smith, and an abstract gestural action painter hailing from Wollongong. I only wish music festival’s had line-ups close to anything this diverse and exciting. Each artist (who I feel is best referred to as a ‘maker’ as the conference denotes), with engaging genunity and openness, expressed their individual journey working and living with their creative practice. You needn’t be a design and/or arts-based practitioner to have connected with the overriding sentiments of each of these incredible, equal parts creative and equal parts daring human beings revealed through their life’s pursuits.
The experience of fear is universal. These sentiments relate to what I opened this piece with. And I apologise for the perhaps soapbox naff way this might have come across. I’m still getting the hang of this writing words from my own thoughts thing (fitting really). What I was in fact making reference to was the political and creative approach artist Nadia Hernandez has made in her work. Originating from a country that has witnessed numerous states of political unrest, Nadia dedicates herself to paying homage to her Venuzalean heritage in her work through the socio-political freedoms she is afforded living in Australia.
The experience of fear is universal. Whether it be the fear in agreeing to take up a commission to construct a life size baby elephant in under a week (see above) or to call that family member that you haven’t spoken to in a worrying set of years, the feeling persists. It’s learning how to liberate yourself from that fear, to work past it, that invites your own freedom.
Many if not all of our artists walk a tightrope of risk and uncertainty. The fear of not knowing if your practice will return enough to make ends meet for yourself and your family can make one constantly reconsider their own purpose.
In response to this, I say let’s continue to promote and nurture the invaluable role of the arts within our local and wider context. MAKEit MADEit is just one great example of a number of acts to doing just this. I know, I know, some of us might not have the exact means to orchastrate an annual design conference, but small is still powerful. Follow that dressmaker on Instagram, buy that band’s t-shirt, read that zine with your morning coffee. Little things a lot go a long way.
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