Wear books like hats upon your crazy head…

May 13, 2016 at 4:29 am | Posted in creativity, Inequality, Isabella Blow, Living creatively | Leave a comment
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IsabellaBlow‘You must write every single day of your life. You must read every single day of your life. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy head. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories … may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.’

That’s from Ray Bradbury (www.Aerogrammestudio.com – accessed on May Day, 2016) and it reminded me of that walking work of art, Isabella Blow, (pictured) English stylist, wearer of outrageously wonderful hats, and famous nurturer of young people’s potential. I also thought of Australian hat maker, Rosie Boylan, more of whom below.

Bradbury’s quotation (I’m old fashioned and still make a distinction between nouns and verbs) above reminded me that in a world addled with adversity and alienation, overflowing with unjust megaprofits for the few, and choking on ugly concepts like Key Performance Indicators, it’s crucial that we follow Bradbury’s exuberant advice, that we trust our instincts and follow our passion.

When I first started reading Martina Rink’s book on Isabella Blow (Thames & Hudson, 2010) I thought: but, oh no – these people are writing about her as if she is dead! And then I discovered that she had committed suicide in 2007. My life was crazily busy back then and I missed it. The method was gruesome.

With a background as troubled as hers and with the bad luck of very early tragedy, she did well to last as long as she did. Some in the book say she died at 52, her husband says 48. You’d think a husband would know. But perhaps a younger husband is the last to know his wife’s true age. I don’t know and it’s not important. What is important is that she lived creatively and bravely. Everyone in the book praises and misses her empathy and generosity.

I’d been eyeing Martina Rink’s expensive-looking coffee table book on Isabella Blow for ages. Every time I visited Canberra’s excellent Portrait Gallery shop (www.thecuratoreum.com and www.portrait.gov.au) I yearned for it. But it was inaccessibly displayed behind a glass wall, visible only from the adjoining café side. Finally I asked to see it, wangled a discount for a slightly torn cover, and now it’s mine. Then, with a dazzling display of Jungian synchronicity – or if you prefer, just a coincidence – I discovered that the Powerhouse Museum is having an exhibition on Isabella Blow from 14 May to 28 August! (http://massa.museum).

In the book, fashion editor Suzy Menkes praises ‘the drive and courage it takes to be an original in such a corporate fashion world’ (p. 174) and this reminded me of the importance of resisting the omnipresent corporatisation that denies people’s humanity and their innate creativity and tries to force everyone to become mere consumers.

Isabella Blow trusted her instincts and followed her passion. These traits reminded me of another hat person – Rosie Boylan. While researching my last book, I was interviewing Michael Condon in Sydney’s ABC studio. Michael presents the NSW Country Hour and we were discussing his Churchill Fellowship on farmers’ health. As I was walking to the door when we finished, he added, ‘You ought to interview Rosie Boylan. She makes hats and is really interesting.’

I had my doubts that hat making could be interesting. But I was so glad I did interview her: he was right. And when Rosie first wanted to pursue hat-making it was the un-coolest thing in the world. The attitude was: Why would you want to do that? It’s a dead art. Well, she followed her passion and was awarded a Churchill Fellowship. She makes hats for TV and movies, has a shop in Newtown, and does a lot else besides with her creativity, generosity and resourcefulness. See www.rosieboylan.com

She made the hats in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. You can read about her (and Michael Condon) in Inspiring Australians: The first fifty years of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (ASP, 2015) at www.churchilltrust.org.au/shop

Isabella Blow and Rosie Boylan trusted their instincts and followed their passions. That’s what we must do too in order to live a full life and to do justice to the innate creativity we all have. It might be a struggle and people might think you’re crazy, but do it! Dance, paint, write, make cakes or hats or jewellery or love (yes, we used to call it making love, not ‘having sex’), or music or sculptures or gardens. Do whatever it is that you love in the way that only you can. Do it for thirty minutes a day if that’s all you have after earning a living, but do it!





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