Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Keeping Busy Day & Night at Geelong Grammar

There are 130 people participating in this TAFTA Fiber Arts Forum where Daniella is teaching. In addition there are about a dozen fiber arts teachers from around the world. Teaching happens all day. Then late afternoons the teachers take turns giving talks about their work and their lives (usually two a day). Then there is dinner, and most every night some event going on.

The first night it was a raffle and "garage sale" where artists brought tons of art supplies, fabrics, and art books to sell to others. On Monday there as an art gallery opening with a show featuring the artwork of all the teachers who are here.

Tonight there was a film, about WOW, New Zealand's annual fashion art extravaganza, that knocked our schlumpy socks off. Tomorrow night it will be something else. Rest? Forget about it.

There are vendors here selling all kinds of stuff: yarn, thread, fabric, felting materials, clothing, woolens, sweaters, books, tools, you name it. If it is relate to fiber arts, they've got it here.

One of the huge treats is that one of Daniella's favorite artists, Dorothy Caldwell, is teaching here too, in a room right next to ours, and staying across the hallway. So we get to visit with her throughout the day. She is pictured above with Daniella. The next photo is one of her art works. The last one shows her students stitching blindfolded this afternoon. What a lovely person and great teacher.

Very tired now. Going to end this for tonight.

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Location:Tower Road,Corio,Australia

Geelong Grammar School

We've been at Geelong Grammar School since Sunday morning, mostly without wifi until now. This place is Hogwarts on steroids, a posh private school where HRH Prince Charles came as a teenager and where it costs nearly $100,000 a year to send your child. The location is beautiful, a wide green campus sitting on the Limeburners Bay, and the Bellarmine Peninsula.

The Bay is a significant wetlands area and habitat for migrating birds. There are walking and bike trails that stretch for miles along the Bay, and I walked for an hour out there early this morning. Gorgeous! There was a big flock of black swans, and so many other lovely birds.

There is a formality to the towering brick buildings that you can imagine enforces good behavior just by the way the structures are made. Upright. Hemmed in by a labyrinth of walkways. Sparsely ornamented without being Spartan. Very English prep school. At the same time, it is very deluxe. There is a world-class fitness center and pool complex, and huge sports grounds and arenas. A hug sailing club on the Bay seems to encompass a fleet of small sailboats. The dormitories where we are staying are warm and comfortable, with huge lounges, kitchens, and a laundry room too - hurray! At the same time, our small student beds, separated by a partition, are so narrow and small that they just about guarantee a celibate life for all these young future leaders of Australia. Students here wear uniforms, very starched and formal. Right now they are on Spring Break, except for a few who are here training for a triathlon. They are kept busy all day long.

Daniella is teaching a five-day encaustic class here in a woodworking studio big and grand enough to be a small airport! We, too are kept busy all day long.

Meals are communal in the grand formal dining hall, where the portraits of former Headmasters line the walls. There is a Head Table for the teachers, and the huge oak chairs at that table have small brass plaques commemorating all the teachers who have used those chairs over the years. More tomorrow!

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Location:Tower Road,Corio,Australia

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Party Pies, VB, and the Grand Nationals

We spent a day in Melbourne pretty much out and about the streets, gathering supplies for the upcoming class in Geelong. Janette generously took us all over the place, and she knew just where to find everything we needed. We love the edgy and playful neighborhoods around Fitzroy.

On Friday evening we met our friends Mark and Daina for a little get-together at a place called Naked for Satan, a trendy rooftop bar that we could walk to. Later, Janette cooked us yet another scrumptious dinner (leg of lamb) and gave us the most amazing gift. She sat down at her piano and sang for us. Her exquisite voice filled the room and touched us deeply with its beauty and power. She has always been a musician and an opera singer, yet this was our first time hearing that voice. We hope it is not the last!

Yesterday morning (Saturday) we walked to the Rose Street Art Market in Fitzroy, where lots of local artists sell their wares each week. The streets of Melbourne were swarming with "footie" fans, decked out in either red and white ( for the Sydney Swans) or in gold and black (for the Melbourne Hawks.). In fact this was one of two huge sports days on the Australian calendar, the Grand Nationals. Everybody was stocking up on beer and baked goods for home viewing parties, while others were heading off to the stadium for the big game.

After lunch we said farewell to our darling Janette and were picked up by Sue, another great friend from our last trip to Melbourne. Sue and Bernie are hosting us now, and will drive us to Geelong on Sunday, bless them!! When we got to their place, the big game had just begun, so we all sat down to watch. They wanted us to have an authentic "footie" experience, so they served us Party Pies and VB. These were small, individual meat pies and Victoria Bitter beer.

The football was nothing like ours. It was fast moving and rough. There are 18 players on each side and they wear no protective gear, no helmets, just shorts and tank tops. The Hawks beat the Swans by a resounding 127 to 72, so there is a lot of scoring. Consider us initiated even more into life in Australia!

Bernie and I took a beautiful walk along the Yarra River, and we came home to a super Middle Eastern dinner prepared by Sue, whose great cooking we remembered well from last time here. These two are so kind and generous to us and we always love being with them. We had lots of great conversation before falling into bed!

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Location:Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Exploding Colour of Melbourne

On Thursday afternoon we flew into Melbourne. This was my favorite place last time we were in Australia, and now I'm remembering why. This beautiful city is electric and buzzing. The neighborhoods are low key and walkable. Good food and interesting shops abound. Art is everywhere, and the surfaces everywhere are splashed with stunning graffiti.

We are staying with a dear friend, Janette, who was one of Daniella's students at Ballarat 3 years ago. Janette is of course an artist, as well as a musician, and a great hostess and has a wicked sense of humor and a naughtiness that puts a huge grin on my face every time I'm around her. She is utterly comfortable to be with, like I would imagine a sister to be, although I've never had one. She is a brilliant colorist, and surrounds herself with a palate of clear, bright, and exciting colors. Her home made me gasp with pleasure when we walked in the door.

We have been busy gathering materials for next weeks class in Geelong. We've been sitting around the kitchen table for hours drinking tea or wine and chatting happily about anything and everything. We have been taking long, rambling walks around Fitzroy where everything is interesting and swarming with aliveness. Oh how I'd love to spend a few months in this city!

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Location:Westgarth Street,Fitzroy,Australia

The Lucky Girls Club, Tasmanian Chapter!

On our last morning in Hobart, Margaret arranged a special treat for us. She took us to Dodges Ferry, on the Tasman Peninsula, to meet two vibrant and gorgeous women artist friends, Desiree and Gwen. Desi is Margaret's closest friend, whom we had heard about for days. Gwen is a well-known artist whose work we had seen at the Museum in Hobart.

Desi's home and gardens were exquisite. Great light and views out to the Bay, everything white with colorful paintings popping off the walls, magical garden, a feeling of sanctuary everywhere on her land. Best of all was the love-at-first-sight we felt with these joyous, creative, wild and amazing women! Our visit was short but unforgettable and we agreed that we were all in the Lucky Girls Club! And vowed that we will meet again for more fun. We had to tear ourselves away to get to the airport and fly to Melbourne for the next episode of our adventure.

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Location:Hobart, Tasmania

Bruny Island, a Last lovely Day

Today we spent a quiet day. First a long walk, then we hung out with Margaret just visiting and having great conversations. It rained a little and then cleared up again. After lunch, Donough took us out in the dinghy, across the bay to a place where ochre chunks are coming out of the clay banks. Margaret uses it for pigment in her art work, and needed to collect some more. It was a lovely sail around the bay and into an area they call the Duck Pond, the safest natural harbor in Australia because it is protected from weather in all directions.


Later in the afternoon we packed up, bid goodbye to Bruny with much sadness, and Margaret drove us back to Hobart where we spent a last night at the lovely white house.

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Location:Bruny Island, Tasmania

Bruny Island, Day 2

I woke up early on Tuesday and slipped on my shoes and a warm jacket and took myself on a nature walk. Most of the wildlife here is visible at dawn and dusk or in the night, except for the amazing birds of course. Even so, at 6 am there were only a few wallabies and a pademelon out and about. We did see a black & white spotted quoll (somewhat like a ferret, see the museum specimens below) but never saw or a possum or an echidna although they are all over the place down here.

This was the day of our Bruny Island Adventure Cruise, something we planned in advance and signed up for. Margaret drove us to Adventure Bay, on the South end of the island, and we went onto a fast speedboat where the first thing they did was suit us up ("rug up" down here) in a warm red head-to-toe waterproof pancho with a hood. We all looked ridiculous, but as the boat raced across the chilly waters of the Tasman Sea and into the Southern Ocean (gives me goosebumps just to write those words!) we understood and appreciated the gesture. They also passed out ginger tablets to everyone to prevent seasickness. They worked beautifully. We were out for 3 1/2 hours, a magnificent journey with numerous stops and starts to look at interesting stuff. And it was plenty cold, despite being a warm, sunny day. The guides were hilarious and interesting, with years of experience boating in these waters, so we felt confident with them. Even when they raced at top speed straight towards a cliff face, then at the last moment turned slightly so that we slid between two tall stone pillars then shot out on the other side. We screamed in terror, but then laughed with relief!

One crew member had been a fisherman in the Southern Ocean for 20 years, going out as far as 100 miles south of Bruny. He was in shorts and a windbreaker yesterday while the rest of us froze!

Mostly we hugged the high, dolorite cliffs along Bruny's southern half. The water was crystal clear. Kelp trees were plainly visible for perhaps 20 feet down. The cliffs were vertical, full of caves, and dotted with sea birds and their nesting habitats. We first saw some white-bellied sea eagles, then many other birds: sooty shearwaters, kelp gulls, black-faced cormorants, peregrine falcons, gannets. We saw giant blow holes where steaming spray was emitted in huge plumes. We lingered around the potently stinky rocks where dozens of male Australian Fur Seals lolled about. It was a true men's club, a sweat room for the guys. We held our noses there. Eeeee-ew!

This was on some islands out in the Southern Ocean, where the turquoise water foamed and boiled around the rocks while the seals slid in and out of the water across the flapping kelp, and the water was full of slithering seal bodies. The lady seals were, quite rightly, in some other area. Who would want to hang out with those guys!?

On the way back we headed away from the cliffs and out into the open sea, again racing across the water until we found a feeding frenzy quite like we have seen in Santa Cruz recently. Here was a pile-up of seals, dolphins, gulls, and huge albatross chasing a school of fish around. They were all around us for awhile, the dolphins sliding under the boat and arching gracefully alongside us. The albatross were enormous, with chiseled heads and beaks, and a wide wingspan. We were told that when mature they can stay airborne for more than 5 years! When they take off from the water they run across the surface on their big webbed feet, flapping those long wings until they lift off. We saw a lot of this as we watched. And then, another thrill. A humpback whale joined the fun! Wow! It was a grand grand-finale to the adventure!

On the way home we stopped at the Bruny Island Cheese Factory to taste a few things, and then at Get Shucked, a new oyster company here. We shared a dozen raw oysters there, appreciating the fresh taste of these local waters.

Dinner was a feast of barbecued scallops with bacon, steak, and sausages, a huge salad and a fresh-baked berry pie (pudding here).

Later we walked out to a clearing to look at the star-studded night sky, away from any city lights. It was breath-taking to see the Milky Way so clearly along with all the brightly shining and unfamiliar southern sky constellations.

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Location:Bruny Island, Tasmania, Australia