Irena Kobald was born in Austria, has a master's degree in Russian and had picked up English while living in various overseas countries by the time she came to Australia at the age of 26. She has worked in a wide range of remote schools in the Northern Territory, taught German in Queensland high schools and English as a Second Language to both adults and children so her understanding of how language is acquired is both personal and technical, experiential and academic.
Her first book My Two Blankets includes the themes of friendship, family, feelings, cultural diversity, integration, and social issues, to name a few. It succinctly describes what it feels like having to learn a new language. While the book falls into the category of a 'children’s book’, it is also highly inspirational to adults due to its underlying messages of change, adaptation, loneliness, resilience and re-building your identity in a ‘strange’or ‘new’ environment. My Two Blankets was the 2015 Australian Book Council Picture Book of the Year. It was shortlisted for the 2015 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, received a 'starred’ review for the Kirkus Prize (U.S.) and was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review (23/08/2015). Irena has done over 250 presentations with My Two Blankets in 9 countries and 3 languages. She is very proud of that - as it really is the proof how much this story touches people.
Irena's second book The Dream Peddler is a very personal story about a young man's battle with drug addiction.
Remember, when you held your baby for the first time? Remember the wishes and dreams you had for that baby? Every parent, no matter if rich or poor, black or white, has those dreams.
Sometimes, no matter how hard parents try, these dreams do not work out because your baby, your child, is lured away from all you gave him or her by a peddler of very different dreams.
Dreams that very quickly turn into nightmares. A seemingly never-ending nightmare that destroys everything that you once held dear and believed in. Where this nightmare becomes reality, the only thing you can’t afford to lose is hope.
This book should be in the hands of all young people. With every page so hauntingly illustrated it will surely start a meaningful discussion on many levels. It is such a powerful story, told so poignantly, that your heart weeps for this boy. But if the door is unlocked and the light still burning then there is always hope. Goodreads Magazine review - 5 stars
Irena Kobald, will be available for visits to your school offering a range of interactive reading sessions and presentations.
The themes of My Two Blankets include friendship, family, feelings, cultural diversity, integration, and social issues, to name a few. It succinctly describes what it feels like having to learn a new language. While the book falls into the category of a 'children’s book’, it is also highly inspirational to adults due to its underlying messages of change, adaptation, loneliness, resilience and re-building your identity in a ‘strange’or ‘new’ environment. The author talks include detailed explanations of the illustrations and the most important metaphors in My Two Blankets, as well as background information.
The themes that can be explored in The Dream Peddler include self -knowledge, false dreams, false hope, loss of self, dysfunctional relationships, unconditional love, remorse, self-healing, instant gratification and substance addiction. It was inspired by Irena's son's addiction to crystal methamphetamine (ice). The story is a universal tale about the lure of false promises so that readers can find a range of meanings relevant to their own experience, or to life in general.
Bio-Art Workshops for all Ages and Abilities
Reconnecting with Nature; Appreciating Nature; Exploring sustainable creativity
Mandala created out of organic ‘litter’ from a school garden
*Bio-Artist IRENA KOBALD finds Nature infinitely inspiring. She would like to share her passion for our natural environment through workshops which allow participants to reconnect with their creative talents. These talents are often dormant and neglected during our busy lives.
*Bio-Art is relaxing and therapeutic for all ages and is a cost-free alternative to ‘screen-time’.
*Bio-Art uses only what Nature offers, making this art-form sustainable, as well as teaching the aesthetic appreciation of Nature.
Most importantly though -
*Bio-Art is ephemeral, leaves no ecological footprints and teaches detachment from ownership.
Bio-Art workshops are designed to allow participants to reflect and reconnect with Nature.
After participants explore suitable environments, resources are collected and then arranged on trays of sand either under guidance or self-directed, according to personal abilities and ideas.
Each workshop concludes with artworks being allowed to return to Nature, to its origin, a practice in ‘letting go’.
NB - All workshops can be tailored to cater for time, numbers, ages, special needs, rehabilitation etc.
Primary school students:
Time: Half-day work shops
Suggested Group size: up to 8 children
Bio-Art is the artistic form of ‘Nature Play’ - exploring the natural environment, collecting natural ‘ingredients’, followed by simple identification and creating simple shapes and designs.
If desired, the designs can be photographed and used for fund-raising material for school.
containers for collecting resources,
sieves for sifting sand,
Please take into account that seasonality will affect the availability of local resources.
Irena can provide additional resource material if required. (Contact Irena prior to the event.)
Upper Primary and High School students:
Time: Whole Day Workshops
Suggested Group size: up to 8 students
Design Themes could include: patterns, shapes, contrast, texture, native vs imported species plus student-generated ideas.
Option 1: discussion of indigenous names of plants, their uses past and present.
Option 2: use of photography and IT can allow for the creative process to be documented by students.
Option 3: designs can be photographed and turned into calendars or cards for use by the school and parents.
Option 4: a combination of the above.
Time: Whole Day workshops
Group size: Groups of 8
Bio-Art workshops provide a consciously meditative experience for participants.
The photographic documentation of the creative process with participants’ own devices is an option.
It is possible for photographed designs to be printed onto accessories such as scarves, tea-towels, mugs, etc.
Irena can provide contact details of suitable companies providing these services.
For further examples see:
“Bio-Art is a wonderful way to engage students’ senses as they create works of art using natural materials in their school’s ‘backyard’.”
“Irena opened the students’ eyes to the possibilities of creativity that Nature provides. Instead of seeing very little other than plants and trees, Irena led them through the journey of seeing what could be found in the leaf litter, often in abundance. These available items became the media pieces of bio-art. The creative ideas and processes, guided and developed, led to inspired pieces. The final part to the process, to walk away and leave the art work behind, was, perhaps, the biggest challenge to students; impermanence in a culture of ownership.”
“Irena worked with the Art Teachers and students across Year 7 to 12 presenting her ideas about bio-art. She was able to take the students on a journey, discovering their local environment, enabling them to create art from found objects within school grounds; ie.flowers and leaves.
These art works were created in the school grounds and became ‘sacred spaces’ where other students could enjoy them.
As part of our NAIDOC celebrations, Irena and a group of students created a heart labyrinth made of camellia flowers. Nearly a week later, the labyrinth was still intact and students went to walk in it."
"Exploring techniques with flora from within the local environment, Irena engaged our students in the creation of wreaths to commemorate ANZAC Day.
Our students experimented with aesthetic design using buds seed pods, nuts and flowers while our teachers learnt how to enrich contexts and embed visual arts in and across the learning areas of the Australian Curriculum.
Irena's presentation was wonderful and more than met my expectations. She was also incredibly patient with me as we muddled through with the tech side of digital author visits and conscientious about following up. I would recommend her to any library service and hope we have the opportunity to work together again at some point.
Hobsons Bay Libraries - June 2020Hobsons Bay Libraries - June 2020Irena Kobald
Irena is a wonderful woman. At all times she was co-operative and willing to contribute her time and talent for the service of others. Her attitude and presentation were always first class. I have no hesitation in highly recommending Irena as an Artist-in Residence
St Joseph 's College Toowoomba - July 2018St Joseph 's College Toowoomba - July 2018Irena Kobald