Good for Nothing: A book launch and exhibit

Lots of people in Darwin have seen Kris…he’s mainly known as “that bearded guy that rides everywhere on a weird bike”. People have seen him carting ladders, or a dozen loaded crates stacked up into pyramids, or whole trestle tables, on his home-built recumbent bike (he’s secretly proud of the way he can transport almost anything on his bicycle), and have come across him riding as far out as Humpty Doo, or Litchfield, or out in the Tanami Desert…with rubber thongs on his feet and just a sleeping bag and a jug of water in a milk crate on the back.

What most people don’t know about Kris (because he keeps very quiet about what he does…he is the embodiment of “the cat that walked by himself”, his own person) is that he pours 70% of all his living energy into projects that have no obvious purpose, nor promise any of society’s conventional rewards.

Hours of each day are spent on whatever his current obsessions may be; Kris doesn’t merely squeeze his passions into the gaps of “free time” left over after a boring ordinary work day…much the opposite, Kris squeezes a little bit of boring, everyday life into whatever gaps are left after he has spent the best part of his day on weird or wonderful projects to please HIMSELF.

He approaches his projects with the discipline and focus that most people reserve for jobs they are getting paid (or somehow rewarded) to do. I have seen him spend many, many hours over a period of 12 years or so, researching and cataloging the mythical, fantastic, unusual beasts/creatures of every culture…sorting them into groups, and then making a small painting of every single one. It’s all been compiled into a handbound book with carved teak covers, handwritten pages, illuminated majuscules, gold leaf, and some 170 original paintings; it is known in our household as Teratologus. A few of our friends have seen the book, but it is not something he talks about or passes around easily. It’s not that it’s a secret, but that it represents too much hard work and…dare I say it?…love, to be exposed to people who would never understand such a project.

Questions like “What’s it good for?“, or being told that “You are very privileged and lucky to be able to live your dreams,” are sad and disappointing. Some of the best things in life aren’t “good for anything”. And as we don’t have much time on this planet to do all the things we want to do, we’d rather not waste our precious minutes trying to explain creativity, imagination, or living without imagined fears, to people who, themselves, aren’t good for much more than criticism and worry. We feel sorry for you, but we can’t help you.

Recently, Kris has been into bicycles. Specifically, bicycles in Australia…not the bicycle as status symbol or state-of-the-art lifestyle wank…but the bicycle as a simple machine that has changed very little, essentially, over the centuries, and is one of the most energy-efficient and accessible modes of transport, loved the world over.

He’s spent the past three years researching the topic. He’s built 5 recumbent bicycles over time, and made two trips from Darwin to Port Augusta, and to Broome, on his home-built bikes. He wrote a book about his trips, research, the philosophy and practicality of human-powered-versus-fuel-consuming transport, of slow-versus-fast transport, of boxed-in-versus-in-the-open transport, and the different mindframe a long-distance cyclist develops…a sort of Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, for bicycles, called Bicycle Dreaming.

After four days of hard slog on the Gibb River Road in the Kimberley, WA, during the heat of the day, I was looking for a shady spot to hole up for the afternoon when I bumped into this marvellous billabong. I propped “Kraken” against a spindly tree on the side of the road and waded into tall grass. 50 metres in I discovered a clear patch of water with sandy bottom and rocky ledge. I was parched and tired. I sat down under the first tree at the edge of the water, had a feed, long drink and a short nap.
I had a leisurely scrub and rinsed my clothes….I spread the rags on hot stone shelves, had another swim, and settled myself in a cool spot. The sun was far too high in the sky to climb back into the saddle; I had plenty of time, and I started scribbling about bicycles in my notebook. I was going to write about interesting things and marvellous places, about great and crazy people, and their legendary exploits, all of it in one way or another connected to bicycles. I was going to describe how I see the world and how it affects me.
At that waterhole in the Kimberley I was at peace. Every half an hour a dusty 4WD would roar past, windows rolled up, rattling their way over the corrugation as fast as their suspension would allow, looking dead ahead,…oblivious to the countryside. Some of them noticed my bright red bicycle leaning against a tree, but none of them noticed the waterhole I was sitting at. They came here to see the country, but their cars made them blind.

—excerpt from Bicycle Dreaming by Kris Larsen

He made a lot of drawings for the book, in pen and ink, and because he was in the mood, painted up a dozen large posters about bicycles, too…loosely based on the old bicycle posters of the early 1900s, but with humor and a wilder imagination.

We held a book launch and exhibit of all Kris’s bicycle-themed works at the Darwin Visual Arts Association yesterday evening. Was so surprised by the numbers of guests who turned up—thanks to all our good friends, who were so supportive and made the evening a busy, talkative, enjoyable one.

We hope you enjoy the books and the artwork that you took home, may they inspire you to never settle into a comfortable, lazy life of non-doing…may they  awaken you to the fact that Making Your Dreams A Reality has nothing whatsoever to do with Having Enough Money, or Being Entitled, or Being In The Right Place, or Coming From The Right Social Stratum. That’s bullshit.

Possessing a dream is all the entitlement, ability, and birthright you need to make it happen. Stop telling yourself lies because you are afraid. Do it is later than you think.

urban snails follow each other down a wide highwaythat has collapsed, and drop one by one into the sea

Kris’s new book, Bicycle Dreaming, is available within Australia via his website.


The End, part 2 : : Gallimaufry

gallimaufry |ˌgaləˈmôfrē| noun a confused jumble or medley of things, a dish made of leftovers. ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from archaic French galimafrée ‘unappetizing dish,’ perhaps from Old French galer ‘have fun’ + Picard mafrer ‘eat copious quantities.’

One last mixed bag of pictures from this year, because I didn’t post to my blog as often as I should have/could have—a pity because some of these deserve at least a cursory look, and I wouldn’t feel right posting or writing about these pictures any time in 2011…there is bound to be so much new material to work with and digest next year, why serve up leftovers?

The Year in Embroidery…

Left to right, from the top: 1)Faster, Pussycat! Movie-based embroidery for the Phat Quarter swap; 2)The Key To The Door In The Mountain embroidery on tulle in a cigar tin, inspired by a poem by Jean Valentine, for the Darwin Visual Arts Association’s Annual Member’s Show; 3)Allium Flora journal (Book 876); my first attempt at the technique in soandso’s book The Embroiderer’s Floral 4)The Sorceress of Serendip, 3D art doll on a journal cover; 5)Red brocade Spool Bird, red cotton floss on linen. My take on the bird softie pattern available on’s site; 6)Nightmare, blackwork on black Moleskine cahier for The Sketchbook Project 2011 in Brooklyn, NY; 7)okay, you’re sick of these felt cookies. So am I! 8.) Book 879, appliquéd, quilted and embroidered journal, now the property of Mademoiselle Dassenoy, who went home to Belgium; 9)my first Spool bird, done in regular fabrics…eventually went on a journey by bicycle through the Tanami Desert, as my Belovéd’s mascot.

A Daytrip to Kakadu National Park…

Left to right, from the top: 1)My Beloved’s rough and rather unlovely toes serve as a background to some amazingly small works of wild beauty; 2) & 3) local flora; 4)bushfire in the mulga; 5)a prehistoric penthouse with amazing views, at the top of Ubirri; 6) & 7)more nature shots… 8)the ubiquitous sun-bleached beer can tells you two things: Aussies love their beer, and some people are filthy swine; 9) & 10)views of the floodlands and sky, from the top of Ubirri; 11)an aboriginal rock painting of Namarrgon, the Lightning Man, at 12)a rosella flower, taken at Bukbukluk

Bits & Pieces Of Life…

Just a few of the reasons why I loved 2010 (left to right, starting at the top):

  1. a new bicycle! Ruby Belle…white-walled tires, chain guard, wicker basket…she’s just the cutest little thing! I love my treadlie…I never learned to drive a car, and a few years ago I realized that I no longer want to learn. Bikes are Better, in Every Way.
  2. fun photo shoots with my friend Melanie, and my honorary godchild, Charlotte. They went back to Germany for good just a few weeks ago. I will miss them both. Charlotte was my favorite photo subject…spontaneous and full of life, a delightful little girl.
  3. moulding and casting workshop with Ewan Wood…I have always wanted to know how to cast little things, and Ewan gave us a great little introduction to the craft. Ewan himself does amazing work for museums and such, producing life-like reproductions of anything, from potatoes to crocodiles; he was my studio neighbor at the Darwin Visual Arts Association, and whenever he was painting one of his crocodiles I would hang around to watch and just be a general pest…
  4. homegrown tomatoes! Our first crop on the boat…they were really sweet, lusscious and YUMMY!
  5. the iSmoke, my hubby’s piece for the DVAA Annual Member’s Show, makes fun of Apple products, geeks, smokers, and consumers, with his gadget in a cigar tin.
  6. I drew my life! Well, for a few days, anyway, just small parts of my life. Inspired by Michael Nobbs’s Start to Draw Your Life e-book, and the rest of his Sustainably Creative blog.
  7. Kris made a few sculptures this year…my favorite is his snail-powered recumbent bicycle. This was meant to go into the Sculpture in The Park, but that show didn’t go ahead this year, due to administrative and bureaucratic difficulties. We did a fun photo shoot for the piece at the Holmes Jungle.
  8. I got the 750 Words habit…and then fell off the wagon a few days before I hit the 100 day mark and 100,000 words. Lost all my badges, and never even got a glimpse of that Pheonix. Too funny, dropping the ball like that, just when you think “it’s all sweet downhill coasting from here”…LOL I will crawl back on the wagon, as an effing ignominious egg, tonight. In the meantime, here’s a curious screenshot from the thoughts/emotions stats on one of my stranger days: Feeling mostly: HAPPY. Concerned mostly about: DEATH. wtf?
  9. Kris, on the recumbent bicycle he built at home, in the middle of his Old Tanami Track journey. He rode Some folks in 4-wheel drives stopped to take the pics, and were nice enough to e-mail them to us. All part of Kris’s love affair with solitude, big open spaces, adventure, the Outback, and bicycles The new book he has just finished writing, Bicycle Dreaming, launches in late January next year.

Q: What about the list, though, hmm?

A: List? what list?

Q: That one with all those things you said you were going to do…

A: Oh. That list. *sigh* I didn’t do too well with that list.

1. Fill a sketchbook with drawings (FAIL)

2. Join a group and complete a 365 photo challenge (FAIL)

3. grow a lovely veggie and flower garden on the boat …yeesh! (FAIL)(Note: I have tomatoes and basil, so not a total failure. But not the self-reliant gardening I initially wanted.)

4. “Random Acts of Crewelty” : Have An Exhibit in 2011 (okay, not technically over yet, there’s hope for this one!)

5. The Phat Quarter Swap: Movies!

6. Sew a Spool Bird: “Red Brocade Bird”

7. Sew at least one item with each of the patterns in my collection (FAIL)

8. Make a group of 15 journals using the Allium flower technique (Note: I have made 3 journals with Allium flowers on them.)

9. Framed, embroidered pendants and jewelry (FAIL)

10. Read 10 books before the end of the year

11. Use up all my small canvases…paint lots of small paintings! (FAIL)

12. Write 4 poems (FAIL…no, make that SPECTACULAR FAIL!)

13. Craft a series of patchworked journals and mini quilts (20) (FAIL, FAIL, FAIL)

14. Craft 12 Bijou (miniature) books using existing materials (FAIL)

15. Complete the August Challenge on

Who gives a rat’s ass, anyway? *laughs out loud*

Meh, better luck next year!

Happy New Year, everybody!