Monthly Archives: July 2013

A ludicrous digression

Bear with me here…I think you will see how it happened.  I wrote about making my block of colours based on the Tsarang apron here.

DSCN4321So I had my colourful block, and started playing around with ideas based on the panels of fabric being set at opposite directions. Came up with a pretty straightforward and very wearable little number where the panels were interspersed with ultra-marine glass beads or composite turquoise discs.  Tsarang mala #1 and 2!

Then I started to think about the chunky necklaces that young Newari girls in Nepal wear for the bel-bibaha. bel bibaha This photo was taken by Siddhi Lal Kayestha.  There are lots of variations on the bel marriage story but basically young Newari girls are married to trees so that if their human husband dies they are not considered widows. Not a great thing to be in Nepal, so it’s a practical measure. I’m sure that’s oversimplifying it but it gives you the gist of it.

Anyway, you can see the necklaces the girls wear and this was in my mind when I made the DSCN4322Tsarang mala #3.  The curly shapes came from the animal horns that hang above doorways in Upper Mustang to keep evil spirits away. Fun shapes.

Then the horns started to get vaguely oceanic and tentacular.  And the striped clay fabric was turned into petals rather that apron panels and, oh boy, was I having fun?!  And here is Tsarang Mala #4.  I felt like IDSCN4318 recognised it as what had been simmering in my mind (and kind of vaguely as sketches scattered through my journals for years!)  This one will hang as #52 in the YON series and I want to make another version for me to wear on opening night. If you can’t wear a confection like that on your own Opening Night when can you? It is actually very comfortable to wear. When I started assembling it I was being rather careful with where things went but what happens is that they all nestle really nicely however you wear it. As soon as you flip the flowers up, the little curls just adjust to your neck and stay there. A lovely bonus!  Comfy but a little different each time you wear it.

And I’ve had this idea for a teapot….

Dancing around Deadlines

Gosh I love Art Propelled.  Robyn Gordon’s blog is unfailingly inspiring and thought provoking.  I don’t subscribe (mainly as I haven’t Apron and coloursworked out how!) but I have her in my favourites bar and visit regularly.  Today, with two weeks left before Installation Day*, I am feeling a bit vulnerable and exposed.  The comparing critic voices are upping their inner chatter and I am wondering if I have been a bit silly to take this on. Robyn quoted Chogyam Trungpa in a post called Your Own Way of Looking at Things and it really resonated for me:

In order to accomplish an experience, you have to have a chance to dance with it. You have to have a chance to play, to explore. Then each style of exploration that takes place is a different manifestation, we could say. Nevertheless, it is all part of one big game.

I  haven’t been making things easy for myself.  After returning from Nepal, I decided that I would only include polymer necklaces (not those made with beads I had purchased) inBlock the Year of Necklaces installation; and that I would separate necklaces that were a collaboration with Samunnat and display them in their own area.  This meant making several necklaces to replace those that were culled (along with those polymer ones that were made during the Year challenge but not deemed art!   By the way, for some interesting thoughts on art necklaces and examples of her own beautiful work see Erin Prais-Hintz’ blog here.  Erin creates wonderful, almost narrative necklaces, often inspired by themes, or literature, and encourages others to as well. Two of her necklaces are featured in a new book Showcase Art Necklaces which sounds tempting…

Table blogI didn’t want to fall into the trap of making a necklace for the exhibition!  Usually, the creations I like best come from play and exploration, from dancing with ideas, from following through the I wonders and I didn’t want deadlines (read Indigo Kate’s gorgeous quoted deadline quote here) to send me scurrying back into a mindset I work hard to avoid.  I wanted to yield to the I wonders.  The I wonder what would happen if I did this, or pulled that, or scrunched up this.  I wonder how doing this makes a piece work; how will it sit if I do that?  Alice Stroppel is a master at the I wonders. For inspiration read her I wonder if I can combine brass buttons, rubber cord and polymer to make something interesting post and her I wonder if I can makeFloor blog something bigger and more complicated than I usually do post (Titles mine!)

I wanted to use a silk apron (called a pangden) I got in Tsarang in Upper Mustang as a source of inspiration. As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to incorporate the fabulously coloured stripes and the technique of lining up the three panels of  fabric in different directions.  I wondered if I could do that in a piece of jewellery.  And again I am not making things easy for myself…16 different colour,s would you believe, and NOT a straightforward repetition, my wordy me no!  Here are photos of the first stages of the I wonders.  More to come!  Still, I’m having fun wondering and hearing that deadline swooshing up!

*Installation Day for my exhibition of Collected Works.  They used my Mutwintji Necklace in the publicity on the website!


Thoughts on a creative life

Creativity is how you choose to respond to what happens in your life:  Your choices generate – Happy Shobhacreate – what happens next in your life….creativity is a process that we are engaged in every minute of our lives.

I can still remember the quiet thrill of excitement I felt reading those words by Tory Hughes in her Creative Development Manual.  These words seemed to confirm a discovery I was (somewhat slowly!) making for myself.  Creativity was not just what happened when I sat down in my little room and mixed colours and made something.  Creativity was how I responded to everything – joys, obstacles, challenges, unpredictable events in all of my life.  Creativity was really seeing, questioning, adapting, changing, recognising and DSCN0861avoiding default responses and useless habitual behaviours, learning, playing. In ALL sorts of situations.

Creativity didn’t just happen when I had polymer in my hands.  It was a very liberating thought.

That same liberating realisation had a profound impact on my journey with the ladies at Samunnat which was starting at around the same DSCN0849time.   As Cynthia Tinapple said in a recent Studio Mojo:

Jumping into another culture, country, climate is a good way to rediscover what’s in front of your nose.

When I first started working with the ladies (but not for long I’ve got to say) I had very clear ideas about what WOULD NOT happen.  There were a whole heap of WOULD NOTS which really came from my preference for (perceived!) certainty and feeling in control all those years ago.  There would not be risks taken, that was for sure. We would be doing all we could to NOT MAKE MISTAKES. We would not look like we were stuffing up. We would only do the stuff where we knew what we were doing.  We would be taking THE SAFE PATH, my wordy me yes.  And where did that get us? Just the same place as that approach does when you areExif_JPEG_PICTURE making art, it got us big fat nowhere.

Luckily for us, being told that the SAFE, SUSTAINABLE items we’d made were not going to sell, coincided with what we were learning from playing with polymer.

Quite separate to our SAFE STUFF, we’d decided that it would not be a disaster if we just had some fun – played around with some of my polymer as respite from pretty awful situations that many of the ladies were in.  This would be OK we bravely thought!  It seems incredible to me now, years down the track to think I did not recognise the profound value of that fun.  Of that play, of that respite. Of how that playing would come to shape these ladies’ sense of self!  How it re-awakened their capacity for joy!  How it created a powerful and dynamic sisterhood that has changed my life.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREAs a result of that playing we re-connected with our innate knowledge that play was valuable; we discovered that we learnt more from our mistakes than from playing it safe; and that sometimes our mistakes looked beautiful.  The ladies learnt that pulling on their earlobes, bobbing up and down and repeating I am stupid (a standard Nepali educational strategy) was not the way we were going to respond to mistakes here.  Instead, we asked what worked; what didn’t; what we’d do differently next time (thank you precious Mark Ylvisaker!).  We saw mistakes in a new light.  We became less afraid of exploration, of asking questions, of trying things out.

For me, and this is the moment I was totally hooked I think, the most amazing moment was when one of the ladies looked up and, with a voice filled with wonder and joy, shared that she no longer saw herself as a victim because she had a new identity.  She had claimed a new identity. From that point on, she was an artist.

Our shared passion about the power of that creative energy that we all possess infuses the retreat that Tory and I are running in September.  We know we can know that energy and use it effectively, or that we can inadvertently smother it, block it. My dream is that tapping into the power of creative energy can be just as profound for the people who join us there as it was for me those amazing bahini haru* in Birtamod. As it still is, every day as we respond to what happens in our lives.

(NB: The photos show the *little sisters with some of their creations.  The photo of Shobha at the top, smiling with delight at HER necklace which she owned and would be wearing home, is a favourite. The lady to the right had just been referred to Samunnat. She is now one of our core artists!  She smiles with joy, fulfilment and pride rather than cowers with fear.)

My happy place

Lovely readers, this week I am sharing with you 5 things to read by other people and a few photos of my work in progress.  Life is full.

BanglesMy dad writes a thoughtful and passionate blog about nature and his most recent post about the Hero’s Journey struck a chord. I could write a whole post about how walking/ trekking can be a metaphor for life but not this week! Just read his.  Especially all you boot scooting babes who commented on my blister review bless you!

My friend  Deb has just published Dream Wheeler, a terrific read, but the piece of her writing that really got to me this week was in her blog.  She wrote about my bhai Bishnu, my younger brother, the bloke I do all the treks and trips with.  A very moving read. As an aside, we’ve decided, for several reasons, that contacting pollies here won’t help(especially in the current climate) but we are on track for next year.  Well armed!Busts

Another friend, Indigo Kate writes too and look, I would read her shopping lists she writes so well.  Her blog is a joy and this post was a highlight!  Like one I mention in a sec, very pertinent for me this week. This life.

I have had several skype calls over the past few days with the wonderful Tory Hughes and preparations for our Double Dipping: Deep Play and Creative Joy retreat in September are such fun that I am beside myself with excitement about the actual thing!!!  There is a lot of heart, energy, joy and passion going into this and I knowTriptych it will be a very special time for those who come.  Read more here and do contact me SOON if you’re interested!

I have mentioned Marianne Elliott a few times before and she has, in my humble opinion, written a cracker of a post on self care. In what has been a crazy week, a week of joys, frustrations, tears, laughter, getting stuff done for some and not getting anywhere near enough stuff done for others, this post was a winner for me.  Marianne writes of searching for the sweet spot:

the place where I take care of myself, know my limits and set up some boundaries that keep me from overstretching myself repeatedly, but without switching off my impulse to serve, to help and to create community and connection through personal sacrifice for the good of the whole. (bolding is mine!)

It is a really thoughtful post.  Here’s to the sweet spot.  Or in less foodie parlance-the happy place (which is a possible title for the triptych which I have included a tantalising detail from!)