Little TENGU has awoken into a new state of evolution and quite possibly saved my life!
It has been a huge journey this past few years struggling to come to terms with my truth and self coming out of a lifetime of psychogenic amnesia and into a future of what I know now is full of amazement. Fed up with 24/7 processing I bailed out of Sydney with a backpack and $100, about five hats, my computer and some paints. I crash landed in Melbourne’s funky north to be with a friend, love and super talent Megan Hope, a suited name for an all inspiring woman. First night arriving I met an artist who would soon become a life partner in the arts and business. Tobius Raphael Millar a true inspiration. He has been painting and drawing since childhood and has held a strong dedication to technique and style always staying true to his own passions and desires. I am learning so much from his generous teachings and charming descriptions of his own process, skills and techniques.
A mere four months later and we have joined forces with Little TENGU pop up gallery run by fine ink-work artist Mandy to transform the space into an arts hub and art fashion store while maintaining a strong art exhibit in the showroom aka the fish tank. With no money and running off pure love for the arts we have done it, no idea how we are going to keep it all going but were here. We’ve turned scrapped furniture into styl’n shop displays, acquired lights from a liquidation sale and mannequins from a shop closing. held each other together through emotionally crippling times and life battles scrounging for food and sleep. We have had an enormous show of support from the arts community we are networked with and managed to score some truly stunning works of art for the racks and jewellery display as well as a world class family of artists on exhibit. To be honest i have been struggling to motivate myself to live for some time, many of us share horror stories from our childhood and some of us never make it out, this place and this new extended family of creatives has given me hope and allowed my dimming light to shine bright again.
WE DID IT!!! And the greatest part of this venture is, and although we are definitely a business relying on financial stability to continue fuelling arts in fashion and fine arts to grow and spread around the world, money itself has not been the focus or main deciding factor. It is all about quality, truth, style and passion. Every item is a one off either completely or slightly unique with a splash of individual flare while maintaining a strong design personality. This is not a shop for the mass produced soulless trends that are consuming the arts and fashion worlds. The shop resinates with tribal elements from both the past, future, apocalyptic with alien-esque vibrations and a strong tie in with fantasy and the unusual all the while absolutely rocking a strong urban street wear style with a hint of divine earthly admiration.
Many of our artists have the earth in their hearts when sourcing materials and forming their creations which is a great peace of mind in this ever destructed human existence. Many of us have experienced enough trauma and abuse to comprehend we can do better as a people. Our intentions with this business are simple, for me it is about creative a hive of energy and cyclical flow of inspiration for artists to continue to grow their process, skills and style to constantly be thriving on the world stage. For Tobius it is about maintaining a platform for artists to sell their work and grow together in quality and style expanding the platform by sustaining a healthy financial stability to spread their masterpieces throughout the world.
We are indeed a family and a strong one, all the support and kindness without any of the dinner table bickering. We can see Little TENGU continuing to grow and expand into the future but like any business we rely on making a profit for sustainable success, as part of the community we intend to open up workshops, artists talks and continue the flow of creativity and vibrant conversation with straight from the source media about the arts as soon as we have some money in our pockets and food in our bellies. In our collection we are hosting a spread of talented hands on creatives.
GOO LIFE is the work of a local Melbourne eco designer, Sophie Cogs working with artist Daniel D Foothead to create a vibrant urban clothing range flowing with primordial ooze, hyperbolic structure and hyper-intense colour. It is a theme park of visual eye candy dripping with intense energies and happy vibes, who needs anti-depressants when you have GOO LIFE, seriously. Sophie’s range of comfy, high quality styles with a G-star element help us in feeling strong and confident to take on the buzzing urban energies with a sense of inner strength and outer glow.
SPUNKHYDE, created by Miz Marto, a designer from the Byron Bay area working with ethical, sustainable and some recycled leathers to create a unique range of one off items drawing her inspirations from graffiti, the industrial setting, molecular structure and geometry. Miz Marto creates high quality works of wearable art that suit the urban environment and style with an apocalyptic edge. Both labels resonate with the kind of award winning design works you are likely to see in scenes from The Fifth Element or The Hunger Games, scenes I have certainly dreamed of being engulfed by.
We are also proud to be representing local designer EVA REID originally from NZ and now working round the clock in Melbourne across many platforms and networks to create organic earthly accessories and made to order clothing that adorn the human form and homely habitats. Eva draws on her love and appreciation for nature when she is not working on her pieces of wearable art she is in the garden growing medicinal herbs and guilt free organic food for health of body mind and soul. Her holistic community attitude leads her in and out of many creative outlets and collaborations. Currently working with Lor, Melbournian metal worker and wizard of magical creations they are creative soul mates, their delicate unity of hand designed embellishments on coper, leather and naturally fallen dear antlers are buzzing with a warrior soul strength and confidence.
Local university student Lauralei has been kind enough to cram her studies and provide us with some of her metal + moondust inspired jewellery – LUNELING. Gentle to wear made with silver and the occasional found bone that sparks a sense of creativity that cant be ignored. Luneling is bold in crystal like geometric forms that feel as though they comprise of chunks that have flung of a moon rock lost in space.
This store is luckily grounded by a strong Japanese interior hand fitted by woodwork artist Sohei Nakada or it could quite easily take off into another dimension with this range so beautifully out of this world. Inspired by the Japanese spirit of Little TENGU we are very lucky to have some hand carved masks coming in straight from Akihito Nonowe in Japan. The strange and unsettling certainly has its place in the realm of masks as we all explore this world through expressions and facial language to shell our delicate emotional states. Akihito’s masks are comically characteristic and inspire the performer of imagination bringing even a brick wall to life.
Ma Hoo, Melbournian glass blower has kindly strolled over from his nearby lamp-working studio to provide us with a range of wearable, decorative and functional glasswear that are delicately beautiful and monsterifficly cool all at the same time. With glitter eyeball shot glasses and slimy uv reactant pendants and goblets. In an industry almost killed off by the plastic insurgence it takes a strong dedication to art and glass to continue working in such an entrancing medium and we are grateful for his dedication to glass, slime and monsteriffic works of art.
Little TENGU has certainly evolved but its heartfelt start in pop up galleries has not been left behind and we are surrounded here by a stunning collection of fantastical and contemporary artists from fine ink drawing to intricate paintings and geometric psycho-explorations we have windows into the dreamworld. Currently housing a small family of artists including our very own in house artists Tobius Raphael Millar and Mandy. We are also hanging paintings by Katia Honour, Hazey Arts, Ella Collins and Tommi Arm. Visionary, poetic, abstract, erotic and vibrant geometrics, we have an unusual combinations of art that just works so intriguingly beautiful together. There is absolutely no room for boredom in this space.
Ignis Inception atmospheric sculpture lamps have also made their way into our little arts sanctuary. Formed with discarded and scrapped materials. Harry Brown engineers beautiful metal and glass lamps using his love for alchemy and hand crafting. These sculptures are reminiscent of old industrial fittings and brass instruments, to look at they seem as if they should make some sort of smooth jazzy riff. A really nice addition to the family here at Little TENGU.
I have to now take the time to somewhat poetically admire the generous contribution by Gerard Geer another local artist gracing us with many of his enigmatic creations. Gerard has, as he puts it, “an insatiable curiosity for the anatomical inner workings of all things organic”. His works of bone, spines, feathers and even octopuses are elegant as they dance with the light, magnetic as they draw you in with their anatomical amalgamations and mysteriously fantastic with his simply beautiful compositions. I have never seen anything like it. Sheep skulls adorned with crystals naturally grown over the form they almost appear somewhat deliciously edible. A master of bringing life and inspiration back into the still once active skeletal structures. All animal remains have been ethically sourced and treated with the utmost respect creating a scientific window into the form of the living through the artists eye. Amazing!
“I wish to advise that your pre-selection kit has been considered and you have been short-listed, and we would therefore like to invite you to attend a folio presentation.”
Great! I am so excited. Attending the Fine Art lecture at RMIT’s open day in Melbourne was quite inspiring. I was not only drawn in by their focus on ‘the artist’ in their course structure, I was also made aware of some slightly scary statistics. Over 800 people apply, 300 or so get an interview and about 160 students will be selected to study Fine Art at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology! These figures despite how scary they seem were alerting me to the fact that hundreds of artists, all talented in their own right, want this as much as I do; It must be good!
With butterflies in my stomach and excitement running through me like some new age drug I checked out the facilities, the expanded studio space; a maze of entangled cubicles divided by white walls collaged with visual mind maps, creative developments and works in progress. Everything I could wish for. I want to study here, to have my own cubical to clutter. I stayed another day or two, visiting galleries and checking out the local street art before flying home to Sydney.
After arriving home I was quick to work, hunting old works in mums studio; rummaging through the charming but back breaking steel drawers. There was an abundance of work from kindergarten through to high school and all I could think was it’s not good enough. Most of the work I have created over the past few years (since high school) has been inspired by birthdays, weddings or Christmas, and unfortunately distributed around the world to friends and family as gifts. I need to create a fresh portfolio that showcases my current ability and headspace as an artist.
Watching old recordings, including a collection of the ABC’s Sunday Arts program, I stumbled across a wonderful piece about Margaret Olley – one of my all time favorites. Inspired my her rebellious nature and free development of a painting; with no real sense of order or discipline; just the raw, almost sporadic application of paint to canvas gradually building up the image; recreating the still life. I got to work!
Looking out at our small oasis from the back door I picked a few beautiful daffodils and accompanied them with some bottlebrush branches stolen from a brutal council clipping on the headland earlier that week. I arranged them in a few ceramic vases on a beautiful old butchers chopping block; a round hunk of wood glowing with reds and purples, hugged by a thick steel brace that mum and I had picked up from the markets on the weekend. All items where placed quite deliberately on a retired white bed sheet. My still life was ready.
I began to mark the major features on paper sketching away with pencil and colouring with pastel and loose pigment. Focusing on detail of the vases – texture, light and dark, the composition. I was thoroughly enjoying this process. I think the fact that I was merely studying the form and light, with no intention of using this sketch in the portfolio, really freed my creative mind allowing me to draw without analyzing my work. After completing my pastel study I began getting ready to paint.
I got out my paints and brushes and set up my mediums and cleaning turpentine in an assortment of tuna tins and jam jars. I grabbed an old canvas to reuse and with my childhood steel play chair up on the table acting as my easel and a desk lamp set up to add some side light to my still life; it was painting time!
I was lucky enough to have the house to myself; painting was fast and furious. Olley was in the back of my mind and I was really trying to capture the personality of the vases and flowers. It felt so natural and organic just looking and really seeing the colour and light then splodging paint onto the canvas. I was not stressing about accuracy or affected by goal driven insecurity. I had the canvas almost complete; I was in a great mood. Who needs drugs when you can create! I was on a high. I spent the next few days making some small changes and then I was done. I was actually happy with something I had painted.
Having the house to myself and enjoying my creative space did not last long. With a visit to the Blue Mountains to see my Grandad overdue I packed up my paints and jumped on a train. I feel eternally lucky to have his amazing retreat at my fingertips. For the next few weeks I was travelling back and forth painting and drawing madly.
This time was a roller coaster of emotion, with highs and lows. I bounced around from melancholy to contentment…with a few perks of ecstatic self-assurance. It was exhausting. My headspace was a mess I was excited and nervous; confused about where I would stand; how would my work compare to the 799 other applicants. But my time was up and it was time to submit my portfolio and move back up to Brisbane to work on series four of Toybox.
Work has been all consuming as usual, with long days and long weeks barely buffered by the weekend, which was spent preparing props for the rabbit puppets (preparation time between series was spent working on my portfolio). I have not had the chance to really worry about the process.
About a week ago, late October, a note in my calendar advised me that interviews were scheduled for week commencing 26th November and I should be finding out if I got through in the next few weeks. Great. It is now 8th of November and with flights only to increase in price I was wondering if I would receive an email at all. I have been fairly realistic about the high possibility of not getting in, but had hoped I would at least be given a chance to meet with them in person.
At last the email has arrived! I will be flying down to Melbourne either on the 29th November, as scheduled, or sometime in the previous week. Halleluiah!!