Harness - Jasmax


Architectural graduate Mark Craven, interior designer Josephine Meldgaard, landscape ‘crossover’ Sara Zwart and graphic ‘guru’ Sarah Kappely discuss, ponder and decipher their ideas and perceptions of ways to ‘harness’ creativity.

Method in the Madness (or harnessing creativity), what does that mean tome?

Sarah Kappely: My physical surrounds are in a constant state of madness; my flatmate calls me the 'tinker'. I'm a hoarder, an over-packer, I take my mess with me. My structures and methods are more internal. I have a tidy mind.

Upon psychometric testing I was informed that it was lucky because if my mind were as messy as my desk, I'd be in a world of trouble. My work is internal methods and processes to harness something that makes sense from the jumble that surrounds me, not just in my physical environment but all the ideas: my own and others' in the practice.

Sara Zwart: So - if I asked you to find a file note amongst the mess on your desk - would you find it immediately? Or would you simply remember what was on the note? I'm jealous. My clutter needs some order to be of any use to me!

SK: I would totally know where it was. Well at least its general vicinity… there is method in my madness. I just don't throw anything away, and then I can't lose it! Ha! But I generally have more trouble remembering where I tidied things to...now just where was that safe place...?

Like the Sky ad - you have everything on the floor. If someone asks where it is, you just say "on the floor!" Covered.

MARK CRAVEN: I feel music is my architecture. When I designed at University, I would sit at home, improvise over a jazz song and start designing from there. I find music is generally enhanced through improvisation and architecture is improved through finding a freedom within a structured environment.

SZ: So is madness about letting go of control? I don't see that as a negative in design - it's often a rare moment in which a pure free-thought comes to me! I guess the more important question is how do we 'harness' these creative thoughts into an outcome that is useful in our discipline?

JOSEPHINE MELDGAARD: As designers, we are all slightly mad (or is that just me?).

SK: Designing for designers could definitely drive you to madness!

JM: As Sara alludes to - madness is also about disorder - in design this allows us to draw parallels from seemingly disparate things.

I think the important word here is method - how we harness and process our creative thoughts. How we give our ideas context and order our disorder!

MC: Instead of drawing an idea to form a model, I form a model which draws my idea. This helps me find freedom within a structured environment. For me each project is like a jazz song waiting to be shaped through improvisation.

Physical modelling helps me harness this floating atmospheric quality to form a conscious three-dimensional design. Utilising timber structures or challenging the way it's used as a spatial material is what inspires me. Its potential to provide warmth in a space on a human scale, or its elegance in a dynamic structure challenging the conventional has become a cornerstone of my design.

SZ: I'm pretty envious of people like Mark and their processes - they seem to produce the most stunning models or sketches so intuitively!

I tend to use words to harness my ideas... as you'll have noticed, they don't always initially make sense - but often an idea will eventually appear... likewise I will trawl texts and occasionally there will be a quote or phrase that brings some clarity. And on the topic of words... you can never go past conversation - other people's slants on life often influence my design.

Words are my way of collating the madness - purely to give it clarity and form in my own mind. I am embarrassed about the lack of drawings in my sketch book - but somehow a design always falls out when it is needed.

How does Jasmax invite and foster the opportunities for madness in design?

SK: I find great value and inspiration in the Design Weekends away. These give us the opportunity to go crazy, make a mess, build models, discuss ideas and draw inspiration from the natural environment. Having a lot of creative people, avid photographers and plenty of wine on hand helps too!

SZ: I love that at these design sessions, reality is thrown out the window - and seemingly mad ideas applauded. This is very refreshing in a firm that is often (mis)interpreted as institutional. The size and stability of Jasmax allow a greater degree of folly! When I used to run my own practice, I was so caught up in the busy-ness of business that my design definitely suffered, and purely creative moments happened largely after hours on unrelated projects.

MC: As a graduate, I am blown away by the creative freedom of Jasmax: to design, voice opinion and to ask for one. To me, the diversity of people and work is one of the strongest features. This seems to create a controlled sense of madness in itself, one that continuously evolves from project to project.

JM: I enjoy the every-day office interactions that provide opportunities for a little madness. Working in a collaborative studio environment can feel like a fevered hive of activity at times. I like to have enough space to spread out, make a mess and then ponder for weeks, before clearing everything away again to make room for new mess.

So how does working in a multi-disciplinary firm affect your practice?

JM: Being surrounded by a diverse group of creative people with expertise in different fields allows us to broaden our experiences and knowledge. I find the diversity of our office culture refreshing - it keeps things interesting for me.

SK: Working across all disciplines in the firm means I have to have good communication skills. Ideas and opinions need to be pooled together and reinterpreted through me. As a graphic designer, I draw these together to feed into how we represent Jasmax as a whole.

SZ: I am always curious to see how the other teams approach design. I occasionally enjoy stirring the architects up to look at a site with slightly different eyes. But I think this can come down to different individuals and their values as well as different disciplines. It's always nice to know that there's an expert somewhere in the office!

MC: I agree, the more diversity the better.

SZ: Sometimes I will even use a totally unrelated discipline such as dance or social geography to provide some 'method' to add clarity to the confusion of my designs. I guess that's a little like music is to Mark. I can never trace my ideas to a single 'lightbulb' moment - they're always an amalgamation of input from other people and sources.

How does this flow through into your work? How do these interactions and 'creative' sessions change what goes out the door?

SK: Some of it is in very basic ways: in just having revitalised your enthusiasm for creativity.

Noting form and scale. Learning to think about things from a different angle or perspective.

Helping to breed a collaborative environment, so when you need help and advice you can source this from different areas in the practice. Oh just found a post-it on my desk! It says "give context to your thinking" which is what talking your ideas over with others does.

SZ: I agree - although collaboration is a lot harder than you think! It's amazing how often you're working on a design problem and bump into someone at Friday drinks who is simultaneously dealing with the same issue in a different project/discipline. Allowing for those informal exchanges is vital!

JM: I'd like to think that these sessions inspire us to think more - to not settle for the most obvious answers.

MC: They do this by providing a forum to ask for opinions and not solely relying on your own.

Jasmax is an architectural, interior and landscape design practice, with 195 staff based in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.


Process within Process - DNA

Designing Dialogue: Livia Lima, Lucy Sellars and Kylie Phillips [junior designers from DNA] conduct a post-it-note mapping exercise which reveals their insights as designers and celebrates their diversity.

Initial approach rejected. Been done.

Revised approach

We could have a three-way talk about design issues, process, future of design and things like that... the idea is that we could get really in depth with some topics, and show our work as it refers to what we are talking about: like we are sending images to each other. The benefit for DNA is to show that, even at a junior level, the depth of thinking is quite good..

Another thing Lucy and I were talking about was maybe some sort of mapping exercise where we somehow present how much time spent here versus learning, frustrations, highs, lows etc, etc. Or, it could be mapping our dialogue?

Like a thread.

What if the dialogue is the actual work?

Now you're talking. Collaborative design! What if the actual mission could be part of the journey?

Guys, that's exactly it - method in the madness.


Hi Gren,

Lucy, Livia and I have been having a lot of discussions recently around the Threaded article and the potential we have to create something different. We have an idea we are pretty excited about. It has moved away from our original approach.

We felt we needed to come up with something that better reflects us and how we work and that would differentiate us (and DNA) from what has already been done. We believe the article needs to reveal us as designers, to celebrate our diversity, what we're about and what drives us in terms of design.

From our discussions, we thought it would be useful for the three of us to get together and work collaboratively which means Lucy and I going to Auckland for the day. The premise would be to use the interview and the process of producing the article as a design piece in its own right.

The design is a derivative of the dialogue or, more simply, the narrative is the design. We envisage this being developed in any number of ways depending on where the process leads us - through collaborative experimentation and exploration.

It could be illustrative, typographic, mapping or something else but, at this point, we are concentrating more on the journey to see where it takes us.

To do this, we believe the three if us need to get together in person to be able to explore the method, to experiment and produce collaborative visuals for the article.

We feel this will be a valuable exercise to explore and produce an article that is unique, inspiring and offers small insights into how we think both within and beyond DNA studio walls.

We are very excited about this approach and seek your support on this. If you have any questions, please just let us know.


Kylie, Livia and Lucy

Hello Liv... It's all go. Gren gave his approval this morning.

Two pages of post-it-notes followed this article, linked with key which colour coded the following;

  • process
  • reality
  • inspiration
  • attitude
  • obsession
  • study
  • random


Do Disturb - Alt Group

One of the problems with design is that it is becoming serious, perhaps too serious.

There is probably some truth in Dostoyevsky's claim that you cannot be free or fully human until you laugh because to laugh means to make your own judgement, to refuse to accept things at their face value, but also not to take yourself too seriously. One of the problems with design is that it is becoming serious, perhaps too serious. When things become serious they tend to get defensive and inward-looking. In an article in Form magazine a few years ago about the state of the design profession, the authors concluded that design was like a corpse: exquisitely laid out, but not going anywhere. They went on to say that design was also like masturbation, in that it was in danger of becoming self-indulgent and pleasing no one else. Design is certainly serious business, but there are elements of a sense of exploration and play in design that should not be forgotten. There is also the element of making in design that's about discovery and evaluating, about form giving. But design is also about process, and about conscious choice. Yes. No. This over that. Yeah… Nah. Choose your clients wisely-they define your madness. Like Hamlet, design charts the same course
of real and feigned insanity-from the overwhelming grief to getting your rage on. Alt Group. Do Disturb.


Images will Dominate - Paul Johns & Mark Braunias


THE GAIL MANIFESTO PAUL JOHNS: Yoko Ono is in the Sydney Biennial. MARK BRAUNIAS: She helped break up The Beatles. Bad.

PJ TXT: It's all good. I don't like this expression. It's like saying... Jesus Loves You.

MB TXT: Maybe it's all O no. I like the glasses she wears best. Big, stupid and very Patty Hearst. Almost Elton John.

PJ TXT: Do any of the projections superimpose your paintings?

MB TXT: Have a wall with an animation projected. Hand-ptged around it and a bit on. Maybe just project on its own next time.

PJ TXT: You have designed so many great figures. I especially like the amoeba-like figures.

MB TXT: Thanks. 2 me they are like a species that didn't quite make it. Went down the wrong evolutionary path and perished. Cro-Mang(a)s'. 4 a brief moment I felt inspired.

PJ TXT: Your show at Jonathon's influenced my work in 2005. Plywood became a popular medium for some. I intend 2 add the black cigarette packet to your PR painting. Do you think the packet needs to be painted?

MB TXT: Definitely black. I did it one day in the gallery as I was hanging. 4 a brief moment I felt inspired.

PJ TXT: It would be interesting to not paint it.

MB TXT: Unplugged version.

PJ TXT: Have you thought any more about Threaded?

MB TXT: Its happening now. Should be organic. All subject matter is equal. Gail from Coro a must. Gail is like a guru 2 me. She is OMG.

PJ TXT: The Gail Manifesto. It would be good to include images. What do you think?

MB TXT: Images will dominate.

MB TXT: Gail reminds me a bit of the art writer John Hurrell. Both very windy

PJ TXT: Have you thought any more about doing a drawing of Peter Ireland? John thinks Peter is an excellent writer. I do too.

MB TXT: Maybe use same drawing. Change names. Both guru-ish looking.

PJ TXT: You would like Wayne Anderson on a Friday night. Repeat.

MB TXT: Wayne Anderson gr8. Sidekick gd 2.

PJ TXT: Orlando. Does he care... or know... that he is a comic? Wayne reminds me of Toby Withers... a character from Janet Frame's 'At the Edge of the Alphabet'.

MB TXT: Droll downbeat on the up. Classic anti-heroes.

PJ TXT: In the care home at the moment. One woman has a Rita Angus watercolour in her room. Proteas.

MB TXT: Not an Angus fan but nice image of room and lady. Angus 2 uptight in that NZ way 4 me. Repressed. Maybe that is why she is so popular here.

PJ TXT: Another... a portrait of Tom Taylor by Bill Sutton.

MB TXT: I thought Taylor was a brillant teacher. First scary artist I had ever met. Wish I had that ptging.

PJ TXT: The woman has dementia. It could be a calendar for all she thinks.

MB TXT: That's even better. 4 concept not 4 her.

PJ TXT: You seem pleased with how your show has gone. It gives momentum. Art on the catwalk. I would rather watch catwalk fashion than many of the art shows I see.

MB TXT: I like the audience best in the catwalks. Maybe put art critics at art openings on chairs. With note pads. Scoring.

PJ TXT: Would the artist score the critic?

PJ TXT: I have dropped any humorous reference in my work. Title of show... All is well.

MB TXT: All is well sounds funny 2 me.

PJ TXT: It should be. I am using the swastika and its association with the elephant-headed figure Ganesha..the most revered figure in Hindu.

MB TXT: R those photos or screenprints or both?

PJ TXT: Large photographs and neon. NZ coastline in the background. Neon=red. Argon= blue. Bill Culbert has used argon for the artwork at the Convention Centre. The blue alludes to the Canterbury sky. I was really impressed when I first saw BC's work. A fluorescent tube penetrating a suitcase.

MB TXT: U r probably rite. But I would rather have lights on the ceiling. Sorry. My problem.

PJ TXT: Would you rather have a bicycle wheel on a cycle too?

MB TXT: Unless it was by Duchamp. Maybe sell at Webb's.

MB TXT: Is yr show all done?

PJ TXT: Almost. Hanging on Monday.

MB TXT: That image of the guy with a rope is excellent. Enigmatic, evocative, poetic, etc. Where do u find yr models?

PJ TXT: I have used the same person from 2002. He is Doris Lusk's grandson.

I met him when he was the kid next door to Doris.

MB TXT: U started on Threaded ideas?

PJ TXT: We can get carried way next week in a true Barbara Windsor style.

MB TXT: Barbara W went out with Eastend crooks. Gail from Coro and Barbs from Carry On. Like Gilbert and George in their own way.

PJ TXT: I last saw her in Eastenders.

MB TXT: Sad. She had given up by then. Like Elvis, early period best.

PJ TXT: Some greats have a sad demise. It seems to make them greater.

Do you think Gail will have a sad demise?

MB TXT: Gail is the new Angus. Forever pained.

I thought Elton John was great once. Honky cat LP.

PJ TXT: I never liked him.

MB TXT: Rock music is like art 2 me. Like all art it takes time to really understand it. I am constantly re-evaluating its importance to culture. To me, the early-70s Stones are like late Picasso. It's my academic research.

PJ TXT: Let it Bleed would have to be one of my all-time favourites.

MB TXT: Exile on Main Street.

PJ TXT: I have found the Olympics exceptional. China Gold.

MB TXT: Ribbon gym very arty. High jump very sexy.

PJ TXT: Ribbon gym. Soft core.

MB TXT: High jump more so.

PJ TXT: They are viewed naked.

MB TXT: Ancient Greek Olympics were naked

PJ TXT: High jump.

MB TXT: Yeah. It was a balls-up.

PJ TXT: Bar up.

MB TXT:: Jim AND Mary.


MB TXT: Strawberry jam 4ever.

PJ TXT: Jim and Mary Forever.

MB TXT: And a day. Amen.

PJ TXT: I won't photograph Tom's portrait.

MB TXT: What about the woman in the home?

PJ TXT: Taking a photograph of someone in a rest home requires family consent.

The mind consents, without thought, when demented. I recall Margaret Dawson was criticised when she photographed her uncle. Photographs...nudity... dementia. The Man from Uncle is a great series of photographs.

MB TXT: Their prob. Terrific title that.

PJ TXT: The large work above the staircase in the Student Union Building has disappeared. One of its features is an engraved portrait of Dame Ngaio Marsh. Do you remember it?

MB TXT: I vaguely remember that large work. Just that I hated the Student Union. Those same people are now in Govt. National.

PJ TXT: Ted Nia is someone I remember in '81 at the time of the tour. I doubt he is National. Rarotongan. Warren & Mahoney architecture looks good from the outside, and always cold and uncomfortable on the inside. The grey concrete block became their standard.

MB TXT: Bloody modernists.

PJ TXT: It is a myth that Dame Ngaio was gay.

MB TXT: What about William McAloon. He looked very gay on TV talking about Rita Angus. Those trousers. Those paintings. I hate them more than ever.

PJ TXT: I tried to get a glimpse of the trousers. Each time I looked he was cut at the waist. Were they moleskin?

MB TXT: Trou more Hallensteins.

PJ TXT: Not gay.

MB TXT: Maybe Hallensteins gay.

PJ TXT: I know what you mean. The person presenting an artist can be more interesting than the artist. William's glasses were in the time frame of the paintings.

MB TXT: Need to get this Threaded project finished in 2 days.

PJ TXT: Just sent you a text.

MB TXT: Must have read my mind.

PJ TXT: Intuition.

MB TXT: Nothing in mine. Mostly rust.

PJ TXT: Iron is good

MB TXT: Rust never sleeps.

PJ TXT: That's what Hotere told the National Gallery when they complained about the paint peeling off his work.

MB TXT: Maybe best thing he ever said.

PJ TXT: The Bank didn't think so. The Westpac design is Ralph's.

MB TXT: Guess he got last laugh... 2 bank.

PJ TXT: I am one week away from re-establishing Strawberry Fields. 20 wild strawberry plants and a plaque designed in 1990. Yoko Ono has expressed her gratitude.

MB TXT: Peace. In Gail's time.


East to West - Pauline Bern & Alan Preston

There’s method in the madness: the deadline is upon us so Pauline drives from Devonport to visit Alan at his Muriwai home.

PAULINE BERN: I always enjoy the chaos of your workshop with its crazy clutter of gatherings, tools, equipment and buried treasures. I have to tread carefully and can spot the latest pieces of Road Works emerging: that transformation from ordinary to extraordinary.

It's exciting to see for the first time the proofs of your book [about to be published].

'Between Tides, Jewellery by Alan Preston' . There are plenty of images tracking the very defined, strong pieces and the simplicity of your work and the lovely evolution of forms - such a contradiction to the joyous chaos of your workshop.

ALAN PRESTON: The book gathered a momentum of its own and is much larger than the original proposal. A good part of the text was based on conversations with Damian [Skinner] that he recorded and then made sense of.

PB: Doubt that we will make much sense: two jewellers yacking and lacking the historian's sense of order and editorial purpose.

East coast/west coast dialogue referencing PB's Mend pipi shells and AP's Airworks gannet feather necklace and Foreshore pins:

PB: The recent work was simultaneously emerging from our coastal locations without our realising it - when we saw the work displayed in Melbourne in the same show and recognised the lovely coincidence of your shell shards looking as though they would take flight and my domestic obsessive stitching applied to the very ordinary pipi: one from the wild west, one from the gentle Waitemata.

AP: The shells were accidental - coming from the pin show curated by Otto Künzli in Munich. After doing the shard, I moved on to doing all the others… bird-like and controlled by what you can find down there [Muriwai].

PB: I like that… the chance discovery that imposes a quality, shifts you and can demand a new solution. Sometimes I am pushed or challenged with a new 'found' form but I think I should stop looking at my feet and you do too!

AP: Yes I do, sometimes the bits I gather just sit there in the bottom of the car. It would be nice to do something with them.

PB: I could really do with a coffee Alan, if that is ok. I'm struggling to give this conversation any sort of momentum! Good coffee

Style/fad/era dialogue

AP: It is ok to make those conscious decisions to avoid a particular imagery/form to be different from someone else's work.

PB: If you have your reason and your own method, then it doesn't matter, but there is usually a defining trend that changes over time: we are used to referring to the 'Bone, Stone, Shell' movement that has come to define the Contemporary Jewellery style of the 80s and, in a very general way, our generation of makers. I have been thinking of a suitable easy-label version for the current era:

Textile, Glue, Paint, Tabs, Fake Diamonds, Plastics

AP: The textile thing, that's happening now, happened with our generation but we did it with metal.

PB: The 'soft' we couldn't/wouldn't have used that in the 80s, it had to be very hard and durable, it had to be in metal. Using textile techniques but in precious metals. Perhaps we were too influenced by the feminist movement.

AP: I wonder how much they refer to it versus actually doing it, ie knitting, sewing. And there wasn't any of that junk kitschy stuff either. We're still in that tradition of hard stuff, aren't we, except in my use of muka.

PB: Talking of hard, your Road Works are grunty!

AP: Interesting that the Mend shells did not go into that area.

PB: I use thread not to embroider or decorate but I stick with darning, patching, blanket stitch - only mending techniques but it still is textile, soft.

AP: Of course we not only work with found non-precious materials but also found imagery: mine is often from architectural sources like the Pitt St Methodist Church windows. They became apertures in pearl shell, iconic shapes as brooches and necklaces. I have my eye on the University Clock Tower where the symbols are repeated but in a hard-edged Deco style. Work develops out of itself and there is an evolution from one to the next…

PB: Yes our eyes are always searching, extracting nment: pot scrubs and plug holes! There was certainly a bit of madness turning 80 metres of gold wire into a Scrubber necklace.

AP: What about the Ring Project? What came next?

PB: The Ring Project lead on to the Scatter brooches, trying to keep that minimally made feel, knowing when to stop.

The development is often cyclical, loops back, finally finding a solution or it never moves and dies on the workbench.

AP: I had that too with my Kowhai Seed necklace; I want to shift it to a brooch. I do have an incipient one still sitting on my bench, waiting…

PB: It is interesting we can have these objects we come up with in our heads but there are the problems of the mechanics, the restraints of getting them on the body.

Durability issues

AP: People expect their jewellery to be mended but not their clothes.

And they expect it to last forever. Eg; with textile glue and paint movement, People need to be sensitive to that. We now tend to include materials that are vulnerable and easily damaged.

PB: Yes that lead to the decision in moving from the ring format to the brooch where there is less chance of wear and tear. But I still wanted to maintain a sense of fragility.

AP: I enjoy the marks and dings on a worn metal ring.

PB: People are mad to want them polished off.

People want to polish their wedding rings…

But crude matt acid finished work end up being polished with wear.

AP: Same thing happens with big robust rings. Vulnerable to being caught on things. When they sometimes come back they have all these marks of wear and tear.