November 10th, 2016

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November 11th, 2016

On Tuesday morning, my Facebook and Instagram feeds were filled with a dozen photos of a beautiful rainbow that dazzled the Pacific Northwest for the best part of an hour. It stretched over our house across a pink sky, and a gentle rain fell on my face as I looked up. It felt like a sign of beauty and hope and awakening. As the day unravelled, and the US election results came in, I kept thinking “that bloody rainbow lied”.

I have written and re-written these paragraphs over and over in light of this week’s US Presidential Election. It’s been a heavy week and nothing seems adequate or appropriate for my newsletter – a place dedicated to inspiration and curiosity. But there are two things that are blindingly clear to me; We need hope, and we need education.

As an artist and a consumer of the arts I want to say: it is the duty of the arts to not only entertain and comfort but also, more importantly, to educate, question, inspire and support – ourselves, and people in need. MAKE ART – now more than ever. Make art that does all those things. Consume art that does all those things. Support art that does all those things. Make beautiful things, make powerful things. Make soothing things but also make uncomfortable things. Make things that push you in new directions and push others too.

Work for what you hope.




Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent: One of my all-time favourite paintings. I am adding it to my Art Bucket List – a list of works I hope to see one day. It was the inspiration for a show of illustrations I did in Melbourne in 2005. I have been looking around this morning at some articles about the work and found this great essay about the development of the painting, including pencil sketches, oil sketches and letters from Sargent to his sister discussing the difficulties of capturing the fleeting colours and light at dusk. The Tate has a wonderful video where you can get a clear idea of the beauty and scale of the piece. I also see that the Tate is developing an immersive video game for children (specifically targeted at girls) where they can play in the beautiful garden depicted in Singer Sargent’s painting.



I was once holed-up in bed with a very bad case of pneumonia. It was too painful to breathe so I lay in a weakened state, watching endless episodes of Mad Men and falling in and out of strange, semi-delirious dreams about Don Draper, in some I actually was Don Draper. My mum’s friend brought me a great big container of vegetable soup which I was able to eat and – presto! The next day I was a million times better, but had stopped hallucinating that I was occupying a mid-century apartment in New York City – sadly.

Now it is cold and cough season here, so I have been experimenting with making the ultimate HEALING SOUP. Here’s one of my recipes – tried and tested this week. It’s a little spicy as it’s “thai-inspired” but you can always cut back on the curry paste. You can download a printable version from here.

A few other recipes that inspired me are:
Jamie Oliver’s Jewish penicillin
The River Cottage recipe for bone broth
Bon Appétit Magazine’s recipe for Tom Kha Gai (where I got most of my thai inspiration)
And this one is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, sugar-free, nut-free and Paleo-friendly (but apparently still tasty).



Don’t Fall In – This spoken-word poetry, rap-style track is what I have been listening to, from Kate Tempest – UK musician, poet, novelist and playwright – who is now someone I can’t get enough of. Her wikipedia page is a great summary of a shining light.

Find Me – This feels like a guilty pleasure. For some reason, strains of the old Enya track, Orinoco Flow,  float into my head when I think of it, but Sigma (featuring Birdy) is much, much more 2016 than that.  It’s so 2016 that the video stars Millie Bobby Brown, who plays 11 in Stranger Things. She seems to be feeling all the excruciatingly earnest feels.

Zadie Smith, author of the amazing White Teeth and new release Swing Time, lists her favourite tracks on BBC 6.




I’m not sure exactly where I would put this Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni designed radio-phonograph, model no. RR126, but I would squeeze it in somehow. It is part of the incredible collection of designer furniture and modern art that belonged to David Bowie, being auctioned by Sotheby’s this week. Bowie had enormous appreciation and curiosity for the arts; “Bowie’s diverse tastes nurtured his extensive archive of important works from celebrated, and less widely-known, artists in a collection of unparalleled eclecticism.”
View the catalogue of over 400 items. Sotheby’s videos: First Look Bowie/Collector and How Bowie’s Fascination with Art Became a Full-Time Job.


Friday Five Favourites:

Guest starring: ME
Here’s a new segment. First up, this is my own personal list of favourites, just to set the tone (as this whole newsletter is a list of my favourites). In the coming weeks I will include the lists of special guest stars (friends)… stay tuned.


1) Roast chicken with gravy and veg on a Sunday night.
My favourite recipe is similar to this Jamie Oliver method. Boiling the lemon is the key!

2) Shabby old penguin classic copy of The Dud Avocado – Elaine Dundy
I love this book. A few years ago I bought a beautifully-designed, limited-edition hardcover, as my old paperback is falling apart. Despite the beauty of the fancy new edition, it is the shabby old one from 1960 that I love the best. It was my dad’s. While proof reading this, he wrote and asked: “Is that my copy? If so, it’s the one I read at the age of 15 while filling in time at the Long Bay rifle range when I was a cadet. A bit of an eye-opener for a 15-year old in those days.” Yes, Dad, it’s your copy. But can I keep it?
The book itself is a joy. “Basically, if you were to set Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady near the Sorbonne, untangle the sentences and add more slapstick, sex and champagne cocktails, you’re getting close.” – Rosecrans Baldwin discusses the book on NPR.

3) Corner of my dining room
Including a weird old 60s print that belonged to my grandmother (artist unknown), our painted cabinet from Tibet, SONOS speaker (which would also make it onto my castaway-on-a-deserted-island list, if the deserted island had power and wifi), plants that I haven’t killed yet, wooden percussion instruments / ornaments that belonged to my other grandmother, a paper apple made by one of my kids and a bunch of geese bowls found at Anthropologie years ago.

4) Mixtape from 1990
Made for me by my friend Dom, who opened my eyes and ears to music. This was one of many mixed tapes for which I am forever grateful. What a great tape that was, full of completely different (for me) stuff. Metallica? Black Sabbath? Rush??

5) Tiny little seed and the tiny little elephants carved from ivory that live inside: My childhood best friend travelled the world and brought this back from India for me when I was 9. The seed is about the size of a cherry pip. Those elephants are about the size of a ladybug wing. I remember he brought himself back a medieval-style, chainmail glove from Nottingham after he had visited Sherwood Forest. He was the coolest.



1) Dalai Lama: Behind Our Anxiety, the Fear of Being Unneeded: “If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one’s own way.” Words of encouragement and hope for better societies from the Dalai Lama.

2) Walt Disney’s MultiPlane Camera created complex, beautiful animations with great depth and atmosphere: It’s an enormous and complicated piece or machinery, and Walt’s film from 1957 explaining its workings is fascinating. (thanks Ward).

3) For all you people with weird Jessica Rabbit fetishes (you know who you are): This one’s for you. It will make you feel a whole lot more legit.

4) This man owns only 150 items and wants for nothing: An admirable exercise in a zen practice of minimalism and simplicity. I could learn a lot from him.

5) I Chop Up Faces Every Morning, and So Should YouCollage for inspiration. (thanks Erin L-F)


“The note of hope is the only note that can help us or save us from falling to the bottom of the heap of evolution, because, largely, about all a human being is, anyway, is just a hoping machine, a working machine…the human race will sing this way as long as there is a human to race” – Woody Guthrie, Notes about Music, 1946.

Don’t forget that you are welcome to email me with any random thoughts you might like to share, or a link you think might work in the newsletter. For me, the email feedback is one of the best parts of doing this thing. Thank you to those who do.

Until next week…

Over and out,

Claire Robertson,
The Small Batch List
Person with a keyboard

p.s. This week it’s a whopping 250 points for guessing the slightly obscure quote in the subject line. It’s the third line of one of my favourite poems. Do you know it?

p.p.s. That iguana snake chase footage was incredibly cool.


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