sticky chai

Photograph by  Emma Byrnes

Photograph by Emma Byrnes

My dear friend Joanna Fowles and her equally talented partner in life and love, Jonas Allen, have their fingers in many creative pies. They are one of those collaborative couples that seem to conjure and manifest all sorts of wonderful ideas and initiatives for themselves and the world at large. One of Jonas' latest projects is The Organic Tea Project - an idea that has been brewing since Jonas was a young boy growing up in a small utopian town called Auroville near Pondicherry in Southern India.
Immersed in the tea culture from a young age, Jonas and his friend (and now business partner) Alok met when they were three years old. Well into their adolescent years the pair schooled together and continued to share tea experiences. In their words:

"It is in some ways natural that (our) mutual appreciation of tea should manifest in an interest in uncovering the secrets and the whereabouts of the finest brews to found The Organic Tea Project. Our mission is to bring back quality organic tea drinking. We feel something is lost in the appreciation of the tea process, the preparing of tea and drinking. We talk about great wines or great coffee, it's all about the purity of the soil and the environment that its grown in. Tea has exactly the same elements to consider. Taking a tea break allows you to slow down, contemplate and appreciate...a tea somehow helps to create the right pace to the day. The Organic Tea Project is about the ceremony and the details of what makes a quality tea. You could say our challenge is to bring back the tea break."

One of the things that I love most about this project is that it brings together two childhood friends who now live on opposite sides of the world - yet they are side-by-side again. They are working with each other in a professional business relationship whose actual research began in their boyhood. The business also involves a wider circle of folk that they both grew up with in Auroville. All of those pieces fitting back together give the brand and the company greater depth and power.
When visiting in Sydney a while back Jonas asked if I had some time to take photographs of the tea. We had a very small window open to us and I managed to take a couple of images that he now uses on his website. I traded my photography services for some generous packages of sticky chai - enough to last me for a good while. I must say that I was extremely satisfied with the swap. The sticky chai is the best I have tasted and the high quality of the ingredients does not go unnoticed. It elevates the chai experience to a sublime level and certainly encourages the ceremonious feeling that the company is seeking in their brand. Keep your eyes peeled for this wonderful tea experience.

Em x

a thousand faces of the feminine

One of Merilee Bennett's hand-painted, hand-stitched wisdom doll "goddesses". Photograph by  Emma Byrnes

One of Merilee Bennett's hand-painted, hand-stitched wisdom doll "goddesses". Photograph by Emma Byrnes

Over the past couple of years I have had the pleasure of working with Merilee Bennett - artist / film-maker / writer / educator / workshop facilitator.
She is a woman of many talents and someone whose company I have come to cherish and love. She is generous, warm-hearted and has that rare ability to exist in the present moment. Much of Merilee's life and art has been an exploration of the archetypal realm and how we interact with that realm in our everyday lives. 

Over her career Merilee has moved seamlessly from painting to film to photography and has, for now, settled in the three dimensional realm of wisdom doll making. She hand-stitches, beads, adorns and paints textile figures inspired by myths and fairytales, paleolithic goddesses, dreams, the natural world and the occasional mystical revelation. Each of these figures, when cradled in one's palm, has a special energy and feeling - they seem to speak of Merilee's own personal journey and inner wisdom.

As she mentioned in a recent interview with Popcraft Studio:

"The Wisdom Dolls started with my menopause doll, to celebrate entering that particular rite of passage. From then I have been listening to their whispers, and following their inspiration...She is everywhere! In seed pods and flowers, and the wind! In the feeling of sun on my skin, or the night sky when the stars are out. In the feeling of my body moving, or the energy within me during meditation. There are ancient stories that speak to me, and ordinary fabulous women around me who embody the archetype of the feminine in so many different ways. It is the grandmothers, the old goddesses, the earth under my feet."

Merilee has an interest in the incredible power of stitching and meditation - of when these two elements are in unison. When speaking of a recent wisdom doll workshop that she hosted:

"The quality of conversation around the table, over the making, as they refined their ideas and we worked out together how they were to create what they envisaged, reminded me of the aeons of women of every culture, working together, sewing or cooking or problem solving or building relationships, building community. There was an element of that feeling as this group stitched and painted and constructed, all the while talking in that free wheeling, looping manner, where technical questions give way to moments of deep emotion and intimacy."

Merilee will present her textile sculptures at the monsalvat residents gallery from 18 january - 19 march. She will also facilitate an art making workshop where attendees will explore archetypes, life narratives and create their own talisman. Spending time with Merilee and her "goddesses" is a privilege and one that I would urge you to follow up during her time at montsalvat. If you get the chance to attend one of her workshops you will find that the time spent will be deeply enriching.

Em x 



peninsula prowl

Rockpools at Portsea's London Bridge. Photograph By  Emma Byrnes.

Rockpools at Portsea's London Bridge. Photograph By Emma Byrnes.

Sometime way back in September of last year my writer husband and I left our children behind with the in-laws and headed to the Mornington Peninsula for an assignment with Toyota Go Places magazine, Summer 2017 issue. The brief was "oh-so-very-pleasurable". Tour around the Peninsula for two days discovering the jewels that the region offers, then photograph and write a story about them. For anyone unfamiliar with this neck of the woods, the Peninsula is one of those magical places that offers so much due to it's unique geography: beach fun, rugged vistas by the ocean, wine, food and romance in the rolling hills of its interior. So of course we skipped from vineyard to restaurant to distillery to lookout to get the picture!
The privilege of being on a paid assignment with my husband in such a spectacular location did not pass me by I can assure you. Despite running ourselves ragged trying to soak up as much as possible we managed to enjoy some downtime at the Peninsula Hot Springs and we spent a night at the Flinders Hotel, dining at the local Italian Restaurant - Cook and Norman - that provided just the right amount of relaxed elegance and attentive service we were after on our rare night off from family duties. Highlights for me were an early morning visit to Cape Schanck Lighthouse, lunching at Polperro vineyard and photographing a majestic gelding named Annaheim 2 at Horseback riding tours. You can read the full article here.
May 2017 deliver more wonderful employment opportunities such as these! 

Em x

marking a milestone

Brave New Eco's John St project. Photograph by  Emma Byrnes

Brave New Eco's John St project. Photograph by Emma Byrnes

It has been two years since I took on the role of in-house creative branding for Brave New Eco - a Melbourne-based sustainable design company. My role includes in-house photography, web design, branding, social media liaison and general visual overseer. And it has been a wonderful ride. When the company director and senior designer, Megan Norgate, first approached me she had been flying solo for three years with her business in the start-up phase and was ready for an outside eye. Her website was in need of an overhaul and she was keen to find a cohesive way to articulate her brand. Alongside that, she wanted to raise her profile within the industry and distil her unique message towards the right demographic. Together we fleshed out her aims and objectives and we went so far as to give her company a personality. I was looking over the description of this personality today and I felt that we have really managed to imbue her company with these qualities and I am sure that anyone who has worked with Megan would agree:

"(My company) is highly articulate and a little bit clarivoyant (can see into the future). Striking looking on first glance with fabulous natural proportions and style. My company is immediately engaging with a broad, warm and disarming smile. Wearing beautifully and timelessly cut clothes in gorgeous woven fabrics, not showy, but when you get close you are likely to admire the stitching or want to rub the fabric in between your fingers...My favourite possession is the one I already had, that I forgot about but moved one day and realised how wonderful it was again. My company drinks tea, because it needs to sit at the kitchen table with many people and come to know who they are, and in the same way my company is a great host, it invites everyone into it's world, and makes them feel at home. You can take my company anywhere from grand homes to modest shacks and it will notice something wonderful about any place."

I encourage you to browse through Megan's website and see how she is able to resolve her renovation and design projects with a deep respect for the inhabitants' values. She has a philosophy that extends beyond mere makeover but applies a rigour and understanding that result in a responsive, functional and resilient outcome.

Megan has become a respected and much-admired expert in the field of sustainable interior design. Her brand has strength and momentum behind it and I look forward to seeing the next chapter of the Brave New Eco journey unfold over the coming years. We certainly have some exciting plans.

Em x

PS - If your brand is looking for an overhaul you may want to get in touch. See more about my services here.

beyond the cloth

Clara Vuletich at her beloved Bondi Beach. Photograph by  Emma Byrnes

Clara Vuletich at her beloved Bondi Beach. Photograph by Emma Byrnes

"I am equally passionate about fashion and textiles as I am about sustainability. My journey has essentially been to try and make sense of how these two concepts can coexist."
- Clara Vuletich, 2016

These are the words of my dear friend and collaborator, Clara Vuletich and lead us into a wonderful in-depth interview recently posted at Intent Journal for which I have supplied the photographic portrait. Clara's journey is one well worth hooking into - she has much depth to her investigation of the environmental damage and misery caused through fashion’s business activity and her conclusion is that the answer to our woes lies in creativity, innovation and collaboration. What a positive approach to a dire situation! You can listen to a recent TED talk that Clara gave to hear more about her ideas around these principles for sustainability and fashion.
Intent Journal is a fantastic new discovery for me. It features wonderful long-form interviews with people who dedicate their lives to exploring the purpose, impact, craftsmanship, longevity and lifecycle in the fashion and textiles industry. There are some wonderful profiles featuring people who value the story behind our clothing. Be sure to carve out a little time for this one - it is not one of those online spaces that caters to the 3 second concentration span. This project has some substance, as do the ideas explored within it!
Em x


Works on paper with encaustic, oil pastels and oil paint. Photograph by  Emma Byrnes

Works on paper with encaustic, oil pastels and oil paint. Photograph by Emma Byrnes

This past year I have started painting classes with a fantastic crew of visually biased folk. My attendance has been sporadic at best - in the fashion that goes with juggling three children, a freelance business, a household, a relationship and a fantastic 3 month family adventure to Vietnam. But in between somewhere I have carved out a little bit of time to paint. I have already written about how good these classes make me feel. Several months ago our teacher, Sarah Tomasetti, proposed that we all work towards a group show. She felt that it would be a worthwhile exercise to: "Go for it! Live dangerously! A little pressure can be a good thing and exhibiting is exciting."
Well I must say that I feel a little apprehensive about this first showing. I wouldn't say that exhibiting is the main drive behind my yearning to paint and I am not sure if I have given the exercise enough time and space. But as someone pointed out to me the other day it is the beginning of "a conversation" that I hope to have for many years to come. And as circumstances have it I don't have much time and space - my work reflects that. It is abstract, it is gestural and has an almost urgent quality to it.  One thing is for sure though. This painting business is getting under my skin - for me it is not really about the outcome but the process. My cohorts in the show have great talent. I blush a little hanging my work beside theirs. But at the same time it feels like I will be overcoming a great hurdle next week when the show opens. I have given myself permission to put brush to canvas and there is no stopping this urge now!
Details of the show listed below.

Em x

Common Ground at Tacit Contemporary Gallery
Group Show
Galleries 1 & 2
9 - 27 November 2016
Opening Wednesday 9 November, 6.30-8pm

FEATURING: Emma Byrnes, Jason Fitts, Alexandra Irini, Bronni Krieger, Mary Martin, Nicola Reavley, Kim Roberts & Katherine Westfold

"The common ground shared by the artists in this exhibition is the mysterious drive to interpret the intangible through making an image, whatever the obstacles.  This drive is as old as humankind and emerges in unlikely places. 
These artists have come together in two groups to work on the task of finding and teasing out the thread that once woven becomes the fabric and meaning of ones own visual language.    
There are of course, influences and precedents, but each starting point is the artists own, paradoxically found whilst groping in the dark, bringing together the play of materials and gesture until the image finds its resonance with an interior state.
Dialogue with others in the group has been important; considered, critical and supportive, exposing the work to its first audience and taking on the challenge to risk and extend ones working vision.  Bearing witness to the ebb and flow of another’s creative process illuminates the darker recesses of ones own, and therein lies the subtle catalysing effect of the group.  
It has been my pleasure and privilege to work with each and every artist in Common Ground."

- Sarah Tomasetti, 2016

interiors + permaculture design thinking

Photograph by  Emma Byrnes

Photograph by Emma Byrnes

An article featuring some of my photographs appeared in the latest issue of PIP magazine. It features the Merri Creek Passive Solar House project (that happens to be owned by my client Megan Norgate of Brave New Eco) and is an in-depth exploration of how she and her family have designed an urban oasis based on permaculture principles. The story is well worth a read, as is the entire issue. Filled to the brim with resourceful tips and inspiring insights on all things "permie".  You will find an edited version of the article accompanied by more of my photos on the Brave New Eco website.