Whispering jewellery

Well it was the right year to go grey.  With a couple of delightful exceptions, there’s been a fair bit of crap going down. The usual sort of suffering that Choose mindfullyeveryone faces: realising that the way you thought life might go wasn’t go to be the way it probably would go (even if you’d given up planning way back when!).

In another tricky year (thanks 2007) I discovered some good stuff.  Pema Chodron’s The Wisdom of No Escape helped.  The practices of mindfulnessnecklace cms meditation, journalling, walking.  Creating.

This week, the amazing Genevieve Williamson wrote in her blog about the moment she could feel her creative self emerge after a period of adjustment to Full CMSchronic illness.  Although my creative drought resulted from different reasons, I could relate.  I felt creatively spent for a long time but then one afternoon found myself creeping into my room to make. I like to think that my art is bright, colourful, celebratory but the pieces that emerged whispered rather than sang. My whispering jewellery – inspired by silence and reminding me to choose.



It’s written in the beads

So…this is what I am remembering and learning these days

DSCN1546Celebrate the good things around you;DSCN1551 make the most of what you find.  Creativity can be fostered by making do with what you have, discovering new combinations, thinking outside the box.

Be gently firm with that inner critic and be prepared to review your definition ofDSCN1556 what is essential; don’t be forever waiting for enough time or the perfect conditions.

And that good old chestnut: Notice and be grateful for the good times, enjoy them when you are having them but don’t try to grasp them; observe the bad feelings, allow yourself to sit with them and don’t try to avoid them in unhelpful ways.


I don’t need to learn or be reminded about this one: We have amazing family and friends.

And you can’t remind yourself too often to keep making time to play.

A blessing for the artist at the start of the day…

…and a photo. I usually don’t like photos of me but this photo by my darling imagefriend Cathy includes a few things I love. Here we are again at the James Turrell Within, Without Stupa. (Still not over it!) A place of calm reflection. We need it now.

And what’s not to love about that coat and bag? Thanks for the bag Bek.

And the bloke is the background is pretty great.

Not too much art stuff happening right now but this blessing reminded me that it could.  The blessing is by John O’Donohue and is from his beautiful book To Bless This Space between Us:

May morning be astir with the harvest of night;
Your mind quickening to the eros of a new question,
Your eyes seduced by some unintended glimpse
That cut right through the surface to a source.

May this be a morning of innocent beginning,
When the gift within you slips clear
Of the sticky web of the personal
With its hurt and its hauntings,
And fixed fortress corners,

A morning when you become a pure vessel
For what wants to ascend from silence,

May your imagination know
The grace of perfect danger,

To reach beyond imitation,
And the wheel of repetition,

Deep into the call of all
The unfinished and unsolved.

Until the veil of the unknown yields
And something original begins

To stir toward your senses
And grow stronger in your heart

In order to come to birth
In a clean line of form,
That claims from time
A rhythm not yet heard,
That calls space to
A different shape.

May it be its own force field
And dwell uniquely
Between the heart and the light

To surprise the hungry eye
By how deftly it fits
About its secret loss.

PS Check out those silver roots!

Finding and Searching: Lessons from a red feather

I love the art of Rosalie Gascoigne and recently, in preparation for going to The Daylight Moon, an exhibition of her work at Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, I read a number of interviews she had done. Here’s one where the link works! In one with James Gleeson (and alas this link is NOT working!) he asks if the material she works with is material that she has searched for and found almost anywhere? She took great pains to correct his choice of words:

I have not searched for it—I have found it…Yes. I just look at what’s available, and I think ‘I like that’, or ‘That does something for me’—and that’s what I take.  

I was intrigued by her distinction and decided that during the week I would do some  writing about searching and finding. It would make tortured reading but was enlightening and fascinating for me.  I am a finder.

Recently, as I walked up Mt. Ainslie (conveniently situated behind our back fence) I found a gloriously vermillion feather just off the path. It was possibly from a crimson rosella or a King Parrot. And fortunately for you gentle reader, it summarized my photo 2cumbersome writing. I was not searching for the feather. I had no expectation of finding the feather. I noticed it. It was there, ready to be found.  I could have stayed warm in bed and not found the feather.  I could have been powering up that hill (unlikely!) so fast that I did not see it. I could have been so intently searching for blue feathers or lovely bark that I didn’t notice this fabulous feather.

It did something for me and I picked it up.  I might use it in something and I might not. That is not the point.  For me, finding means being in the place where you might find things. It means being open; it means being mindful and observant and grateful. It means being playful and exploratory and open to receive.

Thank you Rosalie, thank you red feathered bird.



A place to create….

Reading a recent Studio Mojo, helped me to overcome the IMG_0406OVERWHELMED inertia I felt about setting up my new studio. It had become the very big unpacking too hard basket and I quite literally cried and swore sometimes when I opened the door. (I will ‘fess up….there’s been a good bit of crying andIMG_0407 swearing lately!)

Cynthia wrote about a book called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (which was reviewed by Heather Powers here.)  A swearing, crying, unpacking woman does not have time to read a book but one phrase from Cynthia’s summary hit home: put everything (everything!) out in one category and go through touching each item. If it sparks joy, you keep it. If it doesn’t and you are keeping it because you feel you may need it someday or you feel guilty about throwing it away – it’s IMG_0408time to let it go.

Obviously a mixed media artist will need things someday but I really thought more deeply about this. What did I want to use rather than what could I use? What had I held onto (over many years and carried to many homes) because one day I might use it?  The simple step of sorting a pile of stuff into what bought joy and what didn’t was somewhere to begin.  (Disclaimer: I did have a Stuff that didn’t bring joy but needed to be kept box….I knew I would need those papers at tax time.)

Marie Kondo, the book’s author,IMG_0409 encourages people to store and classify using what they already have rather than rushing out to…IKEA say….and buying more. For years I have been saving two old printers’ drawers and I decided that instead of keeping them in bubble wrap until I did whatever I was waiting to do with them, I could use them for storage in a way that would inspire me and bring joy.

I did buy a few things.  I cheated a bit because being the nation’s capital, Canberra does have a IMG_0404great ex Govt. Furntiure disposal store and I could not go past this old office locker/ post cupboard for storage!  Or the old drafting chair!!

There’s still away to go, and good golly won’t it be good when I spend more time creating, but for now, thanks Cynthia for getting me started.

Back on the blogging bike….

What have I been doing?

IMG_0401A lot.  Moving over 1000 kms interstate with all that entails. Setting up a house and a studio and learning to cope with a capital city with innumerable roundabouts rather than a mining town with three sets of traffic lights. I climb Mt. Ainslie from my back gate every other day and delight in a profusion of art galleries. (The photo is of James Turrell’s Within Without at the NGA) I adore Broken Hill but am learning there is a lot to love about Canberra. Not the roundabouts.

What have I been reading?

Poetry! After years of neglect I have rediscovered my love for reading poetry. Reading a poem aloud can be very soothing.  Joining Jen Louden in The Oasis has provided a wealth of poetry resources to explore. I especially liked this one this week.

What have I been listening to?

Well, you all know hearing’s not my strong suit but the birds around our new homeimages-6 work hard to keep me in their loop.  We share our garden with gang gang cockatoos, crimson rosellas, sulphur-crested cockatoos, currawongs, magpies, parrots and galahs.  I can look out my kitchen window, see Kangaroos and hear the birds and forget about the roundabouts.  The photo of the gang gang is from the Birds in Backyards site.  A cracker for wannabe twitterers.

What have I been making?

DSCN1529Not much!! Setting up a home, learning my way around, and dealing with the bureaucracy associated with an interstate move takes time! I have made something special which I may be at liberty to reveal soon.  Here is a sneak preview!

Tomorrow I will post some shots of the studio! I’m taking it slowly….


A Desert Love Song #2

Something strange happened last night.  It is similar to what happened during the earthquakes where I didn’t react quite the way I expected to.  It 20140807_174210may be linked to a kind of new post earthquake perspective…what my guru mum would call having a cosmic perspective.  I got the letter from the BH Regional Art Gallery telling me that my Desert Walking Gown had unfortunately not been selected as a finalist for the 2015 Outback Open Art Prize.

I didn’t cry. This is weird. I felt very disappointed but, and maybe at 54 this shows progress, I didn’t go straight to what Pema Chodron describes as the storyline. I just stood quietly for a little while and felt disappointed, really felt it; noticed the feeling in my body without fighting it, and then noticed that I couldn’t actually make myself feel disappointed for any longer.  The20140808_172013 stronger feeling was one of accomplishment and joy and happiness.  The fact that it wasn’t selected didn’t make it feel like any less of a love song.  And my darling husband is so excited about the challenge of transporting it 1100km. He loves a good transportation challenge and I am always sure to give him plenty!

The other thing that helped was looking at the list of finalists. Omygoodness! There are some very talented artists there and for 20140809_085837anyone in the area when the Exhibition is on (July to August/ September), it will be one to savour!!!!

I have some music playing on random as I type and serendipitously, a WOMAD discovery that has been on high rotation post earthquake is playing. Wrap your ears around The Gloaming….

PS darling Ana, is it OK to use your gorgeous photos for this post?

A Desert Love Song


Photo from mgnsw.org.au

The year I arrived in Broken Hill Janine Mackintosh of Kangaroo Island won the Outback Art Prize which is held annually at my beloved Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery.  Her work, Droughts and Flooding Rains, was a mandala composed of stitched twigs. It was one of my favourites as well as the one the judge selected.

Rick Ball

Photograph from rick ball.com.au

Each year artists are invited to submit work in any media which reflects the spirit and diversity of the Australian Outback. Finalists are selected for the exhibition by a committee and three prizewinners are selected by a visiting judge. In 2012 my lovely friend Rick Ball won with his powerful work The Land-Broken Hill and Darling River. Ian Tully’s prize winning entry Personal Mobile Broadband Satellite Receiver in 2013 was

From guild house.org.au

From guild house.org.au

controversial and I would have bought elements of Liz Butler’s Lines of Demarcation in 2014 but couldn’t as it is an acquisitive prize and the work is now owned in its entirety by the Gallery.

In less than 12 months of outback living I was enthralled by the spirit and diversity of the place. Long regular walks in the bush, picnics in creek beds, visits to Mutawintji were all sewing the seeds of my own response to the desert.

In late 2014 we knew we would be leaving the Hill, and I knew that it was now orDSCN1078 never.  The piece that had been gestating for over two years, loitering in notebooks, littering the house with its potential accumulations, had to be made.  And so, over seven months, the Desert Walking Gown emerged. And that meant making hundreds of paper thin polymer gum leaves and stitching them onto a cape by hand.  It meant making and collecting countless bones and pods.  It 88663747000E6C573meant gratefully accepting the offering of a dead emu who no longer needed all her feathers.

It felt like a ritual.  It felt like a reflection on my time here, discovering the beauty and harshness of this country, responding to the depth and dignity of the-19746920664B712B76 landscape.  Learning to love a place that wasn’t Nepal.  As my labour became more intense over the past  last weeks, it has felt more special.

I don’t know whether my Desert Walking Gown has been accepted for the -8316649256D301D7Exhibition. I will be euphoric if it is selected. (And, if I am honest, disappointed if it isn’t) But it has been a wonderful experience making it. It has felt very vulnerable, very congruent, very authentic.  I can’t sing. This is my love song to the outback.

Firsts and Lasts

The Broken Hill lasts are starting.  With only a month remaining here in this town I have grown to love, I am experiencing the This is the last time I will…. phase.  DSCN1493Sunday was my last class as a resident teacher and it has to be said that I have been spoiled here.  I reckon that my students on Broken Hill are up there with the best. They are so enthusiastic, committed, encouraging, brave(!) and patient.  We have lots of fun, lots of laughs and I am constantly inspired by what they make.

I try to make my classes enjoyable for those who like to learn a technique AND forDSCN1488 those who would just love to finish something. And preferable wear it! And underneath it all is my passionate conviction that each and every one of us is creative. Each class member receives a little card with a hand written message about creativity (selected by the universe!) and we share these at the start.  So often, people have said that a message was spot on for them.  (Read what gorgeous Deb said about her message from Neil Gaiman* here).

DSCN1476Last week we had a bloke come to the Fantastic Fold class (with Lamingtons!) and he produced a very fetching snake, cufflinks, a brooch to be and a room full of admirers.  The rest of us made bracelets, cuffDSCN1472 bangles and a wide array of beads.

My regulars wanted to learn how to make little figures like some of my Ladies of Colour and that was what we did yesterday. It was the first time I had taught these to this group.  To any group!  They produced gorgeous girls of colour, verve and chutzpah, just like them! Because it was my last class here for a while we finished with champers and nibbles.  Thanks to the ever patient Ian for kicking us off and so faithfully letting me in so I didn’t ever have to set off alarms.  (I have DSCN1486done this in the past and consequently have a wee phobia about.)

These Broken Hill polymeristas have so much drive, talent and a sense of fun so I do hope that they continue with their addiction. I sense they will!

*Neil Gaiman’s words about mistakes are some of my favourites. At least one person gets them each class:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying newDSCN1495 things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

DSCN1490So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.


The one about the girl on the rock

Yesterday, Knows-a-thing-or-two-Wendy suggested a walk in the bush. As often Sign Nine Milehappens when Knows-a-thing-or-two-Wendy makes a suggestion, there was resistance. To-Do-Wendy pointed out all the other things that were more pressing. Couldn’t-be-bothered Wendy…couldn’t be bothered. Earthquake-survivor-Wendy (she’s a new one) had concerns about the possibility of the earth moving out there without anyone knowing where she was. But Knows-a-thing-or-two Wendy played her trump card.  There is something out there just for you she said.

At that, Needing-Found-Objects-for-the-latest-creation Wendy laced up everyone’sNine Mile 1 runners and said Let’s go.

It’s been a month since I was in Nepal running out of buildings. I ran from the Samunnat building at least 6 times over 3 days and lost count of how many times we ran from Kopila’s house. We slept on the ground. I slept in hearing aids!

The overwhelming sense for me was there is absolutely NOTHING I can do. Yes, I Nine Mile Rockcould run from the building (and I do know there’s some debate about the wisdom of this but I wasn’t going to risk being crushed) but even that didn’t guarantee I would not be knocked out by debris or swallowed up by cracks that we feared would appear in our safe haven paddy. We could do nothing except try to balance, hold one another and wait for the earth to stop pitching. And we did this several times.

The first earthquake was unexpected. With all the aftershocks there was fear plus the effects of lack of sleep and sustained hyper vigilance.  We had a cup of water on the table, watching for any signs that we needed to down tools and run. Some watched the endlessly repeated images of collapsing buildings or grieving families. Others circulated the rumours, the horrible, horrible rumours of the next massive quake…it will be at 7.00, or be centred at Ilam or will measure over 9 on the Richter scale.

There’s nothing like a good rumour to add to the tension.

I became the sour faced Yes, there may well be another one but we don’t know when girl. Like that helped.

I feel fragile. Arriving home before the second spate of earthquakes I felt guilty.Roos Events are BE* or AE*. I note the time elapsed since the earthquake. Friends report that I startle easily and I flinch at rumbling trucks or certain musical beats. I don’t sleep well and it still occurs to me that an earthquake might happen while I’m in the shower.  I reflected on all this as I walked in the ancient, scrubby country I’ve grown to love. Every now and then I’d wander up a rough roo track searching for the something I knew I’d find. Eventually, the sun broke through glowering clouds and I sat on a rock and thought I’m going to cry. But I didn’t.

Instead, I did find something…a sense of peace about how I am now. I know it is not normal normal. But two well-timed emails from others who’d had a similar experience (one far worse!) helped me to see that it is normal considering what’s happened.   I know things will improve. They already are. I slept better last night. Maybe soon I’ll get back to emails…..

*Before the Earthquake/ After the Earthquake