Rachel Burke’s – The Magical Mundane

During August 2017 Engage Arts collaborated with the fabulous artist, designer and stylist Rachel Burke to bedazzle The Pod in Brunswick St Mall with her on-going craft project, The Magical Mundane.

Armed with sequins, jewels and glitter, The Magical Mundane for Brisbane City Council’s artist-in-residence at The Pod brought together an exhibition and diverse workshops and events that invited participants to join Rachel in turning mundane household objects into glittering works of art.

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The Magical Mundane exhibition

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, around 40 visitors enjoyed taking snaps of the exhibition while chatting to Rachel as we celebrated the launch of The Magical Mundane exhibition in style with brownies and cherry lemonade from local baker I Heart Brownies.

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The Pod program was inspired by the Royal Queensland Show (Ekka) in Brisbane where the annual Ekka competitions display the ‘best in show’ of handmade products including crafts creations. The program invited visitors to get creative in a series of free art and craft workshops and drop-in activities inspired by Rachel’s on-going craft project The Magical Mundane.

Hosted by Kerry from Engage Arts, the Magical Mundane drop-in activities let participants choose from an array of dreary household items and use craft-based techniques to transform their selected item into their own Magical Mundane artwork. Participants worked with a range of colourful materials such as pom-poms, glitter and sequins to design and decorate their object. Engage Arts also designed drop-in activities for children by inviting them to decorate simpler objects such as small rocks and paper plates.

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Kids craft on Ekka ‘People’s Day’

The Magical Mundane program also included several workshops facilitated by Rachel and Kerry. Kerry from Engage Arts hosted How to Make a Magical Mundane workshop on Sunday 13 August which taught participants the techniques Rachel uses to create her Magical Mundane objects. Participants picked a household items and used a wide range of materials to make their own Magical Mundane object. Participants then photographed their object in our pop-up photo booth and shared their creations on Instagram.

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Rachel teaching participants in the Make Your Own Sardine Diorama 

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Participants getting crafty in Rachel’s workshop

On the final weekend of The Magical Mundane residency we presented a day of creativity and idea sharing. We began the day with a Sardine Diorama workshop facilitated by Rachel. Under the guidance of Rachel, participants created a fantastical landscape in a used sardine can. By all accounts these fully-booked workshops were a lot of fun and a great chance to learn how to apply Rachel’s craft techniques.

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A wonderful creation made by participant Jen in Rachel’s workshop.

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A glittery tropical landscape made during Rachel’s exhibition

The workshop was followed by a Q&A session with Rachel Burke as Kerry and Danielle of Engage Arts discussed Rachel’s Magical Mundane project, her inspirations, and life as an artist and designer. The live Q&A was delivered in front of an audience and recorded for all to enjoy. You can listen to the Q&A on the Engage Arts Soundcloud.

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Kerry (left) and Danielle (right) in conversation with Rachel (middle) about her Magical Mundane project

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Participants bedazzling away at the Magical Mundane workshop

During the residency, we ran a Magical Mundane Instagram competition asking people to share their Magical Mundane creations on Instagram using the hashtag #themagicalmundane. We had excellent engagement with the program online with over 700 likes across the Engage Arts Instagram posts. Rachel picked Instagrammer Sarah Duff’s wonderful transformation of an old multivitamin container into a sparkling Magical Mundane artwork to be awarded ‘best in show’, and Sarah received one of Rachel’s original handmade cupcake crowns.

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Sarah Duff’s winning Magical Mundane entry

A diverse range of participants of all ages, from toddlers to retirees, enjoyed the Magical Mundane exhibition, workshops and drop-in activities. The pop-up exhibition also drew people into the Mall with its sparkly works enlivening The Pod space. During the program, the Engage Arts team got to know several participants with a number of people attending more than one of the events.

Promotion of the program was picked up on The Weekend Edition, BNE Art and across other ‘what’s-on’ event pages. Brisbane City Council generously supported the marketing of the program through social media promotion and printed posters.

We hope that Rachel’s Magical Mundane residency successfully inspired people to discover more about Rachel’s whimsical works, and get creative by turning unwanted and used household items into their own works of art!

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In the spotlight: Rachel Burke

We are all surrounded by a multitude of things; our lives are literally overflowing with objects. Despite our best efforts at decluttering, sometimes we need to take stock of our stuff.

Rachel Burke is an artist, designer, photographer and stylist who has tapped into her unused household objects and found inspiration in their mundanity.

This August Engage Arts will collaborate with Rachel Burke to present her on-going craft project The Magical Mundane that transforms the most boring household rubbish into bedazzled works of art. Rachel will invite you to unleash your creativity in a series of DIY drop-in activities and workshops held at The Pod in Brunswick Street Mall, Fortitude Valley.

Magical Mundane isn’t Rachel’s only on-going creative project; Rachel’s inventive output includes the community art and craft ventures like ‘I Make, You Wear It’, where she raised funds for charity by making a new dress each day for a year, and ‘Apomogy’ a project that encourages people to send anonymous apologies using pom-poms.

With such a diverse creative practice, we can hardly wait to see what Rachel will present for her upcoming residency and we jumped at the chance to ask her more about it.

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Magical Mundane object by Rachel Burke. Image courtesy of the artist.

 Kerry: You work full time as a women’s wear designer but still manage to maintain your own creative practice. How do you keep up your creativity every day?

Rachel: I make a conscious effort to schedule in time for my creative practice, as it is incredibly important to me, and something I look forward to each day. I do all of my personal making projects late at night or on the weekends. I have been balancing it this way for so long now that this practice has become second nature to me.

Kerry: Much of your work invites people to participate, and to connect with a seemingly simple idea or object. Is the idea something you have in mind when starting a new project or does it evolve?

I am an extrovert by nature and find that I get a lot of energy and inspiration when working with, or at the very least, involving other people in what I’m doing. I also find that there is more to learn by including others in what I’m doing – other people will reveal things about my own ideas all the time. For me, this always leads to more interesting conversations and results.

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Magical Mundane object by Rachel Burke. Image courtesy of the artist.

Kerry: Can you tell us what inspired you to start The Magical Mundane project?

Rachel: A few months ago, I decided to clean out my pantry. As soon as I started, I was struck by how many unused products I was holding to (aka hoarding!!) and in turn, how difficult I found it to let go of products I wasn’t using. I started to realise that this was a trend that was echoing throughout my house – my bathroom cupboard was also filled with things I wasn’t using, but couldn’t bring myself to let go of.

I decided to gather all this stuff up and really assess what I was holding onto. All clumped together on my kitchen bench, the collection represented all the mundane things I was overlooking and neglecting in my household. After this assessment, I decided to continue holding onto the items, but instead of shoving them back into the pantry, I decided to decorate them and begin a process of transformation.

This experimentation started to develop and the more I did it I realised I was truly changing these everyday products, elevating from the dark spaces of my cupboards, and bringing them to the foreground. I continued to explore this further, and have begun scanning supermarkets for things that I want to highlight in my collection of mundane items. Generally, I search for products that I think might be unpopular, seen as strange (like tinned tongues), or things that simply speak to my personal aesthetic.

In addition to decorating products, I have also set my sites on other mundane items like rocks and discarded rubbish.

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Magical Mundane object by Rachel Burke. Image courtesy of the artist.

Kerry: Your practice covers visual art, styling, photography, and design yet maintains a strong influence from craft. Can you tell us how you got started (and stayed) hooked on craft?

Rachel: I have always loved making things, but was always pretty focused on honing my skills for the purposes of garment design. However, along the way I developed this immense love for the materials I was using and making things purely for the sake of experimentation instead of wearability. I have a fairly addictive personality, so when I am interested in something, I can’t help but seek to repeat the process across all aspects of my life, and in this case, my artistic mediums. For example, my love of pom poms has translated into garments, pom pom themed photoshoots, I had pom poms at my wedding…and I started an art project using pom poms (Apomogy).

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We can’t wait to see The Pod sparkle! Stay tuned for the program details!

All images courtesy of Rachel Burke.

BrisAsia Festival 2017 | Live @ the Pod

Engage Arts presented Live @ the Pod, a program of community focused events and temporary art activations for Brisbane City Council’s annual BrisAsia Festival. The program was held at The Pod in Brunswick Street Mall, Fortitude Valley from 27 January to 19 February 2017.

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Anna Yen during her Grandma performance

Engage Arts worked closely with artists across diverse artforms to offer a program of workshops, artworks and performances that invited the public to interact with artists and performers. We encouraged the public to explore and experience elements of Asian culture and be part of the artworks and performances though hands-on activities that celebrated the diversity of Asian arts and culture. The interactive program included:

  • Lunar Wish, an interactive art installation by Brisbane-based artist Sue-Ching Lascelles that invited participants to fold origami wishes
  • Kirigami papercutting workshop celebrating Year of the Roster with Brisbane-based artist Brisbane-based artist Elysha Rei
  • Grandma comedy performed by Anna Yen
  • Live music gigs performed by local musicians Mayuresh and Imraan of L A C I D
  • Traditional Sumi-e and Shodo (Japanese calligraphy) ink painting workshops with master calligrapher and Sumi-e artist Yumiko Kigoshi
  • Artist talk and podcast recording session with Elysha Rei and Fringe Art + Culture
  • Live painting demonstration with street artist Phil B
  • Pop-up exhibition of children’s artworks from Tammy’s Art Studio.
  • WunderWalk Travel App D.I.Y culture walk starting point

The Live @ the Pod program included successful collaborations with artists and independent Brisbane organisations including; WunderWalk Travel App, Fringe Art & Culture and Tammy’s Art Studio.

Over 500 visitors experienced the Live @ the Pod program. Families with children, couples, teenagers and adults of all ages were welcomed and involved in the program. During the program we met people of many nationalities, hailing from as far afield as Europe, to our closer neighbours from across Asia and Oceania. Along with national and international visitors we engaged with plenty of local Brisbane and Valley residents.

 

Engage Arts also designed and implemented a print and digital marketing campaign to promote the Live @ the Pod program. The whimsical “Year of the Rooster” illustration was created by local designer Lisa Dino and we utilised Engage Arts’ social media platforms, partner sites and online event listings to share the event. Brisbane City Council kindly supported the print campaign with print and distribution of posters and cards.

Engage Arts would like to thank Brisbane City Council Valley Malls for their support, and all the artists, contractors, volunteers and participants that brought the Live @ the Pod program to life.

Feature image: origami wishes created for Sue-Ching Lascelles’ Lunar Wish.