Green Fingers (and a cochlear update!)

Well can I just say that it was fortunate for you lot that I didn’t write a post a couple of weeks ago when I was composing the post in my head. It would have been a miserable, self pitying rant about what giant mistake I had made getting this surgery done. I would have talked about all this green stuff I made to deal with my intense morosity. Is that a word? Should be.

But…lucky for you, finger never actually got to keyboard and time passed and BLOW ME DOWN if things didn’t improve somewhat. Everyone around me said all the things that I said as a therapist when I worked in brain injury rehabilitation…be kind to yourself, trust the process, be patient, do the homework regularly, same for everyone and it will get better. Thank goodness no one person said al of those things at once or I would possibly have decked them. And all these things were true. Life is still not acoustically rosy but it is much better and I am starting to make sense of the electronica in my brain. I no longer feel like I am living in an MRI machine (Ok, that was a slight whinge but it was such a good description of what it was like it seemed ad shame to waste it!)  The robotic speech I hear is now gendered and sometimes even inflected and I am hearing sounds I never knew were sounds! Like the washing machine coming on, referee’s whistles, car indicators. Who knew? Nearly everyone else but me.

In the midst of this I made green stuff. I used my long neglected extruder and distracted myself from my potentially giant mistake. It may have been significant that I hardly made any earrings (didn’t want to think about ears). I made wild knuckle duster rings and necklaces. And all this was a single hued (but many toned, tinted and shaded) exploration that will be enlarged on in my next post but for now…lets go GREEN!

Mellow Yellow*

Well, I’m on. As I type this, with every strike of the key, a weird buzzing in my left ear confirms that.  Yesterday was staples out and activation day and it was…OK. I was expecting worse. I don’t feel devastated.  I am curious. Maybe even hopeful??? And neurologically exhausted but that is par for the course.

People ask what the sound is like. It is very very hard to explain but go to about the 6 minute mark of this video where Peter Frampton is singing Do You Feel Like I Do and starts using his talk box. That is the closest thing I can think of to explain it. But for me right now, the words are nowhere near a recognisable as in his solo. This takes weeks.

So what does this proliferation of yellow jewellery have to do with ANY of this? I have to confess that I have been very afraid. Afraid this might not work; afraid that I don’t have the energy in me to take on the learning required; afraid that I was not up to another episode of digging deep. Afraid that none of the electrodes that were stuck in my cochlear would take. Afraid that I would  be left worse off than before. And obviously, the way to go…the way any NORMAL person would deal with this…was to explore that fear in jewellery form.  And it is most emphatically not that I associate yellow with cowardice. I LOVE yellow. Yellow is sunshine and confidence and fields of mustard flowers in Nepal and fields of canola in Australia and Vincent Van Gogh and amber and wonderful things! It is the second favourite colour after red of just about every Nepali women I have ever asked!! But…I rarely create with yellow and I even more rarely wear it. I was…afraid of yellow. So working with something I was afraid of, immersing myself in it to the extent that it was the only colour I could use, is kind of a symbol of facing my fear. I mixed many many yellows and just spent hours surrounded by yellow. Really looking at yellow. Feeling more confident abut yellow. Letting yellow seep deep into me. The way I need to do with this buzzing.

Mellow Yellow, Do You Feel….anyone would think I was a child of the 60s!

Hear ye, Hear ye!

Last week on my sporadically frequented social media accounts I posted a photo of some pieces I made to mark the beginning of another journey! Most of you know that I am deaf as a post (diagnostic terminology) and that I could have got a cochlear implant years ago.  I finally got it last week (and can I just say that I had underestimated just a tad how uncomfortable the post surgery period would be).  This is very much the beginning of the journey because an implant doesn’t amplify sound like a hearing aid does, but transmits an electronic sounds. My brain has to be retrained to recognise this sound and this will take time and effort and more of that later. THAT starts with my activation tomorrow.

Back to the post. I decided, as you do, to mark the various stages of this journey with my making and made these pieces over the days before the surgery.  I wanted to incorporate the motifs of shells because the cochlear is a shell shaped structure and the cilia, the nerve endings.  I chose calming, gentle colours because I needed to be calmed and gentled!

I used a ball stylus to hand etch the shell designs then applied layers of the gorgeous Pan pastels. Then I used several ball styluses (stylii?) to make the dot and cilia marks before applying more layers of pastel.  I used Cara Jane’s lovely surfboard templates to make the earrings and a brooch held with a magnet. More to come as I negotiate the slightly daunting road ahead but I know the negotiation will be easier if done creatively!

Stamping, stamping and more stamping

The stamping experiments continue! Ironically, there has been something very liberating about restricting myself to exploration in one area.  Using the outie form* of my stamps and pastels I returned to a colour palette that was me several years ago and created what I call my relics.  Friends and family would talk about Wendy colours and knew this meant emerald, magenta, turquoise and ultramarine (give or take).  In these pieces, I sometimes augmented the impression of the stamp with additional texture makers and then added more texture by pressing the completed piece with a texture sponge.  This also helped to embed the pastel chalks into the clay.

Many of my homemade stamps were leaf forms and certainly there has been a leafy theme to my latest experiments.  I combined my stamps, pastels and, for the earring components, silk screens by Helen Breil and made a bangle and a couple of forms that I will make into BIG BEADS!!  There was something about these that reminded me of my childhood and some research yielded barkcloth.  This led into a bit of an online rabbit hole but I got lots more ideas about designs and saw that everything old gets new again!! So many of the new fabric designs we are currently seeing borrow heavily from mid century barkcloth patterns!

For lots of inspiration and ideas, you might like to subscribe to Heidi Helyard’s Studio Scraps which is a fabulous read each week.  I get easily overwhelmed by words (I know, ironic!) and Heidi has the perfect sized newsletter of tips, techniques, prompts and links.  And who knows what you might read about in coming months or weeks!?  I also feel a class coming on so watch this space.

*technical terms! The outies are the stamps that have fine raised lines so leave large flat areas when used. The innies have the lines carved into them so leave lines when pressed.  I had a photo of the outies in my last post and here are the innies!

The evolution of a purist…

Hello my darling ladies,

(Going out on a limb a bit there re gender! Correct me if I am wrong)

I dropped the ball a bit with my daily posts (we could all see that coming) but it was mindful ball dropping. I began enthusiastically at the start of the lockdown but the internet got so bloody noisy so I kept wearing my daily earrings and posted them on @sociallydistantearrings on Instagram but stopped rambling on. The internet version of whispering I hope.

I have been walking. A lot. I am very lucky to have a great place to walk within ten paces of my back door. I sometimes spend several hours walking, stopping to meditate or make mandala type thingies. (I only use seeds and pods and leaves as I am mindful of not moving rocks etc.) Then I come home and head to my studio where I have been exploring some new techniques (for me).

True confessions time….when I began with polymer in the dim dark depths of time over 30 years ago, I was bit of a purist. I was…a caner.  And only a caner. I prided myself in saying, often in bold capital letters, no paint has been used. You could almost imagine me crossing my fingers in front of my face.  I loved caning with a passion (if you are wondering WTF I am talking about read this). I still do love caning and I make some really really complex canes.

But over the last few years I have come to understand (call me a slow learner) that caning is just a tool…a process. It is just one way for me to say what I want to say or to express the idea I want to express. Other fabulously exciting and effective ways include surface treatments like painting, texturing, carving and printing.  I have done all these things for ages but realised the purist still lurked a bit telling me that this was somehow less…pure. Well, I have told the purist to be buggered and am having a heap of fun. The best fun is actually combining the techniques.

It was a bit like saying I only cook Nepalese food.  Or I would cook other cuisines but that when I did that, I wasn’t really cooking. Now I am exploring a heap of cuisines now and, guess what, it is all cooking!

Recently, I’ve been looking at the work of a number of ceramic artists and I love how they used stamps. I decided to try carving myself some stamps from scrap clay and then set myself the challenge of using these in ten different ways. This been such a good exercise!! I will post more photos in a few days and hope you enjoy seeing how one thing can trigger such fun!


Backbone jewellery

I can’t quite recall what got me onto reading Genevieve Williamson‘s blog but I am so glad I started. After a nanosecond I signed up for her newsletter and there began a friendship which I value enormously. She is a gem.  I (like many others!!) adore Genevieve’s work and after surviving a tough time several years ago I treated myself to a Genevieve Williamson necklace as a You made it gift to myself. The necklace was inspired by a quote by Clementine Paddleford (what a fabulous name?) who said Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.” I felt like I’d shown some backbone!  I have this necklace on right now, in splendid isolation, with the fabulous drop earrings I got to go with it.

Do you like the board I painted to show earrings on? As I said on IG, she is exactly like me except for the absence of eyes, hearing aids, age spots, facial hair and wrinkles. But the lipstick and hair colour is bang on.

Just do yourself a favour and look at Gen’s website and the simply extraordinarily beautiful works of art on it.  I think you will start breathing more slowly, feel soothed, calmed, and ready to face whatever comes next with backbone.


Dancing with the devil

People who know me know that I have a very conflicted relationship with social media.  I basically hate nearly everything about it but use it of necessity.  I am not SO narrow though that I cannot see the positives. I am just not totally sure that they out weigh the negatives. But this makes me sound very snarky and I am not really. Much.

For the next 5 days, I will wear earrings that celebrate some good things from social media…mainly connections with gorgeous people which may not have happened without it. I have already referred to Kate and Heidi who began as Instagram friends and today’s earrings celebrate another friendship born of a social media connection.

Early on in my involvement with Samunnat Nepal, a dear friend Mel told me I should contact the legendary  Cynthia Tinapple of PCD and tell her about the ladies and what was happening over there. Me being me I didn’t, but Mel being Mel she encouraged me to until I did.  To cut long and fabulous story short, Cynthia was thrilled to hear about the amazing Nepali girls and how they were using polymer clay to escape lives dominated by violence.  She came and visited (twice!!) bringing with her all sorts of resources including our beloved Simmons slicer (thanks Dorothy too!!) One of the many things we learnt from Cynthia was how to make what we called our shisha veneer which she designed especially for her trip to us. Later on, with the extraordinary help of also legendary Ron Lehocky she rallied the polymer community to help us raise thousands of dollars to build our home. Cynthia learnt the delights of a good mustard oil massage and the best time of year to meet mosquitoes.

These earrings always make me think of darling Cynthia and the very special time we had together there in Nepal. A time that may never have happened without horrible social media.

Weekend Wear

Did you all realise it was a weekend? Harder to pick the difference in these days of the new normal.

I realise that a lot of the earring posts are really about connections. If the most I can do is to connect lovely people with other lovely people or lovely things (via links or photos or whatever) then…that’s enough!  I sometimes think that is my role on the Colourful Journey….cue wistful sigh…connecting wonderful people to each other.

I am catching up a bit today.  Yesterday I was obsessively walking or gardening. But OF COURSE wearing earrings. Yesterday’s earrings are on high rotation. I made them using veneers I made in an online class called Matrix Canes by Dan Cormier.  Dan and I work differently. Dan works with precision and exactitude and I sometimes work less precisely and exactly but I learn SO much from his classes. I learn techniques but also about another way of working, another approach, that I can modify for what works in my studio.  I have now done several of Dan’s online classes and he and his partner Tracy have donated a place in the classroom to the Samunnat ladies just about every time they do a class.

I made today’s drops using two gorgeous silver beads from Millennium Crafts in Thamel, Kathmandu. We sometimes go there on our trip. It is one of those really tricky to find places that are well worth the effort hunting down. A place where it is good to have local knowledge or you could end up in a dance bar with cabin. Don’t ask.  Today I wore these earrings on a cold, windy walk to Mt Ainslie’s quarry. I wanted to find an old dump I had heard about and I did. But decided that it would be better to return wearing heavier boots rather than runners!!  I may have had the wrong shoes but I did have the right earrings.

This post is mainly about Bonnie Bishoff!

Today’s earrings are hot off the press. I have been working for a while on a collaboration that I was doing with Annette* from Dissonance Fashion for a fashion parade that Trove Canberra had planned. Obviously the fashion parade has been postponed but I am still excitedly working away with the fabric swatches and drawings that Annette gave me.  Part of my intention was to just play with the colours and work with different ideas that I had learnt, invented, liked or made by mistake. I want to really make exploration a big part of this.

As I mentioned before, I have been playing with ideas about mark making triggered by Sage Bray in her wonderful Virtual Art Box.  I’ve also been looking at ways of combining veneers and colour. Someone whose work I have loved for decades now is Bonnie Bishoff. I was transported by the pieces made by Bonnie and her partner J.M Syron which combined Bonnie’s skills with polymer and her husband’s cabinet making skills. Just stunning.  What a handy husband.

Over the years, Bonnie has made different kinds of sculptural and practical pieces and, more recently, jewellery.  Her voice is so clear and her style so distinct. There are several artists who use a cut and replace technique with polymer veneers and Bonnie’s is just so vibrant and joyful and celebratory. I have also used this technique but more often with blends or veneers made from repeated canes. Bonnie uses both caning and colour blending. The earrings I am wearing today are the result of me trying to do what Bonnie did. The really important step though is the next one (that isn’t counting the message I sent to Bonnie about buying earrings…)

When someone has a really clear, distinctive style, I don’t want to copy it. It was the same when I did some online courses with Dan Cormier. If the result simply was that I could make something like Dan’s, or like Bonnie’s (and it would NEVER BE AS GOOD) then I have sold myself short. And when I teach my own classes, students might initially make something very much like something I have shown them. But I REALLY want them to use what they have learnt to connect with their own voice. (Such a laden word but I can’t think of a better one at the moment.) To make something that is authentically THEM.

Only Bonnie Bishoff can make art like Bonnie Bishoff. Any copy is usually very obviously a copy and just lacks the…singing. The authenticity. Now that I have made some veneers that look a bit like sorry imitations of what Bonnie does, I want to work out, not how to make them better imitations, but how those techniques and skills can work in the pieces I want to make.  Because Bonnie’s work is the star here my earrings will take a very small role in the wings. For a feast of visual sumptuousness (Mum, you will LOVE this) just go to her website and drool.

*Annette is the amazing woman who made my goddess dress.

Good enough

I am doing some of the things some of the time and, given the lay of the land, I am telling myself that is good enough!! This will be a catch up for those of you not following the earrings on Instagram (where I have been a bit more disciplined!) There was Anu from Samunnat Nepal modelling some colour exercise earrings that we made and that I wore on Monday. With trakky dak equivalent.

Then there was my turquoise ensemble which is another version of comfort eating for me. I may at one point have popped on something a bit less gardener’s wear…yes! I shopped for essentials!  My model is a classic isn’t she? I fell in love with her battered but stunning form at The Green Shed and she is very patient when I try necklaces out on her to see how they sit.

Then…mark the day…on Wednesday I dressed in a dress. The black version of this dress. And accessorised it with another pair of Kate’s earrings.  I love these for so many reasons and one is because they have so much heart and such story attached. Kate was thinking about lungs because she made these when fires were blazing around Australia and Canberra was shrouded in smoke. AND…she cleverly used Holi powders got from Nepal to colour the earrings. This is beautifully significant for me!

And today it is raining outside. I have been on my wettish walk and wore the earrings of the day! They are big, bold and elegant. A perfect match for the There is no planet B t shirt! My friend David from Trove Canberra makes colourful, humorous, practical, intriguing things on his 3D printer. One day he bought in an articulated gecko brooch. I told him I would wear this as earrings and he replied, Yes, YOU would. He may have been in italy sceptical if other people would. Well, he ain’t sceptical now because I suspect Dave’s articulated geckos are among his best sellers! They are light, lithe and elegant and in these days of physical distancing it is nice to have something nibbling on your ears!