my (visual) story building process…
Posted in behind the scenes, stylists August 30th, 2013 by pia

PJB_piasoffice_IMG_2388the chaos of my working space – there is no room for neatness in my creative world…

It occurred to me while composing the behind-the-scenes blog post for Country Style this week (the post just went live, you can read it here), that you guys might be interested in my story & styling process… as a writer/stylist, perhaps it’s interesting to know how I start with the topic for my monthly column with the magazine, the writing process along with the story concept, styling and the shoot. It’s a different method to styling on its own, or writing on its own – it’s all intertwined and it’s a practice of creating that I really enjoy.

First of all some of you who live outside of Australia might not be aware that I currently write a monthly column for a magazine here called Country Style. It’s a beautifully edited and popular publication that features gorgeous homes from coast to coast, country artisans, recipes by country chefs, as well as craft and decorating features.

I’ve been writing for them for about a year now and was given the simple direction by editor-in-chief Victoria Carey to write what I’m inspired by, in line with my  ‘enhance the everyday’ aphorism.

Composing my column is quite a long process from start to finish, and begins 6 months prior to the story release.


First, I present the story outlines for 6 month’s worth of stories. Fran and I brainstorm these with the seasonal theme guidelines given to me by art director Giota Letsios. To come up with the story summaries Fran and I talk about our current interests and inspirations, as well as aspirations for things we’d like to make, artisans we’d like to meet, things we’ve made, or seen, or done. If something grabs me as we talk – if I start to be able to visualise an idea as a styled story, drawing together props in my mind while creating colour palettes, we stop and work through that idea. If the story continues to unfold visually in my mind as we talk it through – if I get a stronger feel for it – then I write it down as we talk, do some quick sketches and move on to the next theme idea. If the idea doesn’t develop visually in my mind as we talk, we leave it be and move on as well, coming back later to see if I can further sketch it out. Coming up with 6 stories in one go is quite a challenge for me, and often one or two ideas can be knocked back by the creative team so then we need to start again. This initial process can take about 4 weeks. By that time we have 6 clear story ideas that we all agree upon.

In the lead up to the scheduled shoot day (with the aim to photograph all six stories in one day) I then present six storyboards to Giota so that she gets an idea of what is in my head. Here is an example of one of my past storyboards…


It’s very simple and loose as although the idea of the layout is strong in my mind, I’m not certain which props I will use on the day. But it’s a good exercise to decide on colour backdrops, whether it will be a horizon shot (an image with a horizon line) or an OTT (over-the-top camera shot), along with a rough idea of the materials I plan to use.


Then I start collecting. In the weeks leading up to the shoot I keep each story idea in my mind as I walk through my home, around the neighbourhood, and while gazing into windows of beautiful boutiques as I walk with my baby girl. I spend less and less time surfing the web for my shoot ideas these days. Because even though there are more and more visual aids like pinterest for creatives, I find it hinders my creative progress as it tends to suck up the short time I have available to prep.  I find that when I need fresh, new material, I need to look within rather than without. So, I pick up bits of bark, string, and flower petals as I wander. I collect things I have in my home and make little samples of ideas along the way. If I really like something I snap an image of what I’ve created or collected and build a mood board of images to send to the art director so that she gets a clearer visual impression. Just before the shoot date I brief my assistant Julia on the stories we will be shooting. She then collects props at her home that she thinks I’ll be inspired by on set, and she sources the flowers I’ve requested from the flower markets and Grandiflora. I source extra props as well as backdrops from some of my favourite places like Major + Tom.

setting up the prop tables on set

Next comes the shoot. Julia and I, with our cars full to the brim with props, meet with photographer Craig Wall at the magazine studios. We discuss the storyboards and props and sets needed.

As a stylist, I’ve slowly evolved my style over the years to seeking a looser, less-styled approach. I like to infuse each story with a spark that comes to me ‘in the moment’ – I set up the shot while Craig sets up the lighting, then I relax into it and ‘let loose’. For this issue’s paper love story, Julia and I made the paper pieces there on the spot, only using what we had. We fashioned a crown from a piece of bark and string, making little flags and feather-like sticks to adorn it. I love the rawness of  this style of working, it’s a process I am adapting and enjoying more and more.


After the shoot, we cart all the props back to our homes and to stores if we’ve borrowed some. My props usually stay in baskets in my office for months before I get to unpack them these days.


I don’t write the piece until a few months before the issue is released. That way I’ve allowed some time and breathing space between stages which I find important for the way I work. I use the photograph created to guide my thoughts and reflections. I write the piece in about a day though I’ve spent a few months thinking about it and making mental notes about the direction I want to take the piece. I’m a slow writer. And yes, from this detailed blog post you might gather I’m a slow creator! But I think that’s because everything today has to be faster and faster (that’s what I tell myself!).

So that’s it! I send my finished written article to the creative team at the magazine, they make very minimal changes, if any, which I’m very thankful for. And a month before the issue goes to print they send me a proof to read over and check.


my home, my heart…
Posted in behind the scenes June 7th, 2013 by pia


My days are spent trying to keep all the juggling pins up in the air, and honestly, I’ve never been a great juggler.  What will happen if one of the pins fall you ask? Well that happens often, and everything drops to the floor, then I pick them all back up and give it another go. Romain and I feel so incredibly tired all the time, and it does worry me, but I trust those who tell us they felt the same way when they first became parents. At around 8pm every night, which is when we get to connect at the end of the day, we just look at each other, and usually laugh at the absurdity of our frantic days. We laugh about how, 2 or so years ago, we sat on the sofa in our houseboat in a far away land, wondering what we’d cook for dinner, whether we should go out, where to? Should we call our friends to see what they’re up to? Midnight would come around and we’d flop into bed, tired from staying up late, knowing we could sleep in until 9am or longer, whatever. Hilarious.

I just snapped the above photo to show you how neat this little corner of my home is at this very moment. It’s the tidiest it’s been in months. Along that window since February, boxes and boxes of Little Treasures: Made by Hand books have been lined up, now there are only ten or so boxes remaining.

It’s a long weekend here in Australia and I will be taking those 3 days off to look after myself and my family.  I will try not to think about all the books and packages still to be sent out, or the people I still need to email, or the articles I still need to write, or the fees I need to pay and the invoices I need to send. I will clean, do loads of laundry, cook, garden, and attend to my chickens (yes, you heard right! I wrote about them here) – those juggling pins, along with changing nappies, settling, soothing, playing and feeding, all need to remain in the air.


Last weekend I took lovely Tessa from New Zealand on her day wander which she bought during the campaign for Little Treasures. What a treat for both of us – I don’t get the chance to wander and stop in at my favourite boutiques these days, and Tessa text me at the end of the day to say thank you again, that it was beyond her expectations. I can’t tell you how happy that made me.  One of our favourite parts of the day was visiting Tracey Deep in her floral studio, watching her make one of her amazing floral scultpures (photo above). Thank you beautiful Tessa and Tracey! In an effort to allow some self-nurturing time back into my life, I promptly booked into Tracey’s Beauty and the Bush workshop at Koskela, June 22th. I can’t wait – want to join me? Details here.

Have a lovely weekend mes amis. I realise my blog is one of the juggling pins I haven’t managed to add into the mix, I know you understand though, and I thank you with all my heart.


creative spirit for country style magazine…
Posted in behind the scenes, country style December 7th, 2012 by pia

This year, I was asked by Victoria (aka Country Style editor-in-chief) if I’d like to write and style a monthly column in the ever-inspiring Country Style Magazine, along with my regular blog posts for their new blog. The answer of course was YES. Based on my ethos to “enhance the everyday”, the column is about living creatively, with simple projects and ideas that can be incorporated into your every day. My launch article has been featured in the very special Collector’s Christmas edition which is out now, showcasing my flower wall fashioned into a tree using gold washi tape, with piles of presents wrapped in found flora, vintage lace, hessian and raw silk ribbons.

Shooting the story was fun – it was great to be back in the studio. However, it was also pretty intense as Laly was only 6 months old and I didn’t have anyone available to mind her while I went on set. So she came with me, marking her first ever visit to a photographic studio! We were booked in at the studios for 2 hours, and I had visions of her playing quietly on her mat, goo-ing and ga-ing while Craig, Sam, and I worked. But that didn’t happen. She was very unsettled, and lovely Sam tried with the greatest effort to keep Laly calm while I styled but nothing would quieten her. So, as it happens when you’re on a shoot you do whatever you can to make the shot, I tied on the never-fail sleepy wrap, popped Laly inside and styled the shot with her. It was awkard, and exhausting, but we did it, and the photograph of the flower wall came out beautifully. With my hands completely full and my mind completely occupied, I wasn’t able to take behind-the-scenes photos of the set, but before we took all the props to the studio, I grabbed some quick iphone photos of the wrapped presents…

I loved using all the natural materials I could find around my home to adorn the brown paper parcels. I had also sourced beautiful screen-printed gift wrap from two of my favourite stores in Sydney – shelf/life and follow, both in Surry Hills. I used lengths of florence broadhurst printed fabric from signature prints, as well as silk and linen ribbons which came from Paper 2

As part of my monthly column for Country Style, I will be highlighting a few of my current “link loves”. For this month I suggested the following sweet reads:

one claire day

che and fidel

kara rosenlund

pobke photography

sang the bird’s pinterest

All of these beautiful people inspire me so, I hope you’ll take the time to click on their links.

I’m excited to have the opportunity to share my thoughts and ideas with you monthly, in print, in such a gorgeous publication. And, with help,  we’ll be sure to include some behind-the-scenes snaps to share too.


PS How is your holiday gift buying coming along? To get us into the holiday spirit, Jess from shelf/life has put together a fabulous gift guide which I can’t wait to share with you, it will be published here tonight, so stay tuned.


My Heart Wanders: chapter openers…
Posted in behind the scenes, book design, my heart wanders September 3rd, 2012 by pia

Making the chapter openers was by far one of the most fun parts of making the book. Those of you who have followed the My Heart Wander blog project from the beginning may recall I made whimsical chalkboard numbers using flower petals to mark the countdown toward the photo submission deadline. This became one of the strongest elements of the book from the very start as it was one of the ideas that my publisher loved and was keen for me to recreate as chapter openers.

My “studio” to create these pages was the kitchen floor of the houseboat as it had the most light in the space with its 7 windows looking out over the canal. But it was also the rockiest part of the boat as it was higher than the main living space so I had to pick my days of shooting to be the calmest, and sunniest of all (not easy in a windy, cloudy city!). I set up the tripod and chalkboard and gathered my props on a section of the floor (so you have an idea, the floor was about 3 meters x 1 meter). My props being chalk and lots of flower petals in various states of decay…

so much fun to play with dried petals

For each number I drew a chalk outline on a small square chalkboard, then arranged the flower petals until I was happy with the composition. I would purposely create chalky smudge marks to give the numbers some texture, and was quite loose with each arrangement, stopping when I saw something I liked. Each number was photographed at least half a dozen times with various changes so that I had a few to choose from for the final page.

three in progress…

Sometimes I would get distracted and doodle on the chalkboard, thinking it might look good for something in the book, then I’d step back and realize it was crap, rub it off and get back to work…

playing with petals and chalk

Then once each number was photographed I played around with fonts and chalk scribbles to add the chapter opener text…

When I had something I liked  I’d send it to head designer Vivien at Murdoch Books in Sydney to get her feedback and thoughts on it, we’d play around some more then she would bring it to life by adding her magic touch…

the finished page for chapter 6 of My Heart Wanders

After the chapter numbers were all photographed, I then created images especially for each chapter opening double page spread (DPS). As I mentioned in the previous post, each photograph visually described the story that followed, representing how I was feeling at that point in my life, and what I was doing in my life. Here below you can see the final DPS for Chapter 6…

Tea for me is all about renewing the soul, so creating an afternoon tea setting on my dining room table seemed only fitting for this particular chapter.


There is one design feature about the chapter openers that I haven’t mentioned, but maybe some of you have already spotted it while reading My Heart Wanders – did you notice the colour way of each chalk & petal number through out the book? Each number graduates in colour, starting from the gentle muted tone of the dried hydrangea petals, moving through to soft pink peonies and dahlia petals, deepening to a richer hue of rose, then purple, then moving onto yellow tones for chapter 6 (the ‘realisation’), and fading off to white for the remaining chapters. This was something very deliberate that I wanted to create, to flow with not only the seasons that the story takes place (starting in autumn in Sydney, moving into Spring when I moved to Paris, then summer, then white for winter in Amsterdam), but also my state of mind at the time of each chapter’s focus. I won’t say much more about it for those who haven’t yet read the book, but perhaps now for those who have, there might be a deeper connection to the story, represented by not just images but the colour and tones within each chapter.


As you can see, every element, every stage of the making of this book is very much made by hand. From creating each photograph, to making the chalkboard letters, photographing wings and petals and branches to cut and paste onto images. Is there a particular design feature of the book you’d like to learn about?

would you like to join me in vancouver in september?
Posted in behind the scenes, canada, pia's photos, stylists May 26th, 2011 by pia

Oh I’ve been dying to tell you this news for so long, and the moment has finally arrived. To say I’m excited, or ecstatic, or even ‘over the moon’ would all be understatements.

As most of you already know, I love Canada – I love the land, I adore the people, culture and history. So when Angela from Ace Camps asked if I’d like to lead a workshop and if so, where in the world would I like to be while leading this workshop, I said Vancouver…

This workshop will be about finding inspiration in the everyday through styling and photography, and I’ll be sharing with you how I go about my work and life, doing just that:

“The core of the workshop will be about enhancing your everyday; finding beauty in the ordinary; learning to see your surroundings in a new light and being uplifted by the simple things in life.”

You will not need the best or latest camera gear, instead I will teach you how to get the best out of what you have. We’ll be doing some mini photo shoots around the city at some amazing locations (including some of the local boutiques of course), and we’ll learn how to create beautiful images as well as get more out of our everyday. Ace Camps are workshop-holidays, so during the days together we will get a chance to roam the surrounding land on our own, perhaps head to Whistler for the day and get some mountain air…

…Then we’ll head to Granville Island, and check out the incredible farmers markets, artisan studios and Emily Carr Institute

We’ll wander, we’ll chat, and we’ll gather some of our found treasures and learn how to create some magical images…

Oh, this is going to be so. much. fun. I do hope you can join me! The workshop will be from September 22 – 27, and all the details including itinerary and travel information are right here. These are intimate workshops and places are limited, so please make sure you follow the steps and register as soon as possible if you would like to secure your place. Boy oh boy oh boy, I can’t believe I’ll be in Vancouver in less that 4 months time…

wandering around Yaletown, care to join me?

I took these photos on my old canon AE-1 film camera about 7 years ago while wandering around granville island, I love the softness of the light and that beautiful tree

Thank you Angela from Ace Camps for asking me to be one of your workshop instructors, it’s such a privilege to be part of an incredible bunch of creative people, all of whom I admire.


Workshop details:

+click here for trip details
+click here for itinerary
+click here for travel info + payment
+click here to register

+and click here to learn more about Ace Camps.