Category Archives: Artistic Journey Retreat

we made lovely things


at the recent retreat.  Gorgeous Stephanie Lee & DJ Pettit let us into their secrets and we lapped it all up.  I guess it is a mutual admiration situation – we love what they do and are eager to learn, which makes their teaching and visiting experiences all the nicer.  The nice thing for me was that I didn’t have the same suffocating sense of inability that had overwhelmed me with the fabulous Misty Mawn’s class last year.  I have worked hard on my face structure and shading, and felt (although Miss Contemplation here is STILL NOT my Mona Lisa) ok with the day and the outcome.  She is a lot more lovely in real life of course, because I have used gold and Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold (simply edibly delicious paint), which gives it all a deep & mysterious look.  I REALLY worked at a soft biscuit colour like the rest of the class – but some how, the colour just kept beggin’ to be seen……I didn’t add the ginger hair till after the work shop – mine already looked like the odd one out – but hey – I like her – and that’s what counts!  LOL!!!


Artists at the retreat were very kind in their support of my altered offerings…..I just about sold out of the luscious ribbons and DJ just about single handedly sold the 50 hemp wraps I bought with me…….she was a fan!




Today it's 20th November in Oz, but only 19th November in USA – it's always a bit of a conundrum when participating in a link or a challenge which is the appropriate day to post – ANYWAYS – on with the story – the one & only – amazing LK LUDWIG has posted a challenge at her Poetic Words blog for today (ummmm….yesterday!).  I love her work & am lucky enough to be teaching with her in June next year at the Artistic Journey Retreat in Sydney - so I am looking forward to catching up with her.  I own both of her books – Mixed Media Nature Journals AND True Vision - I highly recommend them - True Vision in particular is a mix between gorgeous eye candy and prompts to make you think about how you work.  LK manages to illicit more reflective and intriguing responses from you as you read through the treasure trove between the covers - her work has such an organic – easy feel about it, it's infectious.   

(??!! I CAN'T believe how cheap they are at the moment – I guess everyone is having bargains to generate business during tough times.

HERE'S the challenge –

A Day of Sharing Words

(pasted directly from challenge site)

The idea:

We have words that touch us, move into our hearts and resonate, creating a feeling, taking us some place- past, present, future- perhaps some place we have never been and may never go, but for whatever reasons, the words pulse in our blood. Meeting new words, new poets, new poems, new ways for my heart to beat, is an intruiging concept. Want to go on this adventure with me? It will be easy to travel along.

Many of us already do this sharing; this idea is just to help us find each other and hear the words we have to share.

The Date: Wednesday, November 19.

The Plan:  on your blog, post a poem that moves inside you, touches you, reaches you.  (quotes and song lyrics welcome).  Include the author (or composer or musician) and source (book, album)- perhaps also the amazon link if there is one.  no explanation required, no other revelation necessary. 

HERE'S my 'WORDS' with curtesy to author Kavanagh A. McGeough from Poetry in Nature

Plunge into the glinting fjord,
Dive into the deep rushing river, IMG_1268
Glide across the muddy swamp,
Float in the green lake,
Submerge in the salty ocean,
Freeze in the icy sound,
Immerse in the soggy channel,
The winding river is gushing into the artic ocean,
A swirling puddle reflects traffic,
Changing life,
Sustaining water.

It has taken some time, but I think that 'city bound' Australians are only JUST understanding the value of water as we are now entering our 4th or 5th summer of drought – which has escalated in severity as it has dragged on.  Today we have had some morning rain and the whole world looks cleaner, fresher and happier.  I am trying to grow my own herbs and vegetables, and I have my VERY FIRST TOMATO on the bush – I am thrilled and of course it's a great lesson for The Princess to learn that tomatoes don't grow on the shelf of the supermarket……. however it is a twice a day exercise to keep them watered & nurtured when there is no rain & it's hot.  I am not complaining though, I do have help with that job.

IMG_1219_resize   IMG_1233_resize

Pure Heart


Img_0368_resizeThe sky is still murky – but no longer ‘pea soup’ – I have been struggling a little to find my creative voice – I haven’t missed it – which is more worrying than it not being around.  Usually if my muse is resting, I keep working through until she returns, sorting supplies, creating backgrounds, working on digital imagery & photos…..however, I have been deep in ‘self’ preservation mode & haven’t even noticed her gone.  This piece has slowly emerged from a quiet reflective place of slow progress….. the pure heart is NOT mine – in fact, I think it is when we are at low points that we can see ourselves for who we really are – without veils….& I have been saddened to see malice & hatefulness in my heart born from my grief – I was saddened to discover it – such debilitating character flaws……..things I need to attend to…………Img_0394_resizeImg_0395_resize

anyways – the PURE heart is a friend’s – a precious person who challenges me to do better – & to press forward. Img_0387_resize I have found Img_2499_resizeImg_0384_resizegreat cathartic pleasure in beating, drilling & cutting up bits with my Dremel lately.  I have enjoyed the tactile sensation of working with heavy & solid things – metal & stone.  Paper seems so flimsy at the moment……..I have been drilling little stones, working my way slowly through some marble pieces (hard work on the dremel) & creating some bits for later use from old cutlery.

Matters of the Heart



      Img_0258_resize                                                            Finally, I have ‘finished’ my book made from cabinet cards. I began it in a class with Nina Bagely at the Art Retreat in Melbourne in May.  (it has taken nearly 4 weeks of working on it a little bit at a time)  I suspect this will be one of those books that I will be adding to forever as I find little treasures along the way.  There are 20 openings, each with a vintage cabinet card on the face page.  I used the covers and the spine of the old book whose cover was decorated in Art Nouveau styling….(my fav. design period)  The spine of the book was too gorgeous not to use; so I made it into a kind of a ‘wrap around binding’ using a heart necklace (because matters of the heart need to be unlocked).  Each page has a story that are expressions or dilemmas of the heart.  The slide show is the pages in sequential order, the other pics are snapshots of detail.  If you think about it, you might find your own heart here somewhere.

1.Binder of Hearts – Rev Brown has bound many hearts together in the Abbey where he serves God

2. Cherished Heart – Our war hero has a heart cherished by his whole town.

3. Childhood SweetHearts – their love endured the test of time.

4.Collector of Hearts – like all ‘princesses’ she is loved everywhere she goes

5. Deluded Hearts – their love affair begain with 2 tickets & an Exquisite Illusion of love.

6. Detachable Heart – Her heart had been pinned on by Nanny

7. Enchanted Heart – his heart was enchanted from the minute heImg_0266_resize first saw her.

8. HearTea – Tea was her true love

9. Heart Trader – loose attachements

10. Hearts torn by Indecision – they didn’t know which family tradition to follow

11. Misdirected Hearts – many men go fishing all of their lives, not knowing that it is not really fish that they are after.

12. Mystified Heart – she travelled the world looking for love in all the wrong places

13.Observant Heart – she looked for love from her front room window

14. Rusted Heart – her heart rusted as she waited for her love to return from The War.  He never did.

15. Valiant Heart – to him, love could not be reduced to games & numbers

16. Secrets of the Heart – Soul Mates (this photo is my paternal grandmother)
‘The face is the mirror of the mind and the eyes, without speaking, confess the secrets of the heart.’

17. Ticking Heart – She didn’t have time to wait for love, her body clock was ticking.

18. Venetian Heart – the home of her heart

19. Weathered Heart – comes with age

20. A heart for family – poem of famiImg_0252_resizely wisdom Img_0257_resize

Wooden stamping blocks


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Img_1868_resizeOne of our finds on our shopping journey into the hills last week was beautiful vintage Indian wooden printing blocks at a really good price.  Carved from a single piece of wood, I got ones that were geometric & floral/paisley designs.  These were used to handprint patterns on fabrics, & some people know them as batik blocks.  My understanding that due to the handcarving & the variation that can occur due to their age & original use, each block is unique.  The surface of my blocks have been stained dark colours, residue of the original vegetable dyes used, & they have left a gorgeous deep patina on the wood.  One of them has drainage holes & a couple of the larger ones have bulky handles on the back to make them easier to manage.  This is my first go with them – I tried a nice juicy ‘chalk’ stamping pad, however, it didn’t work at all.  I then made a brew of acrylic paint & Golden Acrylic Glazing Liquid (which made the paint more runny) & lightly sponged it on – I think that my ‘trial’ on my working top (see below) worked out a bit better than my book page, but it looks ok – & I am off to use them again to finish off my ‘Cinderella’ castles for an Alpha Stamps swap.

Just a Bit of a Tease


Here is a couple of pics of my ‘Matters of the Heart’ book from my Img_1756_resizeclass with Nina last weekend.  I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to end up with when I came into the class in the morning, as I had bought the things that Nina asked us to, plus all sorts of other bits & pieces.  I didn’t know whether she was going to be one of those teachers that ‘stick to a plan’ & DON’T like any deviations – or whether we were learning techniques & we could take it in any direction.  Thankfully, Nina was incredibly liberating (which suited me for this class, but for the class the day before with Misty, I needed a ‘paint by numbers’ step by step!!! LOL!!) As we gathered around when she was demonstrating, I caught sight of these gorgeous rich red fabric strips she had on the table.  On the spot I was inspired to run with a topic around the heart – hearts, love, valentine, or something like that.  I knew I had my fabulous book covers with me that had red on them with me.  The NEXT problem was getting some of the red strips – they were all sold & no one was parting with them, despite me teasing Nina all day about stealing her’s!  I decided to push on & either dye something myself later or source something else of the same ilk. My book covers have been made from a gorgeous Art Nouveau era decorated book cover & I have used the spine (which was too special to set aside) for a page marker. I haven’t done a real heap on it this week – it just has not been a week for art – some other heavy duty stuff happening & MY heart is just not in my art right now, in fact, I have even had to push myself to take a daily photograph, which is really unusual for Ms. Snap Happy here…..I have plodded through a couple of pages & embellished them, but not that much to show for the week. Img_1747_resize_2 Img_1750_resize_3

Day 4 to 6


Img_1074_resizeIt seems almost irreverant to wipe off the last 3 days with a short post of saying I had a good time.  Everyday after everyone was settled, I had the best of intentions of posting & showing you some pictures, but I was just too buggered, & had to be up early again for the next day……… It has been literally a year in planning – buying materials overseas, sorting supplies, preparing for guests, and in a blink it is over.  The first day of the art workshops was Friday (Day 4) – I spent that day with the beautiful, ever gracious Misty Mawn.  I came away with some pretty average results – with all my fears of failure as an artist reinforced – I don’t understand light & shadow AND I don’t paint or draw well – even when it is over a magazine cut out!  Despite Misty’s gracious & encouraging help – my results were pretty dismal – Misty was VERY sweet saying that ‘front on’ faces were the hardest to do & it was exaserbated by the fact that I had chosen a large face….oh well – it’s not the end of the world! (I willImg_1014_resize never throw it out though, because Misty wrote me a lovely personal message on the back!) The more encouraging part was having the opportunity to get one of Misty’s original pieces of work, which was fabulous….Kasha snaffled up the one that I REALLY wanted – but I am happy with my little winged house & girl with a flower in her hair…….  Buying this piece of art was kinda a compensation, ‘cos DH had said I could have one of Misty’s pieces for my birthday last year.  At the time she had one for sale that was in my fav. Golden green-gold (I could EAT that stuff!!!) – when I went to buy it, it was sold & which was disappointing – but he got me lovely art stamps instead, which was great.  (A good compensation, but still not art). 

The next day I met the fabulous Nina Bagley.  I spent all weekend in her workshops.  Saturday we made a book from eyeletted cabinet cards & Sunday she taught us her jewellery making tricks.  I don’t have a great deal to show for all of my work & preparing but Oh My Goodness – I love her!  She is larger than life & my soul has been enlarged for the brief encounter that we had over 2 days. I am exhausted now…..I will post some more pics in the next few days, but now I want to get on & finish my book I started with Nina – it’s called Matters of the Heart……you can see it soon.Img_1516_resize

Day 3


Today we spent in the inner city enjoying the delights of artistic Melbourne.  Our day Img_1355_resizeincluded a visit to ZaRT Art Supplies, Artisan Books(swoon!) & the to die for Zetta Florence Img_1349_resize   What a MORNING!  The sun was glorious – the weather, unseasonably mild & a lovely day was enjoyed by all.  After a delicious lunch at The Oven in Brunswick St, we took ourselves off to register for the weekend – oh & just a TAD more shopping as we each picked up a couple of treasures from the supplies the conference oraganizers had bought with them from Perth. I must to bed now – everyone else has had an early night – we need to leave early in the morning to ensure we are well on time & parked & don’t get caught in our notorious Melbourne traffic.  Tomorrow I will spend the day with the amazing Misty Mawn…..the others will be with Nina Bagley………….not long to go now – & we will be on our way – more tomorrow & hopefully some pics!Img_1363_resize

Day 2


Today was spent soaking up the poetry that is autumn.  There is no betterImg_1257_resize place to do it in Melbourne than in The Dandenong Ranges & this is where we spent the day today.  In an attempt to find places that appeal to the unique stylings of each of the artists staying with us, I created an itinerary that had a smattering of all kinds of things.   First stop was our lovely local quilting & craft fabric shop, which has a fabulous range of fabrics all arranged in colour & type.  It is a FEAST for the eyes, here’s Debbi with an arm full of treasures – no one left with their purse intact!  Img_1310_resizeFrom there we checked out the local thrift shop where Jo was excited to find some foriegn text & Kasha got a fabulous old dictionary……… we then drove up the hills to the picturesque hamlet of  Sassafrass.  The deciduous trees were at their glorious best, putting on a dazzling show for our enjoyment, enhanced by the sprinkling of sunlight, that illuminated there colour -ranging from Merlot to Buttery Yellow.  Just Delish! We lunched at the quaint Tudor styled ‘Miss Marples Tearooms’ which is almost iImg_9400_resizeconic in the area & serves amazing food.  We then drove on to Olinda & Mt. Dandenong, & wandered through some lovely shops & galleries  Each of us picked up a few treasures along the way, & we managed to amass aImg_1328_resizell of Img_1330_resizethis for the day!  Despite lots of preparation & prompting, everyone seemed too tired to ‘pARTy’ hard when the evening came around…….more artists joined us for an Indian banquet & the plan was to art well into the wee hours.   In reality, most people just talked & swapped their pages & shared their art treasure.  Everyone said it was a good night, just not how I thought it would turn out!Img_1336_resize



Img_1209_resizeOf course DAY 0 became DAY 1 as Jo, Kasha & Gaye arrived in Melbourne mid afternoon yesterday.  We didn’t waste any time at all, after a quick tussle loading art laiden suitcases in the car, we headed off to visit our local chocolatier – Chris at Xocolat, OMG – what a treat – he told us all his special chocolate making secrets, but then swore us to secrecy, (bribing us with samples) so I can’t share that – but here he is telling us all about what’s happening & a shot in the shop of some of the finished product.  Img_1230_resizeAfter a delicious treat, we embarked on a shopping adventure to gather some ephemera & play stuff from our local purveyor of old emphemera & paper goods & the adventure has begun.  I read a quote last night, which I will use at some point in some art, but it kinda applies to how I feel right now, our guests are snuggled in, settling off to sleep for their first Melbourne night, & I am having some quiet time in my studio for the first time in days.  The quote reads ‘time’s fatal wings do ever forward fly.  For everyday we live is a day closer to the one we die’ Thomas Campion.  (the relevance is that it is only DAY 1, but it already seems surreal, & the time will have to pass in order for us to have the experiences we long for & have looked forward to.  Throught the process of living through them, we are already drawing our time together to a close – OK this is getting TOOO TOOOOO deep – basically 6 days is going to go in a blink!)   Although I hate this photo of the 1/2 acre I carry behind me – this is an important shot of us heading off, it marks the beginning of our’Artistic Journey’ together, to shop & to explore – to share & to learn.Img_1242_resize (thanks for being so insightful, capturing this moment in time, Abby)