Championing your creative soul

Championing your creative soul

DO you have someone in your life who champions you? Who you would say is the greatest encourager of all the things that you were made to be?

It turns out, quite conveniently, that in my life, that person would be my husband. He sees me as a creative being and often expresses delight in this part of me. He encourages me at every whim and new expression to just keep going. He knows I underrate myself and that I internally belittle some of my ideas, so he chooses to encourage and build up from the outside. He buys me books that inspire me. He calls me his “colour girl” and, for example, loves how I create our home around our family. Yes, he is my cheer squad.

One thing I’ve noticed about the people that champion me in my creative pursuits is that they themselves know what it is to put yourself out there. They too are artists, and their artistic spirit is alive.  Support often comes from like minded people.

I know I’ve been spoilt in this way. I grew up in a home where creativity was valued enormously. I could write pages of names of many friends and relatives who have encouraged me along the way. I live in a place where the creative arts are a very integral part of our city’s identity. And people often buy creative pieces that I conjure up.

  Here I am with my sister-in -law Nerida and her daughters, Iris and Nina. A musician and artist herself, Nerida has a gift for  championing others’ creativity. She has initiated creative collaborations in the country town she lives in and I have been the recipient of her championing skills many, many times.  She organises events for Curlybird Designs and has even lent me her gorgeous offspring to be models for my clothing range!

In my own home live three very musical young men. One of them has a school friend who is an Islander – a multitalented musician with an incredible voice. Jesse (my son) picked his voice out at lunchtime jam sessions from the first time he heard it. He would secretly video his voice and bring home the recording for us to listen to, because this young guy wouldn’t sing in front of others (not an easy thing to do for most people!), but Jesse was convinced he needed to be heard. The two play music together and after years of my son encouraging this school friend to sing in front of others, we have all been blessed to experience his soulful voice. That’s is exactly what championing another’s creativity is about.

Having a person or people to cheer you on as you express yourself creatively is very important. I’m passionate about it. I believe we all need encouragement.

Another beautiful example of championing another’s creativity is seen in the film Paterson. Produced in 2016, it tells the simple story of a bus driver and his wife and their individual exploration of their creative soul – he a bus driver by day and a poet, and she, obsessed with all things black and white, from painting the door frames, to making her own clothes, to selling cupcakes … you get the picture. She encourages him daily in his writing, he comes home from work to find all sorts of developments in black and white, and responds with a love for her that embraces whatever it is she is working on. It’s a simple story and yet, for me, very inspiring.  Their support for one other creates a place where they feel safe to express themselves because their work is valued as an extension of who they are, and embraced without conditions.

image from the film Paterson (2016) by Jim Jarmusch.

The truth is, when you create, you are revealing a part of who you are. It makes you vulnerable to show what you done with your hands, your voice, your body, your mind, your heart. To express yourself creatively means you’re exposing your inner self. Having someone champion your efforts can be just what a person needs to support this revealing process.

Something New

Something New

I like to stitch. That’s clear.

But I also like to crochet.

I like to play at origami and make paper cranes.

I gather interesting paper and sew it together into multilayered gift cards.

I like to play with watercolours and create my best painted version of a gum leaf I found on the footpath.

I love to take photographs of leaves arranged in spectrum order.

I make quilts.

I love to make pork dumplings from scratch.

I make my own chai tea and the smell is intoxicating.

I love to bake (a gift handed down by my European mother)

I love playing the clarinet.

I love singing my heart out, harmonising to old (and new) folk music.

I love filling my house with vases of flowers from my spring garden.

If you love to be creative, and you think you’ve found your thing, why not try something new?  Trying something new can open a door to so many new pleasures. Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s the process that brings joy, and perhaps, also the eventual outcomes. Or maybe you’ll be happy with your first attempt.

So what’s next?

I want to try making ceramic cups. I want to learn how to use the potter’s wheel

I want to paint some walls in my house (something I’ve been too afraid to do until now)

I want to improve at playing the Irish tin whistle.

I want to turn my garden into the most perfect summer haven.

What have you wanted to do for a long time? Write yourself a list. Then try something new!  Still lacking courage? Invite a friend to join you as you do.

 Homemade biscuits in a box that I upcycled and decorated with christmas sheet music and other lovely paper. Some of the biscuits are favourite childhood recipes of Mum’s. I took this to family Christmas lunch one year, to share with my siblings. Making it was so much fun as well as a sentimental journey for me.

 a tiny card I painted to tie onto a tiny present

a photo of a rainbow of gum leaves I collected on my walk to pick up my kids from school

  a quilt for a newborn niece

Facebook, Mollymook and Christmas bikinis

Facebook, Mollymook and Christmas bikinis

I enjoy my daily dose of social media, but about six months ago, I found myself trawling through a Facebook feast of tropical islands, European holidays and other amazing, exciting adventures… all of which made me feel, if I’m perfectly honest, unhappy. And jealous.

I had felt like this for some time, but on this day, I felt challenged to respond differently. It seems horrible that I wasn’t happy for my holidaying friends. It’s also easy to say that the solution is to save money and travel abroad myself. “Follow your dreams”, so to speak. For many though, that’s just not a financial reality.

Honestly, I feel guilty about my kids missing out. I wish we could take them overseas. I wish we’d done some amazing trip somewhere and now … time is slipping away. They’re getting older and will soon go their own way.

So here’s what I decided: to marry the reality of my situation with these feelings, and to simply remind myself to be thankful.

I reminded myself that I live in a beautiful country. There is so much of Australia I haven’t seen, not to mention the beauty that surrounds me right where I live. I told myself that if I never get to explore another country again, I can be so grateful for the privileged life I live. I must choose to be thankful, and not to compare. Finally, I want to rejoice in the opportunities others have and not to simply compare my life with theirs.

When I think back to my own childhood, I have many wonderful memories. Like all of us, not all good, but in reality, I have lived a charmed life. I am one of eight children, raised by remarkable parents. I had a privileged education, but we never travelled. I think we went on one holiday to Melbourne when I was in primary school – we swapped houses with another family that had six kids. Other than that I never really ventured outside New South Wales.

What I do remember about my family holidays was Mollymook. Every summer, after Christmas, we packed our bags, our new Christmas bikinis, beach towels and the cricket set, and we headed down the South Coast. We stayed in an uncle’s holiday house – olive green weatherboard, set on a bushy block in a small coastal suburb. It was small, with two bedrooms, a quaint kitchen and a wonderful deck out the back where us girls tried to sun bake when we weren’t at the beach.

The memories are still so special. I imagine part of what I loved was the opportunity to live simply – read all day if I wanted, laze around, go to the beach and eat sausages and mash potato for dinner most nights. There was no takeaway, no telly, not even a phone. Occasionally we’d venture into Milton to Sunday Service or to the cinema. What a treat.

I remember the retro drinking glasses with the colourful prints on them and the trips to the supermarket to replace the ones we broke. I remember sleeping four in the bedroom, beds and bunks all carefully assembled like a gridlocked traffic jam, and the excitement of occasionally being allowed to sleep in the lounge room instead.

I remember one night my baby brother cried for hours in the cot in Dad and Mum’s room as we all lay awake for hours, unable to sleep until he settled. I remember my sister and I grumbling to each other that Dad wouldn’t let us go to the beach until the sun was getting low and when we finally did, he lathered us with the strongest ‘blockout’ that money could buy. Dad was a doctor who had seen enough melanoma to know he didn’t want us to end up with skin cancer, but it ruined our teenage dreams of cooking ourselves with coconut oil in the hot midday sun.

I remember the day we took portraits of us all wearing fabulous seaweed wigs, emerging from the surf, posing like supermodels and sea monsters.

Here’s Lucy and I – total beach babes.

And I remember the challenge of climbing Pigeon House Mountain and the exhilarating feeling of triumph when we got to the top and found the crazy bus stop someone had hauled all the way up there. It was an opportunity only given to us as we got older, when Dad felt we were up for the task. So here we are – evidence of our climb and victory at the top!

             

Every memory, good or bad, is part of the charm I carry with me in my heart whenever I think of my childhood summers.

My husband and I were driving up the coast from Melbourne oearly in our marriage, and we decided to go and see the little house.  We parked in the driveway, we sat there for a minute… and then I burst into tears.

Memories are powerful. It doesn’t seem to matter where your favourite memories were when you were a child, how much they cost, or whether you got to see the world or just a little back beach hours from home. So I don’t think one person’s memories are more valuable than another’s, just because they’re more fancy or more significant by the world’s standards.

I’ll choose to be content and grateful, and in this technological age where the whole world seems so accessible, I’ll teach my children to do the same: to savour the simple things in life, to enjoy being together and be grateful for what they have right now.  If time and money allow them adventures in the bigger world, that’s wonderful. I’ll rejoice in their opportunities.

 

A Maker’s Mind

I found this nest yesterday on a walk. It was sitting in the middle of a footpath and so I took it home.

I do believe in a Maker. The book of Genesis in the Bible says that we were made in the Maker’s image, and I believe this to be is true, on so many levels. One way that I see myself being like the great Maker is that He’s given me a maker’s mind.

Maybe that’s why I think a nest is so precious, so special. It gives me a glimpse into another maker’s mind. I love the care this bird has taken in building the first home for her little ones (generally female birds build the nest). Can you see she’s used a softer fibre in the middle? The maker was, perhaps, thinking of making it comfortable for those newly hatched bodies. The collecting, the weaving and the resourcefulness – I find it a thing of wonder. And there’s an instinctiveness in the making of this little beauty that I am so taken by: it’s what birds do!

Here’s the work of a tiny artist, a designer, another maker, just doing what comes naturally.

Sunday in Leura

Sunday in Leura

One of my favourite memories from my childhood was the regular trips our family took up the Blue Mountains to my Nana’s house. Their house was set in the middle of a double block.

The street at the back had a canopy of trees over it: autumn was stunning. We would enter from the back lane, down a path lined with daffodils, jonquils, bluebells, lavender and covered by pretty rose archways, to the white, weatherboard house, surrounded by colourful hydrangeas. The huge garden was divided into several smaller ones, with benches, bird baths, a huge, shady Liquid Amber tree, and numerous magical spots that I imagined housed countless garden fairies. As a child, every trip around that garden was an adventure.

I loved the spare room in Nana’s home. Twin beds covered in matching pastel florals, a bay window draped with white lace curtains, a white table with collections of knitting needles, wool, haberdashery and ornaments, all beautifully arranged.

I loved the misty 1930’s portraits of Nana and Papa on the wall, recalling the story of their blossoming love. She was just a little girl when he first saw her: he knew, even then, that she was the girl for him. I was fascinated that they had travelled around the world together. The sophistication and enormity of that concept went far beyond my imagination.

I loved hovering around their carpeted kitchen, full of brightly coloured coffee cups and all kinds of ceramic treasures, waiting for Nana’s famous marshmallow matchsticks (choc-dipped delights!) to be shared around our crowd of siblings, cousins and loving grown-ups.

The living room was full of their journeys: an ivory ball inside another, inside another, all intricately carved – the mystery of a handcraft from a far-away world. Original paintings from local artists, many of which were simply of blossoms in a vase. The toy dog that looked, in my opinion, just like a real dog, sitting on the hearth in front of the wall heater. He did so love to be lain on, stroked and cuddled…

So many impressions live in my mind from every corner of that little cottage and its surrounds.

Even the feeling as we left their home, late on a Sunday night, sleepy, my tummy full of delicious treats, wrapped up in one of Nana’s crocheted blankets that she freely handed out to keep us warm as we dozed on the long trip home…

I think what I really loved about Nana was her style. She was very clever, but she also simply loved colour, flowers and using her hands to make and to bless. She had a talent for making, and a gift for making things beautiful, and she seemed to do it so effortlessly. She had a gift for hospitality that I took for granted, but completely aspire to. Looking back, I know that being with my Nana and visiting her home, surrounded by her style and creativity, were very formative for me as a maker. Of course, at the time I was unaware, but looking back, I know that she’s part of the tapestry. My feelings in her home, surrounded by evidence of her cleverness; how inspired I felt each time we drove away: these memories convince me that she helped plant the seeds of creativity in me. I wish she could see them blossoming today.

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Standing in my grandparents’ garden wearing one of Nana’s creations.
She made one for each of us four-in-a-row sisters.

 

 

 

 

leura-family-1978

A collection of my family members all cozy on a winter’s Sunday at my grandparents. Papa and Nana are in the back left of the photo and I’m down in the right corner, clearly delighted by the visit, not to mention the opportunity to sit in a room surrounded by this divine wallpaper!

 

Preloved and Reloved

Preloved and Reloved

I’ve started making new things from old – beautiful, forgotten linens and blankets, usually found hidden in the back corner of an op shop, or buried under a pile of remnants at some secondhand Melbourne market.

I’m often drawn to a piece by the embroidery, a flash of a favourite colour, or the texture of a coarse linen. The other thing that fascinates me is the story behind it. Every one of these treasures belonged to someone. A cloth adorning the family dinner table or a blanket used to keep a little one warm.

Although most of the treasures I collect have a history I will never know, occasionally I’m blessed to find out something that makes the piece not only beautiful, and lined with potential, but special because a word of history comes along with it.

If have you read my first post, you’ll have become acquainted with my mother. A remarkable woman, with a remarkable life, and the other day she gifted me with one such story.

mum-in-traditional-costumeMy mother was born in Czechoslovakia in 1939. Clearly, a difficult year to be born in Eastern Europe, and what followed was a childhood marked by war and some incredible memoirs. She migrated, by boat, to Australia in 1951, at the age of 12 and with her parents and many other Europeans, went to stay in a former Army Camp ‘Bonegilla’, near Albury, before she moved to Sydney to begin her high school years and a new chapter in her life.

My mother, Sieglinde (right), in Czech national costume as part of a procession to celebrate the Australian Eucharistic Congress (Catholic) in Sydney in 1953.

The other day I emailed Mum some photos of preloved and reloved items I have been making. She always champions me – she is, I feel, overly generous in her praise, but who doesn’t want to hear how wonderfully clever they are from the one who started it all? So I eagerly awaited her evaluation of my makings, and it came back with a tale.

close-up-tweedside-shopperThe photo I sent her of the Tweedside Shopper with the label on it had caught her attention. The label on the bag carried a memory with it. At Bonegilla Camp, all migrants had been issued with an army stretcher to sleep on and bedding. The ‘D^D’ blankets provided for them happened to be the very same type that I had made this bag out of.

To me, the blanket was simply a functional army blanket I found at the local Salvos, one that would do well to be transformed into a stylish shopping bag,

To her ‘D^D’ is Department of Defence and the woollen bag was a memory going back 65 years, to a time when a young Czech girl with long plaits, a gentle smile and an uncertain future lay in a camp stretcher under a grey woolen army blanket, dreaming of what life could possibly be like in this new land, Australia.

 

Inside the box

Inside the box

It is possible that my favourite place growing up was inside my mother’s fabric box.
I didn’t hide in there, I didn’t even sit on it that much (it was a wooden box with a groovy, orange ‘seventies’ fabric cover, made into a seat). Mum’s fabric box contained a whole world of beauty and potential to me. It was a box that set my imagination and my hands in motion. That box, along with my mother, started me on a path that has brought me here today. It was my favourite place because it was full of these bundles – fabric remnants from all her creations, each one rolled and tied with a leftover scrap. When I had an idea, it was the key in helping me bring that thought to life.

My mother is quite a seamstress. She taught me how to sew, how to crochet, how to knit (pearl first, as she informs me that Europeans knit with their needles the other way round), how to be clever and industrious with a needle and thread. As I grew up in a home with seven siblings, she had little choice but to make many of our clothes. Whilst second hand clothing shops, markets and swaps are in abundance today, I don’t think people took delight in op shopping back then, not the way they do now.

Mum loves to sew and the remnants in the fabric box were reminders of the many masterpieces that had gone before. My favourite was a bundle of hot pink and orange shot silk remnants left over from a shift dress she’d worn in the sixties. I felt it was fabric for a princess and I took every opportunity to examine it. The way the brilliant colour shifted as I turned, folded and scrunched it, and the bold stripes created by the frayed edges …

My parents’ love for music and each other meant a date to the opera or a symphony performance once in a while on a Saturday night. For me, those evenings held memories too: of the dresses she wore – incredible maxi dresses in green and blue swirls or black with bold pink roses. I adored seeing her in these colours and designs as she immerged from the bedroom, her ensemble complete with her high heels and lovely, long hair. I’d watch her making those dresses, and I longed for the day when I could be responsible for adorning myself in equally wondrous, handmade creations. Of course, she made long dresses for us too.  long-dresses-copy

Mum was my inspiration, my teacher. The fabric box was my resource, holding the materials to making my own ideas a reality. And over time, my hand stitching gave way to the sewing machine. Looking back, I realize that some children caused their mothers grief due to their rudeness or rebellion. Thanks to me, my poor mother’s frustration came from a sewing room that, without fail, looked like a bombsite by the end of every weekend.
Remnants, snipped offcuts, needles, pins, broken machine needles, cotton everywhere and the occasional jammed sewing machine. Despite the occasional rant, Mum was incredibly patient, and intent on helping me, even, at times, to the extreme.

When I was fourteen, I remember her helping me finish a “last minute” project for school. I had asked her to show me how to use the decorative stitch feature on her machine and I insisted, but only because it was urgent. Ok, so she was in labour, and the contractions were fairly regular and frequent, but honestly? I just knew if I didn’t get her to help me before Dad whisked her off to the hospital, it’d be a good week before she’d be back, and I couldn’t finish what I wanted to do. Talk about desperate! Yes, I really was. I’m sure I thought, “she’s given birth before” (seven times to be precise), whereas I was a complete beginner at the decorative machine stitch. In my mind, I was the one that needed assistance.
It all turned out well in the end and I’m happy to report that Dad got her to the hospital with, I’m sure, at least an hour to spare …

So to begin, it seems only right to telling you about the wonderful fabric box, but more importantly, my beautiful mother who got this whole needle-and-thread-thing started.
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Here I am, Miss Daisy and my sister Becky Bluebell wearing Mum’s crepe paper creations for our primary school Easter Hat Parade…