Here’s an interesting new video from those wizards over at Desillusion.

I’ve often wrung my hands about defaulting to my iPhone when taking pictures. It’s not to say I don’t use my SLR – certainly when I’m away it gets used, and a really good picture with it offers up a satisfaction which I think is a lot harder to attain with a phone camera. And the talent behind a manually adjusted SLR lens is pretty incomparable, and certainly it can be argued that photo apps are cheating – a way of doing something which a good photographer can do with a canny eye and a well-honed knowledge of their tools (for which I have the utmost respect and not a little jealousy). But what is cheating? Photoshop has been around a lot longer than Instagram. And lens filters have been around a lot longer than Photoshop…

I like in this video that Zak Noyle speaks up for the power of the phone camera, following a previous article, available here. I believe it’s lifting the general quality of photography notches higher across the world – and if, off the back of it, it sends more people the way of SLR’s and to a world of F-stops and dark rooms – then let’s all celebrate that!

Zak Noyleposted on by Cai Waggett in Nature, Photo

The life of Bill

William Livingston is the founder of the über cool Californian/New York publication Kelp. We first crossed swords through Instagram right at the beginning of that platform and since then I have worked with Bill and Kelp in various ways, however it was the discovery of Bill’s ‘making’ that promoted me to want to put this interview together. It’s a superb story that is sure to be familiar with a lot of reader of H9. Questions - Karl Mackie. Words & Pictures - William Livingston.

Its also my last post! I have to say it’s been a pleasure folks. I hope you’ve enjoyed my various musings throughout the week. Until next time – thank you. Karl.

How did the making of Guitars and Ukulele’s start? 

The guitar and ukulele building were a natural progression from my furniture and cabinet building. I never really liked the pieces one could by in the stores and I couldn’t afford custom. So, I built my own custom. A friend who I had helping me in the shop is an accomplished guitar player and wanted to learn woodworking so he could start building his own guitars. He did and convinced me to build ukuleles thinking that as a surfer I’d have more interest in building them rather than classical guitars. Guitars were an obvious next step in the building process so I did. That was in 2001 and I have built a number of each since.  But not yet the, “100 to become a true luthier”.

Bill Livingston on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

Can you explain a bit about the process, how you source the materials and what your inspiration is?

Part of the process for building anything for me is reuse. I’d rather take apart an old piece of furniture and use the wood for something “new”. The same goes for surfboards, motorcycles and cars. I think most design now is pretty homogenous to be able to sell to the lowest common denominator, the masses.  My next guitar hopefully will be built from wood that is currently a shipping pallet. I like to have a little humor in my design/builds.

Another area of interest to me currently is urban forestry. For years cities have taken down trees or removed fallen trees and chipped them into mulch for disposal. Now there are individuals going around to city yards and taking the wood for re-sawing into lumber. I currently have some Black Acacia I acquired from one such forester on my bench to use for a ukulele.

The Acacia tree is the same family as Koa. A wood found in Hawaii and was used by ancient Hawaiians to build dugouts and surfboards. Today it’s sought after for use in guitars and ukuleles.  The hunt is sometimes as rewarding as the finished piece.

Bill Livingston on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

My own workshop has become an extension of me, with so many ideas hatched in there and much making done. Do you have a workshop where your ideas come to life?

My workshop is one half of a typical California two-car garage. While on a photo shoot in Detroit, MI, my actual profession, I found a fax slid under my hotel room door. It was a hand drawn layout of a house my wife had purchased; I didn’t even know we were looking. She bought it because of a wall dividing the garage. I guess I had taken over both sides as “my shop” in the previous home. I don’t think I’ve ever parked a car in a garage.

The layout of my shop changes with each project with the exception of the table saw and large worktable.  While I was restoring an old 1969 Triumph motorcycle it looked like a mechanic’s shop with parts and tools everywhere. During guitar builds and turntable plinths, it’ll look very much like a wood working space, clean and everything in its place.

Bill Livingston on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

Within the surfing fraternity, making things is nothing new, and the two have always gone hand in hand. Naturally the Ukelele has historic links to the ocean. Does surfing play a part in you’re making?

Surfing plays a part in everything I do.  I grew up in a city, although not a beach city, with a very strong surfing community. It was also a movie and television center, so much of the work was in those fields. My first job was in TV commercial production, when the director overheard us “kids” speaking enviously of a particular actor’s lifestyle – fast cars and faster women. He came up to us and asked, “yeah he has all of that, but does he surf?” That set the tone for all future jobs and relationships.

My cousin grew up surfing in Santa Monica, during the heydays of California surfing.  Foam boards were the new thing and no one new about wetsuits except maybe the divers, and those were too thick to be of use for surfing.  My Uncle, his father, was the “build it if you need it” type and thinking back was probably a big influence on me.

Bill Livingston on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

Over the past year I’ve been following, on Instagram, the progress of your new project – turntables. What’s the story behind this new direction?

Music and all things musical have a very strong hold over me. I can lay out my history by using songs that were in play at any given time period of my life.  My LP collection was for years stored in my attic, which is probably the worst place for a vinyl object to be in sunny Southern California – heat rises.  For some reason I decided last year to bring them into the controlled environment of the house and was wondering if they were still playable.

Not many people today would have a turntable in their house, and I could count myself in that group.  The simple solution was to buy one; luckily I had kept my Marantz amplifier to play my iPod through so all I needed was the turntable.

Once I found a turntable and discovered the LP’s were in fact still good, I saw a whole new area of re-use and design. The turntable was housed in a plastic/wood plinth that just screamed to be real wood. I started buying up old turntables, fixed the broken ones, tossed the plastic plinths and installed the turntables with natural edged wooden plinths.

Bill Livingston on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

Do you have plans for folk to be able to order a custom project from you in the future? 

Fortunately, I make a good living as a commercial photographer. I have been able to support my family and live a fulfilling lifestyle all from what some would consider a hobby.  I know some people struggle to make a living in jobs they don’t like, and others try to eek out a living doing what they love but struggle trying to compete with cheap imports from countries who don’t have the opportunities we do.

I give my guitars and ukuleles to my photography clients as gifts or sell them to friends for cost of materials and a little bit for my time; I don’t want to sell them on the open market for less than a luthier would charge and screw up his business with “cheap” instruments.  I don’t feel I’ve earned the right yet to say mine are of the calibre of someone who has spent their life building hundreds of guitars or ukuleles. Who knows what will happen when I finish number 101….

The turntable plinths are another matter as I put them in the design category and will be selling them when I figure out who my market is.

I have three on the workbench and once they’re finished I’ll switch to sales mode.

Bill Livingston on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

Finally, what keeps you making, Bill? What makes you get out in the workshop and start a new guitar, ukulele or turntable?

If I’m not shooting or surfing I need to be doing something that keeps the creative juices flowing. There are so many things that I don’t yet know how to do that I think I’ll have years more of learning and creating.

Art, in my opinion, is an overused word to describe too many things.  A lot of things we make and use on a daily basis are the result of a craft such as a person’s skill in running a lathe, welding, weaving and countless other trades that are being passed over today in exchange for CAD built objects. The idea of a surfboard blank being cut out and roughed on a CNC machine is against everything I hold as craftsmanship.

What was years ago a wooden bowl turned by hand to hold fruit is now something one buys at a Gallery as “art”. I try to separate art from design. Art is something to adorn your living space, but not necessarily something to use on a daily basis.

Well designed pieces that one uses daily should be beautiful to look at but also perform a function, such as holding fruit rather than the apples rolling off a counter. My hope is that by me learning new trades and skills and applying them to objects such as ukuleles and turntable plinths, I might be able to inspire someone else to try their hand at it.

If by reading this piece someone simply drills some holes in a piece of found wood to hold their pencils, I will be a happy man. Cheers.

Bill Livingston on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

Visit Bill’s website here -

Follow him on Instagram here -

The life of Billposted on by Karl Mackie in Music, Sufficient

The Salty Slider

What do you know about the popular blog Salty Sliders? It’s themed with surfing images and original artwork from Mr Matthew Wigglesworth. I have always really enjoyed his blog, mostly because of the artwork. I bought one of his pictures recently, a nod to the great Bob Simmons, it prompted an exchange which grew into this rather interesting interview. Questions - Karl Mackie. Words & Pictures - Matthew Wigglesworth.

Who is Matt Wigglesworth?

In a nutshell, I’m a slider who would love to live a simple life. Like, living in a van with a few boards, eating fruit and napping in the shade on sunny afternoons would be my ideal. I love peace and quiet, I grew up surrounded by countryside and farms, and a quiet life. My wife and I have been blessed with four boys, so life is busy, crazy and fun and not really that quiet. However, I’m very happy and I love to create things with my hands, drawing is one of them. I love nature and being surrounded by it, especially the sea. So surfing and the ocean is a big part of who I am. Traveling stokes me and I do it as often as occasion arises.

Salty Slider Art on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

How did you start making Art?

I have always loved art from as young as I can remember. I was never really a natural academic. I didn’t get on with it, I mean I have a degree and stuff but I don’t enjoy academics. I’ve done my share of trying to fit into what I thought the world expected of me. Doing meaningless work, running around focused on money above all to just get material things and status, but hated it. I worked in London as an Insurance underwriter for a while in the nineties, but kept getting reprimanded for having a beard and wearing cowboy boots to work. I didn’t fit in to that world.

Actually, I spent years trying to figure things out. I’d lay awake for hours just beating myself up about what I was meant to do with my life. You know, what is my purpose and how come I don’t feel like I’m reaching my potential? So for years I searched for what was already in me, I was just blinded by trying to do what I thought society expected. Suffocated by the 9 to 5 voices and corporate demands, haha.

So, one morning I awoke after having a really profound dream, it’s still really clear to me now. I dreamt I was looking at myself. I was standing at the end of an alley. I was holding a camera to my face. That’s it really. But when I awoke, it was like a light went on inside me. I can do creative things. I started snapping pics and selling them. Korduroy.TV featured me back in their real early days, which gave me confidence. I was stoked. That all led to my whole creative side coming alive.

So from photography I started drawing again and then said to myself, ‘hey Matt, welcome back buddy, where you been all this time?’ My wife has always encouraged me and that’s helped so much too.

Salty Slider Art on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?

My little sister is so inspirational to me. Our older brother drowned years ago so we kind of have a real special relationship. She is always so positive and supportive to me and that really helps. I also purposefully daydream a lot or meditate as some call it. I find myself thinking about things and I get an idea and start drawing it. Music inspires me too. I listen to a variety of funky stuff, Alphaville, Mattson 2, The Growlers, Grant Green, Tommy Guerrero, Blacktop Project, Rodriguez, Neil Halstead and loads more.! !

I love nature and being in the sea. I find it just chills me and replenishes me. A lot of my art is based around the kind of surfing and lifestyle ideas I love. Thats why I started my blog, I’ll go through hundreds of images until I find one that I like. I just put all the stuff that inspires me on there and it’s like my little chest of treasures.

Salty Slider Art on a Karl Mackie Mini Simmons - Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

What’s your favourite illustration that you have drawn?

That’s tough. I really don’t know. Each one that comes out I enjoy. Any piece that has a simmons board in it. I love those things, although I’m starting to be swayed to single fins more and more now, so maybe any pic with a single fin in too. I like drawing them.

Salty Slider Art on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

The originality in each piece of your work evokes wonderful nostalgia which is why I was surprised to hear you create on an iPad. How did this digital approach happen?

Well cheers. I still draw with pen and paper and stuff. I love drawing with pens but I’m also a perfectionist and sometimes impatient. So the whole process on paper can be frustrating for me. I can change my mind on colours and shapes for example, once it’s on paper it’s done and then sometimes I’ll look at what I’ve done and I don’t like it. Whereas on the iPad I can change the colours and style and shape etc whenever or as much as I want. Although I try not to mess too much!

My dad was a printer by trade and I did a lot of work for him back in the day. So I’ve been around graphics and the print shop a fair bit. I also work as a graphic designer and use a mac and other apple products for that, the iPad being one of them. I started sketching around on it for fun a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. I have a great relationship with my iPad now. There are a few amazing apps I use and have my work flow down. I can carry it anywhere and use it anytime.

I’m a minimalist by heart, so keeping everything in one place suits me. And I can make my art look the way I like it to. It works for me.

Whats the best part of your job and what the worst part?

Sometimes I just draw all day, I love that, and my wife is very understanding and supportive. But I’m like ‘whoa, it’s 6pm already and I’ve been drawing all day.’ Having time and opportunity to be creative is great. I can take a break and go for a walk in the woods at the back of my house or go and slide around in the sea for a bit and then get back to it. Make a green smoothie or just listen to some music. I love watching my finger draw and see all the lines connect, its freaking weird but I just love it. So the best thing is just having creative freedom with supportive family and friends in tow and knowing that it’s the real me. That, and when someone buys a piece of art, I’m like running around super stoked that someone likes my vibe.

Obviously it’s not all sunshine and waves. Life can be hard, but I try to not focus on the negative. I guess with art you are putting yourself out there to be judged. So that always makes me feel nervous. I’ve also got to support my family, so doing what I do has its challenges sometimes because I’ve still got to pay the bills.

Salty Slider Art on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

Do you have any side projects you work on?

I’ve got my salty sliders online shop, so as it develops I want to get more into clothing design and I want to learn how to shape boards too. A great friend of mine has the most amazing woodwork studio. So when I get time I go round and we just make random stuff together. We dabble with making hand planes too just for fun. So nothing serious coming yet. I’d love to make some furniture as well sometime.

I’m also working on a storybook about a boy who wants to surf. He eventually shapes his own board and gets radical. It’s all about his journey. Hopefully it will turn into a series of stories. It’s been in the works for a while now.

Surfing and boards come across as a strong inspiration in your work. Tell us about your ongoing love affair with twin fins.

About 10yrs or more ago now I was surfing in South Wales with my sister. We were getting changed after a nice mellow session, our cherished logs on the car park ground next to us. We watched in horror as this little old lady drove over both of them in her car. It was really funny though because she was totally unaware. I got it fixed but it never rode the same after that! So I found myself wanting a new board and was interested in going smaller. I had surfed a few thrusters and hated them. Just so much work in the UK and the whole style just didn’t fit with me.

I was always interested in the kind of retro and eclectic sub culture of surfing, and found myself becoming more and more distanced from the mainstream fairground! I spent some time in Oz and bought a 6’4″ single fin. I had such a great time on that. I remember surfing Noosa. It was about 6am, raining but warm. Amazingly only a few out. The swell just picked up like almost instantly. I was sliding around on waves for so long my legs were shaky. The single fin was fun but twitchy. So I bought a twin and just had more fun than ever and slid around on it the rest of the time. That, and a short time later I was at a friends house in San Clemente, California. His friend shaped boards for him so he had this extensive quiver to choose from. I dug around until I found a twin and rode the hell out of it. Cali is fun to surf and has a great vibe that I just loved! So, that whole vibe and that I just loved the looseness of a twin, I became hooked. Back in the UK, I immediately bought a twin Fish. It was great because people here weren’t really riding those things much then and I was getting looks like I was a kook. But I was having so much fun I didn’t care. Basically changed my life. On a clean 4-5ft peeler the thing comes alive. The speed is amazing and I just love the lines you can draw with it. They suit my style and I feel right at home with them.

Salty Slider Art on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

Whats next for you Matt?

I have an online shop where I’m selling clothing and stuff. So I want to keep going with that. I want to travel more and do some festivals and shows, that would be great. I have some collaborations I’m working on too which is exciting for me. My sister Leila (she’s super talented), makes lampshades too, so I’m working with her on some custom shades with my art, which should be fun.

Matthew Wigglesworth on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

Find out more about Matthew’s work here -

Catch him on twitter/Insta here - @saltysliders

The Salty Sliderposted on by Karl Mackie in Art, Surfing

The CaveAway

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to meet Stefan Clauss, the founder of Heimplanet. Both of us had a very similar ethos when it comes to what we are trying to achieve and the way we live. Needless to say, we hit it off immediately and I now work in an ambassador role for Heimplanet. It’s a great journey and we have built a strong friendship and working relationship based on those few early exchanges.

Heimplanet are embarking on an ambitious, yet genius project in the UK, that I was part of a few years ago. Here’s more about their story: Words & Pictures - Stefan Clauss.

Heimplanet was founded by two German surfers at the end of a frustrating surf camping mission around Portugal. “We couldn’t believe how ugly and impractical most tents were and what a pain they were to put up each day” says founder Stefan Clauss, “so we designed our own.”

Four years later, the result is an award-winning brand that marries innovative design with an action sports sensibility, and looks set to shake up the outdoor market.

Heimplanet feature on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

Can you explain the “Cave away” project?

A lot of people supported us during our project. We tried to come up with an idea to say thank you, that’s how the CaveAway idea was born. We decided to send our tent The Cave from one person to another and give them one weekend to experience the result of our project. At the same time it was also a great way to test the durability of our design; if  20 people who never used this tent before take it on a tour for a weekend you learn a lot about your own product through their feedback. We were very happy when it arrived back in our office after a whole summer on tour, still in perfect condition.

“Heimplanet is all about finding a new side to the great outdoors and celebrating the good times away from home” says Stefan Clauss. “We reckon the UK is ready to join the movement”

How can people get involved in the project?

It’s a simple concept: for 20 weeks between May and September, Heimplanet will lend one camper a week a Cave tent (above) so they can take it on a UK outdoor adventure.

To take part, head to the CaveawayUK site and tell us how you’ll spend your weekend with The Cave. We’ll pick twenty winners and send the same tent from winner to winner for twenty weeks. We’ll then share these stories with the world.

Heimplanet feature on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

Click here to find some examples of the adventures from 2011:

And to get involved in this years giveaway see here:

The CaveAwayposted on by Karl Mackie in Event

Mr Buxton

I first met Cole Buxton when I shaped him a surfboard a few years ago. On the night Cole and his buddy came to pick up the little fish, we sat in my kitchen and chewed the fat about everything to do with design, creativity and beyond. What struck me most was the drive of these young guys and how much opportunity they have at their disposal in the modern world. Subsequently I’ve followed Cole on his journey ever since and jumped at the chance to share it here. Questions & Pictures – Karl Mackie. Words & Pictures – Cole Buxton.

Who is Cole Buxton? 

In short, I’m a designer, maker, drawer, angler, surfer, photographer from Derbyshire and I have tattoo’s of ocean stuff. I’m currently in my third year of a degree at Falmouth University studying Performance Sportswear Design.

Cole Buxton artwork on Hickory Nines

What do you make?

As part of my degree, I have to make every piece of clothing I design, from jackets, to wetsuits to fly fishing waders. This technical ability I gained from learning how to make real clothing in university eventually led me into making and selling backpacks. I like making backpacks as they fit anybody, so as long as they are comfortable to wear, thats all that matters.

Cole Buxton rucksack on Hickory Nines

How did you learn?

I learnt to actually sew at university as we have to actually make every garment that we design. This has really improved my designing ability because once you know how something’s put together it’s easier to design it and it’s easier to be realistic about whats achievable and what’s only achievable on paper. If that makes sense? My history/interest in making goes a little further back than that though as I studied art and design at college and specialised in Product Design in furniture.

Who or what inspires you?

I would have to be clichéd and say my inspiration/drive for working hard comes straight from my dad, the hardest working man you’ll ever meet. He’s a builder. As for my design career, I’m not really inspired by anything in particular apart from people. People who have done crazy things going against the odds and changed whatever industry they’re in for the better. They inspire me because whenever I read or hear about someone who’s achieved it, it makes me feel I’m closer to doing so. My uncle, Ralph Dunning, is one of my biggest inspirations in my design career. He revolutionised the Golf industry back in 2001 with ‘Dunning Golf’. The first real golf brand to offer a full range of player specific garments with the correct cut and made entirely of performance textiles. He manages to juggle work with his love for cycling but also makes time for family which is important. He’s now running a company called ‘Foreign Rider Co’, all designed around post ride comfort. I got the opportunity to work on it all with him over the summer, and it really is amazing stuff.

The rest of my list of people who inspire me on a daily basis are the likes of Shawn Stussy, Chris Burkard, Morgan Maassen, Mickey Smith etc.

Most, if not all of your work is made by hand, instantly making your products bespoke. Why do you bother making by hand?

Making by hand is the most old school way of manufacturing and it’s also the coolest. I hand sign and number each bag because it adds that personal connection between brand and consumer something that I believe is lost in today’s world of outsourced mass manufacturing. It takes a lot longer to manually make a backpack but I like it because every bag turns out slightly different.

Cole Buxton bag on Hickory Nines

I’ve watched your branding develop over time to where it currently sits. What was the creative process behind the Cole Buxton Co branding?

It’s kind of hard to pin point the exact process behind Cole Buxton Company because I think it’s a mixup of everything I’ve learnt from college, university and also advice from people over the years. It pretty much all started with my backpacks. The first bag was made entirely out of boredom. A few summers ago I was in Canada visiting my family and after being there for 6 weeks I felt I needed to do something creative so I headed to a fabric shop with my grandparents, purchased some twill in red and blue and made a backpack on my grandma’s domestic machine. I also made a handplane that week. I knew nothing about bodysurfing but I saw some handplanes on a blog and thought they looked wicked so I made one. It literally wasn’t all entirely planned but since then I have made 22 backpacks and sent them as far as Australia.

Cole Buxton handplane on Hickory Nines

You clearly show an entrepreneurial mind – is your work a business as well as a craft?

It definitely is a business as well as a craft, or at least I’m trying to make it one. I think in the handmade industry it’s easy to become naive and say that I’m just making the bags out of love or whatever but that can only last for so long because after I graduate I will need to start making money and if I want Cole Buxton Company to become a real brand it’s important for me to start taking a business approach now.

You use the internet and social media to raise awareness of your products, what impact has the internet had on your work?

The internet has pretty much been my only way of advertising my brand and my work. Having a blog is very important because it allows people to see behind the scenes of any designer or brand. Again it adds to that connection between consumer and brand I was talking about, because no matter how big a brand gets, people can still feel involved with it. Tumblr and Instagram are my main ways of showing my work as they are so easy. There was once a case where I uploaded an illustration of the surfer Keith Malloy onto my blog and days later Patagonia reblogged it and it ended up getting hundreds of views. So from a branding perspective these blogs can pretty much do the advertising for you.

Cole Buxton artwork on Hickory Nines

There’s a theme running through your work of bespoke handmade craft, photography and the ocean. What role does surfing play in all this?

Even before I got the opportunity to start surfing I had always had an interest in it because all the brands I wore came from the surf/skate industry – Stussy, Patagonia, Vans etc. All the people I know that surf are very like minded, as well as surfing they are into photography, fitness, tattoos and just generally being outdoors. I can’t pinpoint exactly the role that surfing plays in all of my work but I think its because I’m totally inspired by it. My favourite brand Stussy (not the new stuff) came from it, my favourite photographers are surf photographers and I think I subconsciously design my work in a way that appeals to those like minded surf guys.

Karl Mackie shaped surfboard for Cole Buxton

Finally, whats next for Cole Buxton?

Good question, I’m not exactly sure. All I know is that after I graduate from Falmouth, there will be a lot of travelling, tattoos and brand building going on. I just want to make sure I never fall out of love with it all and that I can make a living out of doing what I enjoy.

Cole Buxton on Hickory Nines

Find out more about Cole’s work here:

Find him on Twitter here: @colebuxton

Mr Buxtonposted on by Karl Mackie in Sufficient

Premier Automne

Premier Automne is a short film by French studio Je Regarde, the film tells of a beautiful and emotional journey that explores nature’s balance: life, death, and the seasons.

Abel and his skeleton puppies live in an eternal winter. Apolline and her summer puppies frolic in the green. Keepers of their own seasons, they first encounter each other with curiosity before they both realize how different their worlds are, and how their worlds respond to each other.

When I first watched this I was gripped and it played on my mind for a long time, is it dark, or is it poetic, either way the defining last scene is something special.

If you want to see how the film was made see here -

Premier Automneposted on by Karl Mackie in Film

Do Unicorns exist

As part of my week on Hickory Nines I couldn’t pass up the chance to turn the tables and become interviewer, hitting up some of my favourite people with a set of questions that revealed an incredible insight into some truly inspiring individuals.

Today’s post is about artist and free surfer Karlee Mackie. She and I share a last name, however much to our amusement we are in fact not related. We met through the Handplane Art Project I put together a few years ago and have kept in touch ever since. She really laid her soul bare for my questions and this fascinating interview into a working artist. Questions – Karl Mackie. Words & Pictures – Karlee Mackie.

Where are you currently based?

I am currently based in Byron Bay, Australia, in a shed full of creative friends. Our shop is situated at the front of the big shed (lynrd skynrd style ) and is called “The Stonery” – you can find it on the net. It’s cliché Byron Bay. We have chickens running through the house, lots of rusty trinketts, surfboards, unusual characters popping in and lots of fun projects to get swept up in. “The Stonery ” is a shop that sells our works and is run by Katy and Timo who are crystal warriors selling beautiful stones and crystals. Oliver is a film and set designer/filmer/editor/painter/can do everything extrordinaire; Rufio is a graphic designer/artist unicorn lover and partner; Danny, the newest member of the house who is a filmer pocket rocket and also Marissa, the neighbour, who makes puppets of all sizes, so the house is brimming with creativity and fun times amongst chasing the chickens out of the house as they poo everywhere!

You work mainly with acrylics as your chosen medium, why?

I guess its just happened that way, as a few years ago I was juggling my surfing career and art so it was always on the run and acrylics dry quicker. I really enjoy oils al ot more and was inspired to use them when I met Jos Myers and had the chance to watch her paint. Her artwork is where I would love to be with mine one day. Another artist, Angus McDonald also has given me the fortunate gift of a window into the art world and techniques from just being around him painting and assisting him at his home studio that is a dream! I am still and always will be developing and eager to explore any medium to create, I see art as a vehicle to explore the invisible virtual world beyond eyes that effects us every day in every way.

Karlee Mackie Artwork on Hickory Nines

How would you describe your creative process? 

My creative process has come a long way. I feel I am still at a stage of infacy where I’m throwing everything I can at a wall and hoping something will stick to start polishing and defining my “act ”

Angus McDonald, when asked how I was going to assist him, replied ” It’s like getting a two year old to colour in the lines ” so I am loving the process of being wild and ripping apart what I’m doing to hopefully develop a polished style, and one that I can still constantly develop from being inspired by other artists. May my inspiration be from how people live, work, sing, whatever the outlet, for me it’s all things beautiful with a sense of personal touch and charm that essensuates the beauty derived from what inspired me in the first place.

What do you think is the key element in creating a memorable piece? 

You have to be a genius! Hahaha! It’s probably a collective of intentional factors that make the end image impactful, like timing, truth, what it symbolises, balance of colours that resinate with your conscious and sub-concious mind. Or as they say – beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s about giving birth to an image that symbolises something that really impacts on human beings to become a memorable piece.

Karlee Mackie Artwork on Hickory Nines

When I first met you, I instantly loved your style and originality with just a little hint of Basquiat in your paintings. How do you think your work has evolved over the last 3-4 years?

Oh thanks Karl :) you’re too kind. It’s been that long already!!!  I love Jean-Michel Basquiat, he was the first artist I stumbled apon that I actually took to. I had the pleasure of his discovery with some amazing people I stayed with in New York ten years ago. He instantly stole all my attention and I wanted to be an artist in that moment of watching the movie by myself, on a mattress, on the floor, on my laptop.

My work has developed as I explained before, where it’s more intentional than just throwing down paint which is what I thought you did, as that’s what Basquiat did. I then learned as my life meandered on, meeting other established artists, that there is a lot more layers and a process that is to be learnt with time. I know how I want to be painting in the future, but for now it’s all about developing and expanding my knowledge of the art world in all areas of expression.

Karlee Mackie Artwork on Hickory Nines

The piece you did for the handplane art project was one of my favourites and is now on the wall of my home along with the other planes – what was the thought process behind it?

Amazing! It was such a treat to be asked to paint one of them, and especially as we share the same family name! My dad loves his hand plane. Go the Mackie clan! I wanted it to be ocean-themed and mermaids are a favourite of mine to paint. I am actually mid-way in a project my boyfriend Rufio is doing right now, entailing us painting mermaids. As for thought processes, that’s what I am trying to obtain and aquire in my approach to my work. I lack process and structure in all aspects of my life, slightly dislexic and upside down. It’s enjoyable to me to learn all this as I am now understanding and discovering that everything does have a process. I wrote the poem on a bus on my way into the city in Sydney. It was when I was in a place of self discovery.

Handplane Art Project by Karlee Mackie

I’ve always wondered, who is the girl in the paintings – it seems to me she has a message to tell?

Its funny, I have been asked this before and as I mentioned there hasn’t been too much that I’ve been aware of in relation to thought intention and process. I generally used to let what ever came out of my mind just come. Now I have a process and use references of images and artists I have discovered and go from that alongside a message. The words I use are more intentional then the imagery, as I usually get frustrated in my work as it comes out completely diffferent to how I would like it. And that has been a new discovery as of late and how its entwined to life as well. Being really open and trusting life and knowing I am not in control of anything, but to fine tune my beliefs and live from that knowing its only developing me to be wiser. To be realistic about situations and my actions. I read this book which is insanely interesting about a guy called Gregory Neville, a natural psychotherapist – he says in short “that happiness is a match of your virtual reality and your actual reality, creating wisdom and development, not obtaining an end result ” but just having a good go at life and doing what brings joy to you. I then splash upon my page or canvas my girls (as the female form represents creation and life force) to bring inspiration to others and myself through the physical form that I am in right now. I did reflect on the ladies and they are awkward and inside I am actually quite awkward – or in a state of awe and curiosity, so maybe it is expressed subconsiously like that? Who knows! Haha!

You work with the Surfers for Cetaceans movement – what’s your involvement? Are you able to bring your art to the cause to raise awareness?

I was very involved with Surfers for Cetaceans for years and absolutely loved every moment of it. I love the way its movement is so respectful and balanced. It has taught me so much and opened my eyes to an extraordinary amount of awareness and I met some incredibly passionate and compassionate human beings along the way. The last few years I have been consumed by my own venture, as selfish as it sounds, but any chance I get to help the crew I always have my hand up to save our wonderful Ocean Angels. I am about to support the Vagina Monolgues with Rasta’s lady and longboard goddess in supporting the movement against women who have been abused. I am more passionate about that these days, as it’s just where I am at right now with my own personal development and discovery. If we can help humans to feel good with who they are then I feel the cruelty against others forms and our environments would cease to exist. But again I have no clue – this is all apart of the quest to experience life and learn from it.

Karlee Mackie Artwork on Hickory Nines

It would be crazy to suggest surfing doesn’t play a role in your work, but to what extent does the ocean breath new life into your paintings?

I used to sit in school classes and only draw waves. My dad is an artist and lives to surf, so it was only natural to draw inspiration from your environment. So yes surfing was an obsession I once had. It’s evolved into more what I am passionate about right now and that’s how the mind ticks and tocks. The ocean and surfing is a place for me to be immersed in nature and reboot. To cleanse the soul and be in a state of wonderment. My life is very fortunate in respects to the lifestyle we all lead in Byron Bay.

Whats next for you Karlee?

Next is a big old adventure. I am currently saving with my boyfriend. We want to take off round the world painting and see where it leads us, starting with California, as I have a gallery ar4t that represents my art work. So we will start there and follow our noses. We have a few projects up our sleeves so watch our space…….unicorns exist !

Karlee Mackie for Hickory Nines

Find out more about Karlee’s work here -

Catch her on Facebook here -

Do Unicorns existposted on by Karl Mackie in Art

Experiencing Nirvana

Good afternoon folk of Hickory Nines. When I was first asked to be a guest editor for a week, I was really surprised if I’m honest and then stoked to take this on. Having never done anything like this before, it’s turned out to be one of the most engaging and fun tasks i’ve set out to do in a very long time so thank you! I hope you you enjoy the week.

Like many people born of my generation, 1991/2 changed my life. Bored of school, ready to leave and seeking something to fill a gap, the music scene subsequently changed overnight when Nirvana appeared and I was hooked immediately. I’ll always remember Smells like Teen Spirit being heavily rotated on MTV, but mostly from that track I remember Dave Grohl’s hard as hell drumming and Kurt’s snarling. When you’re a teenage boy this is a revelation.

Nirvana vinyl on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

I then spent the following years eating, sleeping and breathing the music, obsessive over Nirvana but also enjoying the music of Pearl Jam, L7, Dinosaur Junior, Alice in Chains, Butt Hole Surfers etc, in reality they were all part of the unique Seattle movement but Nirvana had the edge, few bands matched Kurt Cobain’s aesthetic and emotional tableau.

God Speed book on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

experiencing nirvana-hickory-nines-god-speed-inner

Throughout my time with Nirvana I collected every single piece of media, vinyl, books, radio recordings, Cd’s etc that i could find. In fact I was lucky enough to have a friend whose father worked for Sony, he was able to get me the first press of Nirvana’s debut track on SubPop, which was of course Sliver/Dive. Everything I have collected has been kept in a sleeved book and stored wherever I might be, so getting it together for this first post on H9 was the first time I have seen it in 20 years.

Nirvana press on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

Nirvana press on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. I remember my events that day so unbelievably clear, I was working in-between studying at a design studio when the news filtered through on the radio. Yes he was a heroin addict, a self-loathing junkie but it absolutely felt like someone I knew had been taken away.

Nirvana press on Hickory Nines by Karl Mackie

This brings me roundly to the title of this post and the two photographers, Charles Peterson and Steve Double who were with Nirvana from the beginning in 1989, back in the Bleach days and to the untimely end. Interestingly they captured the first photos with Chad Channing and subsequently went on to capture the introduction of Dave Grohl as well. They are presenting the Experiencing Nirvana exhibition at Proud Camden, a collection of photographs of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain that runs from 27 March 2014 – 11 May 2014.

Visit the Proud Camden website here to find out more

Experiencing Nirvanaposted on by Karl Mackie in Music


Been touting the talent of Morgan Maassen for some years now. Here’s his latest video, an ethereal celebration of our favourite saline solution, with a soundtrack from SJD.

Waterposted on by Cai Waggett in Film, Surfing

A few days in Spring

You feel that? The sun on your back, warming your bones. Spring is here at long last. As we crawl our way, bedraggled and battle-scarred out of what was a spectacular and frankly lunatic Winter, Spring drapes a comforting arm over our shoulder, promising surfable swell, a drop in the wind and at least the odd dry day.
Hedgerows and sodden verges awaken with Snowdrops, Primrose, Wild Garlic and good old Daff’s sharing the space to herald the change in season and fortune.

This super little vid is from one of my favourite band of film makers ‘Goose Goose Revolution’. Check this out and then look up some of their other contributions on Vimeo.

A few days in Spring with Greg Vorster from GOOSE GOOSE REVOLUTION on Vimeo.

A few days in Springposted on by Chaz Curry in Nature, Surfing