Monthly Archives: February 2013

Mindful excitement

DSCN3402This time last year I began reading a book that’s had a pretty profound effect on me:  Jan Chozen Bays’ How to Train a Wild Elephant and other adventures in Mindfulness.  Essentially, the book is a series of weekly practices designed to help cultivate mindfulness in our everyday lives.  For example, one week you try to be aware of the colour blue, another week you try to notice the soles of your feet during the day.  The practices of the last few weeks have been particularly well timed: paying attention to my centre; and practising loving kindness to my body.  Good in busy times.  Many of the practices have become activities I try to continue beyond the week-like gratitude at the end of the day, eating mindfully, and listening like a sponge.

Soon after beginning to read the book I decided to make a small polymer tile to remind meDSCN3405 about each practice. The theory was that it would remind me to do the practice. In real life, the tile was not always made before the week was out but the act of creating the tile was one of mindfulness in itself.  Reflecting on an image to trigger the practice for me, and actually making it with my hands was very significant for me.

I now have my 52 tiles and it is interesting to notice certain themes.  Clouds appear on several tiles, as do hands.  I restricted myself to a palette of faux techniques-ivory, turquoise, amber, coral, lapis and a dash of DSCN3406malachite.  This discipline was fun and means that, to me anyway, there is a cohesiveness to the tiles. Now I am collaborating with my mum (pictured below) to use the tiles to make a wall piece for an exhibition of my work at Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery in August this year (that I may have got myself into during my Week of Saying Yes more often!) 

The activities for the tiles shown here include Practise secret acts of virtue, When eating, just eDSCN3361at; Gratitude at the end of the day; Appreciate your hands; Notice sounds; Just three breaths and Awareness when entering new spaces.  Among others.  Maybe you can pick these?  Some are a bit obscure but meaningful to me!

photoToday, I am in a state of mindfulness combined with beside myself with excitedness.  This morning I woke up to see one of my necklaces on the Holy Grail of polymer blogs…Cynthia Tinapple’s PCD.  Strap me down.  It was a MOMENT!!  SO so exciting.  You can read it here if you want.  Artists are doing some really interesting things and we are lucky to have Cynthia keeping tabs on global polymer action.  Her book on just this is due out in August and I am thrilled to have a project in it.  August will be a good month for my mindful practices!!


When worlds collide

I’m not  over Emerald yet.DSCN3399

I am mindfully postponing the traditional Monday post for a day or two. It’s all in my head (it’s all about my Training the Elephant tiles and how things are going there) but something else has come up.  And I’m blaming Polymer Clay Daily.  Again.

A few days ago, that wretched Cynthia Tinapple posted a picture of this gorgeous necklace by Natalja Ivankovo, a Belaslovak artist (she explains this in her blog and here is another shot of her necklace with matching earrings.)  I loved it and immediately my head was spinni1001 Forget me nots.jpg largeng with possible applications for Natalja’s technique.

It’s a style I’ve loved for a while. It reminds me of traditional Rai necklaces where large beads are separated by discs of red felt.  When we lived in Nepal, I made the rainbow one below and a version using sewing machine bobbins (a mere rupee or two each in Nepal). The trouble with the latter was that I nearly gave myself a neck injury wearing it.

Cynthia and I have both played around with shisha, especially in Nepal (Exif_JPEG_PICTUREand she has a whole Pinterest board of shisha here). I could easily imagine a shisha version of the forget me nots!  Looking carefully at Natalja’s necklace (as Cynthia had instructed here) I realised that the bobbin effect could be acheived with significantly less weight!  I’ve used some of my emerald canes and gold leaf in the latest version!  And am itching to try other ideas.

DSCN3401It feels so nice to wear.  It sits very well (great idea Natalja), is really comfortable and moves so nicely. Wouldn’t you know, I have a skirt in JUST THE RIGHT GREEN (I come from the wait until it comes back in fashion school) so may just get the chance to pop it on now and then.  It’s been a fun collision of ideas from Slovakia, the US, Nepal and outback Australia.  In the next one I make….I’m bringing out the tiny mirrors!!!!

Embracing Emerald

DSCN3395Woo hoo!  I am actually posting on a day that is NOT Monday.  Made it by the skin of my  teeth.

Posting this was slightly delayed by a quintessentially Australian experience-the attempted eradication of a red back spider (a big one too) who has taken up residence in my creative cave!  As a rule, I come from the live and let live approach to spiders, at most, gently transporting them to a better location using the glass and paper technique modelled in my childhood by my nature loving father.  Red backs and funnel webs are the exception to this approach and I had been suspiciously watching a very red backy looking web that was growing on my window sill.   Earlier attempts to usher this beastie to spider Nirvana failed (spray and the vacuuming the whole thing) and today we’ve had another go (a direct hit, according to my husband.  Mind you he said that last time).  It is a little unnerving that the supposed DSCN3377corpse seems to have moved but time will tell I guess.  We seemed to have got the one in the bedroom. Ah the joys of outback life….

As you can see, I have embraced emerald (once again, thanks for the recipe Carolyn!)!  This is the way I work…immersing myself in a range of  colours until I know it is time to move on, or time to complete something I have may have been putting off as the case may be.  I spent days and days making up canes and then a huge variety of beads using emerald, black, white, greys and some gold leaf and then more days assembling them into necklaces in various styles.  Some experimental emerald and gold pods and round discs remain unassemblDSCN3385ed, as well as some more petal slices a la Lindly Haunani but more beads need to be made to complete these and other projects call so they may have to wait.  Suffice it to say, domestic activities weren’t/ aren’t a priority.

I submitted one of two of my versions of a lariat for the FlickR 12 Polymer Project in 2013 group.  I set myself the challenge of creating at least one piece a month that incorporates one of the Pantone colours for 2013 and for January and February ( I was late coming on board!), this is Emerald.  I’ve enjoyed creatingDSCN3380 a diverse collection-some obviously rather subcontinental in nature and others more tribal looking.  I love the gold leaf with the colour combo and am learning more about using that as time goes on.  I used a layer of Kato Liquid Polymer to protect the gold leaf which I sanded the long tube bead.

The lariat style has been popular even though I have only made a few and to my delight, my dear friend Robin has ordered one in red for a customer at Breathing Colours, her gallery in Sydney.  I’m onto it Robin!

DSCN3379Another necklace has a really textured feel and I used some designs that the ladies of Samunnat and I have been working on for their Kazuri beads. They will be selling some Emerald toned beads on Paulette Walther’s Many Hands Marketplace website and it goes without saying that YOU COULD BUY SOME BEADS FROM HERE.  Sorry, was I shouting?  All in a good cause though!

Making an Impression (or just tooling around!)

DSCN3364I can’t call Monday’s post Monday, Monday every week.  And I would like to be posting on other days beside Monday but life is full!  I’m living it, not writing about it…which is the preferable option.  Writing does help me to reflect on things though.  And today I am reflecting on my tools-large and small.

Tory Hughes, in her Creative Development Manual talks about taking care of the big tools- body, mind, heart and spirit-the tools that you use to navigate the ebb and flow of energy that you use for creative action.  She says by taking care of your tools, you’ll prosper physically and emotionally. You’ll have mastered a common challenge: how to stayDSCN3366 present in our minds and bodies when we are surrounded by a culture telling us to flee from our experience.  Being mindful.  Then she provides some great ideas about doing just that!

I love Lindly Haunani’s quote about (small) tools from Polymer Clay Master Class (Belcher, Honaman 2013) when she says I often tell my students that you really only need four tools to work with polymer: a large white work surface, a sharp cutting blade, a good pasta machine, and – most important – a magical sense of possiblilty. It’s funny that I have eight running feet of five-foot-high drawers full of tools!

While my tool supply is not as extensive as Lindly’s, I have said the same thing in classes and then come home to my tool stash and appreciated the irony!  Fortunately you can make many polymer tools from found objects.  While some of the ones pictured here are designated polymer DSCN3367tools others are tip treasures, some come from a hardware store and some are from a jazzy little kit I picked up from a bloke roaming the streets of Thamel in Kathmandu. He promised I’d be able to make wonderful dainty stamps on my skin with them and demonstrated the technique.  Something was lost in translation and I was never able to get mine looking like his but geez they make GREAT impression tools!

Another favourite quote about tools comes from a book I am rereading and loving again after many years…Sue Bender’s book Plain and Simple. Tino, a sculptor, poet and wise man from Sardinia says satisfaction is the enjoyment of every step in the process of doing;  everything, not only the isolated piece we label art.  If accomplishing is the only goal, all that it takes to reach that goal is too slow, too fatiguing- an obstacle to what you want to achieve.  If you want to rush the the accomplishment, it is inevitable disappointment. Then you rush to something else.  The disappointment is reaped over and over again.  But if every step is pleasant, then the accomplishment becomes even more, because it is nourished by what is going on.  I needed to read these words.

He goes on to say No one gets paid for keepingDSCN3368 his own tools cleaned.  It is an act of real art; otherwise you don’t have rapport with the tool; then it becomes a rebellious servant, not respected, not properly handled. If you don’t appreciate its weight and become aware of its balance, one day or another it is going to hit your finger!  I think it was knowing this, at a deep intuitive level, that prompted me to start respecting my tools.  To make them objects of beauty AND function, to create a beautiful place for them to be stored.  They are lovely to look at, nice to handle and I’d rather fancy wearing a couple of them!



Monday, Monday

I was tempted to make a mindful arrangement of Ron Lehocky’s lovely gifts to the ladies of Samunnat as it has been a hectic time I am on the move again.   But it would have been cheating really.  So my mindful (ahem…) arrangement today is of some newly created beads and some tools of the trade, reflectiDSCN3357ng my hope that although not in my studio, I will use them productively in the next few days.

When I was a little girl, Emerald Green was my favourite colour. As an adolescent, I developed a  passionate and enduring attachment to violet/ purple/ jade/ magenta which made me somewhat predictable, albeit easy to shop for, for the several decades.  Now, you can’t pin me down.  I am a veritable rainbow.

But back to Emerald Green.  Pantone has declared it the colour of the year and I decided to embracExif_JPEG_PICTUREe that at some point in my art.  I’ve made these beads which I hope to string together in a necklace in one of my favourite styles…could I call it my signature style?  A completed version, shown in red, black and white, always prompts comments and I have promised people I will make more. Maybe soon, I can post a photo of the completed piece!

Carolyn Good creates polymer clay colour recipes (and the ladies of Samunnat bless her!) for all the Pantone colours and shows her own gorgeous creations using those colours. As part of a FlickR Group called 12 Polymer Projects in 2013 I’ve challenged myself to create 12 pieces that incorporate one or more of this year’s colours.  (It’s a bit less daunting than a necklace per week!)  I’ve done this partly because some of this year’s colours are not colours I usually work with and I thought this would stretch me a bit.  Using Emerald Green is not such a stretch.

photoThis weekend, my main activity has been happily writing thank you emails to some incredibly generous polymer artists all over the world and packaging bracelets we’ve sold from the Samunnat etsy shop.  Read why here on the Colourful Journey blog to learn what Cynthia Tinapple and Ron Lehocky have done now!

I heart Ron Lehocky

DSCN3346Today’s post was going to be a slightly sycophantic rave about someone who’s had a profound influence on Samunnat and what is happening for the ladies.  But the arrival of a parcel last night means that I’ll talk about this first and will tell you about Cynthia another time.

I head back to Nepal in a couple of months and always like to take some small presents for each of the clay ladies with me. Often I try to make something but this time I knew I wouldn’t have time and, having heard about Ron Lehocky and his hearts via PCD, and seen him interviewed by Cynthia Tinapple in Studio Mojo, I decided to buy each of the ladies a heart pin.  I knew they’d love the vision behind themDSCN3345 (Ron has made and sold over 20,000 heart pins to raise funds for the Kids Centre for Paediatric Therapies in Kentucky) and the ladies love seeing the work of other polymer artists first hand.

I emailed Ron and ordered the pins, telling him what I was going to do with them.  He replied immediately and said that he knew about Samunnat and would love to be involved.  He had lots of questions and his enthusiasm and energy just about burst off the screen.  One thing led to another and Ron saw an opportunity to help with raising funds for a Samunnat building.  A local person has donated some land to Samunnat so, for less than $10,000 we will be able to build a decent size work room, a training room, an office where ladies can share their situations with privacy and a kitchen where we can make and sell our pickles and other delights.  Ron offered to match donations for the building up to $2000. PCDaily will help spread the word in the coming days to rally the polymer community and  already we are receiving incredibly generous donations.

DSCN3342But that’s not all.  When Ron’s exquisitely crafted hearts arrived, they were surrounded by so many other goodies for the ladies…books, tools, inclusions, magazines, clips and what I think is a greeting card from Bhutanese Nepali people Ron is working with in the US. (An aside: where Samunnat is based in Nepal there were once 7 huge UNHCR refugee camps that were home for two decades to over 100,000 Bhutanese refugees.  Some of the ladies we’ve worked with have been refugees experiencing domestic violence nad Kopila provides legal counselling to women in the camps.  Many refugees have been resettled to new homes in US, Canada, Australia, Denmark and New Zealand.  Bhutan focuses on the Gross National Happiness of some of its citizens, not all.  You can read more about this here)

Each tool or piece of equipment had careful and thoughtful instructions written on it and the hearts were just magnificent.  RonDSCN3339 had ended many of his notes with Have Fun.  I hope I can convey to him how much fun we will have and that it will be fun that will continue to change the lives of the ladies and many others.  Anyone who knows me well, knows that sharing the journey with the Board and ladies of Samunnat has transformed my life.  Part of that transformation has come from seeing the open-hearted and abundant generosity of people all over the world who want to make a difference to these resilient and courageous women.  It encourages me to be brave, to be vulnerable and to trust that we are not alone.

Ron, what to say?  Dherai dhanyabad.  Thank you so much.  You already give so much and now this.


And the Winner is…

Well, the winners are…

I made an executive decision to have  an Under 10 and Over 10 categories!

One of my gorgeous daughters paid a surprise visit last week (…it was a total surprise to me but she’d enlisted the help of discrete others who managed to make sure I’d stay put without spoiling the surprise!) and she was happy to be my barrel girl.  So to speak!  We wroteDSCN3305 down the names of anyone who’d emailed or commented on this post and then put them into my lovely Janakpur Women’s Development Centre chalice which was perfect for the task!  With scrupulous attention to prize drawing rules she drew the winners from the chalice and they were:DSCN3332

In the Under 10 category, our clear winner was Ruby who loves my mermaids.  And mermaids in general. So Ruby, check the Post Box next week OK?

In the Over 10 category (and I dare say she’d be happy ‘fessing up to being in this category) the winner is the delightful ANGIE!!!! (Yes, I’d have said that about whoever won but honestly I have the LOVELIEST readers!) Darling Angie, a slightly less heavy version of your favourite necklace will be wending (or even Wendying) its way to you before the week is out.  But don’t start checking until next week!

Posts have been a bit thin on the ground lately and I hope to do a few more over the next couple of weeks as there is a lot going on.  I have been making time to do some really self nurturing things though. (I was going to replace self-nurture with self- sustaining so it sounded less selfish but I think I am learning that it is only when I do pay attention to doing things that nurture me, that I can really hope to sustain nurturing anything/ one else effectively.  So I will leave it as self-nurture because that is authentic and true and I won’t worry about how DSCN3328it might sound.)

Instead of rushing through my yoga and my mindful Monday montage, charging headlong into crossing off some of the to-dos for the day, I took some time, did it mindfully and have got through more I think than if I had doDSCN3325ne the usual thing.

Over 20 years ago, my darling sister bought these pieces of pottery back to us from the US where she lived with her family for two years.  I have always loved this vase and bowl and to retrieve them (intact what’s more) from our stored belongings a few weeks ago was an utter joy.  In fact, it was rediscovering these that prompted me to plan this Monday ritual.  I think they look beautiful with my Thimi pottery bowls (something old, something new) and the paper weight was from a holiday that was so long ago it scares me!!!  Just visible is the edge of a doily my darling Nanna crochetted many years ago and I love that with these other precious things.  Hope you like it too.

PS If anyone knows the US artist who made the bowls, I’d love to know.  May have been New Mexico based????