Tag Archives: Nepal

Art as Therapy: Remembering

Thanks to my beloved Maria* I have discovered some writing by philosopher Alain de Boton and art historian John Armstrong on Art as Therapy. I won’t repeat what she says here but for the next seven days I will illustrate each of their core psychological functions of art with photographs of my own work.

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The first function is remembering. They write that art is a way of preserving experiences, of which there are many transient and beautiful examples, and that we need help containing. Much of my art has an element of remembering. This triptych (detail shown) was created using the images I saw on a weekly bus journey when i lived in Nepal.

 

IMG_4098And this necklace (R) was created to remind me of the elation I felt at finally arriving in Lo Manthang, Upper Mustang; a destination I had dreamed of reaching for nearly 30 years.  The crushed tobacco tin was, to me, a precious relic.

*So much noise on the internet isn’t there? I hope I don’t contribute. Maria helps me to turn up the signal, wipe out the noise.  

Taking a plunge

I create and I connect. I create designs for Samunnat, I connect with people who support us and buy beautiful Samunnat jewellery. I create my own art; I create and connect through classes and articles. I want to create and connect with clarity and abundance.  So I am making some changes to my website to do that.

DSCN0930The regular visitor to this blog (and may your god bless you!) may have noticed some of these changes! Like the vanishing comments! (I think that is fixed now.)  Or the challenge to subscribe…still working that one out!

In an attempt to embrace a growth mindset and become more independent, I am doing an online course for artists who want to create their own websites. To say I am not naturally gifted in this area is a massive understatement so it will be a testament to Susan Lomuto and the patience of Cynthia Tinapple when I can finally think For now, I’ve done it.  Unlike most website designers who no doubt have mantras like Beautiful website, Beautiful experience or We develop Smart Ideas mine is No-one will die if you press this button.

So, bear with me while I tweak, explore, press wrong buttons, discover new strengths and skills and create and connect in another way.  And feast your eyes on these babies: my personal flyer and business cards and the flyer for the magical Colourful Journey! Very exciting!

Thoughts on a Thursday

image1. When you have travelled in planes for 24 hours and then driven in a car for 9 hours, sometimes even the company of your magnificent daughters and delightful grand-daughter is not enough to stave off sleep after Christmas lunch;

2. Today marks the beginning of Universal Letter Writing Week and I have undertaken to write one letter (albeit short!) each day for the week. A hand written letter in an envelope with a stamp. Read more about this here!

3. Truly understanding (thanks to being involved in this) that I am a human with limited time and energy and I must make hard choices every single day about where I can put that time and energy can make a profound difference. Jen Louden goes on to say It’s OK to mourn that I can’t do everything, but it’s not OK to pretend that I don’t have to choose.  Choosing is my art. Learning to live this made the latest time in Nepal very different and very special. For me and the ladies!

 

4. On a really long hot ( over 1000 km) drive when one hearing aid isn’t working so you1305549469484 can’t really talk and you only get inklings of music, you can make a wasabi coated pea – just the one – last for 20 minutes from mouth entry to swallowing final crumbs. I had to work up to it and think I could get to 30 minutes now. I can perfect the technique on the next long drive!

5. It’s always good to be reminded that the one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your story, your mind, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can. Thank you for your voice Neil Gaiman.

6. Sometimes, reorganising the studio is more important than unpacking.  But because I am learning about these, it was delightful rather than driven!  And not totally finished but good enough to be playing in!

DSCN06797. Visiting the remote  Solu Khumbu home and family of my dear bhai (and Colourful Journey co-leader) Bishnu Rai was one of the most amazing things I have ever done. A joy and a privilege.  We could have done without the earthquake in Okhaldhunga (5.9 on the Richter Scale) but it meant I was all over the earthquake drill when we had another one (tidily at 2.9) in Broken Hill the night we got home!

And who said you can’t maintain a unique sense of style in tiny Himalayan villages? I can tell you where to get the sparkly pink rubber chappals I was wearing with my thick purple socks.

Happy New Year. May we cultivate open, inquiring minds.

Finding the Sweet Spot

imageSo…about 20 seconds after the last epistle, the time to read abruptly stopped and it has been a sustained, intense, not much time for reading, making notes in the evenings, utterly exhausting time! Fantastic, rewarding, meaningful, energising and fun as well as exhausting, frustrating, confounding, perplexing and tough. I was reminded of my friend Deb’s post here about happiness.

I have one more full day of work here. Members of my beloved family arrive tomorrow and I feel like a school girl wanting to excitedly rush them around my class room. This is such a massive part of my life and I am so thrilled to have them here. They have been supportive from day one so they too, are excited. The ladies are thrilled and fascinated to meet them! Much felicitation has been planned.  They have heard lots of stories over the years and are particularly impressed that my dad is heading off to do a trek that is actually a pilgrimage they would all love to do. They ko aid that the fact that a bloke in his late 70’s is doing it is pretty good! And they said imagethat…bloke... Well, not bloke then.

There has been a long strike in the run up to the election. My dad can climb huge hills with ease, but is less thrilled about strikes so we hope that our contingency plans to get them from the airport work out well. It is easier for some people to walk 20 kms through rugged terrain than jump on the back of a motor bike! (Only joking dad! Sort of)

imageAs I descended into a deep wallow of my exhaustion for a nanosecond last night, I realised it was more about wondering why I can’t be more balanced. There you have it people, a confession of sorts. A moment of searingly honest insight. Then I decided that really balance is not all it is cracked up to be. Like my friend Deb sort of said. I don’t have a balanced life. Never have really. But I love this funny old life. Everyone knows that.

I am going to finish this with a quote from Marianne Elliott which I re read often. She says, way more eloquently than I ever could, some of the things I think. The struggle I have regarding a lot of the search for in inner happiness and look after yourself first stuff. I agree, this is an area where we do need balance. Marianne says:

Let me make this declaration upfront: I’m extremely wary of ‘self-improvement’, as a goal or a genre. I’m always a little horrified when anyone suggests my book, Zen Under Fire, falls into the category of self-improvement. It’s a memoir, a story of impotence and despair and the path I found from there back to service, through faith and action. It’s not about self-improvement.

But it is about self-care. At least in part. It’s partly a story of what happens when we try to serve others without taking care of ourselves, and the toll that can end up taking on our health, our work and our relationships.

It seems so obvious as to be trite – each of us is responsible for taking care of our own basic needs. But it seems to bear repeating, over and over again. I certainly need to be reminded of it, regularly.

In life, unlike on a plane, it is not always as simple as putting on your own oxygen mask first.

There will be times when the needs of your community require that you sacrifice something of your own comfort, perhaps even your own well-being; times of crisis, emergencies that call on all of us to assess honestly what we are willing to give up, and how far we are ready to go to serve and protect the people we love.

In so many ways, this willingness to put ourselves out for others, because we know that the benefit to them – or to our collective – will outweigh the inconvenience to us, lies at the heart of what it means to be part of a community.

Our impulse to build community through these small (and sometimes not so small) acts of sacrifice is both the glue that connects us to each other and, sometimes, the greatest challenge to our ability to take good care of ourselves.

Because we want to connect, because we are wired for connection, we agree to do more than we can really afford to do – we commit more time, more energy, more resources than we really have to spare. The scales tip out of balance very quickly, too, when the willingness to make sacrifice, to build trust and connection, is not reciprocal.

My personal path is a hunt for the sweet spot – the place where I take care of myself, know my limits and set up some boundaries that keep me from overstretching myself repeatedly, but without switching off my impulse to serve, to help and to create community and connection through personal sacrifice for the good of the whole.

Because – just as there will be times when the overall health of our community calls on us to give a little more than is comfortable – there will be times in our lives, inevitably, when we can’t take care of our own needs and will have to rely on others to help us. (love this bit! Ed)

So our long-term well being as individuals relies on the health of our community.

And although the health of any community obviously relies on the health of it’s individual members, there will be times when we are each called on to go a little further, give a little more than is comfortable and stretch a little beyond what feels possible, to ensure that community – without which we cannot survive and certainly cannot achieve any meaningful social change in the world – is preserved.

Back to the search for the sweet spot, and the madness….

Dancing around Deadlines

Gosh I love Art Propelled.  Robyn Gordon’s blog is unfailingly inspiring and thought provoking.  I don’t subscribe (mainly as I haven’t Apron and coloursworked out how!) but I have her in my favourites bar and visit regularly.  Today, with two weeks left before Installation Day*, I am feeling a bit vulnerable and exposed.  The comparing critic voices are upping their inner chatter and I am wondering if I have been a bit silly to take this on. Robyn quoted Chogyam Trungpa in a post called Your Own Way of Looking at Things and it really resonated for me:

In order to accomplish an experience, you have to have a chance to dance with it. You have to have a chance to play, to explore. Then each style of exploration that takes place is a different manifestation, we could say. Nevertheless, it is all part of one big game.

I  haven’t been making things easy for myself.  After returning from Nepal, I decided that I would only include polymer necklaces (not those made with beads I had purchased) inBlock the Year of Necklaces installation; and that I would separate necklaces that were a collaboration with Samunnat and display them in their own area.  This meant making several necklaces to replace those that were culled (along with those polymer ones that were made during the Year challenge but not deemed art!   By the way, for some interesting thoughts on art necklaces and examples of her own beautiful work see Erin Prais-Hintz’ blog here.  Erin creates wonderful, almost narrative necklaces, often inspired by themes, or literature, and encourages others to as well. Two of her necklaces are featured in a new book Showcase Art Necklaces which sounds tempting…

Table blogI didn’t want to fall into the trap of making a necklace for the exhibition!  Usually, the creations I like best come from play and exploration, from dancing with ideas, from following through the I wonders and I didn’t want deadlines (read Indigo Kate’s gorgeous quoted deadline quote here) to send me scurrying back into a mindset I work hard to avoid.  I wanted to yield to the I wonders.  The I wonder what would happen if I did this, or pulled that, or scrunched up this.  I wonder how doing this makes a piece work; how will it sit if I do that?  Alice Stroppel is a master at the I wonders. For inspiration read her I wonder if I can combine brass buttons, rubber cord and polymer to make something interesting post and her I wonder if I can makeFloor blog something bigger and more complicated than I usually do post (Titles mine!)

I wanted to use a silk apron (called a pangden) I got in Tsarang in Upper Mustang as a source of inspiration. As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to incorporate the fabulously coloured stripes and the technique of lining up the three panels of  fabric in different directions.  I wondered if I could do that in a piece of jewellery.  And again I am not making things easy for myself…16 different colour,s would you believe, and NOT a straightforward repetition, my wordy me no!  Here are photos of the first stages of the I wonders.  More to come!  Still, I’m having fun wondering and hearing that deadline swooshing up!

*Installation Day for my exhibition of Collected Works.  They used my Mutwintji Necklace in the publicity on the website!

 

Thoughts on a creative life

Creativity is how you choose to respond to what happens in your life:  Your choices generate – Happy Shobhacreate – what happens next in your life….creativity is a process that we are engaged in every minute of our lives.

I can still remember the quiet thrill of excitement I felt reading those words by Tory Hughes in her Creative Development Manual.  These words seemed to confirm a discovery I was (somewhat slowly!) making for myself.  Creativity was not just what happened when I sat down in my little room and mixed colours and made something.  Creativity was how I responded to everything – joys, obstacles, challenges, unpredictable events in all of my life.  Creativity was really seeing, questioning, adapting, changing, recognising and DSCN0861avoiding default responses and useless habitual behaviours, learning, playing. In ALL sorts of situations.

Creativity didn’t just happen when I had polymer in my hands.  It was a very liberating thought.

That same liberating realisation had a profound impact on my journey with the ladies at Samunnat which was starting at around the same DSCN0849time.   As Cynthia Tinapple said in a recent Studio Mojo:

Jumping into another culture, country, climate is a good way to rediscover what’s in front of your nose.

When I first started working with the ladies (but not for long I’ve got to say) I had very clear ideas about what WOULD NOT happen.  There were a whole heap of WOULD NOTS which really came from my preference for (perceived!) certainty and feeling in control all those years ago.  There would not be risks taken, that was for sure. We would be doing all we could to NOT MAKE MISTAKES. We would not look like we were stuffing up. We would only do the stuff where we knew what we were doing.  We would be taking THE SAFE PATH, my wordy me yes.  And where did that get us? Just the same place as that approach does when you areExif_JPEG_PICTURE making art, it got us big fat nowhere.

Luckily for us, being told that the SAFE, SUSTAINABLE items we’d made were not going to sell, coincided with what we were learning from playing with polymer.

Quite separate to our SAFE STUFF, we’d decided that it would not be a disaster if we just had some fun – played around with some of my polymer as respite from pretty awful situations that many of the ladies were in.  This would be OK we bravely thought!  It seems incredible to me now, years down the track to think I did not recognise the profound value of that fun.  Of that play, of that respite. Of how that playing would come to shape these ladies’ sense of self!  How it re-awakened their capacity for joy!  How it created a powerful and dynamic sisterhood that has changed my life.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREAs a result of that playing we re-connected with our innate knowledge that play was valuable; we discovered that we learnt more from our mistakes than from playing it safe; and that sometimes our mistakes looked beautiful.  The ladies learnt that pulling on their earlobes, bobbing up and down and repeating I am stupid (a standard Nepali educational strategy) was not the way we were going to respond to mistakes here.  Instead, we asked what worked; what didn’t; what we’d do differently next time (thank you precious Mark Ylvisaker!).  We saw mistakes in a new light.  We became less afraid of exploration, of asking questions, of trying things out.

For me, and this is the moment I was totally hooked I think, the most amazing moment was when one of the ladies looked up and, with a voice filled with wonder and joy, shared that she no longer saw herself as a victim because she had a new identity.  She had claimed a new identity. From that point on, she was an artist.

Our shared passion about the power of that creative energy that we all possess infuses the retreat that Tory and I are running in September.  We know we can know that energy and use it effectively, or that we can inadvertently smother it, block it. My dream is that tapping into the power of creative energy can be just as profound for the people who join us there as it was for me those amazing bahini haru* in Birtamod. As it still is, every day as we respond to what happens in our lives.

(NB: The photos show the *little sisters with some of their creations.  The photo of Shobha at the top, smiling with delight at HER necklace which she owned and would be wearing home, is a favourite. The lady to the right had just been referred to Samunnat. She is now one of our core artists!  She smiles with joy, fulfilment and pride rather than cowers with fear.)

Re-entry- back in the Hill!

Sitting down to write this post prompts the feelings I have when I think about the next few months. There is so much to do/ DSCN3888say that I wonder where to start.  I know that I could easily feel very overwhelmed.

In the distant past, I was a woman who liked to feel like I was on top of things…thoroughly prepared…in control.  This was obviously an illusion as life, particularly life in Nepal, revealed. The truth of the matter is that over the years I have sort of got used to this living on the cusp of being overwhelmed feeling.  It is not so frightening any more.  And, would you believe, I have a polymer clay metaphor about this phase:

It is like sometimes when you sit at your work table and you have a zillion ideas in your head and your table’s a mess and the blogs haven’t been written and there clay orders to make and send and emails to write and Skype calls to organise and maybe one oDSCN4109f your gorgeous girls is moving to (very!) far off lands in under nine weeks so you want to savour her presence while she is in the country and you have an exhibition to prepare* and you are trying to sell a house and organise a retreat and another Colourful Journey…(it is SO like that you would not believe!)  Anyway, it is like that and then you just quieten your buzzing brain, take a deep breath to still your busyness, pick up some clay and start to make a Skinner Blend.

And it all just flows from there. Sort of.  When it all is on the verge of being too much, I have learnt to Stop. Breathe. And do life’s equivalent of Make a Skinner Blend. Do something simple, pleasant, achievable and, with a bit of luck, something that will be part of getting another thing done. Just starting makes all the difference.

So, here is the blog equivalent of a Skinner Blend! Write about four of the many things that make me happy right now!

DSCN4072I am just back from two wonderful months in Nepal. Happy to reconnect with my patient and resilient family and friends.  The time there was fabulous, frantic, at times frustrating, physically challenging and one aspect was the fulfilment of a dream I have had for over 30 years: Two and a half weeks trekking in the remote region of Upper Mustang. Words and photos ( especially mine!) will never adequately convey the grandeur, beauty and scope of this area. I am sure I will have a go in subsequent posts. Suffice it to say, it was great.

The time with the Samunnat ladies was, as usual, inspirational and humbling.  I am thrilled to hear about our building progress in Birtamod. Read about it here. So far the monsoon is not slowing things down too much!photo

I love, love, love my new earring tree. They are all over Kathmandu as props – not generally for sale – but a chat in faltering Nepali with a friendly bloke called Indra K.C. meant I could buy one. A chat with lovely trekking buddy Marg meant I could actually get it home. ( Predicting what will actually fit in my bag has never been a strong point for me!)

 Book CoverAnd finally for today, I am nervously excited about the fact that Polymer Clay Global Perspectives will be arriving in bookstores on July 30. Nervous because there’s a chapter and project there by me. Excited because there are chapters and projects by some fabulous artists from all over the world, a gallery of work by over one hundred others including the States’ Genevieve Williamson and Rebecca Watkins, Canada’s Claire Maunsell, Spain’s Natalia Garcia de Leaniz and Fabiola Perez Ajates (who shares more than a passion for polymer with me); and Australia’s own Sabine Spiesser  (to name just a few) and because the whole thing was put together by the amazing, insightful, energetic, encouraging, empowering Cynthia Tinapple. Have a look at the website  and you can buy it here. NO PRESSURE!

*New name for the exhibition- Wendy Moore: Unfinished Works

Beside myself…

Film fare…with excitement!

I’ve been here just over a week and we have got so much done.  It’s  been great.  Archana (right)visited us and happily modelled her film star style Kurta Surwal and sold us some fresh corn.  The ladies have done fabulously with the new amberdesigns and I think we may be able to tick most things off the list (They are so driven about this list you would not believe! Yes, well it was my list.)  The faux amber for Paulette at Kazuri looks positively luscious and the pendants we are making in conjunction with Helen Breil are really coming on.  A very different style for us and we are enjoying making them.  By the way, this post really gets to the guts of what Samunnat is all about.  And why I feel so humbled and lucky to be involved.

Another thing I am excited about is my latest foray into medical tourism. The $20 crown fromeyes several years ago is holding up nicely and I decided, as my warped glasses slid down my nose yet another time, to lash out and get a new pair here. Good ones.  Expensive ones. Sturdy ones. With a vision test, blood pressure check, eye pressure test etc.  And I did. But I did have to pay over $20 for the lot. Even with Kopila bargaining.  Kicking me Buyingsurreptitiously when I started to say I thought $20 a pair where the colour would not fade sounded fair enough.  They’ll arrive from Calcutta in three days.

If I was a certain kind of girl I’d have taken some incredible photos of the others waiting in the line with me but I feel really uncomfortable about this and didn’t. There was a group of 6 or 7  tall, skinny, dignified men from across the border wearing faded blue lunghis and threadbare white shirts.  They walked up in a line and stood quietly waiting to see the optometrist. They almost looked like a border print!

Then there was a woman in a hot pink sari heavily encrusted with gold sequins and thread.  Her arms were heavy with red lacquer bangles and golden bracelets and I wondered what she wore for “good”.  There was the girl in purple and sunflower yellow kurta with mesmerising eyes the colour of glacial lakes telling me when to move up as our line snaked along. Not a line I minded waiting in one bit!

The other thing I am very excited about is that the amazing Tory Hughes and I have finally got some definite dates for our event in September.  I’ll write more about this in the next post but for now let me say that our fabulous four day creative retreat:

“Double Dipping ~ Deep Play and Creative Joy
Techniques and Practices to Feed Your Artistic Spirit”
will be happening on September 19! More about this soon. Strap yourselves down!

Colourful characters

Among my half written posts, is one about the amazing women I have in my life. I get quite emotional every time I work on it but I will unleash it at some point in time. Suffice it to say, I am so bloody lucky.  Most aren’t fabulous emailers but they are incredible friends.

DSCN2645One of them is Deb, a friend from Broken Hill who doesn’t need to email yet. She came to Nepal on a Colourful Journey last year and was rushed at like royalty in Janakpur where pilgrims at the Janaki Mandir thought she was perhaps a film star and still wanted to be photographed with her when they found out she wasn’t.  Theatre, not film. They don’t know the half of it.  Her powerful and emotive version of There’s a Hole in My Bucket with her dear friend Kate and the rest of the group for the kids at Sonrisa Nepal, still has us reaching for hankies.  And has become the stuff of folk lore.

Last week, Mark Dapin, a journalist, wrote about Broken Hill in an article called Bent, not Broken. Broken Hill is a very different place. There are many colourful characters. Deb is one.  Mark’s article talked about a few and gave a certain perspective on the Hill.  Deb’s response in her blog here talks about others.  I have the good fortune of being able to hear her fabulous voice as I read.  (Ironic hey?) Makes for a more complete picture I think.

Going Global

Well, I am going to Nepal and Cynthia Tinapple is going global!

Cynthia has an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things polymer.  (And of many other fascinating things by the IMG_0173way.) This means she is the ideal person to write a book about global perspectives in polymer clay. In Polymer Clay Daily, she explores polymer art internationally and has created the basis for a fabulously supportive network of people. Her next post will be her 2000th!!  Congratulations Cynthia.  And thank you!  Cynthia visited the ladies of Samunnat in 2011 and taught them to make one of their best selling designs.

I am very excited about Cynthia’s book. Primarily because it features some really interesting people-artists I’m getting to know better, to my great delight. Artists Manifesto necklaceGWlike Genevieve Williamson who made a favourite necklace.  Her art has a wonderfully organic quality. Her quote to accompany this necklace is a great one: Never grow a wishbone daughter, where your backbone ought to be by Clementine Paddleford.  She is about to head off to St. Helena’s island, a British Overseas Territory you reach only by sea after a long boat trip. She’s got backbone!  We have shared our expat living experiences and her blog is one I love to read.

Rebecca Watkins is another artist featured in the book who makes gorgeous beads with a sense of playfulness and celebration.  Then there’s Claire Maunsell whose work is so subtle and organic, Fabi with her fabulDSCN0240ous sense of colour, Natalia Garcia de Leaniz joyful, spirited art and so many others.  Thirteen artists have each contributed a project to the book and Cynthia showcases the work of over 150 other artists.

I’m also there and just between you and me I kept half expecting a kindly worded email from Cynthia telling me that she’d decided to only include proper artists. It turns out others were sharing that thrilled but am I good enough? feeling!  I am excited that the story of theDesert Dash 2013 Samunnat ladies is being told in the book.  For all sorts of reasons I encourage you to bloody well buy it.  (I think Australians can use this phrase in a totally non- pressuring, friendly way!)

On Sunday I ran DSCN3582in one of the hardest fun runs I have ever completed-the Living Desert Dash-not so much fun as a sense of acheivement. I felt like the number on my chest was my core body temperature on completion of the event. In Celsius of course.  And, against the odds, I have uploaded the photos for my April FlickR 12 Projects 2013 entry.  Driven? Moi? Must stop. Getting into the car now.