Thursday, December 31, 2020

So Long, 2020

Not many people had a good 2020. For us, it was a year dogged by misfortune and adversity, so much so  that I've misplaced my sense of humour and my writing voice. Just about the only thing left hanging by a thread is hope. 

For all of us I wish that in the New Year circumstances take a turn for the better.

Monday, November 2, 2020

The Future is Open


This might look empty to you, but it's a harbinger of great things to come in the future. Soon. Like, 2021. I've had enough of living in The Co-Void already.

The project started in my imagination when I saw these in a wholesaler's warehouse two years ago. They were hideously expensive but I coveted them from the moment I set eyes on the boxes. In January, the company had a closing down sale and six were left, priced to go. A bit battered but still sturdy and at $2 per box, you can't buy the materials to construct your own.

I feel a cat-like attraction to hollow things. My thinking isn't 'Will my bum fit?' though, it's 'What can I put in there?'. These boxes were screaming miniature display.

The first order of the day was getting rid of Michael Jackson.

It needed many layers of paint but eventually, I could say, 'Bye-bye Michael'. This happened in June; you can see that we're in the middle of winter and the garden is quite dull. It was also the middle of lockdown here in South Africa and I had nothing to do except to watch paint dry.

Next, I made some neat liners for the box and the lid. Being unable to scoot out to the craft shop for inspiration, I found a wallpaper sample on the internet, rescaled and tiled in Word, and printed it on ordinary paper in grayscale.

I added some little shelves and sealed all the surfaces with matt varnish for durability.

Fast forward a few weeks and back to the exterior of the boxes. I glued Velcro to the spines and outside edges of each box.

This way, many boxes can become one. 

Stood on its side and opened up, I have 80cm x 90cm of display area with 36 little shelves the perfect size on which to display miniatures.

It breaks down in less than a minute and stores in a box light-weight and ready to transport to a show. Now all I need is a miniature show. And stock. And customers would be nice.

I hope that you're doing what you need to do to stay safe and that this year hasn't been terribly unkind to you. My heart goes out to the people I'm in contact with remotely who have suffered everything from misfortune to outright tragedy in the last few months. I carry your sadness with me and I think of you every day.

Personally, I've never experienced so many awful things crammed into such a short time. My family has been visited by setbacks, sickness, and death and it's been a trial for all of us but I will tell you about it in another post.

Right now all I can say is that despite the hardship, I'm being extraordinarily creative and productive. I'm studying, experimenting, making things. 

I'm looking forward to a day when life can move forward and I can start growing again instead of lying dormant waiting for this season to pass. I hope that on the day when you see this display bursting with miniatures at a show, you will celebrate with me. Even if we have to wear a mask and hugs are not allowed. The way we do things needs to change but humanity is robust; we can hold on to hope and adapt. We're going to get through this!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Time and a Little Dust

I've always done my own cleaning so I don't miss the bed-making fairy. What I have never done, is to measure the length of time between cleaning something and the next time I do it. I imagine that for me, it's a mindless process like an animal sets up its burrow in a comfortable way.
With the world in Lockdown, many things seem to have become a count-down. On Friday, we reached day 50 here in South Africa. The regulations are as draconian and ridiculous as ever but I'm still happy in my blanket fort.
What I have noticed, is that little piles of stuff I was going to sort and put away seven weeks ago are still in the same place, with maybe a slightly more substantial sprinkling of dust. Projects I started with gusto are stalled, and they've been joined by many more beginnings of something promising that petered out. Where does the time go?

All is not doldrums though; I'm working on a new batch of little houses and they're fun.

I've completed another (hopefully final) batch of cloth face masks. Unless the pandemic continues until they wear out.

Some things don't stop growing even in winter. On Friday, Henning and I gave each other a haircut at the Doornkloof East Open Air Salon. Note the dustbin bag and clothespin ensemble. We run a classy establishment here.

I hope you're well and keeping sane in an increasingly disturbing world. Remember that in the game of rock, paper, scissors, a level head tops what the scaremongers and the politicians say, every time.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Uh Oh, Blogger is Broken

Since the second week of April, I've had various issues with Blogger. From not being able to log in, to not being able to comment on posts, to images disappearing from posts. My blog statistics have plummeted and I'm feeling exceedingly grumpy.
I'm not the only one; thousands of bloggers are picketing Google and the people at Blogger are dodging us without answering. Here's their latest non-communication:

If you see a minus sign instead of an image, you can read it HERE.
I love Blogger and I feel sentimental about it because it's the first place where I started seriously writing. However, if the problem persists, I'm going to ask you to move over to the Wordpress blog which I set up as a backup a while ago when I heard disturbing rumours about the future of Blogger.
Let's see what happens in the next few days, I really hope that it will blow over.

In the meantime, I hope that you're staying safe during the lockdown and adhering to the rules in your country. Here in South Africa, we're still under total lockdown and haven't left the house in more than a month. I'm happy to report that we're healthy, our state of mind is good, and apart from worry about how our future will be affected, we are well.

I'm maintaining a wholesome routine and working on various projects. All in all, it's a good time for self-care and reflection.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Soft Landing

I've met many people who start a project and work on it exclusively until it's finished. They build a puzzle, crochet a blanket, make jam, whatever. But they won't start with the next thing until they finished the one before. All I can say is that their homes must stay very tidy during this pandemic and I envy them.
Even at the end of the world as we know it, my habits remain unchanged. I'm sculpting, sewing, painting, writing, casting silicone all at once and all over the place. And when I'm not busy with that, I'm gardening, spring cleaning, working with tarantulas, doing ballet with a kitchen chair for a barre.
The upside of this is that I'm never bored. In fact, I have so many projects on the go that I often find things that I left half-finished and feel excited to rediscover them and carry on.
The downside is that it can sometimes be a long while before I finally see the fruits of my labour and I tend to lose track of time. There are people out there who are writing a lockdown count-down so that they can tell their grandchildren all about what they were doing when the big bad virus threatened the world. Someone reminded me that today is day eleven of the South African stay-at-home order and that we're halfway through it already. My reaction was, 'Whaaaaat, I haven't even started with half the things I had planned'! So, if time is dragging for you, my recommendation is that you take your mind off it by starting a few more projects.

For me, one thing often leads to another. I made a whole lot of cloth face masks (yes, western countries are finally starting to adopt the idea that we will be wearing them in public spaces for the foreseeable future) and I ended up with a pile of postage-stamp-sized fabric offcuts. Many had pretty pictures or interesting patterns on them and I was wondering what I could make with such small pieces? Dollhouse cushions, of course! So, the ironing board and the sewing machine are still standing around and I've made more than 100 cushions so far. It's a bit addictive. Heaven knows what I will do with them all.

If you want to make some dollhouse cushions of your own, I highly recommend the tutorial on Jessica Cloe's blog. Here are pictures of some of my favourites so far. I soldered the wrought-iron day bed a while ago and when I took it out to use as a photo prop, it made me think I should heat up the soldering iron and make a few more...
Wishing you soft landings in the coming week.


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!