Making a mess


- Words Emily Naismith

You’ve got a fresh new canvas in front of you, full of possibilit­y. You carefully dip your paintbrush in the fancy paint you just bought, but you can’t bring yourself to make a mark. What if you stuff it up? This canvas cost a big chunk of cash! What if you make something you don’t like? How do you even start a painting? It’s almost enough to make you want to pack up and eat a bowl of chips instead. These types of feelings are really common, explains Melbourne artist Charlotte Alldis. “Everyone finds it hard to start sometimes. It’s the same as not knowing what to cook for dinner!” Acknowledg­ing and removing those barriers is what Charlotte and her good friends Julia Talacko and Krissy Agostini are aiming to do with their Making A Mess workshops.

Instead of painstakin­gly creating a masterpiec­e, with focus on the final aesthetic outcome, they’re inviting people to just make a ‘mess’ instead – to explore creativity, free from judgment (internal or otherwise). Since 2019, the trio has been running workshops from Charlotte’s studio in Melbourne’s north, where participan­ts go wild with pipe cleaners, paint and playdough, all in the name of mess-making. Julia – a graduate of fine arts and landscape architectu­re – says calling it a ‘mess’ instead of art can “help in conceptual­ising, getting your body moving and actually being able to create.”

Each workshop begins with a freeing exercise where participan­ts are encouraged to embrace some arty chaos – something that tends to be knocked out of us as adults. Krissy – a graphic designer doing her master’s in teaching – says she likes to dip into some observatio­nal drawing. “We draw each other’s faces using a continuous line on the page, then move around the circle so you’ve had direct eye contact with everyone in the room. It’s a really fun and silly way to loosen the mood and set the tone.”

Aside from lowering creative inhibition­s, there are other benefits the mates hope you’ll reap from their sessions. “Art as play is absolutely integral to building identity and your relationsh­ip

with yourself,” Charlotte says. Although she works as an artist, she studied psychology and is currently combining that with her painting practice, training to be an art therapist. She’s superinter­ested in the restorativ­e qualities of art. “It’s a really healing way to relax and it reduces a lot of anxiety,” she says. “Plus, it’s just really fun.”

Some of the workshop is spent making your own artworks (like sculptures of strange little creatures or nature-inspired paintings) and some is spent mucking about, forming collaborat­ive pieces (like giant canvases decorated with paint, stencils and other media). Charlotte finds this joint effort helps her connect with others. “The feeling you get making art with other people is deeply enriching,” she says. “I don’t think people really know what I’m talking about until they do it.”

For Julia, Krissy and Charlotte, sourcing the materials for the workshops is also part of the fun. There’s a focus on environmen­tally sustainabl­e bits and bobs – they’ve used donated scrap materials from local fashion label Oats for some exercises, and salvaged large sheets of coloured plastic from a friend’s sign-writing business, repurposin­g them as mock canvases and, in the process, saving them from landfill. Charlotte is a particular­ly big fan of Resource Rescue, a warehouse in the city’s outer suburbs brimming with recycled craft materials donated by local businesses. “So far, I don’t think we’ve bought anything first-hand except for paints,” Krissy says.

Besides the obvious plusses of creating art (sorry… mess) with salvaged materials, hanging out with a bunch of new creative chums, and learning to love the process of making without putting pressure on the end result, there’s another big drawcard to the workshops: you don’t have to clean up afterwards. Leave that to Charlotte, Julia and Krissy. “We get to look back on all the things everyone’s created, which makes the clean-up process really nice,” Julia says. And how do they power through it after a big day of mess-making? Well, with a lot of Rihanna, sugar and dancing. Heaps of dancing.

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