Sunday, 6 December 2015

adversity and diversity

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.


It’s full of challenges.

And change.

Copper, Madeleine and George


  1. Oh Vicki.
    I am so very glad that the artist in you has found another outlet.
    Heartfelt hugs - and oceans of caring.

    1. Thank you EC.
      I couldn't 'bear' not being able to create...

  2. Your little animals definitely have the mark of you heart and soul. I think textiles can bring that out more than clay sometimes...
    So sorry to hear about your lung trouble. I can so relate. I had a collapsed lung when I was 17, probably due to breathing my dad's cigarette smoke for all my young life. My lungs are very susceptible to infection. Clay certainly was a challenge for my lungs as well. My lungs and my shoulder, which is still a bother for me. I have been away from clay for over a year now, and I can't say I miss it too much. I have so many other things that keep me busy, and when I think back to all those sleepless nights getting ready for shows, I wonder now how I even did it!
    I too turned to textiles and I am enjoying making soaps. You might want to give that a go. With your love of natural herbs you might enjoy the process and the end product.
    Best wishes for you along your path, we certainly seem to travel on a parallel path don't we?!

    1. It's interesting you mention breathing your dad's cigarette smoke, and I'm sure the copious cigarettes smoked in my childhood home contributed to my weakened lungs also.
      Passive smoking - it's a real concern.
      Yet, for others it doesn't seem to be a factor. But, they could be affected in a different way.

      I like the idea of making soap for home, and it's on my "sustainable to do" list in the future.

      We do seem to parallel some paths, especially both leaving clay this year. And, being on the quest for a rural existence.
      I'm still wishing real hard for the right place to come into your life. 2016...

  3. Got to listen to our body!!!

    And find another outlet for your Art. And you did.

    Gentle hugs,

    1. The transition seemed like it was meant to be.
      I couldn't go too long without being able to create. The need burns too bright.

  4. Vicki, your health is the most important thing and, though your ceramics are beautiful, the animals you create have so much soul and life they're positively magical. Maybe this was meant to be? I think you're wise to rely on herbal remedies to regain your health instead of chemical ones, and I hope you're in good health really, really soon! I'm sending you lots of "get healthy, stay healthy" wishes...♥♥♥



    1. Thank you Victoria.
      Yes, in order to be able to create, I need to be well, as well as I can be - even if it means giving up something I love.
      But, I think/feel my creatures were within me all the time... waiting to be born :)

      Life can be funny like that, and I'm a firm believer in closing doors on something when it's time, so that another door can open and reveal wonderful possibilities therein.

  5. i'm relieved the big race to the christmas art market is over. i cannot tell a lie.
    i have worried all year about you!
    health is everything. and the breath of life is critical.
    but lo...
    these wonderful little beings you're creating...
    i don't have good enough words for how i feel about what you've done. and will still do.
    my love and special hugs. furever.

    1. ...and I think there's healing magic in the love and positive energies you've been sending me. I know it. I feel it.
      Love you ♥

  6. First, your health.
    If you don't have that, then nothing else matters.
    I'm sure you are well versed in homeopathic medicine but I'm still going to check with my sister to see what she would recommend. Her family always goes that route too.
    Yes, the creatures, rabbits and bears and who knows what else were meant to be.
    They are pure magic. Magic created by you.
    One thing that I've been thinking about is your huge talent of writing.
    Have you ever thought about writing a short story or maybe just a few paragraphs that could be written onto a "tag" or maybe a special piece of paper about your bears? I mean, their story? Maybe tucked into a pocket, or rolled up and tied with ribbon, I mean, you know in your head their story but so many people don't have that ability to imagine their bears previous life.
    I don't know, just a thought. It's just I can see they have been here a very long time even if you just created them.
    and finally, what about PaperClay or Sculpty??
    I've used Paper Clay and Lily uses Sculpty and you can form what you want and then one air-dries (PaperClay) and then other you bake in the oven at 250'
    I mean if you ever itching to do clay, that might be a medium for you to try.
    Truly though, I love the magic and mystery of your creatures.
    You are Fabulous!
    I'm so glad the worst of the season is over and now you can spend sometime taking care of yourself!
    Much Love, Cindi

    1. Thank you so much Cindi ♥
      Great minds think alike, because I have thought about stories to go with my bears and friends. I like to take them on adventures, or have them express emotions.
      It's something I'll look into next year...

      I started out with polymer clay, and, while it is easy to use and doesn't require a kiln, glazing etc., I really don't like the hazards of cooking plastics in the oven where food goes, nor do I like the fumes I smell afterwards.
      And... I'm just too lazy to clean my oven after every time I baked PC, lol. Also, PC is not proven to be 100% "safe". I would need a separate oven - or a toaster oven to bake it in.

      But right now, I really want to focus on the soft creatures, I'm enjoying them very much.
      I'll see if I feel differently in the future. Who knows what transpires after we move from this house...

      I'm still recovering from the pre-market lack of sleep, and I must say it felt good to have a little extra time in bed this morning :)

      Thank you again for your support! I hope to see more of your lovely work on Instagram too - but, you're heading into a super busy time at work with holidays coming, so, maybe next year will be a great new start online :)

      Hugs xxx

  7. Your health comes first. What a hard decision you had to work out this year, this letting go. It is hard to let go of all the time and knowledge invested, but clay is only one resource for expression.
    And although it is a wonderful medium, it is the sculptor in you that will always find a way.
    Already she has spoken to you---given you a new breath---
    Hand in hand, Beauty walks with you, Vicki.

    1. It was a difficult decision, Charlene. Late last year, I had planned to create 3D clay sculptures of animals this year, but time and health issues got in the way of all that.
      At least I can enjoy your incredible artwork and appreciate your clay creations - they have so much soul in their ethereal beauty.

  8. So VERY glad the transition is starting to feel more like home for you, Vicki! What a year's journey you've been on! And what beautiful heirloom quality collector's items you've created. (LOVE that last image with Cooper, Madeleine & George--how sweet they are... I LOVE Madeleine's lace collar... *sigh*...) Sometimes it takes the hard stuff to get to the good stuff. Though, I'm sorry you've had to go through some rough times and bad health. Hope very much working with a new medium, and with time, you'll feel tops again! :) I admire how you've changed mediums and are really making a go of it--and best of all enjoying it! Look forward to seeing where your bears journey takes you next year! ((LOVE & HUGS))

    1. Thank you Tracy.
      Yes, sometimes it does, "take the hard stuff..."
      Madeleine's collar is an Edwardian era lace collar from France. I'm trying to incorporate something antique or vintage with each character, sometimes an old skeleton key or old typewriter key or, as you picked out, antique clothing embellishments.
      Gives them an extra touch of authenticity I think :)

  9. Adorable little creatures. Hope your breathing problems clear up and you have much success in the coming year.

    1. Welcome, and thank you for your kind comment.
      As my lungs slowly return to a better state, I am glad to be able to have the happy distraction of making my wee characters :)

  10. The teddies are very cute, I have no worries that you won't be able to sell any of them.
    My lungs became compromised through outside irritants too, originally unseen, but smelt mould spores breathed in when using inner soles that had been wet then just stored away without proper drying; later by an inconsiderate co-worker who didn't stand properly inside the spray booth when spraying the top-coat polish onto shoes. My station was behind the booth, so I copped a lungful every time she was on the job. Worse, she didn't believe the spray was making me cough, after all, it wasn't affecting her.
    So now I carry puffers everywhere I go.

    1. Thank you River. They are indeed cute - especially in person :)
      Sorry to read about your lungs. Mould spores are among the worst offenders.

  11. Your tale of transition is inspiring. Such a difficult and painful choice to path to pack away the art that has brought you joy and sustenance. Yet it's so essential to prioritise your health - the only choice, really.

    I'm quite astounded by the beauty of your bears. They are truly exquisite, and I'm a little in awe that you designed them from the ground up. The detail is superb! And their personalities shine through too, which is absolutely essential in a bear, don't you think?

    I hope your health continues to improve, and your creativity continues to flourish. Oh and I love that you have posted Neil Gaiman's "Making Mistakes". That's one of faves of his. Mr Gaiman is a treasure.

    Best healing wishes to you. xx

    1. Thank you, Antoinette. And yes, I agree, personality and character are indeed essential in a bear or friend :)

      Books by the marvellous Mr. Gaiman sit comfortably on my bookshelf, and a printout of his quote on "mistakes" is tacked to my studio wall. Whenever I look up in frustration, I see his words, am comforted by them and encouraged to persevere.

      Thank you for your healing wishes.

  12. Merry Christmas from Adelaide!


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