Cecilia Macaulay


Hello, I'm Cecilia, from Melbourne, and I'm a Permaculture designer. Every year hundreds, maybe thousands of Japanese come to Australia to learn Permaculture, and every year, one Aussie goes to Japan to teach it. Yes, me.

Permaculture is about much more than sustainable agriculture, especially the way I do it. Its about becoming designer of your own life, which is both harder and easier than you think. With its design principles, your daily life becomes creative and full of simple pleasures.

The image of a Permaculture designer does not usually include a pricey leather handbag from the Japanese designer Hanae Mori. People usually picture us planting food forests in mud-encrusted boots. Well, I do that too. It turns out, my extravagant-looking purchase was a practical decision that I am grateful for every single day.

It was around 4 years ago, when I payed a visit to the Hanae Mori Store in glamorous Omotesando. I usually just go to steep myself in the elegant atmosphere, a little bit like the Audrey Hepburn character who would go to Tiffany's for breakfast, where only good things could happen. After 15 years of visiting this store and its Gallery, I had not once made a purchase. I take photos, I let the lines of the designs inspire my permaculture design work. Its feminine, without being frilly.


Seeing this couch in the Hanae Mori window later inspired this 'Gothic Garden' of black edibles.

As I was leaving, I saw a handbag in the display window. It was vault-shaped and black like a doctors bag, but had the glamor of the travel-cases you'd find on the gloved arm of a 1960's Air hostess. I was about to get on a plane, returning to Australia the next day. My old handbag was full of Japanese yen from the workshops I had been teaching, and I thought "Maybe its time to stay thank-you to myself with something really nice'.

The bag was made of a strong, self-patterned fabric. Its corners and zipper frames were reinforced with glace leather, as were the carefully beveled handles, that fit snugly in my hand. The leather gleamed softly, and had that expensive leather smell, warm and natural.

There were no meaningless buckles or shiny decorations, every feature on this bag served a purpose, to support, to strengthen. Thats the kind of woman I'd like to be, useful and beautiful. Maybe thats why I said "I'll have this'

There was a matching purse in pink, so I took that too. When you find something good, get it and its whole family.


All my luggage for a 10 day Permaculture lecture tour, at Hammatsu University of Culture, Permaculture farmhouse, the Mori-no-ie in Gifu.

Outside the Shibuya AppleStore, by chance I met my friend Riko. She produces the Permaculture calendar, using my illustrations. Neither of us are married yet, so instead of children she has a dog, and I have a nice handbag!


The bag is black, but I am happy to use it summer and winter, as it looks good with everything I wear, and matches my black parasol

How my bag cares for me

Some years, I live out of a suitcase for six months. Yet I must make a good impression on the people I meet, or they will not want to become my customers or colleagues.

Having an expensive handbag in pristine condition is a clue about my character. 'Here is a lady with enough competence and discipline to buy and care for good things". They don't know about the time I put my drink bottle in without tightening the lid...But 'competent' and 'mindful' is something I put work into becoming, every day, and my handbag is a taslisman of these desireable qualities.

Australian Values: "No Worries, mate!"

Enjoying the design of a Samurai district, in Matsubara, where I ran a Permaculture workshop. Yes, Im embarrassed to be caught putting my bag on the ground!

The design of my Hanae Mori bag makes it spacious inside, and filling it up does not distort its well-made shape. The way I fill it would ruin a cheaper bag. I often carry a whole day's equipment, even a change of clothes or my lunch.

It has four metal feet underneath, so I can put it on the ground without it getting worn or dirty. In Japan however, putting handbags on the ground is considered disrespectful, so I try my best to follow Japanese etiquette.

Once I was standing on the bus, very tired. I put my handbag on the floor, and closed my eyes. I was suddenly awoken by a kind old lady taping me on the shoulder. 'Excuse me, you dropped your bag' she said, as she handed it back.


A surprising sight at a restaurant here in Sydney.

Japanese people seem to have an awareness of their things that us Aussies do not possess. One day at a rather nice outdoor restaurant I was surprised to see a lady put her handbag in the dust. The surprise skyrocketed a few minutes later, as her 8 year old daughter decided to use it as a step to talk to her mother, dancing up and down on it as she went.

I guess she takes after her mother, and doesn't really care about her things. Or maybe Im just not used to the Aussie Culture of 'no worries'.

Maybe when this little girl grows up she will go to Japan and fall in love with the nice things here, and the way that people care for them.

Thats what happened to me.

How my handbag cares for me.

The things I learned in Japan are the reason why I'm able to have my dream job, teaching people how to truly care for their world, starting off by taking good care of their own selves.

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