Tag Archives: Samunnat Nepal

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.

#polymerartchallenge 1

I have several lovely friends who I have never actually met face to face.  The immensely talented Australian mixed media artist Sabine Spiesser is one of those friends. Sabine IMG_8471sm-150x150should be much more famous than she is!!!  Just look at the brooch on the left and these pieces of art! Yesterday, Sabine sent me an email to tell me that the Samunnat ladies and I had been nominated as part of Donna Greenberg’s Facebook Polymer Art Challenge.  An artist is nominated to display one piece of their work per day and also to nominate another artist each day.  Sabine knows that I am not on Facebook and that the Facebook person for Samunnat is barely Facebook literate (and there may be a link between those facts!)

Darling Sabine thought that this should not stop our work from being shared andExif_JPEG_PICTURE volunteered to present pieces from us via her own Facebook page and the special Facebook sharing page (you can tell by the non specificity of my language that I am still really not quite getting this!). Thank you so much for looking out for us Sabine!!!  I will post Samunnat’s first picture on the Colourful Journey blog tomorrow but don’t want to distract anyone from our wonderful virtual guided tour! Here however, I will post the picture of my art that Sabine posted today.

I wanted to nominate Sabine but she is a very humble person and said that, as she had already been nominated, she would decline.  Another person I want to nominate though is Heather Richmond of Over the Rainbow. Heather was the first Australian doing polymer that I met and since that time she has been such a gentle, reliable, generous source of support and encouragement.  And she made beautiful polymer items!!  She and lived in the US for some time and learned from some of the greats!  I will email Heather to see if she would like to be involved in this.  Being a Facebooker she may already be ALL OVER IT!

This particular figure is significant to me as she was made in Nepal during a time of abandoned play combined with sheer terror about the momentous move to Nepal that we had just made. She is very much my alter ego. I would look at the colours of ladies clothes over there, choose a combination that excited me and work with that for a month. I loved the luxury of immersing myself in those colours. These were the earrings darling Kopila Basnet saw me making when we met and she asked if I could teach the ladies about polymer.  And the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

Sabine, here’s to the day we finally catch up in person! We can discuss real estate!

A New Day

photoSome readers will notice a strangely symbiotic link between Samunnat Nepal’s Colourful Journey blog and this one (and if you haven’t spotted it by now why not?) It may be explained in part by the strangely symbiotic relationship between the blogger (s) involved?? Go with it.

Kopila and I have been preparing our talk for the Eurosynergy Conference in Malta next month and the connection of the sisterhood is something we have discussed more than once. Samunnat Nepal has been abundantly encouraged and supported by people from all over the world and this is one reason why we want to encourage as many people as possible to sign this petition for Amnesty International. Read more about it here or here.

This connection, the sisterhood, is something that has been very much on my mindphoto this week.  Every morning, one of the things I say to myself as I have my little sit, is Knowing that we are all strength and struggle, may I nurture connection and that sense of belonging that only happens when we believe we are enough ( sort of paraphrasing Brene Brown of course in the Gifts of Imperfection).  Every morning I have sent love and thoughts to a number of sisters who are really facing some big challenges.

I think art can be so powerful in expressing that sense of connection, that love.  Recently, as I was preparing for the DD class, I had a sense of needing to create quite different piece to what I was doing for the class.  I often talk in classes about starting, following even tiny hunches and having faith in the photoprocess to see where it will go.  I followed this merest hint of a thought and then, once I began (and I think this is often the way after starting) this piece took on a life of its own.  Very soon after beginning it, it became abundantly clear which of my precious sisters it was for.  It became abundantly clear what elements to use and include that would have meaning.  The photos show different aspects and I hoped it would say all that I was unable to say in words, to convey all the love, the hopes, the strength I was sending.

The ladies of Samunnat sometimes send a piece of their jewellery to sisters we know who are facing challenging times. I have done the same thing. With just about everything I make, there is a story.  A necklace may arise from thinking about some person (like this one for my mum for example), or a situation, or an emotion.  And so often my art has been made because I don’t have the words to say what I want.  And that means that sometimes you need to start it before you have the words.  Or the clear finished image of what you are creating.  Just create…just start….see what happens.

A Colourful Journey

CIMG2328It is that time of year again when I begin to think about our Colourful Journey in November.  Bishnu and I have never advertised as such and so far, nearly all the travellers have come because they’ve liked what they’ve heard from past trippers!  The right people always seem to come.  Each group has been special.  And no two journeys have been the same.

And from this point on I had a post already written and was just going to addDSCN2791 photos. But then I received an email from one of last year’s travellers that made me think Shut up Wendy and let some one else say something! So I will:

…although I had been to Nepal many times, this was the most exhilarating experience. I travelled with interesting women, who shared their lives Exif_JPEG_PICTUREwith each other, found out what fascinates them and keeps them going. Their vitality, their tolerance and humour rubbed off and I gained new insights and understanding. I had fun, found a new sense freedom and achievement, and realised that age is not a barrier to new opportunities.
Then there was the journey itself. It was certainly a most colourful journey, the colours of the landscape, the brightness of the clothing and the opportunity to meet Nepali people was a unique feature of this trip.
This trip took us out of Kathmandu and helped us appreciate some of theDSCN2950 difficulties the terrain itself presents and the resourcefulness of many
If you think this sounds like it could be your sort of trip, get in touch with me now! You can read more about the trip here and here. If you think you know someone who would love this trip, send them this post!

(Thanks to Carol and someone from 2012-could even be me-for photos!)




Stories…written, spoken, lived

I read a bit more than usual when I am over here. My published author friend Kate is a great source of wisdom about what to load up on my trusty Kindle. She got me on to Olive. I have raved to anyone who would listen about the magnificent Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. It’s a book up there in my top ten ever. I loved it.

Thanks to Kate, I also enjoyed The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey and When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman. In an interview Sarah Winman said:
People are the most wonderful, fallible, damaged, loving, brave, fearful, loyal creatures, all searching for something, and that something isn’t always clear. But to me, the searching in this book, was to be able to start again – to start again armed with a little more knowledge, and to live a better life…..

This is so evident in the characters she has peopled her book with. One of my favourites was Arthur, a man she described as having no real answer to life except the living of it. He sees the darkness, the humour of it all, the absurdity of it. But he still keeps going because, ultimately, for him, life is a gift….
I loved that.

People who know my dad, Les Higgins, know that he is passionate about the power of nature to heal, restore and rejuvenate; and equally passionate about our need to immerse ourselves in nature for our own well being. His e-book, Claim Your Wildness (and let nature nurture your health and well being) has just been published. He says we are born to be wild, so to speak! He also gives very practical suggestions for how, in our increasingly nature deprived world, we can maintain that wildness, that connection with nature that is so vital for us.

Every month or so in her newsletter, a New Zealand human rights activist and writer, Marianne Elliott, shares links to what she has been reading. Without fail, her list contains thought provoking and challenging reading – often with a focus on international development work, do – gooding ( her words), storytelling and such.

This month, she talks about the potential appropriation by the Western world of Malala Yousafzai, the remarkable  and courageous young Pakistani school girl shot by the Taliban.
I know that here in Birtamod, I spend my time with courageous young women, all of whom have experienced violence against them, who want changes in their communities. They all imagebelieve that violence against women is totally wrong, and should never be ignored. They don’t believe that women should be advised ( when they are finally desperate enough to go to Police) to go back and give an abusive husband one more chance. These young women agitate for change, living lives that challenge the status quo, sharing their stories to inspire and empower others, in spite of being accused by some of threatening the fabric of society with their talk of women’s rights and choices. By telling their stories, they know they are not alone in their society in believing in every girl’s right to education, and to living a life free from violence.

Knowing these incredibly strong, courageous, determined and resilient young women is why a comment by Zeynep Tufekci resonated. She said if you think Malala is rare that is because you have probably not spent much time in such countries. Most Malalas remain nameless, and are not made into Western celebrities.

I write none of this taking a single thing away from Malala. She is truly remarkable and in our office as we made our polymer beads, we read and discussed her speech to the United Nations. She is such an inspiration to us. The ladies recognise her as coming from a society like theirs. Last year Demi Moore visited Nepal to support and recognise the work of Anuradha Koirala of Maiti Nepal. Most sincerely, I say Good for you, Demi.  Interestingly, none of the ladies here had ever heard of Demi Moore but they all know about Malala.

Collected Works, Collected Family, Collected Friends

Room opening 1Some of my lovely tolerant friends and family have asked that I include some photos of the BIG EVENT on this blog so I shall!  Bear with us those who may not be so interested!  It felt like a landmark night for me and was so enriched by the physical presence of some very special people who covered vast distances and the messages of love (including a magnificent bunch of flowers!) from other special people who could not physically be there!

Cathy, Darren, Ian and the rest of the gang at the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery (BHRAG) are magnificent people for many reasons.  They did a fabulous job and tookW,C and Susan's flowers as much care with presenting the exhibition as I would.  And then they added experience and knowledge.  It’s a bit like when you take your kids to school and just hope that the people there can love them and see the magic in them in spite of all their little faults.  You hope that they will know what to do to help bring out the best in them. Cathy, Darren and Ian did that with my stuff!

PlinthObviously they could have felt very overwhelmed with all those bosoms.  Shadows created by the bountifully endowed did create challenges with label placement.  The variety of colours, varying bust shapes and idiosyncratic hanging methods, meant that the laser precision levelling was time consuming.  Pragmatism meant we did used covered plinths for some more fragile or removable pieces and a strong desire by all of us to highlight the importance of my relationship with the Samunnat ladies guided placement of some pieces.  There were just so many flipping labels to place and spell check’s reaction to Nepali nearly sent Cathy spare!  So to you guys, a huge thank you for doing such a wonderful job. As always. The Art Gallery holds a special place in the hearts of locals and is very much a part of the community.  I felt incredibly lucky to be able to have an exhibition there.

Seeing the pieces up in the room on Monday was great. Seeing that room filled by so many people was overwhelming.  People wereMal address reading those carefully placed labels, talking with friends about pieces, laughing appropriately and….even spending!  I had quite possibly the world’s best opening speaker deliver his speech and am so grateful to him.  For everything.  Not just the speech.

The NSW Parliament Aboriginal Art Prize  was opened by Eddie Harris, a local Barkandji artist, from a talented artistic  family, who is one of the  finalists.  As well as Looking at 52sharing of himself, Eddie did everyone the great favour of introducing us to his amazing niece Chiara who, at the age of only 8 (I think) sang beautifully and spoke with such poise, dignity and assurance that many, myself included, were tearing up!

A few people have asked whether there is a sense of emptiness or a let down having finished this.  It’s funny because in a way there is more a sense that it is all part of the bigger process.  Tory Hughes and I have our Deep Play retreat at Lake Mungo in just a few weeks (Spaces available. We’d love to see you there!)  The Samunnat work continues unabated and I head back to Nepal in just over 6 weeks (and didn’t I get a shock calculating that since I was going to type just over 8 weeks!) Over the next few weeks we have many visitors coming out to say hi and see the show and I suspect I won’t really have time for a sense of emptiness. It feels like a landmark but one that is part of a rich journey, not my last shot at something!

So…thanks for your patience. Next post will be about my Travel Challenge piece and thank you to Erin for getting me started on a surprisingly addictive broken glass collecting habit!

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!

I heart Ron Lehocky

DSCN3346Today’s post was going to be a slightly sycophantic rave about someone who’s had a profound influence on Samunnat and what is happening for the ladies.  But the arrival of a parcel last night means that I’ll talk about this first and will tell you about Cynthia another time.

I head back to Nepal in a couple of months and always like to take some small presents for each of the clay ladies with me. Often I try to make something but this time I knew I wouldn’t have time and, having heard about Ron Lehocky and his hearts via PCD, and seen him interviewed by Cynthia Tinapple in Studio Mojo, I decided to buy each of the ladies a heart pin.  I knew they’d love the vision behind themDSCN3345 (Ron has made and sold over 20,000 heart pins to raise funds for the Kids Centre for Paediatric Therapies in Kentucky) and the ladies love seeing the work of other polymer artists first hand.

I emailed Ron and ordered the pins, telling him what I was going to do with them.  He replied immediately and said that he knew about Samunnat and would love to be involved.  He had lots of questions and his enthusiasm and energy just about burst off the screen.  One thing led to another and Ron saw an opportunity to help with raising funds for a Samunnat building.  A local person has donated some land to Samunnat so, for less than $10,000 we will be able to build a decent size work room, a training room, an office where ladies can share their situations with privacy and a kitchen where we can make and sell our pickles and other delights.  Ron offered to match donations for the building up to $2000. PCDaily will help spread the word in the coming days to rally the polymer community and  already we are receiving incredibly generous donations.

DSCN3342But that’s not all.  When Ron’s exquisitely crafted hearts arrived, they were surrounded by so many other goodies for the ladies…books, tools, inclusions, magazines, clips and what I think is a greeting card from Bhutanese Nepali people Ron is working with in the US. (An aside: where Samunnat is based in Nepal there were once 7 huge UNHCR refugee camps that were home for two decades to over 100,000 Bhutanese refugees.  Some of the ladies we’ve worked with have been refugees experiencing domestic violence nad Kopila provides legal counselling to women in the camps.  Many refugees have been resettled to new homes in US, Canada, Australia, Denmark and New Zealand.  Bhutan focuses on the Gross National Happiness of some of its citizens, not all.  You can read more about this here)

Each tool or piece of equipment had careful and thoughtful instructions written on it and the hearts were just magnificent.  RonDSCN3339 had ended many of his notes with Have Fun.  I hope I can convey to him how much fun we will have and that it will be fun that will continue to change the lives of the ladies and many others.  Anyone who knows me well, knows that sharing the journey with the Board and ladies of Samunnat has transformed my life.  Part of that transformation has come from seeing the open-hearted and abundant generosity of people all over the world who want to make a difference to these resilient and courageous women.  It encourages me to be brave, to be vulnerable and to trust that we are not alone.

Ron, what to say?  Dherai dhanyabad.  Thank you so much.  You already give so much and now this.