Sunday, June 10, 2012


The colour green is often associated with healing, endurance and growth; stability and strength. 

I love this little green and gold tray. Its made in Italy and is papier mache apparently. My friend uses it to store her spices on and found it at a garage sale or something. I have lots of lovely things but it doesn't stop me wanting more lovely things like this little tray. 

I like going to her house to stitch and sit in her tidy child-free space and talk about all sorts of interesting things. She's a policy analyst and has an intelligent mind.I enjoy these visits a lot. She is also a fervent knitter and so together we enjoy our handmade past times and weave tales about this and that.

Overall, it was still a very good week. I got several thank you cards in the mail, including a wee package from dear friend Melissa, who also sent me this lovely embroidered needlebook. I had admired just this one last week at Te Papa. It now lives in my sewing tin and I get lots of comments. Mostly, what is a needle book for? Check out her shop, she has a few good things listed there. All the best too Melissa on your new journey. x

I've had a quiet week, taking care of the basics, stitching and feeling a bit muddled. I am really good when I have things to be about, but after an eventful few weeks, I think I crashed a little. Not overthinking it though, I just quietened my life down and only did the essentials. Self-care after all these years is still really important. Knowing when to push forward and when to fall back and gather my senses again. 

Thank God I no longer battle with depression but mood swings can still catch me out. My family are undemanding and my husband supportive at whatever place I find myself at. Its rare to find people who can admit they are weak sometimes, frail, vulnerable. Society applauds our successes but frowns on mistakes, flaws and yes, I'll say it again, weakness. 

I have no choice, when I'm low, that's what it is. I enjoy the freedom to be real and truthful about it. Amazing how much more relate-able we are when we drop our defenses and pretenses. It allows others to be themselves too. And when life is good, it is very good for me. Has anyone else noticed that creative people soar and drop like seagulls? Some of my favourite heroes in the bible did the same. David, Elijah and yes, Jesus wept, raged and often had to leave the crowds to get some peace and quiet, pray and gather his thoughts.

I was invited to create a meaningful design for a special lad's first birthday. My friend Amanda is a chef, she bakes wonderful artistic cakes and it was a real privilege to design something for her and little Mika, who I've yet to meet. It was his first birthday, and his first year as a premature baby has seen him overcome some major obstacles in life. 

My little Polynesian turtle design with lotus flower

The incredible cake that Amanda created. 
Did you Know...

The Leatherback Turtle 

The leatherback turtle is the largest turtle in the world and lives mostly in the Pacific Ocean. Though small at birth, it grows up to 7 feet long/wide and weighs on average 900 kgs. Its the fourth largest reptilian in the world, there are three crocodilian  before it.  They must overcome huge obstacles, predators and conditions when they are young and it takes a long time for them to reach maturity. Once they have reached maturity, there are few predators that can overcome them. Their bodies, unlike other turtles, are able to self-modify to the temperature changes in the different areas of the world. This allows them to travel great distances. And travel they do. They also dive the deepest distances, 1280ft and for up to 85 minutes. They love to eat jellyfish and cephlapods. The females will always return to their place of birth but the males will spend their lives at sea.

The turtle, starts small and has to overcome many difficulties. It is a humble creature having none of the defences of others of its scale like sharks and crocodiles. Instead it lives its life travelling throughout the many oceans of the world having the capacity to adapt itself to the extreme temperatures. It is listed as an endangered animal. The turtle is a symbol throughout the world for long life (longevity), support, wisdom and peace. 

The Lotus Flower

The lotus grows in difficult circumstances, deep in the ground, buried in mud and away from the sun, but eventually the lotus reaches the light and becomes the worlds most beautiful bloom. It remains untouched from the mud where it originated and is a symbol of purity. Likewise man is also challenged to overcome that which surrounds him to become light and beauty in the world. To bring forth in himself that which is good, true and right. To be a light for those around him. A source of beauty, inspiration and hope. The lotus flower reminds us of the miracle of life, that good things can come from struggle and that man is not just the sum of where he comes from but also what he carries for the future. A lotus is more than a plant in the mud, with time and light and struggle, it reveals itself to the world in all its wonder, and those who see it are awed and reminded of the beauty that is within them too. 


Gold (yellow) ... precious, valuable, important, 
Green for healing, endurance and growth; stability and strength. 

The head is made up of two koru's (spirals) representing Mika's two mothers with crowns.
The front flippers are sunshine for love, which is what leads the way. The back flippers are growth for strength and vitality like strong fronds on the coconut tree and ponga tree.

God bless you Mika and your family. I pray that like the turtle you will grow stronger and become a man who impacts the world, like the turtle, with your gentle presence. Like the Lotus, may your current struggles and difficulties be the story behind you, may these challenges strengthen you, and may your life be a light and hope to all those who will know you throughout your life.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

on the work table ...

I'm always intrigued by people's processes. My friend Nina's work table is always compelling, check out a work in progress HERE and her amazing blog ORNAMENTAL here. She makes beautiful narrative jewellery. In fact it was Nina that kick started my more intentional making several years ago when I stumbled across her work in a book and made contact with her online.  We've been corresponding for several year now and I'm still inspired by her 'eye', her magpie collections of interesting things (we are all gatherers folk like us), her poetic writing and her ability to take the everyday things around us and weave a beautiful tale. 

I'd always fiddle faddled around with stuff but her work brought into focus this idea of creating visual narratives. Layers of meaning using various materials. I am still playing about with bits and pieces to this day and was pleasantly surprised at the recent Handmade symposium to find that other people found it interesting as well. But then why should that surprise me? A good story is always welcome isn't it? 

I'm taking a few days R&R. We have just entered into winter here and that has always effected my moods. With the help of many people, we have been accomplishing a lot in the past month. I'm trying to be wise, to balance family life and everything else that's happening around me. I have enjoyed sitting here quietly stitching some little pieces inspired by a couple of postcards I picked up at Te Papa Museum on the weekend. 

I find that playing around and mulling through things is really helpful. I listen to audio books and am really enjoying Lisa Bevere's Lioness series having heard her speak recently in Wellington (some free ones HERE). I enjoy TED Talks too and Jill Bolte's talk  was really inspiring. A female scientist for a start is fascinating alone. Lots of interesting people with different ways of looking at things. I hope I never stop learning. And I've always loved books but don't have the time to sit and read like I used to. Thank goodness for podcasts and downloadables. 

I've always got a small project on me to add a few more stitches too. These are more light hearted things, restorative things. A few days to sit and mull and pray are exactly what this girl needs.

The red flag is Samoa who have also just celebrated  their 50th Jubilee of Samoan Independence on the 1st June.  My grandfather was Samoan, from the Grey family in Apia. The one to the right of course is the British flag in commemoration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

I picked these postcards up from the gift shop in Te Papa while I was working. There's lots of lovely work in there by New Zealand artists. Well worth viewing.

New Zealand's first flag, the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand, was adopted before New Zealand became a British Colony. Chosen by an assembly of Maori chiefs in 1834, the flag was of a St George's Cross with another cross in the canton containing four stars on a blue field. (Wikipedia)

The second postcard is an interesting combination of the British flag and a hula skirt. One symbolises a conservative 'proper' institution, the other is designed to beguile and entertain. There is nothing more beautiful than a Pacific beauty doing the hula. 

I'm always inspired by the Pacific Collection. Having children of Niuean and Cook Island descent, means weaving my husband and I's heritage  into my narrative to create our story.If you go to Auckland Museum, the woman who helped display the Pacifica collection of artifacts including jewellery like this was sitting in my class last week. What a prize she was with all her knowledge. She also looked after the button collection. That has to be the best job in the world.  
Our country has had a bit of a jolt.  Tame Iti and his colleagues went to prison on charges of terrorism. While I don't advocate violence ever as a means of resolving conflict, I still believe the media and the justice and political system strong armed the whole case. I'm still astounded at the ignorance of those who call New Zealand home towards its indigenous peoples and their way of living. His tribe never signed the Treaty. They have always seen themselves as an independent state for goodness sake. 

If I lived in China, I would have to speak Chinese and roll with Chinese laws. If I lived in your home, I'd have to roll the way you roll and negotiate my way with you. Here, many of our people have to fight to hold onto their culture. And its awful to watch them labelled as trouble makers and have all their weaknesses flaunted as an excuse to why 'our' way is not acceptable. 

My heart is heavy. I know God hates His children fighting and frankly, I feel that in this case, we were bullied into submission again. A case of 'sit down Maori boy and know your place'. How could a few Maori fight the police and the legal system? It was stacked and lots of information was withheld, creating even more public confusion and feeding the fear and racism that is alive and kicking in certain sectors of our society.

Political views from a Christian woman who stands in both worlds, well, I'm just a complete contradiction on all fronts hey. I don't speak Te Reo and some would say that disqualifies me from my right to speak on behalf of Maori. I am a Christian, and some would say that's a white man's religion and it killed more people than it helped historically. And I'm a woman. Actually, that's seen as a strength these days. Anyway, so what. I'm no expert and I don't profess to be qualified to have anything other than my own opinion and feelings about these things but commonsense tells me that when they started throwing around loaded words like 'terrorist' and bombs, well, game over isn't it?

I'm all good. My Nan told me my skin, my round face, my flat nose and big lips, and the blood running through my veins qualify me. I wish you knew her. She was so strong. I remember as a little girl, she would head from house to house in our small settlement recruiting for Mana Motuhake party. She was a physical woman too, one of my favourite memories is her nailing down the down the roof on our little house in a gale storm. Come on! And I'm her mokopuna, she raised me and my brothers. There was no way I was ever gonna be a quiet woman. Nina Simone's song is a solid favourite of mine cos it reminds us all we all got something to be grateful for. 

I sidestep politics simply because I know that its a waste of time expecting a small group of people (politicians) to bring solutions to the masses. They only get 4-12 years to make a difference, we have our whole lives. 

 I believe the masses, that's us, need to find our own solutions. Forming friendships, communities that are outward looking, caring for one another and resourcing one another with what we already have. Simpler lifestyles, recycling things we no longer use to other folk, things like furniture and clothing, making stuff, sharing, swapping, and visiting the shops less. Being resourceful and yes, going without. My husband and I have not bought any new clothes for ourselves for the longest time. We live on a single income and its a squeeze but it means there's a parent at home for the kids. Its a simple way of life we live, not easy and sometimes it gets tight, but its our way of taking care of our family within our means. I appreciate everyone has to find what works for them too. That's the beauty of having freedom to make one's own choices.

Don't get me wrong, we love luxuries like op shopping, a good coffee and every couple of years we enjoy staying in a hotel. Due to the distances we travel, we use two cars but our kids walk to and from school when the weather allows, and for my eldest, that's over an hours walk. And inexpensive housing, there's people working on affordable solutions who I salute. I love Habitat for Humanity, they are an incredible solution.

I don't like those stickers with your name on it. You know, when you go to conferences etc so I stitched my own. I worked on this one while sitting through an invigorating church meeting last night. It was only this morning that I realised that my name isn't Ahipara Girl is it! So I'm sitting here laughing at myself and have no problem admitting that a few day's rest are in order. xxx


Check out all these monkeys you've made!!! Check out our Facebook page HERE and see photos of all the different kinds of monkeys that have been created by so many people and most rewardingly, see some of the kids who've received them. x
Olivia and Elijah took the first batch of sock monkeys to Starship Hospital in Auckland last week. FIFTY monkeys for fifty kids in hospital. Well done everyone. They were absolutely gorgeous, all with different personalities and quirks, just like sock monkeys should and all razzled up in just three weeks.

Our page on Facebook 'The Great Sock Monkey Challenge' has 300 followers already in its first month. We were interviewed by a lovely reporter from the Dominion Post (you can read it HERE) so hope that continues to inspire makers and newbies to join us in our quest to get 1000 monkeys out children who have a critical of long term illness. The photos of the kids with their monkeys have started rolling in on our page and its just wonderful. Cancer sucks. Sick kids break my heart and stints in hospital with my boys over the years for minor things (by comparison), I want to respond with something positive.

My friend Olivia and I are sold out to meeting our challenge. On the face of it, it doesn't seem much (its a pair of socks and some stuffing after all) until you see the pictures of the kids who receive their monkeys. And with all the crafty makers we know, its seems an obvious solution to us. 

Our first free sock monkey making workshop is happening on the 16 June at Holland Road Yarn Company in Petone.  We will be running more so make sure to give Tash a ring and get your name on the list.

Making monkeys is lots of fun. and Monkeys have literally taken over our home. Here's a few of mine that went to Handmade 2012 to share the love and promote our challenge. 

This little guy was made for my son from a pair of his outgrown socks. We only use new materials for our hospital bound monkeys but you can make them for your kids from all those odd socks that come out of the laundry, one of the world's mysteries really how two go in and only comes out. See below for instructions, they are a simple and satisfying project and gift. xxx


 I've attached a tutorial below for you if you would like to make one and can't make our workshops, or just want to get started. You only need a pair of socks, some fibre fill and basic sewing skills. Check your seams are strong as are button eyes. Although a sewing machine is used here, its not compulsory. I've made lots completely handstitched. All sock monkeys can be sent 151 Cuba Street, Wellington. Cheers. x


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A restful day yesterday after a hectic couple of weeks. Rich and I were child free and decided to go on a date. We headed to Trash Palace, our local recycling centre here in Porirua. I had exactly $20 and challenged myself to find some goodies. Here's what I found plus a few industrial storage containers I found a couple of weeks ago. Check it out. x

I found this skirt yesterday and the bag a couple of weeks ago. The bag cost me $3. I was so happy because I've been after a big bag for a while. Its a bit trendy for me but I like that its red and recycled. I usually like more earthy styles.
Chuffed with my new skirt found in the clothing bins. Its worth digging around in them, just kick the darn thing first so you don't get a fright if there's a rat in there! I saw one once, it was huge one, obviously one of the dump rats. Gah.

This beautiful handknit colourful doiley .

I remember these little dolls. I have a small collection of them now. Well three, I already had one. 

Old skool strainers, two for tea leaves and one larger one for sifting icing sugar over a cake.

Another chrome toaster holder.

Super large milk bottle carrier with a rusted label. 

A blackboard and the milk bottle holder. 

Best find of the day! My new blue green Smith-Corona Typewriter. I had others but I kept giving them away. This one is mine to keep. Love that colour. x
Love that sea green with those pops of red. 

Playing around with my new stuff.

I found these two sets of shelves with little drawers a fortnight ago. I got these and the large cashbox below for $5 total. I have never wanted a bigger home with a studio ever as much as I have in the last couple of years. x

The cashbox is huge. x
I like seeing what other people find when they are op shopping. What have you found lately? x

Monday, June 4, 2012

Handmade 2012

Little Richie checks out the exagerrated knitting in the knit lounge run by Holland Road Knit Company

Handmade 2012, what a steep but enjoyable learning curve for me. My first time as a tutor and my second time attending. I was too busy to attend any classes and next year I shall endeavour to go hear some of the guru's that attended. I love Rosemary McCloud's textiles and wish that I had been able to attend her lectures. There were a few New Zealand interior and fashion designers, as well as master chefs and makers. I think if you are a seasoned maker, those intensives are well worth attending. You get to sit and glean from people who have spent years in their field, to gain from their wealth of knowledge and experience.
I loved seeing friends I've made over the past several years, both online and now in person. As I get older, quality friendships become even more valuable. People I've known for years. Friends like Betty-Ann who continues to be my cheerleader. She prompted me, encouraged me and cajoled me into getting my application as a tutor in last year. She constantly offered her help and support, her kind words fuelling my belief in myself because until we do it, we don't always know we can. And she buys me food and coffees. 

Friends like that are precious. Last year I sat in Melissa's class awed to finally meet someone I had admired for years via her famous blog, Tiny Happy. Now she is a good friend and we are involved in a small community project together. Tash is a young business woman. She owns the successful specialty yarn store in Petone, Holland Road Yarn Company and runs a great knit lounge at Handmade symposium. Tash is supporting The Great Sock Monkey Challenge (link to Facebook page), another project that I am proud to be a part of and its great to be part of her journey. Both women good hearts and are passionate about what they do. 

My classes were awesome. I felt so privileged that people valued my personal way of working with textiles.  I enjoyed encouraging others to value their own stories, to explore and develop ways of working that are meaningful and important to them. I especially enjoyed hearing their own takes on their motifs and even peering into their beautiful sewing boxes and stashes. I must've been particularly blessed with students. They kept returning throughout the weekend to show me their completed works and to tell me how good it had felt to be in my class.

Saturday morning I prayed that every person that attended my class would not only gain a few new skills but more importantly would leave feeling better about themselves than when they came in. I believe that people are the experts in their own lives and this includes their capacity to create and express themselves. I know that with enough encouragement and a bit of guidance, with lots of practice and mistakes, we eventually will find our own voice as a maker. Eventually people do want to do their own work but we all start by copying others. As our confidence and knowledge grows, so does our work.

Ok, so maybe this is only for me. But the one thing I kept telling myself was to just be myself. To keep it real and keep it about the students. I enjoyed handing out lollipops to women 40+ and opening the button tins and telling them to dig in with abandon. I loved seeing people get the same materials and turn them into completely unique little works of handmade joy. I loved seeing women who no doubt have very full lives sit down and play for a couple of hours with fabric, buttons, ideas and stitching. I couldn't give away enough stuff. My whole focus was on giving as a teacher.

By no means am I a strong artist. I can't paint to save myself and my own sewing machine baffles me constantly. What I do know is that my classes are not about art or craft, they are about people. About people knowing they are important and valued, that their lives have meaning and giving them the opportunity to celebrate their victories and honour the people who got them to where they are. A chance to develop their narratives and write new chapters by standing on the strength of their stories. To explore what is important to them and guide them through a small process to express that through cloth and stitch. I am so proud of my students. I am chuffed and believed I delivered what I set out to do. And as a first time tutor that is a pretty good outcome. 

Here are just a few pictures of Handmade 2012 from my bat phone. Sorry they are not great quality and Google+ editing suite leaves a lot to be desired. And I apologise that I only managed to get photos of two of my four classes. To all those who came to my classes, a heartfelt thanks from me to you. To the organisers who did a smashing job, well done, I can't wait for next years one. And to those of you who thought about it this year, make sure you come next year. We're all normal people who put our underpants on one leg at a time too. ;)

Ruby, Shelley and Sharon and their own take on a tribal banner. Sharon, from Christchurch made a banner  for her son's family who have just built their first home. Shells was for her daughter Leila who loves all things blue. And Ruby entered hers into the Your Home and Garden magazine competition. I hope she wins. She has a real strong sense of design and is unafraid to try new things. I love her temporary tattoos too. 

Tribal banners. They looked dynamic in person and every one has its own story.
"Molo Sisi" means 'my sister' (South Africa) x

Day 2  We had Maori Television filming in class. It was exciting and intense at the same time. It was all about Hinetekawa (the young girl at the front) and I working together to help her create a taonga. She learned to thread a needle and sew her first project. I was so proud of her and hearing her speak Te Reo Maori warmed my heart. Its really hard work filming. We had to go over things again and again making it look natural every time. And the crew were awesome. The other class members were great sports. They are seated behind Terina, Hinetekawa's mum. Some travelled from around the country to be here today. My heart was happy to have the Maori crew there. What a privilege for us all. 
Day One, Handstitched Narrative Jewellery
What great women in all my classes. As it was my first time teaching at this capacity, I wasn't sure how people would find my way of teaching. Luckily most of these ladies were familiar with stitching and they really only needed permission to play and they were away. One lady came especially to do this class. I was humbled by every person who came. I saw beautiful heirlooms, one lady had her grandmothers wooden sewing box, another had a little notebook full of beautiful typography. Everyone had a story. Everyone had something close to their heart they wanted to express. Creating a small wearable that was meaningful, swapping tales, lollipops and buttons. It was really special for me to see the way they took on what I shared and incorporated it into their works. x

Lovely little handstitched narratives that were turned into necklaces and brooches. x
I have some community projects coming up and life has taken a turn this year as I turn my focus more outwards than ever. I realised a couple of months ago that I wanted to spend my life encouraging and building people, not working 9-5 building a career. My dear husband agreed and together we have decided to continue on one income at a time when many women start to rejoin the workforce and contribute to their family income. For us both, our heart is for others, especially those who struggle in life. I look forward to sharing more adventures here with you all as things take shape. I am always thankful for my family's support behind me, my faith and the people who surround me, cheering me on.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Queen Elizabeth II

Happy Birthday Queen Elizabeth. I love the way you know who you are. I love that you are a strong female leader who has given her life to the service of others. Politics aside, you are a great mentor. It cannot be easy living your whole life so publicly. You're presence, your grace, your dignity and your strength inspire me. I hope your family spoils you rotten. You deserve it. x

My favourite photographs were captured by Annie Liebovitz. She is the light queen. x

Always in the public spotlight, its easy to forget that famous people are still people after all. x

Queen Elizabeth I was herself an inspiration. Born to lead. 

Strength, dignity, sovereign.

Andy Warhol's print. What I wouldn't give for one of these!

Today my husband and I are child-free, thanks to a doting grandfather who has freed us of our boys. We are heading up to Trash Palace for a dig around with a princely sum of $20, a walk along the beach and a decent cup of coffee. What are you doing for this auspicious occasion. I am making cake tonight for my boys. A chocolate affair with lashings of cream, yoghurt and boysenberries. A restful way to spend the Queens Birthday after a busy weekend teaching at Handmade 2012. I shall write more on that later. Enjoy your day. x