Monthly Archives: March 2012

The last few days have been wonderfully busy and it has been so good to see how the ladies have progressed.  Their caning has improved so much.  And we had a terrific time making up the first batch of the Cynthia bangles.

One of the things we’ve tried to at Samunnat do right from the start is to reinforce the idea of always thinking about how we can do things better.  We talk about the differences between the items that look really well finished and the ones that don’t and use these to come up with strategies that the more experienced ladies can share with the others.  Getting them to think about what they did that made things look so good reinforces them for doing it, and makes it obvious to those who need some help in a positive way.

The other thing that has been built in from the beginning is helping the ladies work towards independence.  They’ll write more about this on the other blog but in every thing we do, we look at how they will ultimately do it on their own.  And how they record what they do so that they can pass that information on.  It is really hard for some things where, at this point, there are obstacles to that.  But we work towards it anyway. 

One thing I am doing now is teaching the teaching process and when some new ladies come in on Monday, I will be tag teaching with two of the experienced ladies and we have developed the training program together, working on an apprecticeship model.  

We’ve also talked a lot (as we create!) about what things we’ll need to do more deliberately and obviously.  What are the things that we do so automatically now that need to be taught?  It is an interesting exercise and made them realise what a long way they’d come.  I see that so obviously each time I visit but for them it is more gradual.

So dear readers, a sneak preview of the gorgeous bangles that will be available on our upcoming etsy store before the year is half over I hope!

Lucky # 13

I love the little square beads in this necklace.  I’ve had these gorgeous beads for such a long time and can’t remember where I got them from.  They’d sparkle at me, somewhat accusingly, in their little jar, waiting to be freed. 

I DO know where I got the small gold seed beads from! 

By great good fortune, when we lived in Nepal, we lived in the town that had the second biggest pote (seed bead) warehouse outside Kathmandu.  It is like an Aladdin’s cave and gave me goosebumps each time I entered.  Once I became known, I would be escorted up stairs (more like a wooden ladder than actual stairs) into the holy of holies where thousands of magnificent strands or seed beads were hung on all four walls of the room.  Unerringly, my eye would go to the most expensive ones but I have to say they were very well priced.  And you got what you paid for.   The cheaper beads were not always water proof and the quality beads looked like quality beads!  Many, many rupees would change hands. 

One day,   I saw the most gorgeous beads I had seen yet.  They positively glowed. I got a small amount (did I mention my capacity to unerringly pick the pricey ones?) knowing that one day, I would find the beads to go with them.  I do believe they are perfect for these little square beads.  I think this necklace would be ideally worn eating fresh seafood and sipping a crisp white wine on some sun-drenched Italian coastline wearing something simple and classy.  And of course I am doing this all the time!!??

We visit the fabulous bead warehouse on our Colourful Journey Tours.  And thanks to connections, trippers get escorted up the stairs into the Holy of Holies. 

Gosh!  Did someone mention the Colourful Journey Tours? Yes, I believe someone did so it is a great time to mention in passing that we are organising our November 2012 departure!!!  We are leaving late November (around the 22nd methinks) and this truly is a wonderful trip.  I am going to ask a past tripper to comment hoping that this will entice others to join us.  It is more than bead shopping.  

Anyway, hope you like this necklace and that you agree about the suitability of the match.  And I did make matching earrings this time.


This post comes to you from Birtamod…the home of the ladies of Samunnat Nepal.  For the next 5 weeks or so we will be working together on various polymer projects and related activities. The first couple of days are usually spent in a flurry of flowers, catching up, food and felicitations.  And more food.  Today, Parbata came to cook some celebratory kheer (sweet, spicy rice pudding) for us all.  Often, when a case is resolved, the woman comes back and cooks khajja (snacks) to share her joy.  It is a lovely tradition.  

New ideas and developments are discussed and the outcomes of cases for some of the ladies shared.  Some have set up small businesses, others are working out how to over come setbacks and frustrations and all are taking each day as it comes…doing  the best they can in a tough world.

Over the past few months, the ladies in the polymer group came up with their own necklace design.  The second I tried it on, I just knew I had to have  one and bought one on the spot.  I needed another necklace.  No, truly…I had so much polymer and polymer paraphernalia in my bag that the amount of jewellery bought over was not up to the required standard.  I really needed a necklace. You are naked in Nepal without a necklace-one of the reasons I love the place.

The ladies are calling this their Jagariti range.  Jagariti means awakening and they hope that the necklaces will awaken different feelings or strengths for the people who wear them.  It combines carefully shaded polymer beads with strands of pote (seed) beads.  My necklace is called courage-my word of the Year for 2011.  There is more about the Jagariti range and catching up with the ladies here on the Samunnat blog.

This morning my younger daughter sent me a quote by Mark Twain which I love and wrote some time ago in my special book -a book my sister gave me in the early 90s where I write quotes I like.  When the Why on earth do you think you can do this? voices start up again (they had) , or the What happens if you really stuff this up voices? persist (they were), this is one of the things I reread:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbour.  Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream.

In spooky synchronicity, I also watched this Brene Brown talk about daring greatly.  Being here and doing this, I feel very vulnerable.  Watching this talk helped me to feel OK about feeling vulnerable.  And we began our day of creating by talking about all that.  Mark Twain and Brene Brown to Birtamod – loud and clear.  



# 12

I really liked the little saddle shaped beads I made for this  necklace (so did my mum by the way-and it goes with so many things she wears!) and wanted to make more.  This time I put the hole through the saddle rather than across it and it gives quite a different look.  I think I prefer the snuggling up of the others but will keep playing with the concept.  They remind me of ancient folded beads.

Training Elephants

The astute reader may be wondering how the mindfulness stuff is going as I travel.  Last week in Australia, I was watching my hands and as it turned out, photography for a project meant I was not only able practise being mindful of my hands and their capabilities, but was also able work on accepting the very obvious imprefections of their appearance. I lived with the vulnerability of having well functioning but somewhat crap looking hands!  How evolved of me.

This week I am eating mindfully.  It was very easy to do that with meals on a plane.  There is no way you can do more than one thing in those confined spaces.  I mindfully reflected on how nice it was to be flying with an airline that didn’t equate no gluten with no taste.

Now I am eating with 15 chatting children and I am mindful of different things.  I am mindful of the fact that so much of the delicious food I am eating has been grown right here at Sonrisa-including our rice.  The coriander tastes so wonderful and fresh.  And saag….I miss saag in Australia.  Spinach is not quite the same.  When the children get a tad overexcited at the table, they are given the opportunity to eat mindfully with Bishnu a little away from the group until they are more peaceful.  Nice way of doing things.

Nepalis eat with their hands and firmly believe that you don’t really taste the food using utensils.  In Birtamod I do the same and on our last tour all the trippers had at least one meal by hand I think.  They commented that it was fine.  You just had to stop thinking about your parents telling you not to play with your food!

First Nepal post for 2012

This post will be interspersed with photos of the wonderful banners that are so often a highlight of WOMAD.  As you can see from the photos, the weather was glorious and the blue sky really set the banners off. 

And it is a little mind blowing that merely two days ago I was enjoying the music and banners at WOMAD and this morning I enjoyed my first dal bhat breakfast for the year.  At Sonrisa, we all have a mug of steaming boiled milk to kick start the day.  The children go off to dance class at 6.30.  That is not a typo. They go to dance classes at 6.30 am and come back happy and hungry and ready for first dal baht.

The rice we ate was all grown here and the next crop will be planted soon.  Sonrisa is currently growing carrots, coriander, cabbage, broccoli, chillis and tomatoes.  Not entirely self- sufficient but getting there!  The 49 chickens are not laying yet but will be in a few months apparently.  And the three dogs play a significant role.  Well one does.

We had a great night last night making up the animal puzzles from the closing down Australiana shop in Rundle Mall.  THEY WERE A MASSIVE HIT!!!  The older boys liked the red back spiders particularly.  They were trickier to assemble.  It is cute watching them all enjoy the freshly installed mirrors.  Much posturing and posing!  

Today I head into town to get some supplies for Samunnat.  Much to our great relief (even if I did carry many kgs of polymer over with me just in case) one of our big clay orders from US arrived more or less as I did!!!  The supplies  I am getting today are all the findings we use and as we have been unable to make a lot due to stock shortages, we will be working hard now!  So I hope I can post a few times from Nepal.  Would love to hear from you!  Not sure how easily I will be able to reply individually but I will endeavour to keep up to date here.  Photos take a decade to upload so they will be light on but we’ll be grateful for small mercies.

# 11

I hope this works!

I made a few necklaces before leaving for Nepal and hope I have worked out how to pace the posting of them.  I could look really regular and organised for a brief, unrealistic time! 

Here is the 11th necklace for the year. It is not a polymer one but uses some wonderful chunky glass beads.  With many of the necklaces I have made to date, I have kept beads, waiting for SOMETHING that would just set them off nicely.  The blue of the smaller beads is not quite as it looks in the photo and it really brings out the wonderful deep blue in the glass beads.  I deliberately kept the setting pretty simple (partly because that was part of the 52 Necklaces deal) so that the lusciousness of the glass ones was apparent.

Hope you like it.


The WOMAD (World of Music and Dance) Festival in Adelaide is always a colourful, vibrant  and wonderful event.  The music, the ambience, the good natured crowd.  And we are meeting up with friends from various places which is fun.

I wish I was brave enough to ask crowd members if I could take photos of their jewellery!  There is SO MUCH to see. And it is hard to get photos of the musicians.   The African musicians in particular wear magnificent stuff.   Last night Dobet Gnahore from the Ivory Coast mesmerised the crowd with her singing and dancing.  And one crowd member was also mesmerised by her jewellery!

My friend Tim surprised us with his jewellery made from recycled toothbrushes!  I’ll need to check that shop out!

In need of a good bosom and panache

It’s the story of my life really but I do hope that a suitable woman – one with the aforementioned good bosom and panache – buys this necklace (#10 in a series I do believe).  I love the Nepali multi stranded mala and I am drawn to the turquoise/ coral combination like a moth to a flame.  Similar designs to this have appeared before but with…how to say…fewer dangles!

I have been browsing sites of African and Tibetan jewellery and they do love a good dangle don’t they?  Inspired by this, casting caution to the wind I pandered to my inner dangle-loving embellisher (inner you snort?) and went to town.  And the tragedy is that if time hadn’t prevented it I would have made matching earrings.  Thanks be to time pressures.  Actually, I think simple, magnificent turquoise chunks would be adequate.  The turquoise in the necklace is made using Tory Hughes’ recipe – Her more fiddly one that I think is worth every second of fiddle.

La, if you have a good bosom and panache, (and a dash of cash) don’t hesitate to drop me a line!

Durga’s Day

Leaving no trace was easier than I thought it would be.  I really enjoyed it and found, as Chozen Bays predicted, that it extended beyond my original target areas of the car, bathroom and kitchen.  I liked the notion that ideally, the only traces we leave will be the way we have loved, inspired, taught, or served others.  Or some jewellery. 

This week’s challenge was to avoid using filler words-words that did not add meaning to what I was saying. 


I experience prolonged periods of silence punctuated by impassioned torrents of speech and imperfect listening.  I did manage to mindfully and heroically avoid using the F word one day when all the smoke alarms (5) went off intermittently (approximately 3.5 minutes apart for a period of over 6 hours) for a long afternoon the day after I became bilaterally aided again.  The universe has  a sense of irony. 

Anyway, as I calmly walked around the house with my button pressing broom to determine which of the 5 alarms was going off at any particular time, interrupting my mindful filler free conversation and concentrated listening to the lovely Sacha, I reflected on the fact that I didn’t have to say the F word, could  choose not to, and could be grateful for all the times in my life that the alarms didn’t go off. Except in the case of fire. Om.

And, as these  photos attest, I have just about done Durga.  (See here beginnings here.)  So to speak (Filler words permissable there I think)  She has been a challenge at many levels-not the least of which was some vaguely mathematical calculation activity. 

I trialled a couple of different backgrounds, including a red background textured with Tibetan script and rubbed  with gold.  I liked the juxtaposition of the Hindu image with the Tibetan script philosophically but in practice it looked way too blingy!  Eventually I decided on a simple coral coloured clay textured with my current texture tool du jour– the Thimi Ceramics foot pumice.  This layer was then centrally placed on a continuation of the rays decoration made using custom mixed metallic clays and alternated textural patterns.

One was made with the end of a bic biro and you will understand that that was lot of dots.  Very meditative activity that one.  For the other panels, I used texture plates by Helen Breil.  I’m not quite sure where Durga will hang.  I have some ideas for a necklace based on the techniques I used and hope I can get one made before I leave.  I quite like the idea of a bigger hanging piece and several jewellery pieces inspired by that.  The photo at the beginning of the post is the original Durga as she proclaimed the virtues of the cement named in her honour.  She’s gone now, replaced by an ad for footwear.  All things end.