was successfully added to your cart.

Cart

Category

Disability

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

Digital Accessibility Day

By | Disability, Lifestyle

This week on the 20th May, we celebrated Global Accessibility Day. A day to focus on the digital access world for people with disabilities.

It would be easy to assume that the digital world has made it easier to access resources, information etc for those with a disability. And in many ways it has been a big improvement. When Apple started building accessibility features into their products, it revolutionised the way various disability groups communicated with one another and the world. As a person with a vision impairment, for the first time I didn’t have to pay an extra $500 to make my phone talk and read the various screens and information.

Abstract digital image- a picture of a face with hands held together to make the shape of the face. Light is coming out from the face and a rainbow of colours striped across the image.

Similarly, until recently, to be able to use a pc, I had to pay several thousand dollars for a “text to speech” screen reader. In the last couple of years, a couple of guys who are blind themselves created a screen reading program and made it available to everyone. They only ask for a donation of however much you can afford. NVDA is the program and I love it.

Between my phone and my laptop, I have pretty good access to the digital world. The only major ongoing issue, is when material is put in electronic format as an image. Screen reading software reads text, hence the name text to speech.

If material has been uploaded as an image, my screen reader will see the page as blank.

Sam looking at the camera, wearing a black beret and dark coloured cardigan.

We have definitely come a long way. And all of this technology has made it possible for me to get work. It is because of the technology I have, that I can write these posts and other content for Art Mania. I even have software on my phone that will describe photos, scan and read hard copy printed material and help me identify products by reading the qr codes.

I still get frustrated at times. It can be exhausting having to convert materials. I do however, realise that I’m very lucky.

The digital world is making life easier and allowing me to participate even more in the everyday world.

International Guide Dog Day

By | Disability, Lifestyle

The last Wednesday in April is International Guide Dog day. A day to celebrate the work that our incredible four legged friends do for us every day. It’s also a day when the Guide Dog association focuses on a particular issue specific to guide dog teams. This year, it’s responsible pet ownership.

One of the biggest issues for a guide dog team is having to deal with pet dogs off-leash.

From just not leaving the guide dog alone while they are trying to work, to attacking and potentially injuring a guide dog. Sometimes these injuries are enough to mean the guide dog has to retire due to a complete loss of confidence. Most guide dogs in Australia have been attacked by a pet dog at some stage of their working life. Of my five dogs, Aimee is the only one who hasn’t been attacked, fingers crossed it stays this way. My two previous male dogs were seriously affected from their attacks.

Isis, who was never a particularly confident dog, would drop to the ground and refuse to pass another dog, even on leash. Roscoe became combative. Whenever he was in harness and saw another dog, he would bark and try to dominate the other dog. It became dangerous for both of us. Me because he would pull me nearly off my feet. Himself because he tried to attack other dogs, by running across roads.

All we guide dog handlers ask is that you keep your dogs on leash. Don’t allow them to stray across in front of a guide dog team.

This can very easily lead to the handler tripping or smashing into an obstacle that the guide dog wasn’t able to warn them of due to the pet dog. Please remember that when a guide dog is in harness, they are working and can’t play or be played with.

I’d like to finish this post by acknowledging just what my guide dogs have given me and enabled me to do.

Thank you to Vishta. Who was stubbon and bossy and constantly wanted to be the one in charge. Thank you for giving me the ability to take full control of my life and to be truly independent. I would not have even thought to move to Melbourne if you had not been my partner.

To Isis. For showing me the meaning of true loyalty. You were always trying to live up to your role. Even though you really didn’t like being a guide dog. And you became one of the best pets as therapy dogs ever (yes I’m biased).

To Geralee. My gentle, placid girl. You kept me calm when anxiety would start to set in. You were the best friend I needed.

To Roscoe. For arriving in my life just when I needed you. For enabling me to recognise my depression and to speak up and ask for help. For always knowing when I was down and making me laugh. And for giving me the confidence to change my life for the best, twice.

And to my beautiful girl Aimee. You are giving me the confidence to get back out into the world. Just knowing I’m not alone, that I have you beside me, makes me brave enough to go after what I truly want.

If it wasn’t for these five friends. I don’t know if I would have found Art Mania. I wouldn’t have become such a strong and independent woman. Happy international guide dog day. Or in this house, happy Aimee day.

-SAM OGILVIE

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.

Love Your Pet Day

By | Disability, Lifestyle

Today is Love Your Pet day. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to tell you about the animals in my life. 

I’ve been lucky in my life. I’ve had the opportunity to touch several different species of animal. The first time I remember, I was around eight. It was a Koala and I remember being amazed how woolly it was and the sharpness of its claws. 

 

In my first year of high school, I went, with a group of blind school kids, to Melbourne for an athletics competition. While in Melbourne we paid a visit to the zoo. We sat on the floor in a circle and got to touch and stroke various animals. A possum, a snake that I refused to touch and a wombat. I love wombats and that first encounter has helped me so much over the years to create art pieces that are wombat based. I could get a clear picture in my head of what they looked like.  

Over the years I’ve met kangaroos, blue-tongue lizards, a bandicoot, a turtle, an enormous stick insect, both fresh water and salty crocodiles. The list goes on. And of course, most recently a water dragon who lives at Art Mania and answers to the name Jimmy. 

As some of you may know, I sculpted Jimmy out of clay about a year ago, and he and I became friends.

Now he likes to sit on my shoulder while I work. He likes to watch what’s happening in the studio and often watches what I’m creating. In August last year, I was working on a painting and a large canvas. Jimmy had spent most of the day on my shoulder. As I began to work on the top of the canvas, Jimmy decided he wanted a better look and proceeded to walk out onto my raised arm. He sat there watching what I was doing. 

Only this week, he decided to get a closer look ant a few pieces I was working on. I’d been painting a board with a sand coloured paint, when again, Jimmy came down off my should to investigate. This time however he lay across my arm and began scraping the board with his nails. He was fascinated. By the end of the day, he had paint on his feet and splashed on his back. He’s loved every minute.  

Yesterday, he decided to sit on my work. Luckily I wasn’t working with paint, but was stitching the backing on to a wall hanging I’ve made. He settled in, with no intention of moving. It was only the prospect of dinner that changed his mind.  

The one thing all of these interactions with animals have in common is that I now have a clear picture of what they all look like. What they feel like, giving me a good understanding of how to create them.  

I still have several animals on my “must see” list. Including elephant, dolphin, seal, I could go on, but I won’t.  

Although none of these animals have been pets of mine, they have all had a significant impact on my life and understanding. So I’d like to say, I think we should love our pets and all the other animals out there every day. But especially on February 20. Give your pets a hug from me. 

-Sam Olgilvie 

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

Fear and Empowerment

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

Ask any of my family or friends, and they will tell you that I have been petrified of snakes all my life. I’ve suffered with nightmares about snakes since I was around four.

A few months ago, Art Mania started a regular group art session at the Hunter Wetlands. I am a regular member of this group, and on learning that among the other wild-life, they have snakes, made me start to consider the possibility that I could overcome my fear, if I just touched a snake. A snake who is used to being man handled, and woman and child handled. The more I thought of the idea, the more I came to believe that it could help. All of these thoughts were just that, thoughts. An exercise in positive thought and creative possibilities. I don’t believe I actually intended to touch a snake. Rather, I did not at any stage believe that I would go through with the event if it ever occurred.

So given all of the above, imagine my own surprise when, around ten days before Christmas, I found myself touching a snake. I had to get pictures, because I knew nobody would believe me without them. This is what happened and how that encounter changed my life.

I’d arrived at the wetlands one morning and found a woman standing out the front of the entrance holding a snake. As I approached where she was standing, she asked if I would like to touch him. I’d always believed that if and when this moment arrived I would run screaming in the opposite direction. What I actually found myself doing was walking up to them and saying yes. His name is Kenny and he is a Children’s python. This does not mean he prefers to dine on children, but that the scientist who discovered his breed, was named Children. Kenny is eighteen months old and is a metre and a half long and around the circumference of a twenty cent coin.

I knew the belief that snakes are slimy is a myth, but I didn’t expect him to feel so soft. I stroked him with a couple of fingers at first and he allowed me to touch his head. My fear was gone, I was completely in the moment, totally focused on Kenny. His tongue on my skin was like butterfly wings. His skin like satin. Even to the point that on first contact, he felt cold like satin, but soon warmed to the heat of my skin. He moved across my hand and wrapped himself around my wrist a couple of times, just like a bracelet. At one point he was about my wrist with around thirty centimetres hanging upside-down and checking out Aimee. Aimee who stood calmly while Kenny investigated.

I could have stayed there with him forever. The touch of him was like falling into a deep pool of clear and calm water. My heart actually slowed, rather than increasing from fear. Even after he’d been taken away to impress other visitors, I could still feel him around my wrist, feel him gliding along my arm. The most amazing thing was that he broke something open in me. Some blockage I wasn’t even aware of, to my creativity. I knew I had to sculpt him and put that piece into my exhibition at the wetlands in March.

I’ve met him once since that first day. He was brought down to the room where we all create our art, so I could remind myself of what he looked and felt like. This time he slid across my arms, across my shoulders. At one point, his head and upper body was snuggled along my arm, where it formed a hollow against my ribs. He was snuggling, enjoying the warmth of my body.

Kenny the Childrens python lives behind the first viewing window, when you first walk into the entrance of the Wetlands. He’s not easy to find however, because he is nocturnal, but if you’re lucky, he’ll poke his little head out to check out who you are and to make sure he doesn’t miss anything.

Meeting Kenny has been one of the most magical experiences of my life.

I still wouldn’t want to encounter a snake out in the wild, but he has most definitely changed my attitude. Even more incredible, I’ve been told that any time I want to work on my sculpture, one of the snake handlers can bring him down for me. He apparently loves to pose for photos, so will be quite happy being immortalised in art.

I want to say thank you to everyone at the Wetlands Centre for their support. For making it possible for myself and other students to get to know and be up and close with the wildlife.

Being able to create in such a beautiful, positive environment is nourishing my soul and my creativity.

Having the chance to exhibit the resulting work, is something special and I feel honoured to be given this chance.

 

-Sam Ogilvie

Jumping into 2021

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

JUMPING INTO 2021

Welcome to 2021 and a brand new exciting year at Art Mania. Now that the year has started, it’s time to work out where each of us want to be by the end of the year. I know the tradition is to make new years resolutions, the majority of which are abandoned by mid February.

I am not a new years resolution girl. Instead, for all of my adult life, I’ve spent a portion of the last day of each year, writing goals for the coming year. I don’t always finish everything on the list, and I do make alterations and edits throughout the year. I have usually managed to complete at least half of the goals on my list by the end of the year.

This New Year’s, I did things slightly differently to my old ritual. Before I sat down to write my goals for 2021, I sat down and made a list of achievements for 2020 and things that meant a lot to me. The things I’m grateful for.

I thought I’d kick off this year’s series of posts by sharing a few things from each list with you and hope they inspire you all. So let’s get started.

What I’ve achieved and am grateful for:

1. My job at Art Mania and getting to share my journey with you all.

I don’t think any of us will remember 2020 as a great year. Covid has been a major blow from left field, but I think we should be proud that we have survived. I think we should all, as I do, be so incredibly grateful to Fee and the Art Mania team for keeping the studio open and offering a safe haven to create in and catch up with friends. I know that this had a huge impact on me and kept my mental health on the positive side.

Sam is dressed in a white top with pink embroidery. She is standing on the walkway to the Wetlands Centre. A slim, brown-scaled snake is twined around her wrist.

2. Art Mania’s teaming up with the Wetlands Centre.

This year Art Mania started running sessions for our NDIS clients and those who identify as having a disability. We had a room for two days a week for our little group and it was magical. Firstly seeing how some of our newer clients slowly come out of themselves and try different things.

We even got to meet some of the reptiles, a children’s python named Kenny, blue-tongue lizards named Russel and Nudge and a pygmy bearded water dragon. That’s right a baby version of our own Jimmy. And for me, personally, Kenny had the biggest impact upon me. I would never have believed you if you told me I would touch a snake, but I have and it’s been so empowering to overcome a fear.

3. Participating in my first ever exhibition.

Thanks to Castle Personnel’s social media person, Zoe, Art Mania had the chance to showcase the work of our students with disabilities for International Day of Disability. There were five of us and again it was an empowering moment. I knew I could create, but it still gave me that huge boost knowing that people were coming to see my work. I also sold my first piece of art. I don’t know who it was who brought my painting, but if you’re reading this, thank you so very much.

Sam, dressed in an orange top and navy jacket, standing in front of her painting at the exhibition. It is a large canvas, the background is a mix of green, yellow and blue, with large white circles over the top, with yellow and orange circles inside it.

These are my top three and I promise to expand on at least one of these in the next weeks (but you’ll have to keep reading posts to find out which it will be.). So on to the goals for this year.

My Top Three Goals for 2021

1. To become a mentor to other students with a disability who join the Art Mania team.

We have been working on setting up a program for NDIS clients that enables them to come and join the Art Mania family and create art. On top of this, for those who are interested, we are offering a business support program, so we can learn how to set ourselves up and sell our art. And part of all of this, is giving the more established students the chance to support the new ones. I’m so excited and could rave about this program for pages, but I will save that for a future post.

2. To participate in my second exhibition.

In two months, well probably more like six/seven weeks, I am having my work exhibited at the wetlands. This has been one of the great things about the sessions at the wetlands. I love nature and this is the perfect excuse to submerge myself in the natural world and be inspired by it and all the incredible creatures that live there.

3. My third goal is to get out into the world, particularly the natural world with my beautiful girl Aimee.

I know this will give me back the confidence I lost when I lost my boy Roscoe. I also know it will be more inspiration for my art. And I really hope you will all follow my journey and keep reading my posts.

This brings me to one last item I’m grateful for, and that’s all of you who read my posts. It really means a lot to me that you do, and I’m so grateful for all of your support. Please keep reading.