Lifestyle photo and interview series for Australian brand ALAS.

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Running a business, raising a one year old, and having her own artistic practice doesn’t come without sacrifice, but Betony Dircks (co-founder of ALAS) says it’s crucial to her wellbeing and health to balance all three. Georgia Blackie visited Betony at home with her one year old son Otis, to talk about how she finds time to dedicate to all of the loves in her life.

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ALAS: You have so many skills! You're a designer, painter, singer/songwriter, seamstress and you're absolutely crushing it raising Otis, who has the most winning smile we've ever seen. Even without motherhood in the mix, that is plenty going on! What have been your strategies for making sure you get to dedicate the time you want to each endeavour? 

B D: Sometimes I feel like the epitome of the saying 'Jack of all trades, master of none' ... haha! Seriously though, I think my dedication to so many different fields is the natural result of my curiosity and fascination with the world, and my place within it. Like any creative person, I use these skills/projects/hobbies to release my thoughts.. you can't just keep that stuff all bottled up. If I haven't painted or picked up my guitar in a while I get this niggling, uncomfortable feeling in my stomach... so sometimes it is more of a necessity to do these things. Throw a baby in the mix and you get a pretty interesting landscape over the course of a day! One minute I'm changing a nappy, the next I'm working on a business spreadsheet, the next I am doing some drawing. But I wouldn't have it any other way. I love being busy, keeping active and productive. I also write a lot of lists! And I keep a paper diary, to keep organised. Unfortunately however I am only human, so some things have to take the backseat... music has definitely been the one to miss out in the last two years. But I hope to get back to that soon!

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ALAS: How do you like to escape? 

B D: I love to go walking in the bush, visit my parents in the country, go for a long run or a swim in the ocean. Also drawing for me is a great escape... sometimes I do very fine, repetitive line drawings which are a form of meditation for me. 

ALAS: What is an early memory you have of drawing or painting? 

B D : I was constantly drawing as a little (and big) kid. My grandfather was an amazing painter and I remember watching him work when I was really little, and thinking that his patience and focus were really wonderful, and I hoped to one day possess those same qualities. I was obsessed with drawing horses, and girls with big hairdos and even bigger ball gowns, it was the 1980's, after all!

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ALAS: Can you name a few of your favourite ALAS moments to date?

B D: Having the opportunity to travel to India and meet our producers was a real highlight. We were only really comfortable with producing off-shore if we were 100% certain that our producers were true blue, in the ethical and environmental sense. Seeing our designs come to life in the workshops over there, seeing the screen printing and dyeing in action, and visiting the organic cotton farms was incredible. Also just meeting all the wonderful people in our supply chain in person, and building relationships with them was super valuable.

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We visited Lucy Leong's little home studio at the bottom of her garden in the Inner West of Sydney, where she produces Salad Days, her range of ceramic homewares that includes wheel-thrown earthenware vessels, and cute hand-built pots, planters, plates and pitchers.

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Although a place of work, Lucy's studio feels like a haven, a space in natural hues - and spending time there with her, we could tell this is an extension of the calm energy Lucy has herself. An impressive feat given that she is a new mother of twin girls! 

ALAS: What prompted you to make Salad Days a business?

L L: I started making ceramics as a hobby and slowly started to sell to friends, then the obsession took over and I wasn't able to fit it into my weekends and evenings. I made the decision to spend more time on the business towards the end of 2016. It was when I was faced with the decision of taking my career at the time further (and giving up ceramics to do so) or leave that job to free up time to focus more on ceramics. although I loved my other job the decision was easy when I decided to choose the one I was more passionate about. I had never had this feeling before of really knowing and loving what I was doing so it felt great to follow it. 

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ALAS: Your ceramics are made to play a part in your customers' daily rituals - what daily rituals do you engage in, and what benefits do you yield from them?

L L: Ha, well at the moment it is very hard to indulge in any sort of pleasant and slow rituals as I have baby twins! However, to get through my day I do need to be very structured and organised. So I guess it is a series of rituals that form the basis of the day, and then it is just crazy in between. There are a few things I do which help me feel set up for the day which you could call a ritual, even though some days I don't leave the house until the afternoon (or at all). I make sure I eat breakfast and drink a cup of tea (bonus points if I get to drink it while it's hot), wash my face, brush my teeth, get dressed and put my jewellery on. This helps me to feel calm and ready for the day. If I don't do it then and things go off the rails with the girls I feel like a crazy woman. It helps me to feel like I have control over something if I have managed to have eaten, gotten clean and dressed.

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ALAS: Life so far with twin eight-month-old babies must be pretty wild! When you get a chance, how do you unwind and take care of yourself?

L L: Yes it is wild! To be honest, free time is pretty rare at the moment. This weekend, for the first time since the girls were born I went to the movies, I sat in the lounge with a wine and popcorn and it felt pretty great, I really enjoyed being alone and not talking to anyone. Going to the studio is a break for me too, even though it is work I feel calm as soon as I walk in there... and being able to indulge in being creative and getting in my flow on the wheel is very meditative. The girls are about to start daycare two days a week and I can't wait to spend some more time on myself and also in the studio listening to podcasts and audio books which I find a great way to take my mind off things and escape a little. 

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ALAS:  Can you recommend something that you think is generally underrated?

L L: Sleep!!!

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ALAS pal Jamey Nguyen radiates energy - whether it's through dance, working out, or hiking in the bush, she loves to move her body. We recently visited Jamey's home in Sydney's inner-west which she shares with her husband and kitty cat, along with their beautiful collection of art, furniture, plants, and more. We were lucky enough to spend some time chatting with and taking beautiful photos of Jamey in her new ALAS goodies, and about how movement makes her feel alive...

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ALAS: When you have time off, what are your favourite things to do to make it really count?

J N: My three favourite things would have to be:

Exercise - I have a weekly routine of varying fitness classes such as dance, boxing, combat and personal training, which is mainly weights and strength training. I love my routine as it gives me extra energy, especially as I work in an office five days a week. The variety not only works different parts of my body, it also works different parts of my brain. Being strong and feeling positive also empowers me (and makes me feel totally badass, in a good way!)

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Cooking - it's essential and extremely therapeutic to me. I grew up in a big Vietnamese family whose lives revolved around food. My grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles all loved cooking, so we had weekly get-togethers with the most amazing spreads. My childhood was filled with colourful, crunchy, flavoursome food - so blessed! My love of cooking has definitely been inspired by my family and culture. But on a daily basis, I'm all about a healthy balanced diet. Healthy eating and exercise are the two things I introduced into my life only in my mid-twenties, but they have completely changed my life - both physically and mentally.

Camping/hiking - When I really find the time, I absolutely love being outdoors, going for hikes and camping in absolute privacy, the old-school way (none of this glamping business!). As much as I love living in the city, nothing beats walking among wildlife and being grateful for the land we walk on.

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ALAS: You're a qualified dance instructor - what led you to dance? What role does dance have in your life?

J N: I'm trained in dance fitness, so definitely not technical, just more for fitness and fun.

Like most people, I did dance in school, and I've always loved dancing just in general. So being able to do dancing as a form of fitness is a total bonus. I love how dancing makes you sweat like crazy, and not only works your coordination but you really use your brain - motor, memory, all of it. To me, it's the best form of self-expression. It's totally freeing.

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ALAS: Can you recommend something that you think is generally underrated?

J N: Walking, particularly as a meditative state. We tend to walk as a means to get somewhere or for exercise, but I think it's really important to use the simple act of walking as a time to meditate, reflect or just breathe. You can walk to free your mind, or use the time to think deeply. I even like to make it a simple habit, such as going for a 'digestive stroll' after lunch.

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This week we visit artist Evie Core at her home in Sydney's Eastern suburbs, where she uses her airy, light-filled living room to practice yoga. Over tea, we chatted about the way nature inspires her and informs the ceramic pots and sculptures she makes.

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ALAS: How do you like to escape?

E C: Being outside, in the trees or the waves, barefoot, music playing. Painting the sky in a Reverse Warrior or reading on the bus to work. The yoga studio has become a physical space of escape that's also a mental getaway. I've lived a lot of changes this year and yoga feels like coming home, a moving meditation that can create an escape no matter where you are. 

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ALAS: What are you working towards?

E C: Currently I'm working towards paying off my travel debt, haha! I'm dedicated to resolving it before reassessing my priorities, and the vision I have for myself currently involves creating more space for my art, yoga, some more study, cheese-making and a veggie garden. Seeking that balance with all things I love, in addition to working towards more kindness, gratitude, letting go. And getting to the beach more!

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ALAS: You have made some beautiful ceramic vessels - can you tell us about your ceramics practice?

E C: I majored in ceramics at the National Art School, but rather than the firing process I'm more interested in the materiality and sculptural qualities of the medium. I hand-build organic, nature-related forms that in my most recent practice aren't fired at all. The ephemerality, movement and possibility of the raw clay suits where I'm at right now. I've made coral reefs, wall installations and big boulder forms that mostly now reside in people's gardens, particularly my mum's. If I make small pieces, they are more quiet and meditative, like pinch pots for storing special things, or little burnished stones. I have been yelled at in the middle of an exhibition for damaging a wall (which I fixed) and that's all part of it too. I guess I'm more about the experience and growth of an artwork rather than the longevity of an object.

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We've long admired Eloise Rapp, who has lived in Tokyo, Melbourne, Sydney and currently, Kyoto. Eloise has done too much to summarise - she has always poured her considerable talent into multiple projects at a time, as artist, designer, researcher, teacher, producer. Her work is even more impressive as she maintains a commitment to ethical and sustainable methods at every stage of the creative process. We spent time with her at home and around Kyoto, enjoying the city's pace, its secondhand stores, and its tradition of hand-crafting. 

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ALAS: You and your partner relocated from Sydney to Kyoto at the beginning of the year. Tell us how you've gone about setting up your home.

E R: We arrived in Kyoto at the start February, one of the coldest times of the year, so it became instantly clear to us that we needed to think seasonally in setting up our home! Sydney is so temperate compared to the extremes of Summer and Winter you get here, but despite that, we had our hearts set on renting a machiya, or traditional wooden townhouse. We were happy to freeze in January and melt in July.

The place we found is a two storey home in Murasakino, a little suburb in Kyoto’s north which translates to ‘purple field’ – what a name! Classic Japanese interiors don’t require a lot of furnishing or decoration, and the living and sleeping areas of our place are all tatami and earthen walls. We’ve managed to source almost everything secondhand, from appliances to cushions and the textiles I’ve been using to make our soft furnishings. Kyoto has an admirable approach to thrifting, where products are kept in impeccable condition so they can be sold on to someone else at the city’s myriad recycle stores. You have to be patient and hunt around a lot for what you need, but what’s the hurry? Buying used goods is such an easy and obvious way to reduce consumption, a philosophy I wish was more prevalent in large consumer markets like Australia’s.

My favourite part of furnishing our home has been creating things with kimono and yukata I’ve found at the flea market. I’ve been taking them apart to make cushion covers, curtains and rugs. The cloth is so old but still so strong and versatile, and kimono are made from complete rectangular pieces so it’s easy to use up every bit. In a funny way I think Murasakino has been subconsciously influencing my fabric selection... there seem to be hints of purple and indigo creeping in everywhere.

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ALAS: Living and working in another country is tough, even though it is rewarding - what is helping to keep you sane here?

E R: Kyoto is an extremely inviting and livable city, but moving overseas is always a bit of a gauntlet-run if you’re not prepared. The process has been a lot easier for us as I’ve lived in Japan previously and my Japanese is pretty good. We also didn’t bring much stuff with us. Patience is invaluable as there can be an astonishing amount of paperwork involved in some tasks, and a good schedule goes a long way for various job, immigration and admin appointments – Google calendar has been our religion for the last few months!

It’s very easy to get into a relaxed state of mind in Kyoto. The pace is completely different to Tokyo, where I lived years ago. It still feels like a very ancient city in areas, with centuries old temples and homes being spared the unfortunate history of bombings and natural disasters that befell many other cities in Japan. The atmosphere is peaceful and secluded around our way, and the city’s position nestled into lush, forested mountains makes it easy to get amongst nature. It’s a constant delight being outdoors here, in any season. It’s frosty and bright in winter, the trees look like they’ve been set alight in autumn, spring is cherry blossom madness and summer is beer and mosquito coils by the river.

Personally, I love to wind down in the bath and I feel very lucky to be in a city of incredible bathhouses. We live a few minutes walk from one of the oldest and most famous here, Funaoka Onsen. It dates back to the early 1920’s, and the changing areas are covered in Spanish majolica tiling and these incredibly complex wood carvings of the Shanghai Incident, which is a peculiar scene to consider as you undress. A vast, beautiful space with rotemburo (outdoor baths), cypress baths, saunas and koi ponds. Sounds like a dream but it’s just down the road!

Kyoto is also the best cycling city I’ve spent time in, and bikes are the main form of transportation for young and old. I unwind by just hopping on my bike and cruising around to the river, various secondhand shops, markets, or up to the forest North of us.

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ALAS: You've started experiments in natural dyeing - what has drawn you to it, and what are you keen to explore with it?

E R: I learned how to dye with natural pigments way back in my studies at UTS, but for most of my working textile life I’ve been more print and production focused. Kyoto is the perfect place to delve back into it as natural dyeing is very popular here; the range of Japanese plant dyestuffs available is vast and so different to what you can find to dye with in other parts of the world. It’s exciting to experiment with totally new ingredients, even though the process of translating metal names and auxiliary agents has been mildly frustrating. Even the dyeing method is completely different here, so I’ve just been trying to find my groove between the European and Japanese methodology.

I’m experimenting with dyeing the old plain, unbleached cottons and silks I’ve found at the flea market and around the Nishijin textile area we live next to. It’ll be interesting to see how they come up, given their age and mysterious origins. Most of the kimono-width rolls I’ve found were woven right here in Kyoto. There are lots of possibilities for what they can become – I might do some clothing and scarves, or work them into small textile art pieces. I’ll just let the colours and cloth dictate what to do.

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ALAS: What are your impressions of Kyoto as a city to do creative work in as compared to Sydney?

E R: In Kyoto, I would say the most creative minds belong to the people who make tatami mats, fusuma and shoji (sliding doors), who spend years perfecting their aizome (indigo dyeing) methods or developing the most delicious, smooth and delicate warabi mochi, which is my favourite wagashi (traditional sweet). I think being creative here means perfecting a skill that you’re passionate about. For me, there are a lot of aspects that make my creative work easier, such as access to textile workshops and classes if I want to pick up or hone a new skill. My equipment and materials are also cheaper here, and I think that comes with a stronger localised textile industry.

Working in the handmade creative industry in Sydney can be pretty inhibiting. Rent prices are high, so studio spaces are in high demand and can be tricky to find on the cheap. And for the kind of textile work I prefer to do, I often had to import products; organic natural textiles, dyestuffs, thread and yarn, equipment etc. Textile processes such as print and weaving are quite inaccessible as there are only one or two workshops for each technique that offer small-scale production. All these factors mean you’re working from a high cost point from the start, which can be severely limiting and a little discouraging.

Kyoto is a city built on artisan skills, so it’s important that practitioners have access to everything they need. If you’re looking to get sewing here, for example, there is a shop selling reconditioned sewing machines and overlockers, another for scissors and blades, one selling threads, one to get pins and thimbles, another for yarn and weaving supplies, one for findings and fastenings, and my favourite is a huge store in town that sells every available dye product under the sun. Sellers and makers alike are open and generous with their knowledge, keen to inform you of a useful shop, service or artisan you should speak to. Kyoto is a city made for creative workers, and I feel very lucky to be here.

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We travelled to Newcastle, NSW to spend time with Jen Lanz, who runs Good Grief Ceramics. Known for her unique glazing, clean, precise style of wheel pottery, and smiley face drainage holes, Good Grief Ceramics planters are stocked by four design-focused boutiques across Newcastle, Sydney and Melbourne. Jen told us how in just a few years, she turned her hobby into a small business while raising her son, and how she keeps happy and healthy working in her studio. 

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ALAS: How long have you been working with ceramics?

J L: In 2014 I joined an open studio near my house called Clay and Glaze while my son attended one half day of kindy to prepare for his first year of primary school. My first day in that studio I threw three cylinders based on foggy memories of pottery at uni ten years earlier and they weren't half bad, so naturally I was totally amazed and instantly hooked on clay. I spent my Tuesday afternoons at Clay and Glaze until sadly it closed as a pottery only six months after I started. With the benefit of hindsight I see that the studio's closure is what grew my clay hobby into an obsession because I'm stubborn as hell which is only intensified by adversity. The organisers of the studio encouraged me to buy a wheel and I converted the spare room in my house into a studio. I continued to acquire studio equipment with what little I had left over working as a barista and would use any spare moments to work on new ideas in my little home studio.

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During this time I was reading a lot about ceramics, constantly researching different glazes and I was really excited by the idea of creating a unique glaze. I held a few market stalls hoping to break even and buy more clay. It wasn't until I agreed to make a few planters for friends and shop owners High Swan Dive that my work settled into a true direction. The High Swan Divers have been there for me from the beginning and are endlessly supportive; they've tirelessly promoted my work which allowed new stockists to find me.

Late last year it became clear that my home studio could no longer keep up with the volume of work I needed to produce, and I was also wearing thin as a single mum working a day job and starting this micro business. I dug my heels in that tiny bit more, and by January this year I had upgraded my kiln, moved into a private studio, and am dedicating myself to my craft by making it my full time job.

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ALAS: You operate your business solo, and work alone in your studio - do you keep any objects in the studio, or have any studio rituals, that you draw support from?

J L: Above my sink are a few photo booth photos of my son and I when he was two years old and he looks down on me when I'm quietly contemplating a day of work being washed off the tools that I have become so accustomed to. Every area of my studio is full of motion and progress spilling into my car park outside most days; everywhere but the sink where my eyes turn downcast and my body comes to a pause each day and my heart is reminded what I'm here for. Just beyond the roller door to my space precast concrete blocks are forklifted from one area to another all day long and this hive of activity sets a real pace for my own workflow but the industrial appeal ends there for me. Within my walls I need a bit of abstraction to feel like I can create freely, so to soften my workspace I keep a few plants in flawed planters of mine and staring back across from my pottery wheel is a new painting I knew I had to have as soon as I saw it, by Xander Holliday, who bought some of my early work years ago. I'm lucky enough to be able to bring my dog Phoebe to work with me and I regularly make a new playlist or listen to podcasts - between dance breaks and pup pats you can't feel lonesome!  

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ALAS: What are your strategies for staying well in Winter?

J L: Throwing pots en masse is pretty physically demanding and I'd go as far as saying it's on par with working on your feet in hospitality. I'm very lucky to be healthy but it's essential that I maintain my health because the whole of my business and my family is my responsibility, so avoiding illness is a very high priority year round. One way that I support my wellbeing is to run a few mornings a week which does as much for my body as it does for my cluttered mind. I've recently been drawn to running because of the solitude and brutality that shuts out all inconsequential thoughts and helps me to hone in on a vision. I'm a bit of a secret runner because the historical models of artists' appearance would have us all look like Jane from Daria (who lives on pizza). Getting good stuff in via my primarily vegetarian diet, cooking at home most nights, and packing our lunches contributes to me feeling good. I think tea is really vital too and your best bet to keep well is having a herbal tea (Liquorice root and Camomile for me lately) before bed while the weather is cold.

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ALAS: Can you recommend something that you think is generally underrated?

J L: I'd recommend practicing patience. As adults we are conditioned to believe that we don't need to practice anything. We believe everything worth doing comes naturally and oftentimes we give up too easily when we don't master a new skill overnight. I realised this when I found myself saying to my son regularly ‘you've got this, just a little more practice and you'll have it figured out’. Even though I can give sage advice to my boy, it dawned on me that I hate practicing things and I always want to be an instant expert. I'm more impatient than a child because of some false authority granted by adulthood, but I'm reminded that you have to be patient with yourself and I find comfort in what Chuck Close has to say about art in practice: “You don't have to invent the wheel every day. Today you'll do what you did yesterday, tomorrow you'll do what you did today, eventually you will get somewhere”.

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Erika Watson and her partner Hayden Druce run Epicurean Harvest, an organic farm recently relocated from a small plot in Blackheath to Hartley, NSW. Erika's instagram posts for Epicurean Harvest show the spectrum of farming life - through the eyes of a Sydney-raised girl. Moments of the beauty and poetry in weather and sunlight, articulate explanations of Epicurean Harvest's decisions and methods, and candid discussion of when things go wrong, that through education connect farm to table, region to city.

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We joined Erika for a walk at Bula Mirri, the 120-acre property where she and Hayden, along with collaborators, are delighting in getting their hands dirty caring for the land.

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ALAS: As a small scale producer, your work is very physical - what role does exercise/activity/movement play in your well-being?

E W: I have always been an active person, so farming works well with my body's ability and my love of being outdoors connected to the environment. That said, the physical work isn't always fulfilling, it is hard and heavy and the benefit of improved mental health isn't always apparent. Taking in the natural landscape and releasing the natural endorphins that help with positive attitudes is vital to boosting a connection to country, and personal development and engagement with the land. That's why I really try to make time for myself - to go for a fast walk, a short jog, quick run, to hula hoop, do star jumps, to skip and play with the dogs... to actively excite the body and allow the heart to sing is why I need to include movement in my life. This care allows for open-hearted connection to country, respect for myself and for the land and life around me.

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ALAS: How do you keep well in Winter?

E W: Winter for me is about personal health after a season of giving giving giving. The body is weary, sore, stiff and forgotten and Winter is about regenerating physical and mental energy levels. A farmer's body is the greatest asset on the farm, it is the space where all things converge - environment, relationship, strength and insight. To neglect the self is to neglect that which you use to engage and connect to all that is around and within us. Using Winter to be honest and respect yourself and then not only listening to that voice inside but also hearing the sounds around you is the key to staying well.

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ALAS: Tell us why certified organic is important.

E W: Hmmm, certification of organic production is an interesting topic. C.O. allows for those producers who do not have access to direct distribution to consumers, to rely on the trust built by the certification body. With that said, certification in Australia is a privately owned business modelled off growth of income as a driving factor. I think the most important thing is honesty, integrity and transparency, which means consumers and producers both need to make the time and space for genuine engagement with each other for a meaningful connection to real food and sense of well-being.

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Jacinta Carmichael-Parissi co-owns and runs Lyttleton Stores, a magical multi-purpose space and community hub in Lawson, midway up the Blue Mountains, NSW. Opening their doors just over a year ago, Jacinta and her sister Adelina have made the core pair of stores, PanTree Produce, and Atelier, a boutique and gallery for independent artisan wares and art, an essential place that brings together growers and creatives beautifully.

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Lyttleton Stores demonstrates the common thread of artisanal production, unifying the creativity necessary to sustainable farming and growing, and the practical handiwork of creative and artistic making. Lyttleton Stores also incorporates Preserve, a workshop space, the newly-built commercial-grade Kitchen, and the Garden, an organic veggie patch and orchard. This impressive business is also a little movement, and is hard to sum up in a paragraph!

We visited Jacinta to walk in her garden and chat about how she takes care of herself and the Earth - bringing you more winter wellness inspiration!

ALAS: What are your strategies for staying well in Winter?

J C-P: I have a few main ways of keeping well both physically and emotionally in Winter, all focused on honouring the season as it comes. Tea is the answer to all questions, and during Winter I prefer to drink herbal tea more than cold water to keep me hydrated. It is a great opportunity to enjoy the radiant warmth of a steaming cup as well as to include some immune-boosting herbs into a daily routine such as fresh ginger and turmeric, nettle, rosehip and lemon balm which are in abundance in the lead up to Winter. Nature aids our health seasonally by making available the plants and other foods that are rich in the nutrients we need most at a given time of year. Eating seasonally is important for many reasons, aside from health and wellbeing, eating this way also reduces the resources needed to grow and transport unseasonal produce to us during Winter. At Lyttleton Stores I stock seasonal produce, grown locally, and so right now leafy greens, mushrooms, brassicas, citrus, pumpkin and parsnips are just some of the delicious vegetables in the store. These are best enjoyed with small portions of slow roasted, sustainably-sourced meats and a glass of organic wine. The final thing that keeps me well in Winter is sleep! The longer nights are a perfect excuse for me to be curling up in my ALAS pjs with a book in front of the fire before catching up on rest.

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ALAS: Can you suggest three small changes we should make to our day-to-day routine that will have a positive environmental impact?

J C-P: 1: Eating seasonally means you can reduce food miles and waste. For example, Winter fruit and vegetables are higher in nutrition so you need only eat small portions while still getting maximum nutrition. Winter produce is also hardier and lasts longer so there is less waste from food spoiling.

2: Composting your food scraps is an important way of reducing waste and methane gasses being emitted from landfill, and there are many places you can donate your food scraps for composting if you don’t have the set up yourself.

3: Say no to all single use disposable food containers and plastic wrapping; carry with you a cup, a tupperware container, a beeswax wrap, a spork and my favourite is a handy pocket knife. It may seem clunky at first but if you think about all the junk you save from landfill it is clear that being a little bit organised is well worth it for the planet.

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ALAS: When you have time off, what are your favourite things to do to make it really count?

J C-P: My days off are almost always spent in nature, either on a friends’ farm or walking in the bush. I try to make time to enjoy sharing a meal with loved ones, either being cooked for at my local restaurants or cooking up a feast with friends and family. 

ALAS: Can you recommend something that you think is generally underrated?

J C-P: Positive encouragement and support from friends and family is often taken for granted, but is one of the vital components of our project’s success, never forget to say aloud when you feel impressed or proud of someone’s efforts or achievements.

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Georgina Reid bridges a gap between practical and poetic: She is a landscape designer who wonderfully conveys the human connection to plants in her writing.  She founded The Planthunter website in 2013, and it has spoken to a need to articulate the variety of relationships between plants and people ever since.

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We visited Georgina in her Marrickville studio, a haven of greenery, dried flowers and a life-size John Wayne cardboard cut out who brandishes a wind turbine, not a pistol, squeezed between red brick factories.

ALAS: The Planthunter's most recent theme is Surprise. What is the most surprising discovery or realisation The Planthunter has led you to?

G R: When I first launched The Planthunter three years ago I remember being completely blown away by the fact that people were actually reading and engaging with it! It really is built on my own passion, and I was just so surprised that others found something on interest and value in it too. I'm still surprised by the beautiful connections I've made through it, and responses I get from regular readers. It's a true gift.

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ALAS: How do you like to escape?

G R: The bush is my escape. I love to be surrounded by nature in all directions - no houses or human structures in sight. Just trees, sky, plants, rocks. And maybe my man and dog.

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ALAS: Do you have any morning or evening rituals?

G R: I struggle with rituals. Coffee in the morning is the only one I seem to stick to. And reading in bed at night. Two delicious things.

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ALAS: Can you recommend something that you think is generally underrated?

G R: Nature is dangerously underrated. It sustains us on so many levels yet, in a very general sense, we treat it like shit. We can't exist without trees cleaning our air, the plants feeding us, medicating us, clothing us and inspiring us. We need to learn (very quickly) how to treat our mother with the respect she deserves. 

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Rainbow Chan has been producing a variety of creative work for years; musician, artist, craftsperson, and more, her work is layered and multi-dimensional, exploring concepts of cultural memory and nostalgia. We chat to Sydney-based Rainbow about her favourite ways to unwind and escape, amidst her very busy days...

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ALAS: You're truly multi-talented: a musician producing dual projects (Rainbow Chan and Chunyin), a visual artist, an academic, and an adept craftsperson. How do you manage the 'Slashie' life?

R C: I've always been drawn to different projects but i feel that the interests and area of enquiry within each field are closely related. Usually, they strengthen one another. For example, my pop music is strongly linked to nostalgia, and my art practice also explores longing and cultural memory. Maybe 'slash' is less an accurate description than hyphen?

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ALAS: How do you like to escape?

R C: I love swimming at McIver's Women's Baths in Coogee. Whenever my head gets clustered, which is quite often, I find that reading a book on the rocks or listening to my movements and breathing underwater really calms me.

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ALAS: Do you have any morning or evening rituals?

R C: I've been loving drinking coffee out these ceramic cups that I started to make recently. It's a great feeling holding something that has been formed by my bare hands. Music-making is such an inward process so it's nice exercising another part of my brain where matter i morphed into tangible objects. But to be honest, my actual morning ritual is sleeping in!

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ALAS: Can you recommend something that you think is generally underrated?

R C: Century egg with pork and congee! The deep, complex flavour of the fermented egg is sometimes a bit too much for those who are not familiar with it. But I reckon it's the best winter meal, topped with Chinese savoury donuts and soy sauce.

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