Sunday, March 22, 2020

Every Breath You Take

Mr. Blueye Bonehead Modeling a Cloth Face Mask
I haven't finished the birdbath yet, but I'm getting there.
Yesterday, I took time out from crafts to sew reusable cloth face masks for my family. I searched the internet for patterns and after testing a few, decided on the one offered for free at CraftPassion. You only need a small piece of cotton fabric and some elastic and it's all sewn by machine so it's quick to make.
What I love most about it, is that it's fully reversible and comfortable to wear. Whenever I go out on a supply run, I've been using my N95 mask which I usually only put on when spray-painting or sanding resin. Apart from being overkill, it's hot and cumbersome. These funky cloth masks are much more practical and stylish.
I'm not going to preach in this post. All I'm saying is that if you don't wear a barrier mask when you go out during the coming months, you're more stupid than Mr. Bonehead!

When I asked my husband to choose fabric for his mask, he said the 'camo' pattern looked most practical. Haha, shall we tell him it's actually teddy bears?

Wishing you all a safe and peaceful week. I'm going back to the birdbath now.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Board Games and Venturing Out

About board games and venturing out during a pandemic, I have the same question - is it worthwhile?
When I was a child, the boredom of board games and playing cards would drive me to tears. Hours of tedious following the rules, only to be left with nothing to show at the end of it. I much preferred a quiet corner with colouring pencils and paper, beads and string, building blocks, or my French knitter.

According to child experts, by not forcing me to play games my mother caused me to lose out on valuable life lessons - team spirit, ambition, competitiveness, perseverance, the ability to complete a task within a structured framework, being a gracious loser. Haha, now we know why I'm such a weird adult.

If you have children banned from going to school or if you become bored during the Covid-19 lockdown, you could consider board games to pass the time and at the same time improve your social skills and character.

Right now, I'm desperate for a chess match with Gary Kasparov. As he reaches across the checkered expanse to make his first move, I would lunge forward and snatch away his queen. Why? So I can carry it off into a corner and craft a pedestal for a dollhouse birdbath.

By far the most serious drawback of not having board games is the lack of dollhouse building materials this affords. A crafter's stash can never be big enough. Which will be a topic about hoarders and hoarding in a future post.

I considered venturing out to a charity shop to see if I can sniff out a few chess pieces for my project but I nixed the idea immediately. Since last night, South Africa is in the first stages of lockdown. Schools will be closing this week, and people have been advised to stay at home as much as possible. As is typical of governments worldwide, they're closing the stable door after Corona has bolted. What astounds me is that in this age of free circulation of news around the world, 'informed people' are still in denial about the seriousness of our situation. But it's not only that; they seem to have no concept of how much worse it's going to be for South Africa because they aren't factoring in some brutal truths about this country:
  1. More than 20% of our adult population is HIV positive. This is the highest number on the entire planet.
  2. TB is rampant in South Africa. Again, we have the highest numbers of any nation. Talk about a population with compromised immunity.
  3. South Africa has one of the most inadequately educated populations. Ignorance becomes deadly when people have no knowledge about health and safety. Most South Africans don't have a basic understanding of hygiene or disease prevention and they live in squalor. This is why Covid-19 will sweep through the nation like a wildfire.
  4. We have crowded living conditions in townships and informal settlements that can rival anything in China. The ideal breeding ground for a virus.
  5. Unlike China, our government doesn't have the resources or control to put the population under full lockdown to prevent the virus from spreading.
  6. Don't be fooled by news reports of our state of the art laboratories, hospitals, famous doctors and epidemiologists. A lot of it is bluster about past glory and what we have left will serve a select few.
  7. Our healthcare system doesn't have the facilities or resources to provide the most basic services to citizens. Many South Africans never see a doctor in their lifetime. We have only a handful of decaying government hospitals and clinics to care for more than 48 million people who have no medical insurance. Many of what the government calls 'health care facilities' are one-room clinics with a nurse and no doctors. Distribute the population evenly and you have a hundred and ten thousand people at the doors of each. Our health services are grossly inadequate when we are healthy, never mind during a pandemic.
  8. The South African economy is bankrupt. We don't have funds in the national coffers which can be diverted to provide medical care to the people or relief to business sectors that will face extreme hardship.
  9. On a good day, South Africa has a food shortfall. Poor people will undoubtedly starve in the coming months; first because of supply-chain disruptions and shortages, then because of unemployment and rising costs as the economy continues to spiral downward. I know that my European and American friends are speaking out against selfish hoarders but in South Africa, the fear of running out of food is not unfounded and for those who can afford it hoarding is already a way of life.
  10. Political rivalry and instability is the order of the day. We are dealing with an uneducated population that is led by corrupt leaders who regularly sweep crowds into a frenzy of murder and looting to achieve their own ends. If you think I exaggerate, look up Julius Malema. Mr. Trump could be the court jester to this dangerous megalomaniac and many ministers in our government are no better. Malema is inciting people to an uprising against the government for its inept handling of the Coronavirus pandemic, at the same time helping the government to stigmatize people who have contracted the virus. Unfortunately, he has the ear of large numbers of the population.
If you're thinking of donating a few Euros or Dollars to help us get through the crisis, reconsider. Your country needs it as much as we do right now. Any help that comes to South Africa will be used as a political tool or diverted and misspent. We'll be lucky if a few crumbs fall to the people who need it most.

What a grim picture I just painted. Sorry, I had to get it off my chest.

You might wonder where I stand in all of this. Shouldn't I feel very guilty to yearn for a chess piece when a million people in my country are about to die of sickness and starvation? I don't. I feel grateful. Grateful to be one of the few who are not starving and who can stay at home and ride it out. I was born in this country, I am one of its people and it has always been my home. Despite sucking at board games as a child, I try to respond with kindness when my fellow citizens act against me in racism and hate. Like many privileged South Africans, for all of my adult life I have involved myself in the upliftment of the underprivileged and paid taxes so that the government can do their part in repairing the wrongs in this country. Although I'm not a political activist, I speak out for what I believe is in the interest of all of humanity, not any one person or group. I did not create or condone this situation. I'm merely one person doing the best I can. Until all people come to their senses and act for humanity instead of promoting their own interests, we will not turn the tide. The midst of a pandemic is as good a place as any to pause and think about that. I wonder how many politicians will?

If you're looking for me, I will be rummaging in my stash for something that I can use to build a birdbath.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Crafting in a Time of Corona

The map is lighting up with red dots as people in an increasing number of world countries get the coughing sickness and while only a short while ago it seemed like a distant and exaggerated threat, in the last few days it has become distressingly real.
My international circle of acquaintances is speaking about how the virus affects their lives and suddenly we're chatting with one another much more than usual. Everyone agrees that we're in for several months of minimized contact with other people while the virus burns itself out. The internet will be our stand-in for postponed shows, nixed shopping trips with our friends, canceled club meetings and workshops.
In the last week, readers of my retrospective blog posts have increased by a whopping 784%! This flurry of activity has prompted me to come out of hiding and add my few cents worth with some fresh blog content. If I'm going to have a captive audience, I might as well make good use of it, haha! But seriously, this is not my only motive. If we help to entertain and inform one another, we will get through this challenge so much better.
I might not have been blogging for the last few months but I've been composing posts in my thoughts continuously and I've actually been working on some exciting things. Now seems like a good time to share them and help to cheer everyone up. You can look forward to random posts about miniatures, my life, teddy bear patterns, tarantulas, bicycles, and if it becomes necessary, possibly even a tasty recipe for the last few dry beans and teaspoon of apricot jam left in your cupboard after the apocalypse.
Whichever country you're in, there has never been a better time to stay at home and do crafts. Corona virus is a real and serious threat and every one of our lives is going to be affected by it. Even if we are fortunate enough not to get sick, we will suffer economic and social consequences.
Let's start by being considerate; avoid gathering in public unless it's necessary, and wash your hands!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

1zu12 Rheda Show Report

Just when the awesomeness of Germany started having a comfortable lived-in feel, there was the 1zu12 miniature show at Rheda. I went as a spectator this time, but I hope to exhibit there in future.
I met some of my greatest miniature heroes in person at the show and I spent an entire day marvelling at the variety and the quality of miniatures on offer.

This is one of those times when a picture can't do justice to the subject but I'm going to try, with lots of comments added. Grab a cup of tea and walk through the show with me.

The show started with a squeeze to get in the doors at 11am. For my South African friends, this is something like the frantic first day of HobbyX, nothing like strolling into a miniature show at home. But also not like HobbyX because people here are well behaved and they keep a polite distance.
(In an aside: I've noticed this sign in several places like the bank and hospital. Now I know what that gap in the queue is called - a discretion zone. You don't need to worry that someone is going to sneeze down your neck).

Some super cute needle felted dolls and teddies. Unfortunately, I didn't get the exhibitor's name, she was very busy selling her wares. (Birgit thinks the creator is Natasja Woord of Creahobby).

Miniature babies and the most exquisitely dressed dolls by Victoria Heredia from Spain. She doesn't have a website and doesn't speak a word of English or German but we communicated mini just fine using gestures and facial expressions. I hope to meet her again.

One perfect teacup from Elisabeth Causeret. Every dollhouse needs her pottery.

The incredible porcelain painting of Rita and Horst Kruger. The tiles measure 10mm square and are paper thin. Knowing a little bit about porcelain painting, I can appreciate the fine work and many firings needed to make just one perfect tile.

Will Werson's wickerwork. Delicate but sturdy and oh so evenly woven.

Vonas Miniaturen. Using exotic wood, antique ivory, and precious metals, this artist crafts one of a kind miniatures on a lathe. Perfectly proportioned and to scale, I could only stare in wonder.

 Gerd Felka's stand was a blaze of colour. Impossible to resist.

Shirley Scheibehenne doesn't limit herself to teddy bears. Her tiny birds and bats were fascinating.

And here's an icon of the miniature world I wanted to meet for a long time. Ray Storey's miniature lighting and glass are the stuff dreams are made of.

Helga Sadowski's miniature people and mice have so much character. We had a good chat about the best types of clay to use, and where to shop for supplies in Germany. Thanks, Helga!

If you don't know the work of Vera Rijgensberg yet, visit her website. I was impressed by the evocative style of her work.

The literature of Kathrin Hohensee. Her displays are as neat and precise as her miniature books.

The amazing work of miniature doll artist Daniela Kiefhaber. Look closely. The doll in the tiny nutshell is a Hitty. She's carved from wood and fully jointed.

Eric's wooden home furnishings reminded me of my friend Maryna's work. Everything a well equipped dollhouse needs.

A glut of the most perfect micro dolls in polymer clay. This is the work of Paola Ojeda and Alvaro Rodriguez of Taller Targioni in Spain. They don't have a website so if you see them at a fair, don't miss the opportunity to visit their stand.

Valerie Casson. I met her, in person. My heart sings! Some day I hope to have the privilege of attending a workshop she presents.

Doris Tussing's little people were definitely the most life-like dolls at the show. I couldn't stop looking, and every time you shift your eyes, you notice a new detail.

Whew, you made it to the end. Are your eyes aching? I can assure you not as much as my feet. There were more than 200 exhibitors at the show and I visited all of them two or three times.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

This is Where I Am

First glimpse of Germany from the air.

Hello Everyone

I disappeared when you were waiting to hear what happened next, sorry! The truth is that I've fallen down a rabbit hole and ended up in a fairy tale. It's called Germany. Wow, have I fallen hard for this place. But let's continue where I left off last time.

I caught the plane, arm in a sling and in quite a bit of pain but from there on things became better. First, the flight was half empty and I had two seats to myself and could lie down to sleep. When I arrived in Frankfurt, going through passport control and customs was a breeze. People are so efficient here. I took a fast train from the airport to Karlsruhe, where Siegfried (father in law) met me with his car. From there it was a 25km drive to my home for the next three months.

Karlsbad viewed from Biebelheim
It's impossible to describe the perfection of this little village without pictures. Nestled between corn fields and patches of forest, there's so much green that it feels like a dose of tranquilizer.

Karlsbad village centre.
The church is at the center of the village and the area is a perfect mix of modern and old. I've been so busy snapping pictures that I haven't had time to upload them to Instagram.

For the first few days, I felt completely disorientated. The sun hangs in the wrong part of the sky, cars drive on the wrong side of the road; as soon as I step out the front door I feel lost. Thankfully, Siegfried keeps nipping at my heels like a sheepdog and after a week, I'm happy to say that my internal compass is kicking in.

Over the weekend, I unpacked my art supplies and set up a workspace in the attic. Take a good look, my desk will never be this tidy again!

Tomorrow, my classes at the Volkshochschule start. I will be very busy learning to speak German like a German and finding out about the culture and history of the country.

As a sideline, I'm learning to ride a bike again. The story about not forgetting how is completely untrue. After 35 years out of the saddle, I've already had a few good falls; the bike runs away with me and bucks like a horse when I pull on the brakes. But that's a story for next time.

Wishing you a wonderful week in whatever part of the world you are.