Saturday, March 28, 2009


Ashes by Jennifer Khoshbin who is a carver of books. (see more of Khoshbin's prints here)

Most, if not all, cultures have used the spiral as a positive symbol. It has been associated with the cycles of life. Cycles of birth, death and rebirth. Cycles of time and growth, nature and her seasons.

Spirals found at Newgrange, Ireland. It has been suggested that they relate to the solar cycle. Read more here. Intriguing!

Container with spiral decoration, Bronze and Iron Age, Late period, 300B.C. - 200 A.D. Thailand. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Spiral Meditation by Kalyna Pidwerbesky. Felt and fibre.

Spot of Spiral Tea by Christie Reynolds at New York Art Exchange.

Sweet grass basket sculpture by Debora Muhl.

Cell Division by Patrick Dougherty
"Dougherty's works allude to nests, cocoons, hives, and their lairs built by animals, as well as the manmade forms of huts, haystacks, and baskets, created by interweaving branches and twigs together. Many of his works look 'found' rather than made, as if they were created by the natural force of a tornado sweeping across the landscape. He intentionally tries for this effortless effect, as if his creations just fell or grew up naturally in their settings." - Linda Johnson

Brick Things by Bennett Blackburn

Land Art by Jim Denevan

"Jim Denevan makes freehand drawings in sand. At low tide on wide beaches Jim searches the shore for a wave tossed stick. After finding a good stick and composing himself in the near and far environment Jim draws-- laboring up to 7 hours and walking as many as 30 miles. The resulting sand drawing is made entirely freehand with no measuring aids whatsoever. From the ground, these drawn environments are experienced as places. Places to explore and be, and to see relation and distance. For a time these tangible specific places exist in the indeterminate environment of ocean shore. From high above the marks are seen as isolated phenomena, much like clouds, rivers or buildings. Soon after Jim's motions and marks are completed water moves over and through, leaving nothing."

Hundertwasser regarded the spiral as a symbol of life and death.

"Our earth describes a spiral course. We move in circles, but we never come back to the same point. The circle is not closed. We only pass the same neighbourhood many times. It is characteristic of a spiral that it seems to be a circle but is not closed."

"The spiral shows life and death in both directions. Starting from the center, the infinite small the spiral means birth and growth, but by getting bigger and bigger the spiral dilutes into the infinite space and dies off like waves who disappear in the calm waters.
On the contrary if the spiral condenses from outer space, life starts from the infinite big, the spiral becomes more and more powerful and concentrates into the infinitely small which cannot be measured by man because it is beyond our conception and we call it death." - Hundertwasser

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Even with urbanization the ancient tradition of Lobola is still very much alive in Africa. Lobola is a dowry paid by a prospective husband to the family of the bride. Though payment in cows is the old way, new traditions are creeping in and many families are requesting cash payments rather than cattle.

The idea for carving this door came from the story about a young woman my mum met at the Hair Salon. Thembi was a shampooist there and much to the delight of customers she would regail them with stories about the waitressing job she did in the evenings. Though she had been engaged to marry for well over a year the couple didn't seem any closer to setting a wedding date because it was taking so long to raise the money to buy the cows for her Lobola. Thembi was proud of the fact that she was worth 20 cows but she was also exhausted since she was having to waitress in addition to her day job at the salon so as to help her fiance raise the cash.

In modern society one would think that Lobola would be less serious then it used to be but apparently the families of both bride and groom would be mortified if this custom was not adhered to. It is quite a formal affair with the two families meeting to negotiate the bride price, often with tensions running high. A bottle of brandy is usually placed in the middle of the table to relax the two parties. It seems to set the mood for calmer discussions whether the bottle is opened or not. Negotiations take one or two days though I've heard of a case where 6 months later the price had still not been decided upon.

P.S. See if you can find the cow with the crumpled horn.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


What a treat! Vineeta at Artnlight interviewed me and has posted a very generous article with photos galore, here. Pop on over and see what you think. If you aren't familiar with this gorgeous blog ( I know many of you are) be prepared for a long browse. Pour yourself a cuppa and enjoy!

Friday, March 20, 2009


Today I carved 6 cows. This is quite a feat considering the procrastinating I've been doing all week. Just one cow...I said to myself. Once I had my workbench set up in the courtyard I had this bright idea that I should get all my phone calls out of the way before starting work. Then I noticed the courtyard was looking messy so perhaps I should get that cleaned up too. This has been happening day after day but today I caught myself in the act. I will nail your foot to the floor if I have to, but you will carve one cow! And I did. The next thing I knew, six carved cows were looking at me. I'm not usually a procrastinator when it comes to my work especially if I have an idea sketched out and ready to proceed but since Christmas I have allowed myself to be swept along in any direction except the most important one.

I now keep a notebook next to me while I work so that I can write down all the things "I must do right now", then I threaten myself with the nailed foot treatment and make sure I put in at least an hour's work before rushing off to do chores. Invariably I end up doing more than a few hours carving.

I've prepared my bundle for Seth's Disintegration Project. It has been buried in a shallow grave under the Bottle Brush tree for 3 days now. I decided to bury mine after reading about artist Christina Oiticica (who also happens to be Paul Coehlo's wife) who buries her art works for about a year and a part of the art process.

Kalahari deposited this bundle of joy on my doorstep today. I love book parcels on a Friday just in time for the weekend.

1. Natural Fashion by Hans Sylvester
2. Rivers and Tides (DVD) by Andy Goldsworthy
3. Tissue Salts for Healthy Living by Margaret Roberts
4. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This evening I was fortunate enough to have a long chat to Leslie who phoned from the States as part of the informal discussion she mentioned in this post.........What is it that I want from my creativity? And what does my creativity want from me? Leslie, a gentle, soft spoken angel disguised as a Life Coach, patiently discussed ways to overcome the frustrations that get in the way of creation. I was grinning inside by the time I put the phone down.

And as if that wasn't enough Priya's exquisite drawing made me sit with mouth agape.

What a great day!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


The first time I saw these beautiful art pieces by Lissa Hunter my heart began to race because I knew I was looking at something extraordinary. 

Nancy's Choice

Lissa Hunter's trademark is the small hand coiled baskets mounted in wall boxes. The baskets are covered with paper and these become the "canvas" upon which she paints, draws and adorns.

The Gathering by Lissa Hunter

"Saying that Lissa Hunter makes baskets is a bit like saying that Picasso doodled. She does. He did. But in both cases the work transcends those simple categories.Hunter's baskets are about life, loss, love and death. " - Christine Temin, New England Home, May/June 2007

Fade to black
"First she's a basket maker. First and foremost, and still. First she makes coiled baskets, precise, neat, colorful. Then she covers the exteriors, skins them in paper, paint and texture.
And her point is that when you approach them, they are--what? Ceramic? You can't tell . Adorned with leather, leaves and beads. But when you look inside, there are fiber coils. Discovery, magic. To perform this magic you have to pick them up, handle them. That's what the paper and paint were there to protect and to allow in the first place.
Now the baskets are set in little niches, precisely their size, made for them. The niches are cut into slabs made for walls. To be seen. Hands off, the discovery inside no longer possible, no longer permitted.
So the secret of the baskets has been buried? Is this a cenotaph? Are these baskets votive offerings? Do they hold invisible remains? Are they empty?" -- John Edwards , from the catalogue for Histories.

These are the same thoughts going through my mind whilst looking at them.

If the pieces appeal to you, you're in for a treat at Lissa's website here. There are stories behind some of the works which provide fascinating reading.

Late bloomer


More than you know



Tuesday, March 17, 2009


While paging through an old magazine I came across the photograph above.

Intrigued, I googled the name Demarkersvan and discovered a young design team based in Rotterdam who produce security fencing with a difference.

Joep Verhoeven, one of the young Demakersvan designers came up with this idea as part of his graduation project. He is utilizing traditional Dutch lace making techniques to change ordinary chain link security fencing into works of art.

Industrial fencing meets traditional lace. Ingenious!

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Over a period of 6 years, renowned photographer Hans Silvester photographed peoples of the Omo Valley. It is a very remote area in Ethiopia. Wild and unspoiled. The Surma and Mursi Tribes take great pleasure in decorating themselves with the glorious pigments available in this volcanic region.

White kaolin, ochre-red, copper green, luminous yellow and ash grey.

In addition to the pigments all manner of materials from the surroundings are added to the "fancy dress".

Flowers, leaves, grasses, berries and seed pods

.....shells, butterfly wings, animal horns and tails

....... sometimes the odd modern accoutrements such as glass beads, bottle caps and bullet casings.

These joyful people are walking masterpieces of abstract art. Marked with spots and stripes, stars and circles. The first time I saw the photographs, I thought they were contrived but apparently not. We are looking at the expression of a joyful spirit. The ancestral art of body painting together with headdress are part fashion, part protection from the sun and also part trophy display.

See more here.

Books available:

Ethiopia: Peoples of the Omo Valley (Set of 2 volumes) by Hans Silvester
Natural Fashion by Hans Silvester

Friday, March 6, 2009


There is the slightest nip in the air at dawn and after sundown. As the day progresses and the heat starts steaming off the earth I actually wonder if I imagined it ......but at least Autumn is trying to make an appearance and I can anticipate beautiful mellow days carving in the courtyard again.

The last few days have been about gastric flu and major plumbing excavations in our back yard. How the two happened upon us at the same time is a cruel trick of fate.....but we've survived it. Amazing how this virus operates. We all gathered at one house to welcome family visiting from Australia. A day later the virus hit everyone who attended the gathering at exactly the same time.....leaving us all flapping like beached fish, completely devoid of the will to live.

Today I started planning my next carving so I must be feeling better! I promised Heather that I would post photos of my latest totem. The first Collector totem sold within days of completion so I have created The Collector II.

What with the heat wave interrupted by downpours, it has taken me longer than usual to carve this piece but when the weather was kind I enjoyed an hour or two carving outside under the tree.

Monday, March 2, 2009


The latest Visi magazine is out and what a treat it is! The work of Cape Town illustrator, Alex Latimer is featured on the cover as well as three double spreads plus more....which is quite an accomplishment in my book. His illustrations include famous south african personalities as well as typically south african imagery.

In the illustration above (lower left corner), see Hansie Cronje, South African cricketer and captain of the South African national cricket team, who was involved in the match fixing scandal in India (Year 2000). At the top right, is Hugh Masikela, world famous musician. There's my raucus friend the Hadeda on the right as well and a typical Kombi taxi above it. Chappies bubble gum, the good old Sprinkbok, the Johannesburg skyline (with revolving restaurant) and so many other wonderful images.

A big thank you to Visi for featuring the hottest home-grown talent. This edition is a keeper!

You can see more of Alex's work here and blog here. His wrapping paper of small dorp (town) South Africa is awesome.