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Monthly Archives: January 2013

I am fascinated by the interest that people take in things that are old and broken. Increasingly I find that things I once would have dismissed as junk, boring, and unworthy of consideration are catching my eye.

I have been looking through old photos for ideas for more greeting cards and came across some of my favourite images, taken in the fishing villages of Cornwall. As an amateur photographer on holidays, I found myself making the most of what I found each day. I don’t know how long high tide lasts, but it doesn’t seem to be very long, as I often I found myself at the waters edge at low tide. Even so that led to some interesting images. I was fascinated with these stranded wrecks of old boats Newlyn Harbour.

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I loved the way the boats were tied to the beach at Mousehole. The rows of ropes made for a tricky walk along the sand.

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Long before I became interested in the world of pickers and dealers who revel in old wares, I was drawn to the jumble of gear on a working fishing vessel.
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Perhaps it is my Cornish ancestry but I love to look at the boats taking shelter in a strong harbour. This group in Porthleven look particularly well behaved.

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I decided to see if I could create some visual cohesion between the different images of fishing boats which were taken at different times of day and in very different light. I tried black and white but it was too stark, so I went with a faded colour effect. I quite like the bluish cast. There is enough colour to indicate how the scenes looked, but with an aged effect.  I’ll be interested to see how they turn out as prints.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping planes,
Of rugged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

I can’t help but think of these lines from the famous poem, My Country by Dorothea Mackeller in which she compares the extremes of her Australian home to woods and gardens of England. Its an old poem, old-fashioned in style, but her observations remain as true today as they were when she was writing. There is something quite stirring about her love for her country, despite her understanding of all that it can dish out.

The news this morning was dominated by the flooding rains in the north east, but there were also stories about the bushfires which continue to burn in the south. January is a  time of year that brings the extremes of heat from the desert, but also heavy rains from the tropical cyclones. This January will be remembered for both. The cyclone season has arrived in the north. Its late, but keen on making its mark. I feel for the people of Queensland who are facing more flooding so soon after the devastating floods of 2011.

As usual my little corner of the world is safe. High, if not exactly dry. The rain from the “former tropical cyclone” that has left havoc up north is making its way down the east coast, and likely to intensify the rain and winds in Sydney over the next 24 hours. I cancelled my visit to family on the other side of the city for fear of being stranded in a waterlogged train on the way home.

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Earlier a saw a Kookaburra sitting on electricity wires in the rain. I stretched my little camera to its capacity to give you a glimpse. You can’t quite see it, but he had water dripping of his beak and tail. I felt sorry for him, although he seemed to be exhibiting a calm acceptance. Later, during a break in the rain, I heard him sing out his famous kookaburra call.

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I worry for my sunburnt country, because I fear that the extremes that Dorothea Mackellar knew are going to become more intense and frequent as the worlds’ climate comes increasingly under pressure.  I imagine many of you feel the same for your own country, with its unique challenges of climate and geography. I am not particularly nationalistic in an overt kind of way, but I do think its only natural that our own land takes a special place in our hearts.

Core of my heart my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold.

I don’t know what to say, because my mind has flipped to visual. I have been working a lot with photographs this week, making my own photographic greeting cards, and looking at other peoples images. I have also been photographing a few things for sale online so my attention is very much on the physical and visual. This is a nice change for me, as I generally live more in my thoughts. However I am hard pressed to string words together for a sensible post. Rather than fight the process, I am going to share a two of my favourite photos of the evening sky taken over the last week or so.

The sky has been very dramatic this week. I go down to the bedroom to get something, and am completely sidetracked by the view out the window. I love these horses tails that were painted across the sky, competing for space with the grey clouds threatening to build up.

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Last night there was not a lot of colour in the sky, but the shapes were interesting. I decided to maximise the effect do a black and white sunset.
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I had a big day yesterday exploring selling greeting cards in shops. I walked along the street looking for gift shops with a theme or style sympathetic to my cards. Now that I have had some success I am feeling more confident about deciding who to approach and what to say.

Its an interesting process which begins with introducing myself and explaining that I am looking for outlets for my handmade photographic cards. If they are open to taking a look, I get out the sample cards. What happens next is, either their eyes light up, or they don’t. For some people the Paris theme resonates, and immediately takes them into memories of their last trip. Often these people are in shops that are complementary to the Paris theme or handmade style. For others, Paris is an old story, and lacks edge and relevance to an Australian context. And thats all fine. I am very fortunate that I had enough positive experiences very early in the process to know that I just need to locate the people who are going to love the cards.

Another eye opener has been the reaction to the random selection of one-off cards I have been taking along from earlier card-making activities. Many of these are of Australian landscapes, plants and birds. Some of the images that I liked, but felt were weaker photographically, have been singled out for attention. I find that prints of birds and flowers where the colour is very saturated, even to the point of losing some detail, are quite effective as cards. This makes me more willing to go with what I instinctively like and less concerned about theoretical notions of photographic perfection.

I have also been learning from selling things on online. I have some crockery for sale at the moment that is getting a lot of hits, and had a couple of enquiries, but no sale. This suggests that it “clicks” with a lot of people, but the price is too high. I think I am asking too much because this was something that I had specifically decided to collect for myself. It was going to be my special thing and I thought it was very pretty. Now I realise that cups, saucers and plates are not going to be my thing after all, but because of the sentimental value, its hard to let go for a low price.

Understanding “click” is a critical life skill, which I wish I had developed much earlier. Whether is a career, a friend, a house or a piece of crockery, we are all looking for that “click”, the thing that fits and feels right. In the past I wasted a lot of time trying to make things fit, or force situations to work, that just didn’t. I wasted a lot of energy lamenting not being liked, or not liking things in my life. Now I try not to waste a lot of effort on things that don’t feel right, and instead put my energies into finding the click, because thats where the energy is that will carry me forward.

And then there’s the matter of price. All that glitters is not gold. Even if something is attractive and appealing, and has that initial “click” factor, its not always the best thing to bring into your life just now. Everything has a price, whether in time, money or emotional investment, and that needs consideration too. Sometimes its necessary to say no to an appealing offer because its not contributing to your bigger picture; even it means the sweet taste of disappointment.

These forays into selling material items are also helping me with my professional organising business. Its very important when working with people in their own homes or offices to have that feeling that you can work well together. I can tell when people ring to make enquires, that they are also concerned about “click” and price. They are asking whether I am someone they can work with, and what the cost will be. Keeping that in mind helps me understand how to help us both work through those questions. Its important to show enough of yourself to allow people to experience that connection, if its going to happen, but at the same time, giving them the space to more towards, or move away. I feel comfortable knowing that everyone has their own way of working out what is right for them, and if things don’t work out, thats OK.

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When I was 7 years old I won a set of plastic cups for the best entry in a Vegetable Animal competition at a church fete.  If I remember correctly, my potato man sculpture was the only entry in its category. This was the pinnacle of my career in the creative arts. I had no joy at the age of 10 with a lace an paper collage of a fountain and I displayed no natural talent for drawing, painting or modelling. Although I knew how to sew, I was never adept at constructing wearable garments and while I love to knit, I find it safest to confine myself to colourful squares. Creating something out of nothing, using the raw materials of the artist or craftsperson, is not my forte.

Even so, I have found a way to satisfy the creative urge. What I like to do, and have more success at, is creating something out of something else. Whether its a scene that can be photographed or a theme to write about, it all begins with the recognition of the potential of something that already exists. Its about perceiving the special qualities of the subject and then capturing them in an individual way so that they can be re-presented from a fresh perspective. It is also about how things are arranged in relation to each other, creating an interesting juxtaposition or contrast. The magic is in the transformation that takes place, so that the original subject is enhanced by the process.

In photography I love finding intriguing subjects with interesting colours, shapes and textures. I enjoy the process of framing, cropping, and manipulating the image to emphasise what is already there.  In writing I like observing myself and life around me, and picking up on the essence of what is going on.

I have a number of projects underway and I can see this thread of perceiving and transforming running through all of them. When I think about professional organising, I am not focussed on making people be organised, I am thinking about sculpting the physical living environment into a comfortable home by taking away the things that are not contributing to the person’s quality of life. Even when it comes to selling my excess things on eBay, I enjoy identifying things that I think will appeal to other people, creating attractive groupings, and presenting them in a way that people will enjoy.

I find it helpful to recognise this theme running through my projects, because I allows me to see a unity in what appears to be a diverse range of activities. Perceiving the nature of things in a unique way and sharing that vision is the task of people who create. From what I know of my readers, many of you share that intuitive eye, and interest in presenting your own perspective.

I am pleased to say that I still have the plastic cups which I won in 1967. They make great dice shakers when playing board games. I think I have done the right thing in keeping them, as they are probably now chic retro object d’art.

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I have been working on a side project making greeting cards with a view to selling them in shops or markets. Making cards has been an on and off hobby for quite a few years. Recently as a follow up to my big clean-out of 2012 I did a cull of a lot of the card stock that I never liked or used, and just kept the best “in case”. I also went through a shoebox of old photos and threw out a lot of pictures that were unuseable duplicates. Somewhere in that process, and from putting up photos for the blog, I felt inspired to resume card making.

The outcome is Remember Paris, a collection of black and white, and colour greeting cards using pictures taken on my trip early last year. I have divided the collection into four themed sets and thought I would share one picture from each set with you. This is a bookseller from the River Seine set. I like it because it is so typical of Paris, even down to the black cat images on the  magazines.

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I have a group of classic images that I call Paris Icons. They include the main tourist attractions, but I try to have a slightly different perspective on them. This one worked out well.

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I included this image in the Paris Life set with some trepidation. Paris Life is photos from the back streets that capture the essence of everyday Paris. I think this photo is going to standout amongst the more traditional images. I love the shapes of the shutters and the peeling paint
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It was a revelation to get real prints made up from my holiday pictures. This project was the first time I had seen the images as traditional photos. I thought black and white was the best way to go with Paris, because it seems more arty. But I must admit I love the way the colours pop in a glossy photo. The fourth set is Paris Colour which is some of my favourite colour images.

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Today was a big day because I summoned up my courage and took sample cards to some local shops and then to the supertrendy King Street. Emboldened by my extensive experience watching pickers and dealers on reality TV, I approached a few shop owners with a friendly smile to see if they would be interested in having my cards in the shop. I was very affirming to get some positive feedback and interest expressed in making orders. I am looking into the possibility of putting the cards on an online site as well.

So here was me thinking you had to be an expert on cameras to be a photographer. There is a lot for me to learn on the technical front, but its nice to know that other people enjoy what I can do in reasonable light with a good compact camera set to auto. Its the act of capturing colours, shapes and textures that I love about photography, and thats hard to get wrong in Paris.

I am going to tell you a little secret. When I joined the gym a couple of months ago, I told them my goals were to build strength and fitness but weight loss was not a major issue. I meant what I said at the time. I certainly didn’t want to be walking into a women’s weightloss gym and telling them I wanted to lose weight.

Now that I am quitting the gym with absolutely no weight loss to show for it, I am going to admit to you that I was secretly hoping that I would accidentally lose weight by going to the gym three times a week. I have been in the normal range for about 30 years, and probably still am. But I’d say I am getting to the high side of normal, and my clothes are getting tight. I am 1lb away from my “never go above” weight (and thats before breakfast). My main concern is that I am approaching the time of life where women start to gain extra weight, and find it harder to lose, I want to give myself the best chance of staying out of the overweight category.

I think my experience at the gym highlights a weakness of process goals, rather than outcome goals. I was aiming to go to the gym three times a week, and reward myself with a tick on the calendar, and hoping good things would come of it. However when I was at the gym I felt like I was serving time because had to go because I was paying for it, and didn’t really give it 100%. In the meantime I was actually avoiding other opportunities physical activity because I felt I had to save myself for the gym.

My last day at the gym is Saturday, and I have already lost interest in going. I have been walking in the park instead, and enjoying being outside in a more natural environment. Since I seemed to be spending my walks writing blog posts in my head and missing everything around me, I decided to do some meditation at the same time. I also took my camera along in case I saw something interesting.

On my last walk I managed to walk, meditate and take photos all within the hour, with each of these activities supporting the other, rather than competing. It feels like a more wholistic way to exercise. I am keeping in mind that yes, I would like to lose a little bit of weight and will need to make some effort to achieve that. I have stopped giving myself “ticks” on the calendar and instead give myself mental encouragement for having done my exercise for the day. I am hoping that by taking more personal responsibility for my exercise I will see better results.

Hibiscus flower at my new "gym".

Hibiscus flower at my new “gym”.