My Heidis and the Ainslie Opera Singer

I refer to my earrings by the name of the makers. The other day I wore my Kates and later you will see my Gens and my Lindlys. Today it’s My Heidis.  I like to think I was one of  Heidi Helyard’s   earliest fans.  In a world abundantly well supplied with earrings, Heidi’s shine for being so distinctive.  She sings so clearly with her own voice (little link to the singer I mention later!).  I love these ones which combine Heidi’s love of colour and design with her love of needlework! You can see in the detailed photo to see how she has embellished my earrings with cotton as well as texture.

Heidi nurtures the community of polymer artists and approaches the medium with freshness and enthusiasm without ignoring techniques and artists from the past.  I subscribe to only a handful of things but one of those things is Heidi’s Studio Scraps, a weekly newsletter of inspiration, tips and ideas.  She’s a gem. I am a bit in awe of her and if she wasn’t so gorgeous I might even feel a bit inadequate and lazy!!

Today when I wore my Heidis up on the hill I heard opera singing. Hearing anything in my case is quite something and hearing opera singing in the Australian bush is REALLY something. I was following one of my kangaroo tracks and there she was: a tiny lady with jet black hair wearing bright yellow pants and a blue cap singing opera from a red folder. Just standing there! I sat on a rock, she didn’t notice me, and just listened until she finished and we smiled at each other.  No photos because I forgot my phone which I see as a sign of personal growth.

I wonder whether she went home and blogged about a silver haired woman wearing tattered black leggings, a threadbare maroon T shirt and FABULOUS earrings just wandering through the bush like she owned the place?

The best laid plans…

Today’s photos was meant to be be in a hospital bed with a bandaged head or an apology for no photo due to drug induced grogginess. I had it all planned!

Last year I was going to have a cochlear implant*. The plans for that were blown out of the water when I had to have surgery for cancer.  Today I was going to have a second go at that cochlear implant. Those plans got blown sky high by COVID19. I’d been expecting cancellation call for days and when it came I was a bit relieved as I didn’t want to end up with a heap of chunky, expensive hardware in my head that then couldn’t be activated due to a lock down. But…part of me was a bit sad. Another go at the build up, at readying myself for the months of post operative therapy. As they say in Nepal, ke garne?**

So today I am wearing earrings and a necklace that help me to connect with that positive, optimistic part of me who knows that if this is the worst thing the virus can mean for me, I will be happy!  I love these earrings and wear them a lot. Maybe because I wear purple a lot! But also because this ensemble makes me feel brave. I wore it to several medical appointments last year. When I wear this I remember that I am not just a scared woman but that I am a WELL ACCESSORISED scared woman. And that makes a difference!

*I am as deaf as the proverbial post. Fortunately I am a red hot lip reader but that is useless when people wear masks!

**Trans: What can you do? It is an expression of resignation accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders.

Earrings for rediscovering rocky canyons

Yesterday’s post was short. Today’s is a bit longer with more pictures. You have been warned.

These DIVINE earrings were made by the immensely talented and very lovely Kate Lee Foley.  Yes, I am a big time fan girl.  Kate and I had connected via Instagram but then properly met and discovered we had a lot in common: we both loved using polymer clay in our work; we were both colour fans; were both just a tiny bit introverted and both had huge respect and love for Tory Hughes. When we met we were further united in our grief at Tory’s recent and sudden passing.

Kate and I were to have travelled to Nepal on a Colourful Journey together and Kate eventually went but I had to pull out due to my rearrangement of bodily bits.  Her photos were so wonderful though and she actually wrote about the experience for the latest edition of Polymer Week magazine.

A while back as I wondered around on my beloved Mt. Ainslie, I met a bloke who built stone circles. We got talking, bloke and I, and, one thing led to another and before you know it I had accepted his invitation to come up and see my etchings…no, sorry… stone circles. Totally innocent…just two slightly eccentric people recognising one another’s eccentricity. So he took me on a walk which culminated in a fabulous and unexpected small canyon. I tried again a few weeks later to find it from another direction and found it but was physically unable to do the steep climb down to it still being in the recovery phase from the aforementioned bodily bits rearrangement.

Anyhoo, today, to my ABSOLUTE DELIGHT, wearing my Kate Foleys, I found it! I was almost in tears as I approached…partly thinking about how much better I was physically than last time I was there; and partly from joy at working out how to find it again; and partly because I feel very sad about how things are right now and in beautiful places this tenderness is almost too hard to bear.  There was a sense of sacred amidst the horror.

And because I was wearing these particular earrings, I was perfectly accessorised.

They Call Me the Wild Rose…

The sound track to accompany these earrings would be this and that was the sound track I tunelessly hummed as I made them.  Lucky I work alone!

It is one of those days when overwhelm is lurking at the edges of everything.  I got a text this morning from my elder daughter saying that my 2 year old grandson asked, out of the blue, Grandma Wendy train? Well that nearly did me in because Grandma Wendy can’t come on the train and it all seems a bit hard and sad. So…simple and fun earrings for complex and not fun times! My mum talks about golden moments and in times of shittiness we remind each other about them…noticing and savouring the golden moments; not missing them just because they are fleeting. Or small. Or not the ones we wanted or planned.  We need to see the ones that are here in this present moment and savour them. Not grasp them. Just savour them. Om.

I learnt how to make the lovely loose spiral in the top of the earrings from a free tutorial here that Cynthia mentioned in a PCD years ago. I love the graphic spontaneity of it.  And the bottom component was cut from a veneer I made using slices of lace canes which I made using a technique similar to that shown here.  And the gorgeous pink is Honeysuckle which I made from one of Carolyn Good’s fabulous colour recipes. Hoping that these little earring tales bring a smile however slight. Maybe even a golden moment.

Small earrings

Another walk in the hills. Lots of people were up there. We all kept the appropriate social distance of course and said hello in that we aren’t going to mention it either kind of way.  I suspect there will be an increase in walking in the hills, gardening and cataloguing earring collections.  I collected some pink leaves to replace the browned ones in one of my garden mandalas. Some walkers passing by told M that they call our house Doris’s House because they have christened my lady Doris.  I think I call her Ghausala when I don’t refer to her as my lady!

Today I am wearing serious face furniture. My gorgeous earrings are created by the ever so clever Anna Small of A Small Art Factory. Anna and her husband usually make garden sculpture so technically I guess this is garden sculpture for the ears.  I love them because of how they look and how they remind me of being at my beloved WOMAD many years ago and actually meeting Anna when we bought a garden sculpture. As you do at world music festivals. The earrings accessorise a slightly grubby There is No Planet B t shirt in lichen green and grey running leggings. (Apologies to Kitty Flanagan but I was being active until ten minutes ago!)

Thank You Anna. I hope you are and stay healthy.

Earrings for hill walks


Today’s earrings accessorised the walk I did up the hill- taking a friend to the labyrinth and other favourite pilgrimage sights on Mt Ainslie. We kept the required social distance apart and I took his mountain goat comments as a compliment.  My earrings were made by the truly amazing Wendy Jorre de St Jorre.   A few years ago Wendy and our friend Pam stayed here after they taught at the Cotter Contemporary Craft Retreat. (Speaking of which, all things being equal, I will be teaching at in October this year. Come and join us!!)

I saw Wendy making and reducing her amazing canes and was stunned to learn that she was relative newcomer to polymer clay art. My goodness she’d learnt a lot in a short time! Her canes are astonishing and what she makes with them is beautiful and immaculately finished.  Things you just love to keep touching because they are so smooth and beautifully crafted.  I couldn’t resist earrings and a pendant and could easily have bought so much more. I had this image, before I met Wendy, of what someone who made canes like this would be like. Kind of deeply introverted, intense and aloof. THIS IS SO NOT WENDY!!! She is utterly down to earth and so generous sharing her tips and knowledge.  Every time I wear these I feel lucky to have met her.  Here is a great interview that Ginger from Blue Bottle Tree did with her which talks about the tree project.

Socially Distant Earrings

This will be the second time in less than a year that earrings have been part of a stress management technique.  I am more or less self isolating so matching earrings are not such an issue. For as long as social distancing/ isolation goes on,  I thought I’d wear a different pair of earrings from my close at hand collection. That is, the ones stored in my up-cycled dart board earring storage*.  I was going to say that there was not a whiff of Marie Kondo about this collection but that is not true! If they are up here it is because they do bring me joy! Every day, I will photograph the earrings I am wearing (maybe sometimes even of me wearing them) and upload them and a short comment to Instagram at @sociallydistantearrings

So…today’s earrings!

Strange times call for slightly strange earrings. These girls fit the bill. My polymer journey really began when I wanted to make a face cane having seen some beads in a market in Sydney’s Rocks district. This was decades ago, pre internet, pre guilds, pre related books really. There were hardly any books on polymer in Australia and so it was all trial and error. Pretty much all error really and my first face canes looked enraged or demented.  With years of practice and learning from all that error, I now teach a technique (when we can gather together again!) where people can make a face cane with a reasonable expression on their first go!!

As a friend pointed out when we passed at a safe social distance, she has to be at least 1.5m away to really focus on these girls so they are almost disease management.

*Well it seems I have not done a post about my up-cycled dart board earrings storage so I will!

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.