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THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF JOURNALING

By | Art, Lifestyle

Earlier this year, Art Mania ran some workshops on journaling. They were: journaling for creativity, journaling for organisation and journaling for welbeing. They were held at the Hunter Wetlands Centre and were a huge amount of fun. They also left us all with some incredibly useful skills and tools.

These workshops were also so popular, that we started a journaling club. We meet every second Saturday at the Wallsend studio and have continued to grow in numbers.

One of Sam’s journal spreads.

Why am I telling you about this now? Firstly because we have a creative journaling workshop running soon in August.

Secondly, because journaling offers a huge benefit to our mental health.

You don’t have to be super creative. It’s a journal just for you. A place, that if you chose, you can just dump all those silly, negative thoughts that are cluttering up your head and stopping you from getting anything done. It can be a place where you just play. This is one of my favourite things to do. I have a journal that is dedicated to play and nothing else. For me, it’s about just enjoying the process and not caring about the results. It’s a great way for me to be present. To stop worrying about what’s happened that day, or what might happen tomorrow.

Thinking about ourselves in a positive way.

You can also use it as a way to keep track of things. Money, dreams, steps walked or run, hours spent doing something nice for yourself. It can be anything. This is great if you feel calmer by feeling in control. This isn’t a way of controlling as such, but it is a way of tricking your mind to think it’s in control.

A collage of things that uplift you.

Journaling is a wonderful way to keep sane. Especially important in these times. So why not give it a try? All you need is a notebook. Or if you want a nice little starter pack, Art Mania has journal packs for sale. They are a brilliant way of getting started and can give you ideas too.

So if you’re feeling off balance by the world, or you aren’t getting that creative fix you need. Try journaling. Once you start, you won’t want to stop!

-Sam Olgilvie

A TASTE OF THE TERM TO COME

By | Art
One of the best things about a new term at Art Mania is getting to try something new. Not just for you, our students, but for the staff too. I’m so excited, I just couldn’t wait. I had to share this.
Starting on Tuesday, 13 July, we will be running Creative Tuesdays for all who want to try something new. Our wonderful mosaics teacher Dana, is busy making artist packs of different projects you can try. There are wind chimes, alcohol inks, mosaics with glass and more.
All you need to do is make your way to Art Mania on a Tuesday. Once there, make your choice of artist pack and start creating. All of the materials needed for your project will be in your pack. All the tools will be available at the studio. Best of all, you will have Art Mania’s dynamic duo, Dana and Jana, there to supervise and assist. What more can you wish for?
So add the date to your calendar and see you there. It’s going to be great! You can book here.

SKILLS I’VE LEARNED AT ART MANIA STUDIO

By | Art, Disability

In the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling with my inner critic,. Every time I’ve sat down here at my laptop and tried to put a post together, my inner critic has woken and started nagging at me, making me question everything I’ve tried to write. So this post is going to be a little different. Today I want to acknowledge the things I’ve learnt in the last eighteen months at Art Mania.

1. I have learnt that as a blind woman, I can paint.

I don’t need to see what’s going on upon the canvas. I don’t need to be able to see what I’m painting with my eyes. I can paint in my own unique way. By responding to music, painting the movement and sound. The emotions that the music brings up. I can also paint what my eyes, in my case my hands, observe. I learnt all of this by taking a chance on a suggestion from the woman who has been mentoring me this year, Ashlee. By trusting her and trying out the suggestions she gave me, I’ve discovered a skill I always thought was beyond me.

Sam standing in front of one of her paintings at an exhibition.

2. I’ve learnt to cut glass enabling me to create pieces for fusing.

I would never have thought I would be able to create pieces of art in glass. The first time I got to play with glass was in a one day workshop making wind chimes. I’ll be honest, I had no idea that part of the process would include me cutting and grinding all of the glass pieces I would need. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have booked my spot. By the time I realised what would be involved, it was two nights before the workshop and Fee was offering to provide the glass pre-cut. She never said I couldn’t do it, in fact, she encouraged me, wanted me to at least try to cut the pieces for myself. She was simply offering me an alternative if it proved too much for me.

Sam doing some glass work.

That’s when I had to prove to myself that I could do it. Even so, I didn’t expect to be regularly working with glass as I am now. That workshop was a turning point for me. I discovered skills I never thought I had, not just because of my blindness. It was more about the fragility of the glass and the viciousness of its bite if handled wrong. That day opened new ideas and possibilities in me. I started taking the weekly classes and felt like a clumsy idiot for most of my first six months. But Fee and Andrew and the other students around me encouraged me. Working with glass is now one of my favourite mediums to work with.

3. I’ve learnt how to paint with glass.

Again it was a wonderous day when Fee came back from a course in Melbourne and showed us all what could be done with glass powders. It’s like painting with butter icing and is as much about texture as colour. I love making textures of different types and thicknesses. Again, at first, I felt clumsy and like I had no chance of ever getting it right. And again, it was Fee who gently, but firmly pushed me to keep going and find the skills needed to create the pieces I am so proud of now.

4. I’ve learnt to how to use a grinder.

A couple of different grinders. And that was and is something I still get excited about, knowing I can do it.

5. I’ve learnt I can use a drill.

While doing a hebel carving workshop last year, I had to drill holes into the stone to be able to remove the excess. I still have the video a friend took of me drilling into my slab of stone. A very large piece of stone, because of course, I had to have the biggest piece. Again, as in all the other situations, Fee and Andrew never questioned my ability to achieve these goals. Rather, they gave me the support and assistance I need to complete the job.

Sam at a hebel carving workshop.

6. I’ve learnt that my hands can see as well as other people’s eyes.

It wasn’t until I made a sculpture of my last guide dog, that I learnt this. When people saw the sculpture, they knew it was Roscoe. I had expected them to be able to see it was a dog and even that it was a Labrador, but they saw Roscoe in the clay.

Jimmy with his Jimmy sculpture- made by Sam.

7. I’ve learnt to let go of the perfectionist who has stalked me all my life.

I’m not sure when or how, but I think it began when my mother told me, after I asked her about how I could possibly get it all right with my art. She told me that I should “embrace the imperfections”. This didn’t mean my work would be less. It just meant to I needed to work with what I have and embrace the uniqueness that I have and which is imprinted in all my work.

There are many other things I could write here, but I think I’ve proved my point. I would like to take this chance to say thank you to everyone wo makes up the Art Mania family. Thank you for all your support and help and encouragement and love. You have helped me find my creativity and myself.

Ashlee and Sam at one of Sam’s exhibitions.

I wanted to finish here by saying, if you have been following Art Mania on social media, but haven’t yet managed to make it as far as signing up and attending one of our classes. I hope this will help push you to take that chance. You won’t regret it and will discover a whole family you never knew you could be part of.

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

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

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

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.

 

 

 

MEET OUR NEW DRAWING TEACHER

By | Art, Lifestyle

A big welcome to our drawing teacher, Gail!

Gail has lived in Wallsend for 30 years with her husband & 5 children.

Gail completed her Fine Arts Diploma at Hunter Street TAFE, graduating from Newcastle University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, then with an Honours degree in 2011.

Her work is inspired by an interest and love for people & community.

Gail works in painting, drawing & textiles. These disciplines often cross over producing interesting hybrid art works of colour, image & stitch.

The essence of Gail’s art practice is acknowledging people’s lives, validating & empathising with their experiences. She finds teaching & exhibiting rewarding as she is able to connect with the community.

 

Gail has exhibited widely, she has shown her art within:

  • John Hunter Arts & Health programs
  • Wallsend Library
  • Watt Space Newcastle
  • Newcastle Art Space
  • Art Systems Wickham
  • Maitland Regional Gallery

Gail believes the world is the richer for the contribution of the creative soul.

She is looking forward to cheering others on to discover their unique voice & mark so that they can confidently express who they are & what they have to say.

NATURE’S SERENADE

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

One of the major themes in my art is the natural world. I’ve used leaves and trees in lino carving that I then printed onto different hand-made papers. Some still feel like the stringy fibres of the trees that they originated from. In my glass work I’ve been using the natural elements of earth, fire, water and air to create pictures using powdered glass. I’m building up quite a collection of clay animals as well.

When I found out I would be having an exhibition of my own, I was of course, very excited. Learning that it would happen at the wetlands was even better. I’d never been there, but I did know about it and everything I heard was positive.

A couple of days ago, I finally got a chance to visit the wetlands for myself. It was the perfect day, sunny but not too hot.

My first impression was one of peace and of the world slowing and taking time to breathe. I felt the warmth of the sun on my skin. The various birds sang, intermingling and creating a symphony of joy and life.

As we slowly walked along the paths, the gravel crunched beneath our feet and I could feel the texture through my shoes.

I stopped to feel one of the totem poles scattered around the wetlands. It felt worn smooth over time. Criss-crossed by carvings that read like road signs in a tactile language akin to the braille I read. I could feel my thoughts slowing and images and words drifted through me. They slipped in and out in a meditative manner, not necessary to be held onto or analysed.

I learnt of a bird known as a magpie goose and arrived in time to witness their daily meal. They gathered in a group on the bank where their food had been left. They ate and a couple in particular kept up a gentle honking conversation. As each bird took to the water again, their entry sounded like a gentle wave washing over the shore of a harbour.

Their black and white colouring made them a good contrast with the earth they fed on and so I was able to make them out. They were bouncing balls of contrast to my eyes.

We ended up sitting by another pond along the sensory trail. The seat we sat upon was in the sun, while in front of us, the ground was dappled with sun and shade. As we sat quietly sketching and writing, magpies strutted back and forward in the space before us. The only thing making it possible to make their existence out, was their movement. The shifting of something before me.

I found myself sketching the trunk of an old tree. It had pieces of bark, some as large as my sketch pad peeling away from the trunk. Peeling away like old skin, making room for the new, clean and green regrowth to come through.

Those couple of hours were exactly the nourishment I needed. To be able to touch nature with my hands, my feet. To be serenaded by bird song, snapping twigs and gently shifting water. The sound of the light breeze in the trees. I found myself writing poetry as well as sketching.

I’ve come away feeling revived and my creative flow running smooth and thick with ideas. It was definitely an experience I will make sure I have again.

If you are feeling smothered, stale, just over the world, especially now with Covid- take a walk in nature. Nothing will revive you as well as the natural world. And you don’t have to worry about social distancing from trees.

– Sam Ogilvie