interview

Interview: Anka Zhuravleva on Photography, Her Artistic Past, and Having a Varied Experience

12:00 pm


Today's interview is with the lovely Russian photographer Anka Zhuravleva, whose work contains such a variety of styles and emotions, I can't help but feel inspired by it. Her artistic background is unlike any other I've ever encountered, and it's been an absolute pleasure to find out more about her. I'm sure you'll be as entranced by her photographs as I am.

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Anka! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, will you tell me a little bit about yourself and where you are today?

Anka Zhuravleva:
Hello! Thank you for your questions. Hopefully I'll manage to answer! Well, I would say I am rather a visual artist. All my life I had been creating what they now call 'visual content'. I did a lot of things, and at the age of thirty I put all my visual experience into photography. Now I’m a full-time photographer, currently doing several personal creative projects. I’m also teaching creative photography in the form of individual lessons and group workshops all over the world. Photography is one of the forms of self-expression that suits me well. It’s quite fast in terms of realisation. It allows me to travel, to meet wonderful people, and to try new things. My husband and I are based in the beautiful Porto in Portugal. 

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your photography in three words, what would they be?

Anka Zhuravleva:
They would be moment, vibe, and beauty.


Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into photography? Is this something you’ve been formally trained in?

Anka Zhuravleva:
I got into photography with my father at the age of 6 or 7. He had a good eye and did some home film photography 'for memories' and as many of children of my generation I often was sitting with him in a darkroom. I even got a personal LOMO camera (at the time they were not that fancy yet) and shot and developed some films by myself. Now I realise it was a very important piece of my life that influenced me a lot. I was never trained in photography. The only thing I studied officially is architecture. I believe that knowing of basics of painting, drawing, and history of art gives no less than studying at a photogtaphy school.


Magic & Musings:
Did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place where you could share your photographs?

Anka Zhuravleva:
No, with photography I never even thought about such things. 

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your projects, which are you the happiest with and why?

Anka Zhuravleva:
Depends of my mood. My 'Color Tales' gives me a lot joy, and the possibility to travel and connect with people. My black and white series makes me feel that 'real photography' mood. My analog experiments are something very fragile, intimate, and true that I appreciate so much. 'The Aquatic' is very personal; it reflects my relationships with water. And so on and so on.



Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying or non-binary artists and their work. Which photographers, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration? 

Anka Zhuravleva
I’m getting inspired by films, cartoons, and paintings rather than photography. Also, I really love modern book illustrators and pictorial photographs of the beginning of the twentieth century. I’m not searching for inspiration in photography and even try to distance myself from the huge photo stream we’re all involved in through social media. 

Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to? 

Anka Zhuravleva:
This is a good question. Actually I suspect that the state of mind is the most important thing. But I love my vintage oak table I recovered with my husband. It’s very cosy and warm. It has a lot of cabinets to keep all the stuff I might need and an amazing, nice-to-touch surface. The best music is the music my husband makes with his bansuri flute and all the amazing instruments he plays. It’s always different, it’s live, and reflects the mood of the moment.


Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively? 

Anka Zhuravleva:
Take a rest. Reload myself. Read a book. Have a walk. Do something different, like stitching a new dress. Then get back to work. 

Magic & Musings:
What are some things you like to do in your spare time when you’re not working?

Anka Zhuravleva:
By coincidence I do all the same I’ve just mentioned above. Read a book, have a walk, cook a meal, sit under a tree. One day I’ll get back to painting. Clothes design and stitching are the things that I now consider a hobby.


Magic & Musings:
What tools do you use to keep yourself organised?

Anka Zhuravleva:
Last year I realised I need to schedule myself in order to not get lost in my plans, so I bought a beautiful paper planner and an ink pen and started writing down my to-do lists. I honestly tried to use some apps but without any result. So the old school way of planning turned out to be the best for me. 

Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in a medium other than photography? Is this something you would consider in the future?

Anka Zhuravleva:
As I started to work in photography only at the age of thirty, I’ve already got a varied experience. I did some video post-production, some graphic design, also drew, painted, even tattooed. Now I’m thinking about a small clothes collection. We'll see...


Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out as a photographer?

Anka Zhuravleva:
I do not even need to wonder about what could it be, because it was what my husband said to me: “Do what you want, do what you feel”. 

Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song? 

Anka Zhuravleva:
A book. After my trip to Venice I’m going to reread Fondamenta degli incurabili by Iosif Brodskij. The last films that impressed me a lot were Only Lovers Left Alive, I Am Love, and La Grande Beleza. The cartoon I’m enjoying like a child now is a funny and touching Japanese series Natsume’s Book of Friends.


Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? What’s on the horizon for you in the next few months?

Anka Zhuravleva
I’m going to visit South America in September with a series of my workshops. It’s going to be my first experience with that part of the world. I’m so excited about it.

My favourite message for everyone is - be yourself, believe in yourself, keep your eyes wide open, and keep your inner child!

interview

Interview: Binny Talib on Illustration, Wallpaper Design, and Art Installations Abroad

12:00 pm


The wonderful Binny Talib is answering my questions today! She's the illustrator and author of a book I've previously reviewed on my blog, the lovely Origami Heart, as well as a designer and commercial art installation creator. We had a chat about her times working abroad, the differences between her illustration styles, and the ways she busts out of a creative rut.

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Binny! Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do? 

Binny Talib:
My name is Binny, and I have recently moved back to Sydney from a couple of years creating in wonderful, eclectic, fast-paced Hong Kong. I am now back home living in Sydney near the city. I love fast, busy, and bustling places. I am an illustrator/designer/author. I write and illustrate contemporary children’s books, design wallpaper, art direct branding projects, draw fashion illustration, and create commercial art installation concepts. 

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your illustration style in three words, what would they be?

Binny Talib:
Children’s: graphic, retro, linear.

Fashion: whimsical, fluid, minimal.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into illustration? Was it something that was important to you in your childhood?

Binny Talib:
I was most definitely one of the kids always drawing everything in primary school. There were about give keen drawers in the class and we all became professional artists in some way. My mother is an artist and was influential; it was very normal to spend a holiday drawing or painting in some way. My drawings when I was young were very precise and realistic in style. I didn’t break out of that until university. I used to give my friends at university illustrations as gifts (poor suckers), and my first jobs as a designer all contained illustration work.


Magic & Musings:
Have you received any formal art or illustration training?

Binny Talib:
I started studying architecture at UTS in Sydney, and transferred into Visual Communication where I majored in illustration and film.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first start sharing your illustrations online and did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place?

Binny Talib:
I had a personal website early on in website land. It was very exciting and nerve-wracking. It however has landed me many jobs from all over the world. I think there is an element of bravery putting your work online, but its essential.

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look to when you need some inspiration or motivation?

Binny Talib:
Oh so many, and so varied, from film, art, illustration, fashion, photography, and design. A few would be Frida Khalo, Camilla Engman, Garance Dore, Sophia Coppola, Stella McCartney, Yayoi Kusama, May Gibbs, Del Kathryn Barton, and Mary Blair. 

Magic & Musings:
What are your favourite tools you use to create your art? Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others?

Binny Talib:
I always thumbnail on paper. Sometimes I use pen and ink pot. I love the natural mess of the lines. I am also in love with my Apple pencil and iPad, and I have a beautiful Cintiq by Wacom, so I usually finish all my artwork digitally. I have a huge collection of digital brushes of all textures.

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your illustrations, which are you happiest with and why?

Binny Talib:
Oh my! That’s a hard one. I really love my illustrations in my book I wrote, illustrated, and designed for Hachette called Origami Heart. It's set in Japan, one of my favourite places, and my publisher was incredibly open about letting me do my own slightly edgy style for the book. I like the vintage yet contemporary style and minimalist colour palette.


Magic & Musings:
I’m interested in knowing how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done? A specific hot drink? A relaxing album?

Binny Talib:
I always work in group studios/co-working spaces. I need other people's energy to bounce off. I need to be out of the house and in 'work mode'. I have a large 1970s Astro Boy that has been on my desk since my first job. It even moved internationally. I drink copious cups of non-caffeinated dandelion tea, and always have a mix of electronic/electro pop/chill music. Although I am fairly chaotic digitally and in real life, my desk space is one beautiful moleskin sketchbook, laptop, and giant Cintiq.

Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in another medium?

Binny Talib:
I have briefly flirted with painting, and my early work was all pen and ink.

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Binny Talib:
I am addicted to Pinterest, and book shops. I just went to the most amazing one in my life in Daikanyama in Tokyo! Switching off and going for a run or a walk. Going back to pencil and paper is very important for the beginning of an idea. I never start digitally; the ideas don’t seem to flow. I need to scribble indecipherable thoughts and thumbnails onto paper. 

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Binny Talib:
It’s a bit cliché, but it's so true: be your own style, stop comparing, try not to look at other illustrator's work, get your inspiration from other areas of life. Be kind to yourself and be prepared for some knock-backs and criticism. And my favourite, told to me by my marvelous illustration teacher, “just keep going”


Magic & Musings:
Fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you’ve enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Binny Talib:
Reading: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. It is so beautiful, and descriptive, and the characters are enigmatic and quietly charming. The environments are unusual and so vivid; I get very clear images from his writing. 

Listening: Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe.

Watching: Anything by Wes Anderson, especially Moonrise Kingdom and the Grand Budapest Hotel. His art direction is simply superb. Such incredible colour palettes and compositions. There are so many stills from the films you could hang on your wall. A true inspirational visionary. 


Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?

Binny Talib:
I am delighted to be part of your wonderful interviews. I feel privileged to be part of the thriving female creative community. I am also lucky to have a lovely literary agent and supportive publisher. I love the range of work I do, in Hong Kong I was designing large installations for amazing malls, and drawing live at fashion events. I am back home and have an exciting book project with amazing Sydney author Lisa Shannahan launching shortly called, Hark It's Me, Ruby Lee


Instagram accounts:
Children’s books: @binnyillustration
Fashion: @bonjourbinny
Book Character: @kabukirabbit

interview

Interview: Victoria Baker on Pottery, Male-Dominated Disciplines, and Going It Alone

12:00 pm


And now for something different! Victoria Baker is a potter, creating rustic, simple tableware in her home studio. We had a little chat today about working in a traditionally male-dominated medium, and how social media impacts selling your wares. I love all of her progress photos; seeing the steps to creating such wonderful items is always a bonus!

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Victoria! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, can tell me a little bit about yourself and where you are today?

Victoria Baker:
So I consider myself to be a third generation potter. My dad's teacher was Ron Mottram and my dad taught me. I mostly make tableware and other household objects. I didn't study making pots at university, but I started a small business doing it and this year will be my ninth year. Ah, that's longer than I realised!

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your pottery in three words, what would they be?

Victoria Baker:
Tactile, rustic, cute!


Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into pottery and when did you first starting selling your art online? Did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place?

Victoria Baker:
I got into making pots not too long after I left university. It might be surprising to some people to know that I'm actually not a very confident person at all. I used to be worse and I've just learnt strategies to cope with it. Some people are naturally talented at dealing with others, but I have to really work at it everyday. Sometimes I just don't want to talk to anyone at all. I've found selling on the internet works for me because I can deal with people by email when I'm ready for it and if I don't I can leave it for a while.

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female and non-binary artists and their work. Which female and non-binary artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Victoria Baker:
Pottery is a discipline that's historically been dominated by men. At one point it wasn't deemed an acceptable job for women to make pots - just to design them and paint them. I've got a really old pottery magazine which has a headline 'The potter is a woman!' Pottery, I think, attracts women who are opinionated oddballs somehow and it comes out in their work. I actually really like Lucie Rie's work. I've always been attracted to really strong simplistic forms and geometric shapes.


Magic & Musings:
Of all of your designs, which are you the happiest with and why?

Victoria Baker:
I make a variety of one-off items and standard ware. Occasionally the stars align and I make something that's just higher quality than expected. I made some ramen bowls lately I was pleased with. In standard ware I do enjoy making plates even though they're quite big objects when you get a set that stack together really well it's satisfying.

Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to? 

Victoria Baker:
I spend most of my time in the studio which is in the basement of our house. I find what I need on any given day depends on what I'm doing. I have a creative job, but I schedule tasks depending on the day of the week. This is mainly because customers tend to ask about the progress of their orders and it makes it easier to give suggested delivery dates. 

I always try to have breakfast and tea every morning before work since lunch can be anywhere between 1-2pm, some days even later depending on how busy I am. I can't function without tea. Many many cups of tea of all kinds; chai and hojicha are my favourites. Some days are longer and more physically demanding than others; on the days I need to be pumped up I listen to a lot of KPop and JPop. If I'm doing a lot of delicate jobs that require intense concentration I listen to Classic FM.


Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Victoria Baker:
Stop working. I tend to get entrenched in work and very focused. At certain times of the year I can be a workaholic. It's hard, but you need to step away from working sometimes and just do something, anything else that isn't making pots.

Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in another medium?

Victoria Baker:
I've thrown pots in different types of clay, but I don't enjoy working with earthenware or porcelain. Stoneware is a kind of middle ground which for me is ideal for the types of pots I make. It's easy to throw, not too hard on the hands, and a tough, durable material for everyday use.

Magic & Musings:
What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?

Victoria Baker:
Social media is super important. I do think it helps that customers can get directly in touch. It's the photos they send in that really help, and it's quite satisfying to see your work in someone else's home. Sometimes it feels like you're not talking to anyone in particular, but social media and blogging just gets information about you and your work out there for people to find if they want it.


Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Victoria Baker:
You have to decide what direction you want your business to expand into. Sometimes it's hard making decisions. You fight with yourself and your own personality all the time. It's inevitable that there'll always be some things you'll be bad at and its hard to avoid feeling like every decision is a major risk. You've got to roll with it and not get too stressed out. It's hard to go it alone sometimes.

Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song? 

Victoria Baker:
I don't really get the time to read many books these days. I usually read textbooks for learning Japanese, or books for work rather than for pleasure. I'd highly recommend Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway though, it's a self help book, but it's actually good. I watched Your Name recently. I watch a lot of anime and Japanese TV. It's a great film, but watch it with a box of tissues! At the moment I can't stop listening to Arrival by Got7; it's on heavy rotation. Once I get to the end I can't help but listen to it all over again.


Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? 

Victoria Baker:
You can find out more about my work on littlewrenpottery.co.uk, you'll find lots of links over there for social media and Etsy, so I won't list any more here. Thanks for wanting to interview me!

haul

Hey, Mr Postman

9:00 am


Everyone loves a good post day, and here are two parcels I've been really excited about lately. The first is from Legend Press, sending me a proof copy of Liam Brown's new release, Broadcast. Quoted to be 'a Truman-like nightmare for the Youtube generation', this centres around David, who uses a chip called MindCast to stream all of his thoughts and feelings online, 24/7. When it all becomes too much and he tries to get the chip removed...well...the story begins! I think (I hope!) this is going to be an exciting satire on vlogging and oversharing online à la Black Mirror, but I'll be sure to update you closer to the release date once I've given it a read.

The second parcel is from Pioneers Press, a small press in Kansas who specialise in zines and chapbooks. They've very kindly sent me over Adam Gnade's The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin' Sad and Rachel Bell's Loving the Ocean Won't Stop It from Killing You. The latter is a story of recovery, centering around Marina who is travelling across the country to escape her husband. The former is a pep-talk-of-sorts on anxiety and depression, formed of short snippets of lists, anecdotes, and essays.

My thoughts will follow!

interview

Interview: Jodie Smith on Surface Pattern Design, Art Collectives, and Browsing Antiques

12:00 pm


I love chatting to designers and illustrators because I feel like there's such a variety of styles and ideas you can find absolutely anywhere. Today I'm talking to the lovely Jodie Smith, a recent graduate and lady of adorable talent from Hull. Her patterns are playful and brightly coloured, and I can really imagine every single one in my future house on cushions, curtains, and tea towels. We had a quick chat about female art collectives and where she gets her inspiration from...

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Jodie! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do?

Jodie Smith:
I am an illustrator and surface pattern designer based in Hull. I have just graduated from Leeds College of Art.

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your design style in three words, what would they be?

Jodie Smith:
Naive, playful, and colourful.


Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into design? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby? If you did study it formally, would you say this was a good or bad experience regarding allowing your creativity to flourish?

Jodie Smith:
I studied a BTEC in Art and Design and specialised in Textiles in my second year at college. It encouraged me to use illustrations for textiles as I specialised in print, and not knit and weave like most people.

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Jodie Smith:
Dotty Wren Studio is four creative illustrator and surface pattern designers called Dawn Machell, Lizzie Mackay, Susan Driscoll, and Wendy Kendall. They are all freelance for many markets including apparel, home, stationery, and publishing. They are wonderfully inspiring, I would love to be a part of their collective one day.


Magic & Musings:
Of all of your designs, which are you the happiest with and why? 

Jodie Smith:
This one, because of the colours and texture used and the little ladybird! 

Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to? 

Jodie Smith:
I did have a lovely studio at university that I worked in, surrounded by fellow creatives. But I am now a graduate that has just moved back home. I don’t have a creative space to work in as my house is quite small, but I am considering renting a studio space alongside a job. So watch this space!

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Jodie Smith:
I go to art galleries like The Hepworth in Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and antique centres to look at quirky vintage objects. I also do some online research and can’t resist a bit of Pinterest.

Magic & Musings:
What are your favourite tools you use to create your designs? Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others?

Jodie Smith:
I love collaging with painted papers and a scalpel. I can’t seem to collage with scissors! I love all of the print and pattern books, especially the kids one. They are full of lovely designers work and endless inspiration.


Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in another medium?

Jodie Smith:
I spent a lot of my university years experimenting with inks, pencils, paints, screen prints, and lino prints. I recently bought my very own lino cutting tools so I cant wait to use them!

Magic & Musings:
What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?

Jodie Smith:
It is great through Instagram and my blog. I like to share things visually, so Instagram is perfect for this, and it has helped me get my work out there more.

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Jodie Smith:
That it is really hard and your heart has to be 100% into what you are doing otherwise it is difficult to stick at it, as you sometimes have to do twelve-hour days and work weekends.


Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song? 

Jodie Smith:
I’ve recently enjoyed reading about Lucienne Day in her book, called Textile Design. It gave me an insight into her recent exhibition at The Whitworth in Manchester. A song would be John Lennon - 'Imagine'. Very fitting as to whats happening in the world recently!

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? 

Jodie Smith:
I have a blog - www.patternperspective.co.uk that I write about all things surface pattern, but also my visits to galleries and cafes etc. I also have an online portfolio www.jodiepsmith.co.uk where you can see more of my work, and Instagram : j0diesmith.

review

Quick Book Reviews: Little Black Book by Otegha Uwagba and Geisha by Liza Dalby

6:08 pm


Little Black Book by Otegha Uwagba
A short read for the working woman, and entirely necessary for just £5. With tips on productivity, personal branding, pay negotiation, and public speaking, this book covers everything you'd need to know as a woman working in the twenty-first century. Otegha Uwagba is the founder of Women Who, a platform to support women working worldwide, so her advice is something I completely trust. This diddy book is quick to access and carry around with you for snippets of advice during your day, and actually contains working advice, rather than the empty words you can get from other 'business' books.

Geisha by Liza Dalby
This was one of my fantastic holiday reads from back at the beginning of June, written by the same author as my previously-reviewed Tale of Murasaki. As I said before, Liza Dalby is the only Western woman to ever be trained to become a geisha, and now the time has come for me to talk a little about it. This book is the memoir of her experience, but mainly comes across as an informative read on the history of the geisha, from their perception in the modern day, their rituals, their outfits, and their mannerisms. I came into this having read fiction on geisha before, but this blew everything I knew about that part of society out of the window. This book is overflowing with information, and completely absorbing. Dalby's anecdotes are full of life and emotion, seasoning what could be rather bland reams of information, if it wasn't so fascinating. After reading it on holiday, it was picked up by my boyfriend who also massively enjoyed it! If you're interested in Japan and its culture, don't bypass this book.