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! 

Polymer Journeys!

There is a lot going on right now as the profound silence from my blog would PJ%202015%20Front%20Cover%20WEb%20smsuggest! Tomorrow I head back to Birtamod for a few weeks of training. A major challenge for today is fitting a rather hefty vibratory tumbler into a suitcase so it survives a bumpy journey. The past weeks have been spent working out how to use the aforementioned tumbler but I think I have it sorted now. Enough to teach the girls!

I also spent time with the generous and talented Cindy Verheul who taught me how to make silver findings so that the women in Nepal can now do thisPJ2016%20Cover%20back themselves too. I am not sure about Cindy, but was there not a vibratory tumbler at home waiting to be attended to, I could have spent hours with her picking her kind hearted brain!!

And while I am in Nepal, all things being equal ( because you HAVE to use that phrase when you plan anything in Nepal) we will be celebrating together the release of Polymer Journeys by the indefatigable Sage Bray! We are all a tiny bit beside ourselves to have photos of our work included alongside polymer artists from all over the world. Sage has collated this work to celebrate the wealth of talent and beautiful art emerging from artists using polymer. She hopes to publish this every two years or so. The book will be available in digital and hard cover and we hope we can share the digital version together on the 14th April when it is released.

Massive congratulations to Wendy…not me!

WendyJorredestjorre_002_-_finalIt has just been announced that the amazing Wendy Jorre de St.Jorre from WA is the Grand Prize Winner of the International Polymer Clay Award 2015 for her beautiful sculpture, Grace.  This is a huge honour!!!!! I was so thrilled to hear this. Proud to share the continent with her.  Even if we are on opposite sides of it!

I own a necklace and matching earrings by Wendy and love myself sick whenever IDSCN2223 wear them. They are stunning, I feel gorgeous in them, and the finish is superb. She is an inspiration and I so look forward to meeting her properly at the Contemporary Craft Retreat later this year.

Wendy, hearty congratulations from the nation’s capital!

Pomegranates and a poem

DSCN2220This poem resonated over the last couple of days.  And in my stillness I made pendants inspired by my beloved pomegranates. Symbols of abundance, patience, beauty and love.  I strung them on beading wire threaded with tiny silver pipes and beads from Kathmandu.  I don’t seem to be over this pod/ seed thing yet.

Just For Now” by Danna Faulds

Just for now, without asking how, let yourself sink into stillness.

Just for now, lay down the
weight you so patientlyDSCN2219
bear upon your shoulders.
Feel the earth receive
you, and the infinite
expanse of sky grow even
wider as your awareness
reaches up to meet it.

Just for now, allow a wave of breath to enliven your experience.

Breathe out
whatever blocks you from
the truth. Just for now, be
DSCN2217boundless, free, awakened
energy tingling in your
hands and feet. Drink in
the possibility of being
who and what you really are
so fully alive that when you
open your eyes the world
looks different, newly born
and vibrant, just for now.

I’m OK to go

You know how some weeks you think you’re being told something? This is one of those weeks. I am being reminded to remain open, to be curious and to have courage.

Now this is partly because I have stuck post it notes strategically around the houseimages reminding me but I did this in response to getting the nudges and wanting to remember them even when I wasn’t being …reflective!

And this has evolved into a mantra.  I’m channelling Ellie Arroway in Contact. Yup, folks. Hollywood. I had forgotten what a great movie it was but we watched it again this week when the I’m OK to go line became a bit of a catch phrase for various family members this week! Ellie’s not just telling the folks in control that she’s OK to go. She’s reminding/ convincing/ reassuring herself.

Courage is not fearlessness. Courage is being OK to go in the direction that seems best, even if you are afraid; even if you aren’t sure of what lies ahead or what outcomes will be. Courage is going with openness and curiosity; dropping the story lines you attach to things and trying to see things simply as they are.  Courage takes practice.

I’m OK to go.




DSCN2167I love pods and seeds (See my Pinterest favourites here). In funny old times it is not surprising that I am drawn to playing with the hope-filled shapes of pods and seeds and the calming colours of our wonderful eucalyptus gums…olive tinged ivories, or almost pearlescent whites with a hint of copper. Beautiful.

I have a made a few of theseDSCN2176 into BIG necklaces…the pods connected with hand shaped wire or links.  Others are a single pod hung from rich cream cords made using string and cotton salvaged from the BHRAG excess string box! I love that even the cords are hand made by me. And the metaphor of the rope, not so strong on its own but really strong when it’s twisted….

Strength, hope, openness. Good to ponder. When assembled and DSCN2169photographed, these pieces will be for sale!


Contemporary Craft Retreat-soothing the October soul

What does my soul crave by October? There are moments of being manically DSCN2109frazzled. Or stupefiedly overwhelmed.  My soul craves serenity. Calm. Completion. And the chance to play. My soul craves the opportunity to make peaceful repetitive movements and then unpredictably lash out theatrically and express my inner rebel.

So, in a ridiculously overambitious way (Hello! Tell me I am not alone here?) I have attempted to make my Mandala Angels class for the Contemporary Craft Retreat at Greenhills, Cotter Dam meet all those desires! Hooee!!! Why not go for it big time!DSCN2117

I had a lot of fun preparing for the class so hope those doing the class do too! Lots of other classes are available if serene mania doesn’t appeal. Perhaps I will see you there?

Art as Therapy: Appreciation

Such is the power of art: It is both witness to and celebrator of the value of the ordinary, which we so IMG_0080.JPGfrequently forsake in our quests for artificial greatness, a kind of resensitization tool that awakens us to the richness of our daily lives.    (Maria Popova, Brainpickings)

Nearly all my art is a celebration. Countless posts on this blog reveal that. More often than not, I am celebrating my good fortune at having another day to experience the miracle that it is to walk the earth. (Thich Nhat Hanh) The angel pictured (left) was created to celebrate the arrival of myDSCN2149 grand daughter.

I appreciate birds, feathers, family, colour, friends and freedom, silver hair and the darling Labrador who cured me of my animal phobia.  (While the link between the necklace on the right and that darling animal may not be abundantly clear, take my word for it. He is very much a part of it).

That’s the end of my reflections on Maria Popova’s great essay about Art as Therapy by Alain de Boton and John Armstrong. It was a fun way to make me really read!

Art as Therapy: Growth

Obviously, there is great overlap in the functions of art that de Boton and Armstrong describe.  I just DSCN2146know that if I try to make something in response to something I read, I am more likely to read mindfully and try to absorb the essence or lessons from what I read. This little exercise of selecting past work that reflects the functions has made me really think, rather than skim.


Aaah…growth.  Often when I make art, I am practising life skills I want more of! I think that is one of the reasons I am so passionate about teaching.  Where can I practise making an intention and staying on track to bring it to fruition…make art; Where can I practise taking risks and playfully experimenting with new ideas…make art; where can I practise openness and moving beyond my comfort zone…make art.  Where can I learn to feel comfortable with not knowing…make art!

Classes with Mel Young and Ann Evers were great opportunities to go outside my comfort zone. (The necklace featured in yesterday’s post was made in Mel’s class)  At last year’s Contemporary Craft Retreat (and more exciting news about that later!) I went to a class run by Susie McMahon where I made a head. Not a speck of polymer in sight. (Mind you there’s the unmistakable presence of two favourite elements: pods and Nepal!) Signing up required overcoming a fear of the unknown and being willing to risk failure! Skills I learnt in this class have permeated MY work in a different medium.

Let’s expand the boundaries of who we are by helping us overcome our chronic fear of the unfamiliar and live more richly by inviting the unknown. (Brainpickings)



Art as Therapy: Self-Understanding

DSCN3223We mystify ourselves. Well, I often mystify myself!

This is why I related to de Boton and Armstrong’s notion that the art we surround ourselves with, and the art we make, gives us a language to communicate something about ourselves to others when words fail.  Lately for me, poetry (others’!)  more clearly expresses my own inarticulate thoughts.  Our art too can often say things about us, or for us, when the wordsDSCN5169 are not enough.

They describe the situation where we encounter works of art that seem to latch on to something we have felt but never recognized clearly before.  I sense this recognition looking at the timber sculptures of Robyn Gordon, or the polymer art by Tory Hughes and Genevieve Williamson.

Many of my pieces were journeys in self knowledge but three stand out: a filigree box which incorporated symbols that are significant to me; a necklace I made in Broken Hill at a a time of great upheaval and a necklace that speaks of the DSCN1763relationship between me and my mother-my desire to know what it is that helps her to live well.  At least jewellery is more wearable than inchoate attempts at self expression!