Friday, 20 February 2009

You’re terrible Muriel

But you mural, you’re lovely.

When a friend suggested that his sister draw a mural for one of the walls of the café I tried to look interested and force a smile as I imagined scenes of rain forests, leaping dolphins, palm trees and sunsets.

Then I saw some of his sister's beautiful and stylish illustrations and realised that her mural would have little in common with Muriel Hesslop from Porpoise spit.

Kat Macleod is the talented Melbourne artist who created the whimsical scene on the back wall of the cafe. It makes me feel happy every time I look at it as I'm transported into the serene, lush landscape that Kat has created. The first time I saw it I could almost hear the sound of crickets and feel the Australian humidity.

My favourite seat in the café is the corner nook where I can sit by myself under the skylight, unnoticed amongst the foliage.

It seems strange that someone I have never met and who has never even been to Lantana is such an integral part of the café. Hopefully one day Kat and I will have a face to face conversation over breakfast at Lantana, but until then we’ll have to settle for a cyber conversation over the keyboard.

Have you always wanted to be an illustrator?

Kat: I have loved drawing for as long as I can remember, and probably wanted to be an illustrator as soon as I knew what one was. I always wanted to be a graphic designer too, which is cool because now I do both! I co-run a graphic design company called Ortolan with my two business partners Chloe Quigley and Simone Elder. And we are very proud to have designed the identity and graphics for Lantana. It was a very fun job, and so nice to work on both the graphic design components and the illustration.

Which artists do you most admire?

I have so many favourites. My top three are Julie Verhoeven, Rene Gruau and Aubrey Beardsley. I love them because they are masters at drawing the human form, and have their own beautiful and inimitable styles.

What was your inspiration for the Lantana mural?

We loved when you told us that your cafe was going to be called Lantana, named after the striking, noxious weed which is a pest in the Australian countryside. I wanted to illustrate the beautiful invasive plant growing wild like they do in Aussie back-yards, giving a sense of taking over the cafe, but in a beautiful way. We thought the super-scale would work really well, and I included lots of details so that when you walk downstairs you discover a wonderful detailed weedy-world full of gigantic birds, beetles crawling among the foliage. My favourite part is the giant magpie peeking out the stairs.

Was it an enjoyable project to work on?

Yes! I had so much fun researching all kinds of Australian flora and fauna, and I loved working in the all-black palette. I used fineliners, ink, gouache and black watercolour to create the piece. The original drawing is very big, it’s made of two large poster-sheets, it took over two desks in the studio. It had to be scanned on a flat bed scanner in many seperate parts, and pieced together at full resolution in Photoshop. The final product on the wall instore is about ten times the size of the original.
The mural gets pieced together in London

What is your favourite cafe?

We are spoiled for choice in Melbourne. There are so many interesting, eclectic cafes with great food and friendly staff, especially on the North-side of the river which is where we live. I have so many favourite places, but the best would have to be The Breakfast Club in Northcote. All their dishes are named after characters and actors from the movie. The food is amazing. Some other favourite local places include Julio’s in North Fitzroy, A Minor Place in Brunswick, and Mixed Business in Clifton Hill. They all make amazing food and excellent coffee, and are very interesting places with lots of personality.

What is your favourite breakfast?

On the weekend I love any kind of interesting vegetarian breakfast concoction, and a soy latte. During the week I am boring and just get a take away soy latte on the run from Tre Bicchieri in Carlton. They make great breakfasts too but there’s no time to stop and eat because I am usually running late for work.

Some of the other customers at Tre Bicchierri who are clearly not rushing to get to work.

More on Kat Macleod...

Sunday, 8 February 2009

The face of adversity

Monday the 2nd of February 2009 will be remembered by me as the day that 'adverse weather conditions' became the latest weasle words to be accepted into the vernacular as have ‘the war on terror’, ‘credit crunch’, and ‘the journey’ that every X-Factor contestant blubs about.

6.30am Monday morning Lisa, Lantana’s head chef, rang me tell me that she didn’t think it would be worth opening as no one could get to work. I opened the curtains and was amazed by the whiteness and the silence. Snow everywhere and not a car or bus on the road.

I thought I should still go into Lantana for a couple of hours to catchup on some paperwork so I went on to the Transport for London website to see what public transport was running. I smiled when I read that no buses were running and many tube lines were suspended due to “adverse weather conditions”. I love obtuse government speak. But as I proceeded on my journey to the café (a physical one, not a metaphorical one), I discovered that this expression had gained widespread adoption as the new word for snow. Shops displayed signs saying they were shut “due to adverse weather conditions”, every five minutes an announcement was made in tube stations about delays caused by “the adverse weather conditions” and the next day the newspapers told of school closures, losses to small businesses and numbers of people unable to get to work due to the “adverse weather conditions”.

I didn’t get to do any paperwork or play in the snow because I ended up making coffee for a steady stream of regulars who came into Lantana throughout the day. So for me, the best part about the adverse weather conditions is that it gave everyone an opportunity to talk and read about something other than the ‘global financial crisis’.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

To the victor go the spoils...

of toasted banana bread with date and pecan butter.

It gives me great pleasure to announce that Jenny won Lantana’s mintie competition.

The entries
The judging
The longest mintie wrapper in London

The other entrants may take some consolation in knowing that this is not the first time that Jenny has taken first prize in a mintie wrapper tearing competition. At primary school Jenny won a packet of musk sticks for creating the longest unbroken mintie wrapper chain. She claims that her breakfast of choice at Lantana was a much better first prize. Note, champions eat bananas, not pancakes or fried eggs and bacon.