Dearest Star

Star, our beautiful teenager is much more difficult for me to share about discretely than it is for me with Poppy, but I don’t like to leave her out entirely, either. It’s been a hard year for her. The injury to her knee saw a huge downturn in her mental health, and a kid who has got back up after so many knock downs before, got knocked off her feet and lost some hope that life was going to work out. Some days she explains to me how unhappy she is and my heart breaks. I remind myself often that my job is not to pressure her to be happy, it’s simply to love her.

She finished school last year with straight A grades, despite many days off and a lot of distress. Anxiety and chronic pain are constant companions, but she is also vibrant when happy, courteous, diligent, and incredibly helpful. She is always gentle with Poppy even when she’s frustrated about her room being raided for interesting things.

She’s in contact with all of her biological family now, an excellent and challenging process. I’ve always firmly believed in the idea that we all need many parents – I remember reading Clarissa Pinkola Este’s Women Who Run with the Wolves many years ago and loving her assertion that all women need at least 5 different mothers to grow to adulthood. So we do not compete, or rank relationships by which are more ‘real’, or dismiss their importance. Star needs all her family to grow, and they are all real, important, and deeply influential. It’s not always easy but when there’s peace, she thrives, and she is patient beyond her years when there’s stress in those relationships.

Some days I feel so inadequate and overwhelmed, parenting a teenager I only met a few years ago. I have to make calls about her best interests and balance the needs of our whole little family and I’m certain I don’t always get that right. Some days the stakes feel high and I’m afraid I’m making the wrong choices.

Other days I see her growing, the kindness in her friendships, the quiet leadership, her blooming communication skills and I’m so incredibly proud. She has worked so hard to be different and she certainly stands out! I love our times in the car together on the way to school in the mornings, when she opens up and tells me about her life. I love being part of first experiences for her, like being there the first day she was taken for a motorbike ride and came home exhilarated. I’m glad to be there on bad days when she needs a hug.

Currently her joy is learning to drive. Many highly intelligent kids are restless to grow older and reap the rewards of adulthood and Star more than most has craved the freedoms of adult life. She’s rarely happier than behind the wheel, gaining hours of driving experience towards getting her licence.

We have been together over 2 years now, and adulthood is approaching so quickly. In the blink of eye this time will be just a memory, the stress of year 12, her first day at uni, the four of us crowded into our little unit. Among all the stress and sadness and difficulty, there’s such love, such joy. She is growing into a wonderful woman and I’m so proud to know her and have played a small role in the end of her childhood.

My Exhibition Sold Out

It was amazing. The feedback was wonderful. People really engaged. And I sold all the art on the walls and then some!

I’m wiped out today and hanging on the couch with Poppy.

There will be updates with links and pictures and all the wonderful things for you very soon.

But for now – wow. My first exhibition since Poppy was born, and my first sell-out exhibition. I am dazed and amazed and SO EXCITED!

I was trialling the idea of one night exhibitions, in a community rather than gallery setting, hosted by an organisation – in this case my wonderful place of residence SHINE SA.

It was great. Hard work but fantastic. I already have interest in hosting it again, and SHINE SA are looking into how they might be able to keep it on display longer. I’m excited about sharing it in different settings with different communities! (Sing out if that’s you)

My favourite part of yesterday was people taking me over to a work to tell me what they see in it, and why they connect with it.

photo courtesy of Janiece Pope ©2018

Hearing that the ideas resonate, that the art speaks to people, that tricky topics suddenly feel safer to think about or talk about – music to my ears. This is a brilliant way of raising awareness, bringing people together, and exploring a topic in a rich, authentic, and ultimately liberating way. I’ve found my thing.

One learning is that I need to outsource sales. Rose is so much better at that side of things than I am, not because she’s ‘sales-ey’ but because she’s less flighty/fried on the night and more comfortable discussing people’s needs. (I forgot to even mention the work was for sale or how to buy it.) She’s come home with a plan to explore how we could offer payment plans to people who need to pay off their favourite work – something she does all the time with beautiful hand made kids clothes or quality baby carriers that would normally be out of our budget, so she’s very familiar with that side of things.

Guys, I sold a whole exhibition! I’m not even sure how to feel, I’m kind of thrilled, and a bit confused, and sort of anxious that it’s all been a big mistake or someone’s going to be really angry with me somehow, or that it was just a crazy fluke and doesn’t mean anything. (How much art do you have to sell before it’s not a fluke anymore?) Why do I feel embarrassed by it and embarrassed about my reaction because it’s not quite on script of just feeling excited? Why does life always look and feel quite different from what you thought it would be like? I don’t know.

Links, photos, good stuff on the way when I can move again, I promise.

And more art, of course. I’ve started a new collection while I was finishing up this exhibition, and it’s beautiful. ❤

Behind the scenes of the Exhibition

Here’s a sneak peak of the hanging space and gilded artworks. Preparations for the exhibition on Friday night have reached the point where it’s overwhelming and I hate all the art and want to set fire to it and pretend I never thought of doing one.

I don’t like this point terribly much. If I could figure out how to skip or at least minimise it, that would be awesome.

In the meantime I’m keeping on, juggling a couple of projects and missing my happy mood. I’ve navigated a number of challenges with hanging and framing and I’m generally just over all the last minute crises and feeling like I’m such a cliché artiste with all the insecurity and mood swings and indecision.

Maybe if I was a better artist I would feel less anxious and vulnerable and destructive. Maybe it wouldn’t make any difference at all.

Last night I dreamed that Poppy died, I woke distraught at 6am and couldn’t get any more sleep. She was dragged from my arms into a drain too small for me to follow. I watched her sleep for the next few hours and tried to put my thoughts back together.

A friend, not a close one but someone I had created some wonderful projects with, has died, and her service is on Friday a few hours before my exhibition.

I’ve seen my TEDx talk finally. It’s good. I trembled for several hours after watching it, feeling all the fuses blow in my brain. When I stopped shaking and could drive, I went home to bed.

I’m realising that being a freelancer doesn’t mean I can schedule every hour to be highly productive. Sometimes you have to make time to shake. This seems blindingly obvious but also difficult to grasp.

I had a spectacular weekend, happy and excited and bubbling with inspiration. I snatched hours to paint ideas and explored new techniques on YouTube on my phone. There were board games and friends and feeling like I’d found my place in the world.

I know how this works, I’ll pass through the darkest hour and the project will come together. I wish it was easier for me. I wish I’d learned to hold back a little, give myself something left for the return trip. All this vulnerability in public gives me the worst hangovers. But the other side of it, the connection, that’s amazing.

Work, Failure, and Identity

My business mentor sent this amazing article to me and it made me cry. https://www.inc.com/magazine/201309/jessica-bruder/psychological-price-of-entrepreneurship.html

So many quotes spoke to me:

Though driven and innovative, hypomanics are at much higher risk for depression than the general population, notes Gartner. Failure can spark these depressive episodes, of course, but so can anything that slows a hypomanic’s momentum. “They’re like border collies–they have to run,” says Gartner. “If you keep them inside, they chew up the furniture. They go crazy; they just pace around. That’s what hypomanics do. They need to be busy, active, overworking.”

I know that place! This is explored in much more detail in Exuberance: The Passion for Life, by Kay Redfield Jamison, which I found very helpful for understanding the intensity I bring to my work and creativity process. My favourite quote from her book is “If exuberance is the Champagne of moods, mania is its cocaine.”

Back to Bruder’s article: from a guy who put everything including his house on the line and only came through with hours to spare at the worst point in his business.

Afterward, he made a list of all the ways in which he had financially overreached. “I’m going to remember this,” he recalls thinking. “It’s the farthest I’m willing to go.”
…emotional residue from the years of tumult still lingers. “There’s always that feeling of being overextended, of never being able to relax,”

I know this place too. I over reached, just before falling completely apart several years ago. I went way beyond my personal resources to attend a conference, and at the end they invited me to create a network and be paid to do so and I came home to choirs of angels singing. Then they all went back to their lives and not one single person moved the plan forward. I waited and sent polite emails and my stomach dropped and my heart broke. As my confidence fell apart, so did every business opportunity I’d been working on. 10 unrelated arrangements with different people fell apart and so did I.

The alternative mental health community has not been a safe haven for me in this way. It has contained essential and valuable ideas, but also Tall Poppy Syndrome, a lot of lone wolves with no community capacity, and significant issues with poverty and hostility to those who make money.

Some make successful businesses and ventures from their skills and experiences. Some, like me, struggle and struggle, looking desperately for a validated way to a fair income. Poverty and all that came with it for me – inexperience with money, self depreciation, discomfort with marketing, had a cost that got bigger every year. At one stage an interstate org was arranging me to visit for a week long series of training and workshops. I was ecstatic. When they asked me for a bio I froze up. They knew I was bad at marketing myself, and good at what I do, but the freeze spooked them and they canned the project. I hated myself so much I wanted to die.

In my little world I hear often of others success. Those chosen to give keynotes at conferences, invited to overseas opportunities, paid consultants with the ear of people who can fund their projects. There’s so much failure and comparison and fuel for self loathing. The standards are impossible. The hurdles to be included and treated as a professional are impossible. Peer work is a nightmare risk, and hidden behind our inspirational heros are so many untold stories like my own of exposure, unemployability, and brutal failure. It’s a cruel trick and the stakes are exceptionally high.

I’m painfully, constantly aware that for many others, my own modest successes represent the same pain and lost opportunities. That people look to me and feel the mix of inspiration, envy, and sadness with which I regard my own role models.

So does cultivating an identity apart from your company… “Other dimensions of your life should be part of your identity.”… it’s important to feel successful in areas unrelated to work.

For me, who has donated thousands of unpaid hours to my networks, considered a tattoo of my own logo, and invested my career with profound meaning about the value of life, my identity, and my place in the world, this advice is profound and difficult to follow.

I am so tangled with my business and career aspirations it’s hard to tell where one end and the other begins. It’s been an incredible challenge to set up any kind of business model because I am the business. Having missed out on formal education and all the doors opened by validated skill sets and access to professional memberships, I have found a side road to my goals where that validation is irrelevant and the professional bodies are largely nonexistent. It’s the Wild West of consulting and freelancing. The clients are gun shy because of slick assholes who overcharge and under-deliver. And the contractors are unprotected from most forms of exploitation, have no minimum hourly rates, unions, or HR. Just this last week a client decided not to honour my invoice and paid me only the amount they arbitrarily decided I should have charged. I’m so glad to have found pathways that bypass the formal with all those issues, and yet I’m so poorly equipped to navigate them. The very qualities that have driven me to freelancing are those that leave me vulnerable. Upskilling is largely a brutal process of learning from my mistakes. The mental health costs can be significant.

I’m tired. Several psychologists over the years have suggested I simply sit back and enjoy my pension. I’ve stopped going to therapy with them after that. There’s meaning in work, inclusion. As Helen Glover put it, you attain citizenship when you pay taxes. I want to be a ‘real person’. At times it’s killing me. Sometimes I have to step back from this capitalist cultural fusion of work, money, and identity. I have to find a way to embed compassion and the context of a culture that is often not kind to those with illnesses and disability into my own understanding of the value of work. I’m starting to shift how I see it all, and transitioning to a clearer business model where I sell certain skills or outcomes rather than clients asking for anything they want I can do- it helps. It puts a small buffer between my business and my soul.

Let me finish with a recent poem I wrote:

My business is not
Who I am in the world.
It is not
My identity, my value, my self respect
Not the sum of me
My place
My impact
My legacy.

My business is a project
One project among many
A way to earn money
Make a difference
A way to be in the world.
It is not the only way
The one, true, right, way
The sum of every effort until now
Validation for all that came before
The reward for every tribulation.
It is just my business, one dream
Among many.

My business is not
Proof that I’ve ‘made it’, or
Evidence I’ve settled, given up, sold out, lost faith.
It doesn’t mean I’ve gone over to the other side
Become a success or failed a character test
It’s something to be proud of but not the only thing
It’s a part of me but I am not
A piece of it.
If it died I would still be here.
My business is not
Who I am in the world.

Art Print Workflow

As part of my business mentoring I have been tracking the time it takes me to do various tasks, and setting up workflows like this. It’s been illuminating.

One thing I’ve found is that some of my estimations have been far off. Gilding, for example, takes me literally 4 times longer per artwork than I’d estimated.

Another thing it’s brought to my attention is the stark difference between making art for the love or need of it, and making art as a business. See how many of those steps are not about making the art? Most of them. They are about inventory and stock management, sales and marketing, following up email enquiries and event planning.

These are not awful things, but they are not, as one might imagine an art business to be, mostly days spent in the studio with a paint brush. And they do make me question if this is a business model I want. I do get a great deal of pleasure from selling my prints and hearing where they’ve gone and why and what needs they have met. I like meeting people at openings and exhibitions and using my art to build communities and share messages. But a lot of this workflow is frankly, tedious and uncreative and time consuming. All of which takes me out of my studio, away from the creativity and connection I love most.

I haven’t stopped making prints. But it’s good to be aware of the model I’m using. I might be able to tinker and tweak it so it suits me a little better. Continuous improvement is something I am good at. Trying to build the business while also making the work continues to feel rather like sewing my own leg on while skateboarding, but stopping work isn’t a great option and many of the business skills are best learnt on the job anyway, and decisions best tested before committed to. It’s frustratingly messy and slow but things are emerging.

On the good news front I am working on a commission at the moment that I am very excited to share once I’m further into it. Having an artistic project again is delightful. There’s good news waiting in the wings so watch this space. 🙂

Poppy and Art

How jolly our Christmas has been. Good people, lovely food, thoughtful gifts. Poppy has some awesome new musical instruments.

I’m disconnected from work and being present. Playing games, making puzzles, cooking meals. Setting up my reading list for next year on my phone apps… One day I’ll read paper books again regularly but mostly I read one handed while nursing so ebooks are so convenient. 

Currently I’m half way through Growing Gills which has been full of excellent advice for a creative business person. It’s extremely interesting to see where other people get stuck and how they get unstuck, or less overwhelmed. 

I’m also still making art in little snatches here and there, using my travel kit. My recent addition to it was black ink filled water pens and I’m loving playing with my watercolour set. This is Poppy in the bath with her amber necklace. 🙂 

Hope you’re having a lovely break too.

Hanging out with my girls

Our gruelling Christmas preparations include walks to the park and episodes of Trollhunter on Netflix. 

A few weeks ago I asked everyone in my family to name one thing they find really special about Christmas so we could make sure it happened. I wanted to bake something that made the house smell nice. Star wanted to see Christmas lights, and Rose wanted to decorate a gingerbread house. 

Last night we roamed the lights of Lobethal and came home with fresh cherries, delicious baked goods and pot-plants. Today is baking and gingerbread decorating, and wrapping the last of the gifts while watching The Nightmare Before Xmas. It’s all very low key and low stress and I’m having a ball. Yesterday everyone in the house had an afternoon nap! 

We have no decorations up this year because Poppy would just tear a tree apart at this age, but we had some last minute pay come through so we could buy a bit more food and plump up the gifts, so there’s loads of Christmas cheer and we’re looking forward to some lovely shared meals with friends, bio family, and extended family over the next few days. It doesn’t get better than this, really. ❤

See my little art gallery at SHINE SA

One of my business development tasks recently was to decorate my office space to help me feel more comfortable in it. There was a little glitch with the audio during recording but it’s still a nice walk through. 🙂

My Artist residency at Shine is going incredibly well. I’m thrilled to be here, and having such wonderful people around for a chat over lunch or to collaborate on a project with is a delight. I’ve been spending my hours so far (I exchange hours towards SHINE projects to say thankyou for the venue and resources) mainly in a collaborative project going into local prisons and facilitating art workshops and conversations about sexual health. I have enjoyed every minute of it, and I’m very excited about next year.

My torn heart

Oh my heart. Yesterday I borrowed a memoir of Judith Wright, wonderful Australian poet. This morning Poppy slept fitfully and woke me at 6. So I’ve been exploring the world on my phone, looking at artist’s books and reading about illuminated manuscripts. I looked up Wright on Wikipedia, hoping she might still be alive so I could write to her about how much her poems have ment to me. But we’ve already lost her. 

A line stands out to me, how she explored the relationship between inner experience and objective reality. Yes, that she did so well, spoke with such a clear voice I feel I know her. Like all my favourite artists, you can see her in her work, and she was a balm to the loneliness I suffered for so much of my life. 

It’s nearly the end of the year. I stand upon a precipice. 2017 has been kind, harsh, strange, sad, wonderful. A coming out of the desert and into communities of work. My online groups of freelancers are a treasure of wisdom and practical advice. I’ve wrangled with clients and invoicing and admin, read books, contracted mentors and support. Earned money and invested it carefully. I stand some days in my dining room – which is now a hub for my family, with chairs and a dining table where homework gets made and meals eaten and lately, Christmas gifts wrapped. I look at how small the space was I used to sit and paint and think about how frustrated I was with myself that I couldn’t do more, when it’s amazing that I accomplished what I did in such a tiny spot with so few resources. 

Now I have a studio and my heart, which was torn into several pieces when I pulled apart my home earlier this year, is putting down roots and growing strong. My home, my studio, and my office gallery. I adore being among the other artists at the studio. Even when I’m alone there, there’s a sense of recently departed company in their empty spaces I find companionable and comforting. I can create there, freely, and play with my supplies. I’ve never had enough resources to play, paper and paint have been much too expensive to experiment with. I’ve recently moved my beading supplies there, and taken trimings of silk and velvet. I want to make another Art book. 

It’s not the wilds but it is on the edge of them. Close enough to create. The wilds themselves, that inner place of experience, those are elusive to me. I don’t often go there, rarely write from that place now. Children and family and my work fill the hours. They don’t come to the wilds with me and I have never much liked going alone, feeling exiled. But I speak the name of it, Narnia, and I remember it exists. I sneak into it a moment, under the stars, putting out the bins. I touch it in my artbook. I step in and out of the world. 

I talked to a new therapist this week (she writes, sharing more than is wise for a professional. Working people, especially women, must split their lives and show no human weakness in their working world. How will clients trust me? How will they meet my eyes when they’ve seen me naked? One must respect the divisions of the role. The stripper’s stage name. Don’t blend the worlds. Don’t remind them you’re human.) The new therapist offered me ways to be always calm, assuming that was my goal. Ways to meet the world with equanimity, come what may. We argued and she smiled at me in a way that was possibly intended to be disarming but felt merely humiliating. The props may be cardboard and gold paint, but the magic was never in the stage. It was never about what’s real. 

I work and I live as lover, partner, mother, and that gap between inner experience and outer reality opens wide and closes tighter. I make art and people buy it. I write a blog and people send me money to thank me for sharing and changing a story in their mind that was harming them. I help projects happen and get paid. The world doesn’t end. I leave behind the cult of activists who claim that only unpaid work is holy. I walk away from the communities where anyone who is paid to help another person is an oppressor. I begin to understand that intentional ignorance, financial illiteracy, programmed shame when I ask to look, is part of poverty and welfare and it binds me to a broken, abused machinery that was intended to protect me, but instead hurts me and then blames me for it. I am in recovery.

My experiences transition to a shadow of a different kind. I stop writing, sharing, being naked in public. New categories force themselves into my life, change the shape of things. Is being at the studio work? What is work? I can’t share personal things on a business website. What is personal? What is business? My world shifts to family. My writing shifts. If I write about sitting in the dark with an infant at my breast and the other nipple weeping a sad milky blood trail over my body, have I transitioned from a mental health blog to a ‘mommy blog’? Are they the same readers? Does that matter? Is loathing the term ‘mommy blog’ mysogynist, or is rejecting the implied derision feminist? 

I’m looking behind the scenes of career paths and it’s becoming less abstracted more concrete. My anxiety reduces. I’m beginning to understand that spreading myself – ourselves – so thin (despite our sense of sacrifices and comprimise) has slowed everything, that building the skills and networks and becoming literate with the industry of each profession is time consuming and requires dedication. That the skills to make the thing or do the work are only half or less than half the job. The rest are the skills to be employed or freelance, the skills to get hired or contracted, to navigate bosses or clients, to spot and take on opportunities, to walk away from bad situations, to deal with uncertainly, to create a career. I’ve had no useful training in those things. This year I’ve done so many things; facilitation, illustration, copywriting, service design; I’ve worked with people at the very top of heirarchy and prisoners at the very bottom. I’ve watched the Pursuit of Happiness and other stories of breaking out of poverty and noticed the same message reoccurring – don’t show behind the scenes. Don’t let them know you’re not one of them (yet). 

I’ve thought about being homeless and letting the fun colours grow out of my hair because I learned those in the services only look out for their own. I’ve thought about what it might be like to be black and unable to meet that requirement, of the affection of relatives who wish I was more like them, less queer. Identity and public identity. Who we are and how we present ourselves. The dictates of professional identity in various industries. Corporate identity with reduced individuality, rooms where the windows can’t be opened. Task focused spaces. In another world entirely, the farmer who lives in the land with his labor. No personal and professional divide. The copywriter who rarely meets her clients, working from a stone house in the hills and doing video meetings over the internet. Such different lives! Such different ways of working, networks, business skills, industry norms and challenges. Different worlds. 

Have I learned enough yet to thrive? Not yet. But I know vastly more than I did at the start of it, and I’ve begun to build professional networks, not in a slick, manipulative, or abusive way, but simply the community of people engaged in work to learn from, share with, and take part. Clients, companions, competitors, mentors. Many questions remain. I love and need to make art, do I really want to keep selling it? I love to write, can I keep sharing personally or will that cause problems with my work? Can I earn any income for my writing? I can make resources for vulnerable people, can I show they are valuable to those with money to fund them? Can I help people care enough about multiples or prisoners or voice hearers or homeless queer kids to fund projects? Can I learn who and how to ask? Can I put down some of the big lingering projects I’ve not been able to fund, grieve them, and move on? Or let go of work I’m good at and love but that doesn’t fit well with my life anymore? Can I figure out the easy path for me instead of proving myself by doing the hardest things and taking the biggest risks? Can I get through a year without being diagnosed with exhaustion? Can I make my work sustainable? 

We’ll find out. Here’s to the next year, friends and readers. It’s been one hell of a ride.

Tree spirit- the moon in her arms, gilded

I gilded my print today with 24k gold and I’m so pleased with it. She looks amazing. This one is being collected tomorrow. I’ve been selling a lot of art this past few weeks for gifts. 

If you’re still short a gift for someone, get in touch with me quickly, I can meet you at my office in SHINE SA Woodville and giftwrap an artwork for you on the spot. ❤



Winding up 2017

My household is asleep. I’m snuggled between Rose and Poppy. Poppy is a little cold but hates blankets, so she’s snuggled into my side, arm wrapped over my chest and leg over my tummy. Half of the bedroom has become storage for bags and boxes of Christmas gifts. The other half is full of baskets of clean washed clothes we can’t get into the cupboard to put away any more. It’s like sleeping at Santa’s, a kind of cheerful, organised chaos.

I’ve started winding down work for the year. Poppy and I have been painting and making art. I’ve been setting myself up with a little transportable art folder so that when inspiration strikes and I can’t go to my studio, I can still capture ideas or play. Last night I saw a photo of a beautiful tattoo I loved and recreated it in watercolour.

Poppy has been having fun with textas. She’s so full of life.

It’s been an intense and amazing week. I’ve finished my business development course and ticked a huge number of goals off for the year.

We’ve just finished a pilot of the Multiplicity Project. Three other folk, one a journalist and two multiples came to Adelaide for interviews. It was very precious. At one point I was sitting in the lounge of a little unit, watching someone lay out huge artwork portraits of their system and explain the people and their roles. The stories were amazing. I showed them my partly written guidebook and we explored a number of other possible book models. My introductory guide keeps trying to turn into some kind of definitive guidebook which is panic inducingly impossible to finish. It might not be the best place to start. I’m starting make contact with others in the writing industry which is helpful. We’ll see what happens next.

Winding down now to the end of the year, and my panic and sense of failure are easing. There’s no Christmas tree at home, or decorations, or baking, Poppy tears things apart and food is tricky and money is tight and all the things we usually have to work around are in play. But it doesn’t feel lacking in specialness. I’m glad to be here, glad our girls are with us, and we have family to spend time with, and friends who love to decorate with Christmas things, and the sense of festiveness is there anyway.

What a difficult but amazing year it has been. I’m still haunted by frustration that I can’t seem to grasp everything I’ve tried to, but I’m also dazzled by the wonderful opportunities, new relationships, amazing projects, and beautiful growth I’ve been part of. I’m proud of my work this year and so proud of my family, coming through some huge challenges and still here. A bit bruised or scarred, and scuffed around the edges maybe, but learning and loving and navigating life with courage. I am so in love with them, so grateful to be wrapped up in them when once I lived alone. There’s so much life here, messy, confusing, complicated, painful, imperfect, beautiful, heartfelt. I have seized the day, I suck the marrow, I give myself to it wholly. It hurts and it heals.

Come and visit me at SHINE SA

I’m having a little office opening so you can visit. 

 Mon, December 18, 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM

There’s a lot of beautiful art and gorgeous gold embellished prints on display in my office at the moment. You’re welcome to come and see them in person, have a chat over coffee, see an oil painting in progress, or grab a print for Christmas. It’s all very low key and relaxed, I’ll put out a plate of lamingtons or something, drop by if you have a minute. 🙂

Grab a free ticket here so I can cater.

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Amazing Other People using my Artwork

I’m delighted to share a recent project with you – not mine this time! Danielle Pomeroy is a PhD scholar at the University of South Australia studying stillbirth stigma. She approached me because she felt my artwork “The Gap” perfectly captured her subject and would help her poster about her research really stand out. I originally painted it to illustrate this blog post about understanding the way trauma and adversity can disconnect you from others. The print is available in my Etsy Shop here.

Her timing was impeccable because that’s something I’ve been working on this year – learning how to edit and clean up high res scans of my artwork for use in other settings such as websites, and how to licence my images for others to use. I’m still figuring out the process for it so I don’t do it very often at this stage.

So Danielle bought a licence from me, and printed her gorgeous poster about a very important topic, which was presented at the International Stillbirth Alliance conference in Ireland. To learn more about the research, her supervisor Jane Warland was an author on the poster and writes a blog here.

Here is Danielle with her poster: A Pilot Study Exploring Stillbirth Stigma Experiences in Australia and Adapting and Validating a Stigma Scale.

Danielle Pomeroy Still Stigma Poster F

I’m honoured to be a tiny part of this work, and excited to see my art exploring new ways of being in the world.

I’m hoping to be able to display Danielle’s poster when I next exhibit Waiting for You . I’m currently working on setting up the template to be able to take the exhibition to rural and interstate locations, looking for a good community venues, and sponsorship to help with travel costs for those further from home.

SaY Your History – Join in on a local project

Childcare in aged care, uni students living with residential care folks, I love a good project that gets the generations connecting with each other, and I’ve been invited into a great local opportunity.

Calling Adelaide young people and seniors – we’d love to involve you in this excellent project about capturing people’s stories in video! This fantastic opportunity is a collaborative effort between a number of different organisations, and I’ll be supporting it with some training/facilitating. You don’t need any experience, I’m really happy to help you learn some new skills and get to play with some documentary techniques on simple equipment you probably already have access to at home or school. This can be very useful for school homework or your own creative projects.

For young person aged 13 – 25yrs we are running a FREE workshop on interviewing and filming techniques!

Wed Dec 6th
6-8pm
Free
Onkaparinga Youth Enterprise Hub, Colonnades Shopping Centre

For more info or to book in contact Alice on alice.sheppard@onkaparinga.sa.gov.au or 0400 279 328.

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If you are a senior, the young people would love to interview you and hear some of your stories and life experiences. We are hoping to run a couple of filming days to get everyone together and give the young people a chance to try out their interviewing skills. The first is this Saturday, and it would be fantastic if you could help us out! (your family and friends are also welcome)

Saturday 9th December
Between 11am—4pm
Refreshments provided
Free – of course!
McKinna Road, Christie downs

Questions or RSVP to Jules on 81860048 or email juliferguson@internode.on.net

The fantastic people behind this initiative are from:

  1. Healthy Cites Onkaparinga is a non-government community based organisation
    advocating for better health in the Onkaparinga region.
  2. Fleurieu Cancer Network is a non-government community organisation advocating for better services for people with cancer their family and friends.
  3. City of Onkaparinga Youth Committee is a group of young people aged 15 – 25 who are dedicated to representing views of young people in Onkaparinga and are involved in various leadership opportunities.
  4. Seaford Rotary was newly chartered on November 26, 2016. This new club is doing
    things differently to many traditional Rotary clubs with less focus on meetings and more focus on community projects and partnerships.

Taking my business seriously

It’s taken some years but I’m finally beginning to understand marketing. It’s simply communication, nothing more or less. It’s not the slick, deceptive sales pitch I used to think of, any more than talking is always lying. It’s simply communicating with people who don’t know you yet. You can be genuine or deceptive but that’s up to who you are. 

Looking back at the development of this site, I’ve always written with a particular person in mind. A treasured, highly vulnerable friend. Or myself, 10 years back, and fighting to survive. And I wanted to help that person to feel safe, so I showcase my own vulnerability – see, we are not so different. I wrote and shared with honesty, and always with the intention to help rather than harm. 

I’m beginning to see that in some contexts, this person is what’s called an end user rather than a client. If I want to do something to help people who are homeless, or dealing with poverty, or chronically suicidal, then I can make that happen by liaising with someone who also care about them and has some money to put towards that project. The people in need shouldn’t have to pay for it themselves, they should access it and benefit from it simply because they are people in need. That makes them my end user and the people with the funds – a business, government, or not for profit, my client. I am good at helping my end users feel comfortable and safe with me. Part of the process of helping my business become sustainable is about making sure my clients also feel safe and comfortable. 

Their needs and language are different. They care about authenticity and sincerity too, but they also need to see competence, endorsement, professionalism. Will I turn up on time? Fake my information? Make their staff feel intimidated or incompetent? Can they trust me to do my work to a high standard of quality, communicate well, keep their best interests in mind? 

So I am wrapping a new layer of professionalism around the heart I wear on my sleeve. Polishing up how I share my work with the world. It’s good work and it’s worth people’s time and money. I absolutely believe this.

I’m working on a new template flyer for all my Training which will feature an image from the artworks in that specific talk. I’m going to start with a few of my many talks and create the rest in time. 

Still a work in progress, hence the sarcastic copy. 😉 

The new format for my business is four suites: arts, writing, training, and community development consulting. Each of these require specific administrative structures, templates, marketing, licences, insurance, and so on. I have been very scattered this year and I appreciate the clarity of this approach. I am also feeling very mindful of my exhaustion and how much I’m missing my family. I’m currently in two community development projects which are wonderful, but considering closing that option down for awhile after they finish. Giving myself good stretches of time, say a good week or two to develop each suite of services, would be a real treat to see more rapid progress. Moving a hundred rocks up a hill an inch at a time is far more draining then getting five rocks to the top of the hill every week. 

I’m also having to give serious thought to my networks. Can I really afford to keep running them, unpaid? There’s only so much I can do, so many hours in the week. The psychological weight of them is significant. The hearing voices network remains scattered here in SA, I’ve been unable to gather a united community. Perhaps it’s time to let it go for now. The DI remains so dear to my heart, but I also feel so tired. Public advocacy work is draining and devastating, it closes so many doors. I just want to earn a living and enjoy my family. I don’t know, I don’t have answers yet. Sustainable work means less balls in the air, lower personal cost, less unpaid projects. So much love, still, but less sacrifice. I don’t know where this goes next. I’m so glad for the supports I have, and the two beautiful places I’ve found a home in at SHINE SA and Tooth and Nail Studio. I feel very fortunate to be in places where I’m with good people and feel valued and safe while I figure this out. 

In the meantime, still building, and still painting. 🙂 From the chaos, things are emerging. 

My sweet loves

We have been so lucky with our family. Mornings are still my favourite time, curled in bed together, pale milky light coming through the big bedroom windows. Poppy sleeps beside us, legs resting on mine, cheeks flushed pink after nursing. Lately I’ve been waking early and wanting to go to bed early. Twenty years ago this was my sleeping pattern, I don’t know why it’s returned now. But lying here in the dark beside her, she smells of sweet rain in my arms. Her hair is a mop of thistledown, her breath smells of milk. I love her so much my heart aches. I’ve waited my whole life to be a parent, and now I am it’s such a comfortable fit. It’s incredibly hard work, but there’s an anguish and emptiness I used to just live with that’s full of contentment now. Both my girls are beautiful and perplexing, brilliant and challenging and so very loved. 

Life as a working parent is exhausting, delightful, sad, and a wonderful privilege. Driving away from Poppy in tears is a sorrow that’s hard to let myself feel. Coming home to a bundle of excitement who wraps around my legs and shrieks “tuddle!” While I try to unload my arms to cuddle her is sheer inconvenient, ebullient joy. Earlier this week I went to several meetings with orange marker scrawled down one leg from where she had decorated me the night before. I was delighted. 

I have new clients, new projects, and good prospects for my business. The business development course continues to be an intense rollercoaster of emotions, as I unpick the mess and touch on deep connections – identity, place in the world, worth, and old traumas. From stuckness confusion and overwhelm a new model is emerging with a new clarity. The clarity is wonderful and painful in equal measure, opening some doors and closing others. My system is in upheaval, each of us mourning the compromises we make, that none of us can be entirely who we are on this world, but share our work between us. We mourn the days not spent in the studio, the days not available for collaborating on projects, the time we don’t have for further study, the hours spend away from our children. The clarity heals and hurts. We find new languages: you are a community development consultant, she tells us. And we feel whole. And we feel sad. Oh, this is who I am in the world. I’ll never be a psychologist now, or a doula, or a manager, or an art historian. I’ll never run a clinical mental health service or be part of the army or work as a naturopath. I won’t finish my arts degree or go for that curating doctorate or join that post graduate group. So much sadness and it’s hard to let go. Wrenching. 

But also a system coming into joy. Yes, we are community developers. We are a community! It’s in the bones of us; multiplicity, plurality, duality, polyphony. We are artists. We are writers. We are educators. This we do, paid or unpaid, thanked or unrecognised, on display or hidden. This is who and how we are in the world, gravitating to the meaningful, creative, authentic, and communal. Seeking to ease suffering and loneliness, to promote compassion and diversity. 

There’s no guide for me for multiples and work. No mentor, few peers anywhere in the world. It’s lonely at times. We explore, trying to figure out who thrives where. Learning different outfits are needed at studio and office, for grounding the best parts and being able to function. Meltdowns, behind the scenes, are frequent. Overwhelm and exhaustion are constant questions to self: do you have a viable model yet? Do you know how to thrive? 

The Dissociative Initiative was our baby before Poppy and Star. The business has been my love, my great passion, since Rose. Trying to find a place in the world. Learning to unpick the traps I got stuck in along the way. An alternative mental health community full of brilliance and rage who attack as exploiters those who make money from their work. Clients who think you work only for the money. A welfare system that hides how it works and treats you as a cheat, a thief, and scammer if you ask for details and try to understand or predict the money. How am I supposed to develop literacy? It’s still almost unbearably shameful to set up a budget to track spending. Years of grinding poverty have left me toxic with needless shame and afraid to look, unable to control what I do not believe I deserve. The triggers and feelings mimic eating disorder stress. Just as invisible to the outside, just as deceptively simple to solve (‘just eat a steak, you’ll be fine’), and just as paralysing and destructive. 

It’s okay to look at it. It’s okay to understand exactly what I’m earning, how it impacts welfare, how my rent is recalculated based on income, how much I would need for a house deposit and how many years that would take. It’s okay to look at what my art costs me to make, how long it takes, at how many unpaid hours I spend on the road to do training and workshops. It’s okay to rejig an approach that was about charity and covering costs to be about income and supporting a family. It’s not predatory or manipulative. I feel like a young adult who has known only rape trying to believe in the idea of sex. Kissing my first lover and then shaking and howling as my body panics with dark memories and shame. And yet holding them. Seizing them. 

Seizing this beautiful thing and holding onto it while feelings shake me from ecstacy to despair. Just holding on. From all the wounds and grief and tangled sorrow, I believe something amazing will emerge. So many have midwived this with me, believed in me, held hope for me, paid bills for me, fed me. Piece by piece I have crawled away from a life and a belief system utterly destructive to me. And I’ve dragged with me courage, and joy, and honesty. The kind of wisdom you get from screaming yourself hoarse at 3am. The poverty and my own wedding to it, is just as self destructive as taking a knife to my skin. The way it became safe, a haven from fears of my own greed, of exploitation, manipulation, slick deception. Self preservation until I could see a different way and believe in a different path, just like the knife was. 

All things want to grow. It is their nature. 6 years ago I was offered this beautiful home, and I slept in it alone. Now it overflows. Now I sleep sideways in the space between my lover and my child, tangled in sleepy limbs and writing about life in the sleepless early morning. It’s beautiful.

Art about loss

I’m working on business development a lot at the moment, with the idea that I’m running two – one as an artist and the other as a consultant. But life continues to be demanding, and I find myself at times running away from my consulting and hiding in my studio.
This week loss and grief were in my heart.

This artwork was painted with two carefully chosen inks: called Rose and Heart of Darkness. I’ve waited years to be able to afford Heart of Darkness and more to have it available after a manufacturing shortage. It’s beautiful. I’m working with a dip pen rather than a fountain pen here and the line variation is glorious. 

I’ve always loved my poem and ink painting combinations, inspired by Haiga. This has been created using a Diamine shimmering ink called Silver Seas. 

I had a tough day today but I’m finding soft places to fall, good people and good mentoring. We’ll get through things, and I’ll keep working. I’m blogging on my phone while sitting in the backyard, nursing Poppy and soaking up the change in the weather. It’s a beautiful life, for all that it’s hectic and stressful and sometimes needs more of me than I have. The sky is silver and smells of rain. My heart, though bruised, is full. 

Rose is home

She’s stopped bleeding, which is wonderful, but we had an abrupt exit from hospital, before most test results had come in and we still don’t know what happened. We’re booked to follow up with our GP. 

I’m eyeball deep in the post talk slump. Amplified by arguments with the hospital staff, trying to get a handle on my business admin, long nights awake with Poppy, and a very stressed Star. 

Head down, teeth gritted, as much sleep and self care as possible. Lower expectations, lots of grace, be in the present moment and find calm when you can. Try not to run out of money, meds, patience, or humour. Don’t just react, reflect first. Make a decision and feel it out. Fall over and get up again. Hug someone. Eat something. Get out of your head and into a book or film. Stand in the night and watch the moon. Cry about it. Laugh about it. Write about it. Forget about it. 

Yesterday while we waited endlessly for a doctor to give us some information about Rose, I had to go and move our car so we didn’t get a ticket. The hospital is new, large, and extremely confusing to navigate. I wound up stuck in the underground staff carpark and ran the length of it out onto the nearby main road before I could find my way back to our car and then up to Rose again. I arrived exhausted just as the doctor left, and burst into tears. The staff looked at us indifferently while I sobbed in the corridor, because just a few hours before I had been holding Rose as she vomited so violently she passed out and fitted, and now she was being sent home with no answers and I was scared. 

Then I finished crying and ate some carrot sticks and we got out of there. Life is weird. Hospitals are weird. People are weird. 

I am restraining myself from setting fire to my business, particularly all the admin, the email backlog, the confusing filing system, and the memory of my own excitement and enthusiasm. 

Stupid post talk slump. 

On the upside I sold some art today, which is always nice. Rose is tired but still here and we’re okay. 

Rose is sick

Some days are rough. Rose woke up feeling very depressed and under the weather today. I took a slow morning and decided on a half day at work. The recent high winds blew a nest of two fledgling willy wag tails off a high wall and I found one dead and crushed on the driveway. Poppy was distraught when I left for work. Work was stressful admin and I felt very frustrated that I wasn’t able to get more done. 

Star had a rough day and called in for a lift home. I checked in with Rose who was now vomiting and down with what looks like gastro. I collected Poppy and drove into town to collect Star. Took the girls for ice cream to give Rose time to nap. Get a distressed call from Rose to say she’s vomiting blood. Call Mum. Run home, leave the girls to wait for Mum and take Rose to the ER. 

They took her straight through with her bag of blood for an X-ray and made me wait in the main room. It was scary. I started texting my people, looking for company to stop me crying. 

They let back in with her and managed to get a drip in on the fourth attempt. Meds start to calm her distress. They’re keeping her in overnight for an endoscopy and to get the rest of the test results back. She’s miserable but calmer. I’m tired and stressed. They are hoping it is a small tear in her esophagus – painful but not dangerous and most heal quickly. We should know more tomorrow. 

In a minute I’m going home to my lovely girls, to feel the empty space in my bed and hope again this is nothing. It’s been hard being here so often lately, we feel a bit cursed. I hope there are better days ahead and many many more of them. Some days just suck. 

TEDx Behind the Scenes

tl:dr Being a TEDx speaker has involved a lot of background work in many areas for me. Also, I now I have a mailing list. It will be great for staying up to date with my events, launches, openings and so on. You can sign up here.

I’m pretty sure the volunteer organisers behind TEDx have had a much bigger job than I have, but it’s been a huge project for me as a volunteer speaker too. I was thinking about it the other day and how much goes into making something like this happen, so little of which is evident on the stage (all going well, that is). It’s felt like several fairly large projects interconnected, for me.

Talk Preparation

The most obvious project has been preparing for my talk. It took me several weeks to craft the script. Emotionally Safer Sex is a huge topic I’m really passionate about. The format of TEDx is very different to what I’m used to in my other speaking experience. I don’t usually write a script but instead have a series of dot points to keep me on track, and I can expand or shrink the points depending on my audience. I also never memorise it – that’s been taking me way back to drama class at school. The sense of pressure is a lot higher due to the larger audience, tighter time frames (pretty rare for me to speak for under 15 minutes!), lots of other moving pieces, and the filming.

Illustrating the talk stalled for a bit because I found I needed to completely restructure it to shave off 5 minutes. Also because I loved the idea of creating large scale paintings that could be hung at SHINE SA during my residency… but changing the format so much from what I’m familiar with was too much to deal with. I found it most productive to go back to small scale ink paintings as I usually do for talks.

Online Abuse and Trolls

One concern I had going into the TEDx talk was the possibility of dealing with some abuse once the video went up. It’s a personal, sensitive topic and I’m female (or female presenting) which can mean trouble online. I did a bit of looking into what other people’s experiences have been and was pretty horrified by what I heard. At least one other TEDx speaker has had significant ongoing troubles with harassment and abuse since their talk. They described a regular torrent of dick pics, rape threats, and death threats. That gave me pause.

I had to really think about what I am doing this, and what price I’m prepared to pay for it. I reached out to a number of people I know navigating public life and gathered some resources. If this happens to me (it may not!) I want to have a strategy on hand to deal with it. The methods I use at the moment work well for the level of abuse I currently encounter, which is only occasional. Sometimes I deconstruct it publically such as this anonymous email and this facebook post. Often I simply let it go. Sometimes I engage directly.

Like bullies, online abusers are diverse. There is no one best right approach. Calling them all trolls is unhelpful. Sometimes people are trolling – ie deliberately trying to provoke a response because they are sadists and pain and distress amuse them. But it’s certainly possible to be abusive without being a sadist. Other people are angry or hurt and lashing out. Abuse often comes my way when I am dealing with someone suicidal, for example. When I was a kid in school I was bullied by many different kids for very different reasons. Some lacked empathy and had a lot of power. Others were being abused at home and taking out their frustrations on me. Some were simply making sure that someone else was at the bottom of the pecking order. Some were attacking anything different without even understanding why it made them feel so uncomfortable. Different bullies needed different approaches, and those of us who are attacked have different resources and skills available to deal with it.

So I get pretty frustrated at the ABC advice out there – sometimes ‘don’t feed the trolls’ is the way to go and sometimes it means you don’t get to say the things you need to, to take care of yourself, or a troll attacks you and savours your silent suffering instead. Sometimes silence is the language of power and sometimes it’s just being silenced and blaming the victim for crying out when they are harmed.

Amanda Palmer and John Scalzi are two people who’s approach to abuse I admire. Scalzi grades his hatemail. Palmer gathers so much support from her community online that mostly the abuse is drowned out. When it can’t be – she withdraws and is hurt for a time. Then she comes back. Pretending to be okay isn’t her style.

So there’s been an interesting reflective and investigative process started on the side since TEDx kicked off. What happens online and how are people dealing with it? At the moment I’m feeling okay about my approach. I know where to reach out if that changes.

Post Show Blues

A long term issue for many performers – I’ve just learned. That’s rather helpful to know! I have written about this many times, which is handy because I’m giving it a lot of attention at the moment. Why is it sometimes much worse than others? What helps me? I wrote about the crash afterwards for me from the Voices Vic Conference. Things were a little different after speaking at the World Voice Hearing Congress because that was the time that Rose was dealing with an assault. At first it looked like caring for her helped me skip the post talk crash. But no, I found it had merely delayed, my journals show that the next week I was in a really rough place.

It’s not always talks that set it off, sometimes I meltdown following intrusive intake assessments or being interviewed. There’s possibly two different processes going on for me – a vulnerability hangover from being alone and naked in front of the crowd as well as post show blues from the wrap up of a big project and rest phase of energy cycles.

But it’s not always the same, sometimes it is more like the ISPS conference At the end where it was a very gentle experience of transitioning out of that space. I experienced it intensely this week after merely doing a talk run through with the SHINE SA staff – which surprised me greatly. So I’ve been thinking and reading about this too – why do I give talks considering how they impact me? Why do they sometimes have a worse impact than others? What helps other people deal with it? What might work for me?

So far my plan for TEDx is to:

I’ll see how that works. Maybe I get better at handling these, or maybe I do less of them, I don’t know yet.

Business Development

Will I be ready to reach for opportunities that might come? TEDx is a bigger platform, not just for my ideas, but for my work. One of my first conferences was interstate, speaking as a mental health service user about my experience of peer workers. It was the first time I had ever stayed in a hotel. I was caring for a family member who had been in terrible crisis for months. Just before I left I discovered they had a suicide plan in play during my trip. I was drowning and clutching to my work to help look after my own fragile mental health. I arranged boarding for the pets, hospital for my loved one, and finishing painting my last illustration a few minutes before leaving for the airport.

I got a standing ovation and a lot of hugs. Someone approached me about creating a logo for their new NFP. People wanted to buy my poetry and share it. A book publisher gave me his card and asked me to get in touch. I was ecstatic and overwhelmed. I went and hid in the toilets until everyone left for the next talk.

Then I came home to the anguish and exhaustion waiting for me there, and I did not have what it takes to reach out. I still have the publishers business card and contacting him is still on my to do list. Many of the opportunities dried up before I could grasp them, and others were so overwhelming I never even tried. Responsibilities elsewhere, life crisis, and anxiety kept me down.

I have some big dreams. I want to support my family and use my skills in the world in a sustainable way. The gap between where I have been and where I am going is huge and some of it is about networks, some about skills, and some about managing the psychological shifts. It is in the things I don’t know, and the things I don’t know I don’t know. My sense of value of myself, of entitlement, of morality. The culture that is my norm, my people and the tremendous tension in trying to stay connected and at the same time, leave for something better. Honor my past, love my tribe, but build a better future.

So I’ve started a process of business development with Christina from Creative Consultancies and recruited help in the form of an awesome Office Manager. I am setting myself up. A new website will be coming soon, and in the meantime, a clearer business with better project management, admin structures, and marketing processes. I’m already holding off a number of people and exciting project opportunities while I get my ducks in a row so I can schedule my time better and pick up those I love most without winding up working until 3am on a regular basis.

I’ve also finally set up something people have been asking for for years – a mailing list to keep people updated with the big events without having to trawl my blog to find the details. Once TEDx is done, I’ll send out the first email.

Now I’m going to run off to the Adelaide town hall to check out which of my outfits works better and do yet another run through of my script. There’s still some tickets left if you want to come. Wish me luck!

Developing my business

It’s been a fantastic day. I’ve spend the morning working on business development and TEDx preparation, and the afternoon adding to the underpainting of my oil painting from the techniques of the masters class I’m doing. 

I’ve taken some big steps investing in my business and I’m feeling less confused and a lot more excited. For starters I’m doing something I’ve always wanted to do and hiring an office manager with special skills in marketing. Outsourcing my weakest areas! She’s brilliant and I’m incredibly excited to be working with her. This means several things fur me. For starters, much better biographies, such as: 

Sarah K Reece is a creator and humanitarian, whose portfolio is as diverse as their experiences.

A survivor of homelessness, domestic violence, and trauma, Sarah draws on personal experience of tragedy, joy, passion, and the complexity of human relationships to create art that connects people. Sometimes confronting and always compassionate, Sarah’s art delves into hidden, private, or marginalised experiences, expressed with aching beauty and quiet joy. They work in oil painting, inks, body painting, sculpture, poetry, and book making, among many other media.


Sarah is known for their work within the mental health community, partnering with government agencies, NGOs, and volunteer organisations to help them create better relationships with their service users, and to service servicing the community with innovative and authentic approaches. They have also been interviewed on their experience with multiplicity by organisations such as Muse Magazine, The Messenger, Radio Adelaide, and SANE Australia.


In their travels Sarah has met with then Prime Minister Julia Gillard to discuss service user experiences; presented internationally (including for Google and Hearing Voices International Conference); co-designed, facilitated, and illustrated a state-wide consultation process for the SA Mental Health Commission; worked with a team to create the short film Regeneration (awarded Best Drama Under 10 Minutes in the Picture This Film Festival); written over 1000 blog posts since 2011; hosted their own solo exhibitions; and donated thousands of unpaid hours to developing and facilitating social networks and support groups face to face and online.


Sarah offers consulting services related to their fields of expertise, and is always on the lookout for their next big adventure.


Isn’t that great? And accurate and feels like me… I’m starting to get along with marketing now I’ve realised the good stuff isn’t slick or manipulative. 

The other thing this means that once I get my act together, I’m going learn better time management skills and between that and extra help I will actually get on top of my emails! I can’t wait to see how much better I’ll sleep without 4,000 emails in my inbox. 

Things are coming along well. I have a week to memorise my script for TEDx, and it’s been really good fun to spend time with the other speakers. If you haven’t bought a ticket yet (it includes dinner and after party) you can grab it here.

There’s some fantastic projects being sent my way, I can’t wait to see what happens next. 

What am I about?

For my studio opening I made a little gift for everyone who came, a sticker.

I love it very much. I adore it. And I keep coming back to a question posed in the great ‘Vision and Mission’ workshop by Christina the other day – what am I about?

What am I here to do? What do I believe? What message underlies all my work? This mad business I’m running where I use so many different skills – what thread links it all?

I hit exhaustion not long ago and I still have days where it bites at my heels, reminding me I can’t run on empty for too long. I’m turning my ideas on their head. The things at the periphery of my life need to be in the centre. Wildness is the wellspring of my art, not a treat I get to have every now and then if I finish all my tasks. Relationships are deeply important to me, and while I need some solitary and reflective time, I tend to recharge with people I love and feel safe with. I can find the courage to reach out to like-mind communities – I’m not the only person out there doing what I’m trying to do and I don’t have to be alone or do it all myself. I can ask for help and learn from others.

I’m giving great thought to my business model. What am I doing? What do I want to be doing? What are my skills, and how do I showcase them? Where do I thrive? What renews me? What do I want out of a career? What do I need to do to get there?

My business is amazing and there’s a lot about it that I love. This year has been brilliant for me, I’ve worked with many people I really respect and appreciate, on projects that I genuinely believe in, and have had a huge challenge to my perceptions of the value of what I do. I’ve been tango-ing with success and all that means! It has turned my world upside down, given me my first experiences of real income, and a sense of the tipping point that happens when enough people believe in you and enough projects – especially public projects – showcase your skills. I walked into an art shop a little while ago and had to stop and catch my breath when I realised for the first time in my life I could buy any item in the store I wanted. So now what?

It’s also been exhausting, confusing, overwhelming, and stressful. I’ve found myself feeling incredibly exposed at developing my business in a public way – showing myself through this blog, my vulnerabilities and learning along the way. I’ve fought intensely with myself to hold my space and not tear down this blog and every other evidence of vulnerability that might make someone feel worried about hiring me. Vulnerability and authenticity are part of what I do. I can contextualise them. I can change my relationship to them. I don’t have to be afraid. Some days it feels like I’m running 20 different businesses and I’m so tired and confused I can’t get out of bed. I don’t really understand what I’ve done well to get to this point, so figuring out how to keep doing it is mind bending.

The challenge I have set myself this year is to use these successes to invest in my business. So I’m looking into different models and mentors and exploring how other people balance art and business. Where does the money come from, and where is the heart free to do what it needs? Businesses do not only need money, they also need all the ingredients that keep you thriving – they run on the things that meet emotional needs, the things that nurture inspiration or renew compassion. What works for me?

Artist and Consultant. It feels like an excellent fit in many ways. I had the amusing experience of catching up with a wonderful client earlier this year and telling them how excited I was to be reading about consultants and facilitators and seeing my own skills and passions – that I felt I’d finally found a thing I excelled at in business. What was amusing is they’d no idea I hadn’t already known this, it seemed so obvious to them. Consultancy allows me to showcase the skills I have, such as facilitation, in an environment that cares little for how I attained them – only the skills themselves are important. It’s perfect for someone like me who has walked a different road to competence than the usual.

Even more though, as I examine this question – what am I about – I realise that the informal way I’ve gathered my skills is part of the heart of this. It’s no accident I didn’t just get a degree like my peers. Each time higher education/formal education has threatened something deeply precious to me, I’ve pulled back. I adore learning and I’m passionate about good teaching but so often what I’ve encountered would have crushed the knowledge base I already had, instead of scaffolding it. I know things that are personal, and nebulous, and difficult to put into words. They are precious because they are part of how I view the world, part of how I live, part of my resilience, and my poetry, my love and spirit. I have had to work hard to keep them safe in educational contexts that have been aggressively dogmatic and intended to produce a standardised result in all the students. We all now make only this kind of art in this way and revere only these artists as ‘real artists’. We all now think of humans and psychology in this way, we revere these people as experts and those we decry without reading. We all think of ourselves this way and practice this way and it is impersonal, inflexible, lacking in doubt, adaptability, freedom, or wildness. It is everything I am not, and in the context of tragedy in my personal life, I’ve been unable to keep my heart safe enough to endure it. I’ve needed those skills daily.

I sat in my first welcome class for those of us who attained high enough results in year 12 to get into the bachelor of psychology with honors program. I sat at the back in my electric scooter, an anomaly in a space dedicated to the most able. They told us that we were the ‘cream of the crop’ in a lecture so reminiscent to the repulsive one given to the doctors in Patch Adams ‘you will not be men anymore you will be doctors’ that I laughed, thinking it was clever satire. It was not satire and I was the only one was laughed. I shut up. I struggled through the first year of the degree, getting high distinctions, dealing with the sense of shame I felt at being so visibly different, dealing with death in the family and homelessness, and PTSD, and not being able to sleep, and the student services shutting me out of the counselling program when I ‘confessed’ to having DID. And then I withdrew and went back to devouring libraries, thinking, reflecting, experiencing, and attaching myself to brilliance and competence wherever I found it in an unofficial apprenticeship. The formal education stopped and the learning continued.

So, what am I about? Who am I in the world? What is the heart that links all that I do?

Sometimes that’s easiest to see in shadow. What I am NOT about is the rote, impersonal, or dehumanised. I am not about reductionism or easy answers. I am not about dogma, violence, oppression, conformity, competition, or domination. I am not about the slick, deceptive, untrustworthy, or parasitic. I am not about disconnection, loneliness, isolation, and secrets. I am not about forcing people into roles, defining them, their lives, their self, their story.

I am relentlessly human. I am passionate about the intimate, the informal, personal knowledge and experience. I am about the idiosyncratic and diverse. I am about freedom and self-determination. Complexity and authenticity over certainty and being acceptable. I am about holding beliefs lightly and the capacity to doubt. I am about community, connection, friendships, and integrity. I am about holding spaces for things it is difficult to face, and finding ways of communicating about things it is difficult to name. I am about the heart, the subtle, the nebulous, the things that make life worth living. I am about speaking to pain, easing suffering and loneliness, and celebrating the hidden beauty in people. I am about the vastness of life, the simple pleasures, the deep anguish, the glorious sublime. I am about using courage and passion and honesty to help all us to really live.

Why? Because these are the things I value and the things I need too, the passing back and forth of wisdom and hope and inspiration and compassion as we warm our hands at each other’s fire. I am not about these things as the expert but as a passionate seeker. I have skills and competencies in listening, communication, connecting, creating, storytelling. But I do not stand on a platform above others, I share from a place among us. Here is a gift I have found in the desert, it is a shining star that I have followed out of loneliness and anguish – use it as you can. And when I am again lost, alone and in anguish, share it back with me. Remind me of the light. Our freedom is bound up in each other’s freedom. We are all human together, and everything we do makes each of us a little more, or a little less human.

There are only two languages, love and fear.

-Leunig

I welcome your thoughts too. You have a different perspective to me, looking from the outside in. What am I about?

And if you would like a sticker about diversity, let me know. ❤

Rethinking Money

For my Studio Opening last weekend, I created a goody bag of treasures. This was partly to deal with my anxiety about charging tickets for the first time. I was charging tickets to deal with my anxiety about catering for an event when numbers were unknown. I also like to use small events like this to test run tools or things I want to offer such as my point of sale system, ticketing, or catering. There’s always glitches to iron out and skills to learn, and I like to figure this stuff out small scale first. The irony in this instance is that selling tickets created such severe anxiety for me it nearly completely incapacitated me to actually run the event. I’m working on this. I’ve been reading and exploring about Abundance through a book The Abundance Code and video by Julie Ann Cairns.

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Julie explores the things that block us around money. Anyone who has been following me here on this blog knows I have some big ones. At first I was embarrassed to even be seen reading a book like this. The word ‘money’ on the cover was bad enough, the word ‘rich’ was unbearable for someone who has been choked by the idea that being a decent person and earning money was frankly incompatible… that intentionally seeking money was vulgar and repulsive. I’ve also been pinned by an intense sense of responsibility to support my family and give my kids opportunities. Crushed between these ideas my anxiety has been extreme and I’ve been grappling for a path I can walk.

So I’ve been reading in small doses and journaling, and my thinking is shifting. I’m exposing myself to people who are ethical about money, people who want to make money but without exploiting or harming others, and people who care deeply about social justice and vulnerable people. I’m digging into my history and pulling out the stories I’ve been told or telling myself. With the tickets for my opening – $4 each to help me nail the catering and not get caught running an open tab in case a million TEDx people turned up unexpectedly (numbers are more likely to be accurate when people spend even a small amount on a ticket) – I finally found the thorn in my heel. That it was okay for others to value my work but not for me to assign it value of even the smallest amount. I wrote on my heart that day ‘You do not have to like, value, understand, or pay for what I do. However, I’m allowed to’. And finally, after 4 huge meltdowns, I’d named the distress and the panic drained away so I could breathe again.

The model I’ve run my networks in is one of charity, which is brilliant in some ways but problematic in others. Not being included in a community with something of your own to offer – only being the recipient of care – carries a cost and a distress I’m all too familiar with. 

The model I’ve been running my business on, where I scatter myself across many skills and let clients set the price and value of my work also needs rethinking. With good clients it doesn’t work so badly, with some it leaves me vulnerable to exploitation. Either way it’s an irritating unexpected hassle to deal with when hiring me should be simple, comfortable, and create confidence that of course I will do, to a high standard, what I’ve been contracted to do. 

Rose and I have transitioned from her working and I run the household to the reverse, which has been a huge goal for many years! I am thrilled. Now I want to grow my business with the goal of moving us out of public housing into a secure, larger home. But I’m also taking the pressure off myself. I’ve realised the brutal imperative I’ve been experiencing to be financially independent now, is really not borne out of my values, but a parasite that’s attached itself to me from other’s beliefs. Right now it’s most important for my family to have a parent who is somewhat sane, connected, and nurturing. Burning myself out costs all of us too dearly.

Not so many years ago I was homeless, profoundly ill, isolated, and struggling to survive. My business has been a passion for many years and it is growing well. It’s okay that it’s not supporting us yet. It’s okay that I still have skills to hone and tools to develop. It’s okay that I’ve mistakes the way. And it’s okay for me to explore my values around money and deliberately set out to create a sustainable business. To find my own elegant and ethical way to blend my passions for creativity and meaning with income.