Monthly Archives: January 2014

Promote your Top Shelf!

photoIt possibly sounds like I spend ages reflecting and pondering.  A bit of January pondering does take place, partly due to timing, but also because usually October, November and December are ponder free zones!!!  I am generally in Nepal, and there is precious little reflecting and pontificating time and lots of frantic doing.  Any reflecting or planning is very Samunnat related and I usually come back feeling like I need to regroup at a personal level.  Hence the preponderance of pondering.

Every year, my friend Cath and the Team at UN Headquarters come up with100_0328 their version of the Declaration of the Year.  Readers may recall 2012 when we were to start where we were, revel in our imperfections and wear undies that made us feel great. Some made underpants earrings inspired by the more profound aspects of this great declaration.

DD iconThis year it’s another cracker and spookily synchronous given my amply proportioned iconic goddesses.  (This one pictured even doubles…sorry…as an earring holder!)  This year we are exorted to Do a hobby (old or new), accept yourself as you are right now, yes, now…right now and promote your “top shelf”.  The final part of the Declaration began as Stand up Straight but Promote your Top Shelf does it so much better and ever since receiving the word, so to speak, I have been aware of my posture in a way stand up straight would NOT have inspired!!!

Anyway, it all tied in very nicely and in the spirit of the Declaration and all my pondering (see, it does all come together in the end) and I have created a class called THE DOUBLE D GODDESS ICON CLASS where you can do all three aspects at once!  You can do a hobby; not even just accept yourself but walk out loving yourself sick becauseCanberra polymer clay retreat 2006 027 of your gorgeous creation; and we will be so aware of posture and our top shelves in general the whole time.

Each creator will make a unique icon that reminds her/ him(?) to be a double D girl, a Dreamer and Doer.  We will also create our icon to express a quality we want to take into the year. So much! Gosh.  All in fabulous polymer. To the right, I’ve posted some photos of icons made by students in a similar class I ran in 2006!  Read more details of February’s class here but those here in the Outback in Australia’s stinking hot Summer would be mad not to do it!

Creative Energy

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREThat’s Cynthia didi….creative energy in a body.

Hard to know where to begin here.  Clearly I am a card carrying member of the Cynthia Tinapple Fan Club.  And it’s not just because of today’s featured favourite website, Polymer Clay Daily. Even though PCD unites polymer lovers across the world into one drooling, inspired, fascinated, energised and happy lot. How many of us spend at least ten minutes of our day delighting in the latest offering Cynthia has come up with? So many times people talk about starting their day with their beverage of choice and PCD! On the occasions my work has been featured I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.  There were two, no three, occasions off hand. (And ain’t that blowing my own trumpet! But I know you think that’s good mum)

And it’s not just because of Studio Mojo…where for less than the price of a couple of Cynthia and Wendycups of coffee, once a week Cynthia provides more in-depth discoveries, conversations with fellow journeyers, ideas, thoughts, hints and the push to help us grow as artists.  As Meta Strick says of Studio Mojo: Studio Mojo provides me with the kind of energy that radiates from these little glimpses into the lives and ideas of others.

It’s not just because she somehow convinced a somewhat fearful faffer that she was worth including in a book and then actually including me!!  It was months before I stopped expecting the Actually, I might just have to leave your chapter out email and realised that she really wanted it!!!

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREAnd it’s not just because she has been such a source of good things happening for my beloved ladies at Samunnat.

In a recent Studio Mojo, Cynthia talked about the double D girls (and there’s an icon/ goddess in that isn’t there?)…the ones who dream and do! And that’s Cynthia.  The ultimate DD.  I recall our early online conversations when I was hesitantly warbling on about Samunnat and Cynthia said, You need web presence.  And then made sure we had it. Thank you Cynthia.

I recall later on when Cynthia said I’d love to meet you all and visited, memorablyExif_JPEG_PICTURE and magnificently, in 2011.  Cynthia’s visit bought joy, not only to us but to every other red head in Nepal. Both of whom lined up to have their photograph taken with the great one.  And it wasn’t just the red heads lining up just quietly!

And Cynthia said, I’d like to come up with some things the ladies can make. She researched, she trialled, she explored, and then she taught us all how to make our shisha Exif_JPEG_PICTUREbangles, one of our ultimate best sellers (nothing available online at the moment….long story but bear with us!) Thank you Cynthia.

It is not just the polymer community that Cynthia re-energises and encourages to move forward. This is so true for me personally and for Samunnat too. When I look at things happening for us now, huge scary but amazing and wonderful things, so much of itShisha goes back to connections that exist because of Cynthia. La, enough. I have this idea about a red headed DD icon….wonder where it will take me? (When I have time?)


As long as it is art propelled…

photoRobyn Gordon’s blog is like sitting down in a quiet and beautiful place, taking three deep mindful breaths, releasing tension with the out breath and really looking at what surrounds you. It is manna for my soul. It nourishes, inspires, heals.

Robyn is an artist from KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Her work is just beautiful.  She carves wooden totems, poles, doors, and other wondrous pieces which incorporate wire, beads and found objects.  It is obvious that, as she says, her art is meditative work which brings her a great sense of peace.  She describes her blog as a place where I gather things that inspire me. It’s a bit like a glorified notebook where I store information so that i don’t forget it. Favourite artists and artwork, books, quotations, internet links, ideas, themes…you name it, as long as it is art propelled.

As a chronic journaller and keeper of quotes, I love posts like this.  I love thephoto beautiful photographs she posts of her beloved home.  And on this pinterest page she quotes John O’Donahue whose writing seems to be calling out for my repeated attention! She reminds artists of ten things to be thankful for!  It was in one of her posts that I first read about Stillness for Jugglers. Look at the beautiful images she collated to go with it!

She brings so many wonderful artists to my awareness! Like Anna Gillespie who created the figure photoTasting the Rain. Or Sophie Munns whose seed  inspired art is magic.

Robyn’s pinterest site is unbelievable. I have to be very careful when I go there…..

Marianne Elliott

MEheadshot2I first got onto Marianne Elliott when I did her 30 Days of Yoga course which was great.  It did help me to develop a regular yoga practice but another big benefit of the connection was tapping into her articles, reading and thoughtfulness particularly in the areas of development, compassion and the need for kindness.

I will declare from the outset that I was a tad cynical about Marianne given her background in the UN. Experiences in Nepal made me somewhat sceptical about large aid organisations. I refer in particular here to large aid organisations where huge amounts of money seems to be spent of 4WD, city dwelling office workers, logos, flak jackets worn by workers at domestic airports where the rest of us are in normal clobber etc.  I ain’t naming names. Anyway, for a while, Marianne worked for the UN and I read her book Zen and the Art of Peacekeeping with interest.

I really enjoyed it and learnt a lot.  I am still sceptical about some things but more open to the possibility that within these large organisations, many courageous, generous, thoughtful people are trying to make a difference. I could say more but am trying to work within a time limit so won’t but there’s hours of reading about this!

Marianne writes: We’re all capable of great things when we find our own authentic and unique place in the world. We all have a role to play in bringing about a kinder, safer world. I created this site to help you discover what great things you are capable of, to uncover your unique role as a change-maker, and to make sure you have what you need to stay well do those things.

I always enjoy her posts – she is less over the top and hyped than other sites about similar issues which I sometimes find sort of over packaged and more about marketing than content.  By subscribing to her newsletter, I receive her monthly (sort of!) list of  what she has been learning, reading, writing – always a source of interesting links.  She got me onto a site called Why Dev and Beyond Good Intentions – both thought provoking analyses of various aid activities.

This was one of the first I read and I think it is just terrific. So many excellent questions, great links and compassionately written.  I wish, wish, wish more people would read this link from it!!!  She asks more interesting questions about aid here and has 10 questions to ask before you start a non profit organisation.

In this post  her thoughts about the balance between self care, community and sacrifice really made sense to me.  As did this one about taking a leap of faith even when you think you are not up to the task

Another one I enjoyed was What the world needs from you.

That’s enough for today…fewer words and more images tomorrow.


Brain Pickings

pbifxlx94sbrainThe magnificent Maria Popova describes herself as an interestingness hunter-gatherer and, in words that I relate to oh so well to, a Sherpa of curiosities. Her website Brainpickings is one of the highlights of my reading week! It is one of the few I actually subscribe to and the newsletter that comes each Sunday provides a week worth of interesting reading and links.  She says,

The core ethos behind Brain Pickings is that creativity is a combinatorial force: It’s our ability to tap into the mental pool of resources — ideas, insights, knowledge, inspiration — that we’ve accumulated over the years just by being present and alive and awake to the world, and to combine them in extraordinary new ways. In order for us to truly create and contribute to culture, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these ideas and build new ideas — like LEGOs. The more of these building blocks we have, and the more diverse their shapes and colors, the more interesting our creations will be.

I loved reading about the seven lessons Maria has learnt in the seven years of reading, writing and living Brain Pickings.

She constantly turns up interesting writings, thoughts and observations on living the creative life and an absolute cracker is here.

She didn’t get me onto Brene but loves her too and that’s a good endorsement in my eyes. Read here where she introduces one of the books that has had a truly profound effect on every single day of my life and how I live it.

She finds fabulous writing about living a meaningful life, the kind of stuff that makes you want to stop reading and go out and live it. So…stop reading, go!


Carolyn’s Colours and Abundance

Two posts in one day! Not a precedent though.  Just a by-product of my Five Lovely Websites series!!

Sometimes when I first get back into my  sacred space  studio after a long break, my head is buzzing so much that I almost need to be told where to start. And this is wherephoto Carolyn Good can come in really, really handy. Each year, Carolyn comes up with colour recipes for the Pantone Colours of the Year. For a few years now, as a getting back on the bike exercise, I have mixed up the colours and waited to see what happens.  I must confess to not being initially very inspired by this lot, but you know what happens next don’t you?  This time, being in the middle of an Australian heatwave, my head said Make something with the cool colours Dave Good thought were au courant (You will have to read Carolyn’s blog to see what they were and what this means!!) but blow me down if my hands didn’t start playing with the more rangi changi* shades of Cayenne, Celosia Orange, Dazzling Blue, Freesia and an odd little teal I threw in because I was feeling game.

I read a lot over my travels as I reflected on my Word of the Year for 2014….Yes, more of that later…and a number of the things I have read have then sort of become ideas for necklaces – as they do.  This year, in a totally non driven way, I am going to make necklaces to go with different quotes I liked!

Early IconAnd then, as I was making my first beads (flowers in fact – you can see them scattered around the ladies like offerings) wouldn’t you know it but I was suddenly making an icon?  (To the right is an early icon) Ah how my heart sang!  I think last year some time I declared this to be the Year of the Bodacious Babe. Or words to that effect.  I have not made my “goddesses” for so long and when these emerged I felt so good. As I made them I was reflecting on my actual Words of the Year (WOTYs)…be patient, it comes together soon!…and thought Over time , why not make a babe/ icon series for each Word. And then I thought, Why not give the 5 readers who successfully identify when I have rabbited on and revealed my 6 WOTY in posts over time, one of the icons?  And when you hear about the first of my WOTYs in particular you will see why this is so CONGRUENT!!!  (That was not one of the words by the way! I will be more explicit than that!)

As the observant reader will note, I have several WOTYs this year-  five I chose with great thought and deliberation (much of which took place sitting in the car crossing our wide, brown land) and one chosen from my happy bag of words on clouds.  And one of them was…. abundance. (Can’t be much more explicit than that for number one!) which for me, is about being able to give abundantly. I want to be like a tree that bears lots of fruit for lots of people because I am getting watered and fed and amphoto planted in good soil.  Towards the end of last year I felt a bit like a tree in a drought. Dry, brittle and not really much use for anyone.  I have to be aware of a few things….to acknowledge the abundance there already is and to be more careful about making sure I am doing, getting the things that help me to flourish. Sleep being a biggie.  Profound isn’t it!?

So, in the spirit of abundance, one of these ladies will be sent to each of 6 readers who, some time in the future, identifies the six Words of the Year! A bit of a challenge – requires some memory skills, comprehension, diligence and all that, but these girls are waiting for special homes!  I hope these amply endowed ladies will help me to be mindful of being abundantand doing what I need to do to be sustainably abundant.

*Rangi Changi is the fabulous Nepali word for colourful.

A week of favourites….starting with Luann Udell

photoYou have to love a woman who uses the phrase a whole nother in her book! Well I do!  I adore that Luann Udell uses a phrase that is one of our family in-jokes in her thoughtful book about How to Get People out of Your Craft Booth.  And I love a woman who talks about getting people OUT rather than IN! She writes with a refreshingly different approach.

I write about Luann because I have decided that each day this week I will write a brief post about a site I love.  In no particular order.  This does not mean I only have 5 favourites, but there are very few I subscribe to, or visit regularly and I am choosing 5 of them to let you know about this week hoping you might enjoy them too!!!

Luann Udell is a mixed media artist who writes so very well that I would read one ofudell her shopping lists really. She writes with authenticity, humour, compassion, wisdom and vulnerability.  She writes about making her art, her family, her fears, her joys, her bereavement work, her business.  She subtitles her blog Muddling Through Life with Art and so many of her posts have resonated for me, or challenged me, or inspired me, or set me thinking differently.  Recently, she wrote a post called Sipping From the Fire Hose about the blessing/ curse the internet can be for creative souls.

The aforementioned book is an e-book and I got it thinking it would be a good but perhaps irrelevant read.  I was so wrong. I loved it.  Such sensible, practical wisdom. Wry observations, realistic advice, really good.  I could see applications to MANY things, even development work but hey, that may just be me!

Enough from me but here are links to five I’ve valued. Explore, ponder, enjoy! And look at her magnificent art while you are there.  I hope I have been able to work out how to put some pieces in this post!

Luann’s thoughts on time management for Creative People

Her thoughts about when you can call yourself an artist

She wrote about Ten myths about artists-here’s one. Explore the others.

Comments I found liberating about who I created for

Some thoughts on anxiety and fear that I remember really got me thinking.

Another Wendy Moore Favourite tomorrow! Strap yourself down!


An Upstanding Artist

As I drove the approximately 1750 th kilometre of our Christmas/ New Year road trip I remarked to my husband, Husband, I will be glad to be home. In the past three months, I have only had two weeks at home.
Those who know the aforementioned husband will not be surprised to read that he responded with You make your bed, you lie in it. Lovingly of course. Tongue in cheek and all that.

But it’s true. I have chosen this peripatetic, at times chaotic lifestyle and so far, apart from a few exhausted hiccups, we manage. This year was going to be quieter but for reasons, happy ones, beyond my control, quiet won’t be what it is! It’s a long time since I kidded myself I had much control though. And it’s been better for it!
StandingOne change I am bringing into to 2014 is standing.  It’s not the word of the year (more of that in another post! I know some of you are waiting….) but I am committed to standing more ( for health reasons) and have altered my desk to do so. So far….loving myself sick!! (Ironic for a health practice!)  It is really, really, really good.

The other thing that has worked sensationally well for three whole days now was triggered by a comment by Cynthia Tinapple at Studio Mojo.  She mentioned that she spent time in her studio each morning and then did computer based stuff in the afternoon. What a difference that has made to me! Transformed my sense of enoughness no end. I will burble on at length about this one day. Lucky youse!

On my wonderfully raised work surface, you can see the beginnings of the necklace I am making inspired by this poem:Miracle to Miracle
To be alive
To be able to see,
To walk, to have houses,
Music, paintings
-it’s all a miracle.
I have adopted the technique of living life
Miracle to miracle
Arthur Rubenstein

That wonderful phrase miracle to miracle leapt out at me with a very clear image! We’ll see how it goes!

May the nourishment of the earth be yours


imageIf you are in Australia, I am a bit late. Elsewhere, not so late so I won’t beat myself up about it….
Every thing seemed a bit delayed. Even getting a daunting and complicated task I wanted to finish before the old year was out was delayed…
And it is just a date observed the wise and patient one who put up with the whingeing.
And he was right.
Lots of thinkin’ going down. More of that later…if you are lucky?

But for you dear, lovely After the Monsoon readers, here is a blessing that I received today via the thoughtful and wise Marianne Elliot.
And photos from a dream that came true this year in Upper Mustangimage

A Blessing for the New Year by John O’Donohue

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas fraysimage
in the currach* of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

To 2014.

(and, in case you were wondering, a currach is a coracle. I love that word.)