Tag Archives: Tory Hughes

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!

Art as Therapy: Self-Understanding

DSCN3223We mystify ourselves. Well, I often mystify myself!

This is why I related to de Boton and Armstrong’s notion that the art we surround ourselves with, and the art we make, gives us a language to communicate something about ourselves to others when words fail.  Lately for me, poetry (others’!)  more clearly expresses my own inarticulate thoughts.  Our art too can often say things about us, or for us, when the wordsDSCN5169 are not enough.

They describe the situation where we encounter works of art that seem to latch on to something we have felt but never recognized clearly before.  I sense this recognition looking at the timber sculptures of Robyn Gordon, or the polymer art by Tory Hughes and Genevieve Williamson.

Many of my pieces were journeys in self knowledge but three stand out: a filigree box which incorporated symbols that are significant to me; a necklace I made in Broken Hill at a a time of great upheaval and a necklace that speaks of the DSCN1763relationship between me and my mother-my desire to know what it is that helps her to live well.  At least jewellery is more wearable than inchoate attempts at self expression!

Just a tiny bit excited…..

My darling friend Tory sent me a link yesterday to a talk Maria Popova gave about the combinatorial nature of creativity.  It contains many gems but this really resonates:

…creativity is combinatorial, [in] that nothing is entirely original, that everything builds on what came before, and that we create by taking existing pieces of inspiration, knowledge, skill and insight that we gather over the course of our lives and recombining them into incredible new creations.

Tory Hughes is someone who has contributed so much to the creative output of socollage 15P1 v1 many artists. It is no coincidence that she and another fabulous mixed media artist, Dayle Doroshow, were mentioned in several of the articles in the current edition (Diversity) of The Polymer Arts magazine.  Not just mine.

(Was that the Segue of the Century?)

That’s right. If you look at the collage of pages shown here, you will notice a magenta coloured one headed Exploring Oblique Strategies. THAT’S MINE!!!!  The article is about using Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies to enhance creativity and diversity.  I am so excited to be in this terrific magazine which brings joy, stimulation and delight with every edition, and exceptional joy and delight when I am in it!

Read about Wendy Jorre de St. Jorre, Heather Campbell, Wendy Wallin Mallinow, Ann and Karen Mitchell and other diverse artists.  Be inspired. Be very inspired!

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!

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.)

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!