I wish you and your loved ones - furbabes included - a safe festive season filled with peace, love, joy and laughter, for such are the important things that create wonderful memories and are the best presents of all.
Phew! The big Christmas Art Market has come and gone. And, after averaging three hours sleep per night for the past couple of weeks to meet the deadline, I can now get some quality snooze time. Hopefully.
Lately, I've been working towards change.
This was the final time I would sell my ceramics. For quite some time, anyway. One can never really say, "never".
Earlier this year, I developed a chronic lung condition which was, I believe, attributed to working with clay and glazes - especially as no other determining factors were involved. Many ceramic/pottery materials can present serious health problems if/when used in less than ideal environments, and contain irritants – too many to list – with varying levels of toxicity which can impair lung function… temporarily or permanently. My lungs have always been the “weakest” part of an otherwise strong body, so upon reflection, I’m not surprised that they were compromised, and it was most evident after glazing sessions. Other people can work with clay and associated materials for their whole lives without ill effects, but for me, the stricture and shortness of breath, continual watery gurgle and deep, upper chest pain on inhale were definite warning signs. As a result, I’ve struggled with impaired breathing for most of this year. Some days, I couldn’t manage the short walk to the letterbox and back without wheezing like a seventy five year old smoker with emphysema. Going on outings, which required walking any distance, was dependent on how I felt on the day... although, let's face it, roses and chocolate are a very enticing reason to get out of the house :)
Months of dreading lying in bed due to the pain, whistling and persistent coughing, left me exhausted, distressed and depressed. I knew I was in trouble. Stern advice from doctors to cease, or put on hold, my “occupation”, had to be accepted - grudgingly. And, I’m not good at capitulation on someone else’s terms…
Gradual wrapping up of an art I thoroughly enjoyed, and also made money from, weighed heavily on my heart these past months. But, the inability to breathe without restriction scared me more. The removal of irritant materials has seen an improvement. Although, I’m not out of the woods yet. My lungs are still compromised – with good days and bad. I know that healing is going to take time.
And, healing with herbs is a much longer route to take – but, I firmly believe, is the better one for myself, rather than relying on harsh pharmaceuticals.
It’s my choice to make.
In the meantime, I’ve been so incredibly grateful that I am able to transition from one artists medium to another. And, still work in 3D. The ability to use my hands to mould and shape is what had me giddy when I set out with ceramics, and I despaired at the potential future lack of motility. Artists gotta make…
Although, textiles - furry or otherwise - is a completely different “animal”. The challenge to cut, sew and successfully stuff something which doesn’t end up looking like a mis-shapen blob monster, has been a trial. Many trials. Many mistakes. Growing piles of grotesque prototype heads filled the corner of my sewing room – now studio.
It’s all in the pattern. Get that first step wrong, and the final result could have you howling in tears of frustration. And it did. On many occasions. Because I chose to design my own characters, and not work from someone else’s pattern. Typical for me. Always the hard path, not the one of least resistance. But, more rewarding in the long run.
When I posted about Neil Gaiman’s quote on making mistakes in January, I really didn’t know I was headed down a diverse road paved with tactile, soft, furry fabrics, and away from clay. But, when I look at my creatures, as they cheekily stare back at me from their shelf, awaiting final flourishes, my heart melts. And I’m converted. Eager to explore the possibilities.
Seriously, if anyone had said to me five years ago, that I would be making teddy bears - albeit in a unique vintage style for adult collectors only, rather than the typical stare-eyed, ubiquitous, furred childrens' toy - I would’ve laughed until my stomach hurt. It really didn't seem like something I was at all interested in.
This post, following on from our Alowyn Gardens visit, is a little later than promised, I’m sorry. Christmas market season is upon me once again, and I’m swamped :)
I’m not ashamed to say that, one of my favourite films is Chocolat.
I mean, tantalising images of fine couverture chocolate and a charming French village, a wonderful cast including beautiful Binoche (in those red heels!), delightful Dench, marvellous Molina, cute Caron and generous doses of a pony-tailed, gypsy style Johnny Depp…. what’s not to like? And if it’s just me, well, let’s just leave it at that.
Chocolate has been my weakness for as long as I can remember ~ and that’s a looong time ;) So, seeing as we were literally next door at the gardens, we thought, why not drop in to the Yarra Valley Chocolate Factory afterwards? But then, who really needs an excuse, right? Anytime is chocolate time.
When we turned in the driveway and parked the car, we noticed something quite unusual – a kaleidoscope of giant jumping kangaroos in all colours of the rainbow bounding on the grassy banks, with the magnificent Yarra Valley as a back drop.
What a view for a roo or two!
Investigating further, we found that this outdoor sculptural display was called, hopforhope, a collaborative art exhibition raising funds to keep children safe from violence and bullying. A cause that’s close to my heart.
The Alannah and Madeline Foundation has, to date, supported 1.5 million children and their families impacted by violence. More information can be found here
The incredible, larger than life sized, kangaroos were painted/decorated by Australian artists and identities – one of them, a beautiful young lady aged eight years old, and already, an inspirational artist!
Each roo will be auctioned off to the public and the funds will go to the Foundation.
Winning bidders get to take their chosen roo home. Imagine having one placed among tall grasses in an Australian native garden.
Quite a statement and conversation piece it would make.
We marvelled at the many multi-coloured marsupials.
Look closely, and you can see a wee joey between the silvered arms of this beauty.
The public can vote for their favourite by dropping a gold coin donation in a box representing each roo.
This one below, painted by Michael Leunig, was very popular.
Leunig is an iconic Aussie cartoonist, writer, painter, philosopher, poet and cultural commentator, whose simple yet clever illustrations have captured many hearts and minds for over forty years.
After some deliberation, I found myself being drawn back time and again to this one.
Named, ‘Steampunkdaroo’, it was created by clever Melbourne artist, Joe Blanck.
This stunning rustic roo comes complete with its own “working” gauges and barometers. If I won Lotto, it would have been my choice to bid on. A unique sculpture, supporting a worthy cause, and installed in a natural garden setting. Sigh, one can dream…
All that “serious” contemplation made us hungry, so we headed up to the Chocolaterie.
Therein was a wonderland of temptation to suit all tastes.
The range was impressive – over 250 quality, luscious products! White chocolate. Dark chocolate. Milk chocolate. Plain or mixed with fruit or nuts, sourced from their own organic gardens.
Through the large viewing windows, you can watch chocolatiers at work.
Not quite Oompa-Loompas, but experts nevertheless. I think Mr Wonka would be very pleased :)
As it was a hot day, any chocolate would have melted in the car on the way home, so we opted for a scoop of icecream. There was a delicious array of choices. From rich, velvety, creamy concoctions to gorgeous dairy-free gelatos.