Wednesday, 23 September 2015

equal night

Here, this evening, as we approach the vernal equinox in the southern hemisphere, there is an eerie quiet in the forest.

A stillness and anticipation from the wild creatures.
No birds are singing right now – a rare thing, as evensong is a regular occurrence just before twilight.

Even Jack has sensed a change and seems acutely alert.

Soon, the length of day and night will be nearly equal in all parts of the world.

And, for a time...


Saturday, 19 September 2015

Secret Hollow

A little while ago, I spent some time thumbing through albums and organising dusty boxes of photographs and came across some pics of our little property in country Western Australia.
The photos are a huge wrench for my heart, for they show the place which was the saving of my Self and the making of who I am.
There, in that secluded nook carved within an old forest, I was truly able to begin to mend the hurt of a long abused childhood.
It was my sanctuary.

Following are scans of photos I took many years ago. They are not great quality, but still, looking at them even after all this time, as hard I might try otherwise, the tears fall unbidden.
I wish now that I had taken more photos of the gardens in all seasons, for a garden is as beautiful at rest in the depths of winter as it is in the flush of spring and in the hazy, ripe warmth of summer.

The small, hundred year old weatherboard cottage was once the school for a mere handful of local farmers’ children, and was surrounded by a couple of bare, grassed acres.

On the eastern side of the cottage, just outside the back door, was a very old apple tree which produced beautiful, huge heritage cooking apples.  Many blissful hours were spent sitting under its mossy, verdant boughs offering deep, deep shade on a warm summer’s day, and countless apple pies and crumbles were cooked with those delicious apples. We loved that tree very much.**

hubby's handiwork - arbor and pretty picket fence surrounding the old apple tree

We acquired chickens and geese, adopted orphan sheep and calves and kangaroos. Then, baby goats that grew to provide us with fresh, nutritious milk - from which I made the best soft herbed cheeses we ever tasted.
Our now ex-city dogs, Max and Jessie, were in seventh heaven, and behaved ever so well with our new country brood.

Soon, I bought a horse, then another.

Nina Ballerina

There were many networks of forest trails and back roads to ride, and I spent a glorious few years in their company.

misty morning trails adjoining the property

Then, after early miscarriages, I fell pregnant successfully. But, due to complications, I could no longer ride, and the painful decision to sell my horses was made.

As my belly grew, so did the grass in the small, sad, empty paddocks.
But also, a kernel of an idea began to grow alongside my wee babe.

And, in time, I turned grass into gardens.

The experience of being a new mother was a deeply profound incredible honour, and I look back on those days with a great fondness that tugs at my heart.  Motherhood is selfless and all consuming. In nourishing a child, you give all of yourself in those early days/weeks/months. Just as it should be.

But, there was still the child within me that was left wanting. She was crying out in need too. Forsaken long ago and further ignored.  Something was missing.

I was never shown how to be a good mother. I had no - absolutely no - strong female role model. No friends. No support. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to, “do this mothering thing”.
Both my husband and I were adrift on the alternating joyful/tearful sea of new parenthood.

In creating a garden - this garden - I was able to make myself a better mother, and allay my husband's worries.  I finally understood how to nurture.

sweet boy, not much bigger than the watering can, my eager little helping hand ♥♥

Day by day, I learned that children and gardens, respond to the kind of care that they get. That a garden requires patience, work, careful attention and love. So does a child.
My baby boy was never neglected. Neither was my garden.
He grew like topsy, and so did my garden.
I gave so much to them. And they thrived.
In return, they showed my inner child - she, who once didn’t believe in any kind of good future - how to sing, and smile, and dance. 
And there, in that Secret Hollow, in my old cottage and pretty garden, with my husband, child and beloved animals by my side, I began to heal.

Those days.  In between mothering and tending animals, I spent time designing, stepping out preliminary plans, hauling barrow load upon barrow load of mulch, carting bucket after bucket after bucket of grey water from the laundry tub and turning deep sand into good, composted soil. Shifting large rocks from one end of the property to the other. Digging endless holes as the spade became an extension of my arms.
Hands blistered and calloused, muscles endlessly aching, skin burnt by the sun’s rays - or soaked to the core from working in the rain, and deep bone weariness at the end of each and every day was more than cathartic.
It was the building up that my broken spirit needed.

the front garden, newly planted

here be dragons... and kittens
thriving and growing

a secret garden takes shape with its beautiful arbor awaiting a gate

the following season - enticing and mysterious

inside the secret garden looking out - spot Sunny beneath the bench

I have so many wonderful memories of the creating of this garden ~

~ Large areas of overgrown turf turned into enriched beds waiting for green inhabitants to arrive.
~ Digging holes. I became very proficient at digging and planting, digging and planting.
~ Laying pathways of salvaged bricks and crazy paving.
~ Dropping into the small nursery in town after the weekly shopping, wandering the rows, baby on hip, looking for "just one more potted plant to fill that gap". And, being able to divide or propagate more plants from one pot.
~ Driving to the local post office to pick up boxes of tube stock herbs and perennials ordered from nursery catalogues.
~ The day I bought seven Silver Birch saplings to plant in the lawn alongside the top garden.
*I used Edna Walling’s preferred method of putting the same number of potatoes as tree saplings in a bucket, flinging them forth over the chosen area, and planting the trees where the potatoes fell – a less formal and more harmonious, natural way of planting. Edna would often plant two birches in the one hole, as seen in a woodland setting.
~ Hubby being amused, as I clapped my hands each season when a truck full of mulch or baled straw arrived at the front gate. A snug blanket-to-be for the garden.
~ Watching in awe as hubby fabricated metal arches and wooden arbors from my drawn scribblings on the back of cereal packets. He’s a very talented man.
~ And especially, the excited anticipation of travelling with hubby, car trailer in tow, multiple times to pick up hundreds of Old and David Austin roses.
I came to know, and remember each and every one of them, and whispered their names as I greeted them every day.
~ The utter joy at seeing plump buds and new growth tips appear at the end of each winter. The promise of spring/summer lushness to come.

Heliotrope by the back door – the subtle scent of vanilla would waft gently throughout the house

the rear garden, a perfect way to hide the washing line - foxgloves and roses and pansies oh my!
gorgeous golden blooms of David Austin's Graham Thomas with a scent like delicious custard

adorable Abraham Darby - prolific and perfumed

the beauty of scent - Abraham Darby and lovely Leander at the back with DA Heritage in the foreground

Each season required specific jobs: weeding, mulching, pruning, fertilising. Every one a learning curve. I improved with each year, and the garden responded likewise.
No task, large or small, was ever resented. For it would have felt like begrudging what my soul delighted in.
Even regular lawn mowing - which took a minimum of two hours with my trusty hand pushed Honda Buffalo mower (I named it Buffy) was a happy task. It gave me time to contemplate, plan and dream… and a Gemini always needs time to dream :)

top garden

summer flush

how to disguise an old shed - lots of blooms!

I’ll always remember the balmy summers, as the sun slowly set and shot rays of gold over the gardens after a long days work well done - with the unforgettable smell of freshly cut grass mingling with fragrant flowers and herbs warmed by sunshine, while bees drunk on floral ambrosia, gathered nectar and plentiful pollen.
Truly, halcyon days.

It’s hard to believe that one place could hold such importance in one’s heart.
But, this was to me, my Brigadoon. A place of magic, shrouded from a world of hurt. Where I could shut the gates and feel safe. Finally.

After almost seventeen years, the leaving of it forever was so very, very difficult…

Somehow, I feel a part of me will always remain there, in that little secret hollow in the forest, thousands of miles from where I am now. How can it not?

Will I find another place where I can grow again? I truly hope so. I learned so much back then, and have more to learn, and to give.
I want to spend the rest of my days tending herbs and vegetables, with dogs and cats milling about my feet as I take moments to stop, bathed in the amber light of a warm summer’s afternoon, and smell the heady scent of old English roses once more - as my soul sighs deeply and the child within sings sweetly...

‘The Soul of the Rose’, also known as ‘My Sweet Rose’, by John William Waterhouse

**After we sold the property, the old apple tree was cut down by the new owners to extend the carport. Those people moved on three years later, leaving the legacy of an ugly extension instead of an aged, graceful and still fruiting, heritage tree.  The news of this broke my heart.


Monday, 14 September 2015


I’ve been drinking copious amounts of nourishing herbal infusions and teas in an effort to slowly restore my health.

Designed an old-style coat rail from a salvaged skirting board and vintage coat hooks – I design, hubby makes – we're a great team :)
The rail reminds me of, and is based on, my old primary school coat/bag room.

I painted the front entry and the stairwell - which were very, very dark, dingy and uninviting.
Now they are warm and welcoming in their fresh coat of creamy white.

The mornings are still super chilly, and breakfast by the crackling open fire at a favourite café is wonderfully cosy.

Had coffee with a peacock one sunny spring day.

Been serenaded by a magpie.

Receive daily visits from a wee feathered friend.

Walks with “this boy” are fewer and far between, as he prefers to sleep most of the day now. But, he's still never far from my side  ♥♥

Am totally in love with my new - old - vintage cast iron skillet and lid... all the way from the USA!  It's nearly a hundred years old, in perfect condition and is as sturdy as the day it was made. I like to imagine all the meals prepared in it and the hands it has passed through.
A truly rustic, honest and beautiful piece of craftsmanship that we just don't see anymore.

On my studio table.

Sunday, 23 August 2015


adjective: abstract
  1. relating to or denoting art that does not attempt to represent external reality, but rather seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, colours, and textures.

Mother Nature - the best artist

Rainbow Eucalyptus 

Monday, 3 August 2015


Add to that - and I speak for myself -

  • Procrastinate
  • Feel lost when their muse goes on vacation
  • Daydream instead of doing the housework
  • Exist in another dimension where time is of no consequence
  • Can be hard to live with when “in the zone”….. which is often  :)

My poor hubby.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Highs, lows and shows

A whirlwind of energies – good and bad – has swirled around me these past few months. For now, it feels as though the dust is settling a bit, and I’m able to see a little clearer.  Not completely healed though. That will take time.

I’ve been away from here for far too long, and the yearning to return has been strong. Thank you everyone, for your kind words and support. I could feel the waves of love way over in my little corner of the world.  Hugs to you all  xx

I would've liked to have made six textile sculpts for the show, but, life stuff stood in the way, and my ambitious thoughts of creating something large and spectacular just didn't come to fruition.  Maybe next time.
Through a fog of discomfort, when I just didn’t want to go into my studio, but knew I had to, I took each day as it came, and eventually my creations were done, one by one.

Starting with two characters from my "sewing stable" - my ever lovely Hares.
No matter how many I may end up making, each are like new friends and no two are exactly the same.
First came Claude. Then pretty Cleo took shape. I gave her red paisley inner ears and tail to contrast.

They are always a favourite with people.

One rainy afternoon, as I finished sewing the little patch on Claude's tummy, I must have subconsciously rested his paw on my arm. I looked up momentarily at his face and warmed at the sparkle in his eyes - the studio light catching them just so, as to make him come alive.
And my heart melted.  All thoughts of feeling sorry for my ill-self fell away and I couldn’t resist a smile, and whispered, “you are a handsome hare, I can't believe I'm selling you".  Sending them out into the world, after having them close to me is quite the tug.
But, go they must, and hopefully, they bring happiness to those who receive them.

I know it might seem corny to be taken with a so-called inanimate object. But, we artists breathe life into our creations as we work on them.  From conception to finish - when they come alive with their own essence. We spend so much time with them. It’s no wonder that they in turn take on a part of us and are somehow inherently given a little bit of soul.

Or… maybe I just need to get out more  :D

After my Hares, my mind pushed through mental mush to moments of clarity, as I prepared for my next artwork.
I had a firm and clear picture. How it was to be executed was another thing.
Two failed mock ups later, I was happy with the beginnings of my Raven.

Slowly but surely, piece by textural piece, he grew into the makings of a fine large bird, each stage falling into place. But, not yet had I considered his beak or legs.

As I sewed, I recalled the first stanza of Poe’s poem, The Raven ~

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore -
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door -
Only this and nothing more.”

Ever since a young girl, I have loved Poe and his melancholy works. Hardly surprising really…

The Raven is one of my favourites, and is universally loved by many.

Long had I imagined my own artistic version of Poe’s large black ebony bird, taunting the grief stricken narrator who pined for the “lost Lenore”, with an open locket held in its beak - a photo of Lenore enshrined within.  At any moment, the bird could fly off, taking his only memento of her far away.  To be seen… “Nevermore”.

Now, my ambition can very much get mixed up with my aptitude, and I worried that in no way could I realistically reflect that which was in my mind’s eye. But, I am nothing if not obstinate, and so I ploughed on.
Frayed and fringed feathers of fabric were sewn onto wings and body. My studio floor awash with thousands of tiny shreds of ebony filaments.

 Quick sketches for reference and Mr Gaiman’s words are always nearby…

Trusting in my muse, I completely gave over to her as the hours blurred, one into another. There were days I ran a fever, but I stitched on.

Finally, he was ready for his legs and feet. I worked my sculptors clay upon the wire armature, molding and morphing the lumps of grey into sharp, raptor-like talons.

***  A pair of magpies visit me every morning.  I can hear them caroling far off, singing their greeting to the day.  I whistle my call to them - one they are very familiar with now, and they come.
To see them winging their way, specks in the distance, as they glide and slice their way through the air to land at my feet gladdens my heart, no matter how shite I might feel. And, it is an honour.
These magnificent wild birds trust me enough to spend a small part of their morning with me.
Hubby says I spend far too long with them, but I have been able to study up close their anatomy – birds’ feet can be the hardest to “capture” realistically. ***

As a result, and with great surprise to me, my Raven’s feet and sturdy legs were crafted with ease.  My time with “the Maggies” well spent.
Now to the beak. A much more difficult proposition.
I had to make it natural looking enough to hold the chain from which a tiny oval locket hung.
After three attempts, I was satisfied. Eyes were placed, then the feet painted and attached to a wonderful old piece of time worn and weathered timber which hubby cut to size, then I sanded and oiled to bring out its wonderful grain.

The final touch - the lost Lenore.
“How”, I asked myself many times, “does she look?”
In my mind, Lenore was still young, vulnerable, beautiful yet “saintly”.  An angel.
Who, to me, looks like that? So many models and Hollywood stars are far too recognisable and truly not as untouched as the Lenore of my imaginings.
I searched through many archived b&w photos until I came across the naturally stunning Broadway and silent film actress, Maude Fealy.  One of her many images in particular stood out to me.

It is she who is my Lenore.

And so, my Raven was done. Titled, “Poe’s Sorrow”.

Poe wrote The Raven whilst his wife, Virginia, was terminally ill with tuberculosis. Perhaps much of the poem’s un-named narrator’s despair echoed Poe’s sorrow for his own beloved.

Black, textured pieces are super hard to photograph, and my photography skills aren’t honed enough to do him justice, but he really is lovely in reality.

With my Raven finished, I had enough time to create the last artwork to be submitted.

Wesley - the wise woodland owl - was born “an old soul”, fairly quickly and easily.
It’s as if he was in a hurry to burst forth in a blustery flurry of wildly frazzled feathery wings.

I swear, I heard him muttering and grumbling at the state of the world as I feverishly stitched him into being.  His furrowed fabric brow and stern stare reflect his thoughts about, “the shenanigans going on in society today” and how we humans aren’t learning from our past mistakes, and even worse, are losing what values we once held dear.

Crafted from recycled clothing, Wesley doesn’t give a hoot about material things, and says neither should we hold them in such high esteem. Values of respect, patience, ethics, caring, community, integrity, honesty and responsibility, among others, are what we need to focus on once more… 

Don’t let his grumpy disposition fool you, he truly is wise ;)

I figured that Wesley needed a pair of good solid feet on which to stand as he surveys his domain from on high.

And so finally, my fine fabric friends destined for the gallery were tagged and kissed on the nose and forehead for good luck and delivered… the deadline met.

The Grand Opening was held on Friday night.  I really didn’t feel up to going, but hubby took me nevertheless. Free bubbly, gourmet finger food and the chance to rub shoulders with some of Melbourne's VIPs?  Why not.  A rare occasion for this hermit.

The hall was literally filled to the rafters with very fine exhibits from many talented artisans. So full in fact, that even the smallest of space was truly at a premium.

Seeking out my Raven, I found that he had been awarded “highly commended”.

I was told by an organizer that the judge found her decision hard to make, and that he came very close to being awarded first prize.  I am incredibly grateful.  Seeing as there were no second/third prizes, that’s not too shabby for my very first art&craft exhibition in Melbourne, making my delirious days of doubt all worth while.

I silently allowed a tear to roll down my cheek before I quickly wiped it away…

To be assessed and judged by one’s peers, in a capital city where the arts community is vibrant, strong and fiercely competitive, is an honour, and it encourages me to continue to create and grow with confidence as I find my feet…
… until the demons of doubt once more gnaw at my heels and hopes, and I must fight them off with an iron will, and sharpened pinking shears :)
The inner rollercoaster is an artist’s lot, I’m afraid.

Oh and, one final word from Wesley about the.....  umm, Wesley?  Wesley?


Saturday, 4 July 2015


... life has been a continual series of discomfort, sickness and ailments, mingled with the need to start and finish artwork that is to go into a gallery exhibition in two weeks, scattered with long sleepless nights, and stretched into seemingly endless periods of waiting.
Time marches on, waiting for no one, while the clock ticks endlesslessly.
Tick Tock.

Soon, I hope to return to Blogland in better health and higher spirits.

Til then, sending you all warmest hugs.

 biding time


Sunday, 5 April 2015


Harry is rationing the little eggs. But, he doesn't know that I have two Lindt chocolate bunnies in my drawer, heh heh :)

In this politically-correct, heavily consumerist age, where easter eggs are termed "spring spheres" (no, I'm not kidding) and arguments rage about whether one should/shouldn't celebrate easter if one isn't christian, and whether the southern hemisphere should/shouldn't celebrate easter when it is clearly not spring, I will say anyway...  Happy Easter everyone!


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Mad as a March Hare

A little over a week ago I applied - and was accepted at the last minute due to a cancellation - to a popular market.

With just one week to prepare, I found myself hare raising and clay making, day and night… all while I battled the onset of the flu.
It’s been some years since I caught the dreaded bug, but, I’ve been run down and my defences are low, so, I guess it was my time for a bout.
Couldn’t have come at a worse time. But then, when is there a “good time” for the flu?

Downing cup after cup of my herbal “swamp water” brew, to reduce the time the flu hung on, I glazed for days in preparation for firing.  Then, I cut, stitched, stuffed, painted and patched hares.
I had intended to finish three… oh how hopefully optimistic I was.  No matter how I tried, the flu slowed me down.
With aching sinuses, I sneezed, wheezed, coughed and spluttered my way through the week.  All I wanted was to go to ground, rest and allow my body to recover – I’ve always considered that’s the best remedy.

So, once more, I decided to finish one soft creation rather than cobble together three hastily. They deserve better than that.

Currently, there is a tangle of striped legs and coffee stained calico paws in my sewing cabinet, waiting to be buttoned onto soft bodies, and fringed lashes to be attached to bright eyes.

On the eve of the market, with ceramics finished and packed up, I turned my attention to the pieces of unborn leveret on my sewing table.  I bent my head and worked long into the night.

At 5am on market morning, my ebony hare emerged out of the darkness into the dawn.
I drew a sigh at the look of her. Beautiful.

Harry and Elliot thought so too :)

A few hours later, feeling as though someone had thrown sand in my eyes, and with hubby shaking his head at my ability to stand upright, we arrived at our location and set up our stall.

We were blessed with perfect weather – sunshine and just the slightest of breezes.
As the hours rolled on, we chatted to our lovely stall neighbours and happily greeted customers. Ceramics were popped into gift bags and there were many admiring comments about our long eared trio.

One lady took quite a shining to my newest addition. She passed by the stall twice, hesitating each time and cast longing glances at her.
When she passed by the third time, the look of hope on her face turned to disappointment. The dark hare had gone.
Sold to another stallholder. A lovely young lass with lavender tinted hair who creates the most exquisite black & white fine art pen illustrations. I wish I’d remembered to take a photo of the two of them. But, as usual, I was a little overcome. Or maybe was I just plain exhausted.
I prefer to think it was the former. And I hope I will always feel a little tug at my heartstrings when I sell a textile creation. I get to know their personality as they are brought forth into the world.

There was something in the back of my mind in the wee hours of that morning as I battled flu and defied sleep. The small voice within that pushed me on to finish - no matter how I longed for bed.  For, this particular hare was destined to be found by that particular girl on that particular day. I like to believe that.

And now as I write this late at night, the kiln is firing a load of bisque ware, which I must glaze over this coming weekend and prepare for the big Easter Festival Market next Saturday.  Then, I will attend an autumn market the following weekend.

Already, 2015 seems to be marching on steadily.

Soon, my thoughts will turn to new characters, as they all jostle for attention in my head. One at a time please, I tell them. But my mind isn’t quiet as they chatter at me.
Who knows which one will make their debut.  But for now, they know they have to take a back seat while I tend to the promised Easter Hares.

After that, the creative floodgates open...