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The Two Jimmys

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

When I started taking classes in pottery last year, I began to hand build creatures out of clay. They were initially creatures from my head. Mythical creatures that live in dreams and fantasy stories. One day, I was beginning what I expected to be another mythical creature. This piece of clay had other ideas, I sculpted my last guide dog Roscoe.

That sculpture showed me just how well my hands can see. It doesn’t just look like a dog, it looks like him.

After this, Fee suggested I could make other animals and give them disabilities. Show through sculpture the abilities of people with various disabilities. The idea was to create the animal and then write a story of their journey. This story could continue when they found new homes. Incorporating the journey of the person, or people they found homes with.

One of the first animals I made was a water dragon. I had a willing model to use as my guide. Jimmy, Fee’s water dragon who lives at the studio.

I’d never touched a lizard like him. I’d stroked the backs of a couple of blue-tongues and gone out of my way to avoid any opportunity to pat a snake. I knew that Jimmy was at the studio and was curious, but didn’t actually meet him until I decided to sculpt him.

The first time I held him was magical. He sat on my hand and I could feel him breathing. I was afraid to move. Not because I was scared of Jimmy, rather, I was afraid of disturbing him. His skin felt like rows of little bumps, His spine is smooth, as long as you stroke him down from head to tail. The most surprising and beautiful thing that day was that he let me touch his face. I moved my hand very slowly and gently from the back of his head over his face, prepared to stop at any sign he didn’t like it. He didn’t react at all.

I’ve always been told I have a very gentle and smoothing touch, but that day, I felt like I’d been given one of the greatest gifts of my life.

Slowly I started to get to know Jimmy and he began to know me. He liked to lie across my chest and tuck his little head under my chin. And for me, I loved the feel of his skin under my fingers. Slowly I realised that I was far calmer and in the present when I held Jimmy. I also got to know what he looked like with each session. All of this memory and feeling I put into my sculpture.

It’s been a long process. What with lockdown and other projects getting in the way, but Jimmy the sculpture finally came home with me. I can see little errors in the work. I haven’t gotten the texture of his skin quite right. The body isn’t narrow enough at the hips. What’s surprised me is that, I can see these errors, but I’m not beating myself up over them. I’ve been taking notes for next time. Learning more about the craft so I can improve with each piece.

Just before I brought Jimmy the sculpture home, with some help, I got a photo of the two Jimmys. Jimmy the Lizzard was quite happy to sit beside his likeness.

I finished the actual sculpting more than six months ago, but Jimmy still comes out of his tank for cuddles. Now he likes to sit on my shoulder while I work. He’ll sit on my back with his head and front feet over my shoulder. Wandering around on my back and shoulders when he wants to find a more comfortable spot.

I’ve come to care very deeply for this magical Water Dragon. Partly because I like spending time with him, but more importantly, because he’s happy to trust me.

He’s been generous enough to let me use him as a muse. So I hope you all like Jimmy the sculpture as much as I do.

 

-Sam Ogilvie

STAFF SPOTLIGHT: JHARNA

By | Art, Lifestyle

Jharna started at Art Mania in the mosaics class last year. She wanted to volunteer at the studio and from this, gain a job. Her role is floor manager and as of last week, teacher’s assistant for the Wednesday morning mosaics class.

You may not realise it, but you have probably met Jharna as she quietly goes about her work. Jharna is the kind of person that everyone needs to know.

She is always happy, always ready to offer a helping hand, and has a fantastic sense of humour.

Jharna is also one of the NDIS participants enrolled in our Business Development Support program. She is busy getting a body of work together for her first solo exhibition. Jharna mainly works with mosaics and drawing. This exhibition will be at the Hunter Wetlands Centre in September.

In her own words: “I am so happy to be working here with such amazing staff”.

She describes the studio as “a beautiful environment” and she loves all of the areas of art available at Art Mania. She “wants to try them all.”

Jharna with some of her mosaic works at an exhibition.

Jharna embodies the ethos of Art Mania. With her openness and generosity, she both wants to learn and offer support and guidance to others. We are incredibly lucky to have her as part of the Art Mania family.

Motivation tips for Winter

By | Art, Lifestyle

As we enter winter, it has to be acknowledged that with the cold seeping in, our motivation seeps out.

I am the first to admit that I would much rather spend the winter months in my bed, with the heating on and several really good books.

I thought I’d investigate whether there is any advice about staying motivated in winter. Interestingly, all of the articles that came up were about fitness and staying true to your fitness routine. I have managed to come up with a few though that I think we can relate back to Art Mania and the practice of our art. So here they are and I hope they help.

Make it a goal to just make it to the studio.

I think, a lot of the time, when we aren’t feeling motivated, it’s more to do with the getting out of bed and getting ready. The effort it takes to get ourselves to the studio or wherever else we need to be. Once you’re there however, you are generally glad you made the effort. So why not make that the goal rather than the doing of the class.

Reward yourself.

If you need a little bit more of a push, try rewarding yourself in some way. Try a series of small rewards that can build up to a big reward. For example, if I go to 3 classes in a row, I can have that dress I really liked. And let’s face it, a chance to justify going shopping … well of course that’s going to motivate most of us to accept the challenge.

Make an agreement with a friend.

Agree to take it in turns to car pool to the studio. That way you have someone to share the hard part and someone else you have made a commitment to. I think we are far more likely to turn up to something, if we are going with another person. And it might just be a perfect way to take a friendly acquaintance into a friendship.

Go for a walk.

The last thing most of us want to do in winter, is have to be out in the cold longer than we have too. But it can’t be denied, the benefits of walking and producing those happy hormones. Why not try parking a little distance away from the studio and getting in a brisk walk before class. It clears out the cobwebs and could even give you some inspiration for your creations. You just never know what you might see.

Give these tips a try and I hope to see you all at the studio. If you get a chance, let me know how useful this has been!

STAFF SPOTLIGHT: KIM

By | Art, Lifestyle

Kim joined the Art Mania staff last year. She teachs our kids classes, including pottery for kids and teens.

How did you come to be at Art Mania Studios?

Kim “I first joined by taking a pottery class on a Saturday afternoon, and it all started from there.”

Kim is one of the bright flames that light up the weekend group. Always happy, always ready to offer a fellow student a helping hand when needed. And often laughing, as much at herself as at anything going on in the group. Kim has worked as a primary school teacher and in the foster care system. She was often working with and supporting children with special needs and this is one of her passions.

How do you see yourself fitting into Art Mania’s vision?

Kim “I consider Art Mania as a family- supporting everyone who joins the various classes. And I’m a part of that. I also bring an Indigenous perspective to our programs.”

Kim is also an indigenous woman. She brings that uniqueness into our team. This enables her to teach the children many things about her culture, making our team even more skilled and diverse.

She describes her family as one that have always supported her to do whatever she’s wanted to achieve in her life.

She is a huge fan of squirrels, despite having been chased out of a London park by a vengeful pack of them.

Kim is also into all things Disneyland.

Next time you see Kim, feel free to say hi and ask her what her favourite Disneyland character is!

Hebel: look what we made!

By | Art, Lifestyle

I am extremely pleased to tell you all that, yes, the hebel carving workshop did happen this past Saturday. Even better, my unfinished piece from two years ago was found, supporting one of Fee’s plants in the back garden. I have to admit, there was dancing and I had a lot of trouble sleeping Friday night. And not very much sleeping the night before, the anticipation was on a level equivalent to Christmas Eve for a child. I was not disappointed.

Saturday was a beautiful day to be outside, carving sculptures.

Not too hot, but also not cold and wet like my last hebel carving workshop. We were a small group. Four participants, Geno as my support worker and of course Andrew to show us what needed to be done. There was a lot of laughter as well as a lot of creating. And nobody went home clean. We were all covered in hebel dust and in some cases wet from being hosed down instead of the sculptures.

I remembered how much fun I’d had last time. How could it be anything but fun. I got to play with a drill, with saws and hammers and chisels. There was also a tool to shape and smooth that does have a technical  name, but will forever be know as a cheese grater to myself and my fellow creaters.

Out of the various sized blocks, emerged a couple of lizards, a Heart and yin yang symbols and a wombat. Yes that’s right, I know have a wombat living just outside my back door. He happily holds a daisy plant on his back. Rupert (what else would you call a wombat), isn’t quite finished yet, he needs his head shaped a bit more and eyes etc. And his legs need defining, but I can do all of that from home.

We all went home, happy and dirty and tired.

If you ever get the chance to take one of Andrew’s workshops, you would be crazy to turn it down.

Enjoy the photos taken on the day. As soon as Rupert is completed, I’ll make sure to share more pictures. Happy creating everyone.

-Sam Ogilvie

Staff Spotlight: Ashlee

By | Art, Lifestyle

MEET OUR ART MANIA FAMILY: ASHLEE

We decided it was past time to introduce our staff to you all. Many you may know, but there are several others, quietly working behind the scenes that are crucial to keeping Art Mania on track and able to run all the fantastic classes, workshops and taster days. So here is our first staff spotlight profile!

I’d like to introduce you all to Ashlee. Ashlee wears several hats here at Art Mania. Originally, around a year or so ago, she was hired as a new teacher to our team. She began by teaching our kids and teens classes. Soon after her joining our family, she became our very own Art as therapy teacher, something we all could do with, with all the crazy changes our world has gone through in the last year or so.

How did you come to be at Art Mania Studios?

Ashlee: “I was at a point in my life where change needed to be made, so I made the break and followed my intuition to where my passion lies.”

Another role that Ashlee fills, is support worker to our NDIA students. A mentor to those of us in Art Mania’s business development support program. It’s thanks to Ashlee’s hard work and contacts, that last month’s exhibition at the wetlands came about. She’s also been working hard to find us new venues and opportunities for more exhibitions.

How do you see yourself fitting in to Art Mania’s vision?

Ashlee: “I think the whole philosophy behind AMS is a beautiful thing! It is very much needed in the community.

I’m able to observe firsthand how important this safe creative space is, in the lives of many people from all walks of life.

I see the studio as an authentic space for creative flow. I also like the eclecticism in every aspect.”

One of Ashlee’s artworks.

As if this isn’t enough, Ash is also an artist in her own right with a large body of work and a diploma in fine arts. She is responsible for several murals around Newcastle, including at the Hunter Wetlands Centre.

Ashlee: “I love encouraging and helping people connect to their creative instincts.”

Look out for more staff spotlights to come!

 

HEBEL SCULPTURE

By | Art, Disability

Wow! Can you believe it? We’re almost at the end of term one. It feels like we only started the year a week or so ago. The good thing about end of term though, is we all get to check out next term’s classes and workshops and decide which ones we’d like to attend.

Before the start of term two, however, is the school holidays. And I’m really excited because a workshop I’m been waiting over a year to attend is finally happening on 10 April. What is it? It’s hebel carving. For those who don’t know know what hebel is, it’s a type of soft stone.

I’ve always wanted the chance to try carving a sculpture out of stone. When we think of stone however, you imagine something very hard and durable. And Hebel carving isn’t like carving a lump of clay. It involves chisels, power drills and other big girl tools. I won’t lie, the idea of getting to play with saws and drills and things, just adds to my wish to try it out.

I have this dream. I’d love to carve out a sculpture and then enter it into some competition or event somewhere.

It doesn’t matter how well I do in this longed for competition. It’s just the idea that I was able to make something so substantial and have it seen by the world.

I was lucky enough to do a hebel carving workshop almost two years ago. Since then, Art Mania hasn’t been able to run another one because of numbers. And this one on April 10 may not run if we don’t get the numbers.

So if you have thought about it, give it a go. It’s fun, not scary. You’ll walk away from the day feeling empowered with a huge sense of achievement. It’s all the adrenalin and getting to wield power tools that does it.

Sign up and come along! Trust me, you will love it. And I will be grateful to you, because your being there too, will make it possible for me to work on my dream. I’m looking forward to seeing you there.

-Sam Olgilvie

Sea, Space and Beyond

By | Art, Disability

If you find yourself with time on your hands this month, go check out an art exhibition at Newcastle museum. I’m not suggesting this because I have work in this exhibition. I suggest it because it’s not your typical art exhibition. This show is the collaboration of The Newcastle City Council and Vision Australia.

The theme of the exhibition is “Sea, Space and Beyond” and has inspired some incredible art pieces. At the door of the room containing the main body of work, you will find a ocean reef and all kinds of sea creatures.

What makes this, and the other works in the show so interesting is that all of the works are tactile and can be touched.

This reef, for example, has been created by a group in Dungog and is made from knitting. I can honestly say that I’ve never felt such an amazing work in wool.

At the far end of the display,you will find another fantastic piece. The artist has created sea creatures and a whole underwater scene. All made out of plastic bottles that she has meticulously cut and suspended inside a wooden crate. What I love about this piece by Natasha Wilson, is her intend for using the plastic bottles. She seeks to remind and teach us what the consequences on our environment are. How we are killing other sea creatures that we can’t necessarily see, thus being easy to forget. Another piece was made by applying paint with the tip of a white cane.

It was so incredible being able to interact and actually see the art works for myself. Being able to read the description of each piece myself, because they are all in braille.

The most unique piece in the exhibition is a huge sheep, with a iced doughnut sitting on its back. The whole thing made of recycled metal that has been welded together. If you go to see anything, it has to be this sheep. It would have to be one of the strangest and most interesting sculptures I’ve ever seen.

The show is open until 21 March. There’s no cost, you just need to sign in and head on in. I’m sure you’re going to enjoy it. Oh and I hope you like my pieces too.

-Sam Olgilvie

International Women’s Day

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

Today is International Women’s day. The day to celebrate all women and our successes, achievements, our lives.

It seems very timely to me, that the opening of my first major art exhibition has fallen just before International women’s day. I know I wouldn’t have got where I am if it weren’t for the women in my life. My mother for teaching me that I can do anything I want, that my blindness is not an excuse to prevent me from achieving my goals. My best and oldest friend, Lauren, always there to lean on and to be given a good shove when I’m being negative.

Ashlee and Sam.

In the last couple of years, there has been Art Mania and the incredibly strong and talented women that have become my friends and support network. There is Bek, who makes it possible for you to read these posts, by doing the uploading and editing for me. Dana, who is always positive and a fellow dog lover. She was my first support worker at Art Mania and still helps me with many little things that I don’t know how to do. Or which I need a little help to achieve.

There is Ashlee, my friend, my support worker and my mentor.

Ash, you have given me so much confidence in myself as an artist. You have taught me so much about the artistic process as well as different kinds of art. And I know I still have more to learn from you.

Ashlee and Sam creating with resin.

There are so many incredible women working at, and taking classes at Art Mania. I won’t list you all, but you all, in different ways, have helped and supported and encouraged me. From advice on how to tackle a project. Telling me where I’ve got lost with work. And just giving me a safe place to blossom and create. I love you all and acknowledge you all as women to be proud of, lucky to know and spend time with.

Fee and Sam.

I can’t finish however, without first acknowledging one other incredible woman. And that is Fee. Mother and creater of Art Mania. My big sister and mentor. The one who praises when it’s deserved and needed. And who gives me a good push and talking to when I’m being negative and self destructive. I am a better, stronger woman thanks to you Fee. I’m in a better place mentally and I’ve found what my heart has always longed for.

Thank you too all of you at Art Mania. And here’s to all the strong, beautiful, intelligent women around the world. Happy International Women’s day.

How journaling made me organised

By | Art, Disability
When I was a child and couldn’t find my shoes or some other possession, mum would tell me that she would not always be around to find things for me. That as a person who is blind, it was even more important that I was organised and put my things away where they belong.

Every time I can’t find my shoes, my keys (the list could go on for several pages), I hear mum’s voice in my head reminding me of the importance of being organised. My brother, who lives with me will also tell you that I am constantly buying tools, storage etc to help me be more organised. I still lose track of my keys, my purse, my damn shoes. And then, my saviour arrived at Art Mania.

Well, Bek has in fact been with us for the last twelve months, or close to it. If you haven’t met her, Bek is responsible for all of the social media Art Mania puts out to keep you all informed. She also makes it possible for you to read these posts that I write. I write a blog post, email it to Bek and she does the proofing and uploading for me.

Last year, Bek came up with the brilliant idea to run a series of workshops on journaling. The first of these workshops was held on Saturday at the Hunter Wetlands. This first one, was called Journaling for Organisation.

I just knew, if there was going to be a workshop I had to do this year, it would be this one. And I was right. By following the simple structure and methods that Bek taught us, I have been able to put everything on paper and break things down. I came up with step by step strategies that leave me feeling less out of control. I felt like I could breathe again.

What’s even better is that this Saturday, the next journaling workshop takes place at the Wetlands. And a week later is the last of the three. This second workshop is journaling for creativity. I love the idea that I will be able to get all my ideas out of my head and on paper.

I don’t know about other creative people, but personally, sometimes my brain feels so full of ideas I don’t know how to untangle them.

And hey, you get to play with stationary of all kinds. So all you stationary lovers will be in heaven.

The third workshop is Journaling for well being. One of the downsides of being a creative, is that you can so wrapped up in your creations, the simple, day to day things can slip the mind and get buried in the other incidental tasks of day to day life. I know when I am creating, I don’t look after myself as well as I could, or should. I can forget to eat, miss medication. It should be such a natural, instinctual thing to do, to take care of yourself, but this isn’t always the case.

Does any of this resonate for you? If so you really should come join us for the next two Saturdays. You will have so much fun and learn some really handy stuff for dealing with life. That way you can stop worrying about the little things and have more time for the fun stuff, like creating.

 

-Sam Ogilvie