Hello. Thank you for visiting.
My greatest wish for human society is to see our minds become more subtle and compassionate, more curious
and creative; to see our thinking become more expansive, agile and adaptive; more artful.
In 1999, I established McDonagh Design, a creative arts practice dedicated to serving this purpose. Every day
since I have devoted myself to this work, as a practitioner and researcher. In this time my method has become
a potent blend of visual and performing arts; design; neuroscience; psychology; philosophy and meditation.
I gladly work with facilitators, consultants, counsellors, coaches and educators to expand their capacity for
creating and leading fertile learning experiences.
Fossick through this page to learn about my creative practice and research.
After years of yearning, I find the courage to move permanently to Jervis Bay in 2016 and build a creative laboratory
for my practice and research.
Jervis Bay is my great teacher. Over two decades this land has been patiently teaching me ways mind can become
more holistic, how being can become more spacious. It is a fitting site for my work.
The lab embodies my method, a blend of visual and performing arts; design; neuroscience; psychology; philosophy
and meditation. The notional zones of its spaces and surrounds variously invite mind-body to read, meditate, move;
invite hands to make marks on paper; invite feet to contemplate meandering paths of river stones.
I am curious to discover how the lab will allow my experiments in cultivating artful mind to further unfold.
The local kangaroos are curious too.
My professional path begins in the early 1980s as a clothing designer in Europe: working for big companies, running
my own design studio, consulting and lecturing. It takes me around the world, bringing me permanently to Australia in
1990. One day, a few years later, I go to work in a company BMW and come home on the bus.
In the fifteen years it takes to get to the bus stop, I have many opportunities to observe the way of seeing and thinking
that prevails in organisations. Irrespective of sector or purpose I notice it is remarkably similar. To my mind this seems
like the fallacy in the fashion world of one-size-fits-all, when the reality is that
Motivated by what I see and experience, at the end of the 1990s, I establish McDonagh Design, a practice dedicated
to diversifying our ways of thinking that is now housed in its own Artfulmind® laboratory in Jervis Bay, NSW.
Meet the maker for a playful work date: try on some new ideas and possibilities; explore ways
to address tricky situations; learn how to use Artfulmind® tools to their greatest benefit.
One hour sessions via Skype / Available as an item in browse and buy.
That’s me (on the left) and my bestie, Vivienne.
The sessions I am offering are a bit like what Vi and I would do when we played our game: Who could I be? We had a
box with a mixture of women and men’s clothes. We created an imaginary scene and some rules for what was
happening in it. We tried on all sorts of marvellous combinations of clothes until we found one that looked and felt right to
us that day. Then, in character, we explored how we might be, what we might say, what could happen as a result.
In early 2012, I was delighted to accept Deborah May’s invitation to partner with The May Group;
pair our respective expertise and develop a method to effectively address unconscious bias in
organisations and create inclusive culture.
My doctoral research shows that conventional learning methods inadvertently use the wrong
tools for the job, producing less than optimal outcomes and poor return on investment in cultural
change - emphasising the need for a fresh approach.
The McDonagh-May Method blends intellectual inquiry with creative arts producing potent
learning experiences able to engage the whole brain/mind/body system – the right tool for the
complex and tricky job of recognising bias (in our selves and others), developing the necessary
personal presence and leadership skills to create inclusive culture. Our handbooks and tools are available to browse and buy.
My idea for Roving Thinkers - at conferences offering people creative snacks to refresh the mind -
finally gets off the drawing board in 2011. As a committed introvert I am surprised but delighted to discover
I have quite a knack for this playful, improvised form of performance art (and wearing a silly hat)!
Visual artists I admire
- Cai Guo-Qiang
- Dorothy Napangardi
- Peggy Napangardi Jones
- Jukuna Mona Chugna
- Rosalie Gascoigne
- herman de vries
- Ann Hamilton
- Lee Krasner
- Max Ernst
My six year old self would easily recognise my artistic activities today as a more sophisticated version of what
absorbed me for hours on end as a child: creating special objects and constructing environments for meaningful
exchanges with my imaginary friend, Dolney. These early experiential spaces already had particular rules, and me
in the role of a keeper, guide or attendant.
These days an artwork may be a hand-sized, interactive sculpture designed for you to use as a vehicle for
self-inquiry. It could be a work of experiential art that I facilitate - a site-specific installation in place for a period of
time, given life through the presence and participation of members of the public who happen to attend.
Whatever the form, the essence and intention remain steadfast: cultivating holistic mind and spacious being.
I welcome commissions to stage this ilk of experiential, radical learning environments for organisational
development. I have a corker on the drawing board, 7 Rooms, looking for a visionary client with some budget. If
that’s you, contact me.
PS My left arm is under the table in a plaster cast. I broke it in the school playground. I was Catwoman.
Batman and Robin were chasing me. I was getting away nicely but tripped and fell on my arm.
In/sight: The art of creating self-reflexive spaces
Natalie McDonagh (2010)
“Visual arts processes are critically important kinds of human exchange that have the capacity
to change the way we think about how we come to know what we do.”
Graeme Sullivan (2005).
Art practice as research: Inquiry in the visual arts.
“It's not the strongest of the species that survives. It's not the most intelligent of the species that survives, it's the one that's most adaptive to change.”Author unknown
A paraphrase of an unidentified person’s summation of Charles Darwin’s theory,
usually misattributed to the man himself but/and still a great quote.
“We have to recognise that although we are not ultimately self-created, we are increasingly the authors of our own nature, the products of our own handiwork, and living in a nature of our own making.”
Raymond Tallis (2003).
The hand: A philosophical inquiry into human being.