I'm having a big clear out, ready for a complete art studio make-over during January. That will be my holiday project before I embark on a whole new round of creative fun in 2015.
I am so shocked and upset to hear of the death of Stella Young. (If you don't know Stella Young, a great introduction is this TED talk she gave. She also wrote the world's most interesting and thought-provoking Facebook posts, and wrote for ABC's Ramp Up as well.) Stella influenced me in many ways, and gave a voice, over and over again, to experiences I've had as a Deaf person but couldn't quite articulate, and things I've wanted to say but haven't been able to find the words for. She reminded me that instead of lying down and sucking it up that we live in a hearing-oriented, ableist world, we should try to be visible and encourage the world to change. And it was this sentiment, and her words, that I was thinking of when I painted this painting just recently.
Last time I saw Stella was a couple of weeks ago when we sat together at a theatre show. As we were saying goodbye, I actually stood up and gave her a somewhat formal speech which Paula interpreted. I told her how ace I thought she was, how profoundly she has affected me, and how in-awe of her articulateness I am. I had no idea it would be the last time I would see her, and I was kind of embarrassed, but now I am so, so glad that I said what I did and that she went to her grave knowing how fabulous I thought she was.
Stella, the world is a poorer place without you. I was not finished being influenced by you or learning from you and am horrified that I'm now gonna have to try and figure this thing out on my own. But I'll do my best, in your honour, to do you proud. Rest in peace, girl.
Just one week until my open house, open garden, open studio and art exhibition. It's at my place in Melbourne, and if you'd like to come along, I'd love to have you there. If you're on facebook, it'd be ace if you can RSVP here. I'll have activities, pink champagne to serve, and if you like, bring your lunch and just hang out with us. There'll also be artwork, books, zines and jewellery to buy, so if you want to organise Christmas presents that are handmade by a local artist, with as minimal an environmental footprint as possible, this is the place to do so.
Here's a flyer:
And about that pink champagne, yes, it's a homebrew, made from rhubarb from my food forest, lemons from my neighbour's tree, honey (unfortunately not from my bees, who have failed to provide me with enough honey to earn their keep or pay back for all the stings they've given me), and homemade apple cider.
If you'd like to try your hand at homemade alcohol, this recipe's pretty easy:
Pick 800g rhubarb, wash and chop (I put mine through the thermomix, resulting in this fairly unappealing stringy mash, but never mind).
Put 5 litres of water in a pot, add the rhubarb, a sliced lemon, 300g honey and 1/4 cup of raw apple cider vinegar. Here's my pot:
Put the lid on the pot and and leave it for 24 hours. Then strain the liquid into a fermenting vessel, and top with an airlock:
If you don't have a fermenting vessel or airlock, just put it into plastic bottles, and put a balloon over the entrance. This is so that gas can escape as the little micro-organisms do their fermenty thing, but no new air can go in, which would introduce undesirable micro-organisms and cause your champagne to turn into vinegar. Every now and then you'll need to "burp" the ballons, because otherwise they'll expand to the point that eventually they'll pop off. Don't even think about putting a lid on the bottle - this is asking for an explosion, and I speak from personal experience.
Anyway, once you've airlocked/ballooned your brew, leave it for two weeks, then drink it. It should be fizzy and mildly alcoholic, and if nothing else, it should be delicious.
Or come over and taste mine on Sunday 7 December.
I love working alone at home, I do. But it's kind of isolating.
I've looked into the idea of sharing a studio with other artists, which would be great for the social thing, but the fact is, I ADORE my home - I think it's the most beautiful place in the world to me, and I want to be here. I love the convenience of working from home, of being able to quickly prepare a canvas while I wait for dinner, of having all my art tools in one place. When I worked in my campervan, I was always carrying stuff back and forwards, back and forwards.
Anyway, so I've come up with a solution. I'm gonna run a virtual studio on Instagram. And if you want to, come and hang out with me there. I'll post pics of what I'm working on, and would love to chat about it with you, So if you'd like to join me, virtually, in my art studio, head over to Instagram, where I'm Asphyxia1974.
I started today, with pics of the commission I was painting... pop over there to have a look.
Our place has changed heaps since I last posted about it. It's looking really lovely just now so I thought I'd give you a photo tour. This is what you see when you come in from the front gate. The front half I built when I was 22, with no building experience! It cost $10,000, and I kept it cheap by doing absolutely everything myself. The back half, we added last year.
Here you can see the front of the original house, with its beautiful gothic arched windows that I got from an old church. Back right is the chook house, and a wooden gate that goes to the chook area and our son Jesse's garden.
This is the entrance to the new part of the house, the kitchen door. You can just make out the table through the window - we have many happy family meals at that kitchen table.
Here's the pretty herb garden beneath that kitchen window:
And here's our home from the other side. I was inspired by French country farm houses, and I think it really does look a bit like one:
Now come inside, let me show you the kitchen:
All the cabinets are made from old weather boards. What you see here is Paula's bench. She has a nice work area with easy access to the stove, fridge (out of sight on the left) and her own sink. She also has the most glorious view from the window, which you can see in this photo here:
On the other side is my bench, with my own sink and fridge. It means we can both be working in the kitchen at the same time, preparing separate meals, without tripping over each other:
And here's the table where we eat, chat, and watch each other do silly interpretive dance routines on the 'stage' that is our kitchen floor.
When we eat, the rabbit, who free ranges in the garden, likes to hang out near us outside the window, entertaining us. It's nearly as good as interpretive dance.
There's a lovely little Alice-In-Wonderland style arched doorway that goes from the kitchen to the lounge room:
Now step through into the lounge room, and you'll see we've finally got a wood stove, which makes me very, very happy in winter. When everything is grey and dark and wet, lighting the fire lifts my spirits. I always did intend to have a wood stove but the one I installed when I first built the house was stolen (!!) and then we put a cupboard in its space, and after that we couldn't figure out what to do with all the STUFF that we depended on in the cupboard, so I couldn't replace the woodstove! Now that we've added to our home, the kitchen is in the new bit, and the woodstove is in the lounge room.
You can see next to the stove is a little pile of green presents. They are all wrapped in fabric, ready for Paula's birthday. It's a collection of handmade goodies I've made for her.
Now here's our front door, and through the arch window, you can see my fishing girl statue. She's been trying to catch fish in that pond for months, but no go yet, unfortunately.
Right in front of those lovely arched windows is my art desk, where I spend most of my time:
Paula and I are in the process of making new shelves - boxes out of papier mache - in which to store all my art supplies, so I'm expecting this space to change fairly soon.
I also make art in the bathroom (which you have to go outside to get to), where I have a bench for dirty/stinky jobs like plastering, soldering and spray-painting:
It's pretty squishy in there, and the only reason I'm allowed in there at all with my dangerous tools is because the room is in shocking state of disrepair with the roof about to fall in and holes on the wall. It's next up on our home-improvements agenda. In the meantime, you can see we still have our composting toilet:
Which works great and doesn't stink at all.
Now come back inside and upstairs. This is the loft, which is home to our bath, and originally Paula, Jesse and I all slept here. Yes - all squished in like peas in a pod. Now that we've expanded, Paula and I have a new bedroom, and the loft is just for Jesse:
And here is Paula's and my bedroom, which is my favourite room in the house:
Sitting up in bed, journaling, is probably my favourite switch-off activity, the best possible way to restore myself. When we slept in the loft, that was pretty hard on my back, as I never had anything to lean against, and had to sit right in the middle of the bed so I wouldn't hit my head on the ceiling. Now that we have a bedroom, we made ourselves the perfect bed. Paula and I built the bed from scavenged parts, and upholstered the bedhead ourselves. Now it's the perfect backrest for my journaling.
See the bedside table? Paula made that for me for my last birthday. It holds my journal and other supplies, neat, organised and easily accessible from my bed.
I think my favourite feature of the room is the chandelier, which existed as a dream in my journal for years before I finally had space for one. I made it from old forks, pewter jugs and other scavenged metals. I took a metalsmithing course just to learn how to do this, and now as a result, I've got the skills to do other metalwork - it heralded the beginning of a jewellery making career!
And a wardrobe made from salvaged timber:
With this little corset I found in France, hanging on my grandmother's coathanger:
And a little bit of wall made by Paula from all the bits of wood we had lying around at the end of our building project. The wall was supposed to be plastered, but it was kind of expensive, and I really liked what Paula could do for us for free!
Ok, let's head outside and I'll show you the garden.
If you go through that little wooden gate I mentioned back at the start of this post, you'll find yourself standing in front of the chook pen. They have a little yellow house to roost in, and a big pen covered with a grape vine to play in. But through the day we open the gate and they hang out in the orchard too. See the black square bin in the photo above? Worms live in there.
Here's Jesse's vegie garden and cubby, fenced off from the chooks, who would otherwise destroy it:
We've got a separate pen for our meat chickens, and they hang out under our fig and mandarine trees:
Now on the other side of the house, if you step outside our new kitchen door, there's a garden of wild greens, and the beautiful mosaic path Paula made, leading to my vegie garden:
Now here's my vegie garden, where most of my gardening efforts are concentrated:
It's got raised beds, and a fence around it that Paula built, to keep out animals. I try to plant out roughly a square metre each month for us to eat. To know more about how I produce maximum food from this, read my page, How To Really Grow Food In Your Backyard.
This bed here is just ripening up, and we'll be eating from it soon:
But we're already eating zucchinis while we polish off the last of winter's spinach, broccoli and beetroots:
It's actually a bit small to be a real forest, and its forrestiness is rather reduced since I asked Paula to build me garden edges and paths... But people were walking on the beds and it was too hard to see what was what, and it was all a little out of hand. This way it's clear and easy to navigate.
At one end of the food forest is our composting station. This is where the composting toilet results go, and all food and garden scraps, and entire dead animals. In fact, my neighbours bring me their expired animals to dispose of here. It burns hot and fast. When I empty stuff onto it, and come back a week later, it all looks like dirt. Ultimately, this feeds our vegies and fruit trees, which makes for a nearly-closed system of fertility.
Paula made this pretty wood-collage front for the compost, so that when we look out the kitchen window, this is what we see instead of all those buckets and the general utility scene:
The food forest is also home to our bees:
Who think they own the forest and sometimes buzz me when I'm out there doing destructive things like weeding. I've learnt from experience that if buzzed, I get two warnings and then a sting. If it's not a good day for a bee sting, I head inside after the first warning.
There's a fair bit of food hidden in my forest:
And there we have it, folks. Thanks for looking around with me...
If you'd like to see this place for real, I'm having an open house, open garden and art exhibition all in one, on 7 December, so if you are in Melbourne, feel free to come and look around.
When my family went away recently, I decided to make the most of my time alone in the house with an intensive on jewellery making. Rather than making one or two pieces here and there, I find it easier to set up all my tools, dive in deep and play hard for a while.
I started by gathering inspiration. I scoured my favourite jewellery boards on pinterest, printed pics that inspired me, and stuck them in my journal. One thing I love is pieces of jewellery with little dangly bits hanging from them, and I'd like to use all sorts of interesting found objects for my danglies, but I can never think what to use other than beads. So I made a whole section in my journal devoted to interesting dangly ideas, and listed bits and pieces to collect for these.
I also wanted to try leather wrist cuffs, and some round/oval shaped pendants. While I worked, I had my journal open and referred back to it several times a day.
Here's me, in the bathroom with my blow torch, soldering some pieces:
My friend Ella came over, and did a heap of the grunt work - sanding and filing metal pieces for me to prepare them for etching and soldering. To thank her, I taught her a few soldering basics, and here she is, making her own pendant:
At the end of the first day, we had a bunch of pieces in progress:
And a day later, they'd all come together in the form of actual pendants. I was very pleased with the feathers in nests. The feathers came from a boa from an antique shop in France. And the stones themselves were from a sunrise beach walk I took earlier in the year.
Then I turned my focus to making resin pendants.
I went through all the paintings I've done this last year, and selected my favourites. I created tiny prints of them, and placed them inside the little metal frames I'd made.
To satisfy my desire to play with dangly bits, I made several pendants with loops at the bottom, ready to receive them:
And then I started attaching little bolts, nuts, screws, stones and hammered/etched metal plates. I was thrilled with the results...
Then I turned my attention to making the leather wrist cuffs. They gave me an entire day of trouble, before finally coming together. The problem was, I just couldn't work out how to do the clasp. I thought of press studs but my leather was too thick for my studs, and once they'd all been layered together, the whole thing just felt too chunky to go on a wrist. Back to the drawing board. Pinterest gave me a fair bit of inspiration, but nothing was perfect for my needs. So I sat up in bed at night and sketched out ideas in my journal. The next morning, I tested them out, and ta da! I had my first leather wrist cuff!
And then my family came home and I realised I'd averaged about 11 hours of work a day, and suddenly I was EXHAUSTED! It took me a whole day in bed to recover. But once I was on my feet again, I photographed everything and now most of the pieces are in my Etsy shop. Pop over there to have a look at everything, if you like. There's so many pieces that came up just gorgeous. And I think they make lovely Christmas gifts, so feel free to get organised with your Christmas shopping at the same time!
I've just sent out my newsletter… If you'd like to read it, it's online here. And if you want to subscribe, there's a little button at the top right of the screen. Happy reading!
And I've decided on a new approach to my blog. Instead of only writing big articles now and then, I'm gonna try and post little updates as I go, similar to what I do on Facebook. So expect some changes around here...
I can't get enough of painting. I think it is my favourite activity of all time. I find it relaxing and restorative and mesmersising.. and when it all comes together it gives me such a thrill. Here's a few paintings I've done recently that I've just loved:
Sometimes doors open for me. Mostly I open them myself. This is how I have survived (and thrived) as a deaf person in a hearing world. The reality for me is that if I wait, I will miss opportunities, often because I don't hear about them or people assume that because I'm deaf it's not suitable for me.
When I want something, I open the door myself, and make it happen. And so much HAS happened as a result. This painting is to inspire anyone who wants to make stuff happen, and especially to inspire those who have extra obstacles in their path, such as a disability of some form.
This painting is very dear to my heart and I found it hard to part with. But the minute I listed it in my shop, it sold! It's off to a Deaf school in Delaware where it'll go in their museum, hopefully to inspire plenty of young Deaf people.
You Have Become So Dear To Me was inspired by my rabbit, Fluffy Queen, who died last year. I still miss her. For me, that kind of love feels like being covered with a warm blanket, and I wanted to capture that feeling in this painting by including a richly patterned background that is suggestive of a quilt.
This is a close up of a canvas I recently painted over. I painted the first version of this portrait last year but I admit I haven't been happy with it. I gave her a haircut, painted more detail right over her face, changed the colour of her dress.. and then I decided to add in my new favourite thing - flowers. I'm liking her so much more now. In fact I think she's really pretty, and I especially love the texture when you zoom in close.
The words on the painting, "Thank you for this day," were inspired by a friend's son. My friend was cleaning up his room and found this tiny note next to his bed, in his handwriting. And it said, "Thank you for this day." He was only ten! Isn't that sweet? I know that practising gratitude and appreciation makes us all happier, and I wanted to capture that here. It's also a little reference to "stop and smell the roses", which my girl is now doing now that she's surrounded by flowers.
This one's a little collage I did onto a piece of salvaged wood. I used my antler doll stamp and I just love it.
These paintings (well, those that haven't sold yet) are in my shop.
When my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer, I offered up my services to do some reading / cross-referencing for her, and look into the various natural options she had to augment the conventional medicine path she took (mastectomy and chemotherapy).
You can read here about how she managed chemotherapy using ice packs, in order to avoid losing her hair. She still has a gorgeous head of hair and even though she's in her sixties, she's not grey at all.
Since then, I've been asked a few times to forward all I know/read about breast cancer to other people who have been diagnosed, so I thought I'd put it on my blog for all of you to access. I need to say here, that I was following my mum's path, so this reading is not the same as I would have done if it was for myself. I'm not a doctor, and I can't guarantee this will help at all, but I'm still sharing in case it does.
Books to read
These are some books you might like to read if you have been diagnosed with cancer:
Ian Gawler's books - Ian Gawler turned around his cancer naturally after he was given three weeks left to live. He now runs retreats and has written several books.
Terry Wahls' books - Terry Wahls cured herself from MS through a diet she devised based on animal studies. The interesting thing about her book is that it talks about how to eat so that you can get your cells to do the right thing.. and cancer is all about cells doing the wrong thing.
Sandor Elix's book Wild Fermentation - about eating fermented food.. apparently all cancer patients have incorrect flora in their gut and fermented foods can fix this.
In his books, Ian Gawler talks about the importance of stress management, and recommends meditation as a valuable tool. He says that a high percentage of people with cancer have it primarily because of stress. He outlines a classic cancer profile which shows a person having a series of stressful events, managing them ineffectively, and then finally THE stress-event which occurs some time before the cancer is diagnosed. My mum said she recognised herself immediately in that profile. If you suspect that stress has played a role in development of your cancer, it's worth getting on top of the situation, looking at how you handle stressors and what you can do differently so that you aren't carrying the tension within you. This may be the most important step you can take towards prevening a recurrence.
In Australia, our soil is known to be deficient in minerals, as after the last ice age, when melting run-off deposited minerals over the soils of most of the world, Australia missed out. In particular, our soils are deficient in magnesium. This means that we Australians cannot get all our minerals from eating regular food. Terry Wahls talks about the importance of eating seaweed regularly for trace minerals.
Pat Coleby, a farmer who specialises in animal health through soil health, discovered that when she arrived in Australia after years of farming in England, her animals were sickly. Once she remineralised the soil, the health of her animals improved dramatically, and she is now sought after by farmers across Australia to help them sort out their soil and livestock health. It seems sensible to assume that if animals are so affected by the mineral balance in soil, it is likely we humans are too.
In her book, Take Control Of Your Health Elaine Hollingsworth draws a strong connection between the correct intake of minerals, and your body's ability to detox chemicals. Given that cancer is known to be strongly related to an overexposure to toxic chemicals, this is relevant to people with cancer. Hollingsworth gives as an example that areas with high selenium in the soil have much lower rates of cancer generally.
Hollingsworth advises taking magnesium and iodine - taking these two together are supposed to be particularly effective at helping your body to detox chemicals. Selenium is often deficient in people with cancer, she says.
Detoxing from chemical exposure
Knowing the connection between chemicals exposure and cancer, it may be worth supporting your body to detox as effectively as possible. A first step is to consider taking minerals, as outlined above. Terry Wahls advises clay baths (she soaks her feet daily in water with magnetic clay) and says the effect is profound. The clay is supposed to work like a magnet, drawing out minerals. I can't vouch for its effectiveness but I do have a lot of respect for Terry Wahls.
Another way to detoxify is through sweat. Exercise that makes you sweat, and/or regular sessions in a sauna or steam room can do this. I do this weekly and I believe I feel better for it.
One of the things I remember reading, though I've absolutely no idea where and so can't vouch for any evidence to back this up: "If you are caring for a cancer patient, do them a favour and wash their dishes by hand for them." The implication was that dishwasher chemicals are particularly toxic and that they may leave a slight residue on the plates (I know I've seen traces of white stuff on our dishes occasionally)… and that that when you have cancer, this kind of extra chemical load can be too much. If you have a dishwasher, maybe you want to run your dishes under hot water before eating from them, and think about what other chemical loads you have in day to day life.
Some thoughts about diet
My mum bought Ian Gawler's recipe book. Since I've done a lot of research into nutrition, I was interested to see how the ideas in his book cross-referenced with my other knowledge on the topic. I admit I have some reservations about the diet advised by Ian Gawler. Which is not to say I don't think he's a fabulous man doing very important work. I just think the diet he suggests may not actually be the optimal one to cure cancer. But we don't, yet, have a better guide, so anyone diverging from the path he has set out will be taking an experimental road. If it was me, I would definitely experiment. Here's a few of my thoughts in response to his recipe book:
In the 28 day diet, I notice one of the meals includes sauerkraut. As you'll know from the Wild Fermentation book, sauerkraut is an amazingly healthy food. Both scientifically and culturally, it's understood that the health-giving benefits of sauerkraut come from the fermentation of cabbage. Through the fermentation process, the cabbage provides more vitamin C and other vitamins, making it particularly nutrient-dense and rich in pro-biotics. However, in the book, Gawler suggests you make your own sauerkraut by cooking some cabbage with apple cider vinegar. While this might taste like sauerkraut, it seems a wasted opportunity to eat a truly valuable and nutritious food.
The book suggests that you make your own yeast-risen bread, while my understanding is that from a nutritional point, yeast-risen bread is not good for you at all, and sourdough is essential to properly ferment the anti-nutrients (such as phytates) from the grains.
The book advises against all fat, while my understanding is that more recent research into fats by Dr Mary Enig has shown that while "bad" fats are extremely bad for us, good fats are not only harmless but are essential for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. The Gawler book seems to blanket all fats as bad, despite mentioning somewhere in there that Omega-3s are important. Yet the presence of Omega-3s in the diet is not addressed.
The book talks about avoiding fruit in vegetable juices, citing the reason that fruit takes longer to digest and so ferments in the stomach (or something like that). That doesn't make a lot of sense to me. All fruit contains some lactobacilli, the bacteria responsible for the fermentation of sauerkraut. Surely if the fruit does "ferment" that would be a good thing rather than a bad thing. But I think digestive process actually works differently to that. Maybe I'm wrong, but I do wonder how they measured transit time for fruit versus vegetables and made the distinction that they are best consumed separately.
Frankly the whole diet seems a bit made up to me. Which is not to say it doesn't work. But I'm left wondering if it works because it eliminates all processed food, and for people who have cancer in part because of consumption of a lot of refined/processed food, this may be key to their recovery. Anyway, I'm not totally knocking the Gawler diet approach. Maybe the book is just not well written or doesn't explain the principles well. Or maybe it works for reasons other than those cited. But if it was me, I would make some changes to the diet he advises before embarking on it.
I'm afraid this is as far as I went on behalf of my mum and her breast cancer. If you have more info to share about managing breast cancer specifically or cancer in general, do leave a comment on this post. May good health be with you...
It's been a little while since I posted an update on my AS (ankylosing spondylitis). If you'd like to read previous posts about AS, click the link in my sidebar.
Thanks to a suggestion by someone who commented on my blog, I bought and read Micah Cranman's book / DVD package. I would recommend this resource to anyone with AS, though I wouldn't go as far as to say that my AS is in remission as a result of his book. My AS is not in remission at all, and that's basically because I cannot follow the diet fully for nutritional reasons. The diet is the same as the one I've already described here on my blog (for free) - starch free. Micah does go into a bit more detail about a few ingredients which I was previously unable to find out whether they were starchy or not. I found that helpful.
He also advises that a first step towards improving your AS is to take fish oil - he recommends krill oil. I went out and bought some and started taking it, but had no improvement at all as a result. But then I realised that I already take cod liver oil every morning, and probably this fulfills the same function. So I've probably already got the benefit that can be had from fish oils. But a note to those of you out there with AS, experiment with fish oils.
To explain what I said further about being unable to follow the diet... I have noticed that when I don't eat wheat for a long time (over the years the length of time has shortened.. it's currently about ten days), then I begin to get desperate cravings. It feels like having low blood sugar. If I ignore it, my symptoms become progressively worse, so that I'm extremely ill. If I break my diet and eat wheat, I feel better, so much better, and all my cravings go away again, for about ten days. I have the same experience with dairy, but the turnaround time is shorter - I can't go more than three or four days without dairy. Since lactose is a secondary source of food for my klebsiella bacteria, I have struggled with fermenting my dairy products sufficiently to remove lactose.
Removing lactose from dairy products
I've now found a solution to removing lactose from dairy products. Instead of fermenting it for 36 hours (by which time it tastes revolting), I now buy lactase drops from the chemist. Lactase is an enzyme which consumes lactose, and converts it into glucose. By adding 20 lactase drops to 2 litres of milk, and leaving it in the fridge for two days, the lactose appears to be removed. I can drink the milk and don't have any symptoms from it. And it tastes delicious! Because the lactose has been converted to glucose, the milk is sweeter. It's like drinking milk with a little honey added. I love it. Now I can have my raw milk again, unfermented, and it's changed my life vastly for the better. I drink two cups of raw milk a day and believe this to be healthy for me.
I have been unable to find out exactly what it is in wheat that my body seems to depend on, but I suspect gluten plays a role. Yes, I think my body NEEDS gluten, despite all the stuff out there that says gluten is bad for us and hard to digest. I have discovered that I can make seitan from wheat, which removes the starch and just leaves the gluten content. Here's how:
Make a big ball of dough using white flour and water. Run the ball of dough under the tap, and the starch content will drain away (turning the water milky). If you knead the ball under the tap for ages (for me it takes about an hour), then at the end the water will run clear, and what's left is a much smaller ball of gluten. What I do now is chop this into small pieces, boil it for a few moments like gnocchi, and serve it with tomato pasta sauce and lactose-free cheese. It's not as good as pasta but it's not a bad substitute.
I find that by eating seitan, I can go longer without breaking my diet, but it doesn't hold me indefinitely. I also get symptoms from it, probably because I can't get 100% of the starch out. But the symptoms aren't as bad as when I break my diet altogether, and I recover quicker.
One of my best recent discoveries is that of glutinous rice. I read on an AS blog that glutinous rice is made up of a different form of starchy molecule - amylopectin, while most starchy products are made up of amylose. Apparently klebsiella bacteria can consume amylose but not amylopectin! Glutinous rice is made up of amylopectin, not amylose, so theoretically it should be safe for those of us with AS to eat. My first attempts at this failed - I bought a black rice which I thought was glutinous rice, but now I think was actually not glutinous. At first it was fine but after a while my klebsiella evolved and I began to get symptoms from it. I've now got another black rice, this one from Thailand, and after using it for a couple of months, I think it's fine. I haven't conclusively finished my testing but I'm pretty happy with it so far and don't think it gives me symptoms. I also have white glutinous rice but the jury is still out as to whether that gives me symptoms or not. I'll be interested to hear how those of you with AS go with this. Do leave me a comment to let me know. Being able to eat a bit of rice has changed my life for the better.
Between the rice and milk, my diet is so much easier to stick to now.
I'd love to know how those of you with AS are faring - your experiences with the diet, what you can and can't eat.. any tips you have fo the rest of us. Leave a comment?
I have been challenging myself to articulate what’s important to me with my art, what it is, exactly that I do, and as a result, I’ve created myself an artist’s statement. Want to read it?
I have always invented worlds in miniature, which become the basis for stories, threatre shows and artworks. Within them you’ll meet quirky characters – often dolls and broken toys that have been loved and abandoned. Dolls offer the opportunity for us to recreate ourselves and our lives in another dimension. I paint their portraits over and over, looking for the edgy, raw or introspective moment. I play with juxtaposition of scale, depicting small, domestic details that bring these worlds to life.
The dolls are set into miniature homes or theatres, maybe an assemblage box, or an organic metal bezel to be worn around the neck. This way we can let the girls speak for us, giving voice to emotions that may be difficult to express.
I minimise waste and resource use by choosing simple, versatile tools and scavenged materials. The imperfections of reclaimed objects become a part of the finished work. I further age them with layers of paint, often slashing and sanding them back to reveal vulnerabilities below. My work protests against consumer culture and oppression, searching for pathways to our creative selves, so that we can learn to trust our DIY instincts instead of handing our lives over to the “experts”.
So. There. That's a fairly good approximation of what I do, why, and how I like to work. If you've ever written an artist's statement, want to share it in the comments?
I had the two loveliest Sundays with the women who came to my home to make journals with me. Preparing for the workshop was really good for me - I looked in detail at my journaling process and methods, and managed to describe it in somewhat formulaic terms. I was trying to break it down into step-by-step instructions for my students, and now as a result, I understand myself so much better.
A big part of my journaling process is creating the book itself. I deliberately like a book with varied-sized pages, and I have worked out a formula for what I think is the perfect number of full sized, medium sized and small sized pages. I've worked out exactly how many pages fit in my ultra-journal, and how thick to make the spine so that it holds all the collage I can possibly add, without bursting at the seams. I took my students through the process of making the book itself:
They assembled signatures, sewed them up on the sewing machine, and incorporated a whole mix of papers.
They made hard covers with a flexible gaffer-tape spine, upcycling old children's books.
They painted artwork to cover their books with.
At the end of the first day, everyone had a book, personalised, with their own mix of pages and papers, with a sturdy cover and a soft-spine that lets it open flat on any page.
The next weekend, we came together again to prepare the pages. When I'm tired and lazy in bed at night, I want to write a bit about my day. I want my page to look fabulous but I haven't the energy to thing about making it so. That's where prepared pages come in. I like to collage on my pages beforehands, in a strategic way, so that my pages will be interesting, varied, and still have plenty of space left for writing and images.
Through the week, I made my students collage-kits. They each received a pile of papers that I have painted and assembled from maps, vintage books and other sources. I took them through a step-by-step process to fill their books with interesting and varied collage-pages.
An important part of my process involves designing a "landing page" that you arrive at when you first open the cover of your journal. This is a beautiful, complex spread full of interesting papers, collage, pockets, tabs and more. It's there to draw you in and to be your home base from which you work every day in your book.
On the last afternoon, we spent time going through techniques for using the book. How to manage your privacy and personal expression while still ending up with a book that you can show people. When my students take their books into the world, there's no doubt, people will be curious about them. And being able to show them springboards so many conversations and can lead to surprising opportunities... We talked about a process for using the book as a life coach, a best friend, and still making sure the pages would be beautiful in a raw, personal way.
I gave each of my students a zine, full of journal prompts and reminders for the process I use to get the most out of my journal. That way they'd have something to tuck into their journal-pockets to refer to, and they wouldn't have to take notes during the workshop. Here's the zine:
I'm making it available to others.. if you'd like to buy the zine, you can get it from my Etsy shop.
While my students worked, in between helping them, I made a pile of journals myself, as commissions and gifts:
So, now that the students have gone home, and I've posted off the books I made, what's next? I have plans. I'm hoping to make an online course version of this workshop. Paula and Jesse video'd me making one of the books, and I've written up all my notes.
But.. I'm mired in technical problems now! How to make an epub book with videos, how to size them all correctly, how to export it... yikes! If anyone is in the mood to help me, is savvy with this sort of thing, please do sing out! In the meantime, I shall battle onwards, and if I ever solve the great Technological Humps before me, I shall bring to you an online journal-making coure. Stay tuned...
While working on the book I'm currently writing, Future Girl, I realised that one of the key subtexts for the book is the idea that big corporations are dangerous to us. This is something I feel very strongly about, and although I'm not perfect, for the most part these days I refuse to give my money to big corporations, especially those that I believe to behave irresponsibly. I created this painting to express my outrage at the central place that these big corporations occupy in our society.
So what's wrong with big corporations?
My partner, Paula, describes us people as the new serfs, with big corporations as our lords, regulating every aspect of our existence and requiring our servitude. Is this really so? Are big corporations actually bad, and if so, why? I’ve been doing some research lately to try and understand the ways in which big corporations impact and shape our society.
The thing about big corporations is that they are just that: big. They rake in the bucks, and as a result, have enormous spending power. Since the ethos that underpins most big corporations is the aim to increase profits, values such as quality and meaning of life, job satisfaction and health are often cast aside in pursuit of the dollar. But surely we, as individuals, have the power to make our own choices about how we live, how we bring meaning to our lives, and to look after our own health? The reading I’ve been doing lately suggests that no, actually, we are dominated in many subtle and not-so-subtle ways by the corporate monoliths that surround us.
How did we come to need them?
Let’s take the fast food industry as a general example, and look at McDonald’s in particular. Since 1973, once adjusted for inflation, the hourly wage of the average worker has declined. These days it’s very hard to run a household on one income, and with two adults out at work, there’s a need for some of the domestic tasks that used to be performed by women at home (such as food shopping, cooking and washing up) to be outsourced. McDonald’s is just one large corporation that has stepped up to the task. The company is the largest owner of retail property in the world, America’s largest purchaser of beef, pork and potatoes, and an estimated one in eight workers in the US has at some point been employed by McDonald’s. The company has the world’s largest marketing budget, and even operates the most playgrounds and distributes more toys than any other brand.
Targeting our children
With playgrounds and toys, McDonald’s is very appealing to young children, a deliberate part of their marketing strategy. Not only will children bring in extra customers in the form of parents and grandparents, but their ‘pester power’ can be harnessed to increase sales. ‘Cradle-to-grave’ advertising strategies involve getting young children to see a company as being like a beloved family member, allied with good values such as health and patriotism, and the aim is life-long brand loyalty. Young children are mainly reached via television, and studies have showed that most cannot distinguish between programmes and advertisements. While McDonald’s and Disney pioneered the targeting of children in marketing, it is so effective that these days it is a standard part of the long term selling-strategy for most large corporations. The result is that many youngsters today grow up with an overall feeling that their favourite brands know and care about them.
Fast food companies extend their marketing reaches into schools, knowing that children are still establishing their tastes and habits, and have many years of purchasing ahead of them. Schools on tight budgets often accept lucrative advertising packages offered by large corporations, justifying that this increases their revenue and allows them to expand what they offer to students. It is not just food companies that employ this technique. Corporate-sponsored teaching materials have now become commonplace, and in 1998 a study in the US by the Consumers Union found that 80 percent were biased. For example, they would teach that logging was good for the environment or that fossil fuels created few environmental problems.
Walt Disney has hosted numerous ‘entertainment’ broadcasts which are really propraganda, such as “Our Friend The Atom”, sponsored by a manufacturer of nuclear reactors, which makes nuclear fission sound fun instead of terrifying. By reaching our children through television programmes and commercials, schools and prominent billboards, big corporations have significant power to shape the values and messages our children grow up with.
Exploiting vulnerable workers for cheap labour
Teenagers, too, are targeted by big corporations, and often used for cheap labour. The two brothers who opened the first McDonald’s restaurant quickly tired of having to retrain staff when they left. They created an innovative solution that has since been replicated by large, profit-seeking companies everywhere. They restructured the workplace to an assembly-line format, where each worker contributes only a single, small skill. A staff member might spend, for example, an entire eight hour shift just flipping burgers. If that worker leaves, it doesn’t take long to train the replacement in burger-flipping.
With the de-skilling of jobs, corporations are able to hire unskilled workers who will accept low pay, often teenagers and migrants who are also easier to control, and less aware of unions and fair work standards. They can be manipulated into working long hours, without overtime pay, by managers whose annual bonuses depend on them increasing profits and reducing costs. While an after-school job has been shown to be good for children, studies have shown that when kids work long hours in addition to schooling, and when the job is boring, overly regimented or meaningless, it can create a lifelong aversion to work.
For teenagers, working at a fast food outlet can be surprisingly dangerous. The injury rate for them is about twice as high as that of adult wokers in the United States. With a high staff turn-over, many disgruntled ex-employees return to rob their former workplaces, sometimes resulting in violent crime and murder. While being a manager at McDonald’s is a far more interesting and rewarding job than lower positions, and even includes training at McDonald’s ‘university’, managers are most often targeted in violent crimes by ex-employees. In America, four or five fast food workers are murdered on the job every month, making it more dangerous than to be a police officer!
Fast food restaurant chains use their buying power to keep the minimum wage as low as possible. For example, the Nixon administration received $250,000 in donations from the head of McDonald’s franchising, and in the same year supported a bill to reduce the minimum wage from $1.60 to $1.28 per hour - the bill was even known, informally, as the ‘McDonald’s bill’. Meanwhile, the income of the company CEOs has consistently risen.
The Fair Labour Standards Act was designed to prevent unfairness, danger and injury to our workers, and unions aim to enforce these laws. However, McDonald’s and other large corporations use their immense purchasing power to sidestep regulations. When workers attempt to join unions or fight for fairer conditions, McDonald’s will simply close down the restaurant and fire all its staff, reopening new premises nearby. When re-hiring, they avoid all staff who have previously signed union cards.
Workers higher up the chain in the fast food restaurant business also face challenges. For example, franchise owners absorb all the risk involved in starting a new branch, often legally waiving their right to file complaints, while the corporation maintains control, forcing them to buy from certain suppliers and follow fixed price schedules. Corporations often practise “encroachment” - placing new franchises close to existing franchises, driving down the sales of the established buisness. As with the minimum wage, large corporations use their significant financial power to lobby the government to thwart regulation of franchising.
Forcing suppliers to cut corners
As well as negatively impacting the lives of our children, vulnerable workers and franchise owners, large corporations often impose stringent requirements on their suppliers, forcing them to run manufacturing premises which are both dangerous and unpleasant for workers. It is common for the few buyers of a single product (say, potatoes, used for chips), to band together and make a behind-the-scenes agreement about the price they are willing to pay. Potato growers and processors cannot then turn to an alternative market for better pay, which would enable them to maintain better conditions in their plants.
In America, only four firms slaughter about 84 percent of the cattle (ConAgra, IBP, Excel and National Beef), and they have devised an ingenious method of price-fixing to ensure that cattle prices from independent ranchers remain low. They buy up 20 percent of the nation’s cattle and hold them in feedlots. Then when ranchers try to increase their prices, the meatpacking giants flood the market with their own captive supplies, forcing prices to drop. In twenty years, the rancher’s share of the retail dollar has dropped from 63 cents to just 46 cents, forcing small farmers out of business, and forcing large enterprises to cut corners to maintain their ranches. Ranch owners need to take second jobs or sell their cattle at break-even prices or a loss, and the suicide rate among ranchers and farmers in America is now three times higher than the national average.
In a similar fashion, chicken growers must adhere to strict feeding schedules, equipment upgrades and veterinary services, in order to sell to the meatpacking giants. The necessary growing house, which holds 25,000 birds in overcroweded, stressed conditions, costs about $150,000, forcing the growers into significant debt before they can earn anything. The average chicken grower in America earns just$12,000 per year, and about half of them quit after just three years, selling out or losing everything. Growers who complain often find themselves suddenly unable to sell their birds.
Dangerous factory conditions
Like the fast food restaurants who slashed costs by creating an assembly-line format for their workers, enabling them to hire unskilled employees at minimum wage, the meatpacking giants have also restructured their plants to use assembly lines. The meat travels on a large conveyor belt through the factory, and staff members stand in a single spot for their entire shift, making exactly the same cuts or moves over and over again. One way for a meatpacking company to increase profits, is to run the line faster. The same systems that once processed 50 cattle per day, have now been sped up to process 400, resulting in enormous danger to employees. The injury rate in a meatpacking factory is about three times higher than elsewhere, and every year more than a quater of a factory’s workers are injured. The work is heavy and repetitive, causing strain injuries, back problems and tendonitis, and lacerations are the most common form of injury. The injury rate correlates directly with the speed of the production line. It is common for workers to lose limbs on the job, and anecdotes in Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser suggest that these limbs, and sometimes entire people, end up ground in with our meat.
Such a high injury rate usually results in pressure from insurance companies to improve work practices, but large corporations like ConAgra and IBP are self-insured. Like McDonald’s, they avoid unions and regulation by firing employees after an average of four months on the job, maintaining a vulnerable workforce (often of illegal migrants), and closing down plants when things get out of hand. They also use in-house doctors to medically assess injured workers, and these doctors are under pressure to deny the existance and severity of injuries, so as to minimise compensation costs borne by the company.
Food poisoning - the spread of dangerous bacteria across the nation
Food poisoning, while rarely reported in the media, is a surprisingly common result of eating in a fast food restaurant. In America, every day 200,000 people become sick from food poisining, 900 are hospitalised, and 14 die. Food poisoning has been shown to have long term effects, beyond the initial gastrointestinal illness, and can herald chronic disease such as autoimmune disorders, kidney damage, heart disease and inflammatory bowel disease. In 1996, a study showed that meat samples taken from meatpacking giants had a high rate of contamination with salmonella, listeria, staphylococcus and clostridium, all of which can make people ill. E. Coli is also frequently found in meat samples, along with faeces, hair, insects, metal shavings, urine and vomit.
The reason for this high rate of contamination relates directly to the speed of the production line. These bacteria are found in the faeces of infected animals, and at the time the stomach, bowel and intestines are removed from the animal, great care must be taken not to spatter the carcass with their contents. It takes a skilled butcher to do this job well, and accuracy depends on taking the time to do it properly. With the high speed of the line, and the reduction in skill of the workers, spillage of faeces onto the meat happens in as many as one in five carcasses. The contaminated meat remains on the production line, and is mixed with cleaner carcasses, resulting in a very wide spread of dangerous bacteria. In pursuit of profits, the meatpacking giants are endangering the health of the entire population. Although they claim that once cooked, the meat is safe, the reality is that by bringing contaminated meat into our kitchen, we risk the spread of dangerous bacteria onto our knives, chopping boards, into our sinks and more. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist, discovered in a series of tests that the average American kitchen sink contains more bacteria than the average American toilet seat!
Disregard for the public and workers is endemic
While I have focussed on the fast food industry, the danger faced by workers of corporate monoliths, the disregard for the health of the population, and the pursuit of profit at the expense of all other values appears to be endemic across large corporations. For example, as I write in 2014, Apple has fired 24 employees (leading union members) for refusing to work on public holidays. Conditions in factories where clothing, mobile phones and other consumer goods are made are regularly reported in the media as being miserable and dangerous for workers. Even the courts agree that big corporations often behave irresponsibly. In a case against McDonalds, Justice Bell concluded that the company did exploit children through its advertising, endanger the health of customers who eat there several times a week, pay its restaurant workers unreasonably low wages, and bear responsibility for the cruelty inflicted upon animals by many of its suppliers.
The reality is that large corporations use their immense budgets to sidestep regulation and to lobby the government for laws that will make them richer and more profitable.
What can we do?
Is there anything we can do? The single, most powerful act an individual can make, is to refuse to give them our money. It is our money that makes them powerful, and by withholding it, we are one step closer to diffusing their dominance. Choose carefully to whom you give your dollars, and vote now, with your purse.
I used to think this was an impossible mission, but one step at a time I have made changes to my shopping habits, so that these days I rarely buy from big corporations. I buy my food from farmer's markets instead of supermarkets, I eat out at family-owned non-franchise restaurants, and I rarely buy new mass-manufactured products - instead I make my own or look for similar items in second hand shops. Choosing to spend your money ethically cannot be done in a day. It takes time to change habits and work out a new way to provide Christmas presents, a new way to eat, a new way to do all the things we regularly rely on big corporations for. But it can be done, one step at a time. If you have tips or ideas for making the change, leave a note in the comments!
Let me tell you why I love graffiti. I'm lucky to live in Melbourne, which is famous for its street art. But what appeals to me about it?
We are bombarded with advertising, images that push us towards materialism, to hand our money to big corporations and enrich a select group of CEOs. How refreshing to find a wall with an authentic voice of protest, an image of beauty that’s not about money. It’s proof of the DIY ethos of an individual who has not bowed down to the “experts”. I paint graffiti on reclaimed wood to bring inside, where they can give us pause to think, and remind us how we really want to live.
I'll share with you some of my favourite pieces of graffiti around the place...
Such a lovely face, so much mood:
A wonderful protest against our screen culture:
This one is by Be Free, who paints in my local area - always a treat finding his creations when I'm out and about:
This is my very favourite piece of graffiti. Ever. OMG I just love it - I love the commentary on our social norms. And how we just accept it, working for idiots. So many of us do it, every day, without even thinking or realising it. This piece makes me THINK:
I've been selling my artwork on Etsy for a little while, and have come up against the dilemma that every artist faces when they sell their work: how much to charge? How much is a painting worth? Or a zine? Or a commission? Do I charge as much as I think people are prepared to pay or do I charge strictly by the hour, incorporating material costs? It can be tricky to calculate a price for artwork because much of the magic in creating a piece comes from the idea, and how can you put a price on an idea. The idea often comes as a result of months or years of building on inspiration and skill and practice.
Anyway, I've been introduced to The Formula, as described by Ink and Spindle, and have decided to adopt their approach to pricing, with a few tweaks to make it work for me. If you are an artist looking to price your own work, pop over to their page for a very pretty description of the formula and how to use it.
If you'd like to understand how I arrive at my prices, read on...
My rate of pay
First up, I pay myself an hourly rate of $20 per hour. This is what I would pay someone if I was hiring them to spray stencils or package items or otherwise realise my ideas.
I track time taken to produce
I keep track of a rough guide for how long it takes me to create each piece. For example, I might make a batch of twelve pendants. At the end of the process, I calculate the amount of time spent from start to finish, and divide by twelve. This is a better approach for me than just timing the creation of a single item, because it allows time for me to fix the odd piece that isn't working how it should, and to clean up spills and other accidents that happen in the process.
When I count the time taken, I add in a bit extra for the time it took for the base design. Say I am selling a painting based on a stencil I created. I count the time it took to make the stencil, and divide it by, say, ten, assuming that I will ultimately sell ten prints from that stencil. Then I add this to the time it took me to make the individual stencil-print painting.
I add in the cost of materials
I also make an estimate of how much money I've spent on materials for each piece. This is pretty rough. Usually my materials cost is quite low and forms a small portion of the overall price. Many of my materials are free or scavenged, which reduces the cost, but that can increase the time I spend working on the item to prepare it for use.
Now, my cost of production is $20 x (number of hours spent plus one tenth of the number of hours spent on initial design) + cost of materials. A simple resin pendant, when made in a larger batch, costs about $22.50 to produce.
Next, I need to add my overhead costs. This is the cost of buying my blow torch, studying new techniques, the cost of materials that I buy but turn out to be unsuitable, the cost of all the pieces that end up in the bin because I ruin them. It's the cost of paint and stanley knives and storage containers and fabric for my silk screen and a water-resistent finishing spray. It's even the cost of getting my computer repaired, since I use it all the time to create and plan artworks. I try to keep these down but they do add up over time. To allow for overhead costs, one needs to double the cost of production. So now my pendant costs $45. In truth, my overhead costs are a little lower than this, but having those few extra dollars allows me to think about experimenting with new materials and techniques. This is what will help me to grow as an artist and make new and better things for you to buy. $45 is the wholesale price for a pendant.
Then, I'm supposed to double it again, to cover the retail effort. If my pieces are sold in a shop, the shop-keeper needs to cover rent, staff, bills and still make a profit. It's normal for a shop to double the wholesale price, to cover their needs.
For me, I'm selling most of my pieces over the internet. Internet selling is actually a surprising amount of work. For starters, you need great photos. Which means a good camera, time spent setting up the shoot and processing the photos, and time spent learning how to do this. Then there's writing item descriptions, which are kind of tricky - the buyer can't pick up a piece and get a feel for it, so the words are very important in conveying what a buyer might need to know. It's hard for me to guess exactly what is needed, so I often write, and then rewrite, and write yet again, to try and arrive at an item description that meets the needs of my buyers.
A retail shop pays rent on physical premises that usually attract a customers who are in the area. With the internet, you need to reach out to your buyers much more directly. What I'm not paying in rent, instead I need to spend on effort. For me, this is about talking with my customers over Facebok, helping them to understand what I do, what I make, and why. In addition, I take other measures to reach out to buyers and let them know of my presence, such as displaying my work in prominent physical locations. The effort of finding these places can be time consuming. Once someone buys one of my pieces, I spend a little more time, packaging and shipping each item. My entire retail effort probably does consume at least half the work of each piece. This means that my pendant now costs $90.
My final price
However, although I think my pendants are lovely, I find it hard to put a $90 price tag on them. Some of them are imperfect because I'm still learning. Others are just gorgeous but I still feel awkward about commanding that price. This is what I'm working towards. At the moment, my prices do not reflect the full retail effort. It takes me about an hour per piece, to photograph it, list it, talk about it, package it and ship it. If I charge $20 per hour, then I take my $45 wholesale price and add $20 to it, and now I've got $65. That's what I'm charging these days for a pendant. It doesn't take into account the extra time I spend on reaching new customers, and I need this to change. But I'm moving slowly, gradually easing myself into the world of higher, fairer pricing.
So, for the moment my prices are wholesale plus a portion of my retail effort. If you are thinking of buying one of my pieces, maybe buy sooner rather than later, as bit by bit my confidence is increasing and I'm working towards the full retail price. For a few of my pieces I'm there already. For some of my pieces I'll never get there. For example, according to my formula, my zines should cost $35 each! But I sell them for around $5.
I have a spreadsheet into which I enter all the data for each item I make. It then tells me what the retail price should be, and I then tweak if need and write in my final price.
I've very excited to tell you I have received funding from Australia Council for the book I am currently working on, Future Girl.
The book is a novel set in Melbourne in the future, with a deaf main character, Piper. Piper's Melbourne is in crisis, facing food and other shortages due to peak oil. At the same time, Piper is exploring her Deaf identity as she discovers Auslan and moves from her oral upbringing towards Deaf culture. The book is to be Piper's art journal, and will be filled with her writing and artwork.
The grant from Australia Council will allow me to create the artwork. Tentatively, Allen & Unwin hope to publish the book in March 2016. I'm posting my progress with the book on my facebook page, so subscribe there if you'd like to follow this project.
In the meantime, here are a couple of preliminary artworks I've created for the book:
One of the fabulous skills I learnt in France was how to use Instagram. I love it. It makes my photos look so beautiful. Though strangely now I'm posting them on my blog some of them seem a little blurry. Not sure what's going on there. I think I have a bit more to learn! But in the meantime, if you are on Instagram too, you can find me on there as Asphyxia1974 - feel free to follow. And here's a photo I would never have taken if it wasn't for Instagram inspiration: