Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Do you see what I see

We spent a fabulous day, just us, in the "remote best accessible by small boat"  Lemon Valley on the north-west coast of the island. We scrambled ashore at 9:45 and spent the next 4 hrs. exploring ruins, watching dolphins feed just of shore and engrossed in tide pools. 

A small boat brings you to the dock but doesn't tie up so you have grab the rail and leap. 

As the final prison for Napoleon, Saint Helena is the most fortified bit of land in the world. Sadly all ruins and are just that in ruins. 

No quite as perilous as it looks. Thats Samuel and I on a trail that about a meter wide. 

Some sort of sea slug 

Fabulous water clarity! 

Yes, some people feed ducks or birds but not me ;-) Hope to have the video ready in the next day or two of the octopus that came right out of the water!  

Monday, July 29, 2013

Introducing Ashley

They say when Ashley first came to SHAPE he was quite uncommunicative. Initially its hard to tell how connected he is to what is going on around him. 

Ashely cuts and wraps beads made from card stock/boxes donated to SHAPE from around the island. 
But start to spend some time with him and you realize he is very bright, misses little, loves color and is aware of all sorts of things even when he seems to not be paying any attention. 

And quite wonderfully, he is responding, with words more and more often. The day I got a direct "cool" in response to my new necklace design was a very good day indeed.

Working out payment and banking details for SHAPE's Etsy shop has been so much more complicated than we thought. The bank is in London, phone calls are $3min.,  SHAPE frequently loses internet connection and so on and so on...
But Paypal and banking info. needs to get straightened out so that they are actually getting the money from the sales they make. 

Coming soon to the Etsy shop - handmade journals using recycled paper. 

Recycled paper

Recycled paper pulp bowls

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Global craft

Our daughter emailed to announce that Cynthia Tinapple's new book,
Polymer Clay Global Perspectives, arrived in the post  -  I'm excited from afar! I have project and interview near the center of the book and have images of work on the front and apparently back covers.  The book is available for pre-order and will ship on July 30.

I've finally managed to find someone on the island with an oven thermometer and since I have an electric oven instead of a wood-fired one as expected I'll be making some polymer beads for SHAPE. They have a great little oven/stove combo thing. They use the "hob" (burners)  for candle making but I've put out the feelers out to see if  they'd be interested in using the oven to start making some simple polymer beads as well.

Today was my 5th flax class and I was thrilled to be able to produce this small bag in one morning. The woven green flax must dry, weighted, pinned into shape for a couple days. Then it will permanently hold its shape and I can freeze it to kill any "critters". (Bugs abound in a sub-tropic environment.) This is a completely different material for me and I've really enjoyed exploring it. Flax grows all over the island and you can just park along the road the cut what you need. Up until the invention of nylon rope in the 1960s, flax was used to make rope/cord and Saint Helena provided all the flax used to bundle mail for the British Empire. So its pliable and strong and because you can tuck it and fold it and weave it you can make things out of it with no connectors or glue or anything.  I love this simplicity. Yes, if we were staying I would definitely be continuing my once/week class.

Step one of a square bottom basket
The bottom is complete

Weaving the sides

Folded and wove the top back through to make the points - then decided to pinch the top and add a handle to turn the basket into a purse. 

Eleanor helps Josie with a her large market bag
I enjoy the camaraderie of the mornings as well. The teacher is an accomplished craftsperson (You know the kind who's good at everything they put their hand to? Thats Wanda. )  who makes her living doing tailoring and upholstery. My classmates today were Saint Helenians, British expats and one South African yachtie here for a few months while making her way north through the Atlantic...a very global group!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Landscape and Cityscape

I'm really happy that we did a good bit of hiking before now as the rains are getting more intense. Here are some images from the past week. 
The hike to the Heart Shaped Waterfall is the most well and maintained hike - except for the fact that there is no sign saying where the hike is.

Unfortunately the waterfall is currently just a drip. Ben is there in the lower right for scale.

On the way to Distant Cottage

My boys and I considering the view
Local bananas and local tomatoes are becoming less and less available but we still have local cabbage, onions, sweet corn, beets, carrots and chard.  The hills are getting really green, nights are a bit chilly and there have been some minor rock slide issues. This is winter in Saint Helena. 

The Run, seen below, is basically a walled stream the carries water from higher elevation through the back gardens of Jamestown and out to the sea. It makes for an easy interesting walk. 

I often find the the backs of building more interesting than the front. The climb of these stairs combined with the blue door have always made me imagine something magical inside.

Thanks for reading - have a great weekend! 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rough Patch

We've hit a bit of a rough patch - figuratively and literally, emotionally, culturally...

For about two hours we watched water spouts form out to sea. None went all the way to the surface.  

So we're having a bit of a slow down and I'm working on beads. I'm considering listing some of the paper bead pieces when my shop re-opens on July 30 (with everything shipping from the U.S. on August 15). 

Terra cotta fully recycled paper beads. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Crafts and fellow craftsman

 Meet Wendy. She and I have been designing new necklaces for SHAPE even though she is blind. (She lost her sight as an adult.) She threads fishing line onto a standard sewing needle by herself and makes necklaces and bracelets, sometimes alone and sometimes with a partner. When she works by herself she has beads chosen for her and placed in containers on the table and she works out patterns based on the colors she is told they are, their tactile quality and what she imagines in her head. I find myself tuning into "sketching ideas in my head" so that I can think more like she does and find the words to explain things in such a way that she can create pictures in her head. 

Wendy wearing a necklace she strung using beads that I made and the matching earrings.

On Monday she came up with an intricate new pattern where she creates a circle of small, wooden beads alternating with larger paper beads - I dubbed it "The Wendy necklace".

 Her partner, Sylvia, is mentally disabled. So when they work together the trainer, Tracy, or I lay out a necklace on a bead board and Sylvia hands Wendy the beads in order. It is certainly a lesson in patience since Wendy needs to do everything by feel, but is mentally sharp as a tack and Sylvia is often hesitant and seems unsure of herself and sometimes struggles to follow simple instructions. Yesterday felt like a real triumph - Sylvia strung a necklace by herself while Wendy worked independently. And I taught Susanne, another client, the beginnings of wire wrapping techniques which she took to straight away. 

On Tuesdays I am taking a condensed version of a flax weaving class which usually runs 12 weeks. I feel pretty comfortable with it even though fibers/textiles are not my strongest suit. Flax is strong and forgiving and bracelets take about 45 mins. on the first go and give an feeling of success. My teacher is excellent and classmates are encouraging. We are all at different stages of learning. One of the woman just finished a gorgeous 2 strap, flat bottomed handbag. 
My classmate, Olive, hard at work using plain and dyed stripes of flax. 

Front right is my bracelet. I purchased the square one which was made by one of my classmates (for $8...that TOO cheap don't you think? The bracelets in the back were made for me by my teacher, Wanda. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Survey the landscape

It might be a small island but there just doesn't seem to be enough time to enjoy all there is here.

Last Friday on our way home from SHAPE we made an impromptu stop at High Peak.
High Peak is that top pointy bit that sits on an already high ridge making for great views. 

Looking north east across the interior of the island from High Peak.

Saturday afternoon we hiked, got a bit lost, got caught in the rain and worried a few sheep. Kyle's photos, although they are wonderful, do not fully capture the feelings one has when standing in this landscape.

Saint Helena is definitely one of those "you just have to be here" kind of places. There is no vantage point that I have been to, by car or on foot, that is not dramatic.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Temporary Studio Space

Its hard to believe that we are 1/2 way through our stay and I'm finally really get down to serious work. There's been so much gathering, learning, volunteering and musing. I've worked out an "oven within an oven" to safely use my electric kitchen oven and start some polymer additions, and maybe bezels, later this week.

Still life at Sandy Bay Beach

Experimenting with paper beads made from recycled paper

The dirt roads and paths are littered with broken pottery.

We spent Saturday morning rearranging the living/kitchen/dining room (14' x 17') to maximize the view and natural light. The table works great right at the window for dining and studio space.

I have a panoramic ocean view from this spot. 

This Wednesday we'll be part of a brainstorming session at the Arts and Crafts Centre (quite an honor to be included). The production of traditional Saint Helenian crafts have dwindled as young people simply don't seem to be interested. With the building of an airport underway and more visitors expected by 2016, there is a push to revive craft, inspire young artist/craftsman, encourage the older ones and to take it forward to meet the expected demand.

The Arts and Crafts Centre was moved from a dark basement like room about 18 months ago to this great central Jamestown location. 

Thanks for reading!