Monthly Archives: February 2012

Chasing my tail and leaving no trace

Chasing my tail again a bit but who’s worried about that?  I am up to date with necklaces now in both reality and blogdom.  


Necklace #6 (the mauvey one with the resin focal bead) uses old Premo spiral canes.  I experimented with different bead shapes and liked this sort of repeated saddle shape.  The beads snuggle up together nicely.

 Necklace #7 doesn’t technically fulfil my self imposed use old stuff rule but it does fit the spirit of the challenge!  And it arose, I think, from a sense of beginner’s mind that last week’s mindfulness challenge created. 

I spent a lot of time last week getting ready for my class on Saturday.  I mix a lot of clay (I may have mentioned this before-please adjust my halo) and I do go through each step very carefully before hand.  Cooking demonstration slices on the way.  This is to create a visual step-by- step presentation of the class to run through at the beginning so the punters now what to expect.  And it ensures that I am giving each participant what they need and as much as they need. 

Last week, in a moment of being a little less than mindful, I ran a required two layers of clay through the thin setting on the pasta machine rather than the medium.  The less than beginner may have sworn and used the clay as very well mixed and colour coordinated scrap but the mindful beginner within asked How would it look if I….? and Would it be possible to….?” without immediately deciding NO!

I sort of ruffled the thin layers of polymer, leaving gaps, and sometimes including bullseye canes from the class.  Then I left the resultant strange, open canes to rest.  When they were cool, I sliced them, baked them and put them together with other bits and pieces and wore the necklace out immediately.  Really liked it and will do more like this.  I can see a market for straw shaped ice cubes for the polymer artist. It would make retaining the gaps easier I think.

If you read Amy’s blog, you will be able to see more mindfulness challenges but I am reading mindfully and am only up to the second challenge in the book and I know his will challenge me.  WOOOBABY!  This one is to Leave No Trace.   Mmmm.  Bays suggests choosing one or two places to leave no trace.  Surprise, surprise-I am not going to even try in my studio but have selected the bathroom and the car as my places to try and leave no trace.  It will trulychallenge me (much more than using my non-dominant hand did) but I am sure I will be more mindful of my propensity to dump.  I’ll keep you posted.

Mindfulness and creativity- a ramble


 Regular readers will know that I often bang on a bit about mindfulness.  Not in the context of any particular religion but just as a practice that helps me to live life in a more aware and awake way.  In a way that acknowledges the preciousness of waking up each day-something that for various reasons, I don’t take for granted.

If we live mindfully, I think we have a better chance of recognising the choice that is inherent in each moment.  If we see the choice, we’re less likely to react automatically, or habitually.  If we actually recognise that we have a choice, we can try to react in a loving way but if we are on autopilot, we are less likely to realise we have a  choice about what we do.

In my experience, mindfulness is very connected to creativity.  It is noticing the right here, right now and creativity is noticing what we notice ( a Bayles and Orland line from Art and Fear) and responding to that. 

For me, mindfulness is not easy and I am always on the look out for ways that help me to live more mindfully.  Recently, perusing a post by the lovely Cynthia in PCD, I was prompted to check out Amy Crawley’s site.  Her hearts, the subject of the post, were indeed beautiful, but what really intrigued me were her Monday Musings which were all about a book called How to Tame a Wild Elephant and Other Adventures in Mindfulness by Jan Chozen Bays. 

Bays defines mindfulness as deliberately paying full attention to what is happening around you and within you…awareness without criticism or judgement.  And her first exercise is a ripper!  All week I have been much more mindful than normal because I have been using my non-dominant hand for a number of activities.  (BTW, using my non-dominant hand to do the Sudoku in the loo was not such a winner for those waiting outside but boy was I mindful). 

Having removed a bit of my left thumb meant that I had a bandage to remind me to use that hand for the selected activities.  (An important aside: the thumb tip removal was not related to using my non-dominant hand but happened before I got the book and was directly connected to my dominant handed use of the lovely sharp knife our younger daughter gave her dad.  I am still getting used to owning quality knifeware) 

Bays talks about the many lessons that emerge from this exercise and you can read the book to find out about them but a big one for me was to recognise again the value of the beginner’s mind and the way that made you more open to possibilities. 

But, enough already, more on that later…and in case you’re wondering, the photos bear no link to the post at all.  Just thought I’d show some of my non polymer jewellery for a change.

A resting place

I am just a little bit excited.

My forays into cyberspace are tentative and furtive.  On the recommendation of a talented Sydney polymer artist, Maria Psaltis, I joined Voila, a European polymer art site run by Christine Dumont.  And that was it.  I joined and then did nothing for many months.  These things take time.

Last month, I took the plunge and set up my Voila Photo Gallery (so much easier than I thought it would be!) and in doing so, submitted work for the Voila monthly challenge-the selection of the Polymeristas of the Month.  To my absolute delight, my Chautara (Resting Place) Bangles were shortlisted.

These bangles hold very special significance for me.  I sketched the design on one of the many bus trips I took along Nepal’s East West highway to Birtamod, the home of Samunnat Nepal.  In the monsoon, the greens of the fields were intense and varied.  And in magical November, after the monsoon, you could see Kanchendzonga Himal in the distance.  For a few magnificent weeks, the skies were clear and the weather cooler.  

From treks I was very familiar with chautaras.  (Familiar?!  I could spot them as a mere speck in the distance and will myself towards them!)  A chautara is a resting place on the path, built from stone, often to remember parents or other special people.   Usually, an ancient and luxuriantly leaved pipal or banyan tree (or  both) grow from the centre.  The stone platform is constructed so that there is a ledge at a perfect height for you to rest your load-a bamboo dhoka if you are a Nepali, a back pack if you are trekking.  You can stop your journey for a moment, lean back under the shade, catch your breath, chat with any one there and then head on again, refreshed.  Reliable sources tell me that a chautara is often referenced in folk songs-as a place for wooing.  And it is certainly a common place for village discussions and the exchange of gossip.  Mind you, it is also said that no-one can tell a lie under a banyan tree…..?

I love the idea of resting places as you travel through life, and a chautara has become my metaphor for that.  In making these bangles I wanted to make a piece of jewellery that would trigger the wearer to rest, to stop thinking, thinking, planning, rehearsing, rehashing and… just… rest.  Rest in the moment of looking and feel refreshed.

Laughter…the best medicine?

Behind this mundane blogular exterior, so much has been happening!

I rarely use colours straight from the pack so preparing for classes entails a huge amount of mixing!  Yet again I rejoiced in my DREAM machine (was that a Christmas present for myself or a 50th birthday present????  Can’t remember now but boy, it was a good one).  Yesterday’s class was the Citrus Celebration and what a juicy, jolly lot they all looked leaving the class wearing their creations.  I am getting regulars now and the lovely Rosalind told me I was her secret sin which may be the first time I have been that for someone!  Soon I will post photos from the class and I can guarantee one of some earrings that may well drive you to drink….

I am also incredibly excited/ terrified/ overwhelmed/delighted etc to be contributing a chapter to an upcoming polymer book.  Say no more but BOY am I beside myself.  Strap yourselves down.

I confirmed this week that I’m getting deafer than ever which is a real bummer and may have to be acknowledged with some wild earrings…working through that one.  Makes for theatrical and merry classes though.  The ladies yesterday handled the situation which great aplomb.

I did make this week’s necklace – a very simple one using resin and lovely square silver beads that I have had for a LONG time.  I may feel a need to veer away from simplicity momentarily (oh well, yes, I did didn’t I but will post that later!)





I have written before about my Word of the Year. My friend Cath contributes to my thinking in this regard with her annual Declaration of the Year.  Cath and a wise committee come up with their declaration and circulate it, reminding people of last year’s intention at the same time.  This year they decreed that 2012 is the Year of:

  • starting where you are (thanks Pema);
  • revelling in your imperfection (thanks Brene); and
  • wearing undies that make you feel great.

All very worthy but didn’t that last declaration get the girls going??!!  Four thousand, six hundred and seventy nine odd emails later, we are still workshopping this.  There have been the arguments pro and anti (undies altogether), discussions about different types and fittings, psychological issues related to undies and undie fittings, travel tips and there was even the suggestion of an undie quilt.  Can you believe one crazy woman suggested an undie charm bracelet?  Anyway, assuming limited Monsoonal readership, I am confessing here about my undie earrings.  I sent them to Cath and swore her to secrecy about their authorship, but faithful Monsooners now know that they did indeed spring from my tragic mind.  In the spirit of MY Word for the Year – Laughter (and apologetically revelling in my photographic imperfections) I present aural undies.  One for each day of the week including Y fronts for the bloke in your life:


Standardising Pasta machines

It may not sound like the most fascinating activity to write about and it was a long, somewhat tedious activity but  well worth doing.  Truth be told, I was having a bit of a moment so doing a good organisational, classificational activity helped! 

Inspired by my own varied collection of pasta machines and upcoming classes (I needed to have some consistency across brands when giving instructions) and Maggie Maggio’s wonderful call to standardisation arms, I have carefully measured and noted the thicknesses of clay produced by each of my pasta machines and collated a kind of basic THICK/ MEDIUM/ THIN standard.  Some had thicknesses from 0 to 9, others from 1 to 10 and one (highly unrecommended for polymer clay but on special at the time – Jamie Oliver’s) has no real thick setting and is numbered backwards compared to the others.  So now, they are all labelled and I hope this makes life easier. It would be marvellous if polymer artists internationally used consistent measurements for pasta machine thickness.  Grab your self a ruler, your pasta machine/s and get organised! 


What was I thinking?

When I first began travelling regularly to Birtamod to work with the ladies, I was rather taken with the portrait of a lady used to advertise Shakti (Strong) Cement.  Ads are painted on the sides of houses and buildings and your dwelling can proudly extol the virtues of a wide variety of things like Chakkaa Chakkaa Boom Boom snacks, Blue Riband Scotch Whiskey or Gill Marry Gin.  If  the frequency of the ad is a guide, Gill Marry is apparently the ad to have. You could have Berger Paints, LG or many others.  They were the Nepali equivalent of bill boards. 

I told Kopila about this face and wanted to find it again, but she was rather mystified by my descriptions until we stumbled on the ad, finally tracking it down to the side of a hardware shop (appropriately) on the Sanischare Road.  I explained to her that I had used this face as a guide for the face on our bahini beads and she was delighted because this was the goddess Durga – a good strong woman if there ever was one.  I always thought she’d be a good tapestry or something and had made a water colour sketch of her. Just as well, because she was replaced with a rather unimaginative ad for rubber flip flops soon after I painted her.

For some reason I decided she’d be a good micro mosaic this week.  And she may well be, but it will be a wee while until I know for sure.  Slow process.  Here’s the progress to date!


A successful recycling run

Yes indeed, it was a good recycling run on Friday.  And I pretty much followed my bring back less than you took out rule.  It depends whether you are looking at weight or volume to some extent. 

I am always on the look out for potential display stands and got these for literally next to nothing.  The photo on the left shows them in their raw state.  In the right photo, you can see that I have already started covering the globey one (what on earth was that?) and added the cardboard roll.  Just a tip: What doesn’t look like a lot of alfoil on the nearly empty roll may in fact be quite a lot.  Anyway, here they are ready for transformation:







Eventually they will be covered with Nepali lokta (daphne) paper and used for bangle display something like this one.

And I mentioned teapots a while ago.  Here are some stunners by the amazing Wanda Shum!!!

Turquoise and lapis-two old favourites

How am I going with my necklaces?  If I was a sensible woman I’d have a regular day, like every Friday, but I’ve never been accused of being sensible.  I think I am up to date so far.  I am having fun anyway.

This week’s necklace used a really interesting pendant I was given for a birthday many years ago.   I combined it with lapis and turquoise from my most recent trip to Nepal and am wearing it as I type.  Obviously I won’t keep them all but this one began as a gift so what choice do I have? 











I think I have made up this word. 

I love shadow boxes, tiny hidden drawers, treasure boxes, nooks and crannies.  I am drawn to shrines, altars and funerary niches.  When I first laid eyes on the hermit caves in the weathered rock walls of the Lower Mustang valley and saw Robert Powell’s paintings of those in the Upper Mustang I got goose bumps. 

Collections tell a story about the collector.  As  a collector you reveal what is sacred or special to you.  Or what helps you to make it through the day.  I am exploring this for my exhibition next year and I have been allowing my altarniches to evolve.  

My research reveals that shrines honour a particular idea of person and are places to meditate or pray (in many different religious traditions.)  I see them as places where an arrangement of items helps to focus your thoughts; I don’t see them as objects to be worshipped but as part of a place where you reflect and focus.  Have a look at some of of Robyn Gordon’s  favourites and she references Australia’s Rosalie Gascoigne. 

Altars (I read) are more of a working area.  For me, an altar is a place where you remember ideas or practices or people that help you to live better.  Or that reminds you about a special experience or place.  In my work at the moment, altars have been morphing with hermit caves, shadow boxes and funerary niches (like these at Otuzco.  I couldn’t put the photo in but do look at them).  Hence…altarniches.  And they change so they could just as easily be called alterniches!

It surprised me a bit that others share my fascination and there are quite a few artists loosely using the notion of shrines or altars as a framework for their art.  Lisa Vollrath describes them as a self contained expression of a single thought or theme.  

Last year in Adelaide I was entranced by the The Followers  by Ximena Garrido-Lecca, an installation that was part of the Saatchi Exhibition at the SA Art Gallery.

 It is going to be interesting to explore this I think.  My preliminary efforts are humbly presented here for my readers’ interest!