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Sounds from a May morning walk

Birds talking  Dogs barking  Water spraying Trains rumbling   Footsteps falling  Husband coughing  Airplanes whooshing  Conversations floating This poem was (mostly) written on 1 May 2022.

Past lives – and an interview

I've been living in the past a lot lately. It started, perhaps, with looking back to find out what had always mattered to me, and reorient myself a bit. Moving onwards is inevitable, but sometimes the past provides answers about the future. Perhaps it was also a little bit about the reality we now live with. We're more careful with our future planning; there's a lot of "let's see" and "fingers crossed" than there was pre-pandemic. For a while, it was too hard to envision anything about the future, even the near future. No wonder then that the past became a refuge. ( And  I've also been working on two personal projects that deal with history.) Sometimes I can't believe that I'm the same person who travelled, had adventures of a sort, that feel like a lifetime ago. Yet I recognise that somehow, I'm living many of the lives I'd hoped for. Not all of them, but that's mostly okay. I do lament the others at times, but I don't th

Orchids (and women) in art history

Heads turn as I scroll across to the garden. Only a couple of the faces I pass, somewhat hurriedly, are familiar. I wander over to the flowerbeds. How surreal it is to be viewing an exhibition halfway across the world a few days after it has ended. There are activities, videos of what went on behind the scenes, additional resources — far more material than I will actually look at, but I feel strangely reassured that it's there. I'm drawn to botanical art, I've written about it before , and there's something so wholesome about creating an exhibition and events around the contents of a garden. I'm slightly envious of those who get to see it in person. Maybe someday.  Leaves dance, as though lulled by a gentle breeze that I can almost feel, in Angela Mirro's contemporary piece The Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve . Below, Sarah Drake's accurate botanical rendition of Galeandra baueri reminds me of a glorious peacock, a cascade of pink petals flowing downward.

Motions, emotions: Q&A with Chiara Della Santina

For a new series of interviews with artists and creatives entrepreneurs, I reached out to my friend Chiara Della Santina, owner of ClaireLune Ceramics , whose work never ceases to amaze me. Chiara Della Santina makes small batch, handmade ceramics centred on mindfulness and slow living. At her home studio in Capalbio, Tuscany, she creates unique cups, mugs and plates, decorative items including vases, planters and incense burners, as well as customised, one-of-a-kind pieces for her clients. Here is an excerpt. Image courtesy of Chiara Della Santina What first drew you to the medium of pottery and ceramics, as well as the minimalistic aesthetic of your pieces?  Since I was a child I was always very creative and curious. I was naturally drawn to anything that pertained to the world of arts, such as drawing, dancing, playing music and any type of craft I may have been exposed to. My hometown was originally an Etruscan settlement, and as part of our primary school curriculum, we had a fe

The pleasures of reading "Object Lesson" by Teju Cole, or some characteristics of meaningful criticism

A title that intrigues, that doesn't quite prepare me for what is to come, yet feels just right  Nuance, not ambiguity, in the handling of a serious subject  Elegant turns of phrase, deliberately poetic to make the next point: Is it news? Is it art? Is it someone’s pain?  — “Organized disorder", "backdrops of smoke, fog or falling snow"  Finds a way to reach out through familiarity before presenting the new and unfamiliar  Situates works within history, contemporaneity, criticism, collective consciousness  Asks questions that evoke engagement and wonder  — "Who bought those tomatoes?" "Whose blood is that?"  Holds images, editors, curators accountable, not just the artist  Walks the line between sharing an opinion and leaving room for interpretation  Describes artworks through a perspective, rather than objectively  — "It is a still life, but it is in utter disarray"  Offers space for learning, sources, artworks, contexts  Explores large

A jack of all trades is better than a master of one

Truly fascinating phrase, isn't it? I was made aware of this twist on it through an Instagram reel, of all things. Apparently a similar phrase was used to dismissively refer to Shakespeare, and then to all "generalists" – people interested in and fairly good at multiple things, who chose not to narrow their focus – and this second line seems to have been added on more recently. One of my favourite K-dramas,  Hometown Cha Cha Cha,  features a man who holds a whole assortment of qualifications. Known simply as Chief Hong, he's taken courses in everything from painting houses and being a realtor to fruit plating and entertaining children. (At one point, Yoon Hye-jin actually wonders if he's a certified dentist too, and doesn't seem surprised at the prospect!) We see him speak Russian, read Mandarin, communicate via sign language, repair a boat, make soap, make wine, make coffee, make a jewellery box, cook, patrol, take photographs, read poetry, collect records, f

The most ideal (luxury) handbag

Just before Otis was acquired by, they commissioned me to write a list-style article on the most sought-after Birkin bags . I jumped at the opportunity – I always enjoy researching new subjects, and I was somewhat familiar with these luxury bags from my auction house days.  Never underestimate the amount of time and effort it takes to research and write a "listicle"! I found several similar ones that were full of glaring errors, so I structured mine based on actual (re)sale prices at auction that are publicly available. I also clubbed together the various types of Birkins; it didn't really make sense to make a list of similar bags in different colours (or "colourways", as the world of luxury would say.) Side note: I also read Bringing Home the Birkin by Michael Tonello for less commonly known insights, but can't say I got any.  Read on for an excerpt from my article . Image courtesy of Otis In 1984, the Executive Chairman of the legendary French l

Editing your own writing

Last week, I created a PDF guide that includes my 6-step process and checklists to help you edit your drafts more effectively.  Here's an excerpt from the introduction:  The secret to editing your work is simple: you need to become its reader instead of its writer.  – Zadie Smith  We're all required to write or create content fairly frequently, whether it's blog posts, papers, cover letters, or social media captions. With the relentless amount of content being published on every platform, it has become even more important to make sure that what we write and share is compelling, consistent and error-free. This quick guide is designed to help you do just that. Editing is a part of the writing process that should never be skipped. Follow this guide step by step once you've written a draft, and use the checklists provided after each section to ensure that your writing is in great shape before it goes out into the world. Get your copy here .

'Tis marvellous

I'm not quite sure whether I'm a plant person.  Let me elaborate. I have some plants, and I do what I can to keep them alive, but they don't always make me happy. There have been many times when I've looked at them with anxiousness, a sinking heart, and sometimes even dread. I'm pretty sure I've had dreams where they all died on my watch. And some did IRL, as kids say. But there are – perhaps more – instances when they've made my heart sing with their green life amid skyscrapers and dust, sometimes surviving despite all odds, or thriving when I'd given up. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a new leaf pushing through. So together we persist.  House plants: early days Chapter I It all began the evening before a cyclone in June 2020. There was a weather warning, and we'd been told to remove (or secure) everything from our balconies. A friend of my husband's was leaving for home, unsure when he would return during the pandemic, and he left four of

Memories of mentoring

I recently launched new mentoring and consultation services for writers , and while creating this framework, I reflected on the three years when I mentored aspiring art journalists on Art Radar Institute's online art writing course. I thought I would share some of my top tips for writing more effectively and consistently . Here is an excerpt. 1. Hit the pause button on your research.   One of the first steps we encouraged was for writers to spend some time on research and create a list of (re)sources to refer to while writing. But the key with research is knowing when to stop. Research can be endless; there's so much to learn, and you can keep finding more and more information.  It's important to know how much is just enough to get you started with the actual writing, and to shift the focus from the volume of research to its relevance. You can (and will) do further research later, in tandem with your writing, to fill in any gaps or add more depth.  Read the full article her