my new workplace!

Jackson's Drawing Supplies

I mentioned in a past post that I have a new job. The WONDERFUL news is that I work at Jackson’s Drawing Supplies in Parap! Woot!

I’ve been coming to Jackson’s for years (there’s nowhere else for an artist to go, really, in this small city) for paints, calligraphy nibs, brushes, silkscreen inks, colored pencils, and papers of every description. Every time I set foot in the shop I would think to myself, “I would love to work here!” My friends were behind the sales counter, and during their lunch breaks you would find them working on their paintings, lino prints, or ceramics in the back of the shop, the air charged with creative mojo and fun.  The place was an Aladdin’s Cave of yummy art stuff, coveted tools, and major wishlist items like etching presses and large easels. Seven years later, I can’t believe I’m calling this art supplies fairyland “my job”, nor what I do, “work”! It’s just too wonderful, and on the days that I get to come here I jump out of bed with all the cheerful willingness of a 5-year-old going to a birthday party…and there’s going to be ice-cream, and a real unicorn giving rides.

Jackson's Drawing Supplies

Where to begin?!? It’s crammed with art supplies, tools, materials for printmaking, painting, silkscreen, ceramics, calligraphy, illustration and drawing, craft, technical drawing, paper craft, bookbinding…almost anything having to do with creativity and the visual arts.  Staff pay wholesale prices for everything (knowledge which made me hyperventilate on the spot).

“Great,” Kris commented, his face crinkling into a big smile when I told him I’d got the job. “You’ll never bring another dollar home again, and the boat will sink under the weight of art supplies.”

But my logic is impeccable: “My love, I already spend half my income at Jackson’s…I may as well go the whole hog and get a staff discount!”

Jackson's Drawing Supplies
The other staff members are friends, and amazing artists with whom I’ve exhibited before: Ingrid Gersmanis and Kate Fernyhough were in the Goddesses of Small Things Show…

Jackson's Drawing Supplies

as was Marita Albers, who has just left Darwin, and used to work here; in fact, it’s her job I’ve stepped in to do, now that she’s gone. It would have been magic to work here with her, but I guess you can’t have everything. I owe this happy change in my life to her going, so the elation is not without a pang of regret. I hope she and Ginger, likewise, have even bigger and better adventures,  find themselves an Aladdin’s Cave of humongous proportions, rivers of glitter and sequins, zero-gravity trampolines, and frizzle chickens that croon Elvis songs.

Polish Frizzle Chicken

The shop’s big front windows are the most amazing in Darwin. The fabulous hand-cut paper filigree of flowers, birds and trees was made by Emily Hearn, another ex-Jackson’s character, Darwin artist, and ‘firework-in-the-shape-of-a-woman’ friend. Everyone who steps into Jackson’s for the first time comments on the work and creativity evinced by those windows.

Jackson's Drawing Supplies

Folks I haven’t seen in years walk into Jackson’s throughout the day (because they don’t buy salads, but they sure as hell buy art materials!) Lea came in on Friday…last I saw her, her hair was blue. It was great to see her again, and we might catch up for coffee next week. Half the people coming through the doors are good friends or bookbinding students. It’s lovely to wear a genuine smile of delight on your face the whole day. I feel like the host of a party, greeting guests at the door.
Jackson's Drawing Supplies
It’s air-conditioned (a welcome change, after four years in the shimmering heat of a small, non-air-conditioned kitchen!), there are two tea breaks, and lunch break is an hour long (I don’t know what to do with all this break time…bring in a canvas, I guess, and get busy with art!)
Ginger Flower stall

Also, the shop is located in Parap Village…nestled among some wonderful little boutiques; not one, but three, top-notch coffee shops, there is a good Mexican restaurant, and a great Indian restaurant, the best-stocked delicatessen in this city (Parap Fine Foods), and three or four contemporary art galleries. These are all ranged around a raised central courtyard, village-green-style, and the energy in the place feels so good, so positive. Every Saturday, the central courtyard fills with street food and craft stalls, and the place mills with locals and tourists, alike, come for their weekly laksas, shopping for clothes and jewelry, catching up with friends, and selecting a big bunch of ginger flowers to take home for the weekend. Kris comes every Saturday to the Parap Market, for his fresh banana smoothie fix and to buy me two or three ginger flowers. Our friends Mandy and Henning run the thriving Ginger Flower stall, and these days I often stop with Mandy for a cigarette and some gossip, before heading in to Jackson’s.

Hennings Ginger Flower stall

Just when it didn’t seem possible for things to get any better than they already were (I have been happy, at Simply Foods, despite the heat and the tiredness…the people are kind, and I was good at my job) Life has catapulted me into a waking dream. This is my dream job…art at my fingertips, surrounded by friends, in a beautiful part of the city. My work schedule is still just three days a week (the way I like it!) and I bump into beauty  more often. Pushing my bicycle through the emptying Parap park on a Saturday after work, Henning often calls me over and puts a big bunch of unsold, impossibly-pink ginger flowers in my arms, telling me “It breaks my heart to throw the unsold ones away, it’s better you should take them home with you.”

With my hand over my heart, I give thanks.


31 thoughts on “my new workplace!

  1. Lovely read – lovely to hear you are so happy in your job! I occasionally shop at Jackson’s too (am a photographer, so I don’t have too much I need to buy from there, but the occasional odd bit!).

    I’ve noticed in a few of your photos through your blogs you live on a boat – that must be lovely, very inspiring and calming…. I’m not sure I could do it though (I get sea-sick!). Are you permanently moored in Darwin?


    1. Hi, Lou! Yes, living on a boat full-time and loving it…mangroves and water create a buffer zone between us and the rest of the city, it’s like living in the centre of a wildlife park. I could never live on the land in Darwin, itself, where the houses/units are crowded too close together and people seem so agro and unhappy all the time. this house boat’s permanently moored, as it doesn’t have an engine, but we keep a small sailboat for travel. Darwin is home base to us, although we like to keep moving around, and are now preparing to go sailing to Central and S. America for a handful of years. We’ll probably come back here when that little adventure is over, though.
      Your photos of familiar NT spots are lovely…the colors are so pretty.
      Thanks for the comment and visit!


  2. What a wonderful opportunity. A place you love, talking about a passion with people you have known for ages. And then wholesales prices on top of it. Can’t get any better than that.


  3. Wow, wow, wow! So happy for you, and that you are sharing your happiness! Love the beauty of your photos Nat, hope you share more of your city & neighborhood with us!


  4. Oh my gosh Nat! You have such a talent for expression. You leave me breathless sometimes. It’s like you live in my brain, read my mind, beat me to the punch, and poke holes in my heart – always reminding me that leaks can averted by life’s beauty. Hand on my heart. First off, congratulations. I’m so happy for you (and pea green too). I had to laugh (here we go again) when I read this one because, believe it or not I too have been applying at art stores as of late. Been trying to live out this fantasy – believing, hoping that life would be simpler, better, if only I worked at the art store. However, it’s been gently communicated to me that I’m a bit over-qualified :(. This must be what age-ism feels like. I sigh, briefly loose hope and then think, f*ck that, get your ass back up and try again! Thanks for inadvertently giving me a much needed kick in the butt. Best wishes to you on your new adventure…fly and high and go far! xo


    1. I really must do something to divest you of this misplaced admiration, Dana. But funny that we seem to running parallel lines, very strange, but I suppose even this very rich and diverse Life sometimes re-uses its plots. 😉 I didn’t put any tertiary education in my cv, y’know. Kept it simple. Learned from the time I applied at a bookstore and wanted to”dazzle” them with too much information. Also, the time I wrote my application form by hand, with a calligraphy pen and crimson ink, and I was applying for a housekeeping job at a local motel. LOL The naivety, I still shake my head over this, what a twat I can be.
      So a little bit of arts background is good, but not too much (or you outshine the manager), they’re more interested in how you get along with people, manage during crises, and whether you’re willing to do a bit of light lifting and vacuuming on the side. 🙂 Think like an art store manager, and you should be able to see what they’re looking for. 😉 That said, you are so talented, sure you don’t want to do something that uses your qualifications? Your own business, for instance?


  5. An artist’s dream place to work for sure.. Surrounded by all that lovely color each day, how can you not dance around like a five year old.. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!!


  6. How absolutely lovely! There is nothing like going to work when it isn’t work at all. Your photos are exquisite. Being from Hawai’i I loved the ones of the ginger. I had a job that I, too, loved waking up to, but when I finally retired and opened up my own shop selling hula attire, I realized that happiness is achieved as greater and greater opportunities arise. It’s all relative. I was happy before and even happier now and I expect that in the future I will be happier still. Isn’t life grand? Please check out my blog at


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