Meet Lani and Zara ~ mother and daughter, Obus lovers and the creative duo behind Aurora Art.
Inspired by motherhood and influenced by their diverse Australian and Papua New Guinean heritage, we get to know the women behind these stunning artworks.
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Tell us about your journey to launch Aurora Art?
Being Mother & Daughter, we are very close & have always dreamt of working together in our own small business. We have always created artwork for our own home, family and friends.
The timing seemed right last year and we decided to take a leap of faith and commence working full time on Aurora Art. Zara (my daughter) was getting closer to finishing her Fine Arts degree and I (Lani) had recently had my fifth baby and decided not to return to teaching. We were very grateful to be able to work on over 100 paintings last year and also launch our prints. We are excited for what the future holds!
How does cultural values influence your art?
We are from a diverse cultural background and we are definitely influenced by our culture. My Mum is from a small PNG island in the Torres Strait and growing up she spent some time living in Papua New Guinea.
What kind of projects have you worked on recently? What was the most rewarding?
The launch of our fine art prints and being invited to be stocked on the BlockShop were recent highlights for us. We have been very humbled that people have embraced our art.
How has Covid-19 changed the way you work, and how have you adapted to these challenges?
We were in a lockdown in Melbourne for a lot of 2020, which meant that we were able to set up our home studio. We have a gallery in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne which is open by appointment, however, we have since been able to work predominantly from home and focus on online as a result of Covid-19.
What 3 words would you use to describe your personal style?
Colourful, eclectic & feminine.
What are you currently reading?
Becoming by Michelle Obama
How do you incorporate sustainability into your everyday?
In our home we love up cycling and making over old furniture. Within Aurora Art we only create our prints when an order is placed so there is no wastage. Our suppliers are local small businesses & we physically collect our framing and prints from them every week, so that unnecessary packaging can be avoided.
Name 3 empowering females you'd love to have dinner with & why?
We would love to have dinner with Oprah, Michelle Obama & Alicia Keys. All three women are strong black women making a difference in our world. 🙌🏽
What brings you joy - big or small?
Family is our biggest joy. Being a big family there is always lots of noise, laughter & joy!
ABOUT LANI AND ZARA
Lani is the founder and owner of Aurora Art. She holds degrees in Business (Marketing) and Education, and is a Director of various companies.
Zara is completing a Bachelor in Fine Arts and as a professionally trained artist, her work has been exhibited at Melbourne Museum and various galleries across Australia.
Oh, hey there. I’m Sofia Levin, a food and travel journalist based in Melbourne (more so than ever given international travel is currently off the cards!). I write for publications such as Good Food, SBS Food, Lonely Planet and Broadsheet, but I spend most of my time encouraging people to #EatCuriously, that is to learn more about other cultures and celebrate diversity through food.
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My website, Seasoned Traveller, is on track to be live early 2021 and will feature lesser-known restaurants, food experiences and culinary travel advice that you won’t find elsewhere. It comes as no surprise that I’ve decided to compile a list of fiction and non-fiction food books for one of my favourite labels, Obus.
Rest assured that these are not just for food lovers; they contain stories that will transport you to other countries and centuries, enlightening information and ways to broaden both your mind and kitchen skills. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Here are some of my recommended reads...
The Last Days of Cafe Leila by Donia Bijan
This is a beautiful tale about Noor, an Iranian woman living in San Francisco who returns home to visit her aging father at his cafe in Tehran. Three-generation-old Cafe Leila has been a rock and home for many during Iran’s turbulent history, and this moving story of food, family and identity is simultaneously heart warming and heart wrenching. Make sure you have the nearest Persian restaurant on speed dial to make a booking – you’ll want to eat jewelled rice and fesenjan (pomegranate chicken stew) after reading.
Dark Emu: Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident? by Bruce Pasco
This is such an important book for every Australian to read. Aboriginal author and academic Bruce Pascoe released it in 2014, but it’s been the topic of much conversation since. Through research, original journal entries and other means it re-examines first encounters with First Nation Australians and turns everything we were taught in school on its head; evidence suggests that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were not “hunter gatherers”, but instead heavily involved in agriculture and cultivating the land.
Appetite by Philip Kazan
This novel is widely regarded as the taste equivalent of Patrick Suskind’s Perfume (another of my all-time favourite books). It’s a historical novel set in Florence and Rome that follows Nino Latini, who can taste what others can’t, from teenager into adulthood. His experiences are intertwined with a love story and the food descriptions are gluttonous and stunning. Nino’s palate in an age of consumption and hedonism is both a blessing and a curse, but I don’t want to give too much more away!
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl
Last year American food writer Ruth Reichl released a memoir called Save Me The Plums: My Gourmet Memoir. It’s a brilliant insight into the evolution and excitement of food writing, but I recommend you first read Garlic and Sapphires (actually, read all of her wonderful books). Garlic and Sapphires is one of my favourites because it’s a real-life romp. It details the efforts Reichl went to remain anonymous when reviewing for the New York Times, during which she completely embodied her characters. She’s clever, fun, overtly sensual and most importantly, makes you want to eat.
New Voices on Food edited by Lee Tran Lam
I’m involved in a group of journalists who gathered during lockdown to brainstorm ways to improve the diversity of food writing in Australia. This book, published by Somekind Press and edited by my unstoppable friend, Lee Tran Lam, is one of the results. It’s an anthology of deeply personal food stories from people of underrepresented backgrounds that will lend a dose of perspective and give you an insight into other cultures through food. Expect to see more of this sort of thing in the future – our culinary landscape is richer for it.
In Praise of Veg: A Modern Kitchen Companion by Alice Zaslavsky
If Obus made a pattern from a cookbook, it would be this one, so I’m sneaking it into my reading list. You might know my mate Alice Zaslavsky from her MasterChef days or her cooking segment on ABC News Breakfast, but it doesn’t matter where she’s been or that I might be a little bit biased, because this bible of a cookbook belongs on the shelf between your Ottolenghi and Stephanie Alexander – and you’ll probably use it more. Vegetable-forward but not at the exclusion of meat and seafood, it’s organised by colour and is as vibrant as the author. For example, if you have onions to use up, flick to the brown section and make the ‘Any kind of Onion’ Tarte Tartin. If it’s good enough for Nigella Lawson, it’s good enough for you.
ABOUT SOFIA LEVIN
Sofia Levin is a culinary travel journalist and the founder of Seasoned Traveller. She encourages people to #EatCuriously in order to celebrate difference and learn more about other cultures through food.
Meet Obus lovers, Celeste and her dear friend and co-owner of Natural Supply Co, Sarah. Like us, these two ladies pack all their orders themselves, and are equally committed to minimise as much waste as possible every day.
From limiting packaging from suppliers, reusing what they can and aiming for a zero-waste approach to business, they embrace the slow living lifestyle, and look for quality over quantity in all aspects of their lives.
Passionate about providing natural, yet delightful, beauty, skincare and lifestyle products, we asked Celeste to share some of her best tips on how to make small changes to take care of ourselves and our environment.
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Kermit the Frog may sing ‘it’s not easy being green,’ but, with a little preparation, I beg to differ! Over the past couple of years, I’ve been making conscious decisions to try and reduce my family’s impact on the environment; avoiding single-use plastic in particular, which has crept into so many facets of our day-to-day lives without us even really noticing. But not anymore!
I know it can be overwhelming to get started on a more eco-friendly lifestyle; I have had a lot of people contact me about this, as I’ve shared my progress and tips on Natural Supply Co’s Insta stories. But I really believe the ‘progress, not perfection’ mantra. I am not perfect. I don’t pretend to be perfect; plastic still comes into our home. But I really believe that if we all make a few small changes, we can make a difference to the environment.
So to that end: here are some tips to help you make some positive changes in 2021!
Get a bread bag
Taking a reusable cotton bread bag to the bakery, and getting your loaf sliced directly into that, means saving a single-use plastic bag for every loaf you buy. That’s about two a week for my family; which means we are saying ‘no thanks’ to about 104 plastic bags a year. It all adds up!
Switch to a biodegradable dish cloth
Next time you need to throw away your manky dish cloth, don’t replace it with a plastic one from the supermarket; buy a biodegradable version instead. You can use it just like your normal kitchen sponge, but when you’re finished with it, you can pop it into your compost instead of sending it to landfill. We love the fun prints from Retrokitchen; I’ve been using my two on rotation for 12 months, and they’re still going.
Invest in a reusable coffee cup and water bottle
The trick is remembering to keep these with you when you’re on-the-go! I swear by the stainless steel Frank Green cups and bottles, which are coated in ceramic on the inside so your drinks taste just like they would in a cup at home. They’ll also keep your drinks hot (or cold) for hours on end. Plus, a lot of cafes will take 20c to 50c off your coffee price when you BYO cup, so if, like me, you drink a lot of coffee, it won’t take long to pay for itself.
Ditch the plastic toothbrush
By switching your toothbrush to a bamboo or corn option, you can save a lot of toothbrushes from ending up in landfill, where they will take hundreds of years to decompose. You can pop your bamboo toothbrushes in the compost when you’re done with them; just snap off the bristles first. I love this pretty pink one!
Take reusable produce bags to the supermarket
We all know to take our shopping bags to the shops now, but have you got a stash of reusable produce bags, too? These are really lightweight so they won’t affect the cost of your shop, but you can use them over and over again instead of bringing your fruit and veggies home in plastic. We stock a few varieties, some that are made out of recycled plastic bottles; talk about going full circle! You can just chuck them in the washing machine when they’re dirty, and use them forever more.
Ditch the single-use makeup remover wipes
We get it; taking off makeup at the end of the day is one job too many for some of us. The good news is, Biologi have made it easy with their reusable microfibre makeup removing cloths. Just wet them with warm water, use them to remove your makeup, then rinse them out – and repeat tomorrow! They come in a pack of three, in a mesh bag so you can chuck them in the washing machine and not lose them! We swear by these beauties for simplifying life, and looking after the environment at the same time. Plus, they can be used thousands of times, which will save you big bucks in no time at all.
Switch to cold water
Did you know that by switching from hot to cold water in your washing machine, you can greatly cut down on electricity bills and reduce your environmental impact? According to the 2019 American Cleaning Institute Sustainability Report, about 90% of the energy used by a washing machine goes toward heating the water. But new product innovations mean a laundry cycle can now be done using cold water with no loss of performance, greatly reducing energy use. The difference to the planet is huge: if each household used cold water for four out of every five wash loads, they would reduce their annual CO2 emissions by 392kgs – that’s the equivalent of planting more than one-third of an acre of forest. If everyone made the same switch, the overall reduction would be vast. Can you imagine?
I hope this has given you a few ideas on easy ways to make more eco-friendly choices. We’re always happy to chat about the right eco-friendly switches for your situation, so please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like some help!
ABOUT CELESTE ROBERTSON
Celeste Robertson is one-half of local small business Natural Supply Co, which she co-owns with Sarah Scott.
Natural Supply Co is the destination for all things natural, organic and zero waste, stocking all eco-friendly products mentioned in this article. Geelong customers can shop at 5 Rutland St, Newtown or online at naturalsupplyco.com.
As we head into the warmer months, creative and blogger, Connie, shares her favourite veggies to plant this summer and how you can get started in the garden!
How did you get started in permaculture?
I’ve always been interested in permaculture and the idea of learning from nature and applying nature’s wisdom in creating a more sustainable way of living. Last year, I decided to undergo formal training and completed my PDC and got my Permaculture Design Certificate which is an internationally recognised certificate that allows you to work as a permaculturist or teach permaculture!
Can you recommend some good resources for anyone wanting to start their own permaculture journey?
A wonderful movie that recently came out which shares plenty of permaculture principles in an accessible format is The Big Little Farm.
Retrosuburbia is also a recent book that was published by David Holmgren, one of the co-originators of permaculture.
For formal training, look for a PDC near you! The Permaculture design system originated in Australia actually so we probably have a great number of opportunities to pursue this here locally!
What are the essentials to be planting this Summer?
beans: super fun to grow - there are climbing varieties which will need vertical support as well as bush varieties which well, grow in a bush!
beetroot: grow these from seeds (though I’ve also grown from seedlings and they were fine). Enjoy the greens whilst they’re growing then harvest the root once big enough!
capsicum: pick up a seedling or two for all your summer pizzas and more. You can grow these in large pots too.
corn: sweet corn is super easy to grow and grows really fast! Plant your corn crop together in a group to aid in pollination - do NOT plant all your corn seedlings separate and in different spots or you may not get corn.
chilli: try jalapeño for your pizzas! Or the many other varieties out there which I haven’t tried because I can’t do much above a jalapeño! You can grow these in large pots too.
cucumber: grows as a vine, have ready something to support it!
eggplant: pick up a seedling or two to save time germinating them. You can grow these in large pots too.
potato: plant in a separate, dedicated patch or potato bag (will share a tutorial soon!). Harvest when the plant dies down in autumn.
pumpkin: super easy to grow but warning, pumpkin plants grow large and can take up metres and metres worth of space so only grow this if you have lots of space.
silverbeet / rainbow chard: one of the easiest greens to grow.
spring onion: plant the ends/roots from a grocery store bunch and watch them grow new shoots. So easy.
strawberries: any and all varieties! You can never have enough strawberry plants. Buy these as seedlings not seeds as strawberries are commonly propagated and planted as runners (which are baby seedlings that grow from the mother plant). Exception: alpine strawberries don’t produce runners!
summer herbs: try sweet basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, mint, lemon balm - so many options!
tomatoes: try cherry tomatoes, they’re prolific and grow like a vine.
watermelon: try sugar baby watermelon - they’re a mini watermelon variety that are good for single servings.
Sounds delicious! Speaking of food, which three empowering females you would love to share a meal with and why?
Michelle Obama - I read her book Becoming and was so inspired by her story and all the amazing work she does for the community. She’s an inspiration to so many.
Jacinda Ardern - she is such an empathetic prime minister and her leadership and being able to balance being prime minister as well as her family commitments has been super inspiring.
Millie from Gardening Australia - I love her segments on TV and are always inspired by her creative upcycles & garden projects. She inspires me to get things done in our garden.
What brings you joy-big or small?
- Growing food and sharing it with loved ones!
- The smell of fresh air!
- Spending time with my partner Tom & papillon Toro :)
Connie Cao is a Melbourne based travel, lifestyle, home & sustainable living blogger, influencer, photographer & creative. Born and raised in Melbourne Australia, with a Chinese heritage, Connie has always been fascinated with art, nature and the beauty of both these things.
For more information about gardening, permaculture and how to grow some of the above summer veggies, visit her blog over at Connie & Luna.
Connie wears Obus Small Wonders Maxi Dress. Images courtesy of Connie Cao.
Meet Nonny B (aka Nynno), an artist and photographer who we're grateful to be able to collaborate with here at Obus.
With a penchant for exploring global culture through the arts, she gains inspiration and insight from the world’s vibrant subcultures. We caught up with Nonny to see how she's maintained her sense of creativity during lockdown and share her latest single, 'Defeat'.
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Earlier this year you shot our OLANA x OBUS collaboration - which seems like a lifetime ago now - tell us what it’s like to work with other creatives?
As a freelance photographer, time in between people-based shoots can be a bit isolating. So working with other creatives is a great opportunity to connect with like-minded people and get inspired.
The OLANA x OBUS collaboration was a great one to be part of because there were so many parts to it; Olana had his process for creating his masterpieces, Team Obus had their method of taking that work and making it wearable, then I took that work and helped to create some imagery.
Where do you get your inspiration for singing, songwriting and photography?
From everything and everywhere. I like to observe the world around me, whether that’s through documentary, music, my culture, personal life or the accounts of those closest to me.
With music, I like to let ideas swirl around in my head, sometimes I’ll reflect on my own experiences or give other people’s stories alternate endings. In the future, I’m hoping I can learn to challenge myself more by writing lyrics that are so outrageously far from myself and my personality, like a personal ghostwriting exercise.
Photography tends to be a bit more collaborative, so I often bear in mind the aim of the shoot and the skills of the people I’m working on the project with. I also try to see if there’s an opportunity with every shoot, to create something that challenges me technically and well as creatively.
Thanks for sharing your new single ‘DEFEAT' with us via IGTV [Watch here], tell us what it's about?
It’s mostly about walking away from the irreconcilable differences in a relationship. It speaks on the desire to allow for vulnerability but also reflects on the importances of knowing and respecting your personal boundaries.
How have you been keeping your momentum going during the Melbourne lockdown?
I’ve enjoyed certain aspects of isolation - having time to reflect, take in art and media, go on walks and create.
I’ve tried to embrace relaxation but I also have a slight fear of developing mental atrophy from extensive periods of inactivity [haha]. Ultimately I’ve maintained momentum by trying to keep balance in mind - making sure I’m productive with my time but also resting when I need to. You have to be kind but also honest with yourself.
What are you looking forward to the most this Summer?
Beers in the park. And hugging friends and family.
ABOUT NONNY B AKA NYNNO
Nynno Bel-Air Melbourne-based photographer, specialising in fashion, portraiture and social content.
She is also a creative singer and songwriter who is quickly becoming known for her broody brand of R&B. With verses that are paradoxical, her music delivery decidedly relatable themes in a casually esoteric yet playful way reminiscent of the soulful divas she's inspired by.
Get in touch via her website or follow her on Spotify.
Nynno wears Obus Aster Wrap Dress. Image + Video courtesy of Nynno Bel-Air.
How long has it been since we were collectively sent home from the office? Who can remember when the individual days of the week merged into one featureless, never-ending Tuesday so soon after WFH became the status quo. But if it was say, February-ish, it’s been half a year since our kitchen tables became family desk-islands, the passenger seat of the car a conference room for calls that could not be set to a soundtrack of children fighting and on desperate days, the bathroom a break-out space for scrolling Instagram in silence for the few minutes before you were sought out by someone needing a snack, pencil sharpener, band-aid, charger etc.. Etc., etc., etc., literally all the etcs..
As noted at the time, one of the few upsides to a global pandemic was getting to give up proper workwear, anything dry-clean-only and agony around the waist by 11.30a.m, which is to say the majority of workwear if you’re a woman.
There were hashtags, memes, there were newspaper stories about the splendour of nine-to-five sweatpants. And of course, to begin with it was pure joy. But then, at some point, so much fleece began to feel less like a personal choice and more like the inmate uniform of a low-security work prison. We began to long for anything with a waist, a dart, a cuff. And although some of us have, in recent weeks, been allowed to re-enter society/our offices, for others WFH is looking a lot like a sentence without a known release date.
As a writer, I have served 15 years already and like anyone who was already doing it, I have learned the ins and outs of not leaving the house. I know when and what to eat – a proper lunch at lunchtime, not a day-long degustation of crumpets, seaweed crackers, cooking chocolate and the leftover contents of a children’s party bag. I know the vital importance of a morning shower, vs. a bit of a wash. I know that when the suggestion is first put, a day-time social event seems like a treat and that, on the day, you will not have time and feel terrible for cancelling and even worse if you don’t.
As choices, they may seem unrelated but actually they are all made in service of the same goal: keeping your mood up, the hardest and most important part of WFH. Since fashion is the best mood-keeper-up there is, here is what I have learned about dressing for a kitchen desk.
YOU CANNOT GET TWO DAYS OUT OF A TOP
I mean, you can. When you do not go out, use public transport or move amongst people all day, your tee will probably still be good at the end of the day. But what you wear today the way is the only way you know it’s not yesterday, and once you have crossed the two-day threshold, it feels like, why not try for a third? And then it’s Thursday so why not see out the week in this tee? Actually, it’s become so soft, why not sleep in it Thursday night? Because it will be the beginning of an inexorable sartorial slide and, when you try to take it off at the weekend, the fabric will have fused to your underarms and require removal by a medical professional.
WASH YOUR HAIR MORE OFTEN
If you’re actively trying to get depressed, then definitely, cut back on real washes and just dry-shampoo until your hair is a single clump of matter. But if you’re looking to stay out of an emotional trough, wash your hair more often. It’s the quickest, cheapest form of self-care and even if it adds a little bit of time to your morning routine, you make it back on not having to go anywhere ever.
Whereas once, there was such a thing as a coloured load and a white load, you might have noticed that lately, you’re doing more, a single grey wash. For some reason, wearing colour or a print when you are home alone feels unnecessary and effortful, but pulling on something bright is no more work than pulling on something in a sludgy-grey-brown and if it’s just for you, there’s no better reason to wear it.
AND A BRA BETWEEN NINE AND FIVE
Of all the constricting items given up in these times, bras were supposedly the first to go. Like wine and Netflix, bralessness is tempting but ultimately, an unwise choice for day. Not because a woman should wear a bra or because being naked under your shirt feels weird on a Zoom call and, depending on the lighting, may be discernible to everyone else on it. Only because, Liz-Lemoning your bra out one sleeve before pouring yourself a silo of pinot is your chief reward for a day’s graft. Also if your office is also your sofa, underwire or the absence of it is the best demarcation between day and night. Spanx at home, of course not. Heels, why would you? Pants, up to you. But bra? Absolutely.
As discussed, treat to begin with but ultimately all-day-sweatpants are deleterious to wellbeing. Athleisure is a tempting alternative but like actual workwear, it hurts by lunchtime – tight at the waist and weirdly hot behind the knees. The trick is to wear something comfortable but not 100 per cent comfortable during the day and when it’s time to punch out, change into the truly, deliciously comfortable sweatpants that by now, you have totally earned.
ABOUT AUTHOR MEG MASON
Meg Mason began her career at the Financial Times and The Times of London. Her work has since appeared in The Sunday Times, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sunday Telegraph. She has written humour for The New Yorker and Sunday STYLE, monthly columns for GQ and InsideOut and is now a regular contributor to Vogue, ELLE and marie claire. Her first book Say It Again in a Nice Voice (HarperCollins) was published in 2012. Her second, You Be Mother (HarperCollins) was published in 2017. She lives in Sydney with her husband and two daughters.
SORROW AND BLISS
Spiky, sharp, intriguingly dark and tender, full of pathos, fury and wit, Sorrow and Bliss, the latest book by Meg Mason is a dazzling, distinctive novel from a boldly talented writer. For fans of Sally Rooney, Taffy Brodesser-Akner and Fleabag.
ENTER TO WIN:
To celebrate those rare friends which light up our world despite seeing
us through our darkest moments ~ we’ve joined publisher Harper Collins Australia to give two book lovers a chance to WIN:
1 x SORROW AND BLISS Book by Meg Mason
1 x $250 OBUS Online Gift Card
Enter via Instagram
For the pastry
175g/6oz plain flour
100g/3½ oz cold butter, cut into small cubes
25g/1oz icing sugar
1 free-range egg yolk
1 tbsp cold water
For the filling
5 free-range eggs
125ml/4fl oz double cream
225g/8oz caster sugar
4 lemons, juice and zest
icing sugar, for dusting
- For the pastry, place the flour, butter and icing sugar into a food processor. Pulse briefly until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then add the egg yolk and one tablespoon of cold water.
- Pulse again until the mixture sticks together in clumps then tip onto a work surface and gather it into a ball with your hands. Knead the pastry just two or three times to make it into a smooth ball. Wrap it in cling film and place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
- Grease 12 x 7.5cm/3in fluted tart tins.
- Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 5mm/¼in. Cut out circles with a 10cm/4in round cutter and use to line the tins, re-rolling the pastry as necessary. Place the tart cases in the fridge to chill.
- Preheat the oven to 200C(180C fan)/400F/Gas 6.
- Cover the base of the tartlets with baking parchment or foil and fill with a few baking beans.
- Bake blind for seven minutes then remove the parchment and beans.
- Return the pastry cases to the oven for another 4-5 minutes or until they are light golden-brown and completely dry. Set aside to cool while you make the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 170C(150 fan)/325F/Gas 3.
- For the filling, break the eggs into a large bowl and whisk together with a wire whisk. Add the rest of the filling ingredients and whisk again until they are all well-combined. Pour the filling mixture into a jug, then into the cooled baked pastry cases. To prevent it spilling as they go into the oven, pour in most of the filling so it almost fills the tarts, carefully sit the baking sheet and tarts on the oven shelf, then top up with the rest of the filling to completely fill the tarts.
- Bake for about seven minutes, or until just set but with a slight wobble in the centre.
- Leave to cool slightly then carefully ease the tartlets from their tins an place on a wire rack to cool completely.
- Garnish with fresh lavender, pomegranate seeds or a drizzle of melted chocolate.
Recipe courtesy of Mary Berry from British Bake Off
Photo courtesy of Qew Hector featuring Obus Aster Collection.
We recently caught up with Megan, Sydney based designer, illustrator and author to chat all things creativity, fashion and how 2020 has been a catalyst for change.
Combining her love of fashion, travel and illustration, Megan takes us behind the scenes as she creates a fun wallpaper inspired by our accessories so you can brighten up your digital digs with a little Obus.
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How do you describe your illustration style?
Colourful, detailed, layered, and fun!
What inspired you to move into illustration, writing and manufacturing over more traditional forms of graphic design? Did you know this was what you wanted to do, or has it been a gradual transition?
I studied Visual Communication at university, and always had an interest in the more tangible outputs rather than strict graphic design; I loved getting to make a project come to life and turn into something I could hold — whether that was a book, product packaging, or an assortment… I made a lot of weird stuff at uni! I had started making my own pieces, mostly jewellery, while I was studying and selling at markets, and eventually this turned into other wearable pieces that incorporated my illustration. Getting to combine my training with my passions is really a dream come true, and I feel really lucky to have developed a wide tool-kit for making just about anything!
Tell us more about your business McKean Studio, which you run with your husband Joshua?
McKean Studio is a travel and lifestyle brand, and for the last 5 years we’ve focussed on crafting souvenirs and keepsakes from our travels around the world. About a year ago I made the decision to stop the physical output to focus on some new ideas that were more sustainable, and to partner with other brands that were more specialised in their manufacturing.
Over the last year we’ve focussed more on travel and writing and I’ve been exploring more illustration avenues. Joshua took a step back from McKean Studio a couple of years ago to focus on his career, and I started working more on the parts of the business that are more in line with my skill set — like illustration!
With distinctive colour palettes being common in your work, how do you choose the colours for each illustration/product?
Choosing a colour palette is always my favourite part of a new project. The specifics are largely guided by the project and what the finished outcome will be, and where it will go. I spend a lot of time laying out physical colour swatches (often paint chips that I’ve hoarded from Bunnings) and mixing and matching to find the perfect combination.
Most of my projects are city or location based, so I try to choose colours that are iconic and recognisable to that place and build out harmonious palettes from there.
We love your book, Hello, Melbourne! How did your Hello…! Series of Books come about, and how has that process evolved?
Hello, Melbourne! is the second in my Hello…! Series of books, I like to think of it as the buddy book for Hello, Sydney! which was released the year before. I was originally approached by a publishing house to work on something together, and we developed the initial concept for Sydney. We thought it would just be the one book, but it was received really well, and I’ve now written 5 books in the series!
The project evolved into countries (adding Australia and then New Zealand) as well as expanding into international cities, with Hello, London! being the latest addition, published just this February!
What kind of projects have you worked on recently? What was the most rewarding?
Lately I’ve been working on some big (secret) projects that have been largely self directed before pitched to someone who can make my idea come true — I always find these projects really rewarding because you can look back at what starts as just a kernel of an idea, and see it grow into something really big and exciting that someone else believes in too.
I’ve spent a lot of the last year working on a line of homewares coming out next month (!!!) which is one of my biggest projects to date, and it’s been amazing getting to see it all come together through the extensive samples and mockups and packaging layouts. It’s a combination of everything I love to work on - turning my illustration into something tangible that will eventually be a part of peoples lives.
How has Covid-19 changed your 2020, and how have you adapted to these challenges?
This year has changed a lot of things… we’d been gearing up for some really big personal changes that have all had to go on hold for now, as well as having shifted our business focus. I had already given notice on the studio space in March, so have moved back to our tiny apartment, along with my husband who works outside of McKean Studio.
It’s been COZY in our 1 bedroom apartment that’s for sure. In some ways, it’s been a blessing for the business, having stepped away from production, but so much of what I’d planned for the year (like more travel, and hence, more travel writing) just evaporated overnight. I’ve tried my best to pivot, and have used the time to focus on new projects that will hopefully come to fruition in 2021.
STYLE AND TRAVEL
Ooh, that’s a tough one. If I had to describe it, I’d say fun, fancy and functional! I love fun prints and colours, but can have a tendency to overdress. I always opt for a nipped waist and fuller skirt, but demand functional pockets in my dresses, and always in fabrics I can wash and wear easily (no ironing for me, thank you!).
When it comes to travelling, what are your top tips for packing a practical yet vibrant wardrobe?
I’m a big fan of anything that can do double-duty. I love a pinafore style dress so you can pack multiple shirts that go with it, but it feels like a new outfit each time. Bright tights and a colourful coat are also my go-tos for winter wardrobes.
While you share several travel tales and city guides from your global travels, what are your top 5 hidden gems to visit within Australia?
I love coastal towns and one of my favourites is Port Macquarie on the NSW mid-north coast. It’s a very sweet spot and there’s so many nice things to do. It’s relaxed and unfussy and just has a great atmosphere. I also love Port Stephens, especially Shoal Bay and Nelson Bay. I’ve spent lots of family holidays in the area and it’s a really beautiful place to be, even when you’re not at the beaches.
Closer to home, friends of ours moved from Sydney to Glenbrook at the base of the Blue Mountains, and every time we visit it’s easy to see why they made the move for their family. It had a lovely village vibe, with cute cafes scattered throughout. It feels far from the city, but is only an hour or so from the CBD.
What destination is at the top of your travel bucket list, when we can start travelling again?
So many, I don’t even know where to start. We’d hoped for a birthday celebration on the Amalfi Coast this year — so maybe I’ll just push that to my next dream destination when things are back on again! Waiting for spring (and watching the one cherry blossom tree on my street) has had me dreaming of Japan too.
Do you tend to create on the go, be present in the moment, or a combination of the two?
I think I’m a combination — I enjoy every second when we’re travelling, and love snapping away on the phone camera all day. I’ll usually edit photos at the end of each day, and if I’m planning a post about something specific, I’ll do a little bit of writing into my Notes app to come back to later on. Illustration projects I really only do when I’m back home, and I try to treat the travel time like building a ‘mental Rolodex’ to come back to when I’m needing a hit of inspiration in my work. It’s all important research!
A DAY IN THE LIFE
What is your favourite thing to do on a rainy day?
A rainy work day is one of my favourites, getting to draw all day with a hot water bottle on the lap and the coffee pot filled is the best!
How do you incorporate sustainability into your every day?
We’ve gotten our daily routines down to a nice rhythm now, so many of the sustainable practices we incorporate are just second nature. We walk to our local grocer for veggies for dinner instead of driving to the supermarket (and getting our steps in for the day while we’re at it), we changed our power supplier to a renewable energy company, and we walk to our local cafe for coffee each week.
The last few months at home have made me more thoughtful about consumption and shopping habits in general, so when I ‘need’ to buy something I’ll always check for a local or handmade option first.
Which three empowering females you'd love to have dinner (or a Zoom date) with and why?
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jacinda Ardern, and Mindy Kaling. Can you imagine how good that dinner date would be? 🙌🏻 Although I really admire all of the work that all three women do in their respective fields, I mostly love how unapologetic they are about their talents and abilities. Getting to soak up some of that energy would be brilliant.
What lights you up and brings you joy - big or small?
I love keeping an eye out for little joys throughout my day. Funny coincidences that make me smile on my daily walks — like two cars of the same model parked next to each other, or people in outfits that coordinate with their house colour. I try to bring an element of joy into every day - cause what’s it all about if you’re not getting a little ray of sunshine somewhere in your day?
I love a bunch of supermarket flowers, or pinching some blooms from my neighbours trees to bring inside. Bigger joys are getting to snuggle my friends babies, and making someone laugh.
What do you love most about Obus?
The colours and the prints, and their timeless appeal. I still see people in Obus outfits from years ago that look as good as the day they came out. Obus pieces have a way of feeling very particular to the person wearing them, but looks good on everyone! 💕
Megan McKean is a designer, illustrator and author from Sydney. Always aiming to ‘design to delight’, she is inspired by travel and cities around the world. Megan’s illustrations can be found on homewares and lifestyle items, and in her best selling series of children’s books, in all good bookstores around Australia.
Megan wears Obus Botanica Cord Dress. All images courtesy of Megan McKean.
This month Sleep Awareness Week shines the light on how much sleep we need, and how little some of us are getting at the moment. Here are five tips for a better nights sleep...
Sleep disruptions come in all shapes and sizes and, of course, all have different routes to mend and manage them.
- Have difficulty falling asleep
- Wake up and have difficulty getting back to sleep
- Wake up multiple times to urinate
- No matter how much sleep you get, you still feel tired
It may seem utterly boring, but good food and a good nights sleep are the best medicine you can have, so let’s get into a few simple things you can do for a restful sleep.
1. Remove as much light as possible
You’ve heard of circadian rhythms – simply speaking, this is our body’s natural 24 hour cyclical clock. When people refer to their body clock, this is what they’re referring to.
Even low levels of light can reeeaaallly mess with it. This includes phones, computers, kindles and the annoying street light outside your window.
Avoid blue light exposure from screens for AT LEAST one hour before bed. This is where your trusty book comes in handy or a shower before bed. An eye mask worn in bed will be a dream if you struggle to remove light from your surroundings.
2. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday
Following the same logic of the circadian rhythm, your body likes order and routine. Roughly following the same sleep/wake schedule will do wonders.
Which leads us to our next tip…
3. Exercise for a good night’s sleep
You don’t need to run a marathon or do a high intensity work out for it to be called exercise. Even a 30 minute moderately paced walk will cut the mustard. If you can leave the house for a breath of fresh air, I encourage you to do so – even if it’s just around the block.
Other forms of movement that will get the blood pumping:
- Skipping rope
- Yoga (there is so much online!)
4. Manage stress and calm the mind
When we are stressed, our incredibly clever hormones MAKE US FEEL GOOD, so that we can get through the stress! This phenomenon is shown when we finally have down time from our busy schedule and completely crash and feel awful, but feel good when we’re in the thick of things.
Stressors are many and varied, but in order to reduce a cortisol spike at night that will disrupt your sleep, try the following:
- Leave work thoughts for work hours
- Place a drop of lavender oil on your wrists or on your pillow
- Listen to a yoga nidra or sleep meditation in bed
- Have a shower or bath before bed
For further tips on dealing with stress please have a look at Developing a Daily Ritual.
5. What to do when there is not enough sleep in the world
This is the time to contact your GP or preferred health professional.
If you are sleeping long hours and not feeling rested, it may be time speak with your GP to organise a mental health plan as this can be a sign of depression.
If upon waking, you feel groggy and it takes a while to get going this can also be a sign that your gut is having a hard time! Sub out the black coffee first thing for a hot water with lemon as a first step.
The tips you already know, but need to have someone tell you
- Don’t drink coffee or caffeinated drinks from mid-late afternoon onwards
- Avoid sugary foods close to bed
- Don’t work where you sleep and if you must, do what you can to make it feel separate)
- Go to bed at a reasonable hour (before midnight unless you’re a shift worker
Happy sleeping everyone.
ABOUT CAZ BUTLERCaz Butler is a Chinese medicine practitioner in Melbourne who adores women’s health and mental health. Her passion is to bring joy to body literacy. She believes that education and open communication around health and our bodies is a social and political responsibility.
You can find her on Instagram at @caz.butler_tcm.dr
Caz wears our OBUS Botanica Dress - Coming Soon
We’re experiencing a global upheaval and the ground may continue be shaking beneath your feet, so to bring a sense of order and joy to your life, below are three simple ways to bring ritual into your everyday.
For the purposes of this post AND with the added benefit of being a mindful practice, I grabbed mum’s old Heinemann Australian Dictionary off the shelf:
Habit: a regular practice or usage.
Ritual: a formal or ceremonial action.
Humans love a ritual whether we realise it or not, though we often disguise them as habits – a far less romantic notion. I view ritual as a daily mindfulness practice and before you navigate away from this page because I said the dreaded ‘M’ word, hear me out. When I refer to mindfulness, I am referring to its broken down pieces – mind-full. Just being present.
ONE – Ritualise your current habits
Take a seat and go through your day from the moment your eyes open until they close at night, jotting each one down.
The way I see daily ritual, is a mindset shift. You’re adding solemnity and mindfulness to a current habit and removing any guilt. You may or may not slow down the action.
- Add solemnity
- Increase mindfulness
- Remove any guilt
I’m not exactly suggesting that scrolling instagram first thing in the morning is the best thing to do for your mental health, but I do believe in guilt free living for health maintenance. If a first-thing scroll is what wakes you up and brings you into the world, then enjoy it! Grab your phone, smile and get ready to enjoy 5-10 guilt-free minutes. Be present as you do and stop and read a meaningful post instead of mindlessly scrolling.
If cooking is your jam, then pop on some music, give yourself an extra 5 minutes to cook, slow it down and roll out that gnocchi like it’s a gift from the gods.
Whichever habit you choose to convert, apply the above three principles and be there for yourself.
TWO – Add a practice
There are plenty of studies to suggest that meditation will increase productivity, lessen stress and improve quality of life, but it’s not for everyone – especially as a starting point. A practice that I do recommend for the person who finds it hard to sit still is journaling. Now bear with me before you roll your eyes.
Journaling is a bloody excellent way to get your mind to slow down and get your thoughts out of your brain and onto a page. I think it’s best to go pen to paper, but in a pinch, your laptop will do nicely. Start with 5 minutes. If at the end of 5 minutes all you have is a blank page with the words, “this is stupid” written on it, that’s fine. At best you might have written down how you’re feeling or even what you did that day. I like to add a tea light candle or 3 to increase solemnity.
Honestly, add candles to any old moment and you’ve increased ritual ten-fold.
Other practices that you might like to consider:
- Meditation – on your own or with the assistance of an app.
- A gentle stroll
- A bath or bathing ritual
- Self massage
THREE – Maintain the ritual
Like the habits that have structured your day for as long as you can remember, continue the ritual. Make it your thing.
Suddenly you’ll find yourself able to ascribe ritual freely throughout your day when you feel that you need centering. You don’t need to live like a monk, you don’t need to take up yin yoga and you don’t need to ignore social responsibility to practice self care. You just need to be there for yourself too.
ABOUT CAZ BUTLER
Caz Butler is a Chinese medicine practitioner in Melbourne who adores women’s health and mental health. Her passion is to bring joy to body literacy. She believes that education and open communication around health and our bodies is a social and political responsibility.
You can find her on Instagram at @caz.butler_tcm.dr
As we continue to create beautiful and practical collections for the modern woman, we love to think about all of the different ways that Obus is a part of your lives. Recently we've had the pleasure of watching one of our ladies Alaina navigate pregnancy in her Obus wardrobe, a journey we are lucky to share with many of our Obus ladies.
. . . . .
We recently chatted to Alaina about becoming a new Mum, how she continues to add colour to her wardrobe and her favourite post-bump Obus pieces.
What three words would you use to describe your personal style?
Fun, colourful, & prints-prints-prints!
What is your favourite thing to do on a rainy day?
To kick back and relax on the couch with a big cup of tea and watch a series or movie on Netflix! Lots of cuddles are also involved with Archie and my 2 pups, Bandit & Sadie. Oh, and husband too.
What are you currently reading and/or listening to?
Reading: Archie keeps me pretty busy these days, so I don't have too much time to be reading to be honest! One magazine I have been enjoying though is 'Mindful Parenting,' which focuses on well-being, self-care, and finding joy as a new parent.
Listening: We are listening to A LOT of white noise :) #momlife
In the mornings, Archie and I love listening to Aussie bands like Lime Cordiale and dancing to 80's rock/pop classics like The Kinks and New Order. The kid has good taste in music, what can I say :)
How do you incorporate sustainability into your every day?
I try to incorporate lots of little things in my day to day life to be more sustainable. For instance, avoiding plastic usage, recycling, composting, and using reusable water bottles and coffee cups. I'm also mindful about where I shop for food- which means hitting the local farmers markets as much as I can. I have also followed a vegan diet for ten years, which I believe is the single most effective thing we can do as individuals to reduce our environmental impact on earth!
Tell us which three empowering females you'd love to have dinner with and why?
1) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: I have THE biggest girl crush on AOC. I was born and raised in Washington DC and like to keep up with what's going on back home. AOC is the youngest woman ever to be elected into Congress and has already made such a huge impact in such a short amount of time. In my opinion, she is the ultimate badass boss babe!
2) Celeste Barber: No one's instagram cracks me up as much as Aussie comedian's Celeste Barber. Her celebrity impersonations are absolute gold and a dinner with her would guarantee lots of lols. I admire all of the work she did earlier this year in raising global awareness and funds for the Australian bushfire relief.
3) Beyonce: Absolutely NO explanation needed :)
6. What lights you up and brings you joy (big or small)?
Archie's smiles for his mummy bring me the absolute most joy! He's getting to the age (3 months) where he's smiling heaps, and I"m loving every single moment of it.
Other things that bring me joy are walking my pups, long catch up with my friends, being at the beach, and a delicious vegan brunch........ all whilst being dressed up in my favourite Obus threads, of course!
What do you love most about Obus?
Ever since I moved to Melbourne 8 years ago and discovered Obus, it has been one of my favourite brands. No one does a statement print quite like Obus... and I am all about bright and bold prints! The clothes are beautifully made, high quality, and the cuts are oh so flattering! I also love the fact that the majority of the clothing is made in Melbourne by family-run businesses.
I loved the fact that the majority of my Obus frocks were able to fit me throughout my entire pregnancy so that I didn't have to buy brand new and not so fun pregnancy clothes. Even at the height of my morning sickness (and drinking nothing but ginger tea), putting on my bright and colourful Obus dresses made me feel like a functioning human being :)
I also love the fact that I can still continue to wear Obus postpartum while fulfilling my mummy duties. There are so many great button-down shirt and dress options that I can choose from to wear when out and about that are breastfeeding friendly. Thanks, Obus!
THANK YOU Alaina, we've loved being a part of your journey! xxx Team Obus
I’m Beth, and as a mum to two girls, I find this recipe is a great way to get veggies into your kids (or adults) without it being overtly veggie-like. Who doesn't love a rich tomato sauce you can top with as much cheese as you can muster?