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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!!!


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!