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Artisan: Shannon Whitehill; Photography: Rebecca Park

HOW TO GET THE FINISH YOU WANT WITH NATURAL MATERIALS AUTUMN ISSUE Cover Photography: Ross Honeysett Hotel Hotel guest room interiors: Don Cameron Artisan: Paul Geach EDITORIAL Contact: editor@thenaturalartisan.com The Natural Artisan. Bringing together “the creators” of all kinds

to celebrate and share the art of crafting beautiful spaces and

objects. We do this with a collective intention to live in tune with

nature. As Tolkien said in the Fellowship of the Ring:

“We put the thought of all that we love into all that we make.”


COMFORT ZONE Deb Preston, Founder and Managing Director Painted Earth, Byron Bay. “I worked in the organic food industry for 13 years before moving to Byron. Once I knew about organic foods, it made sense to me to choose organic food for both my own health and the health of our environment. It’s the same with paints and finishes - once you know there is a chemical-free, nontoxic option, why would you choose anything else? I live in a great two-story rammed earth home in the hills surrounding Byron Bay and this is the downstairs kitchen. I guess I feel comfortable in a kitchen because I’ve done so much cooking and catering work … and I love food. It’s a beautiful space - you can see one rammed earth wall behind the hanging hearts. Next to that are big glass doors that open out onto a natural outlook over Byron valley to the ocean. It’s a very expansive and stunning view with lots of natural light coming in. I love lots of natural light in a room. I guess by nature, I’m a very industrious person – that’s the energy that fills the room when I am here. My idea of heaven is being here and doing something like cooking or sewing or some other creative crafty activity while listening to Radio National. I feel relaxed, peaceful and inspired in this space.”

Photography: Jules Hunt 4

“My idea of heaven is being here and doing something like cooking or sewing�


UNBUILT DESIGNS GO VIRTUAL Twenty-three unrealised Australian design projects will be brought to life as part of a unique exhibition at the prestigious Venice Architecture Biennale 2014. Augmented Australia 1914-2014 will comprise threedimensional scaled and geo-positional models, images and animations to bring to life 11 historical designs and 11 unbuilt buildings designed by contemporary architects along with a digital preview of the new Australian Pavilion by Denton Corker Marshall. The project is the brainchild of Assistant Professor Rene Van Meeuwen of felix and his colleagues from the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts at the University of Western Australia. Projects include (un)Common Earth by Mulloway Studio featuring two rammed earth monuments designed for Canberra’s War Memorial (pictured) and the Styx Valley Protest Shelter in Tasmania (Maynard Architects). Exhibition Dates: 7 June to 23 November 2014 More at: La Biennale and architectureau.com

NATURAL MATERIALS TRAINING Interested in learning to work with natural materials? Join ROCKCOTE’s team of artisans for a hands-on weekend workshop. Learn about natural materials and coating systems and how they can benefit modern buildings. This is an opportunity to try different application techniques and finishes using specialist trowels under the guidance of skilled artisans. A practical workshop for architects, designers, applicators or do-it-yourself renovators. Held at the ROCKCOTE Design Centre, Nerang Queensland on Friday 20 and Saturday 21st June. Information: Email Tony Thorogood tthorogood@rockcote.com.au


DESIGNEX: 28-30 MAY designEX is Australia’s premier interiors, design ideas and architecture event. This year designEX will be held in a new location at Sydney’s Glebe Island and visitors will be treated to sound and lighting features, installations by local designers and a stellar line-up of speakers, headlined by world renowned trend forecaster, Lidewij Edelkoort. More at: www.designex.info

ARTISANS IN THE GARDENS CALL FOR APPLICATIONS The work of some of Australia’s leading contemporary artists and craftspeople will be displayed at the 14th Artisans in the Gardens Exhibition in Sydney in October. This exceptional exhibition of quality Australian artwork is held in the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens. Applications are now open for the 2014 exhibition from people working in (but not limited to) areas such as glass, ceramics, textiles, jewellery, timber and sculpture. For more information contact the curator, Julieanne Mills on 0418 468 418 or email artisansinthegarden@gmail.com. Successful applicants will be notified by Wednesday 30 April. Exhibition Dates: 11-19 October 2014 More at: Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney website

Sculpture: Veronica O’Leary, “Waratah” 7


A CELEBRATION OF NATURAL MATERIALS When curator Don Cameron observes guests entering the carefully created rooms of Canberra’s Hotel Hotel, he senses they struggle to find the vocabulary to explain exactly what they see.

Hotel Hotel, Nishi Building, Canberra | Photography: Ross Honeysett; image of Don Cameron © Lee Grant, 2014 Guest room interiors: Don Cameron | Artisan: Paul Geach, Renew Rendering 9



very surface and object in each of the hotel’s 68 rooms was consciously designed, sourced and created to celebrate natural materials.

“The starting point was a shack – to create something that belonged to this quintessentially Australian vernacular. I explored what this could mean and how to translate the intent...” he said. “Comfortability, relatability, always a work in progress. A place for introspection. A textural experience. A certain quality of dappled light. A sense of items being brought from somewhere else – collected, assembled and given new meaning.” These were the key elements that Cameron sought to imbue each room of this unique hotel that takes up three floors of the Nishi Building in the NewActon cultural precinct. “Texture was the biggest challenge and one that would make the most sense in conveying the essence of the theme - raw, rustified luxury. Finding the materials to speak that language was key.” In keeping with the environmental commitment of the entire precinct, Cameron knew natural materials would play a big part in crafting the interiors. “I wanted an unadorned approach to materials in the rooms - presented and celebrated in their most natural state.” CONTINUED


“I wanted an unadorned approach to materials in the rooms - presented and celebrated in their most natural state.� 11



Wool carpets were the natural choice for the floor, and linen curtains offered a softness that also allowed projections and shadow play with natural light. Milled, denailed and dressed solid oak was used bespoke joinery–bed heads, consoles and banquettes. Mild steel, aniline leather, and vintage furniture also feature. Cameron said using clay earthen render on the walls gave the entire scene potency and brought together the collective honesty of all the elements. “I was looking for a render that had a raw, textural quality that was rough and didn’t conceal the natural ingredients.” The render was mixed with milled hemp for added texture, then pigmented to a dusty grey tone. “Clay render’s capacity to hold water and moderate humidity ensures good air quality for guests in a small, 30 square metre hotel room.” Cameron observes in the responses of guests entering the rooms. “Many people aren’t used to seeing so many natural materials in their raw state in such proximity – and they are forced to engage with, acknowledge and respond to those materials.” “The dividend of such an approach-to treat materials in their natural unadorned beauty, gives the rooms honesty and relatability.”

PROJECT DETAILS: Hotel Hotel, Nishi Building, Canberra Photography: Ross Honeysett Image of Don Cameron: © Lee Grant, 2014 Guest room interiors: Don Cameron Artisan: Paul Geach, Renew Rendering


SUSTAINABILITY: WHY BEING LESS BAD IS NO GOOD by Bob Cameron Managing Director, ROCKCOTE. As an entrepreneur and visionary, nationally and internationally acclaimed for his (and ROCKCOTE’s) innovative “people friendly” products and commitment to sustainable and regenerative business practices for almost 20 years, Bob asks whether sustainability is sufficient to address the environmental problems of our time.

S “

ustainability” has become one of the most common words associated with conserving our environment and natural resources.

Governments, companies, community organisations and individuals the world over claim to embrace the principles of sustainability in an attempt to solve a myriad of problems associated with the impact of humans on the environment – air and water pollution, the destruction of ecosystems, the overuse of scarce resources, poverty, and the list goes on. Many of these initiatives are well-intentioned. But are they addressing the real problem? Early definitions of sustainability demonstrated the intent of ensuring “enough for all forever” (World Summit on Sustainable Development, 2002). This implies an objective of safeguarding the entire system of biodiversity, for every species, now and for all time.

This objective is reflected in another common definition: “Development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”(The Brundtland Report, World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). But what has sustainability meant in practice? It’s a modern debate and there are many people doing great things under the banner of sustainability. We had to start somewhere. But I believe that when we embarked on the road to sustainability, we had an intention well beyond what it has become. 14

I invite you to think about that word, what it means to us, how it directs our actions and whether those actions are reflective of our original intentions. Sustainability has generally taken the platform that we need to use and consume less – decreased inputs and more efficient outputs in business processes, using fewer poisonous chemicals, creating buildings with energy efficient lighting. On a personal level it has meant actions such as taking shorter showers, colder showers, not eating meat, buying less. It’s mostly about restriction and things that we shouldn’t do. As William McDonough and Michael Braungart conceded in their ground breaking work, “Cradle to Cradle” (2002), this model of sustainability is essentially flawed. It’s merely accepting that the best humanity can do is be less bad and therefore destroying the planet a little more slowly. WHY IS BEING LESS BAD NO GOOD? Because it defines environmental protection by destroying as little as possible. While this appears to be a noble intention, in reality, it creates the opportunity to avoid the real issues. For example, by recognising that a goal such as reducing the number of poisonous chemicals in a production process is an admirable objective, we are overlooking the fact the only real way to protect our environment and human health is to not use toxic chemicals at all. Being less bad is a compromise, not a solution.

WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE? As McDonough puts it, “our goal is a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy and just world – with clean air, water, soil and power – economically, equitably, ecologically and elegantly enjoyed.” This is a very different intention to simply ensuring we have enough resources to sustain the human population. Instead it is based on abundance for “all species for all time.” HOW THEN COULD THIS CHANGE THE LANDSCAPE OF DESIGN, OF CONSTRUCTION, OF BUILDING OUR COMMUNITIES? Under the sustainability model, we recognise that in all human systems, 85-99% of what we produce is waste and aim to reduce or recycle that waste by designing buildings with energy efficient lighting, installing rainwater tanks and providing separate garbage bins for recycling waste, for example. The alternative model looks to nature for solutions. It draws from McDonough and Braungart’s concept of upcycling and recognises one of Barry Commoner’s four laws of ecology, that there is “no waste in nature and there is no ‘away’ to which things can be thrown” (The Closing Circle, 1971). In short, nature optimises, she never compromises. We need to exercise caution in design and construction where solutions are about finding a compromise between competing interests – where we ultimately arrive at a position where everyone is equally unhappy. A new model of collaboration and cooperation is needed based on the premise that if any design element only does one thing it is probably a mistake. Think about what would happen if we aim, as McDonough says, for buildings like trees and cities like forests – where the natural systems of nature don’t simply inspire, but are fundamental to design and construction; where there is no waste because every item we produce has a purpose or can be returned to nature after its initial purpose is exhausted.

It is Canberra’s Hotel Hotel development where interior construction materials include reclaimed timber from a house, a basketball court and the construction site itself; many of the walls were coated in natural materials that can ultimately be returned to the earth; and the furnishings were intentionally repurposed. By adopting nature’s proven model, we practise biomimicry, or “innovation inspired by nature” (Benyus, Biomimicry, 2009). Turning to nature, studying her best ideas and adapting them for human use as Benyus, McDonough and Braungart suggest, provides the inspiration to achieve so much more than simply being less bad. Just imagine what we could accomplish by universally adopting the principles of collaboration alongside competition, using life-friendly chemistry and treating waste as a resource, not simply recycling. Sustainability can imply that humans are separate from their natural environment and as a result there is a disconnect between the problems and the solutions. Biomimicry recognises that all life is interdependent and connected – this starting point inspires a whole new world of ideas and innovation. I’ve always said there is no energy crisis. There is no water crisis. There is no financial crisis. What we have is a crisis in logic and imagination. So where does all this leave sustainability? Is a new word required? I don’t believe we need a new word – what we need is an intention to redesign the way we live on earth. This intention converted to action, replaces the negative concept of being less bad with the proactive action of drawing from nature to inspire innovation that will ultimately deliver abundance for all beings for all time. References Benyus, Janine: Biomimicry, 2009 Commoner, Barry: The Closing Circle, 1971 McDonough, William & Braungart, Michael: Cradle to Cradle, 2002 McDonough, William & Braungart, Michael: The Upcycle, 2013


World Summit on Sustainable Development, 2002

Nature provides a proven model. Thanks to innovators such as McDonough and Braungart, we have practical examples of how this can work. It is the Ford motor company’s Rouge Centre truck plant in Michigan that, using the idea of buildings like trees, turned what could have been a $50 million toxic waste water clean-up into an innovative design solution that uses a 10 acre green roof, porous paving and hedge rows to clean and convey stormwater across the site.

The Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987



Rustic, polished, coarse, earthy, lustrous, glassface, Tadelakt, traditional, Morocca of adjectives and brand names falling into the mix of words to describe the range achieved with natural materials, it is not surprising that people struggle to explain




clear description is particularly important for architects, artisans and home or property owners whose main concern is achieving the right finish to complement a space.

Before exploring the types of finishes natural materials can produce, it’s important to clarify exactly what is meant by natural materials when it comes to wall coatings. A natural material is a product that has literally been taken from the earth and contains no man-made chemicals. It is a pure material with an endless life cycle that means it can be safely returned to the earth after use. The most common products are made with lime or clay and coloured with natural oxides.

an. With a broad range of finishes that can be the finish they want.

Unlike most paints, natural materials that are created true to this definition contain no chemicals and no volatile organic compounds. In fact most can actually contribute to indoor air quality by creating walls that breathe and purify the air; and many are even carbon positive, actively eliminating carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

A SPECTRUM OF FINISHES With the definition covered, let’s turn our attention back to finishes. It’s a common misconception that natural materials can only produce that rough, gritty, earthy look that can be delivered using clay-based products. Think of rough, rendered walls embedded with grains of wheat, reminiscent of an old bakery. While this can certainly be achieved with clay based products, the rustic look is one end of a broad spectrum of finishes that can be achieved with natural materials.

Artisan: Shannon Whitehill; Photography: Ross Eason

The other end of the spectrum is a highly polished glass or mirror type finish that is becoming increasingly popular in restaurants and cafes. The look is also being embraced in contemporary homes where grey has become the new black. Another important factor to remember when working with natural materials is that, unlike the flatness and consistency of commercial paint, natural materials will deliver a result with character – that may include colour variation, texture variations and an overall aged patina. These are the things that make every surface created with a natural material unique – and why people are turning to natural materials to create their own beautiful and distinctive spaces. We’ve put together a guide of finish types available. Remember this is a spectrum so it is possible to achieve any of these looks – or anything in between. CONTINUED


FINISH TYPES Below is a guide to the finishes available. It is possible to achieve any of these looks - or anything in between.

GLASS: A reflective, highly polished finish, also described as a mirror finish. A slightly iridescent motherof-pearl look can also be achieved with some products.

LUSTRE: A slight sheen or glow that reflects a soft light at different angles.

SMOOTH: In the middle – more open than “Lustre” and more closed and smoother to touch than “Rustic”. Finish may feature variations in areas that are more open or more closed.

RUSTIC: A tactility of finish – feel and see the character of each grain.

EARTHEN: A rough, heavily textured finish with a very open, coarse grain.


UNDULATIONS The artisans who work with natural materials are able to create a variety of undulating finishes depending on the type of space you desired and the material used. There are three levels of undulation:

LEVEL FINISH: Flat, consistent and level finish.

LIGHTLY UNDULATING: Slightly wavy with 1-3 mm variations.

HEAVILY UNDULATING: Appearance of visible waves and undulations so that the surface has high points and low points of 3mm & above.

FINISH TYPES AND UNDULATIONS IN ACTION Using the finish types and undulations explained above, here is how to describe two very different looks.



DESCRIPTION: smooth, seamless, highly polished look

DESCRIPTION: Uneven roughly finished, rustic, wall reminiscent of an old farm house or bakery

FINISH TYPE: Lustre or glass; glass if looking for super high polished look

FINISH TYPE: Rustic or Earthen

UNDULATION: Level Finish

UNDULATION: Lightly or heavily undulating

ROCKCOTE PRODUCTS USED: Marmorino, Venetian Plaster, Clayset

ROCKCOTE PRODUCTS USED: Earthen Render Coarse or Earthen Render Medium, Clay Plaster DĂŠcor 19

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Contact: editor@thenaturalartisan.com AUTUMN ISSUEFEATURED ARTISANS: Paul Geach, Renew Render moseyon11@internode.on.net Ross Honeysett, Ross Honeysett Photography www.rosshoneysett.com Don Cameron, Curator. hotelhotelblog.com Shannon Whitehill, Australian Artisans shannonwhitehill@icloud.com Deb Preston, Painted Earth. www.house-paint.com.au Jules Hunt, Jules Hunt Studio Gallery www.juleshunt.com Ross Eason, Eason Creative Photography www.easoncreative.com.au


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The Natural Artisan: Autumn 2014  

Bringing together creators of all kinds to celebrate the art of crafting beautiful spaces and objects.

The Natural Artisan: Autumn 2014  

Bringing together creators of all kinds to celebrate the art of crafting beautiful spaces and objects.