Friday, August 8, 2014

A near death experience in Paris


Last week I had a near death experience.
Pottering about Paris, three days before the flight home I convinced myself 
our plane would be shot from the sky and Don and I would perish in a fiery ball of fire.

Worse than that, Bruce would be an orphan. 
And like the terrible Dog Mum I was, I had made absolutely no provision for him.

some journal pages from paris

The more I thought about it the worse it got. Thoughts like these tend to metastasise 
in your mind, and take over your day. How could I have been so careless? 
So self absorbed? Why hadn’t I organised my entire fortune into security 
for the furry love of my life? There are dogs with trust funds and Bruce 
had to have one. He had to have one now. 
In the three days before we flew out.


                                                           trying to get Bruce's big Boofy head right

Normally, you don’t think about dying, not unless you’re very depressed 
and who could be depressed in Paris? In a Paris apartment with typical Paris 
rooftops, kooky plumbing and all the baguettes you can eat. Morning baguettes 
and afternoon baguettes. Baguettes with butter. 

If I was going to die, I’d choose death by Bordier butter, thank you. 
Bordier butter is salty creamy. It’s listed as one of the ten things you 
have to eat in France. I wanted to carve mermaids out of it and sing to them. 
I wanted to invent new dishes all out of butter. I get why French 
cooking uses it so much; it’s not the yellow grease we get back home.
 It tastes like sunlight. 



Clearly, death by dairy is preferable to a fiery ball over the Ukraine.
 There is more time to make preparations, like who’s got spare keys 
to your house.  More prep time means more time to remedy being the 
most Awful Dog Mum in the world, but I didn’t have that time. 
I had three days and one of those days was doing the Eiffel tower. 


It helped to draw the map in my journal, along with the metro stops. Only I spelled Marche Des Enfants Rouges wrong.

Sweeping baguette crumbs from the lap top, I did the only thing I knew - 
I started to write.  I made letters to trusted ones at home, and sent them off. 
There are many tests of true friendship and emailing someone to say you may die 
in a fiery ball over the Ukraine, is one of them.

Sometimes I ate blueberry tart.


Next I made an online will. Which had to be signed by two witnesses, 
at the same time. Easy. Except I was in Paris, knew nobody, 
and apart from being  able to say “Je prend un cafe au lait,” wasn’t going to get far.
I spent about 24 hours on this part, being eyed suspiciously by French real estates 
agents and pharmacists who were clearly leery of putting pen to a legal document 
in another language, and why should they? In France you don’t 
sign a will like that.   Rejection is good for the soul. 
I got rejected in French. Made it classier.

Flaxseed oil, Rescue Remedy and lavender Oil.

In a voice of gentle humouring, ex hubby phoned from home asking if I was OK, 
and what were these mysterious daily cash deposits doing in his account. 
My life savings had to be available to keep Bruce in the style he was accustomed to, 
I said. And being an ex hubby, knowing me better than most, he said, “Of course”. 

I had less than three days to  transfer my fortune.
Banks don’t like that. They are suspicious like that.  They’re not equipped 
for near death scenarios and furry trust funds. They wanted two days to 
authorise my request. Two days I didn’t have.




The second person was Aunty Lou, dog whisperer. She loved Bruce 
and would adopt him herself. The house minders said they’d stay, 
but the tone was like one you use for dementia patients.


By the time I boarded the plane for home, I knew who my friends were. 
I knew who had keys to the house and who would be custodian for the only one 
who meant the world to me, part from Don. (But only just.)  
Facing death makes you appreciate being alive. It makes you grateful for tiny things. 
Like the sun patch on the balcony where Bruce likes to sleep and the fact that 
people who really know you will love you even 
if you have a pre flight freak out.



When I texted ex hubby in Dubai there was a glass of Moet in my hand. 
I’m still here, I said. Now give me back my money.



P.S. The RSPCA has a legacy program for pets. The Law Society has great info too. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

New Staff for the Studio

Meet Ms Amandine Follenfant. She is the first studio assistant to join me on my Paris journey.

Frankly, on this trip to Porte De Vanves flea market, there were not many contenders and Amandine was a clear winner. Her pierced ears and serene smile called for a kindred spirit.

Walking is not her strong suit, due to a hip replacement but she is dedicated to a daily Pilates routine and a diet that includes radishes and day dreams.

Amandine recently discovered her birth mother through a cache of letters secretly sent between her father, Monsieur Michel Delapierre, and her mother.

They corresponded throughout the war, even when he was stationed in Egypt, and each letter is filled with tender wishes for Amandine written in faded blue ink on faded blue paper.


Of course Amandine is naturally private, but over a Kir royal in her garden filled with ivy and butterflies, she was encouraged to reveal her past. This is the only picture of her mother, Beatrice. You can see the family resemblance in the eye brows.


Beatrice Follenfant was a librarian in the Archives. She spoke with spirits and was regarded with a mixture of awe and respect all her life. 


In one of the few photos Amandine has of her mother, she is surrounded by her less visible friends. This photo will be sitting in the studio when she arrives to take up her new position.

Thanks Collette Copeland, for this serenidipitous scrap of French: The name "Follenfant" translates to "crazy child". The name was on one of the vintage letters gathered from Vanves flea market. Love it when that happens.

P.S. I'm in Paris

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to sell your soul to social media


Every artist studio has to have at least one doll head. Part of my huge studio clear out.

There's something brewing and its coming from a deep place of knowing. It's a gut thing ringing with hollow emptiness. It could be the tattered shreds of my soul.

I want to know how many info graphics I have to read before I get enlightenment. It used to be chop wood and carry water, but I reckon there's an e-course for that now.

Sleepy Lamb the studio assistant has a new successful job in Perth.

I'm guilty of reading them - the catchy graphic messages advising optimum times to post on Facebook/google+ and twitter. I'm guilty of diluting my creativity to watery gruel by watching others instead of own progress.  I'm guilty of clicking to discover how to monetise my blog - written by the guy who is monetising ME when I bite the bait and open my digital wallet.

 And monetising isn't even a word.


Growly Bear who came form Berlin - is now on his way to a new career as a Studio assistant in Perth

The digital age has made running a small business a level playing field, or a pit of quicksand.
It seems like everyone has a schtick and they're really busy schticking it to you.

Sure, I love it when someone buys from my shop, but I don't want to be made to feel like a loser because my profile pic isn't in a cute circle at the top of my page, and I hate you Google Plus for making circle profiles the only way in.

Actually, I don't want an attention grabbing blog title. I don't want to be the one beating my chest in a sea of sameness to wrest that last erg of energy from your over saturated mind.


In the last two weeks I cleared out my studio - you may have seen the Facebook updates. A few loyal studio assistants are now furthering their careers in places far away. These are their profile pics, and their new bosses are over the moon excited.

I was ruthless - 4 square metres of old me went out on eBay or out the door to my immense relief. Truth is, I felt like a fake. My studio had  become a show pony for the person I wanted to be, or was trying to be. Now it's a wonderful patch of honest earth for tiny seeds to germinate.




The tide is changing - how long can we yell digitally, "Look at me, Look at me Look at me?"

Soon, we will tire of accepting external for signs of our worth - in likes, in re tweets or even on the bathroom scales. These things we can never control. Instead we will surrender to the soft whispers in our heart that have never stopped.

We will return to the projects that lie closest to our joy, that have languished because it may not be what the market wants. Long lost bits of our soul will return and we will find our worth in following our real dreams instead of the ones on the infographic.






The tide will change.

We will realise there is a finite number of people we can realistically and authentically connect to. Robin Dunbar reckons it's 150. We may know what you had for breakfast this morning, but does that really help to know you better?




We will rest comfortably inside our own non circular profile pics, barking with our own voices, knowing that our true self is the best advertising there is.
That and good old fashioned hard work and an unwavering gaze into the mirror of truth.



I will see you there.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Interview with grrl+dog a mile high


stitching on the knitted covenience

You're on a domestic flight alone, the peanut pack and tinny drink are gone and that great book would be even better right now if it wasn't lying back on the kitchen table. You've read the safety card. Twice.

Tucked behind the vomit bag is your answer, especially if you happen to be flying Jetstar next month. It's an interview with me, in my original incarnation as guerrilla knitter.

In case you can't make the Jetstar flight, here it is:

the knitted tree - part of the Wollongong festival I worked at

Jetstar: What's motivated the shift toward crafting becoming popular? 


the knitted convenience - a heritage listed urinal in Taylor Square, Sydney
Me: Who knows - but if you mean gaggles of X genners going nuts over wool and fabric, I’d say its because their mums didn't knit or crochet and they’re wreaking revenge, one hook at a time. I can think of worse ways to widen the generation gap. As for me, I had the privilege of sitting at Mum’s knee while she taught me.


Jetstar: In your own words how would you define ‘guerrilla knitting’ and ‘yarn bombing’.


installing a knit in Newtown, Sydney
I prefer guerrilla knitting - although all my pieces are done in broad daylight because I can’t be bothered with the stealth stuff. The funniest guy I met while installing asked me if I ripped up the pole and slid the knit on - he just couldn’t figure out how it got there. When he saw me stitching it on he was relieved.
GI Joe as guerrilla knit

Jetstar:
How does performance knitting differ from guerilla knitting or is there some crossover?
Me: The knitted convenience was pure performance - covering the Taylor Square urinal in knit was a performance piece. We called ourselves “The Von Trough Family” , dressing up with names like, “Purl Harder” and “Uri Nawl” to stitch that on. Locals loved it and kept it looking nice for the whole month. Considering it’s such a high traffic area, it was not damaged at all.

That is the essence of what I’m doing with guerrilla knit. I’m offering a fresh look at an urban environment, and an opportunity to regain a sense of stewardship. A sense of place; ”We all own a bit of this, so lets take care of it.” Sometimes you need a bit of silly knit to wake you up.
 You can see images of that performance on flickr.
the knitted convenience - a historic urinal
There is a U tube clip of the highlights- it went viral a few years ago which meant anyone who could use a keyboard had an opinion, and you know what they say about opinions.
Jetstar: How does the process of yarn bombing work? Is it done stealthily by cover of darkness and how do you pick where you will place your piece? Do you still place message tags on the pieces? Are they pre-knitted and then placed? Sorry, that’s a bit of a long one …
Me: yep, I pre knit. - Sometimes to site specific measurements - like the custom leg warmers and mitts for a little  girl statue in Adelaide’s Rundle mall. Before that she wore condoms on her arms and I wanted to change that. That was back in 2009 and nobody knew much about guerrilla knitting back then.
guerilla knitted statue in Rundle Mall, Adelaide

Jetstar: Do you think the movement is more political now than it was when crafting was particularly seen as ‘women’s work’? 
Me: Easy tiger, it’s just knit.
knitted stones

Jetstar: How did you first become involved in crafting? You’re referred to in many places as Australia’s first ‘yarn bomber’.


Me: What an absurd thing to be - but yes. I’ll talk about knitting as I’ve always been a “maker” , but knitting - well that was because of a work place bullying incident. I was so shaken and anxious my hands needed something to do to stay calm and I reached for the needles. 
Mum taught me when I was 11, but that was a long time ago, and all I could remember was one stitch. So I stitched that. I kept stitching. By the time I figured out how to deal with the bully, somebody took pity and taught me to cast off. Luckily the boss above the bully was on the ball, and we worked out a way to deal with the situation. 


Meanwhile I had about 10 very long strangely coloured piece of knit that needed homes. So I took them out to Newtown and began stitching them to poles and trees.It was pretty scary at first, but then I realised when your’e doing something weird in the street, people won’t make contact in case you are a lunatic. I was safe, and met some lovely folk who clearly had no fear of lunatics. I’ve even had cops walk past.

Jetstar: How have your projects been received by the public? Have you ever made any specifically to sell?


Me: One lady wanted me to guerilla knit the pole outside a friends place as a house warming gift. It was such a lovely thought there was no way I could charge her. That was the day I met Margaret thatcher’s lost twin. She hopped out of her chauffeur driven car in a fabulous wool pant suit with helmet hair and asked me what I was doing. She was charmed.
But I have worked with several councils and galleries on large public projects. Once I knitted 10 metres to cover a  Bert Flugleman  sculpture. He was very nice and gave his blessing. That was Wollongong’s Gallery in 2009. 

I love working with big projects like that because they involve everyone. That’s the beauty of knitting. You can be in a room full of strangers and if you knit, pretty soon there will be a conversation. Nice people knit. Knitting means warmth and hand made and snuggly and nobody can be nasty if they knit. It’s a social solvent.

foyer of the National Gallery of Australia

When we installed 500 pieces of knit at the National Art Gallery in Canberra, people came from all over and would not leave till they spotted their knit. And those poles are 12 metres high. And it was winter. In Canberra. They’d be craning their head up and then standing proud for photos. That is the magic of a simple thing like knit.



Jetstar: Has craft become more open to both genders partaking?
Me: Knitting has no gender.




Jetstar:Are you involved in any crafting groups or have you run any workshops (besides the curation of the Hazelhurst Gallery and the public toilet coverage ones)? Or do you have any workshops coming up in June/July you can give me the details of? (I have looked some up but it would be good to have some recommended).
Me: The thing is, I’m actually really shy. I just shut down in groups unless I can be all bossy and run them. Sadly though I get frequent requests, many groups underestimate the amount of lead time needed to successfully pull of a large community project, you know…too little too late. 
I love speaking about the powers of knit in community building, especially as someone who has dealt with bullying in the workplace. Seeing bright knits in unexpected places just has to fun, even if you're talking about something slightly unpleasant.

Jetstar: Is the sense of community part of the appeal of being involved in a craft/artisan movement?
Me: See, you keep talking about this…movement… I have no idea what you’re on about. I can only speak about what blows my skirt up and it’s connecting people. One by one, like when you knit. In a way it’s knitting people back into a sense of place.

Jetstar: What appeals to you about hand made work both as a maker and consumer? Can it be a therapeutic process?
Me: You’re talking to a lady who’s just ditched ten years of antidepressants and you’re asking me if it’s therapeutic? Hand me that pizza and I’ll tell you. Look, I’ve always been a maker, it’s in my blood. And if you‘re a maker there’s no choice. You make. It certainly isn’t the money.


 The last artisan market I was part of closed unceremoniously through lack of love. In this economic climate, the makers will still make because its a soul deep need to create, but you can bet they still keep their day jobs. 

Jetstar: Your blog indicates you’ve recently moved from Sydney to SA. Is there any difference in the reception of your work? Or has craft spread Australia-wide?

Me: Huh? No I was born in Adelaide, and you know what they are famous for. I high heeled it out of there age 20 and never went back. OK, I do return when family obligations require, but I take my own water.





Thursday, May 29, 2014

Purple Pee and me




So I'm sitting in a darkened bathroom, trying to wee into a yellow sample jar. It's hard,
because it's dark and not much is happening.
The nurse told me to fill it two thirds full, and I've got one third. The rest is
 over my hand.



Along with three pints of blood, or so it felt, my shaded from light pee is
 off to get snap frozen and sent to Brisbane for the purple test.

Well mauve, actually.


When you have mauve pee, it's sign that you, along with other
characters like Charles Manson, Charles Darwin and the postal murder guy,
Patrick Sherrill, might have biological reasons for not being happy.

You've heard the phrase:"chemical imbalance in the brain,"right? Well here's
what's behind that.





No matter how much vitamin B6, 12 and zinc you swallow, your body is
never going to turn that into seratonin and dopamine flavoured happy.



In Australia, 40% of us don't soak up the goodies we need to make happy brains,
and we have to resort to pizza or anti depressants or chocolate.
It's called  Pyrroluria, or undermethylation. It's a genetic blood thing and also
brought about by trauma.



The studies are fascinating, ranging from LSD gobbling government funded
doctors in the late 50's to autopsies of a mass murderer.

After coming off antidepressant and NOT bouncing back into happy land,  I was
willing to part with the bucks needed for the pee test. Especially after
reading the symptom list. Embarrassing.





  • depression
  • obsessive-compulsive tendencies, perfectionism or feeling driven
  • high motivation
  • racing brain
  • agressiveness
  • inner tension
  • oppositional defiant disorder in children
  • insomnia, not needing much sleep
  • headaches
  • respiratory allergies
  • high sensitivity to pain
  • large ears, hands or feet or long fingers or toes
  • addiction to drugs, alcohol or sugar


  • oh, and throw in seasonal depression just for fun. Maybe I wasn't kidding about
    holding up a pizza place.

    Of course my pee tested mauve, and then it was a cocktail of specially formulated
    vitamins designed to get absorbed. I swallowed the pills and waited. This was when
    I reached for the journal.




    Slowly slowly the glass became half full again and I could see the point of
    getting up and out through the day. The early morning walks began to be fun
    and then more fun. The day shines brighter and I'm positive my pee isn't mauve any more.




    Sounds crazy - but people with autism and the ones who love them have known
    about this for years. It's all about getting the right building blocks into the brain. More here.

    yes that's me aged 9.


    This brain is very thankful.
    Enjoy the journal pages.










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