May is a glorious time in Canberra and intense blue skies are such magnificent foil for the golds, oranges, yellows, rubies and russets of Autumn. However…as the weather gets colder we can tend to get more black, grey and white. Jewellery is a great way to inject colour into everyone’s day and I am doing lots of classes focussing on colour in the next few months. Do one, do them all!! The classes are totally stand alone but done together form part of an intensive on colour and polymer. Details can be found here and scroll down to Colour and Polymer 101 and 102. However many of the classes you do, you can be assured of a creative, colourful and wonderful day and that you will leave wearing something lovely!!! The gorgeous set of bangles on the right were made by the Broken Hill artist Wendy Martin when she did this class.
Trekkers may be familiar with the word pfaffing (and I know that technically it is not an F word but it is acoustically an F word and I would know. And it can be spelt faffing.). You pfaff when you fiddle around with a task rather than actually DO it. Barry gives us a great definition here! In the trekking context, the pfaffer may well be the person in the tent next to yours who is noisily carrying out an activity that seems to be relocating all the items from one lot of plastic bags into another lot of plastic bags in his/ her back pack. This is often done just as you are trying to sleep. One who is annoyed by a pfaffer may well someone whose back pack is less organised.
The are periods of time, sometimes long periods, where I feel like I am permanently pfaffing. Sometimes I can get out of this phase and sometimes I just have to go with the flow (another F word). It is in these often frustrating periods of pfaffing that I try to be grateful for furthering. The poet/ philosopher John O’Donohue refers to furthering in his Blessing on Waking. He talks about giving thanks each morning for the furthering that the new day will bring. Some days, when my activities don’t seem to have resulted in much finishing, I try to be grateful for furtherings!!
I am still faffing around with / furthering my textured discs that I wrote about here. Again I began with BTC 111 but this time systematically changed the amount of Magenta. I was reminded as I looked nervously at the raw discs, of Tory Hughes’ wise advice not to judge an outcome too soon. I was relieved that after the boot polish treatment, the discs hung together more. Well, to me they did. I mustn’t have been a sweet gelati mood! More of a distressed gelati frame of mind.
Here’s to pfaffing that furthers and even better, leads to flow!
I got back from Nepal just over a week ago and decided to vary the manic catch up doing all you didn’t do for three weeks routine. Just to shake things up a little and see what how kindness changed things! I had a massage, reconnected with lovely patient family, paced myself with the list of JOBS, slept often, read and was just less rabid generally. Might do it again next time as it seemed to work better than frenzy.
Before I left Australia, I read Position Doubtful by Kim Manhood. Loved it. On the plane I read Craft for a Dry Lake and plan to hear Kim with my mum at the Sydney Writers’ Festival in May. I love her honesty and courage. Neither were easy books. Not through any fault of the author but because of the subject matter, the journey, and the responses each triggered in me. Very well worth the effort though. I loved her writing…I pretended I did not really have to do it and began to make left handed preparations. Mmmm…I am good at those left hand preparations! Anyway, good reads.
When I got back I used Breakthrough Colour to help create a new palette to work with. I chose a colour at random (BTC111 for those interested!) and then changed one component, yellow, just to see what I came up with. Then I wanted to see what the complements of each of the resulting colours were. For those of you familiar with BTC I worked out what would bring each of those colours to 555. So, colour 101’s complement would be 454. Always intriguing to then look at the resulting palette! I had accidentally ordered a heap of translucent clay rather than the white I desperately needed so mixed small portions of each colour with translucent and then spent days creating textured sheets using all the bits and bobs I have collected over the years for this purpose! Very meditative.
I love making these disc beads (we call them rice paddy beads at Samunnat) so made varied sizes really wondering sometimes whether it was all going to hang together. Sometimes I would look at one stack of discs and think Myeh but then alongside a few others it really sang. Go figure.
Days of mixing, texturing, baking, boot polishing, oil painting, remaking, sanding, drilling and assembling later, I was really happy with the resulting pieces. More so because they were in colours I would not instinctively have worked with but that I loved. They made me think of our eucalyptus gums after rain. I make the cords myself from wonderful coloured thread I buy in Chetrepati. Twisted cords like this mean the necklaces can be worn in several lengths…I like that flexibility! And the pendants can all be converted to brooches.
Bishnu and I are running another Colourful Journey in March next year. It’s prompted me to look at old photos and emails. Thought it might be fun to share some reflections from the archives!! This was written while I was living in Dharan, Sunsari some time between 2007 and 2011.
Staring is not the national pastime of Nepal. That would be chatting. But I am sure staring is up there on the list of top ten activities. And I love it. It is a delight to live in a country where a frankly curious and interested stare is not considered rude, and generally returned. Both the starer and the staree are connected in this very honest, human moment.
As one of the few Westerners here in Dharan, for a while the newest, and one of the more bejeweled, I initially wondered what I could do to make myself less interesting (less stared at). Eventually I realised that the answer was…absolutely nothing. No matter what I wore, didn’t wear, bought, didn’t buy, laughed at or didn’t laugh at, I was stared at.
And it was so liberating.
If I was going to be stared at WHATEVER I DID, why not do it with style and have fun. I can totally
yield to my sari fetish and finally live out my life’s motto of Too much jewellery is never enough. And my Nepali friends love it. Rarely a day passes when the fact that I am wearing what just about every other women here is wearing, doesn’t get a thumbs up or a delighted Kati ramro (how good). My jewellery is admired and handled and the fact that it matches what I wear praised incessantly. For the exhibitionist princess* within, this is heaven. Only my lack of a permanent nose ring, bulanki and the small red tikka on my forehead causes minor but understanding concern. Most assume it is only a matter of time.
The other really liberating thing is that now I CAN STARE BACK! And here, there is such a wealth of staring opportunities. I can stare at the magnificent hill women with their intricately patterned lunghis (sarongs) and riotously mismatched T-shirts; their complicated bath towel head-dresses and their myriad gold earrings and nose rings-connected with wonderful ornaments. How they can kiss is beyond me but given dental hygiene sometimes that may not be a problem. I can tell them how I adore the cacophonous combination of colours, the intricacy of their necklaces, the celebratory rustling of their bangles. All with a Kati ramro and a nod in the right direction.
I can stare at the Tibetan ladies with their leathery wizened faces, massive coral necklaces and well worn silk shirts as they sell small bags of ground yak horn, desiccated zopko dung, shriveled sheep’s testicles or whatever it is they sell. I can return their smiles when they see me in my angi (Tibetan dress) and laugh at how ridiculous I look! I suspect they think I look pretty ridiculous whatever I wear but I know they think I look less ridiculous when it is like them!
I can stare at the tiny, nimble hill men in their jodhpurs and topis (caps) and wonder how they manage to put their massive khukri knives down the front of their pants without threatening their manhood. In my experience, the best way to end a stare is to smile openly and Namaste garne-say hello. It is the end of a stare and the beginning of a conversation.
*Even introverts can have exhibitionist princesses within. The jewellery is this last shot is poised precariously rather than permanently installed. Silver hair gets even more attention!
Last year I had several enquiries about private classes. All my classes will be semi private classes! Very small groups (4-6 max) where instead of all working together on the same project, we will work with some basic ideas and techniques and then, with the guidance of a passionate and very experienced polymer artist (me!) each person can explore different applications of the technique. Or follow suggestions if they are having a brain dead day! I promise you creativity will follow!
I am almost evangelical about the power of creativity and of polymer to foster that! To help spread the word, I am making two offers! If you bring along a friend who has never been to one of my classes, you will get 10% off the cost of the class (or each of you gets 5% off if you are happy sharers!)
If a group of friends (minimum 5) comes fully formed, each one of you will get 5% off (or, as my friend Greg said, one person doesn’t tell the others about this and gets a 25% cut!) In this case, we can look at arranging dates and times that suit you!
I have three classes in February/ March and am running three series of classes in May- August. The classes will be stand-alone but are part of a series where we can really explore some things in-depth! The will be savings for those booking in for the whole series! See Class News for details!
I have had the joy of being is classes with some truly wonderful teachers. I got goosebumps in a class at Eurosynergy 2014 with Ronna Sarvas Weltman. She is such a generous, enthusiastic, encouraging teacher. On her website she says that helping students develop their voice is as much fun for her as creating her own art. And you can tell that when she teaches.
I was already a little bit in love with Ronna but when I read this quote in her profile in Sage Bray’s Polymer Journeys: The Art and Craft of Polymer it was clinched. She says: I…think that our wearable art serves as little devices calling out to other members of our tribes so we can find each other and get all excited about our kindred soul connection. Sort of like a secret handshake, only more fun.
As the wearer of the occasional whopping necklace (see below – borrowed bling) I could SO relate to this. As the woman who sometimes notices jewellery before she notices faces, I knew what Ronna meant about that kindred soul connection. I liked that she mentioned tribes! There is a real sense in which we sense the sisterhood by the wearable art!. At polymer gatherings, there is a tendency to frankly stare at one another’s chests and this was gently mocked by Anke Humpert who wore eyeballs that stared back! Thanks again to Sage Bray for letting those of us who couldn’t get to Bordeaux in on the joke through the pages of her The Polymer Arts blog!
Artists who teach often discuss the benefits of teaching techniques vs. projects. Some teachers wonder if teaching a project prevents the student from discovering their own voice, or following their own creative nudges. Overwhelmingly, my students tell me they want….BOTH! They want to learn techniques AND (because life so often seems an eternal list of unfinished To Dos) they love walking out the door wearing something they have actually finished!
For a teacher, it might seem easier to teach a project where students undeviatingly follow a specific path. I think you can be flexible. With a willingness to not always KNOW outcomes, you can give your students wriggle room. You can teach techniques in the context of a project but also teach about other applications. Provide examples, encourage exploration, model creative risk taking. I think that is the role of a good teacher. You often need to sing a few known songs with someone you know before you find your own voice. Hopefully you are teaching songs, making harmonies and inspiring new work!
That metaphor is ironic coming from one who sings like me!
I was thrilled by what happened after a recent class. Local enthusiastic polymer artists wanted to learn about cuff bracelets, extruders and good finishing techniques. I designed a class to bring these things together. Seven ladies participated and as well as making the specific cuff in the project, we talked about variations, the value of mistakes*, and looked at lots of samples. We discussed extruder use in many other contexts. I provide extensive notes. Each lady walked out wearing a gorgeous unique cuff. (One walked out too early to have her photo taken!) They saw for themselves you can all start with similar techniques and end up with something that is them!
KBV went home and, using the techniques she’d learnt in the class, made an entirely different item! A gorgeous bead which she strung on a collar, wore to work and was asked to make by a colleague who loved it so much. Her very fist commission. She had made a project, learnt a technique and sung with her own voice!
*This was in the contexts of Neil Gaiman’s inimitable advice to Make Glorious Mistakes!
If you are a subscriber of Studio Mojo, Cynthia Tinapple’s Saturday collation of all things polymer, you would have read last week about the amazing Natalie Maras. You don/t need to subscribe to my dad’s excellent blog to read Natalie’s own words. And she writes as beautifully as she creates her art.
It…[making art]…also involves long and careful training with different materials, each with their nuanced behaviour (affinities, hostilities and different states in different conditions). As with our oldest friends, it takes time to know materials and accept their limitations, quite apart from our own. Then there is training to ensure that hands and eyes work together harmoniously allowing space for the artist’s ‘voice’ to enter and more importantly… to exit.
The work featured here is Tragic Carpet, I am just a little beside myself with excitement about doing class with Natalie in October when she is teaching at the Contemporary Craft Retreat. It is not too late to register for this excellent event but hurry as classes are filling fast!
I was going to provide countless links to blog posts about these loves but you don’t need that. One need only walk into my house to know it. I have a Pinterest Board devoted to pods and seeds and love the work of Australian artists Sophie Munns, the ceramic art of Angela Valamanesh and more recently Anna Small‘s wonderful sculptural celebrations. To soothe my soul, I make pods, seeds and clouds. I made white and cream pods, seeds and clouds until I opened my Breakthrough Colour boxes.
I decided to create colour recipes for each of the cards in the box. (For me and the Samunnat girls). I knew I would go demented just working my way through the box so I chose a colour at random.
321…a steel blue.
Then I systematically adjusted the amount of cyan; then magenta; then yellow to see what colour combinations arise. Man, this was exciting. I used to be quite an intuitive colour combiner but lost some confidence. My combinations became safer and more predictable. Using the colour cards is so freeing. I made the colours to match those that emerge and then I make a necklace!!! Too much fun! I keep records of the recipes and the combinations and for the first time in nearly 12 months, I’ve got that old can’t stay out of the studio feeling.
After 321, it was 511(a turquoise blue). I had to tear myself away to write this post before starting on 152. A magenta/ red…just for a change. I haven’t felt this pull for a while. Welcome back old friend.
It’s going to be a slow process and that is what I am up for now. Slow processes that remind me to be patient. It is the journey, where (as my friend Tracy reminded me) the learning happens, rather than the destination.
I may keep you posted.
Kopila has written here about learning about colour theory using Tracy Holmes’ Breakthrough Colour Cards but I wanted to write here from my perspective. You all know I travel twice a year to Nepal and we go a bit mad trying to fit as much into each visit as we can. There are always new ladies to teach, new designs to learn, procedural drift to undrift, orders to fill.
We all adopt a learn what we can and move on from our mistakes approach and generally have an exhausting ball. Always in my mind is the idea that if I drop dead tomorrow, I want the ladies of Samunnat to know how to do things themselves. Teaching always has a focus of empowering the ladies to do as much as possible independently of me. Helping them to understand about colour and colour matching and selection and the mysteries of what colours westerners like has been a part of that that was always just a bit too big and overwhelming to do! My attempts to explain why the red seed beads they had selected to go with red and white polymer beads they had made didn’t match even though both were red was hard! There was no real sense of a pink based red vs an orange based red. It was just apple red, or flower red, or laliguras red.
I needed a tool. I remember sitting with Kopila at Tracy Holmes’ presentation at Eurosynergy on Malta feeling like there was something wonderful that was just out of my reach, somehow just beyond me. Flash forward nearly two years and I was packing a box of Breakthrough colour cards, with a vibratory tumbler, into my bag. I was so nervous about using those cards. I had only had a small chance to look at them, meditatively blu-tacking them to the wall of my teaching studio. Again, there was this sense of half getting something, sort of flitting around the edges.
I might have stayed on the periphery of colour had I not had to teach! I am always ultra straight with the ladies and they knew From the get go that I was merely one step ahead. Reading the Leap into Colour posts and working out how to
translate them ( a challenge given my limited Nepali!) The secret was the stepping!! At first our stepping was tentative, nervous, hesitant, but the more we threw around those cards ( who knew, learning didn’t happen while they looked so neat in the box?) the more we understood. The daily quizzes, guessing the codes for our lipstick, our favourite colours, even the colour of the New Year, all this helped us to get how we knew there was black in a colour, white, white and black. Together we were learning a colour language. Suddenly the notions of magenta based reds, reds with black, blues with green, all made sense to the ladies. A sign of the real Breakthrough happened last night. Madly trying to finish orders, Kopila and I come home each night and string beads. Last night, as we chatted ( human rights, Bollywood movies, colour theory) and strung, Kopila suddenly announced she knew why the red they got all those years ago that I said didn’t match our Pimento mala didn’t match! It was too close to yellow she excitedly said. We needed one closer to magenta! Didi, I got it. These words are music to my ears.
It really is in the using of these cards that the confidence comes; that a language emerges. Every morning for two weeks now, we’ve started the day with a colour quiz. And we make mistakes, and we get it right, and we rifle through colour families, and we search all over our cubes. But this is the secret. Hands on learning. To those who have those cards, make those cubes, get the cards out of the boxes. Leap into colour!