Maree-Coote_2013RM_9638This is my interview with Maree Coote.

What makes Melbourne unique as a city? Melbourne is a thoughtful city – probably because of the unreliable weather – it’s an interior city, internalised, as opposed to an outdoorsy culture. Therefore we’ve had lots of thinkers and writers and discussions, compared to the Bondi lifestyle for example which would see more energy going into surf lifesaving, or the overwhelming outdoors-iness of QLD or WA. Also thanks to the gold discovery of the 1850s and the immigration that followed it, Melbourne has fabulous architecture and a deep craft culture. And great food. Melbourne’s migrants have put the marrow and spice into the bones of Melbourne’s cuisine.

Do you have favourite images in this book? Most of them are chosen because they are my sentimental favourite pics of Melbourne – the Manchester Unity building’s’ ‘M’, Pellegrinis’ ‘E’, and especially the ‘E’ formed by part of the Port Phillip Arcade sculptural icon, one of my favourite city artworks.

Which was the hardest letter in the alphabet to find for this book? Some shapes are easier than others to find, that’s certain. F, K and P are fairly scarce. Q was also a hard one, solved by Melbourne’s blue bikes.

Looking back, which experiences, jobs and personality traits do you think have really helped you? Experience wise, I had intelligent, enthusiastic parents that empowered me to do anything I turned my hand to. I had a wonderful education courtesy of the RMIT Graphic Design course, which was broad and diverse and exciting. It opened my mind to design and the limitless ways to express ideas. Jobs wise, my Advertising career taught me everything I could want to know about the creativity and business – a brilliant training ground, filled with very clever people.Read Me the melbourne book 017

Which traditions from your childhood do you continue? I take risks, I dream large, I dive in, I am enthusiastic, and optimistic. I back my own ideas, and I think you do that when you are a kid, and some people lose that confidence in their own creativity. Life can knock it out of you, but you have to hang onto that childish immersion in creative ideas, that self-belief I suppose. Plenty of nay-sayers around, and plenty of obstacles in life. You have to be determined.

What was one of the best things that happened because of this book? It led me to a whole new design concept. I was asked to do some sessions on Alphabet City Melbourne for the Melbourne Writers Festival, and so in order to better explain to the children this concept of letter shapes hidden in architecture, I developed a whole new typographic version of the idea which I call ‘Alphabet City Letter Art’. I have since produced two books in this style – Alphabet City Zoo and Letters From Melbourne, and I have a third book in the series about to launch.

What do you love most about Melbourne? Sounds a bit melodramatic, but I love the freedom and peace that we enjoy here. The world is full of such insanity. I think it’s because we have the space and the time here to be nice to each other. Other cities are so crammed and so busy these niceties become a luxury, life becomes all about survival. I think we have to be careful about this idiotic global doctrine that ever-continuing growth is good. It’s not doing Melbourne any favours, and the world is a finite space.

Do you have a favourite place? My favourite Melbourne place is the Manchester Unity Building, and art deco darling of a building…. and the Botanic Gardens of course. I love the laneways and my memories of Mum taking me to town and teaching me the city’s secrets, shortcuts and treasures.

Do you collect anything? I collect Alice in Wonderland books, other beautiful books, kangaroos and emus. The kangaroo is my personal totem. I adore them.

What are you working on next? I will be having an exhibition soon at Melbournestyle Gallery, of new artworks I have been working on, based on a Melbourne theme of course. Then have dozens of projects crying out for attention, some more children’s stories, and adult histories too. It’s fairly organic, I usually pick up the project that screams at me loudest from the pile.

Read my review of ‘Alphabet City; Melbourne’ here.

Read my review of ‘The Melbourne Book; A History of Now’ here.

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