Photos - J Forsyth

I have got a bone to pick with Christmas! Christmas is a day I could do without. It is a day where I am forced to spend the entire time with my dysfunctional family, where someone always gets far too drunk and makes a complete arse of themselves. It is also the day that perpetuates the dysfunction and gives us all another excuse not to talk to the rest of the family until next year’s god-awful Christmas lunch. It’s kind of a vicious cycle really.

Karlas christmas

What makes it worse is that I am also supposed to buy said cringe-worthy family members gifts, or as I like to put it – a whole bunch of more shit we don’t need or even want – that we wrap in metres of over-priced gift paper covered in snowmen even though it’s 30 degrees outside and we’re all wearing shorts and thongs. I’m not even wearing my save-the-planet-environmentalist hat right now, but c’mon, doesn’t that just seam a little bit wasteful? Perhaps my petouli scented cousin is correct when she says we are all victims of this consumer driven world; we are all slaves to the system. Well actually, in my own opinion, my cousin is on to something, but what is the most amusing part of this little spiel she gives every year in her very self-righteous tone is that when it comes time for presents, her gifts are always purchased from mega-chain-super-stores – mass produced in Bangladesh, perhaps by a bunch of eight year olds. The thing is, since my dear cousin refuses to get a real job, as she doesn’t want to be apart of ‘the system’ she despises so much, she has no money, therefore limiting herself to cheap Wall-mart-esq department store shopping – the advent of which killed the local independent shop keep.

It’s an interesting twist and a paradox she doesn’t seem to quite understand; she is not wealthy enough to afford a social conscience and even though she thinks she is not apart of the system, she relies on everyone else who is.

But don’t you worry, after all the celebrations are through, she will no doubt go see her fellow dread locked friends, get stoned and vehemently discuss how messed up the world is, as if by being aware that we live in an unfair society they are actually making a difference. My guess is they’re all too ripped to do anything about it anyway…. Hey bro, pass the bong would ya…?

At the other end of the spectrum, there is my uncle – my cigar smoking, scotch-drinking uncle who is on the board of some earth killing company that I will absolutely not name. He also buys his gifts from life sucking mega stores (or most probably gets his assistant to), but he does it not because he is tight, but simply because he doesn’t seam to really care about anyone but himself. He is also unapologetic about the fact this corrupt world has turned him into a creature of convenience – of epic proportions.

Making matters worse, in my case anyway, I can’t even get drunk and fall into a pissed, happy stupor and watch as my cousin and uncle attempt to tear each other apart as they debate their ideological positions, because I have three of these bloody charades to attend each year. All I can say is, thank god for the ham.

Now, I must apologise for being such a whiner. I usually pride myself on having a relatively sunny disposition, but clearly Christmas turns me into a bit of a wet blanket. So please, let me turn this all around… I mean, the last thing I want is to pay out on my ultra-lefty cousin who basically frustrates me with all her holier-than-thou preaching about how we are all just pawns to the corporations and the government, but gives no realistic opinion about how to change or affect it. I will not be a sanctimonious little schmuck, I will not!

blender lane-4

So what’s my answer? Well, sadly it does not come in the form of an alternative to our capitalist economic system, and I’m not here to start a revolution. All I’ve got are a couple of ideas about how to make Christmas better, how to keep it real.

I am certainly not saying go out and buy very expensive presents for everyone, and I also don’t think you’re a terrible person for buying three pairs of socks for $2 from K-Mart, all I am really suggesting is to raise your state of consciousness about where your hard earned dollars are going when you purchase gifts for your loved ones this year. Since Melbourne is a mecca for creativity, we are fortunate to have such a plethora of local artists, designers and makers to support, many of who strive to create their art with the most minuscule of ecological footprints or give back to the community in other ways.

Here is a list of local independent artisans and retailers we Melbourne Arts Clubbers think are worthy of your custom –

- We love this idea. The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has published their 2013 Christmas Catalogue. It is full of a wonderful selection of locally made, ethically sourced products. By purchasing these gifts through the ASRC you are making a difference to some of the community’s most vulnerable people, many of who have no income at all and are living below the poverty line. 100% of the proceeds will go directly to the ASRC, who provide direct, critical services to asylum seekers. It’s awesome, unless of course you think detaining asylum seekers for ridiculous amounts of time is fair enough, in which case – piss off!

-Why not give someone you know some art lessons? Colour Me Too holds drawing workshops on Wednesdays in Windsor, Melbourne. The idea behind the workshops is to educate and bring people closer to animals through art, by harnessing the tactile emotions of art making.

- Go visit the folks at Colour Box Studio in Footscray. These guys are all about supporting, showcasing and nurturing Melbourne’s creative community (a bit like MAC). They have got a Summer Pop Up Program running until December 21st – supporting the likes of Charlotte Filshie Jewellery, Milk and Cookies, Urbanearthwear, Aacute and more…


- Or how about supporting your fav independent community radio station? Get a friend a subscription to 3RRR or PBS and ensure the airwaves retain more interesting listening options than the abhorrent dribble of Kyle Sandilands and the like.

- Sankofa on Gertrude Street is a lovely little gem that sells fair trade goodies from Africa. Their products are sourced directly from the producers who they are committed to forming long-term relationships with.

- And we’ve already mentioned the Blender Lane Artist Market – Here is a list of just a few of the talented stall owners you might stumble across on a Wednesday evenings this summer:

Handmade leather goods from Sahaura Funki;

Yolanda from La Prisa Mata RecycleBarcelona;

Eco friendly bags, wallets and pouches by Oiga! Design,

Super cool ceramics from annamallyon ceramics; and

Sweet artwork by Tony Stephens

- Finally, perhaps you would like to instil a bit of culture into your family or friendship circle. If this is the case, the Malthouse Theatre offer gift vouchers. Give one to your drunken uncle; he’ll love it!

Or better still, screw your annoying family and donate some money, time or crafty gifts to people who need it more.

Note: My family are actually pretty good people, and I am sure yours are nice too.

Also, no gift paper was purchased in the making of the top photo.

**Colour Box Studio image supplied by Colour Box Studio