It’s hot here now.  When I was struggling to learn Nepali in the early days*, I got confused between pasina ayo (I’m sweating-lit. sweat came) and asina ayo (snow came). Now I remember P for perspiration and P for pasina and boy, oh boy….pasina ayo!  I realise this may be too much information here but I am not telling you the half of it.  I could go into details about my eye…but I won’t. No selfies though.

images-2Instead of doing Samunnat’s Eurosynergy activities (an inventory and preparing our presentation) I did some …research (sounds so much better than browsing online!). Productive procrastination.  Mum encouraged it. You can always blame the mother.  I found the website of Kat O’Sullivan who describes herself as a free spirited girl who makes funny patchwork coats out of old sweaters.

She is magnificent**!  Kat lives in a wonderfully colourful house and travels the world, often in a images-4psychedelic bus.  In her blog she talks about a lot of things relating to creativity…the value of not following every whim; of working with constraints.  She discovered how much style and whimsy you can spin on your business. I am looking forward to that!

house_079She makes some fabulous observations about copying.  People began to blatantly copy her and she felt very vulnerable. A friend talked to her about weaving her art into the narrative of her life.  Her sweaters ceased to be just objects to wear and became little fragments of her charmed lifeauthentic manifestations of her whimsical world…souvenirs of this whole crazy life …[she has] been gifted with.  She realised that her work was imbued with her magic- unique to her.  She realised that by sharing more of her world, the sweaters became like bouquets from her garden. What a fabulous metaphor.  I connected with this because I consciously try to imbue everything I make with a kind of generous, positive energy.  We know that at Samunnat too, what we make is part of a much bigger and profoundly special story.

Infused through it all was her commitment to authenticity and living and creating wholeheartedly.  She writes:

I never take myself too seriously – and I think that keeps my work flowing freelyimages-5 and my expression genuine. A lot of times when people are trying to make art a living they end up trying to meet others expectations, or getting so self-reflective that they lose perspective. I think I have a healthy sense of humor and detachment about what I do and the ability to embrace my many shortcomings as an artist. It is my hope that when people look at what I do they can feel that it came from a genuine place. I want the intentions I put into things to resonate with people, so they aren’t just buying an object, but a little chunk of happy energy.

Brighten your day by reading about Kat.  She would LOVE it here at Birtamod where a riot of colour is almost a mundane everyday event!

*I eventually stopped struggling- my still pathetic Nepali is a source of great amusement here!  I am pretty exceptional with colour, food and jewellery related terms and almost useless in daily conversation!  I can tell you when I am sweating though.

**She even answers emails! All photos and quotes used with kind and personally emailed permission. Howzat!?



Doing what you love

by wendy on March 25, 2014 · 2 comments

photoIt’s interesting how something can be on your mind and then you find that others have been thinking about it too. I’m not the only one who has been reflecting on work!  In the early days at Samunnat I’d often ask the ladies if they were enjoying their work.  Always, they said. It was new and exciting and we were learning, chatting while we worked, playing with new ideas.  Then as things progressed and we were making hundreds of the same kind of bead, bowing to market choices, working to deadlines, discussing overtime rates, I worried that it would seem repetitive, boring…work like.  I wanted them to be ablephoto to Do What They Loved.

But my initial enthusiasm about notions like Do what you love didn’t fit with my experience of reality.  When I was in paid employment, I loved my job, but there were days when it was tough…busy, draining, boring, repetitive, frustrating and stressful.  I had to accept that there would be days a bit like that for us at Samunnat too.  I knew that the people breaking rocks on the side of the road, or porters carrying loads on a trek photodid not find creative fulfilment in their work.  Being terrifically creatively fulfilled at work is a luxury reserved for a select few.  If everyone was to Do What They Loved it means there should be people who LOVE stacking shelves, cleaning toilets, doing crap jobs to keep the wheels of society turning.  As James Shelley says You can only do what you love as long as someone else makes sure the toilet isn’t backing up. 

I also realised that sometimes, emphasising to people that they love their work makes them very vulnerable to exploitation.  Early on, the ladies would offer tophoto work extras days because they loved what they did.  We said that loving what you do doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect a fair day’s pay.  You work and you get paid fairly. Loving what you do is a bonus and does not mean you get paid less or should do more than you are paid for or is reasonable to expect.  The ladies love that they have a job they can do with dignity.  They love that they can create something beautiful and earn an income from it.  For them, work is work.  It is fulfilling and creative but essentially, and this is the priority for them, it feeds their families and educates their kids.

For  a while when we returned from Nepal I felt like a failure that I wasn’t earning a living from my art. Perhaps I wasn’t loving it enough? It is almost embarrassing how much of a relief it was when James Dillehay suggested that my income did not have to derive from my art. I wish I had read this earlier too:

Do what you love is great advice if we interpret it as, “Make sure you make time for the things that matter to you.” If you love writing, make time to write. But please: Do what you love regardless of whether it’s your career.

photoBecause writers [or creators of any kind], it’s okay to make art that doesn’t contribute to your bottom line. And it’s okay to pay the bills via work that just pays the bills. Meanwhile, make sure you’re also doing what you love.

(At first glance the accompanying photos of my latest discovery for the Colourful Journey might seem totally unrelated to the content of the post but the people working here at a nearby Nepali lokta paper making business were happy to show me around. Slightly surprised by my interest but happy enough.  Some of these people make 600 sheets of paper a day each and I doubt that this is particularly creatively fulfilling. They are relieved when the sheet of paper turns out well, they were pleased that I like it and proud, but most of all, they were glad they had a job where they had a steady income, where a husband and wife could both be employed and where their kids could potter around nearby. They had a job where they worked decent hours and were able to do the other stuff that keeps a Nepali family chugging along.  The observant reader will notice a fire in the background.  The entire village ran to the scene, one man carrying bucket of water.  Eventually, a good 20 minutes later, a fire truck arrived.  The first I’d seen in the country.  By then the fire was basically out but it was good to know they existed.)




Life and Death

by wendy on March 17, 2014 · 6 comments

e1191109ebcdab31b6503debc3cbb179Guess what!? Austin Kleon reads obituaries too.  (Yes, I have mentioned him before!  I loved Steal Like an Artist and meant to write more about it) He describes obituaries as near death experiences for cowards.  I read obituaries. Not the ones of famous people but the ones about the heroism of ordinary people recounted with love by those they leave behind.  I usually cry.  As Kleon says in Show Your Work, they aren’t really about death; they’re about life.  In a wonderful newsletter this week, Maria Popova (Brainpickings) quotes illustrator and author Maira Kalman saying: the sum of every obituary is how heroic people are, and how noble.  I so agree with Kleon who says reading about people who are dead now and did things with their lives makes me want to get up and do something decent with mine. Thinking about death every morning makes me want to live.  For me, verbally acknowledging each morning that all things end, all things change reminds me to not take for granted for one second, the preciousness of life.

Like many people on planes last week I was more nervous than usual. I refrained from sending an email to family from the airport telling them who the authorities should check if anything went wrong.  That would have made them more anxious! (But why would you board a plan for a 9 hour flight with no hand luggage? Travelling light obviously down to an art! And what was that bandage around the hand hiding? Surely not just a wound. Ah, the blessing of a vivid imagination.)

I sensed a collective relaxing of shoulders when we did all finally land. Sheepishlyannaquindlen_shortguide exchanged grins that indicated our slightly embarrassed relief.  I’ve been on planes where the passengers applauded when we landed. This time the relief was not audible, but just as obvious.

Lately the realities of life and death emphasise the value of living rather than existing (and go straight to Brainpickings for more on this. Gosh Brainpickings is good. Have I mentioned that?) I think I’ll buy A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen.  This resonated so powerfully for me:

It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes.  It is so easy to take for granted the pale new growth on an evergreen…the colour of our kids’ eyes…it is so easy to exist instead of live. Unless you know there is a clock ticking.  I was reminded of that wonderful paragraph in Toni Jordan’s Additions where she says:

DSCN2559Most people miss their whole lives, you know. Listen, life isn’t when you are standing on top of a mountain looking at a sunset. [Mind you, that can be very lovely!] Life isn’t waiting at the altar or the moment your child is born or that time you were swimming in a deep water and a dolphin came up alongside you. These are fragments. 10 or 12 grains of sand spread throughout your entire existence. These are not life. Life is brushing your teeth or making a sandwich or watching the news or waiting for the bus. Or walking. Every day, thousands of tiny events happen and if you’re not watching, if you’re not careful, if you don’t capture them and make them COUNT, your could miss it. You could miss your whole life.”

As I was about to board the plane, and seconds before I had to turn off my phone, shots of my grand-child-in-utero, already besottedly adored, came through.  I allowed myself to feel incredibly happy acknowledging how profoundly vulnerable this made me.  I savoured those wonderful moments, cried, showed the man next to me and touched the dear face that appeared on the screen.  Quindlen says:

Consider the lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby’s ear. [my emphasis! Can't wait. We do great ears in our family] Read in the backyard with the sun on your face. Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness, because, if you do, you will live it with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived.




A New Day

by wendy on March 7, 2014 · 2 comments

photoSome readers will notice a strangely symbiotic link between Samunnat Nepal’s Colourful Journey blog and this one (and if you haven’t spotted it by now why not?) It may be explained in part by the strangely symbiotic relationship between the blogger (s) involved?? Go with it.

Kopila and I have been preparing our talk for the Eurosynergy Conference in Malta next month and the connection of the sisterhood is something we have discussed more than once. Samunnat Nepal has been abundantly encouraged and supported by people from all over the world and this is one reason why we want to encourage as many people as possible to sign this petition for Amnesty International. Read more about it here or here.

This connection, the sisterhood, is something that has been very much on my mindphoto this week.  Every morning, one of the things I say to myself as I have my little sit, is Knowing that we are all strength and struggle, may I nurture connection and that sense of belonging that only happens when we believe we are enough ( sort of paraphrasing Brene Brown of course in the Gifts of Imperfection).  Every morning I have sent love and thoughts to a number of sisters who are really facing some big challenges.

I think art can be so powerful in expressing that sense of connection, that love.  Recently, as I was preparing for the DD class, I had a sense of needing to create quite different piece to what I was doing for the class.  I often talk in classes about starting, following even tiny hunches and having faith in the photoprocess to see where it will go.  I followed this merest hint of a thought and then, once I began (and I think this is often the way after starting) this piece took on a life of its own.  Very soon after beginning it, it became abundantly clear which of my precious sisters it was for.  It became abundantly clear what elements to use and include that would have meaning.  The photos show different aspects and I hoped it would say all that I was unable to say in words, to convey all the love, the hopes, the strength I was sending.

The ladies of Samunnat sometimes send a piece of their jewellery to sisters we know who are facing challenging times. I have done the same thing. With just about everything I make, there is a story.  A necklace may arise from thinking about some person (like this one for my mum for example), or a situation, or an emotion.  And so often my art has been made because I don’t have the words to say what I want.  And that means that sometimes you need to start it before you have the words.  Or the clear finished image of what you are creating.  Just create…just start….see what happens.


Double D-dreaming and doing!

by wendy on February 25, 2014 · 7 comments

photoIf some one had walked into our class on Sunday, they may have wondered just what was going on.  Occasionally you’d hear They are magnificent boobs or Does this need plastic surgery? All in the name of creating goddesses/ gods/a green man that reflected our inner selves!

The class was created on a bit of a whim after reading a comment made by Cynthia Tinapple in her excellent Studio Mojo about needing to be Double D girls. Dreamers and Doers.  The image that popped into my mind seemed like fun and one thing led to another and there we were, with magnificently brave Ian* to balance the gender imbalance (big call for one bloke with 11 women but he wasphoto up to it), to create to our hearts’ content.

It was a class to follow instincts, to experiment wildly, to learn newphoto techniques and to walk out with more ideas.  I loved the diversity of the creations and the willingness of every participant to really follow their gut, to listen to the little voice within saying Why not give this a go? or I wonder what it would look like if I did this?

With access to inks, powders, Helen Breil’s texture sheets, home made texture tools, words they received on clouds in the beginning of the class, pre made canes (I did have rather a lot in stock!) and pre mixed colours each artist created something unique and gorgeous.  There won’t be any more of my classes until May/ June as I leave in less than two weeks. It will be a while between drinks but will keep us all going I hope!

See more photos here at the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery Facebook page.

*Ian may not have been there totally of his own free will but never let that get in the way of having fun!


Purple Haze

by wendy on February 20, 2014 · 2 comments

photoStop measuring days by degree of productivity and start experiencing them by degree of presence.  Alan Watts (via Maria Popova in Brainpickings)

Having been rather struck by this, why do I catch myself reciting lists of things done and not done?
Partly it is because I am getting ready to head off again. It’s slightly longer trip than usual as Kopila and I are going to the Eurosynergy Conference in Malta. And a 30th wedding anniversary. I hadphoto long promised my husband we’d be in the same country for that. We just had to be flexible about which country!

I am in the midst of a purple patch as we work out colour combinations for a project I am not at liberty to speak of freely but it is Samunnat related!  And, appropriately, I did play Jimi Hendrix’s photoPurple Haze and Prince’s Purple Rain! As I trialled colour combinations I meandered back into icon and bangle territory-combining Samunnat design work with class preparation and random creative distractibility.  I’m calling it multi focussed rather than scatty!  Purple productivity AND purple presence.

PS Note the natty toilet roll cooking rack (patent pending) which gave the beads above a really good curve. You can’t really see it in the photo but it’s there making it sit well!


A Colourful Journey

by wendy on February 17, 2014 · 4 comments

CIMG2328It is that time of year again when I begin to think about our Colourful Journey in November.  Bishnu and I have never advertised as such and so far, nearly all the travellers have come because they’ve liked what they’ve heard from past trippers!  The right people always seem to come.  Each group has been special.  And no two journeys have been the same.

And from this point on I had a post already written and was just going to addDSCN2791 photos. But then I received an email from one of last year’s travellers that made me think Shut up Wendy and let some one else say something! So I will:

…although I had been to Nepal many times, this was the most exhilarating experience. I travelled with interesting women, who shared their lives Exif_JPEG_PICTUREwith each other, found out what fascinates them and keeps them going. Their vitality, their tolerance and humour rubbed off and I gained new insights and understanding. I had fun, found a new sense freedom and achievement, and realised that age is not a barrier to new opportunities.
Then there was the journey itself. It was certainly a most colourful journey, the colours of the landscape, the brightness of the clothing and the opportunity to meet Nepali people was a unique feature of this trip.
This trip took us out of Kathmandu and helped us appreciate some of theDSCN2950 difficulties the terrain itself presents and the resourcefulness of many
If you think this sounds like it could be your sort of trip, get in touch with me now! You can read more about the trip here and here. If you think you know someone who would love this trip, send them this post!

(Thanks to Carol and someone from 2012-could even be me-for photos!)





Alter Ego 009I am inspired by Marlene Brady, who is, as my sister would say, SOOOOO CREATIVE!!! Marlene’s blog is a joy for its diversity.  She does amazing figurative work in polymer, bead crochet and weaving, paintings, sketching, so much.  I am learning about multi passionate introverts  (no reason. LOL) and while I don’t know if she is an introvert, you’d have to call Marlene multi passionate!  In searching for suitable pictures to accompany my post I found Marlene’s Alter Ego (L). And here is her accompanying post. Truly aColorBands w Blk Wht-01_a perfect image for a multi passionate!  Love it.

Marlene inspires me to rejoice in my need to for change sometimes. To have several projects on the go.  This suits how I work. I find that telling myself I will sit down and work at something I find hard for a short period, means I am less likely to procrastinate or put off doing it at all. Often, I end up sticking at it until I have got a bigger chunk done than if I told myself I had to spend a day on it!

photo-1And making these necklaces was a reward for getting tough job done!  A few years ago, I got a bag of tiny textile pockets and pom poms from Kulshi Mumkin. I wrote about using some on jacket and Christmas stockings here.  My plan was to turn others into necklaces and yesterday I did. I combined them with some of my faux beads and wanted to create two quite different moods.

I teamed the vibrant, bright coloured ones with ties made from Nepaliphoto striped fabric and the more subdued, ancient looking ones with plaited silk ribbons.  Probably more Winter jewellery but if I was into selfies you could see one on me now in spite of the Outback heat!



Buns of Steel

by wendy on February 4, 2014 · 6 comments

RIMG0709It’s not about male icons.  And the bride featured here is from the past. (The current one is better!) And appears to be solo?

We have two weddings happening in the next 12 months or so. It’s all very exciting and thanks to their deep, compassionately insightful knowledge of their mother both girls are very realistic in regards to their expectations about mother of the bride behaviour.  My major responsibility will be working out my jewellery for each event and making wedding cake toppers (and isn’t that a whole nother world!) for both couples.  Sounds like fun!

The first wedding takes place a few weeks after I get back from Nepal so I am doing the toppers now. Of course I am not at liberty to do progress shots as this would be giving too many secrets away but I can recount a conversation that gives you a sense of things.

I showed the father of the bride (FoB) the groom (let’s call him polymer Rob), almost finished except for the hair. Or so I thought….

(me) What do you think? So glad I am nearly done!

(FoB: known for disarming candour) Silence. They are not meant to be super realistic are they?

(Defensive me) What do you mean?  Not SUPER realistic but a bit realistic!

(Slightly nervous FoB) Yeah no, yeah. It’s um good. It is just meant to be a suggestion of him isn’t it?  (rising inflection on the good)

(Me) What’s the problem?

(Careful FoB) Well, Rob (real Rob) is kind of buff isn’t he? This guy (polymer Rob) is sort of, like his chest sort of caves in bit doesn’t it?

(Pushing his luck FoB) And his back is sort of…weedy?


(Tired and trying to convince myself me) Yes, but they are not meant to be super realistic. Just to give a sense of them.

(Helpful FOB) Yeah. So you wouldn’t be disappointed that this one was not buff and that real Rob is?

(Resigned but really wanting it to be perfect for my precious girl me)  What would you do?

(Anatomically knowledgeable FoB – removing shirt to show quite well defined if not totally buff muscles) You could give him more bulk in his chest and shoulders. Like Rob works out. He is built! This guy (polymer Rob) is not really built is he?

(Feeling better because there is a way forward me) OK. No that is good. I can take off all this bit and give him makeover.

So now Rob is buff. I mean BUFF. Talk about muscle definition, washboard abs, buns of steel. It was a shame to put the suit coat on top of it all really but it does LOOK more like Rob. The FoB knew from nearly 30 years of experience that I would have been disappointed if I’d settled for less!

Instead of photos of the happy pair (you will have to wait until after thephoto wedding!) I can show you photos of the other VERY EXCITING THING THAT HAPPENED TODAY!!! Yes, it does have something to do with the tip. When I was taking in my recyclables I thought, I have made a really buff Rob so I will reward myself by seeing what is in at the tip shop. Just looking of course.

And, well….look at this. A revolving polymer tool stand. How lucky can you be? And then, the Holy Grail of tip finds…a DART BOARD!! You will recall my excitement at finding the last one and what I did with it and now Darren at the Gallery wants me to do an photoExhibition of Upcycled Dart boards for the big room in 201….. something or other. One down….photo


Promote your Top Shelf!

by wendy on January 31, 2014 · 4 comments

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!