Soaring to new creative heights

Yesterday I got to fly around the Spark Gallery in Orchards with a flock of the most beautiful birds.

The evening began in the gallery where we browsed some wonderful bird creations.

There was a short speech.

But then things took an interesting turn as a flock of birds appeared and flew among us, eventually leading us out into the garden on what turned out to be a wild adventure. The birds were fabulous with crazy costumes dreamed up from scraps. Blinds, plastic bags and blankets became wings. Beaks were fashioned out of bottles. Just as birds in their profusion of colour and shape, are a great indicator of the wild creative imagination of the universe, so these birds showed off the imaginations of the artists who dreamed them up.

Like all good adventures there was some confusion. The narrative was somewhat hard to follow. There were two men, one in search of “his” crow. They tried to get to the kingdom of the birds, but were blocked by a very scary wall.

Our protagonists got through the wall, apparently with the help of graffiti artists. It turns out that painted walls are less effective as barriers! But they found themselves captives of the king of the birds. After some debate, they (and all of us) were admitted to the kingdom of the birds.

Walking in to the kingdom of the birds, just as the sun set, really was magical!

 

It’s a land of well-feathered nests.

Here the king grants the two men the right to live as birds. We attend a meeting of the Ministry of Bird Affairs where a plot is hatched by the vultures, and the two men, to build more walls. But the king steps in to save the day and explain that love is all we need.

Well, love and the kind of creativity that this project has surfaced. I love that this is about everyday creativity, that it is not polished and refined, that it makes the point that creativity is for everyone with whatever materials you have to hand. What a refreshing way to spend a Friday evening. More of these kind of events will make a Better Joburg!

Birds of the Grove is a production by #ArtMyJozi and artists from Orange Grove as part of the Johannesburg Development Agency’s initiative to involve local artists in the development of the city. This particular initiative focuses on the development of Paterson Park which adjoins the gallery. A few weeks back I took a walk around the newly-refurbished Paterson Park. Some way to go still, but it’s looking good. If you haven’t visited yet, you should.

 

Display your art at Better

Looking for a place that will display your art? If you don’t have galleries beating down your door, its pretty tough. But Better might just be the place for you.

Better is a cowork space that hosts regular events. We are centrally located in Saxonwold in Johannesburg in an old house with a large garden. We have wall space, a flow of people, and parking; you have art. Let’s talk.

We offer three-month contracts to display up to three pieces of work. You get to advertise your price and contact details next to each work. We will also display your bio and business card and make them available to anyone interested in your art. If we make a direct sale, we get 15% commission. You will need to pay for packaging and shipping (if necessary) and insurance (if you want it).

Better is not a gallery, so we can’t promise gallery-like conditions. We do have white walls and reasonable lighting. It’s better in some places than in others. We will choose where to hang the works and try to be fair to everyone. So you may get one piece in a prime position and another in a less ideal position.

We are happy to display a wide range of genres, but we do want to see the work first. Better is a cowork environment and the vibe is light and happy so nothing too dark, violent or otherwise disturbing to the people who work here. We don’t have space for very large works or anything that requires complex installation or lighting.

Are you keen?

Fill in your details below and we will get back to you.

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Where can we see your art?

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Anything you want to ask?

You can also mail us at create@better.joburg or call 011 327 6098.

Crafting

Creating is about joy; the satisfaction when you stand back and look at what you have made. Something exists where it did not exist before and you have made an impact (even a small one) on the world.

I’m not talking about great artists and architects. I’m talking about ordinary people who create because they don’t want to be consumers. They want to produce, to “make their own stuff”. They know that the homebaked pie with the slightly burned edge is better than store-bought perfection. These people cook and sew, knit and crochet, write and blog, draw and illustrate, code and tinker, perform and play, not professionally, but for themselves, for their families and friends and for each other.

Making with other makers multiplies the happiness. Sharing creative projects is an opportunity to forge links towards the common goal of a better world, rejecting mass-production for the individual, the hand-crafted, the expression of human ingenuity and capacity. We want to build a better, connected world.

Better is a gathering place for productive people. Come and meet your tribe here. Bring your thread and fabric, your needles and yarn, your pens and laptops, your brushes and ink or your dancing shoes. Come and share the joy with other makers.

The makers gather at Better every third Saturday of the month for a day of crafting (from 10am to 4pm). Bring your latest project or just come and experiment with the tools and equipment we have on hand. Chat to others and find common ground. We provide basic art and craft materials, sewing machines, some tools and inspiration (full list here). Bring specialist materials with you or buy from our kiosk (list of stock here).

Drinks (tea, coffee, wine, beer) are on the house, there will be rolls and sandwiches for sale or pack a lunch if you prefer. We have a great garden to picnic in.

R150 or a Better membership gets you in. Pay by EFT, cash or card at the door.

Booking essential.

Creative flow playshops with Ira Bekker

Flow is a mental state of being fully immersed in an activity with a feeling of energized focus, involvement, and enjoyment. When you are in a state of flow, you lose awareness of all other things. The idea of flow was suggested by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi who argues that being in a state of flow is the “optimal experience” of happiness.

The creative flow playshops are about experiencing this state through drawing and painting activities. These are not art classes; rather they are an opportunity to lose yourself, to forget what is going on around you, while you become absorbed in colour, texture, pattern and the act of making. They work for artists and non-artists alike.

If you think you are not creative, these playshops may make you think again. You’ll discover that you can make beauty without any skill in drawing, or training in art. The end result is not what matters, its the process of doing, so you don’t need to judge the “art” you produce. In fact you are encouraged to use the pieces you create to create subsequent pieces. You will cut them up, repurpose and reinvent them throughout the process.

If you are an artist who needs to loosen up and escape your inner control freak, these playshops allow you to explore the unexpected in a safe space where no-one, and particularly not you, will judge the outcome. Be in the moment. Watch the colour meander across the page, going where it will. Play and experiment with new materials and techniques, just to see what happens. Make a mess, make beautiful mistakes. Remember why you love creating.

About Ira

Ira Bekker used to think that being creative is just for the lucky few until she came across the idea of creative flow and never looked back. She currently works as a textile artist using natural plant materials to print onto fabric and is passionate about leading others up the garden path towards their own creative lives.

Details

What: A series of six mornings of play in the Better art studio, enquire for next start date.

When: Wednesday mornings, 9:30 am to 11:30 am

Where: The studio, Better, 91 Oxford Road, Saxonwold

Cost: R1700 for six sessions (R250 per session, plus R200 for materials). Members of Better pay R1280 (R180 per session, plus R200 for materials)

It is essential to book.  Call 011 327 6098 or email create@better.joburg. EFT details here.

 

 

 

Note: Better is a place for grown-ups to play, you must be over 18 to join Better or attend events at Better.

Colour mixing workshop (for Hannah)

If you are just starting out with painting the range of colours available can be confusing. Which colours do you need to buy? How do you go about mixing the colours you need?

This workshop will give you an introduction to the basic colours, show you how to mix colours and give you a feel for the different shades you can get from a few basic tubes of paint.

You will construct a comprehensive colour wheel from primary colours as well as mixing darker and lighter shades of different colours. You will also experiment to see the effect of starting out with slightly different primaries.

Take home your colour maps as references for your own painting.

We’ll be working in acrylics, but the principles apply broadly. No experience or artistic ability needed!

 

Who: Anyone* who wants to learn more about painting and the use of colour, or just needs a refresher or a morning of exploration

When: Weekday morning, 9:30 to 12:30, enquire for the next dates

Cost: R150 including materials, free for members of Better (EFT details)

Please book to secure your place on 011 327 6098 or email create@better.joburg

 

*Better is a place for grown-ups to play. You must be 18 or older to attend events at Better.

 

Play with shape and colour, make your own Mondrian

If you would like to play with colour and paint, but you don’t know where to start, join us for a fun morning of bright colours and simple shapes as we explore the art of Piet Mondrian, the Dutch painter who lived from 1872 to 1944.

Mondrian is one of the most accessible “famous” painters. He simplified images into lines, shapes and colours.

The video below shows his transition from painting traditional landscapes of natural subjects toward cityscapes.

Many of his images are very familiar as the basic ideas have been used to decorate textiles and other products.

This is not an art lecture. It’s more fun than that. We will view some videos of his works (some serious, some frivolous) and then we will play with colours and shapes using paint, card, fabric and even food.

You will get to make your own Mondrian painting, collage, clothing and …. anything else you can imagine! No experience necessary.

Come and play!

 

When: Weekday morning, 9:30 – 12:30, enquire for the next dates

Where: Better, of course!

Cost: R250 each, all materials and refreshments included (FREE for members of Better)

Places limited to 12 people

 

Art @ Better

Every Wednesday morning artists and aspirant artists get together to draw, paint and explore at Better.

Bring what you are working on or make use of suggestions provided. Experiment with new tools and materials. Follow lesson plans or do your own thing. Get inspired by what others are working on.

Check out these reasons to Make Art at Better.

Every Wednesday 9:30 to 12:30 in the studio at Better

Free for members of Better or R100 for access, materials and refreshments (if you haven’t been before, your first visit to Better is free)

 

Make art at Better

Let’s face it, you can draw anywhere. Just pick up your sketch book and a pencil. You can draw at home, in a public space, I even draw at work during meetings (great to have captive models across the table). So why would you come to Better to draw?

I can think of nine reasons:

1. To use equipment that you don’t have at home

We see Better as being a place where more expensive tools can be shared and made affordable. So, for example, we have light box and a projector. We have a list on the wall where you can add what you would like to see at Better. We’ll do our best to add to the range of equipment over time.

2. To try out new materials and media without having to buy them

Better supplies a range of materials for drawing and painting that, as a member, you can use for free. Never tried pastels? Now’s your chance. Want to know what different papers are like to work on? Come and experiment. We even have an electric eraser! If you haven’t tried that out, you should. Check out this YouTube video to see what it does.

3. For the inspiration of new environments, people and conversations

When you work alone, without human interaction or even just the stimulus of new environments, you can get stale. Getting out and connecting with others can inspire you. Have new conversations, with different people. See what others are doing and steal their ideas.

4. For ideas about exercises to try (like a teacher, but less intrusive)

We curate information that’s useful for artists. We have a great collection of books that you can refer to, we are collecting information about exercises you can try and we are collating YouTube playlists of helpful videos. As a member of Better you get access to this information. So whatever medium you work in, there will be things for you to try when you’re not sure what to do next.

5. Interesting subjects: pictures, still life compositions, live models

Each week we compose a new still life to an interesting theme. (Our last one was on a gardening theme.) Come along and work on it whenever you like. We plan to hire models for life drawing, as soon as we have enough interest. We also bring flowers, objects, pictures for inspiration. This is not a class, just set yourself up and draw or paint.

6. The freedom to work on what you are interested in (not like attending a class)

We want to offer a mix of classes, and a work space to get on with your current projects, as you please. If you need structure, join a class. If you are a more experienced or independent artist, come along and work to your own pace and in your own direction.

7. It’s a non-judgemental environment where play and experiment are encouraged

We understand that doing art can be scary. It can be especially scary if you have been subjected to critique in the past. Better is a friendly space. We have no pretensions about what is good art or bad. As long as you are having fun creating, you are welcome and you will find a supportive space. Professionals and amateurs are all welcome.

8. It’s a nice space

The studio at Better is a large open space that is cheerful and comfortable. Unless you are lucky enough to have your own studio you’ll probably find it more comfortable than working at home.

9. The refreshments are free

Your Better membership includes free tea and coffee, rusks and fruit. Help yourself at any time. Lunch can be ordered in, or eat at a local restaurant.

 

Better is a place for working, sharing and socialising. We want to build a community of people who use the place regularly and get to know each other. We’d like you to become a member of Better and become part of this community.

Maybe your art is difficult to do at Better; maybe you are into installations or you are working on 10 meter high sculptures. In that case, please come and visit and bring the pictures to share.

Get in touch!

Sources and resources for artists

We’ve had many great ideas from those of you who have completed our survey and from conversations over the past few days.

book shelf small

For artists, it seems that Better could provide access to the kinds of sources and resources that they might not be able to own individually. Some of the things on the wish list include anatomical models, reference books, a light table, studio lights and backdrops.

There was also a request for live models so we are adding life drawing sessions to our list of events.

The idea of things being used communally fits well with our Better ethic, so we love these suggestions. We may not be able to start up with everything, but we’d like to provide a space that you will find well worth visiting.

Look out for more news as we analyse the survey results this week.