Happy Talk House


Happy Talk was held in Sandringham Gardens, Hyde Park from September 23 – October 23, 2011,  as part of Art & About Sydney.

Inspired by resourcefulness, local materials and knowledge, and our Pacific neighbours, the project included talks, workshops, artwork commissions and performances over the four week period. The house was open five days a week from 11am – 5pm with talks on every Thursday night till 9pm.

Thousands of people came to enjoy the event, and the audience included local city workers, tourists, local residents, children, students, and an extremely broad range of people. The age group ranged from 0 to over 80, with a strong mix of both men and women from different backgrounds.

The four nights of talks included fifteen speakers, with hundreds of guests. Speakers included artists Maryann Talia Pau and Sione Falemaka, a range of speakers from the Oceanic Arts Society, Mano Ponambalam, and an action packed evening of Pecha Kucha. The Pecha Kucha included artists, designers, architects, and a local beekeeper. More details of the event and speakers here: http://www.pecha-kucha.org/night/sydney/newsletters/2291

Workshops were very popular, and many visitors came back again and again. Lovely friendships developed between the participants over the month, and the audience was very varied and diverse.

There were a total of 17 formal workshops during the project, and 10 days of informal workshops.

Friday Lei Day workshops, a Pacific symbol of greeting and welcome involved artists Maryann Talia Pau, Sione Falemaka and Tracey Deep. Techniques taught included traditional Pacific weaving, beading and knotting amongst others. Materials were mainly recycled and organic.

Weekend workshops were very popular, and included a broad range of materials and techniques. Bike tray making from recycled materials by Sydney Cycle Chic attracted a large crowd, and many of the participants rode away with their new creations.

Artist Sione Falemaka attracted a strong and loyal group of people who enjoyed learning a variety of weaving techniques at the workshops, including bike basket making from packing straps. It was great to see the way everyone personalized their baskets and shared knowledge. People seemed to love the experience of working directly with the artist, and the artist loved working with a new audience.

A woven cubby house made with children from recycled materials by architect Sam Marshall for the Sydney Architecture Festival attracted a large and enthusiastic crowd, who enjoyed learning new weaving techniques and team collaboration to create an new environment.

We were joined by local artists from the Cook Islands who shared the skill of traditional Tivaivai embroidery. The tarpaulin covering of the Happy Talk house was inspired by Tivaivai, and people enjoyed learning about the tradition and history.

Local and New Zealand artists came to teach the art of poi making and performing. They performed traditional dancing, and sang beautiful songs, accompanied by guitars and drums. The Phoenix group performed a play one evening, which attracted a large and new audience.

The WeAve group from Parramatta joined us at the Happy Talk house for a special afternoon Pacific weaving workshop. They also toured the Australian Museum nearby.

It was the first time many of the participants had been to the city, and we were very happy to welcome them.

Artist Florence Kamel and a group of weavers from Goroka PNG were commissioned to produce a large bilum wall hanging that was featured in the Happy Talk house.

Much interest was generated regarding the artwork and the artists.

Happy Talk satellite events were held at The Papermill, and included weaving, book binding, lei making and upcycled furniture making. The workshops and talks were well attended and enjoyed by the public.

The opening night launch attracted hundreds of people, and celebrations continued well into the night. We were joined by a lovely and diverse group who enjoyed the official welcome to country by Michael West, and a traditional Pacific welcome by performers from the Cook Islands.

The atmosphere of the Happy Talk house was very welcoming, inviting and relaxing. People frequently mentioned how they felt a sense of calm, and happiness, and some felt that their blood pressure was lowered after spending time in the workshops. Everyone was encouraged to sit down and create something with the materials provided,

or just spend some time relaxing in the hammock or taking time to sit, relax or chat. There was lots of interest and discussion about the commissioned works, and works created during the project, as well as personal experiences that related to the Pacific or resourcefulness or the handmade.

The closing night celebrations were a time to come together to share outcomes created during Happy Talk, and meet friends. A group of Pacific Islands performers entertained the crowd with dancing and singing that took people on a journey across the Pacific islands. The table was set with local and traditional food and drink, and the house was packed with people enjoying the happiness.