Shopping bags

Shopping bags are wonderful things. They come in a myriad of shapes and sizes, they are plain or patterned, and useful for many purposes. I am not the only one who likes them: I have seen whole exhibitions dedicated to their design, function and aesthetic appeal. These days there are fewer disposable plastic bags around, and an abundance of multi-use bags made from that weird polypropylene material (it’s still plastic). (Of course, now more people buy plastic bin liners instead of using the bag their groceries came in!) Here is a plastic bag I haven’t been able to part with. I already know that I won’t throw it away, but I haven’t found the right use for it yet. It’s not the plastic-ness I like, though: it’s the logo! I like the handwritten style, the simple line, the self-containment, the black and white.


This box is so ordinary I don’t quite know what to make of it. I have no objection to its plain appearance—it’s just that every other box at the bottle shop is more elaborate, usually designed to match, or at least echo, the labels on the wine bottles it contains. Perhaps that’s the point! Champagne should speak for itself. Perhaps it is just so très French: mon dieu, we do not have to prove anything to you/sell you anything/make any effort/être français est assez! Whether or not irony was intended, the box was different enough that it stood out from the shouting and competing crowd: paradoxically making the very unremarkableness of it remarkable.

Green bird

Everyone knows that it is important to have ecological and environmental awareness and responsibility, yet every day we encounter a mess of packaging that is an eyesore and an assault on our aesthetic sensibilities and quality of visual life. Here’s an example of what I consider to be a much more clever and sensitive way of getting a message across. Brown paper packaging, simple one-colour printing, and using a recognised symbol as part of the illustration—resulting in a serious message delivered with lightness. In fact I kept the packaging and brought it home half way around the world in order to re-use it in some way! I’m momigami-ing it and using it in my next artists’ book.


Who ever would have imagined that supermarket shopping bags would become interesting. I found this bag at, of all places, the Whole Foods Market on Maui. It was immediately appealing because, at the time, reusable shopping bags in Australia were pretty much available only in plain green. We still call them green bags, although now a green bag can be blue, orange, patterned, or anything else! (The best bags come from the place I buy coffee beans—they are black with a repeating pattern in orange.) Despite the growing choice of reusable bags, I still like this one, with its graphic illustration and promise of lemons straight from the sunshine state.

Red meat

My friend is working on an installation that requires red. Red paper, red plastic, red fabric, red string, red found objects, red everything. As I come across them, I save items of red that might interest her, and when I have gathered a decent amount I hand it over. I delivered a bagful yesterday, and as she was rifling through it she pulled out this red meat paper bag, which, given the appeal of its straight talking and typographic qualities, I immediately asked to borrow back. After I have made use of it today I will return it, giving this piece of packaging more lifespan that it ever would have imagined for itself.

Blue bag

It’s remarkably easy to accumulate offcuts, scraps, printed bits and pieces and ephemera, all intended to be used later in some collage, artists’ book or other artwork. Each piece invariably holds some special appeal at the time, but later, going through those piles of saved precious commodities, the appeal of much of it can have evaporated. I have a busy year ahead, and I’m preparing for it by clearing space and assessing the material I need to keep and that which I need to discard or reassign. I find that I am discarding more than I am keeping, an enlightening process because it’s showing me how my art practice has changed and developed over the last year or so. I’m also finding things I had forgotten about—which are now providing new inspiration—and items like this blue post bag from Sweden, which must have contained a delivery of books bought online, that will go back into the pile to be reassessed at some future point in time.


I never intended my ‘short break’ to stretch to eleven months, but time has a way of ticking along and space has a way of getting itself filled. Over the last few weeks people have started  to ask me what’s going on and if I’m returning to the blog, so if you are reading this, I guess the answer is that I have been successfully prodded. And in the way of all things timely and synchronous, a dusty ratty torn cardboard box came into my possession (the contents of which are for next time) with this most wonderful Toolite label stuck on the side.

Liquid aloha


The supermarket at Princeville, with its colourful displays of packaging and interesting bottle shapes and labels, can hold me captive for hours. It takes some doing to get my head around the fact that the grocery store in a small town on a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean can offer more choice than some major stores in my considerably larger home town of Sydney. But on this particular day we had been out in the heat for hours, and just wanted to get back to our apartment and open the bag of chips, crack open a cold one, and sit on the deck while the sun went down on Bali Ha’i.

King of Hawaii


Regardless of any political conservatism, King Kalakaua, last reigning king of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, seems to have left his mark in ways that matter—dancing, storytelling, surfing and music! He revived hula and surfing; his support of the ukulele contributed to its becoming the musical instrument symbolic of Hawaii; he wrote the lyrics to Hawai‘i Pono‘i, which became the Hawaiian state song. Not long after his reign began, in an attempt to boost a struggling economy, he negotiated a treaty with President Ulysses S Grant which allowed certain Hawaiian goods to be admitted to the United States tax-free. I don’t know if ‘fancy sliced’ pineapple was part of the deal, but this old packaging box features him prominently. It goes without saying that I like the typography, but I especially like his portrait—or is that Magnum, PI?

US eggs


It’s generally regarded that the colour of an eggshell matches the colour of the chicken that laid it. At home, a carton of eggs rarely contains twelve perfectly matching eggshells, but whenever we have bought eggs from a supermarket in Hawaii, I am astounded by the uniformity of colour, especially those ones that are so perfectly white, not a dot or speckle to be seen. I am confounded by it! I chose these eggs, from Foodland, for two reasons. One, there was just enough variation in their colour to provide me with some reassurance, and two, the ubiquitous branding was a little smudged and unperfect.