Thursday, January 24, 2008


I have tried to find a word that aptly describes the sorts of things that have been going on in my sewing room during January, while I have been free from some of the normal routines and comitments. I cannot say I have undertaken much in the way of creative projects, either large or small. It has been a time of playing, experimenting, testing new techniques, looking for possibilities. Neither dictionary or thesaurus could come up with the right word, certainly not one which conveyed the sheer freedom of trying something without fear of failure, and the delight and excitement of new discoveries.
So I have come up with "Frolics and Fancies" - and here are some of them!

Carolyn from Wanganui made this "window" card which was given to me by her sister Jenny. I was intrigued by how she achieved it, but did not feel it was right to beg her to give away her secrets. After all, as an artist, who sells her work, she does have rights of "ownership" of any discoveries she may have made herself.
Moreover, I felt that even though Carolyn would be generous enough to tell me, it would be "cheating" on my part.
So I did some experimenting.
First I tried sandwiching snippets and sequins between sheets of Lutrador(fabric paper), and fusing them. I suspected it was going to be too opaque, but might become more translucent with some gel medium.
This piece has silk fibres, threads and sequins and gold glitter fused between two sheets of Lutrador, and I have overstamped it with inked bubblewrap.

This piece has silk fibres, small siver sequins, threads and dried pressed hydrangea flowers.

The resulting pieces certainly have nothing of the delicacy and transparency of Carolyn's piece - however, I am sure I will use them in some project.

I then sent off an S.O.S. to the Thread Studio in Perth. In their catalogue, they had something new called Textiva film, a fusible film which came in a range of transparent colours. On enquiries, Dale told me she had some old stock of a film that was clear and colourless, and offered to send some.

Here is the result. It is far more shimmery and translucent, and I can think of many uses for this technique. But it is quite firm and stiff, and was still not anything like Carolyn's.

By this time I had realised that what looked like snippets of fabric in Carolyn's work were actually little splodges of paint. I added some glitzy poly-fibres and some flakes of metal leaf.

To discover what had been used to entrap these things, I started to look closer to home. I had a flash of inspiration, and dug out some freezer bags, and tried the technique with them. It proved difficult to get the iron to just the right temperature, so the two layers of plastic would fuse, but not melt.

I was really pleased with the result in the end..... it had the softness of the original piece, even though it was slightly more cloudy. I would use more delicate colours of tinselly fibres in future attempts. These are a little stark! But I knew I was getting closer.

Now I have saved the blue plastic that was wrapped round our Christmas Pacific Oysters. That is the trouble with being in a creative mode - you start to see possibilities in everything!

Since then I have heard from Carolyn, and she has Kindly shared the secret. But I am not going to tell you what it is.

It it is much more fun to find it out for yourself!

Sunday, January 20, 2008


I cannot claim to understand the pain and sadness and distress you have been facing - it is so different for each person and situation - but I do really feel for you in your pain and loneliness.

No doubt, there are plenty of well-meaning people who are trying to help you “bounce back” or ”find things to take your mind off your grief” or "move on."

But you don't need any of this. You need time to really feel sorry for yourself, because this is what gives meaning to what you have lost.
You do not bond into a partnership with another person - in this case, your Beloved - over 47+ years, and then get used to being alone in just a few weeks.

You need time to be still and quiet, to mull over things, to adjust your mind and thinking to the enormous change in your life. You do not necessarily need distractions, because these only take you away from the important process of going through the memories one by one, running your fingers over them, and then arranging them on the shelf of your life's experience in a way that is meaningful and satisfying.

It could be said that you really need time to "re-invent yourself."
And do you know, I think that grieving can be even harder for a creative person? Because if you do manage to get absorbed into a creative activity that keeps you busy, and disengages the stressing and grieving part of the brain, then you feel guilty about it, and can hold you back on the journey of working through your grief.
Then again, there may- or will - also come a time when you can use your art/craft to express your grief, record your memories, and reinforce those things that continue to give you pleasure.
But for a while, you may find that you are more at peace with something mindless, soothing, repetitive, so that you can let your mind wander over all that has happened and all that you face for the future.

I have fallen into the trap of using the word "time" repeatedly. You are probably tired of hearing it. "Time heals all wounds"...."Time will fill the gap." But what you are facing is here and now - and you must deal with in your way and at your own pace.
Yes, you need people around you.
You need people who will help with those practical and physical tasks that he used to do, or give you helpful advice in those areas of your life for which he used to take responsibility.
You need people to just be with you at some of those times when you feel your "oneness"most deeply - the mealtimes, the social functions, the celebrations.

Most of all, you need people who will listen, who will encourage you to ramble, who will ask you about your memories. You need people who are not afraid to mention his name, and who do not avoid or skirt about the subject of your loss. People need to show that your loved one was very real, and has not simply vanished as if he never existed.

Your friends cannot take away your pain. We can perhaps take opportunities to help you smile, or even laugh. We can tell you how much we care. And as you take the first faltering steps down the path that is the rest of your life - a path that only you can choose and map out - we can assure you that we will be there to support and encourage you.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

When anyone suggests that living on a remote island like Norfolk would make you feel isolated and cut off, I like to tell them that the world comes to us here.
We have visitors from near and far, people with enormous talents and interesting stories to tell. Some are famous, many are great achievers, most have wonderful things to impart.
And when they come, because this is a small island, we often have the opportunity to come close and listen and see for ourselves first hand what they are willing to share with us.
May I introduce just two of our visitors from the Christmas period.
This is Gabriel Cortez. Gabriel, who is from Brazil, came to spend a year in this part of the world as a Rotary Exchange student. For the first time, our local Rotary club has been able to host an international exchange student. Gabriel spent the first three months of his year here at Norfolk Island, and the remaining nine months in New Zealand. He stayed with the Kiernans out at Steele's Point, and attended our local school. Gabriel endeared himself to his peers, and to the community as a whole. And he became such an important part of the Kiernan family that they invited him to return and spend Christmas with them before he returned to Brazil.

Now Gabriel comes from a well-educated family - both his parents are doctors - and although they have servants at home, Gabriel was always there ready to pitch in with anything that needed to be done, including the cooking and washing up! His English improved tremendously during the year, but his initial lack of vocabulary did not deter him from being willing to ask questions and talk to us about his country both on a one-to-one basis, or up in front of a large group.

When we asked Gabriel what career he would like to pursue, he said his greatest passion was to become a chef. However, he knows he has a far more academic career mapped out for him, and he feels he owes it to his family to pursue this path. We are sure this fine confident young man, who is a wonderful ambassador for his country, will find a way to fulfil all his dreams, and make the world a better place in the process.

Gabriel with Jasmine and Ian Kiernan and his little "host sister" Jamie


On Boxing Day, we held a party for Pauline Barff- Reynolds and her husband George. Now Pauline is a Norfolk Islander, who went to live in Tahiti, and married George. They have two children - Oihanu, who is about 10, and Mauatua who is just on 3. Mauatua is named for her famous Tahitian ancestor, who became Fletcher Christian's wife.

Our Boxing Day Get-together to welcome Pauline and George

While our Norfolk visitors were in Tahiti in October 2006, Pauline was an absolute gem. Not only did she taking a leading role in organising the Bounty celebrations, but she made sure the visitors were properly welcomed and looked after, ably assisted by other Tahitian Bounty descendants. On many occasions Pauline was called on to act as an interpreter, and found herself switching between Tahitian, French, English and Norfolk!!! After the celebrations, Pauline opened her home on Huahine to several of the Norfolk visitors who had decided to stay on for a few days.

Pauline, flanked by two Tahitian friends, also "Bounty" descendants

George, meanwhile, is immensely proud of his Tahitian blood and heritage. He is a Tattooist, and his "product" is displayed on one whole half of his body, and is gradually starting to cover the other half!

George Barff, Mauatua with Pauline, and Bernie

Whenever George visits Norfolk Island with Pauline, he is kept very busy carrying out his profession. A number of people add to their tattoos each time he visits. Last time, Peter got two tattoos - a band around his ankle and another round his upper arm, both with a historical significance. This time he had George do a large Ti'i (similar to a Maori Tiki) on his right arm. I was going to ask if I could photograph them for this blog, but I did not like my chances!

When I was a young person, my mother would probably have warned me about associating with anyone who dared sport a tattoo! When Charles got one some years ago, his father was horrified, until he explained he had it done in the form of the Christian family crest! Now our daughter Miriam is even thinking about it, and would have got one on this last visit, but George's bookings were full!

Now we are strongly aware that Tattoos have important Polynesian cultural origins, and the word comes from the Tahitian word "tatau". Captain Cook introduced this word into the English language, and tattoos have long been associated with sailors!Fletcher Christian and his shipmates had tattoos placed on their buttocks while they soaked up the atmosphere and charms of Tahiti on that fateful Breadfruit expedition in 1788-9. The early missionaries actively discouraged the practice, but fortunately there were some more broadminded and culturally sensitive westerners who took the trouble to record many of the traditional designs.

A most interesting fact is that the traditional Polynesian tattoo designs give the strongest indication of the origins of the Polynesians. They bear a marked similarity to the designs of ancient pottery found in South-east Asia.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Yesterday, after giving both shower recesses, and also the staircase a bit of a clean, I gave myself permission to spend the rest of the day tidying my sewing room.

This is both a necessity and an indulgence. I really need to clear a bit of table space and a pathway across the floor before I can work any new projects. I also need to know where I can find some of my supplies and equipment.

A variety of supplies as diverse as Acrylic paints, inks, glues, fabric crayons, dolly pegs, jewelry chain, gold kid leather pieces, soap slivers, sequins, fabric "yo-yos", glitters and foil pieces, some homemade rubber stamps, a flower press, glues, and some bonding powder

However, in the tidying process, I am always likely to discover and re-discover treasures and special things I had forgotten about, and this leads me down paths of creative inspiration, enabling me to plan and dream about future projects and possibilities.

One task I wanted to perform yesterday was to label some of my containers, so I am not continually opening lids to see what is inside. I found myself making labels for a diverse variety of stuff, such as "Soap Slivers" (for marking fabric), Poly-clay faces, Sequins (now overflowing their container), "Glitters", "Shabby Chic flowers" (so named because these little artificial flowers I bought some years ago were featured on the Shabby Chic Show, and were described as "antique"), "Watch parts" (I have been saving these for years, waiting for just the right inspiration), "Dried Lavender", "Feathers", "Foils and Brass Tape"....the list goes on and on!

Some special old buttons in antique jars and containers - these include glass, mother-of-pearl and miniature "boot-buttons"

When I first started using my spare guilt-free time to create things. my supplies were limited to one shallow drawer of fabric, scissors, thread, a sewing machine, perhaps a tape measure and some hand needles, and almost certainly a stitch unripper.

Since then, my stash of supplies has grown so that it permeates almost every room of the house, including our spacious and all-too-convenient attic, not to mention umpteen hundreds of books and magazines to provide stimulating inspiration and eye candy! I do get given a lot of stuff - people always think of me when they need to dispose of crafty stuff - and I never say "No". People know to come to me whenever there is something they need, be it a particular shade of embroidery thread or tapestry wool, or a set of buttons in a particular size or colour. IAt times I feel like a Custodian of All Things Crafty.

A few more of my buttons - I have ben delighted to have some people favour me with their old button jars.

When I settled into the world of Crazy patchwork, I expanded my supplies to include lots of lace (especially old doileys), beads, braids, charms, ribbons, motifs, and every kind and colour of embroidery thread.

Dyeing and painting my own fabrics required another set of supplies, and diversions down the trails of silk ribbon embroidery, wool embroidery, and tatting also called for more stash and equipment - in every available colour of course!

Then I got my computer involved, and this meant finding mediums to enable me to transfer images to fabric.

Now my collections include fibres (silk, wool, and others), exotic yarns, all sorts of stiffeners and stabilisers, fusibles, foils, films and felts, sheers and tulles, glues and glitters and gels, all sorts of paints and papers, a heat gun and a needlefelter, and much more. And the bags of fabrics continue to grow and reproduce!

This little set of mini-drawers contain charms and dangly-bits. Old jewellery, including broken bits, are kept in other boxes.

Some of it I buy (trying to use only money I have made by selling stuff). But much of it I scrounge. Apart from what I am given or what people share with me, I buy much of what I use in the way of fabric and textiles and buttons from the Op shop. I find new uses for things I have had for years. I have a great supply of "cotton waste" fabric which was used for packing, and makes a wonderful backing for bags and wall hangings. I get tissue paper from old dress patterns, and recently found the Shoe store could give me as much as I need in plain white. The old Toy Box provides rubbing patterns, and blocks for making home-made stamps - I have resisted buying these (well, just two or three - or four!)

This drawer, in our bedroom, contains mostly glitzy and metallic fabrics. There are a couple of drawers just for pieces of silk, and two more for velvets.

And do you know, I have recently discovered I can make some wonderful things using just Freezer bags, a few splodges of paint and slivers of thread and tinsel.

You will notice none of my photos show my sewing room as a whole...that is because it is still a disaster area to the untrained eye. But when I start a new project, I will basically know where most things are.

One problem I have is "containers" - I just love to collect them - tins, jars, boxes. I cannot resist anything old, unusual or potentially useful. And I have far more containers than things to put in them, although I could quickly rectify that situation simply by breaking my current supplies down into more sub-categories. But what I do really need is more shelving space to put these containers. I must remind my Joiner son - I have only been waiting about three years!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

If you have been hearing about the weather problems in Coastal Queensland and Northern NSW, you may not have realised that little Norfolk Island has been on the other side of the big "low" that has been hovering over the area for about 2 1/2 weeks now.

When the rain started before Christmas, we were overjoyed, because any moisture at this time of year is a real blessing. No one minded that Christmas picnics and beach activities had to be put on hold. When the wet conditions continued, we really rejoiced, because this meant that water tanks were filling, and our parched gardens were having a much needed drink. As it continued on steadily for more days, actually enabling us to make our "annual average" by New Year's Eve, we noted that this would be helping to replenish our rather depleted underground water table, and streams would be running again.

It is mushroom weather - unfortunately these ones are not edible!

Then the cloud cover and rain changed to misty drizzle and fog. Every thing has become covered in mildew, and some of us started to feel as if we were suffer from the effects of "cabin fever" and light deprivation.

Although a hilly and volcanic island like Norfolk does not suffer from flood problems, there has been something of an "inland sea" on the flat area of Kingston Common to the south. This reminded us of the big December wet of 1989, when our boys, teenagers at the time, took their boats down there and sailed on the football oval, and clean over the fence of Government House.

We have tried not to grumble about the uncomfortable humidity, the mould on everything, the washing that will not dry, the electrical and electronic equipment that is affected by the dampness, and numerous minor inconveniences.

But there have been enormous difficulties for our airlines and our tourists and travellers. The planes from Australia have been unable to land in the wet foggy conditions, a problem comounded by a bout of mechanical difficulties the weekend before last. As I write, Friday's passengers have been unable to come or go. Visitors are stranded here, while those waiting to come have lost several days of their holidays, and have, understandably cancelled. Even a number of locals,have had their holiday plans frustrated and changed, and are unable to get away.
The shops are suffering, because the visitors need their funds and credit cards to pay for unexpected accommodation costs, and the new "wave" of potential shoppers have not arrived. Air New Zealand, flying different aircraft, and under a different regime and conditions, have been able to land, albeit with delays.

For our growers, it is grim - the summer lettuce have turned to mush, the tomatoes have split, the vine crops have rotted with mildew, and the young avocadoes and other fruits have been blown from the trees with the wind and the rain. We all face a lean time with regards to fresh fruit and vegetables over the coming months, as we do not import fresh produce. For us, it is always "seasonal" - and what a season it has been!

Nevertheless, we try to see the bright side. The island is beautiful and green, and the growth is lush. The cattle have plenty to eat.

The more tropical vegetation just loves the rain and humidity. Our vanilla plants, which have suffred in the last couple of years from the dryer conditions, have suddenly burst into flower.

There are toadstools and fungi all about, and when we have had some sun, I am sure there will be plenty of mushrooms . I found this little parade of fungi climbing a dead tree in the woodland - they actually climb much higher than the picture shows! It has also been reported that our luminous green fungi, once very common on the island, are re-appearing in gardens and wooded areas.

I am sure that Nature is rejoicing in this weather, even if we regard it as a mixed blessing!

The raindrops on the webs of our very friendly spiders make a really beautiful sight.

And there is beauty all around us. The day I first arrived on this island, 41 years ago, it was damp and misty, and I thought the sight of the pines in the mist very beautful.
Today, we hope some planes will be coming in. And the sun us trying very hard to shine!!

Friday, January 04, 2008


We received a Christmas card from a very old acquaintance, Don, who lives in Caboolture in Queensland. Inside the card were some old photos which brought back some fascinating memories.

Don Marsh worked with Bernie's brother Mick up in New Guinea back in the late 1950's. Bernie, who had also spent some time in Port Moresby, had also met Don on one or two occasions.

In about 1976, Don decided to come to Norfolk Island for a holiday, and we offered to put him up. At the time, we were pretty busy with four children aged 1, 2, 3 and 4 - but Don well and truly earned his keep by entertaining them and keeping them amused.

By day he would take Miriam and Charles on long walks all over the island. Although they were only 3 and 4 at the time, they both had great stamina, and never complained of being tired, something that amazed and delighted Don, who really enjoyed their company. The picture shows a picture Don took of them on one of the walks, down at Cascade.

In the evenings, Don would sit and draw pictures for them, and he would also regale them with wonderful tales. He told them he was named after a very famous duck, and to this day we all refer to him as Donald Duck. Another story he loved to tell was of his childhood on the Rock of Gibralter. He told us that as a very young child, he had gone missing from the garden. He said he was eventually found, he said, being nursed and suckled by one of the Barbary Apes!!

One day Don announced that as a project, he and the children would build a kite. We were sent off to find and cut suitable bamboo for the framework. Then we had to get loads of newspapers. I was kept busy in the kitchen for days making batch after batch of cornflour paste. It was an ambitious project, and the kite was going to be enormous!

Now around this time, there was a visiting Equestrian Instructor conducting classes on the Oval down next to Rawson Hall. Bernie was taking part in the lessons. On this particular day, I had taken the younger children down to watch the horses and riders, while Don and Miriam stayed behind to put the finishing touches to the kite.

Now I want you to imagine the scene - a line of well-groomed and well-trained horses lined up obediently, their riders positioned elegantly on their backs, listening to the instructions from the teacher. Suddenly all the horses startle, and a couple take off. We look to see what has unsettled them.

Through the gates of the Rawson Hall grounds comes Donald Duck, holding the gigantic kite, while little 4 year old Miriam dutifully trots behind him, holding the "tail."

They were quickly encouraged to take the kite out of sight to the valley behind. They did actually manage to get the huge kite into the air, but it crashed into the trees on its maiden flight, and was quite beyond repair. Never mind, they were content, the whole experience had been enormous fun.

And more serendipity....

The other day, while waiting for Bernie to finish a phone call, I had a play on Google with "Serendipity." For what it is worth, here is a little of what I learned:
*Although coined in 1754, the use of the word was very uncommon until 1960! It was also around this time that the adjective "serendipitous" came into use.

*Since that time, its use has exploded, and is frequently used commercially to name businesses and product lines. Here on Norfolk Island for a while we had a shop called "Serendipity," which was quite appropriate because the owner came from Sri Lanka.

*Many think the meaning of the word is in danger of becoming diluted and debased. In the dictionary it is close to the words "serene" and "serenade", and is in danger of just being associated with anything that is charming, pleasant, and with "feel good" associations.

*In response to my blog, and my description of finding something useful for my craft when I was looking for groceries, someone (I suspect it was my daughter)commented:"It's called getting side-tracked. I do it all the time. People hate it!"

*An American journalist, William McKeene, wrote a piece in which he bemoaned the fact that modern technology may be putting serendipity in danger. We type specific subjects into search engines instead of browsing and thumbing through the books in a library . We get our news headlines online instead of browsing through a newspaper. We download particular music onto our ipods etc, and only listen to those, instead of being exposed to a wide variety of music on the radio. Each member of the family listens to their own favourite music, watches their own TV shows etc, instead of getting to sample what other people and family members enjoy, and perhaps discovering they enjoy them too!

Now I partly agree with these sentiments, but I have to insist that my sessions surfing the net, although they may start with a specific purpose, have often led me on the most wonderful trails of discovery, and I have well and truly enjoyed being "sidetracked"!

*I was truly amazed to find, on just the fifth page of my google-trip, that someone on the other side of the world had posted a piece in their blog titled "Serendipity" - on 2nd January 2008, the same day as mine!

*As William McKeene said:

"We must allow ourselves to be surprised. We must relearn how to be human, to start again as we did as children - learning through awkward and bungling discovery. Otherwise, when it's all over and we face the Distinguished Thing, we will have led extremely efficient but monstrously dull lives."

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Serendipity is a word whose sound is as beautiful and charming as its meaning.

It refers to circumstances and situations where one makes fortuitous and happy discoveries unexpectedly, while actually seeking something else.

Believe it or not, it is a "made-up" word, in the sense that we know clearly who first used it, and in what sense. An English writer, Horace Walpole, first coined the term in 1754, when writing to a friend about an old Persian fairytale called "The Three Princes of Serendip" - Serendip being an old name for Ceylon or Sri Lanka. These three princes evidently were given to making accidental discoveries - not always useful at the time, mind you - but they came upon them when suddenly presented with a surprising array of observations and circumstances. The discoveries were in many ways quite incidental to the original purpose of their journeys.

I got to thinking about this the other day when I made an unexpected discovery in the Supermarket. I was probably looking for celery or mushrooms, but my eye was caught by this particular display of cheap children's toys and trinkets that they usually have on a rack at the end of each aisle. It was the glitter that caught my eye - ten narrow tubes of different colours, something I thought could be useful in my craftwork. But it was only when I was unhooking a couple of packets to put in my trolley that I saw the adhesive foam pads. The picture does not show it clearly, but each pad has dozens of different little shapes - circles, rings, diamonds, squares. The idea is that you separate a shape, dip it in glitter, then stick it to the corresponding shape on the black background to make a mosaic picture.

However, I will have an entirely different use. When the children were small, I used to cut Christmas shapes out of "Dr Scholl's Footpads" and glue them to wooden blocks, and using these in combination with red and green stamp pads, we produced our own Christmas cards and wrapping paper. Now I have used these little adhesive foam shapes to make patterns on wooden blocks, and I will use these as stamp patterns for decorating papers and fabrics.

That was probably my last serendipitous discovery for 2007!

Serendipity, by its very definition, is not something you go looking for. It finds you. But it is not merely a case of luck, or chance or coincidence, either. I believe that it happens more to some people than others, because they create the right environment for it to occur.

You need to have both open eyes and an open mind.

It helps if you are creative, resourceful and observant.

You probably need to cultivate the gift of "intuition", by taking more interest in the people and world around you.

If you are going to sit at home waiting for something good to happen - it won't!

You must treat life as an adventure, and go down new paths and towards new horizons.

And when something good and fortuitous happens to you, you must recognize it and welcome it.
It is often a case of wanting what you get, instead of always trying to get what you want!

Serendipity has led to some of Technology's and Science's most wonderful discoveries, when someone observes what really happens instead of just looking for what he or she expects to happen - and then asks why!

But Serendipity can also be a delightful faculty to be enjoyed by the creative artist. It involves learning a new use for an old medium - and using an old technique in a new medium. It means making wonderful new discoveries as a result of your mistakes. It means not being hidebound by instructions or what other people do and expect. It involves looking at everything with fresh eyes, and asking not only why, but also what if?

My resolution for 2008 is to welcome more Serendipity into my life.

And I wish you a Serendipitous year too!!

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