Sunday, May 31, 2009

April 3 - How old are you?

According to my birth certificate I'm 54 years, 2 months and 7 days old (but who's counting?) But from a different perspective I'm a lot younger than that.

No part of my physical body is more than 10 years old.

My body is made up of cells that renew themselves on a regular basis. The type of cell it is and where it's located determines the rate of renewal. Cells in the stomach lining, for example, are replaced every 5 days and the entire skeleton is renewed about every 10 years.

Even though my birth certificate says I'm 54 years old the only part of the physical me that is actually that age is my mind. This leads to the question "Where in my no-more-than-10-year-old body does my mind reside?

The only logical answer to this is that my mind resides in every cell of my body, moving into the new cells as they grow and creating the body-mind being that is me. This makes sense as every cell of my body contains a complete DNA map of my whole body.

Another question you might ask is "Given that my cells renew themselves, why don't scars and injuries disappear over time?" I imagine that this is where cellular memory comes into play and the memory of an injury gets passed down through the generations of cells. I expect they mirror the condition of the cell they replace, but can this be changed?

I assume also that the mind controls the aging of the body and the rate at which this happens as there can't be some sort of Universal Aging Rate for everyone. As evidence of this assumption I present the following story -

When I was in Year 12 at High School there was a teacher that most of the girls lusted over. He was tall, dark, gorgeous, a great teacher and about 35 years old. Less than 5 years after we'd left school a friend and I ran into him and were totally stunned because he was grey-haired, wrinkled and looked more than 20 years older.

The reason for his transformation was that his wife had become gravely ill and he'd nursed her for 3 years until she died. She was the love of his life and her illness and death had devastated him. With such powerful negative emotions consuming him his mind accelerated the aging process in his body and turned him into an old man overnight.

If thoughts and feelings are the language of the mind and this dialogue translates into the form of the body then it must be possible to influence the wellness of the body by ensuring that the majority of our thoughts are positive and happy ones.

I'm so convinced about the truth of this assumption that from this moment on I'm going to direct my thoughts away from negativity and sadness towards a happy feeling place.

What do you think and how will you respond to this idea?

Monday, May 25, 2009

April 2 - Thought is everything

Having called this post "thought is everything" I realise I could have reversed the order and said "everything is thought" and both statements would be true.

We think of ourselves as being a body that exists in what we generally refer to as our reality. Scientists analyse that reality and tell us the facts that make up the "truth" of this physical manifestation. We observe the physical world that we move around in and believe that we know exactly what's true and real. How much of the picture are we actually aware of?

My reality is unique to myself because my mind filters all the information coming from the outside world through my viewpoint and beliefs. No one else can occupy the same physical or psychological space as me. My personal reality is therefore created by my thoughts on a moment-by-moment basis. To illustrate how this works consider the following situation -

You've gone into the city with a friend and you walk through the mall on the way to a coffee shop. You notice an altercation between a police officer and a suspicious-looking middle-aged man in a shop doorway and make the assumption that he's been caught shoplifting or something. Then your attention is drawn to a busker who looks rather poor and shabby and you hope that he can play well and will get enough money from his music to buy dinner. Near the busker is a mother trying to console a crying infant and looking very drawn and tired. You wonder if she ever gets any help at home.

By the time you arrive at the coffee shop and take a seat your mood is somewhat deflated by what you've seen and how it's made you feel. In total contrast your friend starts talking enthusiastically about the fantastic artwork display she's just seen along the mall. Her excitement about it takes you by surprise because you didn't see or notice any of it at all. You may as well have been in two different places!

By your thoughts you created one reality while your friend created an entirely different one. So which one is true? They both are. Everyone lives their own truth and that truth is constructed by your thoughts. Thought is everything.

Rene Descartes, a philosopher, was born in 1596 and died 53 years later. He was a profound thinker and writer and his most famous statement is "I think, therefore I am; OR I am thinking, therefore I exist". It appeared in his "Discourse on the Method" published in 1637 and also in "Principles of Philosophy" published in 1644.

Descartes believed that the only thing that truly exists is thought and that thought creates what we perceive as reality. Everything is thought.

If this is the case, and I believe it to be so, then I can choose the thoughts I wish to have and the direction that I want my life to take. I am the one with total control over my thoughts, no one else. It's a comforting idea to think that I'm no one's puppet unless I choose to be so.

The next time you're in the mall will you see the poverty or the artwork?

April 1 - Just for Fun

For some years now my husband and his older son have talked about starting a family business called "Just for Fun".

A few years ago they both learned to fly and have their pilot's licences. At the time my husband said he'd never buy an aircraft but fate had other ideas and not long afterwards he owned a twin-engine Beechcraft Baron. It's been fun and has covered its costs by being available for charter.

The second thing he said was that he'd never own a flying school, but guess what? Today, April 1st, was the launch date for a new flying school and charter business at Archerfield Airport in Brisbane. It isn't called Just for Fun, though, as that doesn't provide the right sort of image for a serious flying school. It's Flight One and they shortly expect to have 3 aircraft in the fleet.

As most of the discussions about the business were held out of my earshot it seemed to me that Flight One just appeared one day as if by magic.

March 31 - Horse Boy

I listened to Late Night Live with Philip Adams and heard his conversation with Rupert Isaacson about his search to find a connection with his autistic son, Rowan—a search that took them to Mongolia to meet traditional healers and the famous horsemen of the Steppes.

Rupert told of his inability to communicate with his son how this all started to change when Rowan encountered a horse in the property next to theirs. The horse unlocked something in Rowan and this development set off a chain of events that led to their journey to Mongolia.

There seems to be a shift in thinking about autism that's very interesting. It has generally been viewed as some sort of personality deficiency or disorder up to now but the shift in thinking says that it may be a change in the communication process. I watched a video on the Abraham-Hicks website with a woman who works with autistic children and she's concluded that they communicate in an entirely new way and she's been able to work out how to connect with them and has changed the lives of families as a result.

I expect that Rupert and Rowan's story is an example of finding a way to connect that allows communication. In their case it was through horses.

March 30 - Laura Milligan

Laura Milligan is Spike Milligan's eldest daughter. She was a guest on Life Matters today with Richard Aedy. She spoke of his depression and how it affected her life and also of his sane times and the wonderful childhood she had with this unique individual.

In 1973 Spike wrote a book called "Badjelly the Witch". Laura loves the story and so do her children and she wanted her father to write a sequel but he refused and told her she should do it herself. She didn't feel she could do it at the time but now she has and it's called "Hocus Pocus versus the Stinky Pong".

She has other books in the pipeline so the legacy of Spike's sense of humour lives on through his daughter.

March 29 - Making silk paper

In June we're having an artist's play day at Brookfield and the activity I'm going to set up is to make silk paper. I learned how to do it a couple of years ago at a Fibre Forum and this is one of the pieces I made.

I looked it up on Google this morning and found out that there are many different ways to make it, so I thought I'd explain my process to add to all the other ones out there.

You need silk fibre tops in assorted colours, textile medium, netting that's more than twice the size of the piece you're making, a foam roller and a container to use it with, sponge, towel, dishwashing liquid and embellishments (optional).

Start by laying out the netting in a tray or on a surface that can be cleaned. Tease hand-sized pieces of silk fibres from the top and lay them out thinly in a horizontal direction on one half of the netting. (I used one colour for this layer). Then lay out a second layer vertically over the first. (This one had many colours in it.) At this point you can add some embellishments (just a few and very small) like metallic thread, dried leaves, sequins etc. Then top this with another horizontal layer of fibres and fold the netting over the top.

Put a few drops of dishwashing liquid in a cup of water and use the sponge to thoroughly dampen the silk in the netting. Turn the piece over and wet the under side as well. Make sure the piece is thoroughly wet and then soak up the excess water using a towel.

Make a 1:1 mix of water and textile medium in a container and use the foam roller to apply this to both sides of the piece. This time don't dry it off with a towel. Place it on a wire rack to dry or hang it on a line. When it's dry remove the netting. At this point it can be ironed or stitched. I used a sewing machine to do freestyle embroidery on mine.

It's fun to make silk paper. Why don't you have a go?

March 28 - Sharks in the sky

I listened to a report on Country Breakfast this morning by Adam Stephen from Cairns about flying fish to Dubai.

There's an aquarium in the Dubai mall that's been constructed using the world's largest piece of acrylic ever constructed. It's 80cms thick and 2 stories high.

Lyle Squire junior from Cairns Marine has just finalised a 190,000kg shipment to Dubai from his base in far north Queensland. The shipment included thousands of reef fish, sharks and stingrays from the Great Barrier Reef. Each shark in the shipment needed a 5000l round container weighing 2-3 tons so the logistics of the exercise were a challenge, but only a few of the smaller fish didn't survive the journey. All of the large animals made it.

They weren't fed for a few days before the journey and not at all during it and when they arrived in Dubai they had to go through a lengthy aclimation process. Because they were checked for disease before they left Australia they could go on display as soon as they got there.

They expect to get about 30million visitors per year and there's an education centre next to the aquarium which gives the message about the need to conserve these animals so they are ambassadors for our region.

I wonder if they suffered from jetlag?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

March 27 - wise words

It's Friday and I watched "Can We Help?" on ABC TV as usual. My favourite segment is "wise words" with Kate Burridge (Professor of Linguistics at Monash University). Tonight's question from Syaakir, NSW was -

"Why is the plural of chief, chiefs not chieves?"

Kate's reply - "The older word is ‘thief’. It was around in Old English times (it appears as early as the 7th century). At that time, English speakers always turned ‘f’ into ‘v’ when it occurred between two vowels — so one thief, but two thieves (the vowel in the plural ending was originally pronounced). This pronunciation rule is no longer a living part of our language and what we’ve been doing over the past few hundred years is regularising words like thieves, so they fit in better with what is now the usual rule for making plurals. The plural of ‘cliff’, for instance, is no longer ‘cleves’. There are some words that have been quite successful in resisting this kind of regularising. Typically, these are everyday words; think of leaf and its plural leaves. The word ‘chief’, however, didn’t come into English until the 14th century from French. So it arrived after this pronunciation rule had disappeared from the language – chief therefore has always been regular (chief-chiefs).

As an aside, it seems that words relating to fairy tales or fantasy have somehow been successful in retaining irregular plural forms. It almost seems as if irregularities like wolf-wolves, dwarf-dwarves and elf-elves-elvish have now become a feature of this style of writing. Tolkien himself, I suspect, has a significant role in this linguistic development, particularly with respect to the success of the form dwarves. In this case, the plural of dwarf was originally regular; in other words, dwarfs. So even though it sounds older, dwarves is actually a new form. The earlier pronunciation of dwarf was ‘dwerg’. It ended in a consonant not unlike the gutteral [ch] sound at the end of Scottsh ‘loch’. English eventually lost this sound — in this case, it changed into ‘f’. However, this change happened long after we’d lost the pronunciation rule that changed ‘f’ to ‘v’ between vowels. Hence, the plural of dwarf was always dwarfs, pure and simple. Tolkien chose dwarves, even though as a philologist he knew this was historically wrong. He has a note to this effect in the beginning of ‘The Hobbit’. He writes, ‘In English the only correct plural of dwarf is dwarfs, and the adjective dwarfish. In this story dwarves and dwarvish are used’. These forms have an antiquated ring to them, and even though in ‘Lord of the Rings’ Tolkien offers a different explanation, I feel sure it’s primarily this reason that he chose dwarves to describe the ancient people in his tales. The popularity of Tolkien’s writing, I think, will mean that archaic forms like elves, elvish, wolves and, indeed, the late arrival dwarves will not be regularised to elfs, elfish, wolfs and dwarfs but will remain as an earmark of the fantastical."

I think this is a great example of life following art. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings is a favourite of mine because when Tolkien did his research for the trilogy he studied Finnish folklore and he based the Elvish language on Finnish.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

March 26 - Optimism

I was thinking about "optimism" today and decided that it's a state of mind about which we have a choice. The "glass half empty" versus the "glass half full" attitude applies and we all have the freedom to look at life through the lens of our personal viewpoint.

It seems to me that while we may not be able to control the cards that we're dealt in this life, we have total control of the game we play with them. We can choose to be bold and adventurous, timid and retiring, or adopt the role of the victim in the game, or indeed any other role.

At any point we can decide that the game is not to our liking and not working for us, in which case we can adopt a change of strategy. It's all about free choice and it all hangs on how we feel and whether we want to continue to feel that way.

I guess these thoughts were prompted by a story I heard on the radio about a particular child soldier. He was kidnapped at the age of eight and forced to live and fight as a soldier until he was 16, when he was rescued. There was enough abuse and trauma in his life to have turned him into a permanently scarred mental case, but this didn't happen. Instead he chose to use the abuse as a catalyst for personal growth and, having resolved the situation for himself, go on to help in the rehabilitation of other children. He didn't see himself as a victim and was therefore able to step out of the role that circumstances had put him in for a time.

There are cases like this all the time in different situations and it leads me to wonder what influences different people in their reactions to circumstances. Personally, I'm a "glass half full" type and I'm yet to encounter a circumstance that has me totally floundering in victimhood. Given that I'm now more than halfway through my life I don't expect this to change anytime soon. For me optimism begets more optimism. I can't help myself.

How do you react when bad stuff happens?

March 25 - Jump ring bracelet

After yesterday's time of playing with metal wire I decided to make a jump ring bracelet from steel rings.

The steel wire I use is sold as tie wire and has been heated so that it's soft to use. The heating process also leaves it covered in soot so it's dirty to use as well, but that cleans off.

To make the jump rings I twisted the wire around a metal rod to form a spring that was about 3 cm long. I needed quite a few rings so I made 5 of these. Then I put the springs one at a time into a small vice and used a jewellery saw to cut lengthwise through one side of the spring. This gave me the jump rings.

I looked on the internet for ideas on how to form the rings into a bracelet but I didn't see anything I liked so I worked it out for myself. First I linked 2 rings, then held them together and put another ring through both. Then I put another ring through just 2 of them and continued in this way, attaching the next ring to the previous 2. When it was the length I wanted I formed a hook with wire and attached it with another jump ring. Voila!

To clean the bracelet I first used a wire brush to take off the soot, although a lot of it had already ended up on my hands by this stage through working on it. The forming and cleaning of the wire acts to harden it so by the end of the process the bracelet really was as hard as steel.

After the wire brush I used a set of polishing papers from 3M. They graduate from rough to smooth and I put a lot of elbow grease into it, so the steel was very shiny at the end. To finish it off I rubbed Renaissance wax into it. This stops it from rusting and keeps it shiny. I am very happy with the result.

March 24 - Avid Diva day

It was my turn to host the Avid Diva day. We're a group of artists who get together to share arty tips, food and gossip. You'll find our blog at We called ourselves that because we liked the idea of having a name that's a palindrome.

I had decided to spend the day on tools and metal stuff so I set up a workstation for making chains from steel wire and another one for using a dremel.

As I said in an earlier post, I did a workshop last year with Keith lo Bue and learned heaps about the correct use of tools so I was keen to share what I'd learned with my friends.

The thing I learned in the process was that there's a fine line between being too prepared and not being prepared enough when you go to teach something.

Being too prepared may sometimes result in an inability to be spontaneous and not being prepared enough may result in an inaccurate result. Both of these outcomes were part of my experience of the day but I'm sure noone else noticed.

As always, getting together with people who share your interests is fun.

March 23 - teaching philosophy

Lynne Hinton, the principal of Buranda State School, won an award in 2005 for a program that encourages students to think about and discuss the big issues of life. The system involves regular lessons in philosophy and the introduction of this in all other subjects.

"Philosophy is concerned with the process of thinking, rather than finding the right answer," Lynne says. "Students learn to explore issues together, to question, and to disagree respectfully."

You can read an article about it here -

I love one of the comments by a year 4 (age 8-9) student of the school who said "Walls can be made from brick, stone, metal or other building materials. They can also be made from emotions such as fear or hatred."

I hope this teaching methodology becomes more widespread.

March 22 - Background Briefing

On Background Briefing today (Radio National) there was another discussion about graffiti.

Reporter Brendan Trembath - "As old as mankind, graffiti can be seen as a cultural expression and a tourist attraction, or as vandalism inducing fear. It can morph into high art, political comment, or territorial border security. "

The reporter looked into many aspects and perspectives of graffiti and interviewed a broad range of people, from taggers to police officers. It was a really informative report.

Some of the things that appealed to me were -

A comment by one young artist saying that "you're not a graffiti guy if you've never done a train"

Doer is an artist on the Sydney scene. "Doer says by the time he was 13 he was hanging out with bigger and more notorious graffiti groups. Some members would give up graffiti after a while, and others became involved in more serious crime. But Doer went down a different path. He saw the artistic potential of graffiti and studied art at university. Doer still does the graffiti murals known as pieces, but says he now concentrates on legal walls."

A group called Dirty Rotten Scoundrels are a really nice bunch of guys who don't really get involved in the politics of violence over territorialism, it's more about the art and they're all really artistic graffiti writers.

An artist called Ben Frost lives in a warehouse in Surrey Hill, Sydney, and the walls of it are a moving feast of changing graffiti. If an artist thinks he can do something better then it's generally okay to paint over someone else's work.

Well known artist, Banksy, did a piece in Melbourne that was much prized by the building owner. Uprotected, it stayed in place for 5 years and then the owner put a piece of perspex over it to make sure it didn't get trashed. Soon afterwards someone sprayed silver paint behind the perspex and destroyed it.

From the drawings scrawled across the nation by Aboriginees, to the scratchings of the early convicts, to the political statements of the 1960's and the spray cans and stencils and pasteups of today it seems that graffiti is alive and well in this country and anyone who's conducting a war against it is fighting a losing battle.

March 21 - Luka Bloom

Today I listened to a podcast interview that Margaret Throsby had with Luka Bloom and I was surprised to hear his comment about his creative process.

Song writing is an agonising process for him and he says that the large part of the work he produces is never heard because it gets tossed out early in the piece. He works really, really hard because he believes that this is the only way to produce work that people will like. Sometimes, but this is very rare, he'll write something very easily and he thinks of this as a reward for his efforts.

Is it actually true that only hard work produces worthwhile results? Maybe not. According to his biography, Paul McCartney composed the entire melody of "Yesterday" in a dream one night. Upon waking, he hurried to a piano and played the tune to avoid letting it slip into the recesses of his mind.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, "Yesterday" has the most cover versions of any song ever written.

So the creative process exists in a multitude of forms.

March 20 - my studio

I was working in my studio today and wondered what sort of photos I'd take of my work area to illustrate what I do. It was difficult because there's a jumble of stuff everywhere: things finished and forgotten, work-in-progress, assorted materials (lots of them) and tools (lots of them too).

I decided that I could really only get a snapshot at any point in time, so that's what I did. The scrapbook page of my dad cutting a hole in the ice in Finland (1955) is for an album I'm doing for his 90th birthday this year. It's my favourite page of them all because I think it works so well and yet it took me less than 20 minutes to do, unlike so many more that I've agonised over.

I just love tools and have many, many of them for all the different things I do. I did a workshop last year with Keith lo Bue and one of the best things about it was what he taught us about tools. I discovered that I'd been abusing my drill for years and am very happy to understand how best to use it now. I also learned how to use a dremel properly and am very happy with it.

I made this mask for a ball I went to last year. The dress I wore was a snakeskin design in black and white with silver sequins so the mask is silver, black and white too.

I redecorated these Ugg boots for an exhibition at Sherwood called "These Boots". They were fun to do but now they sit neglectedly in the corner of my studio and I can't really wear them anymore.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

March 19 - ice skates

I went ice skating today and decided to find out when skates were first invented.

Skates made from bones, like the ones here, were first designed 5000 years ago in Finland for survival. As there are 100,000 lakes in Finland it's a benefit to be able to cross them quickly in winter so this is what they came up with. We Finns are certainly an inventive bunch.

Whilst these gave the user more speed than walking they wouldn't gave been great in terms of control so the technology of skates changed when steel came on the scene many years later.

These antique skates from 1941 are quite cute with their curved blades and leather boots. Given the style of the blades I think they'd trip you up if you tried to do more than go in straight lines.

These are like the ones I use. I bought them in Canada when I was there in 2006. Keeping them white is a challenge given that the mats at the rink are all black rubber ones and tend to rub off onto them. If I was a diligent person I'd clean them regularly but that's just wishful thinking.

March 18 - Google Earth

I'm in the process of organising a trip to England for a wedding in June. It involves renting a cottage near Tonbridge in Kent and through the process of investigating properties I've found Google maps to be an invaluable tool.

One of the cottages I enquired about was perfect in every way and I was about to contact the owner when I thought I'd check it out via the maps first. By doing so, and zooming in on the property, I found out that it backs onto a railway line! Needless to say, I deleted it from my list of possibilities.

If you haven't used it yet go to and click on the 'maps' option in the top line. When you put any address in the search box you'll see it and some properties even have street view photos.

Up on the right hand side are three option - map, satellite and terrain. The satellite option is best because you get to see what the place is actually like. I've used this to familiarise myself with what the road is like near where I'm going so that when I drive there I know what to expect.

March 17 - St Patrick's day

I've heard of green beer and green food but this is the first time I've heard that the Chicago River is dyed green every year on St Patrick's day. This is the photo that was taken of it in 2008. I wonder what they use to colour it?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

March 16 - Liminal spaces and ghosts

I listened to the podcast of yesterday's Late Night Live with Philip Adams. He was speaking with English author Owen Davies about his book "The Haunted, the social history of ghosts".

Owen has studied the belief in ghosts from a historical perspective and makes the following oservations -

500 years ago ghosts were seen as rural folk and now they're urban, so it seems that observers see them through the lens of their own cultural perspective

ghosts manifest themselves as pale beings, generally at night, which could possibly indicate that what the viewer is seeing has more to do with moonlight reflecting from something than a physical object.

visible ghosts are in the minority and non-visual phenomena are more common: for example, a feeling of clammyness or the smell of someone's perfume.

the Anglican church is more likely to have exorcists than the Catholic Church.

opinion polls tend to indicate a distinct rise in the belief in ghosts and this trend is consistent with a decline in religious beliefs.

demographically English ghosts are more likely to appear in churchyards.

very few ghosts appear as infants or babies which is surprising as there were so many infant deaths.

the desire to believe in an afterlife prompts the belief in ghosts and this wishful thinking has resulted in many movies about ghosts.

Owen spoke of the state between life and death and referred to this as the "liminal" space. The word derives from the Latin word līmen, meaning "a threshold" and refers to a conscious state of being on the "threshold" of or between two different existential planes. In an anthropological context this state is the time for a rite of passage which involves some change to the participants, especially their social status. For ghosts it's the line between life and death and folklore says it's a porous space that allows travel between the two, hence the appearance of ghosts among the living.

According to Abraham (via Esther Hicks) the transition from life to death is instant and the consciousness rejoins source energy from whence it came. At this point we become fully aware of who we really are. For more information on this see

I believe that there are more "beings" in existence in our vicinity than we can see through our lens of "reality". If this is the case then it may be that sightings of ghosts are actually examples of our picking up on the vibrations of these beings. It follows, therefore, that our minds interpret these vibrations through images of familiar things because they have no other context to relate them to.

March 15 - School of everything

I discovered today that this organisation exists to "help learners find local teachers in all subjects worldwide". What a cool idea!

It was apparently set up by some guys who were unhappy with the way education was happening (or not) so they decided to set up a social learning network. Participation in the network is free but the cost of the individual tutoring that results is an arrangement between the tutor and the student.

The idea is that you either sign up to teach something or to learn something, or both, and the subjects you can learn include just about everything you can think of.

The site is here

I just love how the internet is changing everything about how we function in our communities and in the world as a whole.

March 14 - Single Sheet Structures.

As unbelievable as it may seem, the catalogue in this photo has been made from a single sheet of paper and, when folded up, fits into the box that you can see at the back. The box is also part of the structure.

Ed designed it for the Anchorage Museum of History and Art in 1995 for a show of Artist's Boxes.

As part of the session we did today on single sheet structures Ed took out the single sheet that had this catalogue printed on it and demonstrated how it folded up to produce this catalogue in a box.

Needless to say, the structures we learned to make today were many times simpler than this. We learned how to fold and cut A4 sheets to make books and how to illustrate them so that the images appear in the correct place. Always a useful thing to know. We made some boxes as well.

The items I made are way too noddy to photograph for posting here so I'll make some decent samples before I do that.

March 13 - the animated page

I attended a weekend workshop with Ed Hutchins at the Qld State Library.

Ed is a master at making artist books and the ones we did today were on the topic of the animated page.

Animated pages first appeared in children's books in the early 1800's and, over time, have become more and more elaborate. The first ones involved mechanical components that the child could push and pull to make something happen. There were also pop ups and books with pages that folded out into 3D scenes. Ed had some examples of very early animated work and I was truly amazed at the ingenuity of them.

We made loads of different types of mechanisms and went home exhausted at the end of the day.

The work I did during the day has been added to my growing pile of UFOs. When I finish it (and I hope it's sooner rather than later) I'll post a few pics here.

Tomorrow we'll be working on Single Sheet Structures. Should be fun.

Monday, May 11, 2009

March 12 - Vitamin D

This evening there was a great story on Catalyst about vitamin D.
Dr Norman Swan reported on the problem we're now encountering with Vitamin D deficiency. It turns out that it's not a vitamin so much as a hormone and it's made by the skin from sunlight. As a result of the skin cancer awareness campaign we're not getting enough sunlight for the skin to manufacture vitamin D and the problems this creates include auto-immune diseases such as diabetes.

The recommendation is that we should spend eight minutes a day in the sun with 15% of our skin exposed. This is for the summer time and needs to be longer in winter.

You can watch the report here

I find it interesting that there's been such pressure to avoid sunlight to date and now we find that it perhaps wasn't such a good idea as we didn't consider all the issues involved. Rather than being the bad guy we find that the sun has potentially been our friend all along.

March 11 - The Language of Things

On By Design today Alan Saunders interviewed Deyan Sudjic, the director of London's Design Museum, about his book " The language of Things".

Deyan writes about what things say and how and why they say it. He was driven to write the book to make some sense of the sheer number of useless things in our lives today. He says we buy, collect and consume a great number of things and do so sometimes without really knowing why. People have never before been more burdened with things than they are now.

The idea of consumption started after the Depression when it became the duty of advertising to convince us to buy more stuff to get the economy going. Objects made by crafts people were moved to mass production and this was when design first appeared. Deyan refers to design as a "curious artful thing" that is trying to make world a better place.

Designers have become so important in our consumer environment that we have pursuaded ourselves that some things are very special because of the person whose name is on them.

Design speaks of the culture that produced it. When the Russian and US space rockets were next to each other it was obvious to which country they belonged. The US one was not just functional but streamlined to look good at the same time.
Some things have become archetypes of design. For example the symbol that we use to denote a telephone is still the image of an original handset, the sign used to mark a train crossing is that of a steam train, and a speed camera sign is of a bellows and lens camera.

In the 1980's and 90's design was more flamboyant and that's been replaced by a much quieter style. The original definition of luxury was about things being handmade in small quantities, but now the idea of luxury includes objects made in an industrial process. eg mobiles being studded with diamonds. These days objects have a much shorter life span so we tend not to build a relationship with them.

With these current economic times we may be on the verge of a trend against consumerism, which I think is not such a bad thing.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

March 10 - Shakespeare's portrait

Ben Hoyle, Arts Correspondent for Times Online, reported the following -

"The only surviving portrait of William Shakespeare painted from life has been discovered hanging in an Irish country house, experts claimed yesterday.
For perhaps three hundred years the exquisite oil painting has been passed down through the Cobbe family, aristocrats who can trace their heritage back to Shakespeare's only known literary patron, Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton.

The sitter's identity was always a mystery although there was a family suspicion that it might have been Sir Walter Raleigh. Now Stanley Wells, one of the world's foremost Shakespearean authorities, is “90 per cent” convinced that the debonair figure with a glint in his eyes is actually Shakespeare, captured in 1610 when he was 46.

He would have been at the height of his powers, fresh from the gorgeous romance of Antony and Cleopatra and about to plunge into the fairytale worlds of The Winter's Tale, Cymbeline and The Tempest.

Most previous candidates for a likeness, including the familiar balding man engraved by Martin Droeshout for the front of the First Folio, were inferior corruptions and copies of the Cobbe portrait, Professor Wells believes. All were either made posthumously or leave greater room for doubt about their authenticity.

The Cobbe portrait was “executed with panache, as you would expect from a painting made with a sitter”. That much was clear yesterday when the painting was unveiled in an imposing mahogany panelled room at the English Speaking Union's headquarters in Mayfair.

A barrage of scientific evidence supports the claim, including tree-ring dating of the oak panel on which the portrait is painted, X-ray analysis and infra-red photography. Several of the copies made of it were identified as Shakespeare within living memory of his death, Professor Wells said. With the plausible provenance linking the Cobbe portrait to the Earl of Southampton it amounts to a compelling circumstantial case.

If the identification is correct it alters what we know about Shakespeare in a number of ways. It depicts him as a man of wealth and high social status, undermining the conspiracy theorists' claims that he lacked the refinement to write the works attributed to him.

Intriguingly, it also suggests that he had a longer-lasting bond than previously thought with the Earl, one of the most flamboyant noblemen of the era and a known bisexual who, some scholars believe, had an affair with Shakespeare. "

Wouldn't it be nice to have a scholar from the past who could appear as a ghost and confirm all of these kinds of discoveries? I watch Time Team on ABC1 and they spend a lot of time speculating about what life was like for the people whose history they excavate. I wonder how close they get to what it was actually like?

March 9 - Brooch

I went to my Book and Paper group meeting today and Sue showed us how too make these brooches. We could choose square-shaped ones or round ones.

Sue was very organised and had made up a kit for us to work from that included a template for the pieces, cardboard to cut them from, assorted beads and wire. We then chose the decorative bits from assorted papers, fabrics and fibres.
It was an enjoyable activity and we all agreed that we'd wear the finished items to our next meeting.