Well, here we are then….

You know, I feel so overwhelmed by everything that I don’t know where to begin. Everything seems too huge to be able to get anything down on the page. And of course EVERYONE is feeling exactly the same. It is quite startling to realise that EVERY SINGLE HUMAN on the PLANET if facing the same threat AT THE SAME TIME, and needing to deal with the very basic emotions and fears AT THE SAME TIME. Has that ever happened before? That’s another quite mind blowing concept.

I decided a few days ago that I would give up trying to work out my opinion on many things, such as the debate about opening/closing schools. The bottom of the problem with schools seems to me (see, I do have an opinion!) to come from not really knowing whether children are asymptomatic carriers or not. Will they spread the virus into the community, and elderly relatives especially, or are they better off being slightly more quarantined at school, keeping the vital health workers at work rather than at home caring for their kids? The experts are divided about this, because NO ONE KNOWS THE ANSWER. They can only work from data from overseas, mathematical modelling and medical understandings of disease spread. Data from overseas can only be a guide because each country has very different health systems, testing regimes, and are at different points along the curve. How can I have an opinion?

I only know that

  1. It won’t be over until we have a vaccine
  2. Our world will be a very different place then (but what it will look like is dependent on all the actions that take place along the way, including what you and I do.)
  3. I am so grateful that I do not have to make these big decisions that impact on every aspect of our lives.

So, to cope, I am doing what I can to make my life as healthy ~ mentally and physically ~ as possible.

  • Physical distancing, of course; washing my hands as frequently as possible (I may stop wearing rings as a result!); changing my clothes when I come inside and hanging them in the sunshine
  • I say ‘physical’ distancing, because I am still keeping a social connection, just through other ways. In fact I am in touch with way more people than usual! Kate wrote a great post about sending letters. Australia Post is still operating, even overseas, although there are delays to just about every country. It’s a great way to connect to people who don’t use the internet. I have been reading blogs, and love the way we are keeping each other’s spirits up. Every blog has its own way of doing this, and I thank you.
  • Eating well. Supply chains have been disrupted, mainly because they are scrambling to keep up with the over-the-top demand for food. The Fella and I are okay, and we have enough toilet paper, thank you for asking!
  • Sleeping well. This one is a tricky one. I am sure you understand how the dark thoughts flourish at night. I have a routine of calming tea, nourishing reading (not on a screen) and deep breathing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t I watch rubbish on TV and try to remember that things will be easier to deal with in the daylight.
  • Walking. The fresh air is a great antidote to the darkness. I have added in a daily sketch, which I am posting on Instagram. When I can’t walk outside I will sketch something from the garden. The point is to help me remember that the flowers are still growing, the birds dashing around and the bees are still making honey. The world still turns.
  • Each day I am looking for little things that are beautiful or joyous or connect me. Like these hearts in the window of a local shop, that closed today.

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We have had supportive messages from our neighbours, so I put this sign on our letterbox today.

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  • I am being careful about where I get my news. I haven’t looked at Facebook. I am relying on the sensible coverage of the ABC, our public broadcaster, as well as some recommended sites. I want information and well informed opinions from experts, not hysteria nor ‘I’m no expert but….’.
  • And lastly, of course I am adding creativity into the mix. Although, the odd thing is that I haven’t had time for much sewing lately. Keeping in touch as well as making sure I have the various supplies I need uses up quite a bit of time!

So I hope your strategies for keeping healthy, especially mentally healthy, are working well. Now, I am going for a walk and a sketch.

Stay well.

Namaste 🙏🏽

PS forgive any typos; my brain is scattered and my fingers are following along!

Anne Lawson Art

How to get better

The last seven months have been tricky for my partner, Terry. He has had multiple medical issues, and has been checked out from top to toe; literally ~ head, ribs, heart, guts, toe. He has had operations, scans, x-rays, iron infusions, injections, blood tests and heart monitors. He has seen specialists galore, a number of podiatrists and physiotherapists, nurses of course, and his wonderful GP.

I must tell you that we have an amazing medical system here in Victoria. I recognise that it has many problems and is stretched to its limits. Also I live in inner Melbourne, close to the action, not an outer suburb or regional area where services would be so much harder to access. For us, those services have been amazing. Not just the acute, hospital care, but also the follow up at the Outpatients appointments, the wound care clinic, the falls and balance clinic, as well as linking him to a dietician, a podiatrist, a physio, occupational therapists and other government services. And it has all been free. (Friends in the US may want to close their ears at this point!) As Terry is on the Aged Pension he has been able to access all these services, including over a fortnight in hospital. Only now does he pay a small amount for ongoing podiatry etc.

The good news is that we are getting to the maintenance end of all these medical issues, the time when the different specialists say “I want to see you in two months/six months/one year”. Oh news to my ears!

And each of them has listed more or less the same things to do over that time, to make sure Terry is recovering well. They are such simple, obvious actions, and work for building bones, improving vascular systems and blood flow, keeping upright, indeed, probably most things.

So here is my list of 7 actions, from the professionals who know about these things, to get better and stay well:

  1. Keep taking prescribed medication
  2. Eat well, as unprocessed as possible; include protein and dairy
  3. Exercise ~ within your limits but anything you do is better than passive sitting. There are the added benefits of building bones, improving balance and helping blood flow carry oxygen all the way from brains to toes.
  4. Sleep well
  5. Reduce stress
  6. Stop smoking “Do you smoke?” is one of the first questions asked. Fortunately Terry was able to answer “Not for a long time”, but some of his issues began when he was a smoker.
  7. Enjoy life

So, my focus is Terry, and making him as ‘right as ninepence’, with these simple things as my guidelines.

(I realise that again we are in a very fortunate position. We have access to good quality food, and can afford it. We don’t have added stresses that come from jobs, or job insecurity, tight financial situations, homelessness, family tensions, trauma or the myriad other things that will create stress. We know that there is a correlation between poor health outcomes and lower socio-economic lives. It is astounding that we, as a society, are unable to do these things which would enable people live healthier lives.)

annelawsonart.com.au !!

Yes! I have my own website, at my own domain name:   annelawsonart.com.au 

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(Does little dance around the room……)

I would love it if you took a look. (I’ll just continue my little dance around the room!!)

It’s still a work-in-progress. Some pages are still to be set up, some need tweaking, and I am sure there are glitches and typos. Please let me know if you find any. Typos? Links that don’t work? Sentences that are unclear? Problems with pages loading?

As you know I have been on the quest for a website for about a month. Someone wrote that every artist should have their own website that is just more than just an online showplace. It should have an online store as well. If it’s doesn’t, the website is almost useless. It helped me decide what I wanted from my site:

  • a place to showcase my art
  • a way to sell my art
  • a way to automatically link to my newsletter subscription
  • a way to blog
  • and to have control, to not be at the mercy of changing algorithms and price rises.

Last time I wrote I was wondering about sites like Shopify or Bigcommerce. These was great feedback, and useful links to follow through. Thank you. The more I delved the more I realised that sites like those were not really what I was looking for.

Firstly they are expensive, around $30 a month for the basic platform. That was a big commitment for each month, and frankly, unrealistic for me. Secondly, it’s for higher volume sales than I would be generating, and more mainstream products. Then I wasn’t sure that they would give me the ‘showcase’ space that I also wanted. Someone wrote “If you sell just a few investment pieces or special orders each month, less costly options may be better choices.”

So, that lead me further, and WordPress kept popping up. Despite having blogged on WordPress for quite a few years, I really had no idea about it. I assumed it was a big tech giant, owned, like Facebook and Google. I knew there was this ‘other’ WordPress (WP), WordPress.org, but really knew nothing about it. Maybe it was just a fancy blogging site?

I now know a lot more. (And warning, I am not a tech person, so I may well have got the wrong end of the computer stick here.) WP is the software, a content management system, created and maintained by different individuals. It’s developed by the community around WP, with volunteer testers.

To work it needs a host. For those of us using WP.com, which is is the case if you have wordpress in your domain name, the host is already provided. To be able to work on WP.org you need to select your own host.

The advantages that I could see with WP.org were:

  • Lots of sites use it. Apparently about 25% of all sites on the web use WP.org (Hands up if you already knew that!?) There is an entire industry built around it.
  • Security is very good; updates are frequent.
  • It is low cost, with free themes
  • It performs well, loads quickly and is mobile friendly.
  • You can plug in eCommerce

The disadvantages worried me a bit. I read things like “easily accessible, but some prior knowledge does help”. How much prior knowledge? Or that some knowledge of coding may be useful. (Spoiler alert….So far I haven’t needed any coding, but I am doing the easy part of the website.)

So the next step was to select the host, the server that stores my website, using WP software. Again more reading and comparing. I weighed up two hosts, Bluehost and Siteground, and decided on the latter.

It’s so hard to judge these things. It made me aware of bias in reviewing sites. Did they have affiliate links to one host? I became aware of the date of the review. A lot can change in a year. But you have to make a decision. I decided against BlueHost because they wanted an upfront payment of 3 years. As well they are owned by EIG, a company that seems renown for buying up companies and then cutting costs at the expense of performance. There is, according to some reviews, terrible support and poor loading times.

Siteground had much better reviews. It asked for a yearly upfront fee, but offered a good deal for the first 12 months. And Catherine, at Hillview Embroidery uses it too. She has been a great mentor through it all!

So, I took the plunge, signed up with Siteground, linked up with WP, and began to work on the site. But that next stage will be a post for next time.

Shopify? Big commerce? Squarespace? Something else?

I am reaching out to you again, my supportive, interested and, dare I say it, opinionated ☺️ Tribe.

It is coming near time for me to move away from Etsy.

I have had a shop here for many years, morphing from a bag maker to a fine artist. I am grateful to Etsy for teaching me so many things about online selling, as well as giving me a modest income.

Those of you who are on Etsy will know that there have been many changes over the last few years, with more to come. It is moving away from the place which supported and welcomed crafters and artists, moving to a seat alongside the Big Boys of e-commerce. I have to be honest and say that I have moved away too. I haven’t put any effort into the shop this year. That tells me that unconsciously I have been playing with the idea of moving; now my conscious brain has caught up.

So it’s not just the changes in Etsy. It is the changes in me and my art work. Maybe I have outgrown Etsy. My current work doesn’t sit easily with the feathers and leaves in the Etsy format. I need something that allows me more space to organise and curate, but still sell.

No way am I going to self-build a site. Even with help, that’s way beyond my skill level ~ and my interest level, to be honest. I want someone else (or something else ~ some fancy algorithm!) to do all the backroom stuff.

That leads me to an on-line store building tool (love the jargon?!). I have done some research and Shopify is the one that comes up most often. But Bigcommerce and Squarespace are mentioned. They all offer free 14 day trials, but I want to use that time, after I have made a decision, to set things up. Then, when the 14 days are finished and I have to pay the monthly fee, I will be ready to go.

I am still at the information gathering stage, so I am reaching out to you. Are you on any of these, or something else? Have you done any research into any of them? What should I be looking out for? Do you know anything about domain names? Is one site more suited to art work? Anything you can throw my way will be useful and appreciated.

I hope to write more about what I am finding out, but just in case you are thinking about making a switch too, these links have helped me understand and compare Shopify and Bigcommerce.

Pros and cons of Shopify

Big commerce review

Big commerce vs Shopify

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Thanks for the feedback on my last fortnight’s letter from my studio. It was lovely to know that my musings on creativity resonated. More creativity this fortnight, as I use the Big Bang of Culture to help understand why creativity is an essential part of all of us. You can sign up here.

Getting organised

I treasure things, little quirky things, small things that I find on my walks, special gifts from people who know what makes me smile. Then there are the things that might be useful one day. A third group of Things In My Life are things that I never really know what to do with.

So I end up with a playroom studio that looks like this….

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and this….

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and this….

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until I feel weighed down by all those things.

The time has come to make a start. Not just tidying, but sorting and throwing/composting/recycling. A real clean up. I am not good at this, as you can see by the things I accumulate around me.

Asking myself three questions was an excellent sorting process.

Does it bring me joy? I have rephrased that, as ‘joy’ is a big expectation to put on an object, to Does it make me smile? Unexpected things got to stay when I asked this, like the origami birds and the jar of sea treasures gifted to me by Jan and the babushka doll from my trip to Russia in the 80s.

If the answer was ‘No’ my next question was Is it useful? The pin cushion was in, with the bonus that it makes me smile! The old maybe-I-will-use-these manilla folders  were out.

Which lead to the next question Can I get another one if I need it? This was the key question for all my natural treasures. Can I get another gum nut/feather/leaf? Yes. Amazing as they are, do I need a whole box full of feathers? No. Off to the compost. My nests went back and forth from one pile to another, but I decided that I couldn’t get others, so they have stayed. And they make me smile.

As I went I found another question waiting to be answered  — Does it weigh me down? These are the things that I find difficult to part with, but don’t really want to keep. For example, a gift made for me by a child I taught. I appreciate the thought, time and care she put into it, but I never used it. At the same time I felt that moving it on was disrespectful. Whenever I saw it there, cluttering up the desk, the negative emotion froze me. I was unable to deal with it.

Now I know I have well and truely given that gift enough of my “oh my, she created this just for me” emotional energy. (She would have moved on from the creation many years ago!) So, it’s off to the op-shop and hopefully someone else will love it and use it.

Now I have a clean tidy mantelpiece and a mood board ready for the next inspiration, an uncluttered computer desk, where I can get to the printer, and a reasonably tidy work table. Still lots to do, but beware the woman on a mission!

Treasures to keep….

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It’s the fortnight my letter comes to you, straight to your inbox. In this week’s letter I show you some of my latest work, a series of trees, not unlike the oil pastel ones I did last year. These ones have sewing ~ now there’s a surprise! And I explain how my reading on creativity has helped me understand how these came about.

Like to sign up? And receive a free feather drawing? Just click here.

Blogs and copyright

I am after some information. Can you help me?

I am wondering about copyright for blog material. Let me give you a little background.

I keep the blog and website for the Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project. I am administrator and almost sole contributor, but I do it on behalf of the group. We are now wondering who has copyright to this material. Do you think it is me? The Group?

My very shaky, layperson’s concept of copyright for this blog is that I hold it, and that material from here can’t be reproduced without my permission or, such as with reblogging, linked back to this site. That’s because I own the intellectual property. Do you think it is the same if I put it together on behalf of others?

Have you investigated copyright issues? I’d be grateful for some advice, or links if they come easily to hand.

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Did you miss my newsletter last week? It has images of the latest abstract landscapes I have been working on. You can subscribe to receive it each fortnight.

Oh beeswax!

Yep, it’s me here, under this fashionable looking theme. It was time for a change ~ no tinkering around the edges, a full knock down and rebuild! You are still very welcome visitors, come in the backdoor, make yourself at home, and we can sit and have a natter. I would love to know what you think of the new look, especially to know how easy it is to read and navigate.

Meanwhile, beeswax….

Beeswax wraps are quite the thing at the moment, as they are a sustainable and hygienic replacement for glad wrap/cling film. My friend Mary wanted to make some and asked me to help. Is it something you have ever thought about doing?

Of course there are plenty of websites and videos to set you up, but I thought you might like to get our thoughts too. This is the site we used initially but quick research will show that there are different ratios of wax and resin, oven temperatures, time in the oven and so on. One thing I learnt was that it’s not an exact science!

So, we started with 100 gm of beeswax

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and 20 gm of pine resin, and  2 teaspoons of jobo oil. It smelt wonderful, and took me back to my time in Indonesia so many years ago. Strong memories of the batik work there.

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Unfortunately the plumber was working outside and needed to turn off the gas. If the stove had been working we would have melted the wax etc. in an old saucepan. Instead Mary used the microwave. The stove would have been a better option because the wax/resin mix could have stayed at a nice constant heat.

Mary had some fabric we experimented with.

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The batik-inspired serviettes were our first experiments. The melted wax mixture was brushed on. It seemed to go on quite thickly and we weren’t sure how flat the base needed to be. The blogs and videos didn’t seem to worry about this, but we wondered if slight ridges and valleys would affect the way the wax melted.

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The next step was to put it into the oven (100ºC) for five minutes. You can see our solution for keeping the wax melted ~ putting it in the oven too. This worked okay, but the handle of the paint brush got quite hot!

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Then we took it from the oven and pegged it onto a coat hanger.

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It hardened quickly, and kept some tackiness. You want it to have some tackiness as it’s this quality that holds it in place when covering bowls etc. The resin helps with tackiness. This was the time to critically admire our handiwork. The results were good, but we were aiming for perfection! The wax was too thin in some parts and a bit uneven on the back. Instead of the foil we tried baking paper, which I think was a bit better.

And the thing that impressed me was that you can add more wax and redo them. As I said before, it is not an exact science.

One of the problems with the wax wraps is that they are not see through, which makes it hard to see what they are covering in the fridge. Mary thought that writing on some might help with that. I wrote PARMESAN with a permanent marker on an embroidered serviette. The marker ran a little with the heat, and we decided sewing words onto the fabric would be a nice solution. We also thought that the white cloth looked a bit marked once it was waxed, which could be off putting for a gift.

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After a bowl of very yummy soup for lunch (thank you Mary!) we watched a video that had a different take on how to do it. The presenter grated the wax over half the material, folded the top over, so the wax was a layer between the material, and put it into the oven. No resin, no oil. So we tried that too.

And the result was not bad.

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It was certainly an easier process, with less mess. The first process left us Mary (!) with waxy bowls, trays, knives and paint brushes. I think it’s worth playing around with, perhaps finely powdering the resin and sprinkling it over the material, along with drops of the oil.

And Mary found that tea tree oil was great for getting rid of the wax from our fingers.

Have you made your own wraps? Any suggestions you have would be appreciated. If you haven’t, and are interested, I’d say “Give it a go”. While you can do it by yourself, it’s way more with a friend, especially if she happens to be Mary!

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