Earrings as Rehab and why to dye your Anti Embolism Elastic Stockings

Recently I had surgery – 12 hours – as a result of a cancer diagnosis. I researched my  options*, read endlessly and participated in forums. There was  advice, gory pictures and what they can do would have been FASCINATING if it wasn’t being done to me!

Once I made my decision I researched what to take into hospital etc. There was lots of great advice but no-one mentioned earrings. Can you believe this? No-one! I’d been told that my hospital stay would be 7-10 days so I packed the 9 pairs of earrings pictured.  As it turned out I should have packed 3 more pairs but we aren’t to know these things.  You will notice that these aren’t all made by me. My selection included my beloved Heidi Helyard and Genevieve Williamson earrings  and some I made using turquoise from Nepal. I didn’t worry about matching those appalling hospital gowns of baby blue or white but chose what felt fun.

On the first day post surgery even I was not thinking about earrings but I began wearing my earrings on day 2. Wearing some pairs required more chutzpah than I could muster in hospital so, when you are wondering about which earrings to take into hospital after huge surgery my advice would be to remember that you may not feel oomphy enough to wear the big face ones.

What are the advantages of post operative earrings?

  1. Nursing/ medical staff have something to talk with you about apart from your bodily functions. They are reminded that beneath this sutured, anxious, shuffling exterior is a woman who loves her earrings and doesn’t really feel awake until she is earringed up!
  2. Physiotherapists can distract you from the discomfort of movement by asking you how you made your earrings;
  3. You can distract your self from the discomfort of movement by telling them;
  4. Your family, who know that if you’re not wearing  lipstick or earrings they should be worried, don’t have to worry;
  5. Hospital staff can be astonished that one woman owns so many pairs of earrings (if only they knew);
  6. Prolonged hospital stays can make you a bit blasé about hiding parts of your body that are normally hidden. Earrings provide somewhere for people to look if you’ve forgotten to pop the cotton gown over the normally hidden bit. And finally
  7. Wearing earrings reminded ME that I was not just the mightily sutured, anxious, shuffling, barely competent woman I felt like for a while there. I may not have been able to get out of bed independently but by golly I once made nice earrings and would again!  I may not have been able to make a heap of decisions or choices but I could choose my earrings for the day! 

    My thank you present to the staff many weeks later was a big box of Wendy-made earrings and I hope they each found a pair they loved.

    I’ve been surrounded by the love of so many throughout this whole thing. I visualised myself floating on a cloud of this love even as I was being wheeled into theatre. The love took so many forms: special cushions, flowers, nighties, books and puzzles, lucky undies, messages, phone calls, snacks, essential oils, visits, games, jigsaws, regular check-ins, patience with my appalling communication…the list goes on. My friend Libby, seeing the damage that a month of wearing TED stocking (anti embolism compression stockings) might do to me, came around and dyed one pair a deep magenta and one pair a practical but less institutionalised black!  I am deeply grateful to be at this side of my experience and profoundly aware of how different my experience has been to that of women in Nepal for whom diagnosis is made much later and treatment options often very limited.  This has made me more determined that ever to do whatever I can to make some sort of difference over there.

*and clearly my first response was not calmly researching options. I began with a somewhat head-in-the-sand approach which I think is pretty common. Everyone will make different decisions and mine won’t be right for everyone but was right for me. I just needed to take time to make a decision based on what was best for me in the long term instead of what meant I could get back to doing everything I always did ASAP.

Remembering Tory

Today I am especially remembering my colourful, intense, glorious and talented friend Tory. To me she embodied rigorous curiosity and openness and helped me to take myself seriously as an artist. She was also very funny and I miss her.

We ran out of time to do all the things we had planned but we had lots of fun and learnt so much in the planning.


My Wild and Precious Life

Tell me, what is it you plan to do 

With your one wild and precious life?

The wonderful and sorely missed Mary Oliver asks this question in The Summer Day. The way I think about that question has changed.  I used to say I wanted to fit it all in. To savour every secondsuck out the marrow of life and do as much as I can. I wanted to make every second count and enthusiastically agreed with an energetic friend who encouraged busyness saying You spend a lot of time lying down when you are dead.

I still want to savour but now I believe that a second counts even if I am not cramming a billion tasks into it. I am letting go of seeing exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as a measure of self worth*.  I hunger for times of slowness, stillness. This morning, I stopped my run mid way and walked to a favourite rock and just sat. I watch hot air balloons float and land. I listened to birdsong. I watched a shy black wallaby forage in the dirt, oblivious of my presence. I felt my breathe enter and leave my body, becoming part of the crisp air around me.

Somewhat tragically, I also had conversation in my head where I had to tell myself NOT to think about the difference in calories burnt between sitting and running. I am trying to change my attitude to food and exercise – to approach both with joy and intuition. But that is another story.  I gently told Calorie Burning girl that I appreciated her help but that right now, birdsong and stillness were what I needed.  She seemed fine. She enjoys a good morning walk too.

In other exciting news I am teaching again! Woohoo. After months of procrastination (not to be confused with savouring stillness) I have finally signed contract with the Ainslie Arts Centre and will be doing classes in one of their lovely rooms once a month.  In the first class on Sunday March 17 is Earrings 101 and creators will leave having made three unique pairs of earrings. Spaces are filling fast (beside myself!!!) but email soon if you are interested in these or any of the classes. All are on a Sunday and most hover around the third Sunday of the month as long as I am not in Nepal.

And related to that, a tutorial of mine has been accepted by Anke, Sage and the team of The Polymer Studio magazine. More news to come!  Many of the pieces in the accompanying photos are (or will soon be) for sale at Trove or Yack Station. You can’t have enough Splash jewellery really.

2019: Suck it Up!

For over a decade* I chose a Word of the Year (WotY) and the dedicated among you can read about this at your leisure because I have blogged about it since 2009**.

I searched old posts because I was trying to work out when I stopped but I always knew it was 2015.  In 2009 I focussed; in 2010 I opened and in 2011 I reflected on courage but didn’t hyperlink anything.  In 2012 I learnt more about WordPress and I laughed In 2013 I listened; in 2014 I got greedy (or afraid of getting it wrong) and created and connected.  And then I stopped.   I did send you all a nice blessing in 2016 but nothing about WotYs.  I think it is positive that I am doing both again.

There’s a few approaches to WotY. One is described here and I combine that approach with my own choose a cloud technique (Patent Pending. Ha Ha).  Family members and friends sometimes ask me to choose one for them.  There is nothing woo woo about it.  I sit and think of that person and send them a blessing of lovingkindness…May they be filled with lovingkindness; May they be well; May they be peaceful and at ease; May they be happy.

You could do worse.

And then I choose a cloud from my lovely Nepali bag. I don’t cheat. I don’t edit or swap. I just note it down. If you are reading this I have probably chosen one for you. If I haven’t, I will. Just ask. A New Year’s gift.  I remade all the clouds yesterday because the others were getting worn and I eliminated words I wouldn’t want like endure, or anything that implied suck it up, brace yourself , it’s going to be another shocker etc.  My word is SAVOUR which I like. I will try to remember to ask myself How would this activity/ day/ moment be if I bought the quality of savouring to it?  I hope that savouring will help me to notice, to observe, to slow down.  And maybe to create in response to. Who knows? I am looking forward to seeing what thinking about this word brings!

For a good NY Day read this to read all that Kerrie Sackville didn’t achieve in 2018!

*Earlier WotYs have been recorded in journals. Based on this blog, the word for 2009 was focus; 2010 was openness; and 2011 was courage

**Gosh, August 2019 will mark ten years of sporadic blogging. there should be an award for that!


Getting lost and finding more than you hoped for

It was one of those magical Kathmandu days today. I will tell anyone who listens that I really don’t like Kathmandu and that I head east as soon as I can, but this dusty, crowded, busy city has charms and shows them when you approach with low expectations and openness.

I was apprehensive about finding a fabric shop but I told myself to adopt a growth mindset. I reminded myself that this day was a gift with no time pressures so I could take all day to be lost and found again. I could  wander down unknown roads and discover places I didn’t know about. It just got more fun as the day went on.

Faltering Nepali direction seeking led to lots of happy chats.  And the shop was a veritable Aladdin’s cave of glorious fabrics in a dark corner on the third floor of a department store.  Having found it, there was nothing I had to do but feel very proud of myself and then set off to discover more.

So I followed a fairy floss man. As you do. I discovered the French Bakery which sold gluten free food…and a Vegemite latte which even if it was gluten free I would not have tried. I could have got gluten free spaghetti there if it hadn’t been mid morning.

I was looking for small gifts for my darling grandchildren so it may seem surprising that I headed into a shop of fabulously colourful adult sized shoes. When these two good ladies realised I had grandchildren…out came the children’s shoes.  We decided that I needed measurements but either this trip of the next my grandchildren will have JUST the shoes they need for Nepali day at Pre School.  Or dress ups! And…they will match mine. How good is that?

PS WordPress seems to have changed something and I can’t work out how to get photos to go where I want. So you kind of have them all at the end. Sorry about that and I will approach learning about this with a growth mindset when I get home!!!


Starting again. Again.

It’s been just over a year since I posted here. This used to be such a regular thing, something I enjoyed doing. Recently a couple of darling friends have asked whether they have missed posts. No.

I haven’t been posting.

But as in meditation there is no limit to the times you can start again so I am.  I’ve decided to leave Instagram and Facebook in the New year. Leaving Facebook will be a joy. I was only there as a requirement to be part of a group and that may not be an issue for ever. Instagram will be different. I will miss some aspects and seeing the work of some people. It IS a way of staying connected, albeit tenuously. But it messes with my brain and I am trying an experiment for at least 6 months where I don’t use it.

Blogging here used to feel bit like writing a letter to the darling handful of regular readers.  I loved it and am looking forward to using it like that again. Sharing stuff I have made, read or am thinking about.  I’m writing this sitting in my bedroom in Nepal where I have just over a week remaining. We’ve done stacks. Worked on a new commission, new designs, addressed procedural drift and laughed our selves silly.  We sent off our mightily proofread draft for our second sex education book yesterday and during that proof reading process I vowed I wasn’t ever doing another book. Three days and one gin and tonic later and we have finished the draft for the third – a book about protective behaviours. The ladies’ reaction when we read it today (this is a collaborative process) was almost overwhelming and I know we are onto a good thing.

I have read several books including Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Eve in Hollywood by Amor Towles.  I adored Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak (although it did take a little effort tot get into. Well worth it I thought!) I got a lot from Joy by Ingrid Fetell Lee and not much from An Audience of One by Srinivas Rao.  The former explored things deeply and thoughtfully and I felt the latter skimmed over the surface. I expected something quite different to what I got. I found much that was resonant in All of Us in Our Own Lives by Manjushree Thapa, a Nepali writer.  Her observations of the world of international aid were very recognisable.  I am currently really really enjoying Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett. So so much in this book!

La (as we say over here), here are some vignettes from my life over the past few weeks. Namaste to whoever is here! 

Why I love face to face teaching and other observations on life

In the absence of blogging I have been teaching and making which is what it is all about really isn’t it?  A group of us have recently been exploring colour and making lots of glorious jewellery in the Intrinsic Colour classes. On August 6 we start the three classes that make up my Extrinsic Colour (Colour 102) series. Read about it here. (Scroll down) Each class is totally self contained but they do work wonderfully as a series and those who have done all three classes so far, I think/ hope would agree. In the Intrinsic colour series (Colour 101) they used monochromatic, analogous and complementary colour schemes and created their own personal palettes.

We’d all agree that we’ve pushed our selves in terms of colour choices and made some surprising and delightful discoveries. I love watching the transformation from tentative I will do this because Wendy said to take risks and be brave to WOW! I actually really like this. I can’t deny though that there is a lot of Ooooh, I love what you have done as well! Some participants deliberately chose colours they NEVER wore and discovered some really exciting palettes.

We shared the ways we have learnt so much from different colour gurus like Maggie Maggio, Lindly Haunani, Tracy Holmes, Carolyn Good.  We talk about the things that worked for us; the strategies that kept us energised and courageous in our use of colour. And about the things that kept us organised and grounded!

And that is the joy of face to face classes. I love the videos and pdf tutorials as much as the next woman but the joy of sharing discoveries, learning from one another, the encouragement and sister/ brotherhood that comes from old fashioned classes will win me every time. In our last class we had one participant who was nervous that she wasn’t creative and had never done a class before.  She was convinced her bossy sister was the creative one until the aforementioned bossy sister bossed her into doing a class.  All of us old timers resonated with her delighted observation that it is so absorbing!

In August and September, I will be teaching three more classes but this time, rather than looking at the inherent colour properties of polymer, we will be exploring the ways we can add colour to polymer. And the first class will focus on the stuff we probably have lying around the house! No purchases to be made, just some tidying perhaps??

Getting your Colour Fix this Winter

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.

The F words

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!

Reading, doing, simple steps

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.