Friday, 30 June 2017

Multi Me

Multi Me
© Melissa Gaggiano
I am a doodler. I have side projects that I move between – 
... like a chef stirring multiple pots in the kitchen.
 ... like a bee gently hovering from flower to flower. 
... like Frogger leaping franticly from log to log to the other side of the screen.

Which ever analogy I choose, it doesn't really matter, because they're all me on different days.

I am a multi passionate artist – be it writing stories, writing imaginary book titles, drawing, painting, digital art, photography, paper crafts, design, doll making.  If you know me, then this a 'well duh' statement. But the thing is, for years I tied myself up in knots because I was fed this notion that I must choose just one thing and totally focus on that. 

That advice is great for people who are completely absorbed in one thing alone. But I'm not made of singular stuff. Anytime I tried this, whatever I was cutting out from my life left me feeling lost and empty. All the ways in which I invest my creative energy are as much a part of my programming as my DNA. So the only thing for it is to keep doing everything and not worry what the critics say about being a master of one thing, or whatever.

{gratuitous author's book link}
A friend put me onto a mind altering book [no drugs were involved] titled Steal Like An Artist created by Austin Kleon. Doesn't that name just roll? Well anyway... this book affirmates everything I do. The one difference is that post reading Steal Like An Artist I now feel more confident about how I've been using my time, with a couple of minor tweaks. As diverse as my interests are they lend and feed into each other.

Thank you Austin! For writing a book that I have always wanted to read, even before I knew it existed, and even before you knew it was meant to exist. If I was Marty McFly this would be one book that I would take back into the past.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Scan the Can

Digital Coca Cola Windmill
Scanning and Photoshop layers created by Melissa Gaggiano
These days computers, printers and scanners can be acquired quite easily for domestic purposes. But when I was growing up it was almost unheard of anyone having these things. So when photocopiers started appearing in offices it was just too much temptation. A generation of fully grown people the world over released their inner child, and photocopied their buttocks after too much tipple at work functions. Surely it had to be tipple because I can't imagine anyone doing this sober. I do not believe that derrière copying is a big thing anymore. Not when businesses were having to fork out money to repair cracked glass from too much weight pressing against them. Besides, we've now got Instagram to glorify our dorky selves and our private parts, so who needs a photocopier right?

When I was a teenager I visited my dad at his work place. I had just finished drinking a can of cola when I was pondering taking a photo of it. Dad had a better idea.  He placed it on the photocopier and slowly rolled it across the glass with the scanning arm. The result was a black and white work of art. I loved the photocopy and kept it for many years.

Today I finished drinking a can of cola and was reminded of that photocopy which has long since disappeared. In memory of that old photocopy I used my scanner, rolling the can awkwardly in time the scanning arm. And the result was this...

Coca Cola Can Scan
by Melissa Gaggiano

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Something Sheryl Crow Sang

© Melissa Gaggiano
I've had this Sheryl Crow album since I was about seventeen, in which she sang:

"No one said it would be easy

But no one said it'd be this hard"

This line is true of anyone fleshing out their own career/future/path/destiny/or whatever and they only have themselves to say 'yep this is right', 'you're on the path that you need to be on'.

You feel like you're doing it right when that figurative cheque with your name on it comes your way. But what happens in the quiet corners of your work day, between the projects, when you don't know what to focus on next? How does one move through that thick cloud of doubt?

Sometimes we don't. Sometimes we get stuck. Sometimes it takes all our effort to move forward. To say yes, let's start this thing, and who knows what it will bring.

Thankfully there's another line in that same Sheryl Crow song that goes:

"No one said it would be easy

No one thought we'd come this far"

I guess she knew when she wrote that song that as hard as things get, we can still make it if we at least try.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Moments Between

© Melissa Gaggiano
It's good to be busy. Not crazy, stupid, oh my god, my screws are coming loose as steam escapes my head, busy. But 'bee' busy - gently flying from one flower to another. For me that means having a weekly list of goals, which I like to write on a Sunday. My list is small if the tasks are large. My list is big if there are lots of short jobs. It's about realistic management, isn't it?

The body can tire if we move from job to job with no breather between. I discovered this only too recently. One job wasn't balanced and my health was compromised. Mistakes were made, but on the plus side the experience made me see what my vulnerabilities are. As my body slowly reboots I now balance the work I do with other activities that involve eating, and exercising my neck muscles (it's all about mobility and strength baby).

The other thing about working is that the mind needs periods of rest. So when the tasks are ticked I have a go at letting my brain have down time. No easy thing! My body is happy to sit, but my brain is almost always storming and itching for me to do things. Can you picture a stove with multiple pots bubbling away together? That's what it is like inside my head.

The kids had a couple of days off from school and this presented me with an opportunity to let my brain off the hook. When constantly thinking about next week, next month, next year, being present can take some getting used to. But if you can switch off and focus on what is before you, be it a garden or a child, then it is time well spent.
© Melissa Gaggiano

Monday, 22 May 2017

Winona: Coming of Age Girl

© Melissa Gaggiano

For many Molly Ringwald, embodied the quintessential eighties teenage girl with her funky, make-do, both sides of the track, low BS threshold. And although I am a child of the eighties I was too young for Molly, but that’s okay because as I headed into the twilight of my own childhood a certain waifish creature by the name of Winona was riding [see what I just did?] a new wave of film roles that encompassed ‘coming of age’.  Since Winona was ever so mildly closer to my age it was inevitable that she would become one of my teenage idols.
What was it about Winona that made her so perfect for the ‘coming of age’ roles that she earned? Acting credibility was a given, yes. Was it also her petite form and those large chocolate eyes that conveyed at any moment darkness, sweet sadness and quirky hilarity at any given moment?
Let’s take a look at ‘coming of age’ Winona:

Square Dance
Winona plays a bible reading country girl, Gemma. She is a girl with a rigid moral compass. Out of frustration she leaves her grandpa to join her city dweller, fortune hopeful hairdresser mum. Gemma befriends Rory, a boy-man with the mental maturity of a child, and together they play house, pretending to be a married couple. The sweetness of this interaction turns bitter when Gemma is hurt and disappointed when Rory’s combined simpleness and adult desires are taken advantage of. This almost might have been a coming of age story, except for the fact that Gemma ultimately sees that she is not ready in any capacity to join the adult world. Instead she chooses to return to the familiar comfort of life out in the country and her grandpa, and thereby, her childhood.

Meet the morose Lydia, an unimpressed, analogue camera wielding, gothicly dressed teenager, with a reckless amount of hairspray [I mean, hello, what about the O-zone hole?]. Lydia’s self-awareness as ‘strange and unusual’ appears to be nothing more than a call for attention. Learning to live with ghosts, whose own lives were tragically cut short, gives Lydia a freshly profound respect for having a heart beat. Of course almost getting hitched to an undead bio-exorcist is enough to make anyone grow up quick smart. Here’s to a healthy lifestyle!

Nothing says coming of age like having mean girlfriends and murderous boyfriends. Veronica is invited into the inner sanctum of the meanest girls on the block. But Veronica doesn’t make a good drone and it isn’t long before Veronica and her boyfriend, JD, are taking down the social bitch/bastard hierarchy that is high school. Oh yeah, and as for the coming of age stuff, Veronica loses her virginity, stands up to the queen bees, saves the school, and is kind to the girl in the wheel chair. How’s that for personal development? Yep! There’s a new sheriff in town.

Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael
Winona is Dinky. No, really! That’s her name in this one. And Dinky is an adopted orphan who’s so far gone she doesn’t even qualify for the tomboy award. She has scruffy hair, disturbingly dark eyes that see straight through the people who have the honour of pissing her off. She has painted her room black and locks herself up in it when she is home [nothing says keep out like a dozen bedroom door locks]. On the flipside Dinky is an animal lover, and is a true poet. Dinky’s coming of age happens when the town goes crazy for legendary Roxy Carmichael’s return. Dinky connects the dots and suspects that she is the biological daughter of Roxy. This belief manifests in Dinky choosing to make an effort in her relationships… oh my god she grows up. Toot the coming of age horns.

Charlotte is a young girl with a fish for a sister and a mum, Mrs Flax, who is both the coolest and hottest thing since star sliced ham sandwiches. Charlotte spends a lot of her time dreaming of becoming a nun, even as her mum so pointedly says, ‘Charlotte, we’re Jewish’. She also makes herself miserable with the teen angsty feelings she has for Joe the local handyman who helps out at the local nunnery [ding-dong!]. Then there’s her wanderings of who her dad could possibly be, what with the men in her mother’s life being turned over more times than the engine on the car motor. Charlotte’s coming of age comes with having a spiritual experience with Joe the handyman in the nunnery watchtower [talk about killing two birds with one stone]; plus the trauma of her sister the fish near drowning as a result of underage drinking [just don’t do it kids]. Both Charlotte and Mrs Flax have the double whammy of accepting that they both have some growing up to do and are more alike than they previously wanted to admit. The coming of age quota on this film is super high.


Winona transitions from being the black wearing, rebel without a flaming clue and becomes Patty, the much older, fully mature, object of fascination for John, an intellectial teenage boy who is stuck at an all boys boarding school, surrounded by unimpressed teachers and asinine let’s-get-wasted asshole buddies. Talk about your nineties sausage fest! Really this is John’s coming of age story, but it is worth a mention because this film felt like a graduation for Winona. Congratulations Winona! The student becomes the master.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

A Little Less Reactionary

    I like the Internet for all the good that can be extrapolated from it. For years I have found the Internet to be an immeasurable encyclopaedic wealth of crafting and design knowledge. Thanks to all the tutorials and stories that I watch and follow I discovered a world of doll making, have tried new recipes that changed my tastebuds and have been able to buy those seriously hard to find books that just can’t be found in good old fashion bookstores [you know, those places where inky print still exists]. Basically the Internet has helped keep alive old school artistic skills that otherwise would have disappeared with the previous generation.

    Much like your beloved city, the Internet too has a dark side, and for the sake of personal safety you get to know which areas to avoid. But unlike the city the Internet is not always so easy to ignore. Specifically I speak of the negative voices that come together like a masked Greek chorus pointing a finger at people courageous enough to say something worthwhile or create something beautiful.

    In one such scenario, a heartbreaking result of so many negative voices on the Internet is the damage it can cause to box office ticket sales when films come out. Recently I became aware of a disturbing trend in which people filmed their own reactions to film trailers.  

    I came across a montage reaction video for a certain film trailer and was horrified by the vile comments. How is this behaviour okay? Do the ‘reactors’ think they are funny? When these reactionary reviewers [I use this term loosely because anyone with a camera and the vocabulary of a fourteen year old can call themselves a reviewer] put it out there that they are purposely not going to watch the film, and encourage others to follow that example, what do they hope to achieve? Are they proud? Do they feel they have acted out a public service?

    Several years ago I watched bonus features for the making of Transformers. This was my first introduction to Transformer fanatics – people who thought it was completely normal and okay to send Michael Bay death threats and accusing him of ruining Transformers. For a bit of context, Bay was receiving these threats long before filming began. A disappointing example of people who claim a love for Transformers and behaving like Decepticons.
I appreciate elements of Bay’s vision, though that’s not to say I am not critical of his work. My appreciation/critical thinking comes from a place of wanting to see the good in the work of others. We all have a right to an opinion, but I would never want my own pre-conceived notions be the thing that tears other people down. Even when I watch a movie that I ultimately didn’t enjoy, I think about all the people who tried so hard to make that movie. I want to find something, anything that makes that movie worthwhile. I’ve seen films in which the script was a bit weak, but heck, the actors did a decent job carrying it. In another film the acting might have been a bit wooden, but wow, ‘how about that cinematography, huh’. See what I’m doing here? A good reviewer needs to understand there is balance in how we react. Now, I’m not a hug fan of horror films and so I don’t go out of my way to watch this genre, but I also don’t judge these films harshly. Why is that? ­– Because I know that horror films is a starting point for a lot of people in the film industry, but also because I can’t judge a genre that I don’t understand in its complexity.

    Way back in 2015 I heard there would be a new Jem and the Holograms film. I grew up being an even bigger fan of Jem than I was of Transformers [Yes, I was a child of the eighties], so you can imagine how excited I was about this piece of news. I eagerly Google-tuned myself to cinema release updates. I had planned to take my kids, and we would dress up for the epic event [you know I’m talking pink hair wigs]. Unfortunately cinema dates were continuously being pushed back, until finally the news came from an acquaintance working in the industry that the film was dropped from screening. It was available on DVD – that was something, but I was really looking forward to throwing my support to the filmmakers by going to the cinema. So what happened?

    Quick online research showed me that so called Jem fans decided to purposely avoid the film because it was so very different to Jem of the eighties. So the very people the film industry was relying on to line up for a ticket were actually boycotting the film. Why did the fans do this? – Because they judged a trailer. Why did they judge the trailer? – Because it looked nothing like their childhood memories of Jem. As is the usual way of people with access to the Internet threats and other verbal attacks of, Jon M Chu, the director ensued. My heart broke for the people who made the Jem Film. They put so much heart into this sweet project. Oh! The irony of Jem fans behaving like Misfits! Do you see a pattern here?

    When Ghostbusters relaunched last year with a new cast line up I was so rapt. I watched the movie with my family, and we thought it was fantastic [serious re-watch value in this house]. And as is the usual way with so called Internet reviews they tried to trample this film before it even launched. Why? – Because the so-called traditional fans reviewed the trailer and accused filmmakers of ruining their childhood. Go back even further and we will find that people got riled up when they first learnt that the heroes of the film would in fact be heroines.

    With these three film examples there is a common thread. Full grown women and men who believe that their childhood [dating back thirty years] will be tarnished by a modern retelling of their favourite new age fairytales. I ask, why should anyone be so offended by artistic license on a remake?

    Growing up with Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I heard the radio play, saw the telly series, read the book, and wouldn’t you know it, actually enjoyed the Hollywood film version. All versions of Hitchhiker's Guide are similar, and yet just a tad different to each other. Why is that? – I believe it’s because Douglas Adams understood that the story had to change with different storytelling formats. Also, what would be the point of retelling a story if it was exactly the same as before? Wouldn’t that just be boring? And in a case of people never being pleased, if movie reboots/remakes/alternative canons didn’t change, then the fans would still be complaining.

At the end of the day let's get a grip. These things are only books, games, films, pictures, works of art. They are not here to ruin your day/childhood/toileting experience. So please people, be kind to each other, and chill the f--k out.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Glitch in the Stitch

© Melissa Gaggiano Photography
    It's out there, you know. Any number of documentaries, educating us on the perils of globalisation, consumerism, disposable income, disposable wardrobe. We are surrounded by things that glitter and shine, and they are cheap. Made with cheap materials, using people labour who are most infinitely undervalued.

    I am a consumer who looks for good deals. I will buy from op-shops, accept hand-me-downs, and what is still needed I will seek from budget stores. The lower price, the more can be saved, has been my way of thinking. But here's the glitch in the stitch. I recently bought the kids new winter pyjamas. The clothes, were not a low-low price point but were within budget. The clothes were also cuddly and the kids looked so cute in them. How could I be disappointed?

    When given contracts to sign we tend to read the fine print, because no one wants to be that silly king who signed his own death sentence [I read some lovely fairytales when I was a kid]. Accepting and buying store bought clothes based on outward appearance alone is a bit like signing a contract without reading the contents. Sometimes, when I can be arsed about it I will perform a quick QA on the clothes I am about to buy, but honestly it's not something I want to do each and every time I need to buy a new piece of clothing. But considering what happened next, I'll have to rethink my stance on my lackadaisical product quality checking.

    Returning from the store I immediately put the new pyjamas through the wash. The girls were excited about wearing their new clothes to bed that very night. Hanging the clothes out to dry I then noticed that the clothes were overlocked [that's good], but were not plain stitched [not so good]. There were gaps in the seams [sewing too close to the fabric edge] and in parts the fabric was already splitting because, hello, the fabric pieces were never plain stitched. This was not the first time I've noticed this sewing practice on store bought clothes, but I had cause to stop and think. Why would the manufacturer leave out this one basic step? The pyjamas were neither expensive nor inexpensive, so surely the business that made these could afford to pay for a basic plain stitch.

    I pulled out my sewing machine and overlocker, and proceeded to contribute to the 'value adding chain' of the new pyjamas. I plain stitched the weak seams of the clothes and overlocked the already overlocked edges. These pyjamas were not going to fall apart on my watch. Because you see, when I buy clothes, and particularly for kids I want, nay, expect the garments to survive at least two kids. When I buy for myself I expect the clothes to last a minimum of three, maybe four years.

    So now, I got to ask myself, if I am buying clothes then having to improve/correct/finish the so called 'finished' product is this really a saving? Especially if the clothes are falling apart. I am at a point where I'm wondering, would it be better if I made kids clothes myself. Is that realistic? Do I have time for it? Can I do it economically and with style? I am one person but can I beat the cycle of contributing to businesses that mass produce poorly made products?

    ... Only one way to find out.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Arrrgh! Me Kitsch

Pirate mug find at local $2 shop

    I think all my life I had been programming toward a love of kitsch. Perhaps beginning with seeing reruns of sixties telly programs like Lost in Space, Star Trek, Bewitched, swinging  Batman and watching good ole Elvis movies . Even the beloved eighties favourite The Goonies hits high on the kitsch scale with it's fantasy pirate props and a pirate ship laden with gold, hidden in a coastal cave with only a rocky waterslide for access.

    Toward the end of Year One Purgatory [otherwise known as high school] I discovered sanctuary in the form of Monkey Island - a computer game about ghost pirates, treasure maps, sword fighting insults, mysterious tropical islands and vegetarian cannibals.  This comes as no surprise as Monkey Island was partly inspired by Tim Powers' novel Stranger Tides and  Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which, let's face it, flies completely off the kitsch scale like a Mardi Gras firework. I didn't know it at the time that this was kitsch. It wasn't a word that slipped off the tongue in conversation with other suburban thirteen year olds.

    Fast forward a decade to my early twenties, while working in the city I discovered Outré Gallery, a shop that gave name to my madcap fascination for what seemed like false gold in the eyes of others – 'lowbrow', 'tiki', 'taboo', 'kitsch'. In Outré I found a temple portal into a world that had both darkness and sparkle. It was seriously funny. It was cute and scary. And it was great for me because I discovered that I wasn't alone in my appreciation  of the strange, beautiful and the cartoony. From here I discovered the work of Josh Agle [AKA Shag], Mark Ryden, and Nathan Jurevicius, artists who opened a door to a fantasy world that I could be comfortable with most of the time.

    Now as an almost forty year old I find myself in a $2 shop staring at a silly, colourful pirate mug that has been roughly hand spattered with paint. Looking at this mug, my initial reaction was a very boring suburban 'what would it go with?' Certainly nothing in the cups cupboard. I picked up the mug and noticed how it was not a cookie cutter design. It was silly. It was kitschy. It made me think of Monkey Island and that was all the answer that I needed. So I bought the pirate mug.

Friday, 10 February 2017

The Return

    I am most definitely a nostalgia queen, but then who isn't? I think most everyone has one or two welcoming memories that brings warm, sweet comfort. My nostalgia not only lives in memories of things that happened. I am still to this day drawn to the books I read when I was a kid.

    Age should never be a determiner of when you have to put down a book. I think about Wendy from Peter Pan and how Mr Darling condemned his daughter to 'her last night' in the nursery. This was a choice that needed to come from her and not a fitful parent who he himself had forgotten how to play.

    I believe that one can grow up [mature] and still be imaginative and have the desire for play. This is an aspect that I believe grew from my generation. People growing up with computer games, and those game developers growing with those people. And we have adults with a love of collecting dolls, and vinyls that represent elements of their past. We revisit the books that we loved reading when we were children. Or, for the first time as adults we read the children's books that we might have first missed.

    At the moment I am rereading two old favourites. First there is Fourteen and Holding which is authored by Candice Ransom. I have been reading this while I do my daily 20 minute exercise quota on the stationery bike. It gets a bit boring trying to bike ride and count the number of bricks on the wall in front of me. So, I read a book instead – it makes the time pass faster. I was about nine years of age when I first read Fourteen and Holding, and while at the time it was hard for me to try something new, it became an enduring favourite to come back to many times over.

    The other past favourite that I've got on the go is Emily Climbs, by Lucy Maud Montgomery. I'm reading this one at the end of the day. On hot nights, such as it is now I like reading the Canadian descriptions and picturing myself walking around in the world that Emily inhabits. Emily Starr is lesser known than Anne Shirley from Montgomery's books, but she is one of my personal favourites.

    I put it to you, what were your favourite books from childhood?

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

World's Greatest Shave

    Last year I did something that felt rather bold. I shaved my head! That act alone was bold on a personal level. But what made the act truly great was that it was a fundraising effort for the Leukaemia Foundation: World's Greatest Shave.

    This year I'm at it again, participating in the World's Greatest Shave. There will be one difference. Since my hair is still on the short side I decided to... 
dye my hair pink!

Concept photo – imagining me with pink hair.

    Are you interested in sponsoring me, but want to know more about the World's Greatest Shave? Well, here's the word...

    By sponsoring me to dye my hair pink you are in fact giving Aussie families facing blood cancer the emotional and practical support they need. You will also help fund vital research so more people survive blood cancers like lymphoma, leukaemia and myeloma.You may not know it but blood cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death in Australia, claiming more lives than breast cancer or melanoma. And every day another 35 people will be diagnosed.Sponsoring me just $52 will help ensure someone being treated in hospital gets a personal visit from a highly-trained health professional so they get the extra support they need. No matter how much you give, it’s an extraordinary way to make a difference.

It's going to be pink!