Marriage equality vote: yes

Australia has returned a majority vote of yes to marriage equality! It doesn’t mean the legislation has changed, it doesn’t currently mean anything for our family. But the cultural change is clear. One day my daughters will live in a world where it is normal that their mothers can be married. We danced and cried and celebrated in the rain in the city after the announcement yesterday. 

Then we spoke with a reporter about how hard this has been and the road yet to come. It was published at InDaily as A bittersweet victory, after months of heartbreak.

 

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. 

New Embellished Prints!

I love to embellish my giclee prints, it breathes a life into them, makes each one unique and hand touched again. Adding precious materials also changes the prints in a curious way. They have layers to them. One of us might have created the original image, another digitally cleaned it up, and a third embellished the print. The original might have been created under terrible stress, or in an altered state, in the back of my van in a storm down the beach or at 3am while my baby slept. But the print would be embellished during the day, under good lights, and with attentive care and precision. There’s depth and interesting collaborations and juxtapositions.

I’ve worked a lot on perfecting my gilded prints and I’m thrilled with how they have been received. I’ve been exploring a few other techniques for embellishments and I’m pretty excited about them too. 

Here’s one of my gilded prints with 24 karat gold on a rounded German size. It’s called Tangled in Dreams, and I sold this one a few days ago. 

This next style I’m really taken with. It’s very new and I haven’t offered it for sale yet. It’s impossible to show the lovely sparkle in a photograph, just as the real gold doesn’t show its shine. But it’s actually genuine, very finely ground amethyst.

Lastly today I wanted to explore using an interference pigment on a black ground. I created my own watercolour paint using pigment and gum arabic.

Again, the sheen is difficult to capture in a photo, but film shows it a little better. 


It’s rather like moonstone, appearing milky white from one angle and flashing intense blue from another. Against a white background it’s almost invisible until it flashes blue, which reminds me of the artworks I’ve created with invisible UV reactive ink. It may even work as a way to embellish prints made from originals with UV inks, I’ll have to trial it and see.

My work now is to keep exploring grounds and varnishes so I understand what works best in creating and protecting these artworks. I expect there will be another exhibition of embellished prints coming up.

Rose is recovering

The news is good for Rose. Our doctor considers that she has merely been unlucky lately with multiple illnesses and infections, rather than suffering from an underlying problem we haven’t found yet. Irritatingly there was no discharge summary or even a record that she had been in the ER, much less any test results. But she is recovering and rebuilding her strength. 

I am thrilled. I was so worried I nearly threw up in the waiting room before we saw her doctor. She is deeply precious to me, utterly irreplaceable and unique. 

I had a wonderful day in the studio this afternoon, just playing. Then I bought Rose some little gifts and flowers from the city and came home on the bus feeling like I could fly. We recently celebrated 5 years together. She is my home, my family, my safe place. I love her to bits.


My lovely oil painting is progressing and I have begun to work on the colour layer. Some tones such as the pink in her cheeks and yellow in the dress will be added in glazes over the paint. I’ve been learning so much, it’s such a novelty to have instruction, as I’m mostly self taught in my preferred mediums. This class is the first oil painting tution I’ve had and it’s been very enjoyable. Mixing all those skin tones! There’s a great many hours left in this one yet. 

Ink sample booklets

Today was pretty rough, I’m run down and overloaded after a really intense week. Friends were kind and after a miserable morning I ran away to my studio and felt a lot better. I decided to do a small project that kept me busy without taxing my mind too much, and create swatches of all my ink samples. This is handy for future projects to choose colours without having to open every bottle and try it. I’ve been collecting ink samples for a long time now, from local and overseas retailers and they are an amazing way to sample a range before choosing which colours you need a whole bottle of.
I’d bought these little booklets from YouFirstBinding on Etsy, and spent a happy afternoon filling them with nib and brush samples according to my code system for identifying the little bottles when they’re in the storage racks. 


So, not a wasted day. These little jobs are often difficult to find time for. They help studio work flow more smoothly and soothe a troubled heart. 

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. 

Post TEDx and life is good!

TEDx was amazing. One of the most challenging experiences, akin to giving birth (but much quicker and with more laughing). I’d only managed to finalise my script a week beforehand and I knew in my bones that I was too rusty to have a 14 minute monologue memorised in that time. I did my best, but still had embarrassing blanks on the red dot. Fortunately it still went well!

The rehearsal was terrifying. My first time standing on the red dot I spoke the first page of my script until I blanked, then I had to sit down right there because I was about to faint and/or vomit. I felt like a needy, insecure diva, which was not particularly nice. I’m more used to being the person holding things together than the ‘talent’ in the middle and I was very conscious of that different role and found it a bit awkward. 

But it was also wonderful. I gave myself permission to soak up all that extra care and nurturing. I felt like a star! So much love came my way. Friends attending on the day, gift bags and flowers, my family putting up with the talk consuming everything else for the week. It felt extremely special to be in the middle of it all, and I realised that it’s not wrong or bad to be in the spotlight like that, is merely that everyone should get it some of the time. We are all the talent in some way, all experts in something. So I soaked it up and hope to share it around. 

On the night itself, complicated arrangements happened to look after Poppy, and I changed into my new dress, pinned the top shut, ran my lines one more time, got fitted with the mic, and went on stage. 

There’s a moment where you flip from terror to connection, and standing in front of nearly 1,000 people I could feel them all, like a warmth, the weight of their attention and the questions they are asking of me. Can you be trusted? Will you hurt us? Can you show us what you mean? Will you take us somewhere we haven’t been before? Can you bring us home again? And I say to them with word and hand and smile and joke, yes. Come into my world for a little while. And so we did. I talked about sex and being human, and I lost my place and blanked so badly Rose had to rescue me and call my lines out from the audience. We lived what I was sharing about: that it’s possible to be imperfect with grace and humour, that a great partnership can navigate tricky situations. That a sensitive discussion can feel safe. People seemed to really connect with it, nodding and paying close attention. I muddled through and made it safe to muddle.

I had a heckler, which I did not expect! I heard later the people seated around him were angry with him and shut him up quickly. Apparently someone told him people like him where why I was doing a talk like this. I feel so honoured to hear that, there was such a sense of unity, of common ground. 

The messages afterwards from people there or over email have been very affirming. All the way through I’ve done my best to hold tightly to my reasons for doing something so extraordinarily difficult – that it is meaningful and needed. I watched a lot of TED and TEDx talks about sex while preparing and most were what we are used to about this topic- clinical or research based. That’s valuable for sure, but when I’m sitting in a bed in my underpants there’s a big gap between that knowledge base and the conversation and experience I’m about to have. I could have written that talk and it’s a lot more removed and protected, a lot less intimate and exposing. But I have found there’s value in sharing and talking about this on a personal level, and it seems I’m not alone in that.

Poppy and I went off on a bus adventure yesterday! Here we are nibbling on plum leather from Grandma’s garden, and life is good.

I haven’t yet hit my anticipated post performance crash. I’m not sure why, I have some guesses…

  • It’s on its way but I’m still too excited currently. Maybe after the videos go up online? It doesn’t really feel over for me yet. 
  • I outsourced it. Rose had a couple of intense tired anxious feel awful days afterwards.
  • I did it before the performance. That sounds ridiculous, but to be honest the lead up was so difficult and since doing it my overwhelming emotion is relief. Intense, delightful relief! I did not enjoy the preparation much, but having gone through it I’m extremely glad and happy to have done it. I feel very fortunate and privileged. 

    We’ll have to wait and see what happens next! My awesome Office Manager suggested that I write down all the projects I could do next so I can start exploring my options, and it’s making my heart incredibly happy. I’ve had so many dreams for so many years and they all feel suddenly tangible and possible.

    I’ve so enjoyed taking the last few days off completely and absolutely soaking up my lovely family. Extra support and scheduling are making so much difference to my life. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the next projects. And I can’t wait to share the TEDx video with you all. 

    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!

    Grasping opportunities

    Glorious opportunity today to learn with Gemma Black, an accomplished calligraphic artist. Strengthening my watercolour and gilding skills.  

    I’ve been waiting for this workshop most of this year- there’s not many opportunities to learn gilding here in SA. I was not disappointed, rather, affirmed. This method of continuing my arts education outside of a degree program is working incredibly well for me. I choose highly skilled teachers in areas I’m passionate about and take workshops and short classes. My skills are improving significantly and also my confidence in myself as an artist.

    The TEDx taster and open mic in Rundle Mall went really well the other day. The talks were well received and there were some pretty fantastic contributions from the crowd too. A talk by an Iranian immigrant really spoke to me. I often feel I’m so late in figuring out my career, but here was this guy retraining in his fourties to grasp opportunities in Australia. Sometimes life takes funny roads.

    There’s still time to grab a ticket if you’ve been on the fence about it. They include dinner and an after party with the speakers and organisers. If you come, find me afterwards and tell me what spoke to you!

    Huge kudos to Rose who is helping me memorise my talk and has now heard it about 40,000 times. She’s amazing! ❤

    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. 

    Come and sample TEDx for free

    I’ll be in Rundle Mall today with the TEDx team, as part of an open mic event (details here). 11.30am, free, come along to meet the speakers, get a taster of the talks, and pitch your idea worth idea sharing. 🙂 

    I have finally finished my script about Emotionally Safer Sex, and have whittled it down to within my time limit! I am very excited about this, it was starting to feel impossible. I have a suite of artworks ready for the PowerPoint and only one left to paint today. I’ve reassured myself that all the beautiful stories and ideas I had to cut out of the talk can go into a book at some stage. It’s been a huge project, and it’s coming together at last. Next step is to memorize the script and digitally process the artworks. Onwards!

    TEDx – Emotionally Safer Sex

    My topic for TEDx Adelaide is close to my heart. Personal, meaningful, at times uncomfortable and vulnerable, but very precious.

    POSTCARD

    This is not easy. A friend noted yesterday that there’s some irony in what I do – working to make difficult things feel safer for others, in a way that so often feels risky and stressful for me.

    It’s not easy but it is an amazing opportunity. I love sharing ideas that make a difference in the world, that help free people from ideas that were harming them. I love to give people permission to examine what they think they know. I love to validate people’s real, often unspoken experiences. I love to talk about complex concepts in plain language, and use words that describe experiences from the inside, not as a detached observer. I love to ease isolation and needless suffering, and to help people find ways to bear the pain that is the unavoidable cost of loving and being alive.

    I don’t believe I have the answers, the map, the definitive guide, the solutions. What I do have is the capacity and willingness to share my personal experiences, the ability to absorb and synthesise a lot of research and written knowledge, and the opportunity to gather feedback from others and add it to my ideas.

    I can’t tell you what what emotionally safer sex, or mental health, or connected relationships, or a meaningful life will look like for you.

    But I can start these conversations in a compassionate and authentic way, and invite you along.

    Let’s talk about sex.

    Join me at TEDx Adelaide.

     

    TEDx sneak peak

    Today I delivered the first trial of my talk to staff at SHINE SA, who were wonderfully enthusiastic! I need to cut down the time a bit further so I’m going to drop a couple of points and work on making the remaining ones striking and simple.

    I’ve begun my illustrations, which are taking quite a bit of time because I want them to be a good representation of diverse people and bodies. I have finished 4 so far. 

    It took a lot of time to find the right medium and colour for this series, I love the mix of teal (Robert Oster, Tranquility) and orange (Noodler’s Habanero). Here’s my final test sheet where I found the colour mix I wanted.

    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.

    img_20171009_131034778458213680.jpg

    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. 

    Exploring Consulting

    As I’ve branched out into consulting with this year I’ve been looking around for good resources to strengthen my skill base. I’ve reached out to some more experienced mentors, taken up some brief training and workshops, and read some excellent books. I was startled and thrilled to discover that I felt extremely at home with the materials around facilitation and consulting. They gel so well with my skills and ethos! I’m fortunate that the client who contracted me thought this was obvious… Sometimes it’s much easier for others to see things about ourselves! 

    Oddly enough there’s a surprising overlap of skills between facilitating a therapeutic group, supporting an individual without pushing what you think they should do, and contracting with an organisation. The requirements to be ethical and trustworthy, to be honest and attuned, and to hold onto hope in the challenging times are all similar. 

    Here are a couple of my favourite quotes so far about consulting work:

    “Organisations naturally move towards growth and healing. Much is already known within the system about what its own health might look like. Masterful consultants do not have the knowledge or own the outcome. They ask the questions and facilitate the learning. Help the client explore their aspirations and the factors that facilitate and inhibit living them.” R. Shaffer, High Impact Consulting

    “To meet the client’s goals, we must first ask: Who is the client? For most consultants, the answer is simple: the person paying your bill. This person’s needs must be understood and met. Hence, his or her goals dictate the consulting process.

    An alternative school of thought is that the whole organisation is the client. This view defines consulting success as meeting the goals of the total system and leaving the whole organisation healthier as a result of the consulting process… This view requires that the consultant bring to light potentially competing goals embedded in the client organisation and seek to resolve them. It requires that the consultant be willing to put the consulting engagement at risk in the service of the greater needs of the organisation.” Keith Merron, Consulting Mastery

    It’s been a real joy and a privilege to be engaged in this kind of work and I’m exploring the possibilities for me in this field going forwards. I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions about what I want and where I do my best work and where I thrive. I feel that consulting is part of the answer. 

    Yesterday I attended an excellent “Vision and Mission” workshop by Christina Giorgio who supports artists and creatives in business development and goal setting. I highly recommend her work. It was excellent and lined up well with a lot of my experiences and observations such as the importance of defining what ‘success’ means for yourself, that there’s no shame in using a day job for income and pursuing your passion without forcing it to be an income stream, and that knowing your personal goals and vision and being able clearly articulate them informs your business goals and vision. 

    I’m still wrestling with what’s at the heart of my work, it’s nebulous and complex and at times hard for me to see simply because I’m in it and also in some ways tremendously experienced but in other areas only just learning. I’ve been on a long journey of unpicking beliefs that have held me back (such as that you cannot make money and live a passionate, creative life) and looking to see what others before me have done and how, and where their income comes from, and how they balance it all. This year with so many new opportunities and doors opening I’m making time for planning, reflecting, learning. Reaching out to good people and new communities, soaking up new skills and experiences. 

    On that note, some of the lovely goodies for the gift bags for ticket holders at my Studio Opening this Saturday have arrived. They are going to be gorgeous! Grab your ticket here

    Welcome to my Studio Opening!

    Come and celebrate with me! 

    Sat, Oct 7, 2:30 pm 

    I’ve wanted a studio for many years, and this space at Tooth and Nail is really special. It’s pretty rare to get invited into the place where the art happens, but it’s actually usually my favourite place to be allowed into. For me it’s kind of sacred, a threshold between worlds. I’d love to share it with you, it’s the culmination of a dream and a lot of support from some pretty special people. This is my chance to show how beautiful it is, and say thanks to my amazing tribe.


    My studio is just around the corner from Viva Expresso cafe where there will be coffee and muffins, and prints and artbooks at very good prices. They are opening especially for us, and roast their own beans.

    I didn’t want to make this an invite only event, everyone is welcome. So to help me know numbers for catering I’m selling tickets. They are only $4 each and only over 18’s need one. Grab your ticket here.

    The studio is not wheelchair accessible sorry, but the cafe is. The studio is not safe for kids either, but they are welcome in the cafe and don’t need a ticket.

    I’m putting together a little goodie bag of great treats for every ticket holder, which will include a free coffee voucher. 🙂 So grab a ticket and come over. The Facebook event is here. I’d love to see you there. ❤

    I’ll be speaking at TEDx

    I’ve been selected for a TEDx talk in Adelaide 2017! There’s a fantastic line up of speakers, I got to meet most of them earlier this week. See the whole bunch of us announced here.

    FACEBOOK_Cover_Image

    It’s brilliant, exciting, overwhelming, and my topic is personal so I’m putting thought into my supports because the highs and crashes on this one might be big.

    It’s an amazing opportunity to get some ideas out there that can make a difference to people’s lives. I’m thrilled and honoured. Thinking about authenticity on a larger stage, how to create connection in a bigger setting. There’s a lot of support available and plenty to learn from previous year’s speakers. I spent this morning feeling overwhelmed by everything I wish I could have ready before the talk – my next collection of prints, my new website… And decided the best thing to do to prepare was let the rest go and focus on giving an excellent heartfelt talk. As nice as it would be to feel I have all my ducks in a row, the other projects can wait. I’m looking forward to a beautiful online gallery of my art, and restocking my Etsy shop, but all things in their time. TEDx is a bigger stage and I don’t want to fall off it. I spent this morning feeling teary and tired, this afternoon having a lovely conversation with a friendly lawyer about collaborative arts practices, and then getting ink on my fingers in my studio, and now my heart is calm and settled.

    Testing a package of new ink samples

    As I find that place where it’s safe to think about difficult things, I can invite others into it, and good things will happen. 🙂 Watch this space!

    Thriving

    I’ve been enjoying going to monthly workshops with Calligraphy SA. I’m not madly into lettering but I love ink and paper and I like to explore new styles and tools. Today I used a dip pen for the first time (I’m a fountain pen person, which is very different and uses completely different inks). We were exploring decorative letters which was playful and fun. 

    This afternoon I invited a couple of friends over and made up a big batch of fluffy pancakes. 

    Only a handful weeks back, I was diagnosed with exhaustion by my GP and psychologist. Staring down into the pit of anguish I know so well from my last experience, it was all coming back to me. The haunting death sense, the feelings of failure and meaninglessness, waking up and spending hours crying before being able to get out of bed… Terrifying, overpowering, and bleak.

    Things are turning around, and this time it’s quick. I’ve taken decisive action before reaching the deeps of that place. Focusing on developing a more sustainable work life, prioritising settings in which I not only do work I’m proud of but also thrive rather than sacrifice myself, and reaching out for peer support have all helped. I’m prioritising developing more skills and understanding around exhaustion and burn out – clearly there’s a pattern here for me which I need to break. I’m making progress. An important discovery has been that my internal compass doesn’t let me know when my choices are causing me great stress, it simply behind clouded and I can’t tell what I need. That cloudedness is the indication I’m off track and at risk. It’s hard to pay attention to, and even harder to know at times what the best choice is, but a crude navigation can be achieved by noticing the choices that make me feel confused and those that help me feel clear and connected to myself. 
    I’m hopeful. I’ve been waking up feeling good about life again, cheerful, productive, connected to my family. It’s been a huge year of learning and growth. I’ve been fortunate to have many brilliant teachers and generous peers around me. I’m soaking it all up, putting it into action. There’s a path forward and I’m finding it.

    A brilliant day

    Today, Rose gave me a sleep in because I was awake half the night with Poppy. I had breakfast in the backyard and did some more reading and reflecting about money myths (I’ve stopped feeling vulgar and embarrassed to want to understand it better, which is nice) and my ideal life… It occurred to me that in many important ways I’m already living it. My family has been a dream for such a long time and now it’s here. I absolutely adore each of them and I’m so happy to have such a loving, brilliant bunch around me. 

    This afternoon I had an interesting experience being part of a focus group to provide feedback for a mindfulness and aerobics class intended to support people to connect more to their sexual feelings. 

    Then I spent most of the day wrangling a new purchase for my studio: a huge set of map drawers. It is extremely heavy and took considerable effort to get it across town on a trailer, then piece by piece up the stairs into my studio!

    But now for the first time I have somewhere safe and dry to store my papers, and I am so happy it feels like my heart will burst. I used to buy a single sheet of the quality watercolour paper in A1 size and then tear it down as best I could into smaller squares and rectangles. These I’d keep in a shoe box and when I felt like painting I’d select the one that spoke to me. It was a good system, but it meant all my art was very small in size. To be able to do the same thing but on a much larger scale with watercolour papers and canvas paper, it opens so many options for me! Safe place for blank sheets and works in progress. It’s amazing.

    It’s a wonderful year. 

    Adelaide Healing Voices Film Screenings

    If you’re local and haven’t had a chance to come and see the Documentary Healing Voices, this is your chance. As the person holding the online space for the SA Hearing Voices Network, I’m collaborating with a few other locals who are part of the hearing voices movement in various capacities. Rob runs a local group and has instigated a couple of film screenings coming up soon. I’ll be there in a support role to help facilitate conversations after the movie. It’s an excellent film, very thought provoking, honest, and really shows the experiences in a very different way to what people have seen or heard in the media.

    Even better, it’s free.
    Please bring a plate of food or some nibbles, to share. 🙂

    FOR YOUR FREE TICKET, PLEASE REGISTER HERE:

    Thurs Oct 5th, 6.30pm at the Box Factory Community Centre in Adelaide

    or

    Sat Oct 14th, 1.30pm at Adelaide South West Community Centre in Adelaide – On this date, there is also a monthly shared Community Meal from 6pm. You are welcome to stay and participate – please bring a plate of food to share.

    The Shared Voices community peer support group, the Adelaide City Council the Humane Clinic, and a group of Adelaide based psychosis support group specialists present the documentary Healing Voices. It will, for many, change the way you think and talk about mental health.

    “Healing voices goes a long way to healing our fear of people commonly labelled as “schizophrenic,” “bipolar,” and “psychotic.” The message of this film is that understanding and love—not fear and stigmatizing labels—are what people who have experienced these altered states need.”
    Bruce Levine, Huffington Post.

    Any questions please contact Rob on sharedvoices@nym.hush.com

    New Office, new Studio

    The moving is progressing well. My office currently looks like this:

    And my studio currently looks like this:

    I am tired and excited and so looking forward to the next time I get ink on my fingers. It has been a long couple of weeks and there’s a lot of work to do sorting all the little fiddly bits yet. But it will be wonderful once it’s all up and running.