Welcome to 2018.
I love the first day of the year. I know we all just made it up...but I like that we all decided this is the day we start again.
I wrote today's Dear Self about it, have a read...
When I woke up this morning and thought about writing my Dear Self letter I also thought about all of you and wondered wether you would like to write yourselves a letter as well.
What do you think?
This is an open invitation to write yourself a letter as a way of welcoming the new year. I find gentle self reflection is one of the most powerful tools that supports me to live the kind of life I want to live.
Writing a Dear Self letter is very simple. Grab your computer, or device, or pen and paper and write the words Dear Self...and then just write whatever comes to you. You can also draw yourself a picture if you like.
Don't think about it too much. No need to be profound or grand. I like to ask myself..."What do I need to hear today?"
You are writing the letter to you, so whatever you write will be perfect.
Once you are finished, if you would like to share your letter with someone, feel free to email them to me (Hint - join my mailing list and you will get my email address). I'd love to read them. Let me know if you are ok for me to share them (which may or may not happen!) otherwise they will just stay between us.
I'm lost for words to explain the first ever Campfire in Sydney (November 2017)...so here is a visual essay made with stunning images by Alice Howard-Vyse.
The images of people being warm hearted audience members are my favourite.
I also love the joy in people as they share some magic...
I always say Campfire is a place to catch up with your friends or make new ones...
And a few random shots of the space...
Every day I invite myself to...
Make stuff happen now. Do it, don’t talk about it. Leap from the ledge into the everything that matters to me. Make it up as I go.
Laugh on the way down. Don’t take failure too seriously. Don’t get wrapped up in success. Treat everything as information that can help me take the next step.
Find my people and hug them a lot. Be bold faced and courageous in my hunt for the people who get me. Hug and be hugged. Every day. Actually, metaphorically, share and receive the love as much as I can.
Be a fierce defender of the right to art. Know its value and vote for it with my feet. Participate as a viewer, as a casual maker, as a professional.
Know thyself. Because it makes me more generous, more kind, more selfless, more able to forgive the fallibility of my fellow passengers. More able to give my gifts in service of the greater good.
Invest my attention, money and time thoughtfully. I become what I invest in. Make choices, refuse to be seduced by bright shiny things that give me gas. Water the pot plants that I want to grow.
Oh, yeah...the shop.
Ok. So, I think we should all buy less stuff. Seriously, much less stuff. We have too much stuff. So why do I have a shop where you can buy stuff?
That's a great question.
One that I have thought long and hard about.
I think our current production methods are often dangerous and unsustainable.
We pollute rivers, we create plastic that is toxic and will never break down and return to the earth, we put children and adults in countries far away from us into working conditions that we would never accept for ourselves or our loved ones.
We also sometimes 'consume' in ways that are incredibly unhealthy for us. I know that I sometimes buy things that make me feel good for a moment, things that fill a gap, is it loneliness...a desire for human connection? I like the feeling of getting something new. It feels good. And so, I use this feeling to distract myself from the more important things in life.
I've also got a bit of a habit of keeping too much stuff. I find it hard to let go of things, some fear of my own mortality sits at the heart of this I'm sure.
What am I doing making and selling things then?
Humans have always made and kept things in order to create meaning in their life. We painted on cave walls and made small ceramic objects, we wove fabric by hand, built structures from wood and we hand crafted jewelry...so many different ways of using our skills to make and record meaning.
I have to confess to loving paper, loving artwork and books and solid objects. I like to surround myself with images and ideas that inspire me, that remind me, to think and behave and act in ways that align with my values. I believe we become the things we immerse ourselves in and I don’t believe immersing ourselves only in a digital format is the healthiest thing for us (audio is one thing…but screens – I’m not convinced hours of staring at screens is that good for us).
And I have all these ideas in me. I have these thoughts about the world, this self-reflection that I do and it seems to connect with some people. My hope is it inspires them to self-reflect to contemplate things about their life that moves them towards a more self-aware, more generous, more civic minded and ultimately more fulfilled life.
I want to make my life all about spreading these ideas as far as I can so that we can heal some of this pain and suffering, so that we can stop destroying our own life support systems. To do that I need to earn money. Money that I can use to live a comfortable life and money that I can use to invest in these ideas to amplify them.
Where is this money going to come from?
Well, that’s what I am experimenting with right now.
I make and share a lot of content for free. I just get up and make it and put it on the internet for anyone to read or look at. That’s the tradeoff for ‘democratizing’ the publishing and content creation industry. There are now less ‘gate keepers’ to publishing but how you ‘make the money’ is also less straightforward.
I’m happy with this because I think there is a way for me to make this work. All I have to do is build a community of people who share my passion for making things better and invite them to support me to do what I do. If it feels valuable enough to them then they will invest in it.
So, I’m experimenting with different ways that they (you!) can support me.
I’ve created live performance events, like Campfire and Dear Self that you can host with me or come along to, you can make a monthly investment to show your ongoing appreciation and, you can buy things in the shop.
Maybe these things will be exactly what people want in order to show their support for me, maybe the wont be and I’ll have to try something else. That’s the experiment.
When you buy things in my shop there are some promises I can make you…
- I will have thought a lot about the impact the product will have on the world. The supply chain matters to me, I will ask the uncomfortable questions of the suppliers I work with to ensure they are making things with a conscience.
- I will always use recycled and recyclable materials when I can.
- I will make things that lean towards the hand crafted, high quality, boutique and unique so that you treasure them for a long, long, time.
- I will make things that encourage self-reflection, that remind you of what is important to you and reinforce the behaviours and actions you want to take to make the world a better place.
In turn, I would encourage you to:
- Invest in things that are special to you, that will remind you of something that matters to you.
- Buy presents for others that you think will be meaningful to them.
If we both do these things then I think I can feel good about making and selling things and you can feel good about buying them.
Let’s see how that goes.
Money is a funny thing.
For a start it is just this idea that we all agree to and now hardly ever even touch…it just exists as numbers on a screen and we believe the banks when they tell us how much of it we have or haven’t got.
And it is so relative.
Sometimes in my life being able to eat at a cafe has been a major splurge and other times I have eaten at a cafe for lunch every day of the week and not really thought about it.
$1 = $1 plus the context in which we are spending it!
Ain't that the truth.
Ok. So years ago I was a full time contemporary dancer (seriously), which meant I worked about half a year as a dancer and then the other half I would be very poor and apply for grants and try and scrape together a living. Then I decided I was sick of asking the government for permission to make things and that I wanted to be self funded.
Yep. Self funded.
I had this vision to set up a business that would make enough money that I could retire and have wads of cash to create art with.
That didn't quite happen.
I did succeed in building myself the best possible day job I could ever hope to have.
But I realised I fell into a bit of a trap.
Essentially, by setting up one thing (a business) to fund another thing (my creative work), I was saying 'the creative things I make are not valuable enough to society for people to pay me enough money to survive so I will have to earn money some other way instead and do that stuff for free because I love it and you shouldn't be paid to do things you love, should you?"
What did I just do to myself?
In fairness, I also wasn't that clear what I wanted to create. I knew being a full time contemporary dancer wasn't my whole practice as an artist and that I wanted to say and do more in the world...so spending years building a business also gave me time to sort out what I want to do and say as an artist in the world.
Now I am clear.
I want to make things that help people to reflect on the world as it is, imagine the world as they want it to be and take actions that make that world come to life.
I'm also clear that the things I make and the way I make them are often the catalyst for this kind of change.
I'm clear that what I make is valuable. Incredibly valuable.
But I forget that all the time. I question it, I double back on myself and get all lost and filled with doubt. It is very difficult to hold and believe in that value.
I have to remind myself of that moment during a Campfire where someone cracks their heart open for us and shows a raw truth, or that text message I got after a performance of Dear Self where someone told me they were inspired and emboldened by me to share their poetry with their life partner for the first time ever, or that story someone told me of their work colleague who had to stop looking at my website at work because they were getting too emotional.
I see the value of what I create in the faces of the people who connect with it and I am humbled.
And now, I have realised, it is time to leap. Because I feel like more people need the things I create in their life. More people would benefit from coming to a Campfire and connecting with themselves and other humans. More people would get some joy out of my Dear Self daily reflections. More people could benefit from a drawing that reminds them of something unusual or quirky or particularly painful or lovely about the world.
Doing this part time just isn't going to cut it.
Which is why I am now working on my goal of returning to being a full time artist.
How can you help?
Well that's simple.
If you like what I do invest in it and share it.
Book a seat at Campfire, read Dear Self, join my mailing list, host a Dear Self performance, support me with a monthly contribution or visit the shop and buy something.
I'd love to have you on board.
I was just running into Fitzroy to go to training with Nick and as I was running along I heard a car beeping its horn and someone yelling out the window.
I looked up and saw something that didn't compute.
There was a car driving the wrong way down the road. I was very confused.
As luck would have it they turned the corner towards where I was waiting for the lights to change and I could check if they were ok.
Just a confused driver who had no idea what they had just done. I tried to gesture to them but they waved me away.
It was quite disorienting.
I don't know why but after they waved me away I did two weird things. I crossed the road against a red light (I checked it was safe...but no idea why I crossed at this time) and I ran onto the team line I stead of the footpath (which also could have been dangerous but wasn't).
What I don't get is why someone else messing with the norms made me so uncomfortable and confused.
It has made ne réalise just how much I rely upon every one following the norms!
...unfortunately the current approach to ticketing (where we give your money back at the door) doesn't quite work for accounting purposes.
When I collect less donations than I sell tickets I end up topping up the difference so that the tax department is happy...it's complex...but apparently that's how it works!
At September's Campfire we all talked about it and decided on the following approach.
Tickets will scale from $5 - $50 (or more if you are feeling super generous). The ticket will automatically be donated to charity (so no money back at the door). We will all still decide together which charity.
I recommend you choose the amount you pay based on two questions:
- What amount would be enough to make me feel committed and actually turn up even if I am having a bad hair day that day?
- How much would I like to give away to charity this month?
At next month's Campfire I want to chat with everyone about using a portion of each ticket to help cover cost of the space and running costs. I'd like to make it a sustainable event that we could run from any space.
I'm also thinking about how we show our support for the amazing musician who comes each month and helps as 'an on the spot' accompanist and brings the piano bingo or guitar juke box magic.
When it comes to me being paid...I've thought a lot about this. At this stage I really like running the monthly event in Fitzroy as my gift to my community. And I would encourage you to think about other ways you can support what I am making. You can
- join my mailing list at lukehockley.com.au (scroll to the bottom of the page)
- Read the Dear Self blog and share it with friends.
- Come to any other performances I have on.
- And soon you will be able to go to my shop and buy some very special things.
I think it is critical that we use this monthly opportunity to be reflect upon the great advantage that we have (particularly living in the country we do) and collectively sending our money to organisations that do good things. I also think designing a model for Campfire that is sustainable is really important (for obvious reasons).
Your feedback on all of this is very welcome, as always. To help with that I have set up a survey for you to fill out. It is only a couple of questions and will only take a few minutes...
A black curtain, a rug, two chairs and an IKEA stool and BOOM! We are in business.
Some beautiful person dropped these off at my studio yesterday!
I wasn't here...apparently they are from Genevieve but we may have that name wrong.
Can anyone shine some light on this mystery? I'd love to be able to say thank you to whomever it was.
There is this great moment in the Paulus Berenhson documentary where he talks about taking the pottery he has made and smashing it and returning it to the earth.
I remember being shocked by this.
I'm so precious about everything I make!
So when I discovered my Paulus tribute he accidently been broken I laughed out loud.
He would have loved it!
I found myself with clay in my hands again the other day. Followong along with what the clay was asking of me.
I realised I was creating in response to what I had learnt from the documentary To spring from the hand.
The eventual object is less important than the process.
I learnt recently that we lost the great Paulus Berensohn who the documentary is about.
I wish I'd had the chance to meet him.
I was sick on the couch for two weeks...once Netflix lost its charm I ended up scribbling on a page and slowly colouring it in. It's all I had in me!
So I’m standing in Melbourne Zoo at Midnight with Matt Wicking singing me a song about humanity. Afterwards we’re chatting about why Matt makes music and about half way through our conversation a Macaw joins in.
Matt is an artist who was a fellow at the Centre for Sustainability Leadership in 2012. He is a compelling voice in both tone and content.
You can check out (by which I mean go over there and buy) his music at:
One Sunday I ran into K-Lee while I was wandering through Degraves Street – the unofficial centre of coffee and street life in Melbourne. K-Lee has a magnetic presence and a great voice. Every time I listen to him freestyle the lyrics to this track I find something new. Enjoy.
Recently Luke was roaming the streets of Sydney and ran into the delightful James Leahy. In a busy thoroughfare he was belting out his heartfelt tunes – and he agreed to let Midnightsky record a track for Street Sounds – the Sydney edition!
Show him some love at…
What is Street Sounds? Street Sounds is a Midnightsky project where we wander the streets and record people who are using story and song to transform the world into a more balanced, knowledgeable and self-aware place.
I was lucky enough to have a Belgian piano accordion player in my kitchen one Saturday morning. He was practicing a traditional folk song to play at a friends wedding and agreed to let me record his practice session to share with everyone in the Midnightsky.