Sunday, March 31, 2013

Matthew Robins' make-your-own-puppet puppet-a-long

So, here's an excellent thing:
Matthew Robins showing you how he makes his puppets, in detail, so you can make your own.

Even if you don't want to make a puppet right now, this is absolutely worth watching just to see him at work.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


I'm back in my lovely London home!
It's tidier than ever because we'd sublet it and the excellent tenant neatened the place up before he left. It's beautiful. I mean, all the labels on things are facing outwards. Now I know we have four different kinds of chili sauce, which explains why there is never enough space on the condiment shelf. I will try to preserve the order as long as I can.
I felt so inspired that when I went shopping to stock up I knolled all the stuff on the conveyor belt. It was very satisfying.

And now I'm just concentrating on staying awake until evening to beat the jet lag.

I hope I don't have to go back out because it's cold and I can only find one hat which is an orange monkey hat, the rest is still packed up. The monkey hat really doesn't go well with my self-tinting glasses somehow. - At least when I was looking for hats I found that moths ate my respectable clothes. That was a great relief. I was only keeping them in case I ever have to go to a dinner party or to court, and that's not what one wants to be reminded of every morning when opening ones wardrobe. They were kind of lurking with strange ambition.

The post box was stuffed solid, nor surprising after a month's holiday. The largest thing was a copy of Varoom magazine which featured three full pages about "Welcome To Your Awesome Robot", including one with a big photo with Sam Arthur of NoBrow/Flying Eye (wait, that sounds like a freak shaving accident - you know what I mean though, the excellent small publishing company).

It's a pretty cool issue, actually, I'm looking forward to reading it (I mean the bits that aren't me, they are also cool but I already read them).

Oh crikey I need some sleep.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


I found a perfect café... Grace Café in Rose Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne.
It's tiny, if you choose to sit on the slim terrace the waiters have to go right out on the street and serve you from there, across a low wall.
The flowers on the tables are made from rolled-up pages of old books, and when the tea arrived on jumbled crockery, the tray was a framed page from "Through The Looking Glass". We leaned it up on the windowsill:

My favourite page! The one with the sheep in the shop. The Sleepwalkers is in part based on that scene.

I ate a delicious crépe filled with quark and topped with berries, and saw other great food going past the table: sandwiches heaped with avocado, beautiful cakes... You should go there if you ever find yourself in Melbourne.

Then I went straight on to Tea Too and bought Buddha's Tears tea which should last me a long time, it only takes a couple of tiny rolled-up leaf pearls to make an amazing cup of jasmine-flavoured tea.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bad Photography, also Cheese and tea

I had all my photos developed, and stuck them in a book. Now I'll enhance and annotate them at my leisure.

This is something I've been doing as long as I've had access to cameras. It used to baffle my mother, I think, when she went to have my pictures developed... I just love to take dull pictures. I take copious and pointless shots of roofs, walls, shrubbery, street corners. For some reason they fascinate me, not the places, but the actual photos. Sometimes I think of them as portraits of invisible friends.
I noticed at some point that they get even better when they are a bit blurred, oddly cropped, have light leaks... sometimes I remember what creature I imagines in a particular shot, then I might draw them in (see above).
Sometimes I just annotate them. I imagine that the reason these pictures are a bit off is that they are the best ones that were taken of this interesting thing, under less than ideal circumstances.

In any case, whatever it is that I'm doing, it doesn't work with photos that people would call "good". Those are just representations of the thing that was actually there. The "bad" pictures are ever so slightly removed from reality, and allow something new and unexpected to enter. It's a bit like rubbing your eyes until you see stars, or squinting, or turning your head upside down. The world changes when you don't see it "properly".

I also like taking "good" portrait photos which are composed and in focus, but if they come out wrong for some reason, they sometimes go into that other collection with the walls and the decapitated construction cranes.

I'll scan this Australian photo album when it's finished and blog some of it. There might also be a book in the works that is closely connected to this, but more of that later.

In other news: I had some fabulous days relaxing and writing. Melbourne is really rather stylish. My favourite thing at the moment is that it's so easy to get great tea, I guess because China is so close. They even sell lovely white tea with rose petals in the supermarkets, which is what I am drinking as I'm editing my novel.
Tomorrow I'll visit a proper tea shop and buy tins of silver needle and monkey paw and buddha's tears and whatever else smells good so I can take some of it home.

There are also some great bookshops around... I walked into one in South Melbourne to see what's up in Australian picture books, and as it turns out, this is up:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sketchbook doodle

Found another doodle from an evening at WOMAD. I think they are howling along to something or other.

I'm working on my novel, fixing up bad sentences, knitting some bits of psychology into early scenes that should help with later ones. Clearing up character motivations, checking reasons and reactions, tidying up weird metaphors. It's slow but satisfying work.

We went to ALDI today, a small island of familiarity on this side of the world, and bought things to cook. It's expensive to eat out here, but I am really enjoying our evening outings after the sun has gone down. There is live music and loads of great places to sit and eat and drink and plan and talk.

I keep thinking of things I want to do when I get back to London - sit in the British Library and write, buy some treats from Borough Market, make a big salad in my own kitchen. Then again I feel like I don't want to go back, but move somewhere more pleasant. Somewhere the houses aren't surprised when it gets cold every winter. Somewhere with more space to go around... pretty much every time I travel to a different city the higher ceilings give me slight vertigo, and I start to calculate how many bedsits each house could be broken up into, and who could afford to live there.

But London is where I live. I'll travel back to London in a few days, and see my friends, make some books, eat some salad, complain about the rent and the weather and public transport, and it will be good to be home.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Writing and haircuts

I'm back in Melbourne, for the last week of my Australia trip, and now I'm writing. I'm staying at a lovely place, a room above a natural health clinic in a narrow, tall town house near South Bank. There's a lovely terrace with a skyline view:

But it's too bright out there this time of day - a heatwave just passed, but it's still hot. Last night we went for a walk and it was 33C well after sunset.
That's my new dress hanging up to dry, by the way. I've been wearing it almost every day since I bought it.

Anyway, this is what my computer is seeing:
Me, writing.
As you can see, I cut half my hair off - it was such a relief! That irritating stuff just keeps growing unreasonably fast.
I only had child-sized craft scissors to hand, but it came out ok. I used to have proper haircutting scissors, but over the years I've got a bit less fussy, now I just cut off whatever gets in my face with whatever's at hand. Every so often I visit a hairdresser, but they almost always tell me that the haircut I want is "unflattering" and that I should grow my fringe out and sweep it aside and glue it in place with some goo or other. It would be sophisticated and only take a few minutes with a hairdryer. Anyone who has ever seen me wake up would understand that I could not possibly direct a noisy implement blowing hot air at my head first thing in the morning. That would be the opposite of sophisticated, it would be blunt, brutal and entirely lacking in subtlety. And why would I want to be landed with a cut that doesn't work without styling? It's about as daft as makeup that makes you look like you're not wearing any. That sort of thing can bug right off. If I style my hair I want it to be orange and at interesting angles, and if I paint my face it better look painted.

Anyway, back to writing!

Monday, March 11, 2013


I've had an excellent weekend. I spent my afternoons at WOMAD, doodling random stuff while listening to music. Here's a drawing of someone with dinosaurs.
No idea who that is.

In the morning I did other things - eating tomatoes, swimming in the sea, going to the library...

Researching and comparing assorted beasts.

I also visited a Laurie Anderson exhibition which was humbling and beautiful and inspiring. It was set in a few very dark rooms in such a way that once could  have easily missed parts - at one point I walked into an unmarked elevator, and when the doors opened again I looked out into a dark space, and then an empty office chair rumbled past on rails.
The last room, around a corner, was almost empty, except for what looked like a tiny hologram of Laurie Anderson, sitting in an armchair, telling a story.
I was alone in that room, the first visitor of the morning, and I crouched down on my hands and knees to look her in the face, and listen.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Boing Boing Robot Review!

Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing wrote a great review of "Welcome To Your Awesome Robot".
He calls it a "fantastic book for maker-kids and their grownups".
Boing Boing is where I go to discover wonderful things myself, so this makes me very happy.

Also my mother just sent me a message that she got the book and liked it because it reminded her of my childhood. That's good, too.

Facebook Fan Page

I set up a facebook page for my books where I'll be posting updates about new publications, workshops and events. It's here.
I don't have a personal Facebook page because it annoys the heck out of me, but my books are more sociable than I am!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Australia Update

Dear Everyone: It's hot. I am having an excellent time. Ants are huge. All best, Viv


It's out! It's out!

Buy our new book! It's educational! It's political! It's about YOUR CHEESE!


Available in bookshops and online!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Excellent Bookshop Display

I got this from @bouncemarketing via Twitter... a snap from the Main Street Trading Company Bookshop. Very nice!!


 The latest edition of the AOI's VAROOM! magazine has this spread about "Welcome to Your Arwesome Robot", with a review, a short interview and some pages from the book, including a list of useful workshop rules for children and their adults.
If you wonder why the headline is AWKWARD, that relates to the style I chose for the book to make it look more achievable to build your own robot. I like saying "Awkward", it's one of my favourite words. I think it sounds like an Aardvark doing Woodwork.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Library notes

notes from the library Some notes from Victoria Library. sparrow sketches Sketches of a family of sparrows in Melbourne Central, eating mexican food.