Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Many things have made me smile over the past week starting with two lucky finds, one of which was a very old Tikar fertility doll from the Cameroons.

Not much is documented about these dolls except that they are used by the Tikar people for protection, fertility and power. I'm thrilled to be adding this lovely terracotta piece to my collection.

The other lucky find was a second hand book, African Hats and Jewelry by Duncan Clarke. It has huge double spread photographs of African textiles and jewelery which are really beautiful .... and I bought it for a song which certainly put a smile on my face.

We had a spate of hot days last week and I've been rushing to finish christmas orders but yesterday for the first time in months I felt that I was catching up which is quite a relief. I can now slow down and enjoy my work again and also relish the fact that two of the three pieces I carved for a christmas exhibition sold before the opening.
A Black-headed Oriel landed on the wall just above my head this morning. It gave several loud calls before flying off and then a second Oriel started calling from a low branch close by and I stood gawping at it for at least a minute. They are quite common but very shy so we don't often see them except for a quick flash of yellow high in the trees.

The next minute the rain came down so I've been confined to the house most of the day.  Its given me a good excuse to dip into some of the books I've been wanting to re-read at a slower more contemplative pace than when I first read them..

This evening I am catching up with some beadwork which I usually do while watching TV.... like a chameleon with one eye on the screen and the other on the beads.

The highlight of my week has been my interview with Leslie Miller. Leslie has a knack for making people feel good about themselves. I've enjoyed the questions she asked, the emailing back and forth and the sharing of stories.

One of the questions made me stop and think . A question I have often asked myself and I'm still not sure that I've answered it fully.

Q: What is it about your medium of wood that calls your name?

A: I often think of this and can't quite put my finger on it. As a child on the farm I loved the outdoors. I loved to touch and feel nature in my hands. The smoothness of acorns and pebbles, the roughness of bark, the hollowness of a birds nest, the grainyness of river sand.....anything tactile under my hands. When I was allowed to use my mom’s carving chisels at a young age I found that I could create many tactile qualities in the wood myself. Magic!

If you'd like to read the rest of the interview, go here. You might enjoy asking yourself the same questions. I had a few AHA! moments as I thought about my answers. Thanks Leslie for a great interview!


  1. what a fascinating find..the old Tikar fertility doll. I am also drawn to African textiles...i love the geometric designs and natural colors. Your interview with Leslie was an enjoyable read...it was great to hear your art philosophies and see more of your talented carvings. It would be wonderful to see more of your own talented and unique work featured on your blog too!

  2. your new dolly made me smile as the picture opened. she's wonderful. have fun with your books! lyle

  3. Oh Robyn, yumm yumm!! I love that doll and all the work on it, oh to find something like that.
    I read the interview and it told me a bit more about you and I would love to wander a beach with you.

  4. Loved the interview with Leslie. After your busy time, hope you enjoy reading.

  5. Hi Robyn, I find it really fascinating that your artist spirit bloomed while discovering wood working's tactile qualities. I can understand that though - when I was working with wood so much of what i loved was about how it felt and smelled, but I especially loved the surprise patterns revealed in the grain after stripping away bark...
    Love that you were visited by and saw a bold oriel! They are so beautiful. Happy creating, catching up, and SYTYCD watching!! I'm looking forward to tonight's episode myself :)

  6. i wasn't finished with your last post--it was wonderful all that talk of Grey or Gray. It sent me off on links to study; homework i haven't finished.

    Glad you get to rest a bit. Those yellow birds are so lovely. I love to see a yellow bird; they are supposed to love thistle here.

    Your answer made me remember (realize actually) how in love i was as a first grader with a huge Chestnut tree and its nuts; the layers of them their smoothness and their shiney side, but the tree itself was like a great spirit and my cousins would play under it and all i wanted to do was marvel at its grandeur.

    I forgot that tree. Thank you so much!

    Thanda !

  7. from your wonderful interview, i Thanda the word "moodlings"

    i love this idea... love it love it love it.


  8. wonderful post Robyn! I just got back from reading the interview... your work is just spectacular! it was nice to see it all collected like that in the space of the interview. hope you are finding some breathing space. I have one more new body of work to accomplish and made some headway today! yea!
    I think the dolls are splendid and lucky you to see a black headed oriel! that would be a total miracle here!

  9. GREAT INTERVIEW...such thoughtfulness was exchanged. i understand the ahas! you captured a spirit of your work, its beginning, with such tender memories and descriptions.

  10. I realize that I am too tired to give your blog the attention it deserves. However, I couldn't resist being the first one to comment. ha ha ha
    I was here.

  11. wait a minute -- "my Mom's carving chisels"? That pulled me up short. have you talked about your Mom's carving in (much) earlier posts and I missed it?

  12. Reasons indeed! Love your photos of your finds. Aren't Orioles wonderful - they visit my garden, flashing in and out with their lovely warbling song. I so want to take a closeup pic of them in the wild (have lots of them taken at the bird park here!). Off to read your interview now.

  13. Loved reading that interview and getting to know you just a bit more!!

  14. I love that question and am off to read more of the interview!!

  15. Yes, that is a great interview on Leslie's blog. and I love your story of why you love to carve and work with textures and tactile feelings.
    and I LOVE LOVE LOVE so you think you can dance-- Jacob is fabulous dancer and my favorite.

  16. The fertility doll is a fabulous find Robyn, but please tell me you kept it away from my little goddess! I want no more fertility over here thank you! lol.

  17. I very much enjoyed reading your interview on Leslie's blog, very inspirational, thoughtful questions; lovely to hear more about you!

  18. Hi Robyn, I just finished reading your interview.... your memory of you as a young child making a quilt... now that reaches into my heart... for you to recognize even at that young age your sensitivity to art...

    I have to check out that book by McMeekin, Thank you...

    I loved seeing your tools, your special creations, and finishing beadwork laid out on the table!!!

    and your face... you are so beautiful!!

  19. Lisa, I zoned in on the Tikar doll from several metres away. The more I looked at it the more I had to have it. The African textiles are glorious, especially the black and white Kuba cloths. If I see the right cloth it will probably be my next purchase!

    Lyle, wait til you see my new decor book that arrived today. I will blog about it soon.

    Penny, wouldn't that be great! A gathering expedition!

    Annie, a few more orders at a slower pace, with time in between to peruse.

    Karin, I've carved Tamboti and the smell and grain is wonderful. It is rather hard but the other qualities made it worthwhile. I'm addicted to SYTYCD though the series we are watching is not the most recent. Hope we get it soon!

    Mansuetude, you've reminded me of a grand old oak tree we had in the back garden at the farm. It was magnificent and it most surely was a great spirit.
    If you have time and would like to understand moodling go here >>>>


    La Dolce Vita, thanks so much! Glad you are making headway with your work.

    Nancy, I still am amazed at how supportive everyone is in this blog world. Thank you!

    Karine, if I could I would clip and paste you to the front of the comments .... but I have no idea how to do that. You've given me a good giggle though!

    Melanie, that's strange....I was just thinking about you.You didn't miss much ....my mom tried carving once and hated it so I took over the chisels!

    Caroline, there was certainly enough time to take a photo if only I had had my camera.

    Thanks Seth. I must admit I enjoy new snippets about the people I have "met" in the blog world.

    Pamela, have a look around leslie's blog while you're there. She really is an inspiration.

    Thanks Donna.
    I LOVE SYTYCD too! The one we're watching is earlier than the current series. I think its the 5th season. (Jeanine Mason and Brandon Bryant)

  20. Trees are wonderful, aren't they! We all probably love some special ones.

    Thanks for the note.
    Brenda Euland is a treasure, that book is wonderful! A teacher gave that to me early on--though i need to revisit it. My copy has an image of Brenda as a very old woman on the back, a true crone; knowing and giving. :)

    Moodling is now understood--no wonder i have such a love (thanda love) for that word.

    peace and moodling to u and the monkeys.

  21. What a gorgeous thing to come into your possession Robyn. I love the coral coloured beadwork and the appearance of age and old textures. Lovely. Glad you had time to spend reading. Your life seems to be all go. We all need a bit of downtime now and again.

    I will come back to the interview with Leslie Miller with a cup of tea later.

    Love the driftwood assemblage too. Driftwood seems to have a strange call to nearly everyone who lives beside the sea. I think it would have the same effect on me too.

  22. What treasures you have found! That wonderful fertility doll and I can see why you would find the book a real treasure too with those wonderful African textiles.
    Beautiful, golden birds too.
    Have a lovely week.

    Jacky xox

  23. I love dolls, full stop. The Tikar doll is such a score, Robyn! It's almost totemish in its stance. Oooo I can feel its magic from here! Fantastic!

    Isn't it just such a lovely feeling being happy? So peaceful and content. It's really not something we have to "strive" for too much is it? Particularly if its the small things that make you content: the feel of wood, the sound of rain, the pleasure of books and sale and recognition of one's creative expressions....

    I'm happy for you...!

  24. Hey Robyn!!!!!

    Amazing post, I love the doll you found--it's fascinating.I love the cowrie shells on it's ears, arms and legs.

    I'm so glad you got to see an oriole! Where I live it's rare that we get to see goldfinches. They are gold and black like oriels, just not as exotic and cool as they are.


  25. That was a great interview. I'm getting that book now, 12 secrets. It feels good to be at that spot where you don't have to rush anymore, but you can enjoy your work. Congrats on the pre-sales. That would feel awesome.

  26. Visiting your blog is another reason to smile!
    Congrats on the interview, I am off to read that soon. Congrats also on your sales and bargains! I love it when you find something that really makes you feel great. It must be such a good feeling to sell regularly and to have a waiting list, even if the pressure to perfom on cue is a bit much at times. Well done you...and yes those birds are great!

  27. I thoroughly enjoyed your interview. It led me to your blog and amazing artwork. Your work sings to me. It tells me stories I didn't know I longed to hear! Quite thrilling. I can see why your work would pre-sell, surely it sings to a lot of people.

  28. GREAT interview! It so captured the Robyn I've grown to know over the who knows how many posts I've read?

  29. I just read leslie's interview coaxed from you..

    I cant tell you the books I've bought on your recommendation,and now another... the 12 habits one is on wings to me from amazon.

    Thanks for the gift of your answers.

  30. Hi Robyn, I was led to you through Leslie's interview...enjoyed, and now get to enjoyed your blog. The Tikar fertility doll is great to see. My son is working in Cameroon now in the forests with the Bacca and I am always curious of the people and their art.

  31. I am so glad you are feeling caught up and are resting a bit... I can feel how much you love your art... the touch of the wood, holding a tiny part of nature in your hand... and the yellow birds... we have Bullock Oriels here... so lovely...they come in March... and your fertility doll makes me smile too... Roxanne

  32. I can never watch movies with subtitles and bead at the same time.

    Even your works in progress photos are a treat.

  33. What wonderful discoveries Amazing too the things that brought you joy last November have brought the same to me this sunny day in June in NYC. Thank you!

  34. Ginny, I'm continually surprised at the parallels of lives at opposite ends of the world.