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.

From my Archives: The delights of staring

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

Hile 2010

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!

Classes for 2017

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!

Ronna’s secret handshake

35f027_9ee5cbee1e954e29b7202e3c98bfadb8.jpg_srz_979_1464_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzI 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 whoAHumpert-eyes-333x450 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!

 

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Learning to “sing”

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!

Classy cuffsFor 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 toIMG_5101 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!

IMG_0263KBV 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!