Monday, 14 April 2014

Misty Moments

Just a short post as I continue to prepare for the big Easter market this weekend.

A late night finishing up glazing for today's firing, has my brain as foggy as the photos I took on a recent evening walk.
The condensation was so very thick, that the heavy moisture played havoc with the camera.

But, the atmosphere was deliciously eerie.

The wheel is turning, and the nights are cool. An extra blanket goes on the bed.
Soon, the whole mountain will be painted in golden-russet hues.

Autumn is here.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Leviathan Love ~ Part 2

Just as the sea and the song of the whale called to me recently, so has the yearning to get back to sculpting. To have my hands forming in 3D again.
And, it somehow felt right that the gentle, giant denizens of the deep be my first subjects.

A few weeks ago, I briefly sketched a simple guide to refer to.

Then my journey began.

The first whale came to life in my hands pretty quickly. Then, one after the other was born.

 whale without a tail

Once completed, they were tucked under a blanket of plastic to ensure slow, even drying. The flippers are very fragile at this “green” stage and required careful handling as the sculpts dried.
The plastic was removed in the last few days before going into the kiln.

 a curious onlooker

Once bisque fired, my pod await glazing, belly up safely in a sea of foam and padding.

Last weekend, whilst the glaze kiln was cooling down, hubby and I visited a salvage yard. It was like they used to be - before rustic, or rather “vintage”, became trendy and ridiculously expensive.
This wonderfully cobwebbed, dusty Aladdin's cave was filled with old furniture and (once familiar every day) bric-a-brac, that propelled me back to my childhood.
And, out back had odd assortments of gems that might mean nothing to one, but would appeal greatly to another.  One man's junk, as they say.
I came out with a few short lengths of old wood and some rusted objects that were once part of an industrial or mechanical workshop.

As much as I can, I would like to incorporate the element of found objects, along with salvaged/reclaimed wood, with my sculpts.
And I’m always on the lookout for old/vintage books about the sea, birds, animals and related poetry, to include in my work if and when it seems fitting.

May objects and words inspire me to create a story around them.

Having painted animal portraits years ago, I was very tempted to spend more time than I should in creating realistic pieces.
Trying to keep them simple and stylised, rather than real, and knowing when to say “done”, was the trick for me.
And, to remind myself that there is a certain price point that people are willing to spend at a market – even if it is an art & craft market.

My "stylised" whales were created with that in mind.

Here are two that I’ve mounted and finished. The others are still waiting patiently.

I used glazes, or rather, underglazes, with a chalk/matte finish, and chose not to overglaze with a gloss finish.

I really like the tiny rainbow that fell across the base here – an echo of my past, living on the “Rainbow Coast” of W.A.
It also highlights the "Head of the Bight" Whale Sanctuary :)

And so, I hope to be able to juggle my requirements to keep my usual market wares in stock, while finding time to sculpt.
As winter approaches, and markets become scarce, it will hopefully be a good opportunity to do just that.
Perhaps, it would be nice also, to approach a few galleries to see if they’d be interested.
But, I know it’s a tough and competitive art world, and I’m wary of high hopes and ambitions in these uncertain economic times.
So, I hope I’m not getting my ambition mixed up with my aptitude :)

There are times I feel very daunted and doubtful in my ability. But, that I have to overcome.
My artistic ventures were never supported when I was growing up, being told that I was "never good enough". And after all these years, doubt still gnaws at the edges of my sometimes fragile art-ego.

But, to sculpt. To feed my creative soul. It has been good - very good to do so. And I’m cautiously pleased with myself, and my muse.
For now.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Leviathan Love ~ Part 1

Our recent trip down to the peninsula reminded me how much I miss the sea.

For over sixteen years, we lived on the southernmost tip of Western Australia.
1986 - scanned from my archives... a cardboard box :)

A wild and gloriously rugged coastline, with an uninterrupted horizon of cobalt and indigo blue that stretched out as far as the eye could see. Next stop would be Antarctica.

We were just minutes from a pristine and (well, back then) very private beach known only to the locals and but a few visitors. Where the sand was so fine and quartz white, it squeaked as you walked.
A little bay of blue, bordered by boulders on both sides. A tiny secret harbour where the light danced and shimmered in the aqua-green shallows.

 2000 - having the beach to ourselves, and loving it!

Looking out over the gloriously vast, cold waters of the Southern Ocean, I would think about the myriad creatures swimming within that deep blue.
Sharks - often gorgeous Great Whites, at salmon run time – dolphins, orcas, seals, penguins, turtles, stingrays, beautiful array of fish and minute sea life, and of course… whales.

Since Albany's bloody history of whaling ended in 1978, whale numbers have grown, and they now breed and feed safely in the sheltered and protected waters off the coast, migrating between the warm northern waters and the cooler seas surrounding Antarctica. Where sadly, for too long and for so many, it became their last journey.

I have long been a supporter of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. And, consider Captain Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd, a hero.
He is no pencil pushing head of an organisation behind a desk.
This huge hearted vigilante, and pirate for the seas, has perilously placed himself between whales and harpoon ships for over 30 years.
I consider myself very fortunate to have met Paul in Fremantle years ago, when I donated food supplies for their Antarctic campaign, Operation Migaloo.
He and his brave, tireless, dedicated crews defend not only the great leviathans of the seas, but all that dwell within the depths.
It is they, the creatures of the sea, who are his clients.

On April 1st 2014, the world woke to the news about the ban on whaling in the Southern Ocean. Making the “research whaling program”, which has killed thousands of whales in the spurious name of "science", illegal.
A momentous and hard won victory for Paul, his incredible conservation society and their many supporters.
Whilst wildlife organisations and governments were calling for an end to whaling, it was the Sea Shepherd who laid their lives on the line, every season, to ensure as very few whales as possible were slaughtered, and that the whalers “quota” not be met.

They fight at the front line. True soldiers for the sea.

Sea Shepherd’s public campaigns influenced the Australian government to act, which brought about the International Court of Justice final decision.
It is Sea Shepherd that I take my hat off to. And will continue to support, as they keep a keen eye on the Southern Ocean next season to ensure Japan abides by the decision.
Should they return however, the ships bearing the familiar black eco-pirate flag will be on their heels.
Now to stop whaling in the north.

One day soon, may whaling be relegated to the history books for all time.
Also, an end to the cruel slaughter of the dolphins in Taiji, senseless shark finning and culling, remove baited drumlines and longline fishing, the worldwide closure of oceanariums/sea worlds - the list of cruelty is almost endless and overwhelming.
But, time, determination and the passion of organisations like Sea Shepherd and millions of supporters will help win out in the end.
It can be done.

*I'll post Part 2 on Friday.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Dog Days: April

If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.
~ Woodrow Wilson

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Reading, books and cats


Edward Gorey 
Eccentric American writer and artist noted for his illustrated books… and cats.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

A spiny encounter

On our walk yesterday, we came across this little fellow.

All together now, awwwwww.

Totally and utterly uninterested that we were there, this Echidna (aka Spiny Anteater) excavated the hard dirt with his/her very powerful claws, in search of a late afternoon snack - ants or termites probably, or maybe a tasty worm.

Hubby and Jack stayed well back, while I watched him in wonder, and was able to get quite close, as he was lost in his foraging.
After a short while, he set his sights on more humus (and insect) rich soil... across the road.

 Down the kerb and off I go.

He was happy to have me accompany him and watch for cars, blissfully unaware of the dangers. He had a firm idea of where he was going, and nothing was going to stop him. And, with those spines, who was I to argue?

This was one of those times I cursed that I didn't have my camera. I used hubby's iPhone, so some of the images aren't too sharp and, I never know where to put my thumb, hence the pink tinged shadow - sorry folks :)

Once safely on the other side, we left him, happily burrowing deep into what seemed the promise of a good meal.

What a fine encounter with one of Australia's wonderful inhabitants.


Thursday, 6 March 2014

Bugged out

There are times when I’m grateful for my forgetfulness.

I left my camera in the glove box the other day, and kept meaning to go get it (I don’t like to leave it in the car), but was distracted each time I thought of it.
So yesterday, when I pulled into the local shops car park and saw, “The Bug Guy”, I paused and then smiled as I reached for my camera.

The last time I saw this guy at the shop, I had no camera with me, so the opportunity went begging.
Not this time.

He was already somewhere in the store when I hurriedly dashed through the turnstile, grabbing a basket and pulling my camera out of my pocket.
With neither grace nor subtlety, I lurched from aisle to aisle, staring intently down each one.

Now, the way I excitedly stalked the man in the little black hat, you’d think I was five, not fifty.

I bailed him up in the bread section.
The slightly manic look in my eyes had him stepping back a pace or two.

What’s the reason for my behaviour, you ask? Aside from the fact that I’m an oddball, and unusual things tickle my fancy?


(you can click on the photos for a closer look)

He walks around with live massive insects clinging to him!

These seem a lot like the garden variety stick insects, only much, much larger. Aren't they lovely?
They're commonly known as Children's Stick Insect or, Yellow Winged Spectre. Cool.

When they feel threatened by a predator, they will attempt to bluff it by displaying the "eye blotches" on their wings.


Delicate and beautiful.

Although, I have to admit that I was just a little bit disappointed, as the last time I met him, his companions were these little guys...

Spiny Leaf Insects.
And, they have the cutest faces - like little aliens  :)

The Bug Man, aka Alan, takes his "bugs" to festivals and generally out and about, to inform and educate children and adults about some of our weird and wonderful insects.
Be fascinated, not afraid. Respect.

And no, none of his friends ever leap off him and end up in the mixed lettuce bins in the fruit & veg section.
He always leaves with the same number of critters he goes in with  :)

Snakes, bugs, birds, animals… they all interest me. Everything has its place on this earth, and are so fascinating to meet and learn about.


Saturday, 1 March 2014

Dog Days: March

His ears were often the first thing to catch my tears.
 ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning, referring to her cocker spaniel, Flush

 These velvet black ears have caught many of my tears over the years.


Friday, 21 February 2014

Coastal Cruising

Last week, I was bitten by a white-tailed spider.
It wasn’t big enough to do much damage - unlike the large ones seen around the house lately.
But, along with the recent heatwave, and sleepless, hot nights, it was enough to make me cranky, whiney, irritated, itchy and… bitchy.

Saturday night, hubby took pity on (or, was fed up with) my pathetic keening, and suggested a drive down to the Peninsula, with the promise of, “breakfast somewhere” on Sunday.
A welcome cool coastal change would mean a very pleasant outing, and a distraction to my incessant focus on the bite.
I gladly accepted.

We woke to a drizzly grey morning, after a delicious sleep in.
Usually, on market days, we are up at 4:30am to allow for the one hour trip and the 45 minute set-up before early bird customers arrive. Our monthly trips down to Red Hill, mean “work” for me at the markets, so it was very nice to be tourists for the day instead.

The bay greeted us with silver-grey hues and a misty morning salty kiss on our cheeks.

Flinders Bight, looking out to West Head, Phillip Island in the distance, and out beyond to Bass Strait

We revelled in the empty beach – especially Jack, as he sniffed the air and watched the gulls, content to let them go about their beachy business and just observe.

As I snapped away, I heard a familiar, heartwarming trill among the dense low shrubs. And, was delighted to see this little fellow.

At first, I thought he’d be elusive and too quick to get a non-blurry photo. But as I sat quietly waiting, he came out to sing his song and pose for his audience of one.

I can’t even begin to express how much I adore wrens.

We continued our drive further down the coast and came to a viewing platform overlooking the notoriously wild waters of Bass Strait.
I spied three daring souls braving the biting wind. Kitesurfers. 

click on the image to see them a little clearer

Beneath the waves is the Mushroom Reef Marine Sanctuary. An unusual intertidal coastal landform, which is a naturally protected home to multitudes of unique and diverse marine life, as well as being a valuable natural feeding/roosting habitat for shore birds.
Low tide exposes the mushroom shaped cobbled platform, revealing small bays and many sheltered rock pools, providing places to hide within crevices and under loose rocks for the many species of crabs, fish, sea stars and anemones.
The bottoms of the rock pools are covered in dense meadows of bright green seagrass and brown seaweed - perfect camouflage for the delicately beautiful Weedy Seadragon - Victoria’s marine state emblem.


The reef is also home to exquisitely beautiful, but potentially deadly, Blue Ringed Octopus.

For landlubbers, there’s the Flinders golf course on the cliffs – a pretty spiffy place to play, I’d say.

As the sky grew blue, we grew hungry. We headed inland to the sweet, sleepy coastal town of Flinders, and saw a welcome sight.

Lovely atmosphere. Cute historical cottage. Friendly service. Great food.

And… dogs are very welcome in the courtyard.
What’s not to like? Perfect!

With tummies replete, we moved on.
And, then got lost.
No matter, it was fun finding our way.

Following the coast for a while, we pulled off the road and stopped to admire the view.
In the distance, I saw what I now know to be Cape Schanck Lighthouse.
Built in 1859, it’s the second oldest coastal lighthouse in Victoria, and sits on the southernmost tip, overlooking Bass Strait.

Still a “working lighthouse”, it keeps the shipping lanes safe, as boats pass the Peninsula to and from Melbourne.

Don’t know why, but I’ve always been super fascinated by lighthouses, and love images of them. Something about the wild and lonely seas they shine out on.
Perhaps I was a salty sea dog, or a lone lighthouse keeper in a previous lifetime.

Sadly, as it is within the Mornington Peninsula National Park, we could go no further to see it, as dogs aren’t allowed. So, the long range resolution taken from the road is pretty awful. Sorry folks.

You can just see the lighthouse upon the rocky headland.

Here’s a better image...


One day, hopefully soon, we’ll return to take a tour around the lighthouse and keeper’s cottages.

We headed back up the other side of the peninsula, along the Port Phillip Bay foreshore, stopping from time to time to take advantage of a surprisingly non-crowded day and gaze once more at the beautiful water, before heading inland and home.

I spotted a juvenile Pacific Gull and Little Pied Cormorant on rocks dipped in the sparkling blue-green shallows.

Jack had quite the day. Sensory experiences galore.
In and out of the car at regular intervals eventually took its toll, and he slept deeply all the way home.

dear old soul

I was literally buoyed (pun intended) after our trip to the coast. And promised myself, that it wouldn’t be too long before we do it again.
There’s something about the sea air that blows the mind’s cobwebs away.

Speaking of cobwebs...

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Dog Days: February

The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog.
~ Senator George Graham Vest

If you have time, please go to the link I'll provide below to read (then lawyer) Vest's heartwarming, and rending, eulogy of the dog, in response to the sad shooting of a beautiful hound dog.
His speech delivered to the court at the trial of Old Drum, became known as, "one of the most enduring passages of purple prose in American courtroom history", and the most memorable tribute in modern history to dogs, reducing the jury and most of the court to tears.

Click here and scroll down to read his eulogy and more about the trial.

Interesting to note, this speech is the origin of the phrase known the world over...

"man's best friend is his dog".

If you are interested in learning more about the trial in full, you can read further, here.